It’s that time of year again……

old fashioned christmasWell, here we are again, it’s early December and it’s time for visions of sugarplums to dance in our heads…. or maybe not.   I don’t know about you, I can only speak for myself, but I’m pretty sure a lot of folks can relate – those sugarplums are NOT dancing in my head like they used to. I don’t want this to be a huge downer of a post, so if it is (to you), I apologize in advance.  So here goes….  I used to absolutely LOVE Christmas.  I loved everything whatsoever that went along with it.   I was a younger woman then, and full of energy. Before the days of computers and printers, I would simply take a piece of paper and draw a bunch of squares to make my own personal December calendar.  In each square, I’d notate which days were work days, which days we had “events” to attend, and then I’d fill the squares with tasks.  Shopping (there was no online shopping in those days), wrapping, card writing and addressing, and baking….. oh the baking!  I’d choose a cookie or candy for every free day.  If you threw in all my regular responsibilities as a wife, a mom, and a nurse, you’d see how full my days were.  The laundry, cooking, and dishes still needed to be done.  Somehow I pretty much did manage to “do it all”.  I’m quite sure neither my kids or my husband had any idea what it took to “make Christmas happen“.  What they WOULD have noticed however, would have been if it HADN’T happened.  I was young then, and thankfully full of energy.  I do distinctly recall though, that by the time New Years rolled around, I was SO GLAD it was all over.  I was exhausted. Not to say I wouldn’t pick up right where I left off and do it all again the next year…  These days things are different.  We all live through our own personal seasons of life and now all that folderol simply isn’t necessary anymore.  I used to really enjoy sitting at the kitchen table with the cards and paper spread out before me, Christmas music playing in the back ground, and doing those cards.  I still kind of enjoy it, but not like I used to. I guess I’ll blame social media for that.  We see each other regularly on Facebook, or Twitter, by text, or in emails with plenty of photo attachments.  All the news that I used to long to hear about friends and family, is now pretty much already out there.  People I send cards to also know MY comings and goings through social media… so why bother? Oh I know that’s a jaded approach.  I will still bother, mostly because it’s a tradition I like to hang on to.  But I’ve sure cut it back from years gone by.  Plus, the price of postage is ridiculous these days and that makes me think twice or three times about sending greetings either in or out of the country. We have friends and family in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia – I adore all these people, but I won’t send each one a card like I used to.  To Canada (which is literally a stone’s throw from here!) it’s $1.10 per card.  Insane.

Many years ago, when I was just a kid, I used to feel bad about how stressed my Mom would get around the holidays. It took me becoming a mom and a full grown adult to really understand her.  She would really wig-out over preparing the big holiday dinners, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I think the dark cloud of those dinners hanging over her head put a huge damper on how well she was able to enjoy  what should be the happiest time of the year.  Looking back, I wish I had encouraged her to skip the dinners that stressed her so.  We could go OUT for a meal {gasp!} or maybe visit someone ELSE’s home for the big get-together.  I think Mom would have enjoyed this time of year so much more, if she could have let go of those holiday dinners that she oh-so-stressed over preparing.  So, I’ve tried to learn from her mistake.  I’m cutting back on the cards.  I’m cutting back on the decor (it’s fun to put up but a royal pain to take down and put away!!!).  I’m certainly cutting back on the sweets and cookies.  We’re not hosting a Christmas party this year.  We’re cutting back on the gift-giving as well – which in turn cuts back on time shopping and wrapping!  These things make me feel so much more calm!!!  Unlike my dear Mother, I don’t stress over holiday dinners.  I still love preparing a great meal for friends or family.  I love the gatherings, I love the carols, I love just being together.  So it’s not like all of the trappings of Christmas are lost, they’re just somewhat subdued, which is really an okay thing. For me, I think it’s a great opportunity to focus a bit more on the real reason for the season, Jesus.

A family Christmas

1As I write this, I’m still reveling in the joys of a family Christmas.  Last year we weren’t home at Christmastime… we were in southern California, mentally preparing for the big cross-country motor home trip that would commence on December 31st.  I’ll admit, I really missed everyone during the seven months we were gone, but I felt it most keenly at Christmas.  I was determined that “next year” would be different….. and it was – much different in the best sort of way. We had an entire week of “Christmasing” with all of our kids and grandkids.  Who could ask for anything more? 🙂   I’m so happy and feel truly blessed that we were able to spend time with nearly everyone.

For the fun of it, I decided to try to use my “movie maker” software, already loaded onto my laptop, and put some video as well as still photos together into a “movie” of sorts.  It was an experiment, but I had fun figuring out a few of the ins and outs of compiling photos and video. No, it’s not a masterpiece by any means, but will be a nice keepsake of our awesome time spent with family.

Here’s hoping everyone had a peaceful, blessed, merry, and bright holiday…. and now we begin to look forward to the New Year -2015!

Christmas and more….

I love the thought of an “old fashioned Christmas”… something sort of depicted on the picture here.  Do you have snow at your house?  We don’t.  I wouldn’t mind having about a foot of it arrive on Christmas Eve, and then depart on Boxing Day.  Have you ever been on a sleigh ride?  I haven’t.  I’d sure love to do that “someday” before I’m too old and would complain too much about being cold to enjoy it!  Have you put up all your Christmas decorations, got your home looking all cozy and Christmasy?  Not here.  Lots of reasons, but nope, it’s not done.  Every year I consider NOT doing it.  I highly doubt this will be my “year off” from decorating, but I’m sure not rushing into it.  Have you been baking cookies, making special candy, fudge, and treats?  These are all traditions from my own childhood… great memories of my mom in the kitchen EVERY day in December, baking something different,  making delicious homemade fudge, – and my dad’s favorite – penuche.  Well, I’ve thought about it, but haven’t baked a thing.  Got all your Christmas cards in the mail?  Not me.  I haven’t sent out one card.  Not one.  This is highly unusual for me, as I really DO love writing and receiving cards every year.  Have you got all your gifts purchased and wrapped?  Not done here.  Yes, I’ve got some stuff but I haven’t wrapped a thing.  Not one thing.   Don’t ask me why I have been dragging my feet all the way to Christmas this year.  My reasons are as lengthy as my husband’s long list of “Why I Won’t Eat Chicken”.   I’m hoping the spirit of the season hits me good and hard… and SOON!   We have all sorts of family members coming over next week ~ people who expect and DESERVE a merry Christmas family event.  I hope I can get in the mood, quick-like.

Time for another twin update!  Here are a photos from the past three weeks:

Still no word on the genders of the babies.  We will find out on December 27th after the next ultrasound.  I think it’s an understatement to say that we are all super excited to find out!  Tomorrow my dear daughter in law will be 20 weeks/5 months pregnant!  I’ll post that photo soon, and not wait for three weeks to show it.  I can barely put into words how happy we are, and thankful too that this has been a good pregnancy for her.  We are more than halfway there now… hoping the babies will wait to arrive until at least 37 weeks.   Be watching for gender announcement, coming in less than two weeks!!

December is flying by!

I can hardly believe it is December 12 already.  This month is flying past and I am getting next to nothing done!   Last week (I think it was….) both hubby and I had nasty head colds and spent most of the time in the angle of repose on the sofa and loveseat respectively.  Thankfully it was only a cold, and NOT the Flu of any sort, seasonal or otherwise!  While we were “at rest” in front of the TV, we managed to watch two entire seasons of THE TUDORS, which we LOVED!  I could barely tear myself away from one episode after another… and will fully admit I was pretty sad to see the final episode of Season Two.  Ahhh well, Season Three will be out on DVD next week and our dear neighbors who so kindly loaned us One and Two, have said they’ll loan us Three as well!  Yay!

Next weekend we will have a houseful of guests!  David and Damian are coming from London on Friday.  The rest of John’s crew will be here Saturday night for our family Christmas celebration.  It really throws a kink into family get togethers when I have to work on Christmas Day, but we do what we have to do.  It looks as though we won’t be able to have Christmas with anyone from my side of the family this year, so our Christmas will be on Christmas Eve this year, and will probably be just the two of us.  That’s okay.

This year I have utilized the great services of for much (but not all) of my Christmas shopping.  Yes, I do like to shop, but certainly not several times a week, and certainly not in huge crowds… so I absolutely LOVE the convenience of shopping online.  I also love that I can pick something out and have the fine folks at Amazon do the packing and mailing!

Yesterday I finally started in on the Christmas cards — which I absolutely love to receive and normally enjoy writing as well.  I have done ZERO Christmas  baking but that will all change next week when I prepare for the visitors.

I’m also happy to announce that so far – we have had NO snow!  Last year was such a nightmare (living up here in this hilly community where they are absolutely TERRIBLE at plowing) and I hope all the snow will fall safely in the mountains and not on us this year!  Not holding my breath on that one…. in fact snow is predicted (in small quantities) for this weekend.

Does anybody love Susan Branch like I do?  I was reading through her tiny book “Christmas Joy” today and at the very end I read once again what is one of my very favorite sayings of all time.  Written inside a little heart is: “The love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay;  Love isn’t love till it’s given away“.   Let’s all share some Christmas Love with someone today! 🙂

Another New Year

Happy New YearSeems like a few short months ago I was writing about the beginnings of another new year – and here we go again!   First off, Christmas.   We had a lovely Christmas this year, and a white one to boot.  That in itself is nearly unheard of here in western Washington.  Son #1 and his girlfriend almost didn’t make it up here due to all the white stuff.  DH had to fire up the 4X4 and go ‘rescue’ them at the bottom of our hill.  Once they got here, we were literally snowbound for the next two days…. which actually was fine, as we really had nowhere we needed to go.  We had a great time playing with the new Wii system brought to our household by Santa, playing board games, and dominoes.  Plenty of good food, a few glasses of “Christmas Cheer” and warm snug beds at the end of the day.  Delightful.

Finally on December 28th I was able to get to work… first time in a couple of weeks.  You know, I just love being home, but… leaving here twice in about 18 days… well that was just a bit much.  I was developing a serious case of cabin fever!  I was actually excited to go to work! 

And here we are… New Years Day, 2009.  Wasn’t it just a couple years back when DH and I welcomed in the new millennium?  When we were all up in arms about how the “Y2K bug” was going to affect anything and everything?  Is it really nine years later?  Well, to answer my own question, YES, it is!  Instead of ‘resolutions’ this year, I do have a few goals.  Just to clarify, I am NOT going to mention the obvious goal… the same one I have every year… the one I’ve miserably failed at over and over.  Nope, that one (while still a goal) will be left undocumented.   Instead, some other goals – in no particular order – of things I really do hope to accomplish in 2009.

  • Continue to DE-clutter my home.  Keep the things I really love and those that are truly useful.
  • Preplan a long weekend at the beach (rent a large home) and arrange for ALL the kids and grand kids to come.
  • Sponsor a child from Mexico through Compassion International.
  • Do some baking with yeast!  Sourdough (DH’s favorite), some rustic breads, and maybe some sweet dough for cinnamon rolls or butterhorns.
  • See more of my 94 year old Dad!
  • Get brave and actually PAINT some of the rooms in this nearly all-cream-colored- home!
  • Rearrange some furniture in my living room to accommodate more seating without looking too crowded (not sure if this is possible).
  • Attend spring barrel tasting again over in the Yakima Valley.

Those are just a few of my plans/goals for the upcoming year.  I think I could probably go on and on… but I will simply say that I’m wishing everyone a very happy, healthy, and memorable New Year 2009!

A Gladys Taber Christmas?

A lot of folks have probably never heard of Gladys Taber.  I would have been one of that number, except for my friend and fellow blogger Debra from As I See It Now.  She introduced me (and others, I’m sure) to the retro world of Ms Taber.  Gladys wrote many books as well as a monthly column in Family Circle Magazine back in the 1950’s and early 60’s.  She lived a very quiet, simple, self-sustaining life in the countryside of Connecticut.  Looking back on her life in the country in mid-20th century New England, well, it’s something I privately long for.  Not the New England part particularly, but the quiet, self-sustaining, simple life in the country.   Her books are delightful descriptions of her life at Stillmeadow (the name she gave her home).  They usually follow the seasons telling all that she sees and does in that particular month or season.  I personally own three of her books – they are old and musty smelling – but that sort of adds to the entire experience of reading lines from so long ago.  This month I’ve perused her chapters on December and Christmas.  She speaks of the decorations, the way the nearby village celebrated Christ’s birth (oh my how times have changed, and NOT for the better), the food, the smells, the weather.  One of my favorite lines comes from “Stillmeadow Seasons” where she is discussing decorating her tree….    “For after all” she says, “no tree can be better decorated than with pure drifts of dazzling snow!”   This morning I looked out at the sun shining on the latest layer of newly fallen snow and snapped this picture.  I think it beautifully illustrates this gorgeous “decoration of nature”. 


This time, a photo post

Today, photos instead of a lot of words!  We are currently living in a winter wonderland here in the great Northwest… we have had record setting low temps, and now quite a bit of snow.  Before the snow flew, I snapped this first picture.  Yes, taken on December 11th.

I call it the "Christmas Rose".  Yes this was BLOOMING in my yard on December 11th!

I call it the "Christmas Rose". Yes this was BLOOMING in my yard on December 11th!

Then we had the renegade Geranium!  Yup, till this past week our climate had lived up to it’s reputation – MILD. 

A geranium dares to bloom in December!

A geranium dares to bloom in December!

We’ve had some furry friends visiting the bird feeder on a regular basis.

A brown squirrel and a larger gray squirrel, having a snack

A brown squirrel and a larger gray squirrel, having a snack

Some fine feathered friends visit each morning, begging for peanuts!

One of many Stellar Jays who love our peanuts

One of many Stellar Jays who love our peanuts

I’ve been doing a bit of holiday baking too.  I tried out my new silicone “bundt” cake pan for the first time the other day.  I love it!  Here’s what I made…

Orange-Cranberry cake

Orange-Cranberry cake

I’m particularly fond of Starbucks Orange-Cranberry scones, and while this is not quite the same, it sure was good!

Orange-cranberry cake with orange glaze

Orange-cranberry cake with orange glaze

Next I made one of hubby’s all time favorites… and folks, this turned out good enough to win a blue ribbon at your local fair!  It’s unfortunately all gone already….  Thank you Martha Stewart for the fool-proof recipe!

Peanut Brittle! And isn't that the cutest plate EVER?! (thanks to dear DIL!)

Peanut Brittle! And isn't that the cutest plate EVER?! (thanks to dear DIL!)

Now for a couple snowy shots.  Oh how I love the way the holly berries turn red, right on time, just before Christmas.

Christmas Holly

Christmas Holly

 The snow has been falling nearly all day today.  Here is a view of our back deck.

A beautiful snowy day in the Northwest

A beautiful snowy day in the Northwest

Since I took the above picture, we’ve received another several inches of snow.  I am so thankful there is no where I need to be today, except right here at home!  🙂

December weather and other musings

winter-road.jpgGood grief, it’s been MUCH too long since I’ve made a blog entry.  I totally skipped over Thanksgiving, and here we are on the fast track towards Christmas!  Ok, time for updates.  Thanksgiving was my only holiday off work this year, and we were happy to share it with both son and daughter in law, as well as a large group of neighbors!  We did a potluck at our next door neighbor’s home, and it all turned out wonderful.  Family, friends, good food – a grand success. 

Last week, Hubby and I made a two night getaway to Las Vegas.  Got the airfare/hotel really cheap through one of those “cut-rate” airlines… “Allegiant Air”.  We had a lot of fun, saw two shows (my favorite thing in Las Vegas), donated a small amount of $$ to the Las Vegas economy, enjoyed a couple of two-for-one buffets, and then were more than ready to head home.  Yup, two days in Vegas is about all we can take.  It’s the perfect length of time to stay there, unless you have never been, and then you need a bit more time to see all the cool stuff.  Anyway, we arrived in the airport, all ready to head home…. but encountered a SIX HOUR DELAY!  I about went nuts.  When you arrive 3 hours early (and it’s a good thing we did, as the place was MOBBED, and the Allegiant Air desk took forever to check people in – due to a “new computer system” – which they need to get rid of, PRONTO!) and then get stuck sitting around for an additional 6 hours, NOT due to weather, but due to NOT HAVING A FLIGHT CREW there…. well, it was a REAL test of patience.  I think the moral of that story was… You get what you pay for.  We flew non stop, round trip to Vegas and had two nights hotel for approx $180 apiece.  Unbelievably cheap.  Again I say… “you get what you pay for”.  We arrived home about 2 am, totally exhausted.  And…. just to top it off, as we arrived, the snow was just beginning to fall.  Snow up here in the northwest corner of the state is a dreaded word.  We freak out when it snows, because it happens so rarely.  We got 6 inches overnight.  No big deal right?  Wrong.  Where we live (up on a hill), our “homeowners association” refuses to plow.  It is totally senseless.  One winter (2005) we were literally trapped in our home for a full week because NO VEHICLE could go either up or down the hills.  I remember thinking… “it’s a darn good thing that we don’t need an ambulance, or a refill of a necessary medication!”.   That year we had quite a bit more than 6 inches.  OH, did I mention that we purchased a 4WD vehicle from son and daughter in law over Thanksgiving?  Yup.  We wanted to be able to get in and out of here when the inevitable snow fell.     Well, the snow fell this time on Saturday.  Sunday morning rolled around and guess who needed to be at work at 7am?  Yes, me.  I put on my boots, brushed the snow off the new 4WD, and began to head down the hill, very slowly, very carefully, in 4WD-low.  Then I began to slide.  There was pretty much nothing I could do….  when it finally stopped, I was still in the road and decided, I would back up and go down a different hill.  Ha!  I did manage to back up a ways, but ended up like a total idiot in the yard of the people who happen to live at the top of the hill.  I called the hospital when I realized I was not going to be able to get out of the yard/driveway… and said, I was so sorry but I was stuck in snow and would not make it to work.  They were very understanding and didn’t read me the riot act for being such a dummy.  I got out of the car at 5am, and trudged on back up the hill to home.  Thank heavens I was wearing my boots.  About 2pm that afternoon, hubby was able to get the car out, as the RAIN had started and much of the snow had melted.

The next day (Monday) I was again scheduled to work.  We had a HORRIBLE storm over Sunday night into Monday (and all day Monday too).  I did make it to work, although the wind was so strong, I felt like I was going to be blown off the road numerous times, and the rain was pouring down in buckets.  There has been lots of very serious flooding in our state, but thank the Lord, it did not affect us here… on our hill.  I guess there are some advantages to being up high – as long as it’s not snowing!

Today Hubby and I went into town and got 4 new Mud & Snow tires put on the new vehicle.  Theoretically, it should be much safer to drive in the snow now….  I’m sure I’ll get another chance this winter to “try them out”! 

I love this time of year…. the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I also hate this time of year.  I feel like there is so much I need to do.  Today we did a bit of Christmas shopping – and it seems like we are just at the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  Oh I did get some stuff ordered online, and honestly, online shopping is a Godsend!  This year it is our turn to host the annual neighborhood Christmas Party.  I love planning parties – I guess I just need to get a bit more organized so I won’t feel so darned stressed out.  I decided for one thing, to use already made appetizers from Trader Joe’s and Costco instead of making everything myself.  That will help!  And, I’ve purchased the “prizes” for the “Ugly Sweater” contest, as well as the “Christmas Karaoke” contest.  The “White Elephant” gift should be easy…. we have lots of stuff around here that I wouldn’t miss!  My problem is that I love to get people really nice things that I know they will really like – and sometimes I drive myself crazy, trying to find the “perfect” item.  I think I need to let that go — if I want to save my sanity. 

Wishing everyone a PEACEFUL Christmas season…. Calm and Bright.  🙂