Christmas Memories

A week ago, I was giddy with the anticipation of the arrival of family. One week later, I only have my memories of our time together.

Christmas Day brought gifts, food, and more family together. The house hummed with the chatter from the family members who live far and near.

From the cover of Southern Living, red velvet and cheesecake. I love a challenge!

From the cover of Southern Living, red velvet and cheesecake. I love a challenge!

We awoke to frozen fog the next morning. It was the closest thing to snow for our California girls. Then we were off to visit Silver Dollar City, an amusement park with five million lights. Temperatures were just right for roller coasters. Yes, even I went on several of them. I don’t enjoy being terrified as much as others in our party.

Fog froze on the bush.

Fog froze on the bush.

My gingerbread family

My gingerbread family

Just one of many trees that sparkled in the night.

Just one of many trees that sparkled in the night.

 

The rest of the days were filled with horseback riding, hanging out with cousins, playing cards, and football.

Our time was short, but we made the most of it. These memories are now preserved forever.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Happy New Year!

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Joys

Yesterday: The morning was spent running handouts for my work the first two weeks of January. This was followed by a quick trip to the grocery store to collect perishable items needed in the next few days. The evening was spent with the girlfriends exchanging gifts, consuming a vegetable bisque, and perhaps a fun martini.

Today: Food preparation is top priority today. Two desserts, one salad, one brisket, and a cheese dip in preparation for tomorrow’s dinner. For tonight I must prepare a loaded baked potato soup, a vegetable soup, and a cheddar jalapeno quick bread. My father-in-law and his girlfriend arrive shortly after lunch. My son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter will be arriving around seven this evening. It is a frosty day outside, but the welcome inside will be warm.

Tomorrow: Another day of feasting ahead! My brother, his family, and my mom will join us for a Christmas Day dinner. I know the day will bring many smiles. We will savor this time spent with our family.

The rest of the week will pass too quickly. My son is only here for a few days, so I know that we will be busy taking in all the sights and sounds around us.

Have a joyous Christmas! I know I will. 🙂

Celebrating Before the Holidays

Next week will be full of celebrations as family members arrive to celebrate Christmas together. Here are my celebrations this week!

One: My heart beat a bit faster when the news exploded with the hacking of Target’s customer’s credit card numbers. Recently I made a purchase there, but couldn’t remember the specific date. As my heart thumped in my chest, I checked my credit card statement on-line. Relief streamed through my veins when I saw the date I shopped was the day after the hacking. I celebrated that moment for me, but felt for all the people who will be impacted by this hacking. 

Two: On January 2 I must do an all day, all staff presentation. My offices will be closed from December 20-January 6. This presented a problem for me to have all the handouts prepared and run off in time. I celebrate that our secretary offered to come in on Monday. This gives me two additional days to work. I appreciate that she will go above and beyond, which gives me the time I need to prepare for my work.

Three: Teachers’ attitudes were cause for celebration. I worked with kindergarten and third grade teachers on understanding the writing common core standards. They had been out of school for a week due to ice and snow, it was two days before break, and they are already short on time during their teaching day, but they were trying to figure out how they were going to make adjustments to their teaching to incorporate these standards. 

Four: This week I went out to get the paper and was in awe of the spectacular sunrise.

Doesn't it look like the world is on fire?

Doesn’t it look like the world is on fire?

These colors disappeared too quickly!

These colors disappeared too quickly!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

 

Neighbors, Gotta Love ‘Em!

Saturday morning we awoke to another couple of inches of snow  covering all surfaces. Once again, driveways previously dry and snow free were wet and coated with a combination of ice and slushy snow. It was time for the most popular guy in the neighborhood (my husband who owns a snow blower) to begin his rounds of the driveways.

As he began the up/down, back/forth movements, I contemplated what I could do to help. I knew I would be no help in snow removal, but I could have a baked product ready for the weary, cold snow removal man. I set about creating some blueberry muffins ready to pop in the oven when my husband stopped. He didn’t stop for three and a half hours. The muffins became a side to join the soup for lunch.

Once the muffins (unbaked) were ready, I headed to my desk to begin working on a presentation. The phone rang as I was reading an article I considered using. I sprang from my chair, ran to the bedroom to grab the phone before the answering machine kicked in. The following is the conversation with my neighbor Dan.

Dan: Is this Mike’s Snow Removal service?

Me: Yes, it is.

Dan: When is he getting started?

Me: He’s already out there. Have you checked your driveway? I see he’s been across the street and he’s working on Dave’s right now.

Dan: You know if you ever move, there had better be an empty house next door to you, because I’m not ever letting you go as neighbors. That Mike is one to keep!

Me: (laughing) I agree, he is a hard worker.

Dan: I was just thinking, what if Mike had an incident like I did with my foot (side note: Dan broke a bone in his foot by stepping into a hole.), would you know how to run that snow blower? Do you think you should be getting some lessons? (worried tone to his voice)

Me: Well, no I do not know how to run the snow blower, but we do have the instruction book, so I’m sure I could figure it out.

Dan: That’s good, but maybe you should check it out.

Me: (laughing) We’ll see. Maybe someday. (said in a voice that indicates that isn’t happening)

Dan: You know what would make this neighborhood just perfect? If you made an Italian cream cake a couple of times a year. (This is a cake I make for my birthday and it only happens once a year, but he prods me to make it more often. You can tell he loves this cake.)

Me: Good-bye Dan. Check your driveway.

Later I am at my desk, with a view of the street and who should appear? Dan. He approaches my husband. I can tell he wants to know how to work the snow blower. The drives are all clear, but a plow has come through and created a mess. It left knee deep mounds in the middle of the street. Cars will not be able to make it down the street once this mess freezes up later. So Dan is getting his lesson on snow blowing 101 by taking down the mounds. Soon Dan heads back inside,I guess he is satisfied he knows how to run the snow blower.

I think he got the hang of it. I guess I won't need to dig out the owner's manual to learn how to run the snow blower.

I think he got the hang of it. I guess I won’t need to dig out the owner’s manual to learn how to run the snow blower.

While the snow blowing was happening, the neighbor to our left, Dave, knocked the snow out of our satellite so we could get TV reception. Another neighbor had KC barbecue sauce and homemade peanut brittle for us (she makes the brittle every year and it is soooo good!). We are truly blessed with good neighbors. I don’t plan on moving for a long time (that will make Dan so happy 🙂).

Simple Celebrations

The weeks seem to be flying by! I can’t believe it’s already time to reflect on celebrations.

Weather has kept me close to home this week. There has not been a lot of contact with the outside world. I celebrate when the world comes to my mailbox. Slowly the Christmas cards arrive and I eagerly read what friends and family have been doing during this past year. In my youth, I thought the yearly letters were stupid. I guess I’ve grown wiser and now I appreciate this little bit of contact with those we rarely see.

The Outback has been a gem in the ice, snow, slush of the weather we’ve had. It has safely and securely taken us to our destinations this past week. Unfortunately, the shiny white became a gritty brown mess. We celebrated that we had one day above freezing so my husband could remove the dirt and salt from this round of weather. The sad fact is it did not last long, however we may be in the forties next week. That alone is a celebration, warmer temperatures!

I have worked my way through most of the soup recipes I tagged when the weatherman predicted snowy cold weather. There was only one mishap with a cilantro and Italian parsley confusion. All recipes were tasty and may some day reappear in the soup bowl.

As our temperatures begin to warm (slightly), I celebrate that we made it through this round of inclement weather with no power loss or damage. I’m crossing my fingers to hope this run of luck continues.

Simple celebrations make for a happy heart. I hope your heart was happy this week too.

One Soup, Three Flavors

Check out more slices at Two Writing Teachers

Check out more slices at Two Writing Teachers

The first snow brought temperatures that don’t even belong in the deep freezer. The only way to combat the chilly outside is to have something warm to put inside oneself. Soup to the rescue!

recipe book

I have a cookbook of 1,000 soup recipes. After I purchased the book, I read over each recipe and left flag markers on pages of recipes that sparked my interest. These flags have been hanging in there for years. I must confess, I have not been faithful to this cookbook. Finding recipes are so easy on-line, plus you often have the added bonus of a photo.

Before I headed to the store to stock up before the weather arrived, I checked my cookbook. I made my list and purchased my groceries. I was ready for soup making!

Once home I studied my list of soups and my ingredients. Easy Tortilla soup would be first. I had some cilantro that needed to be used. As I looked over the ingredients I decided it needed to be supplemented. So I added chopped chicken and corn to the pot. Soup was served and enjoyed. It wasn’t until after dinner I realized I forgot to put the cilantro in. Whoops!

The next day I grabbed the leafy greens from the fridge so I could chop some cilantro up and add it to the soup. I figured heating it in the microwave would be comparable to five minutes on the stove. As I ate the soup, I couldn’t really taste the unique flavor of the cilantro. It was more bitter. That left me puzzled.

It must have been weighing on my mind because later in the evening I knew why it tasted bitter. I didn’t put cilantro in, I chopped up some Italian parsley that I had purchased for another soup. Whoops again!

There was just enough soup left for a small bowl for lunch. I was determined to get that cilantro into the soup. This time I grabbed the right bundle of leafy greens, chopped them, and put them into the soup to cook for five minutes on the stove. Yup, there was the cilantro taste I’d been looking for.

The lesson from this is to reread the recipe when you think you are finished just to make sure you really are finished adding all the ingredients.

Celebrating Weather

One day it is sixty-five degrees and the next day there is sleet and a difference of forty degrees on the thermometer. Fortunately the weather people had been predicting this for at least ten days, so no one should have been caught unaware.

I was supposed to be in a school during the initial stage of this weather system, so I celebrate that we were able to rearrange the calendar. I did not have to battle the elements, but could enjoy them from my warm home.

I dug out my 1,000 Soup Recipes cookbook and jotted ingredients needed for six different soups to try during this cold snap. Is there anything more satisfying than a steaming bowl of soup and a grilled cheese sandwich? Mmmmmm! All ingredients are waiting for their turn in the soup pot.

A snow blower is a cause for celebration when there is six to eight inches of snow on the driveway. I know that my neighbors celebrated when they looked out their window to see my husband blowing their driveways clean. We even scored a plate of cookies from one neighbor!

The temperatures have plummeted to single digits and minus zero wind chills. This cold snap prompted me to dig out my comfy pajamas I received last year from American Airlines as I traveled first class to Tokyo, then on to Singapore. (We cashed in airline miles to allow this luxury). Just the sight of the pajamas brought back memories of a wonderful winter trip that celebrated my brother-in-law’s retirement.

Today the temperatures are still frigid, but the sun is shining which makes the snow sparkle like diamonds. The first snow is always a a joy, so I celebrate this snowfall.

Wonder if it is this chilly in Paris today?

Wonder if it is this chilly in Paris today?

The table is ready and waiting for some frosty guests.

The table is ready and waiting for some frosty guests.

So what have you celebrated this week?