Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Thus Beginneth the Holiday Saga

Holidays are full of traditions ~ some of which are very old, some of which start new with each generation.

How do you keep young ones occupied in a basically adult home?
Aunt Mame reminded me of napkin making. Plain white napkins, fabric pens
and no expectations of design and you have an art project for all ages, 
and extra napkins when there are 14 people around two tables.

Even older cousins join in the fun. 

The Grinch is a favorite reading tradition whether on Skype to distant grands
or up close and personal at rest time.

This seems to be the favorite position to "read" a favorite animal book, 
naming them all and making most of the sounds.

Texas families often play 42 ~ and each year cousins are taught 
the rules by patient fathers and aunts. They even played a "dishwasher" game,
the loser of which had to do the dishes. I Like that variation!!

~ and the tradition continues.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Blatant Advertising

I know I probably should be telling you all about the arrival of some of our family last night and the chaos and delight that comes with little girls for whom Christmas is still in progress. However, one thing that has made the chaos and delight possible for me is that I have Finally found a zinc product that works for me and is keeping the cold at bay.

Never mind that it is cherry flavored and tastes like a kid's candy. For me it works. For years friends have said, "I feel a cold coming on, I take zinc and it goes away." And for years that hasn't worked for me. I still got the cold, felt bad and had to deal with it the best I could. This year - zapped it with the first lozenge. Yes! 
Now, this may not work for you any more than your recommendations have worked for me. I'm just saying that I am happy to have found it and pleased to be enjoying the whirlwind of grands that is sweeping through my house. What a blessing!

Friday, December 26, 2014

On the Second Day of Christmas . . .

. . .well, not exactly. On this Christmas Eve my children gave to me . . . a gift that included a few more things than the two shown here. These however were two I didn't know and have now come to love in 48 hours. 

I drink Twinings' English Breakfast every morning. Of all the Christmas spiced teas I have seen and had in my tea drawer, I had never seen Twinings Christmas Tea. Trust Twinings. Their Christmas Tea is perfect. Just the right blend of spices without being overpowering, a trait of every other holiday tea I have tried. Drink Twinings, you are actually drinking tea with some spice instead of spices delivered in tea. 
I have been fighting off my regular Christmas cold taking lots of zinc. Now the absorption power of zinc is minimized if you drink or eat citrus while taking it. What do I like on my sore throat? Hot tea with lemon of course. *sigh* And then arrived  Twinings Winter  Spice, Camomile with apple, cinnamon and nutmeg. Herbal with no citrus. Perfect to give me hot tea on my throat any time and it actually tastes good. I had a cup in my hand before I ever called my darlings to say Thank You!
The gift doesn't have to be big or flashy or expensive to be perfect. And these are so perfect, I can recommend them to you with delight. May your Christmas blessings continue ~ 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

The Christ candle is lit ~ Joy to the World

~ the fire burns brightly,

~ the tree sparkles in the morning frost, 

~ other candles are lit,

~ it is a white Christmas,

~ Santa has made his rounds and is happy for us all.
The music plays, the presents are eager to be opened, the
Christmas breakfast aromas fill the air.
A blessed and Merry Christmas to you all!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Blessed Solstice

Hanukah candles are lit. All 4 candles are lit on Advent wreaths. Bonfires are lit on the hillside and candles throughout the homes of those who celebrate Yule. The Seven Candles of Kwanzaa may not be lit yet but they are prepared. We are a people of the Light and the darkness shall not overcome it. Whatever our beliefs. Whatever our problems. Whatever our fears. Tomorrow there will be a little more light in our lives. May we prove once again that Peace and Hope and Love can indeed shine in what seems like a very dark world. Blessed be and blessings be to all. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014


*sigh* With so much family of so many ages coming to visit over the holidays, Dean wanted to order some LED night lights. Fine. Now I like having options but Oh My Goodness. 

Light sensor?
Motion sensor? 
Click on?
Long, round, flat?
Blue, green, white?
Up, down, straight ahead?
Wall wash?
Plug in or battery powered?
And don’t even think about the children’s themed ones. At least the grands will only be here a short time on any given visit so we can have plain night lights for all ages of company. 

Phew. When he first told me what he wanted to do, I said, OK. Then he started telling me the options and asking my opinion. I offered my opinions and we settled on what to buy and now my head hurts. I think I will have another cup of tea in the assurance that company will be able to make their way around in the semi-darkness of a LED lit night. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Random Pictures

This week I have pulled my phone/camera from my pocket and taken a bunch of pictures. Here they are just because they were taken. They do sort of reflect my week so far.

View from my walk. No mountains showing. Two strong bands of sun across a steel grey lake.

Oso keeping watch from the hill above the house.

I have a number of fun, special tea pots. I did not have a Christmas one until we went thrift store shopping. Now I do. 

Dean on his way to work - for no reason except I thought he looked very handsome. The jacket even has elbow patches.

Tree in the forest, burned years before I ever arrived in Tahoe.

Tracks - allowing my eyes to see what Oso's nose knows all the time.

This is a baby - so where is mom? Why in this bitter cold is he not snuggled next to her hibernating?
Maybe his nose brought him close to the cold frame and the tomatoes still inside.
Enjoy your winter ~ blessings

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Tea

Several years ago I had a friend and her daughter to tea. The daughter was probably in the 5th or 6th grade. This year, she is in 8th grade, and asked her mom if there was any chance they might come here for tea again. I was thrilled that she wanted to do this again. So today we had a Christmas tea.

The table setting. I chose to use the Christmas china I have and little Christmas mugs.
We sat on the side of the round table so we could look at what decorations we have.
The tea itself was very special. My friend from Wales brought me a box of the tea created for William and Katherine's wedding breakfast. It is a rich strong tea and I thought it would add to the story of the afternoon.

Tea sandwiches included the traditional cucumber and cream cheese; ham on sharp cheddar spread topped with a slice of walnut that has been softened in a rich sauce; and egg salad. Yummy.

My friends enjoyed the spread.

The picture is fuzzy but the scones were Perfect!! They were accompanied by real butter, lemon curd, strawberry jam, and creme fraise. Take your pick. 
Sweets were a rich brownie and a lemon square.
I had such fun and it was so easy. I really must plan this more often. It is so nice to stop in the middle of an afternoon and eat and visit with friends.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

By Any Other Name

Two things happened in the last two days. First daughter Michelle posted a gorgeous new picture of herself to FB causing me to comment, “ ~ and half of those genes are mine!” Second, a picture of two grands in ballet costumes were posted causing Dean to comment, “ Grandpa’s sweethearts”.

Contemplating these two posts, I realized how important and special it is to be related in a way that allows you to use a name. There are two people in the whole world who call me Mama. There are 12 people in the whole world who call Dean and me Grandpa and Mama Susan. Technically I am genetically related to only 3 of them, but that doesn’t matter. Whatever other relationships are (aunt, uncle, dear friend, neighbor, sitter), I am their Mama Susan and Dean is their Grandpa. We are linked by a relationship that allows the use of a special name. And to use that name or be called by it is amazing, delightful, and truly a show of love. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Old Dog, New Tricks

This week Dean and I went to Reno on Wednesday morning and stayed through Saturday afternoon. Reno is only an hour away and we had night events all three nights so rather than drive over the mountain late and get up early to return, we just stayed. One of the events was Dean's company party. As I was going to be at the office anyway, I offered to help decorate. Katie, the Amazing Katie, who runs the office although she lets Dean and Dre think they do, first asked if I minded a menial task. No. I was a stage manager and have done many a menial task in my day. So Wednesday afternoon, I unwrapped hundreds of round peppermints and tiny candy canes. 
Thursday morning, Katie showed me a room full of candies, red balls, ribbon, vases, baskets, pine cones and greenery (from our back forest), and candles, both real and battery powered. Now, folks, I am a creative person so you don't have to defend me to myself. And ~ my creativity has never  gone down the path of seeing a room like that and creating 10 or so table decorations from scratch and my own imagination.
However ~ running home to mama (meaning clicking back into stage manager mode), the job had to be done so to work I went. What I am going to show you may look very simple. To me, they are a delightful example of the fact that I have learned something new and been rather successful at it.
This was my first attempt: take what was already on the lobby table and make it different.
Once I accomplished this, I had confidence that maybe I could do more.

So ~ start with a plain file cabinet.

Cover in red and lace vinyl.

And create ~

Note the "platter" ~ Katie laid out peppermints on a round pan
and melted them. The white under the candle is Epsom Salt which
she thought would look like snow. It also helps support candles
and tree branches and pine cones. 

This was my first after the lobby table and probably my favorite.
Katie created several as well and filled in a glass fronted book case with
our "left overs". Cocktail tables had small vases filled with M&Ms, Skittles, and 
peppermints supporting a battery powered tea light. People thought it was fun
to take out the light and eat some candy.

I had a great time, felt needed, worked hard, partied hard, and enjoyed every minute of it. Next Christmas may find my house with some different decorations, because I have spent some time outside my creativity box. Thanks to Katie I have learned a lot. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas is Coming

It has never been too hard for me to wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas. This year was different. Maybe it was because stores seemed to start decorating even earlier than usual. Maybe it was because the Thanksgiving turkey and trimmings were prepared and served in late September. Maybe it was because I just needed Christmas.
Whatever the reason, I had a harder time waiting this year than usual. Today is the first Sunday in Advent and I decided it was also the first day of my Christmas celebration.

Our Advent wreath changes year to year, always including the candles and the Christ child and the story and many times a Santa. This year instead of my Bible I decided to put out the book I chose years ago to tell the story to the children at my church. I have never separated, at least not much, the spiritual from the festive. It is all celebrated because of the Birth and so Santa watches over Advent. 

The pine cone tree was here when I arrived. I have always loved it but never used it. This year Dean suggested it go in the center of the round coffee table. He even saw the red and gold beads and suggested I use them on the tree. The tree skirt was given to me years ago by my step-mother who worked diligently once a week at the church to prepare for a huge holiday bazaar. My books, which I feel like I just read, but it really has been a year and so they once again take a place of honor and I will start reading them again soon.

We took a break in the rain to walk up the hill and cut a small tree. Like all Christmas trees before it, it is perfect. Because we are having small trees now, I am choosing my ornaments. This year I planned to use some crocheted snow flakes Michelle had given me years ago. I didn't have as many of them as I remembered so I added some white and gold ornaments, icicles and of course my big red ball, a very meaningful gift from a play cast in 1986. It is included every year no matter what the other ornaments are.

The decoration feast also changes from year to year although when the daughters were growing up, it was mostly popcorn, cider or cocoa, cheese and crackers, and something chocolate. Today it was white bean soup, made by Dean while I was decorating. It was and is perfect. It tastes exactly like I remember white bean soup tasting. What could be better than that? And to add to the perfection of the day, it has started to snow. Christmas is coming indeed. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving 2

Yesterday I posted pictures of food. Today pictures of 3 of the 4 people present. The fourth was the one taking the pictures. 

Neighbor David and me. Such a good time with good friends!

My sweetie doing his hosting. You can tell by his smile that we were having fun. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Little Break with Tradition

Regular readers of this blog may remember back in late September I prepared a Thanksgiving dinner for the Chinese side of the family who had never eaten a home-cooked American meal. It was delicious and perfect . . . and I laughingly said, "I only do this once a year." Well, I may have laughed but I was right. 
When I issued the invitation for dinner to our neighbors, I included the caveat that we were having lamb. She said, "Wonderful. I will bring salad and vegetables." My goodness. That meant all I had to do was set the table and make dessert. Dean was grilling the lamb. 

Dean lost track of time in the middle of delightful conversation so the outside of the lamb was a little charred as were the asparagus spears. Inside of the chops were perfect and with the cherry sauce on the asparagus, it was delicious. Polenta with pesto, olives, pimento and basil straight from our garden was a delight. 

The salad was a delightful mixture including beets.

I forgot to take a picture of the peach crisp made from fresh frozen peaches from last summer. And most of peach crisps look the same so the picture is from earlier in the year. Served with a dollop of ice cream, it was the perfect end to the non-traditional feast. 
A little break with tradition is good now and then. We had a very happy Thanksgiving and pray you did too. ~ with blessings

The Gift of Silence

This morning we took a long walk through the woods which included The Loop. Now the path we call The Loop wanders through silent, sacred space. Dean moves with the silence of a tracker. Oso of course makes no sound as he sprints up and down the trail. My feet land with less impact and even on the upward slant, my heart slows down and my breathing lessens and I become one with that silent space. The space is inhabited by amazing magical 4th dimensional beings who, although also silent, reveal themselves as blessings for those who move with grace. It is a wonder-full walk to take anytime. On Thanksgiving, it is especially nice as I was both in the moment and aware of so many blessings. Family faces, from both past and present, floated across my memory. Friends drifted by. The very fact of being in those woods, on that path with my love and my dog, brings gratitude beyond measure. May your day be filled with the blessings of life ~ and if perchance you read this from another country, take a moment to be still and be filled with Thanksgiving. 

Got it Right

Thanksgiving morning. There are so many big things to be thankful for in my life. And this morning I am writing about one very simple thing. 
While perusing one of the myriad of catalogues that arrive this time of year, I discovered a fleece kaftan. I have wanted to find a fleece kaftan for years. It was in pastel colors though and I am more of a red, purple, teal sort of person. So I folded the catalogue open to the page and let it sit. And sit. 
After two times when I would have loved to have had the fleece kaftan I bought it. It came yesterday.
And here I am this morning snuggly and warm while I start my day,
thankful for so many things, and especially for my robe. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


I do not know what a white woman of privilege can say with integrity about the decision in Ferguson. I believe I might say this: I am a mother and a grandmother. Another woman’s unarmed child was killed by an armed adult. For that there should be responsibility taken and a sense of justice. So far there is none. God bless us everyone. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

All in the Name of Football

Dean and John had been invited by the Dean of the Business School at UNR to a football game on a warm, sunny September afternoon. Neither were in town and unable to go. The Dean reissued the invitation for last night, a cold, blustery November day. They accepted. 

What to wear? Layers . . . upon layers. Emailed Robert who went there and is a big fan to discover the UNR colors: blue and silver. Perfect. Grey jeans, blue top with grey vest. And my red coat and hat because that is what I have to keep me really warm. It wasn’t until we were half way down the hill that Dean remembered that Fresno State colors were red and grey and there I was in my grey jeans and my red hat and coat. Ah well. I did have to explain to some UNR fans giving us their seats as they were leaving the restaurant that No I was really a UNR fan and they could safely give me their seat!

In the stadium we had special box seats. The box was a small area at one corner of the field next to the UNR cannon. Dean was the only one who remembered to cover his ears when the Wolf Pack scored and the cannon exploded. My ears were covered enough in layers of warmth that the sound wasn’t too bad. 

The box also provided some very nice food, including (thank goodness) hot chocolate in a huge container that kept it hot all night. I was very grateful. 

By the end of the evening I was wearing six layers including Dean’s sweat shirt over my red jacket. At least I looked less like a Fresno State fan. When I had found my fuzzy boots, they had new winter socks in them. I had forgotten buying them last spring on sale somewhere. They were Perfect. My feet stayed warm. I sat on a blanket and Marian and I put the other blanket over our knees, the only places we were really cold until late into the evening. 

I had told Robert that on his behalf I would try to care who won the game. By the time of the first long pass, I realized I was back in football mode and would have to be careful not to out yell my throat capacity. No worry about 
caring or not who won. Unfortunately the Wolf Pack lost rather badly. The cold got to us though and we left before the end of the 3rd quarter. By then it was already 10:45 and the game still had some time to go. 

We spent the night with our friends so we didn’t have to drive back over the mountain. It was lovely and they provided an amazing breakfast before we did come home. It was a cold, fun evening and maybe next year the guys will be able to accept the invitation to the warm, fall September afternoon game. I’ll go back for that. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Gratitude for Gifts

I always say Thank You when I am given a gift. Mothers teach us early to write thank you notes or these days send an email or make a phone call. Sometimes we despair over whether that manner has really been learned but on the whole, we are grateful for gifts and say Thank You. 

This morning Dean was making chili and I noticed he was using his Ulu, an Alaskan knife with a rounded blade, to cut onions. Several years ago when they were living in Alaska, our daughter and son-in-law sent him the Ulu for Christmas. He still uses it and we are grateful for it. Maybe it is time to say thank you again. 

 Dean’s whole family gave him a rolling table/cutting board for the deck. It stays very close to the grill and has been used for a buffet, a bar, storage and any number of other things. We both continue to be grateful and so we say thank you again.  

I brought with me from Virginia a large round tray and a blue and white bowl, both received at different Christmases from friends who came to visit us this summer. As I continue to use both items I lot, I said thank 
you again even though they didn’t really remember that they were the gifters. 

Sometimes gifts come in the form of learnings. I have always made terrific pie crust and yet my daughter was able to give me several tips that have raised the quality of my really good pie crust. Thank you again. 

At this Thanksgiving season it is fun to remember the thoughtfulness that knew us so well that we continue to use the gifts over and over. It is time to say Thank You again.