Monday, December 29, 2008

Efficient Tree Removal

Since the Christmas Tree had been up since the Saturday after Thanksgiving, there was much time to enjoy it. The presents all wrapped under a sparkling lit tree on Christmas Eve is one of my favorite sights.

The horrendous mess after all the loot is opened on Christmas Day is quite another story altogether. The essential morning cleanup usually doesn't happen until the afternoon and by then I am ready to REALLY clean up.

In my opinion, there are two cleanups associated with Christmas -- one is the immediate paper, ribbons, cardboard, twist ties (every toy has like two dozen), foam packing, instructions, plastic packaging, boxes, tissue, cut off tags and whatever else is left over from the opening frenzy. The other is actually putting all the Christmas decorations away and sending the tree curb side. I prefer to combine the two and restore my quarters to an uncluttered undecorated state as soon as possible.

This year since we planned a trip to Boise, I thought it most efficient to complete the jobs before departure -- so out to the shed I went for decoration boxes. The kids removed the seventies themed beauties from the tree and I packed them safely away. Next came the lights until the tree stood bare except for the snow and tinsel.

Normally I would summon Tim to drag the tree out the living room, down the stairs, out the door and around the side of the house near the garbage cans. The trail of pine needles and water from the tree stand is a dead giveaway of where the tree has gone.

After calculating the added mess with tinsel and snow tracked all the way to the garbage can -- I got a brilliant, albeit, slightly bahumbugish idea. With lops in hand I disassembled the tree limb by fragrant limb shoving into a large lawn and leaf bag as I went. Amazed by my own super efficiency I chuckled as the last limb fell to the ground. All that was left to do was vacuum up the snow and tinsel.

I called to Tim for help in removing the tree and the look on his face when he saw what remained still cracks me up.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Is there a ponytail under that hat??

Tim chose this hat from my brothers closet. When I asked for a photo he rolled his eyes knowing EXACTLY why I wanted it. Cute shoveler dude!

A break in the storm...

This year our after Christmas plans included a quick trip to Nampa, Idaho to visit my brother and his family. The weather had been very much not cooperating and we were not sure if the trip would actually happen. Luckily there was a slight break in the storm track allowing us to drive down on Friday safely through the mountains. There were icy and snowy spots but Tim did a fabulous job of maneuvering the freeway. We arrived safely in Boise on Friday afternoon.

My brother John and his wife Kris have four children, two girls and two boys who our kids love to see.

Saturday it snowed like crazy and the roads between Boise and home were closed. We spent the day at Cabela's and the mall.

Cabela's is housed in the old Costco building across from the Boise Mall and although we've ordered items online, we've never actually been in their store. Inside there are two large fish tanks -- one with trout and one with bass of all sizes swimming around. We arrived at feeding time to see first, little pellets gulped up by the trout, then night crawlers -- slightly grosser than the pellets and finally live goldfish. Ewwww...

One goldfish half swallowed managed to swim out when the trout opened up it's mouth. The crowd yelled out "Swim Nemo swim." followed by an "awww" when another trout swooped in an gobbled him up. Remember the line in "Big Fat Lier" --- fish munching fish??

I bought a new pair of snow boots for fifty bucks for improved snow shoveling traction which also probably means there won't be anymore snow. Tim said it's worth fifty bucks to guarantee no more snow.

Santa got her email...

Regan didn't believe me when I told her Santa takes email requests. Look at the surprise in her eyes realizing he not only read her email but instructed to send the coat she wanted -- shipping free.


With the right hat...nothing else matters.

McKay Christmas 2003

and Christmas 2008.

Favorite Makeover...

In 1979 Barbara Tenney made a baby blanket for Tim's second youngest brother Steve. When Kendrick was a baby Tim's mom sent it to us. Ten years later Jensen claimed the blanket his own. He has slept with it every night since.

When the back started getting holey and the batting bunched up at the corners, I knew it was time for a Grandma Make Over. With tender loving care she disassembled the frayed favorite and then sewed a new soft back to the existing front.

Jensen was unaware his new blanket sat wrapped under the tree until Christmas morning. He said Grandma made his Christmas and that this was his favorite gift.

Tricky Box Disguise...

Santa is no dummy knowing a teenager can recognize the size and shape of an Aeropostale Box from a hundred yards especially if the teenager specifically requested items from said store. Stacking two boxes and wrapping them together foils the recognition. What a clever trick!

The toy she always wanted...

Two months before Christmas at seventeen McKay revealed the name of the toy she always wished for as a child but never received -- an Easy Bake Oven. Apparently she never breathed the wish aloud or Tim and I weren't getting the message to Santa correctly.

At any rate Santa found out this year and came through for McKay with extra mixes of pretzels, brownies, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, and yellow cake.

She's already a kid magnet and I'm guessing this will send her popularity with them into the stratosphere. Congratulations McKay -- You got your Christmas wish.

Santa nailed it this year...

Don't you just love the look on kids faces receiving something they really wanted?? and don't you love it even more when it's not something expensive??? Double bonus!!

Santa take your pick of treats...

This year we received so many delicious treats from wonderful friends with culinary abilities to die for, we just couldn't keep it all to ourselves. Instead of leaving a couple cookies for Santa we gave him carte blanche access to all our holiday treats.

Judging by the crumbs, he probably got a stomach ache. Sorry Santa.

So many hors d'oeuvres, so little time...

On Christmas Eve we usually have family and sometime friends over for a dinner consisting of all our favorite appetizers. Mostly there's too much food and not enough stomach to enjoy it all.

This year since all of our extended family were out of town on the 24th and it was just us, we decided to spread our hors d'oeuvres enjoyment over several nights.

There are a multitude of items that go well with cheese fondue including crusty artisan bread and blue corn tortilla chips. We also added a sort of salsa bar to the mix with pico di gallo and cerviche which contained both crab and shrimp. We skipped the chocolate fondue and opted instead for shortbread cookies hugging Hershey kisses.

Only delicacies that swim allowed on one night. The scallops were wrapped in bacon, the shrimp seasoned with old bay, the salmon smoked to perfection and the lobster tails steamed and steeped in butter -- a wonderful array of flavors from the sea.

The kids managed to work in the mozzarella sticks, potato skins, bagel bites and chips and salsa from Chicos on the in between nights which rounded off an even four days of nothing but finger food.

Christmas dinner is usually Prime Rib, this year we chose BBQ steaks instead.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

This is bad...very bad news...

This is what the inside of a Canon 50mm EF 1.8 lens looks like -- unfortunately you are NEVER supposed to see what the inside of a Canon 50mm EF 1.8 lens looks like unless you have accidentally dropped it AND IT'S BROKEN. This is a not a snap back together situation and what the heck, I just bought this lens and I was already in LOVE with it.

I am trying not to bawl just now knowing I will have to use my kit lens for Christmas pictures. I might just check if does less than overnight delivery on Christmas, otherwise as McKay says.... I'll just cry myself to sleep.

The package was too beautiful to open, but I did it anyway...

Just past nine last night my dear friend Laurie appeared with a beautifully wrapped bag of her homemade almond roca. The tag was so adorable with tiny bells and holly that I hung it on the tree.

For many, many years I have received this same delightful visit. Her skill at candy making is only outdone by her loving friendship. She has been a long time confidant and trusted friend offering encouragement and allowed many of my tears to fall on her shoulders over the years.

Fortunately for me, there is only one person in my family who insists I share the buttery, almondy deliciousness. I try to make it last... but it is physically impossible.

Sleepy Time for Little Elves...

This little one fell asleep on our couch while her mom and sisters were visiting us last night. She has been busy delivering Christmas treats to friends all over the snowy city -- which I think qualifies her as an elf.

Monday, December 22, 2008

FLASH BACK to Snow Caves of the Past...

We've lived in the Tri-Cities since 1992 and there have only been a couple years with enough snow to make a decent snow cave. Kendrick built this one with full intention of sleeping in it overnight. After this picture was taken he hunkered down for the night which lasted exactly thirty two minutes give or take. This was taken in 1998.

Snow Cave Photo Op...

We got another 4-6 inches last night making the pile of white shoveled stuff on our lawn enough for a snow cave. The frozen precipitation is very dry and looks like glitter as it falls to the ground. It's been coming all day and continues even at this hour.

After clearing the sidewalks tonight, Tim, Regan and I walked around the block to see how the lights on our neighbors homes looked covered with snow. One yard with lighted shrubs resembled giant disco balls.

My calves were complaining all the way around the block. Finally home, warmed and working on my newest red and green afghan, the kids decided to go out and work on their cave. The next thing I know, I'm being summoned to take photos for... you guessed it... the blog. Here are the night's memories in photo. To our cousins in San Diego... wanna come and play??

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I think I double jinxed myself...

Tim whispered in my ear right after he kissed me good bye this morning at five am that we got more snow -- my signal to get on my lucky shooting boots. Birkenstock slip ons although they have fantastic arch support do not perform well in the snow. Someone used my gloves and only put back one. Undaunted I slipped on another that didn't match. Truly no one cares -- there are no matching glove police out at five fifteen in the morning.

I leave a broom by the door so that I don't have to walk on the fresh snow to retrieve the shovel. When I opened the door...HOLY COW...there was a lot of new stuff. Knowing it would snow I parked my van in the garage and asked Tim to park his truck on the street. It makes clearing the driveway so much more efficient.

Two hours later my driveway, front sidewalks, the sidewalks of my neighbors on both sides, out into the street ten feet, a path for the mail truck, the walkways around the back of the house, the back deck and stairs and a path to the shed were all clear and swept. My arms were officially noodles.

After a scalding hot eucalyptus salt bath soak and a bowl of cereal with very cold milk and a splash of half and half, I cracked and ate some peanuts while I watched the streaming text at the bottom of the TV screen forecasting not the hot stock trades but the school delay and closure schedule.

Two hour delay??? Perfect. I climbed back into bed with an audible "ahhh" and closed my eyes until the kids woke up. As it turned out McKay cooked Jensen breakfast, got him off to school, shoveled Bev Anderson's driveway and let me sleep a little longer. Good Seed!

I enjoyed the beauty of my job exactly 35 minutes when it started snowing again.

I'm worried Old Man you know who took my "bring it on" post as a DARE -- I think I may have jinxed all my neighbors.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Flash Back to Christmas Abroad...

Tim sent this photo to his family while celebrating a lavish Christmas holiday in Ecuador -- early eighties.

At the same time I was lip syncing Italian Christmas carols at the Rome train station.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bring it on Old Man...

Yesterday as I was shoveling the first snow of the season, I was contemplating the name of the blog post for the event. I do love shoveling snow! Admittedly, it's all about the instant gratification. Tim remarked it funny that I don't necessarily like to bundle up for a walk around the block but will spring out of bed to shovel new fallen flakes. What's odd about wanting to clear the sidewalk before someone tromps through it willy nilly with their boots??

I took pictures and everything but guess what internet and telephone service was conveniently experiencing an outage?? --- mine. Nothing yesterday and still nothing today -- I am at the library at this moment while McKay works on her school -- getting my blog fix.

Today I have already shoveled three times and it's still coming down. Did I mention I LOVE shoveling snow??

Potatoes and a giant sweet onion are roasting in the oven for the Roasted Potato and Rosemary soup we'll have for supper. Hopefully there'll be leftovers because it's better the second day.

We stopped at Charter on the way here and requested they send someone -- (anyone except the last guy they sent) to get our internet back (frankly I could care less about the phone) They are scheduled to arrive between three and five, schedule being the word used loosely here.

Dinner prepared -- check.
Internet service repair call placed -- check.
Snow shoveled -- check, check, check.

Bring it on Old Man Winter... I love shoveling.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cracking the Christmas Code...

After several years of marriage Tim and I visited his parents in Baltimore for Christmas. Tim is the oldest of five children with a brother just a few years different in age, a sister a few years past that and then two brothers sixteen and eighteen years younger. On Christmas Eve the adults numbered six and spent several long hours helping Santa wrap presents for the younger boys. We were holed up in the basement - wrapping paper and ribboned bows flying preparing the gifts for delivery. The Christmas haul for those boys was enormous and hiding it all under colored wrapping took forever.

The space below the tree had been empty from the first of December until Christmas morning where then - there wasn't room enough to place everything. Christmas morning was a flurry for the young brothers discovering their loot compared to the groggy half comatose experience of the adults who'd stayed up half the night getting ready for it.

Kendrick never believed in "you know who" -- and as much as we tried to convince him there'd be more gifts if he did, he spent the weeks before Christmas ferreting out the secret locations around the house where presents were hidden. If the contents of a closet had changed to make room for a Christmas surprise he'd see it right away. There was nowhere presents could hide that he couldn't find. When he started involving the other children in his pre-Christmas reconnaissance -- I had to find another way.

Enter the Christmas Code. I didn't invent the idea borrowing the genius from my father who hand wrote cryptic number and letter sequences on the packages foiling any ability for us to know who they belonged to. With the caliber of intelligence I was dealing with I had to come up with a different code every year.

I've been coding presents for at least ten years and over time I have come up with some very sneaky ways to prevent Christmas surprise spoilage all the while displaying the loot right under their noses. I boast a 100 percent non-cracked code record.

Every year they beg me not to code but I press on.

The Christmas morning revelation of the code is the highlight of my day and several years kids have remarked, "that's it? that was too easy." or "we would have never figured that out."

Hence my perfect record!

I wrap and code all through the season pacing myself avoiding the night before marathon. My kids don't have any idea which ones to shake and placing the tamperproof stickers on the packages prevents the old unwrap and rewrap trick Kendrick made famous.

I'd tell you this years code but then I'd have to kill you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Grandma got a YC...*

Jensen finished his homework lickety split today after I informed him that Grandma W got a dog and promised to take him to see after Miss Lukich's list was completed. Abby, the hairless supposedly non-allergenic Chinese something or other breed of dog was hiding behind the bookshelf when we arrived.

We had a half poodle half chi-wa-wa (not the exact spelling) pet name Princess when I was a kid. She was the cutest little meanest dog I ever met. That was back in the day when somebody else besides me would be responsible for "stuff scooping". Love of canine never took hold - which is the reason we have no dogs today.

Jensen took to Abby right away petting her hairless body and laughing at her pink trimmed "Happy Hour" t-shirt. McKay said we should buy her and outfit. Tim said, "A dog under seven pounds is not a dog." My mom said that she gets bathed at least twice a week and lathered with sunscreen to prevent overexposure. I say, "Don't lick my face...I know where those lips have been."

*YC = yapper crapper

My hands smell like oranges...

In America unlike some other countries, oranges are available year round. They don't over thrill me most of the time except during the fall months leading up to the end of the year when tangerines are in season. Admittedly, I am a bit of a snob preferring Clementines to everything else hands down no questions asked. They are by far the candy of the Christmas citrus choices proving difficult to keep stocked in my home. We have gone through nearly four bags in under two weeks.

Delicious at breakfast as a wake-me-up, rounding off the food groups with a sandwich at lunch and standing in for dessert late in the evening -- they have the potential just like everything else tasty to be over eaten.

Case in point...well actually I can't relay the actual case in point for embarrassing reasons, suffice to say if too many of these succulent little babies are consumed in rapid succession -- one might say... suffer a bit of GI upset. What is that everything there is a season?? In my opinion, Clementine season is unbearably short.

If you want the name of the new perfume wafting off me -- it's eau de clementine.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lawn Care Light Show 2008

Here's a video clip from the light show.

Update on Elder J...

Well...Elder Johnson made it safely home to his family in England. I'm sure he got mugged with hugs. His mother emailed this homecoming photo. Thanks Maryl.

Here's another funny thing that happened -- Elder Killian said that the day AFTER Elder Johnson left the alarm (on the missionaries phone) went off at four in the morning...Nice parting prank Elder Johnson!

Monday, December 8, 2008

No Flash photography allowed...

Recently I have been trying to shoot photos in RAW using only the manual settings on my camera forcing myself to learn the balance of the relationship between the members of the photographic triad -- sort of like the love triangle from you know where. For some reason it seems to be taking me longer than I'd like to absorb this information -- my goal being to take better pictures... and further to understand which settings make them so.

Last night we drove around our festive town looking for light adorned homes to both ohh and ahh at ... and to practice shooting night shots with no flash... and no blur. What a challenge!

These first few were taken at that lawn care corporate headquarters (no advertisements allowed on my blog) located near the Bishop's Storehouse on Deschutes. We are planning tonight to videotape part of the 20 minute show of lights set to music. As you drive near and tune your radio to 101.7 fm you'll get the audio portion of the show right in the comfort of your own vehichle.

Remember the old drive ins where you pull up and roll the metal speaker up with your window??? It's like that only better. In hindsight we should have driven around first and looked at the homeowner installed lights BEFORE ending up here for the grand finale.

The famous bright street aka Metaline on the other side of Kamiakin had a few lights on even fewer houses than in previous years. The house on the corner that usually dims the lights of the rest of the city was dark much to our dismay. Someone in the car mouthed off that maybe the light freak died. I shushed the disrespect.

We did enjoy the up and down Santa on the roof and the up and down snowman on the igloo and the up and down angel...well you get the picture.

And of course the highlight for me was the old school plastic lit manger scene -- I'm guessing oh... seventies! I'm telling you it's back in style.

Our very own neighborhood is embroiled in it's own version of light wars. Drive down the eight thousand block of Imnaha and you'll see what I mean.

By far the lamestly decorated home was this one with a single beam close to the door. The homeowners obviously lack the holiday flair seen elsewhere. Oh wait... that's my house and FYI the lights are on the back deck thanks to one determined light godess whose name starts with an M.

No flash was harmed in the taking of these photos -- or in the other ninety five that were either black or blurry. Practice Practice Practice.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Flashback to the cookie shortage of 2006...

On Christmas Eve 2006 Jensen finding no cookies in the house was very concerned that Santa might ding us for not leaving a treat. He left the following note on the tree. I loved it so much I had it framed this year along with a picture of him. He looks so little just two years ago.

Dear Santa,
We have NO, I mean NO cookies just eat pumpkin pie (FYI it's in the fridge)

Shower time

My dad sent me it. I edited it. If you were in this car you better get ready for a shower.


BYU Co-Ed Alert... Spencer's on his way...

Tomorrow morning Elder Spencer Johnson returns home after ending his mission service in our Ward. I think he knows he is one of our all time favorites, but he is far too humble to admit to it. Tim has worked with him as Ward Mission Leader for nearly six months and cannot say enough good about the caliber of missionary he is.

There are several mom's in the ward, including me, who wish their daughters were a little closer to his age and could follow him to BYU.

I asked Tim his first name for this post since neither of us knew it. It was printed on a three by two business card along with his address. I remember how strange it was for me after eighteen months of being called "sister" to hear my first name again. After a while I got used to it -- so will Spencer.

We wish him a safe return to England where his father is serving our country in the Air Force and then we wish him safe passage to BYU to begin his Co-ed sort. Take a number... the line might be long.

Snowball fight at the Greenstreets...

I dialed the SSV absence line this morning because Jensen was running a fever. He slept in until around nine then watched the new Narnia DVD. Not interested in helping tinsel-ize the tree, he had a great idea for the snow application. Dustbuster on deck -- watch him go.

Working on the tree...

At three o'clock this morning after staring at the ceiling for more than an hour I got up and finished placing the decorations on the tree. I can't explain the nocturnal alertness except that it led to a mid afternoon coma. Fortunately, my kids answered the phone and the door while I slumbered.

Yesterday Big Lots was the third store where I tried to find ornament hangers... which equals lots of mileage for a 69 cent box of 150 curved metal in two lengths. My mother once used thread looped around the branches. Forget that, I just filled up at Costco for under forty dollars... I'll drive till I find them.

The tree has two more treatments waiting -- the snow and the tinsel, which to place first--- I'm still debating. We always have the snow, which eventually falls earthward and ends up in the vacuum. This year we'll add tinsel which takes longer to fall, but will get vacuumed nonetheless.

About every fifth light on our five strand compilation alternately goes on and off creating a sparkling effect all over the tree. Channeling Sonny and Cher I hung the final ornaments, stood back and reminisced my childhood.

Whoever said you can't be a kid again obviously never shopped at Antique Malls.