Living 50 Plus Magazine December/January 2022

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Visit us at HOW TO REACH US For story ideas or comments: Bruce McLellan 256-340-2431 For distribution questions: Rebecca Braun 256-340-2414

For advertising questions: Baretta Taylor 256-340-2370 For website questions: Daniel Buford 256-340-2408 Published by Decatur Daily Tennessee Valley Media

ON THE COVER: A festive holiday table is displayed at Kristen Propst’s home in Decatur. Helping Propst were Karen Smith, Beth Burns Gilbert and Carol Sandlin. Photo by Jeronimo Nisa. 4 Decatur Living 50 Plus



any people may not get in the holiday spirit without decorations and all the trimmings. Chances are strong that if you have containers full of items just waiting to see the light of day again this holiday season, those items are red or green or some combination thereof. Red and green have become the traditional colors of Christmas, just as blue and white symbolizes Chanukah. But how did this color palette come to evolve? Ancient Celtic people revered holly plants, believing they brought beauty and good fortune in the middle of winter - a time when the landscape is normally bleak and holly plants thrive and stand out. Celts would regularly bring in sprigs of holly and decorate their homes with the plants, which feature shiny, serrated leaves and bright, red berries, as a way to guarantee a prosperous new year. Holly also came to be associated with the crown of thorns Jesus Christ was forced to wear during his crucifixion. The custom of using red and green continued into the 14th century. Dr. Spike Bucklow, a research scientist at the University of Cambridge, says red and green also were used to paint medieval rood screens, which were partitions installed in churches to separate the congregation from the priest and altar. Dr. Bucklow notes that Victorians also extended the association of these colors as a physical boundary to another boundary: the marking of the end of the old year and the beginning of a new one at Christmastime. While red and green had associations with Christmas in early times through holly and other sources, the connection was perhaps best solidified thanks to a man named Haddon Sundblom. Sundblom was an artist commissioned in 1931 by the Coca-Cola company to create an image of Santa Claus for the company's upcoming holiday ads. Sundblom portrayed Santa as a chubby man wearing red robes, likely as a nod to Coca-Cola's own red logo. Santa was featured in front of a green background. The ads proved popular and Sundblom's Santa became the preferred depiction.




e listen with warm glee and sing heartily to these favorite Christmas songs each year, but how much do we know about them or how they came to be? Here is a brief look at some of the most popular Christmas songs. When you are enjoying get-togethers this holiday

season, you can impress your family and friends with your festive knowledge. CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE “Christmas Time Is Here” is a song written for the 1965 television special “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which was one of the first animated specials produced for network television in the United States. Along with singing

carols and baking cookies, watching classic Christmas specials is part of many families’ holiday traditions. Two versions of the song appeared on the album that was released in conjunction with the TV special: an instrumental version by the Vince Guaraldi Trio as well as a vocal version sung by choristers from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in San Rafael, Calif.



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IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER The popular holiday song “In the Bleak Midwinter” can be traced to a request from the editors of Scribner’s Monthly, an American literary periodical. While Scribner’s Monthly lasted just 11 years, it’s easy to argue that its legacy lives on, most notably during the holiday season. “In the Bleak Midwinter” is sung by scores of choirs across the globe each holiday season, and the popular carol is based on a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti. Rossetti’s poem, which would be transformed into a carol in 1906, was written in response to a request for a Christmas poem made by the editors of Scribner’s Monthly, and has endured well into the 21st century. DECK THE HALLS It’s hard to hear “Deck the Halls” and not immediately be overcome by the festive nature of the holiday season. The lyrics to “Deck the Halls” were written by the Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant in 1862, and the song many people know today is a traditional Christmas carol. However, the Welsh melody that is part of the song can be traced to the 16th century and a song called “Nos Galan.” That song is not about Christmas, but rather New Year’s Eve. FROSTY THE SNOWMAN Who can resist the magic of the holiday season? Especially when that magic brings a normally inanimate snowman to life! That’s the concept behind “Frosty the Snowman,” a song both children and adults enjoy each holiday season. Musicians Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson co-wrote the song in 1950, when it quickly caught on as a catchy and memorable tune. Just a year earlier, Rollins and Nelson penned “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” for an Easter special, so they were no strangers to kid-friendly holiday songs. The “Frosty” song led to a children’s book soon after, and later was brought to the television screen in 1969 for a holiday special that has become a must-watch in many households. HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” has been recorded by many artists over the years. It was written in the 1940s by composers Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. The song was featured in the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis” and sung by Judy Garland, who immortalized it. More than 10 years after Garland introduced the world to the song, Frank Sinatra released a Christmas album to revitalize his music career and wanted to include “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” though he asked composer Martin to tweak the lyrics to give it a lighter tone. Martin obliged, and the newer version has since widely become the standard. 6 Decatur Living 50 Plus

JINGLE BELL ROCK Many Christmas songs are traditional religious hymns or slow-paced popular standards. “Jingle Bell Rock” is anything but, with a rock-n-roll hook and upbeat tempo. This popular rockabilly Christmas song was first released in 1957 by Bobby Helms and it fit in perfectly with other songs of the era. It remains a fan favorite today. JINGLE BELLS The popular Christmas carol “Jingle Bells” has an interesting history that remains a topic of debate even now. Written by New England native James Lord Pierpont, “Jingle Bells” was never intended to be a Christmas song, and in fact does not even mention Christmas or any other holiday. In addition, the song’s birthplace is disputed, so much so that there are two commemorative plaques in two different cities, each of which claims to be the place where Pierpont purportedly wrote the song in the 1850s. One plaque is in Medford, Massachusetts, where Pierpont is said to have written the song from a tavern while watching sleigh races taking place outside. The other plaque is in Savannah, Georgia, where locals believe Pierpont wrote the lyrics prior to leading a sing-along of the song at a local church in 1857. O CHRISTMAS TREE “O Christmas Tree” is a wildly popular holiday song. In fact, the song is so popular that there are many different versions, each of which is based on a traditional German folk song. That song, “O Tannenbaum,” is centuries old and has nothing to do with Christmas. O COME, ALL YE FAITHFUL The popular Christmas carol “O Come, All Ye Faithful” traces its history back several centuries. While the lyrics to the song have been attributed to various authors, the text is most often credited to an 18th century English hymnist named John Francis Wade. While Wade may or may not deserve such credit, the earliest known written versions

of the hymn, sometimes referred to as “Adeste Fideles,” each include his signature. O HOLY NIGHT The story of “O Holy Night” can be traced to a request made by a 19th century French priest. In the fall of 1847, that priest asked a French merchant named Placide Cappeau to write a Christmas poem. Cappeau’s poem was eventually shared with French composer Adolphe Adam, who quickly set the poem to music. The resulting song made its debut on Christmas Eve 1847 and has been a beloved holiday song ever since. SILENT NIGHT In 2018, the popular Christmas carol “Silent Night” celebrated the 200th anniversary of its first performance. The lyrics to “Silent Night” were written by Austrian Roman Catholic priest Joseph Mohr in 1816. Over the years, the melody has been credited to the likes of legendary composers such

as Mozart and Beethoven. However, a manuscript handwritten by Mohr and discovered in 1995 revealed that the Austrian composer Franz Xaver Gruber composed the music to this beloved song. SILVER BELLS Each holiday season, representatives for charitable organizations stand in commercial districts and ring bells as they seek donations for the needy. Songwriting partners Jay Livingston and Ray Evans wrote a song in 1950 based on those department store Santas and Salvation Army volunteers and titled it “Tinkle Bells.” Livingston’s wife, Lynne, humorously suggested a new title so that the bells and song would not be associated with visiting the bathroom to “tinkle.” The writers quickly changed it to “Silver Bells,” which proved a much better fit. Holiday celebrants soon made “Silver Bells” a holiday standard.

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THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS One of the most instantly recognizable holiday songs also boasts one of the most unique histories of any Christmas carol. The exact origins and author of “The 12 Days of Christmas” are unknown, but according to the Catholic News Agency, the song was written for Catholic children in England sometime after 1558. Between 1558 and 1829, Catholics in England were forbidden to practice their faith openly. The song “The 12 Days of Christmas” was used to teach Catholic children living under such restrictions about their faith. As a result, the song is filled with hidden meaning, even if modern celebrants largely sing it to express their festive moods and not necessarily their respective faiths. THE CHRISTMAS SONG “The Christmas Song,” perhaps better known as “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire,” is a beloved tune cowritten in 1945 by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells. The song was reportedly penned on a hot July day and the writers had to think cool thoughts to evoke a feeling of the holiday season. This Christmas classic became one of the defining performances of Nat King Cole’s career, as he is one of the most popular artists to perform the song and recorded it on at least three separate occasions. THE FIRST NOËL “The First Noël” is a beloved Christmas carol that has endured for nearly a millenium. According to Classichistory. net, historians believe “The First Noël” was written as early as the 13th century. During that time, Miracle Plays that depicted Biblical stories were very popular in Europe, and “The First Noël” is believed to have been inspired by those plays. The song tells the story of the birth of Jesus as depicted in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY In 1955 this song was recorded by the Trapp Family Singers. Most of us know them as the Von Trapp Family Singers, as in Captain and Maria Von Trapp and their family. “Sound of Music,” anyone? Though originally written in 1941, the song remains popular today. UP ON THE HOUSETOP Images of Santa Claus excite children across the globe each holiday season. Some such images appear on television, in stores or in the front yards of homes decked out for the holidays, while others are elicited through songs like “Up on the Housetop.” Hollywood legend Gene Autry’s mid-20th century version of “Up on the Housetop” might be the most widely recognized version of the song, but the tune actually dates back to 1864, making it the second oldest secular Christmas song (“Jingle Bells” was written in 1857). 8 Decatur Living 50 Plus

WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS Historians have uncovered the origins of many popular Christmas carols, but others remain somewhat mysterious. Such is the case with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” an instantly recognizable tune that some historians believe can be traced back to the 16th century. According to Songfacts. com, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” reflects an English tradition in which wealthy people in England would give treats to visiting carolers on Christmas Eve. One such treat was figgy pudding, which the song has immortalized. WHITE CHRISTMAS Snow-covered landscapes can make the holiday season that much more special. The beauty of such landscapes is captured in the song “White Christmas,” which was penned by Irving Berlin. No one is sure when Berlin composed the song, but it is widely believed he did so in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Just what compelled Berlin, who was Jewish, to write the song also remains a mystery. But “White Christmas” is one of the best-selling songs of all time - particularly after it was included in the musical “Holiday Inn” starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. The song earned Berlin an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1942. In the film, “White Christmas” was performed as a duet by crooner Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds, but Crosby’s solo recording is a time-honored classic that can always be heard during the holiday season. WINTER WONDERLAND “Winter Wonderland,” with its vivid cold weather imagery, seems like it was tailor-made to sing around Christmastime. But much like “Jingle Bells,” the song wasn’t actually written for the holiday season. The lyrics were penned in the 1930s by Richard Bernhard Smith, who was suffering from tuberculosis at the time and holed up indoors. Smith stared out his window observing kids playing innocently in the snow and wrote a poem evoking feelings of the carefree days he once knew. Smith’s friend and musician Felix Bernard took the lyrics and composed a melody to go with them. Even though the song never specifically mentions Christmas, it quickly became a holiday standard.





he festive nature of the holiday season makes it an ideal time to sing, especially in groups. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that caroling, a tradition that dates back many centuries, ultimately collided with Christmas. Caroling and Christmas caroling are two different things. According to, the origins of modern Christmas caroling can be traced to wassailing, a term that has evolved for more than a millenium. What started as a simple greeting gradually became part of a toast made during ritualized drinking. Time magazine notes that the word “wassail,” which appeared in English literature as early as the eighth century, eventually came to mean the wishing of good fortune on one’s neighbors, though no one can say for certain when this particular development occurred. During medieval times, farmers in certain parts of Britain would drink a beverage to toast the health of their crops and encourage the fertility of their animals. By 1600, farmers in


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some parts of Britain were still engaging in this ritual, and some were by now taking a wassail bowl filled with a toasting beverage around the streets. These wassailers would stop by neighboring homes and offer a warm drink, all the while wishing good fortune on their neighbors. During this period, wassailing had nothing to do with Christmas, but that began to change in Victorian England, when Christmas became more commercialized and popular. It was during this time when publishers began circulating carols, forever linking the tradition of wassailing with Christmas. Christmas caroling as Victorian Englanders knew it might have fallen by the wayside. But while carolers may no longer go door-to-door singing Christmas songs and wishing their neighbors good fortune, those intent on seeing the modern manifestation of this tradition that dates back more than a millenium may be able to find some carolers at their local mall or church.

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hopping for gifts for grandkids makes many senior shoppers nostalgic for their own childhoods. Few adults can forget the joy of finding the perfect gift under the tree on Christmas morning. Recreating that magic for a youngster can be as joyous for gift givers as it is for kids. That’s especially so when shoppers make it a point to give safe, age-appropriate gifts. Whether shopping for their own children or their grandkids, nieces or nephews, shoppers can keep these tips in mind to ensure they give toys that are as safe as they are fun.

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· Speak to Mom and Dad first. When buying for a grandchild, niece or nephew, shoppers should first ask Mom or Dad for suggestions. Parents will know which types of toys their children like, and they’ll also know the child’s level of maturity. Some kids may not be mature enough to play with otherwise ageappropriate toys, while others may be mature beyond their years and enjoy more complex toys than their age would suggest. Parents will know what makes a good toy and what doesn’t. · Learn what to look for on labels. Toy labels are great sources of information, but shoppers must know what to look for. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that toy labels include information about ageappropriateness (i.e., “Ages 3 & Up”) as well as directions regarding how to use the toy. If the

instructions seem a bit complex for the child the item will be for, look for something else. Children’s toy labels also include additional information that consumers may not be familiar with. For example, toys labeled “ASTM F963” meet the latest safety standards from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. An “ASTM D4236” label indicates the materials associated with the art toy have been reviewed and deemed safe by a toxicologist. More information about toy label requirements can be found at The AAP advises that electric toys should only be given to kids if they include the UL label. That means the toy has been certified by the global safety certification company UL, LLC. · Avoid certain features. The AAP notes that toys that are loud, shoot objects into the air or contain small pieces pose a threat to

children. Especially loud toys can damage children’s hearing, while projectiles can increase the risk of eye injuries or choking. Toys with small pieces also pose a choking risk to young children who may try to put the pieces into their mouths. · Err on the side of caution. Consumers who are uncertain about the safety of a given toy, even after reading its label, should err on the side of caution and only give toys they’re confident won’t pose a safety risk. Even toys that may seem safe could be dangerous to kids who might otherwise seem old enough. For example, the AAP advises against giving kids under 12 hobby kits and chemistry sets. That’s because such kits may contain dangerous chemicals that even pre-adolescents are not old enough to handle safely. Shoppers must consider a host of factors when looking for safe toys for kids this holiday season.


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Wayne Holliday wraps up in his Polar Bear Plunge quilt, made out of T-shirts from past plunges. [JERONIMO NISA]



tanding on the dock of the Riverwalk Marina and Boat Harbor as cars streamed past on the bridge 37 years ago, Wayne Holliday jumped into the bone-chilling waters of the Tennessee River — beginning a Decatur New Year’s Day tradition that now attracts dozens of people every year. Holliday, now 83, performed his inaugural jump into the Tennessee River on New Year’s Day — signifying his initiation into the Polar Bear Club — on something of a whim to welcome in 1985. “I was watching TV one night and there was a scene in Rome, Italy, of an old fellow on top of the railings of 12 Decatur Living 50 Plus

a bridge. He dove into the river and I thought, ‘That’s a great idea.’ I mean, it’s kind of dull around New Year’s unless you’re a football fan, so I decided to jump in the river,” Holliday said. “I couldn’t believe I was going to do it when I got to the dock. I did question what in the world I was doing.” But with moral support from his wife and friends, who remained warm and dry on the boat dock, Holliday went through with his maiden New Year’s Day swim. “It was a shock and still is no matter how many times you do it. It’s like taking a cold shower in the wintertime outside,” Holliday said. For three years, Holliday continued the tradition as a solo swimmer until four others joined him in 1988.

“I knew some people at the post office and I told one of them about it. He roped in three others and they jumped with me. From there, it just continued to grow,” Holliday said. Once others started attending the event, Holliday felt an obligation to participate in each annual jump. “I thought, ‘I can’t stop now, not with everyone else coming out.’ Then it got to be such a community event that I just could not not do it,” Holliday said. At its peak, the Polar Bear Plunge has attracted more than 100 people. “I was surprised by the number of people who came out. It became a nice community event. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of it,” Holliday said. To capitalize off of the event’s popularity, Holliday began making and selling commemorative T-shirts with the proceeds benefiting Meals on Wheels & More. Over the years, Holliday estimated the shirts raised several thousand dollars for the nonprofit organization. Meals on Wheels serves 269 homebound residents in Morgan County every week, said Cindy Anderson, director of community services for the Community Action Partnership of North Alabama. “See, we did some intelligent stuff, like selling T-shirts, to go along with the stupid stuff we did, like jumping in the river,” Holliday said with a laugh. To commemorate Holliday’s jumps, his wife, Shirley Holliday, had a quilt made featuring the T-shirts from the Polar Bear jumps. The first day of 2022 will mark the 37th time the Polar Bear Plunge has taken place — organizers canceled the Wayne Holliday participated in the 2011 Polar Bear Plunge in the Tennessee River. [DECATUR DAILY FILE]

event in 2016 when heavy rains the week before New Year’s caused the water to become muddy and littered with trash. Whether Holliday, the father of Decatur’s Polar Bear Plunge, will participate in the event for 2022 remains in question. “My jumping days might be behind me. It’s daunting to think about doing it again, but you never know. I may feel obligated to do it, though” Holliday said. Along with Holliday’s first Polar Bear Plunge, another jump stands out in his memory. “When we got out on the dock, I looked around the edge of the water and there was ice formed in the shallower places. It was weird looking at the ice in the water and knowing that I was going to be jumping into that,” Holliday said. The event, held at noon on New Year’s Day, attracts between 50 to 100 people every year. Holliday, who participated in every jump between 1985 and 2019, offered the following advice for rookies performing their first Polar Bear Plunge. “Hold your breath. You want to breathe quickly after hitting the water. You feel like you need to catch your breath, but don’t breathe when you are under water,” Holliday said. “Also, wear a bathing suit, dress warmly, don’t undress until the last minute and wear rubber shoes because the dock gets slippery.” Held at the Decatur Marina and Boat Harbor until 2019, the event moved to Ingalls Harbor for safety reasons last year. The 2022 Polar Bear Plunge will take place at Ingalls Harbor on Jan. 1 at noon. Polar Bear Plunge veteran Wayne Holliday participated in the 2019 event. “It’s like taking a cold shower in the wintertime outside,” Holliday said. [JERONIMO NISA/ DECATUR DAILY FILE]

Wayne Holliday at the very first Polar Bear Plunge in Decatur 36 years ago. [COURTESY PHOTO]

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ew Year’s resolutions may not have much staying power, but the tradition of making them is an enduring one that dates back thousands of years. According to, ancient Babylonians are credited with being the first people to make New Year’s resolutions. During Akitu, a 12-day religious festival, the Babylonians would make promises to their gods, and these promises typically focused on being a better person in the coming year. Celebrants of the festival, which was held when crops were planted, a time that marked the beginning of a new year to individuals in certain ancient societies, would promise the gods that they would repay 14 Decatur Living 50 Plus

their debts and return any items they had borrowed in the previous year. While these promises might have been the forerunners to modern New Year’s resolutions, there is one distinct difference that separates ancient Babylonians from people in modern times. Babylonians believed keeping their word to the gods would curry favor for them in the coming year, while failure to keep their promises would do the opposite. People who make resolutions today typically do so to better themselves and do not fear reprisal from their creator if they fail to live up to their pledges. That’s likely a good thing, as various reports suggest that as much as 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by the second week of February.

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s winter settles in, it’s not uncommon for people to look to the coming cold with a degree of lament. Spring, summer and fall provide ample opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors, but such chances are few and far between once the winter freeze settles in. Though winter might compel the masses to huddle up inside, there’s still a way to take in the great outdoors on cold winter days and nights. It might not prove an exact substitute for summer nights around the firepit, but a sunroom affords homeowners a chance to marvel at snowy winter

landscapes without venturing out into the cold. Sometimes referred to as “all-season rooms,” sunrooms can make for a great retreat on quiet summer mornings or crisp autumn afternoons. Sunrooms can be treated as blank canvasses, which makes decorating them more fun. But a few tricks of the trade can help homeowners turn their blank canvasses into welcoming spaces to take in all that nature has to offer throughout the year. · Define the purpose. The experts at Better Homes & Gardens recommend homeowners decide how they want to use the sunroom before they begin decorating it. When the weather gets too chilly to dine outside, will the sunroom serve as an alternative dining space


in the same way patios and decks do during the warm weather? Or do homeowners want to turn their sunrooms into reading rooms? Though it’s possible to make sunrooms multipurpose spaces, it may be hard to create a relaxing vibe in rooms that are too crowded with furnishings or too busy. Defining how the space will be used also makes it easier when shopping for furnishings. Define when the room will be used. In addition to defining how the room will be used, homeowners should give ample consideration to when the room will be used. A year-round sunroom will need to be heated, while a three-season sunroom likely won’t require heating. Cooling might be a concern on hot summer afternoons, but many homeowners will likely spend such days outside anyway, so cooling the room may be as simple as installing a ceiling fan and ensuring windows can be opened to let fresh air in. Homeowners who want a year-round sunroom should install insulated glass to keep the room even warmer when the mercury dips.


Opt for bright colors. Bright colors can make sunrooms feel all the more inviting and make for a perfect match with all the natural light already in the room. The renovation experts at HGTV note that white walls and ceilings can maximize the warm illumination of the natural light that will be pouring in from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Better Homes & Gardens adds that brightly colored cushions, pillows and area rugs with similarly hued colors and patterns can add visual interest and texture to a sunroom. · Make use of a view. Homeowners needn’t direct too much of their focus on decor if their sunrooms come with a view. Art on the walls and other decorative items around the room are less important if a sunroom affords a view of the ocean or a lake or dense woods that attract local wildlife. In rooms with a view, arrange furniture so residents and guests can comfortably look outward and take in all the surround landscape has to offer. Sunrooms are a great place to take in nature no matter the weather..

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Holiday films families can enjoy together at the Princess Theater By LORI FEW LIVING 50 PLUS


The historic Princess Theater will offer a treat of nine holiday movies this Christmas season.

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he holiday season is steeped in tradition. Few traditions may elicit more collective belly laughs than watching holiday movies with your loved ones, especially grandkids, and friends. To celebrate the holiday season, the historic Princess Theatre will screen a series of Christmas movies at the downtown Decatur performing arts space. The nine-movie series will feature classic favorites, modern comedies and one pseudo-Christmas action flick. The series will feature “Elf” on Dec. 5 at 2 and 7 p.m., “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m., “A Christmas Story” on Dec. 14 at 7 p.m., “A Madea

Christmas” on Dec. 16 at 7 p.m., “Die Hard” on Dec. 17 at 7 p.m., “The Grinch” on Dec. 19 at 2 and 7 p.m., “Scrooged” on Dec. 21 at 7 p.m., “White Christmas” on Dec. 22 at 7 p.m., “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” on Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. The Princess Theatre is a 677seat performing arts venue in Decatur. The art deco-style building was originally built in 1887 as a livery stable. In 1919, the building was transformed into a silent film and vaudeville playhouse. In 1941 the Princess received its art deco redesign. The theater is located at 112 2nd Ave NE, Decatur. For more information, go to

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Linda Miller started decorating for Christmas when she moved into her Sherman Street home in Decatur in the 1990s. [JERONIMO NISA]




hen Linda Miller moved into her Sherman Street home in Decatur’s Albany neighborhood, she quickly learned of the historic district’s tradition of decorating for the holidays. “If you live in Albany or Old Decatur, decorating for the holidays is something you just do,” the 54-year-old Miller said. “My first year in Albany was the first time I really decorated.” That first holiday, she bought artificial wreaths — because her house gets full sun and real wreaths would be a pile of pine needles and sticks within a week — and created over-sized candies made of Styrofoam and cellophane. “I think you could see it from the space station. I had lights everywhere,” Miller said. Now, 25 years later, Miller, who grew up with traditional Christmas decorations inside the home and what her father called “big Italian lights” on the outside, continues

20 Decatur Living 50 Plus

to decorate with themes ranging from reindeer games to decorating elves. This holiday, Miller will reuse one of her past themes “Blue Christmas” — inspired, of course, by Elvis Presley. “We have to up our game this year and bedazzle and upgrade everything. Santa Elvis will be bedazzled with rhinestones, there will be a full-size sleigh covered in blue glitter and images of a hound dog and basset hound that will be suspended off the porch with little blinking reindeer antlers,” Miller said. “Elvis’ ‘Blue Christmas’ album also will be playing on a loop.” Miller has a yearly decorating routine. To ensure the decorations are ready by the judging of the homes and the Christmas Open House — which was canceled this year due to COVID — she begins preparing in early November and spends Thanksgiving week decorating. “If I’m reusing decorations, I could have everything done in five hours. When I’m starting from scratch, by the time I crawl out on the roof and hang stuff while my aunt panics and paces downstairs, it could take up to 30 hours,” Miller said.

Linda Miller won first place in 2020 in Albany’s Christmas With a Twist category for her Reindeer Games. [COURTESY PHOTO]

To create her non-traditional winter wonderlands, Miller, the art teacher at Leon Sheffield Magnet Elementary, delves into her creativity. Her past decorations included creating elves out of clear packing tape, placing Santa hats on them and arranging them as if they were decorating the house. Another year, she made a band and instruments out of clear packing tape and insulation foam and topped the musicians with old Decatur High and Austin High band hats. For reindeer games — an idea inspired after tripping over her ex-husband’s real mounted deer head — Miller’s front yard featured reindeer cutouts skiing, sumo wrestling, playing beach volleyball, lifting weights and doing synchronized swimming. “The synchronized swimming was my favorite. There was a kiddie pool in the yard and the reindeer were in gold lamé with clips on their noses. It was a lot of fun,” Miller said. “My philosophy on decorating is the more the better. I always go big. I can’t do anything small.” Miller’s reindeer games decorations last year earned her first place in the Albany district’s Christmas With a Twist category. Now, Miller’s neighbors are embracing her whimsical, fun-loving style. “When I did reindeers last year, they did reindeer too. I don’t know what everyone is going to add for Elvis, but it will be good. This has become a fun, block party,” Miller said. The Albany Historic District in Southeast Decatur, along with the Old Decatur Historic District in Northeast Decatur, serves as a must-see destination for decorations and as a holiday tradition for many local families. “One of my favorite things about decorating for the holidays is seeing all of the people drive by and smile and laugh and carry on. I really get a big kick that I get to be part of someone’s holiday tradition,” Miller said.

For individuals new to decorating, Miller suggested buying items on sale, learning to make bows and owning lots of extension cords. Other homeowners in Albany and Old Decatur offered these tips. “Get an idea or theme and go with it. Ours is Christmas trees. One year we did Peanuts characters. Our neighbors have done nutcrackers and gingerbread men,” Patty Easterling said. “Look at magazines and books to get inspired. Decorate with something you love. I love cardinals, that’s one of the reasons I decided to feature cardinals in my decorations,” Bonnie Black said. “Do your front door, then the next year add something to the windows, then add more lights. You really don’t have to do it all at one time. You will enjoy the process a lot more if you take your time and remember the true meaning of Christmas,” Amy Ratliff said. “Start off small and add more decorations each year. You can never go wrong with beautiful greenery and red berries. The first year or two may not be what you envision. My first year was pitiful. I looked at the decorations around us and was embarrassed, but I learned from it and took notes,” Billy Speegle said.

Linda Miller won first place in 2020 in Albany’s Christmas With a Twist category for her Reindeer Games. [COURTESY PHOTO]

Linda Miller started decorating for Christmas when she moved into her Sherman Street home in Decatur in the 1990s. [JERONIMO NISA]

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he idiom “kick the bucket” is a euphemism for passing away that does not paint such a rosy picture if you consider its origins. However, the phrase “bucket list,” though undeniably related to “kick the bucket,” definitely sheds a brighter light on the topic of mortality. A bucket list is a plan for living life to its fullest and prioritizing opportunities to engage in all sorts of activities. A bucket list can be made at any point in life and is not exclusive to individuals facing their own mortality. Here are some tips for putting bucket list plans into action. · Stop and think about what you really want to experience in your lifetime. Leave factors like money or proximity out of it. No ideas are off-limits.

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This is your opportunity to brainstorm, and nothing is too crazy or silly. · Write the bucket list in a comfortable or inspiring place, which may help ideas flow more freely. The place might be a cozy nook at a bookstore or a quiet spot on the beach. · Choose things that are meaningful to you as well as ideas that are frivolous and fun. Make your list a mix of each, and don’t take yourself too seriously. · Divide the bucket list by time. Are there items you can check off in a particular season, such as skiing the Alps? If your bucket list involves moving to a bustling city, determine if you’d like to do that after your children have reached adulthood or if you want to expose them to city life as youngsters. Categorizing the list by periods of your life can make it easier to prioritize certain activities over others. · Determine if each bucket list activity will be a solitary or joint pursuit. Various activities are more enjoyable when shared with others, but some you might be more inclined to do alone. · Set aside a budget for funding bucket list activities. Bucket lists may include some costly activities, so start saving now so money does not stand in your way. Open a savings account specifically for funding bucket list excursions and set up automatic deposits. Bucket lists can encourage people to live life to the fullest and it’s never too early to get started on a list of your own.







etirement provides a chance for adults who have worked throughout their lives to take a step back, relax and enjoy the fruits of their labors. Though the most indelible image associated with retirement might once have been a rocking chair, modern retirees like to get up and go, and holiday shoppers can take that joie de vivre into consideration as they look for the perfect gift for retirees who can’t wait to fly the friendly skies or hit the open road. · Maps: It might seem simple, but roadmaps can be an ideal gift for retirees. A recent poll from RBC Wealth Management found that 63 percent of Americans age 50 and older say travel is an important retirement goal. Roadmaps of their own country or a foreign country can help seniors plan their dream vacations. Seniors can study maps and create their own routes as they visit popular tourist attractions and find lesser known locales along the way. · Vouchers/gift cards: Airline vouchers can inspire retirees to take to the skies and visit locales that have long taken up real estate on their bucket lists. If seniors prefer to take to the open road, hotel vouchers or Visa gift cards that can be spent anywhere that accepts credit cards can help pay for gas, meals or entry to popular parks and tourist attractions. · Projector and portable screen: Retirees may want to get away from it all, but that doesn’t mean they have

to leave everything behind. A projector and portable screen can let on-the-go seniors enjoy movie night under the stars or watch their favorite teams even when they’re far from home. This can be an especially good gift for retirees who are anxious to gas up their RV and leave home behind for a few weeks. · Lifetime pass to world-renowned parks: All United States citizens or permanent residents are eligible for the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass, which provides access to more than 2,000 recreation sites across the country. Those sites are managed by federal agencies like the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation, among others. A similar system is in place in Canada, where adults age 65 and up can gain unlimited admission for a full year to more than 80 Parks Canada locations across the country. · Tablet: Of course, retirees may still want to enjoy some of the comforts of home while they’re off in parts unknown. A new tablet can help traveling retirees read the latest bestsellers and stay in touch with family and friends via video conferencing apps like Zoom. Many campgrounds and hotels now provide free WiFi to guests, so a tablet can be just what on-the-go retirees need to stay connected to life back home. Holiday shoppers can make the season bright for their favorite retirees who can’t wait to spend their newfound free time traveling the world. Decatur Living 50 Plus 23

Transplants work best when it is time to plant in the straw bale.



traw bale gardening is simply planting vegetables into a straw bale that has been conditioned or gone through a composting phase. This method may be beneficial for sites with poor soil or without enough space for a traditional garden. Straw bales can be used to grow vegetables on driveways, porches, or anywhere they will get full sun and water. Gardeners who have limited mobility or those who find it hard to use traditional tools, such as a shovel or hoe, may prefer straw bale gardening.

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The bale preparation process takes a few weeks. Once conditioned, and with proper planning, planting, and maintenance, your straw bale can deliver delicious produce, possibly for more than one growing season. Start with a Wheat Straw Bale Wheat straw bales are the best choice for this type of garden. Pine straw bales do not break down as easily, and hay bales will host more weed seeds. Wheat straw bales easily are found at most home improvement stores or local farms. Make sure the straw bales are held together tightly with twine. As the straw bale is conditioned and planted, the twine will help hold it all together. Older straw bales may be used, but make sure the twine is still tightly in place. Place Bales in the Correct Location Choose a well-drained area in full sun, close to a hose. Once the composting process starts, the straw bales will be too heavy to move (figure 1). Lay out the bales in any configuration you like. Place a few sections of newspaper, cardboard, or landscape fabric underneath the bales to prevent weeds from growing into them. The straw bale should be placed so that the twine holding the bale together runs along the side of the bale. This will hold the straw bales together.

Condition the Bales Once the bales are in position, water them until they are saturated; this will start the composting process and provide organic material for the plants to use while growing. Like any composting process, the ratio of carbon to nitrogen will speed up the natural composting process, allowing beneficial bacteria and fungi to do the work. A straw bale has a large amount of carbon already in it, so nitrogen will need to be added to get the composting started. Rapid composting is preferable so that the bale is still intact and acts as a natural container. This usually can be accomplished in just a few weeks. Following are easy steps to take to ensure that your bale is ready for planting: Days 1 and 2. Water the bale well. Each bale must be completely saturated for the composting process to begin. Days 3 to 9. Scatter 1⁄2 cup of high-nitrogen fertilizer on the bale each day (figure 2). Always broadcast the fertilizer evenly over the top of the bale. Use a synthetic fertilizer such as urea (46-0-0) or all-purpose fertilizer (36-0-0) or choose an organic fertilizer such as blood meal (12-1-0). Water-soluble fertilizers will start the composting process more quickly. Water the bale thoroughly after fertilizer is applied. It is important that

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the bales do not dry out during the fertilization process. Day 10. Apply 1 cup of dolomitic lime across the top of the bale and water well. Days 11 to 15. Apply 1⁄4 cup of balanced fertilizer to the bale daily and water well. You can use either synthetic fertilizers, including general purpose 10-10-10, or organic fertilizers such as 3-4-4 (Espoma Garden Tone). Balanced fertilizers are those that have equal amounts of N-P-K. After the 2-week conditioning process, you should be able to feel the difference. Put your hand inside the straw bale; it should feel warm and have a crumbly feel. If it does not, the bale may need to continue composting for a few more days. Outside temperatures, humidity, and rainfall will affect how rapidly the bale becomes conditioned; cooler weather will slow the conditioning process. Choose, Plant, and Maintain Your Vegetables Some plants are better suited than others for straw bale gardening. Crops such as corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkins, or okra are better suited for in-ground gardens than straw bales. Determinate tomatoes or dwarf container tomato varieties will be easier to stake than indeterminate tomatoes that keep growing larger through the season. Look for dwarf or bush varieties of your favorite vegetables and consider adding trellises, which will use the vertical space to the best advantage. (See table 1 for suggestions on the number of plants you should plant per bale.) When your bale is ready to plant, transplants are your best choice (figure 3). Dig a hole with a trowel and insert the transplant, making sure to backfill around the plant with hay or soil to fill in any gaps. Germinating seedlings in the bale is more difficult but can be done. Dig a hole and fill it with potting soil 26 Decatur Living 50 Plus

Straw bales can dry out quickly in the dry summer. Be sure to put them near a watering hose or use supplemental irrigation.

Straw bales are placed in a sunny location where they will not be moved. They become heavy when saturated with water and the composting process begins.

Scatter the granular fertilizer across the top of the bale and water well. An important part of the composting process involves keeping the bales from drying out.

then plant a few seeds into the soil. Well-composted bales may need no additional potting soil. Throughout the growing season, treat the straw bale garden as you would a container or raised bed garden. Use an all-purpose liquid or granular vegetable fertilizer as directed on the label to provide adequate nutrients during the growing season. Straw bales dry out quickly, so they will need regular watering. Letting your bales dry out will decrease your harvest. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation can be laid across the top for even watering (figure 4).

It is not uncommon to get two growing seasons from one straw bale. For example, if lettuce is planted in the cool season, you can follow with peppers or squash in the summer. The straw bale will be more composted but still plantable. The great thing about straw bale gardening is that the bales are recyclable. Once they are no longer plantable, they can be added as mulch to existing garden beds, added to a compost pile, or added to a raised bed as organic matter. For more information, check out

CARING FOR POINSETTIAS ALL YEAR local REAL ESTATE Things to consider before downsizing your home



oinsettias are an iconic indoor plant. The vibrant red, white, and green colors make this plant a popular choice around the holidays. However, with proper care, poinsettias can add beauty and color to homes for more than just the holiday season. Follow these tips on caring for poinsettias year round.

AFTER THE HOLIDAYS The cost to keep a poinsettia growing for next year is marginal compared to purchasing a new plant every year. • Remove decorative wraps from the planter after the holiday season and place a saucer underneath it. This allows for better air circulation for the roots during the rest of the growing season. • Keep water and fertilizer at regular intervals. • Move the plant to a larger container, with new potting mix, as the plant grows. • Cut back to 5 to 6 inches if the plant becomes long and leggy. Periodically, cut the tips of the branches to encourage more side branching and to maintain a fuller appearance. CARE THROUGHOUT THE YEAR In the summer, growers should move the plant outside in an area with indirect sunlight. Summer is also the time to increase fertilizer to at least twice the frequency. In mid-summer, trim the plant as needed to keep a manageable size and fullness and move to a location with full sunlight. After Labor Day, bring the plant inside to a location that gets a minimum of six hours of sunlight, preferably more. This will start preparing the plant for their flowers and their colorful foliage. Growers should also start reducing the frequency of fertilizer. Long periods of darkness are vital to the iconic colors of the poinsettia. Toward the end of September, they must have at least 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness and 11 hours of bright light each day.


he decision to downsize a home is often bittersweet. Many couples who downsize their homes do so after raising a family. A home might be filled with memories, but downsizing a home helps couples save more money, and that financial flexibility often allows men and women to more fully enjoy their retirement. Bob McMillan, Broker points out there’s more than just money at stake for homeowners thinking of downsizing their homes. The following are a handful of factors homeowners should consider before downsizing to a smaller home. Real estate market The real estate market can be a seller’s friend or foe. Many sellers have a sale price in mind when they decide to sell their home, but the real estate market can be fickle, so homeowners should do their research before putting their home up for sale. Will the current market make it easier for you to get the most for your home, or will you have to settle for less than you prefer? How fast are similar homes in your area selling? When studying the real estate market, it’s also a good idea to study the market for smaller homes. If you plan on moving into a condominium but the market is not flush with properties, you might end up paying more than you want to for your new home, which might negate the savings you can expect from downsizing. Furniture Bob McMillan advises when downsizing to a smaller home, many couples realize their current furniture is unlikely to fit. That means couples will have to sell or donate their current furniture and then buy all new items for their new home. Another thing to consider regarding your furniture is which items you simply can’t live without. An antique dinner table might have been the centerpiece for your family holidays over the last several decades, but there’s no guarantee it will fit into your smaller home. You may want to pass this down to your son

or daughter, but that’s only possible if he or she has the room for it. Before deciding to downsize, consider your attachment to certain items that you may or may not be able to take with you to your new home and the emotional toll that selling such items might take if you’re left with no other options. Proximity to family According to Bob McMillan when downsizing to a smaller home, many couples move out of the suburbs and into cities or towns with more ready access to culture and restaurants. While that accessibility is great, grandparents may find that it comes at the cost of less time with their grandchildren. That’s a steep price to pay for doting grandparents, and it may also impact your children if they frequently rely on grandma and grandpa for babysitting. Before downsizing, consider if you’re willing to move further away from your family. If not, you likely can still find a smaller home in close proximity to your current home and any nearby family members. Medical care Many older men and women must also consider the effect that moving may have on their medical care. Downsizing to a home in the country may make it harder to maintain contact with your current physician, and rural areas typically have less medical practitioners than more densely populated towns and cities. In addition, if you have been visiting the same physician for years, you may not want to move and have to start all over again with a physician who is unfamiliar with your medical history. Consider how much maintaining your existing relationship with your physician means to you, and if your next home will provide the kind of access to medical care you’re likely to need. Downsizing a home is not just about moving into a smaller property. To ensure you’re making the right decision, many factors must be considered before downsizing.

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DURING THE HOLIDAYS These care tips can help keep poinsettias healthy during the holidays. • Place the plant in an area with plenty of natural light, away from vents and drafts that can dry out the pot. • Water the plant only when dry. If the pot is covered in a holiday foil or decorative wrap, allow excess water to drain. Poinsettias are susceptible to stem and root diseases, so draining the excess water is important. • Utilize an all-purpose fertilizer (20-20-20) at one-a-month intervals.

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ocial Security is a pay-as-you-go system, which means today’s workers are paying taxes for the benefits received by today’s retirees. However, demographic trends such as lower birth rates, higher retirement rates, and longer life spans are causing long-run fiscal challenges. There are simply not enough U.S. workers to support the growing number of beneficiaries. Social Security is not in danger of collapsing, but the clock is ticking on the program’s ability to pay full benefits. Released in August 2021, the latest report from the trustees of the Social Security Trust Funds to Congress estimates that the retirement program will have funds to pay full benefits only until 2033, unless Congress acts to shore up the program. This day of reckoning is expected to come one year sooner than previously projected because of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. REPORT HIGHLIGHTS Social Security consists of two programs, each with its own financial account (trust fund) that holds the payroll taxes that are collected to pay benefits. Retired workers, their families, and survivors of workers receive monthly benefits under the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) program; disabled workers and their families receive monthly benefits under the Disability Insurance (DI) program. The combined programs are referred to as OASDI. Combined OASDI costs are projected to exceed total income (including interest) in 2021, and the Treasury will withdraw reserves to help pay benefits. The trustees project that the combined reserves will be depleted in 2034. After that, payroll tax revenue alone should be sufficient to pay about 78% of scheduled benefits. OASDI projections are hypothetical, because the OASI and DI Trusts are separate, and generally one program’s taxes and reserves cannot be used to fund the other program. The OASI Trust Fund, considered separately, is projected to be depleted in 2033. Payroll tax revenue alone would then be sufficient to pay 76% of scheduled OASI benefits. The DI Trust Fund is projected to be depleted in 2057, eight years sooner than estimated in last year’s report. Once the trust fund is depleted, payroll tax revenue alone would be sufficient to pay 91% of scheduled benefits. All projections are based on current conditions, subject to change, and may not come to pass. One bit of good news for those who will receive Social Security payments in 2022. Sharp increases in consumer prices in July and August will lead to beneficiaries receiving the highest annual benefit increase since 1983 starting in

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January 2022. The Social Security Administration says the 2022 cost-ofliving adjustment (COLA) will be 5.9%. PROPOSED FIXES The trustees continue to urge Congress to address the financial challenges facing these programs soon, so that solutions will be less drastic and may be implemented gradually, lessening the impact on the public. Combining some of the following solutions may also help soften the impact of any one solution. Proposed solutions include: • Raising the current Social Security payroll tax rate (currently 12.4%). Half is paid by the employee and half by the employer (self-employed individuals pay the full 12.4%). An immediate and permanent payroll tax increase of 3.36 percentage points to 15.76% would be needed to cover the long-range revenue shortfall (4.20 percentage points to 16.60% if the increase started in 2034). • Raising or eliminating the ceiling on wages subject to Social Security payroll taxes ($142,800 in 2021). • Raising the full retirement age beyond the currently scheduled age of 67 (for anyone born in 1960 or later). • Reducing future benefits. To address the long-term revenue shortfall, scheduled benefits would have to be immediately and permanently reduced by about 21% for all current and future beneficiaries, or by about 25% if reductions were applied only to those who initially become eligible for benefits in 2021 or later. • Changing the benefit formula that is used to calculate benefits. • Calculating the annual cost-of-living adjustment for benefits differently. WHAT’S AT STAKE FOR YOU? The Census Bureau has estimated that 2.8 million Americans ages 55 and older filed for Social Security benefits earlier than they had anticipated because of COVID-19. Many older workers may have been pushed into retirement after losing their jobs or because they had health concerns. If you regret starting your Social Security benefits earlier than planned, you can withdraw your application within 12 months of your original claim and reapply later. But you can do this only once, and you must repay all the benefits you received. Otherwise, if you’ve reached full retirement age, you may voluntarily suspend benefits and restart them later. Either of these moves would result in a higher future benefit. Even if you won’t depend on Social Security to survive, the benefits could amount to a meaningful portion of your See Social Security’s Future pg. 29



n tio t. u l n So lme s l ou ro eri n En S e e Th Op r Fo




Social Security’s Future from pg. 28 retirement income. An estimate of your monthly retirement benefit can be found on your Social Security Statement, which can be accessed when you sign up for a my Social Security account on No matter what the future holds for Social Security, your retirement destiny is still in your hands. But it may be more important than ever to save as much as possible for retirement while you are working. Don’t wait until you have one foot out the door to consider your retirement income strategy. Dewayne Eddy is a financial adviser in Decatur and registered principal of Provident Wealth Solutions/LPL Financial. He can be reached at

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mall businesses long have been the heart and soul of local communities. There is something to be said about being on a first-name basis with a local restaurateur or another small business owner, as such familiarity often translates into exemplary service. Despite the prevalence of small businesses, fewer than 80 percent of entrepreneurial small business ventures make it beyond their first year, and only around half make it beyond five years. Consumers who want to help their favorite small businesses survive can use the holiday season and beyond to set the course for success. Consumers can make a concerted effort to fuel this important cog in their local economic engines. · Shop local. The concept is simple but effective. Before making holiday shopping lists, visit local stores and base gift ideas on items they have in stock. Chances are those gifts will be one-of-a-kind. · Cater holiday meals and gatherings. The holiday season is chock-full of entertainment opportunities. Individuals can rely on nearby restaurants and other food and beverage businesses to cater holiday parties. · Mention small businesses on social media. The holiday season breeds excitement. Therefore, when shoppers are in local stores, they can snap pictures of products and overflowing shopping bags and post them online while praising local businesses. When shopping this holiday season, consumers can look to the small, local businesses in their communities that help make towns and cities unique.

Decatur Living 50 Plus 29




he holiday season begins with Thanksgiving, and many people believe that the festivities come to a close after ringing in the new year. In fact, for the faithful, the Christmas season does not end until January 6 (January 12 in Eastern churches). January 6 marks the celebration of the Epiphany, sometimes referred to as Three Kings Day, Little Christmas, the Baptism of Jesus, and Día de los Reyes. The Epiphany is celebrated 12 days after December 25. In fact, that is where the phrase the Twelve Days of Christmas, and the song of the same name, originated. Christians believe that the real celebration of the holiday season does

not begin until December 24 and then continues through Three Kings Day. While the four weeks preceding Christmas, also known as Advent, are supposed to be times of reflection and prayer in anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ, the 12 days of Christmas are times of great celebration. On the Epiphany, children may leave their shoes out for presents in a similar fashion to the way stockings are hung. Gifts are exchanged, reminiscent of the three gifts the magi presented to the Christ child of gold, frankincense oil and a resin called myrrh. The gold represented Christ’s royal standing. The frankincense marked Christ’s divine birth. Finally, the myrrh stood for Christ’s mortality. Many celebrants will bake ring-

shaped cakes in which they will hide plastic baby figurines that are meant to symbolize Jesus Christ. The cake is called The Kings Ring, or Rosca de Reyes. In Latin America, the three magi are more prominent figures than Santa Claus and are greatly revered by children and adults alike. Until the 19th century, the Epiphany may have been considered more important than Christmas day. However, those tides have largely shifted outside of Latin America and areas dominated by large populations of people who have Latin American heritage. Christmas and New Year’s garner considerable attention during holiday celebrations, but Three Kings Day also is an important date on the calendar for faithful Christians.

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he holidays are a time to spend with friends and family. Celebrating and entertaining are large components of what makes Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, and New Years festivities so enjoyable. Holiday hosts with pets must consider companion animals when planning the festivities. The holiday season brings added dangers for pets. The American Veterinary Association notes that, by keeping hazards in mind, pet owners can ensure their four-legged friends enjoy the season as much as everyone else. · Secure the tree. Securely anchor the Christmas tree so that it won’t tip over on anyone, including rambunctious pets. Also, stagnant tree stand water can grow bacteria. If a pet should drink the water,



it may end up with nausea or diarrhea. Replenish the tree basin with fresh water daily. Skip the candles. When creating mood lighting, opt for electronic or battery-powered lights instead of open flames. Pets may knock over candles, and that can be an instant fire hazard. Keep food out of reach. Situate food buffets beyond the reach of hungry and curious animals. Warn guests to promptly throw out their leftovers so that dogs and cats do not sneak away with scraps that may cause stomach upset or worse. Real Simple magazine warns that fatty foods can promote pancreatitis a potentially dangerous inflammation of the pancreas that produces toxic enzymes and causes illness and dehydration. Small

bones can get lodged in a pet’s throat or intestines as well. · Avoid artificial sweeteners. Exercise caution when baking sugar-free desserts. The artificial sweetener xylitol can cause dogs’ blood pressure to drop to dangerously low levels. Xylitol is found in some toothpastes and gum, so tell overnight guests to keep their toiletries secure to avoid accidental exposure. · Be cautious with cocktails. If the celebration will include alcoholic beverages, the ASPCA says to place unattended adult beverages where pets cannot reach them. Ingested alcohol can make pets ill, weak and even induce comas. · Be picky about plants. Mistletoe, holly and poinsettias can be dangerous in pet-friendly households. These plants can cause gastrointestinal upset and may lead to other problems if ingested. Opt for artificial replicas instead. If guests bring flowers, confirm they are nontoxic to pets before putting them on display. · Watch the door. Guests going in and out may inadvertently leave doors open. In such instances, pets who get scared or are door dashers may be able to escape the house. Put a note by the door to watch for escaping pets. · Designate a safe space for pets. If the holiday hustle proves too much for cats, dogs, birds, and more, give the pet a safe, quiet spot away from the crowds. Holiday hosts should factor in pet safety when they open their homes to guests. Decatur Living 50 Plus 31





ights on a Christmas tree may seem like a relatively recent phenomenon, but people

who can’t wait to deck the halls each December may be surprised to learn that this beloved tradition dates all the way back to the late nineteenth century.

Edward Johnson, a friend and colleague of Thomas Edison, introduced holiday light bulbs in 1882. Prior to that, candles were lit on trees and families would briefly gaze at this awe-inspiring bit of holiday decor before the candles were quickly extinguished. Johnson is credited with being the first to suggest light bulbs, which were invented by his friend Edison, be used to light trees in place of candles. While many were impressed by Johnson’s eight-bulb holiday display, it remained a novelty until the 1920s, when preassembled lights became more accessible. Since then, Christmas tree lights have taken hold as a must-have piece of holiday decor in households across the globe.

Thankful to our communities for calling and keeping us busy through 2021! Our families appreciate YOU!


Shane Jones, President

32 Decatur Living 50 Plus



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Sweet smells of the holidays: Aromas from treats help recall the past, build new memories



at Price remembers the smell of the old-fashioned Lane cake baking in her mother’s kitchen during the holidays. Now, Price is instilling those memories in her 10 grandchildren. “Their favorite thing is what we call crack green beans, which are covered with a pound of cooked bacon and a mixture of soy sauce, brown sugar and butter. The adults love the pumpkin bread and pecan pies. Those are always requested,” the 71-year-old Decatur woman said. For many, holiday traditions and memories hearken back to the “heart of the home” — the kitchen. There, food and festivities intertwine, creating long-lasting memories passed down through generations in the form of dishes usually named for the person responsible for the recipe — Grandmother’s Bundt cake and Nana’s gingerbread cookies. Typically found handwritten on tattered pieces of paper yellowed from age or in worn cookbooks with broken spines, the recipes are central to family gatherings. For Price, her love of baking stems from watching her mother create rolls, cakes and breads at home.

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CHOCOLATE CHIP MINT ICE CREAM BUNDT CAKE For the cake  1 box super moist devil’s food cake mix  2 cups good quality mint chocolate chip ice cream melted  ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips  3 eggs, lightly whisked  For the chocolate glaze  6 tablespoons cocoa powder  5 tablespoons butter  1 cup confectioner’s sugar  ¾ teaspoon vanilla  2 tablespoons hot water Combine cake mix, ice cream, chocolate chips and eggs. Mix well by hand or in a mixer on low. Spray Bundt pan with non-stick spray and pour batter in. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until tests done. Allow to cool completely. To make the glaze, melt cocoa and butter together in a small pan over low heat, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Stir in hot water one teaspoon at a time until glaze is thick and smooth. Pour glaze over the cake.

Pat Price of Decatur provides her family with holiday memories through her baking. [JERONIMO NISA/DECATUR DAILY]

“When I was a child, my mother was always baking. I love to make homemade rolls just like she did. She also always had a cake or pie or something sweet at home. Now, I don’t do that, but I will when company is coming over, especially for the holidays. I love to cook and bake for my family,” Price said. Along with baking her family’s favorite treats, Price created a new holiday tradition for her grandchildren. Every Thanksgiving, the family makes something, such as a gingerbread house, for Christmas. “It’s just wonderful spending time in the kitchen with them and making memories,” Price said. The time people spend in the kitchen this holiday season is expected to increase as more families, compared to last year, are expected to gather together. According to the Coinstar Holiday Survey, 80% of Americans said they will start or increase their home baking this holiday season. The holidays serve as an opportunity for individuals to show off family recipes or start new baking traditions. Some of Price’s creations include a chocolate chip mint ice cream Bundt cake, caramel pecan Bundt cake and Christmas cookie ice cream Bundt cake. Classic favorites include her pumpkin bread and her husband’s pecan pie. For the past 20 years, Price has shared her creations, not only with her family, but also with the community through St. John’s Episcopal Church’s Simply Divine Bake Sale held every November. The bake sale supplies guests with sweet treats, casseroles and breads. Try these holiday recipes from Price and other community residents.

PUMPKIN CRANBERRY WALNUT BREAD By Pat Price  3 eggs  1 pound canned pumpkin  ¾ cup vegetable oil  ½ cup water  2 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour  2 ¼ cups sugar  1 ½ teaspoons soda  1 ¼ teaspoons salt  ¾ teaspoon nutmeg  ¾ teaspoon cinnamon  ½ cups chopped walnuts  ½ cup dried cranberries In large mixing bowl, beat eggs, pumpkin, oil and water. Sift together flour, sugar, soda, salt and spices. Fold into pumpkin mixture, mixing well. Stir in cranberries and nuts. Bake in two greased 9-inch by 13inch loaf pans at 325 degrees for an hour or until done.

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CHEESE AND SAUSAGE BALLS “The green Tabasco is what makes these so delicious,” Kristen Propst, of Decatur, said, of the recipe in St. John’s Simply Divine Recipes cookbook.

 1 heaping cup sharp cheddar cheese  1 pound hot sausage  2 cups Bisquick  Tabasco to taste Have all ingredients at room temperature. Combine ingredients and shape into 1-inch balls. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. May be frozen before baking.

DATE COOKIES This recipe appeared in a cookbook Terri Wilson’s mother received as a gift when she got married in 1945.

“I love these cookies. They come out soft and moist. To keep them that way, store in a sealed container,” Terri Wilson, from Hartselle, said.

 ¼ cup shortening  ¾ cup brown sugar  ½ teaspoon vanilla  1 well beaten egg  1¼ cups sifted flour  ½ teaspoon baking soda  ¼ teaspoon baking powder  ¼ teaspoon salt  ¼ teaspoon cinnamon  1/8 teaspoon nutmeg  ½ cup sour cream  2/3 cup chopped dates. Combine the shortening, sugar and vanilla. Add egg and cream together. Sift together the dry ingredients. To the creamed mixture, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the sour cream, about one-third of each at a time. Stir in the dates. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Makes three dozen.

CRANBERRY NUT BREAD From Decatur’s First United Methodist  2 cups whole wheat flour  2 cups white flour  1 tablespoon baking powder  1 teaspoon baking soda  1 teaspoon salt  ½ teaspoon cinnamon  ¼ teaspoon nutmeg  1 cup brown sugar  1 cup white sugar  ½ cup butter  1 tablespoon grated orange rind  1 ½ cups orange juice  2 eggs  2 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped  1 cup chopped nuts  2/3 cup raisins Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine orange rind, orange juice and eggs. Add to dry ingredients, mixing just to moisten. Fold in berries, nuts and raisins. Turn into two greased and floured 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes. Slices better the next day.

FESTIVE CHEESE BALLS Another of Kristen Propst’s favorites from the St. John’s Simply Divine Recipes cookbook  3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese  4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled  1 cup cheddar cheese, sharp, shredded  8 ounces dates, chopped  1 cup raisins  Toasted pecans Combine cream cheese, blue cheese, cheddar cheese, dates and raisins. Divide into two balls and roll into toasted pecans. Surround with ginger snaps, apples and pears.

MINT HOT CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES  ½ cup heavy whipping cream  1 can sweet condensed milk  3 ½ cups chocolate chips  2 drops peppermint oil (or 1 drop peppermint extract) Pour heavy whipping cream and sweet condensed milk in a pot. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Place chocolate chips in a bowl. Pour the cream and milk mixture over the chips. Fold together to get a smooth and silky consistency. Add in the peppermint oil. Line a mini muffin tin with cups. Scoop a tablespoon of the chocolate mixture into each cup. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Freeze. Gifting: Wrap each truffle in a plastic bag and place in a Christmas-themed coffee mug. Tip: Peel off the paper and eat as is or add one truffle to 8 ounces of warm milk to make hot chocolate. Finish off with whipping cream and chocolate chips. Ashley Smith, Hartselle

CHERRY BLINTZ Paula Laurita, of Athens, presented this recipe at a Jewish cooking class at the Athens-Limestone County Public Library.  1 egg  1 cup milk, any style  1 cup flour  1 pinch salt  1 8-ounce tub sour cream  1 21-ounce can cherry pie filling Mix the egg and milk together in a blender. Add the flour and salt and blend. Place mixture in refrigerator. Let sit for an hour. For filling, fold the cherry pie filling into the sour cream and place in the refrigerator. Heat a skillet brushed with oil. Pour a thin coating of the batter on the skillet. When top of batter is dry, flip and cook other side. Oil the pan between each blintz. Take teaspoon to tablespoon of filling and spread on blintz. Roll them up. Other suggested fillings include cream cheese and cocoa powder or cream cheese and orange marmalade with a sprinkle of cocoa powder. Blintzes can keep for six months in the freezer

TIGER BUTTER “I can’t even begin to tell you how many batches of Tiger Butter I’ve made over the years. This is the one candy my children request the most around Christmastime because they want to give it to all of their teachers and friends,” said Christy Jordan, a Huntsville resident and author of “Sweetness.”  1 package (24 ounces) white almond bark (see Note)  1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter  1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (milk chocolate works fine, too)  Line a rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper and set aside. Break up the almond bark as best you can in a large microwave-safe mixing bowl. Microwave at 30- to 45-second intervals, stirring after each, until the bark is melted and smooth. Stir in the peanut butter with a large spoon until melted and well blended. Spread the mixture evenly on the prepared pan. Place the chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave at 30to 45-second intervals, stirring after each, until smooth and melted. Drop dollops of the melted chocolate onto the peanut butter mixture in the pan and swirl with a knife or a toothpick (a toothpick will create finer lines). Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator until the mixture hardens, or let it cool at room temperature until completely hardened. Break into pieces with your hands. Tiger Butter will keep, in an airtight container at room temperature, for two to three weeks.

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38 Decatur Living 50 Plus

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