Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End of the Year - Looking Forward

I just paid the bills for December.  I'll walk them to the mail box in a bit.  It's gray and chilly outside, with lingering fog.  But I'll get out for my exercise walk this afternoon.  I think we'll go see a movie tonight before returning home to watch the Space Needle fireworks on TV and welcome in the New Year.

Tom is off working on more projects at Jill's house.  The hot tub is almost in running order after a month of tinkering.  Tom, his sister and an neighbor worked on it yesterday while Jill and the kids got the outdoor storage shed erected.  A while ago Jill reported in that the furnace doesn't work.  Tom has her checking the oil level.  Tom just texted me that the tank is empty, and just now I got a message that the oil company will have a truck there this afternoon.  One thing after another.

Where was I during all of this?  I'm working on me.  Last February I posted here that I would be continuing to work on my health through exercise and weight control.  I am a few pounds heavier that I was that February day, and those are pounds I don't want.  I walked 4.5 miles yesterday and did all of my physical therapy exercises.  I am back to recording everything I eat and telling myself I don't even like those cookies sitting there on the counter, left over from Christmas.  It's a lie, but it's helping.

I also spent quite a bit of time scheduling appointments and getting my 2014 planning calendar filled out.  My back surgery is January 31, and I had a phone appointment to go over the preparation for that.   I need lab tests, an EKG, a pre-op physical, a visit to the hospital for more blood work, a date to schedule my post-op visit with the surgeon, and cut off dates for taking NSAIDS and finally, food.  I am also due for my every-two-years echo cardiogram for that aortic valve thingy that I forget about most of the time.  And I want to lose a few more pounds because I will not be getting much exercise during the three months after surgery.  

And so Project Me is back in full force.

Tomorrow the new year begins.  In many ways it will just be a continuation of the old year.  I will spend the day taking down Christmas decorations.  I'm ready.  Then I want to do a thorough house cleaning and reordering.  I have been losing things, and  I want to find them!  

And each day there will be walking and exercising and trying to eat more healthily.  

And there will be more projects at Jill's house.  We can count on that!

Happy New Year, everyone.  Stay well and happy.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Ghosts of Christmases Past

Who are all those staring-eyed children?  It's the Norquist Family, minus Dad, who must be behind the camera.  I am guessing this is about 1955.

I do not remember having this photo taken, but I do remember our Christmas Eves.  They were a very big deal.  They WERE Christmas.

Previous to this night there had been baking and shopping trips into Oregon City - there were no malls then - and lots of gift wrapping.  As I got older I helped with a lot of that.  As you can see, my mother had her hands full.

On Christmas Eve it all came together as we loaded up to go to Grandma and Grandpa's house on the farm where my mother grew up.  There we celebrated Christmas with aunts and uncles and several cousins.  My mother was the oldest child so we were the oldest grandchildren.  

Everyone dressed up.  The adults sat around the dining room table, near the too warm wood stove, and us kids ate at the round oak table in the kitchen.  We loved it there, with a Lazy Susan in the middle of the table, and olives to stick on your fingers.  We had fun while we ate our turkey dinner and all the trimmings.

There was always a mountain of cookies for dessert.  Finally we got to eat those goodies we had been baking.

The photo above must have been taken at our house after we returned from our grandparent's farm. On the way home we always begged to open our gifts that night.  There was talk about whether Santa Claus had come yet.  We were told to wait in the car while Mom and Dad got the fire going in the wood stove ( our source of heat in our old Willamette Valley farm house) and checked to see if Santa had come.  

Of course he came, just very busily as we waited in the car.  We didn't have much money, but somehow Mom and Dad came up with a mountain of gifts that were piled under the tree.

From that photo, it looks like we were just tired out after a very full Christmas eve.  I don't remember those tops Laurie and I are wearing, but it looks like maybe something my Uncle Don sent from Asia.  He was in the Navy and he had sent silk pajamas once before and I do remember those.  And I do remember that there were always new flannel pajamas for Christmas, which we snuggled into when we finally got to bed.

I'm curious about that shiny pole Laurie is holding.  Is it perhaps a pogo stick?  I do remember one.

As the years passed, the tradition continued.  I suspect this photo was taken before we went to Grandma's house on a Christmas eve three or four years later.  

Everyone looks happier and more awake, everyone but me that is.  That's about as much of a smile (none) as you could get from me in a photo those days.  As you are aware, I do not have pretty teeth, and there was no money for orthodonture.  I did not smile in photos, and always hated having them taken.  It also had to do with my extreme introversion and shyness and insecurity.  It could be said that I was a late bloomer - at about age 40!

Last Saturday I was with my sisters Laurie and Ilene, who is holding her puppy, Moochie, and my brother Henry, the one on the far right in the photo.  My brother Don lives near Boston and our little sister Betty Jo died years ago at age 33 from alcohol poisoning.  There was also another sister, Penny Ann, who was born with Downs syndrome, and was by this time in a state home. She died at age 42.  My mother and dad suffered greatly from the loss of these children.

My sister Laurie gave me enlarged copies of these photos on Saturday.  That's why I thought to post them now. As we were visiting we talked about the past, and my sisters and I shared memories.  As the three oldest we have memories that are exclusive of our brothers.  Laurie was the unsinkable Molly Brown and got herself into trouble a lot, especially with Ilene.  She frequently had to run for her life after she set off big sister.  As we were talking, Ilene said "Linda, you were always the same, always calm".

If they only knew.  Isn't that the definition of an introvert, calm on the outside but full of turmoil and conflict on the inside?  Yes, I put on a good face for many years, but it was not a happy face.  In fact it wasn't until I read the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking just last year that I finally came to appreciate that what was wrong with me wasn't really wrong at all. It was just who I am, and I had become powerful.   I smile now.

I guess it's good that we never stop growing up as we grow old.

Friday, December 27, 2013

More cooking, because there will be more eating

Tomorrow we travel south to the Norquist Family Holiday Party, where I will meet up with three of my siblings, their spouses,  and many of our offspring. It will be a houseful at my brother's home in Chehalis. 

In preparation for the gathering, Tom and I made some party food that has become traditional:  lefse and hazelnut torte.

Potato lefse is made with cold mashed potatoes, which I made yesterday, and just enough flour to hold them together.  The dough is rolled out just as thin as you can get it.

 And then it is transferred to the lefse griddle with a special stick and cooked until the bubbles brown.

 We made 20 rounds, enough for a small army.  Tomorrow we will butter it and sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar,  cut it into wedges and roll the wedges up.  I'll warm it all up in a microwave before serving it.
 Tom is the torte maker.  He started the layers this morning while I went for a walk.  The scent of toasted hazelnuts and lemon rind baking is wonderful as it wafts from the oven.

This afternoon, after the lefse was finished, Tom added the whipped cream filling and frosted the torte with chocolate butter cream and then I added the piped the mocha details to finish it off.  
 This may just be my favorite dessert in the whole world.
There will be happy times again tomorrow, and happy eating too.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Merry Christmas

On Christmas eve Jill and the kids,  and Jake with his unwrapped gifts, were all here at the homestead by late afternoon, before the sun went down.
 Jake disappeared to the wrapping station upstairs.  Irene read one of her new books from Grandma Andrea.
 Isaac and Jill lounged and tried to make up from a lack of sleep from Christmas excitement.  Those cool clothes Isaac is wearing also came from Grandma Andrea, via the Postal Service sleigh from Colorado.
 Everyone connected electronically to the rest of our friends and family via Facebook.
 As dinner time drew near the kids helped light the candles in the dining room.
 Then there was eating - steak and crab and scalloped potatoes and vege and salad and ice cream and cookies.

After dinner we settled in the family room to watch the Christmas on Sesame Street video, which is becoming a tradition.  Big Bird is worried about how Santa can come down through a too small chimney.  Oscar the Grouch is culpable.  The music is wonderful.

 Jake caught up on the Christmas card reading.

 After dessert, the kids went home and went to bed, after which Tom and I went to their house with the mini-van sleigh loaded with gifts and stocking stuffers.

We were back on the scene after a coffee stop by 8:00 Christmas morning.  This was to be the first holiday celebrated in Jill's new house.  They all got their biggest wish - a home for Christmas.
 The stocking were very well stuffed.

 Jake arrived and found his place under a kitty.  Tiger was happy for the attention.

 There was a wonderful breakfast, and then clean up.  Jill's kitchen is small and we learned fast that the way to make it work is to keep up with the dish washing.  Throughout the day we also contemplated the best way to expand the working space here.  By the end of the day it got a good work out.

 Can we open our gifts yet?

 Oh, good.  Here we go!

 Boxes and paper piled up behind us as we took turns opening.

 Then there was playing and walking and snacking and putting together.  Ikea puzzles were solved, as with these 'Fingal Torkels', desk chairs, for the new computer room.
 And Irene's multimedia easel. 
 The turkey was successfully smoked on the BBQ on the deck, as the weather was dry, sunny and almost warm.
 And the dinner was delicious!  Of course there is no photo of the food.  I never seem to remember to take one in the rush of getting everything ready.  I can tell you that I peeled and mashed ten pounds of potatoes!  Jill wanted lots of left overs.
After dinner Jake and I went for a short walk while Tom and Jill finished up in the kitchen, and then we all played games until bedtime sent us all to our own abodes with a warm glow from a lovely day.

The Day After

I do have Christmas photos to post but I just got back from our day after Christmas destination walk, and I wanted to share some of the photos I took with my Canon PowerShot point and shoot camera.

The sun broke through the fog here on the hilltop at home by early afternoon, but it there was still heavy fog at sea level when we arrived at the Des Moines Marina about 2:30.

 It was a study in gray, punctuated by waterfowl busy fishing in the silky water.

 Mr. Heron was happy to pose for us.

 After poking around the waterfront, we went for a walk on the Des Moines creek trail, doing a 3 mile round trip.
 The sun was setting as we drove home and the eastern sky was going pink.  We stopped at a view point to finish the day with The Mountain.
It's dark now, and time to cozy in for the evening.  There are some good left overs for dinner.  With Christmas over, we can take pleasure in some simpler days.