Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Little Butterball

No, not me. I was referring to the mouse in our cupboard, the one who got into the butter we left out on the counter. (Yes, we do know better...)

Someone has been eating in our kitchen uninvited. We know because, aside from nose prints in the butter,  he left some "surprises" scattered across the counter top and throughout the cabinets where I keep the dishes. Since My Darling captured at least one critter, I decided to get to work cleaning out the cupboard.
I removed all the dishes and cups, every last one, and there were at least a bazillion, and proceeded to wash them by hand. It took F O R E V E R. I have way too many dishes now that most of my kids have grown up and moved out. My thumbs hurt and my shoulders ache, but the cupboard is clean, the dishes have been washed, and the rodent is expired. I hope he didn't have friends.

My Darling bought two Christmas presents that will be keeping me busy learning and trying new things. I have two new lenses for my camera. Now I have a new reason to learn how to use the camera's manual settings and maybe, just maybe, I will be able to catch my bird friends and that little red squirrel who hops about in the weeping birch outside my kitchen window every day. (I took a practice shot. Now all I need is for him to show up and sit in that spot while I'm ready.) If I appear to be missing in action here, I just might be out shooting squirrels.

PS. I couldn't help but think, as I cleaned the cupboard, "out with the old, in with the new."

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Party 2014

Saturday. It feels like Saturday, but then every day for the past week has felt pretty much like a Saturday. I've heard the expression "a week of Sundays" but never Saturdays... (or was that "a month of Sundays?" Whatever it was (or is) it seems like there have been an awful lot of them lately.)

Our Minnesota family has come and gone. Yesterday we had 27 in the house for our Christmas party gathering. It was a little bit crazy here!

I absolutely loved having my little grandson here to visit, along with his mommy and daddy. We were disappointed to have Bethany sick with the flu not only on Christmas day, but on our party day as well. With a 103 degree temperature the previous night, there was no way she was going to make it. We were thankful to bring her in on Skype (on my new laptop) along with Gramanita who came in on Skype from Nova Scotia, Canada on Jim's Mac. Perhaps I do love modern technology.

Several of us took a turn holding our newest baby. He was passed from family member to family member and although Spencer didn't appear to mind the transfers, another small child was not pleased at all to find a strange baby on his daddy's lap. He toddled around the end of the couch to find his daddy snuggling his little cousin and burst into tears.

Gramanita stayed with us (on Skype) for almost 3 hours, taking in conversations, watching our gift exchange, and visiting with various family members. She was even taking pictures on her end. Austin tried on a bag hat while she amused him with antics all her own on the other side of the computer screen. I'm told Austin enjoyed the entire conversation and I think she did too.

I was lucky enough to sneak in a little snuggle with my faraway grandson. He is a busy little guy with a grand repertoire of facial expressions and a thirst to explore. He prefers toys and books scattered across the floor rather than put neatly in their places. He doesn't sit still for more than five minutes, and prefers to keep his daddy within eye shot. He's adorable, funny, and super smart, just like all my other grandchildren. (I think I know who they take after.)

This holiday didn't find us taking the group photos we'd anticipated. We were missing an entire family due to illness and I didn't want another incomplete group photo. Instead I am looking forward to Jim and Michele's return trip when the weather warms up (providing it ever cools off....) and we can gather everyone for a grand reunion. I smiled to see my middle son willing to humor me (and his grandma) by throwing Gramanita a kiss before she signed off the computer for the evening. I'm pretty sure she was smiling too.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Arrival

Our Minnesota family arrived late this morning with one hungry and tired little boy. He wasn't too sure about this strange place, but after a drink of milk, a little bit of lunch, and a nap, he was smiling again.

We're taking it easy this evening, watching "A Christmas Wish" and drinking tea while the little guy wanders about kicking giant Lego bricks, making the dog a little bit nervous and checking out the light switches. He's too much cuteness wrapped up in one package!

Friday, December 26, 2014


I liked today. It was another lazy morning with a leisurely cup of coffee and a leftover sweet roll. My Darling and I chatted and checked our emails. I tossed in a load of laundry and he washed the dishes. Although we haven't traded gifts with our children yet, the tension of getting ready has mostly melted away. This afternoon we wrapped our "white elephant" gifts for Sunday's gathering. I love this gift exchange. Probably because it comes with little to no expectations attached.

Hannah and I went out to pick up a few grocery items late this morning and I found there were no cinnamon rolls left in the grocery store. I'd planned to cook up a couple tubes for our Sunday morning brunch along with a quiche or two. It's been suggested I mix up my own sweet rolls. I suppose it could happen...

This afternoon, My Darling and I went for an orchard walk. The weather was mild (like April)  and the mud was minimal. We had just enough time to take our long walk, so long as we didn't linger. I snapped a few photos on our way down the orchard lane while the sun was still perfect. We walked at a brisk pace so as not to be found out in a darkened orchard surrounded by coyotes. I'm having a hard time believing this is late December.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Quiet Christmas

Our Christmas morning was quiet and relaxed. I baked a package of refrigerated cinnamon rolls for breakfast. A few red, white, and green sprinkles made them look festive, perfect for Christmas morning. We drank our coffee and orange juice while nibbling the sweet treats. They sat staring at us from the plate afterward and I had to cover the remaining three with a plastic bowl to keep them quiet.

We'd expected at least four of our seven children for an afternoon dinner of lasagna and tossed salad but Josh was sick in the night and Bethany was feeling ill with respiratory symptoms. They decided it best to stay home and I put together a smaller lasagna than originally intended. Dave and Leta came with the kids, Josiah was here, and Hannah too. I'd say it was unusually quiet, but we still had three little people to liven things up. Lucas told me that if they were allowed to jump on my couches, he could show me a really cool trick...

We did not trade gifts, although we'd planned to, instead we decided to wait until our big Sunday gathering when hopefully everyone will be feeling good again. We did have Hannah open a special gift that her dad put together this week. I've had the photo for quite a while, it was just waiting to be framed. My Darling did a very nice job, if I do say so myself, although there is a sad element to the picture too. Mac, the horse in the photo, was taken in a seizure at the farm where she used to ride and Hannah hasn't seen him in over a year even though we knew where he was taken.

Our son Jim called this afternoon from Minnesota. I'm hoping to kiss my firstborn in just a couple of days, to hug his sweet wife, and give that curly haired grandson a cuddle or two if I can catch him (or get him away from his grandfather...).

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tomorrow is Christmas...

... it's practically here!

I think I might be ready by the my family arrives tomorrow. There are some perks to being the grandparents, one of them being we'll have a quiet morning while the mommies and daddies get the early morning Christmas chaos and confusion. We can sleep in, make pancakes in the morning, and tidy up just before the kids arrive to totally destroy the place. (I kid... kind of.)

We've done our buying and wrapping. I bought boxes at Walmart for 48 cents and wrapped them up pretty. My Darling helped me fill in some of the blank spots when we went out shopping the other day. (He;s braver than me when it comes to Christmas shopping.) I wish I could tell you I am relaxed, but that doesn't typically happen in until Christmas Day is done and we settle in to watch A Muppet Christmas Carol.

I was going to put my lasagna together tonight, and I still might, but tomorrow is sounding better all the time. We're going to cook up some breakfast for supper and go to the Christmas Eve service. No midnight one this year, although I did love the midnight service I went to a couple years ago.

I pray you all have a wonderful holiday, that you find laughter with friends and family, and that the love of Christ would fill your day.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Little Glimpses

How about a little glimpse into the "mind of Martha"... (It can be a scary place to visit.)

I have more lists going through my mind than I can keep up with, but I haven't written any of them down so I can't really tell you just how many there are.There are only a few days until The Grinch swoops down from his mountaintop cave to steal our festivities and leave us singing in the snow, so I don't have much time left to prepare.

Actually, I lied. I have started to make lists, but they're a mishmash of ideas rather than concrete items and tasks that need to be chased down, purchased, or completed. The good news is that in spite of my inability to rein in the craziness of the season (or my own thoughts), I will, in all likelihood, make out just fine in the end.

It will be a wild and crazy week from here to next Monday. Even if I never nail down menus or find the house immaculately clean and tidy, we will not likely starve or find ourselves lost amidst the clutter. Okay, maybe we could get lost in the clutter, but we won't go hungry. Instead we'll laugh, enjoy the company, and be crazy together. Is there any other way to be?

(Photos courtesy of Lukie's sixth birthday party Saturday evening.) 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas is Coming

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat... (ha ha!)

Tomorrow I will bake those cookies I've been talking about for too long. I will pack them in cute little bags. I will put the cute little bags of cookies into boxes and I will smile. I will smile as I break my toffee into pieces (perhaps while tasting a solitary trifle...) and pack them into fancy bags. I will fancy-up those plain cardboard boxes and make them Christmassy with ribbons, bows, and holiday paper, and I will smile. Lord willing. :0)

I will make my final shopping list for my Christmas dinners and desserts, and Tuesday morning I will head out into the world for a final 2014 Christmas shopping adventure, and then I will relax. Lord willing.

Did I say something about the goose getting fat? Ah well... New Year's Day is almost here. I'm going on a liquid diet for the next six months. ha ha!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fender Bender

It was an exciting day. I had a job interview this morning and a fender bender this afternoon. Since I don't have much to share regarding the interview (I won't know anything for maybe a couple of weeks), I'll tell you about the fender bender.

Hannah and I were out together. We're trying to tie up loose ends on our holiday gift giving, so although I am not a big Walmart fan, we went in for a few items, nothing grand and glorious. We hopped back into the van and I glanced into my rear view mirror before backing slowly out of my spot. I let some pedestrians pass and a car that was headed down the aisle. I had my eye on the back corner of the car parked to my right when my van stopped rather abruptly. Another check of my rear view mirror told me I made contact with another car. (Oh, blah..)

I pulled back forward and opened my door to a man across the aisle in the same position. "What are you doing backing up when I'm backing up?" the other driver asked me, to which I replied, "Why didn't you beep?" (Had I known he was there I surely would have stopped before crumpling our bumpers.)

"I didn't see you!" the guy in the other car said. I felt a sense of relief wash over me as I realized nether of us had been paying attention to who or what was behind us at that particular moment. We had almost identical damage to our vehicles, a dent in the rear driver's side bumper. Since we were turning opposite directions, we were probably the same distance out into the aisle. The dent in my bumper is decidedly worse than the one on his car, or should I say "his wife's"?

I felt a little bad for him. His wife, who was on her way out of the store, was not happy at all. She took pictures of my van with her cell phone, proceeded to call the police, and then complain about how she "didn't have time for this." We'd already traded insurance information and such by the time the sheriff, who really didn't need to be summoned at all, showed up and told us a police report wasn't necessary. (I'd said that earlier but she insisted she wanted the police.)

So, now I will be calling our insurance agency on Monday morning. I can hardly stand all the excitement.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Planning For Christmas

It's the gift buying and giving that typically make Christmas stressful, but there is other planning to be done too. This year, like the last one,we are getting two Christmases...

There are sure to be children, both big and small, here on Christmas Day. We'll enjoy some giving of gifts, some filling of stockings, and a bit of food. Maybe we'll even put a puzzle together, or maybe not. Perhaps there will be some carols, a Christmas movie, or the telling of the Nativity... I think maybe we'll eat tamales and cook up a pot of posole or green chile stew.

And then there is our BIG family Christmas gathering on Sunday, the 28th. My sisters will be here as well as our out of town son and his family.  We'll have a houseful of folks. I've already decided not to try and make it to church that morning... I'm thinking we'll do a brunch, then have lasagna later in the afternoon. There will be a gift exchange (a bit above the typical white elephant stuff, I hope), maybe some games or the puzzle (if it didn't happen on Christmas), and later, toward evening, maybe a classic Christmas video, like A Muppet Christmas Carol.

Maybe this afternoon I'll bake a batch of snowball cookies, and then, if the sun shines this weekend, perhaps My Darling will lend a hand in cooking up a batch or two of toffee and candied walnuts.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Razzle Frazzle

I found a picture of Peppermint Patty on Pinterest yesterday. I discovered myself smiling at her and feeling just a tinge of sisterhood, which is somewhat unusual since I never saw Peppermint Patty and I as having anything in common. But I've been feeling frazzled lately and there she was looking frazzled as well.

My grandkids arrived at 6:30 am yesterday morning. It was dark out, really dark. I was still in my jammies and the Christmas tree was the only thing lighting up the living room. It was almost too early for coffee...

Someone other than myself has planted the idea in the minds of these children that they can "earn" my toys back again. I don't want to be a complete Scrooge, but let me tell you, that ain't happenin'. There are picture books and coloring books downstairs, and Tuesday night I'd cut up strips of colored paper to make paper chains. They sat for quite a while with the little staplers I'd purchased the day before and put together long colorful creations. Sometime mid morning I'd gone upstairs to find the boxes of giant Lego bricks and more colorful creations sprung up in my living room, but the shelf is destined to remain upstairs. No amount of "earning" will gain the toy shelf a renewed space in my living room. I like it better upstairs, thank you.

Prayers would be appreciated for the future of my days. In the frustration of the moment last week, I filled out a job application online. There is a real possibility I may end up with a part time job outside my home for the first time in over 30 years... (Yes, I did get a response.) I'm not sure whether to be excited or scared to death, and I have yet to tell my son and daughter in law that I may not be able to continue babysitting every week. (I just hate getting people upset with me.... )

Monday, December 15, 2014

Visiting Tim Again

I almost didn't get to see my brother this week, but Rachel's evening plans for tonight got cancelled and then Emily's father called to say she wouldn't be coming off the bus. I was in the parking lot at Walmart when I realized that maybe Rachel and I could visit our brother together this week after all. I took out my trusty cell phone and called her to see if it would work.

We were blessed this afternoon to find our brother smiling and in good spirits. He clicked his tongue at us and the workers. (He's kind of a flirt, you know.)

Each and every visit to Tim comes with a ride down country roads and a stop at Wendy's for a Frosty, and each and every visit Tim opens and checks out Rachel's empty glove box. (She's made sure it's empty since the time he took out her car owner's manual and he ripped it in half...) Today I hid a candy cane in there. He couldn't get out of the car until he'd gotten the wrapper off and crunched it down.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas in My Corner

Yesterday afternoon Hannah and Sergio went out for a little while and came back again with a Christmas tree for my cold and empty corner. They brought it in, set it up, and even trimmed all the scraggly branches off the bottom.

 We pulled the lights and other do-dads out of the basement, and then I sat back to watch and document the festivities. (Is that cheating?) They found enough working lights to cover the tree with lots of sparkle. Imagine that!

It was nice to simply enjoy the process and not feel like I needed to get in the way. I sipped my coffee and decided to Skype Gramanita so she could enjoy it with me.

It turned out to be a very nice day, even though I'd had my misgivings about the Graham Cracker House Party. Now I can enjoy a couple of quiet days before the little ones return to find the toys really are out of reach. Maybe I'll find my copy of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and read them a story.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dance of the Sugarplums

Yesterday afternoon I was ready to cancel our Graham Cracker House Day. I was tired and frustrated to the point of tears, and really didn't feel much like providing a fun filled few hours for children who are so often naughty and disrespectful. However, we had already made arrangements and I didn't want to back out either. I opted to put on a "happy" face, pop a Christmas CD in the player, and mix up a batch of royal icing.

The children arrived smiling and rambunctious as usual. The mommies brought candy for decorating the houses. I provided the crackers and a place to gather. Grandpa came in looking for lunch, decided to put in an order for pizza, and turned it into an actual party. The cousins were glad to see each other, bounced off walls and furniture, and took full advantage of the empty space left by the toy shelf in a wrestling match. (Go figure...)

It turned out to be an alright day. I'd really wanted to both frost cookies and do our annual graham cracker houses for Christmas this year and now both activities are complete. The children will store up the memories as good and that is really the objective, making good Christmas memories. Maybe one day they'll actually appreciate the effort we put into making them smile.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Grinchy Grandma

Then he slunk to the ice box. He took the Whos' feast, he took the who pudding, he took the roast beast. He cleaned out that ice box as quick as a flash. Why, the Grinch even took their last can of Who hash.

I got tired of the fighting. I got tired of the mess. I got tired of fishing toys out from under the couch. I told them to stop fighting. I told them not to throw the toys. I said it was time to pick up. They ignored me. They laughed when I got after them. They said they "didn't care. ...

It was an act of desperation, but my living room is looking less crowded now that all the toys have been removed. I won't have to wonder if there's enough room for that Christmas tree we haven't gotten yet. There's plenty of room now. I've even got an all but empty cabinet in my kitchen where the games and puzzles used to be. Nothing in there now but some empty bins and the coloring books and crayons. and ya know, I like it better already.

I am not entirely certain what we will do when the little sweethearts return next week, but there certainly won't be toys strewn from one end of the house to the other and I won't have to ask them twice to pick them up.

The Case of the Missing Mouse

It escaped when I went into the other room for a few minutes. I looked under the love seat and down in the cushions, but it wasn't hiding there. My cats did not looked suspicious, but the missing mouse was nowhere to be found. I did the best I could and used the laptop touchpad instead. I tried to write a blog, but every once in a while my screen would suddenly zoom closer. I had no idea how it was happening or what I was doing to cause it. By the time I gave up and closed the computer, all I could see was one corner of my blog with giant sized letters...

It was Thursday night anyway, so I packed my unfinished afghan into a plastic bag, put on my coat, and headed over to Brenda's house. (That's where we have our Thursday night womens' gathering.)

After my return home several hours later and another check about the living room and down in the cushions of  the aforementioned love seat, I lay down flat on my belly on the floor between the couch and the coffee table and looked under the couch. Lo and behold, there it was! That naughty mouse! I am happy to report he has been much better behaved this morning, and my blog has been returned to normal size.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

V is for Visibility

V is for Visibility.

We're in the midst of a nor'easter and visibility is limited. According to the weather channel visibility is about.08 miles. I'm not completely sure what it is under normal conditions, but I do know that blowing snow makes traveling treacherous. Afternoon school activities have been cancelled along with many evening activities as well. Looks like we'll be staying in tonight. Maybe we'll pour ourselves a cup of hot chocolate and roast a few marshmallows in the wood stove.

For more ABC Wednesday, click here.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Cookie Monsters

My imagination tells me I have a lot more patience than I actually do. Or maybe I have more than I imagine... I always imagine neat and mostly settled cookie frosting parties with me patient and calm. Ha!

I spent a couple hours rolling, cutting, and baking cutout cookies yesterday afternoon. Today, after lunch, I had four cookie decorators helping me frost and sprinkle cookies. Emily is 11. She does a neat and tidy job with minimal finger licking and "sensible" sparkle sprinkling. The others?  Well, let's just say it was an experience to remember. ha ha!

I doled out equal amounts of cookies (trees, stockings, candy canes, snowmen, bells, horses, and wreaths) and let them have at it with the frosting and toppers. I try hard not to interfere, even though it's next to impossible. I want these little people to remember the fun of decorating cookies, not a grumpy grandma. Frosting washes up, sprinkles can be vacuumed, and licking knives and fingers probably won't cause any lasting damage.

They're sugared up and riled now, not to mention tired. I've scrubbed the table, tossed sticky paper towels in the trash, and piled the lovely treats onto paper plates. They now await transport. In my kitchen a pile of unfrosted treats remain. Maybe I'll have another go with a different bunch of kids, or maybe I'll frost a few of my own. Maybe. Maybe after I vacuum those stray sprinkles off the dining room floor.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Roasty Toasty

A wood stove is good for cozy fires. On blustery days we cluster round it, but yesterday I put it to use in another way. I found myself a few marshmallow sticks out in the back yard and toasted up a few sticky treats.

Today, after church and a quick run to the store for some salad fixings, I spent some time out in my kitchen with a giant bowl of cookie dough and my rolling pin. I am now in possession of a sky full of stars, a forest of trees, a crowd of snowmen, and a herd of miniature horses, We have stockings, candy canes, bells, and wreaths too. Now all I need is a large amount of frosting, a ton of sprinkles, and several children willing to help me decorate them.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Taking a Break

I took a break from the monotony of quiet days and had my grandchildren over for a bit of noise and excitement, There were toys strewn about the living room, blocks piled here and there, and books scattered across the carpet. We stirred up a double batch of sugar cookie dough and set it out on the back porch to get cold. There were a few tears and lots of laughing. We watched "Simon's Cat" videos and they're always funny. My house is disheveled and there are crumbs on the floor but the toys and books have all been put away and it's quiet again.

Maybe I'll roll, cut, and bake cookies tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

U is for Unique

U is for Unique.
unique- adj. being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else

It's a funny word if you stop and think about it...

Years ago a friend gave me a little plaque. It said, "Always remember that you are absolutely unique just like everyone else," and that, of course, gives every one of us something in common, which in turn makes us not so unique after all...

The whole thing is rather peculiar, wouldn't you say?

For more ABC Wednesday, click here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

What to Do?

Being home alone all day is different. I like it and don't like it at the same time. Keeping busy is a challenge, especially the productive kind of busy. I have a few projects I'm working on (crocheting afghans) and a book or two I'm reading. I do think about finding an outside the house kind of job. The prospect is somewhat exciting and somewhat terrifying both at the same time.

I threw a party Saturday evening and invited several of my kids over for pizza. For a few hours it was wild and chaotic and then the party started to thin out and everyone went home. I found myself smiling and thinking it was just what I needed. Now I'm attempting to conjure up a Cookie Decorating or Gingerbread House Building Party. Perhaps I really do need a little bit of chaos every now and again.

PS. These goodies are not from this year. I haven't baked anything but pies since September. ha!