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.