Monday, December 31, 2012

Color The World

Winter neutrals.

Not a lot of color right now - mostly grays and whites, two tones that match almost anything.

I looked up the word neutral tonight. There were several definitions but two stood out, "of no particular kind" and "not aligned with or supporting any side in a controversy."

Our political and social cultures popped into mind when I read that. 


Most people want to be neutral.

Anything goes. If it works for you, it must be okay. Support everything which is really supporting nothing.

But that doesn't really work, does it?

Because life comes down to two things: good and evil, or right and wrong. People will try to convince us that there is no right and wrong, that right is subjective.

To those people, calling something wrong is, well, wrong. See the paradox?

There are other people, though not nearly as many, that speak up for right. To me, they are the bursts of color in a neutral society. Like color in a neutral environment, they stand out.

I hope I'm colorful. I hope you are too.

I can't find a definitive answer for who said this so I have to leave it unattributed, "Those who stand for nothing, fall for anything." Pick a color, any color. Just don't be neutral. Stand for something. 

We'll leave the issue of whether we picked right or wrong up to our Maker.
Tiny little heart buds at the top of branches. 


Jack won't go wandering around when there is a lot of snow on the ground. The Man has to clean a path for him out to the back yard.

Jack is well loved. 

Among the neutrals.

Nice, don't you think?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Cold Winter's Night

The weather outside is definitely frightful.

We are snuggled up inside, drinking hot cocoa and eating comfort food, trying to keep warm on a cold winter night.
I had high hopes for today. So many projects I want to get done and today was to be the start of the year of simplicity - by tossing things out of the house, either to Goodwill or the garbage.  

But my train got derailed by K. And a shopping trip to Anthropologie.

So the year of simplicity will start tomorrow. After I put away my new purchases.
I got obsessed this afternoon, when the snow first started falling, with finding teeny, tiny snowflakes.
I don't know how they stand up on one leg.


Out of the bosom of the Air,
   Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
   Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
   Descends the snow.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
It accumulated. 

And the teeny tiny snowflakes got gobbled up into bigger piles.
I went inside and made mac and cheese.




Perfect winter food.


Homemade Mac and Cheese

1 box cavatappi
7 tbs butter, divided
4 tbs flour
2 1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
3 oz American cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbs bread crumbs

Cook cavatappi according to package directions, drain. Place in a baking dish and set aside. In a saucepan, melt 6 tbs of butter over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth. Gradually add milk; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes; reduce heat. Stir in cheeses, salt, and pepper until cheese is melted. Pour over cavatappi, mix well. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter; add the bread crumbs and mix together. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Scenes from Christmas

D was so happy to have something with her name on it. She can't always find her name, so when she does - boy, is she excited!
E with the ninja Nerf swords I found for her. She's been bringing them everywhere. I think she loves them.
K showing off J's fine wrapping skills. I think he used a whole roll of tape on one tiny package...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Library Visitor

We had a visitor today at the library.

Stay away from my coffee, cat!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Santa Mambo

My beautiful sissy, Other Sissy. 

We had loads of fun with her and her husband on Christmas day. And my niece, MR, of course. Other Sissy teaches ballroom dance and my BIL helps her out when he can. That's how they met. She was teaching ballroom dance and he came in to take lessons. She is a great teacher, even with those of us that have two left feet. She is patient and kind, and never makes you feel like a dance failure.

As much as I can't sing, I can't dance, either. Pitiful.

Sissy's girls have been loving the song, "We Wanna See Santa Do the Mambo" all season long.  So they knew they were going to ask Other Sissy to teach them how to do the Mambo when she came for Christmas.

It was a whole lot of fun!
My BIL took over from Other Sissy and he and E were spinning and twirling and doing the Mambo all over the living room. He is very patient, too.
Great form!
After a while, we were all doing the Mambo! It was so much fun, giggling and laughing at all our mess ups. 

I wish they lived closer. They are SO.MUCH.FUN.

Mambo, everyone!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Thought

It's late on Christmas Day. 

We just finished watching "It's A Wonderful Life".

A nice reminder not to take life for granted. And that what we do means something. And how we treat others means something.


Happy birthday, Jesus. So very glad you came.

Monday, December 24, 2012

How Many Kings?

K surprised me tonight.

She sang during Christmas Eve service.

I love her voice. But mostly I love her heart for God and for Jesus Christ.

This is what she sang.


Merry Christmas Eve to all!

Christmas Eve Squared

December 23. Christmas Eve eve. Or Christmas Eve squared.

My favorite day of the season. 

All of the fun is still to come. Time to enjoy the small things - a Christmas movie, a cup of hot chocolate with carols playing in the background, a piece of fudge or a cookie and some tea. 
K and I got to be Christmas elves tonight.

I had some packages I had to deliver before Christmas and wanted some company. I had to promise her a cup of holiday flavored coffee from a local coffee shop to get her to go with me. We played Christmas carols while driving around and sang along rather boisterously.

Well, I did.

She refused to participate. And might have entreated me to stop trying to sing. I'm not known for my singing abilities. One Sunday in church I was singing my little heart out, thinking I was sounding pretty good. The teenage boy in front of me turned around slowly and stared at me.

Not in a friendly, "Wow! She sounds great!" kind of way.

More like a, "Lady, please stop singing" kind of way.

But that doesn't stop me. I still sing my heart out every chance I get.

Carpe diem.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Home for the Holidays

Things I want to remember about today:

Listening to a favorite holiday piece that Searching For A Balance shared on her blog. Simple. Beautiful.

Driving in the car, singing Christmas carols with K and my nieces. Laughing and giggling at how offkey we sing. But singing anyway.

Watching K and E make fudge while D and I made Chex Muddy Buddies for Christmas. A friend of mine makes this yummy snack mix and adds peanut butter M&Ms to it, after mixing in the confectioner's sugar. Finger-lickin' delicious. 

Dad and I exchanging our favorite apps for our iPhones. I love how tech savvy my dad is and how unafraid he is to keep up with technology. I hope I'm like that when I'm his age.

Trying to say tongue twisters during dinner. Dad shared one that his grandfather used to say to him: "The skunk sat on the stump. The skunk said the stump stunk. The stump said the skunk stunk." I don't think anyone said it correctly for quite a while. Lots of laughs while we all took turns trying to wrap our tongues around this one.

Playing Risk with the Man, J, and K, Dad, and the girls after dinner. Dad laughing at all the antics of his grandchildren. His whole face smiles when he smiles. 


So very happy that Dad is home for the holidays. It's not the same without him. 

Love him. Mean it.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Presents

All the pictures from tonight are preserved in my memory.


I better get this down in writing.


Got together with some {very} good friends for a holiday party tonight. We talked and laughed, we ate, we drank bubbly, sparkly Prosecco, and then we laughed some more.

We are all at just about the same stage in our lives - kids grown and not really needing us too much anymore, married to the same spouse for umpteen years, most of us are working hard, in and out of the house.

We all hung out together for a while and then, as we are wont to do, the women drifted into the kitchen and the men had bonding time in the living room.

Their words. Not mine.

Spending time with friends. It was just the perfect way to start celebrating Christmas.

Thanks for such a lovely evening, everyone!


J came home before K this evening. Both of them were out with friends, home for the holiday break and eager to see their old mates.

He stretched out on the couch, pulled the dog onto his lap and started petting him. He looked over and told me how much he loved this part of the holiday - the build up. The anticipation. Looking at the tree with all the presents under it, watching a Christmas show. That he liked the gift exchange on Christmas Eve but that meant that Christmas would soon be over.

He speaks the truth, my son. And he's finally grown up. 

The best Christmas presents aren't presents at all.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Christmas Carol

A quick shot with my iPhone while we were at The Christmas Carol. We saw it in a fairly small, intimate theatre in the big city - one that we'd never been to before. I look forward to going back to see other shows.

The production was wonderful and the man who played Ebenezer Scrooge was unbelievably funny. If you can believe that.

It had holiday dancing, Christmas carols, and glitter.

The trifecta for a captivating show.

And I can't forget the flying glow in the dark ghosts - Christmases past and present and various other assorted ghosts in the show. Those are the white creatures shown in the photo above.


It did the trick, getting us all in a festive mood. Keeping in line with the idea that the best presents aren't always presents, we did more things together this year. Spending time with each other - before life takes everyone in different directions. 

The next few days leading up to Christmas are going to be very busy. Parties, some cookie making, and lots of laughs. 

I'm ready.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Visiting

Meet my lovely sissy in law, JB. She's visiting for a few days to say hello to Mom. One of her daughters came with her and we're so happy they are here. I love having visitors at Christmas-time, don't you?

JB makes me laugh. And I love to laugh. Like today.

She was trying to use the phone to call her husband.  She could not figure out how to use the phone. She mis-entered the phone number and was trying to backspace to correct it.


I laughed because I have done this. 
Vignette from a table on the back porch.


Knitwits annual Christmas party was tonight. We ate. We laughed. We had a wonderfully funny, festive evening. 

Thanks, ladies.

Photos tomorrow. I'm too tired to post any now.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Random Christmas Stories

K was out Christmas shopping today. She came home carrying LOTS of bags. I was grilling her on what she bought and for whom.

She bought two things for me. Yay!

But then she said she was going to return one of them. Oh, why? I may have asked. Since she already had them, why go to the trouble of returning one? Wasted gas, and all that.

She mulled it over, thinking to herself, then looked at me and said, "You can have both presents. You've been a good mom this year!"

And added, "Plus, then I can wear one of them!"


I stopped listening after "You've been a good mom this year!"
The Man and K went out shopping for me last night. He was going to go out by himself but I encouraged him to take K. She knows my taste. And she's a girl. Plus, I've seen what he can do when left to his own devices.

Let's just say the word, mukluks. Yup, I got mukluks one year.

She came home with some pretty.frightening.stories.

The Man had asked me to come up with a Christmas list. It was pretty short since there's not a lot of things I need, or want, right now. I put a few things on, like a music CD and a DVD. I gave a generic "some pretty earrings" and "a pretty bracelet" with some direction to K about getting something sparkly.

I like sparkles.


She took him to one of my favorite stores, Anthropologie, and told him he could pick out almost anything in the store and I would love it.

He was back within a few minutes, "Well, that was a bust. Let's go."


She dragged him back in to the store and gave him some direction before she let him loose again.

"Dad, look for a bracelet. There are three criteria - it has to be stretchy, it has to be silver, and it has to sparkle. Now, go!"

He came back with some sort of tribal piece. She took one look at it and told him, "No. It doesn't meet the criteria."

"It stretches!" he said.

"But it's not silver and it definitely doesn't sparkle. Go back and find something else."

It's a good thing she was there.
Mom brought out a Christmas card for me to read last night.

I loved it.

The Older I Get...

the simpler my holiday preparations become...
the closer I feel to old friends as I write my Christmas cards...
the more I cherish the oldest ornaments...
the more fondly I remember Christmases past...
the longer I hold on to a holiday hug...
the more I realize Christmas is a matter of the heart...
the tighter my throat gets when I sing "Silent Night"...
the more I enjoy giving than receiving...
the more I try to see Christmas through the eyes of a child...
the longer I sit at night in the glow of the Christmas tree...
the more wondrously beautiful the Christmas story is...
the deeper my awe at God's infinite love...
the more I love Christmas.

I don't know who the author is. The card didn't say. But I'd like to tell them how much I liked what they wrote. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wine+{Math}=Happy Girl

K picked out this bottle of wine for me to purchase.

Because it has some sort of equations on it.  

She loves math.

I love wine.

It's a good choice.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Pageant

Tonight was the Christmas pageant at church. My niece, D, was Mary and she took her job very seriously. She memorized her lines to perfection.

She also got a fit of silent giggles when her and Joseph and the angel Gabriel did something unplanned.
It was so very hard to see all these angels singing. Couldn't stop thinking about the Newton families missing their little ones.

So while I was joyful - worshipping my savior, Jesus Christ, with my church family - I was sad, too.
The teens did their version of the popular Christmas video on YouTube, dressed as monks.

Very funny.

Here's the popular version on YouTube.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Holy Family

Watching "White Christmas" and working on a few gift items.

Very thankful for my life, and the life of the Man and the kids. Thankful that we had another day together.

Lots of prayers today.

Friday, December 14, 2012

God Prevails

I can't stop crying.

I can't stop thinking agonizing thoughts. I came home from work and went straight upstairs to see J. I ruffled his hair, gave him a kiss, and just looked at him. "What's that for?" he asked me. "Just because," I answered.

Just because.

Because there are parents alone tonight, missing a child who is never going to come home from school. Because there are families missing a mom or dad or a wife or husband who is not coming home from work tonight. Because there are neighbors sitting in homes, not sure what to do to help each other, knowing the house across the street or the house next door is in agony tonight - missing a loved one taken away today. Abruptly. Cruelly.

Twenty-six funerals to get through. And so many other children whose lives are altered forever.

Those poor families.


Twenty-six people woke up this morning, had breakfast, brushed their teeth, got dressed, and headed off to school. A safe place, a place where they either teach or are taught.

No way of knowing it was the last time they would do this.

Twenty-six families watched loved ones put on hats and scarves and mittens. They kissed moms, and dads, and children good-bye.

Not knowing that life was never going to be the same for them again.
K was babysitting tonight. I had to text her and ask her, "Are you safe?" 

Irrational, I know. But I needed to hear that she was safe. When she came home, we hugged and told each other, "I love you." 


The pictures are horrifying. People collapsed against each other, sobbing and screaming. Face after face covered in tears. 

And fear.

But out of the horror comes remarkable stories. Heroic stories.

A teacher who told her kindergartners that she loved them. She thought they were going to be killed. And she didn't want gunfire to be the last thing they heard. She wanted them to hear someone telling them that they were loved. 

That they were loved. Amidst all that was going on around her, she wanted them to know this. May God bless this young teacher.

A young boy, grabbing the hands of his friends, running out of the classroom, away from the shooter. Finding their way to the road where they were picked up and brought to safety.

A teacher grabbing a student and pulling him into her classroom, as bullets went by him in the hallway. And his thankful mom, teary and scared, so thankful for the woman who saved her son's life.


Yes, evil came to this town today. But evil does not triumph.

God prevails.

In the face of all this senseless horror, we must remember this - in all things, God prevails.

May God bless all the people of Newton, Connecticut and give them the strength they need to survive this terrible, horrible tragedy.

My prayers are with you.

Wrapping This Up

Oreo cheesecake. From The Cheesecake Factory.



Still wrapping presents. I bought too many. 

Buying presents is like cleaning up the edge of the brownies in the pan. You keep trimming a little more and a little more and before you know it, you've eaten half the pan.

Christmas shopping is like that. I buy some presents for J and some for K and I have a few more for this one and not as many for that one. So I go out and buy a few more for that one and now I've got too many for that one and this one is a little short. Now I have to go out and buy one or two for this one, but I spent a little bit extra so I have to even it up and get something for that one, and round and round it goes.

I'm exhausted just reading that. I need to find my second wind.

I have to go back to wrapping.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homemade Christmas Tags

Time to make the holiday tags. 

I came up with these tags last year. They're fairly simple. 

One shipping tag. Found a box of 500 at a local stationery store.

A couple paper punches. I used a reindeer, a jingle bell, and a sled.

Some old Christmas cards. Nan used to cut up her old Christmas cards and turn them into package tags.  I used to love going through the box of tags she had in the basement. She was an original recycler.

After paper punching the cards, I used teeny, tiny adhesive dots to attach the shapes to the tag. The brand I used was Zots, but I'm sure any brand will do. I found them in the scrapbooking section of a local craft store.

Some jingle bells. I bought some jingle bell wreaths after Christmas last year that were marked down substantially and took them apart.

My new name is Auntie Jingle. I've decided I'm going to put a jingle bell on one gift that I give each person and over the course of our lifetimes, they'll have collected a jarful of jingle bells.

Tie the bell onto the string that comes with the shipping tag and you're all set to go. All you have to do is label them "To:" and "From:".


I started wrapping gifts tonight. Mainly because I started losing presents. I put them in safe places and then promptly forget where I put them. I started putting some in large tote boxes in the basement but those filled up quickly. So then I was stacking them in my closet but that pile got a little out of control. After that, it's like Thunderdome in the house. Presents are everywhere.

I told the kids not to look in the bags. If they did, it's their own fault there won't be any surprises on Christmas morning. 

A few got finished tonight. More tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Card Photo

Christmas photo for this year. It's not the one I had envisioned but I like it. A lot.

It has "Brady Bunch" written all over it. My childhood.


I saw a family photo last year on Pinterest that I love.

Love, love, love.

Next year.

Next year I'm going to shoot something along these lines. And then we'll keep adding people to the photo as J and K start families of their own. 

I think this will make a wonderful pictorial history of our family as it grows over the years.

I can't wait to start with next year's photo.


Conversation around the dinner table:

J: "K, I was thinking about taking an art class next semester, Art and Blah, Blah, Blah. How is that class?"

K: "I don't know. I haven't taken that class."

J: "Well, it's either that or Guitar 101 or Epidemiology. Epidemiology. Isn't that cool?"

K: "The word or the class?"

Me: "What is epidemiology anyway?"

J: "The study of epidemics."

K: "What?"

Me: "Well, what's an epidemiologist?"

J: "Someone who studies epidemics."

Me: "Who does that? Where do they work?"

J: "The Department of Public Health."

K: "You don't know that. Where are you getting your information from?"

J: "Parks and Rec."

K: "What?"

J: "Anne Perkins says it in the episode about a flu epidemic." 

And then he smiled.


Love that kid. He makes me laugh.

Sloppy Shopping

I am so blessed.

I get to do what I love to do. And I have so much fun doing it.
These guys were very fun. Little Mister F was not so sure of me at the start. He wouldn't even look at me. Every time I tried to get a shot of him, he would turn his head. And smile.

Little Miss S is a friendly sort of gal. I had no problem getting her to look at me. The problem was getting her to stop moving.

Constant Motion. That's what I would call them if they were a rock group.


See the grimace on Momma's face?

Poor Momma got kicked in the face by Little Mister F. It's dangerous taking photos.
This is one of my favorite photos from the day. 

Dad = pure joy.
Another favorite.

They are too cute together.


I'm glad there is so much good and happy in my life. Because it helps to balance out the things that make me a wee bit upset.

Like department stores. And their pseudo-sales.

I was doing some Christmas shopping today and found a wallet at a major department store. I looked around to see if it was on sale and sure enough, there is a sign right above that says, "Acme Wallets - 40% off". 

(Well, not really Acme. I just can't remember the brand name.)

Off I go to the cashier, where she promptly rings it up at full price. 


I tell her that the wallet is on sale for 40% off and she looks at the price tag. Then she looks at me and says, "No, these aren't on sale. These are Great Prices. Great Prices are never on sale."

What? Why does the sign say that brand wallet is on sale? That's a very bad trick to play on a shopper. But she wasn't budging.

I told her to keep the wallet. Their prices weren't so great after all.


My next stop was another major department store. I found the perfect gift for someone and the sign above it said, "15% off if you use your store credit card" and it listed the item I was purchasing.

Off I go to the cashier, where she promptly rings it up at full price.


I tell her that the item is on sale for an additional 15% off since I was using my card. She looks at the item and says, "No, these aren't on sale. These are electrics. Electrics are never on sale."

What? Why does the sign say that the item is on sale? That's a very bad trick to play on a shopper. But she wasn't budging.

This time I went back to the display, took the sign, and marched back to the cashier. She looked at the sign and said, "No, that's not correct. Those are not supposed to be on sale. They are electrics."

That was all she had to say. I launched into a diatribe about how I didn't care that electrics aren't included. Their sign said my exact item was on sale and I wanted the price. I was rather forceful about this since I had just gotten beat up by the last department store. I wasn't leaving that store without the item and I was going to get it on sale, by golly.

And I did.

But it wasn't pretty. And I am so tired of stores using tricky wording and listing billions of exclusions on their coupons.

They might as well hand out coupons that say, "50% off everything, except what you're buying. There's nothing off that."


I'm going back to online shopping.