Monday, November 30

Christmas Decor 2009

The main ballroom tree; a joint effort, but not done by me. I spent the whole day making wreaths and doing bows, and none of my photos was good. These pix are all from Brier Creek Country Club.

This and the next two are close-ups of the ornaments on the ballroom tree.

This ornament is about 8" long; much bigger than it looks here.

The bottom part of the lobby tree.

Swags over the doorways in the golf shop.

We worked from 9am until 5:30 pm today. Every two years we replace all the lights in the wreaths and trees and this is our year to do that. There are 3 trees, about 20 wreaths of all sizes, several areas of garlanding and decor on wall sconces. Then we do the golf shop and the tennis club, so it takes seven people all day!

Driving home on Interstate 540 is dicey at best, but in a heavy rainstorm at 5:30 - it is a double hell! I thought I'd never get home. My plan was to stop for dinner at a restaurant on the way, but halfway there (after 30 minutes in the car for a trip that should have taken only 12 minutes) I called mr. kenju and said dinner would have to be Thanksgiving leftovers (once again). He wasn't happy about it, but he had no choice. Tomorrow we start the Governor's Mansion Christmas decor. I doubt dinner will be any fancier then.....LOL

Sunday, November 29

Christmas Decor 2009

A wreath I made today for the Capital City Club. What a shame it has to share space with that monstrosity of a printer.

The lobby tree at the Capital City Club; a joint effort. Mel put the tree together, Rhonda lit it, I made the bows and hung about 1/3 of the ornaments and Rhonda finished it, with help from Kris. It takes a village.....! This is one of six trees for this club.

This is a tree I decorated at the Hampton Inn Brier Creek last week. We do six trees there and some wreaths.

Saturday, November 28

A Family of Six

Another wonderful email:

Black bears typically have the two cubs; rarely, one or three. In 2008, in northern New Hampshire, a black bear Sow gave birth to five healthy young.There were two or three reports of sows with as many as 4 cubs, but five was, and is, very extraordinary. I learned of them shortly after they emerged from their den and set myself a goal of photographing all five cubs with their mom- no matter how much time and effort was involved. I knew the trail they followed on a fairly regular basis, usually shortly before dark. After spending nearly four hours a day, seven days a week, for more than six weeks, I had that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and photographed them. I used the equivalent of a very fast film speed on my digital camera. The print is properly focused and well exposed, with all six bears posing as if they were in a studio for a family portrait.

I stayed in touch with other people who saw the bears during the summer and into the fall hunting season. All six bears continued to thrive. As time for hibernation approached, I found still more folks who had seen them, and everything remained OK. I stayed away from the bears as I was concerned that they might become acclimated to me, or to people in general, and treat them as approachable friends. This could easily become dangerous for both man and animal.
After Halloween, I received no further reports and could only hope the bears survived until they hibernated. This spring, just before the snow disappeared, all six bears came out of their den and wandered all over the same familiar territory they trekked in the spring of 2008. I saw them before mid-April and dreamed nightly of taking another family portrait, a highly improbable second once-in-a-lifetime photograph.
On 25 April 2009, I achieved my dream.

When something as magical as this happens between man and animal, Native Americans say, We have walked together in the shadow of a rainbow. And so it is with humility and great pleasure that I share these exhilarating photos with you.

By Tom Sears

Friday, November 27

Quotes + Thanksgiving Notes

Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education. Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.

Abraham Flexner, educator (1866-1959)


Words / as slippery as smooth grapes, / words exploding in the light / like dormant seeds waiting / in the vaults of vocabulary, / alive again, and giving life: / once again the heart distills them.

Pablo Neruda, poet and diplomat (1904-1973)


Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we will count this as one of the more successful. Fourteen people gathered here; enough food was consumed for twice that and we still have enough left-overs to feed us for a week. I baked three fresh turkey breasts (wow, were they ever good), made 4 lbs. of sweet potatoes, 5 lbs. of mashed potatoes and 4 quarts of sausage and mushroom dressing (pronounced amazing by my son-in-law). My daughter in law brought excellent green bean casserole, green bean salad, and cranberry sauce. My older daughter made wonderful deviled eggs, the best macaroni and cheese you'd ever eat, and my younger daughter contributed a huge bag of rolls (thanks you, Costco), 2 apple pies, a pumpkin pie and I baked a pineapple-upside down cake. I'd say that was a feast, wouldn't you?

The best part was that no one got into a snit or an argument, and none of the children got hurt - even though they got bored after dinner and ran through the house like a herd of elephants - a herd of BIG elephants (they range in age from almost ten to fifteen. They usually go outside to run off their energy, but even though it got up to 63*, they stayed inside this year.

Having gotten up at 7am to begin cooking; by 3pm I was exhausted, but I managed to tough it out until 10:15, when I literally fell into bed. After getting my usual seven hours of sleep, I woke up at 5:15 on the dot. I hate being up that early!

Today (Friday) we worked all day decorating the Cardinal Club for Christmas. Like the idiot I sometimes am, I left my camera at Mel's shop instead of putting it in my tool kit. But one of the others agreed to take photos for me and email them, so I hope to have them for you within a few days. We used some new animal print ribbons this year and they are smashing!

Thursday, November 26

Over the 28 years that I was involved in the wedding flower business, I had quite a few brides and grooms who made me proud to be associated with them. Here are two of them: (Click to enlarge)

And here is Sarah getting ready before the ceremony (2002). The woman who referred Casey and Sarah to me told me about them; he had been orphaned at a young age, and even though he had a lot of trials and tribulations in his life, he grew up to become an exemplary young man, cherished by all who knew him. She didn't know much about Sarah, but over the course of the wedding planning, I came to know her as the kind of young woman of whom anyone would say the same. This article puts the exclamation point on it.

Wednesday, November 25

An Attitude of Gratitude


We need to have gratitude every day!

For the bounty in our lives.....

For the beauty of the world around us....

For our friends and families (even when they are sarcastic....)

On my first Thanksgiving after starting the blog, I wrote this.....and except for minor changes due to the passage of time, it still stands. It is my fervent wish that each of you will have a blessed Thanksgiving to share with family and friends, and that you will reflect on gratitude and how you share it with the world.


'I've got problems.
Every time I go to bed I think there's somebody
under it. I'm scared. I think I'm going crazy..'

'Just put yourself in my hands for one year,' said
the shrink. 'Come talk to me three times a week
and we should be able to get rid of those fears..'

'How much do you charge?' 'Eighty dollars
per visit,' replied the doctor. 'I'll sleep on it,' I said.

Six months later the doctor met me on the street.
'Why didn't you come to see me about those fears
you were having?' he asked.

'Well, Eighty bucks a visit three times a week
for a year is an awful lot of money! A bartender
cured me for $10. I was so happy to have
saved all that money that I went and
bought a new pickup!'

'Is that so!' With a bit of an attitude he
said, 'and how, may I ask,
did a bartender cure you?'

'He told me to cut the legs off the bed! -
Ain't nobody under there now!!!

Tuesday, November 24

Handy Hints & A Lesson Learned

Gleaned from a local newsletter (which is really just a batch of ads, masquerading as a news letter):

1. If you have trouble opening a jar lid, put a rubber band around the lid and then twist.

2. If you believe your toilet is about to overflow, quickly remove the tank lid, reach down and push the flush valve closed. It covers the tennis ball-sized opening in the bottom of the tank. That keeps the bowl from overflowing while you clear the obstruction.

Note: you can also turn the valve on the wall beside or beneath the tank to shut off the water supply (if it isn't rusted shut, like ours are).

3. Take your bananas apart when you get them home. If you leave them connected, they ripen faster.
Note: I tried this and it seems to work.

4. To avoid a burglary while you are away on vacation, luggage tags should show ONLY your destination address.

Note: There is another reason for doing that too! In the early 80's, we went to Hawaii on a company trip, and eight of us (four couples) went early and stayed on the Big Island for a week prior to the "company" part of the trip, in Maui. The flight from the Big Island to Maui was short and uneventful, except mr. kenju's luggage didn't arrive with us. Had he not had it for the week prior, it wouldn't have mattered, but for the Maui part of the trip, we needed dress clothing for the parties we'd be attending. Long story short: his luggage came back home to Raleigh, and when the airline called and told my daughter, she told them to send it back to Maui ASAP. It finally arrived, but not in time for the first few events. If we had placed our destination address on the luggage, it would not have made the return trip to Raleigh and then back to Maui.

Lesson learned!!

Monday, November 23

(Painting attributed to Valerian Ruppert)

"Sleep Tight! Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite!"
was often the last thing my parents would say to me when they tucked me in bed. Back then, I had no idea what bed bugs looked like, and if I had, I might never have gone to sleep.

Recently, I watched an episode of Dr. Mehmet Oz's TV show, where he talked about the current bed bug epidemic and with an expert, showed how you can spot the evidence of bed bugs. The advice that stood out in my mind was when he said...."When you go into a hotel room, DON'T EVER put your luggage on the bed."

Did you just get a flashback of every time you went into a hotel room and put your luggage on the bed? I sure did, and it must number in the hundreds by now. If you do that, you run the risk of transferring bugs to your home when you return.

Dr. Oz showed that bed bugs don't just hang out in the mattress, box spring and bedding; they inhabit the wooden furniture close to the bed, and they can even be in the pictures and wall art over the bed. (all together now.......EW!!!)

Go here to read all about bed bugs and how to spot them, and here to find out how to get rid of them.

Another thought just hit me: did you see the TV reports several years ago about all the germs found in hotel rooms? Bedding, specifically the coverlets or spreads, are rife with germs and (insert another chorus of EW here) semen. That alone is a good reason not to place either your body or your luggage on the bed. We had all better hope that the hotels we frequent have luggage racks in their rooms, or desks/cabinetry large enough to hold suitcases, because the floors are surely dirtier than the beds and we all know how scuzzy the bathrooms can be - even when they look clean.

Maybe we were all better off not knowing this. Sometimes knowledge is a dangerous (and off-putting) thing! But forewarned is forearmed - so now you know what not to do.


Thanks to everyone who left a comment about the seasonal decor on my blog yesterday. More will come in the next few weeks, and please don't feel that you have to comment each time unless you truly want to.

Sunday, November 22

A Notable Quote + Christmas Decor

Door or lamp post sprays

One of the many wreaths I made (taken from an odd angle, since it was below me)

Another spray

Adam, come and get your apple.

Santa is waiting for his cookies!

Santa's Elf in a gingerbread house

The top of a crystal, pearl, white and gold tree (a joint effort by me and Rhonda)

the base of the tree above

Little scenes like this (and the one below) are marketed to people needing something to go to a nursing home or hospital. It is only about 10" wide.

A spray (on the wall) and an arrangement, all in copper and purple.

A detail from the arrangement above.

The copper spray.

A deer in a woodsy basket

A gilded deer in a table scape.

A small copper and purple table arrangement

A mid-size side table arrangement, with cardinals and poinsettias and berries

A children's arrangement (not done by me)

An over-mirror swag (not done by me)

The "Polar Express" tree (not done by me)

A detail of the ladybug ornaments on the Polar Express tree.


The cardinal doctrine of a fanatic's creed is that his enemies are the enemies of God.

Andrew Dickson White, diplomat, historian, and educator (1832-1918)


Saturday, November 21

As I have driven the 30 miles to and from Louisburg, NC, over the last few weeks, I have seen some things I'd love to photograph for you; old derelict barns, the burned out shell of a former home, a really big chicken (not real) in someone's yard, the meandering stream which became a torrent during last week's rains. The problem is, I am usually traveling at 60 mph when I see them - a speed not conducive to clicking photos on the fly. There is seldom a place to pull over and get out the camera either, unless I go into someone's driveway and I 'd prefer not doing that!

The shop isn't ready for photos either, since it looks more like a storeroom than a showroom at the moment. Friday we decorated two trees and we have a third one to do when possible. The town has a Christmas parade and open house in all the shops Saturday, so we are sort of hoping that the people who do happen into the shop will forgive our tardiness in having it completely ready for customers. The shop isn't well-lit, so I don't know how well my photos will turn out, but I'll do my best to give you something to marvel over!

Saturday I am doing wedding flowers for that shop. I have worked on weddings for other florists before, but not this one, so I am hoping that he will be pleased with the style and quality of my work. My design philosophy is that "less is more", but so far he doesn't seem to subscribe to that theory. I am finding that the taste level and design standards are different in small towns than I am used to. That's not to say that cities are better - just different.

On Wednesday of next week, and continuing the day after Thanksgiving, I will be back working with Mel Day. We ordinarily decorate a country club, two city clubs, a small hotel lobby and meeting rooms and we are lucky to be doing the Governor's Mansion again this year. It is the seventh year for me, but Mel has been doing it longer. One of our accounts, a restaurant, has decided that it will have staff decorate the place this year. I have to see that, especially since their decorations are literally falling apart and they have refused to allow additions or replacement ornaments for several years. The garland and small trees we usually do for them have to be held together with spit and a promise, so I don't hold out much hope for their abilities to make it look as good as we do. It may result in a good thing though; they may see how hard it is to do and hire us back next year - and maybe they will see close up how bad their old decorations are and allow new ones to be purchased!!

Friday, November 20


This wolf was shot recently in Drayton Valley, Alberta...which is near Edmonton about 3 hours North of Calgary. The wolf weighs over 230 lbs, smashing the previous record of 175 lbs. Wouldn't want to run into this guy in the woods. Apparently a bear hunter witnessed this wolf chase off a big black bear at his baiting station.

This came to me in an email today. It's turning out to be animal week here at Imagine, since work is keeping me too busy to have any ideas to write about.

Thursday, November 19

Peaceable Kingdom

The email that included these photos had several more, but I have chosen a few that tell the story. The man fed the deer some apple, and the deer seems curious about the people and the dogs, but not afraid. I did notice that in all the photos, the man kept his hand firmly on the big dog's collar, so perhaps he thought the large dog was not as peaceable as the smaller dog.

The deer "kisses" all of them in turn. It's wonderful to see them together. Too bad we can't all just show our curiosity about others, and manage to get along no matter what our differences.

Wednesday, November 18

Ear Wax, Fallen Leaves and Cable Remotes

When I get to the point that I can't hear well even with my hearing aids turned up, it usually means I have ear wax in abundance. Tuesday, I went to C*stco's hearing aid dept., to get my ears checked. The manager there, who I liked lots has flown the coop and a woman has taken his place. She checked my ears but neither had any wax, which was a big surprise to me. At the time she checked it, my right ear was completely stopped up. She advised me to see my doctor, who, she said, would put me on some sort of antihistamine or other sinus meds. My reaction: "Oh, joy, just what I need - more meds." She also made an appointment for me to get my hearing tested again in the middle of December, just in case the sinuses were not the cause of the problem. I may cancel that if I see it's not necessary. I took a Cl*ritin tonight. Wish me luck!


Our yard men came today to blow 14 days worth of fallen leaves; some of which were still wet from the steady rains last week. Six men, either wearing back-pack blowers or pushing air blowers on wheels worked for at least 40 minutes to corral the leaves into the natural areas of our yard. An hour after they left, you could barely tell they had been here. I wish a front would come in that had winds high enough to blow all the leaves off the trees at one time - but not high enough to blow limbs off or uproot trees. Who do I have to call to order that?

Guess what? The guys blew Stella the spider away! Mr. kenju noticed at dinner time that she was not in her usual spot. I opened the door and saw the remnants of her latest web creation (which really had been a beautiful sight) blowing in the breeze and Stella was no where to be seen. I hope she comes back and I'll let you know if she does.


Monday night the cable TV remote quit working. I turned it off in the afternoon and when mr. kenju turned it on after dinner - nothing happened. I turned on the TV and the cable box manually and proceeded to re-program the remote, but nothing worked. I had done it many times before and had no problems, so I called the local cable trouble-shooter for help. Either she was watching a sit-com or she was at home herding her children, but I distinctly heard kids in the background. LOL

I told her my tale of woe; she re-booted the box, to no avail. She told me to return the remote and get a new one, which I did the next day. Guess what? It doesn't work either. Pooh. That means I'll call them back and they'll tell me when their guy can come out to the house and install a new cable box**. I'm sure it will be three weeks from next Tuesday, between the hours of midnight and midnight, give or take a few.....

Update: Glory Be!! The cable service people will be here between 1pm and 3pm today!! According to the woman I spoke with last night, we have "low signals"; meaning a new cable box is in order. YAY!

** My younger daughter will say..."I told you so!" She's been telling me for months that we needed a new box.

Tuesday, November 17

Odds & Ends (Again)

I guess if you don't have a baby chair handy, this is as good as any way to help them sit up.....LOL. Works as a teething ring, too.

Want to give me these for Christmas? Aren't they clever? I wonder if they are glass or acrylic? I almost hope they're acrylic so we could use them on the deck around the pool.

Helping Hands! I wish I'd had a pair of those when my babies were newborns. I wonder if they're waterproof.....?

This is clever too, but I don't fancy sitting on it.

OOOOOOOOOOO!! (Sort of creepy)