hippos doing what?

My favorite holiday “can’t do without it” recipe is called Hippocras

No it does NOT involve hippos.  Ugh.  Think of a hot version of Sangria, heavy on the cinnamon. If you want the history on this yummy beverage, click here

Here’s what I do at home.

  • Set crock pot on counter.
  • Turn on high.
  • Pour in 2 gallons of apple juice
  • Find cheap red wine, pour in at least 2 cups.  You can do more depending on your tastes
  • Taste.
  • Cut up a seedless orange in slices. Remove any seeds, but leave the rinds on.   Add to crock pot.  You can also add some orange juice as well.  But be careful not to add too much orange juice.  It can send the whole tone of the mixture over too much towards the sangria side.  Sangria is fine…for summer.  This isn’t summertime.
  • Add spices to taste.  Spices to choose from are:

Cinnamon STICKS (never add ground spices to a drink mixture.  All they will do is float to the top and get in people’s teeth) If you can’t wait for the cinnamon sticks to work their slow magic just add some Candy Red Hots to the pot.  They will dissolve and give you the taste you were looking for.

Whole Cloves.  Here again, please stay away from the ground spices.  A trick to keep the cloves from floating into your way when you are trying to ladle out your punch is to stick them into the rind of the orange slices when you originally put the orange slices into the crock pot.

Sugar.  Not too much.  this is supposed to be a refreshing cup of cheer, not a sickly sweet dessert in a cup.

  • Stir.
  • Taste.
  • Add more stuff till you get a balance of taste that you find appealing. 
  • Taste some more. 
  • Oh heck, go get a mug and have a bit more.
  • Now go take your mug and sit down on the porch or in front of your fire. There, that’s much better isn’t it?
  • and that’s how you serve it.  Hot and unpretentious.  This is a “kick off your shoes, stretch your feet towards the fire, curl up on the couch” type of beverage. 

There are some side benefits to having Hippocras in a crock pot on your counter:

1.      Your house will smell heavenly!

2.      And if you make sure to turn the crock pot on and let the contents heat all the way up at least once a day, you can keep this going, on the counter all season long.  Yes, you heard me.  All season long.  I normally start a pot of this stuff in early November and keep it going till the end of January.  Just add more liquid (apple juice, wine, orange juice) depending on what it needs.  This means you have an excuse to taste test it at least once a day. 

3.      You are ALWAYS ready for guests….or at least your house will SMELL ready.

You can also make a “virgin” version of this using just cinnamon tea, apple juice, orange juice and the spices.  But I love the warm welcome of a hot mug of wine on a cold fall/winter evening.


So tell me, what is your “I can’t live through the holidays without THIS” recipe?


she started it!

Ginny is just a little over three now and her vocabulary has gone supernova on us.  She uses words like “technically” and  “actually” and insists on the proper names being given to animals…  “that’s not a chicken mama.  He doesn’t lay eggs.  That is actually a rooster”   This was as we were setting out the fisher price nativity set (Which I strongly recommend for anyone with kids.  Put away the fragile sets for a few years and use this one.   Your child can play with each item and you will find yourself interacting with your kids as you play act the story over and over again.  Not just on Christmas morning)

Given her increased vocabulary,  playing word-association with Ginny is very fun and interesting.  It gives me a window into what she thinks is important. That window opened wide as Ginny and I played word-association last night for almost 15 minutes. 

The only rule for Ginny is “nope you can’t use that word, you said Georgia already”   Otherwise she can say anything she wants.  Even without anyone explaining the rules, Ginny is only going to throw out a word that DOES have some connection (however tenuous) to the previous word   I had a personal rule for myself  that my words had to relate in some real, logical way to Ginny’s previous word and it needed to be something that Ginny had a shot at least of relating to.  So if she said “George”  I couldn’t say “Burns”  instead I said “curious”  

Of course none of this was explained or spelled out as such.   Some games you just don’t have to explain.

The fun thing is that I didn’t start it.  Ginny did.  She was pretend flying and doing a lot of dancing and bouncing around the living room last night.  Suddenly she came to a halt, perched on an ottoman and said “Sandwich!”  and then looked at me expectantly….

It was clear that she wasn’t asking for a sandwich, so I said “Peanut butter”

She responded with “Marmalade!”

And we went from there.  Topics we covered ranged from sports to dance, from ice skating to relatives, from holidays to food, and from furniture to movies. 

She made some really interesting leaps of logic.  At one point I said “ice skating” and she said “Georgia” which is actually the name of a little girl at the rink.  Georgia is about 7 years old  and she is doing double jumps and lands her axle beautifully. Anyway, I’ve pointed her out to Ginny a couple of times and Ginny has said Hi, but I had no idea that she would make that direct association. Especially since it has been well over a month since Ginny has even been in the rink at all. 

Don’t know why I’m posting this, except that it was a fun family moment with Ginny and I wanted to share. What fun things happen in your family with no planning that turn out to be precious memories?  At the very least write them down.  Consider sharing them.  Don’t let yourself forget.  This is treasure.  This is gold.  This is what will last.

i’m not proud, of me

This is not a rant.  But it does have to start with a confession that is going to make a fair number of people angry with me.  But read through to the end and I think you will forgive me for my candor.

I’m not particularly proud of my daddy.  Sure, for a few fleeting moments, after a solo, or when he has carved a really cool pumpkin.  But not in a lasting, over-arching kind of way.

Candidly, he is not really good at being proud of me either.  Drawing, singing, academics…. nothing I did was ever good enough.  I always got the feeling that “well, yes, that drawing is good enough, for an 8 year old” but the unspoken text came through loud and clear – “and I can’t wait for you to get older so it gets better and I can actually give you accolades without perjuring myself.”  You don’t even want to get me started on discussing our disconnect over music.  It is very nearly a tragedy in our family, that two people who both love music so much can both be so disappointed in each other and unable to resolve it.

Richard Nelson Welton, my daddy, is awkward.  He says the wrong things, he is volatile, and dogmatic and judgmental.  As parent and child we did not understand each other and as adults, we just don’t get along.  Our politics do not match up at all, and half the time I feel as if he questions my very salvation.

To be honest, we are BOTH volatile, and awkward and judgmental.  It’s not just him.


Thoughts of my daddy do not stir up good feelings in me.  Every scene in my head, every memory I have is mixed at best and some are downright painful.  It is hard to point to a single moment and say “there, see that?  I’m am proud of him for that accomplishment”

He is good with Ginny now, and I recall that he was very good at doing the occasional weird, fun things when I was a kid.

Like the time he made tiny balsa wood model airplanes for me and my brother.  They were beautiful, pure forms carved and sanded carefully……and the game Stephen and I wanted to play with them was hiding behind the couches on each end of the living room and flying bombing missions across the room.  Which of course damaged the planes…..and made my dad angry.

That led to him teaching us to make origami paper airplanes.  Less trouble for him, and less heartache when he saw his well crafted little planes crash up against a wall.

When Stephen and I were kids and playing at the pool was an all day affair in the summer, Daddy gave great horsey rides in the pool.  He gave our friends rides too.  He would “buck” us kids off his back endlessly.    How he survived those summers without drowning I don’t know.  Because I don’t recall him coming up for air much…..

There was one summer where I remember him letting the grass get really high in the back yard.  Before he cut it all down, he cut a maze into it and let us kids run around playing tag in the maze.  But he wasn’t carefree or playful in the sense that I seemed to see other fathers being.  Probably because every time he tried, things went wrong.  Like that hike in the mountains when I was a kid

What my daddy IS good at is what I call “the long-haul” stuff.

The nitty gritty things that leave other folks staring at the long road in front of them and giving up.  Daddy is stubborn.  He worked as a full time day janitor, part-time night janitor and had an early morning newspaper route *all at the same time*  (my mom also worked two jobs at that time as well)

My parents did all that because they wanted my brother and I to go to a Christian school and I had fallen in love with ice skating (an expensive hobby to say the least).  My daddy is certainly a long standing example of doing the mundane things in life.  My mom is good at inspiration and blue sky thinking, and I’ve gotten some of that from her.  Richard Nelson Welton is good at the long haul.  The daily grind is his specialty.  He knows how to find joy in accomplishing the most menial of tasks.  I like to think I’ve learned something from him in that regard.

My daddy is a really good example of someone who knows how to be happy with a job well done, no matter how “low” the job may seem.  Even “waving” for a tax company that forces their employees to dress like Lady Liberty and stand on street corners waving at bored, jaded motorists.  A job that would have humiliated me to my core….he thinks it is fun.  He does his job so well in fact that people KNOW him. My daddy is locally famous.  People call the tax service just to ask if they can hire Richard to wave for their own company!

He takes pride in doing his job well, even if the job itself isn’t inspiring.

I think he got that from his daddy, Dr. Felix Burell Welton, a surgeon who spent his retirement years doing volunteer work at a clinic in the local prison.  Long after his surgical career and extensive missionary work should have entitled him to just sit down and put his feet up, Felix kept going.  When life and illness finally forced Felix to stop volunteering….he just stopped living.  Dr. Welton wanted, needed to be useful.  His son, my daddy is the same way.

It’s easy to look back now and make my daddy’s work ethic sound noble and glorious, but it was hard in the day-to-day living of it to feel proud.

What 15 year old girl on the planet is going to be proud of her daddy as he picks up the milk cartons that her classmates insist on spilling on the school’s carpeted halls?  What 9 year old is going to be proud of her daddy when he can’t come see her skate?  No 9 year old on this earth is going to be un-selfish enough or even aware enough to realize that the reason he couldn’t be there was because he was working double to clean the offices so mother could take me to the competition.  What 30 year old is going to be proud of her father who is in his 70’s, standing on street corners, making a spectacle of himself as he “waves” for various merchants around her small town?

But I’m not 15, or 9 anymore or even 30.

I’m almost 42, and I am proud of my daddy now.  And in this case it is for one shining moment where he got everything right.  It is time for me to share that moment with you.

My father has cancer.  Prostate cancer.  His prostate is 90% engulfed in cancer.

When the doctor told my dad he had cancer my dad’s response was “well, we all die”

The doctor said, “yes sir, that we do”

My dad followed up with “yes, but I know I’m going to see Jesus when I die.  Do you know who you are going to see?”

The doctor paused and said “yes sir, I do. I’m going to see Jesus too.”

And that was about the extent of my dad’s participation in the conversation.  The rest of the appointment was taken up with my mom asking various medical questions.

My dad stayed focused on what really matters.

The same mind-set that allows him to take pride in a job that would bring me utter humiliation (but has instead earned him local fame, respect and honor) is allowing my daddy to place his utter confidence in the goodness of our creator as he gets up each day and just keeps being useful.

And even though we have gotten the news that the cancer is NOT contained and that he may have a very uncomfortable future ahead of him, he still knows what is really important.  He has settled in for yet another (hopefully) long haul.

Good luck daddy.  I’m proud of you.


okay, enough dwelling on the lost job thing.  I’m done with that.  My new reality is the job hunt, and my joy in life right now is being with my family in this gorgeous fall weather.

We have taken in a few fall festivals, county fairs, local parks and of course spent plenty of time in our own back yard with our neighbors.  Here are a few photos of Ginny enjoying this concentrated family time.

picking tomatoes

cherry tomatoes, right off the vine, make a yummy snack


a better view of the garden.  We will do a bigger one next year….

papas garden

the tomato vine that took over the world

That arbor is for a cherry tomato plant that went insane in terms of growth.  It was growing up over our hedges, so Martin created an arbor. Every time we walk under it, Ginny gets to pick any red tomatoes and eat them right then and there.


fun with camera angles

Mama & Ginny looking up at Papa


at the little gym

Papa, Ginny & Mama-Altie at the Little Gym

coolest girl in school

you wanted something?

ponie rides

Ginny's first ever pony ride


okay, I know it LOOKS bad, but honestly Ginny was NOT strangling the bunny.


the Pumpkin Patch at the Family Tree Nursery Fall Festival was in the sun, so we went inside to find a place where we could get a good pic without making Ginny squint into the sunlight

Many people would say that we are now poor, but I look at these photos and can’t help but be aware of just how wealthy I am in the things that matter.  We do indeed have


ginny update, 15 months

I’ve got to keep writing this stuff down or I will lose track of what happened when.

Ginny is 15 months old now.

She is toddling everywhere and is very sure footed.  She does take some tumbles, but not nearly as many as I was expecting.  And the poor child always hits the same spot above her right eyebrow.  She is fascinated with thresholds.  She loves going in and out of doors.  Any door will do. And if she can open and close it….. all the better, that makes it a toy!

Walking backwards and turning in place are her new skills this month.  She loves to “dance” to her Praise Baby DVD while mommy does full body stretches.  Mommy needs to do this more often, as she is pretty sure that one is not supposed to get winded by doing 30 minutes of stretches….ahem.

Ginny eats everything we eat now (except for the normal restrictions – peanuts, chocolate etc..).  Loves cream of wheat, cheese toast, clam chowder (!!!!), salmon patties, green peas, carrots (this child will eat carrots any time and place), bananas, yogurt, ice cream, and Yes Missy  she likes tortilla chips dipped in queso. When we took her to Chick-fil-A the other day she ate a little bit of the chicken, nibbled on a fry before rejecting it, and then  DUG IN to the Carrot Raisin Salad!  She also loves lentils.  Wanna read that again? yes, my.  child.  enjoys .  lentils.

Spoon feeding herself has just started. She’s got the basic mechanics of it, but a lot of the time she holds the spoon so that the bowl of the spoon is upside down.   It doesn’t seem to matter much to her though.  She just licks the spoon clean and keeps trying.

She has transitioned beautifully from the bottle to the cup.  Not even a sippy cup, just an open cup.  She drinks water with great enthusiasm and milk with reluctance.  Ginny still hasn’t had any fruit juices, candy or chocolate.

Light switches, doors, drawers anything she can open and close or switch on and off are serious fun for Ginny right now.  She loves to shut the door with an adult on the other side.  Then it turns into a game of peek-a-boo.

Her happiest moment of the day is when we hold hands to pray.  We sing the meal blessing at our house and it just sets her off.  She smiles, giggles and bounces up and down in her chair.  I think she thinks we are singing to her.  Eventually she will figure out that it is about God, but for now she is certain that mealtimes involve all adults serenading her.

Ginny’s newest trick is blowing kisses. Oh my word it is sweet.  If she is in your arms and you ask for a kiss she will let you kiss her on the mouth while she says “mmmmwah!”

She is “talking” a lot more. Most of it doesn’t make sense yet, but some phrases that she uses you can almost make out what she is saying just by the rhythm of the phrase. If you know what I mean.

Glossary of Ginny’s Real English Words so far:

  • Mama – seems to mean comfort object.  Uses it mostly for myself and Martin
  • Papa – seems to be Martin, but also sometimes uses it for Deirdre
  • iss? – seems to mean “what is this?” she points to an object and says iss?
  • eyes – points to your eyes, sometimes lands her finger IN your eye
  • nose – points to your nose
  • kitty – we’ve only heard this word once or twice. But Ginny was pointing right at the cat at the time
  • uh-oh – this gets used when either she falls or she drops something.
  • ess peese – means “yes please” this has shown up once at the table.  Someone asked her if she wanted more sweet potato and she said
    “ess peese”

halloween, not according to plan

The original plan for Halloween this year was for us to go up to Knoxville for an award that was being given to a friend.  We wanted to be there to congratulate her and a lot of our friends up there haven’t seen Ginny ever and we’ve been wanting to catchup with folks.

That plan got derailed by the various successive illnesses in our collective household.  First my mom got sick, then Martin, then me, then my dad.  Energy levels are shot and we finally had to cancel our trip in the face of utter exhaustion.

Enter plan B.

Dress Ginny up, dress ourselves up, go energetically trick-or-treating round the neighborhood.

That got derailed by the weather.  Nasty ucky rainy weather.

Enter plan C.

Stay home.  Set the yard up to encourage trick-or-treaters to come to US. Stay home.  Dress up ourselves and the baby, greet loads of people energetically and with enthusiasm.

That got derailed by the aforementioned exhaustion factor.  And the rain kept all but two small groups of brave trick-or-treaters from our door.  Add to that – Ginny started running a fever on Friday night (just 99.2) so we didn’t bother to make her get dressed up.

We stayed home all weekend.  I didn’t leave the house from Friday night till Monday morning.  Our family came over and watched Corpse Bride.

So, you ask, was it a bad weekend?


decidedly no.

It didn’t go according to plan, but it was a great weekend.


well let’s see.

  • Martin got a job this week and he started work on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Ginny’s fever was just enough to make her very very cuddly all weekend, so I spent almost the whole weekend with a sweet baby girl in my arms who just wanted to be loved on.  That was a huge treat.
  • It turns out that I DID lose five pounds last week.  Just from being sick.  I’m still mostly just eating crackers and water.  so maybe that will continue…..
  • Yes, okay, Georgia lost their football game, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
  • Texas moved up in the polls.  Which, while unfair to Alabama (how can you drop in the polls when you didn’t even play?) is still good for one of my favorite teams.  Actually I like all three of the top three right now, so it is hard to have a bad football weekend.
  • The Saints won’t beat my Falcons up til tonight, so that doesn’t count as part of the weekend.
  • Ginny is only drinking from a cup now.  We went cold turkey off her bottle and she adjusted beautifully.  She is a little short on fluids at the moment, but she is catching up nicely.
  • (selfish pleasure alert) I had the best costume at work on Friday. Not according to some contest, but my admittedly subjective opinion.
  • I just got to register for an event in Houston January 2010 that I’ve been looking forward to since January 2009.

I’ve got some really cute photos of Ginny in our church pumpkin patch from last week that I need to post.

Basically it was a good weekend spent a home in the comfort of family and simple treasures.  What were your blessings this weekend?

hither, thither and yon

Less than a month ago I posted about Ginny taking a few unsupported steps.  Now?

she is walking all over the place.

Until I got this priviledge of watching a person learn to walk I never really appreciated how complex it is.

It’s not just about walking in straight lines.  You have to manage all the minute balance adjustments that go with stopping, changing direction, turning, reaching, bending down.  It has really been wonderfully fun to participate in this process with Ginny.

The video below is just a small sampling of what we do in the evenings now: we play on the floor with Ginny.  Helping her enjoy the process of walking and continue to be challenged by it while keeping it fun.  So for all our friends who wonder why we have dropped off the face of the earth….well this is it.  We are in love with Ginny.  For us, there is no event, no movie, no party or project on earth  that compares to this simple joy.

Thank you Lord (and Mel & Stevie) for our beautiful baby girl.