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
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.

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