Sunday, December 27, 2015

You Know It's Winter When . . .

It does seem hard to believe that Christmas is over. All the planning, baking, shopping, cleaning, wrapping, fretting, and worrying are behind us. The Head Gardener made the statement Christmas Eve as the house was in the frenzy of the moment to enjoy it because it would soon be over. And it was.  The office served as gift central where it looked like Amazon, UPS, and FedX converged. Today it has returned to normal, waiting for tax season to begin when we have to dig through stuff to prepare for the accountant. -:(.

The beginning of January does not begin any quieter with a New Year's gathering of our dearest friends on New Year's Eve. This year it is our turn to host the New Year's celebration. Two couples will be over night guests. So I have to get the house ready again for company. The Christmas decoration will stay up for the party.  Then we spend the first week of the year celebrating three birthdays, two of them mark life mile stones. We will welcome the family's first teen-ager; it is so hard to imagine sweet Jacob at 13. Where have the years gone? And the HG will qualify for Medicare. Oh my. Our son in law has the 3rd birthday of the week.  So really, Christmas is just the kick-off to the 13 days of celebration afterwards.

We did have a white Christmas because it snowed before and after. Now it is really cold, with the mercury hovering around 0 F.

So you know that it is really winter when:


  • the flickers hang out in the tree waiting for seed cakes
  • the garden art gets frosted
  • Santa appears on the neighbor's roof
  • the heated bird bath resembles a giant margarita
  • the Happy Birthday banner stays up for days to commemorate the birthdays
    • mine the 20th, Jen's the 24th, Jacob's January 3, Son in Law's January 4, and the HG's January 7
  • And the flicker is still there
Is it winter at your house? I know that some parts of the country are having their normal winter weather, while others are unseasonably warm. So do your prefer your normal weather for the season or would you prefer the unusual? I like it just the way it is supposed to be, winter with snow and cold--the natural way things should be.

While the HG spent yesterday coming up with Garden Plan 2016, I began working on my family genealogy by putting existing records on Ancestry.com. I have been working on my mother's side which has not been researched and entered my father's lineage that was completed by my great grandfather, grandmother, and aunt. I am finding some very interesting things and making some discoveries about myself. As I discover that others are researching my relatives and posting wrong information, I am more determined to enter mine correctly to help get their records correct. (Is that at the teacher in me?)  Next, finding relatives is very difficult because  names are often misspelled, people having the same names, and transcribers not being able to read handwriting on the census documents. Let me give you an example. My grandfather was Harry Dudley Duston and father was Harry Duane Duston. Both are sometimes listed as Harry D. Duston, so which is which? Both lived in Golden, Colorado, but grandpa passed in a hospital in Wheat Ridge and my dad had been moved a nursing home closer to me in Greeley where he died 3 days after we moved him. So I am finding that some who have researched him have the wrong place of death. I am a stickler for accurate information. Now I am becoming obsessed with getting my information correct so that others have it correct.

At any rate, I think both grandma and Aunt M would be proud and glad to see their hard work enter the modern world of technology and not just left to turn to dust in a closet.

Tomorrow the HG and I are off to Denver to spend time with the kids. Heather felt so badly that she didn't get to spend the day with me on my birthday, so I promised her that we would have lunch tomorrow, but only if she takes to Norm's Dollhouse store. The HG will spend the day with boys. They will have lunch, visit aquarium shops, and go to the shooting range to shoot their bows. 

As the year winds down dear friends, I want to thank you ever so much for being my blog pals, for reading my posts, leaving the sweetest comments, just being there always cheerful, happy, inspiring. But is not all about me, I so enjoy visiting each of each of you where I am entertained, encouraged, and inspired by you. So THANK YOU. 

I'll be linking with Judith at Lavender Cottage for Mosaic Monday. (PS Judith. the potatoes au gratin in the crock pot were perfect.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Trees Dance Again

I am late this week posting, having missed Mosaic Monday. I spent the entire day cooking to get ready for our Christmas Eve celebration. It is also Jennifer's birthday, so we celebrate two birthdays. The kids will arrive mid-day so that we can open packages around 2:00 and then eat by 5. Heather and her family travel nearly two hours from Denver and Jen's family has a 45 minute drive, so we want to finish up the festivities early enough for them to travel safely home.

I will be roasting a prime rib roast and making potatoes Au gratin in the crock pot, something which I haven't done before. We will hope that the potatoes turn out well.


We had snow the first part of the week, a lot of snow, as the photo shows.  Even green snow. I could not resist taking this photo of the green picnic table reflecting green on the snow. Rather pretty, it was.

Then we have the return of the dancing Christmas's trees. I have not mastered taking crisp, well focused night photos of the lighted trees at night, but I rather like the effect.


These trees are located at the front of the property along the fence next to the road. They are rather ratty pine trees in need of pruning. Pop uses them as scratching posts, mostly for his rump end.


All lighted, they brighten up a dark spot in the pasture. I'd like to have them on year round.


Behind the trees you can see the house with the giant wreath on the roof above the garage.


Do you recognize the new angel in the center circle? No. I didn't think so.


I would love to put up thousands of lights, but it is a lot of work. 


There she is, a bit fuzzy. I have wanted to get out and take more photos of her in the night light, but just haven't done it.


I made another house this week, too, for my housekeeper. She had admired the ones in the kitchen, so it was very easy to put one together for her. She loved it.


I cut the house out on my Cricut then added all of the embellishments from my scrap booking and crafting stash. 


I cut a hole in the center of the yard underneath the house for a little flickering battery candle to fit. It makes a very cute little center piece.

Well, this time tomorrow night, Christmas for us will be all but over. I will probably collapse the next day. We have friends coming for New Year's, so it will be another round of cooking and cleaning to get ready for company. Then I can collapse.

I'll have more photos to share of the holiday celebrations here at the Garden Spot. Until then, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays. We shall pray for peace, remember our loved ones whom we miss dearly, give praise to the Lord, and be thankful for our blessings and good fortune.

Thanks so much for taking time to visit. Enjoy your holiday celebrations.

Monday, December 14, 2015

It's Beginning to look a Little More Like Christmas

I am behind with Mosaic Monday; too much to do. So make sure to check out Judith's Lavender Cottage for Mosaic Monday. 

This week's mosaic pretty much sums up the week's activities--and you know that a summary only hits the high points.





Yesterday Santa arrived for his pre-Christmas visit, charming the children with his magic tricks, animated dancing and singing toys, and his kind words to be be good and listen to their parents. The tree sparkles all day and makes me happy just to look at it. I bought a lighted angel for center circle, so we put her together and got her set up this afternoon. I'll be sweeping glitter up for days since she was all golden with glitter. Jen brought a try a cookies for the party because I have not done a bit of baking. They looked pretty on the tray.




The lighted wreath went up on the house this afternoon along with the lights on the pine trees in the pasture in front out by the road. I love looking out to see the pretty lights. I'll get photos after dark for you. Perhaps tomorrow. It is supposed to snow.



While I have my collectible village, I love this little paper village that a I made a couple of years ago. It is supposed to be all white, but I couldn't resist adding a few little do-dads to add some interest and color.






And this is how we end our day with the gas logs a blaze and hot cup of tea. While Boon has his dog bed in the bedroom, this is favorite place to snooze in the evening. 

I was supposed to have lunch with a dear friend tomorrow, but we are expecting snow, so I'll be staying home. Maybe I'll make some Christmas cards. 

I hope you have wonderful week. Thanks for stopping by

Monday, December 7, 2015

In Honor of Euphorbia pukerrim


Is it really Christmas time? I asked myself that this evening as I looked the Christmas tree that I decorated yesterday. Every year the holidays seem to sneak up on us. I love Christmas and New Year's, the magic, the joy, even the hectic business of the all that we have to do. I must admit, though only to myself  (and now you), I feel myself slowing down. The week end was busy as Monday's Mosaic shows the highlights.

I devoted Saturday to setting up the village and decorating the tree. What a project the village was, taking me most of the day to assemble. I haven't photographed it yet; I'll share it with you next week. I did lay it out a bit differently this year, struggling to get all of the pieces on one small area.

For the tree, I drug out the container that held a lifetime of Christmas decorations, nearly a 100 years worth. I have decorated a pink tree for a long time, but this year I decided to give the grand kids an old fashioned Christmas tree decorated with their great, great grandmothers' decorations. I bought new LED lights in the traditional multicolors. No pink this year. I may even put the old fashioned tinsel on the tree. Dare I? Such awful stuff it was to clean up at the end of the season. Did your mom save hers to use year after year? Poor as we were, mom didn't. I have an unopened box that I am really contemplating opening.

Today I spent most of the afternoon with the little girls decorating cookies. What a kick that was. Their mom had already made the cookies, so we rolled out the dough, baked the cookies and let the fun begin. I just stood back when they frosted the cookies, directing them on the best techniques--that went virtually unheeded. The HG stayed home to watch the Broncos (10 and 2. Manning still out).

  

They are quite the little artists. I did have to remind them not eat the raw dough, telling them that the sugar would make they act goofy and it did as they began to get loud and silly. But we had a grand time. Notice the cookies are all fish? They also cut out a pig, a horse, a rooster, a bunny...., not your traditional Christmas cookies and that was just fine. 

Since I was early, I stopped at the Planetarium,  one of our favorite garden centers near the kids' house, mostly to kill time waiting for them to get home from church, but I did come home with a pretty, fresh wreath, painted in Waterlogue on the iPad for the center of the mosaic. 

Usually the greenhouse is full of our favorite garden annuals and perennials, but this time of year it is full of poinsettias. Using my iPhone I snapped these photos that I thought you might enjoy.


Some years ago I began buying two poinsettia plants from a local antique store. The proprietor, Gertie, had the most wonderful selection a deep red poinsettias, moderately priced. In those days buying two was a splurge, but I loved them so much. Gertie eventually closed the shop and sadly is no longer with us either.  I didn't buy any plants today because I found two gorgeous ones at the super market last week. But take a look at this variety of beautiful plants:




These deep red are my favorite. First brought to America from Mexico in 1825, they have become a standard holiday tradition. Generally they only last through the season, especially here in my home--I forget to water them often enough. Some who are diligent can get them to last through the year., thought they will lose their color.  Experts say to get them to bloom again they must have cool temperatures and darkness weeks before Christmas. Mine never last  that long.



Native to Mexico, the Aztecs used them as a source for their red dye.




In the 16th century, according to legend, a young girl too poor to bring a gift to the church to celebrate Jesus' birthday was told by an angel to pick the roadside weeds to place on the church alter. The weeds then produced a wonderful red flower.

In the 17th century the French friars in Mexico added the poinsettia to their Christmas celebrations. It is said that the star-shaped leaves represent the Star of Bethlehem and the deep red represents the blood sacrifice of the crucifixion of Jesus.



Now, I know where to find a pink poinsettia when I return to the pink Christmas next year.



Or orange?




Maybe blue?




Purple, perhaps?

Never have I seen such a variety of color. And yes the little nursery grows its own poinsettias.  They must use sets because the nursery lady said the plants are only about 3 inches when they start them.






Which on is your favorite? Actually, I'll chose the brightest red ones every time. And no glitter, please. In any color, though, the poinsettia is a beautiful plant.

Toxic, you ask? According to Wikipedia, it is not. A child weighing 50 pounds would have to invest 500 bracts or leaves to get sick. Some may have an allergic reaction to the leaves, but they are not poisonous. None the less, with a dog that seems to think he has an iron gut, I have mine out of his reach.

Poinsettias always get me in the holiday mood and since I don't buy a fresh tree every year, I feel that I can spend a little extra to buy very nice ones.

The semester at the university is over, except for finals this week. I won't meet with the students in the class, They will come to my office Wednesday and Friday to pick up their last paper and get their semester grade. I had so much fun; I really did enjoy my time teaching once again, but I have to say that it didn't take me long to realize that it was after all a job. Will I do it again? I don't think so. But who knows? I still have essays to grade and final grades to decide, so I am not done just yet. The end of the semester is always bitter-sweet. I have a general sadness that I won't see these unique individuals again, most likely, and when I have good, receptive classes I always enjoy sharing my knowledge with them. The sweetness: knowing that I have impacted the students' young lives in some minor part coupled with relief that the job is now over.

Santa comes next Sunday, so there so much to do get ready the Santa party. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thanks so much for visiting. I'll be linking with Mosaic Monday.  Make sure to pop over to Lavender Cottage to have a look. Have a wonderful week.






Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Tale of Two Trees

Things didn't go well last week when I baked pies. So badly that I didn't photograph the pumpkin pies. The pecan pie was perfect, but I was out of the mood to take photos. Besides I shared the pies last year with you. 

As I was putting the second pumpkin pie into the oven, I spilled the filling all over the pre heated oven door. I attempted to wipe up the spill, but it was already cooked on--in seconds at 425 degrees F. So I closed the oven door and let the pies bake. And bake they did. I cut out sweet, little leaves to place around the crust on one pie, adhering them with an egg wash. Let's just say that it did not go well because the crust burned. I took the pie to Thanksgiving dinner anyway. Hey. Sometimes things go wrong. I knew that the filling was good. There was so much food along with the pecan pie and the other pumpkin pie that only got really brown. Not sure what is going on with my oven.



So What to Do?


I mixed up a simple scrub of baking soda and water and applied it to the burned on filling. I had to keep scrubbing and wetting and scrubbing, and finally I had to use a razor blade scraper to get the tough stuff off.


There it is. All shiny and clean. I wonder what sort of damage I can when I start Christmas baking?

Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful. Jen and her family hosted, cooking a wonderful meal.


When we arrived, the girls were busy carrying on a family tradition, making the Watergate salad. Their great grandma Violet (the Head Gardener's mother always brought the Watergate salad--you know the one: a package of pistachio pudding, cool whip, mini marshmallows, and canned pineapple). Each girl took her turn, until one complained that her turn was too short, ending the group project. Kids.




Did I mention that it was snowing? It snowed all day, making every thing look really pretty. After dinner, the kids layered on their winter clothes and went to enjoy the snow. 


And now on to Christmas. Have you begun your Christmas decorating? I haven't. I do have the Christmas tree in place now.

                   

I won't get around to decorating it until next week end. I am not in any particular hurry. As a kid, the tree always went up on my birthday, the 20th and came down on mom's birthday, the 31st. 


This is the staging area downstairs. I have drug all most the decorations out of closet in the basement.  This year I am not going to do the pink and gold tree; instead, I am going use all of the heirloom decorations, using the traditional red and green Christmas color.


See that box? Well, now we get to the Tale of Two Trees.

I wrote last week about buying the new tree and getting is set up. As I took a small package of screws out of the box, I had that strange deja vu that we all get from time to time then continued to set up the tree.

When I went downstairs the other day there was a tree stand on top of the pile of boxes just like the one that the new tree came with. The deja vu began to form a memory of parking my SUV in front of Hobby Lobby in Ft. Collin and a brown haired young woman poking a long white box into the back of the vehicle. Did I buy a new tree last year? Yep. There it is. It was buried under the pile of boxes. Now I have two trees. I used to decorate two trees at the old house, but I don't have the room here. Or do I? I'll let you know.

I am literally on the edge of chair. The Denver Broncos are playing the New England Patriots. Payton Manning is out injured with the backup quarter back playing. It is snowing like crazy in Denver and the game is tied in over-time. 

I can't bare to watch.

This is the last week of school at UNC. I cannot believe it. I will meet with my students for the last time on Tuesday when they will turn in their final essay. I will be in my office Thursday so that students can come see me and again on Wednesday and Friday during their final exam periods when they will come pick up their graded essay and their semester grades. Then it will be over. Wow. It went fast.

Have a wonderful week, my friends. Be sure to visit Judith at Mosaic Monday.

Thanks so much for stopping by. 

Oh. Broncos win in overtime. 






























Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Counting Down

Are my American friends busy this week preparing for their Thanksgiving celebration? Perhaps you are keeping it simple, baking a turkey breast or perhaps going to else where for a fine feast. This year Jen and her family are hosting Thanksgiving dinner. I am wondering just how early the texting and Face Time will begin tomorrow as she starts her preparations, wondering how to do this or that. 

I began my part for the dinner today: the cranberry relish. I keep it very simple: 
  • a bag of fresh cranberries
  • 1 apple, Fuji this year
  • 1 naval orange
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • Truvia instead of sugar to taste
I give it a few rounds in the food processor,







until it is nice and chunky.


I really should have made a double batch, but I had only one bag of berries. I love it on pancakes or just by itself.


The Head Gardener has a great friend, Jim, a widower. He brought his boat over today to store it in the barn for the winter. He loves my pound cake. I'd send it to work with the Head Gardener and the men whom he worked with went pretty nuts over the cake, taking way too big pieces and hiding them. Jim was the worst offender. Now each both men are retired. They have coffee every week and go fishing together. Buddies. I usually bake him a cake for Christmas, but he is having his family for Thanksgiving and the HG thought he needed pound cake, so I baked him a cake. 

Tomorrow I will bake the pumpkin and pecan pies. When I tell my friends that I am baking pies, their eyes widen and then they look down as they admit that they will buy theirs frozen or fresh from the super market. I like baking pies. Took me years to figure out how to make a decent crust. I thank Martha Stewart for teaching me. My hair dresser, Barb, shared yesterday her mother's secret for the perfect pie crust: the dough must be kept cold. 
Martha's recipe:
  • 2 1/2 cups flour --Barb's mom chilled her flour
  • 2 sticks of butter, cold--Barb's mom used half lard and half butter
  • 1/2 cup iced water
  • pinch of salt
Barb's mom would crumble the ingredients together then chill them more. The secret, Barb says, to a flaky crust is the marbling of the butter and lard in the crust. The more marbling, the flakier the crust which requires keeping the dough really cold.

I mix my crust in the food processor then divide it in half and chill it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Then I roll it out. I'll show you tomorrow.

I'll fire up this baby, a pretty fancy appliance that the modern woman no doubt takes very much for granted. It has all of the modern features: regular bake or convection bake, temperature probe that I use for roasts, and other neat features. It is sleek and pretty and modern.  I found the flour sack Tea Towel at my favorite gift store. I had to buy it because it brings back those glorious memories of my grandfather's '51 red Chevy pick up. We'd load up in it and head to the mountain cabin where we would cut Christmas trees. I won't actually use the towel; I just like to look at it.



I'll get lost in a reverie of sweet Thanksgiving memories as I roll out the crusts. I will remember my mother, flour all over the front of her sweat shirt, the red linoleum counter white with flaky flour crumbs as she'd push the rolling pin back and forth over the dough to make a perfect circle. After we had grown up, the folks purchased a mountain home in a little coal mining town Oak Creek not far from Steamboat Springs. Once they had the little house, we spent all of our holidays there. The first house they bought was just two rooms, a kitchen and a bedroom. I remember the first Thanksgiving there, wondering how she was going to roast a turkey. 

Well, look at this bad boy. Mom would stoke up a wood fire and poke that turkey in the oven and roast it to perfection. The little house heated up pretty fast, so the doors were thrown wide open, letting the snow drift in. 

I don't know why we have hung on to the old stove. It sits under the eves behind the barn, along with other stuff.

 I always imagined the young housewife who had this stove brand new. How proud she must have been. It was in pristine condition while my mom had it, but it had some rough handling over the years. Now rusty with cracked porcelain, it only fosters my fond memories and spider webs in the warming oven. I have yet to roast a turkey as fine as my mom's in my 21st century modern oven. 

The Christmas tree is up, but that is all. I purchased a new one this year after donating my lighted trees last year because I was tired of messing with the lights. This one is not pre-lit. I have decorated in pink for years, but this year I will keep the red truck theme of years gone by and use all of the family heirloom decorations from my grandmother's tree, my mother's, and the HG's grandmother and mom's trees. I haven't used those since we moved to the Garden Spot. I miss them. I need to see them again.

There are other Christmas  preparations going on, too. I have been sewing for the 18" dolls that all of the little girls on my gift lift have. I have six dresses to sew. Meet my own doll--I haven't named her. I found her at a thrift store for only $5. She is a Madame Alexander and is in perfect condition. I can't imagine who would donate such a lovely doll. Right now she serves as my model.

                   


                    



I found the pattern here: Susan Karmar. com/ It is a free download. I had to adjust the pattern size, which I did in Microsoft Word. I had to reduce it 1 inch scale, so I just drug the jpeg image from the corner of the image from 6.5 to 5.5 to get the perfect size. I have four more to sew up and the finish work on these two. I dug through my stash of fabric to find pieces of material that would work. I had to get a bit creative to make all of the scraps work.

Other happenings: Boone got groomed. I wanted photos of his session, but by the time I got to the mobile dog bath, he was already inside. He gets a bath and toe nails clipped. I am sure that as soon as he is turned loose he goes out and rolls in the horse pen.



It has been cold enough to freeze the water features along with the weeds and leaves that the strong winds blow in. What a mess.


Lesson never learned: take the pump out before the water freezes.


Smile, dear.


The week ended on a sad note as we said our final farewell to the HG's dad who passed the end of August. Almost larger than life, he stood well over 6 feet and had a heart just as big. A farmer most of his life, he raised his family with a strong work ethic, good values, and he was a kind and generous man. We will miss him. 

Time to edit, proofread, and publish. (I am watching the Dancing With the Stars Finale. Who will win? Bindi, the crocodile hunter's daughter or Alex, the hero? Bindi is the better dance and such a sweet girl and  Alex is just special. (he and his two other friends brought down a terrorist on a French train, saving many lives)).

Happy Thanksgiving. May your turkey be tender and juicy and your pies perfect. 

As we bless our meal, we will pray for peace and give thanks for all of our blessings, and as I think of you, I thank you for being a special blessing in my life.