Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Me in 2010: Spiritual, Healthy/Thin, Unselfish - No One Will Recognize Me*

I'm not one for New Year's resolutions.  Too easy to forget and/or ignore.  Somehow, though, I want 2010 to be different.  I want to improve, be better.  I know this is something everyone feels, and its hard to describe, but this year I just feel differently about it.  More determined, maybe a little more scared.  There are just too many things I have no answers for.  I need help. So - starting with matters of most concern, or the things that will help me the most:

  • Attend the temple regularly.  In my case, this means simply to attend.  I don't know why this is so hard for me, but it is.  The clothes are a hassle, I'm tired after work, I don't want to go on a Saturday, the repetition drives me insane, the small dressing rooms combined with an inflexible body - all of the above.  But - there are certain things going on in my life that I have finally (being hard headed I guess) realized that I can't fix on my own.  I need help.  I need peace.  I need comfort.  I need to feel that unique peace and quiet with L.  And to get those things I need to go where they are.  And I'm always glad when I do.  And that will lead to help with:
  • Be more selective with what I choose to bring into my body.  For example, I know that sugar makes my joints more inflamed.  And yet I eat it.  Sometimes I eat it a lot.  And then I pay the price.  Every time.  I'm a smart girl - why do I keep doing this to myself?I mean, there's something very satisfying about peanut M&Ms or a lemon bar, but really -  it's time to stop.  I was given a blessing years ago to use caution with the things I allowed my body to come in contact with.  Time to listen to that warning before I damage myself any further.  Ditto for yummy carbs.  I love them but they most certainly DON'T love me back.  I want 2010 to be the year that I get a grip on better health.  And that will lead to...
  • Be more giving of my time to children, grandchildren, family.  Part of the selfishness I feel about my time is that I have so precious little of it after work.  There are many days when all I want to do is fall on my bed.  I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that the more time I spend with others, and, more importantly, FOR others, will give me more energy than anything else I could do.  It will condition me, make me stronger.  And hurray for that.  Will it make me less afraid to babysit grandchildren?  More bold about inviting them on outings and overnighters?  Hopefully so, because now I'm *in training* - starting next week in Puerto Rico.  I may need some naps, though.
There's more.  Oh, there's lots more, sadly enough.  But give a girl a break.  I think this is quite enough to concentrate on for one year.  No sense in discouraging myself before I even start.  
So here's to 2010.  The improvements and self discipline I'm planning to gift myself with in the coming year will help me to better cope with all that is going on in my life, in the lives of my family, and in the world around me.  We all need every ounce of strength we can muster for that.  So here's to you, and here's to me and mine: a toast to all of us in our quest for self mastery and those rare moments of perfection.  May our lives be blessed with mostly good things in the coming year, and the strength of character coupled with love of family and friends to help us through the times that try our souls.  Happy New Year!


*but first, I need to get out of my jammies...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Coming Soon: Puerto Rican Beach Bums

You know how cold it's been lately?  Well, in a little over a week I will be here:


I'll be playing with Mia in the sand, and soaking my old bones with sunshine and salt water.  You can't do much better than a week in Puerto Rico in January!  Having girl time with my daughter by night, and playing with Mia and Hayden (little girl time!) by day.
This is what I think about when I'm sitting in my cold, overly air conditioned office while everyone else took the week off.  Next week I'll be the one smiling.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Two Gifts for Mema and Grandpa


Did you all have the Christmas you were hoping for? Ours was nice - so good to see my oldest son and his family. They live in Denver, and its hard to have them at such a distance. I always imagine what fun we'd have if we lived closer to them. I love those little kids so much, and when I see them after so many months I want to snatch them up, and just hold them. But they don't really know me very well, so I have to go a little slowly at first.



Lexi was a delight. She is 3 1/2 going on 8. She has a vocabulary that is amazing for one so young, and she is very VERY smart. Her new word this visit is "marvelous." We have a tradition of letting the little ones open one gift on Christmas Eve. It eases the pain and suffering of the long, long wait for Santa's visit. This year, that gift for Lexi was a mermaid doll with long blue
hair. She had been wanting some bath toys that weren't baby toys, so this was perfect. Grandpa helped her untie the ribbon, and when she saw the doll she gasped, got big eyes, and whispered "It's a mahvelous muhmaid!" ((She can't say her "R's") That just tickled me, as the gift was almost an afterthought.
Lexi isn't much for cuddling or sitting quietly, so if you want to get to know her, you must engage her in a game or activity. While it was still light out, I chased her around the front lawn. I was the monster, and she squealed every time I'd grab her. She loves to be chased. Then she spent about 30 minutes splashing water from the fountain onto our duck statue on the porch "washing it." Another 15 minutes with a paper towel "drying it." We came inside and played two rounds of a memory game that I'd bought to play with her. Great fun! Finally it was time for dinner, which she wanted no part of. We were going to see a neighborhood close by that has phenominal Christmas lights, so I encouraged her to eat so she'd have energy to run and jump when we got to the lights. Miraculously, it made sense to her, so she ate.
I was flattered to hear her say that she wanted to ride to the lights with Mema. (Wow - she likes me!) She chattered about anything and everything on the way over, but once there she wanted nothing to do with holding my hand. Lexi loves to run free.


Matthew, on the other hand, didn't want much to do with me at all. He is 1 1/2, and he loves Mommy and Daddy. And he liked Grandpa carrying him around. He is cute and happy, with an infectious laugh. And the bluest eyes I've ever seen. My family doesn't have a lot of blue eyes, so his are a treat to look at.
We had a fun evening, but when it was over, Grandpa and I looked at each other, limped upstairs and popped Excedrin and Advil. Our dogs were barking, and our sticks were aching. I think I've mentioned before that we need to practice being on our feet more - *train* for these events, as it were. You forget how much energy you need to keep up with these little ones.
Christmas Day is kind of a blur. I know my parents came over, and it was calm for awhile. Once the grandkiddies and everyone arrived (late in the day - around 5pm) everything started to move quickly. All of that shopping and wrapping: GONE in a wild frenzy of paper and ribbon torn to bits. I keep thinking that one of these years I'll figure out that perfect balance between the boredom of watching people open gifts one... by one... by one... and the craziness of having everyone have at it all at once. It's pandemonium, and so much is missed.
And then every year, like clockwork, comes that melancholy that inevitably accompanies a visit by one of the grown kids. (Am I the only one who tortures myself this way??) I always doubt myself: I'm not "fun" like moms/grandmas in other families, we're a bit "boring," as a couple (we do like our private time, and our quiet lifestyle), I'm not a grandma who lives to babysit (although I'm losing my fear slowly as the kids get a bit older) - our house is very small, no yard to play in, and its hard for me to be on my feet running around and picking kids up. Quite honestly, it makes me very achey after not too long. It's a limitation that makes me sad, and also makes me feel very guilty and inferior. I feel that I should want to have the kids come stay for a few days, but I know that I can't handle it - at least not while they're this little. But I'm afraid that if I don't do it now, they won't want to come later when they're older. Is this bad reasoning? I don't know.
My husband is very wifey-savvy - he is the perfect partner for me. He knows just what I need at all times. He is not kid-savvy. I have to encourage him to engage with the grandkiddies. It doesn't come completely naturally, but he tries, and I say practice makes perfect. We are a blended family, and so sometimes I think he feels awkward, and like an outsider. He is very good news for me, but my children kind of struggle with this quiet man who is so reserved. (In contrast, their dad is always the life of the party. ) And he, in turn, kind of struggles with them and their gregarious personalities (as I've struggled with his boys' quiet, extremely reserved personalities, in the past interpreting it as dislike. I have learned it is not, however.) One day, I keep thinking. One day we will all feel like a family. But for now it's a bit of a struggle, where I am the one frantically going between the two sides trying to make everyone happy. It's exhausting. I wonder if other blended families feel the same way, or is this some neurosis peculiar to only me?
I think sometimes that the adults will always be this way, but my hope is for the little ones. They have never known grandparents to be anyone other than who they are. They accept, and they reach for Grandpa and Mema, trusting that we will love them. And we do. Oh yes... we do. And they were the best Christmas gift of all.


PS: This was all written on my wonderful Christmas gift from L - a new i-Mac! I'm having such fun learning how to navigate on it! So many tricks and fancy things it can do!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

BLEAH


Bleah. I woke up with a pounding headache this morning. After rubbing Bio-Freeze into my stiff neck and shoulder muscles, and taking my usual Excedrin/Advil cocktail, my headache is at bay, but my stomach is queasy, my face very pale. Toast helped, but not enough. I am no fun today. However, there is fun to be had. Go here to my friend Sue's blog. She is having a giveaway in honor of her 400th post. Lots of nice goodies, and there will be several winners (haha - I almost typed "sinners" - well, maybe there will be BOTH!) Anyway, go there and post a comment, become a follower, and post a link to the giveaway. Even if you don't win, you'll enjoy the read. I will take my pale face and queasy tummy somewhere else until I feel better.

If I don't see you in the meantime, have a very Merry Christmas with your family and friends. Enjoy every minute and take lots of pictures for good memories later! Then we'll all come back and blog about it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

What I Did On My Before-Christmas Weekend

Over the weekend I pretty much did one thing, and one thing only: I baked cookies. You see, I suddenly realized over the course of last week that this was the last weekend before Christmas, and I hadn't baked even one cookie. If there were going to be Christmas treats this year, I had one weekend to make them, and this was it. Friday night, L and I trudged out to the store after work (one of his favorite things to do, one of my most dreaded things to do). We loaded our cart with sugar, flour, jam, butter, peanut butter, more butter, eggs, vanilla and candy canes. Lots of candy canes. Oh - and chocolate chips and cocoa. The sugar fumes were deadly.


One thing I'd wanted to do was to put together some jars of hot chocolate mix, both classic (with little marshmallows) and peppermint (with crushed peppermint candy). L didn't want to - thought it would take way too long. He fussed around about it for a minute or two, and then 30 minutes later we had 7 jars of cocoa mix to give away as little gifts. And THEN he was so excited about it you'd have thought the whole thing was his idea. Boys... *shaking head*

Saturday was D-Day, or rather B-Day (for Baking). I got up, and mixed up a batch of jam thumbprint cookies (our family's favorite!) and put them in to chill. I mixed up the dough for Snowball cookies, and put them in to chill. Then I made peanut butter cookies. These are so easy to make, but then I make them special by dipping an edge in melted chocolate and then crushed peanuts. It makes them look like they're wearing jewelry. Delicious jewelry. L came in at this point and stirred chocolate for me while I dipped the cookies. Peanut butter cookies are his favorite, and I think he was hoping for a nice warm cookie, fresh from the oven. I gave him the one that broke - chef's reward.


About this time I had to run out and get some shampoo at the beauty supply. The aesthetician in back was having a special: $5 to get your brows, lip and chin waxed. DEAL - I went for it, and now I am smooth instead of like an old goat. What a nice treat that was! I plan to go back real soon for a facial. But back to baking.


When I returned we started in on the thumbprint cookies. These are so good - all buttery with a nice little indent of raspberry or apricot jam in the middle. I can't even start eating these or I'll never stop. L came in again and helped on the assembly line. The dough must be rolled into balls, then dipped in an egg wash, then rolled in coconut. Once on the baking sheet you press your thumb gently into the ball to make an indent (but GENTLY or it will smash all over the place). Then you fill the indent with jam, bake them, and then try not to eat the whole pan.

*Messy Kitchen*

The last to bake were the Snowball cookies - little balls of almond and vanilla yumminess that are coated with powdered sugar after they're baked. These are hard to resist too, but the recipe doesn't make that many so I had to exercise great will power.

Right about this time my feet began to ache very badly, so it was time to clean up and relax. L said I snored gently as soon as I put my head down. (Is there a delicate way to snore gently??)I was pretty tired. Even L said his legs were sore the next day from standing so much! We're used to sitting at desks all day so we're kind of delicate when it comes to standing on our sticks for any length of time. We should work on that, I guess.

On Sunday I got up extra early and made 2 more batches of cookie dough: more jam thumbprint dough, and a chocolate peppermint dough that you dip in white chocolate once they're baked. Then I went to church. I noticed that I smelled like cookie dough. It kind of made me sick. Too much sugar, if there is such a thing.

We made the extra batch of jam thumbprints, but the chocolate dough remains in the fridge for another day. The recipe is intimidating, so I'm kind of circling it for now, hoping the dough doesn't go bad while I work up my courage. It's the kind of thing where you have to roll it out, freeze it, cut the shapes, freeze it again, then bake, then dip in chocolate. It's a lot to think about all in one day.
Christmas Tree Closeup of Kiddie Tree &Tabletop View



But even with the cookies we've already made, we have enough to eat and enough to give. The perfect amount. And my house is decorated, presents are bought and wrapped. I think I'm ready. And just in the nick of time!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Ramblings

This weekend it rained. And rained. And rained. It was raining Friday night, and still raining on Saturday morning when I went out. On my way home it was raining harder still. I worked most of the afternoon on a project I'm painting for a gift. I painted for four hours straight while I listened to the rain pound down. That is probably the longest time I've spent just painting in quite awhile. I loved it. When I first started this project I was scared. I am so out of practice painting anything. What made me think that this would turn out at all? But it had to. I had promised it to someone. There were some shakey beginnings, and some do-overs. But gradually I've gained some confidence back. I'm starting to remember which brushes are my favorites, and I'm getting less shakey at lettering. Awesome. I'm almost finished, and I can honestly say I'm proud of the effort. If I were to do the same project again, there are a few things I would do differently, or in a different order to make it easier. But I'm satisfied. I'm happy with this effort. And I've had such a good time remembering how to paint. Thanks to my husband, I now have a beautiful room where I can spread out, make a mess, and be creative. Instead of watching TV every night, I can come in here and do something that makes my soul feel peaceful and satisfied. I can learn and grow. I don't know how to put into words how much I love this room, and how much I love being able to get my creative juices flowing again.
One thing I've noticed, however, is how easy it is to feel inferior - to doubt my abilities, and to be afraid to try. Once I start a project, I seem to be able to gain the momentum I need, but oh, how hard it is to start sometimes! I circled this particular project for weeks before I was able to start it. I could see it all in my head, but I was so afraid that I wouldn't be able to do it after all my brave talk.

I think we, as women, do this to ourselves a lot. We're afraid we won't measure up, that our result will be inferior, or even ridiculous. One thing I do a lot is picture people I haven't met, or things I haven't yet seen on a much grander scale than they really are. I'm completely intimidated before I'm even out of the gate. And because I do this a lot, I'm slowly learning that most people are people pretty much like myself, and not intimidating at all. Friendly, likeable. And usually, they even like me.

New situations are likewise usually very friendly and easily handled. Why is it that we so often talk ourselves into thinking that other people are so much more talented than we are? That they have so much more to offer, that they are better cooks, or that the color they pick out for their walls is so much more creative than what we would have picked out, that the cookies they bake will be softer and tastier than those we'll bake? And, (to carry it a step further) even if that were the case, why do we think it even matters? A plate of cookies from someone is a welcome joy, whether they look like they're professionally decorated, or whether they look like a 5 year old decorated them. What matters is that someone thought to give them. To YOU. That is what we need to remember. No matter what our gift or offering or talent, sharing it with others is important. Not only does it bring happiness to those we share it with, it lets our hearts grow as well. Case in point: I play the piano in Primary, in singing time for kids ages 4 through 11. I was not thankful to get this calling. I have not been particularly thankful that I can play the piano, period. Mostly, this is all I am ever asked to do. So when I was asked to do it this latest time, I wasn't happy. When I was younger, the pianist in Primary was always an older woman who was slightly less active at church. And now, here I am, that older woman with a complex that I am someone like that less active sister - someone they don't know what else to do with.

I pouted through the first few months, but lately I've taken to remembering my patriarchal blessing in which I was told that I should share my talents willingly. And I certainly wasn't doing that. So lately I've tried to be better. I'm trying to be an outstanding pianist. Give those four year olds their money's worth, so to speak. Learn their names, be more involved. In the process, I've been more happy to be there. And hopefully I've been less cranky and more likeable. When I started, I felt like the only "older" person in the room, and I was letting that make me feel inferior and intimidated. Out of place.

I was talking to someone a couple of days ago, and she expressed the same kind of feelings of inferiority. Hers may have been related to different things, but in the end it affects us the same: it cripples us, and inhibits our ability to give our best selves. It prevents us from reaching our goals, and keeps us from learning and growing. Pride and insecurity go hand in hand, and neither one have any place in our lives for longer than the second it takes to banish them from our thoughts.

And while we're banishing them from our own lives, why not take every opportunity to banish them from someone elses? Give compliments freely. Give them away with reckless abandon. There have been many times when I've been afraid to compliment a total stranger on their cute haircut, or their great service, or their pretty smile - afraid they'd think I was wierd or goofy. But one thing I've found is that there's virtually no one who doesn't need and/or enjoy compliments. We all have bad days, we all need our egos stroked, and our confidence bolstered. It's a simple little pleasure that costs us nothing to give, and the benefits are HUGE. We are here on earth to help each other through our time here. To pick each other up, to show love and encouragement for efforts made, to applaud successes. We won't make it alone. We do need each other. Give others your gift. Be it humble or grand, a gift is wonderful just in the giving.

I hope you're each one having a wonderful Christmas season so far. Be happy with the things you do, and with the unique person that is you. Because there is no one quite like you anywhere else. A precious gift, indeed.

This post is made in grateful thanks to Sister Glenna G., who is always generous when gifting others with her wonderful compliments. She inspires me through her actions, as well as her lovely words. I always feel amazing and capable after a conversation with Glenna, as well as very lucky to know her.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Tree Lighting


This was the Christmas decorating weekend. We spent it dragging dusty old boxes in from the garage, setting up the tree, stringing lights (our tree predates the pre-lit ones unfortunately...), hanging ornaments, and swagging garland. The living room tree is a glorious combination of gold and purple and twinkling lights. This year Scott came over and helped me with the high parts. I really enjoyed that, and the tree is so pretty.
We have one tabletop tree in the kitchen sitting on top of a sideboard. I hang every little kiddie and old ornament I have on that one. Lots of handmade ornaments and decorations, all with special stories attached. By the time I'm finished it's packed solid with old memories, shiny glittery stars, and egg carton and pipe cleaner bells made through the years by my kids in school. I love that tree. It's pure nostalgia every year as I decorate it. One of my favorite old ornaments is an "eye of God" - you know those diamond shaped stick things that are wound round and round with yarn. My oldest son made it in kindergarten, only about 1/3 of the way through it, it looks like he lost his focus, and threw caution (and yarn) to the winds. It's more like an "eye of the hurricane", and I love it - it's so Rex Does An Art Project.
It always surprises me how long it takes to get everything out and place it around. Some things always go the same way, but others seem to be repurposed every year, but that's what keeps it fresh. This year, we wanted a wreath on the front door. The premade ones we saw that we liked were all in the $80 range and up, so I decided to make one (see picture above). I think it turned out just right, and it cheers me up every time I see the front door. After poking myself with wire several times, I started to get the vision of why someone would charge $80 for a wreath, but my fingers are healing, we have a gorgeous wreath, and I made it myself! I'm a satisfied customer.
The house is festive, (is there anything more magical than a dark room lit only by the glowing lights on the Christmas tree? Heaven...) my shopping is almost done (key word being "almost"), and so now starts the wrapping frenzy. I like to wrap gifts, I really do. But after I've wrapped five or six, its gets a little tiring, (and boring) so I need to pace myself. I have one gift I'm painting, and so I paint a little on that, and then I wrap a little. Plus I need to make sure I get some physical activity worked in somewhere - I can't sit all day at work, and then come home and sit some more. I mean, I could, but I can't. My joints will freeze up like the Tin Man.
Its raining really hard today. I wish I was at home so I could hear it. But more than that, I wish I was home so I didn't have to drive in it. PJ's sound so good right about now, and I'm wondering if I can discipline myself to do yoga instead of going out in the rain to the gym. Hmmm - do you think baking cookies qualifies as aerobic activity? No, probably not. I mean, there's bending and stretching to get them in and out of the oven, but there'll be eating too. I'm pretty sure that trumps any aerobic benefit.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bring On The Christmas Traditions

Wow - it's Christmas time already. This year was so jam-packed it just flew by! I just barely got out the Thanksgiving decorations in time for that holiday, and it's already time to start dragging out the Christmas things. I brought in a couple of items and then I got paralyzed. I have so many ideas floating around in my head (because I never seem to decorate exactly the same way twice) that I'm not sure where to start. And the gift wrapping - that's taken on a life of it's own! I have a mountain of gifts waiting to be wrapped -some need to go far away so I really do need to get cracking.
Baking. Every year I feel so ambitious in the baking department, and every year I seem to end up making the same things. And not enough of them. This year it would be nice to expand the repertoire and/or make more of the others. What are your favorite holiday treats?

On Christmas Eve we'll have Rex, Ronna, and the grandkiddies. Actually they'll be here for a couple of weeks. I'm trying to think of fun things to do - either generally speaking, or on Christmas Eve. Last year was our first year of doing Christmas Eve solo - with just our kids and grandkids and no aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. The kids are still small, and there will be only two of them, so a Nativity enactment is out. What else do you all do on Christmas Eve (or throughout the season) that is fun and makes memories?

I love to hear about other people's traditions, and am always looking for something we can adapt to our family here. Up until now, ours have pretty much centered around a sugarfest of Christmas treats, and some wassail or hot chocolate. Treats are good, but I was hoping to come up with something a little more memory-making - or maybe ya'll are no more creative than I am? (No - I'm sure you are. Don't disappoint me, now!)

As the Christmas season gets in full swing, and I'm wrapping and painting and shopping and baking and trying to spread Christmas cheer, I hope you'll give me a little peek into your holiday traditions. What is fun, and works for you and your family?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy BirthdayTo The Cute Boy I Live With

It was LaMar's birthday on Friday the 27th, and I feel compelled to tell all of you that I really won the prize with this man. (He would say he's the booby prize, but no - he is the blue ribbon and gold cup rolled into one) Life is good with him. I am taken care of, and in turn, he lets me take care of him. I won't say he's perfect, but really - who is? I think I can handle the fact that he always knows the price per pound of chicken in the grocery store, and he likes to comparison shop on the internet. He, in fact, never forgets the price of anything, which can drive me a little crazy. (Me, who can't remember what I paid for anything, ever. Numbers are soooo abstract.)

It has become a source of endearment to me. I can always count on him knowing the best store to buy produce at, or where to find an i-Pod or i-Phone at the cheapest price. When he's been under the weather and is on the mend, I'll ask him how he's' feeling. It's never "so much better" or "a little better" - it's something like "I feel 85% better." I've never been able figure out how he quanitifies the amount of betterness he feels, but I can't remember the price of chicken either.

We shopped for a new suit for his birthday - his request. We found two that he looked incredibly handsome in, and so we got them both. Merry Christmas too - and that is OK with him. From there we went to Target and did some Christmas shopping for - well, for all kinds of people. I'm not giving any hints. We went home, unloaded our loot, cleaned up a bit, and then went to Maggiano's for dinner. My treat. Pasta, chopped salad, and the most delicious fried zucchini I've ever had. We walked around South Coast Plaza to work off dinner a bit. LaMar treated me to a new Christmas bauble at Villeroy & Boch - a little china gingerbread house that glows when you light the candle inside. On his birthday.

When we got home, he came in to rub my feet on his birthday, because he was worried that the shopping had made them sore. Yep, my friends - I really did win the prize, the gold ring, the whole enchilada with this one. He is my soul mate - my quirky quirky soul mate. Two monkeys - that's us. And I couldn't be happier.
Happy Birthday, LaMar! I love you!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! We finally got smart this year, and made the side dishes(mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing) the night before so all we had to do today was pop the turkey in the oven, bake the stuffing, and make a really good hot crab dip for an appetizer. L and I cleaned everything up as we went, and it was surprising how quickly we had the kitchen cleaned up!

It was so good to have Scott, my Aunt Margie, and my grandma all at the table with us. My grandma was walking really well, had a great appetite (what else is new?), and we had bright and lively conversation all through dinner. Last year, Grandma had a little nap between dinner and pie. Not this year. She stayed at the table, and talked to us while we cleaned up the dinner dishes. I got my laptop and showed her pictures of little Hayden, and also ones of Mia, Lexi, and Matthew that she hadn't seen yet. She seemed to get a second wind, and started casting her eye about for the whereabouts of the pies. She had apple AND pumpkin. I can't figure out where she puts it. I ate about half as much as her, and I am groaning.

All in all, what a beautiful day! 80 degrees on Thanksgiving - it doesn't get nicer than that. We even had the A/C going! And we had Scott all to ourselves, so we asked him a million questions about Ashley, and his job, and his future plans. Poor guy didn't stand a chance against us three girls - LaMar was the only one who respected his privacy. I suppose someone has to be mannerly.

I hope you all enjoyed good food and conversation in the company of family and friends. I'm grateful for all of our family members both near and far, and for the privilege of spending another holiday with my aunt and grandmother - two great ladies. May you all feel the love and blessings of family and friends throughout the holiday season, and be thankful each day for this wonderful country we're fortunate enough to live in.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving & The (Shy) Drama Queen

I had a weekend that was filled with inward gazing. I'd attended an event early on that left me feeling nothing but inadequate. It was supposed to be a happy occasion, but it wasn't for me. All I could feel was (dare I say it?) jealousy. I don't think the person in question has any idea the depth of my feelings, or how inconsequential she makes me feel, and happily she doesn't read blogs. (She once told me she was way too busy to bother with them after I was talking about mine. Sweet.) But she is everything I am not: thin, accomplished, assertive, thin, organized, disciplined, and... did I say thin?
Once upon a time there were two girls in the family who played piano. One was really confident and assertive about it, and so the other one just sort of let the talent fade away into the background. You can guess which one I am. The other one had a birthday party on Friday and invited about 100 people to perform for. For her birthday. On her new Steinway. On my best day, I would never have thought to do that, but you know what? It was really really nice. She did a beautiful job, and the party and the entire occasion was lovely. And I was miserable. Why? Because at times I'd like to have that kind of confidence - that self assurance. And, quite frankly, that many friends that would indulge me.
So, I went home feeling bad, feeling angry, but most of all feeling like I'd done nothing of worth in my life. I'm a thinker, and so I thought and thought and thought about why I was so resentful. It certainly wasnt' HER fault. It was all me. I mean, would I really want to be her? She is accomplished, yes, and has a lot of material things, yes. But I am accomplished as well, and I have nice things that I love, too. She is driven - I am not. I am relaxed. I sleep well at night. I don't usually toss and turn. I don't drive people crazy pushing them. With me it's sort of que sera sera. But then when I don't get all the lights and attention, I get sulky. The real truth is, it wouldn't hurt me to be more driven, just as it wouldn't hurt her to relax a little bit. Moderation is a good thing. But we are who we are, and somehow we need to learn when to be satisfied with that, and when we need to improve and step it up a notch.
I said many prayers about it, hoping to get some kind of enlightenment, some kind of something that would help me feel a little better about my meager contributions to the world. About how I yearn for attention and then when I get it I want to turn around and hide. Ego is a funny thing: so fragile, yet so easily bolstered. And this is what I want to stress - Heavenly Father totally understands that. He knows we struggle, and He knows our weak spots, and He knows when our hearts hurt. And - He knows when we're trying to learn something about ourselves so we can grow and move on. And so, while I was sitting at the piano (how ironic) in Primary, sweet Lori asked about my daughter and how she was doing with the new baby. And then she smiled and said "She was one of my Young Women, you know. She is such a happy girl - one of my favorites." And you know - the sun just came out. I was handed a gift. I felt like I'd done my part in giving the world the happy girl that is my daughter. And it gave me joy and confidence. So thank you, Lori, for your comments. You never know what small little thing you say will mean the world to someone in that moment. I am thankful for you, and I'll go even further. I'm thankful for your two boys, who are always willing and available to help anyone who needs a hand. Job well done on your part. And so we pay it forward. We are thankful for the blessings we've been given, and we do our best to pass it on. And that's what Thanksgiving is all about.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day (apologies to Judith Viorst)

Today is a terrible horrible no good very bad day. I got out of bed at 5:30 am and my muscles still hurt from falling down last week. Only today, my hand was a little swollen because I forgot to inject myself with Enbrel on Sunday. It was going to be a terrible horrible no good very bad day.
L had to go to work early, so I had to make my own eggs for breakfast. I thought I had plenty of time, but when I finished I could see I was going to be a little late. I am time impaired.
When I got dressed, the sparkly jeweled buttons on my sweater had a hard time getting into the buttonholes just right. They kept snagging on the sweater part. Finally, I thought I had it, but when I looked in the mirror, one of the buttons was snagged on the buttonhole, but was not attached to the sweater anymore. It was going to be a terrible horrible no good very bad day.
I tried to find another outfit to wear in a hurry, but either I had the wrong color bra on (black) or I looked fat. Finally, I had to settle for fat, because I was really out of time. I don't like what I'm wearing today. My belly looks fat, but how could that be, when I lost 1 1/2 pounds since yesterday? *sigh*
I walked fast down to the car and remembered that I'd forgotten to get gas last night. Now I was really going to be late. It was a terrible horrible no good very bad day.
I drove about a million miles per hour to the gas station and filled up. When I got on the freeway, I got stuck behind a slow truck. I signalled to go into the next lane, and realized about 5 miles down the road that I had forgotten to turn off the turn indicator, and now I was one of those annoying people who go down the freeway signalling aimlessly.
I finally got to work in one piece, but I just got back from the restroom where the lighting always makes you look tired. I caught sight of myself in the (of course) wall size mirror and noticed that my thighs look chunky and my sweater has bulges that have nothing to do with a chunky knit and everything to do with pumpkin pie. I said out loud "This looks terrible" and then I realized there was someone else in the restroom with me. I hid in the stall until she left.
I am getting a headache behind my eyes because I think this bad outfit is messing with my immune system. It is a terrible horrible no good very bad day.
But at least I can go home in a little while and be with L. He always makes me feel better.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Beauty Tip Monday


Here's a product I really like. I was introduced to this by a facialist, and it's great stuff - especially if you have sensitive skin. It's Eve Taylor Facial Oil - that's right, OIL. If you have oily skin, this could be all you need. I pat a small amount on after cleansing, and then put moisturizer over it. It calms down little rashy areas, DOES NOT give you zits, and won't irritate your skin. I gave some to a friend of mine who has eczema, and it calmed her skin right down. You might think it would make your skin greasy, but it doesn't - just nicely hydrated.

I buy it here via mail order. (I love it when the products come to me, rather than having to go out and get them.) But if you Google it, you can probably find something close to you.

It comes in several formulas (Normal, problem, delicate, sensitive, and mature) but my favorite is still the one formulated for sensitive skin. It's made from pure oils, and smells wonderful - no junk in this product - and one bottle will last for several months. And let's face it - the price is right. I don't often find products that I like well enough to purchase over and over again, but this is one of them. Let me know if you try it and like it. If you try it and don't like it, you can forget I mentioned it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Table For My Cave

I'm sitting at my new desk tonight. Yes, L finished it for me last week, and installed it. I was waiting for the varnish to be totally dry, but today I couldn't wait any longer. I love this desk. It's so big and roomy. So far I only have my laptop on it, but just wait - it will fill up. (L helped me style the picture up with flowers, etc, so it would look nicer) I want to go to the Container Store and get all of those clever containers and doodads to store ribbon and art supplies in so they are easily accessible. What a treat this is going to be! Here are some pictures of the finish (berry red stain and black antiquing) and a detail of the legs:
























Ankle update: Still swollen and bruised, although not really sore. I had a pedi today, and it was fine. I shunned the hot oil treatment (not that my tootsies couldn't use it) because I didn't think all the swelling would appreciate a hot towel wrapped around it. Maybe next time. I didn't use the ankle wraps today as I was just going around town, but next time L and I go out to walk the trails and avenues of Yorba Linda, I will have those ankles wrapped up tighter than a drum. I do NOT wish to repeat last week's trick - I'm not sure I'd have ankles left if I did. As it stands now, they're looking more like cankles, and my swollen left foot looks like a Flintstone foot. But at least I can wear shoes other than flip flops now - just in time for Sunday! (Can I wear Uggs to church?)















It was cool and crisp today - perfect fall weather! I'm going to sit down, leaf through recipes, and come up with a Thanksgiving menu. Did I tell you? My grandma and Aunt Margie are coming for Thanksgiving dinner, and Grandma says she'll bring the pies.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Babies and Gimps

First things first: Baby Hayden is officially out of the woods. She is breathing well on her own, and the tube draining her lungs (or whatever) is out. She was taking a bottle, and I believe today was the first day Katie was able to nurse her. Good news indeed! Katie has some wonderful friends in Puerto Rico, who are so supportive and have organized a carpool to pick her up twice a day and take her to the hospital and back so she can hold and feed Hayden. Isn't that nice? I don't think you could find better friends, or a better ward anywhere!

Now about me: On Tuesday night, L and I set out for our usual walk. I was feeling pretty good because we were actually going earlier than usual, and that meant we were ahead of schedule. We parked in the church parking lot and were headed across the street to where the trail starts. It was pretty dark, and L had just said that he'd forgotten the flashlight. I answered that we'd be all right without it. And with those words I stepped on an uneven patch, my left ankle went over hard, and I totally boofed it on the ground before I could catch myself. I grabbed my ankle, said some bad words (right across from the church!!!) and started crying. L, meanwhile, kept circling me, wondering how to pick me up. I mean, I bit it HARD. I finally got up (with help) and was able to walk back to the car, where a huge egg was forming on my left ankle. Honestly, I thought I could walk it off until I saw the swelling. We got home, and I walked in and upstairs under my own steam and L put an icepack on my ankle.
A little while later I thought I should get up and wash my face, brush my teeth, etc and OH. MY. GOSH. I couldn't even put weight on that left foot. That's when I got a little hysterical, and I probably needed a little slap to snap me out of it, but L is way too nice for that. He just sighs patiently in that way, and then it makes me be quiet. So he got me back to the bed, and he had to bring me everything to wash my face and moisturize. It would have been funny to watch him trying to figure out just the right product or cream to bring me had I not been so mad at myself. He was trying really really hard. And because he was so nice I was determined to not wake him up in the night when I had to go to the bathroom. Three times. Instead, my friends, I crawled. Three times. There's a real drawback to drinking lots of water sometimes.
On Wednesday I thought I should stay home from work, even though the swelling was way down. I took Ibuprofin all day, kept the ankle elevated and wrapped, and finished The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, and my new Lucky magazine. By the end of the day, I was able to walk around with only a slight limp. But when I took off the wrap, it revealed an ankle that is still very swollen and VERY bruised. Not to mention ugly. Oddly enough, it doesn't hurt a lot. What hurts is my whole left side, which, I assume, took the brunt of the fall. (I can't remember.) I'm all achey and it hurts to take deep breath. But since even that is getting better, I assume no ribs were broken - just my pride.
L came home, cooked dinner, made a pumpkin pie (!!), showed me the English Toffee he'd purchased from a co-worker's kid, and the Kettle Corn he'd gotten at Trader Joe's. After dinner we headed upstairs to watch a movie. I was settled on the bed in my undies and a pair of black Halloween socks with orange jack o' lanterns on them. My feet were cold, and I was just lounging. (Sorry for the visual, but it's tantamount to the story) L came in, looked at me in all my glory, and kind of chuckled. I was embarrassed and started to apologize for looking like such a dork. He came over to the bed and said "No, no - that's the beautiful part of marriage. You can be however you want, and its OK." Now you can see why I love this man. He loves me in my undies and Halloween socks in November, and thinks I am beautiful. AND he makes pumpkin pie on a whim. Not only that, but he shared English Toffee with me, and then a small bowl of Kettle Corn. We watched our movie, had treats, and then we pulled the covers over ourselves, snuggled, and went to sleep. As I drifted off, I thought about what a lucky girl I am to be married to this man who loves me in funky socks with a gimpy ankle.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Puerto Rican Angst

She's in the bubble, she's out of the bubble... I can't keep up from so many thousands of miles away. I got a call from Katie this morning saying Hayden was doing well, she was out of the oxygen bubble, and she was going to be able to hold her.. Hallelujah - all is well. I could hear the happiness in her voice as she thought about cuddling her sweet baby at last. 30 minutes later, I picked up the phone as I was heading out the door, and all I could hear were tears. Hayden was back in the bubble, and so no holding. We spoke for a few minutes, while I clumsily tried to calm Katie down. An aide came with her lunch so she hung up.
Once at work I spoke with one of the girls I work with who had once worked in a NICU. She told me that pneumonia can happen when babies aspirate the amniotic fluid during delivery, and that antibiotics will do the trick within a week. We just need to be patient. In the meantime, Katie was able to go to the nursery and change Hayden's diaper and spend some more time with her. She was more calm and focused.
I'm not good in these situations. I fluctuate between confidence and almost impatience with the stress others are feeling, and then I get this terrible fear that just because nothing horrible has ever happened to me or around me, doesn't mean that nothing ever will. I get frightened that because I'm not treating the situation with proper fear that THIS will be the time Horrible happens. And I start to wig out a little bit.
Luckily, I work with several good Voices of Reason, and have a few more as friends. They help me to attack the situation rationally. It's hard when your little girl (who has two little girls of her own) is so far away and there's not much I can do to help. All I could do today was sit there and listen and be late for work. Luckily I have an understanding boss, who was concerned and in my corner on this one.
So here, for your enjoyment, is a picture of Hayden. It's not much, and she's a little the worse for wear here in her space helmet- but isn't she just beautiful? I can't wait to get my hands on her and smooch those little cheeks. We'll post more later, after she's gussied up a bit.



Saturday, November 7, 2009

We Took A Slight Detour

This will be quick, as I don't have much to tell right now. Hayden Reece (still not sure whether it's "Reese" or "Reece" so I'll just spell it like I want to) was born this morning, November 7th by Caesarian section, and all went well. Katie is sore (understandably) but doing well otherwise.
Hayden has a full head of hair, I hear, and weighed 6 lbs can't remember the ounces (does that make me a terrible grandma?) and is 20 inches long.
About 2pm or so this afternoon (6pm or so in Puerto Rico), Zach called to say that Hayden was taken to ICU, as they didn't like that she was "breathing too fast." I have no idea what that means, and Zach didn't either. Katie is distraught. She was finally able to get her doctor to OK her to get in a wheelchair to go see her baby, and she was a little more calm after that. She told me that Hayden is very cute, looks a lot like Mia, but is different around the mouth. Bigger mouth? That wouldn't be hard - Mia has my little keyhole mouth.
So now we're still waiting to hear the results of any X-rays they take and/or tests they're running. Katie was tired when I last talked to her around 4:00 this afternoon. She was going to try and sleep, and I haven't had a call from her since. I'll call her again in the morning and see if they know any more. Katie's bishop and Zach gave little Hayden a blessing, so that made me feel better. We'll know more in the morning.
Mia seems to have the flu, and was running a temp of 103 this afternoon. She misses her mom and dad, but Katie's friend Nellie is taking good care of her. Tomorrow Momo arrives (Zach's mom) and life will get a little more organized. If you think of it, give this little family, and especially Hayden, a little shout out in your prayers. I'm sure everything will be fine. Right? Yes, it will be fine, but right now I'm regretting choosing to come later rather than now.
Until tomorrow -

Friday, November 6, 2009

Passings & Birthdays & Babies (oh my!)

Different kind of day today. My sister-in-law's father passed away last Sunday, and today was his memorial service. Jack was a character - and that's putting it mildly. But he was a character in a good way, an interesting way. He loved to organize and mobilize a room - definately a take charge kind of guy, and sometimes that could get to you a little bit. But oh, what a heart this man had - and such love for his family! The various speakers all gave a little bit of insight into this man- things that I hadn't known before, despite all the years I'd been pretty much related to him. His two grandsons (my nephews) gave tearful tributes that were so sweet to hear. Honestly, it made me look forward to the day when I can see him again - truly. If I had known he was so much fun, I might have put a little more effort into getting to know him better. And isn't that the saddest thing of all? Too bad we don't put that kind of effort into things while they're still here with us. I've come to the conclusion that the true value of funerals and memorial services is just that: they inspire us to fly higher, do better, be better. And today I was inspired by Jack and his valuable yet quirky time here on earth. I would like to have it said of me, as it was of Jack, that I was good hearted, generous, and gave selflessly to my family and others. But like Jack, I would also like people to find the fun in knowing me, to appreciate my quirks and eccentricities (and believe me, Jack was eccentric!). I would like to be seen as a bit unusual and out of the ordinary - a rare jewel, if that's not going too far. *sigh* I think I have a long way to go, and many many lessons to learn first. But I'm thoughtful tonight as I think about everything I saw and heard today. I'll try harder to be better, although my direction is often fuzzy, and it's difficult many times for me to have clarity. But I will try.

It was my dad's birthday today as well. He kind of got robbed, but I don't think he minded too much. He's not as worldly as I am, and so he set aside his birthday today to celebrate Jack's life instead. My dad is kind of an amazing guy. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. His mathematical abilities are astounding. I must have been a sore disappointment to him because from Algebra forward I was completely baffled by mathematics. Just too abstract for me. But he is tone deaf and can't hear notes properly, so maybe we're even. My dad is a legendary baby lover, and fun attraction for small children. He loves to take the little ones on walks to see what they can see. My own kids have memories of little hikes with him. He is generous and kind (although completely, unintentionally tactless). He has been good to me my whole life, even though there were times when I didn't deserve it. So Happy Birthday, Dad! We will celebrate tomorrow, and share some cake with you. I love you.

Another big event for our family tomorrow: our fourth grandkiddie will be born tomorrow morning. Katie is going in for a C-Section at 7am tomorrow. Puerto Rico is 4 hours ahead of us here in California, so by the time I'm waking up, little baby girl will be born. I know what her name will be, but I'll wait for Katie to announce it - that's only fair. We're all wondering whether she'll be a bald baby, or whether she'll come out looking like she's wearing a bad wig like her sister Mia did.
Will she have pale skin, or will she have skin that tans like Mia? (Since they're under the brutally hot son most of the time in Puerto Rico, I'm voting for the tan skin - but either is lovely.) Mia has beautiful golden curls. Maybe Baby will have silky straight hair. Tomorrow we'll know, and tonight I'm just praying that all goes well tomorrow for my baby, Katie. I will come back and report.


Mia then and...

Mia now.

Baby Sister? To be determined....

Sunday, November 1, 2009

No Kids at Halloween...More Chocolate for Me!

Yay! We finally got the new cabinet installed in the living room this weekend! (I'm using the old one temporarily in my office for much needed storage!) We're still kind of getting used to it, but it really warms up the room.

Other than furniture moving, our weekend consisted of antiquing my project tabletop on Saturday morning. It was kind of a deep claret red, and I mixed up black oil paint and paint thinner and slathered it all over it. Scarey... and thenI rubbed it off like a madwoman. I had to add and subtract a couple of times before I got it right. Now, the center of it glows red and fades to black on the edges. I can't wait to get it varnished - that always makes the layers of color come out and kind of glow. I'll post pictures when it gets more photogenic. For now, here are a couple of the new cabinet:







Aren't the handles AWESOME?!? So beefy and rustic.
After the antiquing frenzy, we cleaned up and headed to the movies: Amelia. Go see it. Amelia Earhart's story is intriguing, and the movie didn't disappoint. Beautifully filmed, and Hillary Swank was good and looked just like her.

We got out early enough to go and catch a quick dinner down in Costa Mesa - right next to one of our favorite stores, and they were having a 50% off sale on all Halloween items. Woo hoo!! So, we stocked up with some really cute things before going to dinner. A shame that we only got to enjoy them for the one evening, but what fun they'll be to pull out next year! We chose an orange silk table runner embroidered with sparkly spider webs and trimmed with black feathers at each end. Also, a cute black metal lantern detailed with jack o'lanterns, black cats, and bats and a spooky poem that glows eerily when a candle is placed inside. We also picked up a dozen ceramic eyeballs for our Halloween spooky jar. Next year, a dozen more.

We rushed back for the trick or treaters, but were a little disappointed that we had so few this year. Oh well, our house was decked out, and for the few that came, we handed out great handfuls of candy. Honestly, did other neighborhoods experience a lack of kids this year? We had to go out around 8:00, and there were hardly any kids out at all. Our neighborhood typically gets very few - it's a little isolated and tucked away - but this year was very sparse. I was wondering if parents would rather their kids go to parties rather than roam neighborhoods in the dark these days. I think I might, if I had it to do over again. A shame - I remember Halloween night being one of the most exciting nights of the year. One year (I was quite small) my dad sent me up to a house while he waited with the other dads by the street. There was something on the porch covered in white. When we rang the doorbell and yelled "Trick or Treat!" the thing on the porch came to life with a huge roar - it was a vacuum cleaner covered with a sheet to look like a ghost, and when the kids came to the door, the people would turn the vacuum on. All I remember is running as fast as I could back to my dad, and the man in the house chasing after me saying "Come back sweetheart - I'm sorry! It's okay!" That is still one one of my most vivid memories - that, and the birthday clown chasing me across the yard. But that's a story for another day.

I hope you all had a wonderful, fun, and safe Halloween. And now the holidays are upon us. But I want to take a moment and say a big "Happy Anniversary" to Rex and Ronna - their 7th. Between 7th anniversaries, and a new granddaughter due to be born in a week,on the 9th, I truly have much to be thankful for these days. Life is good.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Make Pies Not War

Very crazy day today - at work it's our Quarter End. A last mad dash to collect all PO's and possible revenue in the hectic effort to make plan. It's been a day of phone calls, spreadsheet reading, projecting, and desperate hoping. In the spirit of comradery, my boss offered to go get Olga and I the lunch our our choice. Good thing too - here is what was facing us in the kitchen:
Nothing like a choice between a healthy little green apple and chocolate or yellow cupcakes... He brought us lovely salads from Panera - brought us back to life, I tell you!

Today is also the day before Halloween, and we like to dress up a little bit. We are a sales office for a global company, so we don't get too silly, and we definately wanted to be comfortable today with all of the concentrating and work we had to do, so we compromised on dressing up like our clinical specialists who implant and check the pacemakers and defibrillators, and we wore comfy, comfy scrubs. All I can say is this: if you see us coming, hide your patients!
L had a bake sale at his work today. It's a yearly event to support a chosen charity. L has never participated before, but he was inspired by the pocket pies in the previous post, and wanted to make them. I took this to mean that he wanted to make them. I was wrong. He wanted me to make them. I'm ashamed to say that I behaved very badly last night while making them. I was tired, and my ankle was sore (because I'd worn heels that day) and the hour was getting later and later, and I was finding that not all prepared pie crusts doughs are the same. The dough I'd used the first time I tried it was Pillsbury (strongly recommend it - don't use anything else unless you're an expert pie maker, which I'm not), and the choice last night was from Trader Joe's. It was delicious crust, but soooooo hard to work with. I would cut the shape out, and the dough would shrink, and I was having a very hard time making it fit in the mold. I said many bad words, and was mean to L because he was just standing there looking helpless.
Then I started remembering all of the times that L had come to my rescue when he was probably tired, and helped me with some little project that needed his graphic arts skills. Too many times to mention, I might add. I repented. And so I calmed down and took a deep breath, and tried to sweetly say "Shall we make some more?" And so we did, and they were cute (most of them) and very delicious (we ate one of the ugly ones). Then, this morning I made myself late for work, and went down and packed all of his little pies into Halloween cellophane bags, put tags on them that read "Apple Cranberry Pocket Pies", and packed them into a cute little jack o'lantern basket for him to tote to work. And guess what? They all sold in less than 15 minutes!! L was so proud, and I was happy that I'd helped him, but sad that I'd been a little mean about it. We're supposed to make little bite sized pumpkin pies this weekend as a trial run. We can use the remaining Trader Joe's dough, and I will be nice. I promise.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Pie in Each Hand...

L was gone all weekend visiting Andrew in Utah, so in between headaches (yes, I had a raging headache both Friday night AND Sunday - what is wrong with me??) I baked little pocket pies. I first saw the *equipment* (if you want to call it that) in a Williams Sonoma catalog, and thought it looked fun. Basically it's a plastic dough cutter and crust crimper all in one handy tool. For good measure, I also got the recipe for their Apple Cranberry Pie off of the website.
Who can quickly shop in Williams Sonoma?? Not me. (The dishes, the specialty sauces and mixes, the bakeware!) Before I was done, I had the Pocket Pie mold, a bottle of Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup (for milk steamers and to pour on ice cream!), and was almost out-loud restraining myself from buying the Gingerbread Man set of mugs, spoons, and dessert plates. (Picturing the grandkiddies sipping hot chocolate out of them on Christmas Eve! Adorable!!) Normally I take L in there with me, and he's the watchdog. Soooo much harder being good when I'm alone.
I had to beat it out of the mall quickly, because I was meeting son Scott for a late lunch. We had Mexican food and tall Diet Cokes, and we laughed and talked and had a great time. I always have fun with Scott. After our lunch I was all set to go over to a friend's house and watch the Angel/Yankee game. I was so proud of myself for having something to do that night, and that's when Scott told me that the game had been rained out in New York. What the.....???

My sails deflated, I took myself home, and decided it was time to bake my little pocket pies. I peeled, cored, chopped and cooked those apples and added the gorgeous red cranberries that had been cooked down to a jelly. A little cinnamon, nutmeg, butter and vanilla later, it was the most delicious pie filling I've had in awhile. (Or maybe I'd just cooked up an appetite.)
I didn't take pictures of my own pies, but really - they turned out just like the Williams Sonoma pictures. Cute and delicious! (They have a pumpkin shape I'd like to try with pumpkin filling.)

But really - what am I going to do with 14 pocket pies, besides put myself in a sugar stupor? I'm going to give them away, that's what. I gave some away to my parents, some to my niece and newphew, and packed some up for VT.
I will definately make these again. Easy, delicious, and impossibly cute - you can't ask for more than that. And don't worry, L... I saved you some.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

BOO



See how cute our white pumpkins are? I love walking up to the house and seeing them. That's it. No big post. The pink flowers don't really say "Spooky" but what can you do? Maybe a little dry ice in the fountain on Halloween will help. Booyah!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Projects Both Arty and Human

The weekend went waaay too fast. So enjoyable, so fun, and so ordinary. The yellow armoire is finished and just waiting on some new door pulls. I could take a picture of it in the garage, but I think I'll wait until it's installed in the living room in all it's glory. Because its glorious. I love it. L stained my new table top, and it's a delicious deep berry red. Next weekend I'll antique it with black while L is in Utah visiting Andrew.
I spent probably an hour in a craft store just going up and down the aisles. I had a mental list, and that list grew at an alarming rate. My final purchase: 3 large white (plastic) pumpkins (60% off!), a wooden haunted house to paint, some "accessories" for the haunted house, a new little Halloween spooky thing for the front porch (50% off!) and paint for Ronna's Halloween platter. I was sorely tempted by bags of eyeball chocolates, and Peeps in the shape of bats, pumpkins, and ghosts, but I left them behind.
L and I had seen some white pumpkins in one of our favorite stores lettered in spooky print to spell out "Beware" or "Boo." They were very expensive, and I was very sad about that. So that's what I did with our 3 new pumpkins. L found a font called "Burton's Nightmare" that was perfect to trace on each pumpkin for a very spooky looking B-O-O. They look darling on the porch.
The rest of the afternoon, in between loads of wash, was spent working on Halloween fun. I just dove in and did all kinds of things, and before I knew it, darkness had fallen, L had finished his projects, and we realized we were hungry.
I'm starting to paint again! I'm starting to get my creative mojo going! I don't know where it went, and it had been gone for awhile. But it's back. I'm having fun, and I'm looking forward to each new project. I'm scaring myself a little bit, because I remember that feeling of being so inspired to start something, and yet a little afraid that ability had not caught up with creative genius. Yeah, well, sometimes that happens, but not often enough to discourage me. There is almost nothing so enjoyable as an afternoon spent being creative, no matter what your medium.
Next weekend will be a good time to be busy with it all. L will be away with Andrew. I'm not going this time, as it's a more serious father and son sort of visit. A kind of lets get our priorities straight sort of visit. Andrew is getting better. He's outgrowing his program, and is ready for friendships with people who are not mentally challenged. People who can help him stretch and grow, and heal. Unfortunately, he sometimes doesn't choose friends wisely, and this is the case now. But fortunately, he's also made some friends in higher places, like one amazing girl who's a student at BYU. For whatever reason, she's made Andrew her project. She tells him he needs to go to church, and she comes to get him to make sure he does. She tells him he'll feel better about himself if he goes. (And he did call us to tell us he'd gone to ALL THREE HOURS - that's big stuff for him right now.) She took him to the opera for one of her class assignments. (I would have loved to have witnessed that one!) She has been his guardian angel, as it were, and L and I are deeply grateful for her kindness. She is aware of his condition, but it hasn't stopped her from being a very good friend to him. See? There are some lovely people in the world. Angels on earth. And I'm quite sure they're put in our path to keep us from harm. So L is going to Utah next weekend to talk to Andrew about not settling for friends who bring us down, but to instead choose friends that edify and uplift. L didn't have a chance to be a full time dad when this young man was growing up. But it's a beautiful thing to see how much he's grown in his role of father when his son has needed him most.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Finishing Touches


I thought I'd share this Seattle panorama that L shot from our hotel room on our last night there. He took 3 different shots and then pieced them together for a panoramic view of the city lights. You can see the Space Needle way off in the distance. It was a gorgeous night, and a beautiful city.
Actually, I don't have anything much to go on about. Sure, we had our little rainstorm (all of LA was on STORMWATCH) but yesterday was 80+ degrees, and today its in the 90's. It's nuts. Two days ago I was wearing sweaters and boots, and today it's short sleeves and sandals. I was lucky enough to get my new soft top installed on the car before it started raining - that could have been bad. But everything is all snug and dry, and its nice going into fall knowing that I'm prepared for what little weather LA conjures up.
The weekend will be spent finishing projects. I've completed the painting on the yellow cabinet. L needs to beat up the remaining door and make it look old to match the rest of it. Then - we can varnish and attach the door handles and INSTALL in the living room. It was a good feeling to finish the painting on it last weekend.
We've also got another project going: my project table that will go in my project room/playroom. (The room is mostly for me and my projects, but when the grandkiddies are here, it will double as their playroom and movie room.) The base is built, stained black, varnished, and put together. The tabletop is all built, but needs to be stained, and I'm not quite satisfied with the stain color. So Saturday I'll be playing with two different stains to get just the right color. I'd like it to have a touch of red in it - so I'll be mixing some "Cabernet" stain into the other one. Then, finish it super high gloss - L thinks I'm nuts, but I have a vision! (Actually, I have a pair of red patent leather sandals that have a high gloss red/antiqued black base and heel. They're sort of my inspiration here - although maybe not so much red. Just wait - you'll see. It will be what you call an "accent piece.") He's built such a pretty table that I can't wait to get it finished. I have some Halloween painting to do, and thenI can get around to the Christmas projects! (And yes, Katie - your dresser, too...) It's been good to get back to painting - frustrating at times because I'm so out of practice, but I'm having such fun with it! When we have some completed furniture, I'll post some pictures. I think everything has turned out (so far) really well, and the good therapy provided during the hours of painting and woodworking have been priceless. I've always - since childhood - enjoyed working on a project of one kind or another - very soothing and satisfying to the soul. And when Mama's happy, everyone's happy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Trick or Treat...

When the weather turns chilly, does anyone else get the urge to cook and bake? (My house is so cold today - maybe that's why I want to turn on the oven!) But besides that, I find my thoughts wandering to Thanksgiving, and how to cook the turkey this year, what kind of stuffing, and if I bake a goodie, who can I share it with? (Seriously, I made chocolate cake last night, and it just keeps calling to me. I need to donate it to someone, and quickly!) I have some lemons in the fridge from a friend's tree, and all I can think about is lemon bars. Has anyone else made the lemon bars on Bakerella's site? They're the best I've ever made.
Well, you see where I am right now. The weather has turned cool, and rain is threatening. Because of that, I couldn't ignore the rip in my car's soft top anymore, so it's in the shop, and I'm working from home today. (I use the term "working" loosely.) I AM working, but intermittently, in between loads of laundry and thoughts of baking. And really - days in the actual office where the work is non-stop are rare. Thank goodness for that. Most days have a portion of time where there isn't much to do, so if I'm lucky enough to be home I can do other things too.

We got the Halloween paraphernalia out this weekend. The skeleton pirate is hung, the skull fence is installed, the spooky arch is wired up with lights. And inside, there's a bowlful of skulls, a glass filled with eyeballs, a couple of jack o'lanterns, and all manner of spooky decor. There are still treats to be bought - maybe tonight after we pick up the car and it's new top. Then all that will be missing are the grandkiddies to have fun with. That will have to be done from afar, and I'm trying to hatch some fun ideas to remind them that Mema is excited for Halloween too. What special traditions do you have with your grandkids (or with your grandma?) I've always had a grandma and mom close by, so I'm having a hard time coming up with fun things to do when distance is a factor.

No matter what you do, I hope you're all enjoying entering the most exciting season (from almost anyone's point of view) of the year. It's just one holiday with related family fun after another. This year, our family continues to stretch far and wide. We have Scott here (although his heart is in Florida), Andrew in Utah, Rex & Ronna & kids in Denver, Tim in NYC, and Katie & Zach & Mia (and almost Baby Girl) in Puerto Rico. Not to mention all of the parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and (the crowning jewel) my grandmother.

Wow - I'd better get busy. My holiday madness will be largely done on a long distance scale, so I'll have to do some careful planning - not my strong suit. (My strong suit? Last minute craziness, usually. Why do the best ideas always come to me in the 11th hour??) I just need to take one holiday at a time, and right now its Halloween. I will enjoy the crisp air, jack o'lanterns, and pumpkin patches. And some apple pie or cobbler baking never hurt anyone, either.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Meandering Through Seattle

We're home from Seattle, and right back into the thick of things. Why is it that the second you're back, it's like you never left - or even worse, because everything has piled up! I'm trying to relive the fun we had as I'm sitting at my desk at work today, trying to plow through piles of tasks and requests (and do a little catch-up blogging.) It helps relieve the stress a little bit. Because we did have fun - a lot of fun. It wasn't so much that we were on the go constantly - although we were. We saw beautiful coastline, thick dark forests, with ferns lushly growing everywhere, and berry bushes (blackberries?) springing up like weeds in every random spot imaginable.

It was more the adventure of seeing new sights, and tasting new foods with good friends, with my one true companion by my side. That's living, my friends. Whether we were hiking along the Puget Sound, wandering through a farmer's market, or cooking dinner to the sounds of Fleetwood Mac, every day was beautiful, and rich in memories.







I found that the area between Olympia and Seattle has a penchant for wierd signage, and funkiness that I found completely charming. You just wouldn't see things like this in my neck of the woods.



Pity really, as it was very entertaining.

But the food - oh, the food!! Seafood in fresh abundance, huge farmer's markets wherever we went, including the huge one on Pike in Seattle. Fresh fish, creamy buttery chowders, and the freshest fruits and vegetables - we spent hours browsing and buying. We were visiting my friend Marion, and her friend Joe. We all love to cook, and cook we did. One night LaMar whipped up his famous stuffed chicken, there was a salad with a medallion of broiled goat's cheese on top of each serving, Marion made her special fresh green beans, and for dessert I found the sweetest peaches ever and made a cobbler. We laughed, and cooked, and ate, and laughed some more. It was kind of like The Big Chill, only everyone was happy.
Marion and Joe took us on a mini hike (for them) along the Puget Sound and up into the forest. It was beautiful. I didn't last too long (not used the the uneven terrain, and my ankle started hurting) but it was wonderful to just walk and talk with my dear friend. The boys were walking behind discussing their sons and past Scouting days. The air was brisk, and everything everywhere was green.
One day, L and I took off for Aberdeen and the coast. The beach we ended up at allowed you to actually drive right onto the sand and up to the water's edge. There were bits of crab claws and shells scattered around, leftovers from the seagulls' meals. We drove along the coast road, taking random roads here and there, and found some beautiful photo ops along the way. We met up with Marion and Joe for dinner again that night, and they had a treat for us: they'd gone back to the farmer's market and brought home fresh clams. A short while later, we had fresh clams, steamed with onion and lemon and served with melted butter. LaMar made his now-famous (in our family) Halloween Soup. With good sourdough bread, a salad, and leftover peach cobbler, we had another feast! I love fresh clams...
On our last full day there, we spent it in Seattle with Marion. We took the "Duck Tour," which gave us a quick 1 1/2 hour tour of the city. There is so much to see, it was hard to take it all in. I loved the idea of living on one of the islands adjacent to Seattle, and taking the ferry back and forth. Probably a lot of work, but it's a romantic notion. We walked up and down, and finally ended up at the Pike Marketplace, where, again, we saw so much beautiful food. At one booth, they had fruit pasta and - get ready - CHOCOLATE pasta. Two of my favorite things all in the same noodle. I brought back four different bottles of vinegars (fig and blackberry!) and oils (truffle and chardonnay garlic). I'm excited to have the time to actually cook something wonderful with them! Maybe this weekend?

We stayed at the W Hotel the last night, and we had a clear shot of the Space Needle from the 21st floor - breathtaking! I can't wait to go back - although we never saw a drop of rain, and I was told that I hadn't really seen the "real" Seattle. (We saw a T-Shirt at the Pike Marketplace that read: Seattle Rain Festival: January 1 - December 31") I guess we got lucky, since our time there was short, but I really do want to go back. Mostly to see Marion - I miss talking to her, and her funny outlook on things. She is so comfortable to be around - it's relaxing to be with a friend who knows you so well that there's no point in being anyone but yourself. Those friends don't come around every day, you know. At least not in my life.

So there you have it - a whirlwind trip. A lot of fun packed into 2 travel days and 3 short vacation days. I try to keep the memories in mind as I once again struggle through work days followed by quick dinners and exercise routines, followed by (if I'm lucky) a good TV show or a book, and bed. Good friends, family, weekends, and getaways make the grind bearable!

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