Archive for December, 2009

 Yes! You can use garland on the mantel all year.  Of course, you wouldn’t want to leave Christmas garland up all year. There are so many styles of garland, to meet the decor of any home, readily available. There is seasonal garland as well. Some think the seasonal garland is a little cheesy but if done right, it can be wonderful.

Just remember, when using seasonal garland, shy away from the small, cutesy stuff. That is what makes it look cheap and childish.  Unless you are decorating for children, like at Halloween for example, use a thick, lush garland. You can take away and add your own things through out the year. You can change it monthly or by seasons.

With so many flat screens hanging above the fireplace these days, garland helps fill the space in between and softens the hard lines of the mantel and the TV.

Consider using something like lighted glass grapes on the mantel with your garland. That can stay up all year if you want something you don’t have to change. The main thing is, use what you love.

Now go have fun and send me pictures of what you did.


Christmas Mantel by Jami Harris, Elkin NC.  The candles are battery operated, giving off a flickering glow that fools the eye. They appear to be burning candles. She placed gift boxes in the middle and on either end of her mantel with big red bows attached. She inserted white cup hooks underneath the edge that blended in with the wood and hung their stockings. She too has a flat screen above her fireplace. she used pre-lit garland without embellishments, placing her decorations in front of it. This mantel is in a home with three small children. Very festive and eye-catching for them and adults alike. Thanks Jami.

Christmas Mantel by Novelist Deborah Raney from Kansas.  This is an example of  a lush, pre-lit garland with embellishments.  Deborah then added her own items, not only in front of the garland but behind it as well, as with the clocks. Wouldn’t think of tucking a clock behind garland? A clock lover would. Deborah loves clocks and so do I. It was one reason her mantel caught my eye. Deborah didn’t make the mistake of putting the large clock in the middle but rather set it off to one side for more interest. This garland is not just for Christmas.  She may choose to leave it through out January. Other than the red berries and pine cones, everything else is timeless. S he created a beautiful Christmas mantel with everyday items. Everyday items that she loves. She could leave it year-round if she wanted to. Thank You Deborah.   

For more pictures of Deborah’s mantel and to learn more about her 18 novels, (# 19 in progress) go to www.deborahraney.com   I first met Deborah at the BRMCWC  in 2008. She was one of the keynote speakers that year. I also took  classes from her at the Blue Ridge Christian Novelist Retreat at Ridgecrest in October 2009. She is a celebrated novelist and a wonderful person to know. Check her out on facebook too!

Aggi and Deborah Raney


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Umm…It’s entirely up to you how long you want to leave Santa’s hat hanging on the bedpost. Who says we can’t have Christmas all year?

Not quite ready to let go of Christmas?  Nor am I. I love the season. Then before you know it, Christmas is over. After spending hours getting things just the way I want them, it is time to pack it all up again. It is a sad time for me. However, there are some decorations that can stay up through the month of January. When deciding what to leave out, I ask myself if it looks wintery. If it fits the mood for the cold winter days, I leave it. I like the pops of red through out the house in January without appearing too lazy to put the Christmas decorations away.

 I Like having the massive nine-foot tree up in time for our Thanksgiving dinner. I enjoy looking at it in the adjoining foyer and basking in the soft glow of it while dining. That starts the Christmas season at our house and I hang on to it white-knuckled through January.

The snowman is nestled into a fall mantle garland with white crystal lights entertwined. He can stay up until January. After all it is winter.

This is probably the only thing “country” in my home. My grandchildren love the ultra soft cuddly. He too is a snowman so he gets to stay through out January.

The mantle garland has no jewel tones and can easily be left up through January

The garland on top of the china cabinet stays up all year in my house. I know the berries and pine cones make it look Christmasy. But I took the picture from a step stool. From the floor it doesn’t look this way. The garland fills in the gap between the cabinet and tray ceiling and the lights give the room an ambience that I enjoy. Others may have a problem with this tip but hey, I like it. Remember, when you are decorating, do what YOU like.  

During Christmas, the lighted garland on top of the kitchen cabinets is pulled to the front exposing the assorted fruit. Now that Christmas is over, I just push the garland to the back and continue to use it year round. I turn it on in the evenings and at night, giving the kitchen soft, warm lighting.

Cabinets on the opposite side of kitchen. Yep. Stays up all year.


This garland has a lot of fruit, plaid ribbon and pine cones. I may leave it up for a couple of weeks but will probably take it down mid-January.

The wooden beads are a way to decorate a handrail without sacrificing safety. There is room to hold on to the rail between the wraps. The wooden beads wrapped around the handrail will stay up but the stockings will be removed.

These are electric candles. They look beautiful from inside and outside the window. I will remove the pine cone garland after January but these are here to stay all year. I will just put seasonal garland around them and turn them on in the evenings. These are in my formal living room and are perfect for the huge window ledge I was having trouble knowing exactly what to do with.

This is a wreath placed on a gold charger with a candle holder placed in the center. You don’t always have to hang wreaths. They make wonderful bases for candles or any table center piece. I had a mis-shapened candle that I couldn’t put in a clear candle holder. Never seeing a candle I didn’t love, I couldn’t throw it out. What a great surprise. The red glow of the candle holder highlighted the shape of the candle, yet contained it.  Think I may put some more candles in my car this year and let them melt a little. I removed the white table cloth. I will remove the wreath base mid-January and keep the candle holder out until the end of January.

This is another wreath on a charger used as a center piece in the breakfast area with low candles inside.

I will remove the Christmas towel but will leave the snowman on the sink in the guest bath.

This small basket can be left on the sink through January because of it’s winter foilage.

The wintery train can stay. It makes a nice night light. While it is definitely a Christmas decoration, it belongs to my 33 year-old son. He has had it since he was a little boy. It used to illuminate his room at night during Christmas. I hang onto it as long as I can.

Last but not least, I will leave the table on the front porch set with a bright weather proof cloth and holly plate.  By the end of January, I will be ready to put away the last piece of Christmas decorations but not yet.

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by Aggi Stevenson 

The snow was coming down quickly. School let out early on the day my five-year-old grandson Aaron and his four-year-old brother, Blake were to spend the night. Aaron, proudly wore a Christmas Bell necklace he made in kindergarten earlier that day. I admired his necklace assuring him he did a fine job crafting it. He beamed with pride and I pretended not to notice all the beads were on one side of the bell. Hey, it was his necklace so there was no wrong way to make it.

Even though the boys are four and five years old, I still get nervous when they are noticeably quiet. I have flashbacks of the day I noticed they had gotten quiet and couldn’t find them. Calling them repeatedly, didn’t reveal the boys where abouts. We have a large pond behind our home and I panicked at the thought of them going out the door and into the pond. Racing to the back deck, there was no sign of them. My heart thumped hard in my chest. I was scared to death. I went back into the house frantically searching  under beds, in closets and behind furniture while hysterically calling their names. No answer. I found them crouched behind a chaise lounge in the formal living room. That room is not exactly kid friendly and they are not allowed to play in it. I suppose they heard me coming and quickly jumped behind the chaise to keep from being scolded. I was so glad to see them, I cried. They both stood by, gently stroking my hair, as I dropped to my knees weeping with joy. After some time had passed, I sat them down and told them how scared I was when I couldn’t find them and they would not have been trouble. I was just checking on them to make sure they were okay. They agreed to never clam up at my hysteria again.

As the snowy evening wore on, I moved between writing on the computer, doing fun things with the boys and cooking. If you call DiGiorno pizza cooking. Occasionally, I would leave the keyboard and go see what they were doing. They were especially drawn to the lighted ceramic village with the miniature mailbox, sledders, carolers and trees adorning it. I cautioned them about picking up the pieces and dropping them on the tile floor because they are breakable. I told them they could look at them and pick them up, but not to take them from the counter top they were on.  They seemed pleased with getting to play with the pieces according to the Nana rules.

When Aaron spilled a drink on his sweater vest, he was more concerned with his bell necklace getting wet than his clothing.  Blake looked at me with a twinkle in his black eyes, “Aaron made that necklace for you, Nana.”  Aaron’s wide eyes and down-turned lips told me there was not a word of truth to that assumption.  “I couldn’t take your Christmas bell. You’ve worked hard on that.” I said, removing the wet vest. Aaron smiled. “You can wear it until the morning.”  He took it off and placed it around my neck.  “Are you sure, Sugar?”  He was sure. He wanted me to enjoy wearing it but  made it clear I was to return it.  I proudly wore it around the house, making frequent trips to check on the boys. 

I thought you had to get up pretty early in the morning to fool me. After all, I did raise the boy’s father. He is the one that put real meaning into checking on children when they are quiet. As I popped a Pizza in the oven, I noticed my miniature ceramic mailbox, sledders and carolers in a gondola car going around the train track in the adjoining family room. The boys were sweetly drawing on a Doodle Pro. They were even taking turns, writing and then magically clearing their work and beginning again. 

 I let them watch TV in my bed but they are not allowed to have food or drink anywhere but the dining/kitchen  area. I noticed a cup of hot chocolate, now cold, sitting on my night stand.

 Colorful Goldfish crackers peeked out from the sofa cushions that looked as though they had been jumped on. I used to let them jump on the sofa when they were tiny but they are too big for that now.

When were they breaking all these rules? I had kept a close watch on them. They had been really good. I had not caught them in the bedroom with hot chocolate or in the living room with crackers. I didn’t know when they removed the ceramic figures from their perch and didn’t hear them jumping on the sofa. How could this be?

Then it hit me. The Christmas bell around my neck telegraphed my coming! Each time they heard the bell, they simply busied themselves with some acceptable behavior. As they heard the tinkling bell moving away, they resumed their forbidden activity. I was nothing more than the cat with the bell around it’s neck signaling his coming to the mice.

I had to laugh at myself. Hmm…they are going to be like their father. Maybe it’s true. Your children will pay you back for all the things you did to your mother! I could hardly keep a straight face as I asked them to return the ceramic figures to their place, reminded them the rules about eating in the kitchen only, had not changed and I expected the sofa cushions to be returned to the same order they were in when they arrived. They gladly obeyed. I took the Christmas bell off and laid it on the table. I thanked Aaron for letting me wear it and told him it sure was a fine necklace. He seemed pleased to remind me, “I said you could wear it until the morning.”   “Not a chance!” Is what I thought, but I said,  “Oh. I will put it back on later.”

Later never came.

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by Aggi Stevenson

My son called and asked if I would like some overnight company, speaking of his four and five-year-old sons. The snow had started a couple of hours earlier and showed no signs of slowing down.  Everything was already gleaming white. We don’t get much snow so I was a little surprised. I imagined him and his boys hibernating for the weekend. “Don’t you want to be snowed in with them?”

Actually, he wanted to go four-wheeling in the snow in his Jeep. He was hoping to meet up with some friends and wanted me to be snowed in with the boys. I asked him to give me an hour and then bring them because I was pretty busy at the moment. 

I took that hour to hide Christmas presents and then stretched out on my bed and stared at the ceiling. Resting. The calm before the storm of Power Rangers, Thomas the Train, Spiderman, wrestling, splashing baths and Batman pajamas. Making Pizza. Them asking for something else and me crazy enough to do it.

The doorbell rang and they were running around in the snow like mini maniacs. My son was quick to wish me luck and leave. I let them stay out as long as they wanted, watching them from the window. When they realized they were human popsicles, they came in.

They never agree on what to eat but Pizza hit the spot, even though one of them ate all the pepperoni off half the entire pizza.  They wanted hot chocolate but I didn’t have any or so I thought. I remembered seeing cocoa in the cabinet. The recipe for hot chocolate was on the side of the can.  I let them pour in the ingredients before heating it on the stove. They thought I actually cooked hot chocolate instead of using a package. They were impressed.

They couldn’t get over the snow and wanted to go back out but it was getting dark. I opened the door leading to the deck, showing them how to catch snow flakes on their tongues. They scooped some up and ate it. Before letting all the heat out of the house, I thought this was an excellent teaching moment. Crouching down beside them, I warned them of something very important to remember the rest of their lives.  When eating snow, you may encounter some pretty yellow snow. Even though you will be drawn to it, don’t eat it! No matter what!  Wish someone had warned me when I was little.

Later, my daughter called and asked me to look up Snow Cream recipes on my computer. She was going to make snow ice cream with her children. I thought I would do the same with the boys.  Once again we opened the deck door and each scooped up a bowl of pure white (no yellow) snow, dumping it in the large metal mixing bowl. Yes, in their excitement they made a mess pouring in the milk, sugar and vanilla flavoring. But as they stirred it, you would have thought they were world-renowned chefs. They ate two bowls each.

I must admit I was pooped when bedtime came.  They looked so tiny in my big king-size bed. Finally, they drifted off  to sleep just as I thought I couldn’t take hearing the Thomas the train song one more time. After kissing their cheeks and rubbing their foreheads, I sneaked away and entered the kitchen. It looked like a bunch of gremlins had been there.

 I loaded the dishwasher, picked us strewn toys and stepped over the elaborately designed train track my husband had put together. “What we won’t do for our grandchildren.”

When I was a young busy mother of three, there were days I thought I would lose my mind and wondered if they would ever grow up. The early mornings, late nights and up during the night, sapped my creativity. There were times I just wanted to get through the day. If I could just manage to get everything done I needed to do and not yell at my little ones, I would be doing good.

But they grew up way too fast. They didn’t need me during the night and they woke up on their own and went to bed on their own and before I knew it they were gone. The constantly ringing phone that used to drive me crazy sat still and only rang occasionally. The times I couldn’t hear myself think because all three teenagers decided to invite company over at the same time used to bug me. Then it got very quiet. It was really nice at first. Then the quiet became deafening.

And those extra curricular activities. Really. How did they expect me to be in three places at one time? I was nothing but a taxi driver. A slave to their every whim. Ballgames, ballgames and more ballgames. I was positive the print of the bleachers would be permanently etched upon my buttocks. I think somewhere along the line, the indentations popped back out as they began driving themselves where they wanted to go. They didn’t always want me to be where they were any longer. They didn’t need me. They just needed my money. Then. They didn’t even need me for that.

I was finally free. Free to do what I wanted to do. Go where I wanted to go when I wanted. Stay as long as I wanted and not come home at all if I so wished. I didn’t have someone else depending on me to run to them in the middle of the night when they were scared, rock baby dolls to sleep at nap time, serve tea in tiny cups, reattach wheels to their favorite toy car, read stories, dry tears, apply band aids, cook, teach them to drive, wash uniforms, and give advice.  This is what I always wanted. Especially on those days when all I did was break up fights, argue, threaten to ground, participate in shouting matches and cry myself to sleep at night. 

Yes, motherhood was the hardest thing I ever did. I was glad when it was over. I was so glad when they were all gone, I used to sit in my son’s room and try to remember what it was we used to fight over. I couldn’t remember anything worth fighting over. I do remember thinking everyday with him was a privilege. He was my first-born and we grew up together. Always a good kid. Loved sports. Made good grades. Now he was a sailor in United States Navy. I was so proud of him.

I was  glad my daughter was gone too. You know what they say about the middle child. I was the middle child in my family too come to think of it. Maybe that was why we were so much alike. I would go into her closet and hold her Greater Beckley Christian School cheerleading uniform close to my heart. I thought I could still smell the light scent of the perfume she used to wear but that could’ve been my imagination.  She was in Knoxville now preparing to go to the University of Tennessee. Strong. Opinionated. Honest and hard-working. I was so proud of her.

I would make my way across the hall to my other son’s room. I was glad he was gone. He was the baby. The last one to leave. I always called him my wild child. I guess it was because he was my wild child. He danced to a different drummer and if you didn’t like it, well that was just too bad. He brought more anger and laughter into our family than I could ever put into words. I wish I had not been so busy trying to conform him and just enjoyed him instead. He was in Roanoke now working in a chemical plant. I was so proud of him.

After they were gone, I had some lonely days. The mother in me still cried for my children. Some days I cried until my head ached. I just wish someone had told me the days with them would be gone much too quickly. I wondered if I seized the opportunity to  write wonderful things upon the pages of their memories. Oh God. I meant to. I wanted to. Was I so stressed, they will remember me that way? Was I a screamer? Was I too busy to spend time with them? Did I brush them off when they begged me to play with them? 

Then, thank God, the grandchildren came. A second chance. In my case I am proud to say, nine second chances!

As my children see me with their children they want to know, “What happened to the woman who raised us?”   It’s harder to say no to my grandchildren. Things that used to be big things are really nothing. I cherish them. I love them. I adore them. I think each one is great and wouldn’t change them for anything. I feel blessed when they are around me. I miss them when they are not around me. I think of them always. I want only good for them. I feel as though God has given a part of my children back to me. I am thankful.

I pray God will allow my children to realize how quickly their children will grow up and before they know it, they too will be gone. May they seize every moment possible to write wonderfulness upon the pages of their memories.

My deepest prayer is that we all meet in heaven one day. Not one left behind.  Where there will be no more separation. No more growing up and leaving home. God is able. Until then, may we seize every moment to write wonderfulness upon the pages of the memories of our children and grandchildren.

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by Aggi Stevenson

 We are experiencing  the worse snow storm we have had in a very long time here in Boonville, NC.  All though it is beautiful, road conditions are treacherous. I suppose my husband didn’t take his four-wheel drive to work today because…umm…well…don’t know exactly why he didn’t take his four-wheel drive to work today.

Our manager closed the store early because of road conditions and bitter temperatures. My husband’s office is attached to the store but he was oblivious to the snow as he caught up on computer work.  I finally called him after dark and suggested it would be a good idea if he came home. 

Soon after, he called telling me he was almost home and couldn’t believe how bad the roads were. He was a little worried he wouldn’t make it up the small hill at the end of our 600 foot long driveway.  I gathered with two of my grandboys by the window to watch for Papaw. We prayed for God to bring him home safely.

They were excited to see his lights come into view. We watched as his vehicle struggled through several attempts and then turned sideways just as it topped the hill. We waited. The car rocked forward a little and back a little but mostly just sat there. Five-year-old Aaron must have gotten impatient. “Is God going to help him or not!”

God did help him. He got him home safely. But we didn’t pray for God to bring him all the way to the door. He allowed Papaw to walk some too.  Maybe he wanted to build character in him and build up his leg muscles too.

As he trudged up the long driveway, in the cold blowing snow, with the wind howling, he glanced at his four-wheel drive Suburban sitting there smiling, all covered with a big fluffy blanket of snow. He just shook his head and kept walking.

The boys were glad God brought him home safely. I was too. I made him hot chili and was pretty sure which vehicle he would drive tomorrow.

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