Friday, December 24, 2010

O Holy Night!

Oh holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
This is the night of the dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night,
Oh night divin

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord
Oh praise His name forever
His power, and glory evermore proclaim
His power, and glory evermore proclaim

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh holy night, 
Oh night divine

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Lady in Red

Today I read a story that I have to share.  It's something out of Eudora Welty or William Faulkner.  Positively Southern Gothic.  It has drama, romance, and the macabre.

In 1969, workers were digging in an effort to install a septic tank in a garden at Egypt Plantation near Cruger, Mississippi.  Suddenly they hit something solid.  Upon unearthing the hard mass, they discovered a cast iron casket.  Cast iron caskets appeared in the first half of the nineteenth century and were a unique commodity.  Within the casket lay a woman long dead, though completely preserved, from her auburn hair to her red velvet brocade dress, gloves, and slippers.

Given the cast iron casket, the fashion of her dress, and the mode of embalmment, experts were able to deduce that The Lady in Red died some time in the mid-1830's.  How was she so amazingly well-preserved after having been dead over a hundred years?  The answer lies in the following newspaper account of the incident:

(Jackson, MS) Clarion-Ledger, 29 August 1969:
"The method of preservation used for the Lady In Red was common prior to the Civil War, when custom-made caskets, shaped to the body, were ordered as one would order a dress.
"The glass that sealed the coffin was placed over the body, and alcohol was poured inside until it was level full, and then sealed with a castiron tip.
"When the back hoe machine hit the coffin, alcohol spilled from the casket and spots of the liquid were seen on the folds of the woman's dress."

Caskets such as the one in which The Lady in Red was found were very expensive.  It is assumed that the casket was custom made to fit her petite size.  She was obviously a woman from an elite background.  Buried only three feet under the earth, it can be supposed that the burial was either unintentional or done in haste.  So how did the lady in red come to be there?
Several hypotheses exist.  Perhaps she was a member of the Ricks family, the owners of the plantation?  However, at the time of her death, Egypt Plantation was run by absentee owners.  The owner's family did not reside on the property, and the garden was not located on a site that used to be a cemetery.  Therefore, it is highly unlikely that she was at all related to the owner of the plantation.  Could she have died of yellow fever while traveling via steamboat, necessitating her immediate burial?  Given the elaborate coffin and embalming technique employed, I feel this is highly unlikely.  My best guest, which can only be a guess given the mysterious nature of this story, is that The Lady in Red died somewhere far from home.  She was placed in cast iron and preserved in alcohol to facilitate her transport to her burial site.  Something went amiss during her lugubrious journey, and she either fell out of the riverboat or was mistakenly unloaded.  Those are my thoughts.  I could be quite far from the truth.  

Who was The Lady in Red?  We will never know.  She lies in her final resting place, the pauper's side of Odd Fellows Cemetery in Lexington, Mississippi.

Photo copyright Natalie Maynor.


Christmas First Grade Style

Well, no one ever said Christmas for a 6 year old was devoid of tacky!  Thank you Wal Mart for the decor.  My kiddies had cupcakes, sugar cookies, Christmas cookies, candy canes, juice, and chocolate.  We listened to Christmas songs and rocked out.  Then we watched A Charlie Brown Christmas.  We traced our hands to make reindeer antlers and drew Rudolph's face, creating a present for our families.  We used sentence strips to make bands that we decorated and then put on big shiny Christmas present bows and wore them around our heads.  We each got a silver jingle bell threaded through yarn and wore it around our necks while reading The Polar Express.  It was quite the party!

And our Charlie Brown Christmas tree!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree!

The Christmas season is incredibly busy and hectic for a lot of people.  For a first grade teacher, it's a marathon.  As soon as we come back from Thanksgiving, the children have Christmas fever.  I know ahead of time that I need to get the tree up before Thanksgiving break is over.  So the Friday after Thanksgiving, I went over to Lowe's and picked out my tree.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE real Christmas trees.  However, as a petite single girl, this can pose some issues.  Hauling a tree my size up to my third floor condo and attempting to straighten it while putting it into a stand causes me great anxiety!  Fortunately this year, my downstairs neighbor's boyfriend was coming out of the building right as I was going in with the tree, and he brought it up for me.  This year I purchased a more expensive green plastic tree holder, and it worked SO MUCH better than last year's wobbly red metal cheap stand.  I kept holding my breath waiting for things to get difficult.  Waiting to be mauled by my tree.  Last year, the tree fell down five times (4 of them on me).  Finally I gave up, tied a ribbon around it, and affixed the ribbon to a nail in my window sill.  This year was different.  The tree went up immediately.  Straight.  Stable.  Painless.  Thank you God!  So being a single gal this Christmas wasn't so bad after all!  ;) At least when it came to solo tree assembly and decorating.

Here is the evolution of my Christmas tree experience:

Whew!  It's up and straight.  Okay, time for lights.

 Alright, this will suffice.  Not the greatest light hanging in the world, but I did it.

Let's try the red wooden bead garland I bought a while back.  That might be nice.

Decorations!  I have a few stray ornaments of varied colors, but the majority are gold and red.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Shiny Brite vintage gold and red ornaments that I purchased on Etsy.  They really look outstanding.  I know it's hard to tell, as I'm still taking pictures on my cell phone (Where is my battery charger?!) but they make me happy!

A few other favorite ornaments of mine came from a good friend who was moving and needed to get rid of most of her extraneous possessions.  She gave me wonderful vintage indent ornaments.  I always hang those first in a prominent place where I know they'll stand out.  I have about eight of these in red, green, gold, and blue.  These are the only ornaments on my tree that aren't all gold and red.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sending Holiday Cheer

When I was a little girl, I used to love to check the mail this time of year.  It was so much fun to see how many Christmas cards we received each day.  I loved to compare them.  The art work on some was exquisite.  Others were funny.  Some were cute.  I would love to match the personality of the sender with the card; invariably, the two went together.  I especially loved the vintage looking cards.  I recall my great aunt sending cards with images right out of Currier and Ives every year.  My grandmother used to hang all of the cards along the kitchen doorway and the moldings.  At the time, it seemed like she received HUNDREDS of cards.  I loved opening each one and reading what different people wrote, learning names of relatives and friends I didn't see regularly, and even comparing handwriting.

Now Christmas cards seem to be a thing of the past.  My grandma has just a handful of cards that she puts up on the foyer table.  No more garland of cards.  My parents no longer send out Christmas cards and so only receive a few themselves.  It is in fact a custom in which I have never engaged as an independent adult.  That's all about to change.  This year, I'm going to send Christmas cards.  I'm going to revive this wonderful tradition!

Shutterfly has a Christmas promotion and is giving away photo Christmas cards to bloggers.  I am excited to get mine.  Of course, I've been debating which one to choose.  Here are a few of my favorites:

I love the sentiment behind this card.  And the red with the black and white really pops.

This one is so pristine and fresh.  Aqua is one of my favorite colors, and I think it's a neat spin on the traditional red and green.

This is very pretty and classic.  Elegant, if you will!

I love the simplicity of this as well as the words.  I also love the edging and the color.

To get your Shutterfly Christmas Photo cards, check out  Or if you aren't into photo cards and would like stationary, they have a selection of those as well at  I have friends who are Jewish or who may not be all that religious, and they can find holiday cards on Shutterfly at

Which one to pick?  Maybe I'll ask my little pup, as the picture featured on the card will have to include him.  For right now, it's just me and the pup.  I am so lucky to have him!

Now get out there and revive a beautiful holiday tradition!

Uptown Girl at Christmas

While I was at Lowe's buying my Christmas tree, I also bought one of their wreaths made out of real branches from fir trees.  This is the first year that my wreath is "live"---well, sort of, since the branches are now severed from the tree and therefore dead.  I hung my wreath on my fleur de lis hook that usually serves as my key holder.  The fleur de lis is the symbol of New Orleans and also of the New Orleans Saints.  It originated with the French Bourbon aristocracy.  Because Louisiana was a French colony founded during the reign of a Bourbon king, the fleur de lis took root and now symbolizes New Orleans.

 I have a hanging sign that says "Uptown."  I bought it at the arts and crafts market a couple months ago.  The arts and crafts market is held in a park just a few blocks from my house.  One of the many reasons why I love living in the area of the city known as "Uptown."  I can also walk to the streetcar.  Uptown contains incredibly architecturally significant and beautiful homes, lush and vibrant gardens, and two universities.  It has the zoo and an incredible park (see other post) as well as great restaurants.  Uptown is a very family friendly area and is one of the most safe areas to live in the city.  I love being an "Uptown Girl."  (Honestly, I have rocked out to that Billy Joel song many a time ;) ).  So I incorporated the sign into my wreath.  I know it's lopsided.  I had issues affixing it.  I'm pretending it makes it look more shabby chic/rustic.  The tiles that form the word "Uptown" are found on many of our city's street corners.  Of course, they are much bigger.  They spell out the street names and are absolutely gorgeous.

I've had the metal stars for several years.  When I had a house, I hung up garlands of fake pine and put the stars on it.  After being outside in the elements, they acquired a rusty patina.  I decided to slip them into this wreath.  The wreath hangs on the closet door in my living room.  It really adds to the Christmas feel and makes me feel like I'm either in a Dickens novel or in the country or both.  Instead, I'm just a girl in Uptown New Orleans getting ready for the holidays!  :)

(Sorry about the photo quality---or lack thereof.  I have misplaced my camera's charger for the battery and am using my cell phone instead.)

There Was An Old Lady Who. . .

As I glance over this blog, I realize anyone reading it would think that I am 84 years old.  I live in one of the most exciting cities in the country.  There is ALWAYS something going on.  An incredible live music scene.  The best restaurants.  Cool bars.  Festivals.  And yet I sound like I am an 84 year old lady.

Today I was trying to teach my children about past, present, and future tense (think on a very minor, basic scale), so I wrote on the board:

I WAS a baby.

I AM a teacher.

I WILL BE. . .

And then I hesitated.  What will I be?!  Given the previous two sentences, I felt I needed to write something significant and thematic, not just, "I will eat dinner tonight."  Or "I will walk the dog in the park."  What did I REALLY want to put when reflecting on this whole crazy life thing and the chronological nature of my sentences?  "I will be a mom."  OR "I will have a baby."  Or maybe the thing that would have to happen (for me personally) for those things to occur: "I will get married."  But I couldn't write any of those things with any confidence.  I felt embarrassed at my hesitation.  What was I really certain of in my future?  What could I write?

[Sidebar----deep moment for 11:30 a.m. on a stormy Tuesday with squirmy children playing with their pencils and picking their noses right in front of you.]

So I wrote, "I WILL BE an old lady."

They all burst out laughing!  And I said, "It's true!  It is!  One day I will be!"

Some days I feel like that day is NOW.  I live in this amazing city, yet I'm such a home body.  Plus chasing 6 year olds has a way of exhausting you to the point where staying up late to listen to live music isn't really an option.

Part of me is perfectly happy with my old lady nature.  I have embraced it.  Yet part of me still feels guilty about it.  Like I should try harder to be young while I am young.  Don't get me wrong---my clothes are in style.  Nobody will ever "What Not to Wear Me."  I guess having a mortgage and being devoted to your job and being the sole person to take care of and be responsible for every aspect of your life can take its toll.  Over Christmas break, I will try to connect with my inner twenty-something.  Which happens to be my outer-twenty something as well.  ;)