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Ten on Tuesday: The Eve of Christmas Eve

Believe it or not, I actually did turn last week's topic into a Christmas letter and Rusty, much better than I at these things (for various reasons), has mailed out a bunch! I've managed to get three cards in the mail -- two of them using envelopes that were addressed a long time ago (there was one for Sharon in Kansas... that was almost 10 years ago)!

After my run to the mall last night -- traffic was awful -- I had a photo delivery to make. We ended up chatting a bit, and then I had a glass of wine in my hand ('tis the season), and next thing you know I'm sitting down for dinner! It was around 8:00 by the time I was headed home and I thought, you know, this might be an excellent time for a stop at the grocery store. And I was right. My list was mostly in my head, so naturally I forgot a few things... but still managed to spend a bundle.

It turns out, we'll be having our main family gathering/meal at noon on Christmas Day instead of Christmas Eve -- and that just happened over the weekend, so I'm not quite sure what we'll be doing tomorrow. Maybe meatballs, though probably not Swedish. There's another trip to the grocery store in my future...

Ten on Tuesday:  10 (Random) Things On My To-Do List

1. Meatballs for Christmas Eve?

2. Pick up the ham for Christmas Day

3. Carrots

4. Malbec (& gift bag)

5. "Wrap" presents

6. There's some cleaning & laundry still (always) to do

7. Roast Broccoli, Cauliflower & Carrots

8. Heavenly Hash

9. Corn Pudding

10. Try to send out a few more cards before the holidays are over!

Cookies

The weather outside is frightful! It's warm and wet, so sometimes quite foggy, and not very Christmas-y. Maddy is supposed to be home tonight, but I told her to stay put if it's icky and just come in the morning.

 


Right Now

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ReadingWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and Outlander. I don't remember who recommended the former; I've been reading the latter for months... and that will continue.

Knitting: I just finished an Entrelac Scarf (gift) and a quick hat (possible gift); will be starting another hat (gift) to pair with one I finished a while back (you guessed it, a gift!)!

Dreading: The end of year is nigh.

Humming... along with every Christmas song I hear.

Drinking: Gin & Tonic... love The Botanist right now, but also the more local Death's Door Gin and Door County Distillery's Lighthouse Gin. I used to drink gin & sour back in the day (with a twist of lemon) but, until last year, when Katie brought home some lovely Elderflower Edinburgh Gin, it hadn't passed my lips in years. So good.

Wearing: Uncomfortable jeans. There's change in the wind!!

Organizing: My workroom! Out with the old, in with the new!

Celebrating: Yes, I am.

Itching: For some time off.

Looking forward to: All three girls at my house tomorrow night for some cookie decorating! (I've one last party to attend, first.)

Needing to (and also Dreading): Go back to Macy's tonight so they can remove one of those security thingies from a sweater I purchased on Saturday. Grrr.

Thinking about... and beginning to plan: A Hawaiian vacation!

 


Cleveland maybe? #tbt

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We moved so much when I was a kid and few of the photos are identified, but I think I've straightened out the Christmas timelines -- and this is Cleveland! I'm pretty sure...

Cleveland! My first bike, Karen's Charmin' Chatty, Michael's Mr. Machine, for some reason "Thumbelina" comes to mind when I see the doll that Sharon's holding -- Madame Alexander, maybe.

Some of those ornaments are hanging on my tree! The gold glitter balls, and the striped one just to the right of Sharon.

Q is for...

Wow. What a week of get-togethers! A knitting group on Tuesday, book club on Wednesday, the last Thursday knit night before Christmas tonight, an anticipatory solstice gathering on Friday... thank goodness for a fairly normal day off yesterday!

Next week, there's only one extra-curricular holiday gathering.

We still haven't firmed up the Christmas Eve menu. What are you having?

Obviously, I've things to do, but I'm hanging in there, how about you??

 


Ten on Tuesday: Christmas Letter!

Ten on Tuesday:  10 (or so) Things for Our Christmas Letter

* * * * *

Seasons Greetings to Our Family & Friends!!

Since I last wrote, the girls have all graduated from high school!  ;)  Yep. I'm not quite sure how long it's been since I've written, but it's been quite a while...

Girls

Bad news first. My mother died on June 23rd. She was diagnosed with cancer in late 2012, and received her first treatment on New Year's Eve that year. She was admitted to the hospital in early June with pneumonia, partly the result of complications from side effects of a new chemo and partly the result of permanent damage from previous radiation treatment. Her condition deteriorated over a few weeks, and she died just days after Ann and family returned to Wisconsin from Brazil. We celebrated the life of our beautiful mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and wife at a memorial in August.

>>>Cosmic shift.

Kids

The girls. Katie returned to Wisconsin in August after spending a year in Scotland where she earned her MSc in the History of Art, Theory & Display from the Edinburgh College of Art at the University of Edinburgh. She has happily returned to work at the book store while also completing an entrepreneurship program, developing a new business, and writing an art blog at Young-Space.com.

Ali married Rod last year, making us first-time in-laws, and became a mother this year, making us first-time grandparents! Our grandson, Junah, is an absolute delight. It'll be six years in February since Ali took over operations of the coffee shop! The shop continues to succeed and grow, thanks to a wonderful team, and they are looking toward an expansion opportunity.

Maddy worked another summer at Girl Scout camp, this time as trip leader, the highlight being a 2+ week canoe trip in the Boundary Waters (with maybe an accidental overnight on the Canadian side). She got her kayak wet as often as she could, found a new job, moved into a lovely old house with her roommates, and is getting ever closer to earning her elementary teaching degree. It won't be long now!

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Us. Rusty successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign and published a book about the imaginary places he's painted for years. He participated in some local art fairs, and spent a few weeks in Grand Rapids, MI, at Artprize, closely followed by another few weeks on the west coast. He traveled from Wisconsin to British Columbia to SoCal and back, visiting friends, family and clients, and getting the coastal recharge that's so necessary to his survival. He continues, of course, to paint, draw, read, write, and teach; he's currently working on the illustrations for a Storey Publishing "tiny houses" book.

Becoming a grandmother for the first time was the biggest highlight of my year! It's true... everything they say about how great it is to be a grandparent.

I began hand sewing, making a couple of bibs for Junah in addition to a onesie, a blanket, a top for Maddy, and a couple of tops for me. I have plans (and patterns, fabric & thread) to do much more! Sewing cut into the knitting time, but I still managed to finish a few shawls, some hats, and a number of Christmas gifts, and have started a long-term blanket project that joins an already impressive list of WIPs (works in progress).

I did very little dyeing this year, but I did do some! I was inspired after taking workshop in Grand Rapids about naturally dyeing fabric; harvested some stuffs from my own back yard and had a go with some yarn. I'm excited to do more! (There's an indigo vat in my future.) I still keep a small area within Ali's coffee shop to sell a little yarn and other supplies.

Rusty & I went to Scotland in May, flying into Edinburgh to meet Kate and then heading to the Highlands for the majority of our visit. We traveled by train to Inverness where we rented a car, and Katie chauffeured us around! From Inverness along Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle, up to Dornie and Eilean Donan Castle, through the Torridon to Croft 23, our gorgeous B&B at South Erradale in Wester Ross; over to Dunrobin Castle at Golspie; Gairloch, Poolewe, Aultbea, Kinlochewe, Ullapool; over to the Isle of Skye; revisiting Fort William and Glencoe on our way to Glasgow; over to North Ayrshire and a visit with my friend Yvette at Irvine, to Portencross Castle at West Kilbride. We then took the train back to Edinburgh from Glasgow before heading back home. That was a lot of driving! Most of it on single-track roads, sometimes dodging sheep. Though the weather was less than spectacular, it was an amazing vacation nonetheless.

I also traveled to Los Angeles with my sister Ann in July for a long weekend -- and her friend's wedding. It was a nice, touristy break: Hello Hollywood! I enjoyed my first farm-to-table dinner in August, as well as my first Milwaukee Brewers game at Miller Park. Kate, Ann and I participated in the 25-mile version of the Peninsula Century bike ride in September. There were trips to Chicago, Grand Rapids, and a wonderful family weekend at our old family cabin on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage.

We experienced the highs and lows of life to extremes this year, and hope for a little moderation in the next.

Happy Holidays & Best Wishes to All!

* * * * *

copy, paste, print... find some photos...

It might happen this year!!

 


Bake Day 2014

We entered the kitchen at 8:30 a.m. and didn't leave until a bit past 5:00. We measured, mixed, stirred, chopped, patted, poured, rolled, sprinkled and baked our little hearts out with varying success... mostly great!

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There were three large stainless steel work tables pushed together in the main work area and it worked perfectly for each of us to claim one as our own. There was plenty of room to spread elsewhere, and a couple of us also employed rolling carts. That's everything I brought to make the following:

An almost-double batch of Ina Garten's Ultimate Ginger Cookie.

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Each batch is supposed to make 16 cookies, and I ended up with 29. An unequivocal success, I will definitely make these again... maybe next week! Next time, though, I'll keep in mind that a double batch pushed the tilt-head KitchenAid mixer to the limit. There was a big Hobart commercial mixer available, but total overkill. I think that my bowl-lift mixer at home is just a bit larger than the tilt-head.

Paleo Fat Bomb Coconut Brownies by Caitlin Weeks. They are delicious! I used both the coconut and walnuts, but was just a little shy of the 1 cup of melted coconut oil called for in the recipe -- my fault -- so they look dry and are a little but crumbly, yet, at the same time, are also incredibly moist. I think the missing oil would help hold it all together. I would make them again, but also maybe cut them into the suggested 9 squares, rather than 16.

Sweet & Salty Fudge Bombs by Melissa Joulwan, author of my favorite Well Fed series of cookbooks. 

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I may have processed a bit longer than needed -- I don't have much experience with food processors! My able assistants helped with both rolling and garnishing, resulting in a wide range of sizes... from rabbit poop/Cocoa Puff size to shooter. I was a little distracted, and they were so happily rolling and dusting and dipping, that I just let it roll. So, they look a little wonky but they taste great! Kids love to help in the kitchen!!

Irish Coffee Brownies.

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My helpers were not only handy, but very happy, too!! These brownies looked quite different than what I was expecting. From the photo that accompanied the recipe, I was expecting a very rich, dark brownie, but they are not that at all. Variation in cocoa used? Perhaps. It made a lot, and they taste good even if not quite as chocolatey and chewy as I thought they'd be.

Lastly, I made Granny Wallace's Shortbread Cookies.

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I almost didn't make them... there's a lot of intermittent refrigeration in this recipe. Pat the dough and refrigerate; roll the dough and refrigerate; refrigerate, refrigerate, refrigerate. I was pretty exhausted by that point, and I may have skipped a couple of those steps at the end. Rolling to an even thickness has never been my forte, either, and we'll just say these are all 1/4" thick, more or less. I was able to get two pans, mostly full, into the oven and they turned out wonderfully! I didn't get anywhere near the quantity the recipe says, but these are 3" cookies, at least, rather than 2" -- I had to use cutters at-hand -- along with the aforementioned challenge with consistent rolling. But I think I'd make them exactly the same next time!

My intention was that most of this would be gifts, and I might have been more successful with some if I hadn't had to pack and travel. The cookies were by far the most successful in that department -- and all-around -- they're truly my favorites of the day!

New rule for food gifts: nothing that needs to be cut. And think twice about frosting/glaze, too. Also, packaging. Those fudge bombs would look good, four or six in a small box; just sprinkled in amongst other goodies, they just look like... not good.

What a great day, though. There were two large convection ovens at our disposal, a gas range and another oven, a walk-in freezer, large refrigerator, mixers and food processors, three sinks, plenty of work space. We love to do, and this is something we'll definitely do again!

 


TGIF!

I am never so happy to see a Friday as when I've had Monday off and worked four long days in a row -- and it seems to take so long to get here.

But, yay! Here we are!!

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I began gathering together ingredients and things last night in preparation for a day of baking with my sisters. We're spending the day tomorrow at a commercial kitchen near Annie's and we all have plans!! I have five recipes on my list -- ginger cookies, shortbread cookies, two kinds of brownies, and some little fudge balls -- at least one is a no-bake option. A fair amount of cocoa/cacao will be used.

I have no idea what Karen & Ann have planned; Annie often makes caramels, brittle, and peanut butter balls, and Karen's on a huge health kick... it could be very interesting. We've never done anything like this before, so it's hard to know how it's all going to work out. If oven logistics turn out to be too complicated, I'm perfectly fine with just visiting and knitting.

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I am working on an Entrelac Scarf -- gift knitting. I'm using 2 skeins of Cascade Tangier, a nice blend of silk, acrylic, rayon & cotton, with a long color repeat similar to Noro, but without the WOW of Noro. And maybe a little softer around the neck than some Noro yarns, which the recipient will like. I've used a provisional cast on with the intention of grafting this into a loop -- and I'm thinking that, after blocking, it's going to be the perfect length to wear as a single-loop infinity scarf or doubled for a cowl. It's going pretty quick, considering all the turning (I've not taken the time yet to learn knitting backwards) (not sure what I'm waiting for) and should be an FO next week.

I've done more gift knitting this year than I have since I was a senior in high school, when I knit color-block scarves and hats for EVERYONE. I used Red Heart yarn, which I could buy at the grocery store on my way home from school, along with the fuel for all that knitting -- lots of Coke & Lay's Sour Cream & Onion potato chips! Haha. Good times... and different metabolism.

Happy Friday, everyone! Have a great weekend!!

 


#tbt Santa Claus

Santa-1

This is the earliest photo I've found of me and the "jolly" old guy. It's a wonder I ever went back. #notjolly

(St. Louis? or maybe Denver. Do I look 2 or 3?)

Santa-2

I am wearing a knit hat -- and I know just the one! It's from "The Beginner's Book and the A-B-C's of Knitting by Bernat." I think I still have a copy. Sharon & Karen's jackets were red and purple.

Santa-3

Knee socks! Same Santa. I love how lightly he's holding Sharon's arm, but has a very sure grip on Michael! I'm sure we were at H.C. Prange Co. in Appleton. Loved that store, especially at Christmas, especially then... when I was a kid.

 


Follow up

As luck might have it, albeit a day late, Spotify has presented me with My Year In Music! Here's an infographic snapshot:

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In addition, I am informed that I listen most on Thursdays -- beating out Wednesday by a hair -- and that I am "on the go," listening via mobile 76% of the time, which makes sense because I listen a lot in the car. I also have a great little Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker that I connect to via my phone, even at home, but I also listen on my computer. I will likely be listening more at work in '15. And I just upgraded my Tivo and can stream Spotify through my new Roamio, too.

My top playlist was actually one of Kate's (as most are) called "Blast April." Lately, I've been listening to one called "Transition." I like my kids' taste in music and I like to think that I've/we've helped to inform their sensibilities, exposing them to everything under the rainbow, really, so that makes sense.

Here are my Top 10 Spotify Tracks of 2014:

  1. Take Me to Church, Hozier
  2. Arsonist's Lullabye, Hozier
  3. Cocoon, Alpines
  4. La La La, Naughty Boy
  5. Hey Brother, Avicii
  6. Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show, Neil Diamond
  7. Retrograde, James Blake
  8. Busy Earnin', Jungle
  9. GMF, John Grant
  10. Like a Dream, Francis and the Lights

No.  6 -- That song is on a playlist that I created called "Nana Songs." A friend saw that list and wondered what songs I was playing for Junah! In truth, it's full of songs that are reminiscent of Mom, and it accompanied the slideshow that we put together for her memorial celebration. Neil is joined on that list by the likes of Doris Day, Simon & Garfunkel, Andrea Bocelli, Rod Stewart, Johnny Cash, Henry Mancini, Janis Joplin, and some Broadway and movie soundtrack selections... it's awesome.

There is continuing controversy, discussion, and even headlines on the topic of streaming music. Rosanne Cash, the No. 1 artist on my list, has testified. I certainly don't know what the answer is... technology moves so much faster than laws/rules/contracts.

Believe me, I get it.

I listened to the radio at work about 20x more than I did Spotify; I also listen to the radio in the car, along with CDs and other digital music. Interestingly, though I didn't purchase a ton of music last year, I did buy Rosanne Cash's The River & The Thread. It resonated. We have purchased, at one time or another (sometimes multiple times) and in various forms, music from every artist on the Nana Songs list. Katie came home with a pile o' records the other day -- actual LPs -- and I know that they were all by artists on her playlists. Most CDs (on Amazon, anyway) and many new LPs also come with a digital download.

I love the accessibility of music across multiple formats; the portability of digital; the exposure to new music and artists offered by streaming, as well as the ability to "share."

I'm currently listening to a playlist that Spotify created called "Play It Forward" -- a new list of 30 songs to take into 2015 that were chosen based on what I listened to in 2014. I like that. There are only a couple of artists whose names I recognize; I've already favorited some of those new songs so I can investigate artists/albums further.

Anyway, there you have it, along with my thoughts and maybe things to ponder.

Music makes the world go 'round.

And here's how old I am: I did a search for "music makes the world go round." I saw this YouTube video, quickly scanned the titled and thought, "Huh. When did David Cassidy make a video with R. Kelly?"

Answer: Hahahahaha.

 


Ten on Tuesday: Eclectic

Ten on Tuesday:  4 Random Songs From My Spotify Playlists

1.  TALL TREES IN GEORGIA, Eva Cassidy.

2. QUIET STORM, John Legend and Smokey Robinson.

3. SONGBIRD, Eva Cassidy.

4. CRUISIN', Jessie J and Smokey Robinson.

That turned out to be not so random, choosing from only a few albums/artists. I mostly listen to other people's (Katie's) playlists, so maybe that's why it was pulling from only these.

* * * * *

Continuing... 10 Songs That I've Searched/Faved on Soundhound.

Almost always, it's an unfamiliar song that I've heard on the radio while driving -- and one that I'd like to find again! I love the Soundhound app.

5. HOWLING FOR YOU, The Black Keys.

6. STARS ON THE CEILING, Jeremy Lister.

7. LOW, Cracker.

8. BLAME (feat. John Newman), Calvin Harris.

9. SAD OLD RED, Simply Red

10. BIG BLACK CAR, Gregory Alan Isakov.

11. I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE, Sam Smith.

12. BLAME, Calvin Harris.

13. LEFT HAND FREE, Alt-J.

14. IN REPAIR (Acoustic), John Mayer.

 


Weekending

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The weekend began with a company party at a local restaurant called Gather Americana. I've eaten there a few times before and it's always quite nice.

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I spent the entire morning on Saturday with Junah. He came over bright and early (I was still in bed because, you know, party... and his mom never confirmed the actual time with me) and we had a blast. He discovered some needles and I let him play with some wool... in a few years we'll get that all working together.

He's wearing a 12m onesie that I embellished with some reverse applique stars -- and it's too small. Those cloth diapers/covers are so much bigger than disposable, it's tough finding a onesie that fits. He'd had a little blow-out and no extra clothes in the diaper bag. I threw what he was wearing in the washer, but this was all I had that was even close to fitting!

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We did a little of this, too. So sweet.

Rusty & I drove out to the east coast of Wisconsin on Saturday evening for another party! 'Tis the season!!

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Zipper dee doo dah!

My big accomplishment on Sunday was sewing in the zipper on a hoodie for Junah. It's been on the list, with wires inserted, for quite a while now. The yarn is super bulky, so the stitches very large, and one of the problems/reasons for procrastinating was that my original zipper had a fairly narrow tape. I liked it better, because it had heavy duty teeth instead of a coil, but I needed something easier to work with for my first zipper install. I used some Button Craft thread, Splityarn's Zipper Tutorial, and did my best. It's not going to win any awards, but it zips.

Finishing baby knits... MAN, they can be a lot of work! I love Caro's tutorial and will definitely use that method again on a finer gauge project. Next time I make that hoodie (and I already have the yarn), though, I'm going to try Techknitter's No-Sew Method (video here).

Anyway, that phase is done and now I just have to seam up the sides and arms.

My day off this week is TODAY rather than Wednesday. I have some plans, and I guess it's time to get to them!!

 


Year in Review: 2014

It's that time again!

As I have done the last few many years sometime in December, it's time for a review of the year. I do it in words (the first sentence of the first post of each month) and in pictures (a favorite posted photo from each month) -- one is not necessarily related to the other.

January:

Rusty and I visited the local pub for a mug and a burger early last evening, planning to spend the rest of the evening in... quiet and cozy... because, baby, it's cold outside!

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February:

I am conflicted on which way to go with this post, so it's probably going to be all over the place!

Mom-Junah

March:

I saw the final five of nine Best Picture nominees on Saturday, and let me just say that a five-movie marathon is just about one too many for me!

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April:

From a man's 4X pocket tee to a woman's boatneck swing top.

Moving-back

May:

April flew right by!

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June:

Upon returning home from vacation, I immediately went over for some grandson snuggles!

Hands-of-love

July:

I decided to begin #100happydays on June 1st because I knew that it would be a tough summer.

TTL

August:

That's 61 so far!

Kids

September:

That's right! I'll reach #100happydays on Monday!

Mad-rn

October:

The Kaffe Fassett KAL started yesterday.

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November:

Why, of course!

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December:

December is only 3 days old and already so much has changed since the 1st. 

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* * * * *

This is probably the most difficult Year In Review so far! From one extreme to the other emotionally in the first six months -- attending the birth of my first grandchild, present at my mother's passing -- working on recovery in the last.

Per my wise friend Claudia: "It's never all one thing, is it?"

How to limit my favorite photos to just one per month?! How not to have my favorite photo every month be of my grandson?

I haven't finished blogging about our May trip to Scotland. I'm going to try to do that by the end of the year. That's a good goal.

 


'Tis the season

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#tbt First Christmas Tree!

It was in an apartment in Milwaukee, and I was 7 weeks old on Christmas Day! All of the ornaments were blue, and a few of the survivors were hung on my own tree last night.

I'm thinking that this was the following year...

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#tbt Snowsuit & Mittens!

...because I know that this was the year after that, when I was 2, and I detect bangs... barely, though, because the photo is so badly deteriorated. Maybe I just *know* that I had bangs then. Heh.

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#tbt Red & White!

I tuned in a Christmas playlist on Spotify and put the 2 new strings of lights on the tree last night, and that was all it took to get Katie in on it! She hauled the decorations from the upstairs closet and we got busy trimming. The girls' boxes of ornaments await them!

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Ooops! I just remembered that St. Nick comes tonight. Yes, he still comes to our house!

 


December crazies

December is only 3 days old and already so much has changed since the 1st. It's always full of crazy, isn't it?

Christmas-1966

Christmas 1966 - Menasha, WI
Some of our old photos have made it to ScanCafe in the nick of time.

Since my mom died, I haven't said "no" to much that's come my way -- taking advantage of every opportunity and living every moment, you know -- and happily embracing all that activity and busy-ness in the spirit of honoring and remembering. I got through Thanksgiving okay, and I'm trying to keep that positive spin on all the December madness, too. It's cold and dark, though I've heard a rumor about unseasonably warm weather headed this way and the light will begin to return in just a few short weeks.