A birthday letter

Friday, December 31, 2010

Dear Mom,

On your birthday each year, the past exits and a new beginning starts.
I wish I would have stuck around a bit more on your New Year's Eve birthday but there were those teen-age celebrations I just thought I had to get to.
I understand now that you wanted me to go have fun and that your birthday was just another day to you, except with cards and cake.
You were happiest seeing your kids happy. I feel the same way.

I wish you were still here though. Not gonna lie.
It's not with sadness I say that, just wishing from my heart. But it would be so great to chat on the phone and tell you funny things the kids do or hear about those twilight zone adventures of, shall we say, your "interesting" neighbors. Your rebellious side was always so endearing to me.

I feel bad for women who don't get along with their mothers. I also feel bad for mothers who don't realize the magnitude of their call. I remember years back I mentioned in one of our hours long talks, I felt that I had let a bit of life slip by. That I could have done more when I had more free time. And your response was, "You are. You're having children." I said that anyone can have a child though and then you said, "True, but sadly, not everyone will raise them well. And raising children well is more than doing anything else."

And then you added that the time would come when I could fit it all in - it's just about balance, timing and drive - no worries, it will happen you said. You were so right.
I know you were not a perfect mother and I'm not either, but your love was.
And your mothering effect continues.

I don't know if you celebrate your birthday in heaven or the day you returned there but I hope you are enjoying it. I'm so happy life continues on both sides, that's cool.

On letting go and moving on

Thursday, December 30, 2010

When I was younger, I never really liked New Year's Eve. I think because I worried that the next year couldn't possibly top the last. I just hated saying good-bye to the fun memories I had made that year. But each year did top the other in many ways so it always turned out well.

My mom would always tell me that there was never a need to worry about anything. Some things are just out of your control and you just have to adapt and roll with it. I was always happy with that outlook.

Where some could say that's not being serious enough, I say it's a way to have less wrinkles.

I remember hearing in a speech given at my high school graduation; a piece of advice that stuck with me all these years. I guess because it reaffirmed what my mom always told me. Sometimes even when you tell your kids something a million times, they'll hear the same thing from another person and it's like they heard it for the first time. That's happened to me already.

In this speech, the teacher said not to worry about what happened yesterday, last year, or even in 9Th grade. Move on. And when you're 30, do the same. That told me this "letting go" thing could be a lifelong endeavor.

My mom always said there will be better things ahead and bigger problems to deal with in your future. Learn to get over the little things now so you can better handle those bigger problems because they will come. And they did - job loss, sudden cross country moves, selling houses, miscarriages, death of parents.

But no one really gives you the how-to on letting go and moving on. So I asked my mom about that one time. She was the one person who I knew could tell me because she had more life experience. She said to just train your mind to move in a new direction. Even if you don't exactly know what you want at the moment, you know that whatever is dragging you down isn't working. Merely thinking about the possibilities for your life can get you excited about the future and will put a hop in your step. And then, you just may figure out what you want to do. It's never too late for that.

And then she said to live IN the moment and to enjoy where you are now. Even if you think that your "now" is not that much, there is something to be grateful for and can enjoy. Even our worst days or what we perceive as worst, may be so much better than the best day for others in the world. I think the way our parents thought can/could have a lot to do with our outlook so I am glad that hers was bright even during the storms. Life is so much easier. That advice always helped me and I only share it in case making changes and setting goals for 2011 are on your mind too.

So I do look forward to new years with enthusiasm and hope my kids feel like it's another beginning for them also, to be better and do better. I've said before that I am not a huge goal-setter. I just make goals with big, broad brush strokes for my family, like "being more understanding with each other" and "less yelling."
The details and opportunities on how to achieve those goals will present themselves over and over, I am sure. :)

I hope you have a Happy New Year and that 2011 will bring much fun, happiness and comfort to you.
If I can be of help in making sure that happens, please know that you can e-mail me and we'll chat.

Thanks for reading along this past year. I hope to continue the journey with you!
As always, I look to improve and welcome insightful ideas. So if you have any tips to add, please do.



Whoo knows

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

People collect specific things for different reasons. Some items are sentimental, some things are handed down from generations and some things are just plain fun to collect.
When I was 7, I had a thing for rocks. I don't know why but the criteria was that it had to be either a shiny rock or one with an interesting shape. Everywhere I went I inspected rocks. I remember being on vacation with my family and finding some cool ones at a rest stop in New Mexico. They were rust colored with metallic flecks of gold. I found out they were called Goldstone and those became my prized rocks.
I was sure it was worth a thousand dollars. It wasn't.

I'm not sure what ever happened to them. I think my dad threw them into the concrete mix when he poured our patio.
That was fine because I was over that phase by then and on to teddy bears.

I started to like bears when we went to Yellowstone and my mom fed real live bears marshmallows along the side of the road. Looking back I realize she was KA-RAZY for doing that. My dad videotaped her which was even more crazy. People pulled over when they saw her and snapped pictures. So in about 50 homes across the country are old pictures in shoe boxes of an unknown woman feeding bears.

The only bear which remains from that collection is Jean-Paul, the bear Jon got me for Christmas when we were in high school.

Since then I have never "set out" to collect anything. I just find something I like and then after a few purchases of the same thing - boom, I have a collection.

One theme/collection I do seem to have going on are my owls. My grandma sent me an adorable owl quilt when I was 8. Although they are becoming trendy (which is one thing that usually makes me not like something) I still think they are pretty cute and you can find them somewhere around my house.

My daughter asked a while back if I was becoming an owl lady.
My answer: yes.
What do you collect?

Merry Christmas to you

Saturday, December 25, 2010

How was your Christmas?

Our Christmas Eve was quiet but nice. We did have one that was sick but luckily it was a good day for her to relax. I'm happy that she's feeling better now.

We enjoyed making tamales all evening and watching movies. A friend came over for dinner which made us so happy. The kids had a sleep-over in the family room. It's a warm, cozy space which makes it easy to sink into the couch and not want to leave. We tucked them all in - even the 13 and 15 year-old still like to be tucked in for the night. They all had trouble falling asleep because the anticipation of the morning is just too much.

It was heartwarming to see all of my children sleeping soundly together with pillows piled everywhere and blankets stacked high. I knew that everything I ever wanted was right in that room- just a bunch of happy kids.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas and look forward to a
bright New Year.
I think it's gonna be good!

Tradition and the tree

Friday, December 24, 2010

The other day Belen turned to me and said she wished we didn't have to exchange gifts at Christmas. She said she didn't like seeing people run around, worried about money and lists. She wished it could just be a time when we focused on Christ and service to each other.

The extras, she said, just shouldn't matter.

I agreed and wondered how I got such a mature young woman. But then I thought back to all of the Christmases past and remembered that she and Charley seemed to have always been like that. I don't remember a long list of requests for Santa. I couldn't even remember what we got them until a few years ago when the requests did become more item specific, like an American girl doll or a scientific calculator.
They always asked about other things. I'd get questions such as, "Are we going to make tamales again this year?" "When are we going to watch "It's a Wonderful Life?" "Did we get a new family puzzle for Christmas Eve?" "What are we giving to the food drive this year?"

Sometimes we measure whether or not it will be a "good" Christmas by the amount of presents we can afford or if we buy that exact item on the list. Call me naive, but I think it can always be a "good" Christmas when you surround yourself with those you love and keep family traditions alive. It seems that is what we, including our kids, remember most.
I know I can only recall a few presents that I received as a child because I kept them for years as prized possessions and my parents never went overboard on gifts. What I can really recall was our annual trip to downtown Portland. We'd get all dressed up to go eat, visit Santa, shop as a family and go ice skating. It was the highlight of Christmas for me, for my brothers and sister as well. I was always so proud to see my dad gliding with such ease on the ice. And now that they are both gone, those times seem to have more meaning.
My conversation with Belen reminded me of that and something I heard long ago, that children long for our "presence" more than anything. Long after the toy has lost its appeal, those familiar, simple family traditions will remain and go forward.
A note to Santa that I found under the tree....

Admiring our family tradition of meaningful Christmas ornaments. They all tell a story.

I purchased this as a teenager from a dept. store where I worked. It was my first ornament for my someday house.

Reese's favorite; his space ship.

One of a collection of Sterling silver ornaments handed down from my mom.
Ornaments collected from places we have lived. This honors Utah.
A bird's nest on the tree means good luck for the New Year.
More birds in a dome, a sterling cross ornament on the left, and Reese's dinosaur in the background. Mercury glass in the foreground.
An angel on top of the tree each year.
The globe ornament from that same dept. store when I was a teenager. My mom bought one that day too. The ribbon on it is metal and says "Peace on Earth."
Now I'm off to tidy up the house and get ready for the evening. Enjoy your day and
have a great Christmas Eve!!

A little kitchen demo and vintage ornaments

Thursday, December 23, 2010

We interrupt this Christmas house to bring you an episode of this demo house.
Because Jon has taken a few days off, we decided to finish taking out the kitchen cupboards and install some backerboard. We're finishing up hanging the rest today.
But we're not done yet. We are going to find out if a wall we want to remove is load bearing. If it's not, it's outta here and then there will be no more demo. But we'll wait to do that after Friday night since I need it all cleaned up to make tamales. Oh yes, the Christmas Eve tradition lives!

But on to more Christmas-y things...Vintage ornaments.

Most of the ornaments dating to the 50's and 60's were brightly colored, hence their name Shiny Brights. They are more thin and delicate but the shapes and colors were always and still are rather appealing.

This is one of my favorite finds. He was in a huge box of vintage Christmas ornaments that I bought for $10.00 at a Thrift shop. I usually kept him separate from the tree and in a glass cloche, but this year I clipped him on and you'll never guess what?! His tail feathers pop out. I didn't know that before. This whole time I thought he had a broken tail. I was very excited - those little surprises really make my day.

The price tag fell off but it was originally .59 cents back in the day.

Shapes and colors of shiny brights denote the Sputnik era. I keep most of them in glass jars and up on the shelf because I know that Trae will test them to see if they bounce. There have been only 2 ornament casualties this year. Neither of them bounced...

Some vintage ornaments have interesting clues to their history. I'm not sure if this is homemade but these bells have Plaster of Paris on the underside, molded with Chinese newspaper and covered in aluminum foil which is half painted red. I think the beads are mercury glass. I found it in a little shop in Maryland and thought it was just right.

The quirky nature of the German and Japanese ornaments always catch my eye. They just remind me of a fun, colorful Christmas. I still need to repair Mrs. Snowman - she seems to have melted...

Look no further than your local thrift shop for these types of ornaments. I have seen bunches of them this year. If you can't find them there, go to your local antique mall. Dealers always have them individually priced in dishes and bowls. It depends on the area in which you live I guess but I have never paid over $2.00 for any of them individually. So hopefully you can find some in that range.

See you tomorrow and have a great day!

Trimmings, tutorials, tips - Christmas week

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Welcome to my Christmas House
which is constantly evolving around here. I think there should be more lights on the tree and I still have boxes to get back down to the garage but so far, so good. Everything I have done is simple and easy. No highly involved tips and tutorials here. This week should be joyful not stressful.


This year on the staircase railing, I mixed synthetic garland with cut boughs from the tree. It adds a little thickness and smells good. Ribbon, beaded garland and pine cone lights finish it out. I've had all of those things for years. I keep base colors simple so when I want to change things and use trend colors or lean towards a theme, I only have to buy a few extras in any given year.

This year I am displaying the Christmas cards received. I just used small clothespins to hold them to the garland. That cool card is from my friend Alysa, my 1st mission companion in Japan. Love that girl!

A few trimmings of metallics and beads. More on that during the week.

Some of my favorite ornaments are the ones that the kids make in school. Not only are they sweet and simple, they have an American Folk art quality to them. Charley made this in 3rd grade with a clothespin and tissue paper.
Just get a clothespin and any kind of paper you'd like to use. Cut the paper into a rectangle, round the edges, accordion fold the center, pinch it if you'd like, and clip with the pin. Could it be any easier?
I cut the paper afterward a little more and crumpled it.
Here we used a page from an old book and wrapping paper. You could also paint the pin or use vintage clothespins as well. For those, you'd just have to glue the wings to the back since they don't have a spring hinge.

So if you're like me and like a lot of lights, you know how quickly they can become tangled and never can stuff them back into their box when you go to store them. A lifesaver was when I cut cardboard into an "I" shape and wound the cords onto it. They store easily this way and best of all, never a mess of lights.
So that rounds it out today. Have fun out there! I'll be back with vintage ornaments, our annual "gingerbread" village, and making Mexican hot chocolate - our fave!

Christmas House week

Monday, December 20, 2010

This week I'll be posting about the Christmas House, aka my house.

We were a little late on getting up all of the decorations. Blame that on work schedules and someone in the house having somewhere to be every single day and parents who kept saying we'd get to that tomorrow. But we didn't want anyone in the family to miss out on our annual trip to the local Christmas tree farm. We tried something else last year so we knew opting for the sleigh ride/cut your own thing might not work out again. Remember that story and the pepper spray incident that followed?

So to begin the week filled with Christmas crafts, tips and vintage ornament goodness, here's the weekend recap:

There was the tree farm trip where they let you roast hot dogs, marshmallows and make hot chocolate. My favorite thing they do is measure your child's height so when you come back next year, you can see the difference a year makes. Now is that hometown service or what?
We also like that they're friendly and give you twine to tie the tree to the car. They wouldn't want anyone to hold the tree with their arms out the window like idiots. Who does that anyway??

On to a fun office party where the kids won gumball machines and a 5 lb Hershey chocolate bar.
Jon and Frank made a true Pennsylvania Dutch main course of Chicken and waffles. I had never heard of that before moving here. It was actually tasty. Everyone else brought sides or desserts and the kids decorated cupcakes.

Next was a seriously sweet party complete with a chocolate fountain where we indulged in dipping fruit, cheesecake and other delicious goodies. There was also a raucous round of white elephant gifts where the Superman snuggie was a hit. But first we had to compete in getting a cracker from your forehead to your mouth to determine the order of the present pick. We were number 10 and took home that sweet lamp.

And finally untying the tree and bringing out the trimmings. I'll reveal the finished product later. I think it's our best yet. It's filled with new and vintage ornaments and stays within the color scheme of the house; blues, silver, grey, greens, metallics and a pop of color here and there.

Charley said it made her cry when we turned off the lights and stepped back to admire it. She's a sweet one, Charley that is.

See you tomorrow-
Have a great day!


Friday, December 17, 2010

We were young and in love.

Now just in love.
Happy 17.

Auburn hair and tawny eyes

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I think the "Flock of Seagulls" look is making a comeback.

Not really, it's just a sign of a good nap.

I think it's time for a haircut...

Trae van Beethoven

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

For your listening pleasure, let me introduce the newest piano prodigy.


Have a great day!




Saturday, December 11, 2010

Happy Saturday! Weekends are so nice, aren't they?

We've had a flurry of activity in these parts this past week. How about you?
Today is another busy one. Breakfast with Santa this morning, a birthday party early afternoon, a family Christmas photo session late afternoon, finish making simple ornaments for a church Christmas dinner, clean the bedrooms, finish up all of the laundry and a basketball game tonight. I'll be back mid-week (next week) for updates on projects and funny things that happened along the way.

I hope you have a great day!


Holiday charm

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Just like the fall parade, it has become a family tradition to attend our small town's Christmas parade and welcome Santa to his little house on the square. It's just a good, old fashioned community get-together. There's even free hot chocolate which was nice to warm the toes. It turned out to be a little chilly but that made it feel more authentic I guess.

Belen wasn't there this year because of basketball commitments so we missed her being with us. The other kids enjoyed seeing all of the lights, their friends and some new additions to the parade.

Candy was tossed from the floats which the kids really liked. People also worked the crowd handing out candy so no one was missed. Blair held up her "Darrenkamp's" bag, our favorite locally owned grocery store, to Mr. Darrenkamp when he walked by us. When he saw her, he exclaimed that she gets extra treats because she was carrying the right bag. That made for a happy 5 year old! It made for a happy me too when I needed a midnight snack and ate some pretzels.
Rounding out the parade of course was the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus in a horse drawn sleigh.
(Unfortunately the video I shot of that wasn't downloading properly but here are a few pics.)

I hope you get to enjoy Christmas and holiday parades wherever you are!

All bundled.

Passing by

Reese and Charley and the Darrenkamp's truck.

My friend Ryan, aka Buddy the Elf.
I would've never recognized him until he said my name.
Good thing I had the camera ready

He was on "Deal or No Deal" once by the way, but didn't dress as an elf then.
School bus representing.
The End.

Another installment of garage thrifting

Friday, December 3, 2010

Or should I say storage unit thrifting?
It's a long story but we have a storage unit full of personal belongings and antiques of my mom's and maybe some overflow of ours...

A few weekend's ago we moved those items into a smaller unit. It was an all day event. I did bring back a few bins of things that I wanted to go through a little more closely. And I wanted to bring out my Christmas china that we enjoy using the day after Thanksgiving and all the way to New Year's day.
It's something that my kids look forward to, believe it or not. Funny what traditions that the kids will enjoy and remember.

So, here are a few items that I thrifted out of my garage.

One of my parent's wedding presents 51 years ago.
Perfect as holiday red.
I remember my mom gave me these 5 stockings that she made even before I got married and had 5 kids. I guess it was serendipitous.

The vintage french pots and carrier. A woman that we met who traveled to Paris on shopping trips hand carried this back from one of her travels about 10 years ago. At the time I thought it was expensive but after seeing them now reproduced in magazines and costing more than I paid, I realize it was a bargain.

The pots I bought separately from a lady in Maine. She bought an old house and barn and found a bunch of french pots stored away in there.
The only thing I found in my house were old paint cans they didn't feel like disposing of before moving...

Paperwhites are going in to each pot.

And this I did get from the 2nd hand furniture place. My husband is wonderfully patient with me on the furniture buying. Mainly I buy props for photos. Our garage looks like a prop house. But these are for me and I bought 2 of them for $6.50 each. The fabric will be recovered but I am still contemplating to paint or not. My first thought was a new color but the more I look at them, I feel their natural state is best - minus the fabric. Any thoughts?

Have a great weekend!


linking to Coastal Charm

Tag, you're it - an easy craft project

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I love paper. I love paper products. I don't know why but I do. I especially love Christmas and all of the tags and wrap that you can buy. I really get into wrapping a gift with all of the bells and whistles of embellishments. I usually buy tags when they are just too cute too pass up but most other times, we like to make our own. They are quick, easy and personalized.

I use them year after year and add a few new ones as well. These are just a few that I have but others include a wire tag which spells out "Noel," vintage millinery flowers, twigs that are spelled out to say "winter," little match boxes and snowmen made out of felt. They were just not as easy to scan as these.

So if you're in need of a little creative activity, break out the glue, scissors, paper, glitter, twigs, flowers, felt, copies of old photos, small toy parts, mini match boxes, dominoes or whatever you have in that junk drawer and let the kids go to town.

Metallics and glitter add bling.

Using copies of old photographs is a great way to personalize. Using the recipient's photo is a gift within a gift or a great way to remember someone else. It's one of my favorite tags to make. I also like it when the photo corresponds to the season.
My dad is the little guy.

You can make tags more masculine by using traditional colors.

Vintage postcards are always in my supply closet. Here I used small, silk holly leaves to add dimension to the existing leaves. I also use vintage cards for my holiday cards.

After cutting paper to fit an existing tag, print a saying on vellum paper, layer on top, glue it all together and finish with a ribbon. Super easy. Have fun!
I still do, do you??