Monday, December 31, 2012

How We (Don't Normally) Celebrate the New Year

Steve and I prefer not to make a fuss over New Years. However, we are parents and parents make sacrifices so their children might become more well-adjusted than ourselves. Tonight was the occasion of the last minute,"Um, OK..." Party.

1. Determined not to make a special trip out to shop for the party, we pulled everything together spontaneously. Aren't spontaneous parties the best?! That the house was still decorated for Christmas made it a breeze.

My old standby method to make the table festive, but maintain usable space. Red tea lights from Michaels, fresh balsam snips intertwined with sparkly, beaded garland.

2. Twelve teens; nine girls, three boys and not an awkward moment.

Girls happily stand around the piano and sing Phantom of the Opera. They sing it in a variety of fashions- pretty, silly, deep voice for the male parts, operatically, and so on. Sprinkled with plenty of laughter.
3. I knew having 72 champagne glasses (from daughter #2's wedding) would come in handy one day. We only needed a dozen tonight, but the effect was fun. Sparkling cider in real glass champagne flutes made toasting in the New Year a bit fancier.

4. We live rather far out in the country for some parents to make two trips to drop off and pick up their child, so a few parents stayed and visited with us. I enjoyed their company and it made it much easier for me to stay awake until after midnight.

Best Wishes for Your New Year! May Every Moment Be Abbondante!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

It's Not Even That Cold

1. There's a bit of snow on the ground by morning, but most of the whiteness is fog. Every creature must be holed up because it is deathly quiet outside. The moisture in the air makes it very still and void of 'sound', almost like a heavy snowfall.
2. I've become too soft, trying to stay warm all the time. I go back outside in the afternoon and take a deep lungful of the cold, sharp air. I stay out long enough to let the cold numb my ears and chill my face. Frigid winters used to be part of who we were in upstate New York. It made us hearty. Dressed properly, a person can be outside all day in this. I decide to get my attitude straightened and embrace the cold.
3. I skewer a couple of marshmallow peeps and play by the wood stove for a while.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Morning Has Broken, The Range, Evening Treat

1. Skyscapes after a storm are dramatic and stunningly beautiful. Thick, low, gray clouds break open here and there where the sunrise peeks through in shades of pink.
2. Mountains loom up in the distance, their tops frosted with a dusting of white sugar.
3. Fruitcake sliced so thin, light shines through the candied fruit like stained glass. A small sip of eggnog on the side.

8:30 PM. A mom phones me: " S. told me that B. told her that T. told him that there's a party at your house for New Year's?"
Me: "Umm, OK." (begins laughing uncontrollably)

We're Not laughing At Him, We're laughing With Him

Jonathan sports a mustache.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A White (Day After) Christmas, Simplicity, Time Lapse

1. What a surprise to wake up to a white landscape! Sleet tapped at the window throughout the day, giving us perfect excuse to stay inside.
2. After days of eating beyond our routine, a simple bowl of pasta made a satisfying meal for dinner.
3. One of the gifts we received was a DVD of our granddaughter's first year. It was fun to see her first year compacted in time like that.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Predawn Magic, Giving and Receiving, The Future

Marian in her new hat and a new nightie and adorned with ribbon.
 1. Mari and I were the first awake early this morning. We sat together, she on my lap, and shared this wondrous, magical Christmas morning. The lights on the tree lit the room revealing pretty gifts  placed all around. I see that other Santas have been here after me.
2. Thoughtful gifts, fun gifts, gifts with stories attached, gifts to share; our love and caring for one another is expressed through our giving of even the smallest thing.
3. Mari slept in our room last night to be away from the noise of late comers and late night preparations. After I came to bed, I listened to her in her crib, her even breathing and her little mumbles in her sleep. I stayed awake pondering this other little person in my room.
4. Everyone pitched in the breakfast preparations, which I really appreciated. (Breakfast actually ended up being brunch.) Grapefruit sections, Bacon Cheddar Scones, and scrambled eggs. The older kids brought the ingredients for, and made Bloody Mary's. This was a new addition to our menu and I think my favorite item : )

Monday, December 24, 2012

I Can Only Imagine- One Beautiful Thing

I heard a beautiful version of the Christmas carol, "Do You Hear What I Hear". My imagination wondered what it would have been like, to be one of the shepherds on a dark hillside, to see a star unlike any other heavenly body ever in the sky before. The fear and wonder! And then, to hear a heavenly host of angels. I can only imagine. How would I have reacted to that spectacle, alone, outside on a dark night.Well, I can only imagine the privilege to be one of those shepherds and have such news revealed to me in such manner.
This is my reminder of what we are celebrating. The birth of a king! Not just any king, but a Savior. It is so easy to feel celebratory if we stop searching for the 'Christmas Spirit' in the things we do, buy, eat, see, etc. and simply remember what it is we are celebrating. A King has been born. A Savior for all mankind. Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. I wish for everyone's heart to be so full of the joy and excitement of knowing what these shepherds knew, and heard, and saw.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like..., Play Time, Newest Family Member

1. Snow flurries! It's windy, blustery and cold outside. The flurries are sparse, but the few that blow outside the lighted window are pretty. We all agree that now it feels like Christmas.
2. Audrey sits at one end of the table cutting snowflakes. Mari and I are on the other end making the dolls dance to Harry Connick Jr.'s Christmas CD. Mari has fits of laughter when the dolls do a somersault. A two-year-old's laughter is infectious.
3. He smiles in return to my smile and I am deeply in love again. I kiss his baby soft hair and the back of his tiny baby neck. Jonathan is six weeks old and it's the first I've seen him since he was born.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chapstick, Looks Like Snow, For the Chandelier

1. The off-to-work kiss he gives me has cherry Chapstick on it. It reminds me of sledding, wintry walks and snowy, woolen mittens.
2. The sky has a look of snow about it. We share our wishes for snow even though we must admit, the chances are nil. Sometimes, just hoping is pleasure enough.
3. Henri and I took some scissors with us on our walk up the hill. We gathered cedar clippings for a little decoration. (You can see them below) They give off a sharp, citrusy smell around the table.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Nice Kind of Shopping, Thank You Postal Workers!, Handing Over the Kitchen

1. Tess and I shopped downtown in Roanoke. It was a lot of fun! We walked through the Farmer's Market where the stalls were lined in evergreen wreaths and garlands. The pine smelled wonderful! We went in and out of little shops that had bells on the doors, unique items for sale, pressed tin ceilings, and business owners who take a personal interest in their customers. I prefer this over the mall any day.
2. Fifteen minutes 'til closing and the line at the Post Office is long. One customer has a 48 pound box of citrus waiting for him. The clerk can't lift it and the postal inspector comes from out back to help her. Others have boxes and packages of all shapes and sizes. There's someone's big box with Amazon emblazoned on it; what would we do without Amazon? Everyone is jovial and pleasant which makes waiting no chore at all.
3. I'm prepared for a second round of baking after dinner until Steve comes home with all his ingredients for brewing. I forgot he was going to brew, which requires his use of the entire kitchen. I'm glad for the excuse not to bake tonight. I put everything of mine away, happy to relax and then go to bed early while he stays up until midnight, boiling, stirring, mashing and cooling.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Beauty, A Hit, Savory

1. Neighbor K. knocks on the front door to bring us a beautiful poinsettia. It's breathtaking red color fills the crock where a dull corner is now bright and merry.
2. The Slow Cooker Bacon Jam fills the house with a wonderful aroma. When Steve comes home from work, he makes a beeline for the kitchen and asks, "What's cooking?" He has a sample and asks, in a voice filled with hope, if it is for us to keep.
3. A busy day of baking ended with a pot of Vegetable Beef Barley Soup. It was a satisfying meal with plenty of mushrooms for me, but too many for her. I took her's : )

Monday, December 17, 2012

Reach Out and Touch It, Ups and Downs, In Liquid Form

1. Monday settles in with dense fog. By mid-afternoon it hasn't budged from the valleys and remains thick and unmoving. The word 'surreal' is overused, but I must use it to describe this fog and the eerie feeling that it is a living, breathing creature who sleeps in the deep places.
2. Back to reality after a festive weekend of visiting and celebrating with friends and family and all good things. Life is a balancing act.
3. 8 pm. and I'm still hustling around the house, getting laundry put away upstairs and catching up with the girls. While we talk, I keep hearing this sound that I can't seem to identify. I stop mid-sentence and ask, "What is that sound?" It's rain, they answer, looking at me like I'm nuts. I haven't heard the sound of heavy rain in so long, that I didn't recognize its sound on the roof. Nice!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

It's Cool at the North Window, She's Shopping, Invited Out

1. I absentmindedly set things on the windowsill. Later, I saw how pretty the red and green were together. Until I chop them and use them, they will be my decoration.
 2. Sitting in a crowded parking lot, I see Tess' head in my rear view mirror, bobbing up and down between parked cars, looking this way and that, as she searches for ours.
3. Being invited to a dinner party at someone's home we've never been to before, nor that I know very well, is a mixture of anxiety and anticipation for me. Who will be there, what kind of foods will be served, will I have contributions to the conversation , etc. etc. Of course, any worry was for naught. Our hosts were perfect, their home beautiful and friendly, and the food was beyond excellent. It was nice to be out, doing something Christmasy.

Friday, December 14, 2012

It is too difficult to find words today.
I am happy my husband returned home, I smiled at photos of my grandchildren, I did all kinds of average, everyday things. Throughout all of these things, my heart is heavy with sadness for the children and families in Connecticut, for the innocence we have all lost, again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dinner for Six, Making It Work, Studying

1. The table sparkles with glass, silver and candles. The Wednesday night ladies are invited to dinner and they all deserve a treat!
The Menu
Fresh Green Beans
My favorite Riesling
Decaffeinated coffee and  Buche de Noel (of course!)
2. In decorating, I like the challenge of finding new ways to make old stuff 'work'. Rip it apart, cut it up, rearrange it or simply plop it in a different place, and it's new.
3. All communication had gone dark while she studied for finals. (I wasn't to speak to her or even ask her if she was hungry- it was too much for her to think about.) Now, her elation in successfully completing finals is shared via text messages. They contain exclamation points.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cool Down Papa Don't You Blow Your Top, A Mouse In the House

1. Rubber gloves:check. Chlorox: check. Apron:check. Music to eradicate germs with: check.
I didn't set out to clean kitchen cabinets today, but mouse evidence in the bread was cause for emergency action. I love the music I chose; a 1944 recording of The Bing Crosby Show. They sang this wonderful song that my mom and dad used to sing.

2. In 2003 I bought two beautiful Christmas tablecloths from a company that was going out of business. One of them was 107" long and I tucked it away in hopes of, one day, having a long table to use it on. This is the year! Today I ironed it in preparation for guests this holiday season.
3. "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" is a book we enjoyed when the children were young. What happens if you give a mouse, oh let's say... a scone? He keeps you company, scurrying about your room while you try to study for finals. Yes, Audrey had a full wastebasket in her room (finals week) and the little guy ran back and forth between it and the closet all evening while she studied, long after I emptied the basket. I just know there will be scone crumbs tucked among her clothing. Oh, life at my house today! The moral of the story: #1. Do not give a mouse a cookie...or a scone...or hamster food...or candy wrappers... #2. Life is more fun with a sprinkle of the unexpected tossed in.
PS. It's now morning and I wonder how she slept last night? ha, ha.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Eleanor's Elf, Mom's Time Out, Red On White

1. This dear little elf belonged to Steve's grandmother. He's old and faded and he still sits on the hutch and watches over our Christmas every year.
2.  L. and I babysat our friend's three little ones this morning. They were a breeze to care for, brought many smiles to us, and the time flew right by.

3. The Christmas little people have taken a liking to the ironstone lids hanging on the wall. I'm not sure I can let them stay; they look a little goofy. Which is exactly why I think my granddaughter might like to see them there.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

From Six to Two, My Style Minus 30 years, For You

1. How does it come to pass that only two of us decorate the tree? Tess set up her ipod and speakers with Christmas music and together we made the tree shine.
2. I can't wear any of the styles in these particular stores, they are all suited for teens. But, I love to see the fabrics and designs and imagine what outfits I would combine if I could. One young man asks the dressing room attendant if the outfit he is considering looks OK. She gives a nod with words of encouragement. He then looks at me, where I sit and wait for my daughter, and I give him a thumbs up.
3. I always print off coupons before I go shopping. Sometimes I print extras to give out to other shoppers. Today I had some I wasn't using, 25% off, $15 off, and $10 off. I handed them to random people who were in line or preparing to purchase. I love to see people's faces light up like that.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Choosing the Tree, Breaking the Egg Routine, The Aftermath

Behind our house, the tree farm is to the left. Virginia Mountain Vineyard is center.

Funny little guy.

There were plenty of skinny trees, but we went with a more traditional shaped tree again.

1. Henri and I walked over to the tree farm and Steve met us there with the truck. The mild weather felt all wrong for a Christmas task, but the moment Steve cut our tree and the pine smell met our noses, there could be no mistaking the season.
2. Tonight's dinner of baked chicken with cut up Italian sausage, red peppers and sweet onions was very good. I think Tess was happy it wasn't eggs or soup again, as is the routine when Steve's away.
3. Sitting back with a second cup of coffee after the plumbing disaster is cleaned up. On an even more positive note, it happened when Steve was home.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Our Town, Greenfield, The Second Half of Today

Painting by Ed Bordett depicting Main Street in Fincastle
 1. Old-fashioned Christmas lights are strung across the streets, crisscrossing our entire little town. It's heart-warming to drive through this quiet little place after dark and let its peacefulness settle into my soul.

Photo circa1934 by Frances Benjamin Johnston. Structure dated at 1760

2. B. and I took the dogs to walk at Greenfield today. Greenfield was a plantation which, by 1783, spanned 2,100 acres.This log cabin structure is still standing, although it was altered sometime after 1934 with a cinder block addition on the far side. We walked around the old buildings and followed many, many trails. When we returned to the car, I was startled to see that we had been walking for 2 1/2 hours! (Henri slept all afternoon.)
3. I spent the afternoon baking (cheesecake and sugar cookies) and played my first Christmas CD of the season.
4. Steve is home! Travel weary and scruffy, but home!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Little Bit of Christmas, In a Box, In a Bag, Overdue

1. The eggnog from Homestead Creamery is bottled in thick, glass bottles which, I'm sure, makes the eggnog taste better. I have a little glass with pretty cut edges on the bottom that I reserve just for my sip of eggnog. It an experience in its entirety.
2. Dragging the storage totes up from the basement, I experiment with how we might decorate Christmas this year. I will never be one of those who prepare for holidays months in advance. I live in the moment and can only do Christmas at Christmas. Cards, singing, shopping, baking, it's all just beginning to happen now. I envy those who have it all together way ahead, but my efforts at this have always been half-hearted.
3. The neighbors gave us a bag of fresh citrus from their Florida trip. The grapefruits are huge!
4. The piano tuner came today. Tess comes home, tries out all the keys and smiles.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Prepared, A New Trick, Call From the Top

1. Once I have the beef stew simmering, I go outside to do a few garden chores. It smells so good when I come back inside that I cannot wait until dinner tonight! Tess and I will have exactly 1/2 hour, from 6:00 to 6:30, to come home, eat and go back out. I'm so glad this will be waiting for us.
2. Henri digs in the dirt like a dog. He is a dog, but in all his eight years I've never seen him dig like one.
3. Just when I'm at the top of the hill, ready to go back down, my cell phone rings. It couldn't be better timing. I sit back and have a phone chat with my sister while I enjoy the view.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Are Moms Great or What?!

 Facebook conversation between two sixteen year-old girls: 

E: I saw it at Goodwill, and said, I WILL BUY THIS, but I had no money so my mom had to buy it for me.
THaha that's awesome. I actually had to haggle with the antique dealer to lower the price of the camera. Except I didn't know what to say, so my mom did most of the work.
EMoms are the best! I mean, I do not think I could make Thanksgiving by myself!
TI'm actually terrified of the day when I have to cook Thanksgiving dinner for my family.
E:  Same here!

 I am laughing so hard. I had no idea that Thanksgiving was the standard by which moms were judged.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Where Charlie Brown Trees Grow, Preparations, A Beacon

Waiting for ornamentation.

1. I went into the woods in search of a little Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It was quiet and solitary and I could have extended my search forever just for the sake of walking in the woods. But I heard a small noise, probably a squirrel, which reminded me it is hunting season and I was endangering my life. I got the tree and skedaddled!
2. It was one of those, I-feel-good-when-I-clean days. I de-cluttered in general, organized the basement storage room (so I could get at the Christmas stuff) and scrubbed three bathrooms. All in preparation for hauling out more clutter. Makes sense to me!
3. It's comforting to see the neighbor's lights back on. They were away last week and it was so dark and abandoned-looking across the field there.