Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Still making me happy

Although I have not yet conquered my photo storage and back-up issues, I can't go another day without a nod to our holiday celebrations last week. We're gearing up this week to welcome the new year, but I'm not done with the current one yet.

Anyway, constructing our gingerbread houses turned out to be the ideal Christmas Eve afternoon diversion. Gingerbread houses are really not for the feint of heart, and although we've been making them for years they really aren't ideal projects for very young children (unless you've done all the construction ahead of time and are prepared for a big mess -- huge mess). Over the years I have successfully changed my deepest understanding of the word "perfection," and define that now as what gives purest pleasure -- not the same as pristine, as Martha, as professional (where I'd been aiming in my past, before I learned better). Our houses stood, and they made us happy.
(Many canned goods are handy during the construction phase, to help hold up walls before the icing sets. No hot glue guns nor pins were used in the assembly process, which is also a big step up from where I started.)

Dean got the hang of the pastry bag and never looked back. He kept wondering what the gumdrops might taste like but refused to try one; I guess another potential hazard of the activity *could* be children who are inclined to eat the candy, but since we weren't using chocolate Dean wasn't biting.
Christmas morning.
Santa was good to us all, and left loot for Biscuit even though we never did get his stocking done.
Why we do it. What I love to remember.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Flashback Friday, reaching 'Z'

Could be my grandfather Paul as a baby; 1901?
Definitely my dad, tall boy in back, to the left of Santa (as you look at picture), with his cousin Jerry in front of him. Check out the little boy on the far left, being propped up on a man's knees, with that man otherwise hiding under the table. c. 1936

We had a lovely little Christmas and hope that you did, too. Ken says that before I upload any more photos on my computer, I've got to complete a photo back-up so that he can swap in a new hard drive with mega more RAM since I have maxed this puppy out. (More than 7,000 photos in a year? Who knew?) If you have horrific photo file storage habits like me, you know how painful the back-up process is, because you've got oodles of photos with the same digital names assigned to them, so backing up requires naming hundreds (well, okay, even thousands) of pictures. Boy, am I going to turn over a new leaf in this department!

Meanwhile, ABC-Along 2008 comes to a close. I present 'Y' and 'Z,' and I present my utter amazement that I conquered the entire alphabet. Please don't scroll past the z-form entry until you've really tried to see the z, and then go to the bottom if you need help. I admit that this project has me seeing letters where, perhaps, no one else sees them, but maybe that was the beauty of it.
'Y' is for 'yellow.'

Letter form 'Y.'
'Z' is for 'zinnia.'
Letter form 'Z.'

In case you need to see it through my eyes....

Happy Boxing Day!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Flashback Friday

My dad, Christmas 1931, Chicago

Taking a deep breath. Mentioning that "new year's gifts!" come with just as much love and care as Christmas ones, since I know it will come to that for truly dear and wonderful people on my list. Planning to make a mad dash out this morning, along with the rest of New England, to hit a few stores before the blizzard hits. Wondering how I ever got myself in a hole this deep, but trying not to waste energy on that and instead focusing on what can be accomplished in the next 6 days.

I look at this picture of my dad and think about how much he was adored. There it was, during the Great Depression, and I see a carefully decorated tree and plenty of gifts (a watch! for a 3-year-old! how wonderful). He came from a family that didn't show a lot of affection openly, but these pictures tell a story of a boy well-loved. He certainly is a father dearly missed.

Wish us well with our storm; hope, along with me, that we don't lose power -- there are still tens of thousands of people in the area without power from an ice storm one week ago, so there's already much concern about how more outages can be handled. At least, Dean points out, it's looking good for a white Christmas....

Saturday, December 13, 2008

December is not the time....

January, really, is the time to make the commitment to handmade gifts. I was fairly on top of that last year, and more or less worked on projects throughout the year so I had a good stash come December. This year, my desire to give handmade things is no less deep, but I failed to snap in to action early enough. I'm still trying my best, and eyeing the calendar nervously about the number of crafting AND mailing days left until the 25th.

Polar bears have been multiplying around here -- not fast enough, but still. Enough so that I'm out of wool felt and need to get more. (Make that, "nervously eyeing the number of shopping, and crafting, and mailing days left...".)
For scale, although actual size will vary. Mama bears, Papa bears, and baby bears like this one. I've also managed to get some homemade cookies and cds with holiday music selections out and at least one brother already reports happily munching away.

Thanks for the help and advice on placing photos in order in posts. I'm on a Mac, using Firefox, and only sometimes (apparently) using my brain. Oh well.

Have I told you yet that it will just be the three of us here on Christmas day? Turns out Ken's parents felt, after Thanksgiving, that the hour's drive to our house is more than Ken's dad can handle, so we'll be going down there after the holiday to celebrate with them and Ken's brother and significant other. It took us a little while to take this in; Dean was at first not sure how he felt about not having company on the day. But then the thought of a long, leisurely morning to open presents (should Santa be so inclined to leave us some), our traditional breakfast of eggnog french toast eaten without rushing, no need to change out of pajamas, a dinner eaten at dinnertime and not mid-afternoon (leaving mid-afternoon for an array of appetizers -- our most favorite way to lunch), and a dinner of whatever WE want and however deluxe we want it -- all these things started to weigh very much in favor of a Christmas for we three. So relieved I can't even tell you.

All right then. Still have to get ready, though; still lots to do.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Flashback Friday

My mom and her dog Penny, Chicago, circa 1945

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A story told in reverse

Is it just me? Is there a manageable way to re-arrange the order of photos in Blogger after you've uploaded? The photos load in to the "compose" box in the reverse order that you upload them -- I struggle with that every time, and then find it fairly impossible to re-order the pictures.

Thus, the story of yesterday's tree shopping, told in reverse:

Fraser firs cost more than balsams because they are much more lush and full -- the needles grow out in an arc around each branch, rather than just in two flat parallel lines. They smell more heavenly, and the needles stay on the tree longer. Every year, I think we should not spend the extra money and just go with a balsam. Then we go to the tree lot to look and once we see the frasers we can't give them up. The cost is relative, though; I never cease to be amazed that what we pay for a tree ($60) is exactly as much as we would spend in Chicago back in the late seventies/early eighties. The difference between living in the midwest, in a city, and living out east in the land of Christmas tree farms. Early in our marriage, Ken and I would buy a live tree and plant it in our yard after Christmas -- we still have them all, some reaching now nearly 20 feet tall. But the challenges of a live tree (dig the hole for it in October before the ground freezes! keep the hole covered and free of accumulated water so that it doesn't turn in to a tiny ice rink for birds! slowly acclimate the tree to indoor temps, then slowly back to outdoor temps, and don't keep it in the house for more than a week! keep the soil for planting in the garage so it doesn't freeze! remember to get a tree small enough to handle, since they are HEAVY with the root ball attached!) and the desire to enjoy the tree longer have us back to cut trees. While I don't question environmental arguments against cut trees, I recognize how very many local tree farms are kept in business -- and kept as farm land -- because of cut tree sales.

Surveying the stock....

Ken was proud of Dean and me for passing this moose by; we loved him, but knew we didn't need him. We, Dean and I, are getting so much more reasonable as we age....

A dusting of snow overnight leaves us with a very Christmas-y looking afternoon to put the lights on and decorate.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Flashback Friday

My dad, Denis, circa 1934.

Sneaking it in while it's still Friday. Hope you're riding the wave of good cheer; I'm feeling swamped but looking forward to jumping back on my board. (OK, I know nothing about surfing and I'm sure it shows....)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Good tidings

If you're interested, you'll need to click on the photo to view it full size so that you can really see Jupiter, which barely shows in the photo at this size (it is to the right of the moon). The crescent moon, Venus, and Jupiter formed a miraculous triangle last night at just about 5 p.m. (EST). I was mesmerized. Dean came out with me to see it, and luckily Ken got home just in time to share it, too. I was tempted to ring our neighbors' doorbells and get them all out on the street to witness this, but shyness and the beauty of the silent moment held me back. I believe that by tonight, the triangle will be broken but that the two planets will still be visible (worldwide) so get out there if you can. Not only do I have no difficulty understanding why ancient peoples believed that the sky gave sacred messages to us on Earth, but I believe it still.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Have you been watching Venus and Jupiter in the night sky? The show will become even more spectacular tonight, when the moon moves into the picture. Last night was stormy, but we had a glorious view of the two planets Saturday night, and it is supposed to clear up here by tonight -- we're hoping for another chance to see everything. I thought this might just be visible in the northern hemisphere, but apparently everyone can see it as some point in the night. Go look!

Biscuit celebrated his first birthday on Saturday with lots of jumping; what's amazing to me is that he can jump that high from a standing-still position (and he can get higher than what he's demonstrating for you here). We did not throw him a party, but we did give him some new toys and a few extra treats. He seemed pretty pleased:

Any ideas on how to slow down time? How can this new month proceed at a dignified pace? I tried to explain to Ken last night -- at this point, it is not about figuring out how to do it all between now and Christmas; it is about figuring out what to drop off the list and what to keep so that we get done what we absolutely need to get done on time. It snowed a little yesterday -- a message from the skies to get moving.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Flashback Friday

I tried to find a family photo from some Thanksgiving past, but couldn't; I guess back then, just like yesterday, everyone was so busy just getting the meal on the table that there wasn't time to take pictures. The child being held in her mother's arms is my paternal grandmother, Ellamae; her mother's name was Ella. This is from a small album that appears to have belonged to Ella, and to later have been somewhat ravaged by Ellamae (she was very particular about photos of herself and I can't imagine who else would have ripped out photos where there are still notes in the margins that say 'Ellamae'). Most of the notes aren't very helpful -- rarely is a year noted or a name mentioned, and the album must have been put together to take care of storing a stack of photos since they are very jumbled; photos of my grandmother as a child next to photos from my dad's childhood. This photo was either labeled 'Just before the storm' or 'On a trip' -- it's hard to tell which title goes with which photo. The pictures were glued down with something akin to wallpaper paste.

Anyway, I chose this one today because it is family, gathered; proud, carefully dressed, an air of celebration. A toast -- to family gatherings past, present, and future.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I'm nearly ready. Just planning to write this post and then head to the kitchen to cook, cook, cook. We'll set the table before we go to bed tonight, and anticipate all that tomorrow will bring.
Aw, shoot. I meant to tilt this on its side, so that you could easily see the uppercase 'X' -- could you please just tilt your head to see it? Pink granite and lichen at Acadia National Park.
'X' is for xerophyte -- adapted to limited water. Only two little letters left in the ABC-Along 2008 project.
Cold fall afternoons give Dean the two ingredients he needs -- leafless trees and temperatures that inspire indoor time -- for optimum bird-watching. Maybe we need to make this into a more official, and more comfortable, window seat.
I wish you peace, time to reflect, much to be thankful for, and time with those you love -- whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not. If you do celebrate it, I hope it's a holiday of good cheer and calm.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

List? Check!

Silver is polished
Table linens are ironed.
Place cards are made.
Pie crusts are made and in the freezer.
Dinner rolls, too, made and frozen.
Butter sits in the freezer, pressed into molds that will produce acorns and leaves.
The turkey, though, is now defrosting in the fridge.
Groceries are purchased.
Decorations are out.
Foil-wrapped chocolate turkeys procured.

Still have to make a run to the liquor store this week. Cleaning and cooking chores are down for each day, including the countdown for Thursday to get it all on the table in time for the in-laws to eat and be on their way before dark (their preference). It's all right.

Among other things, I really am thankful that my mom gave me her silver; she said she knew I'd take care of it and use it, and I do. I'm wistful not to have my own family coming for the holiday.

We've got an aggressive plan for rest and relaxation, starting by about 4:40 or 5 on Thanksgiving, and I'll toast with a glass of gluhwein. Not hip to gluhwein? Drink of the gods, let me tell you -- a hot spiced wine that cures all that ails you. I happen to have a recipe for just one:

4 oz medium red wine
1/2 oz brandy
1 tsp sugar
1 slice lemon
1 slice orange
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves

Combine in a small saucepan and simmer gently for a minute or two. Strain into a heat-proof glass and savor.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Flashback Friday

Jimmy's Diner, Wilmington Delaware (I believe), c. 1983
I took this photo in college, when I was a photojournalism student. I was looking for a different picture to post today -- one I took at around the same time, of my mother cooking up Thanksgiving foods. If I can find it before Thursday, I'll post that one....

And these gorgeous faces are in Disney World, at the Canada Pavillion in the World Showcase at Epcot.

It was 12 degrees (f.) when I walked the dog this morning. Twelve is NOT a big enough number. Not nearly. A fairly mild fall here is finishing off with a vengeance; almost no transition from highs in the fifties to highs in the twenties and thirties. I hope the rain in the forecast next week really is rain, and not the snow that I'm just not yet ready for. Working on pie crusts today, to go into the freezer for next week's apple pie; also ironing linens and polishing silver. I hope Dean's up for making some placecards with me, or some other kind of holiday project that we can do together. He's eager to play his new piano pieces for Ken's parents and brother who will come for Thanksgiving. I'm trying to put the holiday in the proper perspective -- enjoying the season and the intent rather than getting bogged down by the work and inevitable challenges of the particular company.

My brother Tony, who lives in southern Missouri, called me this morning and asked me to come over to his house for the day to help him get all the deer meat into the smoker to make jerky; told him I'd like nothing better than to actually be able to hop in the car and do that.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Flashback Friday Plus

I love photos in which there are shadows of the photographer and others, like this one. Something so dear and so mysterious about them. I am fairly certain that this is a picture of my mother's Aunt Ann; there is a slight chance though that it is my grandmother, Lee. It was certainly taken in Chicago -- probably in Lincoln Park. The woman's nose looks a bit more like my grandmother's, although both women had that particular family feature (can't say I'm sorry that my mom's button nose, comparatively speaking, that came from her father's side, is the one that carried down). But Ann was just a much more genuinely happy person, and photos of my grandmother -- the rare ones where she's smiling -- tend to show a more simpering, fakey kind of smile. But maybe this was a wonderfully happy day and maybe it is Lee....
Would you guess that this is another installment of my Disney World photos? Taken in the Asia section of the Animal Kingdom (one of the four theme parks). I have never been to Asia -- the real place -- but all the features and details of the park make me feel that I have a sense of it. This particular little area of the park is really quite new, which gives you some appreciation of all the work that went in to making it look so old. There's nothing here, really, in this picture; what I mean is that the door doesn't lead anywhere and there's no restaurant nor attraction here -- it is just a little terrace over a river that you can either hurry right by or you can stop and enjoy it. Can you see that even the ground, the path that you walk on, is even so carefully made to look as though it has been there forever, some little walkway in some untouched little corner of Asia?

A thank you for the kind words of support from yesterday. When Laura Jane spoke of our sharing the full moon (did you see it? incredible!), I was reminded of a recent conversation that clued me in to the fact that the names of the full moons that I know are a particular American tradition and not shared around the world (unless it just happened that the guy from Germany I was talking to just wasn't aware?). Do you know the names of the full moons? Are they named differently where you live?
January Wolf Moon
February Snow Moon
March Worm Moon
April Pink Moon
May Flower Moon
June Strawberry Moon
July Buck Moon
August Sturgeon Moon
September Harvest Moon
October Hunter's Moon
November Beaver Moon
December Cold Moon
... and, of course, when a month has two full moons, the second is called a Blue Moon

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Moments of beauty

I'm not sure if it's going to make me feel better, or not. Taking time I don't have to do something I very much want to do -- write a blog entry for the sake of doing something that matters to me (and not something on my to-do list put there by others, or by me but on behalf of others). But here I am, and maybe I do even feel a little better already....

I realize that the likelihood of the long, lush, photo-jammed entry all about Disney World is slim, despite my aspirations. So instead I'll simply start -- sharing a photo at a time and unveiling over time just why I love that place so very much. This photo was taken at the Wilderness Lodge, one of the resort hotels on the property. One of the kazillion or so things I love about Disney World is the absolute, complete, and unwavering attention to detail -- and to detail that many visitors pass right by without noticing. It's the kind of place where the more you slow down to look, the more you see. We've stayed at the Wilderness Lodge before and I do love it, although we didn't stay there this time. We were there for dinner at Artists' Point -- a magnificent restaurant.

Ah. I hear the dog going bonkers and Dean getting frustrated and so off I go. More, soon, I hope.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

So at a certain point...

At a certain point, I realize, I just have to move on. Rather than making excuses (well-intentioned) or promises (ditto), I just need to chip away at doing what I can, not telling you about all the other things that are keeping me from being here, and just catch up. I was thinking about throwing in the ABC-Along towel but when I realized how few letters were left I knew that failure was not an option. Here, then, is the letter 'V.'
And 'v' for 'viola.' Of course this tips my hand; these were photos I took over the summer, working in advance a bit -- good thing, since it was my salvation. Do they call these "Johnny Jump Ups" where you live?
And here's 'W.' These feel like very honest letters to me; no squinting required by you to see what I see.
And 'w' for 'white.' A viburnum, but still white.

Rather than trying to make up for lost Flashback Fridays I'll just keep a weather eye on the week and plan to be here to make that happen (for a change). Have a wonderful week, and let me know how it's going.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Facing the new day with joy

Be the change you seek in the world. Join in a future of hope, of possibility, of progress.

(Image from here.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tell me it's not too late....

OK, so I am very clear on the fact that you have to be ready for Halloween on Halloween; costume needs to be finished and you need to go out and trick-or-treat that day. No catching up after the fact. So I had all that nailed down but it's elsewhere in my life (and here on my blog especially) that I'm running woefully behind. I hope you'll indulge me in some catch-up, and understand that Dean would be quite put off if I'd made him go through the whole photo-shoot thing for no purpose.

He was a gallant and eager Legolas. He was even recognized -- instantly! -- by two moms answering two different trick-or-treat doors. He took with him the bow, but not the arrows....

And here's the inspiration-recreation, from here. We'll be throwing out the leftover candy from the night's spoils sometime around Easter or so.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Dean as Legolas.
The inspiration.

Dean wasn't too much in the mood for pictures this morning, so we're going to have to go back out, before trick or treating, and with the inspiration photo in hand do some more accurate reenactments. For the record, I offered but he refused the long hair and pointed ears and even the quiver (although I am going to ask him to hold the bow WITH an arrow for the official photo). Oh, you aren't a Lord of the Rings fan? Legolas is the elven archer -- swift and bold and true. Dean's telling those who are not in the know that he's a medieval archer, just to simplify things.

So, yeah, we're back. Been back for a week. In body, anyway. I feel I've been going waaay past my own personal speed limit since re-entry and honestly have not had a single moment til now to sit down here to post. My goal is to write a nice, long, juicy, photo-laden entry about the trip this weekend. It was wonderful and I'm very sorry to be back home, back to work. It feels as though everything just takes so much effort right now and it's true -- the house is a horrific mess so I can't find things and am not nearly done with unpacking nor laundry. I'd say this could be the pinacle, to-date, of my lack of organization and control. I don't like living with this degree of chaos but don't have enough time or energy to give to the digging out process; it's making me crazy so I hope I can get it together fairly soon. But hey, I got the costume done and he's happy with it.