Thursday, December 27, 2007

Awesome Bed & Breakfast and Laner's Wine Pick of the Month!

Hello, everyone!

I hope the Christmas holiday was a good one for you all! I spent Christmas in Kansas. All my sisters and brother were there, so I got to visit with people I haven't seen in quite awhile. We stayed at an awesome Bed & Breakfast, so I thought I'd put a plug in for them. It was a place in Stafford, Kansas, called the Henderson House. Henderson House is part of a group of older homes in Stafford, all in the same neighborhood, that have been renovated and are currently used as bed and breakfasts. There is even an old renovated church, so if anyone wants to have a wedding and house the wedding party in the old houses, it would be a cool place to do so! The house we were in was wonderful. Beautiful antique furnishings, interesting architectural features, and an owner who has ties to the Hendersons, which made the history of the home very available to visitors, all made for a wonderfully charming Christmas. The house was already decorated for Christmas, and I found myself wishing that we'd planned on having our own family Christmas there. We'll definitely find a reason to stay there again in the future!

Laner's Wine Pick of the Month:

Barossa Valley Shiraz. It's an inexpensive Shiraz with an exceptionally silky texture. A hint of spice finishes off this dry red. As a person who has "graduated" away from most Shiraz, I am happy to be able to include Barossa Valley Shiraz as one of my favorites. I was reminded of the quality of this wine on my recent trip to Birmingham, Alabama, where the hotel bar served me two bottles of Barossa Valley over the course of three days! Run out and buy one - let me know what you think!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Finally Saw Birmingham

Well, at least a little. I finished with the last session I decided to go to at about 3:15. Took my bags back to the hotel and was back at the conference center by 4:00. I had heard that the Pompeii exhibit was at the Birmingham Museum of Art and I decided that I wanted to do at least one thing outside of the conference while I'm here. I asked for directions, set off on foot, and found my way to the Museum.

The exhibit was going to close only an hour after I got there. Museum staff directed me to where they suggested I would find the best stuff and I headed up there. The exhibit was fascinating. I can remember when I was in elementary school, reading about and looking at pictures of the plaster casts of people who had died in Pompeii and Herculean when Vesuvius erupted. Here I was, finally standing in front of some of those casts, along with a lot of jewelry and other artifacts that have been excavated.

Standing before the large frescoes, looking at the beautiful jewelry, and reading about where they were found and what bodies had been found hit me profoundly. I imagined how awful that day must have been for those people, with the sky turning black, the ash closing in, and the final pyroclastic cloud that took their lives. Some of the plaster casts were so poignant, mothers clutching their children in death, some very young, others teenagers - in the end, mom's response to such an emergency is to protect her young and a child's natural instinct is to cling to mother.

I'm glad I went, although the walk home was a little scary for me - it was getting dark and I was not in the best part of town. Today was the end of my Birmingham experience - I plan to sleep a little late in the morning and head straight to the airport, so my convention-going is over. It's been a good visit, though.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sweet Home Alabama?

So I'm in Birmingham, Alabama, for the National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA) conference. It's going to be two days away from school, three nights away from home. I'm finding that, although I really, really needed some time away from all the demands my kids put on me, I don't like being totally alone for this much time in a strange city I've never been in. The hotel I'm in is historic and I have a really nice room with a huge bed and coffee in the morning, etc. But the bummer is that once I'm at the hotel for the evening, since I'm not here with collegues, I can't go out and experience Birmingham. For example, a local museum has a Pompeii exhibit right now that I would LOVE to go see, but I'm not adventurous enough to figure out how to get there on my own.

I don't know -- we'll see how I feel tomorrow night after another whole day of alone time. Maybe I'll just call a cab. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, December 3, 2007

Holidays ... they're here!

Wow, hard to believe I've already let another two months pass without blogging. Not that anyone notices, right? LOL

Anyway, the holidays are upon us and I'm busier than ever! It seems like I absolutely do not have the time to do much of anything. I've been thinking a lot lately about Christmases past. I've come to realize that nothing really changes for me as far as Christmas goes. The meaning of the season for me, the wonderful promise that was fulfilled, is as strong for me as ever. Although I do get caught up in the rush of buying presents and am very excited about the idea of seeing my kids' faces light up this year, I cannot lose sight of the "reason for the season."

Our minister this Sunday told a really nice little analogy in his sermon this week I thought I'd share: He talked about a little girl who had wrapped presents for her mom and dad and put them under the tree. On Christmas morning, the parents opened up the gifts. Dad got a blue tie that seemed really familiar to him. Mom received a nice pair of earrings that she recognized. When asked where she'd gotten the gifts, the little girl said "you had them packed away in the cedar chest." After telling this little story, our minister said "Jesus is here now." It hit me pretty hard. We all begin the season of Advent wondering - when will the messiah come again? The answer is, He is already here - the gift has been given and can never be taken back. Jesus is here, some of us just may have packed Him away and forgotten about him. It's time to take Him out of the cedar chest, don't you think?