Daily Affirmation

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

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013 - Gratitude and More

My last post of the year.  It's raining.  It's cold.  We had our bikes all loaded up to take a ride and the skies opened.  Rained like no tomorrow and it's still coming down.  Even heard a thunder clap or two.  I've been thinking about the new year coming up and what changes I'd like to make in my life.  I'm not a great one for making resolutions, but I do like to try to tweak things a little.  Strive for little improvements here and there.  In fact, there are so many areas for improvement that it gets a little overwhelming, so I try to just stick to one or two.
I think, overall, I'd like to be more grateful.  Gratitude for everything.  For the health I do enjoy.  Ignore the little twinges and swollen joints.  Be grateful that there is good help out there to take advantage of.  Be grateful that I can always continue to learn more about healthy living and healthy eating, and incorporate more of both into my life.  No whining that I can't do this, or can't do that.  Be happy that I have my bike, and a biking companion, and mostly blue skies to ride in.
You know what else I'm grateful for?  Good skin.  I know, it's a little thing, and not so very important in the big picture, but it's one less thing I have to stress about.  My mother is 82 and her skin glows.  I'm happy that I tend to take after her in that respect.  I'm learning to take better care of myself, and hopefully, at 82, my skin will glow like hers does.  I got one of those Clarisonic things for Christmas that clean your face with a soft brush, and this girl has NO clogged pores anywhere now!  And it does make you glow a little bit.  My mom gave me a tip to get some Vitamin E.  I did just that yesterday, and it really keeps the skin around your eyes soft and moisturized!  Who knew?  Goodbye, expensive eye creams!  Or, at least sayonara to most of them.
Those two things - health and good skin - are somewhat related.  It's hard to have one without the other.  So I'm thankful that I have an interest in keeping the status quo.  In continuing on with good habits, and learning better ones.
It almost goes without saying that I'm grateful for the awesome husband I have.  He supports me, loves me even when I'm ridiculous, and tries so hard to help me with everything.  He's taught me so much about love and being selfless - and he is far better at it than I am.  But I'm learning, and I try to do something each day that will make his life a little easier or more comfortable, or even just more delicious.
Ditto for the kids.  Each one brings something unique to the table.  Each one has their own special blend of awesome.  Andrew is sweet and easy to be around.  He never rocks the boat, he is never demanding.  He has health issues that are a worry, but he is a young man who doesn't like to be a bother.  You can do anything with him and he is fine with it.  Soothing is the word for Andrew.  The others are opinionated.  They are, each one, strong willed and outspoken.   They have strong spouses who are both delightful and determined in their personalities.  L and I are quiet by nature, and every so often the sheer force of their natures are a little overwhelming, but we wouldn't have it any other way.  They are people who know what they want, and they know how to get it.  I wish I'd had half of their confidence when I was their age.  I would have saved myself a lot of grief, I can tell you that.  So we're proud parents, and we wouldn't change a thing.  I'm grateful for the joy they bring into our lives, and for the pride I feel in the people they've become, and for the lessons they've taught me.  (Sooo many lessons and humbling experiences!)
And then there are the little ones.  Lexi and Mia are 6 and kind, and giggly - lovers of all princesses. Matthew is 5 and actively determined to figure out everything.  Hayden is also determined and announces that she is "a grumpy old troll girl" when things don't go her way (but she has her mother's husky laugh when life is good).  Skylee is 1 and busy learning about the world as only a 1 year old can.  I am so very grateful for each one.  Each one brings a smile and a joie de vive into my boring adult world, as only a small child can.  I always want to snuggle up to such innocence in the hopes that it will rub off like stardust on me, and I can take it home to brighten things up.
And then there are the hundreds and thousands of little miracles that occur each day and every day, all year long.  Those little happenings that we tend to brush off as "coincidences."  I'm not so sure, and in the coming year I want to try to be more aware and more grateful for them, as I'm pretty sure we are watched over more than we think - by angels of a sort, for lack of a better universal term.  I had a near disaster on Christmas Eve.  I'd made two pans of scalloped potatoes for dinner at my brother's house.  We had sliced the potatoes and put everything together in the pans, and all that was left was to pour warm cream over all of it, and pop them into the oven for an hour.  We were going to L's mom's house for an hour and just before leaving I yelled down to L to put them in the oven.  And off we went.  Just as we reached his mom's house (5 minutes away from ours) I had a sudden thought unrelated to anything I had been thinking about: I had forgotten to pour the cream over the potatoes.  I had to go back immediately and do that or they would have been ruined.  Now, you can say it was a coincidence, but I kind of like to think it was my Grandma gently reminding me.  She, who was a champion of family dinners, and serving others wouldn't have wanted my potatoes to be ruined.  I want to notice these things more, and also listen better to promptings I may receive to do for others.  We all get them, but they're easy to brush off, again, as silly ideas - things we may not be comfortable doing.  I want to rise to the occasion, put myself out of my comfort zone, and serve.  Make someone's day with a kind act, a kind word.  Maybe it's anonymous.  Even better.
So that's the kind of year I'd like to have.  Full of gratitude, health, family, friends and service to others. I've not always been good at all of these things, and certainly not all at the same time, and some of them are a stretch, for sure.  We don't always have all aspects under our control.  But as much as possible, I have to ask myself: why not me, and why not now?  Because if not now, never seems a likely possibility, and that would be a life wasted for sure.  Now is the time to try, to give it my best effort.  It starts today.

Happy New Year, everyone!  Wishing you all the best, and hoping that you, too, will discover the things that you need to do and accomplish, starting today.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sweetness of the Season

The big day is almost here.  The last three days have been a whirlwind of baking and wrapping and preparation.  There have been 3 types of cookies baked, 2 batches of banana bread (with macadamia nuts!) orange blueberry scones, and pumpkin cinnamon rolls made.  A batch of home made granola.  It's more baking than I do in a year.  And still, tomorrow, I have a large pan of scalloped potatoes and molasses biscuits to make and bake for Christmas Eve dinner with my family, plus Creme Brulee French Toast to prepare for Christmas morning.  Both yesterday and today I took a nap.  Had to.  I'm just not used to being on my feet that much, and for that long.  Much aspirin and Advil was consumed to ease my poor achey joints.  But I've enjoyed it all.  Every last cookie and baked good.  Every baking session working side by side with L - he rolled the cookie dough into balls, and I did the rest, either filling them with jam or topping the chocolate ones with crushed peppermint candy.  He was great moral support and enthusiastic helper.  And today he let me doze off while cuddled up watching "Miracle on 34th Street."  Sweet respite!
You would think that I would have eaten a ton of sweets with all of the baking, but strangely, being surrounded by that much sugar and butter totally dampened my desire for it.  I still haven't eaten one single cookie...
We all have our most cherished memories of each holiday, favorite vignettes, and number one quotes of the day.  These make up the stories of our lives and give us family traditions and tales that are retold year after year.
So far, my favorite quotes have been these:

Santa to Hayden: "What can Santa bring you this year?"
Hayden: "A present."

Santa to Mia: "And what would you like Santa to bring you?"
Mia: "You can surprise me."

Such simple and sweet expectations, and accompanied by one of the most charming Santa Claus images I've ever seen:

But the all-time award-winning quote of the Christmas season has to belong to my niece Emily's little girl:

"And they brought the baby gold, Frankenstein, and myrrh."  - Josie, age 4

I'm still laughing at that one.  Of course, this is the little girl who wants to marry Godzilla, so clearly, clearly there is a random streak somewhere in her brain.

Lastly, I saw this on a friend's Facebook page, and it kept me laughing, while reminding me to keep things simple.

May you all have a very Merry Christmas season with your families, friends, and loved ones.  Savor the memories, the glad tidings, whispered Christmas wishes, and the love.  Always the love.  And remember that it all started with the greatest gift of all - the birth of our Savior in a humble manger under Bethlehem's star.  Remember that most of all.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Christmas Wish

The Christmas season is ramping up.  Malls are hectic, and I've tried my best to avoid them.  And other than Target, I've succeeded in staying away from the confusion and jostling that take away (for me) the Christmas spirit.  I was lucky this year to be able to get my thoughts and gifts organized, ordered online, and either sent or received in plenty of time to be finished with my shopping by the first week in December.

L and I decked our halls last weekend.  We trimmed the tree, and it flowed together easily for a change.  L had wrapped the lights on the tree while I was still in Texas (yes, we are old school, and don't have a pre-wired tree) and so it's my job to hang everything else on it.  This usually culminates with frustration and mild obscenities when it comes time to do the top.  It's loosely made up of a large golden bow with long curly ends, 2 or 3 other long ribbon garlands, and then I loosely fit gilded branches and berries into the whole thing so it looks wild and unconstructed.  It's always a delicate balance getting those branches to stay put and at just such an angle, and normally I end up with bad words tripping off my tongue as I (almost) fall into the tree for the 10th time.  For some reason, this year it went together without a hitch.  Magical and beautiful, and I was thrilled that, for once, decorum had reigned supreme.  As with the tree, the rest of the downstairs went together with ease.  Where I usually struggle (and fail) to remember just how and where I'd placed things the previous year, this year everything seemed to know just the perfect place to be.  Sweet silent night.

I love my little dining table this year.  The beautiful wounded - and healed - reindeer and the jolly elf riding astride are the perfect centerpiece, set off beautifully by the glittered trees we'd already had.  It's a pity we won't be having Christmas Eve dinner at my house this year, but at least I can look at a beautifully appointed table every day.  In case you hadn't guessed we've been eating a lot in front of the TV this month - partly so the effect isn't ruined, and partly because the days have been so busy.  But come Christmas morning we'll have a gorgeous brunch at our festive table, and enjoy the whole effect.

The lovely new angel graces the mantle this year and is a perfect addition.  The room is fun to be in during the day with all of the bright and glittering ornaments, but at night it takes on a special look, with the twinkling glow of the tree lights reflecting off of the gold and sparkly items placed around the room.  It's warm and beautiful, and sets the stage perfectly for the true spirit of Christmas to abide.  Even L's train set and Christmas house seem to make me want to settle in and be cozy with family and friends.

Presents are wrapped, menus are planned, and the list of treats to be made is ready to be implemented.  This next week will be scented with gingerbread, cinnamon, and peppermint.  The kitchen will be warm and carols will be playing.  Our home will be warm and bright with Christmas spirit and peace, as I hope yours will be also.  In that vein, to steer our troubled hearts away from evil deeds and mayhem, and plant a seed of hope for good things to come, I offer you the following music for you to enjoy.  I'm a huge fan of John Schmidt and this is his latest offering for Christmas - and as luck would have it, it's one of my all time favorite pieces of Christmas music.  So peaceful, so majestic - it illustrates perfectly the wondrous miracle that occurred in that stable so many years ago.  It conjures up the bright star, the shepherds' wonder, the adoring wise men, and the amazing angel choirs singing to welcome the sweet baby in the manger who was the Savior of the world.  Whether you share my faith or not, this beautiful piece will settle your hearts and minds for a long winter's nap, and help restore your peace, sanity, and hope for a better world - my little gift to all of my blogging friends.  Merry Christmas to all -

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Back From Texas, Y'all...

Doesn't it seem like Thanksgiving was 6 months ago?  So old news.  I spent the past weekend in Austin, Texas visiting Scott and Ashley.  Can I just say I love Texas?  Granted, I've never been anywhere other than the Austin area, but I loved it.  The weather was beautiful, the locals were nice, and I had the best company all weekend.
Scott picked me up at the airport and we wound our way back to their apartment, waving a little hello to downtown Austin as we drove past.  It looked like a city I would like to go to.  Scott's apartment was great!  The apartment they had here in California was tiny (one bedroom) and had no storage space for anything.  It was next to a baseball field and not that far from a bad part of town, so their cars either got broken into (and totaled in the process) or balls from the field would smash their windshields.  No bueno.  Their new apartment is on the 2nd floor, and there are 2 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms, as well as a living room, dining area, a nice little kitchen, and a laundry room.  Yes folks, they are now the proud owners of their own washer and dryer!  Can you remember that milestone in your lives?  I certainly do.  It was a wonderful day when that happened.  Angels sang. No more laundromats, and random clothing articles mixed in with yours!
I also got to meet the new member of the family - this little guy:

His name is Kingsley, and he's one of the sweetest dogs I've ever had the pleasure to meet.  Apparently Texas is very dog friendly, and many restaurants have outside patio dining areas where you can take your dog with you.  And that's exactly what we did.  We went for barbecue and it was So.Good.  I chose a combo plate with brisket and turkey.  I have to admit that turkey wouldn't have been my first choice but I went with the waitress's recommendation and it was amazing.  Melted in your mouth.  It was all served with cole slaw, beans, potato salad and really good bread.  Yes, I know - many many carbs, but I was on vacation and I hadn't eaten all day.  So I enjoyed it.  We fed Kingsley little bits and he was a happy dog.
When we got back to the house, Ashley came home from work soon after.  So good to see her!  She just started a new job managing a beautiful flagship Sperry Topsider store in the Dominion shopping mall.  It's all outdoors - like walking down the streets of a beautiful little town, it is.  If you're in the area, you must stop into that store - I managed to bring a new pair of topsiders home with me - gray wool with brown leather trim.  Very, very cute.  And don't get me started on the baby and kid size shoes...
They gave me my own room to sleep in and I had one bathroom all to myself - heaven!  I slept well that night, and the next morning Scott and I went to breakfast at a little Mexican place in Austin.  Kind of hole in the wall, but everyone says you must eat breakfast there, and so we did.  And we were not sorry, either.  Apparently, deliciousness abounds in Texas.  After breakfast, some exercise was in order, so we picked up the Muff (I don't even think he knows his name is Kingsley - we just called him the Muff) and went to the dog park.  Now, the thing about poor Kingsley is that he was abandoned by the side of the road - that's how Scott and Ashley came to get him from the shelter.  He is determined not to be left again and he is so busy following right at Scott's heels that he doesn't play much.  Once in awhile he would forget and run off, but then he remembers and comes running back to Scott.  I tried to get more pictures of him, but when he'd hear the beep of the camera focusing he'd look the other way.  I managed to get one decent one:

Later in the day, after Ashley got home, we went to one of those theaters where they serve you dinner while you watch the movie.  I'd never done that before (new-fangled theaters...) and I'm here to say that I'm sold.  We saw Skyfall, and it was awesome.  Even better that you could enjoy a really good sandwich and fries while you took it all in.  L and I will have to do that.  We got back home entertained, bellies full, and tired from the busy day.
On Sunday we got up, leashed up the pooch and went to a place called North x Northwest for brunch.  It was a gorgeous day, and perfect for sitting outside enjoying our food.  All I'm going to say is that I had poached eggs on shrimp and crab cakes with Hollandaise sauce.  Need I say more?
Best. Breakfast. Ever.  There were other dogs on the patio enjoying their outings with their families and it was a perfect morning.
After breakfast we headed to a town about a half hour away from Round Rock.  I think it was called Solana or Soldana.  Any of you Texas people know where I'm talking about?  As you drive into this little town you cross over a river and there was a beautiful church at the top of the river bank.  Down closer to the river, there were 3 large angel sculptures fashioned in metal with green wreaths tied with red bows fastened onto them.  It was such a beautiful sight!  Of course, I wasn't prepared to take a picture... The town itself had a long street that was lined with large old oak trees and had lots of cute little shops, cafes, businesses and a little bed and breakfast inn.

We strolled up and down, and I enjoyed how welcome Kingsley was in each little shop. We bought fudge in a one shop, and I found a treasure trove of Christmas decorations in another.

It was a fun afternoon, and it was great to be out and about on such a beautiful day.  It wasn't until we got home that I realized how much trouble I was going to be in trying to get my new purchases home.  I repacked, rearranged, and finally wrapped the large reindeer and angel in bubble wrap and put them in a canvas tote that became my "purse" for the flight home.  My real purse got emptied and tucked into a compartment of my carry on piece.  And I was careful.  So, so careful.  And still, the reindeer broke.  Oh, the CARNAGE!  I was a sad girl when I saw what had happened.

But a few minutes with Super Glue, and L had the whole thing looking brand new.  Me?  I would have glued my fingers together.  The elf I bought will "ride" on the reindeer as part of my dining table centerpiece.

And the angel came home in perfect shape.  She will be part of the fireplace mantle decorations.

And so the trip came to an end.  I came home tired but happy.  It was good to see where the kids live and work.  Now, when I try to picture what they're doing, I have a good visual in my head.  It's comforting and helps me not to miss them so much.  You may wonder if I took any pictures of Scott and Ashley.  Yes.  Yes I did.  But they were for their Christmas card, and if I scooped them on that, they would never forgive me.  So I'll have to post it later.
And now, it's on to thoughts of Christmas, and decorating the house and tree.  We had an onslaught of ants - probably from the rain we had - and they've kept me so busy trying to exterminate them I haven't gotten anything out yet.  I don't know about you, but ants make me uneasy.  There's just so many of them at a time, and they're sneaky.  First here, and then they're pouring out of a different microscopic opening.  GAH!  But this weekend is the target for decking the halls.  How are all of you coming?  Shopping done?  Feeling ready?  It'll be here before we can wink.  Ho ho ho...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

You know what?  I had a really nice Thanksgiving Day.  Yes, after all of the whining and complaining about not cooking my own feast, and how it's just not the same eating out.  I've discovered my mom is onto something here.  There's a lot to be said for eating Thanksgiving Dinner in a beautiful dining room at a lavish club, where the staff is well trained and has you convinced that there's nowhere else they'd rather be, and that their pleasure is attending to your every need.  In a word, it was lovely.
We were 10 in all: our hosts (brother Chris and wife Jill), their daughter Margot, their friend Lori, Jill's mother Shirley, my mom and dad, my aunt Margie, and L and me.  We were seated at a large round table with plenty of elbow and leg room.  Comfortable chairs.  Gorgeous crystal chandeliers overhead.  There were maybe 10-12 large tables in this dining room, and my brother said they had another one going downstairs.  We were the first dining time at 3pm with the next one at 6pm.  Seated at other tables around us were other large family groups, some of them taking up 2 or more tables.  At the 2 tables next to us was the family of UCLA's head coach.  I can't successfully name drop because I don't follow football, but everyone except L and me were excited about that.  They were a large, happy group as they welcomed home an Army soldier, who surprised most of them by arriving in time for Thanksgiving.  At the table behind us sat an older man in a gold jacket who looked very familiar to me.  I asked my brother who he was, but he didn't know.  I couldn't figure out why I just knew that I knew him, until L whispered in my ear "It's the Der Wienerschnitzel guy."  I'm not sure if the fast food chain Der Weinerschnitzel extends to areas beyond Southern California, but they do a lot of advertising on TV in our market, and he (being the founder) is who is featured in the commercials.  So THAT'S why I thought I knew him - I see him every day on TV.  I think he was wearing the same gold jacket as in the commercials, and there he was enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with his family.  His wife looked quite a bit younger.  And expensive.
Just beyond the dining room the feast was laid out.  And when I say feast, I need you to imagine a brunch at the nicest hotel you can think of.  Yep - that's what it was like.  Several types of salad, salmon filets, mounds of the biggest shrimp I've ever seen, oysters on the half shell.  Cheeses and fresh fruit.  And more.  Much more.  And those were just the appetizers.
Of course there was fresh sliced turkey, but also roast beef and prime rib.  Mashed potatoes and whipped yams.  Cornbread stuffing and brioche mushroom stuffing.  Green beans.  For the little ones there were sliders, fries, and pizza.
We fell to filling our plates, with Jill and Chris doing double duty filling plates for Shirley and Margie.  My dad, who has lost so much weight with his chemotherapy, finally had his dream dinner: he could eat as much as he wanted to without my mom monitoring his portions.  And he ate.  And ate.  The conversation was good, and I especially enjoyed being able to sit next to my brother and enjoy his special brand of humor.  Margot sat across from me, and her happy chatter made me smile.  She goes to BYU and is so happy to be there - she's a good student with lots of friends.
And then came dessert.  I managed to have a pumpkin macaron, and a slice of pumpkin cheesecake.  My mother got up and announced that dessert was her favorite part, and off she and my dad went towards the dessert extravaganza.  My mom came back with a few desserts but my dad - EGAD - my dad came back with 2 platefuls of different desserts.  I noticed while he was selecting them, there was no smiling.  No talking.  He was on a mission to please a serious sweet tooth.  But once back to the table loaded down with his 2 plates piled with sweet treasure, he was one happy boy.  It did my heart good, even if it probably didn't do his heart much good.  Meh... it's once a year.  And he's lived through months of chemo and come out of it largely unscathed.  He deserved a good binge, as did my mom.

On Saturday evening we celebrated L's birthday by having dinner out with his brother Dan and wife Nicole.  I don't know when I've had a better time.  I feel so lucky, because not only do I have brothers of my own that I love and enjoy, I've had the good luck to be included in L's family of wonderful brothers and sisters.  One sister lives in Alaska, and I don't know her that well, but I always look forward to any gatherings with the other sister and 2 brothers.  They're just so much fun, and it was good to share L's birthday with Dan and Nicole.  Now L is a true senior citizen - 55 - and I will have a partner in getting the senior discount to movies.  I hate being the only old geezer.

And now with those holiday milestone over and done with, NOW we get serious about Christmas.  Next week while I'm visiting in Texas, L will get the Christmas lights up and looking festive by the time I get back.  On Saturday I shipped four - FOUR! - boxes of gifts off to Colorado and Massachusetts.  That was a huge monkey off my back, and I can rest easy knowing that everything will arrive to my little ones in plenty of time.  I've been watching Food TV picking up good little recipes for desserts and appetizers.  And the Hallmark Channel!  Christmas movies all day, every day.  I've started playing my Pandora Christmas station.  I'm in the zone.
Christmas this year will be much like Thanksgiving - no kids in the area, we'll do some Skyping, the actual day will be quieter, and more sedate since there will be no little ones around who are wild with excitement about Santa Claus.  I've been a little bit sad about it, but after my Thanksgiving experience, I realize that it can still be a nice day.  We'll have more time on Christmas Eve to concentrate on extended family, where before we were focused on children and grandchildren.  I realized during Thanksgiving dinner that it had been awhile since I'd been able to do that.
So we'll adjust our sights and enjoy the company we're surrounded with.  I probably won't be nearly as tired, as most of the entertainment burden won't be on me this year.  Christmas morning will be quiet and relaxing.  Breakfast (my favorite meal!) can be fancy and on time.  There will be time in other years to take in the early morning Christmas tree raids and squeals of joy.  6 years ago we took this picture of Lexi and Mia:

And now they are both 6 years old, with 3 other added siblings: Matthew 4, Hayden 3, and Skylee 1.  And Thanksgiving night we received an early Christmas present: Rex and Ronna will be expecting baby #4 in July of next year!  So we are truly thankful for all of the blessings of a growing family.  We'll have our quiet Christmas, and cherish the peace, because it looks like next year is shaping up to be exciting already!  I'm also going to see if I can slip my brother a bribe to include us in Thanksgiving dinner next year.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gobble Gobble

I'm not cooking Thanksgiving this year, so this week kind of snuck up on me.  Normally I'm in high gear, having bought vast quantities of food, reserved my fresh turkey, and have written out the schedule of what will be cooked when.  I love to cook Thanksgiving.  It's exhausting, and my legs and knees ache afterwards, but the house smells delicious, and it's such a beautiful dinner to prepare for my family.  The table is set with a little bit of sparkle and some glowing candles, and there is so much food that there is hardly room for all of it.  And everyone is around the table enjoying and bantering and eating.

I have a very small house, so when we get 6 or more people gathered for dinner, trust me when I say that it's a houseful.  We're crowded, it's loud, and we have to drag the piano bench over to the table because I don't have quite enough chairs for 8.  If any of the grandchildren were here, they are now getting old enough to sit at the "children's table."  I remember sitting at one of two card tables my grandmother would set up for all of the cousins, while the grownups would sit at the large dining room table.  Once we were 12 or so, we could sit at the big table, but really, it was more fun to sit with my cousins.  There, we could put black olives on our fingers and eat them one by one.  If we wanted more of something our parents would come in and give us a refill of turkey or whatever we wanted.  If you were really a baby you ate your dinner at the small built in desk in the kitchen, always with a terrycloth apron tied around your neck like a giant bib.  The aprons always had some crazy print on them like dancing fruit or one with martini glasses and confetti that read "Happy New Year!"  No fancy designer aprons in my grandma's kitchen.  These were well worn and used until they had holes in them.  Serious holes.
I miss those big Thanksgiving dinners all together.  Now that our children are scattered all over the country, holiday time seems a little bit lonely.  My daughter is cooking her first turkey, and they are having dinner with some Puerto Rican neighbors.  In Colorado, Ronna will be making her homemade rolls for her little family.  I'm not sure of everyone else's plans.  We'll be joining my brother's family, my parents, and my aunt at my brother's country club.  My parents have been doing this with them for years now, and they love it.  In all fairness, my mother has cooked her share of Thanksgiving feasts, and she's happy, now that she's "older," to let someone else do the cooking.  She's thrilled that she doesn't even have to contribute to someone else's feast - this is one is completely non-work.  Just show up and eat.
I've heard it's really nice, but it's not Thanksgiving to me.  It's eating out.  I can feel myself getting stubborn and sulky, and I need to adjust my thinking.  It was nice of them to ask us, include us when they knew we'd be alone.  And I appreciate it, I really do.  But eating out on Thanksgiving brings me back to the first Thanksgiving we spent in New England after moving from California.  My dad was trying to show his kids New England in the days off from school and so we were traveling up through Massachusetts from New Jersey.  And we spend Thanksgiving at a Howard Johnson.  Depressing through and through.  We were far from our California home and everything familiar, and at 14 I just wasn't feeling the adventure of it all.   I wanted to be home - home where life was full of family and friends, not stuck in cold, dreary Massachusetts in a HoJo's for Thanksgiving.
Now that I'm beyond grown up, I can appreciate what my dad was trying to do.  He just didn't take into account a very homesick daughter.  I don't even know if my brothers remember it the way I do, (probably not) but it sure stuck with me - enough so that I've cooked Thanksgiving dinner just about every year of my adult life.  I haven't wanted to have a holiday away from home ever since.  Hawaii for Christmas?  No thanks.  Mountain cabin?  Meh...
Now that our kids and grandkids are scattered about, however, I'm rethinking.  "Home" doesn't quite have the same allure, or meaning when all of my dear ones are everywhere BUT home.  So next year, maybe we'll have to plan on spending at least part of the holidays somewhere where we have kids or (even better) grandkids.  If they can't come to us, we need to go to them, that's my feeling.  I have 4 days I'm not allowed to work during Thanksgiving, and another week between Christmas and New Year's.  I'm a contracted worker, and if it's a company holiday, I'm not permitted to bill any hours either, so there are almost 2 perfectly good weeks going to waste when I could be seeing my two little ladies in Massachusetts, or the other two princesses and the blue eyed pirate in Colorado.  Better planning next year is what's needed.
I am going to visit Scott and Ashley for a long weekend after Thanksgiving.  L is staying here and holding down the fort and meeting his publishing deadlines whilst I discover what Austin is all about and meet the new dog they've adopted. I'm very excited to do that.  I've never been to Texas and I'm looking forward to lots of fun and laughing with them.
And then the Christmas season will be in full swing.  My mother's birthday comes on the 10th of December, and after that, the days really starting flying by.  I'm glad that I've gotten almost all of the shopping done.  I have 4 more things to get, and all will be mail ordered, so I'm set.  I've even gotten a majority of the wrapping done, as much of it needs to be sent to the recipients.  It's been fun to imagine the little faces unwrapping the gifts I selected so carefully.
Wherever you are going, and whatever you're doing, be safe in your travels.  Enjoy your families.  Soak up the fun and the memories.  Come back with stories to tell and pictures to share, and I'll do the same.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Let The Season Begin...

Lately it seems I've been either working or madly shopping online for Christmas.  I don't know why I've been so driven - maybe I just want to get it done so I can enjoy the season.  But truthfully, I do enjoy buying gifts for people.  Figuring out just what they'd enjoy, narrowing the options, making that final decision, and then the anticipation of waiting for it to arrive.  I love it.

I've come across some pretty good places to shop, too.  I don't know about you, but I love handmade items.  They're so unusual, and like nothing you could get at the mall.  And even better - there's always the chance that you can really customize what you buy.  There are two artisans, if you will, that have gotten me particularly excited about their individual crafts.

The first is a friend of my daughter's.  Shannon has created the most wonderful handmade soaps, all from organic products like lavender, orange, cinnamon, geranium, and tea tree, locally grown organic herbs, and locally gathered honey. She and her little family craft these amazing soaps by hand and market them under the name of Lehi Country Soap.  Oh there's more - much more, but you'll have to visit her Facebook page and shop to really see what she does.   She not only makes the most lovely cakes of soap, but she also teaches soap making classes if you're lucky enough to be in the Lehi, Utah area.  She sells her soaps (which are true works of art) at various Farmer's Markets, and shops in the area (again, lucky you if you live in the area) but she will also let you mail order, which is what I do.

I'm still working my way through my first order of 3 soaps, which included a geranium mint, and a lavender tea tree bar.  She has salt scrub bars, such as some yummy coffee peppermint ones made with a coconut oil base and a sugar scrub crumble or these cinnamon and safflower ones.  I die.

Since I placed my first order she's also created these bars in orange calendula.  I think I could shower for hours with those.

My family members (other than L, who has fragrance allergies) are all a bunch of fragrance geeks.  We all love wonderful smelling soaps and lotions - we'd sit around sniffing things all day, although the boys would deny it to the death.  So Lehi Country Soap is right up my/our alley.  Oh, and the lather?  Most satisfying.

The other vendor I got really excited about is actually a blogging friend of mine.  Jenny makes the most wonderful imaginative play items under the name Knees and Paws.  You can find her on Facebook, and can also link to her Etsy shop from there.  If you have small children in your life who like to pretend they're dogs, or cats, or unicorns (or for that matter, elephants or any other animal you can think of) she can create the perfect play set to send them into imagination heaven.  When I was a little girl, one of my little brothers used to pretend he was Blackie the dog and would run around naked with a washcloth on his head - that was his fur.  Jenny's items blow Blackie's washcloth completely out of the water.  Take a look at what she can do:

Are there matching tails?  Oh yes, and hooves for hands and feet too.  Incredible.  And she'll make them in any color you want.

Black poodle, anyone?  Yes, please, especially with the cute pink bows (and matching tail!) and even a collar with a name tag that your child can customize.

Or perhaps your little one prefers kitties.  She can make them in any color, furry or short haired.  Matching tail and collar?  But of course!  But those EARS with the little pink insides just killed me.
These were my favorite Knees and Paws items, but she has many MANY more to choose from.  Jenny's creativity is limited only by your imagination.  I would suggest that you grandmas and mommies get over to Knees and Paws and have a little glimpse.  Such cuteness...

So that's what's been occupying my time for the past several days.  And these are only a couple of sites I've been peeking at.  L's wish list seems to run towards bike accessories, and solar powered things (he's into disaster preparedness these days).  Oh, and a pricey pair of leather flip flops that are without a doubt THE BEST shoes on the market.  I have a pair, and I've actually hiked in them - well, hike is a strong word for what I do, but they are as comfortable as walking shoes because they have such a wonderful arch support.  I've had mine for about 3 years now, and I wear them every day.  Love them. What are they?  Go to Zappos.com and look up Olukai.  The all leather ones with the leather toe piece.  You'll never wear anything else.  I promise.

What are your Christmas gift finds?  Ooooh, I have one more.  Restoration Hardware (which has the most wonderful and most expensive furniture I've ever drooled over) just came out with a line of gift items for children and *SURPRISE* they are quite reasonably priced for the most part.  Go to the Restoration Hardware site and at the top you can link to RH Baby and Child (or something like that).  Cute things like faux fur slipper boots, fluffy faux fur jackets, faux fur trapper style hats (soooo cute...), and all manner of things - even a pretty tea set.  I bought a great little baby gift there and the quality is lovely.
So have fun shopping and if you find something wonderful, let me know.  I'm always open to a great idea!  Because I'll just be right here... you know, shopping away.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Horses, Hot Dogs, and Third Birthdays

It was good that I waited to write this post until the end of the day.  My post election bitterness is not as sharp and painful as it was this morning.  I poured a lot of myself into this election.  I was personally vested in the outcome in a way I'd never been before.  A variety of reasons, I suppose, that are best left for discussion another day.  We missed out on a great man, America.  That's all I'm going to say.  And it made me grouchy today.

My 6 year old granddaughter Mia summed up her personal support of Mitt Romney when she learned in school (while learning little tidbits about each candidate) that "Mitt Romney likes to ride horses.  And I'm pretty sure he likes hot dogs."  I concur.  A love of horses and hot dogs is one of the simplest to spot signs of a great American.  I'm just bone weary this evening after tossing and turning all last night, and I need some relief in the form of  sweet dreams and down pillows.  I need to feel hopeful, and have faith that there are good days ahead.  It's up to me, but I will make it so.

Today, as luck would have it, I had to look no further than this little miss, because guess who had a birthday today?

Hayden Reese, that's who.  And it was an exciting day, complete with breakfast out, and a trip to the Disney Store for a new Princess doll.

Hayden is three years old.  She woke up with a smile on her face, and excitement that today - finally TODAY - she would be three years old.  Not two.  Not a baby.  Three.

As it turns out, the big day dawned very cold.  But her camera-happy mom dressed her in her birthday finery and made her stand in the freezing temps for a few quick snaps of the shutter to document the day she turned into a big girl.  A very frosty happy birthday morning, but a birthday princess is gracious to her demanding public.  Later in the day, the snow actually did start to fall, and at last count there was about an inch sticking to the ground.  Fun stuff for a little girl who started life out in hot, humid Puerto Rico.

Her party is this Saturday, but it was fun to be able to see pictures of her enjoying her special day.  She even received a special dress from Sofia at Chimi and Changa (see her creative genius on Facebook), and a Chimi doll dressed in a matching dress!

Proving once again that life goes on.  Rituals and rites of passage continue.  Love and families grow.  This old world can disappoint us again and again, but our families are forever.  One hard lesson I've learned is that we must make our little corner of the world a safe place for our loved ones.  The world can go crazy, but if our homes are a safe place, there is respite.  We teach them to be kind and love others, to work hard to achieve their goals, to stand up for what's right, to appreciate simple blessings like horses and hot dogs.  To love God with the simple faith that comes naturally for children.  Because only then will we find the peace we seek.

Monday, November 5, 2012

If I Could Bottle Pure Joy...

This is a post more for my own memory than anything else.  I'm actually fine - it's just been an unusual day.  I got a call from my mother today telling me that her sister Jana, who lived in Utah, had passed away.  She had been in poor health for years with Parkinson's Disease.  The last year or two she had really deteriorated, hadn't had much quality of life.  The one thought that stayed with me was of how wonderful she must have felt in the moment she was able to leave her poor sick body behind.  Incredible freedom and mobility after years of having none.  Having a joyous reunion with her mother, father, and a whole slew of family members.  It helps to think of that and know that it happened.  Somewhere there was joy and celebrating.

Both my mother and my aunt Margie (who lives close by me) seemed fine - just feeling a bit surreal about it all.  My mother made the comment that it felt odd to be a family of 6 and now "we are just 3."  I tried to imagine how I would feel if that were me, and I decided I didn't even like to think about it.  We grow up with our brothers and sisters, and it feels like we'll always be here together, gathering at the holidays and for birthdays.  My husband has already lost his youngest brother, and I'm sure it feels odd at times to those who grew up with Ryan to think that he is no longer here on earth.  Each person is their own little force of nature, and we miss the part of us that leaves with them.

This particular aunt was one that, when we were small children, we would spend weekends with, or stay with her when our parents went out of town.  We'd play with our cousins, and live a different life while we waited to go home again.  Although it's been many many years since I've had a lot of contact with her, those memories for me are still quite vivid.  And now it's her children - my cousins - who now  live in Utah and one in Oregon who are making the arrangements, and feeling the emptiness.  Her daughter said that she looked "beautiful."  In her day, Jana had always enjoyed her makeup and doing her hair.  In recent years, she hadn't been able to to that for herself, and so Mindy had taken particular joy in making sure her mother was done up right for her last big family gathering.  Bittersweet.

As I was thinking these thoughts, my friend Marion called me out of the blue.  Her brother had just been diagnosed today with a very aggressive brain tumor, and tomorrow, without taking the time first for a biopsy, they are going in and trying to remove what they can.  No one is sure yet what they are facing, and it is terrifying.  She said no one had really told her brother yet what was going on, and she was fearing having the conversation with him.  I didn't know her brothers well growing up.  They were several years older than us, and always seemed so unapproachable.  But I remember them, and again, it made me sad to think of my friend facing this news about her brother all alone up in Washington.  Life is a precious thing, and sometimes tenuous.  My philosophy has become to have no regrets.  No regrets that work got in the way of making a memory.  No regrets that I was too busy to visit or make that phone call.  To be bold, and seize the day.  I suggested that she do the same.  Take the time to spend with her brother and family.  Make some memories.  Say what needs to be said.  Sit in silence.  Hold a hand.  Work will always be there, and will wait.

Just when I thought the day was irreparably damaged, the phone rang, and it was this little person:

Lexi called to thank me for the "mummy candy bars" I'd sent (Hershey bars wrapped in layers of white crepe paper with googly eyes peeking out) and to tell me about her Halloween, where she got "so much candy, Mema!"  She gave me her Christmas wish list, and chattered about school.  She told me that her baby sister was walking all over the place.  And then she asked me if I was an artist.  ???  I told her that sometimes I was.  She had been looking at the Halloween plate I'd painted for her mom a few years ago, and she told me that "it's fantastic, Mema!"  She, too, is an artist, and loves to draw and create, so I told her she should send me some of her drawings, and that Papa would love some too.  She thought for a minute and said that she thought she would send us each 2 drawings.

It was a regular conversation, very every day.  But it was the sweet enthusiasm that only a 6 year old can possess that warmed my heart.  She is looking forward to being 6 3/4, however, and was a little disappointed that she would have to wait another 2 months for that because her friend Mary is already
6 and 3/4 years old.

Do you know what I'm talking about?  How does one little person lift your heart up like that?  How do they transfer joy from their world to yours?  It's a mystery, but it should be bottled and given out freely.  The whole world could benefit.

So that was my day.  Death, sickness, grave concern - and then the incredible lightness of having my spirit lifted up in the most amazing way by a little girl just being herself.  Everyone should have a Lexi in their life.  She made me remember the wonder and joy of being alive.  I'm a lucky girl today after all.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Giving The Finger

On Sunday afternoon (while my pot of chili was percolating) I decided it was time to make my spooky Halloween finger cookies.  I'd been given the recipe by my blogging friend Laraine, who promised me that they were easy to make.  And son of a biscuit - they were!
I don't know when I've had a large batch of cookies go together so easily.  The recipe called for red gel icing to hold the sliced almond fingernails on, but all I had on hand was green.  And I thought it gave the fingers a rather moldy, creepy look, so I'm satisfied.  And did I mention these were a snap to make?  They're definitely going to be a tradition at my house every year!  They're creepy, slightly disgusting looking, and delicious all at the same time.  I'm hooked.

I'm going to take some to a friend at church, and deliver another ghastly bunch to L's dad: his birthday is on Halloween, and these will be just the thing for him - a delicious snack of witchy fingers!  For the picture I put them in my Halloween sleigh.  You may wonder what a Halloween sleigh is.... One year I found a bunch of wooden sleighs on sale for a really good price.  I started painting, and painting, and painting.  And I got a little tired of painting Christmas designs, so this last year I did a Halloween one.  A Nightmare Before Christmas sleigh, if you will.  I even fashioned little pumpkins out of clay.  I wasn't sure what I would do with it, but it makes a perfect treat holder for candy or... fingers.  I think I have 1 or 2 more sleighs left, and I'll probably go back to Christmas scenes, but I really needed a break from snow, Santa, and angels, and this was fun to paint.

Saw this little Halloween preview from the Colorado branch of the family:

Princesses and butterflies and Woody (from Toy Story!) are always favorites.  I think Ronna is a pretty witch (judging from the tights) and Rex is a tired missionary (judging from the name tag).  Wish I could trick or treat with them this year!

And here's the gang in Massachusetts:

Katie and Mia are cats, Hayden is a tiger, and Zach is your friendly neighborhood psychiatrist (he'd just come from the hospital).  Hayden looks like she's ready to have a good sleep after running around after candy at the party.  I hope they actually get to trick or treat this year (you may remember that Halloween was cancelled last year while we were visiting after a huge ice storm) - but it looks like it might still be raining cats and dogs.

I've been watching Hurricane Sandy all day on TV.  I've texted Autumn and Tim in NYC and they're safe and buttoned up in their apartment.  It's their anniversary (or it was yesterday) and like their wedding day a year ago, they're having another go with wild weather.
Katie and her bunch are just beginning to feel the storm's effects.  School was cancelled, and when she tried to take the little girls to a movie today, everything had been shut down.  No one was taking any chances I guess.  Except Katie!

If you're on the east coast, stay warm and dry and SAFE.  Hopefully this will all blow through faster than expected and damage will be minimal (although we're seeing a fair amount of it already, sadly.)  

Happy Halloween to everyone.  I'm off to give people the fingers.   Mmwahahahahhaa....

Monday, October 22, 2012

Catch A Falling Star

This weekend was kind of special.  Many of you may have been aware that there was an Orionid meteor shower putting on a show in the night sky, with the best viewing time set for early Sunday morning between the hours of 1:00am and 5:00am.  Special events of the starry kind always get me excited.  I get it from my dad, who (as I've mentioned before) has an almost child-like curiosity about everything, and most especially events that have to do with solar or star displays.  Many times these occurrences are rare happenings, and such was the meteor display this weekend.  It won't happen again for several decades, which leaves the chance of my dad or me seeing it in the future virtually nil.

L casually mentioned that we should go out to the desert to see it, so I researched different locations that might be good viewing spots.  I got the idea of taking my dad with us, and couldn't shake it.  I just knew he'd want to go and see it.
As luck would have it (and I've been PRAYING for cooler weather, so I can only blame myself) the clouds and fog began to roll into Southern California at the end of the week.  Everywhere I looked from the coast to the mountains was going to be cloudy and overcast during the meteor shower.  We could have gone to Bakersfield, but that's really far, and really, no one wants to go to Bakersfield.  We could have gone to Baker out in the desert, but I couldn't think of a single place to stay there.  Or at least any place where I could sleep without imagining bugs skittering around in the dark.  Ugh.  Baker is a place where you stop for a potty break and maybe a drink while on your way to Las Vegas, but that's it.  No staying overnight.  Las Vegas looked like it would be clear, but again, you'd have to really go out far from those lights to see the ultimate display.  And it's a few hours' drive away - not good for my parents.
Finally, on the Weather Channel website I brought up Palm Desert, and during those early morning hours it was going to be "mostly clear."  It seemed like a good compromise so I called Dad up and asked if he'd like to go.  He sounded excited, yet a little hesitant.  What about his medications?  Would it make him feel worse to lose sleep?  And I understand.  When you're in the middle of chemotherapy, everything is a crap shoot.  He was nervous that he wouldn't be a good traveler, but I reminded him that I have medications I have to bring too, and that I don't like to have my life defined by illness.  I don't want to miss out on special events because I might not feel good.  And he would be with family who would understand all of those factors.  So he threw caution to the winds and got excited.
My mother was less than enthusiastic at first.  But she has a kindred soul in L, who hates all things having to do with morning, and who always takes care that we stay in a place that is clean and pleasant.  We ended up booking rooms at the Holiday Inn Express and they had free breakfast!  That sealed the deal for Dad.  That's another way in which I'm my father's daughter: we both love a good breakfast.  Bacon? Sausage? Eggs? Pancakes? Cinnamon rolls? Juice?  Yes please to all.
I quickly threw some Snickerdoodle dough together and baked them up for the trip (knowing my dad has a famous sweet tooth.  Oh yes...me too.)  They came over to the house at around 5:00 Saturday evening and off we went.  I kept scanning the skies on the way out to the desert and it was cloudy and stormy looking.  But as we drove around the San Jacinto mountains that surround Palm Springs/Palm Desert, the clouds dispersed.  And although it had been 90 degrees that day, the evening was cool and comfortable.  I had to laugh though - at home it was chilly and we all had sweaters on.  Everyone there was running around in shorts and sandals.  During the drive out, Dad kept commenting on how he was enjoying our little adventure and my heart was happy.
We checked in and met back in the lobby to grab a bite to eat.  There was a Panera Bread close by on Highway 111, so we set out and enjoyed sandwiches and salads.  If anyone ever goes there, please notice what a nice staff they have.  They treated my parents with such kind, friendly respect, and they should all be congratulated more than the little bit I gave them.
And then it was back to the hotel and off to bed.  We were going to get up at 3am and head out to a special spot up in the hills on highway 74 that L and I had scouted out.  Amazingly enough I was able to knock right out and didn't wake up until my iPhone alarm started playing the running brook sound, which is my alarm of choice.  Much less jarring than a loud blaring sound.  We met in the lobby and off we went.  I'm sure the desk manager on duty thought we were nuts, but then again, I'm sure they've seen everything.  My mom and L were a little groggy (OK, a lot groggy) but Dad and I were wide awake and ready to go.

This isn't fair.  Mom doesn't usually look like this.  (She will kill me for this picture)  

Normally (when it's not 3am) she looks like this:

See?  She's always been such a pretty mom.

Dad is a lot more chipper in the morning.  He was happy and ready to go.  You'll notice there are no 
early morning pictures of L and me.  You're welcome.

As we headed up into the hills away from city lights, the sky started to fill up with stars and I got excited.  We pulled out a couple of beach chairs we'd brought for Mom and Dad to sit in, made sure everyone was bundled up with enough coats and blankets, and turned our faces skyward.

I wish I could say that we saw hundreds of meteors.  If you were viewing in a clear sky away from city lights it was said you could see between 25 and 30 meteors an hour.  Here is what I was hoping to see:

I wish I could say we saw even several of them.  But we didn't .  We started to notice a fine layer of clouds here and there very high up, and it did affect the show.  It definitely needed more cowbell.
We sat there until 5am - 2 hours -  and all told we saw about 9 meteors.  Most were small, faint, and quick.  Two of them, however, were spectacular, streaking gloriously across the sky, and when they put on their show we got very excited.  When that happened it looked more like this picture, minus the trees. And the house lights.

All in all, it was still beautiful and amazing, and I feel lucky to have seen the ones that we did, considering city lights and the clouds.
But the real show was the family adventure we all had together.  Instead of staying home because it was easier than making an effort, we traveled from our home base, got up at an ungodly hour to sit in the cold darkness together, and sat for 2 hours looking at the stars, making our necks ache.  We laughed.  We talked.  L and my dad pointed out constellations to my mom and me.  We cheered at each meteor (although each person didn't see ALL of them) and at the best two of the night we were reminded of why we'd come.

It was amazing how many cars traveled by that lonely turnout during the hours of 3 and 5am.  A couple of them slowed down to see if we needed assistance, and then quickly sped on when they saw we were fine, just crazy people watching the stars.  I half expected the police to come check us out, but that never happened.  Luckily.  Finally at 5am we decided we'd had enough and we packed it up and started back to the hotel and sweet sleep.  As we drove down the winding road we saw a couple of other cars that were pulled over with their occupants watching the stars.  For some reason (because the show hadn't been all that I'd hoped), seeing other people doing what we'd done made me feel validated, less crazy.  There were other people who had indulged their imaginations as well, wanting to see a cosmic event.
Before we retired to our beds, Dad wanted to make sure we were all meeting for breakfast at 9:00.  I sleepily replied that I wasn't sure if I'd be there and that L most certainly wouldn't be - he is not a breakfast eater.  I could tell he was disappointed.  And wouldn't you know it - I woke up at 7:30, almost exactly when I usually do on a normal day.  I tossed and turned a bit.  I got up and took my meds, and then decided I might as well go down and have breakfast with Mom and Dad.  Bacon was sounding pretty good.
When I knocked on their door I think they were surprised to see me.  We had a good time eating and talking, and Dad was in good spirits talking about our little foray into the night.  Sometimes just breaking routine and doing something different sparks you up a bit.  I know it has that effect on me.  So even though we didn't see quite the beautiful display my imagination was hoping for, we made a memory.  We decided to go for it and take a chance.  And it was fun.  A special memory with my dad I won't ever forget.  Thanks Mom and Dad for being good sports, and once again indulging my whim.  And to my true companion L - thanks for realizing how important this little adventure with my Dad meant to me.  It was such a special time scanning the heavens and marveling at it's vastness.  We were small and insignificant, yet inspired to achieve great eternal heights all at the same time.  An ordinary weekend spontaneously transformed into a nocturnal adventure spent viewing nature's fireworks, (or in our case, nature's sparklers with a couple of spectacular fireworks slipped in for fun).  Filed away in memory as one of the best weekends ever.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's Still Too Hot...

Another week gone... but at least this week past I got some things accomplished.  I did finalize my trip to Austin.  I'm going for a quick weekend the week after Thanksgiving.  Not enough time to be sure, but I'm sure Scott and Ashley will be sick of me by then.  It was very expensive to fly there during Thanksgiving week, and since L decided he wouldn't go this time ( to save money) I didn't want to leave him alone on the holiday and made arrangements to go the following week.  It will be interesting as my plane arrives before they're off of work, and I leave on Monday while they're at work again.  I may be using all of that money I saved on cabs!  I am excited to go - I can't wait to see them, and I'm excited to see a little bit of Texas and (I'm ashamed to say) I'm excited to eat Texas food.  So that is one trip that's scheduled.

The next thing I'm trying to figure out is when to go visit my little chicks in New England.  I'm so sorry to have missed the gorgeous fall color that I'm determined to save my money to go next year at this time.  Katie has been busy making holiday plans for the little girls.  They've already got a ride on the Polar Express planned, and it's killing me not to be there.  That was one of my kids' favorite stories growing up, and I can only imagine how wonderful a train ride would be where waiters dance up the aisles with cups of hot chocolate for the children singing "Hot, hot - hot chocolate!"  And Santa brings each child their own silver bell to test their belief in Santa's magic.  Killing me to miss that.

It seems that the holidays have already taken on a life of their own.  I find myself perusing catalogs, dog-earing pages of items I think this one or that one would like.  Does anyone ever watch the Today Show on Wednesday mornings?  They have a segment called "Jills Steals and Deals" that I've become addicted to for the holidays.  Every week they feature about 4-5 different things that are at a major discount, and I've scored some smokin' deals for various people in the last couple of weeks.  It's kind of a rush, to tell you the truth.  I kind of see how people get addicted to the Home Shopping Network or QVC.  But I've kept my purchases under control, and it's been fun to get some shopping done early.

And then there's the shopping I've done for ME, my favorite grownup person to shop for (grand kiddies are still the best overall).  Up until last year, I had a wardrobe of work clothes.  Stuffy corporate things that I find I rarely wear anymore.  I had very few fun clothes, so that's what I've been quietly gathering via mail order.  I don't know why, but I just hate going to an actual mall.  It's akin to bathing suit shopping for me (which I also bought online this year).  I hate the parking, the crowds, the confusion and over abundance of Macy's and stores like it.  It's all too much, so I've gathered a few little stores where I know my size and I've just been ordering away.  This week alone I have a blouse, a sweater, and a coat wending their way to my doorstep.  And still I look, but in all fairness I needed some new duds.

Not that I'll be wearing any of those sweaters or coats anytime soon.  It's been 90 degrees every day this week.  With no A/C.  My cousin will be coming tomorrow to start the repair on it, but I'm not sure if he'll be able to finish it the same day or not.  He works so hard, and kind of fits us in after his long work day is done, so I appreciate every little thing he can do.  I will be very glad to see him tomorrow, and I'll be even more glad to see some fall weather.  Maybe next week?  Seriously, I think the temps are supposed to dip 20 degrees!  Fall in Southern California is just craziness and mayhem if you ask me.  While everyone else is wearing boots and jackets, we're still prancing around in summer shorts, and throwing longing looks at the boots in our closet.  But we don't have blizzards and hurricanes either, so I guess it all evens out.

Last weekend L and I made a trek down to Corona Del Mar to our favorite little hole in the wall Mexican food place, La Fogata.  Only it's really healthy Mexican food: black beans instead of refried, grilled salmon tacos, and nachos with grilled veggies.  We hadn't been there in quite awhile and so the food tasted particularly good.  It was just too hot to cook in our house.  On the way home we took a swing by the  beach as the sun was setting.  I love how the sun melts into the ocean, hot orange sun mirrored in the darkening water.  We watched until it slid completely from sight, and then we made our way home.  By then the hot day had cooled off and the house had some cooler air flowing through it.

And so the days flow into each other, each one not much different than the last.  Tonight after watching the presidential debate (ROMNEY...)   we took our bikes out and rode for an hour in the evening air to think about something other than the state of the union.  The temperature outside was much cooler than inside, and it felt good to have the almost cold air chill my skin a bit, and before it could get uncomfortably cold, my body had heated up from the exercise.  A few stars were out, the usual cats were out strolling about or laying on the still-warm asphalt of the street.  We rode by the dog walker who is out every evening with several dogs at the same time we ride.  We have a nodding smiling acquaintance now.  He first walks a few smaller dogs, and then some larger ones, and finally a lovely old English Setter, and I wonder if that one is his own dog.  I'll have to ask him some evening.

We always start out with me chattering away about everything that happened to me that day, and then I am quiet.  It forces L to carry the ball, and he eventually does, although he does not feel the need to talk as much as I do.  I tend to talk in paragraphs and chapters.  He communicates with a series of short comments and questions.  But he is a doer - much more so than I am.  But such is our partnership: I am the communicator and he is the doer.  I tend to talk about doing something, and I circle projects warily, thinking about them and talking about them before I finally plunge in.  L just jumps right in and gets it over with, but if there is a problem that involves a conversation he prefers that I handle it.  So we have a good partnership agreement going.  It allows us to do what we're good at, and depend on being backed up on the things we're not.  Of course I feel that I got the far better end of the deal, but I try to keep up my end of the bargain so he doesn't feel too cheated.  And so even though one day is pretty much like another I realize that they are mostly good days, so I can't complain.  But L should look out: Halloween is coming, and that is the one day I'm allowed to turn into a witch.  A good witch who likes her treats a little too much, but who still knows a few good tricks.  He likes that about me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cast A Magic Spell

There's been a cooling trend in the last few days.  Refreshingly crisp in the morning, heating up to a tolerable 80 degrees in the afternoon.  Good thing too because the A/C sounded it's death rattle on Sunday afternoon.  We had just come back from a 14 mile bike ride and were just settling in to watch the last session of our church conference from Salt Lake City.  As soon as it was over I heard a loud noise - kind of like a power tool.  At first I thought the lady next door was having some work done in her house again, but on a Sunday?  The noise sounded again and I opened a window to determine where it was coming from.  Seemed to be either our air conditioning unit or the neighbors... but hard to tell.  It sounded again, and this time I smelled smoke.  I yelled for L to turn off the air (in case it was us) and got ready to run next door to the neighbor's house (in case it was her).  L said the smokey smell was coming from ours... of course...
We called cousin Jeff, and he said he would come in the next couple of days.  Today was the day, and the sad news is that the condenser is toast (the loud noise I heard) and there's another part that burned up because of that (the smokey smell).  Additionally, we have a freon leak, which probably was the cause of the whole darn thing.  So YAY - we probably get to buy a whole new unit!  How awesome.  But I have to say a little thank you to the poor dead unit for holding on until the heat wave was over.  I can survive without A/C for a few days while we figure out what we need. 

 I was planning a trip to Texas over the Thanksgiving weekend.  With this sweet surprise, I'm not sure if that's still in the works.  We'll have to see what the damage is in a couple of days.  *pouty face*  I cheered myself up getting out the Halloween decorations.  Skeleton pirate, skull fence, and pumpkins that spell out "BOO."  

If I'm really nice to L, maybe he'll put up the spooky arch with the orange and purple lights.  It's a major pain, but it looks amazing at night.  This year, I've gone a little nuts inside too.  I decked out the living room mantle with black branches in a mercury glass vase, blinged up a little black pumpkin, and got an apothecary-ish looking glass container to hold my little skulls, with a large black crow to stand guard.  I love it.  Oh - and little spiders crawling everywhere.  Martha Stewart would be so proud.

I still have more plans: shredded cheesecloth evoking tattered drapes in a haunted house, and trying my hand at some spooky treats.  I saw fingers with almond fingernails made from one of two things: pretzel dough or shortbread cookie dough.  Pretzel dough is more trouble, but shortbread is fragile and hard to work with sometimes.  I saw that Williams Sonoma also made them from shortbread cookie dough.  Maybe I'll just buy them, and have them sent to my little goblins in other states.

I'd like to try them myself, though - just to say that I did.  They just scream... Halloween.

My sweet Lexi called me yesterday to ask if I'd make a donation to her school.  She had run 29 laps in the Mammoth Run to earn money.  29 LAPS!!  She's 6 years old and ran that many laps AND kept track of them as well.  Mema was mightily impressed.  She was asking for $10.  I sent $30.  I am so proud of her for having the desire to do service for her school and for carrying through.

Matthew flew off his bike and creamed his face.  Luckily he's fine.  No broken bones or teeth.  Mia likewise flew off her scooter while riding downhill and got a nasty bump on her forehead.  Again, no serious harm done, although she was upset because her forehead wasn't "plain" like everyone else's.  These children need to stop scaring Mema like this.  It's hard to see the pictures when I'm so far away from them.  But they're tough and will live to ride again.

I hope you're all enjoying some cooler weather.  I even ordered a sweater or two in honor of impending fall weather.  It's my favorite time of year, I think - even more than summer, I think.  Of course, in California there's not much of a difference, except in the evening when the air turns crisp and brisk in the fall.  If we're lucky we have some cool days, when sweaters and boots come out to play, but it's not unusual to have an 80 degree Christmas Day.  Whatever your days, enjoy them.  The holidays are coming, and I plan to enjoy them.  All of the kids are elsewhere out of state, so they will be very different for us this year.  We'll have to get creative, I suppose, and dream our  dreams of less expensive travel times after the holidays when we can fly off to our longed for destinations of Boston, Denver, Austin, NYC, Provo...

I'm feeling a bit better these days.  It's always a little bit cyclical.  Comes and goes.  The goal is for it to go as often as possible.  I've been taking care of myself, eating better, making sure I'm exercising - everything you're supposed to do, and it's working.  Yay...  Dad is having a tough time.  Week 4 of chemotherapy just passed and he's experiencing swelling and discomfort.  Loss of appetite.  He's discouraged, understandably so.  I want to help, but how?... what?  It's a helpless feeling for me, so I can only imagine how my mother is feeling.  The cost of everything is frightening to them.  It's horrifically expensive to take life saving measures.  But expensive though it is, I am grateful they have the opportunity to choose their method of treatment.  Choice is good, and my dad's doctor seems to be a good one, as well as a good human being.  I'm grateful for that as well.

October is a lovely month, so take it all in - the changing leaves, the brisk air, the hint of holiday in the air.  Buy chocolate for those little trick or treaters (and for yourself!)  It's a whole month of black and orange spooky fun.  Pet a black cat, and dance with a witch, a ghost, or even a princess in the light of a  full moon, drink hot chocolate, cast good magic spells over your favorite little people.  It's Halloween.

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