Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Fun Little Post to Close Out the Year

All modeling by the blog author ...

Tis the Season for Fancy Footwear

Tonight will be a time of merry-making for some as we usher out the old and bring in the new. Beloved and I are not party animals at all since we struggle to stay awake past 9:30pm.... which is not a bad thing. We tend to be alert and cheerful on New Year's morning while we eat breakfast in front of the annual Rose Parade on TV.

I had many blog topics during the Christmas season and have just about run out of days for all I wanted to feature. I am closing out 2015 with a fashion show of sorts (tongue-in-cheek).

We did not attend any formal dress-up parties this month, although we did go to a very nice Saturday afternoon choral concert at the University of Denver. But the day it was so snowy and cold that about all we saw of people's attire was their heavy coats and hats.

It has come about that my collection of Christmas socks is nearly big enough that I'll have to find larger drawer in which to store them! But before I do, here is a little fashion show!  

from Denise

a gift to myself a couple of years ago

from Sister

purchased for a party in a home where shoes are left at the door
aloe-infused socks from Sue

red from one of The Birthday Girls; green from Sister

"transitional socks" from Victoria -- for the change of
season from Christmas to January!

That's it! 

Oh wait, are you disappointed? Were you expecting to see cute party pumps or pointy high heels? Not here. Snow boots were the requirement this past month and cute shoes were not warm enough. The sparkle I wore was around my face with earrings, scarves, and Fancy Nancy shiny lip gloss (by Mary Kay).  Today it's all about the footwear!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Last Wednesday Hodgepodge for 2015

Wise Men Still Seek Him
This is the last Wednesday Hodgepodge for 2015. I'm linking up with Joyce at her blog, From This Side of the Pond...

1. Share a favorite memory/moment from the week of Christmas.

It was a thrill and a deep joy to stand beside my son during the singing of carols at the Christmas Eve service at church. He has a wonderful voice and it was good to hear him sing of our faith, our voices blending together.

2. If someone wrote a book about your life based on the past year, what genre would it fall under? What would the title be?

The genre would be 'self-help' and the title would be along the lines of Two Steps Forward, One Step Back because it seems I am always learning and then being tested, with both successes and failures along the way.

3. What made you feel patriotic this year?

On the Fourth of July I was able to watch my family shoot off fireworks. I was thankful for the freedoms we still have.

4. What experience from this past year would you like to do all over again?

It was a thrill to have all of my children and their families together for 4 days this past summer. 

5. What song lyric sums up or is a reflection of your 2015?

Words by Twila Paris from "You Have Been Good" (see YouTube of song here)
"O Lord, You have been good... Your steadfast love and tender mercies have been our salvation."

6. On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate 2015? (10 = stellar) Why?

I give 2015 a "6" because while it was wonderful to spend time with much of my family all in one place (which is unusual), some world events have been horrific and very frightening.

7. What part of the upcoming year are you most excited about?

Beloved expects to retire about a year from now, so I am interested to see how that will affect us.

8. Insert your own random thought here:

I don't make resolutions any more, but I do give thought to what worked and what didn't in the past year and think about what I should do to make the new year better. There are consequences for everything we do in life, so it behooves us to live as wisely as we know how.  

We also need to remember that when we are surrendered to the Lord, He will help us through the most difficult of consequences, even though we don't deserve His mercies.

Happy New Year to all of my blog readers!

Linking up with other bloggers at From This Side of the Pond.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Review of Christmas Eve 2015

Photo Credit
The joy of the season continues in our hearts although admittedly, this has been a hard Christmas for some with harsh weather and untimely illnesses. 

A stomach bug hit my sister's family during the Christmas Eve service at church and then mercilessly struck down everyone in the house that night while they awaited Santa's visit! They had to delay the festivities of Christmas Day by 24 hours when complexions gradually turned from green to a healthy hue.

Thankfully, our habit of staying home for Christmas paid off for us as we live some 900 miles apart! We were spared those things and had a quiet but delightful holiday. Here are some of our highlights:

breakfast bar set up for Christmas Eve buffet dinner
For Christmas Eve our son and his wife come to our home to attend church with us and then back to the house for a beef brisket dinner. 

I prefer to serve buffet-style so people can get up easily and help themselves to seconds.

place setting for Christmas Eve dinner

I love getting to pull out my Walmart Christmas dishes. We bought them about four years ago and use them all during the month of December. The poinsettia pattern is so pretty and cheerful.

the plates need to be a little bigger!

The menu was beef brisket with a yummy barbecue sauce, kernel corn, a boxed potatoes au gratin dish, a mixed greens salad with orange segments, toasted pecans, and a vinaigrette dressing, cranberry chutney, and dinner rolls with butter.

Christmas Eve dinner
It was a cozy dinner on a cold winter's night -- one of the highlights we enjoy every year with some of our kids.
Beloved plays with his toy

After dinner we put away the leftovers, piled into the car to go look at Christmas lights in the historic district of our small town, and then came back home. Beloved pulled out the toy I gave him for his birthday last month -- a selfie stick with a remote control. 

In my opinion, no holiday gathering is complete without the pictures!

Dessert with coffee

Our dessert was Pecan Pie topped with Cool Whip and a vegan cashew "cheesecake" topped with cherry pie filling.

Dining Table Centerpiece

The centerpiece for our table was simple: three electric candles surrounded by an artificial evergreen garland, Christmas tree balls, and knitted stockings (from Crate and Barrel a few years ago).

Jingle Bells in a Mason Jar
Our Christmas was quiet but we like it that way. We spoke on the phone, texted, and emailed family members -- and prayed for those who were too ill to enjoy the day!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Oh Fudge!

Modeling one of my several pair of Christmas socks
Please note: this recipe does not conform to my food allergy restrictions, but I do like to make it for those who can enjoy it.

The rush and bustle of Christmas is behind us and I, for one, am ready to relax. I love the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. 

For many years my husband was in the aerospace industry. I don't know how they do things now, but back in our day, the industry would shut down between Christmas and New Years. After Beloved began working telecommunications, he habitually scheduled vacation time for the end of the year because it was just such a good idea. 

We like to run and play, as we call it, during that week. We seldom travel far away because we don't want to get caught up in the delays brought on by weather and over-booking of flights, and we most certainly don't want to drive long distances when a snowstorm could result in unplanned nights on the road -- literally.

During this week we usually take in a movie (or two, if there's enough good ones out there to see), eat out several times, get together with friends, and shop with the gift cards received for Christmas.  

For New Year's Eve we usually stay home, eat good food and are in bed shortly after the ball drops in the Eastern Time Zone (that translates to a little after 10pm MST).

One treat we enjoy during the holidays is this recipe from The Cook on Fifth Street. It's the only fudge recipe I cook, and it shares well with friends.

Stirring the mixture very well makes the final outcome very creamy
Mama's Wonderful Fudge - note: this recipe contains dairy

4 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1 - 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 pound small marshmallows
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
12 oz. Hershey bars, no added nuts*
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

*12 oz of Hershey bars is the equivalent of 7  3/4 of the 1.55 ounces of Hershey bars

Butter a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish. Place sugar, milk, and butter in a large heavy saucepan (I use a Dutch oven). Stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil. Cover and boil for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Add the marshmallows and stir until melted. Add chocolates one kind at a time, adding the hardest kind first, so it will have time to melt before the candy starts to cool. Stir quite well until the candy is very smooth (a husband with a strong arm accomplishes this step very well).

Cool thoroughly, overnight is good, placing a dish towel or a piece of wax paper on top to keep it from drying out while it is cooling. 

You can refrigerate the fudge, but it loses some of its creamy texture if you do. It is best to leave it stored at room temperature, covered. This makes about 5 pounds of fudge and can be frozen successfully. 

Looking back on a memory:
When The Cook on Fifth Street visited us in 1997, our Cocker Spaniels adored her.
Buddy (blue collar) and Pal (red collar)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Boxing Day

Today's post is authored by a member of my whimsical staff and is labeled as "Whimsey" in the list of Categories in the column on the far right of your computer screen.

me with the box collection

It's the day after Christmas and I was instructed  to head up an effort by the staff here at Grammys Place Bed and Breakfast to collect all the boxes left over from yesterday. I was to sort out the keepers from the throw-aways and take all the good ones to the basement where we store them for future use. 

With my stellar diplomatic leadership skills, I was able to sound bossy enough to get the job done without too much wringing of the hands by those under my charge.  After that task was crossed off my "To Do List," I posed for a photo and was ready to apply myself to something much more intriguing. 

However, when Grammy Bear called us all into the dining room for a staff meeting, I glumly realized my personal freedom would have to be delayed for an undetermined amount of time. 

Granddad Bear presents Spud with a gift
After we were all settled into our chairs, Grammy Bear proceeded to tell us the day after Christmas is traditionally known as "Boxing Day." I relaxed in my chair with a small sigh of satisfaction, knowing I had already fulfilled that requirement with getting all the cardboard into the basement.

sincere surprise on the face of Spud
As Grammy Bear continued with her speech, we learned that Boxing Day is a holiday when servants and tradespeople receive gifts known as a "Christmas box" from their employers as a gesture of gratitude for their service over the past year.

She then invited Spud, the B and B handyman, to step up beside her while Grandad Bear hefted a box nearly the size of the helpful potato man. A bountiful amount of chocolate fudge was presented to Spud as their gift of appreciation.

Grammy Bear and Mrs Berniece Mertz

The next presentation was an envelope of tickets for Mrs Berniece Mertz to take a well-deserved trip to the tropics and a gift certificate for a hair stylist to loosen that tight bun atop her head.

The gifts after that were also very fun.  Lily and I were given gift cards for manicures and eyebrow plucking at a spa in Whistlestop and free lunch at that cute cafe owned by The Cook on Fifth Street.

With all the staff having been recognized, I was ready to get up and leave to do my own thing in the remaining time before lunch duties began, but it turned out there was one more aspect to "Boxing Day" that I needed to learn.

Marlys and Rowdy brainstorm how to begin their notes

Another expectation of the day after Christmas is "National Thank You Note Day." Speaking to us more like a mother than an employer, Grammy Bear explained that we all need to waste no time in writing thank you notes to those who have given us Christmas gifts. 

Ever the practical, Lily typed and printed her notes without the use of a pencil
People have thought enough of us to consider what kind of a gift we might like. They shopped or made it by hand, wrapped and either delivered it by hand or spent time in the long lines at the post office to get the package to us. 

If we are able to show gratitude with a hearty eye-to-eye verbal thanks or a sincere phone call of thanks, so be it. But if those options are not done, a written note is most certainly in order. She added that in today's culture, an email note or a text is also entirely acceptable.

Doing the right thing

Grammy Bear was right. I need to show my appreciation for what others have done for me. I will play with my paper dolls later. For now, I will exercise my best penmanship and write my thank you notes. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Little Smile

framed greeting card by Mary Engelbreit

Years ago I found this card by Mary Engelbreit.  It makes me smile. We have it in a brass desk frame in our guest room during the Christmas season to give our overnight visitors (usually our son and his wife) a little chuckle. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Christmas Meditation

Cross stitched Madonna by BBaker

Here is some music as we ponder the significance and joy of this Christmas season: click on the song title to activate the video.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Another Happy Celebraton

On a frozen winter's afternoon nineteen years ago today, we dressed in our best and made our way to the church. Our eldest son and his bride joined their lives together before God and a body of witnesses. It was a beautiful, traditional ceremony within the warmth of their church, in spite of December's biting cold outside.

I am reminded that one of the reasons God created marriage between one man and one woman was to strengthen them as they face the challenges life brings. God our Heavenly Father, the husband and the wife -- the three together make a strong bond for good in the world and for all eternity. 

Happy Anniversary!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Great Expectations

Stockings for Beloved, me, daughter-in-law and our son
"Our stockings are now hung in the hallway with great care, in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon will be here" (well, in time for Christmas, anyway!).  We hang our stockings in the hallway because they get too hot hanging in front of our gas fireplace. Nobody wants to find a melted chocolate Santa in their stocking!

fireplace aglow with the elf residence on the left

Oh by the way, I keep forgetting to show you how the elves have decorated their door for the Christmas season. I have not come across a tiny wreath for their door but did spy this cute little snow-flocked Christmas tree that is the perfect size.

Sometimes their door is to the right of the fireplace, but I thought the tree looked best to the left of the door and so the whole scene got shifted to the left of the fireplace (details, details).

laying out the pieces in the proper order

Back to the subject of the stockings -- I spent no small amount of time figuring out the correct order in which to layer all the pieces before sewing the stocking together and to have it come out right. My first attempt resulted in the toe facing off to the left, which was not what I wanted. 

When it finally all came together for me, I took a few snapshots with my phone to serve as photographic notes for future reference! I guess you could say I am a 'visual learner.'

Anyway, we have a lot of stockings around here. When my children were in elementary school, I cross stitched our names on our matching stockings and it all looked so perfect. 

my stocking since ~ 1985
When the kids got married, I gave them their stockings except that Son #2 and his wife come here every year for Christmas, so he just asked me to keep his stocking for him. I have done that, but when I hang his stocking, Beloved's, and mine, then the stocking for my daughter-in-law doesn't match, and that's not right. I want her to know she is one of us! So this year I decided to make new stockings for everybody.

I will be adding names to the cuffs of the stockings before Christmas Eve so Santa will know which is whose! 

In years past we have accumulated other stockings, both from my sewing room and purchased. They are a fun way to decorate.

Our old stockings decorate the master bedroom
Stockings on the shutters in my study;
the one on the left is made with an Eleanor Burns pattern by Quilt-in-a-Day;
the one on the right was purchased (probably from Joann's Fabrics and Crafts)

purchased stocking in the guest room

And would you believe, there's even a stocking in the kitchen pantry!

pantry stocking - created in my sewing room 

With all these stockings hung about the house and Christmas just days away, it looks like we have "great expectations" that each one will be filled. However, all but the 4 on the hallway hooks are just for decoration.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Let It Be Me -- Still

A popular song by the Everly Brothers was "our song" when Beloved and I began dating in our late teen years, so it was only natural that it was sung at our wedding.

sheet music for our wedding

It was 45 years ago on a cold night with crusty snow on the ground in Denver, just six days before Christmas. Now, these many years later, I appreciate the sacrifices people made to help us get married so close to a major family-oriented holiday. At the time my head was so high in the clouds that I was oblivious. 

My two bridesmaids and Maid of Honor with me

I guess I was strong-willed at the time, although again, I was oblivious. The colors I chose for this ceremony so close to Christmas were aqua blue and gold (the skirts were a lush deep gold velvet). I had made important decisions and spent money on those choices before my wedding coordinator came on the scene. She was dismayed that I was  not taking the more sensible route of using Christmas colors and thereby save money on decorations in the church, which was already decorated for the season. Ah, youth! (and young love!)

My sister as Maid of Honor held the Groom's wedding ring on her thumb
While we girls had fun with photos taken before the ceremony, my husband-to-be was at the gas station of his employment, washing his car in a heated garage, wanting it to be shiny clean for his bride.  When he got back to his house from that task, he was chided by his parents for cutting the schedule so tight. I was completely unaware of how close he came to showing up late for the most important day (thus far) of our lives.

The Groom sweats out his last minutes as a free man

He managed to show up on time and even got some sympathy from his college buddies (now his groomsmen) before the wedding march began.

Daddy and me
The first love of my life walked me down the aisle to the care of my husband-to-be.

The wedding ceremony

Our pastor at the time strongly urged that the ceremony be held with the wedding party facing the congregation so the parents could more easily see the faces of their children as they took their vows.

Us with our parents
This wedding was back in the days when photos of the bride and groom were taken after the ceremony. Our guests politely waited while pictures were taken.

the reception (after the cake top was removed)
Four friends from a missions organization of which I was a member served the cake, punch, candies, nuts and coffee at the reception. I see three of them on Face Book now, all these many years later. All my life I have been blessed with pretty friends!

Let him eat cake!

Back in those days, people in our economic status had a simple church wedding followed by a simple church reception. Since it was held in the Fellowship Hall of the church and we were strong Baptists, there was no hint of dancing or alcohol, but calories and caffeine were cheerfully served.

Beloved and me

Over the past 45 years we have gained and lost weight, one of us lost hair while the other is turning gray. We shared ourselves with three children and five dogs (and one suicidal gold fish), and have welcomed into the family our children's spouses and eleven grandchildren. We have lived in seven states (a couple of them more than once) and helped each other through many serious illnesses and surgeries. 

The Lord has blessed and kept us together through the "for better and for worse" aspects of marriage. We celebrate His mercies, grace, and generosity to us daily because there have been times disagreements were strong. 

We are thankful we can still sing with the Everly Brothers, "I bless the day I found you... Now and forever, let it be me."