Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas snow at last

We finally got the snow that we'd been hoping for for Christmas.  It started this morning and within minutes the ground was covered.  It is still snowing, big white flakes that swirl around and dance to the ground. 

There's something so peaceful about sitting near a Christmas tree with a hot cup of tea and a good book, seeing the snow fall outside the window.  I'm reading The Help, probably the last person in America to do so.  I'd like to just sit and read it in one sitting, but my desk is stacked high with piles of stuff that I mentally tagged, "deal with after December 25th." 

So, my day has been one of work at the desk for a bit, do some laundry, read a few chapters.  Repeat. Not a bad day at all!

Last night, our friends Kathy and Steve came over with their two boys, Tyler and Scotty.  I made chicken tortilla soup in the crock pot, some hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls for those who prefer less spicy cuisine, and we had ice cream sundaes for dessert.  Very simple, but everyone seemed to enjoy it.  We spent the evening playing Wii games.  Everyone got in on the action, and I learned that I am no better at bowling on a t.v. screen than I was in an actual bowling alley.  Except, I never knocked over an entire bowl of potato chips when I was on a league.  Dan's comment:  "I hope you have the wrist strap on that controller."

Oddly, it seems more like Christmas now than it did in the crazy, busy week prior.  Maybe it's the snow.  Or maybe it's that I've been reminded that December 25th is really the beginning and not the end of the yuletide.  It's the end of Advent, and the waiting period.  But now the wait is over and the season of light has begun!  I guess the snow isn't really that late after all, but right on time.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bear Tagging

This video is both hilarious and heartwarming.  Take a few minutes and check it out.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

The festivities are winding down and yet another Christmas will become part of our memory book.  I love every part of the yule season -- the baking the cards the gifts the wrapping the shopping the caroling the wearing of Christmas socks and best of all, being with family.  We had a wonderful Christmas. We had Christmas Eve at our house with my side of the family.  We really changed it up this year, and had a Mexican feast with tamales, chile rellenos, empanadas, and a tres leche cake for dessert.
   Then, on Christmas Day, we spent the afternoon at Dan's brother's house.  My sister-in-law works magic with her decorating at this time of year and I just love being in their home for Christmas.  A ten-foot tree, lights galore, and garland on all the banisters.  It is just exquisite. And the food's great, too!  Dan's sister on the west coast joined in the merriment through Skype.  We -- well, not me really -- linked up three computers so that the whole family could be onscreen and talking at the same time.

  I couldn't help but think back to when I was growing up and we would talk to my grandparents long distance.  On holidays, my parents would often call throughout the day until they reached an open phone line to the east coast.  Then, us four kids would line up at the phone in the kitchen so that we could each have a quick moment to say 'hi' and 'Merry Christmas' and (say thank you for the gifts) 'thank you for the gift.'

But, today is the day after all the hoopla.  And it was a day to linger over a second cup of coffee, go through my stocking again, and read my new book.  I have no tradition for the day-after-Christmas sales.  It totally depends on my mood.  Today, Emily had a shirt to exchange and I had something to return, so we ventured out after lunch and managed to sneak in and out of the mall fairly quickly.  We stopped at another store for some bargains on next year's wrappings and deocration.  Then we were glad to go home, put our feet up and have tea while she watched The Grinch and I caught up with blogging.  No rush, no lists to guide me.

Tomorrow, there will be time for making new lists, catching up on the laundry, putting away the box of wrapping paper and bows and ribbon.  Stowing away the good dishes and finding homes for all the presents.  I'll make a plan for having friends to supper this week, for Em's birthday on Friday and for getting my act together for the 2011.  But, for now, I'll curl up with another Christmas movie and have another cup of tea.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas to all

Kissing the Face of God, by Morgan Weistling

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Making the Yuletide bright

Haven't had much time for blogging.  Too much to do!

There's the wrapping. . .

Caroling. . .
 Baking. . .

Tree trimming. . .

Decorating. . . .
Stocking stuffing. . .
Card writing. . .
And just all around enjoying this special time of year. 
I hope you're all having a merry time of it, too!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sweet Potato Stew with Red Beans

After baking cookies all weekend (and sampling plenty), what we all needed around my house was a hearty bowl of vegetable stew.  With a slice of garlic bread, and a glass of wine, this is a delicious supper.  Be sure to serve it with the lime wedge, as it brings out the flavor.

Here's the recipe.

African Sweet Potato Stew with Red Beans

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup water
1 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (4.5 oz) can copped green chilies, drained
1/ 1/2 cups cooked small red beans, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
3 Tbs. chopped dry-roasted peanuts.
1 lime

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic; cover and cook 5 minutes or until tender. Place onion mixture in a 5-quart electric slow cooker.  Add sweet potato and next 9 ingredients (through chilies). Cover and cook on LOW 5 hours or  until vegetables are tender.  Add the red beans in the last hour of cooking.  Spoon 1 cup cooking liquid into a small bowl.  Add peanut butter; stir well with a whisk. Stir peanut butter mixture into stew.  Top with peanuts; serve with lime wedges.  This is a recipe that freezes well!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday's Fave 5

It's time for Friday's Fave Five, to look back over the week and see the blessings that abound.  If you'd like to join in, link up with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story.

1.  A huge blessing in my week, was meeting my new goddaughter for the first time.  She is 13-months-old and a bundle of joy.  Her forever family waited for what must have seemed like forever to finally bring her home from her native land in China.  Stephanie Lian is beautiful, happy and as sweet as can be.  Her chubby, dimpled hands patted my cheek, "fed" me with a spoon, and clutched measuring cups and kitchen whisks while banging them on the table.  I'm going to love watching her grow.

2. Christmas shopping this afternoon with my sister-in-law.  We make it an annual tradition to shop together for our nieces.  The boys far outnumber the one girl in our two families, so it's a treat to be able to shop for girl things for our three teenage nieces. 

3.  Preparing for Christmas this year, the first year in a long time that I haven't been working, has been so much fun.  Between having the extra time and deciding to keep it simple this year, the holiday bustle has been a joy.  For one thing, like many moms, I started the tradition years ago of collecting ornaments for my kids.  With three kids times at least one ornament a year for each of them. . . well, you do the math. This year, I chose a few for each of them to hang on the tree, along with the old fashioned Christmas balls that I love, and the rest of the kids' ornaments I'm packing up in separate boxes for each of them.

4.  Bella.  I've been taking my dogs to the local dog park each day, and it is there that we met Bella.  She is a charming, graceful, black beauty of a Great Dane.  I look forward to seeing her each day, and she is kind enough to make me think that I'm special to her, because she'll come bounding across the park on her long legs with knobby knees, and gently nudge my hand to be petted.   I think I need a Great Dane.  My house will not be complete without one.  She is sweet and gentle. 

5.  Last weekend, I was fortunate to attend a half day retreat in preparation for Advent.  It's a lesson in which I need constant reminding, this invitation to learn how to wait and be present in the moment. 

Thank you, Susanne, for continuing this tradition of finding the blessings in each week.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Deck the halls

It's sooo good to have my 'puter up and running again.  I took it to my computer geek for what I thought would be Last Rites.  But it lives!  Yeah!

It's looking a lot like Christmas around our house these days.  Everyone has pitched in to help decorate.  The boys put up the outside decorations. Emily helped me set the village up.  We decided on a different location this year, which involved a ladder, agility and the fearlessness of a 13-year-old.  It's hard to get a picture of it, but it looks so pretty with all the lights on, nestled on this ledge.
 One of my favorite decorations is my angel tree.  My friend Kathy started the tradition for me after my mom passed away.  Each year Kathy has an ornament put on the angel tree at the hospital where she works, in memory of my mom.  The ornament hangs on the tree through the holidays, then Kathy gives it to me.  I now have 10 angels on my tree.  I should add that a few years after starting the tradition for me, Kathy's mom passed on, and now she has an angel tree, too.  Our mothers were dear friends.

The big star behind the tree is actually a mirror that was already hanging on the wall.  I like the way it adds more sparkle to the lights.

Em has been a big help with the baking. I was thinking it would be a good idea to start it early, but now I'm not so sure.  Perhaps it would help if I found a better hiding place for all the tins of cookies:)

It's good to be up and running again on my blog.  Now, I need to make the rounds and get caught up with reading all my favorite blogs.  I hope your season is merry!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bummed . . .

. . . I am.

My laptop went KaPut!  I am trying to decide how I am going to remedy the situation.  The worst part is that it has all of my photos on it, all my addresses (for Christmas cards!), and most of my memory:(  I can retrieve all of that, but haven't decided if I'll replace the laptop or transfer it all over to the kids' computer.  We're not in a position to run out and buy a new laptop, so I will most likely opt for the latter.

It feels weird, being without my laptop.  Like not having my own car or forgetting my pocketbook.  I've certainly come to rely on it more than I ever anticipated.

As soon as I get my act together can convince Joey to help me!, I'll be back to posting again.  And dressing this place up for Christmas!