Thursday, December 31, 2015

A bit of Christmas DIY

In March of 2014 we picked up some lovely, large pine cones while traveling through California.   Heading into Christmas, I saw some glittery pinecones for sale and told Anna we could make our own.  

 And so we did.  The entire family got in on the fun.  We simply applied a spray adhesive then sprinkled glitter on the cones.

 I included the cones with other decorations around the house, including on the fireplace mantle.  I was quite pleased with the result!
 Another view of the mantle,  not including the pine cones.
 And a couple of peeks at another room:

This weekend I'll have to put the decorations away.  I will reuse the pine cones next year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


A belated Merry Christmas!  As you can see, we had a white Christmas.   Despite the fact that I don't like snow, I think it is incredibly beautiful against a clear blue sky.

We had a fairly quiet Christmas.  My kids aren't little anymore, so the excitement is waning.  My Dad spent the night, as he has each year since we moved back.  In addition to Dad we had one friend with us for Christmas Eve, which is "the big event" for us.  We went to a 4:00 church service then came home to a traditional dinner of meatballs and lefse. After dinner we open gifts.  We also get a few gifts from Santa on Christmas morning.  That's how things were done when I was growing up and we continue that tradition.

Atypically, the kids made small gingerbread houses this year.  That was never a tradition for me, but my daughter especially wanted to do it this year, so I bought a pre-made kit and let the kids do whatever they wanted.

I am quite happy that we have passed the shortest day of the year.  Currently we have sunlight only from approximately 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  In the summer we stay light until nearly 10 p.m., which I much prefer.

I bought a fondue pot on an after-Christmas sale.  I'm hoping to start a New Years tradition of fondue for dinner.  I think I'll need to make creme brulee for dessert,  as we've done that 2 of the past 3 years and my daughter wants that to be an annual event.

What traditions do you observe?

Monday, December 14, 2015

A living Christmas Tree

It's been 20 years since I left cold, snowy Minnesota for the warmer, drier high mountain desert of Idaho.  I was the last member of my family to leave.  Just over a year ago my youngest brother moved back to Minnesota.   I thought he was crazy.

This year I've been waiting for the frigid winter of my childhood memories to force my brother to admit I was right about being crazy to live in Minnesota.  Sadly, things aren't going as I expected in the weather department.   While my brother posts pictures on Facebook of his green lawn, I am forced to post pictures like the one above.  I took it tonight when we, once again,  got blanketed in snow.

I don't mind it TOO terribly much since Christmas is coming.  And it is pretty, especially with the lights. Apparently a little humility is in order for me.  Frozen humility.

Monday, December 7, 2015

I'm a pessimist.  Recently I was wondering if this might be our last abundant Christmas, and I remembered that I have wondered the same thing on many previous Christmases.

I'm attending Bible Study Fellowship this year and we are studying the book of Revelation.   It is beyond anything I expected and nothing like I expected. I've always thought of Revelation as the book that tells all of the terrible things that will happen at the end of time, and I suppose it does.  But so far (we've gotten through chapter 5) it has been focusing on the praiseworthiness of Jesus and the wonder that awaits us when we get to heaven.

Last week we were looking at a verse which talks of how all creatures on earth and in heaven and under the earth and in the sea are going to praise Jesus. One of the ladies wrote a beautiful,  poetic description of various created beings praising God.  I was stunned by her writing and, besides appreciating what she wrote, I realized my pessimism is getting in the way of fully enjoying and appreciating Jesus.  So I determined that this week I would make a conscious effort to shelve my pessimism and get EXCITED about eternity.   This week, however, we are detouring from Revelation to the book of Joel. What I've read so far was total gloom and doom, sackcloth and ashes, weeping and mourning stuff.  I couldn't help but laugh - so much for my attempted optimism!   But then again, it did make me laugh, so maybe all is not lost!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Rome and My Dad

It's been more than 2 months since I was in Italy so I thought I would share some pictures.  Just a few, I lack patience for narrating right now.

We had just 1 day in Rome so we made the best vacation decision we have ever made: we hired a private tour guide.  That is the way to go!  Our guide was a 60-something gentleman who was knowledgeable and very personable.  In addition to giving us an amazing overview of the city, he took us to JUST the place to find a very particular souvenir for our son.  We would never, EVER have found what we wanted.

In one day we managed to see the Forum, Colosseum,  Pantheon, Roman Baths, Circus Maximus and assorted churches and fountains.  I do not recommend trying to see Rome in 1 day, but that was all we had and our guide made the most of it.

I quick update on my Dad, since I posted about him:

Last week he was supposed to have his first chemotherapy treatment.  It was begun, but he had an allergic reaction to the medicine which prevented him from breathing.  It was traumatic for him, but I must say the nurses knew exactly what to do and they handled everything quickly and professionally.

Today was supposed to be the "restart" date with a different drug.  Before the scheduled treatment we met with the oncologist.  Dad and the doctor decided he is not going to proceed with chemotherapy.  He is getting radiation which is supposed to have a 60% chance of curing  him.  Given that Dad is already 84 those are acceptable odds.

The last few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster because of everything with my Dad, but hopefully now radiation will continue without any big issues and we will go on with normal life.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Today Mark Hall, the lead singer from my favorite Christian group Casting Crowns, is undergoing surgery for cancer.

Also today I and one of my brothers will be accompanying my Dad to a cancer treatment center in order to glean information about the options of treatment for my Dad's recently diagnosed cancer.

I am finding it difficult to breathe.  Not in a true physical sense; nothing is wrong with my breathing.  But I have learned about myself that when things get stressful I forget to breathe.  I feel my body struggling; I want only to sleep; things hurt for no reason; that is when I remember that I need to take deep breaths.

I suspect if anyone had observed me yesterday in the examining room at the doctor's office with my Dad they would have thought I am a very cold person.  I cannot explain why I was unmoved by the news that my Dad's cancer is very aggressive and the recommendation that extreme measures be taken to hold it at bay.  Why I doled out tissues to my Dad and his friend but I didn't need any.  I watched my Dad's reaction, observed the look on his face which I've seen just once before (the moment his Mom passed from death to eternal life).  I observed his friend, a woman who has become valuable in our lives, struggling beneath the weight of the news that she is going to lose a man who has become valuable in her life.  I don't believe I was in shock.  This was not unexpected news for me.  I had read much about Dad's condition since first learning there was something wrong.  I knew the possibilities.

Yesterday, before getting the news, I prayed for Mark Hall.  I'm going to be honest here, and it will give people yet another reason to think I am cold.  I told God that, if it were possible, I would choose for my Dad to die rather than Mark Hall.  I don't think that makes me cold.  The fact is that Mark Hall is a relatively young man and I believe he has young children.  My Dad, at nearly 85, has already lived longer than many people.  His children are grown.  He has grandchildren and great grandchildren.   I want Mark Hall to have the opportunity to watch his children grow up, get married and give him grandchildren.

I've told people that I lost my Dad the day my Mom died.  The man I knew as my father disappeared.  Once in a while I saw a glimpse of him but, truly, the Dad I knew has never fully reappeared.  Which is not to say all has been gloom and doom.  I have shared many times of rich, full laughter with my Dad.  Even yesterday, after we returned from the doctor, there were times of laughing so hard I could barely breathe.  But I've had nearly five years of realizing my Dad was not really here anymore.

So why, now, am I struggling to breathe?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Catching up, again

I cannot seem to write consistently.   I think often of things to write,  but never transfer the thoughts to keystrokes.   So here is the abbreviated version of recent events:

We've officially moved into a house which we are buying rather than renting.  Prior to moving in the interior was painted top to bottom,  literally.   We also replaced or relocated nearly every light fixture,  replaced carpet and had the furnace and ductwork cleaned.   The house was not well cared for, so these were the minimum requirements for moving in.   There is a long list of projects which will need to be undertaken over time.

Of course there was a trip to Italy from which I should be sharing pictures. The trip was brought on by the fact that my husband was recently promoted to a position which has him managing people in many countries,  one of them being Italy.   The new position means he's working more than ever, sigh.

Homeschooling is not going as well as hoped.  I simply don't have time to teach.  Thankfully my son is disciplined enough to do his work without me, but it's not an ideal situation.   He will go back to public school next year.

Complicating everything, on Monday we learned my Dad has cancer.  I'm not sure what that will mean going forward.  Surgery is scheduled next week and some time after that we will learn the full prognosis.  

So I guess life never slows down!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Hello from Sicily! I am in the midst of a whole new style of traveling. I am accompanying my husband on a business trip so, while he has built in some time for tourism, I am on my own most of the time. The first few days of our trip were spent in Virginia, where we are in the process of selling our home. I was able to catch up with many friends while there and so thoroughly enjoyed my time. We are currently in Catania, Italy. I'm trying to write this post on my phone, having left my iPad on an airplane, so please forgive spacing, spelling or other errors. Before I write much more I will share a few miscellaneous photos: Early on in my time here, I discovered a wonderful combination of cappuccino and Cannollo, a local dessert.  Other than that, I have been disappointed in the food.  I think the issue is that I am used to American style Italian food which, as usual, is very different from the real thing.

One interesting food note: last night we dined with some of my husband's colleagues.   One of them ordered horse meat as his entrée.   The idea horrified me, but I understand it is normal here.  My husband actually tried the horse and he loved it so much that he wanted me to try it.  Unfortunately  (or fortunately,  perhaps) I was unwilling to try it.  Even now thinking of it turns my stomach.

The part of Catania that I am most enjoying is the sound.  My favorite thing is to go into a piazza and just look and listen.  The atmosphere is always festive. There are groups of people, men mostly, standing around talking and sometimes gesturing wildly;  there is always a man playing an accordion  (which brings a smile to my face and seems quintessentially Italian ); and there are church bells ringing frequently.   I have tried to no avail to figure out the schedule for the bells.  I thought they would ring on the hour, but it seems to be on the half hour and they do not ring consistently from one hour to the next.  On Sunday (while enjoying cappuccino and Sicilian Cannollo with my husband) the bells began to ring and suddenly there was a loud explosion.  Eric and I looked at each other in alarm.  There was another explosion at which time Eric observed that no one looked the least bit alarmed.  Reassured, we continued with our cappuccino.   The explosions continued for several minutes.  Last night at dinner I asked the reason for the explosions.  No one knew.  They guessed perhaps they were in anticipation of a religious remembrance that is upcoming.  Explosions? Apparently no big deal in the life of Italians!

Monday, January 5, 2015


On Christmas morning, Eric and I were up long before the children.  That is the first time that has happened probably since Anna was 2.  It was very odd to be sitting up enjoying a cup of coffee and waiting for the kids to get up!

On New Year's Eve we had dear friends visiting.  We think we may have a new tradition, since it has now happened twice, of homemade creme brûlée.  Two years ago it was made at our friends home, this year at ours.  It was much easier than I expected and it is a much loved treat, so I'm sure I will be making it again.

Two nights ago my brother and I sat in an emergency room with our father until 3:00 a.m.  Although he quit smoking 4 years ago (in very impressive fashion: cold turkey!) approximately 60 years of the habit have left their mark.  Thankfully for now his issues are very treatable and he should be back to normal within a few days.

In a few hours we return to the routine of school and work.  Not sure how my side of that will go, since sleep has once again eluded me!

Next week Eric's aunt arrives.  She has graciously agreed to stay with our kids so that I can accompany Eric on his first business trip to Italy.  I'm supposed to be excited about the trip but I don't seem to be.  Perhaps it's the apprehension of leaving the kids; perhaps the fact that, other than 1 day with a guide in Rome, I have no idea how we will actually spend our days.  In a little more than a weeks time we will be visiting 3 cities.  I've been unable to come up with a "must see" list for 2 of them despite asking a travel agent and a total stranger for help.  (I heard a woman in a store say she had just returned from Italy.  I approached her hoping for advice.  She was happy to talk to me but the only city I'll be visiting that she was familiar with was Rome, where we have the guide.)

When we return from our trip the sellers of our new home should have moved out, so I'll be able to get to work there.  I haven't scheduled movers yet, and won't until I return and have some idea when the house will be ready.  Eric has another business trip shortly after Italy, so chances are good we will be moving without him.  That is taking the fun out of it for me.  I think I need to adjust my thinking on that score! I have pictures from Christmas and New Year's Eve, but they're on another device and I don't think I retrieve them without waking the house, so today I can only post words.