Tuesday, December 29, 2009

One more random before the calendar rolls

Here's the final random dozen of 2009...they've been fun-thanks for hosting every Wednesday Linda!

If you're reading this then you are invited to play along... answer the questions on your blog and link your answers here.

1. Do you find it gross to share drinks with family? Friends?

Well, I never used to but in these days of swine flu and other nastiness I definitely think twice and mostly avoid it.

2. What have you learned this year? (You didn't see a question of that weight coming, did you? At least not for #2.)

A lot. This has been a year of enormous change for me…transitioning back to life in the US has been a little bit bumpy and I’m really just now starting to feel like myself again. It’s also the first move I’ve made without children living at home so I’ve had to figure out other ways to make connections with people. I guess the biggest lesson I've been reminded of this year is this..God is always with me. Wherever I am there He is. And He is in control. Thankfully.

3. When do you dismantle the Christmas decorations?

Not before New Years Day weekend…I may even wait until the week after New Years this year.

4. Something you wish to accomplish before the end of 2009 is:

Well it is December 30th so if there is something I better get busy! I can’t really think of anything that can’t wait til January 1.

5. How do you feel about winter (after Christmas)?

I love it in the beginning but I tire of it and always feel so ready for spring. And spring is a big tease…we’ll get a few beautiful mild days in early March and think yay! Spring! and then it turns arctic again. I hate those late snows that we are bound to get here, say like in April…ugh.

6. Have you participated in after-Christmas sales?

Not for myself but I’m looking for nice boots for my girls

7. Do you have plans for New Year's Eve?

Yes we do…New York City baby…we have friends with an apt. in Rockefeller Plaza and we’re joining them…we will not be getting into the madness right on the street but we’ll have a great view of it all from the warmth and safety of the apartment…we’re going to do some fun stuff in the city too…maybe some museums plus my girls want to go skating in Central Park so it will be fun.

8. Is there anything special awaiting you in January?

Um, a new year? I think that's pretty special. I like the feeling of a fresh start.

9. If your life this year was a movie, what category or genre would it be? (Romance, Comedy, Drama, Thriller, Suspense, Farcical, etc.)

Well, we moved back to the US after living in England for the past six years and I think it is safe to say it’s been a little bit of all of the above.

10. How much time per day do you spend blogging? Please do not lie. I will know.

About an hour…some days none and some days it might be two hours. I wake up very early and that’s generally when I get online. I check my favorites and read updates and then maybe write a post for my own blog (I usually add 3-4 posts per week to my own blog). I typically look at my dashboard again late in the day or evening to see if there are comments or updates on my faves.

11. Who runs your household?

We’re a good team. My husband is a hard worker and is very neat…if he sees something that needs doing he just does it…I never have to ask him to help. I do pretty much all the cooking/shopping/bill pay/laundry and the basic daily ‘pick up’ although he is happy to go to the store with me, throw in laundry if needed, and he manages the big picture money -retirement accounts, college tuition, 401 K stuff-I do the living expense side of the money … I also manage the calendar/appts/stuff for the kids. My husband has a pretty intense job that requires travel but he still cleans the shower, bbqs, and likes to vacuum…it works for us.

12. Share one hope/dream for 2010.

Other than contentment and good health for my family…my oldest daughter is graduating from university this spring and I’d love to see her land a job that she enjoys that would allow her to support herself.

And I’d like to see a big chunk of our elected officials booted out of office. Seriously…I’m tired of pretty much the whole lot.

That’s two things. Sorry.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Kindred Spirits

I'm reading on a whole lot of blogs about all the industrious people out there who take down their tree and put everything away in the first few days after Christmas. What is up with that? We normally put everything away New Year's weekend but we may even wait until the week after New Years Day this year. I feel like it took me most of the month to get it all perfectly in place and I'm just not ready to pack it all up yet.

We've had a relaxing few days...My husband bought himself the girls a Wii for Christmas so we're going to have the girls show us how to play that today. We've done a little shopping and on Sunday afternoon we went to see Sherlock Holmes. I'm not a huge Jude Law fan but he and Robert Downey were both really good in this and they made a great team. We all enjoyed the movie.

Last night some old friends invited us to their home for dinner. Way back in 1991 daughter1 started preschool two mornings a week. We were living in NJ then too, in a town about a half an hour away from where we live now. Daughter1 was sweet. Very very sweet. As a toddler she was not one to dive into anything...she was reserved but observant....a thoughtful little girl who always seemed wise when it came to understanding people. She is still very much that child. Adult.

Anyway, on her very first day of preschool she and another little girl, also feeling a little bit hesitant, met and in that instant a friendship was born. And their little friendship was one of the absolute sweetest things in the world to witness...C's mom and I used to say that it reminded us of something we had in college...we had never seen two young children connect like these two little cuties did at the tender age of 3 1/2. They were kindred spirits from the moment they said hello.

We moved from NJ to Maryland when daughter1 was only six years old but these two girls remained friends. Every summer they'd spend a week at each others houses and every summer they'd pick right back up where they'd left off the summer before. We moved overseas when daughter1 turned 15 years old so the visits stopped. We traded Christmas cards but fell mostly out of touch...life happens. Then in the summer of 2007 we were in the area and decided to just knock on their door and say hello. When children move thru their teens and on into their young adult selves you wonder if a friendship born at the age of three will still be there and we were a little bit nervous as we waited on their front porch. There was no need to feel anxious though...they were home, invited us in and again, it was like we'd never been apart. And they also just happened to have a trip to London planned for that Christmas so we all ended up ringing in the New Year of 2008 together at our home in England.

And so now here we are, nearly 2010... we are once again living in NJ some 15+ years after we moved away...all the girls are home from university for the Christmas holiday so we got the families together for dinner last night. And the girls still talk a mile a minute and they still share a connection that is oh so sweet. There is no awkwardness, no uncomfortable silences...just chatter and smiles and laughter.

Kindred spirits still.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Puttin' away the Punch Bowl

We had a wonderful Christmas celebration this year...the first few days after Christmas always feel a little funny. We've spent so much time getting ready for the day and waiting for the day and then it's here and its over. It sure was nice though.

My mom, sister, brother in law, and neice all arrived on Christmas Eve. We had a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings...I have the Portmerion Christmas dishes which I absolutely love. Gotta give a shout out to the beautiful pottery ya know...

My husband always reads Twas the Night Before Christmas to the girls before they go to bed. Well, actually, now that they are older we're pretty much the ones going to bed and they stay up late late late but you get the idea. And our book is in a box in the basement that has not been unpacked so he was forced to read it off a printed copy this year. He knows it by heart but reading the story is a tradition carried over from his own childhood and sometimes when he reads it the memories come a calling so it's best to have the words at hand.

We always open one gift on Christmas Eve and it is always jammies of some sort for all the girls.

We finish up the wrapping later in the evening and are all set for Christmas morning....

One of our Christmas morning traditions is to take a photograph of the girls sitting on the steps before they come into the tree room.

And this house also has a railing across the upstairs hallway so they were forced to stop smiled for a photo there too.

And we may have actually taken two or three or ten pictures on the steps because they're so cute plus its fun to prolong the anticipation of the morning. They may or may not agree.


We really do our stockings up big and like to take our time with those and watch everyone open...and we snack on bubble bread and a delicious cake my mom's neighbor gives us every year.

And our sweet pup may have also sampled the Bubble bread when we were out of the room and suffice it to say it is sticky. Very very sticky. Daughter1 tried to capture the cleanup in a photo but Santa wasn't laughing so she changed her mind.

It felt like we opened gifts all day. My brother and his wife arrived about 10 am from my sister in law's house where they'd spent Christmas Eve ... they were just in time for the traditional Christmas breakfast of sausage and egg casserole. My younger sister and her family arrived about noon...they have a 3 1/2 year old son and he opened his gifts from Santa at home before they drove up to our house. He got a Spiderman costume from my brother and sister in law and that was pretty much what he wore all day long. It was fun to have a very excited little boy in the house this year.

We had a super yummy glazed ham for Christmas dinner....my girls are such a great help in the kitchen

They both enjoy cooking which is really fun for me. Here is Audrey Hepburn daughter2 making the squash casserole.

I had Christmas crackers from England and we had fun with those. You absolutely have to wear the crown...it's the law you know.
As if all of this weren't enough excitement (not to mention calories!) my sister's birthday is the day after Christmas so we had a little party for her on the 26th. We took some family pictures too since we don't have everyone all together very often...

And then it was time for everyone to head home. Sigh. I'm always a little bit sad to see it come to an end...to pull out the vacuum and take the leaves out of the tables, and pack away the punch bowl. A friend of mine (thanks Donna!) posted this quote by Stuart Briscoe on her fb page recently and I told her I was going to add it to my blog because I loved the message so much...it is a lovely reminder that Christmas never really ends.

"The spirit of Christmas needs to be superseded by the Spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal. The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine person. That makes all the difference in the world."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Rockettes Can Eat All The Christmas Cookies They Want

We spent the past day and a half in NYC looking at the lights...

admiring the store window decorations

and taking in all the sights and sounds of the city at Christmas

We ate lunch in Grand Central Station which had a little Christmas market happening along with a laser light show

We went up to the Top of the Rock as it is known...this is the 67th floor of the GE Building in Rockefeller Plaza where you get fantastic views of the city...

Can you tell it was cold up there?

And then last night we had tickets to The Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall...may I just say it is appropriately named...

It's spectacular! My daughter and I decided that the muscles in the Rockettes legs must be like rubber bands. They probably don't even have to work to kick their foot up to their eyebrow anymore...we think it just pops up there on its own. The precision of these dancers is positively amazing. I love the soldier dance the best...they all fall like dominoes and it is truly something to see

My favorite part of the show is the live nativity. When they burst into Hark the Herald Angels Sing I want to cry...'Hail the Heaven Born Prince of Peace, Hail the Son of Righteousness'...that bit gives me goosebumps it is so beautifully done.

After the show we took a carriage ride around and thru the park...

did I mention it was cold?

Here's something fun...today we popped into the Hilton for breakfast and on the way out we happened to see this...

It is a real live Christmas tree dipped in chocolate. Amazing! All the presents and nutcrackers and Santas under the tree are also made of chocolate. And speaking of chocolate...this was my daughter's dessert last night.

What was I saying? Oh yeah...after breakfast we walked down 5th Avenue and my girls and I all picked out jewelry in Tiffanys. We didn't actually buy any...just picked some out that we liked in case hubs needs to do anymore shopping . Then we popped into FAO Swartz kinda for old times sake. The store is still alot of fun...

In fact few things are more festive or more fun than NYC in December...

especially when shared with your favorite people in the whole wide world.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I See Why Hansel and Gretel Got Into Trouble

Every year at Christmas time we make gingerbread houses. Well, technically they are graham cracker houses but they're still fun. Basically what happens is I go to the store and buy $4897 worth of candy. Then my girls spend approximately 4 hours creating and decorating their houses and in the final thirty minutes all the sugar consumed while creating and decorating kicks in and everyone feels overwhelmed by the disaster that is the kitchen and then whew! they're done. Great activity for a snow day.

We've learned thru the years which candy works best for a particular project...

We like to use fruit stripe gum to make cute shutters but couldn't find any this year so we tried sugar wafer cookies instead. And we used mini pretzels for the fencing. By the way, pretzels are an essential ingredient in gingerbread house construction...they help ease the sugar high that results after you've eaten one or two or maybe a hundred pieces of candy.

And here's another essential ingredient...

the mobile phone...gotta have that handy because 327 text messages an important call could come in every 30 seconds at any time

Candy makes this one really really happy. And Frank Lloyd Wright's got nothin' on her...she made a 60's style house this year

I love the trees which are ice cream cones painted with icing and rolled in green sugar

Daughter2 almost threw in the towel during the construction phase as she tried to cut graham crackers to precisely fill the eaves in the roof

but she persevered

and I love the roof on the finished product

My girls are nearly all grown up. They are college students with busy lives away from home. But there are some things you just never outgrow...and for that I am thankful.

In the Still of the Night

It is very early morning and still dark outside. I think this is my favorite time of day...all the world feels still and quiet. We are covered in a blanket of snow and it is absolutely beautiful. My daughter managed to arrive home safely mid- blizzard...there were delays and an extremely treacherous ride home from the train station but many people were stranded last night so we are feeling very thankful.

If there's one thing that has struck me since I began blogging it is this...there are people in this world who carry such tremendously heavy burdens...failing marriages, lost jobs, sick children. And they are waiting...waiting for God to act...to restore, to rescue, to heal. I read a post this morning that is one of the best things I've read in a long time...you'll find it here. Click over...you'll be glad you did.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Twas the Saturday before Christmas

So I live on the East Coast and they are calling for something blizzardy here today. I like snow... I love to watch it fall and I love the way Christmas lights sparkle against it and I love how it makes the trees seem frosted. But not today thank you anyway. Daughter1 is due home this evening, coming by train, and then of course we have to get out of our little town and down the mountain and into the train station to pick her up and that takes almost an hour on a good day. And of course she can stay put for a day but WHAAA...we want her home. Okay, done whining for the moment.

I was going to write a little something about my two days in England but I'm so caught up in all things Christmas that I think I will just say this...you can go home again. A fabulous two days spent catching up with friends...a luncheon at the magnificent Stoke Park Club, a walk down the village High Street, a browse thru Marks and Spencers, those wonderful accents, Christmas bunco fun, and then on Monday... a morning spent with the ladies from my former Bible Study group which made my heart hurt just a little for the missing...then lunch in a local pub and then I was headed home. Which is here. NJ. But its still a little bit there too. And I'm okay with that.

Now...how about some Christmas cheer? I'm very late to the party but I'm going to link up to the Holiday Home tour over at The Nesters anyway...

We are celebrating our first Christmas in this house and it has been fun to decorate and especially to see some of our Christmas ornaments and decorations that went off to storage 6+ years ago. Like my snow village....

Nearly impossible to get in a photo because we set it up on top of our kitchen cabinets this year and if you read down a bit here I mention my ineptitude at picture taking...you'll have to trust me when I tell you how cute it all is...I love it. You can't fully appreciate all the detail (like the teeny tiny skis propped up on the ski lodge) in the way you would if I had it on a table at eye level but I have a lot of pieces now and they require lots of space. In fact you can't even see the whole village in this picture...it continues around a bit further. I especially love the way it looks all lit up when you come into a dark kitchen early in the morning. I need to adjust some of the 'snow' so it doesn't look quite so boxy but I'm enjoying having it all out again.

We have two trees up at the moment and when Daughter1 arrives home later today she will decorate a small tree in her room. It is all things ballet and so adorable. We have a 6 foot tree in our sunroom

and the main tree in our family room.

I absolutely love all the windows in this house but it does make for slightly tricky photography. And if I had waited a bit to take this photo you'd most likely see two feet of snow behind the tree. Sigh. The family room tree holds all of the homemade ornaments and all of our travel ornaments. We tried to buy a little something for our tree on every trip and there were many many trips so I will not post them all...here are a few favorites...




and of course England...the British taxi is my favorite of all our travel ornaments

This ornament was sent to me by my sweet blogger friend Valerie and it is absolutely beautiful

Of course there is nothing like seeing the smiling face of your four year old on a Christmas tree

or in your kitchen making fudge

and yes it is approximately 7 degrees outside and Miss Sweetness is wearing a short sleeved tee...she only arrived from South Carolina on Wednesday and hasn't quite gotten with the weather program yet.

It almost makes me teary eyed to see the sweet expression on the face of my kindergartner...

which for sure should not be stuck in a snowstorm in D.C. today

This soldier sits in my foyer year round but we've made him more festive for the holiday season with the big red bow. He may just be my favorite souvenir from our years in England and he makes me smile every single time I walk by him.

And finally, a tour wouldn't be complete without a picture of my nativity set. I bought it the first year we were married and I still love it. My husband likes to say Joseph has a bit of a pituitary issue as he is just a little too tall for the stable. He's the only piece that is not original but he's okay I think.

Thanks for visiting today...May you experience real peace and joy as you celebrate this season of God's greatest gift to us...the babe born in a manger so long ago. Merry Christmas!