Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Year in Review Part I

The afterglow of a glorious Christmas still radiates throughout the house. The lights on the Christmas tree continue to twinkle, and there are still foil wrapped Santa chocolates in the candy dish. Tomorrow it all goes away. The candy will either go in the trash (highly doubtful) or hidden in the deep, dark back corner of the pantry where hopefully I will forget about it and the Head Gardener won't find it (a more likely option). Really, who throws away chocolate?

 I love to decorate for the holidays. The house always looks so pretty and sparkles and twinkles with the warm glow of blinking lights. I also like the house put back into order, stripped bare for a few days so that it can get a good cleaning afterwards. I like to wait a while before I put back the decor. I enjoy the bare simpleness of the house--for a while. So tonight I am enjoying the tree one last evening.

I have had fun going through my photo library reliving the year. I thought I'd share some of the highlights of the last twelve months. So here is Part I of 2016:

Each New Year always begins with birthdays: Jacob on the 3rd, Son-in-law Grant on the 4th, and the HG's on the 7th. Jacob turned 13 this year. Though I didn't, I thought about sending his parents a condolence card for the loss of their little boy, but then I said "no" for the teen years are a Rite of Passage for both child and parent and should be embraced. I just sit back and chuckle when I hear mom lamenting the rolling of the eyes, the "I know a lot more than you do" attitude. Jacob is a great kid, straight A student, Boy Scout, sweet, and now a teen-ager.


At the end of 2016 I would have a birthday that I would celebrate the end of one decade and the beginning of another. Oh my. I knew that I would be 70 years old one day, and as I told my brother the night before my birthday, I didn't expect it to be the next day or that it would come so quickly.  So I have spent the year keeping my mind active: searching for a great, great grandmother and reading about the historical queens of England. Here you see the passenger list of a 1842 ship carrying Irish immigrants to Canada. I didn't find my grandmother on this list. I've not found her at all.


We had a new floor laid in the living room, kitchen, entry, and hall. I love the vinyl planking. The floor is easily cared for and I don't have to worry about scratches, dents, or dings.


And we made friends with milk cows, too, and enjoyed their rich, creamy milk. The grand kids got to see exactly where milk came from and even got to help out as the Head Gardener was back up milker for the family who owned the cows. Sadly, the family moved to Nebraska, taking their cows with them. I learned to make my own yogurt that I really did enjoy.


 We lost our water pressure and knew that we had a problems, so we hired this very nice man who had special technology to find the underground leak then we found two very nice men with a big machine and a shovel who found the leak in the water line and fixed it.


We added six new hens to the flock of egg layers. Boone took good care to make sure they were fine. They grew up to be lovely ladies. 


Nathan learned how to make pancakes. He loves helping in the kitchen and was thrilled when he mastered flipping pancakes.


The old 2003 Ford F-250 needed a heart transplant. Runs good. I doubt that we will be replacing it anytime soon now. The HG was quite traumatized to see these photos.

 

The granddaughters hosted a lovely Mother's Day Tea for me. I love that they are learning some of the manners that goes with preparing and serving tea. Grand memories for me, wonderful memories for them.


Next week, we will I review the garden beauties. We had some pretty flowers and tasty fruits and vegetables. 

So now, Happy New Year. We will be traveling to northeastern Colorado to Haxtun to ring in the new year with dear friends. What will you be doing? 

It has been such a pleasure having you visit the Garden Spot, but even more to be able to visit you and to think of you as a "friend," so thank you for sharing your life, offering wisdom, wit, and inspiration through your narratives and the beauty of your images. I look forward to spending another year with you. 




Monday, December 19, 2016

Behold, the Angel

For the last several years, I have been making this little angel choir as favors for the children who come our Santa Party the week before Christmas. I saw Food Network's Sandra Lee make the angles out of items that you can buy from the store. In checking her recipe, I found that she has changed it up some, but I like my way. You will need these items:


  • Marzipan for the head: I buy it in the local super market where it is shelved with the baking goods. You may have to look for it or ask a clerk to help you find it. A specialty  cooking shop will probably carry it, too. My package made about nine heads, about 3/4 inch balls
  • Candy melts or white chocolate chips. I buy the candy melts at Hobby Lobby and use them instead of the chocolate chips because I like the consistency better and they are cheaper.
  • Sugar Ice-cream cones, not the waffle cones that have an uneven edge. I bought the the waffle cones and had to break off the bottoms so that the angels would sit flat. 
  • Twisted pretzels for the wings
  • Vanilla wafers for the halo
  • Shredded coconut colored with food coloring for the hair.
  • Sprinkles or silver dragees. I couldn't find the silver dragees in the stores, so I purchased a bottle of very large sprinkle colored beads at Hobby Lobby, which I like very much.
Since I do not have a double boiler, I found a method of melting chocolates on Pinterest: fill a slow cooker with enough water to stand a Mason jar in. Place the chocolate (chips or candy melts) in the jar. It takes a while to melt the chocolate, but it can sit in its hot bath while you work. It won't burn or scorch or harden while you work. It is awkward taking it out of the tall jar, but I used an iced tea spoon to dip the chocolate out to coat the cones and to use as glue to glue the pieces together.

This year I got smart and laid the angels down while the halos and wings hardened; otherwise, with the soft chocolate glue, they will slide out of place.

I use a food pen to draw on the faces. I purchased mine at the super market in the baking aisle where the frosting supplies are shelved.

I place each angel in a clear plastic food bag purchased at Hobby Lobby. (Can you tell that I love that store?) 



To assemble the angels, coat the cones with melted chocolate or candy melts. As the chocolate begins to harden, add the dragees. I spoon a bit of chocolate on the vanilla wafers then let them harden. I put a small amount of melted chocolate in a small bowl to coat the pretzels and let them set. 

To attach marzipan head, I first push it down on the pointed end of the cone to make a hole in the head then I drizzle a small amount of melted chocolate on the point of the cone to glue the head to the cone and place the head back on the point. Now the head won't fall off.

With the wafers laying flat on the counter, I drop a small amount of chocolate on the wafer. The back of the marzipan head needs to be slightly flattened, so I use wafer to press a flat surface on the back the head and lay the head on the melted chocolate then let it set before I turn the angel over and adhere the pretzel wing. I always did these two steps with the angels upright and always had problems with the halos and wings sliding out of place. Reclining the angels solved that problem.
Because I did not buy the sugar cones, I had to break off the bottoms of the waffle cones and still they did not stand up, so I perched them on top of spice jars to set.

The final step will be to give the angels hair. I used shredded coconut colored with yellow food coloring. I drizzle a drop of chocolate on the head and smoosh the coconut in place. I draw a simple little face, always with a smile, sometime a devilish little smile.

This is a great project for those who need to be creative, who feel the need to do something special or impressive, but who have limited amounts of talents such as I. Time consuming. Yes. Not a last minute project. Expensive. Probably. Marzipan is costly and I don't remember how much. But it is Christmas. If you have older children, this makes a perfect project for them.




And this is what makes all of the work worth it, to see the smiles on the children. Santa always amazes them with his magic and his all-knowing. It is surprising how well behaved they are all after they visit with Santa. It is my special gift to the family and I do it for the children. We had 21 people in our small house, half of them children, the oldest were 15 and 13, 3 4-four year olds,   7, 8, and 10 year olds and one 2 week old who slept through the whole party. Her little brother, the 15 month old was fine on Santa's lap until he took a moment to look into his face then he wasn't so happy.

I showed a video of our last Christmas Eve party in our old house in 2008 that I had found on the old computer. The afternoon that I found it, I had good cry as I watched everyone saying "Merry Christmas" into the camera. I cried because five of our dear family members are no longer with us. The great grandparents are gone, the dear friends left us, and our favorite aunt and uncle left us much too soon, but we filled the house with the new generations and made more wonderful memories.

For you my dear friends, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. May the season, however, you celebrate be joyous and happy as we praise the Lord and we celebrate Christ's birth, and give thanks for the many blessings that life gives us. 

Noel Noel





Monday, December 12, 2016

Stay Calm

Good morning. I have to thank you all for the sweet comments on last week's post because I almost took it down. Later, I got to re-rethinking the post, wondering if I had been too edgy. I began to think that I had come across pretty whiny and negative and then I began reading your comments and felt better. I think ElizabethD at Simple Live in England said it best, a longing for the old days before commercialization of the holidays took over. I was beginning to feel better, so I left the post up. I love you for your understanding and allowing each other to go over the edge upon occasion. Not very often, every once in a while when needed. I didn't intend for it to be edgy, but as I rethought it, I was on the line.



We traveled to northeastern Colorado for the weekend, a quick trip over night trip to our friend's annual Christmas party. Sherry spends weeks getting her house ready and baking and cooking and always has the most wonderful party. We haven't gone for several years because I was always grading final essays at the end of the semester. It is also very hard for both us to get way with the horses and hens. I asked the neighbor to look in on the hens since it was so cold and she sent her little boys over who declared to her that the hens were fine, but hungry so they fed them and collected the 3 eggs, taking them home with them. She scolded them for taking the eggs, but they explained to her as I had told them before when they helped me, if they gathered the eggs they got to keep them. The boys are 8 and 6. Such cute little guys.

For little hostess/Christmas gifts I made Sherry and her husband these little apothecary jars. They are very simple to make and I am getting better. I buy the jars at thrift stores and wash them in ammonia so that they sparkle. I discovered that since the bottoms are not level I can glue the little times to a Kerr jar lid and then glue the lid tot the bottom of the jar and they stay in place and travel nicely. I need to take a better photo of the snow man. Daughter Jen has been making them out clay--the kind that needs to be baked. They are so cute. Sherry feeds the wild birds and enjoys watching them and Dave is the wheat farmer, so they each have their own little snow globe.







It is a two hour drive to Haxtun, so I took my crochet with me and made this little hat on the drive down for Lily. It was supposed to be for her mom, but it is a little small. I had the flower on hand. She loves pink. I have the pattern is you'd like it. I took it from Pinterest and took a photo of it on my iPhone so that I didn't have struggle with a printed paper copy in the car. It's is a very short, simple pattern so it all fit on one image.







While waiting for the curtain to go up for last performance of the season of the The Nutcracker, we enjoyed watching the auditorium fill and listening to the orchestra warm up Lucy is our little ballerina. The performance was spectacular. The young dancers are so well trained and the professionals who come to dance with them are amazing. It was a bravo evening.
Today I am relaxing, as much as one can just before the Santa party. The invitations have gone out to the children and I am sure they will be on their best behavior for their special pre Christmas visit on Sunday. In the meantime I have laundry to do, floors to sweep, baking to begin and more shopping.

Thanks so much for visiting. I am way behind in my visits, so I will try to catch up this week during my quiet moments.


Stay calm and enjoy the season.


Linking with Normandy Life for Mosaic Monday. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Three Trees

I found these pink balls at the thrift store; they match the pink
on my tree. The little glass bird brings special memories
of England. I purchased it at the Christmas shop
in Stratford on Avon
Good Morning. I have so much to do. Are you in the same predicament? It is the holiday season, so of course, we are all busy, even those who are keeping it simple. I am hearing more and more from friends who are keeping it simple this year, cutting back, scaling back, not decorating as much. I am full bore ahead I suppose because I still have young grandchildren whom I want to please. I enjoy seeing their smiles and the joy when come to the house, making all of the work worth it. And I do enjoy going to all of the work to decorate and make things look pretty.

Then there is the gift shopping. More of our shopping now is done online. I tell the Head Gardener what to order and he does. I have those friends who are done shopping, bragging oh I've had mine done for weeks. Or I shop the after Christmas sales for the next year. Or I'm just giving money this year. I enjoy thinking about each gift for each person I have on my list. I want to give sincerely from the heart with love in the spirit of the season, so I tromp around the stores, looking for the right thing or cruise the Internet hoping to find free shipping.

 I guess what stresses me out the most are those who begin the Christmas planning and decorating before Thanksgiving. Really? My trees are now up. Usually they don't go up the weekend of the 10th but we will be traveling that weekend. I wish I didn't let the pressure of the holidays that my friends suffer from suck me in. I liked what Jane at Blondie's Journal wrote last week about taking the stress out of the holiday season. So I am blogging this morning instead of cleaning, or doing laundry, or paying bills, or any number of other things.
Another thrift store find, an animated doll.
She looked brand new in an old box.

When did all get so complicated? My parents didn't have much. They worked very hard; they were not extravagant or indulgent, but their children never went without. Mom always shopped Christmas Eve for the sales. No Black Fridays where shoppers lose their sanity. No Cyber Monday. As a child I would wear out the toy section of the Montgomery Wards Catalog dreaming about the beautiful dolls and dollhouses, and make believe toys that I would probably never have. I still have one of my dolls, Susie. The only one to survive my life's journey  and barely, too. No Electronics under the tree for us, though my brother did get an electric train one year and we played with that until we wore it out. And I got a watch one year. I loved my watch.

Our stocking were hung with care and filled with an orange, and apple, a candy cane, nuts in the shells, ribbon candy, and Black Jack Gum. Oh and a new tooth brush and a small tube of tooth paste. The oranges were a rare treat because way back then (1950s), oranges were seasonal. Gum was a grand treat because our father didn't allow us to chew gum.

My Madame Alexander doll in her new
Christmas dress that I sewed last
week. 
No fake trees or blinking lights, either. Our trees were fresh cut at the our grandparents mountain property. The tree went up December 20 and came down New Year's Day. Only one tree. Not the three that I have sparkling through out the house now.

I do know that one of these years, I will scale back, not be in the mood, keep it simple, but not yet. I am not ready for the magic to end. I like living in the magic of the holiday season, I am just getting slower at doing it all. I love the old Christmas carols that aren't played anymore. They are on my iPod, so I plug it in and let the old songs play all day because the Christmas music that began to play on the radio the week before Thanksgiving are all the modern rocky type  songs like "Jingle Bell Rock." I want "Hark the Herald Angles Sing," "Silent Night," "Oh Holy Night," and my very favorite, "Noel, Noel."






I decided to put up a tree down stairs for the first time because I have two trees. (Long reason why). It is decorated very simply, red and gold balls and colored lights. The tree in the living room is my traditional pink tree full of ballerinas, dolls, angels, and rocking horses with pink, gold, and silver balls. The tree in the kitchen is dedicated to the wild birds with only bird ornaments on it that I have been collecting since we moved here. While I love putting up all of the trees, I don't much enjoy the putting away. 

Let's enjoy the spirit of the season in the best we can, whether we are keeping it simple, scaling back, going all out. 

Thanks for visiting. Loved all of your comments last week. The village is fully installed. I'll take more photos for next week. Linking with Maggie at Normandy Life for Mosaic Monday. See you over there.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Chaos

Good Morning, Friends. How was your Thanksgiving? Ours was quietly spent, and now here I find myself caught up the rush to get ready for Christmas. I guess I am feeling the pressure all around me because my friends have their trees up and shopping done. Who does that?  

As a child, for me it didn't seem that Christmas came so early. The wait seemed endless.  My birthday is December 20, so that was day mom put up the Christmas tree. The trees were always fresh cut from my grandparents' mountain property west of Denver. Mom's birthday was December 31st, and the tree came down that day.  

Now trees are up sometimes before Thanksgiving. Do you feel the anxiousness of the holidays? I am trying not to. We have a full month of holiday related events, too.  Lunch Friday with the women from the English Department at the university. A trip to Haxtun next week for friend's annual Christmas party, an over night stay. We come home early Sunday so that we can go to the Nutcracker to watch Lucy dance her 30 seconds. The next weekend we host our Santa Party for the grandchildren, then Christmas Eve, the New Year's which means another trip to Haxtun, then a week of birthdays.

I always begin the decorating by putting up my Christmas village. It isn't quite finished yet, but you would like to see my progress?



The project begins by having the Head Gardener carry up the boxes containing the village.


He also places the large plywood board on the cabinet and brings two saw horses from the barn that extends the length of the village. I cover the board with a roll of "snow" which gets thinner and thinner each year. This little carousel came from a garage sale for $5.  It is one my favorite pieces.

I empty out the boxes on the dinning table so that I can see what I have--too much stuff.

Installing the lights in all of the pieces is the biggest challenge. I struggled yesterday with that. 

I changed the layout too, and I am not yet finished. Usually the train goes in the center of the village and the amusement park goes on a second layer on top of boxes. This year I created the woods at the edge of the amusement park. My other favorite piece, the carousel on the left, has stopped working. It rotates and plays music--well it used to. It didn't want to turn yesterday; instead, made a grinding sound and then a very loud pop, so I image it shorted out and is done. It is still a pretty piece and other one rotates.





Using the iPhone, I am able to photograph individual pieces. I enjoy the little children making the perfect snowmen.




So I have several children making snowmen.


The village has three sections with a fourth one to add if I have room. The first section is the neighborhood where the residences live. The middle section is the town. My church was the first piece and year by year I added more pieces.






I still have more to do. I add lots and lots of sprinkle snow to make it sparkle and to cover up the wires. Messy but pretty.


And this how things look this morning. The box in the lower right here in the photo has 5 more houses that I am hoping to fit in. Maybe. 

I am done adding pieces to the village simply because I am out of room and don't want to expand it any more. Stores used to carry full selection of Christmas village pieces, but no longer. Now the best places to look for village pieces are the thrift stores.


I have lots to do today, so I'd better get off the computer and carry on with my chores for the day. I look forward to reading about your Christmas and holiday decorating and preparations, so I'll be visiting. 

Thanks so much for stopping by. I'll be linking with Maggie at Normandy Life for Mosaic Monday.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends. I am imagining you all in the kitchen preparing that turkey, mixing dressing, whipping up mashed potatoes. Here, it will just be the two of us. The girls will go to their in-laws. Heather and James are doing the turkey, green bean casserole, and salad at their house then will take the food to his mom's. I admire those young people. Jen and her family are supposed to go up the hill to Grant's parents, but Jen and Elinore will be staying home. Ellie woke up with croup yesterday and a had a very bad night last night.

The Head Gardener and Jacob went deer hunting down on the Platte River out by Julesburgs, CO. Meanwhile I had Nathan here with me from Sunday until yesterday when we took the boys back to Denver. What a helper he is.

We began Tuesday morning with a bit of a history lesson combined with some family genealogy. I told him that on his mother's side of the family he is related to John Howland, a Mayflower pilgrim. He, of course, knew all about the pilgrims. I dug out my old Norton American Literature anthology from grad school and read to him William Bradford's account of his great + grandfather falling over board on the Mayflower during a storm. He was so excited and impressed, guess what went home with him? My anthology. I think I was ready to part with it.




 Story time ended and it was time to bake the pies. I'll not share my secret recipe with you, but big hint: you can find it on the Libby's pumpkin can label.



When we went to Denver to pick up Jacob to go hunt with Grandpa, I asked Nathan what he would be doing this week since he didn't have school. Quite sadly he said that he had to go to Day Care at the school. So I asked his mom and dad if he could come home with me. Nothing better than spur of the moment plants.




After I rolled out the dough, I showed him how to crimp the crust. He did very well.


With left the over crust I had him cut out little leaves that I put around the edge of the crust.


Two pies: one for us here at home and for Nathan to take to Thanksgiving Dinner where can proudly announce that he helped make.


Don't let that look deceive you. He loved running the food processor to grind up the cranberries. My sauce: a bag of fresh cranberries, 1 apple, 1 orange with peeling. I chunk the apple and orange and blend it all together in the food processor. I add Trivia, a plant sourced, no calorie sweeter, and if I have it on had about half a cup of orange juice. It is a tart sauce and some may find the orange with peel too much, so remove the peel the orange.

I have a very simple meal planned for us today. I purchased a turkey breast and thighs which I will roast. I will make bread stuffing, and roasted asparagus. The HG requested mashed potatoes, but I am trying so hard not to over eat, but I will make mashed potatoes for him. And later we will pie have for supper. I will put away the Thanksgiving decor and get ready to start decorating for Christmas, for we have a very busy Christmas season this year.

Happy Thanksgiving to my friends in the States and a glorious weekend to my friends abroad. I'll be back to read and comment later. Thanks so much for dropping by.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Winter is Coming--When?

If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you will know that winter is coming in Season 7 next spring and that won't bode well for those folks living in that fantasy land.

Here in Northern Colorado, we are asking ourselves when will it really be winter? Right now, solstice grooving with the solstice, we are slowly edging toward winter, but Lady Autumn and Jack Frost don't always pay attention to the tipping of Earth's axis or its spinning or its trip around the sun. Their capriciousness leads us down the garden path in so many ways. Follow me today down my garden path and you will see what I mean.


It is mid-November and roses are still blooming. Gertrude Jekyll who quietly withdrew her blooms weeks and weeks ago brought forth this beauty. My little super market specials, roses that were on the sale rack, have bloomed all summer long, relentlessly and they continue.


Veteran's Honor made it nearly to Veteran's Day last week, but Jack Frost has been gently nibbling around her edges.


There are blooms in the center circle, too. This sea pink stopped blooming in the late spring.  I think the little girl is very confused as to the season. She should be storing food for her winter's nap, but I think she thinks that it is spring. NOT.


Another late bloomer, a rudbeckia brightness up the otherwise lifeless landscape.


The mallows have the proper approach to fall color.




Does the hollyhock forest look like it is going dormant?


Nor do the hollyhocks about by the barn. Instead of winter berries, we will have hollyhocks for the holidays.


The boys are basking in the warm sun. Sun Dance wakes up and begins talking softly to me, sweetly nickering, and I know what he wants. He wants out in the pasture. "Open the gate, please," he says.



I walk away to get a better photos of the blooms by the barn door and he calls louder, a bit more demanding. "Pleeeaassse?"


 By the time I leave the barn, his whinny pierces the cool, fall morning air. Translated, I am sure he is scolding me for not opening the gate, something like, "Hey I am starving here. Those dry pellets you call food don't fill a big guy's belly. I need food, real food." He continues to whinny at me, as I get further way, "Winter's coming, you know. I need to bulk up."

I laugh. Sun Dance, I think you are bulky enough." 

And so that's how it is this fine day at the Garden Spot. Warm, sunny, pleasant, happy.  I wish the same for you in your garden. Have a great week and thanks so much for visiting.