Packing up the Tree

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We finally did it….we finally took down the Christmas tree and packed up the ornaments. Yes….I know that Christmas was what…….three weeks ago? The only excuse I have is that this is how we roll over at our place.

It has always been this way in our home. We have never gotten the tree and all it’s ornaments up the day after Thanksgiving. It has always been a week or so later. I am not sure why….it is just the way it is around here.

Due to the fact we get our Christmas decorations up later than most people; I am thinking it is only fair we also take them down later than most people. Our festive decorations probably stay up the same length of time as other peoples’…..we just start later and finish later.

I only recall one year when the tree came down before New Year’s Eve. The reason for that was because we were entertaining and hosting a party at our home that year and the tree just took up way to much room in the living room.

For some reason it seems to take way less time to take those decorations down and pack them away than it does to put them all up. Makes me wonder if I spend too much time with ornament placement on my tree? Or, maybe it could be the fact you really don’t have to check the lights when taking them OFF the tree?

My frontroom does look a lot larger now than it did yesterday when the tree was taking up an entire corner….the downside is…it doesn’t look as festive and warm either! I have heard of people leaving their tree up and decorating it for other holidays, like Valentines or Easter.  I am not quite ready to do that as I really want my couch back in the room.

I kind of think my husband and I have a tough time letting go of the Christmas tree because Christmas is such a great time of family gatherings. For us it is the time our kids come home and we get to spend some time with them and the grandkids.

During the Christmas season we see friends and family that aren’t around other times of the year. We play games, open gifts, eat lots of great food and we get to celebrate that our Savior was born.

Maybe it kind of feels like when we pack up the tree, we pack up all those good things. Instead of looking at it that way, maybe I need to be looking at it from another angle. I think I need to be remembering that it isn’t the tree or the decorations that made the season so special…..it is the people we shared it with and the reason for that sharing.

Perhaps that is why New Years follows so closely….so we realize we get to have another year of joy…another year of sharing…another year of celebrating what makes life worth living. May you be blessed in the sharing, the celebrating and the living!

Some Christmas tree ornaments
do more than glitter and glow,
they represent a gift of love given a long time ago.
Tom Baker

 

 

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Sun Dogs

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Last night as I went outside to lock the girls in for the night I could feel the weather was once again changing. We had enjoyed a few really nice days where we actually made it into the thirties.

As I stood outside, the snow was falling (as it had for much of the afternoon) and the wind was picking up. Looking toward the barn I could see the snow sifting off the roof and falling in a fuzzy sheet onto the ground.

As we listened to the weather man he told us that it was, once again, going to dip below zero  during the night. It was definitely going to be a night for the heat lamp in the chicken coop so I headed back outside, (once again), to go plug it in.

Waking up this morning, the snow had stopped but the wind had not. As I made my way to the coop to check on the girls, the wind was bitter. It did not take long to numb my face and drive the cold through my big yellow farm gloves to also numb my fingers.

With the weather this cold and the sky so clear we were treated to a rather beautiful sight….sun dogs.  I have no idea why this phenomenon is called sun dogs but you know it is almost beyond bearable cold whenever you see them.

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For those of you who are not familiar with them; it looks like we have three suns. The real one in the middle and bright lights on either side. Today the sun dogs were brilliant and lasted a long time. It was rather ironic that only two days ago we had commented on the fact that even with all the cold weather, we had not yet seen any sun dogs.

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I didn’t stay outside long to take a lot of photos this morning; as the temperatures were just to harsh and the wind to cold to do so. Today was the kind of day where you only went outside to do what was necessary as the temperature never did get above a balmy  -4º.  It was truly a day to stay in and stay warm.

There is one consolation to the way this weather so quickly changes from a beautiful day to a freezing one….you know it can change back just as fast. I am ever hopeful that this will happen soon!

If we can believe the weatherman (and I choose to on this one) we only have to survive this sub-zero cold for a little bit longer. As my husband was putting more wood into the woodstove tonight I could hear him mumbling, “Just one more day…..”

It brought a grin to my face but I was in total agreement with his heartfelt words. These are the days to hang on to the fact that this cold will not last forever….spring will come…and with it….days that are warmed by the sun and not by the wood in the stove.

 

In cold weather a good rule is to light your fire first
before doing anything else.
It is always more sensible to keep yourself warm
rather than trying to thaw yourself out later.
Mors Kochanski

 

 

Chocolate Chip Cheese Bars

Chocolate Chip Cheese Bar

January is typically the month that many resolutions are being made. Resolving to lose weight, to exercise more, read through the Bible in a year, stay in touch with loved ones….and the list goes on.

Heading the list always seems to be the weight thing. For some reason when I decide I should work on the weight issue every amazing tasting food seems to end up in front of me. I am not sure how that happens or why. Is it kind of the Murphy’s law of dieting?

I had planned to bake less this season to help with the getting healthy idea. I really did plan to do that….and then the phone rang. A neighbor gal called to ask if I would take her turn bringing lunch to Coffee Break Bible Study on Wednesday. (She was busy moving cattle with her family). Of course I said sure…..I love to bake. (I love to eat too!)

I figured it was a great time to make those bars that are really addictive. If I am baking bars like these particular bars, it is always a good idea to bake them when you need to bring most of them away. It is never a good idea to have a whole pan of these in the house with just two people.

Chocolate Chip Cheese Bars
2 cups +4 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 Cup butter or oleo, softened
12 Tablespoons sugar
12 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Filling:
2 8-ounce pkg. Cream Cheese

1 Cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375º
Mix flour, baking soda, and salt….Set aside
Combine butter, sugars, and vanilla
Beat in eggs; add flour mixture, and mix well
Stir in chocolate chips
Blend until creamy
Put half in bottom of 9 x 13″ pan
Then spread filling mixture over this and top with rest of cookie dough
Bake 20-30 minutes
Cool and cut
Store in refrigerator (if there are any left!)

 

These bars are from a recipe book that the employees made when I worked at a lab that produced swine vaccines. I have always told people to look for the recipes in that book that are from a woman named Ethel. If you make any of her recipes you are in for a real treat!

I have a feeling that till the bars are gone those New Year resolutions are just going to have to wait….fortunately or unfortunately it won’t be long and they will be gone. I dallied with the idea of using this post and linking it to the Daily Post photo challenge “Growth”……for the very reason that consuming too many of these bars will definitely promote growth…of the wider, not taller variety! Aaaahhhh well…..tomorrow is another day…..I guess.

If you give these bars a try let me know what you think of them…..also please feel free to share some of your favorite recipes….I am always on the lookout for a new favorite.

“Take a bite of food,
if it tastes good…..spit it out
……you can’t have it!”
An Uncle

My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four.
Unless there are three other people.
Orson Welles

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/orson_welles_104829?src=t_diet

Morning Anticipation

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Today was a beautiful day! We seem to have finally turned the corner with warmer weather. We made it into the thirties today for temperatures and with the sun shining it felt downright balmy. (When thirties feel balmy…you know it has been cold!)

I went outside this morning, as the sun was coming up, to let the girls out of the coop. I wanted them to enjoy the beautiful weather as long as they could. When I stepped out of the door and actually took a look around me, I realized that I needed to go back in the house for my camera.

By the time I made it to the coop the girls were eager to get out and were all waiting for me to open the door to their run. They were not patient waiters but protested loudly that I was taking too long. I don’t think they understood just how much I was enjoying being outside, watching the sun turn the world into a twinkling shimmery place.

They had no concept of what a pleasure it was to stand there and take it all in….the haze over the river, the sparkle of the frost on the trees, the quiet of the morning waiting in expectation for the day to come.

Mornings like this one give the illusion of all things being possible. There is hushed anticipation as the world warms up and slowly awakens. Even the starlings, perched at the top of the tree in the front yard were expressing appreciation for the new day.

Days that start like this are a gift. They make me slow down and really see what a picture God has painted on the landscape.  The peace it brings is almost a tangible, touchable thing.

I never tire of the view I have been gifted with. No matter where you look there is beauty. It would seem the view is the same but there are so many subtle changes as the sun rises and sets.  The different seasons all hold a magic that turns the same landscape into such a variety of pictures.

Nature is such a reflection of life. We look like the same person but there are so many facets to each of us. Circumstances mold us much as the seasons change the landscape.  Some days we sparkle and twinkle in the sunlight and some days we seem cloaked in shadows. The wonderful thing is that no matter where we are at……it will change!

The quiet of the morning seems to grant permission to stop, be still and just absorb the moment. It gives that space of time to clear our heads, ponder thoughts and open our hearts for the blessing of a new day.

May your week be blessed with anticipation for what each day will bring. May you experience the joy of the possibilities this life holds and may this season of life find you sparkling in the sunlight.

 He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart;
yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

New Year….New Choices

New Years Eve 2017

Sometimes I wonder about that saying that goes something like this: The older you get….the wiser you get. I am not really sure that is total truth or just wishful thinking.

This past holiday weekend, I think we have been living in the deep freezer in our area of the country. When you have a high of -9º for the day, it certainly feels like a deep freezer….and when it gets to -24º, it is a certainty.

My husband and I always wonder aloud why we stay living here. I think the answer is somewhere between the fact that this is where we raised our family and this is where we are surrounded by familiar people and things.

Even with the terribly cold temperature there is the comforting thought of knowing that this weather cannot last because it never has. There is the wonderful knowing that if we survive this arctic blast…..spring and summer really are just around the corner.

I think that is what is so great about the New Year holiday. You know the weather more than likely will be extremely cold in an ugly way….but there is also the knowledge that it is the New Year and it will change. You also know that this is the start of another year to possibly do things in life better….so the weather is just an inconvenience.

New Years is kind of like a do over. It is a season of hope that if things have been bad last year….they will get better…..it is a season of realizing that you have made it through the past year and it’s challenges so there is really no reason you cannot make it through the coming year.

New Years is a promise of wonderful things to come, time to remember all the great things of the year that has just passed and choices to be made and the fact you will get to make those choices. You can choose joy in the little things over stress about things you cannot change. You get to choose to live instead of just survive. It is really an amazing gift to be able to make those choices.

Our New Years Eve party, this past year, had a theme of the Rainbow and the promises Bible coloring cardthat come with that rainbow. We did have to grin that our rainbow theme was the old-school rainbow idea that speaks of God’s love and His covenant with us…..not the new version the world has turned it into. We were asked to wear bright colors for the event.

Even though it was cold we did go to the party, and thoroughly enjoyed playing board games with colorful pieces, coloring with pencil colors, eating rainbow colored food, and spending time in great conversation with friends. We wondered about how wise we really were, heading off into the night when temperatures dropped to 20+ below! Sometimes you just have to make the choice to leave your cozy fire, brave the cold and enjoy the gift of gathering.

May this New Year bring hope, love and friends to spend time with. May you be blessed by the living of life and the days to do so. I pray your hearts are warm on the coldest of days and during the bleakest of times.   And may you choose joy in those times and life….every day of the coming year. Blessings to you in the New Year.

 

Today I choose life.
Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain…
To feel the freedom that comes from
being able to continue to make mistakes and choices
– today I choose to feel life,
not to deny my humanity but embrace it.
Kevyn Aucoin

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/kevyn_aucoin_358534?src=t_joy

 

Cousins

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My husband and I were commenting the other day and wondering why it seems to take a funeral; to get together with cousins that you have not seen in a long time. Another observation we made was how much laughter there could be at funerals.

It doesn’t seem like laughter and funerals go together but I must confess, around here they do seem to end up that way. This past week an aunt on my mom’s side passed away. She “went home” on Christmas day and her family knew she had the best Christmas ever.

We will be gathering to lay her to rest….and we will be gathering to remember the life she lived. I have a feeling there will be a lot of reminiscing with all the cousins that will be there. I also have a feeling that there will be lots of grins and laughter.

I think that at some points it will resemble a celebration of sorts. A celebration of life lived, a celebration of family gathering, a celebration of what makes family…family.

We will realize that family isn’t perfect and that is okay. We will remember the childhood nights spent at cousins’ homes and games played in those home. For those of us who grew up in our small town….we loved to go to the farm homes of our cousins.

There was always something exciting to do there. You could ride the pigs (when your uncles were not looking), you could stand on top of the cab of an old pickup in the grove and launch yourself onto a gunny sack swing and soar high into the air. There were board games to be played, games of Kick The Can and Moonlight Starlight Hope To See The Ghost Tonight.

You just knew it was a successful time when you went home in the back seat of your parents’ car feeling tired, having a cut on your shin from running into the cistern in the dark and feeling slightly sick from to much running in the heat and too much really sweet Kool-aid.

It was a carefree time to be a kid. There didn’t seem to be any big worries that we had. Some of our biggest concerns were, if we would be able to talk our folks into letting us stay overnight so we could have more time together. We also did our best to talk our folks into letting us each take a chicken home. (Even then I wanted chickens! …. and yes…we were successful on that one.)

There are so many wonderful memories of times spent with cousins on both sides of the family. I was fortunate to have a girl cousin my age on both sides. I went to school with them and spent my childhood years surrounded by cousins of all ages.

I can only hope that in the future my grandchildren will have those same close ties and connections with their cousins. I know they will be miles apart, instead of town blocks apart, but my prayer is that family ties stretch across those many miles.

I hope that someday when those future cousins meet to celebrate my “home-going” there is lots of laughter, lots of love and so many good stories to be told of time spent together at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. Time where they played games, got into a little (only a little) mischief, and made memories that will bond them together for a lifetime.

 

 

A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.
Marion C. Garretty

Cousins are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.
Ed Cunningham

Sticking Close

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I have spent the day finding my house back. By that I mean….clearing off the counters, putting away dishes used for Christmas, storing away bedding till the next time the family comes and picking up small Lego pieces from some of the oddest places.

When I got to the crate that held the nativity set I had to grin. This year we chose to let the grand-kids help set up the nativity set…..not because it was in the original plan, but because I had run out of time to get all my Christmas decorations put up this year.

As I read Luke 2, my husband handed out the pieces as they were mentioned. The virgin Mary was placed gently, by small hands, on the crate, followed by the donkey and Joseph. As the story unfolded the pieces found their way to their places. (We did realize that the wise men were not mentioned in that chapter but we gave them a spot anyway.)

For me, reading that chapter was a time I will always cherish. I got to see the events of that miraculous night, through the eyes of a child in all its’ wonder and joy. They did wonder why my set did not have the angels and the heavenly host or camels for the wise men……and I had no answer for that one. (I later headed over to Amazon and E bay to see if I could find some, but obviously my set has been long discontinued.)

The thing I noticed about the placement of those involved in the Christmas story was how very close my grandchildren had placed them together. They were all huddled as close as they could get to the baby Jesus.

Their closeness made me grin but it also made me stop and think. What if we all huddled and stuck that close to Jesus? What if we lived life with the wonder of a child and the simple faith they display? I have a feeling this world would be a much more peaceful place if that were the case.

I love all the little reminders, in my home, that my family has been here…..candy canes have disappeared off the tree.  I love the fact we had a few hours to spend all together….all at the same time. I am humbled by the grace displayed by my children and by their willingness to make this day special when we gather.

May we all “stick close” this coming year. May we all be blessed with grace and all the little reminders of those we love. Blessings to you all!

 

“While we try to teach our children all about life,
our children teach us what life is all about.” 
― Angela Schwindt

 

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you,
but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind,
your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” 

― Frederick Buechner