Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hannukkah, Christmas and such 2014

Oh it was the loveliest December!
It was perfect...
From cutting down our own Christmas tree in the snowy forests, to trips to see the lights in Temple Square, to a Anniversary dinner at a fine French restaurant it was perfect.

This year...
It was a time to decorate with new lights,

It was time to enjoy sunsets whose colors glowed both the west and to the east.

 It was a time to bake, and enjoy eating with loved ones and friends...

And enjoy sipping hot cocoa with whipping cream and sprinkles!

It was time to write Christmas cards while listening to Christmas music, and to help a class of two year olds put glitter on wooden Popsicle stars in Sunday school.
(Eye crossing activity that one!)

The weather was snowy as December began, then it became so warm it looked like this year we'd  be having a Green Christmas this year.

At last...snow did fall, just right, right on Christmas  Day. 
(8 inches--whee!)

One morning I went out and found the plastic sleeve of the newspaper spangled with beautiful frost.

Then on Christmas morning I spied these marvelous creations out on our deck railing.

Beauty was to be seen if one only looked!

This Christmas season...
 I had my lists of things to do and yes they took some focus to accomplish.
Somehow...dreamily...the lists steadily got done with very little sense of frazzle.
Somehow...there were many spaces to simply be in the moment, in the season, and to enjoy.

Hanukkah was celebrated as usual with the cats fully observing the nightly candle lighting ceremonies.

Bernie was out of town the first night.
He was pleased this year to be home for the other seven nights.

I think the quiet of nightly reflection during Hanukkah somehow slows and enriches our Christmas season too.

This was Luke's third Hanukkah.
One of his favorite books is one titled "The Eight Nights of Hanukkah". 
It is a story sung to the tune of  The 12 Days of Christmas.
I imagine one day he will be rather surprised to learn there is a Christmas version of that tune!

On the seventh night of Hanukkah we hosted an open house with eight guests arriving to enjoy Latkas with sour cream and apple sauce, freshly baked Hallah bread, Kugel (sweet cinnamon noodle dessert), brisket and chocolate gelt.
All served  and eaten on vintage crystal snack plates.
I should of taken a picture!

That night Luke and Bernie talked about the Light of the World, and how we are to be lights to the world.

Then Luke learned a bit about Jewish gambling.
He clutched his gelt tightly and watched the dreidel spin.

Two school age boys filled me in on what their school had taught them about Hanukkah.
They and their mom were very surprised to learn that the Driedel was used as a cover for forbidden prayer.
When men gathered to pray and were approached by disapproving authorities, a dreidel was quickly spun and the prayer time was instead reported as gambling...and that activity was completely legal.

Luke had his winnings...another boy won and won and won again until his mom had to pull away some of his towering piles of chocolate coins.
The chocolate was made in Israel.
A few coins still linger around the house to be finished on New Years Day.

Well back to Christmas.
This year...
 I celebrated having TWO grandsons by purchasing these tiny 1950s era Lefton elfs.
The sitting elf is a dead ringer for could I resist!
This year...
I settled on using real garland with white lights draped around our sliding glass doors and more on our mantel, with golden balls, cinnamon scented pine cones and dried flowers mixed in.
Our tree was decked likewise with gold, crystal and white, with brown scented pine cones and dried flowers.

A large similarly decorated wreath hung about the likewise decorated mantel.
(The wreath is silk and I have had it for decades now.  It is easy to switch up according to my decorating whims each year.)

I switched our furniture around and discovered we liked this arrangement more than having the couch face the fire place and the chairs flanking the fireplace.
The big ottoman is now often topped with a big red wood tray that can balance coffee cups, newspaper and whatever else I want close by while still leaving room for propped up feet.

I wonder why I never thought to arrange the room this way before?

On one end table my crystal nativity set shone brightly from the light through the window.
A crystal tree sat on another, reflecting the Christmas tree lights.
A Christmas print of two love birds was hung above my kitchen sink.
The small lighted ceramic tree, a wedding gift, sat behind the elves on my great grandmother's tea cart.
New Christmas lights bedecked our eaves, and our lighted reindeer glowed next to the garland wound lamp post (with a new lamp atop...Halloween pranksters shot out the lens of our 1950s era lamp so it was time to get something new.)
A wreath hung by the front door, and a basket of scented pine cones sat beside the door.
A stuffed croaking frog sat in a childhood rocker and nearby was a red train case full of my childhood gathered themed felt mice. 

A few mice escaped now and then for a romp and to pose beneath flowers or  to enjoy a play session with a visiting child.
That was all the decorating I did.
It was a greatly scaled down decorating endeavor this year and yet I don't think I have ever enjoyed the over all effect more.

Christmas eve:
Our tradition is to order several kinds of tamales (the mole tamales were outstanding!) and we enjoy eating a tamale dinner before Church.
This year...
the baby boys had been having sleeping issues and at long last took epic naps that stretched passed the time of both our Christmas eve services.
I think God understands why we missed being there.
(I am sure Mary would!)
This year...
 the meal was at my house, served on the Christmas dishes and stemware that were purchased using Christmas money sent to us by Bernie's maternal grandfather, usually $25 a year for the whole family.
The dishes have been in use for about 35 years now.
I am so glad I didn't buy the kids toys with the money.
The memories gained through those dishes used at Christmas are priceless.
(This year I added something new: the tumblers next to the stemware were a totally unexpected find during a "just for the heck of it" drop by our local thrift shop.  
Would you believe I found five tumbles that matched my stemware after all these years? 
And can you believe they were each price at exactly $1.00???
Of course now I need to find three more...and boy they do not come cheap on ebay!)

So Yum!
And extra sweetness was that Cal could join us at the table in his high chair.
Six faces around the table. 

Love seeing my family around our table.
Hopefully next year my parents and our daughter will also be with us?
That would be my prayer!

((Oh how I remember when there were 19 of us at my in-law each Christmas eve. Such fun!))

After dinner/after church one gift is opened.
Luke was allowed to open a big one.

A snow/ski suit!

It won't be long before he will be hoping such suits arrive with a ski pass/lift ticket dangling from the zipper.
For now he is happy with just the suit.
In fact he was actually pretty happy with the just the box.
He tore off the wrapping paper and chortled gleefully "It's a BOX!!!"
That is now a much repeated phrase uttered by all who open gifts in our family.

We learned that Cal was pretty thrilled with just having a fist full of wrapping paper and a place on his Papa's lap.

Ahhh...aren't six month old boys easy to please?

Ohhhh and MITTENS too!!!

Man how fun is it to clap these babies???

Calvin's face says it all:

"My big brother is crazy."

I insisted Rachel likewise open a big box.
Inside was a gift from Bernie's mom Barbara...she has been gone for over two years now.
When Rachel and I first got interested in collecting Pyrex months ago I had asked her what pattern she really wanted most.
She said the Primary colored mixing bowls, which were first manufactured around 1947.
I made a mental note to consider getting her a set for Christmas then decided that she might just enjoy trying to collect the set piece by piece "in the wild". the same time that Barbara had passed away, Bernie and I were out visiting his father for a few days and I was rustling up some breakfast from the pantry one morning.
I have been in that pantry hundreds of times over the 38 years I have been part of that family.
This time...I glanced down to my right...and there on the second shelf, covered with dust, sat a COMPLETE set of Primary mixing bowls.
Could have knocked me over with a feather.
I do not ever recall seeing them used.
(I almost think Barbara somehow nudged me so I would see them as I was in the pantry to reach up, not look down.)
I called to Bernie and asked him about them.
He didn't recall ever seeing them either.
I asked Hal about them.
He shrugged and said Barbara sometimes used the big yellow bowl for noodle making.
I screwed up my courage to ask Bernie to ask his Dad if we could have the obviously rarely used set for our Rachel.
Hal said yes, take them.
The bowls flew home with us in Bernie's carry on and I about exploded with keeping the set a secret from Rachel until Christmas.
Is that not just the coolest gift ever???

(As the snow fell on Christmas night I took photos outside.
 I think I have a shot to use as a card next year...if I remember!)

The cute high chair and oh yeah I also added Pimpernel cork backed place mats to our table this year.
They are so much easier to keep fresh looking throughout the entire Christmas season on our every day kitchen table.

 Christmas was snowing like crazy.
We headed to Jeff's house for our traditional waffle breakfast.
Behind me is Jeff's Lodge Pole pine tree that he cut down himself.

Last year we got Rachel a waffle iron.
I was tickled when she posted on a FB question page that getting a waffle iron was her favorite Christmas gift ever!

This year she had another best gift ever to use with her favorite waffle iron.
That yellow primary colored bowl sure looked great in action!
The waffles were delicious.

Now Luke got a set of special big boy undies first thing on Christmas morning.
After putting them on, his regular pants seemed useless since they covered the cool action figures printed on his new underwear.
So he proceeded to enjoy his Christmas in a flannel shirt and his underwear.
Let it be noted that our family has a flexible dress code at Christmas.

The men of my family on one couch.

Grandcat Cheeto was decorated nicely for Christmas too.
Fourteen year old first Grandcat Meowsie skipped being festive and settled in on a warm knee.
He is such a sweet cat.
Ready for coffee....

"Do you want to build a snowman?"
Well of course we do!
When I saw this set of vintage glass snowman ornaments in their original box for $1.00 during the same "what the heck" thrift store visit I snagged them for an extra gift to my tree cutting and decorating son.

Cal looked so cute in his stripped sweater suit.
The Drummer Boy in the back ground was made by me my first year of marriage as a gift to my Mother-in-law Barbara, whose second son was a professional drummer.
Both that second son, Uncle Mark, and Barbara are gone now but after all these years the banner is still bright and a cheery reminder of both of them at Jeff house.

It was a bit of a hand-me-down Christmas.
I passed along many of family Christmas decorations to Rachel; it was fun to see them in a new setting enjoyed by children once again.
And then another special gift:
Back in the late 1960s I had had a custom sweater knitted for me in Norway.
Oh how I loved how it looked.
Oh how not worn it was while I lived for years in always rather warm San Diego.
It was also not worn in rainy Oregon while I was in college.
Nor was it useful to wear all those years when we lived in Texas.
How happy was I to move to Utah where such a sweater would be a joy to wear.
it was now too tight on my (um..matronly?) bosom and worse I realize I am now allergic to wool.
I wrapped up the almost 40 year old sweater that is in pristine condition and gifted it to Rachel.
She looks better in it than I ever did!

Cal enjoyed his first cup of coffee...

He needed a second cup in fact.
(Just kidding!)

He was bright eyed a-plenty on this his exactly 6 month old birthday day.

This year...
A new family member meant one more stocking hung on the mantle.

Cal was excited and drooling like mad.

I discovered a way to use wadded up torn off Christmas wrapping to fill in around the base of house plants..using the pieces Cal wasn't interested in anyway.
Just call me Martha Stewart.

An animated plush reindeer from my folks had Cal giggling in no time.

Grandchildren to snuggle was our favorite gift.

This year...
 was the Christmas of two healthy and happy grandsons.

For that we gave thanks and knew we were blessed.

Christmas afternoon...
Rachel's parents flew in, one from California and the other from Maryland, and they arrived just twenty minutes apart. 
It was a small reunion for them as Rachel's mom has needed to be out east caring for her mom.
Rachel's uncle passed away just days before too.

We gave that part of the family a bit of time alone, then came back at dark to enjoy a prime rib Christmas dinner.
Eight around the table.
And there is still room for more.
The five candle Yule log center piece...another pass along mom had made it for me many years ago.

 After dinner it was time for a family photo.
Look at how Cal is watching his big brother.

Might be fun to re-enact this photo when the kids are adults.

Especially this one!

So today 2014 comes to a close.
December was perfect as I said.
Actually I am here to say that the entire year was a blessing.
And so we continue, happy together as this skating couple* seem to be, and ready to head into the New Year.
God bless us everyone one!

*Hand painted skating couple, painted on a round wooden plaque, found at the same thrift shop.
  Price: $1.00
  That place is seriously addictive!