Friday, November 30, 2012

Sisters of My Heart

I love the group of women I work with. I spend a lot of time with them. It's a good thing we all like each other.

We have seen each other through births and deaths, weddings and break-ups, joyous occasions and tearful ones. We have lost favorite patrons and we have lost beloved pets. We have ooh'd and aah'd over baby pictures and laughed at the things that make our husbands differ from us. We have counted calories and pennies and we have shared many good books. We have raised our children together and now we are watching some of those children raise their own children. We have a lot of history, these women and I.

We're like a family. Sometimes we squabble, sometimes we laugh and tease each other, sometimes we just listen.

I wouldn't trade it for the world.
When I need advice about something, I go to these women. Whatever I'm dealing with, I can almost guarantee they've already gone through it. They give good counsel and I'm very thankful for their guidance and opinions.

Sometimes they don't tell me what I want to hear. They tell me the truth.

I value their honesty.
As I've gotten older, I have come to value the friendships I have much more deeply. Because people come and go in life. People you think will always be around sometimes aren't. 

And I don't want any regrets over things I should have said and never did.
Some of these women are like mothers to me, others are like sisters - but they are all friends. I treasure each of them and I'm afraid I don't let them know often enough how much I enjoy their company and how much they mean to me.

So this post is for you, dear ones. 

Thank you for the years of laughs, and tears, and advice. Thank you for always listening and for speaking the truth. Thank you for your kind and gentle support and thank you for the many lunches we have shared.

Most of all, thank you for your friendship.

Love you. Mean it.

~~~~~~~~~~

Some shots of K tonight. She was working very hard on calculus homework and I went over to speak with her. She spontaneously picked up her calculator and made a joyous face. 

She loves calculators.

While I was sitting there with my camera, I took a few shots of her. Just trying to capture a moment in time.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Visit from Jack Frost

Ice crystals from Jack Frost on my windshield this morning.
He sure was busy last night.
He paints such beautiful creations. 

Delicate. 

Intricate. 

Fragile. 

It took about ten minutes to melt enough of these crystals to let me drive away. But not before I ran in the house to get my camera.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chocolate-gate

Snapped this today after a light snowfall.

I love the little orbs of light around the tree. 

~~~~~~~~~~

I had to buy more Christmas ornaments today. We've eaten quite a few of them already. And it's not even December.

Remember I decorated the tree this year with chocolate Christmas ornaments?

I told J and K that they could eat one a day, kind of like an advent calendar. A giant advent calendar. They love this idea. The little girls did too. They're trying to get Sissy to turn their tree into a giant chocolate ornament advent calendar. She's not falling for it. Yet.

But we're going through them faster than I thought. And the tree is getting sparse.

Hmmm. I may have to rethink this for next year. In the meantime, I need more ornaments. So off to the store I went to replenish my supply.

I'm glad I found some. Now I just have to figure out how to make sure J and K are only eating one a day. I may have to rig up a chocolate cam and film the tree.

I'll call it Chocolate-gate.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas Doesn't Come From A Store

"It came without ribbons!  It came without tags!  It came without packages, boxes or bags!"... Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!  "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.  Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!"  ~Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!


As my children have gotten older, I've come to value this sentiment even more. When they were little, it was all about the presents, and finding the perfect present. That elusive item that was on every child's wish list. The item that had people lining up at o'dark thirty to buy. I have to admit, there were a couple Christmases that had me going to extraordinary lengths to find their gifts.

But then something happened. They grew up.

And now they don't really know what they want. Sure, there are a few things they can come up with for me to buy. But it's not like the old days, when they'd start making their list months ahead of time and it would keep getting longer and longer and more and more extravagant as time went on.

{Which reminds me of my niece E's list this year: a dolphin, seahorse, mini-dolphin, shark, or dirt bike. In that order. Good luck with that, Sissy.}

So what I've started to do is find activities for us to do together. That's what I want for Christmas. Time with my family. Time with my children. We're all so busy that we don't get enough time together. I place a high value on that time. 

It's a gift.

~~~~~~~~~~

Already, K and I, with Sissy and the girls, have made our annual gingerbread houses. That's one tradition that we all look forward to. A day spent laughing, and listening to Christmas carols, teasing each other, and eating candy. An all around fun day. 

Another activity this year is going to see "The Nutcracker" with K, Sissy, and the little girls. We'll have breakfast together and then drive into the big city for the show. Last year, K and I did this and we each bought a tiny ornament for our trees. A reminder of a fun day spent together.

We're also going to see "A Christmas Carol" - the Man, J, K, and I. I've heard good things about this show so I'm very excited to see it. We'll probably grab a bite to eat somewhere in the city beforehand so we'll make a night out of it. 

~~~~~~~~~~

I'm hoping all these things cement the idea that Christmas isn't about the presents, but about the time spent together.

I won't know until they have children of their own, but it's a start.

A small one, anyway.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Random iPhone Photos

Just some random photos I uploaded from my iPhone tonight.
My breakfast. A bowl of whipped cream. 

It was served with a side of crepes.

The breakfast of champions.
One of my favorite fortunes from a Chinese fortune cookie.
M and I stopped for a bite to eat on our way to the airport last week. When she broke open her fortune cookie, three of the exact same fortunes spilled out. 

Very lovely fortunes. 

You have a natural grace and great consideration for others.

It's very true. That speaks M so well.
I broke open my cookie to see my fortune.

Maybe you can live on the moon in the next century.

What?

What does this even mean? What about my natural grace?
The paparazzi were out when the gingerbreads were finished.

E borrowed one of my cameras.

I wasn't sure she was going to give it back.
Christmas lights.

~~~~~~~~~~

I love the randomness that comes from having the iPhone camera.

Gingerbread Day, part two

Nothing like getting some frosting squirted into your mouth.

E loves this. She also likes having whipped cream squirted in her mouth too. But don't tell Sissy. What happens at Auntie's, stays at Auntie's.
D was a trooper doing some dishes. 
The back of K's house. 

Love the heart made from candy canes.
We've been doing this for a very. long. time.

Every year I think I'm going to pull out past photos and compare the houses we used to make at the very beginning with those we make now.

I haven't done it yet. I don't think they've changed much.
Snuggle time with K.
Sweet E giving K a big hug.
After finishing the gingerbread houses, I told the Man, J, and K that I wanted to take the Christmas photos for our cards.

No grumbling. No fussing. No whining.

I think I finally have them used to being in front of the camera. Even the Man.

They still get goofy, trying to make each other laugh. But it's all in good fun and I usually get some great photos out of all the silliness.

~~~~~~~~~~

I love watching them laugh together. I'm so glad they are close. Siblings are important. They are your lifelong best friends, the ones who cheer for you, defend you, go to battle for you, and won't let anybody talk smack about you. They love you, support you, make you laugh, and lift you up.

Yup, siblings are important.
The Man made this last year for me. It's a great decoration and an even better photo prop.

Thanks, Man.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gingerbreads and Second Thanksgiving

It's late.

I'm tired.

I can barely put up a few photos from today's gingerbread house session with Sissy and the girls.

~~~~~~~~~~

Today was a day for the memory book. K and the girls put the houses together with very little help from Sissy or I. We had to help squeeze the frosting bag a few times just to give K's muscles a bit of a break. But for the most part, the next generation put the houses together and then decorated them.

This was very good news for Sissy and I. That left us free to take lots and lots of photos. Which is what we really want to do.
Peeps are definitely a fan favorite. Cute shapes. Great taste. They got it all going on.

Peeps rule.
J stopped by for a sneak candy attack. We talked him into helping decorate K's house. He put one M&M on and called it a day.

He's such a good sport.

We spent a quiet afternoon playing Risk with the girls. Then Sissy and her hubby came over for second Thanksgiving. I cooked another turkey. Now we have lots of leftovers.

Leftovers rule.

~~~~~~~~~~

More tomorrow. Time for bed.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mini-Reunion

Day after Thanksgiving = decorate-the-house-for-Christmas day.

I've learned over the years that if I don't decorate the day after Thanksgiving, it won't get done until the last minute. And since it's a lot of work to decorate the house, it should be displayed for quite a while, don't you think?

I do.

~~~~~~~~~~

Pretty simple tree this year. Old glass balls that I've picked up from all over - family, friends, tag sales, flea markets. Chocolate ball ornaments and chocolate Santa ornaments.

And a dozen or so chocolate ornaments from Switzerland, thanks to my dear friend B.

No chocolate advent calendars for J and K this year. They're going to use the tree as a giant advent calendar.

Keeping it simple.

~~~~~~~~~~

Had an absolutely fantastic lunch with a bunch of friends today. Four girlfriends, three husbands, and about a thousand laughs.

M and the Hammer hosted a mini-reunion of sorts for several people who are in town for our high school reunion. Our friend B and her husband are up from the way South and while the six of us were eating lunch, our Swiss miss girlfriend B called and we made her come over and join us. 

Peer pressure. Still alive and working.

Honestly, I can't remember an afternoon I've enjoyed so much. The four of us girls pulled out yearbooks and old photos and had a blast walking down memory lane. Then we pulled up recent pictures of our classmates and compared them to senior high pictures.

We were kids.

Our husbands were entertained just listening to us ramble on and on, stopping to giggle and laugh every minute or so. When they got tired of us, they went outside to man-land and grilled stuff.

Thanks, M and M. We had a wonderful day.

We Give Thanks

I can't remember a Thanksgiving I've enjoyed more than the one we celebrated today.

There was nothing special about it. 

The food was the same we've always had. There were no guests this year. Nothing at all remarkable about it.

Yet there was something, something, that made it oh-so-sweet.  Because it was just the five of us giving thanks for abundant blessings and celebrating all that we have been given.
The Man and I got up early to stuff the turkey and get it in the oven. J was up fairly early so I made him a quite delicious breakfast, if I may say so myself.

(I whipped up a quick batch of eggs for french toast, cut a thick slice of store bought blueberry quick bread, dipped it in the egg mixture and cooked it in a frying pan, turning once. He was full of smiles when I queried him about the taste so I cooked a slice for myself. Would I make it again? Yes. Yes I would.)

Once J had eaten, he was very happy to help prepare the meal. The Man abdicated the job of making the oyster stuffing to J this year. That means both our children can now make their great-grandmothers' stuffings. In the case of Nan's stuffing recipe, it goes back even further since she got it from her grandmother.
Since K and I had prepared quite a bit yesterday, we spent most of this morning talking and laughing while we switched dishes in and out of the oven.

Everyone pitched in. No one did too much. No one did too little. And no one grumbled. Not one grumble.

The table was set, the serving pieces pulled out, the food warmed up and it was all done amidst a tone of joyfulness and thankfulness. 
I had to sample the stuffing while we were waiting for the bird to settle.

Once I dug in for a taste, three other forks lined up, ready for their sample. We all declared it to be quite tasty and had a hard time restraining ourselves from eating more. Instead we nibbled on olives while we waited for the bird to settle.

We poured the wine, opened the jellied cranberry, scooped the fresh cranberry relish into a bowl, sliced the pumpkin bread, and we waited for the bird to settle.

Everyone helped and everyone smiled. It really was quite remarkable.

Finally, the bird settled and the Man was able to carve. We had fun sneaking pieces of turkey and even got Mom in on the game when she peeked in the kitchen to check on the progress.
I don't know why we had such a peaceful day. Amidst all the turmoil and grittiness that life can bring, today was a refreshing and welcome respite. A time to remember all those things that make us thankful - good health, good family, a warm home filled with an abundance of food, and friends. 

I think every day should be a day we give thanks.

~~~~~~~~~~

After the obligatory after-Thanksgiving dinner naps, we roused ourselves to play a couple games. J achieved world domination in Risk and K took us all to the cleaners in Monopoly. Always with the joking and always with the laughter.

It really is a wonderful life.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Passing the Torch

I've been waiting for this day for quite some time. 

I remember the first time I made Nan's stuffing for Thanksgiving. I was newly married and it was the first time I was hosting my family for the holidays. I had gotten the stuffing recipe from one of my aunts. She had taken the time to watch Nan one year and wrote the recipe down as Nan worked, making the stuffing in that yellow Tupperware bowl.

I think the problem with the process was that Nan had done this so many times she was able to work at the speed of light. So maybe a few steps got left out.

Steps like, saute the onions in the salt pork grease.

The recipe I had didn't even tell me what to do with the two onions listed in the ingredients part. 

So I guessed.

(*Disclaimer - I was newly married and not an experienced cook.) 

I just tossed them into the stuffing, chopped and raw.

~~~~~~~~~~

Fast forward to Thanksgiving dinner. My entire family is gathered around. Everything looked wonderful and smelled quite delicious. We pass the bowls, taking generous helpings of our favorites, and settle in to enjoy the meal.

Almost in unison, my grandmother and my aunt say, "What's in the stuffing?"

As they spit out the offending morsels. Onions. Raw onions.

"You didn't cook them?" they asked.

"Well, uh, uh....the recipe didn't say to cook them!" I cried.

Needless to say, I made some corrections to my copy right after dinner. After I finished clearing off plates with little piles of chopped onions left on them.

~~~~~~~~~~

I decided this wasn't going to happen to K. It was time for her to learn how to make Nan's stuffing. So she made the stuffing today, with just a little bit of assistance from me. The torch has been passed.

It was fun working with her, showing her how to mix the stuffing to get the right consistency. It has to feel right. There's a certain thickness and smoothness to the stuffing when you get to that point. You have to keep adding the water, a little at a time, to get there. If you miss it, you add a little more bread. Until you get the feel just right.

Then you get to do the same thing with the taste. You add a little bit of Bell's seasoning, along with the salt pork grease, and keep mixing and stirring and tasting until it's just right.

~~~~~~~~~~

K did a great job. The stuffing tastes just like Nan's. 

That's the best compliment she could receive.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Getting Ready

Sissy and I baked the gingerbread house pieces today. We're getting fairly proficient at this whole process. Start to finish was two hours. After seeing all of them stacked up in the pan, I almost started whistling, "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas."

We're going to decorate them on Saturday. We just can't do it before Thanksgiving. That's not right. Not right at all.

No skipping over Thanksgiving.

~~~~~~~~~~

I stopped at the local market to get the candy for the houses and had a conversation with a few of the employees about working on Thanksgiving day. I was glad to hear that the market is closed that day so the employees can spend it with their families. Too many stores are starting their early bird sales on Thanksgiving night.

I think that is terribly unfair for their employees. Family is important. We only have a few big holidays a year and people should get to spend them with their families.

Unless you work in the health field or public safety. For those people, thank you very much. Thank you for the hard work you do and thank you for sacrificing time with your family to help others. You are true heroes.

Monday, November 19, 2012

No Place Like Home


Home sweet home. 

M and B and I headed home today after a fantastic weekend up north. We took our time getting there. B had asked if we could drive along the coast for a little bit before getting on the freeway. M was happy to oblige her. Who wants to drive on superfast roads with no scenery when you can meander on back roads and see scenes like the one above?

I love this view on the back side of Biddeford Pool. The houses in the background looked like a skyline to me. A very pretty skyline.

What a crazy looking sign.

We found this one on the way to Walker's Point - the home of former President George Bush.
Marginal Way.

A great walk along the coast found in Perkins Cove.

These small little fishing villages look like something out of a Hollywood movie set. Cute, quaint, and cozy.

As for the homes along the walk? Not so cute, or quaint, or cozy. They are big, with a large presence and lots and lots of windows. The one behind M and B looks new. The carpenters were working outside, hammering and sawing. Other homes looked like they had been in disrepair for quite some time.

Maybe their owners can't take care of them anymore. A little sad to see such glorious homes looking like a poor relation.
The girls turned around so I could get their picture against such a pretty background.
Thank you, Mr. Nice Stranger, for taking our picture.

~~~~~~~~~~

I had such a good time this weekend with these two ladies. Both old and dear friends, with lots of history between us. M and B have been faithful about keeping in touch with each other through the years. B and I said we would try and do a better job. The digital world has made this much easier.

So tonight, I'm thankful for a few things. Old friends. And a husband who lets me go off and enjoy these girls weekends away.

Mostly, I'm thankful for home. Because as much as I have fun going away, it's always a great feeling to come home and be greeted with hugs and kisses and "I missed you."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

New Days with Old Friends

A truly glorious day at the beach.  M and B and I walked along the edge of the water, collecting great big seashells to take home and add to our collections. It was a perfect beach to walk on - a great big swooping bend so we could see the shoreline for miles ahead of us, some people and a few dogs on the beach, firm sand to walk on. A lovely spot.

The last time I was at this beach there was a convent on the shore. 

Not anymore.

It's been torn down to make room for 11 building lots. 

How sad that must be for the nuns in that convent. Losing their home. I'm sure that beach was a place of peaceful tranquillity and quiet contemplation for them.
 We stopped for breakfast at a local joint and had very. good. food.

I ordered fruit crepes. They were served with a bowl of whipped cream.

The waitress - a chatty, friendly sort - brought the bowl of whipped cream and put it down in front of me before serving the crepes.

Looking at  the bowl, I started to giggle.

Whipped cream. The breakfast of champions.

~~~~~~~~~~

After breakfast, we shopped for a little bit. B wanted to get some specific items that she has a hard time getting back home. Either they don't import them, or they are very expensive.

We filled the car with bags. Unbelievable.
 We stopped at a small fish market to get some fresh haddock, lobster meat, and some rolls.

The rest of the afternoon was spent chatting, catching up with one another and hearing about each other's lives. 

We cooked dinner together, sipping on wine, and eating cheese and white chocolate popcorn.

Ah, white chocolate popcorn. Nectar from heaven.

{White Chocolate Popcorn : Make a bowl of popcorn. No butter, a little salt. Melt one cup of white chocolate chips and pour over the popcorn. Mix gently to evenly coat the pieces and spread on a cookie sheet. When the chocolate has  solidified, EAT!}
Now we're watching a rather slow, painful movie about a young couple with relationship issues. He's American, she's British, she violates her student visa, and they can't quite seem to get their act together.

Oy vey.

I'm thankful for my knitting.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Friends

M and I headed up north tonight. It's a bit chilly up here. When we got to M's house near the beach, we could see frost on the ground. And it wasn't even morning yet. 

A {very} dear friend is visiting from Switzerland. We've been friends since our senior year in high school. B is an absolutely amazing person. She speaks fluent English, as well as six other languages. She and her family are well traveled, and know more about our recent election than a lot of Americans. 

I can't wait to catch up with her tomorrow. For now, it's off to bed. Plus my fingers are tired. I'm doing this post using my phone. 

So thankful for technology. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tree Rings

At lunch today, my friend P and I were talking about all the places we'd like to visit someday.

We both agreed that there are a lot of places in the U.S. that we want to see before we go overseas. P just got back from a trip down South with one of her grown sons. While driving back, he asked her to name the top five places she wanted to see.

"The Mississippi River," she said, off the top of her head.

"What?!" he exclaimed. He couldn't believe this was her first choice. But she wants to sail down the river, not just see it.

"South Dakota, to see Mt. Rushmore," she said, giving him her second choice.

"You want to go to South Dakota just to see Mt. Rushmore?" he asked.

"Yup, just to see Mt. Rushmore," she said.

"What about the Grand Canyon?" he asked.

"Yeah, that's up there. But not top five. The redwoods forest," she said, her third choice. "I want to see the trees that are big enough for cars to drive through."

He doesn't get it.
~~~~~~~~~~

I agree with Mt. Rushmore. But I have no burning desire to see the Mississippi River. If I happen to cross it sometime, great.

But I'm not going out and looking for it.
When she spoke of the redwoods forest, it reminded me of something that happened on my honeymoon with the Man.

~~~~~~~~~~

We spent our honeymoon driving around the state of Washington. We meandered for two weeks around the state - starting in Seattle, driving the Olympic peninsula, crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca to visit Victoria, BC, and then west and south along the Pacific coastline.

Lots of time in the car.

Looking at lots of very. big. trees.

So one day we're driving through a national forest, surrounded by trees that were {very} very old. Trees you could drive your car through.

But it was a little lot of bit spooky. Everything was prehistoric-size. And not a lot of sun penetrated through the millions and millions of leaves. It was very gloomy. Like something out of a B-grade horror movie.

I got a little nervous, being that we were the only car on the dark, gloomy road with huge trees above us and around us. 

So I started playing with my diamond engagement ring. Pulling it off and putting it back on. Pulling it off and putting it back on. Off and on. Off and on. Off and on.

The Man looked at me and told me to stop playing with my ring or I'd end up losing it.

But I couldn't stop. Off and on. Off and on. Off and on.

Kerplink. I dropped it. It tumbled down, down, down, in between the seat and the middle console.

Gulp.

The Man slammed on the brakes, came around to my side of the car, and told me to get out. 

Oh no, he's going to kill me. And leave my body deep in these dark, dark woods. But no, he just wanted to take the seat out so he could find the ring. Which he did, tout de suite. 

He put it back on my finger and told me to LEAVE IT ALONE.

Okay, okay. I'll leave it alone.

~~~~~~~~~~

It's amazing we're still married.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Seeds of Promise



Took a walk around the yard yesterday with my macro lens. At first glance, everything looks like it's winding down, dried up and brown.

Sad. Depressing. A little stressing.

I'm not a big fan of November. 

{I like Thanksgiving. Good food, lots of family and friends, oodles of love.}

Spring seems oh-so-far away.
But as I looked closer, I found promise.

All these teeny tiny seeds, just waiting for the wind to catch them and blow them away.

Hundreds of them. Thousands of them.

All promises that spring will come back. And so will sunny days and summer winds.
One flower. 

So many seeds.

So many promises.

On a gloomy, dark November day, as time was winding the fertile season down, these tiny seeds reminded me that life does, indeed, go on.
And into our lives, let there be laughter.

~~~~~~~~~~

I was sitting in front of the computer a few nights ago, intently focused on the screen, when the Man  looked at me and said rather sharply, "Sweetheart, don't move."

Not words you want to hear. At any time. They usually mean something bad is about to happen.

As I looked over at him, sure that I had misheard what he said, something swooped down from the ceiling and flew past my head.

Oh no. Not again.

A bat.

Before you could say, "Holy bats, Batman," I screamed and was out of the chair and into the kitchen, hiding by the front door. Ready to bolt if I had to. Pajamas and all. The Man called me to come back into the living room. 

"No!" I said.

"Get in here and watch the bat while I go get a net!" he said.

"No!" I said.

"Get in here!"

"No!"

He stomped out of the living room and glared at me.

"I am NOT going in that living room!" I said, rather forcefully.

"Go tell Mom not to come out of her room," he said.

"No!" That meant I would have had to go through the living room to get to her room. Sorry, Mom. It's every woman for herself when there's a bat in the house. Besides, her door was only open a crack. The bat couldn't get in there.

"Well, at least open the doors so it can fly out if it wants to." And off he went to the garage to get the pink butterfly net we've used in the past for this very thing.

By the time he got back, the bat had disappeared from the living room. The Man and I peeked into the room and saw a shadow move in the hallway leading to our bedroom.

Uh-oh.

Sure enough, the bat was in our bedroom, swooping around in figure eights, trying to figure out how to get out.

Into the bedroom he goes, and within a few moments, the Man calls me in and tells me to open the back door for him. He had the bat in the net. 

Good-bye, Mr. Bat. And good riddance.

~~~~~~~~~~

When it was all done, I went into Mom's room and told her it was okay to come out, the bat was gone.

"BAT!" she screamed. "AGAIN?"

And that's when I started laughing.