Thursday, December 18, 2008

baby it's cold outside!

Brrrrrrr. It's been cold here the last few days. Down to about 6 degrees at night. Here's some wintery pictures I thought you might enjoy.

This is what our Rhodies look like when it's so darn cold outside. They just close their leaves and hunker down until it warms up. If it was only that simple for the rest of us!

No angel should have to endure this bitterly cold weather, but, still, she sweetly smiles, thinking of warmer days ahead:

One of my favorite scenes in the winter is this old, rotten pallet, broken hoe, and rotting bird house. I hate to throw anything away.

A pathway less traveled in my back yard. I love how all the shrubbery takes on a mystical look with a little snow and ice crystals on the branches and leaves.

My favorite bird home on a stump. This little house has had more pictures taken over the years than anything. I wish birds would actually use it, but they don't.

I love including yard art in my gardens and most of what I have isn't fancy stuff bought at a high end nursery. It's throw aways or other treasures I've found at the thrift store. My son brought over a metal bowl this summer. It's nickel or aluminum with some patina to it. They were going to throw it out but figured I could put it to good use. So I set it on this stump to use as a bird bath and then added a rock in the middle for the birds to sit on. Perfect!

A star is born. I got interested in topiary this last summer as a unique and perfect addition to my gardens. It's funny how your likes and dislikes change. Just the previous year I wondered why anyone would want something like this in their garden. Now, here it is a year later, and I have one in my garden. But I love it and it adds just another element and dimension to the whole picture.

Even though our gardening season is over for another year, it still brings me such great pleasures. I love wondering through in the early mornings, or when it's still a little dusk, snapping pictures of the unique shapes. You never know what you mind find. Cheers! Nancy

Holiday cheer

My husband, who is solely a beer connoisseur, made an interesting comment the other night. He said, "we should have a Holiday drink." Hello....???? I've been making one for the last couple years and no one has (a) noticed, (b) partaken, (c) really cared. But it is nice that he's contributing to the Christmas preparation; he usually leaves all the details up to me. So I'll start looking through magazines or go on-line and see what I can find.

Do you have a favorite drink that you serve at Christmas time? I made this pretty little thing for Thanksgiving this year. It was pretty, but tasted pretty bad.

It was a recipe from Food Network and looked really good and fun! Ingredients included whole cranberry sauce.... mint, lime, and vodka. I still think it's festive and a perfect looking drink for the holidays, but I won't be making it again.

What do you do? Do you have a special drink for the holidays?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Decisions decisions

Is there such a thing as intervention for buying plates? If so, my husband would be inviting you all over to perform such an act! You see, I love dishes.... And it drives my husband crazy. He keeps telling me we're going to have to buy a bigger house, just to store all of them. Okay.... If that's what he wants.... Anything to make him happy.... See? That's the type of relationship we have. It's a good marriage. I buy and he lets me! :)

Okay, so all I usually buy is four cocktail plates. That way I can get enough to satisfy my love and need to have them, plus I can use them for salads, lunch plates, or desserts. Christmas plates are my favorite. Okay, let me re-phrase that. Christmas plates are my favorite.... at this time of year! We could have a Holiday party for at least 32 people and everyone would get their own dessert plate. Here's some of my favorites:
Charlie Brown Christmas trees are my tree of choice, so it's only natural I was attracted to this tree plate.

These bright and cheery red and white snowflake plates can be used all winter long and make a great plate for even Valentine's Day.

My daughter, Tracy, gave these to me a few years ago. Each plate has a different design and are so very cute.

This was the beginning for me.... I love these cup and saucers. They're Pfaltzgraff and were bought so many years ago. They're discontinued now otherwise I'd have a whole set of them.

I love these Holiday plates but especially because they can be used all winter. I start using them in mid-November for desserts.

These are probably my favorite because of their versatility. They truly could be used all year long, if I needed them to. In fact, I loved them so much, I bought probably 12 of them!

So do you see my husband's dillemma....? All he has to do is grab a plate when he wants to make a sandwich. I have to decide which ones to bring home!

Which is your favorite?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

please call before stopping by....

In the olden days, I loved it when company stopped by; unannounced; to enjoy a cup of coffee and some gossip. To me, that was a pure sign of friendship, knowing you can just drop in on your friends without them worrying about appearances--unkept hair, messy home--welcoming you with open arms. Today, if someone dropped by unannounced, I would worry they'd break a neck!

My home used to be neat and tidy. Everything had its place; all the clutter and "stuff" was organized. We're "seniors." We're retired. Our kids are grown. So it's only natural that we would keep a clean and orderly home....

I love having every thing in its place.... But does this look like a neat and tidy place?! I think not! This is what our home looks like most days a week!

Let's see.... two car seats, an Exersaucer, a walker, a stroller; two dog beds, dog toys; coats and hats thrown on the floor. Big toys, little toys, push toys, stacking toys. Toys everywhere. Books stacked; books tossed; books on top of books; everywhere. Blankets on the floor; baby blankets on the couch. Bibs, wipes, diapers. Bottles. Can you see the vintage wooden bowl full (or half full) of oranges.... on the ground.... oranges usually rolling all over the place....? Barricades in the middle of the room to prevent exiting and access to other places; barricades to trip over.... Oh, and did I mention two dogs and two babies?

Yes, this is our home.... Four days a week.... Please call before you drop by so we can make a pathway from the door....

And the culprit of most of this mess? This is Hunter, my one year old grandbaby. One year old, moving quickly into the Terrible Twos, I might add.... and can you read what it says on his t-shirt in the photo below? Messes just follow me around. Messes indeed! You pick something up, try to put some order into your day, then turn around and it's back on the ground again!

But isn't he adorable? It seems like just yesterday that he was born, and here he is, already one year old.... My husband and I get to babysit him two days a week. He arrives with a sparkle in his eye and a smile on his face. He's definitely a boy; into everything. If he's on a mission to touch something, he'll get there. Then he turns and looks at you, with his hand hovering over the item of his interest, as if to say, "see what I'm doing...?!"

I thought my "baby proofing" days were over, but here we are again, watching two precious little grandbabies. The focus on our daily routine is now--what can Hunter get into and where can I put it.... You won't see any magazines or books or journals or other organized clutter on the coffee tables most days. Candy dishes are put up out of reach. Things are tucked behind doors. Four days a week, this home belongs to the babies.

Even though Christmas decorations are minimal this year, I wanted those I did put out to be special, for the grandbabies. They needed to sparkle, to have lights, to be touchable. I didn't want my grandbabies to be denied the marvels of their first Christmas at Grandmas. So whether they're gigglin with the rockin penguins or ringing the jingle bells, I know they're feeling the spirit of their first Christmas at grandma and grandpas.

Now this sweet little thing.... she's my granddaughter, Ellis. She's 7 months old and just as sweet as can be. She definitely has grandma wrapped around her little finger. We babysit her four days a week. She loves her grandma and at any point during the day, she' can be found watching me, just staring; then as soon as I look at her, she opens up this beautiful smile. Yea, she loves her grandma. And her grandma loves her.

These precious little babies.... They'll bring a whole different meaning to Christmas this year. They're going to bring the spirit of Christmas back into our lives. Give us a reason to Believe again. To have Hope that Santa really DOES exist. Santa, or the Spirit of Santa, has always existed in my heart. This year the Holiday Spirit has been a little more difficult to produce, but I there's still hope. And I know just the two little Christmas miracles that can help.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas spirit

Christmas used to be my most favorite holiday of the year.... I looked forward to this time of year like a little child waiting for Santa.

A Christmas list of gift ideas would start to formulate in late October. Family and friends is given great consideration on the perfect gift(s) to give. This is not a task I take lightly.

A charity is considered, weighing pros and cons of each and every one. Collections start to accumulate for food drives and the homeless.

My collection of December magazines are brought out and each and every one is looked at, all the while drooling over what could easily become our home this season.

Special menus and recipes are considered. What better time to get together with friends and family and share good food.

Lists are started. Every aspect of Christmas is written down so as not to forget to do any single part of it.

I have dozens of Christmas novels that are read and re-read every season. Never mind I know how they all end, they make me happy.

The freezer is full of cookies, fudge, and Party Mix.

Every corner of the house will be decorated--including the bathroom and bedroom. Wherever your eye rests will reveal some kind of eye candy.

Christmas cards are written, with a short, personal note written in each one.

And all the while, Christmas music can be heard in the background.

So where is my Christmas spirit this year??? I feel more like Bah Humbug than Ho Ho Ho. In year's past there wasn't any single part that I didn't love with all my heart.
Minimal decorating has been done; slapped up like it doesn't matter. It was done out of obligation, not spirit.
The novels still sit, collecting dust.
Christmas magazines of year's past will sit for another year.
I suspect sugar cookies will be the only baking I do this year.
Christmas music has taken a back seat to other priorities.
We'll get a tree today.... I suppose....
Oh, and don't expect a Christmas card this year.... or if you do, it'll most likely just have "Merry Christmas" written in it.

See what I mean about having the Bah Humbug attitude this year? I even considered going south for Christmas so I didn't have to bother with any of this.

The Grinch has certainly stolen the Christmas Spirit....

Thursday, December 11, 2008

one batch too many

21 cups of flour, 18 eggs abeating, 9 cups of sugar, 6 cups of butter, 3 batches of sugar cookies.... and a table full of caallloorrieessss..... (sing to the tune of Partridge in a Pear Tree....)

It ended like this....

A long, folding table AND a card table.... covered with decorated sugar cookies.... I suspect you could have gotten a sugar high just looking at all of the cookies. Big ones. Small ones. Christmas trees. Stockings. Stars. Mittens. Ornaments.

It started like this....

First one batch of sugar cookie, then a second. Two batches is a norm for us. It gives every one enough cookies to take home and enjoy, plus enough to give away to family, friends, and co-workers. But as they laid there, stacked one on top of another.... it just didn't look like enough.... I bought some new cookie cutters this year and they were on the large size, so it's possible they used up more cookie dough, and we may not have enough... So two batches became three batches of sugar cookies....

Now, looking at these pictures of undecorated cookies, you have to agree that it doesn't look like all that many.... and this is three batches! So you see my dilemma! But I digress....

Somewhere in the middle of all this, came the decorating....

Decorating sugar cookies is an annual event for my daughter and I. We make them twice a year--Christmas and Easter. My son's significant other and other extended family members usually join us. This year my ex-husband's wife also came. Technically, she's the kid's step-mom, so that makes her family, right?

Baking and decorating cookies is usually an all-day event. It was also a huge mess, trying to roll out dough and decorate at the same time. HUGE mess. Now, I do the baking one day so when we all get together, we only have to decorate. It's so much more fun and much less hassle.

The details....

We use only the best, the finest, the most expensive professional decorating tools we can find. Toothpicks. Skewers. Paintbrushes. Cheese spreading knives. Baby spoons. They seem to work just fine.....

Here's Michelle and Tracy busy decorating. Only 239 more cookies to go! We try to make each cookie unique... paying attention to details that will make it so.... At least for the first few dozen. As the morning ticks on, the icing gets slapped on a little quicker, cookies tend to be a little messier (at least on my part), and details.... well, the snow man with the black top hat, the orange nose, and red scarf flowing in the wind.... is now a white snowman!

But we have fun. It's one of our family traditions that I look forward to every season. Spending time with my daughter, making memories, is important to me. And having Michelle join us (in the blue), makes it even more special because one day she could truly be a part of our family in the legal sense (she already has our heart).

Here's some of my favorite cookies. New to my stash this year is the snow globe! Isn't it cute? And the stocking was also a fun one to decorate.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

A Winter Storm Advisory was issued Monday and we were expecting to wake up yesterday to about 20" of snow. In anticipation that roads and sidewalks may not be cleared and usable, schools and the city and federal governments were lenient in allowing workers and students time to get to their destination.

Fortunately, in our little micro climate, that didn't materialize, although we were ready for it.

All the snow shovels were in place (one at each door).

Extra snow melt had been purchased.

Snow blower gassed up and ready to roar.

This is how it looked yesterday morning before it really got light, and then later in the morning. Beautiful!

It was a very heavy, wet snow; the kind you can barely scoot a snow shovel through. Back breaking work. And because it was so heavy, that meant it was really really wet, and it quickly fell off the trees and melted....

But, we're expecting another dump today.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!