Saturday, December 29, 2012

Candid Camera Christmas

Today we had our annual Norquist clan gathering at my brother's house in Chehalis, WA.

The one's who come the farthest are usually the first to arrive.  Has the party started yet?
 Apparently the Gibson's kittens are learning to travel.  While they spent most of the time in their box in the van, they made an appearance early on.

Dig in to the hors d' oeuvres, Isaac.

There in the middle is the plate of lefse Tom and I made Thursday, with the top layer already devoured.

The problem with taking candid  shots at a party is that you always catch someone eating.
 Chow down, Jake.  You too, Laurie.

 Arnie sits watch over the accumulating gifts for the "get a gift or take a gift" exchange.  Or maybe he's just watching football.  The Oregon State game isn't on yet, but Ben is ready.
 Did someone say "Food"?  Dinner is served.  Brother Hank and Cindy supplied the prime rib.  Sister Laurie supplied the scalloped potatoes.  Salads were assigned to others.  My assignment was dessert, of course. 
 My nephew Scott, son of Sister Ilene, seen in the background, couldn't come, but he sent these hand turned vases that he made.  They are treasures for the Aunts and Uncle.
 Ben, clothed in Oregon State Beaver orange, dained (to regard or treat with haughty contempt) to open the gift wrapped in the hated University of Oregon yellow and green - Uncle Tom's idea of a joke.
 Laurie is hoping nobody steals this one.
 The kids had to wait for their turn at their pile.
 We all had a good time, ate well, and laughed plenty, even the matriarchs.
And that ends the Christmas celebrating for this year.  On to New Years.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day

We had an abundant Christmas.
Still awaiting us in the garage are the stacks of boxes that were used for shipping, and reused for wrapping gifts - lots of gifts.  Here too is the bag of used gift wrap, waiting to be sorted into recyclables and trash.  And then there is the bag of bags - gift bags we will save to use again, as many have already been used several times.  

Boxing Day.  Not the original English meaning of the day, but it fits. Jill hauled her filled boxes home this morning after spending two nights here.  Corey went back to work.  SIL Jan hauled her box of gifts home this afternoon after spending last night here.  

Now the house is cleaned up and quiet.  It is safe for Josy to venture forth once more, although she will do so with trepidation, as scents linger and noises still cause her concern.  

Our Christmas was abundant in other ways too.  Is the cook and hostess allowed to say that Christmas Eve dinner was beautiful and delicious?  Well, it was.  

The kids had an activity gift each to keep them occupied as they awaited the festivities.  Isaac showed his Great Uncle Dave and Grandpa the aircraft carrier puzzle he constructed .
 The turkey and trimmings were served at 6:00.
 Tom's brother Dave and wife Vicki  flew up from California just to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with family.
 Tom and Jan and Dave are not often all together, so it was an especially special occasion.
 After candle light dining, then clean up, where son-in-law Corey was a star helper, then more gathering in the dining room for cookies and coffee, Isaac suggested we light the candles on the Christmas pyramid and sing songs.  So we did.  It was wonderful.
 We had to wait for the kids to go to sleep, which took forever, before we could bring the gifts out of hiding and stuff the stockings.  It was especially complex because this special gift had to be fetched from their babysitters.

Yep.  Jill did it to herself.  Kitties for Christmas!
 I think the kids will have to rediscover what else they got as they unpack the boxes at home, because it was all about the kittens.  Boy, are they cute!
And so you see why Josy might be out of sorts for a few days.  Kitty scents linger.  Her one encounter with the kittens was not good.  We had to rush to rescue one as Josy went after it.  There is a reason why her adoption papers say no children, no other cats.  

But the kittens are safe at their new home, and Josy and Tom and I are ready for a slower, quieter pace for a few days, at least until the next big family party on Saturday. That one is NOT at our house.

It was truly an abundant Christmas, and we are once again left counting our blessings.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I Think We're Ready

The gifts are wrapped.  The house is cleaned. The table is set up and ready for finishing. The turkey is in the brine.  The cranberries are sauced.  The Swedish cardamom bread for Christmas morning is baked.  All of the necessary provisions have been stocked. The cookies are baked.

Saturday we had our annual family cookie baking day - gingerbread and sugar cookies.

We rolled out and cut and baked the gingerbread first. For that we use animal and non- Christmas cookie cutters.
 Then we went to work on the sugar cookies.  Jill is very intense in creating her designs with sprinkles.

 There are lots of sprinkles!
 Tom and Corey get into it too.  But not me.  I have to roll out the dough and monitor the baking.
 After the sugar cookies are done, I make the icing for the gingerbread, and make zip lock baggie decorator bags.  Then I grabbed one for myself and went to work before surrendering my station to another.  These are my creations.
Christmas Eve will be busy.  We are having our big formal dinner in the evening.  There will be family guests from California, along with the usual suspects. 

A huge cache of gifts is secreted in our bedroom, off limits to package pinchers.  They will not appear until after the kids go to bed here at our house and Santa comes.

Christmas Day will be centered around the tree, and the table, with breakfast, leftover snacks, a smorgasbord of sorts, and a casual meal of whatever is still in the refrigerator, with the addition of fresh Dungeness crab.  And cookies, of course.

Wishing you a Christmas that is well sprinkled with all you wish it to be.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Josy Couldn't Wait

I bought a package of Three Blind Mice, catnip infused cat toys, at the pet store the other day.  I set the package on the office counter awaiting stuffing into the Kitty stocking.
Josy found it this morning.  The plastic bag was no match for her sniffer or her teeth and claws.  She had it open and was extracting the mice when I found her.  She was so pleased that I just had to give her one.  
 That mouse is dead now, but it's still a lot of fun.

Watch out for package pinchers!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Winter Solstice

Today was the day, the winter solstice, the day when the noon time sun is the lowest in the sky in the northern hemisphere.  The solstice is the original "reason for the season".

From the time of the earliest humans , today has been a day of celebration.  Why?  Because it is a day of renewal, the day that marks the return of the light, the sun, longer days marked in seconds, then minutes, then hours of sunlight.

It's no accident that the Mayan calendar ended today.  It never signified the end of time and the world, but a time of renewal, when life enters a new cycle.  Just flip the calendar over and start anew.  Those Mayans that still survive are celebrating today.

I celebrated today too, because along with the promise of more light, we actually had sunlight, a sunny day!

 I went out for a walk this afternoon, between 2:30 and 3:30, with the winter moon high in the blue sky, and by 3:30, the winter sun already very low on the horizon.
We won't notice the change in daylight right away, but it's happening nevertheless.  And for those of us who live in the north-lands,  that is significant!  

A reason to celebrate!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Caring and Sharing

Maybe it's because I got such an early start on Christmas this year. Maybe it's because Thanksgiving was early.  Maybe it's because I'm so organized.  It's probably some of each, plus the good fortune to have been able to stay healthy.  Whatever the reason, I have had the luxury of changing pace for three days at the end of the week before Christmas.

Yesterday we took our time getting up, running errands, and picking up a few gifts.  I wrapped all of the stocking stuffers and Tom wrapped the two remaining gifts.  I had time for a short walk in the morning and a ten mile workout on the stationary bike in the afternoon.  We read and watched TV in the evening.

Today was set aside for visiting.  I packed up some cookie tins first thing this morning.
Later in the morning I went next door to visit Maxine and take her a tin of cookies.  Maxine has been our neighbor forever.  Her husband, with whom she did everything, died two years ago.  She is 86 and still doing quite well, but her friends are dying off or getting sick, and she is frightened and lonely.  We sat at her kitchen table and had a great conversation for over an hour.

I need to find time to do more of that.

This afternoon we drove into the city to visit my Aunt Evelyn.  She is my mother's sister, and the only member of the family to live around here.  She has two children, my cousins, who are managing their lives and hers now that she needs special care. Evelyn is recovering from hip replacement, and also suffers from dementia.  Her husband, my Uncle Bill, is in the end stages of Alzheimers. 

We visited her at the rehabilitation center of The Hearthstone, in the Green Lake area of Seattle.  We took her a tin of cookies and had a great conversation for well over an hour. It felt great to be able to bring joy to her.  While short term memory is a problem, she loves to talk about the old days, and we shared stories of remembrances from our different perspectives.

After we left her, we walked across the street to enjoy a brisk half hour walk in the cold, windy air along Green Lake.

Today proved the adage that it is better to give than to receive,  especially if the giving is of yourself, your time and attention, and things you have lovingly made yourself.

I'll be giving out those other cookie tins tomorrow morning at breakfast, one to our waitress who takes such good care of us every Friday morning, and the other to a friend who was unable to come to our tea because her husband is terminally ill.

And speaking of cookies, I got this photo yesterday via e-mail.  
They spent their first day of Winter Break wearing their pajamas all day, and making gingerbread houses.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

'Tis the Season

We woke this morning to a light blanket of snow!  It lay lovely on tree and bush and lawn, but kindly on streets and highways that busy commuters had to traverse.

 I took my camera when I went out to the street to get the newspaper.

 Snow on the roses.
 Frosting on the Wind Spinner.

We had a busy morning, Tom and I, setting up for our lunch guests. This group is from my old school, the McMicken Lunch Bunch.  

We usually meet at a restaurant once a month, but I have been hosting the Christmas lunch in recent years.  While several of our retired friends couldn't make it (we missed you, DeeDee and Bev), we did have two "active duty" friends who were former colleagues.  Chris is now the principal of the school where Jill teaches and where the grandkids go to school.  Cathleen now works at the administration building. 

I made a big pot of turkey soup, and provided rolls, bread and the dessert.  The rest was pot luck.

Cookie or fruit cake, anyone?

We had a great visit and I did some catching up with some people I hadn't seen for a while.

There is still soup left over.  Jill and the kids get out of school for the holidays today.  They will be over for dinner.