Tag Archives: holidays

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Holidays…

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For the first time in several years, my husband and I hosted Thanksgiving at our house. It was small by our family’s standards, with eight people total. However, we all fit at the table and I didn’t have to rearrange … Continue reading

Goals or No Goals?

It’s New Year’s Eve as I type this blog. This past week has been focused on setting up my goals for 2018. Do you do goals? I’ve gone back and forth on them until the past few years. Mostly because every time I set them, I’d consider myself a failure for never getting them all done in the year.

Then I realized something, after a year of not doing goals. When I do goals, I get more done. So maybe I don’t lose all the pounds I want to lose. But I see that list up above my computer and try a little harder. And maybe I don’t get four books written (did I REALLY write that as a goal?) But I get 2 ½ done. And that’s more than the one I did the year I didn’t write goals.

And fellow blogger Tricia Jones gave me an idea at the beginning of 2017. She suggested writing 100 goals for the year. Yikes! That was intimidating. But I did it. Everything from losing weight to getting the windows washed and the closets gone through. At the end of the year, I’d accomplished 49 of those goals. And I got another 13 over the halfway mark. I honestly don’t think I’d have gotten that far without having taken a look at that list every month.

So I’m officially a fan of goals. And, being a list-maker (I take after my mother), it’s completely satisfying to have a list to work from and check things off of.

Whether you do goals or not, though, my wish for each of you is that 2018 is a safe, happy, and peace-filled year.

I’ll leave you with a picture of Dude, in a rare outside foray with snow on the ground. He REALLY doesn’t like the cold. Poor kitty. But we managed a rare white Christmas this year, so Dude’s mom (me) was VERY happy. 🙂 Laurie Ryan

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To Tree Or Not To Tree, That is the Question by Valerie J. Patterson

To tree or not to tree.  That is the question.  Not quite Shakespearean, but close enough.

The holidays are a lot of work.  You’ve got the baking, the shopping, the wrapping, and the decorating.  And that’s just the preparation.  All of these things tie together to make the holidays festive, memorable, and delicious, but when it’s all over, have you ever wanted to just leave the decorations up a little longer than past New Years?  What’s acceptable?  When is it too long?

The norm in our neighborhood seems to be outside decorations need to come down–or at the very least no longer lit up–after New Years’ Day.  I was a rebel this year and not only left them up but also left them lit up until January 9th.  The weather that Saturday was a pure gift, and I spent the morning out in the front yard while the bubbly hubby was at work.  Removing all the decorations and lights was a bit of a bummer, reminding me how quickly the holidays pass.  When I finished and went inside, I stared at the tree standing proud in the center of my picture window, and I didn’t have the heart to tackle that as well.

One more week, is what I thought that evening as I turned down the lights and sat on the sofa with the bubbly hubby and watched the lights.  Just one more week, then I’ll take it down.

And then I talked with my sister-in-law, Tracy who told me she didn’t want to take down her tree, either.  Instead, she removed the Christmas decorations, replacing them with Valentine’s Day decorations.  She shared a photo and I was convinced.  This past Monday, Steve and I went and bought some Valentine’s Day decorations and this Saturday, I will change my Christmas tree into a Valentine’s tree.

And then–if I am still reluctant to take it down and put it in the closet–I will make it a St. Patrick’s Day tree!

So what about you?  To tree or not to tree?  What’s your choice?

Until next time, may the simplicity and beauty of tree lights bring color to your life!

The Art of Baking by Valerie J. Patterson

Tis the season, which means shopping, decorating, and loads of baking!  I used to have time to bake.  I’m not entirely certain when that changed or even HOW that changed, but each Christmas I bake less and less.

When my nieces were younger, my sister and her daughters would come to our house on Christmas Eve and we would spend the day baking and the evening eating and chatting and laughing and opening gifts.  When it came time for them to head home, they had a wide assortment of baked goodies to take home with them, and we all had a host of new memories!

This year, I contemplated baking Christmas cookies, but had the task all to myself.  My sisters are grandmas now, and are enjoying all of the experiences having grandkids at Christmastime brings.  I didn’t feel much like dragging out all of the old recipes.  Too many cookies for two people.  Too much time as well.  One evening, I was scanning through my newsfeed on social media and stumbled across the most amazing cookie recipe.

I say amazing because it has 3 ingredients!

Yep, I said THREE!

So, on the way home from work last Friday I stopped and picked up enough ingredients to make 2 batches of cookies.  I mixed one up on Saturday morning and was amazed at the ease, the appearance of the baked product, and the flavor!

Here’s the recipe:

Cool Whip Cookies  [yes, it reads COOL WHIP]

1 box of cake mix [any flavor]

1 eight-ounce tub of Cool Whip [whipped cream]

1 egg.

Preparation:  Add powdered cake mix to mixing bowl.  Add one egg–yoke broken–and Cool Whip.  Fold gently to incorporate cake mix into cool whip, then mix thoroughly.  Drop by teaspoonfuls into confectioners sugar and coat evenly.  Place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes depending upon your oven.  For larger cookies, drop by tablespoonfuls.

Enjoy!

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I have made devils food cookies and orange cookies.  Up next are spice cake cookies.

Until next time, may your home be full of family and friends, may your greatest gift be love, and may your Christmas be blessed!

Quickly Hopping In

100_6699Hello, Bunny here. By the time you read this, Kit, her two sisters and I will be far away, having jetted off to sunny Spain for a holiday. No Mum this time, the old girl feels 89 too old to go travelling, and I can’t say I blame her, airports and coaches are tiresome.

No doubt Kit will regale you all with our exploits in Nerja when we returns.

new chairMeanwhile, little George has had his cast removed and all is doing well. The poor lad has six bolts in each hip but everything has fused well and the surgeon is delighted at his progress. George is even more delighted as he’s got a new, super-duper wheelchair.

Dig those gorgeous blue wheels!

Kit was a bit worried about leaving the garden at this time of year but hopefully Dave will keep an eye on it and do some watering, which probably won’t be necessary as no doubt it will tip with rain at the weekend.

She didn’t replace the fence panel as she and Dave and the neighbours are discussing building a wall instead. Costly but will save a lot of wind blown hassle.100_6906

Right, I’m hopping off again to get a few last rays of sun before we fly home. Talk to you all again soon.

 

Special Events Lead to Special Memories by Valerie J. Patterson

Steve and I enjoy going to the theater.  It’s something we’ve always done.  We just enjoy movies whether they be mysteries, comedies, or action movies–and sometimes science fiction joins the mix.  However, we’ve recently taken to seeing the special events sponsored by Fathom Events.

A short time ago we got to enjoy Driving Miss Daisy with Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones.  Phenomenal!  Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones were remarkable, and just made for a special evening!!  It was an incredible, memorable event.

One of my very favorite movies is the musical White Christmas with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen.  2014 is the 60th anniversary of this musical, and Steve just happened across an advertisement for a limited engagement screening of the original White Christmas complete with commentary, interviews, and behind the scenes extras.  This event was being presented by Fathom Events and was available for two days only.  Steve took me to dinner and then to the screening.

It was incredible!  Loved every minute of it.  I’ve seen the musical countless times on TV, but to see it on the big screen just made it all the more better.  It was nearly three hours of pure enjoyment.  Loved the commentaries, the history on the cast and the film, and the anecdotes that were told about the cast during filming.  Definitely one of the highlights of the Christmas season!

We’re looking forward to seeing two of the operas being offered through this special event program.  What could be better than seeing the opera in the comfort of blue jeans and sneakers while munching popcorn?

Until next time, I hope you’re enjoying your Christmas season, have all your shopping completed and your wrapping done!  And to quote Bing Crosby, “If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep.”

Amazing Maize and Other Halloween Traditions by Valerie J. Patterson

I’m trapped.  I can’t get out.  I see no exit, and there are no windows.  I’m surrounded by, well, corn!  And it was a great experience!

A couple years ago I took my Sunday school class to a fright farm—not to see ghouls or goblins, but rather to go through a maize maze.  Have you ever been?  Yes?  Then you know how much fun they are.  No?  Then search for one in your area and go!

The Maize Maze I went to was 7 and a half acres of corn, 2 and a half miles of trails, and had one way in and one way out.  The brochure said to allow 4 hours to get through the maze.  Throughout the maze, there were food and beverage stations, tuba phones (for getting help from farm employees), bridges used to gain a vantage point to search for your next step forward, and clues to solving the puzzle, the mystery of the maze.  It was an excellent adventure!  Just when you were certain you were headed in the right direct, BAM!, you hit a dead end and have to retrace your steps.  The stalks of corn are taller than you are, so you have no choice but to press on and follow the path not only looking for the way out, but also searching for the next clue that will allow you to solve the mystery of the maze.

Before you know it, you’re so engrossed in your endeavor that hours fly right by and you find yourself at the exit.  As you step across that finish line, you turn and peer one last time at this humungous maze and you know that you’ve achieved success.  You conquered the maze and solved the mystery.

I really enjoy autumn, and Halloween can be and should be a fun holiday.  I’m not much for fright houses, horror movies, or monsters, but I enjoy searching for the perfect pumpkin and then carving it.  I like hayrides and bonfires.  I like the rich earthy tones associated with autumn gardens and decorating, and I adore masquerade parties!  I like the appeal of the mask hiding your identity until someone figures it out and gives you away.

When I was a sophomore in school my youth group had a masquerade party.  I worked and worked on my costume.  My mom helped me.  I sewed a hula hoop into the waistband of a pair of men’s trousers, then sewed a dress shirt to the outside of the waist of the trousers, making a one piece outfit.  I pulled my hair into a bun and scrunched it under a work hat.  Added a pair of work boots, and took some ashes from the fireplace, which I smeared on my cheeks.  I left my eyeglasses at home and had my dad drop me off a block from the youth center so no one could see me with him and gain access to my identity.

Inside the center, I walked over to a group of my girlfriends and waited.  They each turned and looked at me.  “Great costume.” I heard from several of them.  I nodded and smiled, but didn’t dare speak.  I was out to see how long it took them to figure out who I was.  Eventually, they wandered away from me and I heard, “I thought Valerie was coming tonight?  Anyone see her?”

I smiled and refrained from squealing.

One of the cute guys asked me to dance, which completely took me by surprise because I was not wearing an attractive outfit by any stretch of the imagination.  Plus, whenever I danced, the hula hoop sort of caused my costume to go in every direction at once.

He kept asking me questions, which I kept refusing to answer.  A slow song came on and he actually reached an arm around me, somehow avoiding the hula hoop.  “You’re really tiny,” he said, and I tried not to beam with pleasure.  He said something about the hula hoop being between us, but I didn’t hear it.  I was trying to keep my composure.

The song ended and he asked, “Not going to tell me who you are?”

I shook my head and he shrugged as he went back to join his friends—our friends.

That night I won most original costume, and I was pleased with that.  Then the end of the evening came and the award for most mysterious was still up for grabs.  I was called to the stage along with three others.  When the youth pastor came to me and handed me first prize, I was thrilled.  I’d pulled it off.  Then it happened.  A deep voice called out from the crowd.

“Hey Swanson?  Is that you?”

My head snapped up and my eyes darted to my left, locking with my earlier dance partner.  I’d been found out.  I got to keep my prize nonetheless, plus it was the end of the night, so I was fine.  I left the stage and headed toward my friend.

“How did you know?” I asked.

“Your eyes.  There was something familiar about your eyes when we were dancing.  It was while you were up on stage that I realized I was used to seeing them behind glasses.”

When my dad came to get me, he asked me how it went.  I told him it was one of the best parties I’d been to, but that it was also one of the loneliest evenings I’d ever spent while in a huge group.  My refusal to speak for fear of giving myself away proved to alienate me from my friends.  No matter.  It’s all about being mysterious.  It’s all about the masquerade!

What’s your favorite autumn activity?  Bobbing for apples?  Trick or Treating?  Hayrides?  Regardless, I hope you have fond memories of the activities and the people who were with you.

Until next time, I hope you have a little mystery in your autumn days, and plenty of blessings to warm you at night.