Monday, December 29, 2008

This was my Christmas.

[Click here to head over to YouTube to watch in higher quality.]

and. . .

[Click here to head to YouTube to watch in higher quality. Look on the right below the video for the link.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mary and Jesus
Doorway Lintel
Pavia, Italy

~Merry Christmas to All~

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

First, a look at the completed dance bag, with Dancer Keagan modeling it in the kitchen, in her jammies.

Now, a weather report.

For a person who lives in a Mediterranean climate, the scenes of snow at my daughter's were a fascination. I looked out the window of the room I was staying in after the first bit snowfall and saw one glowing light far across the gully. It was about 7:30 in the morning, and still very dark.

The next day wasn't much better, in weather terms, but I enjoyed the wintery landscape.

One afternoon the wind whipped up the clouds, and sculpted the snow on the top of the garages.

I liked the juxtaposition of the pink hummingbird juice against the monochromatic landscape. This is taken from their balcony, overlooking the gully. In spring and summer, the gully is a golf course.

This is on the morning of the last day I was there, after about a week's time and eighteen inches of snow. There was a break in the snowstorms and the morning sky was streaked with soft peach and blues.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

While the emotions settle from my trip to my daughter's, I offer up a Christmas treat: Gingerbread Cookies. Of course they are best after being frosted and sitting for a day or two in a sealed container, restoring some moistness. This recipe is from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, a recommended buy for the kitchen recipe collection.

Why did I make these? Dave had a work party to go to and we were supposed to take something. I was craving gingerbread, and I did half the batch (roll, bake, frost, decorate) in a short time. They were a hit with the Chinese couple that were hosting the party.

Gingerbread Cookies
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) real butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 molasses (I use the green label, the really full-bodied molasses)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice or ground cloves
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 1/2 cups flour

Melt the butter, then pour into the mixing bowl and stir in the sugar, molasses, salt and spices. Let it cool to lukewarm, then beat in the egg.

In a large bowl, whisk the baking powder and soda into the flour, then stir these into the molasses mixture. Divide the dough in half and place in a ziploc bag (or wrap well in plastic wrap). Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer (I did 30 minutes and was fine, but I was in a hurry).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. No need to grease the baking sheets.

Take on piece of dough out of the fridge and using a floured surface and rolling pin, roll it out to 1/4" thickness, if you like your cookies a little chewier. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter, cutting them as close to one another as possible.

Transfer the cookies to an ungreased cookie sheet and bake until they're slightly brown around the edges, about 8-12 minutes. At least that's what the recipe says but I couldn't see it. I set the timer to 8 minutes, or until they felt firm, then took them out. Transfer them to a rack immediately, but be careful not to distort the shapes as you remove them. (The recipe says leave them on the cookie sheet, but I did and they were too cool and brittle and the star points broke off.)

To frost:
Mix together 2 cups powdered (confectioners' sugar) and enough water to make a stiff frosting. Slather it into the corner of a sturdy plastic bag (quart-sized freezer ziploc bags work fine). Snip off the tip, and scrunch down the bag, forcing it out through the hole. I outlined all the stars, then placed dragees on each tip, using up my precious stash hauled back from DC.

What are dragees? Those little silver balls we used to find on cupcakes. They're outlawed in California, so I have to get them when I head East.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Traveled home today.
More later.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another Day at Home with the Charons

Barbara and her girls.

Well, the bilirubin count was higher, so the phototherapy man (or whatever they call him) brought out a tabletop light crib/unit. It looks like a suitcase, but the top lifts up and there is a large bank of lights in the top. Madilyn is supposed to be in there as much as possible, and the lights are much stronger that the biliblanket. The velcro heart tab is to help hold her "sunglasses" on, or eye protectors, but this version has a shield that drops down to protect her eyes.

While her Mother and Father were out doing the doctor visit, Keagan made a nice drawing of an ice [is] skater.

Just before bathtime, at a lull in the day. David took Keagan and Riley to see "Bolt, the Wonderdog," so Barbara took the time to bathe her baby.

Fuzzy little head, right after bath. Just like Star Mother's Youngest Child, if you've read that Christmas story.

I had some help tonight on the sewing machine. Riley loved pushing the buttons, watching the needle change positions. After he went to bed, Keagan climbed up on my lap and helped me sew a little bag for her dance clothes, inch by inch. I finished it later after she was in bed.

I don't do much, I think, but at night I fall into bed. It's been interesting to see the constant snowfall, and having such a tiny baby in the house. Frigid outdoors, warm inside. Couple that with sweet discussions with Keagan, watching Riley navigate the newest addition (displacing him slightly), seeing David lead Barbara and Madilyn out to the doctor's office for yet another heel stick and blood test, conversations about my parents' sixtieth wedding anniversary and my father's 83rd birthday, you could say it's been a mix of emotions and tender feelings.

But best of all, as a mother, is watching my daughter Barbara at the helm, riding this newest wave of motherhood. I have emails from her first pregnancy and delivery that contrast immensely with her current duality of toughness and tenderness. She has grown from a young woman into a thoughtful and mature mother of three. I knew that she would be a good mother, even from her childhood, but what mother doesn't think that? It's so wonderful to see how she does it her way, in her time and with her set of skills and talents.

My father used to always say that his children led such interesting lives. I used to think it just a phrase, a nice line. That is until I gained his perspective. As I watch Chad and Matthew, Barbara and Peter make their choices and grown in their decisions, I also think their lives interesting. I can hardly wait to see what's around the next corner, and the best part is I trust that they will travel their road well.
We're snowed in!!

While Dave and Barbara took Maddy to the doctor's for a bilirubin check, Riley, Keagan and I ventured out to take a picture of the snow-laden car. It has snowed and snowed all day. Talk about a winter wonderland.

Because her counts are high, they wrap her in a blue-glowing biliblanket, lights imbedded in a flexible cloth-covered light system, as it helps break down the high bilirubin count. I remember Jeff Rugh as a baby--so golden he glowed (we loved the look), but now that's frowned upon.

When Dave and I were in Costco back home, we saw this panettone with the label "Madi," and couldn't resist buying it for the newest Maddy on the planet.

Keagan worked hard all morning on her "scrapbook" that Grandma had brought her. With multiple stickers, markers, and time, she transformed the blank page into a "story" about a birthday party. She then informed her mother that the next time she "went out with the girls to do scrapbooks," she should be allowed to go, as she now could scrapbook.

Barbara and her newborn babe.

Keagan and her little sister.

Good morning, world.

Riley, in the glow from the frigid outside snowy day.

Monday, December 15, 2008

This past week has been busy.

Monday night we went to Target, site of many fond memories of hunting Christmas trees.

We've learned to carry our own scissors into Target in order to cut open the twine-wrapped trees, and after looking over one, maybe two, we buy it. We've got it down to a science.

Decorated tree. We switched to a star this year from the previous years' homemade angel. When I showed my granddaughter this picture, she said, "Oh! the Christmas Star!" as if it were profound. That's why I love six-year olds. (And granddaughters.)

I always make a batch of Mrs. Woodruff's caramels. The summer I was 19 and 1/2 and married, there were a whole slew of weddings. And at every wedding was a basket of wrapped caramels from Mrs. Woodruff. I used to carry them home from wedding receptions, a surreptitious handful in the purse at a time. That Christmas I contacted her and she agreed to teach me. Sidelight: she was my orthodontist's mother. This is the pan, with one strip of no-nuts for my friend. I wrapped them on Wednesday night while I watched an episode of Hercule Poirot Mystery Theater (Netflix).

Friday, Barbara had her baby and Dave and I hosted his Department's Christmas Get-Together. I made plans to drive to Arizona.
I arrived Sunday afternoon, and had fun watching my granddaughters Emilee and Megan tear through their lives, which of course included a jumping session on their new trampoline, with their dog, Sammy.

Just before dinnertime, this amazing sunset appeared. I walked down to the corner to photograph it.

Lights on the way home.

After dinner, baths, then hot chocolate, stories, brush teeth and bed. These girls are very fun.

The next morning Megan gave me a sweet smile before she headed off to school and I headed further north to Flagstaff to help Barbara with her baby.

Riley and Keagan wave to a thank you to their grandfather Eastmond (or in their vernacular "Grandpa with the Big Stairs") for sending along a bag of oranges for orange juice.

Of course we had to squeeze some.

Keagan models the new hat that her Aunt Kim knitted for her. Very cute.
Riley's line: "I want to hold it. I want to hold it on the chair."

She's not crying. Just squeaking a little.

The winter storms have arrived in this part of the country, with the sifting powdery snow falling all afternoon and into the evening. Their front porch wood pile and Christmas lights are coated with chilly frosting.

Madilyn and her Dad.

Keagan, the big sister and a profound six-year old, holds little Madilyn. She told me the baby doesn't like flash because the other grandma took a photo with flash and Maddy (her nickname) frowned. So I dialed back the flash. Keagan is a loving child, whispering little tidbits of truth to her sister: It's Christmas. Mommy's over there. Daddy's upstairs with Riley. Grandma loves you.

Oh, yes. I do.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

No, not mine, but my daughter's.
Madilyn arrived yesterday, after a day of labor. Mother, Daddy and Baby are all doing fine.

Dave and I are dancing on clouds: #7 grandchild has arrived! (Cue the cha-cha music.)
Here she is!!
(click to enlarge)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

New Red Chairs

Okay, we've had them for nearly two weeks now, so when do new chairs stop being new chairs? I suppose when I decide so--maybe in about a decade or so. But I knowing how the last child of the family is often called Babe until they die, these may always be the New Red Chairs.

Looking toward the dining room, with Dave's nutcracker soldiers lined up at attention atop the china hutch. We have moved that piece of furniture all around, and eventually it will go where the other hutch is, but not yet.

The Christmas books are all out--we finally have a table to put them on. And Santa is resting there near to them (Elinor Peace Bailey design).

Friday, December 05, 2008

Another "thank-you note" from (dare I say it?) a lazy bride and groom.

Get out your pens and paper, people. If I can schlep all around and plunk down the credit card and spend some of our hard-earned money and hand-write you a note and pack it up and send it off, then you can take the time to write SOMETHING personal.
It had to have taken some time to address all those envelopes with this tacky card--couldn't you at least have written "many thanks for the gift?" Your mother (who is lovely, by the way) is probably dying right now. At least think of her.

P.S. The names have been changed to protect the guilty. I don't know why.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Money

(click to enlarge)
(or head here to read it in the New York Times)