Nancy and John Ferguson gave the name Little Lake Hill to this property in 1932 when they moved in and ever since then it has been known as Little Lake Hill.  My family and I fell in love with this property and moved here in 1999.
My Name Bett-September 12, 2016
I was given the first name of Elizabeth when I was born. My parents and everyone called me “Betsy” for short. My middle name was “Dalna” for my grandmother on my dad’s side. If they used that for my first name they would have nicknamed me “Dollie”. I can’t tell you how glad I am that they chose Elizabeth! When I was in college I felt “Betsy” sounded too childish for such a mature person as I was at the time. I dropped the “sy” off my name and became just “Bet”. I spelled it with two t’s for a number of years after getting married, then wavered back and forth from one to two t’s. Until…….

I met Isabella Cannon ( who became the first female mayor of a large city in the US. She was 72 years old at the time in 1977. She lived across the street from where I had a very large veggie garden. She would visit with me as I plucked the fruits of my labor. We discussed politics, world and neighborhood, and personal subjects such as family, nutrition and exercise. She was known as the ‘little old lady in tennis shoes’ during her campaign. I admired everything about Isabella.

One day she asked me how do I really spell my name. I told her I wasn’t sure as it had not been set in stone. She then told me that when she was born in Scotland in 1904 that her sole name was Isabella. Her mother asked her older sister to give the middle name, which was “Bett” with two t’s. So, from then on, I became “Bett” with two t’s.

Isabella died at the age of 97, writing a book of her memoirs and giving commencement speeches at colleges and universities in the area. She had slowed down a little, but was still going strong. If I have just a teaspoon of her energy when I’m 79 (and if I live to be 97), I know that I will get my strength by taking her middle name.

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October 8, 2016 Hurricane Matthew

Matthew was an unwelcome visitor to Raleigh. I don't think anyone expected the impact it would have to our state, bringing flooding inland with cresting rivers one week (and more) after the storm struck. Here in Raleigh we only had 6 or more inches of rain. Some areas east of us had 15 inches of rain. Fortunately, we didn't have the high winds that were expected else there would have been much more damage. There was just enough to fell trees and take down power lines, interrupting internet connections for much of our city for days, and for some unfortunate families, for a week. If there was anything good about this storm it might be that it struck us on a Saturday when many people had the option to be at home.

Sometime mid-afternoon I looked outside my kitchen window towards the street. I noticed earlier in the day that the lamppost light was on even during the day as it was so dark. But this time I couldn't see the light as something was obscuring the post… could a large bush suddenly plant itself in front of the lamppost? Oh, it wasn't a bush; it was a huge limb from our maple tree. I went to investigate and was saddened to see that another huge limb from the crown had fallen to the ground. This was the 3rd time we've lost a limb, but this was the largest. It was about 1/3 of the huge red maple which has garnered great attention since it was first planted in 1932. Nancy Ferguson was an avid gardener. It was the first thing she and her husband John put in the ground when they first moved to Little Lake Hill, the name they gave to the house and grounds. She named the tree "Sport". You can read all about Sport here

Now that Sport is 84 years old and losing her limbs, I fear that she might be losing her struggle to stay healthy and alive. We ponder what to do: take her on down, or enjoy the few years she might have left in her, leaving the remaining 2 large portions of her crown to keep her the queen of Raleigh for as long as we can let her reign. There is a good possibility that the City of Raleigh will knock on our door one day and tell us they will take Sport (and all the other trees in front of our house) to build a sidewalk on our side of the street. We know it's coming. We've seen it in the city's plans. Of course, when that truck comes to take Sport down, you know where I'll be.

Addendum, October 27 When returning from an errand I saw a HUGE truck blocking my driveway in front of the house. The city had sent a truck to retrieve the limbs and tree parts placed at the roadside. Sport's remains were in our yard, but the driver of the truck scooped it up, complete with the bright orange strap and ropes. I was horrified! I asked the driver to put it back in the yard and he did. The following week our friend Leon McMahon came with his chain saw to cut the huge limb into sections that he could use to turn wooden bowls and platters. He is creating some beautiful pieces that will always be here to remind us of this beautiful tree. Sport is saved once again!

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Traditions: The Christmas Cookie Cutters, December 1956-November 4, 2016

When I was 7 my mother was the grade mother for my 2nd grade class at Morehead School in Durham. Back then we could have holiday parties so my mom and a few others baked Christmas Cookies for our class. I knew that my mom would be in the kitchen for a while and that my brother Sam and sister Joy (Alex, the youngest had not arrived at this time) were much too young for the cookie baking process, so I felt confident that I’d have my mom to myself for a few hours.

She started by mixing the butter, sugar and eggs together, then adding the salt, vanilla then flour, very slowly as it stiffened to a dough very quickly. (see recipe at the end) Rolling out the dough and pressing the cookie molds into the dough, then flipping the mold over, gently pushing the dough into the mold, then smacking the mold onto the counter in hopes it would come out in the shape of the cookie mold seemed to take forever. We sang carols and she told me stories of funny silly things she did when she was a little girl. It was our very special time together. We cleaned the kitchen together (well, she cleaned the kitchen) and we sprinkled colored sugar on the cookies as they came out of the oven. They are three-dimensional cookies as the dough takes the shape of the molds and are so unique, different from plain cut cookies. They were so beautiful, and I was very proud to have a part in creating them.
Twenty years later I was helping my mom clean out her kitchen cupboard and ran across the cookie molds in their original box with the original recipe and instructions: Aunt Chick’s Merry Christmas Cookie Cutters ( At the time my son Will was in the 2nd grade and I was a grade mother for his classroom. So, I was given the cutters and went home to give this a try. Soon after the mixer started blending the dough, I found Will on the kitchen stool beside me and we were singing carols and I was telling him stories of funny silly things my mom did when she was a little girl (I didn’t do anything funny or silly!).

Will grew up, but I continued to make the cookies for our friends with children, and also for each of my music students.  Going through the trouble to paint the cookies with confectioner’s sugar mixed with coloring and water, they turn out looking more like ornaments than cookies. Now I have two wonderful grandsons. This year they helped me make the cookies. One on each side as the mixer blended the dough, and as we rolled it out, we sang carols and I told them funny, silly stories of things their dad did when he was a little boy (remember, I didn’t do anything funny or silly!). This was truly special time together.
Here's a music video that the family helped me put together with the help of the Video and TV department at Enloe High School. It's entitled "The Christmas Cookie Cutters".

I love singing the song I wrote about these cookie molds. I get such a warm feeling as I think about the happiness the cookies have brought to hundreds of families and people. This year I will gather some friends to go to the Ronald MacDonald House in Durham and make cookies for 40 or so families who are staying the house we will use my mother’s Christmas Cookie Molds.  These families have children who are in the hospital. Many of them will not celebrate Christmas at home this year. I hope they will enjoy these wonderful cookies, and I hope that baking cookies at the Ronald MacDonald House in December will become a tradition.

Recipe for the cookies:
This is the way I make them, which is NOT according to the directions included with the cookie molds.
Blend 1 cup softened butter
1 ½ cups sugar
1/3 cup eggs (about 3 medium sized eggs)
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
2 T vanilla
mix well, then add slowly (1/2 cup at a time)
4 ½ cups flour
I don’t sift anything, I just dump! The dough will stiffen after 3 cups of flour. If you have a heavy duty dough mixer it will stand up to the test better than just a regular mixer, but a regular mixer will do. You may need to use an old fashioned spoon and hand to finish mixing all the flour.
The directions suggest dividing the dough and refrigerating it, but I find it easier to work with when it is at room temperature. The secret to success in using this dough is flour. Use plenty of flour on the board and on top of the dough when rolling it out. If you use cookie molds, make sure your molds are floured well, and your hands also. Roll the dough so that it is ~ 1/4 inch thick.
Bake at 350° until they are golden, or just before if you plan to paint your cookies. These are not a very sweet cookie, but still are delicious. Santa will love them!

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Baking Together: December 21, 2016
For many people at Christmastime, baking with one’s family is a highlighted tradition. The kitchen is where nourishing meals are prepared. There is always chatter while ingredients are measured, the sauces stirred, the oven checked. People gather around and the love and warmth of family fills the room. Long after the meal is consumed and the table is cleared, there is still something about the kitchen that is inviting.  For some families, this will be missed this year as their children are in the hospital, some battling for their lives. Kitchens have been replaced by hospital wards. Friendly conversations among family members are superseded by conversations with doctors. Their lives have been totally disrupted. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have a child in the hospital at this time of year.

On the 21st of December, just a few short days before one of the biggest holidays in the USA, ten of my friends gathered in the kitchen of the Ronald MacDonald House in Durham, home to 55 families while their children are treated for illnesses and diseases. Our ages ranging from 9-67, we measured ingredients, rolled dough, cut cookies from molds just like the ones I used when baking with my mother 60 years ago. We wore Santa hats and aprons. We painted and decorated the cookies (I’ve never seen such unusual decorated Christmas cookies—created by 10 different creative minds, 20 hands!) and cleaned the kitchen while chattering among ourselves, the RMH staff and some of the guests there. Often humming or singing carols, we busied ourselves. Each of us chipped in, worked and did what needed to be done, often not needing to ask, but merely observe. Some learned how to make cookies from scratch, or use molds for the first time. The TV and video production class from Enloe High School filmed the entire process, complete with laughter and stories. They interviewed members of the baking team, asking what this experience meant to them. I hope the younger members of our group realized that they were making more than cookies. We baked more than 100 cookies, we baked together. There was a tremendous sense of pride after our 3 hour marathon baking extravaganza. We brought our traditions of baking with our families to RMD to bake for their families, and I truly hope that this is the beginning of a new tradition.
For reference to the cookies and molds see  
I cannot thank the Merry Christmas Cutter Team enough: Aedan, Aida, Elizabeth, James, Jenna, Liam, Rebecca, Sarah and Sharron. We did it! We did it well! We did it together!

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