Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mom

Happy New Year. I am finding it hard to realize that tomorrow it will be 2015. I remember reading the novel 1984 back in high school in the mid-1960s thinking that 1984 was so far away. As a teenager, I never considered that by then I would be married and have two young children. I lived in the present, listening to the Beach Boys, learning to dig The Beatles, riding my horse, and trying to get okay grades.

And here we are today. I celebrated my birthday December 20th. I kept mum about it on the blog because I just didn't want to make a big deal out of it, and yet to the outside world I was declaring to everyone who wished me Happy Birthday that I was 68. I made such a declaration to help me get accustomed to the new age. I am have told myself that it is time to embrace this decade because the 70s are just around the corner.

Today my mother would be 100 years old. She died in February 1990. She was hospitalized for some undiagnosed something or other and wanted to go home. Then  early one morning I got the call from dad saying that she was gone. She was 75 and not in very good health, but it seemed that she just chose not to wake up that morning.  It has taken years to adjust. We miss our moms so much when we don't have them any more. I still miss her.

She was born December 31, 1914, in Ottumwa, Iowa where she lived until she finally left home as a young woman to work in Des Monines, Iowa where she met my dad. Here she is pictured with her older sister who died young at 16 with heart problems. 

Pictured with her mother, Stella Eaton, mom always dressed stylish. She was 28 when she married in 1944. Her mom passed soon after. In those days medical diagnoses were vague and uncertain. Breast cancer, mom guessed.

Raised in the city as an only child, her life took a dramatic turn when she married Duane. They moved to Lakewood, Colorado where Duane's family lived, moving in with them. Later dad purchased a small piece of property in the country and moved his little family with two babies to a little house on 10 acres. I was  3 or 4, but I have very vivid memories of that little house--and the out house. While the house did have indoor plumbing for the kitchen, it did not have a bathroom.

About the time I went off to college in 1967, dad closed the business and returned to the University of Denver to get his teaching certificate so that he could teach high school math. Mom went to work at a local junior high school as the attendance secretary. This is mom's work photo, a school picture taken when the school kids had their pictures taken. 

Always a stay at home mom, she did work. Dad and his father ran an egg and poultry business. Mom worked right along side the men. Her main job with the business was to candle the eggs and fill the orders for egg  that would be delivered the next day the next day in Denver. The list of customers included cafes, restaurants, and boarding houses. Dad purchased eggs from suppliers, but they had to be candled to check for imperfections. Working in a darkened room, she would candle each egg, looking for imperfections. The candle box was a simple unit that hung from a shelf about the 12”x 18” with two holes, looking like large blank eyes. The light bulb inside the box illuminated the eggs when they were held up to the hole so that she could see inside the egg. She worked fast with two eggs in each hand and it didn't take but a few seconds for her to determine if the egg was fresh or rotten or had too much water in it, had cracks, or blood spots.

She worked hard along side her husband and father-in-law. In addition to raising 3 children. She sewed all of my dresses and my little sister's, she always had hot meals on the table, she was president of the PTA, learned to bowl, went to night school to become a secretary. 

Mom had multiple talents. She was one of those talented ones who could say, "I want to make this sleeve different" when she sewed a pattern.  And she would just cut out what she wanted it to look like.  She tried to teach me to sew. Me? I couldn't even follow the pattern directions. I'd say, "Show me." And patiently, she would.

She rode trail bikes, hunted deer and elk, and helped process the game meat. And talk about a recycler and thriftier. Back in those days I was so embarrassed when she dragged home a piece of furniture that she had dug out of the Oak Creek dump up in the mountains where their cabin was. She'd bring the thing home, take an upholstery class, and have a new sofa. 

She played the piano and sang opera. As a very little child, I enjoyed her playing the piano and singing in the middle of day, taking a break from her daily chores.

Mother taught me manners, how to behave like a lady, encouraged me, and when times were tough, she taught her children how to be tough, to meet life's challenges head on, to be realistic, stoic, loving, and giving. She wasn't one to gossip or say mean things about others. 

I know today that she would be so proud of her children and boy would she spoil those great grandchildren.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

And you dear friends I wish you a Happy New Year. 

Thanks for taking the time all year long to visit the Garden Spot and for leaving kind, sweet, encouraging comments. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Looking Forward

Yes, I am looking forward. Today, however, has to be a day of rest and mentally catching up before my body can move forward, for we have had a whirlwind of excitement.

After all of the cookie baking, I baked pies. The mosaic shows the pumpkin pie and pecan pie from start to finish. I use Martha Stewart's pie dough recipe, which has been no fail for me. Yes, I know, it is easier to buy frozen pie crusts, but there is something challenging about rolling out crust, as I remember my mother making pies and then watching my husband's grandmother roll out her crust. She could literally roll a perfect circle with the dough actually spinning around in a circle beneath the rolling pin as she rolled it out.

Traditionally, here, Santa pays a special visit to the Garden Spot's children. So his chair is in place ready for his visit. The house is quiet now, but soon it will be filled with excited, exuberant (mildly stating) children ranging in ages from 9 months to 13.

Inspired by all of the toy trucks decorated up for Christmas on Pinterest, I dug out my husband's old toys. Usually I make the decorations all girly with old dolls of Christmases past. This year the dolls has to remain put away most especially because of Boone. Then after an entire fall of searching the thrift stores for a glass apothecary  jar, I finally found one last minute, filling  it with fake snow and my Chevey truck I found at ARC.

Of all of the Christmas photos, this is my favorite this year of little Lily looking over her list wondering "How'd he know all of that stuff?"

He brings a bag full of pre-Christmas gifts.

After he hands out the gifts, he dazzles the children with a bit of magic. They are always in awe of his greatness. Joining the party this year was Susie, one of my first Christmas dolls that I have managed to keep safe all of these years. While she does not have her original body, she still smiles and makes me happy. I didn't leave her out for long, though.

Soon, Santa is off with a kindly wave and a hearty "HO HO HO! MERRY CHRISTMAS."

Lily finds her spot after Santa's visit.

December here is the month of birthdays followed by January with 3 more birthdays. Jennifer's birthday is December 24. She was born in the wee hours of the 24th, and, yes, we were home for Christmas. Isn't modern technology grand? 

One sweet Santa party guest brought this really cool wreath (?) that she made herself. Being a horse person, too, she knew we would appreciate this special horse. 

And now the dismantling and putting away begins. I am not all up to it today. Maybe tomorrow. Right now I just need some peace and serenity. 

I will have plenty to occupy my time after the first of the year, which might make for a decent blog post. Until then, I hope you have some peace and serenity after the busy holiday season. I'll be back in a few days to wish you Happy New Year.

Thanks so much for keeping me company all year. I have enjoyed your visits so much. I welcome my new friends and appreciate everyone's sweet comments. Be sure to joint Be sure to join Judith @ Lavender Cottage for Mosaic Monday.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Quick One

Good Freezing Cold Morning to Everyone. A quick iPad post just to say "howdy". Did we all survive the holiday? I am still trying to catch up. The office where I wrapped packages remains buried in Christmas cheer. The kitchen, thanks to the Head Gardener, this morning is tolerabable. And did I mention that it is cold? Brrrrrr Toldy, as a little Heather May said as two year old decades ago. We did end up with a White Christmas when it started snowing around noon Christmas Day. We were on the road returning the HG's dad to his home about 45 minutes away. It is a real Winter Wonderland around here with crisp white, sparkling snow covering the landscape with the sun shining, making the sparkles dance in the glow. The mercury hovers at 5 degrees F.

We are headed to Denver today to deliver a gift to Heather and her family. It will be an adventure. Jen called early this morning asking if she and the girls could tag along. The Ford F 250 pick-up will be loaded.

Out the front door, wind has already blown snow over the sidewalk that was shoveled yesterday. 

Out the back door, the snow is pretty well tracked up as Boone loves the snow, so he is in and out just like any little kid who runs in and out of the house to warm up cold toes. 

Jen and the girls will be here soon. I will be back tomorrow for Mosaic Monday.

Thanks for taking time to stop by. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dancing Lights

I have had so much fun reading about everyone's Christmas celebrations, traditions, and memories. I have loved to see how you all decorate your homes and prepare for the holidays. It is a busy time of year for us, and we are about to gather the rewards of our decorating, baking, planning, shopping, and energy that we have spent to ensure a grand celebration, whether it be a simple blessing of our Lord's birth or a grand celebration of whole Christmas tradition.

What is your favorite part of Christmas? For me, I love Christmas lights. Enough is never enough. I got hooked on watching ABC's The Great Light Fight. The Head Gardener wandered through the room, pausing for a moment to see what I was watching. I challenged him: Next year, dear. Lighting is not his favorite chore around here, for sure. I usually have to drag him kicking and grumbling to the storage containers holding the lights. I threw away those horrible dripping ice cycle lights, too, making his chore a bit easier. I want to get lights up Thanksgiving while the weather is still warmish, but he wants to wait. None the less, we did get some lights up beyond the trees, so I went out in the dark to photograph them. Here, then, is my version of Dancing Lights:

To do night photography correctly, a tripod would be useful. Where is mine?

The last cookie for 2014 has been rolled, cut, baked, and frosted. Today Santa Claus comes to visit the little ones, and the cookies will go fast. We will have 10 children armed with their wish lists and Santa with his notes on their various behaviors over the year. (How does he know such stuff?)

I loved watching Martha Stewart and Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa on HGTV) make cookies. I used Martha's recipe for the royal icing.

Nicely shaped cookies and few scraps for the HG

I started baking Christmas cooking when I was very young because mom worked and didn't have time. The little tree is one of the original cutters that I used. Later I added these jumbo cutters to my collection that I seldom use. The rolling pin was a shower gift when we got married.

These were mom's cookie cutters that I used as kid. 

I am not sure how I came across this cookbook, but it is one my standards.

I didn't make any ginger people, but Betty's recipe is a great one, making huge amount of cookies. I love the gingerbread, but no one else does and I would eat too much, so no gingerbread people this year.

Not the best photo, but nearly perfect cookies. 

I make such a mess when I bake.

Nor am I Martha or Ina or Betty, but everyone loves these sugar cookies. My favorite is the Moose cookie.

Now to hide them so that HG doesn't find them. I did put the toffee away in a secret a spot to keep it out of not only my sight, but the HG's too. Then when I wanted to make up a cookie plate for the young man who came to work on the pergola (story for anther post), I could not find the English Toffee that I had put in a secret spot. DAh. Freezer in garage. Who would think to look there? Or remember that the candy was there?

The boys would like to thank everyone for visiting The Garden Spot each week and for leaving sweet, generous comments. We have had fun this year with the blog. I joined Judith @ Lavender Cottage for Mosaic Monday this fall and what fun it has been to create mosaics, share them, and most especially to visit others who create wonderful mosaics.  A big thank you to Judith for hosting the meme and for encouraging me along the way.  As a result, I have grown the blog a bit, adding 4 or 5 new followers,  and I have enjoyed making a few new friends as I joined their blogs, too. So the Garden Spot Blog has been such fun this year and I thank each and everyone of you for visiting. 

I have lots to do to get ready for the big fellow's visit this afternoon. I will be back before year's end. I wish you all a Merry Merry Christmas filled with Peace, Joy, and lots of family and love. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A White Christmas?

Good morning, Everyone.

I think I am beginning to get into the Spirit. Some of the shopping is done, not all. Just some. Some of the baking is done, too. I thought I would share my candy making adventure with you. It is something that we do once a year, and in some cases not even that. So I decided this year to make suckers for the children. I used to make them for my daughters and nephews at Christmas.

First I needed to find molds, which you would think would be a standard this time of year. I had a nice selection of candy molds from years past that I either loaned or threw away. I did find some molds at my favorite kitchen speciality store. The clerk had to go to the basement to retrieve them as they had been put away because no was buying them.

So I began. The recipe is simple enough: sugar, water, corn syrup. Stir until sugar dissolves, boil to 260 degrees, add coloring but don't stir. Boiling will incorporate color. Continue cooking to 300 degrees. Remove from heat. Once bubbling action quits, add flavoring. Easy.  As you can see, something went wrong. By the time I had added the food coloring, the syrup was golden instead of clear. By the time it reached 300, it was burned. So what did I do wrong? I had a list.
   *I am using a new cook top, so I am still learning how to adjust the burners.
   *My pan is not heavy enough to conduct the heat that candy requires
   *The candy thermometer is out of whack.

At any rate, I ended up a very burnt batch.

Lucky for me there are do-overs. I used the same thermometer a second time, this time keeping a very close eye on the cooking syrup, too. I also double checked my syrup consistency by using our grandmother's method: dropping a bit syrup into a glass of ice water to see if was at the hard ball stage. I did end up throwing away the thermometer and purchasing a new one, which truthfully I think isn't any better. I made a batch of Fantasy Fudge with marshmallow cream and it turned out grainy, which means that it didn't cook long enough to dissolve the sugar to make creamy smooth fudge. I cooked it to the right temp, but I sometimes wonder if our high altitude alters some results. And yet 234 degrees is 234 degrees at any altitude.

I do enjoy making candy. Divinity and peanut brittle when I am done with today's post.

Baking goes much better when you have such good helpers. This will be Boone's first official Christmas with us. He spent his first Christmas as a baby in a shelter. This year he will be as spoiled as the grandchildren. Judith at Lavender Cottage wanted to see Lily in a mosaic for Monday Mosaics. I am glad to oblige her. Be sure to visit to see the other wonderful mosaics.

We had another disaster;  this one outside. Earlier in the fall I had unplugged the pond pump and filter because even though the pond was frozen over, I could tell that there was a serious leak as the water level had dropped underneath the ice. With the Head Gardener away working corn harvest, the pump and filter stayed off and the pond stayed frozen. We had a rare hard freeze in September and it has never warmed up enough to melt the ice.

Yesterday the HG decided to start the pump and filter to freshen the water. Later he noticed that the ice had cracked as the water level had dropped more. We found the leak; it was a tough one to find, but shouldn't have been. The filter is made out of plastic trash can which froze in the extreme cold weather. The water leaked out underneath gravel mulch and into lawn, making it very hard  to discover earlier when the pond first began to lose water. The HG spent a while breaking up the ice to toss it out of the water.

The pump continues to pump water to oxygenate the water for the fish, which survived. I had noticed that one of the big koi had died. It was up at the edge of the ice out of the water. Dead. Or was it? I am not inclined to photograph dead fish, so there is no proof of what I am about to say, but once the dead fish body was re hydrated the fish was revived. We have heard that gold fish can be frozen in ice and once thawed will come back to life. Just saying' the koi has joined the group again. 

It isn't Christmas without poinsettia is it? For years I have purchased two. I always bought them here in town at an antique store because Gertie's were the best, biggest, brightest red, and best priced. Now I buy them at Bath Nursery (where the reindeer are). I opted for a more subtle color this year and purchased just one.  Later in the day our neighbor dropped by with a second poinsettia of the same color. What a special gift. Ironically his wife works at Bath and gives poinsettia to her neighbors. Thank you Carol and Chuck.

How can one not be in the mood for the holidays?

After my very expensive excursion through ARC thrift store last Saturday in Denver with Heather, I vowed to stay out of the store until after the new year. Ours in Greeley is getting pretty picked over, so it is easy to stay or away or even shop and not buy anything there.

I am not good at keeping promises that I make to myself, especially when a certain daughter forces me to join her. I was the check out, when Jen exclaimed: "Mom, look, those little houses, like the ones you make." So I left the check-out line to have a look.  I love this little putz houses so much that I tried to make my own, but I am just not that good. 99 cents each. I couldn't pass these up. My mom had a set, now so do I.

We are supposed to get snow today as a result to the Pineapple Express. So far my California friends are okay. Here it is very cold, windy, and cloudy. The mountains are under heavy storm warning, but here it is just cold so far. Still a nice day to bake and watch Payton Manning  do his job. The Broncos play San Diego in San Diego. 

Have a wonderful week. We have lots to do yet. 

Thanks so much for taking time stop by. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Let There Be Light

Inside the tree is lit, the village sparkles, and the mantle dazzles. You would think that I would be satisfied. But I am not, much to the Head Gardener's dismay. I love Christmas lights, so much that I watched the TV show that featured its outside lighting contest. One home owner boasted a million lights. Me? I just want a few lights outside not so much so that I enjoy them, but so that passers-by can.

You don't see this part of the Garden Spot much because it is a pretty drab part of the place out front right by the main road into town. The previous owner tried to dress up that part of the pasture when he planted these pine trees at the front of the property in a pretty much haphazard manner. They are not a pretty sight. They don't get enough water so they are scrawny; in addition, Pop the pony gets an itch and uses the poor trees as back scratchers so they are full of dead and broken branches. 

Perhaps a good pruning would help.

Instead, we will throw a few lights on four of the trees to make them look festive for the season.

The sun is setting. I am getting excited, so as the the Head Gardener heads the EZ-Go to the barn, I get a bouncy shot of the part of the garden that you never see, but everyone else does.

Add a few jewels to scrawny trees and they become glorious beauties after dark.
 I hope the neighbors like them.

The day began with cookie baking. Jen and Lily come over to help make a few cookies. We really didn't get a lot done because we wandered downtown through the antique shops. Then it was time for her go pick up the older girls from school.

Two year olds are such little dears. 

Tonight I am downloading my Christmas CDS to iTunes. I have them on an old iPod, but I never put them on this new computer (nearly 2 years old now). There is lots of Christmas music in the air at the stores and on the radio, but I have yet to hear "Silent Night" or "Joy to the World."  Look, I love Santa and Frosty, but I also love Jesus and I'd liked to hear those songs that praise Him and remind us what the season really is all about, so I am creating my own play list. I'll get it on the iPod then I can take my own music.

Tomorrow I am actually going go out to do some Christmas shopping. The Head Gardener will be going along to help make the tough decisions. It will be warm, the traffic will be awful, and we will have lunch together.

I am enjoying so much reading about everyone's Christmas traditions, seeing your gorgeous trees, your lovely homes all dressed up the for occasion. Isn't it fun to share such joy and happiness as we prepare for own celebrations? I love the stories, the memories, and the inspirations that you are all sharing.

I'll be back Sunday for Mosaic Monday. We still have lots to do, so we must pace ourselves and enjoy.

Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving such lovely, sweet comments. You made my day.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Jackson and Perkins roses have been in the garden for at least 10-12 years. This year they have been spectacular. The bushes were taller and...