Saturday, December 27, 2014

Happy New Year 2015

photo credit

I am the vine;
you are the branches.
If a man remains in me
and I in him,
he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing.

Psalm 36:9

This is an excellent focus verse as we begin a new year. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

You may have seen this YouTube video when it came out in 2010, but it still expresses 
the Christmas message in a powerful way ... 
God interrupted our daily lives 
to reveal Himself in all His glory.

Click below to enjoy the music.

On Nov.13 2010 unsuspecting shoppers got a big surprise while enjoying their lunch. Over 100 participants in this awesome Christmas Flash Mob. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Downtown Delights

Today's post is mostly pictures taken over this weekend when Beloved and I boarded the light rail train to visit downtown Denver. My husband has taken the days between our wedding anniversary and New Year's Day as vacation for the last nearly 40 years. We seldom go out of town, preferring to spend Christmas at home, and to avoid the hassles uncertainties of winter travel. 

This is something we happily anticipate and by the time these special couple of weeks arrive, we have a list of movies we want to see, local sightseeing destinations, people to visit, and usually a home improvement project or two. Oh, and restaurants.  We do what we can to keep them in business.

The train approaches

Secrets to an enjoyable trip downtown: 
(1) wear comfortable walking shoes
(2) follow directions

We rode all the way to the end, which took us to the remodeled Union Station in the heart of downtown Denver

We had to take a modern underground tunnel underneath these tracks to get from the light rail to the Amtrak train station

It has been several years since we last were inside Union Station. Although not as large as some of the big-city train stations on the East Coast, this one is impressive. The two polished rectangles in the center of this photo are shuffle board games to entertain passengers as they wait.

I lost count how many restaurants are in Union Station. We could walk in a straight line from one end of the building to the other, passing through the different eateries. In one of them we could stand and watch the many chefs busily preparing brunch food.

Interesting 'eye candy' could be found high and low

Speaking as one who has hung a lot of pictures in my lifetime, this arrangement in a stairwell interested me.

A bookstore, gift shops, and photos with Santa

The huge Christmas tree was beautiful and 
a good place for staging pictures

The day was young for us, so we didn't stop to eat while in the train station. We had entered on the west side of the building, 
so we exited on the east side, which opened up 
to the heart of downtown Denver.

We had to make some decisions about which way we would go.

Larimer Square is not a square at all, but rather 
a street block or two with shops and restaurants. 

Years ago when our children were small, the draw at Christmastime was a Dickens theme but that is not emphasized so much nowdays.

Back a hundred years ago, Larimer Street 
was a place of ill repute, but that's all been cleaned up and redeemed for more honorable purposes.

I was especially interested in how the different shopkeepers had decorated their sidewalk planter boxes at a time of year when the temperature is too cold to grow anything.

Seasonal decor was everywhere.

The outdoor temperature that morning was in the mid-forties, which on a sunny day in Colorado, 
is sweater or light-jacket weather. However, 
when walking in the shadows of skyscrapers, it feels cold.  

We ducked into this deli that's stood the test of time on Larimer Street while other businesses have come and gone. It felt good to warm up for just a few minutes before going back outside.

But clearly, there was an expectation by other cafe owners  that by lunchtime, people would be willing to dine outside.

Some shopkeepers gave a warm welcome...

... and good advice.

We successfully navigated ourselves past this place of strong temptation, not wanting to end up looking like their mascot!

We left Larimer Square by walking over to the 16th Street Mall, a major street in downtown that is closed to all car traffic. Mall shuttle buses  and the occasional horse-drawn carriage make walking safe for all pedestrians.

This is the historic D and F Tower, which although tall, has long since its construction been dwarfed by Denver's skyscrapers.

The Kris Kringle Market was set up in temporary shelters for Christmas shopping. We saw woolens, tree ornaments, smoked salmon and beer, among other things. However, we were there just for the sights, sounds, and scents.  The scene was eye candy for my camera and we didn't spend any money.

It's not Rockefeller Center, but Denver does provide 
outdoor ice skating along the 16th Street Mall.

These are just some random pictures that have varying degrees of significance to Beloved and me.

As you could tell from my earlier comments, we had no intention of trying to enjoy lunch outside. We went inside the Paramount Cafe where we ordered salads with chicken and salmon. We sat next to a large window where we could see the people coming and going. One particularly interesting character man was wearing an orange and blue (Denver Bronco colors) robot-type costume, pestering people as they came and went. No, I did not take his picture. I just wasn't real sure as to what that was all about.

We also could see this carousel from our restaurant vantage point.

After lunch, we climbed the steps at the Pavillions 
and got another view of that same carousel.

We came across a bookstore and spent no small amount of time browsing in there. While we both like to read books on our electronic devices, it is still very enjoyable to be in a bookstore. I took snapshots of books I might like to read sometime.

Back out on the mall, we continued to make note 
of the Christmas decorations and take snapshots.

At the end of the 16th Street Mall is the capitol building for Colorado. In the last year the gold dome has been 
cleaned and restored to its original beauty.  
At this point we turned around to retrace 
our steps so we could find 
a light rail stop and head back home. 

I hope you've enjoyed my picture-story 
and our trip to downtown Denver. 

My blogging this week may be more photos than 
verbiage, if there's even time for that.

But I know you understand.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A True Story

As the days grow short before Christmas, the post office is flooded with the most urgent mail and the North Pole is all abuzz with frantic efforts to build the toys and pack the sleigh.  

Those of us who are called to the business of whimsey sometimes need to step in to help the Jolly Old Elf.  I'm sorry if you have to squint your eyes to read this.  It's the best I could do.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reconnecting in the Kitchen

Christmas is often a time to reconnect with friends from days gone by ...

When we moved to this house last year, I did a lot of my own packing, numbering the boxes and cataloging their contents in a Microsoft Excel document so that I didn't have to unpack everything but could use the search feature in that program to find whatever I needed.

This evening I was making a recipe for Christmas when I happened to remember a long-time friendship that has been packed away for years, even before we moved and when I had done all that packing.

Mrs Claus
Waaaay back in about 1981 or so I was into making soft sculpture dolls with my old pantyhose.  One year I made many of them, selling some in a school-sponsored craft show (never again, by the way), and then giving some as Christmas gifts. The only one that I still have has been packed away for probably two decades. This evening I decided to look her up and found her in Box 79 in my filing system. 

It should be no surprise that she did not look her best when we first met eyes this evening.  I think she was put out with me We greeted each other with cries of delight and I quickly decided she should join me in the kitchen.

Mrs Claus and me
As we made our way up the basement stairs and into the kitchen, I assured her that I would fluff up her white hair and reshape her facial jowls structure, making her look like her original self of 30-some years ago.

Mrs C, looking a little better
I am hopeful that she understands none of us, even with some pin tucking,  can look as fine today as we did in previous years; we just do what we can and hope our pleasing personality will overshadow our physical detractions.

what's under the skirt
Perhaps some of my readers made similar dolls back in the 80s. We took an empty 1 liter pop bottle, filled it with kitty litter or sand (something to give the bottle a little weight), sealed the lid on snugly, and then proceeded to create a head out of a used nylon stocking and poly fiberfil stuffing.  The stuffing was kept in place with thread at the neck and then the rest of the stocking was pulled down the length of the bottle and sewn closed at the bottom. A simple dress was made, arms were stuffed and sewn on, and so forth.  

felt holly with a berry in her hair

hand embroidery on her apron
If you (like me) marvel at all the detail I put into this doll, we have to remember that in 1981 extremely few of us had home computers with email to send, Face Book to read, and blogs to compose. While my children were in school, I had the time for such frivolities.  I can also be a very detailed person when I want to be.

Mrs Claus wears a sapphire ring not unlike Princess Diana's,
whose royal wedding was around that time
Well, anyway, Mrs. C found it in her heart to forgive me for leaving her packed away since oh, I don't know, about 1995 I think.  Since I pulled her out of the box in a different house from when she was packed, I had to bring her up-to-date on our residences since that time: Florida and two houses in Colorado.  

I could see the hurt starting to re-form on her face as she realized the adventures she had missed in those houses, so I quickly changed the subject to something I knew she would like -- cooking.

Unfortunately,  I had to deliver one final blow by telling her I cannot eat her delectable treats anymore since I've been diagnosed with gluten intolerance.  She had no idea what that was.

Well anyway, we finally got past all of that and she assisted me as I made a gluten-free dessert for our Christmas Eve dinner. I'm giving you the recipe here and hope you will try it.  With the aid of a food processor, it is very easy.  If you like the taste of brownies, this will be a hit with you.

Flourless Chocolate Cake, makes 4 servings

1  1/2 cups raw walnuts*
dash salt
10 pitted Medjool dates*
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder or carob powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
2 teaspoons water

Place the walnuts and salt in a food processor fitted with the S blade and process until finely ground. Add the dates, cocoa (or carob) powder, and vanilla and process until the mixture begins to stick together.  Add the water and process briefly.

Transfer to a serving plate and form into a 5-inch round cake. Chill for 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated for 3 days or this cake will keep for 2 weeks in the freezer. Bring to room temperature before serving.

*In the vegan world of cooking, we often soak nuts and dried fruits before using them. Don't do that with this recipe or it will turn out runny and soggy.

Medjool dates
Some of my readers may be unfamiliar with Medjool dates. I am finding them in all markets now, including Walmart's produce section. This package has dates that are pitted. If you have to pit your dates, simply slice them in half and pull out the pit. It's very easy and quick. 

Form the cake to about 5 inches in diameter
This center photo was taken with a different camera and
the color came out terrible!The cake really is a deep dark chocolate color.
Cover the cake with plastic wrap and freeze
This is a small cake but it's very rich, so serve small slices.  I'll be serving this on Christmas Eve with a nice drizzle of pureed fruit, such as raspberries or strawberries.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Home Tour

the view from our breakfast room
The weather today has been frightful but indoors it's been delightful...

The snow began to fall during breakfast while we were watching Dr. Charles Stanley on TV, as per our usual Sunday morning routine before we go to church. It had been predicted so this was no surprise. We just dressed warmly for church and left a little early to get there. This was the Sunday we had been asked to read the Advent scripture and light one of the candles, so we didn't want to be late for that.

Christmas tree in the master bedroom
After church and lunch out, we came home, made a fire in the fireplace (with a flip of a switch) and watched the Broncos beat the San Diego Chargers. I'm not as avid of a fan as Beloved, so I worked on Christmas cards and then snapped pictures for my annual Christmas Home Tour blog post.

Christmas tree in the guest room
Our decorations aren't as fancy as some people, but they mean a lot to us and we enjoy pulling them out every year.

Freddie sits in the guest room waiting for our son and his wife to arrive
We decorate with both serious and whimsical designs. I have never outgrown my love for dolls. Back in the mid-eighties I sewed Cabbage Patch Kids for my children and made one for myself.

We have a lot of handmade items
This picture features one of 4 felt elves my mother made for us as a gift the year we got married, a stitchery NOEL from a dear friend who is now deceased, and a quilted table runner I made from the Minnesota Hot Dish pattern. The wall quilt is an Irish Chain, my favorite "go to" quilt pattern. I have made many variations of Irish Chain over the years.

door knob decor
This is a door hanger like the May Baskets we see in the spring. This pattern came from an Art to Heart design by Nancy Halvorsen. I made several of these a few years ago to give as gifts.

Our stockings are hung in the hall with care, with hopes that St. Nicolas soon will be here
When my children were very young, I made a dark red felt stocking for each of us and cross stitched their name on the band at the top. Our two eldest children have their stockings with them, but one son, who always comes to our house for a sleepover on Christmas Eve with his wife -- I still have his stocking. The patchwork stocking is for our daughter-in-law. (for reasons of privacy, I have photo-shopped out the names of everybody except on my stocking)

We don't hang our stockings on the mantel because the fireplace can melt any chocolate Santa might bring! By the way, remember that red elf in a previous picture? This photo has another one, this time in green felt. He appears to be dozing, his head is flopped over onto his chest!

Electric candles with one of our Nativity sets in the dining room
I love the electric candles that are becoming so popular!  Each year I buy a couple more of them. They are battery-operated with a small switch on the bottom side of the candle. I really like not having to worry about dripping wax or an unattended candle causing a fire. These candles even have a timer feature in them, although I have not taken advantage of that yet.

Dining Room, View Number One
We seldom eat in our dining room, but for the holidays, we enjoy our company around this large table.

Dining Room, View Number Two

Angels decorate the tree in the corner with a start at the top and a Nativity scene at the base. The star quilt is from a Log Cabin pattern by Eleanor Burns at Quilt in a Day. I can't find a link to this specific pattern, but here is the link for the Quilt in a Day site:

Dining Room, View Number Three
We had a tall piece of furniture on the left wall until yesterday, with that sign above it.  Now that the furniture has been rearranged, I've got a big blank space on the wall.  But I'm in no hurry to pound in another nail there.  

An easy centerpiece
All women should have glass flower vases on hand for when somebody brings them flowers (in more than one size, depending on the size of the bouquet!).  They are also useful for Christmas balls at this time of year -- a very easy centerpiece!

Knit stocking from Crate and Barrel for silverware or candy canes

I wonder how many of my readers who got married in the 70s have dishes like this?  They have a Currier and Ives picture that I enjoy so much.

the ever-growing snowman collection
While my granddaughters and great-nieces are delighted with the princesses from the Frozen movie, Olaf the snowman (far right with the orange carrot nose) delights me!

Cross stitch of NOEL with a peppermint alphabet
Oh how I wish I still had the time and eyesight for more cross stitch! I do love it so.

Christmas dishes at the ready on the counter
None of my dishes are expensive. A few years ago Beloved bought for me two boxed sets of Poinsettia dishes from Walmart and I just love them.  The solid red ones are from Pier One. The plate rack is from a second-hand store.

a wedding gift from 44 years ago (later this week!!)
One of my bridesmaids gave us this teddy bear cookie jar as a wedding gift. He seldom holds cookies any more, but he is a constant companion in the kitchen. 

Christmas towels on the oven door handle
While I love to sew embellishments on towels for holidays throughout the year, I don't actually use them for anything but decor! 

the corner of a table topper made in 2004. I made a similar project for my sister that  year
Hand appliqué is another form of needlework that I seldom have time to do anymore, but I love it.

wreath hanging on the pantry door
I made this wreath just last year, purchasing the ornaments from Walmart. I saw some of the same goodies in their Christmas section again this year, just the other day.

hauling the Christmas tree
This truck was a fun find at Hobby Lobby last summer. It normally sits on the fireplace mantel with something appropriately seasonal in the back of it. One of the Nativity sets is on the mantel this month, so the truck is on a lamp table instead. The cute little tree was one of the centerpieces from the Ladies' Christmas Event at church. I was blessed to win this one as a door prize.

Diana made this tree for me
My quilting friend Diana made this beautiful quilted tree and I just love it! There was a lot of work put into this project!

Beloved's childhood Santa doll
This Santa Claus, made by Ideal Toys, is probably an antique now. Beloved always places it underneath our main Christmas tree after we have finished hanging all the lights and ornaments.

red wood Christmas card basket
When you send us a Christmas card, this is where it ends up, on our coffee table, where we can easily look through all the cards again and again at leisure.

scenes depicting the real meaning of Christmas,
cross stitch ornament from my Atlanta friend, Be
With all the decorations, food, music and gifts, Christmas really comes down to the celebration of God's gift to us, the birth of His son, Jesus Christ.

Post script: If you get bogged down during the holidays (and let's be honest, that's not unusual), you might want to watch the movie trailer for Frozen.  It makes me laugh out loud with delight at the lines and the animation.  

Click here: