Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy, Happy!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Eric, Rachel, Brianna, and Tori
Yes, I'm happy.  Beyond happy.  And that is because I will be having ALL of my children and their spouses and their children, and even some of their pets at home THIS EVENING.

That doesn't usually happen.  Due to geographical locations and work schedules, I cannot even remember the last time when all of us were here at home all at once.

So I'm happy, happy, happy and cooking non-stop.  I'm blessed to have such a wonderful family, and it keeps growing, and I love that.

Ellie and Jarrod
Oldest daughter Rachel, her husband Eric, and their twins Tori and Brianna will be here.

Middle daughter Lindsay, her husband Todd, and their children Jarrod and baby Ellie are coming.

Youngest daughter Sarah, her husband Lance, and their two cats, Penny and Snickers, made the long drive in from Ohio.  She's a trooper, having had major surgery just three weeks ago.

Sarah and Lance
Son Caleb who lives here at home, will be bringing his girlfriend Hannah.

And of course, Puppy Sheila is here, and always excited, holiday or not.

Caleb and Hannah

As I said I'm blessed.  And, all four of our parents are still alive and will be here over the holidays too.

To all my friends and family, I hope your day will be filled with many special moments.  I know mine will, and for that I am grateful.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Our Quirky Christmas

Well it is finally Christmas eve, and after all the little children suffer through attend Christmas eve services and dinners with their families, hopefully when they go to bed they will feel confident in the amount of good behavior they have exhibited throughout the past year.  Enough goodness, at least, so that their Christmas morning hopes and dreams come true.

We are ready here.  Christmas will come whether we are ready or not.  The story of the birth of the baby Jesus will be retold in countless homes and places of worship throughout the world.  We will wish blessings on our friends and family.  We will enjoy food and fellowship with those we love.

Here then are a few looks at some of the Christmas decor around our home.  Our decorations are simple but meaningful to us.

This little tree is only about 15 inches high but has been in the family quite a while.  We had it for several years before daughter Sarah took it back to college with her at the end of her first semester.  This little tree gave her tiny dorm room a festive feel, and helped her get through her final exams, knowing soon she'd be home for Christmas with the family.

After she graduated, son Caleb used the same little tree in his college rooms for the next five years.  Perhaps the grandchildren will want to borrow it someday to use when they go to college.

I've noticed quite a phenomenon during the past month involving this "Elf on a Shelf" tradition.  My understanding is that the elf keeps his eye on the children, watching to be sure they are behaving.  Some creative people move the elf every night to a different vantage point after their children have gone to bed.  Others stage their elves in a series of comical positions and situations.

We don't have an Elf on the Shelf, we just have a little snowman.  Up there, watching us:

I suppose it's good to recycle, repurpose, and reuse, so I saved these pine cones and berries from a floral bouquet daughter Sarah received following her recent surgery.  They made these plain white presents look simple and elegant.

Here is the bouquet that provided the package decorations:

Here are some Christmas presents wrapped a la Martha Stewart style.  Actually, I was a little lazy and didn't want to go find the ribbons and bows, so I just made the bows out of paper scraps.  

The angel that sits atop our Christmas tree could be nearly 25 years old.  It was made by one of our daughters at a girls club meeting many years ago.  We cannot bear to get rid of it, and so year after year, it finds its way back to the top of our tree.

A closer look shows the angel is cradling a pickle.  Typically we hide the pickle in the tree, and the grandkids see who can find it first.  I wonder if they will think to look up there.

Son Caleb hung this sprig of "mistletoe" in the doorway.  I wonder if he plans to stand under there and make use of it?  

Our well-loved manger scene is carefully arranged up on the fireplace mantel.  

One recent day I looked up there and noticed this additional tiny stocking.  I suppose son Caleb added it for his puppy Sheila.

And speaking of Sheila, she loves our tree decorations.  She particularly likes this bird ornament.  She especially likes its feathers.  Well, let me be honest here - she just likes eating its feathers.

And here's one last look at our amazing candy cabin.  Oh, Sheila had a lick-fest with the tootsie roll logs the other day too.  Stinker.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Boys in Bathrobes

Yes, this morning in church there were three young boys dressed in bathrobes.  They also had towels wrapped around their heads.  You see, it was scheduled that the little kids would do their twenty minute Christmas cantata, and these mini shepherds were in full costume, ready for the grand event.

Today's little program released a multitude of fond memories of many similar Christmas pageants I have attended over the years in which my children had parts.

I remember the year I sewed about a dozen white angel costumes with the obligatory gold sparkly crowns constructed out of pipe cleaners.  It was a lot of work for about a 12 second appearance, but those angels certainly had important business.

I recall the year daughter Lindsay played the part of Mary.  Funny thing - her costume resembled a bathrobe too, as I recall.  She made very sure the baby Jesus doll was carefully contained under there, and then emerged at exactly the right time, as the heavenly hosts were chaotically running around the stage area  singing their praises.

Oh yeah, there was one year I sat freezing my tush in a stinky, musty, old barn.   Son Caleb was playing his trumpet at one of those live nativity scenes.  Shepherds were outside of the barn sitting around a fire and tending their sheep while the miraculous birth occurred inside.  Plenty of bathrobes were involved there, too.

I guess it is an age-old story that is possibly best brought to life by the youngest of Christ's followers.  All across the land, the birth of Jesus will be celebrated by these little shepherds wearing oversized bathrobes, towels on their heads, and carrying staffs that are way too big for them.

Mary will be wearing a blue robe most likely, and taking the business of swaddling and unswaddling and re-swaddling the baby Jesus doll very seriously.  In one program I attended, it was remarkable how much her donkey resembled a golden retriever.

The one Wise Man from the east will be waving to Mom, who is snapping pictures with her cell phone from the first pew.

The lamb from the three-year-old class will be wandering around the creche uncontrollably.  Frequently  he will wander over and tell his mother in the front row that he "really can't hold it anymore."

Joseph, dressed in a drab brown bathrobe, will have the distinct appearance that he would rather be anywhere but on stage.  As he repeatedly pushes his glasses back up his nose, we see the sparkle of orthodontics.

Centuries ago the prophet Isaiah described the righteous kingdom Jesus will one day establish, saying "a little child will lead" - and continuing to this day, it would seem to me that children are still leading us all to the manger.

Hopefully, bathrobes will never go out of style.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cutthroat Christmas Bingo

Now that I've typed that title, it is dawning on me that the words "cutthroat" and "Christmas" wouldn't normally be placed side by side, much less used in the same sentence.  However, at our house, on Christmas eve or Christmas night, that is exactly what will be happening - a rowdy and very competitive bingo game, with contestants ranging from six to sixty.

It all started last year when I picked up a simple Christmas bingo game in the Wal-Mart aisle where all the trinkets and stocking stuffers were displayed.  I was thinking that maybe with all the company coming in (we have 4 children, 3 of them have spouses, and there are 4 grandchildren) that perhaps at some point we could have fun doing a family game.  Oh, don't forget the two cats that come along to taunt our puppy, too.

I also went out and purchased or found about 15 small gift items and packaged them up in those cheap Christmas bags that are about the size of a lunch sack.  The only other thing needed were two rolls of pennies to use as the bingo chips.

We started the games, and all was pleasant for about the first round or so.  Even the 5 year old twins could play the game, as there were no numbers or letters to identify.  I would just call out what picture to look for, and they could find it on their cards and place a marker.  They were really enjoying themselves.

However, little did I know how bawdy and cutthroat these games could become.  Maybe it was the thrill of the prizes - I mean who doesn't want a large pencil with a pom pom or a handy shower cap?  Believe you me, the level of competition escalated in no time at all.

To keep the young prizeless ones happy and engaged, every 3 rounds whoever had a prize at that point had to give one away to someone else.  It's better to give than to receive, right?  Unbelievably, a father (you know who you are) gave the dirty sock gag prize away to one of his daughters.  I'm tellin' you, it was cutthroat.

It really was great family fun, though, with lots of laughs.  I shouldn't have been surprised then, that starting way back before this past Thanksgiving, I was hearing rumors of family members warning that "there better be bingo again this year...."

I'm ready.  The bingo cards are excavated from within the Christmas boxes, the pennies are ready, and the prizes are wrapped and are better than ever.

Let the games begin!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Peppermint Christmas Dessert

While I was recently staying at daughter Sarah and son-in-law Lance's home, Lance announced that he would be needing to take a dessert to a Christmas party to which they had been invited.

Since Sarah was recouperating from surgery, she wouldn't be going to the party, nor would she be preparing an elaborate dessert for him to take.  As I was not overly familiar with their kitchen and where supplies were located, I looked for a very simple recipe.

I decided to amend a recipe I had found, and the result is this Peppermint Pudding Dessert.  It was so quick to make, and absolutely delicious.  Easy, attractive, and scrumptious - this recipe is a keeper.

Gather up these 5 ingredients:

1 box white chocolate flavored pudding mix
Winter oreos (they have red colored filling)
Cool Whip - we made this dessert "healthy" by using fat free cool whip
Milk - we used skim milk, so I think you could say this dessert is truly health food
Candy canes


Make the pudding mix with milk according to the directions on the box.
Put pudding mixture into the refrigerator while you work on the oreos and candy canes.
Put some oreos into a large ziploc plastic bag, and use a meat pounder to smash them into small pieces.  (Your choice as to how many cookies to use.  I used a lot.)
Put some candy canes into another ziploc bag and smash them too.

Now put it all together like this:

First layer a few candy cane pieces on the bottom of your serving dish.
Next put half the pudding mixture in.  Spread cool whip on top of that.  (I like cool whip.  I used a lot.)
Sprinkle the pudding with half of the crushed oreos and some candy cane pieces.
Put the rest of the pudding mix in, topped by more cool whip and the remaining oreos and candy cane pieces.

Decorate the top with a few candy canes if you like.  Now it looks party-worthy.

Since we weren't sure Lance would be actually staying the length of the entire party, we put our dessert into a disposable plastic container.  That way he wouldn't have to worry about bringing his dish home.

Now that I write this, I'm thinking I probably should have posted this recipe several weeks ago. Many Christmas parties have already happened.  Oh well.

But wait, I have company coming in two days.  Maybe I'll do a rerun of this delectable dish.

There's always those candy canes that need to be used up, right?


Thursday, December 20, 2012

December Snakes

I believe I'm about due to remind you all that I HATE SNAKES.  If you are a new reader to my blog, you can see my previous discussions of my feelings about snakes in this post and this one too.  Also read this blog if you're still not convinced of my absolute, non-negotiable hatred of snakes.

So when I returned home after being out of state for the last 2 1/2 weeks, my husband calmly told me, "There's something you might want to know."  The seriousness on his face and the foreboding sound of his voice had me thinking that perhaps a family member had suffered a terrible accident while I was away.  Or something of the like.

He calmly continued,  "There are snakes all around the town now."


This is my worst nightmare coming true, if you know me.

Incredulously I replied, "What do you mean, there are snakes all around?"

He went on to explain that he had seen a dead one out back in our alley, smashed to death recently by a car.  And he saw another dead one in the street one block up from us, also killed recently by a vehicle.

In horror, it dawned on me - if there was one earlier this summer in my yard (here it is),

and now there were two more nearby IN DECEMBER, then yes, the whole town is virtually crawling now with snakes.

To me, this is immeasurably worse than death on Friday by the Mayan whatever-it's-supposed-to-be.

My husband in his great wisdom and lack of reassurance speculated then that perhaps the snakes are loose all over town, because of an excavation project that is currently going on in the town center along the banks of a creek.  Workmen are digging into the rocky sides of the creekbed, where we all have seen snakes.  They can be spotted every time we walk by the creek, as they sun themselves on the rocks.

And now their homes have been disturbed and they are spreading throughout the town!  And here's the thing:  if we are seeing snakes near my home, which is four blocks over and two blocks down from the project, imagine how many displaced snakes are loose even closer to the epicenter!

Well.  No, all is not well.

This will never be me:

No.  Just no way.  Not for a bazillion bucks.  Ever.
But now,  this is me:

I do not know how I will be able to enjoy the outdoors now.  

And, I just installed a water feature in my back yard last month, with water gently falling and bubbling along its path.  Also lots of rocks, all along the water.....

Snake habitat?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

This 'n That

I just got back home late yesterday after being away for 2 1/2 weeks.  You all know how it is - there's unpacking to be done, laundry, mail to sort, bills to pay, and just the general settling in and organizing.

So today I just thought I'd clean out my photo files, and show you some of the odd stuff I've been collecting in there for a while.  That's the fun part of carrying a large purse and a small camera.  I can take a picture any time of anything anywhere that trips my trigger.

Here goes:

1.  For some unknown reason, I enjoy finding and taking photos of BIG STUFF.  Here are two of my latest finds:

This business is in Lancaster County, PA
I took this picture near Bowling Green, Ohio

2.  And speaking of chickens, this chicken was out in front of my doctor's building when I was leaving.  The building is in an urban area, so this is just weird.  "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

...To avoid getting his flu shot.
3.  This is still the cutest grandbaby in the whole world.

A little overkill on the bath crayons?  Nah.
4.  And what's wrong with this picture?

Who's in charge here?
5.  This next picture was taken of an Amish farm in central Pennsylvania:

That's a lot of diapers! 
6.  I think this is a clever idea:

7.  Tree porn?

And this one's even worse:

8.  Are these not the ugliest cats ever?  Yes.

Pretty cat watching uglies
9.  I hit the jackpot today, doing the laundry:

Some days it just doesn't take a whole lot to amuse me, does it?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Word Nerd

Yes that's me.  I'm a word nerd - I get a kick out of learning new words, especially those that I've never heard a person use in conversation before.

In fact, I love that the husband/lover/best friend has a word app on his smart phone.  He receives the "Word of the Day."  Sometimes he shares them with me, but most days I just wish he would.  Maybe I should get a smart phone.  Learning all those new words would definitely make me smarter, right?

So I have a few new ones to share with you that I am pretty excited about.  I just can't wait to throw one of these babies around at the next family gathering.  Read these and exercise your mind:

1.  diurnal
     At a recent camping trip we were sighting bald eagles almost every day.   Thinking we were seeing also some juvenile bald eagles, we looked for an internet picture to be sure.  Yes, they were indeed juveniles, but in doing the research we also learned that bald eagles are diurnal.  Diurnal animals and birds are those that are active during the daytime.  They sleep during the night.  Many birds, squirrels, tortoises, farm animals, green snakes, and others are diurnal animals.  I previously knew the meaning of  "nocturnal," but had never known its counterpart word.

2.  plinth
     Because we are in the middle of a major household renovation, I've been paging through many remodeling books.  In one of them I came across the word "plinth."  Investigating further, I learned that a plinth is the base upon which a structure rests.  Since I was looking specifically at a photo collection of bathroom furniture, in this case the plinth was the base of the bathroom vanity cabinet on that page.   Here is a picture of a bathroom vanity that has used the space within the plinth for a drawer.

You better believe I'll be throwing that word around on the day my vanity is installed.  Nevin, my carpenter, is gonna love that.

3.  ?????
     Recently I watched that old ridiculous Christmas movie, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  There is a scene in the movie in which the main character, Clark Griswold (played by Chevy Chase) has been pushed over the edge into a state of euphoric insanity by the chaos of the family happenings.  He lops off the ball on the top of the stairway post with his chainsaw, and yells down to his wife, "Honey I fixed the ?????? post!"

     This led to an immediate debate between myself and my son-in-law Lance as to how ????? is spelled.  Let's set it straight for the record:  it's "newel."  He fixed the newel post.  

4.  flavortism
      I found this word in a magazine on a page advertising Wisconsin cheese.  Here is the definition given there:  "A harmless condition in which a person's taste buds desire nothing but the very best."  I like that.  Of course, I love cheese too, so I plan to participate in some flavortism now and then.

I started wondering if the word "flavortism" had actually made it into any dictionaries, so I googled it and was immediately taken to the Urban Dictionary, which defines it this way:  The act of making a biased opinion or judgment on some whack fool's style because you know you are cooler than him.  Applying personal opinion to public popularity."  Hmmm.

Let me know if you find any good words out there along your travels.  I'm always looking for something new to sparkle up the vocabulary.

Special wishes to you that your Monday be semantically spectacular.