Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My Christmas Gifts

I'm not sure I was really looking forward to Christmas this year. It was going to be very different, as planned. I know I've been saying all the right things and being very brave about no family and no gifts. But deep in my heart, I think I expected to be disappointed come Christmas morning.

My focus for several weeks has been the Christmas Eve service at our church. With Gretchen's help, I planned a service of Lessons and Carols. I wanted it to be a perfect celebration of Jesus' birthday. Thanks to God's grace and many prayers, it was a wonderful service. We are so blessed to have many talented people in our congregation who are willing to share their gifts with us.

The children were delightful. I had planned a quiet little children's sermon that would last three or four minutes. HA! I should have known. They were so full of joy and knowledge about the birth of our Saviour. It was wonderful. The church was full of laughter when we had finished. I am sure Jesus was really happy. Almost everyone who attended the service came down to the fellowship hall for birthday cake. It was all we could have hoped for.

That set the tone for Christmas day for Jim and I. I woke up to coffee on my night table and a kiss from my husband wishing me a Merry Christmas. Breakfast was quiche and fruit accompanied by mimosas.

We had a quiet day of reading, sharing memories of Christmas past and talking with our children and extended family on the telephone. When Jim called his brother Dale, the phone rang and rang. Just as Jim was leaving a message our niece, Anita, picked up. She said they were screening their calls, but Uncle Jim made it through. It was fun to talk to all o f them. The twins were delighted with the bracelets we gave them and thanked us so nicely on the phone.

Late afternoon found us hungry and we prepared our Christmas dinner of standing rib roast, garlic mashed potatoes, carrots and rolls together. When we celebrate Christmas here at home, we have a tradition of beef (as did my mother). It was a wonderful meal - ending a wonderful day.

If this works, I'll show you our Christmas gifts. From Gretchen and Brian we received:

-a set of 7 pots and pans
-a 16 piece dish set
-silverware in a drawer organizer
-4 big cups
-4 medium cups
-4 little cups
-a spatula
-a 5 piece set of wooden spoons in various shapes
-measuring cups and spoons
-a bright red colander
-a toaster
-saran wrap
-Reynolds wrap
-Ziploc bags
-Ziploc reusable containers
-dish cloths and dish towels
-a brownie pan (a must have)
-a can opener
-a laundry basket to hold it all

All given to a battered women's shelter in our name.

From Paige we received:

  • Two hives of bees from the Heifer Project given in our honor.

I tried to download the picture, but had some technical difficulties.

It was most definitely a different Christmas, but one that blessed my heart and drew me closer to the Saviour whose birth we celebrate.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

It's Christmas Eve and snowing in upstate New York. A good day to snuggle in and finish our last minute Christmas preparations. In the past, we have always had a Christmas Eve breakfast with friends and family, but due to many changes and travel plans, we are not doing that this year. That didn't stop Jim from preparing a lovely breakfast for the two of us.

Tonight is our Christmas Eve service which I have been helping to organize. I am praying that it will glorify God and bring a blessing to all who attend.

Speaking of blessings, I wish all of you a blessed Christmas. I thought I'd share some pictures of our tree and the ornaments that have blessed us over the years.

Since Jim's retirement, we have had an artificial tree. It was a hard decision to make, but with travel and aging, we thought this was the best way for us to go. Jim decorated the entire tree this year. It is beautiful.

This is our oldest, and my favorite, ornament. It was purchased the year of our first Christmas in Christ. It is the first ornament I put on the tree every year.

The candy canes on our tree are 39 years old. We purchased these exact candy canes the first year we were married and have kept them ever since. I think a couple may have broken over the years, but all-in-all we feel we have preserved them pretty well. Brian and Gretchen like this story and are doing the same thing - theirs are only six years old, but they have high hopes.

This Waterford Crystal ornament is from our dear friend, and third daughter, Heather. Not only is it beautiful, but it reminds me of the love we have for Heather and she for us.

Here we have Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. They are reminders of a wonderful day in London with my friend Laurie. Since I've read the Boleyn Inheritance and The Other Boleyn Girl, I have a whole different outlook on these ornaments. Nevertheless, I still enjoy looking at them on our tree and remembering that day at the Tower of London.

Next to hippos, I love Pandas the best. This ornament, our friend Ken brought back from China, reminds me of the fun day Jim and I had a the San Diego Zoo. The hippos didn't cooperate at all that day, but the Pandas were a delight.

I could go on and on, but I will end with this ornament. It is made from a milkweed pod. These ornaments, which we treasure above all others, were made by Jim's grandmother - Namma - as our children called her. She was a dear and talented lady who we will miss forever.

And now I wish you and yours a

Very Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I Didn't Sleep At All Last Night --

Well, okay, I didn't sleep until after 3 A.M. Jim is sure I ingested some caffeine sometime during the evening. But I swear I was absolutely caffeine free. I think it must have been the stress of all things unfinished. I just WAS NOT tired and moved from one project to another with complete abandon.

From 8 - 10 P.M. I

finished my Christmas cards. This project has proven to be much more work than I had anticipated. Add to that the fact that we are sending more cards than we have ever sent before and I was just a teensy bit stressed over the project. But by 10 P.M. it was finished

Thank heavens for Jim, who addressed all the envelopes, stamped them and put all the return address labels in place. This was truly a joint effort.

Although 10 P.M. is often my bed time, I was wide eyed and bushy tailed and looking for another project. Never fear! This time of year is full of unfinished projects. I didn't have to look far until I found a dozen (yes, that is 12) unfinished calendar sets. Given that seven of these sets are gifts for the "Losers" and must be distributed on Friday, "I spoke not a work and set straight to my work", finishing about 1 A.M.

Given the time and two completed projects, one would think I would be tired and ready for my bed. Well, that's what I thought until I got into bed and tossed and turned and turned and tossed. Finally, I gave up and came downstairs. After consuming a glass of milk and two cookies, I decided I should probably work on the bulletin for the Christmas Eve Service of Lessons and Carols.

Ahh! Now I can rest. Or maybe not!! Sleep still evaded me. As I lay in my soft, warm, comfy bed, I kept seeing all those packages in the living room which were ribbonless and bowless (are those actually words?). So "I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to the workroom I flew like a flash" and came out with a bagful of ribbons and scissors and glue (well, actually, it was tape, but glue sounds so much more poetic).

Now, it's 3 A.M., but I still don't trust myself to sleep. Aha! I know what will put me to sleep quick as a wink. So, I climb the stairs with my trusty CD player, loaded with an audio book. In less the five minutes I was fast asleep.

Thanks to the kindness of my dear husband and the leisure allowed to retirees, I slept until 10 this morning. When I finally arose, I began a rather busy day of errands and food preparation, but I did so rested and ready to go.

Tonight we had a lovely, quiet dinner with our friends Bruce and Shelly. This is a ten or twelve year tradition. We always have dinner together either before or after the High School Christmas Concert (which now has to be called a "Holiday" concert). Bruce was our band director for many years and after the concert seemed like a good time to celebrate together before we went our separate ways for Christmas. Things have changed over the years; one of our couples is no longer a couple, our children have grown so Jim and I no longer attend the concert, Bruce has retired and doesn't feel comfortable at the concert. Only Shelly, who is the consummate teacher still hangs in there. Nevertheless, the Christmas meal continues. Times and circumstances may change, but Tradition stands - at least with the four of us.

I have labored long and hard and now I will rest from my work. Sleep well, dear friends.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Martha Stewart Slippers

Knowing that many (of the few) of the readers of my blog are into crafting, I thought I would post this latest craze in home fashioned Christmas gifts.

The directions for these slippers came in my email this morning and I just couldn't wait to share.
How to make bedroom slippers:

You need four maxi pads to make a pair. Two of the pads should be laid out for the foot part. The other two wrap around the toe area to form the top.
Tape or glue each side of the top pieces to the bottom of the foot part. Decorate the tops with whatever you desire, silk flowers (this is most aesthetically appealing), etc.

These slippers are:

* Soft and Hygienic

* Non-slip grip strips on the soles

* Built in deodorant feature keeps feet smelling fresh

* No more bending over to mop up spills

* Disposable and biodegradable

* Environmentally safe

* Three convenient sizes: Regular, Light and Get out the Sand Bags.

I've attached a photo of the first pair I made so that you can see these nifty slippers for yourself.
I hope you have all laughed as I did over this clever idea.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Pay It Forward

Have you visited any blogs lately that are paying it forward? I'm paying it forward after Dana payed it forward to me! Here's how this works. The first two people to leave a comment on this post will receive a surprise from me! If you are one of the first two posters, you then agree to pay it forward on YOUR blog.

Yep, you need a blog to participate. The things you give away can be anything--supplies, stamps, hand made items, whatever you like. It can even be a suprise. This is such a great time to do this as we are in a season of giving!

I guess we'll see if I have different people reading this blog today!


I forgot - HIPPOS make me so very happy.

I told you it would be hard to limit it to ten.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Happy Thoughts

I'm stealing from Jackie's blog and listing ten things that make me happy. It was hard to stop at ten, but here goes:

1. My husband, Jim. Someday I'll post how I am sure he was God's choice for me.

2. Having my family under one roof - which happens seldom happens.

3. My 93 year old Mother-in-law.

I cannot begin to tell you what a blessing she has been in my life. Isn't she beautiful?

4. The beach and the ocean.

5. Jesus - I'm sorry, Lord. That should have been first.

6. Wire Edge Ribbon.

7. Coffee with "The Losers".

8. Musical Theatre.

Last night, we saw "Plaid Tidings" at a local theater.What fun! I am so blessed to be married to a man who appreciates theater and the arts as much as I.

9. Pat's laugh.

Pat's laugh is a thing of beauty. So is she.

10. All the wonderful bloggers I have discovered this past few months.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Snowy Day

I probably shouldn't admit this to anyone, let alone on my blog for all the world to see. Oh, I forgot, Gretchen says nobody reads my blog anyway besides Tracy and her. Oh yes, the public confession - I really love these first wintry, snowy days. I felt like a little kid when I woke up this morning to see the pile of white over everything in our yard.

I can enjoy it all the more now that I have my own built in chauffeur. With Jim to do the driving, I can just sit back and relax. Which is just what I did. We had a breakfast date with our friend Bruce. We hadn't seen him since October and it was fun sitting in the cozy little restaurant near his house, having breakfast and catching up. "Uncle Billy's" is your typical neighborhood restaurant with friendly waitresses and really good food.

As long as we were out, we decided to go to the Mall and do a little Christmas shopping. Now, I need to tell you, Jim is no shopper, but since he has taken up reading, he is delighted to find a comfy spot and sit and read while I shop. I am really blessed to have such a good husband.

The shopping went well. Once we arrived home, Jim was out to do the snow-blowing and I to tackle the long, long list of things I have been going to get to. I have such good intentions, but the days somehow wind up being so busy that I just don't get the things done I should.

I have been sooooo disappointed with my Christmas decorations this year. The tree is absolutely beautiful. Jim decorated the entire thing by himself. He loves doing it and does such an exquisite job, I just stay out of it. I'll post a picture of the tree closer to Christmas. As I said, Jim does the tree, but I do the rest of the house.

Our Christmas celebration is taking such a new turn this year, that I feel decorating should be different too. No one is coming for the holiday season as they were all here in November. Also, our grown children, being really convicted about excesses, have asked us all if we can do gift giving in a new way. We are going to forgo gift giving among ourselves, instead choosing a charity to support.

Paige has chosen to contribute to Heifer Project while Brian and Gretchen are giving to a battered women's shelter in Las Vegas. Jim and I are providing Christmas for a family that has fallen on hard times. As much as I agree with this concept, I must admit it is a little difficult for me not to be buying gifts for my children. I know it's right, but that doesn't mean it's not hard.

So, I decided the decorating should be understated this year also. The problem with that is that once it was done it was just plain BLAH. It needed something but I just couldn't decide what. I think I've found the answer. I'll start with the bathroom and see what you think. Like "plastics" in The Graduate, I'll just say "bows".

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pearl Vision to the Rescue - Again!

I am sure there are many things worse than breaking your glasses. But yesterday, on the day of my re-retirement, when the frame snapped in my hands while I was cleaning them, I wasn't convinced. Now I know these frames are four years old. I also know, and freely confess, that I have not treated these glasses with tender loving care. You might even say that I've been quite rough on them. However, none of these facts helped much when I stood staring at the broken frames wondering how I was going to survive the day.

Before you ask about my "backup pair" (as my husband did), let me tell you that I don't exactly
have a backup pair. You see, when I purchased my last pair of glasses, and you could get another set of frames free, I chose to buy computer glasses. Never mind, that they drove me nuts and I NEVER used them. I still had these really funky glasses that laid on my desk every day looking cool.

So there I was. Luckily, my driver's license doesn't say "must wear corrective lenses" so I was able to drive myself to work. Did I mention it was my very last day of my temporary job? Oh, I guess I did. Anyway, I managed to get to Dunkin' Donuts, purchase a farewell/welcome back treat and get to the library on time.

I won't waste space here whining and moaning about how tough my day was or how much my head ached when I got home, or how I went to bed at 7:30 last night because there was nothing else I could do. I'd hate to bore you with my troubles. But I will tell you how great it was today when I went to my local Pearle Vision Center and they found a pair of frames that almost fit my lenses. I'm being very careful not to jostle them or the lenses might fall out.

Rachel, the receptionist, told me the chances of finding a pair of frames the right size were zero to slight, but Voila!, once again, Pearle Vision came through for me. My new lenses will be ready in a few days; in the meantime, I'm able to see clearly and I'm delighted.

I know I've referred to the fact that Pearle Vision has come to my rescue before - once in Vienna, Austria and once in Las Vegas. How, you may ask, is it that I manage to break my glasses when I travel? It isn't easy, it isn't easy.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Yummy! Yumm!

Thanksgiving is over and the leftovers are mostly gone. One of the best things about cooking at home for Thanksgiving is having plenty of leftovers. Jim was adamant about my making lots and lots of gravy. Making gravy isn't one of my strong suits, but with the help of an article from the local newspaper, I managed a pretty passable gravy - and lots of it.

Although the entire meal was pretty good, (Don't break your arm, patting yourself, Pam), I think the hit might have been the "pumpkin crisp". I thought I'd share the recipe with you, my blogger friends.

Pumpkin Crisp
1 29 oz. can pumpkin
1 can evaporated milk
3 eggs (beaten)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1 box of cake mix ( I used spice, but yellow and gingerbread can also be used).
3/4 cup melted butter (or margarine)
1 c. toasted pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix first seven ingredients well, pour into a greased 9x13 cake pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix over the top and evenly drizzle with melted butter. Top with pecans. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.
I really like pumpkin pie, but this was a nice treat.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A cozy Thanksgiving for two

Although I am thankful every day for so many things, today is the day when we tend to verbalize those things that are in our hearts. Today I am especially thankful for being able to spend this day with my best friend, my husband. For reasons of geography, health, age and careers, we were unable to spend this Thanksgiving with family. And though we have been invited to share the day with many of our dear friends, we made a decision to spend this day together in our warm and cozy home.

I know our abilitly to be content in whatever state we find ourselves is a comfort to our children who cannot be with us for most holidays. As we talked with them today, we could hear the relief in their voices knowing that we are happy to be together. And together, we were. We cooked and carved.

Then sat down to eat. I really enjoyed setting the table and lighting candles. Perhaps this was such a special day to me because this is only the second time in 39 years of marriage that I have cooked and served a Thanksgiving dinner in my own home. And did I mention? "It has been snowing lightly all afternoon".

Now as we settle down to our Thanksgiving afternoon nap, in anticipation of having our dear friends, The Haaks, come for dessert and cards this evening, I wish you all a blessed and happy Thanksgiving. Before this day is over, please join me in praising God from whom all blessings flow.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Family Fun

We have felt blessed beyond belief having our children with us this past week. Being scattered about the country as we are, times together are so precious to us. When the girls were making their initial plans for this visit, they were very specific about the fact that they were coming to see their grandmother. After seeing her, they were also really anxious to see their cousins, aunts and uncles who live in the area.

It was a wonderful weekend of reunion beginning with dinner with my sister-in-law, Deb, and niece Kacy. The girls are much older than Kacy, but were delighted to see her. She's changed a lot in the four years since they were together.


This is special to me because Deb & Kacy are all that remains of my side of the family.

After this evening together, Paige left to return to Chicago. The rest of the gang went on to Uncle Dale & Aunt Carolyn's for the night. We were all tired, but managed to stay awake long enough to reconnect.

Saturday found us visiting with Aunt Bets & Uncle Jimmy on the way to pick up Grandma for lunch. Lunch was such fun. Lots of laughing, singing, dancing and sharing. Oh yes, the singing and dancing came from the "little ones".

Hanging Out with Grandma

Having Andrew is like seeing his Dad at that age.

The Twins provided the singing and dancing.

The "Other" Cousins

If you look closely at Steph, you can see that "Wyatt" is

on his way

We ended the weekend with a stop at the Austin Dam Site. Jim and I grew up in the shadow of this landmark and never really paid much attention to it. Funny, isn't it, how it takes a visitor to show us the beauty of what is right under our noses?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Growing Older, but not Growing Up!!

My heart is overflowing with joy! My children are all under one roof - Our roof!! Joy of Joys. I can't remember when I have laughed and smiled as much as I have these past few days. The fact that we see our children so seldom hurts our hearts, but add to that that we almost never see them together and there is a sad place deep in our souls.

But this week, they are here. Paige drove in about noon on Tuesday and Brian and Gretchen arrived at the airport at 4:21 P.M. Ask me if we are ecstatic. The laughter started almost immediately, and is still going on. From eating favorite meals to playing games together, we are just simply revelling in each others' company.

Yesterday being Halloween only added to the fun. After lunch with our friend Claudia, they were off to explore what they called "religions founded in Western New York". First stop, the birthplace of Spiritualism.

In the 1800's on this exact spot, the Fox sisters claimed to have contacted the departed, thus beginning the movement of modern spiritualism. Our resident Rev. Paige is very interested in learning more about this religion. Says she is going to write a book.

Leaving Hydesville, they moved on to Palmyra and the Joseph Smith farm. Joseph Smith was the founder of the Mormon religion right here in Wayne County, NY. Although we drive by historic Hill Cumorah often, the girls had never visited the home of Joseph Smith. They had a tour with a young woman who is serving her missionary year in Palmyra. After visiting the homestead, they took a walk through the Sacred Grove.

Immediately upon arriving home from their adventures, they went out to the screen porch and began cutting pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns. It has been years and years since we have had that activity in our house and it was as messy as I remembered.

Although it was messy, the end result was quite fantastic.

As the evening wore on, we had more trick or treater's than we ever have. Our girls thought their presence caused people to flock to our door. I'm not sure that is correct, but something drew people to us.

We then invaded our friends Jason and Linda in masks and deely boppers. They were happy to see us and offered us candy, but I wouldn't let my children have candy before they had their dinner.

What a delightful day - Made much better because I was the big winner in our family game of Bonanza. YIPPEE!!!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hanging With the Losers

If you are anywhere near my age, you might remember Let's get together, yeah, yeah, yeah! The song goes on to talk about having a swingin' time. Last Saturday evening, we had one of those get togethers. I'm not sure it was swingin' but it sure was filled with laughter and good will.

A close examination of the above picture might just possibly reveal that there is a great disparity in ages of those posing. To me, that is one of the best parts of the friendship of this group of people. It transcends age, geography and occupations. It is a gift we all treasure and thank God for.

Pictured from left to right is me, Linda, Sandi, Heather and Sara. Sara is Linda's youngest daughter and Heather is the best friend of my youngest daughter, Gretchen. The real joy of this relationship is that it isn't limited to those pictured here. It also includes Linda's older daughter, Jodie, Sandi's daughter-in-laws Lara and Katie and my daughters Gretchen and Paige. I suppose to be fair, we should include Sandi's sons, Jeff and Peter and her granddaughter, Sienna. But, read on, there are others.

As you might have guessed, the perpetrators of this crew are Linda, Sandi and I. We became friends at church many years ago and began a ritual of having coffee at a local restaurant one morning a week. Over time, we were joined by Pat and Caryn. Our children began going off to college and would join us when they were home on vacation. That included Heather who I consider my third daughter, though I have to fight Sandi and Linda for her affections, and now Sandi's daughters-in-law and Sienna* .

Anyway, one day in a very long drawn out explanation of some women who Heather thought were trying to be cool, but were not. She said that unlike us, they were Loser Housewives. We loved the name and claimed it as our own. Thus was born The Loser Housewives.

Over time, our membership has changed some, but our commitment to each other remains strong. In the fellowship of that group of women, I know I am safe to be who and what I am. We have shared many joys together; engagements, weddings, births. We have laughed together till the tears flow. And we have cried many tears together over the burdens and losses of our lives. We have spoken honestly and lovingly to each other in the many circumstances in which we find ourselves. I always know that these women will tell me the truth, even when I'd rather not hear it. Through these many years, we have learned to love and trust each other more and more.

The list of things I have to be grateful for grows longer each day, but always at the top of that list are the Losers without whom my life would be the poorer.

*On a light note, although Lara is now officially a Loser, Sienna is only a Loser in Training.