Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


New Years Eve

Fireworks at New Years 2002

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My New Years Eve started early.


This is Molly. She was a rescue dog, but now she’s the queen of the castle.

She protects her family from marauding opossums who try to steal from our pond.

She’s a little shy, but she tries to help us watch our weight. *If you don’t want that meat, I’ll take care of it!*

And she’s really bad about looking away just when I snap her picture.

She keeps the snow in line. She even lets us know when it’s storming. 

When Molly first came to rule the house, she was thrilled because she thought we’d installed an indoor bathroom for her. G-Man and I, however, had in mind using it for a living room. Since we couldn’t come to a meeting of the minds, G-Man and I installed a baby gate to keep “accidents” from happening.

Clever Molly has found that she can use said gate as an early alarm system. Anytime it storms, she just grabs the gate with her teeth and shakes it. Hard. And. Wakes. Me. Up.

This morning, a t-storm rolled through at 3:30. At 3:31 she was rattling the gate and I was downstairs, trying to keep her quiet.

The last day of 2010 started early is going to be v-e-r-y long.

It’s 5:15 now and she’s peacefully sleeping on the love seat. I have to start fixing G-Man’s breakfast in thirty minutes. *sigh* I think I’ll take a quick nap.


Barbie Has Brains!

Barbie dolls are almost exclusively considered...

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This is a first for me. I’m posting this the night before it’s gonna publish. Let’s just hope I make sense. LOL.

I wanted to tell you about lunch today. My brother’s oldest daughter is home for Christmas, so we all went out to lunch. (At least those of us who weren’t out of pocket.)

Now I have to tell you, this girl is gorgeous and has brains out the wazoo. (Think Barbie with a ton of brains.) Her younger sister is also, well, a doll with brains and spice.

These are my bro’s girlies. Didn’t lie, did I? They’re both b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l, and uber smart, too! If you could meet their mom and dad, you’d understand. Julie’s as pretty as the girls are, and Jeffrey looks like a young Cary Grant. They have a younger son who’s a lady killer. You should see this kid! 

I just love the stuffin’s out of all of them! Lucky person that I am, I get to work with Laura (the honey on the right in the picture) once in a while. She’s going to be an elementary teacher. I have a feeling that when she gets that job, a bunch of not-elementary-aged-guys will flock in to try to do  the Billy Madison thing.

And Ashley (real-live-Barbie) is almost a PA–that’s Physician’s Assistant for those of you who don’t know. (If I know, everyone knows! LOL) She lives in a Far Away Land–Tennessee–is married to a minister (!) and is nearly an almost-doc.

I know next-to-nothing about PAs, but I understand they have to learn 3/4 of what a med student does in 1/2 the time! Or is it the other way around? Anyway, it isn’t easy to do, and this girl is at the tip-top of her class. (Told you Barbie has brains!)

And she not only told me she reads this blog, she proved it by quoting it a couple of times. *Gulp!*

I don’t even have good stories about her. She was one of those nice girls who really didn’t do anything to tell stories about–well, maybe once.

She was spending the night, and Grandaddy told her she had to eat her salad. (She didn’t like lettuce. Just crutons, cheese and dressing.) She cried, which made my BB feel sorry for her. He stepped in ate it for her so she wouldn’t have to. And that’s the worst story I can tell about Ashley. 😉

Now, Ashley, prove you read my blog. POST A COMMENT!!! At least say hi. <G>

Love you!


Prime Your Rib

Barefoot Contessa - Sur La Table 3

Image by urbanbohemian via Flickr

Ever been afraid of a piece of meat? Not afraid in the “boo!” sense, but afraid you’ll do something to ruin it? I have.

For the last ump-teen years, G-Man and I have bought a prime rib (or beef loin) for Christmas Eve dinner. This year we were running a little late *sigh* and when we got to the grocery store we decided to “bless” with our business, they had three primes left. Two too-smalls and one too-large.

G-Man suggested buying the too-smalls, but I pointed out that for the same $$ we could have the too-big one. We’d just have to cut off what we didn’t want to eat Christmas Eve and freeze it for later.

That piece of meat cost almost as much as my first car. Okay, my first car was really an old pickup and belonged to my grandad, who I’m sure gave me a really good deal, but still! For $20 more back in the day, I had four wheels and went places.

So I was just a little bit intimidated by this hunk of meat, and by the cooking process.

As usual, I got out my go-to girl’s cookbooks (Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa is my girl!) and once more looked up how to cook PR. (When I only cook something once a year, I have to relearn how to do it.)

You start by preheating the oven to a temperature hot enough to brand a steer (I’ve got the scar on my wrist to prove it.) Then you rub enough salt onto the meat to preserve it for the winter, then pepper, and put your expensive cut in the oven (at 500 degrees) for 45 minutes.

Forty-five minutes of killer hot on a piece of meat that cost more than my entire monthly food budget when I was first married. I get a little nervous every year.

Then WITHOUT opening the oven to see if your meat has gone up in flames, you turn the heat down to 325. After half-an-hour of normal cook time, crank the heat back up to 450 until the center of the chunk registers safe.

There’s a resting period of twenty minutes before slicing begins. Twenty nervous, nail-biting minutes during which the woman-in-charge doesn’t know if she succeeded and will be a triumph with everyone sitting around the Christmas Tree and singing her praises, or a failure who’ll live through the rest of Christmas (and with my family, who never forgets anything–throughout the rest of time) with her tail between her legs and a big red F (for failure) on her chest. (A really big F.)

Luckily, and thanks to Ina (who is a dear cooking buddy and destroyer of diets) this year we triumphed, and I had a blast doing it.

So, what’s your favorite special meal to eat for Christmas?


Another New Year

Did you know in only four days, it’ll be 2011? (Except on my checks, where I’ll probably forget what year  it is for the next six months.)

For many people, January 1 means resolutions or goal setting. December 31 is the day to check and see how you did last year–and I will. (Later!)

It’s been easier for me this year because I made a vision board. If I could get in my office (I’m not a great out-of-sight cleaner–if I can’t see it, I don’t clean it, and my office is out of my sight most of the time) the board was right there and I could see what I’d planned at a glance.

I’ll fill you in more about that later.

So I’m thinking I’ll have a couple of different resolutions this year. I’m planning to be part of SSMT.  Click on the SSMT to learn more. I think it’ll be very worthwhile for me. (That is IF I can figure out how to do it! LOL.)

And I think there’s going to be a change in what I write–from what I can tell anyway. I’m very excited about a new story that’s blooming in my mind. Yeah, it’s one of those things that I’m not sure what else to do but write since it’s kind of living inside my head all the time these days.

I’ll have to talk to friends and ask them if they’ll tell me about their experiences. We’ll see! <g>

That also means I need to find the market for this kind of book. I don’t know that it’s exactly inspirational, but it’s certainly a family type book.

So that’s the beginning of my road map for next year. How about you? Do you make resolutions? Set goals? Or is New Years Day just another holiday?


Christmas’s Last Leg

A postcard from 1919, with artwork of Santa Cl...

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Last night was the final leg of Christmas–our celebration with Dad and sibs. Oh, and spouses, kids and their spouses and kids were there, too. Some of them at least.

As usual, we gathered at Sister Debbie’s house. Debbie is the consummate hostess. Her house is decorated as if she were Mrs. Claus and the food was fantastic.

#4 wasn’t able to be there. (She lives in a far away land.) I sent her pictures and love during the celebration so she could still be part of things.

Our entertainment was so much fun. During the first part of the evening, Sister Debbie’s younger granddaughter watched us all dance as we tried to make her smile. She was just a little bit tired from all the Christmas fun she’d had, and since she isn’t a year old yet, it’s understandable she might get a little bit pooped out.

A cookie similar to "Gingerbread Man"...

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And later Sister Cindy’s older grandson danced for us. (He turned a year old on the day I celebrated a year of pain free walking.) The child is full of personality and joy, and he even climbed on my lap for a moment or two.

We played Dirty Santa for ornaments, and like a dummy, I was the only one who actually made her own ornament to take.

The first one I made was this–

I knitted it from a show I watch on TV called Knitty Gritty. It’s one of my favorite shows, but they aren’t making any new segments. I watch the reruns faithfully and hope they’ll start making new ones. 

When I finished making the flower, it curled and flopped, so I wired the petals–not ideal if people are going to be handling it. (The poinsettia on TV was stiffer because they made it from wool and then washed it to turn it into a fabric. I didn’t do that.)

Rather than chance having someone get poked by the poinsettia, I decided to make another ornament. 

SD had mentioned taking ornaments that represent us, so I took a clear ball and put in lavender I’d dried last summer (because I’m a gardener) and “yarn”, which was really cross-stitch thread (because I’m a snitter) and a little snow (because I love snow) and a few sparkles just for the heck of it.

I don’t know that my niece who won it was thrilled, but it was fun to make. I tried one with miniature jingle bells, but the glass is so fragile on those clear ornaments that anything that heavy will break out the side. Or you have to not shake them, and who can hold an ornament with stuff inside and not shake it?

So this is what the one I took looks like–

I stole a good sized, sparkly gingerbread man from one of my BILs. When he pulled him out of the bag, Jeffrey put on his falsetto voice. “Don’t eat my gum drop buttons!” A line from one of the Shrek movies.

That’s another game we played last night. Actually, it’s more of an ongoing thing. We do movie quotes that go along with the action. (“Hello movie house!”) and the others try to guess the movie.

Funny thing is, my kids do the same thing and make it harder by throwing in a TV show along the way. Great fun if you watch the same stuff; a little tougher if you don’t.

The Dirty Santa big hit with the babies was a dancing snowman with a flashing nose that sang a song no one recognized. Brother Jeffrey ended up with an ornament that was a pair of six shooters (perfect!) and Sister Debbie got “Mine’s bigger than yours is.”

Did we have fun? Yes!

Would I change a thing? Only to get others there who weren’t able to make it.

If at all possible, will we do the same thing next year?   What do you think? 😉

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Best Gift Ever

When I think back over the years (and years AND YEARS) of Christmases that live in my memory, there’s one gift from my childhood that stands out with exclamation marks and sparkles.

I was probably ten years old at the time. I didn’t have anything big I really wanted for Christmas. Not that I had every toy, gadget and game in the world, but I had a bike and skates, and C-Town’s public library was full of great books to read. 

What could I ask for except another *stupid* doll. (With a house full of younger siblings, who needed a doll that couldn’t do anything but maybe cry crocodile tears and dampen its diaper?)

But I had a mother with a special insight into her kids–me at least. She knew I didn’t really enjoy dolls, although I never voiced it. I just didn’t play with them after I got them except to use them for target practice with my six shooters.

So she did me a great favor. She did something that unlocked a whole world for me, showed me there was more to life than what meets the naked eye, and drew a map to the impossible.

She gave me a microscope.  

It was a simple microscope with a built-in light and 3 strengths, the strongest being  maybe 1200. (Even children’s microscopes are much stronger than that now.) The gift came with several prepared slides and a few blank ones.

That evening Mom’s family came over for dinner and to share gifts, and while they were there, I got another memorable gift. I’m not talking about the hanky from Grandma or the little necklace from Aunt Betty (who really should have given me stretch pants. More on that one of these days.)

My cousin Buddy loved it when he heard I had the new ‘scope. (In high school, Buddy was an actor and wore taps on his shoes. If you read–or saw–The Outsiders by SE Hinton, that was Buddy’s generation set in the town where he lived.)

Buddy wanted me to know about just one of the things available to me with my new gift, so he poked his finger and bled on one of my blank slides so I could see the microscopic things in what I’d always thought was just a red liquid.   

But under the strong lens, I found there’s life in the blood!

Yeah, it’s still kind of gross, but that’s when that world of imagination opened up for me. If there was that kind of movement and goings on in one little drop of blood, what else was out there?

I tried looking at all kinds of things under that microscope. Dirty water. Plastic forks. Doll hair. Spit. Somethings were fascinating, others just a blob. Very slowly, though, I realized my best gift ever.

I don’t know if I was born with it or if my parents’ rubbed off on me. Maybe I’d been born with it and exercise developed it like a muscle. How I got it really doesn’t matter as long as I enjoy and employee it. 

My Imagination. My view into a world that isn’t there for anyone but me. A way of looking at things that doesn’t always make sense to anyone else.

And it’s wonderful.

How about giving us a gift today? You can share your best gift ever.

Ps: I don’t want to leave out the eternal gift that’s eternally better–Eternal Life.

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Christmas Eve


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I wrote this yesterday afternoon during a lull in the activities.


It’s almost here!

Right now I’m roasting a prime rib. 500 degrees for the first 45 minutes. Scary stuff for an expensive cut of meat, but it works. Barefoot Contessa is never wrong. 😉

This morning I decide to make a couple of ornaments, so I snitted the first one.


 It looks better here than it is. Here’s closer–

It’s full of wires to hold the petals out and they poke. Not the most perfect poinsettia in the world, but it makes a big red spot on the tree. LOL.

2/3 of the kids made it last night. The prime rib was fantastic–no one turned it down or complained a bit. They know better. If they gripe, they get to do the cooking next time!

We don’t open gifts until Christmas morning, and after everyone left last night, I had several gifts to still wrap. Next year I’m investing in more gift bags and tissue paper! And should probably start decorating for the Yule on Independence Day.