Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Just catching up

I've been taking a breather for the past few days, getting ready for another big celebration. My daughter's birthday is on New Year's Eve and this year she turns 13! It's a milestone for both of us. She will be a teenager, and as the youngest of our three children, it means no more little ones in the household. It makes me feel suddenly older. That, and the fact that I'm long overdue for some highlights. In fact, not long ago, Emily noted that my hair is now growing some "natural" highlights. That would be the gray!

Tonight she is having some friends over for a sleepover. While she and her friends and her brothers and her dad! all go play laser tag, I'll be making a big batch of tacos for when they return. Later, there'll be ice cream cake and movies and video games. So different from the sleepovers that I remember at that age, when we played records and painted our nails and ate pizza.

Our tree is still hanging in there, a bit dry in places, but it should last until the weekend. Typically we leave it up until Epiphany, but I don't think it's going to make it that long this year.

Speaking of Christmas, one of my favorite gifts this year is the DVD set for the t.v. series, thirtysomething. It was my favorite show and I was so sad when it went off the air. It was a late gift, just arrived in the mail today. I'm going to have to pace myself when I start watching it.

I enjoy the week between Christmas and New Year's, when it still feels like a holiday, but it's a lot less hectic. Tea and Christmas cookies in the afternoons. The calm of the tree, all lit up at night and we have the time to enjoy it. It's been so cold that the snow that fell before Christmas is still on the ground. All the more reason for being home and keeping the home fires going. Tomorrow will be a low key new year's eve, with our birthday celebration going on tonight.

What about you, is this week a time of rest and renewal? Making big plans for New Year's Eve? However you choose to spend it, may you be blessed in 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Moments

We're all wrapped and baked and decorated around here. We might bake some more today, just for fun, and so that Dan gets his Magic Cookie Bars. Tomorrow evening we'll have some of my family over and on Christmas Day we're going to Dan's brother's house to spend the day with his side of the family. We'll do my family's "big celebration" on New Year's Day at my dad's house. It just makes more sense for my brothers who have to travel to get here and for the one who is delivering packages along with Santa until the wee hours on Christmas Eve.

Last night, I met some girlfriends for dinner. The small, cozy restaurant was packed when we got there, and by the time we had finished dinner, exchanged gifts and talked for a couple hours, there were only a few tables still occupied. As we got up to put on our coats, a little boy about 5 years old, ran up to one of the windows to peer out, then turned and called out to the few groups left in the restaurant, "Look! It's snowing!" Big flakes were coming down outside the window which was framed in chintz curtains. We walked out into the snow with all the other late night diners, and it was so festive and perfect and like the final scene in White Christmas.

Late last night, Emily and I stayed up to watch a Christmas movie until neither of us could keep our eyes open any longer. Thank goodness for technology. We decided to just "record the rest" and we'll catch it later today.

My 16-year-old did his Christmas shopping at the mall on Tuesday. I received a few phone calls during his two hour excursion, for questions like, "Does Joe have a . . . " and "Do you think Dad would like. . . " Then he came home, wrapped everything up and had it under the tree in about 30 minutes. I wish I could be as efficient in my shopping!

My 20-year old suggested we save a few gifts to open the day after Christmas. Hmmm. He's making all of his gifts this year and has been squirreled away in his room the last couple nights.

Yesterday, I was out running errands and stopped at the church for a breather. The building was especially quiet since the school kids are on break. A janitor worked quietly in the back of the church as I sat for a few minutes in the silence, in front of the creche, the manger empty and waiting for the arrival of the Christ child figure that will be placed there at the Christmas Eve children's mass.

One of my favorite moments of Christmas is singing the final hymn at Christmas Day mass, Joy to the World. It always brings tears to my eyes. The quiet, empty church yesterday was a sharp contrast to the fullness of a Christmas Day mass. Yet it fills me just the same. The soft glow of vigil prayer candles and the glow of the eucharist candle, indicating that the True Presence is in the tabernacle. The church is decked out in evergreen and pointsettias, the wood pews polished and shined, everything at its best for Christmas. In contrast, I feel a bit tired and bedraggled, worn and weary, rushing about trying to get every little detail in place for the big day. How comforting to come to this quiet refuge, in all my imperfection, and know that He welcomes me just as I am. It's humbling.

Merry Christmas to all of my blogging friends and those who read this blog. May you all be blessed this Christmas and in the new year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Christmas meme

I'm playing along with this meme that Diane, Sunshine On My Shoulders, posted this morning. Let me know if you play. I'd like to know what your Christmas looks like.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? I like both. Our milkman has the best eggnog, and we always have some in the fridge this time of year.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? If they're easily wrappable, they're wrapped. Otherwise they get a bow and a tag.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Our display is an odd assortment of lights of from our "old house". Colored lights on the house, white lights on the shrubs, and a lighted deer that keeps falling over. I told my husband we should just stick an arrow in him and call it good. It would probably be kinder to find something to anchor him down, but we just haven't gotten around to it.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No. My daughter would freak out.

5. When do you put your decorations up? The village goes up the weekend after Thanksgiving, the rest early in December.

6. What is your favorite Christmas dish? Our Christmas menu varies from year to year, and I can't say that I have a favorite.

7. Favorite Christmas memory as a child? The Christmas I got my Betsy-Wetsy doll and baby carriage.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't really remember. I held on to believing for a long time.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No. I offered the idea to my family one year, and they didn't want to! We save all the excitement for Christmas morning.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? With ornaments collected through the years, and with different kinds of "glass" ornaments, very inexpensive. I like the sparkle and old fashioned look that they give the tree.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? Love it!

12. Can you ice skate? Yes. Forwards and backwards;)

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? As an adult, my husband gave me diamond earrings for our first Christmas. It was a complete surprise.

14. What’s the most important thing about Christmas for you? That we're celebrating the birth of Christ. The love and warm feelings that flow during this time of year. Giving presents, receiving and sending cards and letters and photos.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Russian teacakes and tea.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Cutting our Christmas tree.

17. What tops your tree? A cornhusk angel with gold wings and streams of fine gold ribbon, holding a small evergreen wreath. I bought her at a craft sale years ago. I like the combination of simplicity and elegance.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? Giving... but, I like getting presents, too!

19. Candy Canes? I love the way they look, but don't eat them.

20. Favorite Christmas Show? My recent most favorite movie is The Holiday. It came out a couple years ago.

21. Saddest Christmas Song? "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot" by Nat King Cole. It just chokes me up.

22. What is your favorite Christmas Song? O Holy Night, sung by Ronnie Milsap.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Village, part 2

As promised, here are some pictures of the rest of my Christmas village. This part of the village is nestled in some bookcases upstairs in our loft. It makes it nice and cozy, sitting up there with a book and a cup of tea, sometimes a kid or two doing homework, with a pleasant little Christmas scene nearby. Don't forget to click on each photo with your mouse, if you want to enlarge it and see more details.

This is the music teacher's house. Isn't the snowman with the violin cute? This house reminds me a little bit of the house I grew up in in -- the gabled roof and the one car garage.
This is one of my earlier buildings. It's actually a renovation of one of an earlier version. Snow Village put on an addition and -- isn't that clever?
The birdwatchers . . .

The very first building that started our collection . . .

It's part of a little rural scene with a barn. . .

And some kids out behind the barn, roasting marshmallows over a campfire. The campfire actually lights up!Cute little calf. . .

The village greenhouse. . . And finally, a skating rink. See the kids making snow angels? I pick up the little figurines anywhere and everywhere. . . It doesn't matter if they exactly match the village, the more the merrier!
That's it! I tell you, these things are addictive. But it's just so much fun and having them out for just a month or so out of the year, makes it seem brand new each year when I pull it all out and set it up. I just make a day of it and try not to sweat too many of the details, letting some of the cords fall where they may. I have a lot of fun with it, and it brings smiles to lots of faces which is really the best part.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Village

In this post, I mentioned that Dan made a shelf for our Christmas village. Several of you were interested in how it was done, so I thought I'd post some pictures. I've been collecting pieces from Dept 56 Snow Village for years. The pieces are bigger than a lot of the Christmas villages you see, so if you have one with smaller pieces, you would have a lot more flexibility in arranging your "town." As it is, I wanted something that would keep my pieces safe, and still within easy view. So, I asked my handyman if he could put in a shelf, just behind the sofa, something that we could take down after the holidays. It was really quite simple for us him to do. We bought a piece of shelving and three shelf brackets. . .

Here's a peek at the back. The brackets are put in with anchors, and since the couch is typically pushed up against the wall, the anchors won't show after the holidays. And they're just "little holes," so no big deal.

It looks pretty all lit up! This picture just doesn't do it justice.
Here's a closer look. (Be sure to click on the photos with your mouse to see the enlarged pictures. Lots of fun details!) The village Christmas tree and a Christmas house (I added the pink caddie this year -- an ebay find). . .
The Secret Garden Florist and a Christmas Shoppe. The little Starbucks cart, a gift from my brother, is one of my favorites
The red brick building is the Pet Store and I should have gotten a close up of the front window. It's filled with puppies! Next door is the Super Suds Laundromat and a bookstore and cafe. The guy selling poinsettias is another ebay find. And the boy walking all the dogs. I think the people are as much fun to collect as the buildings.
Here is St. Luke's Cathedral -- a gift from my mom the year that our Luke was born. Next door is one of my favorites, the Hope Chest Consignment Store.
At the end of the block is a tree lot and used car lot.
The boy selling wreaths is actually part of a set that includes a greenhouse. Which is upstairs . . . with the rest of my village! Embarrassing, I know. I have to set it up in two places:/ But, I've loved collecting the pieces over the years. Stay tuned for part 2!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How NOT to water a Christmas Tree

Or.. . "How to Make a Battery Out of a Christmas Tree"

So, we brought our Christmas tree home last Sunday and immediately my darling husband set about putting it in the stand and concocting his "special" formula for feeding the tree.

A few days later, we were all trying to sniff out the fresh pine smell, but instead were overwhelmed by another odor. To me, it smelled sweet and pungent, like an over-ripe banana. We went sniffing around the living room and finally realized it was the tree. Being the "let's treat the symptoms" type, I set to burning every balsam scented candle in the house, and sent my husband to buy a pine-scented car freshener to hang on the tree among the ornaments. Worse yet, the lower branches of the tree were as brittle as if they were a month old. My husband, being the "let's find the cause" type, set about trying to solve the mystery. It didn't take him long.

The formula for keeping the tree fresh involves a concoction that includes Epsom salts and a bar of iron. When we set the tree up, we couldn't find the bar of iron from last year (surprise) so we were going to do without. In the meantime, we needed something to keep the tree raised up in the stand so that water could get into the freshly cut trunk. Dan found a couple pieces of galvanized steel washers, so he used those. As we were decorating, lo and behold, I found the iron bars, so we threw those in, too.

So, between the two different kinds of metal and the low-level acid in the Epsom salts, Dan thinks we created a battery. (Does that mean we could have put the end of the lights in the water, added a whole new meaning to a pre-lit Christmas tree?) He didn't think so. But the corrosion of the tin let off a very strange odor. I was too chicken to stick around and watch Hubs and our strapping 16-year-old lift the 8-foot decorated tree out of the stand, to empty the water and the gross stuff, and refill the stand.

Now, two days later, we have a sweet smelling tree. Just as a Christmas tree should smell.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's Friday!

Favorite moments and favorite things from this week:

1. Yesterday, I was finishing up my Christmas shopping at the mall. As I was leaving one of the stores, a man was coming in, frantically motioning to one of the sales girls to "come here." When she got to the entrance of the store, he pointed down the mall. "See that woman? The one pushing the blue baby stroller?" Yes, the sales girl nodded. To which the man replied, "I need a pair of pajamas that fit her."

I love watching men shop.

2. One of my favorite things -- these to-go cups. I found them at T*rget. The temps have been below 0 this week, so I've been sending my kids out the door to school in the mornings with one of these, loaded with hot chocolate and whipped cream. And, yes, chocolate sprinkles on top. Makes the drive to school a lot warmer!

3. You asked for it. Here's our Charlie Brown tree. Now, don't laugh!
4. On Wednesday, my book club had its Christmas meeting. We went out to eat at an Indian restaurant (I had the coconut lamb and it was delicious) and then exchanged books. This is the one I got to bring home:
5. One of my favorite things this week was putting out all our Christmas decorations, but especially all of the lovingly made ones from the kids when they were little. I always put these pictures somewhere in my kitchen, where I can see them as I'm making dinner or washing dishes. Luke and Joe made the frames for theirs -- Luke was never artistic and I love how there are just a couple of brushings of paint on his. I can hear him saying, "That's good enough." Joe's is macaroni pasted on a cardboard frame, the spray painted gold. Such a treasure. Emily never made a frame, but her picture in front of the tree, in her overalls. . . those are the memories that just warm a mom's heart.
14 more days 'til Christmas! How's everybody doing? Are you ready, almost ready, never gonna get there?

Here's the link for Friday's Fave Five.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Little Christmas Tree (insert Nat King Cole singing this song here)

On Saturday, we drove up to the mountains, over Berthoud Pass, to cut our Christmas tree.

Oops, wrong picture. That one is about 150 years old. Here's our photo. It was late afternoon when we got up there, so the sun was just setting.
Saturday night we stayed with our friends, Connie and Tony, in their cabin just outside of Fraser. Walking into their home was like walking into a Christmas card. A beautiful Christmas tree all lit up to greet us, fire going in the fireplace, stockings hung, the smell of chili and cornbread cooking. It was so lovely.

On Sunday morning, bright and early we drove up to the designated "tree cutting area." It was a bit of a hike to find the "perfect tree."
A beautiful view of the town below.
Sorry, there's a break in the photo story here, as I was busy traipsing through knee-deep snow to find the perfect tree. Then, I had to chop it down, because I'm the strongest of the bunch and that's why they bring me along on these excursions. I did manage to get one of the yahoos to drag the tree out of the forest.
But, not before getting a picture of them.
'Tis a beautiful tree. You'll have to take my word for it, because if I post the picture I have of it, in our living room in all it's glory, you would laugh. It needed a lot of TLC, but it is our little Christmas tree and we love it. And the weekend away from home, up in the hills, in the crisp mountain air with my group of yahoos made it all worthwhile:)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday's Fave Five

One) I found a new blog that I just love. Karla Dornacher is an artist and author. She has the cutest Christmas ornaments and tags to download and print.
Italic Two) Gingersnap cookies for breakfast. This morning, I woke up and found a plate of freshly baked gingersnaps in the kitchen. I thought the little elves had been by last night, but it was my 5'10" oldest son who was looking for a midnight snack and couldn't find anything, so he whipped up some cookies. ("It was from a mix," he told me, apologetically). As if it matters! What a treat:)

Three)Dan made a shelf so I could put my Snow Village up this year. We skipped it last year, so it seems all new again. I'll post more pictures later. Four) Deep freeze. The temperatures have been below freezing all this week. The light snow that we got over the weekend still covers the ground. The roads are icy, but it's great weather for hot tea and a fire in the fireplace.

Five) So many other favorites this week, it's hard to choose just five! Leftover turkey is a favorite, and the last of it is gone. Ooooh, some of us miss it soooo. . .

Susanne at Living to Tell the Story is the hostess Friday's Fave Five. Join us, it's a great way to wrap up the week!

Monday, November 30, 2009

"A helluva place to lose a cow"

It's been a long time since I've let a week pass between posts. I think it's best to recap in bullet form.

* Thanksgiving was great. We had an assortment of relatives from both sides of the family, a 21-lb. turkey, and my mother-in-law's best-ever dinner rolls. I think I can safely say that everyone had enough to eat and enjoyed themselves.

* I didn't have any illusions that I might make homemade turkey soup this year, and the carcass went right into the trash. In other words, I didn't store it in the freezer where it would stay until Easter before being thrown out.

* Traditionally, Thanksgiving weekend is when we put up our Christmas lights. This year the job was delegated to our sons. The oldest one is the analytical type, thinks things through from start to finish, although the follow-through often leads him on a variety of tangents. The younger one is the get-er-done-we're-missin'-the-game sort of guy. All I know is that at the end of the afternoon, the lights were up, the yard was a criss-cross of white extension cords and that duct tape does not stick to brick. The Griswold's have nothing on us.

* I did not go shopping on Black Friday, but I did take my daughter to the mall on Saturday. It was a silly, crazy thing to do.

* I've been reading Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon. It's the first book in her Father Tim series and is just delightful. I tried this book about a year ago, but just couldn't get into it, which was disappointing, because I so enjoyed the original Mitford series. I guess it's true that a reader has to bring something to a book to get something out of it. After my trip "home" this summer, I seem to be in a different place than I was a year ago, so that Father Tim's experiences are much more meaningful. I'm looking forward to the next volume in this series, which will be released in 2010.

* Dan's parents gave him a set of DVD's about America's national parks. We love visiting our nation's parks and have been greatly entertained by watching 12 hours worth of still-photos of scenery and old guys like Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir. We will make a great retired couple when we travel the country to visit or re-visit all of these places in our RV.

Bryce Canyon National Park was one of the areas covered in the series. Mormon pioneer and rancher Ebenezer Bryce was the original settler of the huge limestone canyon, carved by wind and water, and shaped into a bizarre arrangement of towers and steeples that form miles of mazes and nooks and crannies. It is said that after attempting to ranch there, Bryce eventually left, declaring the area beautiful, but "a helluva place to lose a cow."


Hoping you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. Now that the Christmas season has officially begun, here's to keeping the true spirit of Christmas and Advent. Let's not get lost in the retail maze!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

48 hours and counting

In 48 hours, I'll have a 21-lb. turkey in the oven, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will be on t.v. and we'll be getting ready for a houseful of family for Thanksgiving dinner. Between now and then I have a list of stuff to do that's as long as my arm. Good thing my kids are home. I can put them to work. (Hey, they should be thankful they weren't born on a farm, they'd be picking . . . something right now. You can tell, I wasn't born on a farm either.)

I'm going to take a few days off from NaBloPoMo. It's my party and I'll blog -- or not -- if I want to;) And even though I won't be writing for the Giving Thanks Challenge, I'll be feeling very thankful this week, because that's what having my family around me tends to do. Except for when they all start fighting and throwing punches across the table. I'm kidding.

My gratitude today is for you, my blogging friends. Like so many of us who blog, I started mine for a variety of reasons. But the one that often keeps me going is the group of people I've met through our blogs. It's become a network of friendship and encouragement and learning. For some of us, what started out as leaving comments for one another, turned into exchanging e-mails and snail mail. I've had the pleasure of meeting two new friends in person and it was like we'd known each other for years. Other bloggers have inspired me to try new projects and recipes, and yet another's challenge got me off my duff to take a writing class that I've put off for far too long. And I like to think that in some small way I've helped inspire someone else out there, too.

So, to you my blogging buddies, I'm grateful. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and may your turkey turn out just right and your stuffing never be soggy. Unless you like it that way. It's all a matter of personal preference.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday, again!

FOR TODAY. . .November 23, 2009

Outside my window... the street is quiet. No kids and parents walking to school today. The kids have the week off for Thanksgiving break. The air is still and cool.

I am son and his friend in the kitchen, laughing it up.

I am thinking... how tiring it is to carry everyone's concerns.
I am thankful for... friends who remind me that I don't have to.
I am wearing... jeans and sweatshirt.
I am going... to spend the day doing laundry and house keeping.
I am reading... a book for a future blog review. Looking for something light for my personal reading.

I am hoping... to finish up a project that's been in my sewing basket for too long.

On my mind...sorting through my priorities, trying to decide what to keep, what to let go.

Pondering these words... seaglass. How much we're like pieces of seaglass, all rough and sharp, and life experience teaches us and smooths the edges. Though it may take lots of tumbling in rough waters for it to happen. I recently read a quote to this effect on someone's blog. I'm sorry I can't remember where it was, but it has been a comfort, so thank you if you're reading this!

Noticing that... "I need to continually fill my mind with things of Christ in order to overcome the things of this world". (I do remember finding this on Peggy's Daybook last week. Thank you, Peggy.)

From the kitchen... Cranberry chicken, garlic potatoes, green beans, cornbread

One of my favorite things~
From my picture journal...
From Peggy, the Simple Woman's Daybook: Would you like to linger on the simple things...then join me and many others in taking a little look into the day plans and thoughts of those who are focusing on of the 'everyday moments'.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thankful for. . .

Sunday mornings. . . I took this photo at Yosemite National Park in May. The serenity of the moment still comes to mind when I look at it.

My Abby. . .

This coffee. . .

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thankful for. . .

the gift of foresight. Last year after Christmas, I planned ahead and packed a special box labeled "Open This First." It contains our advent wreath, advent calendar, and the Christmas cards that I bought on sale last year so I can start writing them out now. I made it a point to put this box right next to a box that contains gift wrap, tags, and bows, and another box that contains cookie tins. I was able to peek inside, note what I have on hand, so as to not go out and buy a bunch more stuff.

Every so often, I get it right;)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Favorites

It's time for Friday's Fave Five, hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell the Story.Looking back on the week, here are some favorite moments that come to mind:

1. This song at Xandra's place. Take a few moments and listen, and just feel the peace. It filled my heart.

2. Yesterday, Dan and I had our annual Christmas shopping day. The goal is to get some shopping done, come away with some concrete ideas, but most of all spend the day together, enjoying the anticipation of Christmas. At one point we had a "LOL moment" when we were looking at something in the store (can't give too many details or it will spoil a surprise), and both shared a moment of recognition that this is not what we wanted to buy. Our eyes met, opened wide, and we both had that Home Alone (as in the movie) look of "Nooooooo!" We shared a good laugh. Guess you had to be there.

3. The moments I took to hug my kids and feel their embrace.

4. The moment my dog knows that I'm awake in the morning. She sleeps in my son's room, and as soon as she's up, she comes and lies outside our bedroom door, which is closed. When she hears me moving about, I hear the thump, thump of her tail wagging against the door. I love it.

5. There were several moments this week that spoke to my heart in regards to some spiritual reading that I'm sharing with a couple of friends. I know, I'm being vague, and I really need to sort some of it out and share sometime. But, the moments were those that reinforced, or better yet, shed light on some of the lessons that we're learning. It's as though God was nodding and smiling at me, saying, "Now, you're getting it."

Thank you, Susanne, for encouraging me to look for the goodness. It's all grace.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday 13

What happens when you've made this silly commitment to post on your blog everyday and you look at the clock and it 5:33 p.m. and you realize you have to be someplace in 45 minutes, and you can't think of anything to say?

You look for a meme.

I recall a long time ago doing a meme called Thursday Thirteen, so I looked it up and sure enough it still exists. So, in the spirit of the Giving Thanks Challenge, here are

13 Things I'm Thankful for In a Friendship

1. Honesty
2. Sense of humor
3. Not afraid to challenge me
4. and knows when
not to challenge me and let me rant
5. Will shop with me at boutiques and at Target
6. Loves my family
7. Will watch chic flicks with me and sit through the credits when the movie is over.
8. Listen to me tell the plots for my favorite books from beginning to end.
9. Drink Starbucks with me
10. Knows my favorite dessert
11. Waited and then rejoiced with me when my babies were born.
12. Will offer to go with me to the tough places -- a scary doctor appointment, my first visit back to the cemetery when I lost my mom, my first lip wax.
13. Remembers who I was before I became a wife and mom, and loves me for it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More about books

One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few. ~ A.M.L.

One of my favorite writers is Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I was introduced to her years ago, when I was on a break from college and visiting my grandmother. Gram and I shared a love of books, and our discussions often centered around our favorites.

Her home was full of books, all nestled in white, painted bookcases, lining walls or tucked in rooms throughout the house. When I visited, Gram often would present me with a new book, and the year she gave me Gift from the Sea by Anne Lindbergh, she opened up a whole new world to me.

Anne was a writer, the kind of writer so many of us aspire to be. Whether she was all alone in a cottage by the sea or in a little camper trailer or a tent set up in the far corners of the land on one of the estates she lived in with her husband, the aviator Charles Lindbergh, to me her life as a writer seemed magical and effortless. In her timeless Gift from the Sea, she wrote about women's lives in such a way that millions of women could identify with back in 1955 and still do today. With the heart of a poet, she wove together her love for the seashore with her thoughts of being a wife, mother and artist.

In the years following my visit, I went on to read most of the Lindbergh books -- Anne's five-volume series of diaries and letters, Charles' autobiography, Anne's books about their air travels together. I gathered the books as I prowled the aisles and searched the shelves of used book stores. It was quite a treasure hunt, finding the titles: Bring Me a Unicorn (Anne's account of their meeting and their courtship); Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead, (the tragedy of their baby boy); Locked Rooms and Open Doors; The Flower and the Nettle (the years they lived abroad), and, finally, War Within and Without (the World War II era and the fall from grace).

I became so absorbed with the couple's lives, that I've since read books written about them, my favorite being Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg. The Lindberghs led lives that were fascinating and also quite heartbreaking. As a young married couple they flew all over the world together to explore and chart routes for the country's first commercial airline. They suffered much sorrow in their lives during the kidnapping and death of their baby boy, the firstborn of their six children.

Sadly, what seemed to the world a fairy tale marriage -- that of the famous heroic aviator and the lovely, doe-eyed daughter of a United States Senator and the country's Ambassador to Mexico -- would be revealed as a tenuous union in later years.

Charles Lindbergh died in 1974 at the couple's home in Maui, and is buried in a small church cemetery with a modest stone marking the grave. Anne died in 1971 at the age of 94.


My gratitude today isn't related to this post. Wednesday is the day my daughter goes to her religious education class. I'm thankful for the instructor who teaches the class. He has five kids of his own, but finds the time to share his faith with my child and a classroom full of other 12-year-olds.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Google, pork chops & applesauce

I'm getting my post in just under the wire today. I don't know where the time has gone. One minute, I was making breakfast for my daughter, and the next I was digging through the freezer, trying to find something to defrost in 20 minutes for supper. The day just flew! For the most part, my day was spent working. In fact, I think that's about all I did.

This evening I watched my new favorite show, The Good Wife. I managed to put together a rough list for the next few weeks, to give myself some kind of plan for the holidays. I'm a great list maker. And very good at changing my lists or disregarding them altogether. But, it gives me a start.

Several comments were made in my last post about having "pork chops and applesauce" for dinner. It reminded folks of a Brady Bunch episode. I had to Google it, because it didn't ring a bell for me. Peter, in his Humphrey Bogart imitation, says . . . I'll have 'pork chops and applesauce.' So, if you're as curious as I am, here it is. (Look under Peter, towards the bottom of his list.) Just goes to show you that you can Google just about anything! And just goes to show you, how pathetic it is, that I would do so!

Today, I'm thankful for my microwave oven, and all the conveniences that make my life flow more smoothly. And Google. Because you never know what you're going to have to look up, or lie awake nights wondering about it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday, Monday

Many thanks to Peggy at Simple Woman's Daybook for hosting my favorite meme.

For Today. . . November 16, 2009

Outside my window... the air is frosty cold, snow blankets every surface, the eastern sky is a rosy pink.

I am much I love Mondays now.

I am thankful for... my nephew, RJ, and all the men and women serving in our military.
I am wearing... flannel shirt and jeans.
I am creating. . . .a new scarf.

I am hearing. . .
Blue Clear Sky by George Strait.

I am remembering... snowy days when I was growing up. My friends and brothers and I would go ice skating at the pond in the park. We walked a mile there and a mile back, and then have hot chocolate that my mom made. It was always piping hot and loaded with the big marshmallows. (Did they not have mini marshmallows "back then?") Our mittens and hats and shoes would lie in a heap by the door, covered in little balls of ice. We would soon get itchy from sweating under our long underwear. We had a ball.
I am going... take my daughter to school and then come home to straighten up the house and have coffee with my Dad.
I am reading... What Jesus Meant by Gary Willis.

I am hoping... to share a holiday season with my husband and kids that is meaningful and back to basics.

On my mind... planning for Thanksgiving. I'm going to finish up my list today.
Pondering these words... After all, I don't see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwood. (Anne M. Lindbergh)

From the kitchen... pork chops and applesauce
Around the house... things are in pretty good shape. We cleaned and picked up for company this weekend, so we're still reaping the benefits of living in cleanliness and order.

One of my favorite things... some body lotion that my son gave me. It's the only thing that keeps my hands from feeling dry all day.

From my picture journal. . .
the last time it snowed, this fellow came seeking shelter in our yard. He is about 18" tall and he sure suprised us when he swooped past the kitchen window. I'm not the ornithologist in the family, but I'm told it looks like an Accipter Hawk. I'm thankful that he chose to sit with us a while.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Treasured friendships

It's the end of the day and I'm ready to go put my feet up and work on my holiday lists. But first, in the spirit of NaBloPoMo, I'm just checkin' in.

It was heavenly, this morning, waking up to the whole world blanketed in 10" of snow. Every tree branch, fence line and mailbox on the street trimmed in white. Lucky for us that we didn't have to go out in it, and even nicer to have a group of friends come over for brunch and to watch the football game. This is a group of three couples whom we have known since before we (or any of them) got married. We've camped together, seen our kids grow up together, welcomed each New Year together for years and years, and they are as much a part of our lives as our families. They're those kinds of friends. If we think back, we can kinda remember the order that each person met the others, but for the most part it doesn't matter. Now, we're just the group. Their presence warmed our house on this cold, wintry day, each one coming through our front door, stomping snow off shoes, carrying baskets and plates of food, and happy to be together.

Confession: most of them watched the football game, and a few of us watched The Proposal with Sandra Bullock. We're not all football fans and have come to appreciate our differences through the years.

Today, I'm thankful for life long friendships.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday morning

Today was a rare Saturday in our household. We had nothing on the calendar, and all the kids slept in. Dan and I seized the morning and ran some errands together, ending up at Starbucks. We went to the jewelry store to pick up my ring which needed a couple of prongs replaced, then to H0me Depot and to the grocery store.

We rarely grocery shop together. In fact, now that the kids are older I almost always shop alone. It feels a little weird to have a partner for a job where I typically have full command. Since I had the list and since I know what to get, he took charge of pushing the cart. He also suggested I just leave my pocketbook in the cart because he was watching it, which is what I normally do but when I'm alone I belt it in and then make sure my Swiss army knife is visible in case anyone tries anything.

Weirdest feeling, going through those aisles without a cart and no pocketbook to watch. I actually felt a bit dizzy and then displaced and then I got the same feeling I get when I go to church and sit on the "wrong side." I was going in circles and I'm sure Dan wondered why I was having such a hard time finding things in a store that I've shopped in for 15 years. Of course, they have remodeled the place, so that it is now double in size. It reminds me of a grocery store that we went to in Mexico. They sell everything and there was no rhyme or reason to the way it was set up. Car tires were stacked next to diapers, the eggs were next to the nails, and it took a bit of teamwork with three other American couples who happened to be shopping there at the same time, to find the peanut butter. (I just had a thought, maybe it's all alphabetical and it doesn't make sense to me because I don't speak Spanish.)

It was a relief to get through the store and head over to Starbuck's for the first eggnog latte of the season, in snowflake themed cups. Which proved to be a foreshadowing of the snowfall that rolled in this evening.

All in all, it was a good day: some chores, some fun, little planning. As Saturdays should be.

Today I'm thankful for time spent with my husband.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday's Fave Five

I'm going to sum up my week with Susanne's Friday Fave Five. I missed posting yesterday:( My first "scratch" in NaBloPoMo (I love saying that). It's like getting that first dent on a brand new car. But, there's a bit of relief because, after all, there are bigger things in life to be concerned about.

Five good things that happened this week:

1. I got my hair cut at one of those quick-cut places that only charge $14. And I love it. I haven't worn bangs since third grade. I love having a "new" style.

2. I realize that the medical care system in this country is a shambles, but I'm feeling oodles of gratitude for medical science. Just the fact that in the pinch of a needle and giving up a little blood, so much can be learned about your health. Yep, I had blood drawn this morning and even though it's probably going to mean giving up sugar in my coffee (again), I'm grateful for the knowledge that's gained by a few simple tests.

3. Candles. One of my favorite stores has all its Christmas candles out now, and just walking through the door made me go "ahhhh" and break out in song. You should've seen my daughter run.

4. Old movies. Dan and I watched The Big Chill this week. Hey, like it or not, it's an "old" movie. The silk blouses tied with a bow at the neckline, the shorty short running shorts and crew socks, the poofy hair. It all screamed '80s. The music was great.

5. Having all my kids under one roof. It's so different now that they're all older -- almost 13, 16, and just turned 20. By this stage in their lives, as parents we're done molding them. We're still teaching them, but they've become who they are going to be. And it's so neat to see. Especially the way they interact with each other, understand one another in ways that I don't, and they all have the same weird, warped sense of humor that keeps things in check.

That's my story for the week. I'm thankful for the ability to make changes, for the means to be healthy, heavenly scents, having a history even if it's one that now looks as ridiculous as the 70s, and having all my chicks back in the nest.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Today, I am especially thankful for all the brave men and women who have served in our armed forces.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thankful for books

Especially really good books. I'm feeling especially grateful for these because I've been reading a book that I'm going to give up on. Reluctantly, because it is for my Book Club and I feel I owe it to the person who chose it to at least finish it for the discussion.

I don't like to do book reviews that are negative. For one thing, I have a lot of respect for people who are disciplined and dedicated enough to write a book and get it published. Surely, there are people who think it worthwhile, even if it's not my cup of tea.

The Beautiful Catastrophe of Wind by Roger Theodoredis, is my book club selection this month. The member that chose it is very thoughtful about her selections, is a voracious reader and always has two or three books going. I'm curious as to what she saw in this one.

A synopsis: The book takes place in the godforsaken town of Black Rock Mesa where the wind blows incessantly. And, lest we forget, we're reminded of it every.single.paragraph. The characters are a bunch of misfits that end up here for a variety of reasons. The first residents come seeking gold, but evenutally discover that the area is rich with slate. So, they mine slate. Other than a fire-and-brimstone preacher, most of them don't have a lot to say.

For me, BCOW is painful to read. It reminds me of being in a math class, which is excruciating for me, and the teacher keeps saying, let's do one more equation, and my head pounds and I want to cry. It's like being forced to watch paint dry.

The story takes me back to the month I spent one weekend camping in southeastern Utah. The wind never stopped. We would wake up in the morning with our faces -- the only exposed part of our bodies -- coated with fine, red sand. Years, later, we are still finding traces of it in our camping gear.

Last night, after reading this book for about an hour, I went to bed and all I could think of was the dry, barren, windblown landscape. I tossed and turned, and finally got up, grabbed a Nora Roberts book and read for an hour, to wash out the sand. Finally, at long last, the wind died down and I slept.

Today, I am thankful for books. For books I love and even for books I don't so much like.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday, Monday

FOR TODAY... November 9, 2009

Outside my window... Sunshine, blue skies, mostly bare trees. A few leaves are hanging on, the last vestiges of fall.

I am thinking... I need to take something out of the freezer for supper. Be right back . . .

I am thankful family. I know, it's a standard answer, but it was a particularly lovely weekend with immediate and extended family alike.

I am wearing... jeans, gray sweater, "new shoes!"

I am remembering...reminiscing a lot these days about when the kids were small. I miss those days. But I love watching them grow into young adults, struggles and all.

I am heaven, if I'm good.

I am reading... Becoming Who You Are: Insights on the True Self from Thomas Merton and Other Saints, by James Martin, S.J.

I am hoping... to stay on track this week, get my work done and stick to my self-imposed schedule.

Pondering these words... "The problem comes when we begin to believe that we have to be someone else to be holy. We use someone else's map to heaven when God has already planted in our soul all the directions we need. . ." (James Martin)
In Mother Teresa's words: Find your own Calcutta.

From the kitchen... Jambalaya

Around the house... Laundry, clean out the fridge, get the house back in shape after a nice, relaxing weekend.

One of my favorite things. . .gathering around the kitchen table with my favorite people, having a cup of tea and pondering the larger questions.

A picture for you. . .

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I'm thankful for Sundays. Sipping coffee, eating a bagel and watching CBS Sunday Morning, taking a long walk in the open space with husband, daughter and dog. Having family dinner with my dad and stepmom. Taking it easy and just being.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A rant

In the interest of getting my grocery budget under control, I've been clipping coupons.

I honestly don't get how people make such a killing on this. I've read the coupon websites. I've read stories of how someone will go shopping and buy a cart full of groceries for $1.62. I've diligently clipped coupons for months now. I go to the store, clutching my list, coupons, pen, reading glasses, make my way through the aisles, dropping each of these things at least three times as I foray through the aisles.

On my last trip, I arrived at the checkout stand, cart loaded, sweating like a dock worker, and . . . HORRORS! . . . I couldn't find my coupons! I was beside myself. I ravaged through my purse to no avail. I dug through my groceries as the teenage clerk is pulling them out of my cart. After checking out, to the tune of $242.16, I begged him to watch my cart, I was goin' back in to find those coupons. I prayed to St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things, as I headed up and down the aisles, and sure enough there they were, neatly stacked and held together with my red bright red paperclip, right smack in the middle of the pasta aisle, where they had no doubt fallen through the metal rungs of my cart. I grabbed them off the floor and took my overflowing cart to the Customer Service desk, wiping the sweat from my brow. The clerk gladly took my coupons, rung them up and handed me my $6.25.

I figure with the time spent clipping, shuffling and searching the store, I made about 27 cents an hour. I give up. It's just not worth it.

Today, I am thankful that clipping coupons is not a necessity. I realize that for many people it's an option that can save them lots of money. More power to them!

Friday, November 6, 2009

A bit of earth

Where I sit at my desk, tapping away on the computer, there's a nice a big window where I can see a little grove of aspen trees, some ours and some that belong to our neighbors. They've shed most of their leaves, but there are a few left and when the breeze picks up they dance around and a few more fall to the ground.

I would love to live in a place surrounded by a few acres, and lots and lots of trees. But there are advantages to living where I do, in a suburban area with conveniences close by. It's the life my husband and I have made together and while we sometimes dream of having more space, we're really very happy here and make the most of the small bit of property that we have. It's a "bloom where you are planted" kind of thing. There's been a warm spell this week and I'm enjoying just puttering in the yard for a short while each day, emptying flower pots, cleaning up a corner of the garden. Tomorrow we'll get the whole family outside to rake leaves.

Today I'm thankful for my home. I'm especially thankful for this little piece of earth that we can call our own, to plant trees on and flowers and rosebushes.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

In the spirit of Thanksgiving this month, I'm joining another challenge. It's the Giving Thanks Challenge, hosted by Leah at South Breeze Farm. Leah has challenged us to come up with one thing everyday for which we're thankful, to encourage an attitude of gratitude. (Hey, that rhymes).

Since I'll be posting daily, I'm going to make a note of what I'm thankful for at the bottom of each post. And, hopefully, I'll come out on the other side of November with a better appreciation of things and a more grateful heart.