Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas in the Smokies!

This year my family gathered at a lodge in the Great Smokey Mountains to celebrate Christmas. It was a new experience for us since we normally gather at one of our homes but since we are scattered along the east coast from Alabama to Delaware, the mountains of Tennessee seemed the perfect meeting place.

My niece and I visited the lodge last year on the day after Thanksgiving to check it out. Rachel Ray had just named it "the best place in America to have Thanksgiving dinner." After spending five days there, we decided it was "the best place in America to celebrate Christmas with your family!"

Little did we know that an epic snow storm would fall just days before our arrival making the journey treacherous for some and delightful for others. My niece in South Carolina departed Sumter Air Force base with her two small children on the day the snow storm struck and hit a sheet of black ice and went over an embankment. Fortunately, no one was hurt but my twin sister and her husband drove from Tennessee to North Carolina to rescue them before leaving the next day to drive to Alabama to pick up my aging parents.

My sister in Delaware received 24 inches of snow and had to delay leaving home. Since I-40 west is closed between Asheville and Knoxville due to a rock slide, David and I had to alter our route and drive through the Smokies.

Santa brought David his Christmas present a few days early so he was anxious to try out his new GPS system for his motorcycle in the car. So, with two GPS systems on our dash, we negotiated the way, altering it when we found roads closed due to ice.

What we found was a Christmas wonderland! The higher we climbed, the more snow we found. The Smokies are beautiful any time of year but bathed in snow and ice, they are magical. Everyone was enjoying the snow, snowball fights and snowmen and women were visible at every pull off along the way.

(Click to enlarge.) Atop the Great Smokey Mountains!

(Click to enlarge.) Atop the Great Smokey Mountains!

(Click to enlarge.) Atop the Great Smokey Mountains!

(Click to enlarge.) Atop the Great Smokey Mountains!

(Click to enlarge.) Atop the Great Smokey Mountains!

(Click to enlarge.) Thank goodness for snow plows!

(Click to enlarge.) Trees covered with ice.

(Click to enlarge.) A magical sight.

(Click to enlarge.) Oh Christmas tree.

As we climbed down the other side of the mountain, we were disappointed to find that the snow had already come and gone.

(Click to enlarge). Entrance to Dancing Bear Lodge.

(Click to enlarge).Front entrance to Dancing Bear Lodge.

(Click to enlarge). The craftsmanship of the Appalachian artisans is apparent as you enter the front door.

(Click to enlarge). A view from the top.

(Click to enlarge). Welcome to Dancing Bear Lodge.

(Click to enlarge.) The best part of the trip was receiving hugs
from my family. My niece Kayla gives the best "bear hugs!"

(Click to enlarge). My six year old niece Chloe grins underneath
the Christmas tree with her elf hat atop her head.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Day of Art.

One of my favorite holiday memories was spending the day with my friend Delores Logan. The day began with a fabulous holiday feast (sausage, bacon, Southern grits, biscuits, baked apples) that she prepared for us. After eating we spent the entire day viewing her monumental collection of African Art. She shared a story about each piece including the history of the artist and the work, the region of Africa it came from and how and where she acquired it. I can't think of a better holiday gift to give myself…art and time with a friend!

(Click to enlarge). Friend Delores Logan.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Beautiful Thing.

Helen Keller once said, "The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart." I felt a beautiful thing when I visited the Wagener Women's Well in rural Wagener, SC with my friends Kay Reardon and Sue Bowersock.

The Wagener Women's Well is a center for women which provides hope, support, life skills and meals to the women of Wagener, SC. The center staff teaches money and home management skills, sewing, quilting, healthy cooking, computer basics and leads Bible studies. The mission of the center is to give encouragement to those who are in need of a "better hope" in life and to help build confidence and trust through the leadership skill of caring mentors.

(Click to enlarge). Front entrance to the Wagener Women's Well.

(Click to enlarge). We were welcomed with open hearts.

(Click to enlarge). The women work on sewing projects.

(Click to enlarge). Almost time for lunch.

(Click to enlarge). Director Dianne Lemacks and women
enjoy soup, warm bread and coconut pie (as did we!).

(Click to enlarge). Everyone pitches in at the center.

(Click to enlarge).The center is located in downtown
Wagener, SC. next to Town Hall.
(Click to enlarge). The upstairs of the center is vacant but downstairs is full
of love and support.

(Click to enlarge). Friends Kay Reardon(l) and Sue Bowersock(r)
surround Wagener Women's Well Director Dianne Lemacks (c).