Monday, December 31, 2012

Welcoming 2013

We are having a night of fun, food, family, friends and games at home tonight.  The girls are here with some friends and we had Erin's birthday dinner that she was too sick to enjoy on the 23rd.

Earlier today I decided that is was time to do a little housekeeping - get rid of 2012's dirt so that there is room for the new that 2013 will surely bring.  When things were clean, we were all hungry but didn't want to get the kitchen or dishes dirty so we opted for sandwiches from Schlotzsky's. 

Here is what we got:

Nothing special, but a tasty lunch.

Our total bill -

Welcome 2013!

I wish all of you a happy, healthy and joyful new year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Like Daughter, Like Mother

Today is my 51st birthday.  I didn't have any big plans, but the ones I did have did not involve being sick.  Last night, I began to feel "not right."  By ten o'clock or so I was running a fever.  By 12:37 am this morning, the actual time of my birth, I was running a measurable temperature of 102.  I was curled up on the couch wrapped in my purple peace sign covered Snuggie that Weber gave me for Christmas and a tie-dyed fleece blanket.  I suspect that I looked like some bad 60's acid trip.  The cat didn't seem to mind though; she was curled up in my lap, probably because I was so warm!  It became apparent that I was going to spend my birthday the same way Erin did - sick.

I had planned to go to the knit shop this morning for just a little while and then my family was to come for dinner tonight.  This morning when I finally woke up around nine, my fever was gone so I decided to go ahead and go knit.  Brooke made me cookies in honor of my birthday to take to the knit shop to share with my friends.  I remember all those treats that I made for the girls to take to school for birthdays and various other celebrations.  The role reversal here seems kind of funny, but much appreciated.


These cookies were full of all the things I like - pretzels, graham crackers, oatmeal, potato chips and chocolate chips.  It was probably a good thing that I didn't have to make a decision about what kind of cookies I wanted.  It was a safe bet on Brooke's part to just go with the ones that have everything in them.

By the time I had knit for an hour and a half or so, I was beginning to think that going out was not my best plan.  I could tell that my temperature was creeping up again.  Weber picked me up and brought me some pretty flowers.

 How can one not feel at least a little cheered with bright yellow and orange flowers?

I resumed my position on the couch and slept the rest of the afternoon.  By dinnertime when the rest of my family got here, I had taken some Motrin and my fever was again down.  Thankfully, I was able to enjoy dinner and my birthday dessert.

Brooke made pizza for dinner - one with butternut squash and crispy kale and the other with potatoes and leeks.

There is almost nothing better than homemade pizza.  Except maybe homemade ice cream.  She also made graham cracker ice cream and pretzel and chocolate chip ice cream.  Oh, I did I mention the chocolate and peanut butter torte?  I couldn't let a pesky old fever keep me from all of this yummy stuff!

As is the case with our family, most of my gifts were food themed - a soup cookbook from Mike and a very cool Bento lunch cookbook and various "accessories" from Erin and Edgar.  I did not do well with taking pictures tonight.  That right there is an indication that I don't feel very well.  But, the Bento cookbook and accompanying stuff deserves a post of its own, so stay tuned!

Also in keeping with family tradition, I scratched my fifty one $1.00 lottery tickets.  I am usually not the big winner here.  But, this year is my lucky year.  Greatly helped by this . . .

  . . . a $40 winning ticket, I came out a dollar ahead, winning a total of $52!

All things considered, I had good birthday.  Yeah,  I could have felt better; but,  I also know that things could have been a lot worse.  I wish I had taken more pictures - of the pizzas, the chocolate peanut butter torte.  I didn't.  And that's just the way it is.

I'm going to bed now in the hope that this bug with which I seem to be keeping company moves on by tomorrow.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Unwrapped

 Just as quickly as it came, Christmas is now over.  I received an email advertisement today telling me that it is not too early to start preparing for Christmas 2013.  Seriously?  Has our society become so obsessed with disposable items that once the gifts are unwrapped and the calendar page turned to December 26 the day is gone?  I feel sorry for those for whom this is the case.  For us, the memories will live on allowing us to keep Christmas 2012 alive for ever.

Here is the "before" picture.  The living room is decorated, presents surround the tree and the stockings are stuffed.  But, what sticks out to me in this picture is the sign on the mantel that reads, "Bless this home with love and laughter."

Here is the "after."

We were all indeed blessed with an abundance of laughter and love.  Long after the trash bags full of paper have been carried to the curb, the Christmas tree darkened and packed away until next year and the new Christmas shoes marked by the dirt of life, the memories of love and laughter that we shared on this day will continue to sparkle in our hearts and minds.

We know that Brooke loves us because every Christmas morning she bakes us pans of homemade cinnamon rolls - lots of homemade cinnamon rolls!

We open our stockings, eat breakfast and then gather around the tree to open the rest of our gifts.

"Look!  Here comes Santa Claus!"

Just kidding.  It's not Santa Claus.  The timer on the oven just beeped signaling to the masses that the cinnamon rolls are done.

While we all indulged, Frankie did her duty and protected the gifts still under the tree.

Adidas was the first to open a gift.  

This kept him occupied while the rest of us opened ours.

Then it was time to find out who had been naught and who had been nice.

"Naughty or nice?"

"Surely this doesn't look like a naughty face?"

"I don't know whether this guy was naughty or nice, but for the sake of those of us who were definitely nice, I hope someone gives him a personal dresser for Christmas!"

"Really, I've been good.  Please, would you read me the one about the chocolate cake with the mocha frosting?  I'm getting tired of the one about the carrot cake and the cream cheese frosting.  It's so predictable!

Our gift opening was interrupted when it started snowing.  A white Christmas!  Another wonderful blessing.  Jason, who is from South Africa, claimed that he had never been out in this much snow.

Mike, who has, was not nearly as excited to be standing outside in the snow in his PJ's."

During the afternoon, we played Bad Apples, the newest incarnation of the game Apples to Apples that we played at Thanksgiving.  Though the game had its serious moments, it was wrought with a great deal of laughter and love!

I am so grateful for the time that my family and I had together.  We are truly blessed by a home filled with laughter, love, cinnamon rolls, a possessive cat and barking dogs.  As we live through the remainder of the twelve days of Christmas and usher in a new year, I will give thanks for what I have and pray for all those in this world who have nothing to laugh about and no one to love them.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry White Christmas!

Merry Christmas
from our family to yours!

Brooke, Edgar, Mike, Weber
Jason, Erin and Kris

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Visit from . . .

Twas the night before Christmas,
when all through the house
not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse . . .
"That's what they think!"

Merry Christmas to all 
and to all a good night.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

No. 2 is 20

Twenty years ago on this day, I had thirty-some staples in my abdomen, a horrific spinal headache and a brand new baby girl.  Today we celebrated Erin's twentieth birthday - and the fact that I have successfully raised all of my offspring through the teenage years. (This post is tagged with teenagers.  I guess it will be the last time I use it for a good long while.)

Erin is one for establishing and maintaining traditions.  Unfortunately, at least one of her traditions is not so worthy of the attention it too often gets.  She has this thing for getting sick on holidays.  At age two, she broke out with the chicken pox in church on Easter Sunday.  Her little pink dots matched her pretty pink dress.  Her first experience with the flu was on Thanksgiving and then there was the swine flu on Earth Day, the stitches on Mother's Day . . .Unfortunately, today she kept with her tradition.

The kids had planned to make a gingerbread house today and Erin had delegated all of the various components of her birthday meal.  Brooke was to make bread for the chicken pesto sandwiches that Edgar was going to make.  I was to make broccoli salad.  And Brooke also was to make a strawberry cake.  But, this morning I got a text from Erin saying that her throat hurt and all that she wanted to eat was soup and smoothies.  We offered to postpone her birthday until she felt better but that wouldn't do.  After negotiating an acceptable Plan B, we settled on macaroni and cheese from scratch, brussels sprouts and spinach and pear salad.  Doesn't that sound like comfort food to you?

Macaroni and cheese slides down a sore throat fairly easily and roasted brussels sprouts are just pretty darn good.  Erin didn't even want her cake today.  Her sister is going to make it for her on New Year's Eve.  After our meal we went out for frozen yogurt.  That soothed the birthday girl's sore throat and was somewhat of a birthday treat.

The girls and I started the birthday festivities on Friday by going out to lunch and spending the afternoon shopping.  Erin arrived today in a big cozy sweater that she found that day.
I suspect that she didn't want to postpone her birthday because if she had to feel so crappy she should at least get to open her presents!

As she started opening her gifts, the fact that we are a bunch of foodies whacked us all in the face!  This is what was in the big green package . . .

 . . . a juicer.  Doesn't every twenty year-old want a juicer?  Well, this one did and her dad got it for her.

And Brooke got her this.

I think it is in response to text messages asking her sister what to do with twenty pounds of peaches or oranges or cucumbers.

Another family tradition that we have is that on your birthday you get a dollar lottery ticket for each year of your age.

Brooke is usually the big winner here, winning often times double her age.  That was not the case this year.  Though neither of the girls won big, Erin managed $11 with her twenty tickets to Brooke's $9 with her twenty-three.  Since we only waste spend money on lottery tickets once a year, the loss here is minimal; it is worth the fun of scratching them.

After all of the excitement, Erin fell asleep on the couch.  By 5:30, we scooped her up and sent her home to rest in the hope that she will feel better before Christmas.

Happy Birthday, Erin!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

No. 1 is 23

Twenty three years ago on this day I had thirty-some staples in my abdomen, a horrific spinal headache, and a brand new baby girl.  Today we celebrated Brooke's 23rd birthday.

As is the case with most everything involving Brooke, how she chose to spend her birthday was somewhat atypical.

The day began by her making a batch of molasses cookies - not for herself, but for the rest of us.  I learned that the last thing that a pastry chef wants as part of their birthday celebration is a birthday cake.  In fact, this particular one did not want anything sweet.  The cookies were for the rest of us to eat in her honor.

It has become a tradition, since birthday number eighteen, to go shopping at Central Market - with someone else's credit card, of course!   Brooke, Erin and Edgar all went shopping for the ingredients for various upcoming culinary endeavors that they have planned.  All I know is that when Weber and I got home from running some last minute Christmas errands, the refrigerator was full and the kitchen counter covered with items that were not there when we left.  Apparently, the plan did not involve actually using any of these things today because another birthday tradition prevailed - going to see a movie.  This has been a part of the birthday celebration for twenty years.  It began with going to see the Lion King on her third birthday, the day before Erin was born.  This part of the birthday tradition, however,  no longer involves me.  As the girls will tell you, I can't stay awake through a move.  If I go,  it becomes a seven, eight, ten dollar nap.  How much does a movie cost these days?  Also, our taste in movies differs greatly; I don't do science fiction or gratuitous violence, both of which they like.

Last year Brooke began a new birthday tradition - going out to Queen of Sheba for Ethiopian food.  I'm not sure how much of this tradition is for the food and how much of it is for the honey wine. . .

 . . .wine for which Brooke was carded when she ordered.

She is still at the age where this is insulting rather than flattering.

I am trying to be better about taking pictures of family events.  However, I learned this evening that Ethiopian food is not very pretty; neither is documenting people as they eat it.  So, out of respect for all those who were at the table, I am only including one photo here.

Warning: To the rest of you who were at dinner tonight, be nice to me because you really don't want me to post the pictures that I have of you :-)

After dinner we came home, enjoyed cookies and coffee (except for the birthday girl) and worked the New York Times crossword puzzle.

Well, to tell the truth, we all started the puzzle together; Brooke and Weber stayed with it t the bitter end - right through "Old King Cole" as the king of verse and outfall being the mouth of a river.

This is the way Brooke wanted to spend her day.  I'm not going to argue with the birthday girl.  She has always done things her own way.  Why try to change that now?

Happy Birthday, Brooke!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Newtown, Our Town

As I sit down to write this, I realize that there are no words powerful enough to describe the magnitude of grief that the families of those who lost loved ones in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday or those of us watching the continual news coverage are feeling.  I have listened throughout the weekend as journalists have tried to find appropriate words as they speak to family and friends who are preparing to bury their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, granddaughters, grandsons, wives and mothers in the midst of this holiday season.  Simply stated, there just are no words.  Nothing the interviewing reporters could have said would have been better, more appropriate, more meaningful.  In a circumstance like this, when the wounds are still wide open,  words fall short, way short.

We would all like to think that nothing like this could happen in our town.  That is where we are all wearing blinders.  A tragedy such as Newtown can happen anywhere, in any town, in any school, on any day, at any time.  Why?  Because people do things like this and people are everywhere.  People who are sad, lonely, depressed, mentally ill, and who have access, both legally and illegally, to firearms are everywhere.  Yes, these people live in your town, and mine.  We desperately want to believe that we are immune to such a tragedy.  We also want to believe that in the highly unlikely chance that something awful did befall our little corner of the world, we'd be prepared.  To some extent, we probably would be, but no level of preparedness would prevent the initial attack.

A friend mine has had the following as his signature tag to his email, "The average response time of a 911 call is 12 minutes;  the average response time of a .357 caliber bullet is 1,400 ft/sec."  Every time I read it, I have a physical reaction.  It hurts.  it makes me feel ill.  it makes me angry.  For the person who wrote this, I suspect it provides a comfortable level of safety and security.  For me, it engenders fear and sadness.  The reality of the statement though was illustrated in Newtown.  By the time teachers were aware of the dangerous situation in their school, twenty children had lost their lives at the hand of a gunman.  Once aware of the circumstances, many other teachers were able to use their emergency training and instincts to protect and comfort the children in their classrooms and ultimately lead them to safety.  For that, we all give thanks.  But still, there are twenty six people, those who had no opportunity to prepare, who won't be here for Christmas, Hanukkah, birthdays, graduation, weddings, or to raise their own families.

We all want answers.  We all want to do whatever we can to keep this from happening again in any city or town, but especially we want to keep it from happening to our children, to our families, in our schools, in our town.  Can we really do this?  The perfectionist in me wants to say with confidence that we can do something.  The realist in me knows that ultimately, we can't.  People who are intent on doing something like this are going to find a way to do it and there is no way that it can be stopped.  All we can do is hope and pray that if such an incident occurs in a school in our town, that those who are called on to react and respond will do so in a way that results in the least amount of devastation.  

This whole issue of preparedness hits close to home.  As a professor on a college campus, I encounter students almost every day who are distressed about grades or family or work or all of the above.  I try to be aware of how they are coping.  But, would I recognize their breaking point?  More importantly, would I recognize it in time to intervene before they resorted to an act of desperation?

My husband is a middle school teacher.  We all know that middle school emotions and hormones magnify the significance of issues in their lives.  An argument with a parent, a breakup with a girlfriend or boyfriend, being cut from the football team or cheerleading squad, fear of a failing grade,  to an adult may seem inconsequential, but often feel permanently life-altering to a teenager.  Any of these circumstances could result in a child taking mom or dad's gun from home and  using it to try to take control of his world by wreaking havoc on his classmates and teachers at school.  Like with Columbine and now Newtown, before anyone had a chance to respond, lives were lost.

Almost every morning, I send my younger daughter, a college student, and my husband a text message that says, "Have a good day.  I love you."  I'm sure that on many days they both look at that text and think not too much about it.  But what if it is second period when something happens?  What if it is lunchtime in the cafeteria?  That text could be the last exchange we have with one another.  I hate to think that way, but it is more of a reality than any of us wants to believe.

We, as a nation, need to think and rethink our attitudes  surrounding gun.rights and legislation.  We are one nation under God.  We are not a whole bunch of individuals all owed what we think is best for us personally.  I have very strong opinions concerning this issue.  I could rant here in an effort to convince you to believe as I do.  However, the issue of gun rights causes great divisiveness in this country.  Now is not the time for divisiveness.  It is a time to grieve and to pray for those who are hurting, whose lives have been changed in a way that most of us can't even begin to comprehend.

There will come a time, sooner rather than later, when we all need to stand up and speak out for the safety of our children, our spouses, our parents, our friends and yes, for  strangers.  When it is time to listen, I will listen.  When it is time to speak out, I will speak out.  And when it is time to take action, I will take action.

Friday December 14, 2012 it was in Newtown, Connecticut.  Today, tomorrow, next week, next month it could be our town.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Be Careful What You Wish For!

Just to state the obvious, photography is my new passion.  I am definitely an amateur, but I dream about getting better.  I dream about what it would be like to be really good at taking pictures.  I dream about what the life of a professional photographer might be like - the people you'd meet, the beautiful scenery you'd visit, the gift of looking at every day with new eyes.  I will never be a professional.  I will keep studying and learning.  I'll keep taking pictures.  And, I'll keep dreaming.

So, the other day I was talking to a friend about the various states of our Christmas readiness.  He said that he was close to being done, but still lacked a gift for his parents; they had a very specific request - a picture of their "granddogs."  My friend told me that he had left a message another friend, who is indeed a professional photographer, about photographing the dogs, but that person had not responded.  Before I thought about what I was saying, I volunteered to take the pictures.  My friend said, "Great!  I'll be glad to pay you."

At that moment this became serious business.  I quickly said, "No, please don't pay me.  That will stress me out."  I panicked, realizing that I had agreed to provide the one gift that these people had asked for.   Suddenly the stakes were higher.  It wasn't ;like when I go to the park and take pictures of the ducks and am happy if I get a good one and if I don't, oh well; I had fun trying.   What if I can't do it?  What if I can't get the dogs to cooperate?  What if I screw up the camera settings"  What if, what if, what if??  While all of the what if's were whirling around in my head, somehow I also agreed to take the pictures last Tuesday morning.

Still my friend wanted to pay me.  We finally compromised.  If he felt it necessary to compensate me somehow, he could make a donation to a charitable cause.

So Tuesday morning I made sure that my battery was charged, my memory card was clean, I had my tripod and I prayed.  Oh, God, please don't let me screw this up and let everyone down.

The dogs were precious - sweet, friendly, and pretty darn cooperative.  Our goal was to get just one good picture of the two dogs under the Christmas tree.  This was to be the gift picture.  By Tuesday morning, I had convinced myself, finally, that this would not be a big deal.  I could do it.

Did you know that dogs move - a lot?  And that when two dogs move, the level of motion multiplies logarithmically?  That being said, the dogs were really good.  Its just that tails wag, ears flop, legs scratch and tongues lick.  I just kept taking pictures, again praying without ceasing!

We were successful in getting the intended picture for the grandparents.

 Admittedly, there are some things that would have made this picture better, but, on the flip side, there are also many things that could have made it worse.  The dogs' parents were happy with it, so that is a good thing.

There were very few images worth keeping of the two dogs together; however, I did get a few cute individual shots.

These are canine "Bah-humbug" shots.  I don't think any of us really wants to know what these guys were thinking at the moment these pictures were taken.

 Feel free to insert your own cations.  I am fairly confident that whatever you say will be a whole lot nicer than what a dog wearing antlers would say.

Though antlers as a prop were definitely not appreciated, stuffed animals were OK.

Then there the look that says, "When you are as handsome as this, there is no need to clutter the image with unnecessary stuff."

 We ended with, "I'm done." which translates to "You are done too."

 I had fun with this whole experience, but it was more stressful than I had imagined.  Admittedly, it was stress from within.  The dogs and my friend were awesome, much more confident in my abilities than I was.  All in all it was a successful morning:
          a gift was scratched off of a list
          a got to play with two awesome dogs
          we got a few good bonus pictures
          my friend and I had a nice lunch together afterwards at a new hamburger place in town
          a donation was made to a deserving cause

For all of this, I give thanks.

Monday, December 10, 2012


The Cat Is Out Of The Bag

"Do I look like I care that you are not supposed to peek in shopping bags during this time of year?"

Thursday, December 6, 2012

More Fun With Christmas Lights

This is the closest thing to a Christmas tree around our house.  Hopefully I will get things cleaned up  in the next couple days so that we can put up our tree.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fun With Christmas Lights

I took this photo purely for fun . . .and to play with a whimsical photography technique.

It makes me smile.

The fact that this semester is almost over also makes me smile.

I hope that you have something to smile about today.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Did You Know?

Brooke and Frankie have had a special relationship since Frankie was just a wee little kitten. Yarn should be a big "no-no" for kittens unless of course your big sister thinks it is funny for you to have a mouth full of mom's yarn.

While Brooke was home over Thanksgiving, their bond became even stronger. They worked the crossword puzzle together every morning, cooked together (I know, the health department might have a problem with this), watched movies and surfed the web together, and cuddled up on the couch each night at bedtime.

During all f this, Brooke became fascinated with the kitten's admittedly odd coloring.

So yesterday, as church was ending, Brooke and I had the following text exchange.

Brooke: You probably don't care, but I figured out why the kitten is such an odd color - she must be homozygous for the recessive color dilution gene, allowing the dilution modifier gene to express. So, she would have been an orange tabby, but her cells are bad at transporting pigment, so she turned out sort of a creamy apricot color.

Also, did you know that cats with point markings have a temperature sensitive form of albinism? (Yes, I spent my morning reading about cat genetics.)

Me: Thanks for sharing!

Brooke: Hey, genetics is interesting. Cat coat colors are very complicated.

Me: I'm sure they are. I am fascinated by genetics though I know very little.
BTW What is temperature sensitive albinism?

Brooke: They have a mutated protein that only works to produce melanin in lower temperatures, so they're only colored on the extremities where they get the coldest - ears, feet and tail.

Me: That explains her.

I have the oddest, but most interesting, conversations with this child of mine!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

An Afternoon at the Park

When the girls were little, we went to the park several times a week.  (That was back when it was OK for kids to play in the dirt and before there were hand sanitizer dispensers on every corner and .)  It has been a long time since I have spent an afternoon playing at the park with one of the girls.

"I want to go play.  Am I too old to go swing and slide?

"Nope. I just look like I'm too old to play at the park.  I'm really not, really!"

"I dare someone to say something to me."

"Ready or not, here I come."

"I get an ab workout that I didn't get when I was little.  I have to keep my legs tucked up now so that they don't drag on the ground."

"I'll get those legs all the way off the ground."

"Nothing beats swinging in the breeze on a warm fall afternoon."

"Mama, I'm I big girl now!  (Not to be confused with a young adult.)

We are all in the last stretch of the semester, heading for exams - some of us giving and some of us taking.  It was nice to have a carefree afternoon just having fun.