I Found Our Retirement Career

Totally inspired by this discovery via Ronni Bennett:
Top of the list of Things to Do in 2012 for Mr. Last and I (yep, I just appropriated his free agency and committed him to join me in this) will be to find beginner lessons for duet water-glass playing. Watch for us to be playing in a living room near you during an upcoming holiday season!


December 25

For those who were there, the photos speak for themselves.

For those who were not, you were missed.

For everyone else, make up whatever narrative you wish.

Christmas wishes can come true my friends. 
Happy Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!
December 25
Only 365 days until next Christmas!


It is a beautiful Day-Before-Christmas and these paperwhite narcissus are blooming profusely at the edge of our front walk.
Their scent is attracting butterflies and bees.

In other news...

Elves have been discovered in the living room. The director told them to make sad faces but some elves are naturally cheerful and find it difficult to comply with such instructions:
No one seemed to have any difficulty following instructions when it came to stabbing vegetables into a foam cone, however. Look at the construction techniques these guys employ:

The centerpiece graced our new traditional holiday meal of jaeger-schnitzel with homemade spaetzle. For the four-and-under crowd the homemade spaetzle, which are basically egg noodles, were magically transformed into creamy delicious Mac'n'Cheese with the help of another traditional holiday classic, Cheese-You-Spray-From-A-Can! 
Happy December 24
Tomorrow is Christmas Day!


Donut Friday!

Because it's Friday.

And who doesn't love donuts?

Even cock-eyed snowman face powdered sugar donuts?

Or maple bars?

With a cold glass of milk? or eggnog?

Happy December 23
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve!


Living the Dream

Someone complained/commented that I have not posted lately and I replied, "That's because I'm living the dream."

Photographic evidence above was captured by our 4-year-old grandson who spontaneously grabbed his mother's camera and ran to the other side of the room declaring, "We should take a picture of this," when we were being silly and trying to fit everyone on a single couch in spite of having plenty of other seating in the room.

And in between cooking and cleaning and shopping and crafting and wrapping and playing Bezzerwizzer and celebrating a special birthday and watching Polar Express or Narnia, we've been trying, with greater and lesser degrees of success, to keep the Giant Backyard Vine from eating small boys:

We've even enlisted the help of White Dog and his trusty sidekick:

So, I'm sorry about the lack of blogging, but not too much. Because, really, I am very busy living the dream and I'll have to catch up with you when the the excitement dies down a little.
Happy December 21
Only 4 more days until Christmas!


Fast Food

I have lots to do tonight. What should we have for dinner?

Fresh, organic cauliflower? Steamed to sweet perfection?


Had it twice for dinner last week.

How 'bout leftover Valley Veggie pizza from Me 'n' Ed's?

OK. Maybe a little triangle.

Chase it with some Nuts & Chews and a glass of icy cold milk:


...it's back to the Workshop for me. 

Santa is a merciless taskmaster.

Happy December 16
Less than 48 hours until first homecoming!


It's Not Easy Being Black & White

Heigh Ho! Kermit The Frog here with me way back in the late 1970's. Kermit and the nightgown with a quilted satin yoke were two of my Christmas wishes that came true that year.

And, yes. That's a state-of-the-art 8-track tape deck right above my head, and the couch I'm sitting on is the very same one that we sit on at Grandma's now. It was orginally a groovy dirty mustard naugahyde button-tufted glory, but it's since been reupholstered in a fuzzy caramel wide-wale corduroy. I have a curiously keen memory of the many couches of my life.

Today's celebration is Christmas Wishes Come True. Make your wishes carefully, kids, because someday you will look back and wonder exactly what you were thinking when you wanted nothing more in the world than a matronly nightgown and a Muppet. Or perhaps the memory will bring tears of joy.

Anyway, Grandpa had fun teasing the cat with the Muppet. Oh! And crochet was hot then, too! The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Happy December 15
We are approaching single digits!
 10 days until Christmas!!


Late 80's Nativity Scene

Celebrating the Season still. But we've reached that shifting time of the holidays.

We are crossing a threshold and entering the count-down-on-a-single-hand phase of anticipation as we eagerly look forward to faraway family members coming into our orbit this weekend. College kids are dealing with the urgency of finishing finals. Travelers are packing their bags in preparation for hitting the highway.

"Jingle Bell Rock" is getting annoying, which indicates it is time to switch to another holiday playlist.

 And here's a little peek at Christmas past:

Yes. The headgear consists of historically inaccurate kitchen towels and blue bandanas. And Mary is sporting a lovely pink floral robe while the baby in the carseat is cozy in his stretchy red feety pajamas. But, honestly, no offense was intended by our improvisation. It was just a little play-acting. No barnyard animals were harmed in the making of this production. Not even stuffed toys. No shepherds. No angel. No star. No Wise Men.

Nevertheless, I like to think happy -- if imperfect -- memories were created as my children spent a few moments that evening reminding us all of the Reason for the Season.

Happy December 13
Only 12 more days until Christmas!


Christmas Cookies

Tea and cookies, actually. After dinner, before bedtime.

Once upon a time The Aunties were out poking around and they found this beautiful holiday dessert set. Each one encouraged the other to acquire the set, but while they each appreciated its loveliness, none of them needed more dishes. So they walked away.

Later,when the birthday of one of the Aunties arrived, she opened a package from the others and discovered she had been gifted with the lovely set. And through a series of events it ended up with me.

I  believe that perhaps it was always meant to be mine. Not because I was particularly in need of a holiday dessert set, but as luck would have it our holiday tablecloth is a perfect match.
True story.
Happy December 12
Only 13 more days until Christmas!


Four Generations

Happy Birthday Mom!
from Sir Topham Hat and the Christmas Belles
(and lots of others who love you but were not in this picture)

We are so very lucky to have close, continuing contact with our loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Today we celebrate her.

This photo was taken a few years back, but most of us still look pretty much the same. Topham Hat is no longer a lap baby and he now has two younger brothers. The newest one spent some time in Oma the Great's lap a couple months ago, and he could be a double for Topham Hat in a re-enactment of this scene now.

Happy December 11
14 days until Christmas!

Celebrating Creativity

People like to decorate in different ways. This neighbor upcycles old "junk" into yard art, and the collection is on permanent display so the celebration lasts all year. Every time I pass this yard I say, "I should take a picture" and this time I did.
The yard is around the corner from my childhood home. I was in the old neighborhood this weekend celebrating the birth of my mother. More about that in the next post.
Happy December 10
Only 15 days until Christmas!


Holiday Loaf

I used my frequent flyer card at Panera Bread to purchase this delicious "sweet egg dough filled with honey, golden raisins, cranberries, semi-sweet chocolate chips & chunky apple filling."

Yes, please.

May I have some more?

Of course I may. And if this was Wonka-vision I would warm you a piece in the microwave and hand it to you with a cup of hot apple cider and a cinnamon stick. We would sit together and converse about the large and small joys of the season while we...

Happy December 9
Only 16 more days until Christmas!


Christmas is the Taste of Snowflakes

Christmas is a joyous party,
Christmas is an unwrapped gift,
Christmas is a person's joy,
Christmas is giving.
Christmas is love,
Christmas is gingerbread cookies,
Christmas is receiving gifts.
Christmas is caring,
Christmas is a get-together,
Christmas is the scent of pine,
Christmas is colorful lights,
Christmas is a winter scene,
Christmas is the taste of snowflakes.

Ten years ago, more than half a lifetime away, the Youngish One created this love letter to Christmas. Of course I saved it.

She was giddy last fall when big fat snowflakes began falling in her college town. Just like her sister was when she first tasted snowflakes in another college town. By the other side of the first full snow season they were each much less enchanted with snow.

My Christmas wish today is that we may step back into the enchantment of childhood this season and remember the taste of Christmas in a snowflake.
Happy December 8
Only 17 days until Christmas!


Peppermint Hot Chocolate

With whipped cream and a candy cane. Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like a hot cuppa sweetness.

I confess. Sometimes during the cold, dark months I treat myself to a drive-through GiveMeYourBucks hot beverage, but somehow the sweetest concoctions are the ones I make at home. Perhaps because I am in control of the peppermint syrup, thankyouverymuch.

Happy December 7
18 days until Christmas!

P.S. A trio of wiggly carolers serenaded us with "Jingle Bells" last night via Skype. It was warm and joyful and sqirming with happiness. Thanks, guys!


Christmas Cards & Letters

Today I climbed Mt. Resistance and saw the beautiful valley on the other side. Before that I was having some difficulty composing my thoughts to send out to family and friends as Happy Mail of the Season. The year in review felt too big and complicated to encapsulate, but finally I found some perspective.

I gave myself permission to send my limited offering out to a handful of my nearest and dearest, trusting that those who know and love me will continue to do so even they don't receive joyous holiday greetings from me this year.

So today's celebration is Yay! For Snail-Mailed Christmas Cards and Letters. Even if they are few and far between. Thank you USPS for delivering anticipated special goodies always and especially at this busy holiday time of year.

Happy December 6
19 days until Christmas 


Good Eats

Our celebration for today was unpacking the fine china that was generously passed down to us from Mr. Last's mother a little while ago. It finally came out of the dusty boxes to be handwashed and lovingly given a new home in the sideboard. We will use it for dinner on Christmas Day and for every other occasion we can think of from now on.

In fact, dinner this evening must have been an occasion. We initiated the fine china with salmon and spinach tonight.

Our dinner conversation natually turned toward anticipation of Christmas Day. We discussed menu options: Jaegersnitzel and spaetzle? Lasagne and garlic bread? Roast beef with mashed potatoes and peas? Ham with baked potatoes and orange jello? Milk or ice water or sparkling cider for beverage? All three? Some of these foods are closely associated with one branch of the family or another and it was amusing to note which was identified with whom. 

I have never been accused of being the hostess-with-the-mostess but now I find myself curiously absorbed in details like coordinated table cloth and napkins and perhaps hand-crafted napkin rings. I'm looking forward to creating a fruit arrangement in the shape of a Christmas tree. And one from vegetables, too. I hope I can recruit some help crafting those.

Its fun to think about the good eats we associate with the holiday season, and I look forward to fielding requests for certain special treats as we enjoy breaking bread together over the holidays.

Happy December 5
20 days until Christmas


Lighting Up the Darkness

Busy weekend.
I can't go back to work tomorrow, I've got stuff to do!
On the other hand, I'm awfully grateful to have good work that makes it possible to enjoy my life so nicely on the weekends.

In spite of spending 48 hours trying to cram five quarts
into a one gallon jug, we were able to squeeze in 
trimming the tree and some decorating.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care:

The angel was placed on the top of the tree:

We got the LEDs strung in the trees
and enjoyed some of sounds of the season:

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Happy December 4
Only 21 days left until Christmas!


Right Jolly Old Elves

Our celebration for this day started with getting into our fanciest duds for an important meeting with with the Head Elf:
We ate well and enjoyed jolly company.

And then...

We elfed ourselves.
Happy December 3
Only 22 more days until Christmas!


"Hope is the thing with feathers..."

Today I put out my newest angel, Hope. I'm not sure she's strictly a Christmas angel so you may see her around at other times, too. Something about this scene reminds me of the Island of Misfit Toys. Probably Hope's hair. And her eyes. And her hands.
Rudolph is the definitive Holiday Classic of my childhood. The Burl Ives snowman is conflated in my mind with my paternal grandfather. Sometimes my memories of GranDad talking about sports or the news are voiced by Burl Ives. Weird, I know, but I'll bet you have interesting mashups in your head, too. 

If you are observant, you may notice cut paper snowflakes in the top center and right of Hope's photo. Those are decorations lovingly and laboriously created with great patience and an eye for detail by my Baby Girl a few years back. I saved the red reindeer container for future use, and I also saved the snowflakes. 

The future is now. 

The snowflakes are suspended all over our ceiling and they really dress the place up. Thank you, Baby Girl.

The title of this post comes from a poem by Emily Dickinson.

Happy December 2
Only 23 days until Christmas!


An Advent Calendar of Sorts

Happy Anticipation Month! 

Each day in December I will post a little Christmas cheer to celebrate the season and heighten the joy. Today's celebration was potting a little Christmas cactus in the red reindeer container I saved from last year. I do not recall what the container originally held, and I did not save it specifically for holding a Christmas cactus.

Hi, I'm Julie. And I have a container-saving problem.

But it's not really a problem, is it, if you find a way to put your saved container to good (and beautiful, if I do say so my self) use?

The cute little fellas flanking the Christmas cactus were obtained about a month ago from Marshall's. They are very much my style, and have given me pleasure just knowing they were waiting in the wings for their moment to shine. I have not yet named them, but they could easily end up being Rudolph and ChrisMouse, unless you suggest something better.

Happy December 1
Only 24 more days until Christmas!