Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas Traditions Old and New

     Everyone arrived into town on Friday morning and we settled in for a five day long celebration of Christmas. The four daughters look forward to our Christmas traditions each year but, with the addition of husbands and children into the family, some of those old traditions are gradually being set aside to accommodate the masses. And that is perfectly fine.
     This year, there would be no waking during the night for the sisters to secretly open their Christmas stockings together. The young parents were too tired to think about an extra waking during the night. There was no fine china or silverware on the table for Christmas dinner. Two new words were introduced into our 2017 Christmas: paper plates. We prepared and consumed so much good food over the course of five days with one third of our populous now being young children, that no one minded the paper ware. There was also no silent, contemplative Christmas Eve. I had imagined an evening of lessons and carols with the family and quiet moments of joy and wonder with the children. Instead, it was about comings and goings, quieting over-tired little ones, walking fussy babies to sleep, and watching the clock for bedtime. I expect those shared quiet moments will come again one day. For now, the wondrous birth of our Savior and the reason for our celebration remained in my thoughts each day and night. I hummed and sang Christmas carols to the children. In the quiet, early mornings I read the scriptures and listened to the corresponding carols (thanks to youtube) and embraced the love that was given to us through the birth of Christ all those millennia ago. We shared it in bits and pieces and that was okay, too.
     I'm sure almost everyone in the family had their own expectations of what the holiday weekend would include. I certainly had my expectations. But part of being in a family, large or small, requires some to compromise for others. Some of our traditions began when there were two or three or four of us. Now we are sixteen! So, rather than gather 'round the Christmas tree sipping eggnog and listening to carols as I had imagined, the men kept a fire going out in the field and we ushered in the shortest day of the year with a fire. Neither rain nor cold prevented the fire from burning. During the day, the men cut down dead trees to fuel the fire. The wives laughed at the boyish nature of the men with their forts and fire. The men came inside for meals, bringing with them the smell of fresh air and smoke. The women ushered children out to play and back in for naps.
     Amidst all the hubbub, some of us attended church, some of us went out to visit other family in the area, two went on a thirteen mile hike, one slept out in the field in a tent, one caught poison ivy, two had runny noses, two were teething, several cooked and cleaned, a few did laundry, several spent many, many hours driving to get here and back, three took a meal to Mrs. C., everyone hugged and kissed and laughed, one burned his little fingers in the fire, one little guy ate a lot of oranges, and all the adults gained three pounds each. And finally, one cried on Wednesday afternoon after everyone departed and she was left all alone.
Six grands with Tess and Chelsea

Violet aka Doll Baby

Marian, Charlie and Nonni

The hobo shelter in times of rain.
Chelsea and Audrey with Charlie and Violet


Daniel and Claire

Matthew. Those boots : )
Audrey, Violet, and Jared

Simon, Ian, and Jared among the poison ivy

Pop the overseer
Fueling the fire.

Hugo and Marian

Charlie takes a shot.


Matthew (in Aunt Audrey's twenty two year old Cozy Coupe)

Chelsea, Steve, Audrey, and Tess (Sadly, Claire was out visiting and missed the photo)
 Look at that fire!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Angels We Have Heard on High Sweetly Singing O'r the Land

     I was quite taken by the beautiful angel Mari drew for me. Mari and Jack often give or mail drawings to us and they are all special. I especially enjoy the interpretations their mom writes on some if them to explain the floating shapes or to put the picture into context. Mari presented this angel as a special gift to me when she and Jack came for a sleepover last night. I'm glad we have these opportunities for one-on-one time with the grandchildren as they grow older. We are getting to know each other better with each visit and there is a special trust and love that has formed between us. I'm still surprised by the revelations of this grandparent 'thing'. It's an interesting journey of love that is entirely different than any other.
    We had old friends come and stay the night last weekend on their way from New York to Louisiana. We hadn't seen or spoken with them in thirteen years but, it made no difference at all. We remain the same at heart and it felt like barely any time had passed since we last saw each other. They have three daughters and we have four, all of whom were friends in childhood and remain friends to this day. Back then, we shared the commonality of home schooling, 4H, and more play dates and sleepovers than I can count. It was great fun to catch up and reminisce with these friends from back home who were an integral part of our past.
     In between house guests and work I've been getting ready for Christmas in fits and spurts. A little decorating here, a little baking there. I'm a horribly distracted personality type and trying to both work and keep the home life I enjoy is a challenge. It takes a lot of solitary time to keep my thoughts straight these days and it just isn't happening. Everyone agrees that it helps to maintain a sense of humor and I have no trouble doing that. The kids at school/work are hilarious at times and there's plenty to laugh about each and every day.
     In order to keep the holiday baking interesting, I mixed in some new items with the traditional ones. I made an Italian cookie that I recall from childhood, but it wasn't one that my own mother made. They were something we had on my dad's side of the family and also from the Italian bakery. They would traditionally be flavored with anise but, my family isn't crazy about anise, so I flavored these with almond. To form these cookies, you pinch off the dough and roll it into snakes about the size of a pencil. Then you shape it however you like; pretzels, S-shapes, twists, etc. I chose to roll them upon themselves and form what looked like little poo piles. I wanted a shape that would grab the icing into little crevasses. They turned out great!


Monday, December 4, 2017

Better Late Than Never

    How many of us did counted cross stitch in the 1980's and 90's? Raise your hand! It was quite the thing back then and I've run into several women working on beautiful samplers now. I recall it being a relaxing hobby... until my eyesight got so poor that I couldn't see the threads anymore. I recently found this precious snowman stashed away in my closet. He's traveled with us all the way from New York to Alabama and Virginia. This piece was all stitched except for three alphabet letters. I finally  determined to finish him because I like the sampler pattern with the letters forming the snow and the snowman makes me smile. Originally, I stitched one for my mother-in-law way back in 1995 or so. I had it framed and gave it to her as a gift. I started to make this one for myself and I never finished it. Until today.
     It's stitched on a linen background using one individual strand of embroidery floss crossing over two strands of linen for each cross stitch. It was a difficult task to finish those last three letters. I couldn't see the threads even with my glasses on. I asked Steve to hold a magnifying glass over my work for me. I only had three measly letters to stitch, how hard could this be?! He got impatient with my impatience so, he taped the magnifying glass to his music stand and walked away. A friend asked if I would be adding the finish date at the bottom: 1999-2017. Nah. We'll leave it at 1999. Now I just need to find the right frame and he can be hung this Christmas.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Girls Get the Tree

    Audrey, Baby Violet, Angus-the-dog, Tess and I went to get the Christmas tree today. They walked up the hill and across the road to the tree farm and I drove the truck so we'd have it to haul the tree home. Steve stayed behind because he was in the middle of a project. He helped carry the tree into the house and he secured it into the tree stand for us when we got back. While we had our hearts set on a skinny tree, it was tempting to purchase one of the beautiful Balsam firs the owner showed us. I told the girls that we were looking for the least worst tree. We were going to rescue an ugly tree and make it beautiful. We held firm and found the skinniest tree without too many dead needles. There were two more appealing, skinnier ones that I would have preferred, but they had vines and too many dead needles around the trunk. We strolled all around the upper and back fields just for fun before we settled on the right tree for us. Of course, it was one of the first trees we saw when we first arrived. Tess had fun taking pictures and Violet loved the fresh air.
     After we had the tree loaded into the truck, I put it in four-wheel-drive and drove through the back entrance of our property and down the hill. I once tried growing evergreen saplings on this hill as a mini tree farm of our own. They all died that year. I had the thought that maybe I should try it one more time. The little hillside field is the perfect spot for a crop of trees. In ten years or so, we could cut our first tree. Hmmm. I see another spring project in the making
     When we got home, Tess put on some Christmas music and we got busy placing the lights and beaded garland. We took an eggnog and stolen break and before we knew it, it was time for Tess to go to work and for Audrey to head back home. I did some clean up around the tree and realized all the ornaments still needed to be hung. I went to see what Steve was doing and he was dozing in his chair. His suggestion for us was that we drop everything and go out to an afternoon movie. So we did. "Thor: Ragnarok" was fun.
     Finally, around 7:30 this evening, I handled all the individually wrapped ornaments and found the perfect placement for each one on the tree. What seemed like a chore was no chore at all. The room was dim, the old ornaments were a treasure to handle, and the final result was beautiful and peaceful. It was a good day.
I was talking to Violet. Tess said we reminded her of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Discussing the options for a tabletop tree.

Pulling vines off the trunk of the least worst tree. Our tree!

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Final Farewell to Autumn

     ♫ Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat... ♪ Before the Thanksgiving turkey is even out of the oven, folks are gearing up for Christmas. I stubbornly leave all our fall decor up until Thanksgiving weekend is completely over. One thing I was sad to part with were the leaves I collected in New Hampshire last month. They won't keep forever and the Christmas tree is certainly coming into the house on Saturday so, the leaves must go. I gently gathered them off the bookshelves and carried them outside to the sunshine and let the breeze scatter them into the yard. It was a fitting good-bye to autumn.

     These little hands will accompany us to the tree farm to hunt for a tree on Saturday. I've been keeping my eye on a couple of trees throughout the year when we go for walks past the field of trees. I like skinny trees that I don't think anyone else will want. For some odd reason they appeal to me and I think they would be very pretty all decorated. Of course, any tree is beautiful once it's all decorated, no? The family is in agreement that we should have a skinny tree. We'll see how well we can all agree when we actually get there to cut one down. Audrey and Tess are taking over the decorating this year. They've shown me a lot of Pinterest ideas and they are all pretty. My rule is, however, that we have to use items we already have or items found outside in nature. We'll see what they come up with. I'm sure they'll stick close to the tried and true fancifuls that we've enjoyed throughout the years.
     Steve and I were in Lowe's last weekend and something Christmasy made me stop and exclaim, "Christmas is coming!" I think it's time to have our annual viewing of "Elf".