Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Echoes Remain

All is quiet now--the last guests left this morning--but echoes of rich family times are ringing throughout the house and in my heart. The unexpected visit of so many family members was delightful. After cooking for 15, I'm looking at leftovers for a few meals.  

My sister teases me that I get the laundry started before she even gets out the door. But she understands. 

Not always a good idea though, I've had people come back--car breakdowns, or canceled flights ... and the linens not yet out of the dryer!

The highchair seems particularly silent.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Year in Review

Here are some of my favorite blog photos over the past year or 18 months. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words!  Click on for a better view.  Cindy, whose blog I enjoy, suggested a year in review photo collage. What a fun idea. Check on her blog, My Romantic Home, for many more!

Happy New Year!

Love at First Sight

When these two little sisters visited their great-grandmother's house, they went straight for this dollie. They had a little supervised visit with her before she, the doll, needed a nap desperately.  The doll was their great-great-grandmother's, and has been to the doll hospital once in her life. She has a new (35 years new?) set of clothes handmade by one of the girls' great aunties (not me).

Friday, December 26, 2008

they've arrived

the youngest of the six girls gets some space of her own.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Joy

"...for we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him." (Matthew 2)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Glimpses and Half a Dozen

Seven, 4, 3, 2, 6 months, and 2 months.  A half-dozen little girls all here at our house! Sometimes impromptu is the most fun, as we just found out our quiet Christmas will not be so quiet after all. More family members are joining us beginning Christmas evening. Our little granddaughter will already be here in town, but she will get to meet again, and for the first time, five little girl cousins, among other relatives. We will have some fun!

Photos: Some glimpses of our house this Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

at the back of the tree

I told some friends who were over the other night that I was going to do a post about the ornaments at "the back of the tree."  Some of the wise guys immediately got up and began to check out the ornaments on the back side of our tree, looking to see if I had put any that they'd given me back there--teasing me for sure.  We don't have a tree that would grace the covers of any home or decorating magazines.  Our ornaments, except for some generic "fillers" are important to us because they have history. The ones hung at the back may have the most history, and are very special, and ones I would never give up, but I don't necessarily want them centered in the front.  There are rough plastic Santa boots and peeling antique ornaments from the Gardener's and his mother's childhood, the years when they had a tree. Or ones we handmade with clothespins the Christmas in Africa when the Gardener was so very ill. And some vintage crocheted ones I made in the 70s. We probably all have such ornaments.

But wait a minute. I just realized something. These back of the tree guys are really front and center, for our tree is at a window at the front of the house. They join the merry lights and shine out to anyone heading to our front door. So ... depending how you look at it ....  

And the stories they could tell ...

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Part One: Just what is this feeling you get in December, like something good is going to happen? There is an anticipation in the air, and the twinkling lights on Christmas trees and front doors just add to the magical feeling. The bustle in the shops, the traffic, the smell of baking, the decorations at the mall--all herald something that's coming. Every year I think about this. And what is the actual apex or peak of the holiday experience? For me, Christmas Eve is the very best of it all while Christmas morning seems a bit paler, and by the time the presents are opened, there seems to be less sparkle to the tree lights.

Part Two: Often I pull back and look at it all through a different lens. The evergreen trees, the wreaths, the candy canes, the colors of red, green, white, and even blue ... are all rich in symbolism.  When I look at everything while keeping that symbolism in mind, there is much more to the whole holiday thing. The Christ story is beloved and  familiar, so amazing, and with that focus you see it everywhere.

It is the advent after all ... it's all readying and  looking forward to His birth. Of course we feel the excitement; it's built in us. All the stuff that goes on--it's just a big celebration about the Christ Child's birth so long ago. I know it, but what amazes me is that the secular world is caught up in it too--and probably many of them are so centered in tinsel that they either don't realize what they are celebrating, or they simply forget the true focus. If I regroup with the Advent front and center, then there is no pondering any more. Anticipation, yes, and, wonder of wonders,  the whole deal, all for puny me and you..

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tempered By Hope

Seems that pain shows its face at Christmas time. There are for many what we could call the awkward "family complications." And then, also, the memories of those gone before us rise right up into our faces and pull at our hearts. I think of my mom and the many family members and friends who have moved on ahead of her, and how lonely it must feel even as she focuses on a new generation of children. There have been colleagues and friends who have gone on to Glory this year--relatively young husbands snatched away by cancer, young mothers whose children still needed them, grandfathers and grandmothers who had grandchildren to love, a co-worker who added shine to my publication, and, a wee babe whose life God tenderly planned to last only a week on this earth. Such sadness sears our souls, but is tempered by the wonderful hope of seeing loved ones alongside our Savior some day, and a deep and abiding awe and joy when we are able to wipe our tears and see God's design in it all.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

a simpler time

We aren't really "doing" Christmas presents this year, except for the  "little ones." (It's incredibly freeing, and we are giving, instead, money to some needy families and also to a container going to Haiti.)  And I'm not baking many cookies either. Rather than running to stores (though the half-off sales are very enticing) I find myself dropping by thrift shops. There is such charm there. They are usually crowded with people, obviously affected by hard times, looking for just the right things to clothe their families, to decorate their homes, or to place under their trees.  

Maybe finding a treasure there endears the places to me as well. At the back of a shelf at GW I found something I have always wanted. I already have enough teapots to serve tea to a roomful of people, so I didn't need another. But this teapot shouted my name. I brought it home. And it's moved up front and center to my favorite every day teapot. To justify the 2.99 purchase, I mentally noted I may give it away someday. But for now, I love the shape and the fact that it's in my favorite house color.

Monday, December 15, 2008

cozy afternoon

Sunday afternoon, after the lunch with visiting Little One and her parents, and after a nap, my mom and I lit the Christmas lights and settled into the couch with blankets to watch L*ttle Women.  We were waiting to go to a Christmas concert in the evening. 

I hadn't watched the (at least) ten-year old movie version in awhile. Funny how a beloved, familiar tale can be just so cozy to enter into again, no matter how well  you know the story. I read the book many times as a child and fancied myself  Jo March. Similar personalities, the desire to write, a bit of a tomboy, and a love of old attics, I guess. In 6th grade, our tight-knit group of the ten girls in our class decided while  huddled together against the Chicago chill one day at recess, to take names of boys. Well I guess it was names that could be either for a boy or a girl. Who knows why we came up with this idea, but I was "Jo," and my name stuck throughout the year and even into junior high. My mother and I enjoyed the movie so much, and I think we made a memory I will long cherish.  I count her among the blessings in my life.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

younger minds

A fear of mine has come to pass: "What if I repeat a blog?"

After my recent post on soup (and yes, that tells you what happened: it was my latest on several  blogs about my love of soup), a couple of  younger readers with sharp, alert minds asked me, "Didn't you do that post on soup before?" 

I do remember one or two on the subject, but, now very curious, I went back to the archives and did a little reading. To my chagrin I found an almost identical post.  Well, beloved readers, I guess we all know for sure how much I love soup. I'll try to move away from the subject, now that you know.

Photo: Yummy taco soup at Barbarino's house. I'm not the only one who has this love of soup.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Try a little polish

Note to self: If your shoes are going to be featured so near Miss Adorable, try some polish next time.  And maybe not your oldest pair of pants, as cozy as they may feel. The shoes are my very most favorite, comfortable old shoes. I've replaced them with a better pair, but I just can't let go of these-- for they are as "comfortable as an old shoe." But I could try a little more polish, though it truly doesn't do too much for them, they are so tired.

But that's an aside. The main thing is this photo of Little One. She sat quite nicely there between my feet, as she learns to sit up. I think this little girl and I are going to have lots of fun together in the coming years!

Photo by clc.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

soup day

I should add that today is what I call a "soup day" and not because of what's on the stove, but because of the weather.  December should know better. Beautiful Christmas tree lights peek out of steamed up, rain-soaked windows. It's so warm and humid I don't care for a jacket or a sweater. We've had torrential rains, some thunder, and tornado watches. I call it a big pot of soup outside, and look forward to winter returning soon, I hope!

soup doctor

It's no secret that soup is my favorite food.  There is such variety and potential in it, and it's so forgiving. A pot of soup accepts just about anything thrown into it. When I start to make soup I always check the frig just to see what in there might want to join in. Great use of leftovers.

Sometimes I start with a store-bought soup. Then the fun begins.  The other day I bought a broccoli and cheese soup (a dry mix). After cooking the suggested 10 minutes I added chopped up potatoes, some left over bacon (turkey bacon in this house), a can of chopped chicken, a can of white corn, some white pepper, and a touch of wine.  With a salad on the side, it became a hearty meal. Trouble is, I can never make the same exact soup twice. If it's a winner, I should really write down what all I did.

Making soup, to me, is art. Just as a painter pulls together different colors off his palate of paints, so I pull together different ingredients and spices, blending until it tastes just right.  

All the liquid in the soup makes soup a sort of diet food ... sort of ...

(The photo above is of a different soup.)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What I Found in the Attic

All the members of our family, living here or not, have their own personal attics in this house. How cool is that! Our cape cod has lots of storage tucked under the eaves. We have a common attic and our "individual" ones. A couple of weeks ago I did a major cleaning of one of the rooms in our house, arranged so that the little door to the Gardener's attic had all but been occluded. I freed up the door and crawled in to have a look (Did I mention the downer to this expanse of storage? The doors require one to crawl into the attics and all but one have no source of light).

Back to the Gardener's attic. During my look-around, I discovered an old mirror--an antique I imagined, that we must have bought at some antique shop or garage sale, and put there until we decided where to hang it. Apparently we had forgotten about it. I loved it and wondered why I didn't have a clearer memory of purchasing it. I pulled it out, dusted it off, and brought it downstairs, looking around for the perfect spot to hang it. Did I mention how much I loved it? And what a find it must have been. It's hard to believe I hid it away in the attic.

It was heavy so I knew I could not hang this one myself. The Gardener was invited into the conversation and we determined the right spot. I tried to exercise patience, wondering just when he would find the time to hang it.

Imagine my surprise to come home one day and find it hanging in all its glory. The Gardener, thinking to surprise me by getting it hung, now looked a bit chagrin, fearing he had hung it too high.  I was gracious. "It's level with that picture, and furthermore, YOU can see yourself in it! No problem." (About time that this gentle giant had a mirror he could see into without stooping.)

After I admired it for a few days, one day Eldest Son was hanging out in the den for a full five minutes. "By the way, what's my mirror doing hanging on your wall?"

"Yours? I thought it was an old mirror I bought a long time ago."

"Sorry, Mom, I put that in the attic when I moved out of that apartment. It's no antique, I bought it at  (-- oh no--do you hear a bubble bursting?---) I bought it at ... Walm*rt."

No wonder my memory was dim. There was nothing to remember. I think he may let me keep it.

Monday, December 08, 2008


One season ends as a new one begins.

(Prayers are needed for a  friend today).

Saturday, December 06, 2008

about birthdays

Kind of a big birthday for the Gardener this year, so we celebrated all week long. Rather than a party (he'd rather not, he said), I mentioned to some of his favorite friends that this birthday was occurring and they cooperated with wonderful cards, jokes, cartoons, and emails.  One even took us out for dinner the other night. We had a special meal with the family (the pounded chicken marsala) with cake and trimmings at the beginning of the week and ended with a Christmas home tour and lunch with some pretty special friends. Quite a week! Oh yes, and his big request was a college basketball game, and that happens next week, taking up one of those "prime Christmas weekend potential party nights." Wow, he really is being celebrated.

One friend sent us a quote which I thought was kinda cool: "On our birthdays we celebrate being alive. People can say to us, 'Thank you for being!' Birthday presents are signs of our families' and friends' joy that we are part of their lives ...  Birthdays ... remind us that what is important is ... that we are, here and now. On birthdays let us be grateful for the gift of life." (Henri J.M. Nowen in Bread for the Journey.)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Garlic or the Delivery?

Little One was sitting on my lap during part of Thanksgiving Dinner. I  noticed that she, a very observant child, was really into watching us eat our meal. Her eyes would follow our hands to our mouths and then look at what was on our plates. I picked up a spoon--maybe it was the silvery shine that attracted Little One, but she started to reach for it. Since she has already started a little cereal, I thought an ever so tiny taste of mashed potatoes would be OK to try. (A tale in our family is how our grandfather used to "feed the babies watermelon and the mothers would screech.") 

Did she ever go for those potatoes! And lurched forward for more, opening her little mouth like a bird and swooping towards the spoon as I put on another teeny, tiny bit. No yucky, "what is this" look on her face. Pure delight. Big girl stuff. So she got a little more.  Maybe it was all in the delivery––the shiny spoon was attracting, as was the cool steel against her teething gums. Or maybe it was the garlic!  Anyway, it was definitely one of my favorite things about our Thanksgiving day!

Photo: Little One in her great-grandmother's arms.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

postcards from the past

My mother has a wonderful treasure in her closet. My grandmother apparently had saved many of the postcards she received from friends, and then a lot from her then fiancee, my grandfather. Mom put them all into an album and they are fun to look through. The other night my aunt, Mom's sister, was visiting and we had fun reading some of these 100 year-old postcards. My grandfather's were mostly sent from his stations during World War I.  He certainly kept in touch well, and had short, but very sweet things to say to his young lady. I wonder if he knew we would be reading them some day?
 My grandpa and his "wheels." In my mind, this is probably how he went calling on his sweetheart. His horse was named Beauty. The "wheels" I remember is his caddy that had windows that would go up and down with a little button. Very fun to play with, but of course we were only allowed one time up and one time down. :-)

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