Friday, December 29, 2006
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Jessica, Gavin, and Hugh are having fun this evening playing a game of Monopoly. Jessica is really good at Monopoly. Of course, she is! Her degree is in Economics! Gavin and Hugh are going to team up but I still think Jessica will win. We'll see.
The weather is clearing and we've had a beautiful blue-gray sky this afternoon. The prediction is for temperatures in the mid 20's tonight and perhaps some ice in the morning. It was a good day to make more soup. I made split pea soup from the Christmas ham:
Split Pea Soup
Soak 2 cups split peas. Drain them, reserving liquid and add enough water to make a total of 10 cups. Add peas and cook, covered for 3 hours with a meaty ham bone. Add 1 onion chopped fine, 2 stalks celery (including leaves) chopped, 1 clove minced garlic, and 1/2 cup chopped carrots. Cook for another 30 minutes. Remove bone and put soup through a sieve. Chill. Remove fat. Season to taste and serve with slices of homemade bread.
We had our Christmas feast on Christmas Eve followed by a Christmas Eve service at the church. There were about 30 of us. The choir sang "On This Christmas Night", "Mary's Little Boy Child", and "In the Bleak Midwinter". The service was very simple with scripture read by the youngest members, interspersed with music, either from the choir or with everyone singing traditional carols. At the end we each held a lit candle and quietly sang "Silent Night". Afterwards we enjoyed cookies and punch. I feel very fortunate that I am a member of this small country church.
Gavin came last night and was joined this morning by Jessica. Owen and Sarah arrived mid-morning. We had our traditional Christmas breakfast followed by present opening!
So, you're wondering if you read a previous post, just what was that surprise gift John had gotten for me? It was a wireless color printer/scanner/fax. I had told him I'd wanted to be able to access my color printer now that we've gone wireless but instead I got a new printer. (My birthday gift this year from John was a plane ticket for Jack to come visit us sometime this year. My anniversary gift was a portable GPS so I won't get lost. He always saves the romantic gifts for Valentine's Day.) I also received a candle, a homemade bread, and a knitting pattern a day calendar. My favorite gift was a Bird Songs book. This is the description from Amazon Books:
"Drawing from the collection of the world-renowned Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Bird Songs presents the most notable North American birds including the rediscovered Ivory-billed Woodpecker in a stunning new format. Renowned bird biologist Les Beletsky provides a succinct description of each of the 250 birds profiled, with an emphasis on their distinctive songs. Lavish full-color illustrations accompany each account, while a sleek, built-in digital audio player holds 250 corresponding songs and calls. In his foreword, North American bird expert and distinguished natural historian Jon L. Dunn shares insights gained from a lifetime of passionate study. Complete with the most up-to-date and scientifically accurate information, Bird Songs is the first book to capture the enchantment of these beautiful birds in words, pictures, and song. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, located in Ithaca, New York, is a nonprofit institution focused on birds and whose mission is to interpret and conserve the earth's biological diversity through research. The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab is the major source of sound recordings of birds for research, education, conservation, the media, and commercial products."
I love watching birds and the idea that I'll now be able to recognize them by their songs as well is exciting.
I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven. ~ Emily Dickenson
Friday, December 22, 2006
I came across this German word recently. It doesn't quite mean "delight" or "pleasure" or even "anticipation". It is the "pre-delight", the "before joy". This single word captures the relationship of time, the pleasure of waiting for the moment to arrive, the can't wait moments of elation, of hoping for something, someone, some event to happen.
We have been told by wise men that everything is all about moments--that we should cherish the moment and never mind the continuance of time. But somehow the beauty lies in the time before, the hope for, the waiting for and then, once it passes, it will be the memory that stays, the reflection, the remembrance of that time.
So you see I don't hold with the concept of Zen. Everything isn't about the now. Everything is about the before then and the back then. It is about the anticipation of the moment and the memory of the moment, but not the moment.
I will live my life in the bliss of always having something to hope for, something to wait for, plans not realized, dreams not yet come true. I always have new points on the horizon that I create deliberately. And at the same time, I relive my memories, uphold and cherish them, keep them alive and share them, talk about them.
And that is my philosophy lesson for today.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
I've been baking different kinds of cookies the past few days. I've added three dozen decorated sugar cookies (bells, stars, trees, snowflakes, wreaths), lemon cookies, white chocolate/cherry cookies, and another traditional family recipe, gumdrop cookies, from my mother's recipe. Next is fudge and lastly will be a cake. John took tomorrow off from work and we're going into Eugene in the afternoon. I'll spend the morning baking pies for Christmas and make another recipe each of little mincemeat turnovers and snowball cookies. Then I'm done with the baking!
Of course, on Sunday I'll be making Christmas dinner with all the fixings and then the only thing remaining will be making the soups--turkey noodle and split pea. I want Christmas Day off from cooking and I probably won't have to cook for a week afterwards!
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Freezing rain is the latest weather advisory I've seen. The advisory only lasts until late morning and then it's supposed to warm up enough so that we'll just have the usual rain. It's been an interesting mix of weather we've had this week!
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Here is the recipe. (This is for Aimee.)
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup red candied cherries, finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup flaked coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add milk and vanilla and beat well. Add flour and beat until well mixed. Add cherries, pecans, and coconut. Roll into 1" balls, flatten with the bottom of a glass so they are about 1/4" thick. Bake about 12 minutes.
This recipe makes many dainty but tasty little cookies. I plan on taking a plate of them to church on Christmas Eve as my contribution to the refreshments for after the service.
I'm mailing the dozen little hats (and one set of booties) I've managed to knit in the past few months to the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital in Missouri. They're going priority mail to ensure they get there by Christmas.
Monday, December 18, 2006
We bought a cut tree this year, the first time in many, many years. We've always had a live tree before but we've had bad luck in the past few years with live trees. I think the problem is that the one I get is too big and the root ball isn't large enough to sustain it. So this year we've broken with tradition. Still, we have neither lights nor tinsel, only ornaments. Some are from John's childhood, some from our first Christmas married, others made by the boys when they were children, and the rest are those I've made or bought over the years. As always, I've put the four little glass ornaments from the boys first Christmases at the very top and the star is the one we've always had.
This one is for freezing fog. This makes driving treacherous because one cannot see the roadway ahead plus the road is icy. I may need to reschedule some of what I'd planned to do today.
P.S. Happy, happy birthday, Owen!
Saturday, December 16, 2006
For my birthday, every year, I've decided to not to buy myself something but to indulge in something I never expect to master. My first Birthday Passion will be a simple gift: Charles Dickens Thursdays. Every Thursday evening, I will give myself one hour to read Charles Dickens. I'll start with, what else, but A Christmas Carol. The beauty of this passion is that I will have to read Dickens only for that hour. There will be no rushing to finish the book for a book club or a class. It won't matter if I read ten pages or a hundred.
This gift is an offshot of my "Hundred Things I Want to Do Before I Die" list. Yes, there are more difficult and complex things on that list--learn to play the violin is one--but going to library school and working plus all the other extra activities and projects I've added are enough for now and I'll save the more complicated ones as gifts for other years.
Friday, December 15, 2006
The wind storm apparently caused a fair amount of problems last night. Many thousands of people lost their electric. We were lucky. We had a couple of blips last night in the restaurant, lost the electric all together for a few minutes, but it came back on and has stayed on. So far.
Now the weather service is predicting a flood watch:
* A powerful storm system was moving into Washington and Oregon Thursday. Rain has decreased some Thursday afternoon but will increase again Thursday night as a strong cold front moves across the area....Rain will taper off late tonight and cold air will move into the region Friday. Rainfall totals from this storm are expected to total 3 to 5 inches along the coast. The Willamette Valley will see 2 to 3 inches of rain*
My birthday isn't until the 16th but Lucille, Aimee, and I celebrated early. We went to the Pioneer Villa for a scrumptious dinner (thank you, ladies!). Because this is a very small community we wisely sat in the back, facing the door, and scrutinized people as they walked in. It's pretty boring living in a small, rural town and people love to eavesdrop and gossip. (It is not always a good thing to be on the front page of The Brownsville Times, our little weekly newspaper.) We opened gifts and cards, and had a lovely dinner. Best of all, we talked and talked for four hours. We talked about our husbands, our children, our extended families, what we we'd been doing in the past year, and how much fun we were having living our lives. We laughed a lot and shared a lot. It was wonderful!
In the photo, Aimee is on the left and Lucille on the right. I am the one in the middle wearing a purple tiara (Aimee's idea). The next birthday we celebrate is hers and I have two words. Feather boa. One more word. Pink!
Thursday, December 14, 2006
A high wind warning has been issued beginning late this afternoon and lasting about 24 hours. We are expecting winds of 45-50 mph with gusts up to 65 mph. The coast will have it much worse, with gusts up to 100 mph and in the mountains they're expecting wind gusts as high as 130 mph. This means there's a good chance we'll lose our electric. I've made a big pot of chili and we have plenty of ready-to-eat food. There's a thermos of coffee and a thermos of tea. We lived in the country so many years we know what we need to do. The good thing about living in town is that even if we lose the electric we'll still have water. In the country when you lose electric that means your well pump stops working and you don't have water either. Anyway, we're as ready as we can be.
I'm going out to dinner with Aimee and Lucille this evening to celebrate my birthday. We're planning on going to the nearest restaurant which is about three miles from here. There is no restaurant in the very small town we live in so we're going to the Pioneer Villa, which is a truck stop off the I-5 interchange. We're going that is, of course, unless the winds are hurricane force.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
I've begun getting the Christmas quilts out, beginning with this one. This is my Snowbound quilt, a king-bed sized quilt with piecing and applique with many blocks made especially to represent my family. I've put this quilt on my bed so I can enjoy it every night. It's comforting to sleep under. The photo shows a few of the blocks.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
I spent the afternoon baking cookies. I made the "must haves"--the butter cookies with candied cherries, the snowball cookies, and little mincemeat turnovers. The snowball cookie recipe is from John's Danish great grandmother Rasmussen; he remembers helping her make them by rolling them in powdered sugar. He was about four and that's a nice memory for him. The photos show about half the cookies I baked. The rest have been put away for guests and for the other boys and some were set aside to be tucked into John's lunchbox.
I plan on baking more cookies this week: the orange cookies and the cherry ones; the chocolate crinkles and the Santa whiskers. Then there are the cakes: the fruitcakes, the rum cake, the white cake with lemon filling and white frosting covered with coconut.
I've not finished decorating the house; there are boxes of ornaments all over the living room. I'll get a tree and most of what I need at the grocery store on Friday. There are still the presents to wrap and a few yet to find.
Monday, December 11, 2006
It wouldn't be Christmas without some surprises. I'm sure, after all, that Mary and Joseph were surprised at where they found themselves on Christmas Eve.
John told me that the gift he bought me was "expensive and something you said you wanted". I guessed a carpet cleaning machine and I said it with a straight face. John is a practical kind of guy, you see. This is a man who, for our 25th wedding anniversary, bought me a new set of tires for the van. There was another part to that gift--a vacation at the Oregon Coast --and as we married in December and we were going to have to travel over the coast range, I could see the reason for the tires. But no, it's not a carpet cleaning machine. Then I remembered that he had complained about the knife not being sharp enough when he carved the Thanksgiving turkey so I guessed a set of knives. He just looked at me and said "A wise man does not buy his wife a set of knives as a gift." Well, no, I suppose not. Then he announced there would be no more guesses and no more hints. Now I'll just have to be patient and wait.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
I really do have more of a life than being a library school student and working in the reference section of a community college library. Really! I do!
We are on our Christmas break now so I have about a month to do other things besides study, write papers, work, and sleep. I'm still knitting little hats for preemie babies to mail to military and other hospitals. I haven't done much quilting in the past few months. I try to read books beyond my textbooks but I don't have nearly as much time to read just for pleasure as I did before I started library school. I still sing in my church choir. I don't mind too much that I don't have as much time to do housework.
What I hope to do most in the next month is to spend time with my husband and sons. Three of my sons will be home for Christmas; Jack lives in Washington, D.C. and is planning a trip to New Orleans this year. I'm going to have fun decorating the house, baking their favorite cookies, and listening to Christmas carols that I love now as much as I did when I was a child. I'll feed the birds and go for walks and later this week I'll have dinner with Lucille and Aimee, my two best friends for over 20 years, to celebrate my birthday and catch up on each other's lives.