Saturday, December 16, 2006

Friday night date night, camels and candles

We're a pretty dull couple, to tell the truth. Bernie will slump in front of the TV most evenings while I read or surf the Internet.

Occasionally though one of us will get up the energy for a date night that goes beyond just heading out for Mexican food and a run to the mall.

Last night, whoo-whee! Middle agers gone wild!

First we took a walk through the woods and lake front down the street from our home. The mosquitoes were tolerable, and we needed to get our heart rate up, so by walking briskly we avoided being bit and simultaneously enjoyed the warm foggy late afternoon.

I guess that invigorating walk pumped my creative energy up too.

After returning home I was messing around in the kitchen, trying out a new bread recipe when the door bell rang.

I peeked out, and there on our porch were four boys, the "Our Gang Comedy" set that plays ball and ride bikes and generally does all the stuff that eight to ten years of age boys ought to do. Complete with a crazy dog named Sunny.

I opened our door, preparing to be hit up with a candy sale or some other kind of fund raising pitch. Instead, the boys opened their mouths wide and belted out a rousing chorus of Jingle Bells!

What a hoot! WHY didn't I take a picture??? Grubby boys in sneakers and tee shirts caroling, with nary a parent in sight. How delightful!
I rewarded them by offering them chocolates our candy dish, and they seemed genuinely amazed that they would receive anything for their serenade.

Is that wonderful or what?

So with "dashing through the snow" music still lingering in my ears, I asked Bernie out on a date.

"Wouldn't it be fun" I told him "if we could drive our illegal as heck Honda Trail 90 bike around the neighborhood and look at all the cool Christmas lights?"

Yes, that would be fun! So we put on our helmets and like Heck Angels, putt putted around looking at all the pretty lights. Children playing in the streets laughed hysterically at the sight of us tearing along at 20 miles an hour.
The neighborhood really does have some wonderful displays.

And as long as we were out running around, how about we drop in on our church's living Nativity scene and Bethlehem market?

Yeah! Let's do that too! That did mean actually going on Kingwood Drive, a four lane road, for a little bit. Daring!

The Living Nativity had sheep, goats, and a patient camel named Teddy.

His fur was wonderfully soft, and his odor was terrifically pungent.

While we were enjoying listening to the Nativity reading we bumped into our neighbors with the one year old.

Joseph was dancing and bopping around, but was not about to touch the camel.
Uh uh. No way.
Every time we suggested it, he grabbed his hands to his chest and violently shook his head. He did put his arms up for me to hold him. That was really neat...with all the people milling around I was surprised he recognized me.

I loved that small town feeling that came from running into neighbors at such a homey event as a living Nativity. There was even a real baby as Jesus!

Posted by Picasa Once we got home we lit our Hanukkah candles.

We celebrate Hanukkah because Jesus did, as recorded in John 10:22. We like the celebration of a miracle that followed a group that stood up for their beliefs so long ago.

And we like how simple it is; light a servant candle (the middle one) and that candle is used to light the candle to commemorate the days. The idea of The Servant is so ingrained in Christian theology, it is lovely to have it so delightfully demonstrated in this ceremony.

That's why there are two candles burning for the first night of Hanukkah in case you were wondering.

Bernie went to Israel in 1974 while he was in Bible college. He bought what he thought was a menora, but it actually was a Hanukia. Menoras have seven candles, Hanukia's have nine.

This is a different Hanukkia than the one Bernie got in Israel. I usually use this white one when I use my fine china. Last night Bernie requested we use it, I don't know why. Just a whim I suppose.

In today's paper I learned something new about Hanukah. I'll quote the lesser known story here:

"On the first day of Creation, God created light. It's a special or "hidden" light that only lasted 36 hours. During Hanukkah, every Jew has a way to tap into the hidden and special light. At the end of the eight-day holiday, the candles have been lit 36 times."

Bernie and I had to get out our Bible to figure this out. At first we thought three days of creation before the sun and moon were made to make light as we know it. But that added up to too many hours. But then we re-read the first day of Creation, and indeed there was dark and light, evening and morning, so that would make the math right...three twelve hour portions of light that was present before the creation of the sun.

Interesting. I had never noticed that before!

While the candle burn we have a quiet family time, and often it is the most peaceful part of our Christmas season.

Tiggie likes the candles too. Orange cats look good by candlelight.

I usually make latkas one night during the season, and we enjoy spinning a driedle or two.
Tiggie really likes that part. He has his own dreidle that he likes to spin under things, so we have to go find it for him each night.

We haven't told him about betting on how the dreidle falls. Knowing Tiggie, he would probably find a way to win each time. Even if it took giving a little nudge with his whiskers.

The colors are everywhere!

Our back yard is red and green right now. The Japanese maple branches are red, the begonia has leaves that are red on the back and green on the front, the heavenly bamboo has red berries and green leaves, and the middle smaller maple is solidly red all over.

If you click on the picture to the left you can see a larger screen of the picture. It's worth looking at it that way, in order to see the color details.

Around town Bradford pears and sweet gum trees are blasting color. These two trees are at the edge of our grocery store's parking lot.
How about these trees? They are just outside of the library where I work. It amazes me that one tree can have so many colors all at once.
Posted by Picasa The trees remind me of the sponge paintings of trees that we used to do as kids in elementary school.

The teacher would have us color or ink a bare tree, and then we would be given chunks of torn sponge, which we could dip into blobs of red, yellow, orange and green tempera paint.

The paint loaded sponge would then be touched to the paper, leaving the holes of the sponge blank, and producing a perfect replica of the dotted fall leaf pattern so similar to these trees.

I don't think any of those kinds of painting every came out less than fabulous, even when done by the least artistic child in the class. I wonder what brilliant teacher first dreamed up that project.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Red and Green: Maple and More Mice

The Japanese maple by our bedroom window dropped all its leaves very early in the season, like in October. It then put out new leaves, which rapidly cycled through pale lime green to bright red.

Not all over, mind you. Just a few branches, way up on the tip of the tree.

I should have combed "Knight Before Christmas" Mouse's whiskers before I took his picture.
The Choir mice. I sang in the children's choir, and we had black robes with white colors.

I would have been thrilled to have had red and lace. I also imaging most Southern California boys would have flat out refused to sing in any choir so attired!

My little trio is ethnically diverse...

The first one I got came with a poem:

"My name is Peter Church Mouse and I sing in the choir. I live in the highest organ pipe, but I can sing even higher."

The middle mouse is missing his hymnal, and one of his pink inner ear circles.

That's because he went on an adventure with a four year old boy named Jeff.

Jeff liked that mouse, and decided the mouse should come along with him for some fun.
Jeff stuck the mouse into his jean's pocket and off they went for some rollicking good Christmas play time.
A few days later, Jeff's busy mommy didn't have the time to check Jeff's tiny jean's pocket before she threw the jeans into the laundry. Peter never made a squeek as he went into the washer with a splash.
Happily, Peter C. Mouse survived his rather violent baptism which included a cup of Tide and a wild spin in the drier.
Who know what happened to Peter's hymnal and ear.
Other than that, Peter was just glad to be back with his mousey buddies, and has never gone adventuring with four year old boys again.

(The one-year old next door made a grab for Peter though. Peter had a twinkle in his eye, and I think he would have pleased to have been off on another adventure; twenty two years have passed since Peter's last romp. I'm going to have to keep an eye on that mouse!)

Posted by Picasa And Rabbi Mouse wishes everyone a Happy Hanukkah!
Latkas and dreidles anyone?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Red and Green: Begonia and Christmas Mice!

Our "Aunt Lue" begonia has heavy frost damage in front, but the part that is next to the warm house bricks is in bloom. "Aunt Lue" is from Bernie's great aunt Lue. Pieces of her begonia have been handed down for three generations, and live in three states now.

I love how the blooms look like little red hearts and the leaves have white dot, like little snowflakes. Very Christmas-y, don't you think?

And now...your attention please!


Are they not the cutest? Wait till you hear how I got them.

Years ago in a part of San Diego known as Pt. Loma, there was a yearly home tour held at Christmas time. All Soul's Episcopal church had several homes decorated for the holidays, usually one tiny home, one grand estate, and one family friendly abode.

Part of the decorations were the craft items that the church ladies had created during the year. One year they created a small felt mouse, which they named "The Knight before Christmas." He wore a striped red flannel night shirt, and night cap, and carried what looked like a burning match. There was a small poem attached by a golden thread: ""Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, one creature was stirring, 'twas this little mouse".
That's him peeking out in the far back, in the stripes.
The mouse was bought by "Santa" and slipped into my stocking that year. The next year choir mice were added, and before you could say "Mice are nice" I had a mouse for every phase of my life, and a few extras.

See the grandma mouse holding the cookie sheet? Our kids used to spend the night with my folks before Christmas and bake cookies.

The blue plaid and green shawled mouse came from England.

Posted by Picasa There's the college graduate mouse, a golf mouse, and a ski mouse for hubby.

I'll be posting more of the mice daily. They really are worthy of their own portraits.

So between red and green in nature, and any additional millinery that has Christmas overtones, and the mice, count on lots of Christmas-y posts right through to the New Years.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Red and Green: Not Sure, and the other tree

It's red and the azalea bush is it counts.

I think the red is part of a Virginia Creeper vine, but don't quote me.
I got my second little tree up this weekend. It's in our bedroom's bay window, and I feel oh-so-cozy in bed with the lights glowing.

I've just put a smattering of our family ornaments on it. I have a large collection of hand made and story ornaments that are mostly unbreakable/baby proof.

Story ornaments are ornaments I've acquired on trips or to note some event.

Some year I'd like to photograph each ornament and write the "why' behind it. Then I'd have it made into a book, ornament on one page, story on the next.

If I don't do that, then some day no one will know that the little sheriff's badge was a tiny prize that we won on our honeymoon in Big Bear CA.

Or that the felt skates were made by Chris Stewart.

I needle pointed two Eskimos while my husband surfed. The kits were something like 75% off, and so cute I couldn't resist. Daughter Laura had them to amuse her on her swing during her first Christmas.
Posted by Picasa The flag was created by me using three different ribbons, jingle bells and a gold pipe cleaner stem. It was one of my yearly hand made ornament gifts for my friends. One year I made over thirty ornaments, this while caring for my two babies under the age of two!

I made three of each handmade ornament for us; one for our tree and two I put away until the kids had homes of their own.

Turns out Jeff likes gold and red ornaments. USC colors, and he just likes those colors anyway. He was the one who encouraged us to have a gold, silver and crystal tree.

He also like white lights. He is fulfilling one of my dreams of seeing multicolored outdoor lights reflecting on snow; he put up multicolor lights in his new back yard just for me. Everywhere else....white lights.

Daughter Laura collects mermaid ornaments. She is our red haired waterbaby, who surfs. swims, played H2O polo, and life guarded. The Little Mermaid type. Her tree is really cool too.

I imagine that *someday* I will have grandchildren and we will be putting up all the family ornaments with multi-colored lights. Little kids should always have multi-colored lights.

They say everything comes back in style eventually. Maybe by then having hand made ornaments on the tree will be "in" all over again!

Meanwhile, I feel like a kid again, snuggling in my bed with my multi-colored lights and unbreakable ornaments glowing across the room, breathing and dreaming surrounded by the marvelous scent of Christmas tree.


The old neighborhood dresses up pretty nice at night.

This is across the street from us.
Across the street and one over (those are wooden soldiers in the foreground)

Two doors down, during the day time, these guys sit deflated on their front lawn. They look like laundry needing to be folded. Not pretty. Cute at night though.

Posted by Picasa Next door, the house where we had dinner on Saturday. The snow flake twinkles.

Our house has red and green lights on the holly bushes under the front windows. Minimal, but effective. One year I decorated every bush in front. It was great!

Barbara next door was pleased we used colored lights as most of the houses went for white lights, and one year old babies prefer colors, right?

This is barely scratching the surface compared to what goes on up in Salt Lake City. The Temple Square is amazing, with all their trees wrapped in lights out to the tiniest twig. I loved the hot pink trees last year.

Dallas had a pretty good Christmas light decoration thing going. Near our house was a guy who decorated his two story enormous house by outlining EVERY brick and shingle in lights, front, back, sides, roof. Then he did every bit of the yard, the grass was green lights, the bushes, trees etc etc. You could stand in front of it and warm up!

Bernie was a fan of two other homes. One home owner had changed the duel spot lights over the garage so one light was red and the other was green. Yea-ah! As a card carrying member of IBEW, Electrician Bernie has little tolerance for putting up lights that need to be taken down again in a single month. Too much like work...but this year he did help me put out two strands on the bushes!

We both liked the guy in Dallas who slid the little Styrofoam tray full of lights out of its sleeve, and nailed it up with the lights still in the Styrofoam and plugged it in.

Can't you just hear it:

"Honey, could you put these new lights up outside?"

"Yes dear."

(Sound of sleeve slipping off the Styrofoam tray, then WHAM as the hammer hits one nail)

"Honey, the lights are up. I going to go play golf now. See you later!"

But the Christmas lighting winner for the entire universe is Christmas Utah. The guy has his music broad casted via a radio station and has over 100,000 lights "performing" to the songs. A sign tells you which station to tune into, and you could spend hours watching the show, as he has sync'd multiple songs.

Enjoy his work at

and see some of this year's show at:

I'll be seeing them in person again this year, as we'll do Christmas in San Diego and then head to SLC the day after Christmas.'s going to be a great Christmas!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Millinery: Christmas Millinery

I did a Google search for "Christmas Hat", and discovered that all there is for that search is Santa Hats.

Isn't that just sad?

So I'm going to do my part to fix that. This Christmas hat, finished today at 2 p.m. is a Daphne pattern, available from Judith M.

The fabric is dupioni silk, 60 inch wide on the bolt, and marked down to $8.60 a yard.

What a deal. I got two yard. Irresistible!

As you can best see in the third picture, the fabric is iridescent, and changes colors in the light.

The side band I ruched, using the green side of the fabric. I really like ruched effects, but I still have a lot to learn.

I cut the band double the width but didn't increase the length, which limited the ruching to mostly a pleated effect. I'm thinking of making a Jill in this fabric and ruching it too.

I already had the berries that I used for trim on this hat. I had gotten the berries for my pink hat project that I was working on last June.

I wound up not using them on the pink riding hat...and now I'm glad I didn't because the berries work much better on this hat.

The tip of the hat is the red side of the fabric, and the brim is red on both sided. I debated making the brim two colors, but decided the red fabric underscored the green ruching.
Here you can see how the fabric looks in a single light source, in this case a camera flash. I intend to make a matching scarf too, Joan is modeling a remnant piece at her neckline.

There just something wonderful about matching a hat and a frames the face so well.
Posted by Picasa I wore the hat hot off the needle today to an Ultimate Divas hat fashion show. Ultimate Divas is a company started by a Christian African American woman who wishes to encourage Black women to be independent, educated, intelligent, and elegant. Some of the models were students from Texas Southern University, a black college here in Houston.

Between "sets", while the models changed, the Praise Dance team of a black church performed.

And just for the sake of eye candy, the models were escorted in one set by the Houston Men on Fire, the calendar model Houston firefighters. They sell their calendar to raise money for the Salvation Army Angel Tree project.

May I just say the firefighters looked...ahem....HOT?
Yes...They...Did. Very.

So it was a busy weekend. I worked, sewed, and we were invited to dinner to our neighbors. The wife Barbara is working on her Phd in Math at Rice University, and her husband Andrew travels a lot. They have an adorable one year old, and four of the biggest dogs you have ever seen in your life. Their son Joseph and the dogs are all well behaved and oh so happy to have people over! Barbara wanted to do a trial run on her Christmas dinner menu for her family, so we were treated to a salt encrusted beef item that was to die for, and a flourless chocolate cake.

Her family is in for a treat this year!

And finally after a couple of weeks of very low humidity plus cold weather plus heaters equal dry skin, I am delighted to look out the window and see all the Christmas lights on our street sparkling in the rain.

It's been a good weekend. And I'm still in a holiday mood!