Christmas · Christmas · family · Friends · Holidays · My Thoughts

The Day After Christmas—Now What?

Girl sitting sad the day afer Christmas

The day after Christmas is here! Santa needs a vacation. Now, what? As a child, I focused on playing with my new toys on this day. As an adult, what do I do?

Looking Back

Looking back on my Christmas preparations, I created a calendar for a family gift. I wrote, designed and published our annual Christmas newsletter. Then, I sent cards to friends far and near. During Advent, I took part in a group who read Richard Rohr’s Preparing for Christmas, then we shared comments and remarks on WhatsApp because we had an international group participating. What a rewarding group that was!

Christmas Eve

Lin and Larada on Christmas Eve
Lin and Larada on Christmas Eve

I had an errands day in Albuquerque, getting a prescription and some groceries. At 5:00 pm, Lin and I virtually attended my church’s, Hope in the Desert Episcopal Church, Christmas Eve service. It started with “La Posada,” a Mexican tradition of the pregnant Mary and Joseph going house to house and being denied any lodging. The last home welcomes them in. In its simplicity, it was beautiful.

After the service, we ate Costa Rican tamales from Lin’s ex-wife and watched two traditional Christmas movies—“Scrooge” and “It’s a Beautiful Life.” Then we watched a contemporary movie on Amazon Prime with a strong Christian message.

Christmas Day

On Christmas morning, we opened our gifts and ate blueberry empanadas from Pastian’s Bakery. After that we played two Cribbage games. Lin worked hard so I wouldn’t be skunked on Christmas Day—what a loving man! We ate a late lunch—honey-baked ham, cheesy cheddar potatoes, asparagus, and applesauce. Later, we enjoyed pecan pie. Lin added eggnog ice cream.

From that point on, Lin watched the two football games scheduled for Christmas day. That’s always shocking to me to have football at Christmas. I made a big batch of popcorn balls—my favorite Christmas goodies. I neglected to get my traditional baking in this year.

During the day, we both called friends we knew having a hard time this holiday: one who lost her dad this year and was alone, one who recently lost her husband of fifty-three years and another long-time friend in an assisted living facility. Sharing those calls made our day! We are so blessed to have each other!

The Day After Christmas

So, here we are the day after Christmas. Usually, mega commercials for after-Christmas sales dominate our TV viewing. I have seen none! Probably because the stores’ Christmas items were picked over weeks ago. I went to our grocery store on Friday, and there was hardly anything available. Is this because of shortages or supply chain irregularities because of the pandemic? Unusual, no matter what. Mom used to love to go to these sales, looking for great buys!

I’ve always enjoyed this day. As a child, I familiarized myself with my new toy. As a high school student, we stayed up late each night and watched Johnny Carson and later Jay Leno on the Tonight Show. Later, I savored the time with Dad and Mom, with stories and trips to the ranch. After my niece moved to Texas and came regularly to Branson, she arrived this day, and we looked forward to a few days of loud games at the round table with laughter and stories and trips to the ranch looking for wildlife.

Extended Christmas Season

Twelve Days of Christmas - day after Christmas

For me, just because Christmas Day is behind me, the Christmas season isn’t over. My church celebrates the “Twelve Days of Christmas” which ends on January 6 at Epiphany, “a Christian festival held on January 6 in honor of the coming of the three kings to the infant Jesus Christ.”

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphany

So, I keep wearing my Christmas outfits and enjoy extending the holiday. We don’t take our tree down until after Epiphany. I love this longer holiday season.

Day after Christmas

Many people have a big letdown on the day after Christmas—holiday expectations not met, memories of better times haunted by the changes today, etc. You fill in the blank with whatever weighs on you today.

Games - Day after Christmas

This year, on this day after Christmas, try something different. Call someone who may need cheering up, family or friend. Ask a family member about what Christmas was like when they were children, listen and ask questions to draw out more specifics. Dust off your stack of games and have a marathon game day. Tonight, make up some hot chocolate, grab your coat and hat to look at Christmas decorations in your area.

Finally,

The day after Christmas has arrived—enjoy it!

What are you doing today? Do you do anything traditional? If so, what?

Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Christmas meme

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

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Christmas · Christmas · family · Friends · Memoirs · My Thoughts

Homemade Christmas—I Love It!

It's a homemade Christmas!

Homemade Christmas decorations and gifts have always given me a lot of pleasure in the making! From knitting stockings to plastercraft figurines to annual family calendars, I have made quite a variety.

Homemade Stockings

I started knitting in 4-H when I was ten years old and still enjoy this productive hobby. Many years ago, I found a fantastic stocking pattern and made my first. Then I branched out, making my nieces and nephew their own with their names on them. I also did great-nieces and nephew. Recently, I have made a great-nephew one.

I didn’t limit my production of Christmas stockings to just family. Because of my close relationship, I made my best friends’ children each one, and over the years, I have knitted so many I do not know how many!

To make these colorful holiday stockings, I always use red, white and green yarn or variegated yarn, but I don’t plan out the color scheme until I start. I have to graft out the name so it will fit on half of the stocking, so that takes some designing for sure. You can see my name almost doesn’t fit. I learned from mine a trick to make long names to fit!

Homemade knitted Christmas stockings
Stockings I knitted

What a truly wonderful experience it is to finish it, then add my label that says, “From the knitting needles of Larada Horner-Miller.”

Plastercraft Figurines

As a young married couple in 1973, we didn’t have any Christmas decorations and not much money to buy them, so I found out about plastercraft, “. . .similar to ceramics, but there is no firing or kiln necessary. Simply use easy water based acrylic paints.”

https://www.plastercraft.com/#:~:text=Plastercrafts%20are%20similar%20to%20ceramics,easy%20water%20based%20acrylic%20paints.

The first year I made Santa and love the whimsical look he has on his face with his wink. The next year I added Mrs. Santa. Over the years, I have protected my favorite Christmas plastercraft figurines in my many moves. After Christmas, I always stored them on a shelf in a spare bedroom to make sure they survived any storage problem. So when Lin wanted to store them in trunks in a storage shed, I panicked, but he wraps them up carefully and they have fared well these last ten years.

My other plaster craft figurine is a Christmas tree with lights. Every year, I love putting the little light bulbs in the spots and marvel at how pretty it is lit up.

So almost fifty years later, I continue to enjoy these three items as they remind me of our many years together.

Homemade Annual Family Calendar

A couple years after my dad died, one of my team teachers, Rebecca Betzen, reached out to my mom and put together a calendar filled with a variety of pictures from my childhood to my graduation dinner for my master’s degree! Several pictures high‐lighted favorite places on our family ranch. Those pictures ignited fond memories as my mom and I flipped through the pages, and I needed that. The gift thrilled me so much that I decided to do the same thing for my own family the next year. The recipient list grew over the years, so I added my brother and sisters, my nieces and nephew, cousins and great nieces and nephews. And it’s a tradition I continued until the pandemic. We weren’t together in 2020, so I have no pictures to highlight.

Each year I highlight whoever had a special event that year, like graduations or weddings. If a family member died the previous year, I featured him or her on the cover. I also featured our family ranch on the cover of several calendars. My second cousin married in England in 2017, and Lin and I attended, with me taking lots of pictures. Her new husband said, “I bet we make the calendar next year!” And they did—front cover!

Over the years, these calendars have become keepsakes, logging the key events of each year.

My joy came when my family members opened this gift and leafed through the pages, laughing at certain pictures and making heartfelt remarks. These calendars have become a historic family document of our year together.

Larada Horner-Miller, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? (2021): 217-218.

So I didn’t make a calendar in 2020, but it’s back in 2021 and here’s the cover:

2022 Horner calendar cover - homemade

Finally,

I love making homemade Christmas decorations and gifts. As I set out my decorations I’ve made, I get nostalgic remembering sitting at the table so long ago and making them. With each stitch I knit or photo I place, I have the joy of thinking about the gift and the person I made it for. How about you? Do you make anything for Christmas gifts? If so, what?


Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Christmas meme - homemade

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

Press release for Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?
Christmas · Christmas · My Thoughts

Santa Dear: You Broke My Heart!

Santa Surprised!

Dear Santa,

Last year I asked for a desk and I was so very specific—a children’s roll top with drawers on each side and little cubby holes under the top for my pens and pencils and favorite notes. I could just see myself sitting in front of it doing my homework.

I saw it in the current Christmas catalog from Sears & Roebuck. Yes, I saw the price was more than you usually spend on me, but I’m getting older so I thought the price change matched my growing age.

I sent off my letter to you with a specific description and referenced the catalog number so you couldn’t make a mistake.

I started getting concerned when Mom and I talked one night after I sent off my letter. She brought up my request. How she knew about it was puzzling. She repeated several times that maybe Santa couldn’t afford such a pricey item.

I said nothing—just nodded my head. My stomach knotted up. Really? Santa had a budget! I knew we did. We weren’t the poorest family in town, but I knew Dad worried about money because I overhead him telling Mom his concerns for a happy Christmas this year.

But Santa had money concerns, too—oh, no! That caught me by surprise. I knew I was in trouble because Mom revisited this topic again and again in the next couple weeks, trying to protect me from a deep disappointment. She realized how much I wanted that desk—more than any doll or toy I had ever asked for before.

“Don’t be disappointed!” she repeated. How could I not! Until this point, you always came through each Christmas. I dreaded Christmas Eve last year because I knew that specific desk I’d dreamed of wouldn’t be under/near the tree for me. And it wasn’t.

You replaced it with a tacky metal desk with no drawers—only two shelves, one under the top of it and one near the bottom.

I hid my tears and broken heart last year, but I lost all faith in you, Santa. So, how do I write to you this year? Do I just make a general request? Can I be honest and say it doesn’t matter because I believe no more?

Help me out here on what to do? This is a pre-letter, so answer me please before I ask for something this year!

Thank you,

Larada

Did Santa ever disappointed you at Christmas? What did you do?


Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Christmas meme - Santa

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

Christmas · Christmas · Memoirs · My Thoughts

Is a Nativity Set Important?

Stained Glass Nativity Set
Stained Glass Nativity

Nativity sets, trees, lights—what’s your favorite Christmas decoration? Mine is my Nativity collection that I feature on a buffet with white lights, and I want to share why I think it’s an important part of my Christmas decorations.

The Nativity is what Christmas is about—Jesus’ birth is the centerpiece with Mary and Joseph by his side. Three Wisemen bring their gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh. Shepherds kneel close to the Christ Child in humble adoration. And an Angel stands near Jesus glorifying his birth.

I have a fun collection of Nativity sets I’ve gathered over the years I’d like to share with you.

The Beginning to My Nativity Collection

The oldest one I have is a mobile I made in the 70s that I turned into a mobile we hang each year. I also made a set of three Wiseman candle holders made of plaster craft. I had them set up on the mantel one Christmas and a wreath fell off the wall above them and knocked two of them off, injuring them slightly. So, I’ve kept them and loved them every year.

My Tonala Blue Pottery Nativity Set
My Tonala Blue Pottery Nativity Set

In my early travels to Mexico in the 70s, I noticed a beautiful blue pottery and bought a cup, saucer and plate early on. On another trip, I bought a beautiful pitcher. I found out today on the internet this pottery is called Tonala blue pottery. In the 80s, I bought a fourteen-piece Nativity set of this blue pottery. I place in the center of my collection every year. From an older set, I add some animals to fill it out.

I remember bringing that set home in a carry-on bag. Carefully, I wrapped each piece and worked hard to make sure nothing broke. They arrived safe and in one piece.

More Additions

So slowly over the years, I’ve added to my collection. I have a Native American set, a music box, a Peruvian candleholder, and a small happy kids’ set. In 2020, I picked up a small set in Spain that looks very Gaudí!

Native American Nativity Set
My Native American Nativity Set

Why do I gather a multi-ethnic Nativity sets? Jesus was a dark-skinned middle East man, yet many people only see him as they are—whatever the color of their skin! His nationality doesn’t matter; therefore, He can be a Native American, a Mexican, a middle easterner, or an American!

More Additions
My Outside Nativity Set

I’ll end with one more Nativity set—our outside set I inherited from my parents. I love looking out our kitchen window and seeing it lit up every night on our patio.

Finally,

Here’s one of my favorite Christmas saying, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” That’s why I set up my collection each year—to honor who this holiday is about!

Do you put up a Nativity set? What do you think?


Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Christmas meme

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

Christmas · Dancing · Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance

Christmas Celebration Flippo-Style!

Marshall Flippo - Christmas Celebration

For his Christmas celebration, Marshall Flippo came home to Abilene, Texas, for one or two weeks each year to be with his family after a busy travel and calling schedule. In fact, Flippo sandwiched Christmas in between his tours. He went north and then east, south, west and then home for Christmas. After Christmas, he headed north again and then west.

Heading Home for His Christmas Celebration

Annually, Flip called in Memphis, Tennessee, before Christmas for their holiday dance. After that dance,

Flippo headed west toward home and the holidays, calling in Dallas. “It’s 180 miles down to Abilene, so I went home, spent Christmas. I was calling basically every night. I was usually home around one or two weeks. Then after Christmas back to tour again.”

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 182.

Flippo’s Christmas Celebration in Sets in Order

Flippo enjoyed notoriety in Bob Osgood’s December issue of Sets in Order. Each year in the December issue, Bob went above and beyond by featuring many callers with a greeting in the footer on many pages. Dancers searched the holiday magazine to see a seasonal greeting from their favorite caller and spouse. This idea personalized that magazine.

From 1964 to 1985, Bob had a greeting from Flippo each year. He repeated other callers throughout the years, but Flippo was the constant for twenty-one years! See Flippo & Neeca’s holiday greetings and listen to Flippo’s Texas holiday song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://buff.ly/2VhFtKk

Neeca’s Special Christmas Present

Neeca created a scrapbook for Flippo as a Christmas present one year, filling it with articles, pictures and memorabilia about his calling career. Afterwards, because of his amazing success as a caller, she filled two more. He cherished those scrapbooks, and they became the source of much of the information for his biography.

Finally,

Flippo cherished his time with Neeca and his son, John, so he prioritized his schedule so he was at home in Abilene every year to celebrate with their families there. Before and after Christmas, he traveled, but he wanted to be home for the holiday.  

What does your Christmas celebration look like? Do you prioritize your schedule to be home for Christmas?


Christmas Meme for Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

Christmas · Coronavirus · family · My Thoughts

Did the Coronavirus “Stay at Home” Ruling Affect Your Christmas Plans?

All I Want For Christmas is you: Stay at home
Photo by fotografierende from Pexels

“Stay at home.” We’ve heard that mandate repeatedly over the last few months, especially over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. We had the choice, and continuing a conservative mindset we’ve embraced since the onset of the pandemic, we stayed home! My husband and I both have some health issues. He is 80, and I am 67, so we stayed home and enjoyed our traditions, our decorations and connections with people through Zoom, YouTube Live, and the internet.

Even though we made the choice to stay home, did this “stay at home” order affect my Christmas plans? In some ways, yes it did; in some no!

Zoomin': Stay at home
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Zoomin’ Through the Christmas Holiday

Throughout the stay at home orders, Zoom has connected me to a variety of important people in my life. It truly helped me fight the horror of the isolation we’ve all endured. I have met with family members I had never met before. We planned a face-to-face reunion this summer, but we had to cancel it. So, Zoom took its place.

Through Zoom, I have attended weekly recovery meetings continuing my work to keep sane. I’ve attended my regular local meetings but have also found meetings in other parts of the United States. How that has broadened my view of the world!

Leading up to Christmas, I set up several Zoom parties to connect with friends all over the world.

  • December 15: Normally, every year I have dinner with Bec and Rhonda, the two teachers I team taught with and then later worked with at another school. We usually buy $10 of scratchers and while we’re visiting, we see how much we won. So, I proposed a Zoom Scratcher Party. What a delightful evening we had catching up. We won a few dollars and have plans for another Zoom get-together in January to celebrate Rhonda’s retirement.
  • December 16: From January 7 – 20, 2020 we went to Costa Rica with a group of people that we really enjoyed. On October 27, we did our first Zoom meeting with this group we lovingly call, “The Dirty Dozen,” and had a great time. Even our guide from Costa Rica attended. So, we decided then we needed a Christmas get-together. We had such a blast seeing each other, catching up again and seeing each other’s house decorations.
  • December 17: Our square dance club caller, Jerry Gilbreath, usually uses Christmas songs for his singing calls for the whole month of December, so we really get the opportunity to enjoy his beautiful voice. As I was thinking about missing his holiday songs, I thought, “How about a concert on Zoom?” So, we did “Jerry’s Christmas Concert” and had over 50 people attend! We’re talking about doing another one.

I wanted to host a Zoom Family Christmas party. My nieces and nephew are tech-savvy, but my brother isn’t, so I couldn’t do it without him.

Buying online: Stay at home
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Online Shopping

Leading up to Christmas, because of the coronavirus restrictions, I did almost 100% of my shopping online. Most of it turned out great.

I had one mishap with Blarney.com in Ireland. I ordered Lin a sweater on December 1, and they tried to charge an old charge card they had on file instead of the current one I gave them that night, but they never let me know the order was declined. I checked back several days later to find that out. When I reconnected with Blarney.com, Lin’s first choice was sold out in his size, but we found one to replace it, and it arrived several days before Christmas! Wow!!

Another company duplicated the item I bought. I know I didn’t order two, so tomorrow I have to check my charge card and see if I was double charged.

Normally, I shop locally especially enjoying Southwest gifts from favorite Old Town Albuquerque shops. Otherwise, my Christmas shopping went without a glitch.

Flyer for Christmas Eve Service - Stay at Home

Christmas Eve Service Online

My church, Hope in the Desert Episcopal Church, has streamed online church services through Facebook Live since the beginning of the shutdown, then they added YouTube.

I dressed up in my Christmas Eve attire—a Santa dress, hose and heels. In fact, this was the first time I’ve had hose on since January. I also blew dry my hair and put on make-up. I went downstairs, and Lin and I attended a beautiful Christmas Eve service. Afterwards, we savored blue corn posole and watched Christmas movies.

Normally, when we are in Branson, we drive to Des Moines, New Mexico to go to church at Mom’s church, the Des Moines Methodist Church. My cousin and her family attend there, too, so it was a good time to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with relatives I love.

Round table in Branson, CO
The Round Table We Play Games on in Branson, Colorado

Location of our Normal Christmas Celebration

For several years now, I’ve gone home to Branson, Colorado to celebrate Christmas with my Mom and Aunt when they were alive, and recently with my niece, her family and my brother. We have spent many hours sitting around the round table playing games, laughing and enjoying each other.

I inherited my Mom’s joy in cooking and baking for big gatherings, especially Christmas. Since I was baking only for Lin and me this year, I did much less baking: only one batch of chocolate peanut clusters, peppermint bark, peanut brittle and popcorn balls.

Mom passed on to me a delicious pie recipe that our family doctor’s wife from Germany gave her in 1952 . I use that recipe anytime I make pies. Normally I make 3-4 pumpkin pies, 1 pecan pie and maybe a Hawaiian Fruit pie. This year I made one pie!

I did have fun with the one pie I made. Lin was diagnosed with diabetes a couple years ago. He immediately changed his diet. Since then he has lost 40 pounds and is no longer diabetic, but he still watches his sugar intake. Early on, his nutritionist, told us about Monkfruit sweetener, a natural sugar substitute. This year, I used it in my pumpkin pie—what a success!

Usually we attend several holiday dance events, and I make Christmas goodies for them too. The pandemic shut those down too, and I didn’t need to make any extra batches of goodies.

Lin and Larada on Christmas Eve 2020: Stay at Home
Lin & Larada, Christmas Eve 2020

How Was It the Same?

I had the pleasure of spending Christmas with Lin who makes any holiday special with his positive attitude and hilarious sense of humor!

No matter what’s goin on in the world, Jesus is the reason for the season any year, but I especially focused on it this year. Because I had extra time, I spent more time contemplating this special holiday and its importance to me.

Usually I’m rushed, splintered, and frantic. This year, I took the time to concentrate on Jesus’ birth and its importance in my life. I hope you did the same!

How did the coronavirus affect your Christmas plans?



~Visit my Christmas blog posts:

Just Another Square Dance Caller Cover

~HAVE YOU ORDERED A PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY FOR A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR A LOVED ONE OR YOURSELF?   AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

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~ END OF THE YEAR SALE: Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles & bundles. Good until JANUARY 15, 2021. https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

Christmas · Costa Rica · My Thoughts · Spain · Travel

Lin and Larada’s Christmas Newsletter & Decorations

I love the idea of the Christmas newsletter! I love looking back over my year and reflecting on it. I also love decorating my home with familiar decorations. Two traditions I love! Every year for thirty-two years, I’ve written a Christmas newsletter to share with family and friends highlighting my previous year. Also I seriously enjoy Christmas decorations. So, enjoy Lin and my Christmas newsletter and decorations.

Lin and Larada's Christmas Newsletter banner

2020 Started Off Great!

Yes, 2020 started off with a bang! On January 7, 2020 Lin and I embarked on a trip of a lifetime—twelve days on a private tour of Costa Rica with Lin’s ex-wife, Victoria. She invited us and 7 friends on this delightful escapade. We invited two of our friends, so the “Dirty Dozen” was formed. Our tour guide, Enrique, led a square dance tour in 2001 that Lin and Victoria organized, so Lin was excited to reunite with his old friend.

We saw exotic animals—quetzal birds, iguanas, Jesus Christ lizards, monkeys and sloths—and spent time in gorgeous jungle areas. We sailed over the canopy of the rain forest on a zipline! What an experience! We ended our trip with some leisure time and a catamaran trip out to snorkel.  

The majority of the people on this trip didn’t know each other when we started, but we became friends by the end!

After being home a few days, I squeezed  in a trip to Branson, CO to do major revisions on my book project. We left on February 27 for Barcelona, Spain with a group of square dance friends. Lin and I fell in love with Barcelona! Our tour guide, Bradley Dick, entertained us with his extensive knowledge and humor. Again, I can only give you highlights of a jam-packed twelve days.

I loved La Sagrada Família in Barcelona, a cathedral beyond description—truly sensory overload—and Gaudi’s other amazing architecture throughout the city. We also visited Montserrat, an 11th century Benedictine monastery built on the side of a mountain. There we saw a fascinating black Madonna and Christ Child.

In Valencia we enjoyed delicious paella, the place of its origin. From there we headed to the Arabic Triangle of Spain: Granada, Seville and Toledo with Córdoba in the middle. In Granada, we visited the Alhambra and Generalife, marveling at the influence of the Arabic world on Spain. 

In Seville, after dinner, we had a carriage ride with high-stepping Andalusian horses, stopping for photos in front of the Plaza America. In the evening, we saw Flamenco dancers, a much-awaited event for me! Dazzling sweeping costumes, taps on shoes and snapping castanets! 

On our trip to Madrid, we toured a gigantic Mesquita (mosque) and Catedral (cathedral) at Córdoba. From Córdoba to Madrid, we drove through La Mancha, the land of Don Quixote! In Madrid, we explored a small section of The Prado then drove to Toledo and toured this scenic city built on a cliff.

We left Madrid on March 8, 2020 and Spain had 500 coronavirus cases. Our magical second trip of a lifetime ended abruptly on our arrival home.

Then the Lockdown!

On March 9, we woke up to Spain’s explosion of coronavirus cases to 1500 in one day, so Lin and I started a two-week quarantine. I was certain we would get sick because we spent the last two days in downtown Madrid and then at the airport, but thank God, we didn’t. And that’s the way spring, summer and fall went. All of our annual square dance events were canceled. Lin dedicated his extra time to his garden and he produced the most amazing explosions of color and foliage ever—hours upon hours of work.

Because of Lin’s work in the garden, he always has a gorgeous tan and is very wise about how he does it, so I adopted his method and did a lot of sunbathing and reading.

Immediately, I became a fan of Zoom and have used it weekly to connect with family and friends. I’ve lived here for nine years and finally cleaned out a storage shed Lin bought for my extra stuff when we married. I found some treasures I’d forgotten about!

We have watched lots of British TV series, and my cat, Jesse, assumes the position on the arm of the loveseat every night for our TV time—something so unusual at our house!

We had planned a square dance trip  to Germany in September, but it was canceled too! We moved it to 2021!

And the Release of Flippo’s Book

I spent my time finishing up my newest book,  Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo in the midst of the pandemic. I had planned to release it at CALLERLAB at the end of April, but that event was canceled, so I had more time to work on it. I released it May 8, 2020 and am so proud of the end product which took me nearly three years to complete. It was the project of a lifetime.

Because all square dance events were canceled, I have spent time promoting this book online and have enjoyed the connections I’ve made with Flippo fans all over the world.

If you are interested, visit my website: https://www.laradasbooks.com

Lin’s Wildlife Habitat Certification

Lin's Certified Wildlife Habitat - Christmas Newsletter
Lin’s Banner

In planning his garden, Lin plants flowers that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, and we’ve seen the increase of visitations from these creatures over the years. He also puts out bird food that attracts birds at twenty-five feeders. The culmination of his efforts resulted in meeting the qualifications for certification by the Wildlife Habitat, and he received his certification in October.


Miller’s Christmas Decorations

I’d like to feature our decorations at our home. You can’t come visit our house because of the pandemic, so I’d like to bring my home to you!

Santa & angel collection: Christmas Newsletter
Our Santa Claus & Angel Collection
Small village - Christmas Newsletter
A small Christmas Village
Our Christmas Stockings
Nativity - Christmas Newsletter
Our Famous Outside Nativity

A Miller Christmas Eve tradition is Lin reads a Christmas poem, “A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer,” from Tombstone Epitaph. Enjoy!


Christmas newsletters, decorations, the magic of this holiday! Yes, I do believe!

~Visit my Christmas blog posts:

~HAVE YOU ORDERED A PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY FOR A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR A LOVED ONE OR YOURSELF?   AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me & my books:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

~ Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles. Good until December 20, 2020. Here’s the coupon link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft?coupon=25OFFS&IA1220INDIV

Christmas · Coronavirus · Life Lessons · My Thoughts

Charles Dickens’ Message for Christmas 2020

Photo by Nicole Michalou from Pexels

Is it “Bah, humbug?” or “God bless us, everyone?” Last night my husband, Lin and I watched Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a tradition we enjoy each year. What message does Charles Dickens have for 2020?

As I watched it, I know the story by heart. I studied Charles Dickens as an English major. I taught it to my sixth-grade literature class each year. We’ve watched each year together. I love its message!

And how does it relate to 2020, the craziest year I’ve ever experienced?

Ebenezer Scrooge, the story’s central character, receives a visit from his former business partner, Jacob Marley, on Christmas Eve. Marley warns Scrooge of what’s coming: visits from three spirits.

The visits from the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come forced Scrooge to face the life he had lived, full of “Bah, humbug,” monetary rewards, and negativity since the death in childbirth of his sister, Fan. This reflected Scrooge’s own life because his mother died in childbirth with him and compounded his pain.

This story has strong implications for 2020: redemption and change.

Our Round Table in Branson, Colorado

Christmas Past

Year after year, my family met at our family home in Branson. I traveled there often in my adulthood. The attendees changed over the years. Years ago, Mom and Dad hosted Mom’s parents, Aunts and Uncles, cousins, and me.

Recently, my niece and our family joined Mom, Lin and I with Aunt Willie and my cousin and her family.

Throughout the years, we ate delicous meals, played lots of games around the round table, laughed and shared gifts. We caught up with each other’s lives—a memorable time.

Our family had its moments where we all didn’t get a long, but the people faced the adverse effects, offered forgiveness and we stayed connected.

Christmas Present

Lin and I will celebrate a memorable quiet Christmas here at home alone because we strongly support all the suggestions the CDC has issued about holiday gatherings. We will play Cribbage, open gifts and celebrate our lives together. It will be good because we have accepted the change we have to do to keep everyone in our family safe.

Many families face drastic changes this Christmas with a strong suggestion to not gather together. Sacrifice yes! Change, for sure! Can you do it?

The Future
What Does the Future Hold?

Christmas Yet to Come

I trust that next year we will again gather in Branson, sit around the table and play games with loved ones. We will visit the ranch we all love, looking for wildlife and reminiscing about all those special places we love. And I will relish next year more than ever because of the loss of time together this year! After this year, I will value my familial relationships more because of the stark lack of time with dear ones this year.

So much is different in 2020! Can we collective embrace Dickens’ lessons from the Christmas Carol?

If you’ve battled the mandates, could you change from “Bah, humbug masks” and rethink this and vow to wear a mask for your granddad or grandma’s sake? Your grandchild’s sake? To alleviate the load on our health care workers? Can you change to Tiny Tim’s prayer, “God bless us, everyone?”

If you’ve railed about everything that was canceled this year like your favorite square dance festival, could you say a quiet prayer for forgiveness and then pray for the families who lost someone to the coronavirus?

If you’ve put yourself in the center of this drama called life in 2020 and been so negative and selfish, could you bow your head and honor the health care workers who have placed their lives on the line for many every day in a selfless way?

Yes, change is possible! Redemption is possible, but the process is awareness, acceptance and action. The action is in the doing!

A Christmas Carol reflected Charles Dickens’ life. Because his father was imprisoned for debt, his life changed drastically, and his writing highlighted the brutal changes in his life. Can we take a breath and learn from Ebenezer Scrooge this Christmas? Not “Bah, humbug” anymore, but Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, everyone!”


~Visit my Christmas blog posts:

Cover for Just Another Square Dnce Caller

~HAVE YOU ORDERED A PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY FOR A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR A LOVED ONE OR YOURSELF?   AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me & my books:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

Christmas · Dancing · family · My Thoughts · square dance

What’s Your Favorite Christmas Memory?

Create a Favorite Christmas Memory
Photo by Nicole Michalou from Pexels

Favorite Christmas memory—I have so many, but one stands out that has affected my whole life in different two ways. It’s about a white dress!

When I was four or five years old, my Mom made me a beautiful white dress with red embroidery on the top for Christmas. I remember her laboring over it because sewing didn’t come naturally for her.  I tried it on, and the gathered waistline with the fitted bodice just didn’t please her. It didn’t lie the way it should, so she ripped it out several times. She didn’t have one of those fancy sewing machines they have today that gathers easily—she did it all by hand. She so wanted to complete it for our Christmas Eve get-together, so her efforts continued, and I continued to try it on, hoping this time it worked.

I felt so special in her choosing to sew this for me. I anticipated wearing it Christmas Eve to the Horner family celebration at my grandparents with a multitude of relatives in attendance.

After all her hard work, Mom finished my special dress. I donned my miracle dress and saw the relief in her eyes! She took me to the mirror. I saw Cinderella in my reflection! I loved it!

When Dad got home from the ranch, I had to model it for him and he oohed and aahed over it, solidifying the fact I had been transported into a magical princess!

Larada at the age of my favorite Christmas memory
Me about the age of this Favorite Christmas Memory

I don’t remember any gifts that year, but I do remember Mom’s efforts and tenacity, that precious dress and the feeling I had when I walked in the door at my grandparents’ house and the reception I received! That’s a gift you can’t wrap! This is my favorite Christmas memory!

One way this dress event affected me

As an adult, I have made many Christmas presents, whether I knitted a stocking or a sweater, painted a plaster-craft cowboy statute or crafted a family calendar. The joy for me is the giving. I learned this from my mother’s wonderful dress project.

I love to knit a favorite Christmas Memory
Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

This year I knitted twenty+ dish clothes during the pandemic and gave them as gifts to my family—therapy while I knitted a rhythmic simple pattern that soothed my soul in the movement. Those dish clothes blessed me and hopefully will bless the recipient.

One of My Favorite Square Dance Outfits
One of My Favorite Square Dance Outfits

Another way this dress event affected me

As a square dancer, the moment I don my gorgeous square dance outfit, I’m transported back to that moment as a child when I put on my beautiful Christmas dress Mom made. I am Cinderella ready for the ball.

If you look at the square dance attire for women and think how crazy, let me tell, once I put on my outfit and petticoat and twirl in front of the mirror, I am transformed. My feminine side comes out, and I love it!

So, a delightful Christmas memory that touched me deeply as a child and continues every time I dance and every Christmas gift I create. You can’t bet that!

Do you have a favorite Christmas memory that has affected your whole life? How old were you? How did it affect you?


~Visit my Christmas blog posts:

Book Cover for Just Another Square Dance Caller

~HAVE YOU ORDERED A PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY FOR A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR A LOVED ONE OR YOURSELF?   AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me & my books:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

~ Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles. Good until December 20, 2020. Here’s the coupon link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft?coupon=25OFFS&IA1220INDIV

Christmas · Coronavirus · family · My Thoughts

Christmas Shopping During the Pandemic?

Christmas Shopping the way it used to be!

Christmas Shopping Coronavirus-Style, has it been different for you? In New Mexico, we have restrictions limiting the number of people in a store, so if I do go shopping, I have to wait in the queue outside in the cold. I have to be near people who could be infected and so far, my husband, Lin, and I have been spared from this virus. So, for me, the answer is simple—stay home and shop online!

Over the last few years, I’ve bought many gifts online whether for my husband, my brother or the rest of my family, so I’m not new to this concept. One holiday tradition I’ve loved though is going to Old Town Albuquerque for regional gifts. I won’t be doing that this year.

So, for this year’s Christmas shopping, I’ve ordered online 99%. I did buy one gift while at Walmart this week.

Calendar - Christmas Shopping
Photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

When thinking about Christmas gifts, I love making them and have done it for years whether it was a hand-knitted garment or a photo gift. This year I have had to cancel my favorite gift I have given my family for 23 years—a family calendar featuring photos from the previous year. We weren’t together in 2020, so I have none. Also, recently, I’ve had an eye problem with blurry vision which would make this project difficult, so no Horner Family Calendar 2021!

Here’s where the calendar idea came from! A couple years after my Dad died one of my team teachers, Rebecca Betzen, connected with my mom, wanting twelve pictures from my life. That was a sad Christmas, missing Dad, so Mom and I flew to California to spend the holiday with my brother and his family. Rebecca had been specific, “Don’t open my gift until Christmas Day,” so I did!

What a surprise! Mom had selected a variety of pictures from my childhood all the way up to my graduation dinner for my masters’ degree! Several pictures highlighted favorites posts on our family ranch.

This project thrilled me so much, I decided to do one the next year for Mom and me. We took a memorable trip to Eastern Europe, so I featured that trip in my first calendar. My ex-husband loved it so much, I made one for his family the next year, continuing the whole time we were together.

When we were just doing three or four, my ex and I printed the calendars ourselves. It was quite a job, but we mastered the process. When the number of calendars increased, I decided to outsource them to OfficeMax, and they have always done a great job!

At first, I put one picture on the page above the month, but after a few years and a large array of pictures to choose from, I created a collage of several pictures for each page and tried to highlight different people on each page. The time-consuming part was going through all of my photos and selecting which ones to use.

I first added my brother to the list of recipients, and the list has grown over the years. Last year I gave calendars to thirteen family members.

Several years when I first gave a calendar to my Aunt Willie, my Mom’s sister, I laughed at her response. I asked her if she liked it, and she answered, “Yes, especially November.” I spotlighted pictures of her on the November page because that was her birthday month.

So, yes, I take lots of pictures anytime we’re together as a family, and my family has come to understand that.

Horner Calendar 2011 Cover
Cover for Horner Calendar 2012

Each year I highlight whoever has shown that year like graduations or weddings. If a family member died the previous year, I featured him or her on the cover. I also highlighted our family ranch on the cover of some calendars. My second cousin married in England in 2017, and Lin and I attended, with me taking lots of pictures. Her new husband said, “I bet we make the calendar next year!” And they did!

A page from a calendar - Christmas Shopping
Photo Collage from 2020 Calendar

My joy came when my family members opened this gift and leafed through the pages, laughing at certain pictures and make heartfelt remarks. These calendars have become a historic family document of our year together.

So, Christmas shopping did change in 2020, but I’ve stayed focused on the joy and celebration of this precious holiday.

How has your Christmas shopping changed this year? What have you done differently?


~Visit my last three blog posts from last week:

Cover for Just Another Square Dance Caller

~HAVE YOU ORDERED A PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY FOR A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR A LOVED ONE OR YOURSELF?   AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me & my books:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

~ Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles. Good until December 20, 2020. Here’s the coupon link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft?coupon=25OFFS&IA1220INDIV