Wednesday, November 28, 2007

the white envelope

For years our family has found a worthy cause to donate to over the holidays. It all started with a struggling co-worker who was worried about the holidays because they didn't have money for Christmas. Every day I would hear of their struggles and worries of no Christmas so decided to do something about it. I didn't know much about their situation but envisioned the three young children waking up Christmas morning to no decorations, no tree, no presents, nothing. It was going to be a bleak Christmas. So I made this family my first act of charitable giving.

Tracy and I made a gingerbread house, bought a present for each child, baked cookies, and delivered it all, including a box of satsumas. Imagine my surprise when we walked into their apartment to find this large, beautiful tree with presents piled high underneath! Needless to say, I was not only shocked but embarrassed and a little perturbed as well. But we graciously wished them all a Merry Christmas and went on our merry way. As it turned out, the presents were from grandma and grandpa but it didn't make it less embarrassing for me because I thought we were helping a family truly in need; not a family who just wanted more. But this became an annual tradition of finding one cause to give to over the holidays.

One year we bought several sets of long johns and wool socks and donated them to the local homeless shelter. Another year it was donating nonperishable food to the Food Bank. A lot of our charitable giving was done through work--collecting travel-size shampoos and other toiletries for the Aware Center, adopting a family from the Salvation Army, contributing to the newly formed Boys and Girls Club. It was at work that I received an email that has had a lasting impact on me.

I don't recall who sent it to me or why. The author was unknown although searching on the internet shows that this story first appeared in Woman's Day magazine, 12/14/82. It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so.

I'm such a sucker for sappy stories; stories that tug at the heart; for good deeds done by others. This story had such an emotional impact on me that for the last several years we have included the White Envelope in our holiday giving. My kids will see the envelopes laying among the branches of the Christmas tree, but they don't ask about it, they don't pick it up and see who's name is on the envelope. They know what it is.

This White Envelope holds the name of the charitable organization we have picked for the holiday season. The organization we have donated in each family member's name as part of our gift to them.

In the last few years, the recipient of our donation usually has to do with rescuing dogs and cats. They need advocates to speak on their behalf and my sister is one of them. Rescued Paws is a nonprofit organization that has rescued over 650 dogs and cats in the last year! In one year!! The best part about this organization is that it is a "no kill" organization which means these poor unwanted, abandoned, and abused dogs and cats don't have to worry about tomorrow. Their foster care families keep them until they are adopted out. A handful of women volunteer their time to make this happen; it's all done in their homes; on their own time. And we're not talking about an hour a day. These women dedicate the most part of every single day to their rescue attempts. The dedication and time spent on behalf of these poor little creatures is incredible and they truly are the advocates for these abandoned and abused animals.

You can see why we've chosen Rescued Paws as our charity of choice these days. Here's what I do. I read through the stories that have been written about each dog and cat and pick out a few that tug at my heart the most. I post their picture and their story on the poster and again remind the kids why we're making this donation. We've never really talked about this envelope; I don't know if it has tugged at their hearts like it does mine; I don't know if it holds any value to them. In my little world, it does; so we continue with the tradition in the hopes that somewhere down the line, they, too, will carry on the tradition with their family.

If you have a hard-to-buy for person on your Christmas list, why not consider making a donation in their name to Rescued Paws? It's a good thing.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

christmas past

Here's some pictures from last year's Christmas decorations.

This is our tree.

One of my many Snowbaby ornaments. My husband collects them for me; snow globes, figures, ornaments.

Some pretty ribbon.

One of my rustic ornaments. This is a goose.

This is an ornament my daughter, Tracy, made many many years ago. It's still special to me.

This is a scene from my Snowbaby arrangement. I love it!

Happy Holidays!

it's officially "the holidays"

I anticipate this weekend all year long. Thanksgiving is over and the Holidays officially begin for our family. We start out with the Day After Thanksgiving Specials (NOTE: It's so important to me, it's even capitalized!) and then move into the Public Market where you can find 200 vendors selling homemade and other crafts. Mike has been busy hanging cedar garland and clear lights outside on the porch railing, around the door, and on trees and I'm supposed to be decorating inside. I keep getting side tracked though with too many other things to do. Like this post. And making lists of everything that needs to be done. And looking through Christmas magazines from years past. And filling my calendar. It all has to be done today so I know what to do tomorrow!

My family has two traditions. Tracy and I make wreaths and door swags every year for ourselves and others we give to friends. And we bake and decorate thousands of sugar cookies. Or it just seems that way after we're mid-way through. Both are quite the ordeal though because I can't do anything small.

First up with be wreath making. In years past, my mom would send up a large box of cedar, holly, and other Oregon greenery. After she passed away (11 years today), my dad carried on the tradition and then after my dad passed away, my sister, Georgia, did. We're talking a HUGE box with enough greenery to supply the neighborhood. I'd set card tables up and we'd bring all the greenery inside the house where we could drop clippings and needles on to the floor and not worry about it because of the hardwood floors. The main objective though was staying warm.... I know down south my sister makes her wreaths outside but it's just not feasible here. I'd have all the wreath forms, ribbons, wire cutters, and floral wire bought ahead of time, plus accessories we could add on to the wreaths if we so desired. I've never been such a good wreath maker, but it turns out okay. I always make a swag to hang out on the mailbox stand.

Our Christmas decorations always include the outside and always looks so nice, not cluttered or junky. Some day I'll get ambitious enough to make a wreath to hang on every split rail fence post. Our neighbors and best friends usually get some kind of greenery creation when we're done. I'm afraid we'll no longer get our box of greenery from down south anymore because of the post office's new procedure for mailing boxes. In case you didn't know, they no longer go by weight, but by the size of the box. And I can say from experience, it's no longer cheap. So today or tomorrow, my sweet husband and I will go out into the woods to cut local greenery. It's okay, but we don't have cedar here or holly or boxwood. We have horribly spruce with horrible needles that stick you. We also have hemlock and pine. It'll work okay for swags but not so well for wreaths. I guess the best part of getting that box of greenery was it was sent with love. It was from my family, whom I miss so terribly this time of year. It was our one connection over the holidays. Oh, well. Life goes on.

We're expecting snow today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

eight random things about myself....

I've been tagged by Joey from The Village Voice to share eight random things about myself. Thanks so much, Joey! Let's see.... according to the rules, I'm to link to the person who tagged me (Joey), post the rules (name 8 things you didn't know about me), and link to 8 other special bloggers. I know right now this isn't going to be so easy. First, it's hard talking about myself in such an intimate manner and secondly, I really have such a non-exciting life. But here goes....

  1. I'm really not copying Joey's list, but could.... I, too, normally let my husband get up first to make coffee (also Starbucks but we prefer Christmas Blend this time of year). I stretch my legs out, taking up as much of the bed as I can, then fall back asleep for 15 minutes until I hear the beep of brewed coffee. Ahhhh, life can be so good!
  2. I hate standing in lines. But if I must, there better be a National Enquirer magazine near by to ridicule. Mind you, I would never, ever, think (or admit to) of actually buying one of these periodicals.... except when I travel. Then I'll buy one for quick entertainment and easy reading. Otherwise I'm embarrassed to be associated with them in any form. My mom, however, bought it every single week. Go figure.
  3. I'm more than squeamish at the sight of blood. My kids grew up knowing they better never hurt themselves to the point of drawing blood because..... chances weren't good that they would get medical attention. Okay, so that's not entirely true, but blood does make me practically pass out. Even when I go to the doctor's office and have blood work done, I wiggle and jiggle and hum songs; anything to take my mind off what's happening to my arm.
  4. When I was little, I used to hide cookies and candy under my bed. I'd like to say I outgrew that trait, but sadly I didn't. I still hide candy although in my defense, my children know where I keep it and help themselves. What they don't know is where I keep the GOOD stuff! ;)
  5. I love to fish and I love to eat fish, but I can't stand to see them killed. You will always find me looking the other way and otherwise occupying my mind with thoughts and noises when this happens.
  6. One of my favorite past times is walking the rocky beaches, looking for fishing lures that have gotten snagged and broken from the line. The thrill of finding one is almost as good as catching the fish!
  7. My glasses are trifocals. And I hate them. I will always hate them.
  8. I love to sing. Even when I don't know the words. I'm not a good singer; I do not have a good voice. But I love to sing. It makes me feel good.

If you're interested in other random things about myself, you can visit a previous blog where I shared some scary things about myself. As far as tagging eight other bloggers.... I suspect most people have been tagged many times over so if you don't want to participate, that's fine. And if I didn't tag you and you want to participate, consider yourself tagged!

Simply Blissful
Splendid Things
Daisy Bouquet
Time With Shelby
Nature Trail
My Cozy Home

Hydrangea Home

So there you have it! Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

my traditions this time of year

I know I'm not alone when I say, "I hit the after Thanksgiving Day sales." Yes, it's a family tradition even though I'm the only one in my family that does it. I tell my husband, "I go for the socks." Yea, ah ha.... sure.... But I do! My daughter gets a dozen new pair every year and the boys, too, get a dozen white sports socks. Course you can get them just as cheap a couple days later and avoid the morning madness, but it's that madness that I love. I love getting up early, with sleep still in my eyes, my hair a mess and coffee in hand and head out. Most years my sweet husband will go with me, support me, because he loves me that much. (Personally.... I think he has just as much fun as I do although he would never admit it!) For me it's the beginning of the Holiday season, of which I absolutely am crazy about. I don't care what time it is. I don't care that there are hordes of people. It's just fun. It's festive. People are happy. Plus there's free coffee and donut holes! So there you have it. It's all about the donut holes!

Let's see.... My Thanksgiving dinner is usually typical of one my mother would have made. I've had the same menu for all of my adult life, with few deviations. It's definitely a traditional dinner; very simply made with way too much food. It's always a good day though. We spend most holidays with my ex-husband and his wife. It hasn't always been this way, but we became friends after the divorce and it's good for the kids. This year Soapy asked to host dinner, which is a first. It should be a good day.

Here's the recipe for one of my traditional salads I serve on Thanksgiving Day. It's a recipe passed down from my mom, so holds a special place in my heart especially this time of year. She passed away two days before Thanksgiving 11 years ago.... This is a very sweet salad. Very delicious.

Carrot Salad

6 cups (about 4#) carrots, cut in 1" pieces, slightly cooked (until just crisp tender)
1 white onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp prepared mustard
1 tsp worcestershire
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup oil
1 can tomato soup

Mix all ingredients and pour over HOT carrots. Cool.

This is such a good salad and even if you don't care for carrots will find this a refreshing salad. Have a joyful day!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

family traditions

This time of year always makes me sentimental. For family and old, familiar surroundings. There's always a strong need to return to my roots, to family. To drive through old neighborhoods, to visit my grandparents old farm house. To remember good times. Here's some of my good memories:

My dad's homemade sauerkraut. I'd love to eat it while it was still crunchy and salty, right out of the crock.

My mom's piano playing. My mom never took a piano lesson in her life but could play any song from ear. She would jazz up a song so it became a boogie woogie. I loved listening to her play and always wished I could follow in her footsteps. Sadly, I do not have that same talent.

Family time. I've written before that I grew up in a very dysfunctional family. It was. But before the drinking started in the early afternoon, we would have somewhat of a normal life. My mom never worked and my dad was a furniture salesman. We didn't have a lot of money, yet we had everything we needed. We'd go camping and fishing. We'd go to creeks and catch crawfish that my mom would cook up. Oh, so good. We had a cabin at the beach and wouldn't miss a good tide to go clamming or pry mussels off the rocks. Not only would we be up to our knees in muck, trying to dig that elusive clam, but would have to carry these heavy clam buckets back up the mountain to our cabin, and then help clean them. Would kids do that today?

Smells of Christmas morning: sausage patties and eggs fried in the sausage grease. This was in the good ol days, before everything was bad for you!

My first pair of fluffy pink slippers. My first bike. And my first Barbie (of which I still have).

Going berry picking with my grandma. They had an old station wagon and at lunch time, she would lay the tailgate open and make us chip beef sandwiches. Then we would return to a full afternoon of berry picking. I wish I could recall what type of berries they were; I want to say blackcaps.... In my younger days I would go strawberry picking. My mom would wake me up at 4:00 a.m., I'd walk the half mile to the bus stop (in the dark), catch a bus to the strawberry field an hour away, pick all day, leave tired and sore.... all for $3.25! That was the most I ever made in a day of berry picking, but back then, it was a lot of money.

It's memories like these that make me smile. Tis the Season for good memories!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

good food

Today I'm grateful for fruit! I adore fruit and could live on it all year long. Especially sweet, ripe mangoes and papayas. Persimmons are my latest new love though. Have you ever tried one? I would see them in the store and wonder about them but since I didn't know how to eat them, I just walked by. A few years ago my husband and I were driving on Bainbridge Island and stopped at a fruit stand where they had persimmons cut up and ready to sample. I tried one and fell in love right there and then. Now, whenever Costco has them, I buy a few boxes. They're so delicious in a fruit salad, a green salad, or eaten alone. I peel them because sometimes the peel is tough, then slice in quarters and pop them in my mouth! Really, if you've never tried a persimmon, do! They typically can be found in the stores this time of year but just a short period of time.

This time of year you'll find oranges and grapefruits at their peak. For Christmas brunch last year, I made a citrus salad that was so good. I made it for dinner last night. I think you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

Citrus Salad With Mint Sugar

2 white grapefruit
2 pink grapefruit
6 large oranges
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup sugar
seeds from a pomegranate

Cut peel and pith from grapefruit and oranges. Cut between membranes to release the segments. Combine fruit in large shallow bowl. (Fruit can be segmented one day ahead; cover and refrigerate.)

Place mint and sugar in food processor and blend until mint is finely chopped. (I don't have a food processor and just chop it fine.) Sprinkle mint sugar and seeds over fruit.

Yummy! This recipe came from Bon Apetit 2003 and can be used for any occasion. I made it for dinner last night and then finished it off for breakfast this morning. It's not only a pretty dish but festive looking as well; very colorful with the pinks and reds. So Christmas! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

what we tell ourselves

I used to be a really miserable and unhappy person.... That's a hard statement to admit to. But I have proof! My mom wrote a short entry in her medical book that has stayed with me my entire life. I've read it over and over so many times and it still saddens me when I think about it. It says, "Nancy is such an unhappy person. She never smiles." Keep in mind this was written when I was just an infant! Yet, today, I'm still an unhappy person. At least outwardly unhappy. I might be having a good time; I might be happy; I just don't show it. But these few words have never escaped me and are proof how words can hurt a child indefinitely.

I grew up in a terribly alcoholic and dysfunctional family. Another hard statement to admit to. My mom was an ugly, sloppy drunk and my dad was a mean drunk. I have few good memories of my home life. Perhaps this is why I don't show my happiness better.

I met my husband when I was 16 and after only a few short weeks, he joined the Army. Our actual time spent together was usually at a party on the weekends or on the phone. We really didn't have much in common. He was out to have a good time and I was looking for a life neatly wrapped with a white picket fence. I received an engagement ring one summer day, delivered by one of his army mates on leave. This was my escape. We got married a couple days after I turned 19 and stayed married for 22 years before calling it quits.

Okay, so where am I going with this? We all bring baggage with us. It might be emotional abuse; physical abuse; alcoholism; drugs; disappointments. Maybe we're looking for something. A brighter future. A perfect world. Mine was an attentive husband, who didn't drink. My cute cottage home had a white picket fence around it. The sun always shone! I was going to live happily ever after.... Okay, so that didn't happen.

Then I read a short little book--The Precious Present--by Spencer Johnson, MD. The jacket cover says, ".... it is a profound message that can help you be happy with yourself and your life forever." It goes on to say, "For all of us, the difficult problems of everyday life often appear complicated and insurmountable. But the solutions are usually surprisingly simple--when we find them."

The Precious Present is about living in the present. So often we live in the past and we let our regrets, disappointments, and less than perfect world pound us into the ground. And when we aren't living in the past, we're worrying about the future. Am I right? I've been to my share of counselors over the years and the only thing I learned was this. Throw all your "should haves" out the window. With "should haves" come regrets and disappointments. They shatter our less than perfect world. Learn to live your life one day at a time. Don't worry about the past but, rather, learn from it. Don't worry about your future because when you do, you aren't living today.

The book is about a young boy listening to an old man talk about this precious present. "It is a present because it is a gift," the contented man explained. "And it is precious because anyone who receives such a present is happy forever." The story goes on to tell how the boy wondered about this present. Was it a bicycle? Would he get it for Christmas? Over the years, the young boy would return to the old man and ask about this present that could provide happiness forever. He would ask the old man to simply give him the present so he would be happy. The old man simply said, "Only you have the power to make yourself happy, only you." For you see, the precious present isn't something someone can give you. It is a gift you give yourself. The story continues with the boy searching his entire life for this perfect present until he finally "gets" it.

The book ends with the young boy now an old man and one day a little girl came to visit:

She liked to listen to "the old man," as she called him.
It was fun to be with him.
There was something special about him.
But she didn't know what it was.
One day, the little girl began to really listen to the old man.
Somehow she sensed something important in his calm voice.
He seemed very happy.

The little girl couldn't understand why.
"How could someone so old," she wondered, "be so happy?"
She asked
and the old man told her why.

Then all of a sudden, the little girl jumped up
and squealed with delight!
As the girl ran off to play,
the old man smiled.
For he heard what she had said...
"Wow!" she exclaimed.
I hope someday someone gives me...
the precious present....

It's never easy to live in the present but yet the most important thing we can do for ourselves. Today I'm grateful for this book and wish I could give it to each and every one of you as a gift. It's a book I will keep forever. It takes all of five minutes to read yet can change a person's life. We don't have to live our lives being unhappy or miserable. We can continue our journeys looking for the perfect world, but it doesn't exist. The most we can hope for is a life filled with contentment. And today, I am grateful for my precious present.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

things that make me smile

Today I'm grateful for the simple things in my life. The little things that make me smile.

This little table filled with corn cobs for my blue jays. I like how the sunshine makes it so bright and cheery. It just welcomes my blue jays.

Beautiful skylines.

Starbuck's Christmas Blend.
Cella's Chocolate Covered Cherries.
A good book like, Francesca's Kitchen by Peter Pezzelli.
Musical snow globes.
Wind chimes on a windy day.

The soft, golden glow from my lamp.

Bird houses peaking out from the snow.

Seeing joy in my children's faces.
A cozy blanket to curl up with on a miserable day.
Romance. Holding hands. Laughing with my husband.

Believing in a good and wonderful day.

Tomorrow I'm going to start sharing last year's Christmas decorations! I'm so beside myself for the holiday season but knowing my husband doesn't want Christmas sneaking in on Thanksgiving, I wait until that grateful day is over before I start in with the music and decorations.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

today I'm grateful for....

We went to a birthday dinner party last night for a friend of ours who turned 50. Why do we make such a big joke out of turning 50? We act like it's the end of the world. But in reality, it's a great age to be. Today I'm grateful for friends who are eligible to sign up for AARP!

I'm also grateful for four-legged animals that give us comfort and love; pets. The humane society called yesterday, checking up on our Sadie. We adopted her a year ago and they wanted to make sure things were going okay. I told her Sadie is still working hard at trying to overcome her issues, but we're patient with her and just love her to pieces. What is it about a dog that can provide such unconditional love regardless of whether or not we deserve it? I suspect she would have done anything for her previous owners as well, despite the fact it appears she was badly beaten. This was Sadie a year ago; about an hour after we brought her home. So happy to be with us, yet she didn't know us, didn't know what type of people we were. Bless the dogs that give us so much love and joy.

I'm especially most grateful for this time of year. My favorite season. Christmas! I love love love Christmas! My husband won't let me play music or decorate until after Thanksgiving though, so I'm grateful for tv commercials and stores that are already playing Christmas music so I can sing, or hum, along. My husband just shakes his head, knowing he has no control of this.

Today I'm also grateful for

beautiful skylines
a nice, warm room
a good book
hot cocoa
chocolate covered cherries

Friday, November 9, 2007

classified ad

We're thinking of starting a day care business. A doggy day care, that is. It appears pretty easy. There's not a lot of start up costs. A tennis ball or two and some old socks tied in a knot. You get exercise. They give you someone to talk and laugh with. I don't know.... what do you think? Here's the ad we would put in the paper.

Now Accepting Your Dog
at the Premier Doggy Day Care and Spa
in town!

Daily Services Provided

Two well-balanced meals.
Morning and afternoon snack.
Aerobics AND play time.
Story time.
Etiquette and manners (not to be confused with Basic Training).
Daily massage, reflexology, and facials.
Basic hygiene (brushing).
Lots of love.

Days and Hours Available
7 days a week
7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Optional Services (aka additional fee)
We can pick your 4-legged friend up in the early morning hours (so you can get to work on time).
Nail clippings.
Ear cleanings.
Potty training.

Free to family members and friends.
(Gratuities, and dinner invites, accepted....)

Kona (5 year old): "This is the bestest place on earth!"
Mr. Porter (1 year old): "They love me, they love me!"
Sadie (3 year old): "I love the extra treats we get!"
Timber (unknown): "Why can't I come to Doggy Day Care too!"

Daily Routine (these are actual photos and not reenactments)
Each dog is welcome with open arms and lots of love when they arrive at the DDC&S. Sadie (the resident dog) is encouraged to greet them in the driveway, as they arrive, with a stuffed toy in her mouth and tail wagging. Butt sniffing follows.

Meal time: All dogs are fed breakfast promptly upon arrival. Food of choice is Pedigree Lamb and Rice. Although each dog is fed in their own bowl, they all tend to navigate towards the pink doggy dish. Confession: Some days we don't know which dogs actually eat because one dog might eat food out of two bowls (or all three) and another dog might not eat at all.

Story Time: Each day the dogs get a story. You can see how excited they get for story time! Their favorite hero is Lassie. Confession: This really isn't story time... They're trying to encourage Mike to go outside and play with them....

Play time. Dogs get plenty of exercise at Doggy Day Care and Spa. We have no choice.... When Kona feels it's time to go outside and play, she starts staring at Mike. That activates the chain and pretty soon Sadie is following suit and Mr. Porter.... well.... Mr. Porter is just an innocent bystander who doesn't really know what's happening but goes along for the ride.

Play time is also learning time. Here they're learning to play Follow The Leader.

Snack Time.
Once the dogs have completed play time, they get a snack. Confession: They're still learning the meaning of "1 cookie"....

Nap Time. Dogs get their choice of sleeping quarters. Nothing's too good for our dogs. Confession: We don't allow Mr. Porter on the couch at nap time because, well, because there simply isn't enough room for him.

Aerobics: Dogs get the opportunity to pick their aerobic exercise of choice. One of the favorite though is tug of war with the sock where Sadie pulls Mr. Porter around the living room floor on his belly. This is great cardiovascular exercise and tones not only the chest muscles but leg muscles as well. For Mr. Porter, it's just fun! Confession: We give them old socks to play with because we're too cheap to keep buying expensive dog toys.

Quiet Time aka "time out." Each day we have "time out." This is important for the dogs to learn they can't always be in a frenzy mode, barking at every noise, pestering the owners for treats or to go outside and play ball.... Confession: It's also vital for the owners of Doggy Day Care. It's when we regain our sanity; it's how we're able to turn around and do it again the next day. And as long as Mike sits in his chair, life is good. But the minute there's movement, all dogs are on alert and ready to resume activity. Needless to say.... Mike also has a lot of down time during the day!

If you would like your dog to be a part of this exceptional environment, please contact 555-DOGS for an interview. Doggy Day Care and Spa welcomes all breeds. No puppies please.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

things i'm grateful for today

Today I'm grateful for the fact that I don't work! Okay, so that might be rubbing it in a little for those of you who still have to go to a j.o.b. five days a week.... But I did work 30 years for the state of Alaska and now I get to enjoy life a little. But today I'm tired and if I did have to go to work, it would take everything I have to muster up the strength to do so.

We had a family dinner last night to celebrate Michelle's birthday. She's such a sweet girl and a perfect partner for my son. They became sweethearts right after graduation. I think my son was secretly in like with her during high school, but she always had other boyfriends. Michelle would bring her boyfriends over to the house but all we heard (through the thin room walls) was her and Bucky talking and laughing all night. She finally figured out that Bucky was more than just a good friend and now, six years later, they're still together and soon to become a family. I'm grateful that my son has Michelle in his life; someone he can laugh with, share with, and grow with. They both have their strengths, and their weaknesses, yet they compliment each other well.

Today I have another simple treat that you busy mothers can make with your children. I first had this a couple years ago at a memorial service for my neighbor's husband. Again, I was hesitant to try it.... it just didn't look good. But man oh man. You won't be able to eat just one!


The ingredients are simple:
pecans (whole halves)

Lay pretzels out on a cookie sheet. (I like putting them all in the same direction so when I put the nuts on, they can be placed in the same direction; it's "presentation"....). Place a Rolo in the middle of each pretzel. Place cookie sheet in a preheated 250 oven for five minutes (until Rolo is soft). Quickly place a whole pecan half in the center of each Rolo and gently press down through the soft Rolo. Let cool.

If you line the cookie sheet with parchment paper, the pretzels don't stick as bad and the cleanup is easier. Keep the turtles on the cookie sheet for a couple hours, until the Rolo has hardened. Then transfer to your container. Scrumptious!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

i wish you enough

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.
author unknown

I just love that poem. I keep it handy where I can read it from time to time to keep my life in perspective.

Today I'm grateful for my husband. Here's a man who would do literally anything for me or my kids. He has accepted my children as his own and loves them unconditionally. When the kids are going through difficult times, it's often Mike who suggests we offer support to them. He's never tried to talk me out of any of my hair brain ideas when it comes to the kids but embraces the idea and helps make it happen.

We're both retired and could be traveling the world or doing just about anything we desire. What do we do all day; every day? Dog sit.... my kid's dogs. Kona (Bucky's dog) because she was destroying their home when left alone and now Mr. Porter (Tracy's dog) because he's not used to staying at home all day by himself. And Mike, bless his heart, does this willingly. Every day. With me. By my side. Helping my kids out. He picks up Mr. Porter in the morning and he'll go outside and play ball, picks up dog poop, feeds them, gives them love. A lot of men wouldn't have anything to do with it, But Mike helps in every aspect of Doggy Day Care.

Soon we'll not only be the caretakers of three dogs but two babies as well as we become babysitting grandparents. And Mike will be right there, changing diapers with me. If I need time out, to get away for a few minutes, I know he'll encourage me and attend to both babies on his own. So I can have my break. He doesn't have to do this. He doesn't have to help out with the dogs. But he does so willingly because he loves me that much.

Today I'm grateful that my sweet husband came into my life.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

grateful days

Jerusalem, at My Little Life, has challenged us to share what we're grateful for. So for the next few days leading up to Thanksgiving, I'll try to join in her fun. So often the doom and gloom of our daily lives, get in the way of enjoying life to its fullest. And although it's okay to feel the pain, in fact necessary to work through it, it's also okay to recognize it for what it is and move on.

Which leads me to my first grateful moment. I'm grateful to be 55 years old! Ha! I bet you weren't expecting anything like that! My reason for being grateful that I'm on the downhill side of my life is that with age comes wisdom. With age comes the ability to "let go" and to live life with less stress and more joyfully. By now we've gathered the tools to deal with difficult times and life's challenges easier. We can find humor in actions that in a previous life would have caused us grief. We learn to pick our battles and accept what we cannot change or have no control over. I guess that's the biggest accomplishment: accepting what we have no control over.... which is just about everything in life. I'm grateful for the peace in my life and, for me, that came with age and wisdom.

My husband has been repainting our downstairs. Another grateful moment.... I decided this would be a good time to add some wainscoting to our library room. (I call it "library" because I don't know what else it is. It's the room before you go outside to the back deck...) First, all the books had to be removed from the bookcases (and dusted off) so we could move the bookcases away from the wall and paint behind them. Days later the books are still in disarray waiting for the wainscoting to get done so I can put them all back in place.

It dawned on me last night, in the middle of the night when I was awake and worrying about a multitude of things not worthy of my worry.... that I didn't want wainscoting on the bookcase wall so my project for today is to return all these books to their rightful spot, by subject, in this empty bookcase.

Monday, November 5, 2007

it's snowing!

Yea, our first snow of the season! It just started to snow but is starting to accumulate with big, fluffy flakes! Yes, I'm always excited about snow.... unless we have record snow like last year. I can live without 200 inches.

good things

It's a chilly morning in Juneau; 34 degrees. It looks like it could easily snow today....

I've been busy baking; that's what I do this time of year.... One of my favorite sweet treats is this easy toffee recipe. I first ate it at a potluck. Reluctantly I placed a piece on my plate. I say "reluctantly" but for anyone who knows me, you know there's no "reluctance" when it comes to eating chocolate or sweets! I don't recall if it didn't look so good or maybe the presentation was off. Regardless, I wasn't so excited about eating it, but did take a piece to be polite. I have to tell you after my first bite, I returned to that place in line and I hovered over it, eating one piece after another. It was addicting. It melted in my mouth! I couldn't stop myself!

So imagine my surprise when I asked for the recipe and saw that the main ingredient was saltine crackers! Before you wrinkle your nose at this, just give it a try. You won't regret it.

You Won't Believe It's Toffee, Toffee

1 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 package Nestles milk chocolate chips
40 saltine crackers
1 cup pecans, chopped
jelly pan roll

Line the jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and spray with Pam. Lay saltines flat on foil. Melt sugar and butter together. Heat until foamy. Pour mixture over crackers evenly. Put in oven and bake 350 for 10 minutes. Take out and while still hot, pour chocolate chips evenly over crackers. Let melt a minute or two and then spread with a spoon or spatula to coat crackers evenly. Sprinkle pecans over this; pat down slightly. Let cool and then put in refrigerator until hard. Crack up and put in your favorite candy dish. Store in a cool place.

These are so easy to make, any busy mom can make them. Better yet, let your children help lay out the crackers. These make a great gift and store really well in the freezer.

After these are done, grab yourself a cup of coffee and jaunt on over to my new friend's blog--The Village Voice. She has the most incredible photos, poems, and poetry. Just what you need on a dreary day to sooth your soul. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

the ins and outs of moving a nursery

The weather today is 33 and mostly cloudy with a slight chance of rain showers and snow showers in the morning.

The forecast for this winter is "cooler than normal. Slightly less liquid precipitation and probably near normal snow fall of 95 inches."

We've not had any snow yet this winter which is not normal. We typically have a light snow storm or at least heavy snow mixed with rain in October. So maybe today. It'll be an interesting day at work, if it does. I'm still working at the landscape nursery and down to the final push of tearing all the greenhouses down, sorting through supplies and tossing out no longer needed items. Then there's all the plants, shrubs, and trees that have been moved from point A to point B. We have three acres and everything is being moved from one side to the other side, the staging area, on little garden carts. Talk about work! Then, big container vans will be brought on site and we'll start loading them with thousands of plants. Every shrub and tree has been neatly tied with its branches facing in an upward direction and twine carefully wrapped around them. Tying the plants will, hopefully, keep the breakage down and also keep the plants compact and provide more packing room. The largest trees will be laid on the container floor with shrubs laid on top of the trees next going from largest to smallest. The perennials have been stacked inside of plastic milk crates and they will be piled on top of each other. The plants will live in this container for the long winter....

That was probably more information than you cared to learn but I find the process of moving the nursery somewhat interesting and find myself looking forward to going each week.

Now, I bet you thought of baby nursery when you read the title above! It was a fun baby shower yesterday and Michelle looked just way too cute. She said they're ready for Little No-ah to come into this world.... I got a sneak peak of the nursery a few weeks ago and it was painted so cute in a light green, light blue, and white. It just took me by surprise; it had become a nursery! This was really going to happen! They live in a trailer and it's a very small room so the kids have to be creative in the furniture and equipment they buy. I can hardly wait to see the finished product.

Have a great day! Did you remember to turn your clocks back?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Little No-ah* and the circle of life

Today is the baby shower for my first grand baby! My husband is a huge Mariner's fan (Seattle baseball) and he picked out some cute little Mariner clothes for our first grandson the last time we were in Seattle. Because I love musical stuffed animals, I found a darling little musical moon that plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. So cute. The time is getting near.... November 26.... and I'm getting more and more excited.

I'm happy that Little No-ah* will have all of his family nearby. My kids weren't so fortunate and if I had it to do all over again, I would definitely have moved closer to family. I'm afraid they missed out on so many family gatherings and don't have the same memories and family ties as other children who are raised among their families. You see, when I followed my boyfriend to Juneau over 35 years ago, I didn't know a soul here. This was his adventure and I was just in love, tagging along.

Juneau is an interesting place. It's where all the misfits go! Most of us are transients that live here; we've come from Down South to get away from something or another; maybe we're looking for something. It's a town of friends who take care of each other. Once here, it captures your heart. It's a place like no other place. The beauty. The wildlife. The way of life. Our circle of friends were our family and we celebrated every holiday and special event together with our kids growing up with their kids. This was our family.

But hindsight is 50/50 and I know now that friends can't replace your real family permanently. We can make new memories and have special relationships with friends but it's our family history and family traditions that we carry with us as we get older. It's what we pass down to our children. I don't have the same stories to hand down to my children (or my grandchildren) as do other members of the family because I wasn't physically present, participating in the gatherings, the laughter, the daily contact. This is my regret.

So here's Little No-ah*. He'll make his appearance soon with all his family nearby. And then, this summer, my other little grand baby will be born. They are the beginning of a new cycle of family traditions and memories to hand down to their children when they're grown. Stories to tell of sleepovers with cousins and Christmas Eves spent with Grandma Norton and Christmas Days with Grandma Vuille; days spent fishing with Grandpa and how all of their family was there for every birthday. Little No-ah will have memories of which grandma had the cookie jar filled with his favorite homemade cookies and which grandma took him ice skating. He'll grow up as part of the family and not just a visitor from Alaska a couple times a year. I am so thankful for Little No-ah and Tracy's baby because they are bringing the true meaning of family back. They'll be able to pass on old traditions and old memories passed down through the ages, but also be able to share new memories and new traditions. The circle of life.

So that's all I wanted to say today. If you have chosen to move away from family for whatever reason, or if you don't stay in touch with family, take a minute today to pick up the phone and call or even write a short note. Nothing can take the place of family.

*Little No-ah is not his real name. But because my kids couldn't come up with a nickname, I had to make one up. You can't say "is IT kicking yet?" or "is the baby doing good?" Bucky said every time Michelle says "no," she added an "ah" to it. So there you have it. No-ah. Besides, I like the name!

Friday, November 2, 2007

of lately

Okay, so we'll try this blogging thing again and see if I can stay within the boundaries of who I am.

I love the cottage look but I also love the Alaska look and feel. For awhile there I became discontent with all my dark oak furniture, my mission style chairs, and all the Alaskan artwork. I yearned for color--more white, more cherries, more flower prints, more pretty fluff, more oversized chairs. I became engulfed in thumbing through cottage style decorating magazines and books, yearning for that life. But it's not my life, right now. It's not my life.... As I sit and type this, I'm looking around. My home is peaceful. It's calm. It's relaxing. It fits in with all the rain we get and the dark and dreary days. This is a perfect look for Juneau and a perfect look and feel for me!

I love thrifting. Ditch hunting. Antiquing. I had become so envious of all your great thrift finds. Lovely pieces you find at the local thrift store or antique shop. Sadly, we don't have that here. We have a couple thrift stores but, honestly, most of the stuff should just be taken to the dump. Residents are huge contributors to these places, so where does it go....? I know I've contributed so many wonderful things but I don't think they ever make it to the shelves but are probably taken by the volunteers. We have one very teeny tiny antique store downtown, that's only open during the summer, during tourist hours and for tourist convenience.... it's not somewhere I shop because it's never open when I'm in the area. So I got caught up shopping on-line. Buying buying buying from all of your Etsy shops and your on-line sales. I had to stop visiting because I couldn't stop shopping. Everyone had something I needed, or wanted, or something I knew my daughter would love. I had to stop shopping because, simply, I don't need any more stuff. Too, envy is not a good thing. It makes us discontent; it makes us anxious; it makes us feel our life isn't good enough. I will no longer envy your homes.

Gardening has always been a love of mine and one I've been fairly proud of. People comment on my "Martha Stewart garden." Yet, every day I would visit my garden blog friends and admire your yards. Yearn for something similar. I think mostly it was the sunshine that was evident in all the photos. Sunshine is not something we have much of here so naturally it would attract me and naturally it makes everything look so much nicer. My gardens my not be picture perfect, but considering where we live and our weather conditions, it's pretty amazing. I will take what I can from your ideas but accept that we live in a different climate and one that may not be conducive to down south gardening ideas.

I love crafting but don't do much on my own anymore. I had become so in awe of all the creative people "out there." Your talents are incredible and the fact that you have time to do them amazed me. Yet, I know that your lives probably aren't any more incredible than mine. I have a good life and I need to be content with who I am and what I do.

Blogging is a whole nother thing. It has arms and legs and little fingers that sucked me in. My days were consumed reading every one's posts, commenting on your posts, and writing my own. That was no easy task as it took a lot of thought as to what I wanted to write and then I had to coordinate pictures to go with it. Way too time consuming! Nothing else was getting done so I had to shut down that aspect of my life for a short while, to get myself back on track.

So that's just a little of what's been going on in my life, why I've not blogged.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

food for thought

It's been almost a month since I posted.... A lot has happened since then; a lot has passed through my mind. Mostly I've had deep conversations with myself on whether I wanted to continue blogging. I may. I haven't quite decided yet. But if I do, I need to set new guidelines for myself. Here lies the problem....

I was getting so caught up in the lives of all my blogging friends, that I was becoming discontent with my own life. The grass became greener on the other side of blog land. Your lives had so much more value than mine. I was envious of all the thrift store finds and your creativeness. I fell in love with your quaint cottage homes and forgot how much I love my own home. You had the perfect gardens while I became more discontent with mine. Your sunny weather had me yearning for less rain and more sunshine. I was losing myself. And that became a problem. For you see, I love my life. I love my home. And I love my yard. So I had to remove myself. Take time to reflect. Time to appreciate my own life once again. Time to acknowledge that this is where I live and for that reason alone, some things won't ever change.

So here I am.... at peace with myself once again. Loving my home and my mission style furniture and non-cottage life. Maybe one day I will have that cottage home of my dreams but until then, I will be content where I am with what I have. I will limit myself to great thrift finds when I'm on vacation and have the opportunity. I will continue reading your blogs but will keep things in perspective that this is my life and that is your life. Nancy