Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Home, Fortune, December 31st

1. The new apartment is adorable with its 1920's character. I can feel daughter #3's excitement as we help them move in. We chat with the owners who give us a tour of this renovated building. There are little wooden doors on the walls in the hallways. They are parcel boxes. The deliveryman puts your parcels in and you receive them through the door on your side of the wall. Charming!
2. Lunch break with Chinese food. Son-in-law's fortune says, "Before the year is over, you will move." We are stunned!
3. My preference is to ignore New Years, so I do. I dream of spring, since that is when I prefer to celebrate new beginnings.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A visitor, Kitchen noise, Winter draft

1. Daughter #3 sits on the floor and talks with me while I paint.
2. After a while, she goes downstairs where I hear pots clanging and cabinet doors banging. So this must be what it sounds like to be the kid in the bedroom with the mom down in the kitchen, cooking.
3. A cold draft is seeping in through the window. It smells brisk and wintry.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Funny movie, Painting... but not cooking!

1. I have this entire week free! I decide that today will be my "going out" day. I get my hair cut, buy paint for 3BT #3, stop in to visit daughter #2, browse the bookstore and see a movie. It's Complicated reveals another angle of why we "older" women have something to be desired. I like the movie and couldn't help but laugh out loud.
2. Popcorn and Italian soda for lunch.
3. Scheduling projects after Christmas helps keep me from getting the winter doldrums. Daughter #3 would like her room painted and since it's been six years, I agree. She has chosen a pale purple called Crocus Petal and a creamy white trim. I'm excited about the transformation and I start priming the trim right away.
4. No cooking again!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Come back, No cooking, Risk

1. As some of the family departs, we plan for the next time they will come- three weeks!
2. I am eager to set the house in order. I begin by washing linens and straightening one of the bedrooms.
3. I am off the hook for dinner and I enjoy the break.
4. We play the game, "Risk". I have never played before and I end up conquering three continents and ruling the world. This can really go to one's head! We enjoy playful banter during our "wars" and the three hours it took to play was worth it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Merry and Blessed Christmas!

1. I wake at 6:00 am and follow the sound of voices. All six "kids" are in daughter #4's room with their Christmas stockings. They are chatting away, eating chocolates and sitting on the floor amidst torn wrapping papers. When I walk in, they all look up at me with big grins on their faces.
2. We gather around the tree, coffee in hand to share gifts with one another. Old Gunner-the-Lab plops down right in the middle of the room where he allows wrapping paper to engulf him.
3. Phone calls and emails from friends and family all over the world. When my turn comes, I resist the urge to shout into the phone to make up for all the miles between us.
4. The afternoon becomes subdued with a steady rain. Naps are taken, as needed.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Arriving home, Joy, Comforts

1. The older children got in late last night after I went to bed. They came in so quietly that I didn't even know they arrived until this morning when sleepyheads began to appear in the kitchen for coffee.
2. We are all together to celebrate, rejoicing in the birth of God the Son, our Savior and King. Despite the hardships, broken hearts and sadness this year has brought, we have every good reason to celebrate. This thought remains with me throughout the day and I am truly glad.
3. The house is cozy, the table is pretty and the food is good.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Getting ready to celebrate!

1. Another one of my favorite ornaments. This sweet oldie came from my aunt and uncle's collection.
2. Despite a head cold, I get the weekend menu planned. With some trepidation, I head out for groceries. It goes rather well and I have gotten over the biggest hurdle of the day.
3. The sun is blinding on the white landscape. Everything begins to appear misty as the cold snow evaporates. I am hopeful that it will last until tomorrow when the rest of the family is here to go sledding. I check and find I don't need to worry; it's only half melted and half of 15-20 inches still leaves a lot.
4. There are stashes of cookies and fudge in the pantry, freezer and refrigerator. A little here, a little there. I am happy to have all these goodies ready to draw from over these coming four days.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Feathered friends, Greetings, Shy pup

1. The birds have found the seed I put out and we have all enjoyed watching our guests come to table. Daughter #3 threw some old, dried corn out back and the big, black crows have come for it. One of these crows has only one foot, yet he seems to get along just fine. We will experiment with various seed and see what birds continue to visit.
2. On errands today, I wish people a Merry Christmas!
3. Henri gets all shy and cute at the vet. When she examines him, he snuggles his face under my arm so he won't have to see her.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Outdoor fun, What to wear, Chocolate Paper

1. Sledding! And walking up the hill again. Sledding down! And walking up the hill again. Whizzing down! And walking up the hill again. Good workout.
2. Dressed in proper snow gear, one can lie, roll, crawl and sit in the snow without any chill to the skin. ("proper" snow gear might mean a grown man wearing a large-sized child's pair of purple snow pants- whatever works.) We are a ragamuffin troupe of sledders, but we are warm and dry.
3. As I trudge home, I hear the others' voices echo off the hills.
4. A trip to Chocolate Paper. Daughter #3 has never been here and it's fun introducing her to this store.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Shiny Brites, Comforts, Perilous snow banks

1. The old ornaments on our tree remind me of those we had when I was a child. I suppose that's why I like them.
2. Another snow day at home means a pot of soup on the stove, a good book to read and a nap.
3. Nearing midnight, we are driving home from our friend's who live just up our icy road. We barely see the camouflaged man struggling with his 4-wheeler, stuck in the snowbank. Steve ties a rope to the truck and pulls him out. It turns out to be a neighbor who has M.S. and walks with a cane. He would have been stranded there indefinitely had someone not come by. I tell Steve that it's a good thing we stayed out late.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, arrives the snow. by Ralph Waldo Emerson

1. Today's snowfall is a beautiful spectacle that only nature could create. I consider it a wonderful gift. Memories of childhood snowstorms, excitement throughout the day, so many possibilities of things to do outside, the coziness inside the house, the beauty of the slate gray sky, laughter at the animals' antics, wonder at the beauty of it all.
2. I bake most of the day. The gingerbread is cut into house parts which the two younger daughters construct and decorate with candies I've been hoarding.
3. The snow is thigh deep, but I want to get to the bird feeder. I contemplate whether or not to leave the path and wade to it wearing only ankle boots. I go for it, plunging in like a brave explorer, leaving my comfort zone for the birds.

A Favorite Childhood Poem, First Snow by Mary Louise Allen

Snow makes whiteness where it falls,
The bushes look like popcorn balls.
And places where I always play,
Look like somewhere else today.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow!!, Ping pong, Snow!!, Buche de Noel

1. Snowflakes twirl and dance in the lighted window.
2. I enjoy the sound of hoots, laughs and yells that emanate from the basement during a ping pong game.
3. Late, dark and still. The only sound outside is the "sssss" of snow falling. We are repeatedly drawn to the windows and doors in order to witness this spectacle of a snowstorm. We grew up with these in NY, but we've never seen this much in Virginia. The excitement builds!
4. The Buche de Noel plate returns home empty, with the story of the boy who got the last big piece and happily carried it around school, nibbling on it all morning.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Time, Dog Prints, Steinway

1. We have 5 hours between appointments and it's too far to drive back home in between. So, we take our time browsing the antique mall and our favorite used book shop, then out to lunch.
2. I find a copy of Real Tales of Real Dogs with etchings by Diana Thorne. I have been searching for her dog etchings, individually, for over a year and here is the entire bound copy at a bargain price! I have found a treasure today.
3. The Steinway baby grand sounds rich, beautiful and notably different than anything I'm used to hearing. It looks beautiful, too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gunner, Sage & Balsamic roast chicken, Wrapping gifts

1. Gunner-the-Lab has sleepy eyes when he wakes up in the morning.
2. Sage and Balsamic roasted chicken for dinner. THE BEST. Whisk 2Tbl. olive oil and 2 Tbl. Balsamic vinegar with S., P. and 1/2 tea. sugar. Gently put several sage leaves and 2 cloves finely chopped garlic under the chicken's skin. Brush all over with the oil mixture; pour remaining into cavity. Roast at 350 F. for 1 1/2 hours. Strain juices from pan, skim off fat and serve warm over chicken.
3. Coffee at my side, I spend the evening wrapping presents.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Red bottle, Choir, Happy

1. B. gave me the prettiest embossed glass bottle filled with red raspberry liqueur. It has a scene of pine trees, a deer and a log cabin on it.
2. Over one hundred children's voices blended together, singing Christmas songs. Beautiful music at the Singing School concert set me into the Christmas spirit.
3. Daughter #4's smile throughout the concert. Months of practicing, butterflies in the stomach, songs irritatingly stuck in her head, culminate into smiles.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Giving, Sunshine, Pooped

1. A car stops in the walkway to the store entrance. The driver beckons the Salvation Army lady to her car window and hands her a ziploc bag full of change.
2. This spring-like day is a nice reprieve from winter's blast.
3. After Henri's 3 mile walk, he lies around useless for the rest of the evening. I suppose 3 miles is a long walk for little 12 inch legs.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Icy, Good food, Garland and Lights, Friends

1. We awake to an ice-encrusted world. Rain and fog continue throughout the morning. It forces us to stay in, lingering over two cups of coffee.
2. Baked one of my favorite dinners, Alsatian Potato Pie. It uses puff pastry, potatoes, leeks, garlic, Gruyere and heavy cream. Served with funghi in salsa di pomodori (mushrooms in tomato sauce) and tossed greens with Dijon vinaigrette. Oh boy...!
3. Daughter 3 fashions a pretty pine and holly garland for the stair rail. Nature's contributions add to the coziness of Christmas time. Twinkle lights make it even cozier.
4. Friends arrive for dinner, bustling in cold air, greetings and gifts!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Not made in China, Practical, Seriously baking

1. In the check-out line at the department store, I look at the tag on the scarf I am purchasing and see it is made in Germany. "Wow, it's not made in China!". The woman in front of me turns and I see she is holding the same scarf, different color. "I know, it's made in Germany", she says. "Very nice", say I. "And I drive a German car", says the woman. "So do I!", I exclaim. "What kind is yours?", she asks. "I have a Passat." "Well, what do you know, I have a Passat too! And before that, I drove a Jetta." She then goes on to tell me about the engine, but we must finish checking out so she bids me goodbye with a squeeze to my arm because now we are friends.
2. A. takes us to a store called, "Tractor Supply". I'm not expecting much within, just a heater for the water trough. But it turns out to be a catch-all store and we all find something useful to buy.
3. Everyone is out of the house and I am left alone to my baking. It is grand!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A note, Gathering the goods, Evergreens

1. I wake up and Steve is not home. I figure he was called to work when the phone rang during the night. He knows my routine, that I will be at the computer with my coffee. So he sends me an email to tell me where he is.
2. I go out early and I have all morning to do the grocery shopping. My list is long and I want to concentrate. I enjoy grocery shopping on these terms.
3. The sprigs of evergreens, when they are mixed together, make pretty bouquets. Spruce, boxwood and holly are wonderful companions.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wee folk, Flying, Taking stock, Think tank

1. My wee folk have come onto the shelf for the holidays. I enjoy making these little dolls for all the seasons, but the red-cloaked winter ones are my favorites. These sweet little things stand only 1- 2 inches high and always make me smile.
2. As I drive over the rise, the valley stretches out before me with the wind-swept mountains on the other side. For a moment, I am flying.
3. I plan my holiday baking today and write down all the ingredients for shopping tomorrow. Heavy cream, unsweetened chocolate, mascarpone, nuts, confectioner's sugar, figs...wonderful ingredients. No ordinary "hamburger" shopping list here.
4. Even the shortest errands around here require a 30 minute drive, allowing me plenty of time to be alone and contemplate. I enjoy these mental wanderings while I drive. I have solved many problems, lifted up many prayers and had many revelations driving around our valley.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rolling dough, Which one?, Bomber, Happy to see me

1. Rolling sugared triangles of dough into Butterhorn cookies. They don't have to be perfectly shaped to come out looking pretty. A very forgiving cookie.
2. She phones from the store with a question about choosing a gift for someone and I have the answer perfectly ready.
3. B. drops off fresh eggs. One carton doesn't close all the way and she says one of those eggs is a big bomber. My first thought is for the chicken who laid it.
4. Baby greets me with a smile when she wakes from her nap.

Monday, December 7, 2009

School's out, Great finds, Think quickly

1. I decided to cancel school until January. So today was liberating and we went shopping.
2. The antique shop had just what I needed for daughter #1 AND two Shiny Brite ornaments for my collection. All three items were very reasonably priced and I was very, very happy.
3. The clock was ticking and the pressure was on to start dinner. I had to think quickly and so I changed the menu from calzones to pizza. Much quicker to prepare, yet pretty much all the same ingredients.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Virgin Sings Her Lullaby, Cutting the Tree, Traditions

1. The second advent candle is lit and voices sing, "What Child Is This". Beautiful lyrics capture my attention. "Raise, raise the song on high, the virgin sings her lullaby. Joy, joy for Christ is born, the babe, the son of Mary."
2. We bundle up and head outdoors to cut the Christmas tree. Even though they're grown, the girls are excited and it's contagious. It's a fun winter's day to be outside.
3. It's usually Steve's job to get the tree upright into the stand. We discuss the tradition of the need for a few cuss words being necessary to get the job done. Particularly when dealing with a crooked trunk.
4. Ornaments come out of boxes with exclamations of, "Oh, I remember this!"

The Cutting of the Tree

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Saturday's view. I love the color palette of a snowy day.

It's snowing!!, Mr. Lovely, Boughs and lights

1. The snow began falling at first light and fell all day! Big, white, fluffy flakes that turned our whole world magical.
2. A new horse guest arrives in the snow. He is a beautiful Percheron/Arabian cross. The two mares are smitten and follow him around all day. A girl in the house is also smitten and can't keep her eyes off him.
3. A little greenery here and twinkle lights there make the house cozy and festive. #3 arranges the snow village much nicer than I could ever do.
4. As the storm clears, the clouds turn a deep, dark, purple gray. They appear an ominous contrast to the white landscape and the effect is stunning.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Smells like snow, The list, We're holding a book for you

1. We step outside and agree that the air "feels" like snow.
2. Shopping lists are my life saver. They are my guide and my friend. I keep it in hand, reminding myself not to waver from the list and I am victorious! I even cross things off the list just so I don't confuse myself and buy something twice. (Huh!?)
3. The librarian phones to tell me my book is in. I have forgotten what I ordered, so she reads the title to me. "Oooo, can't wait!", I say.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Favorite Meal, The Cookie Jar, Wow, Well Done

1. I prepared the beef stew early today. Now dinner is out of the way and the kitchen smells good all morning.
2. A full cookie jar with extras to give away. "I hear you guys in the cookie jar!".
3. Daughter #4 comes down, dressed for her choir performance. She looks so pretty and I suggest she add some jewelry. She returns wearing earrings and has suddenly gone from girl to young woman.
4. Daughter #3 phones with all sorts of good news and positive things happening. I'm glad to hear that hard work and perseverance, tempered with prayer has led to good things.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thinking Back, The Helper, Soft Pretzels

1. Once Monday hit, the week became a blur. I could only pause briefly to think about what a great weekend we just had. My life is full of blessings which I do not deserve. I think about that every day...
2. Tess and I bravely hit the shopping mall. Walking around in circles in the bookstore, hopelessly trying to find one particular title. Tess spots it right there and I am so glad to have her eyes helping me today.
3. We eat fattening, dripping with butter, soft pretzels for lunch and they are very, very good.
4. Boxes of Christmas garlands, lights and bows sit in a jumble. A group of us put our ideas together and, Voila! we create a very pretty display. When we've finished, a pot of delicious bean chili and sandwiches are ready for us.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New Toy, Nice having You Around, Ice Skating

1. Baby lies on her back and brings her feet up in front of her face. She eagerly grabs them like a new toy.
2. Daughter #3 happens to be around the house more these days. It's so nice to have her nearby. She is content and I enjoy her presence.
3. A bright, full moon lights up the chilly evening. It triggers a memory of ice skating on a frozen pond under such a full moon a long, long time ago. The cold of a New York winter, the sound of skates slicing the ice with their "chink, chink" and children's voices echoing in the darkness.