Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016---Finding The Prize

Yesterday I made a few loaves of bread.  Not just any kind of bread. I made Greek New Year's bread.  I make this almost every year.  This year the loaves turned out nicer than in the past.  Could be the yeast, could be letting it rise near the wood stove with it's ample supply of warm air!
It's a simple, rustic loaf.  It's a sweet bread that has the flavor of allspice, cinnamon, anise and orange.  It's especially tasty toasted.  What makes it so special that it's only eaten on New Year's Day? (actually it's suppose to be cut on New Year's Eve at midnight, but I changed the rule for our family!) Well, besides the sweet and yummy flavor, there's a hidden surprise in each loaf.  A coin is baked inside.  Each person takes a turn cutting the bread and whoever finds the coin in his or her slice, has good luck for the new year.  It's fun to do and fun to see who's going to be a lucky duck the next year!  Of course that got my brain to thinking about 2016.  As this year's book comes to a close it was a good year in many respects.  We had good health, we were able to work and have family gatherings. There were birthday celebrations..Mom turned 90..and graduations and holiday happenings.  There were some not so good times too. Those times are etched in our hearts and memories.  Sometimes, like that loaf of bread, we have to dig deep to find the prizes that life hands us.  We'll be saying farewell in a few hours and toasting to good times and good health for 2017.  We'll be saying thank you to God for his blessings this past year and praying for help in being better people in the new year.  I want to tell all my family members how much I love and appreciate them and all my friends and blog buddies how much I've learned this year from you and how much I appreciate your comments and encouragement on my blog posts.  2016 held more good prizes than boobie prizes, more challenges than failures.  Tomorrow will be the first slice of the bread called 2017.  May it be filled with good luck and good health.  More hellos than goodbyes.  More smiles than tears.  Let's go find that prize!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come

I've taken Mr. Scrooge's adventure into my own life these past couple of weeks.  I blogged with photos of past Christmases and then told the story about our present day Christmas, also with photos.  I know that things that happen in our past can influence who we turn out to be in our future.  I had a wonderful childhood filled with good memories of past Christmas celebrations.  As a young adult with small children I also feel blessed that we had many fun Christmases filled with family.  Some of those family members aren't here now.  My Dad, Jack's parents, my nephew Jono.  Many Aunts and Uncles that were part of our celebrations are also not here.  Their presence is felt at each gathering.  The empty chairs, the guitar that Dad would play carols on, the voice of my Uncle Dave as he said the word "Santa"..he always said "Sanie Clause".  Things that mean much more to  me today than they did back then.  Jack's Mom cooking her wonderful food and yelling at her boys to get out of the kitchen! (Usually they were causing mischief and getting in the way!)  Jack's Dad standing in front of their huge Christmas tree and handing out the gifts so carefully chosen.  Life speeding by and suddenly you realize that the future can hold many changes...many surprises both good and bad.  The spirit of love and giving this time of year is one that we wish we could hold in our hearts and carry on all through the year.  Like Mr. Scrooge reborn from a mean miser into a man who knew "how to keep Christmas" all year long, I would like to do the same. I would like to think that future Christmases would have all of us gathering together and when it's time for our chairs to be empty, those who are left will remember us fondly and all the times spent together remembered with love and laughter and warmth.   In Mr. Scrooge's story, the spirit that visited him to foretell the future was the one he most feared and was the darkest part to be faced.  What's encouraging from this story that I've watched way too much this season, (can you tell?) is the fact that it's never too late to change.  You can look at your life and see what needs improved and how we can be better friends, neighbors, employees, family members, and even better in loving ourselves.  Giving more of our time and talents and resources. Scrooge was desperate to change to make sure he could have things be better than what the spirits foretold.  I can't predict the future but I hope that "Christmases yet to come" for our family will be as wonderful as this year's has been. Filled with the remembrances of the past, the happiness of  today, and hope for the future.
Tree all ready for the gift giving.
Family gathering.
Future chef loving the new duds!
Future photographers capturing the moment...even while tired!
Brothers being silly posing for pics.
Chubbs enjoying his new blanket from Santa.
The old folks who were super happy to have everyone here.
 And knowing that these empty chairs were all filled at our home today.  Merry Christmas and "God Bless Us Every One"

Monday, December 19, 2016

Ghost of Christmas Present

We traveled to Chicago on Friday for the annual family gathering.  We were already there when a snow storm and super freezing temps hit on Saturday night.  But today it was clear skies, still cold, but smooth sailing all the way home. Here's a few highlights of how we celebrated:
The house I grew up in and my parents raised 6 kiddos in, still stands and still houses my dear Mom and my sister who keeps Mom in line!  It's not a big house in square footage, but it expands with love and laughter and good times when we all make it home.
We'll gather in the kitchen for great fixings! That's my sister in the background..we sort of look alike so I thought I'd clear that up! I love the silly antics of her Granddaughter, Ella.
My brother Greg and his wife Deidra made it up from Atlanta. Mom was very surprised to see him and my brother Phil who came from Panama.  Greg was diagnosed in the Fall with lung cancer.  Mom didn't know until this weekend because she was ill too at that time and he didn't want to worry her.  He's doing fabulous! He's through the chemo and today was his last radiation treatment.  Minimal side effects and he feels really good.  A Christmas miracle...we're so thankful!
My brother Phil and his lovely lady friend, Cilla...she's English and we all enjoyed her lovely accent as well as her sweet and fun personality!
The party was hosted by my niece, Katie.  Her and husband just moved into their new home and it's beautiful...just like this ginormous 15ft Christmas tree!
Mom looked so festive and beautiful! 90 year olds can be hotties!
She got to meet her newest Great-Grandbaby.  My niece Betsy and little Belle.
My brother Rick and his wife Jan made it down from the great white north of northern Wisconsin.
They hit some  nasty weather and almost turned around and went back home.  We're thankful they made it but really grateful they were safe in their travels to and from their home.  Little Belle is their first Grandkiddo!
Jack was testing out the goodies in the kitchen...and believe me, this was just a small sampling of all the food that was prepared for this feast!
Katie loves to celebrate Halloween as much as I do and she just couldn't resist using her scary butler as a prop for some special treats..if you click the pic you can see what he holds.
We were framed! Props and all..good time for a photo op.
My sister takes such wonderful care of Mom and did lots and lots of preparing for this weekend. She's amazing!  Sure wish Indiana would move and let Ohio get closer to Illinois!
This is a sweet pic of my brother Jim and his wife Lori. They live in Atlanta also.  If there was an award for persistence in traveling they would have won the jackpot.  They went from missing their flight, fighting with the airlines, getting on another carrier the next day that brought them in at night after missing the party and then being denied their hotel room after they prepaid it for 3 nights...and the list of aggravation goes on and on...but we were thrilled they made it in and Mom was so happy to have all her kids home.

Sunday we took pics before some of the gang had to fly home.  The sun was shining but the temps were about zero.  The weekend flew by as it always does. We drove out today and will be back to routines tomorrow.  It was so great to be together another year.  Life can hand out surprises at every turn and I'm glad we don't pass up the opportunity to celebrate holidays as a family.
Speaking of family....This poor Nativity gives a good clue into the snow that fell.  It was snowy and cold but we never forget the reason for this special season and we're grateful for our Heavenly Father and the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ.  We are blessed...Happy Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ghost Of Christmas Past

Christmas is fast approaching and I love to look at old photos and remember those special days when the boys were little and it was a magical time.  So I hope Mr. Dickens doesn't mind that I stole his idea of the Ghost Of Christmas Past....
1979 had me posing with my oldest kiddos but I know I was preggo with Phil who came along in May of '80.
Nothing written on the back of this one but Jordan looks around 4. Happy with his Santa present and candy cane!
Trying to get a decent pic for a Christmas card was always a challenge with these 4 silly guys. I'm not sure what the heck Phil was up too and I remember that Jordan was playing with a puppet although it looks like he has a crucifix in his hands! Nice collar Craig, and Jackie is playing it cool.
Ok, so this was the year of matching sweaters I guess.  Obviously there wasn't one in Jordan's size so he had to suffer with the Santa hat!

The back of this photo says "Christmas 1997".  This was taken at my in-laws place we lovingly called "The Farm".   Craig was on his mission in Taiwan and Jackie was married and on his own.  So only 2 boys at home.  Time goes on and now we only have Jack and I...a complete circle I guess.  But this post is about Christmas past so I'll leave the other ghosts, "Present and Future" alone for now.  We're heading out tomorrow for some family time in Chicago and many more opportunities for pics that one day will be "Ghosts of Christmas Past" for somebody else.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Rush Is On!

Christmas is less than 2 weeks away and I'm in the rush mode...rush to finish up the last of the shopping, baking, and general Christmas doodads.  We'll be heading out Chicago to see the family this weekend and have our annual gathering.  The weather was forecast to be rather ugly but then today it seems to have changed and I just hope it will be good traveling.  This past weekend we did get snow and colder temps but not as much as was anticipated.  The Church had it's annual Christmas social on Saturday and the theme was "The Grinch".

I  wondered how they would put a spiritual spin on this tale.  They redid the story a bit and it turned out very cute. Even the Nativity fit in at the end!
Nice job guys!  Sunday rolled around and Phil and girls were coming over to decorate cookies.  Jack even made it back from his seminars in Columbus in time to enjoy lunch with us. Then Jackie and Evelyn came by with an announcement....they got engaged! Welcome to the family Evelyn! (Are you sure you want to be in this crazy group?)
While us gals were slathering frosting on cookies the guys were having fun in the kitchen. It was great to hear them laughing and telling stories.  I had made ribs for lunch and soon Jordan was over to grab a bite to eat too....somehow there was plenty to go around.  No one leaves our house hungry!
Good job girls!
Frosting made it on  the cookies and even on the kids when a little frosting war was had near the end.  Reminded me of something....oh yes, my boys when they were little.

That's Jordan reaching for something and Jackie is in front eating the goods! Some things never change and cookie making at Christmas is one of the traditions that I enjoy doing with the kiddos. Even though it's "Rush Time" around the Pines, I'm glad we took some time this weekend to enjoy the company of family.
Congrats Jack and Evelyn on this new step in your life with each other...blending of two families...twice the love and joy.
Addy's finished cookies...nice job!

Lexi is proud of hers too....You guys make good helpers!  Now back to the "RUSH"!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Forecast: Blog Fog

I realized this week that I hadn't posted since Thanksgiving.  I'm usually at least a once a weeker blogger!  Jack told me if I didn't blog he wouldn't know what I've been up too. I'm pretty sure he knows what I've been up too lately since he's usually my partner in crime!  I think he means he wonders what my brain thinks about what I've been up too and that's a dangerous place to be my friend.  So I dug up something to write about and I'm saying to Jack, "This blogs for you!"  I'll start with last week and how our surgical department decided to donate some food to our local food pantry.
Bags of goodies of all kinds were brought in and I took them to Associated Charities on Friday.  Work has been a beast lately and it felt good to do something nice away from the hospital. Thanks to all my coworkers for their generosity.  Next on the agenda for home was the decorating part of Christmas.  I've cut down on my decorating the last few years and thankfully my son Phil has taken up the torch,  He stopped over and helped us get the tree up and then he went through all the decorations I said he could have and went home with 2 Rubbermaid tubs filled with Santas!  I used to collect them so he had quite the selection. Thanks for making the storage room a bit roomier Phil!  However, that did not mean I was left with bare sirree!
Santa..just one of many.
Santa relaxing on the stairs.
Tree up and a Santa watching from the clock.
Living room mantle.

We even got one of those light show things you put in the ground and just turn on..easy peasy!  I'm going to show you the kitchen mantle..
See my wreath? Well here's a pic I found from 1983 when we lived in the apartment above my husband's office:
See the wreath? That makes it about 33yrs old...I bought it at a craft show and it's lasted very nicely and still ranks as one of my favorite decorations..very simple, very country, very fun.  And now, last but certainly not least, our youngest son came by today to show us his Christmas present to himself..a new vehicle...a pretty Christmas red truck!
Nice ride Jordan! I had a bit of a hard time climbing up into that thing!  He's excited to own it and I'm excited to have one I can borrow to haul "stuff".  Well, that's all that's happening you very well know! The Blog Fog has cleared for this week!