Friday, December 26, 2008

The Merriest of Christmases!

Ed & I at Gretchen & Leon's home on Christmas Eve.

"We wish you a Merry Christmas!
And a Joyous New Year!"

There is nothing quite like sharing your Christmas with little children to help you capture the essence of joy... this Christmas was extra special because we spent it with all FOUR of our grandchildren. First, there was Christmas Eve with Sydney. We shared a service together at 11 a.m and then a dinner in the evening. It was so much fun. Syd wore the dress we got her for the day and looked so cute! It included a hat that didn't stay on much beyond a bit in the morning, but we got a kick out of it!

"Yay! It's Christmas!"
"I will model my dress while walking on the sofa!"
"I don't think ANYONE is happier than I am today!"

Then came December 25th, and by 2 o'clock Kate, Nate, and the kids arrived from the North. We were SO glad they got here safely even with all the snow up in Michigan and Wisconsin. By 4 pm everyone was at our house and ready to tear some gift wrap!
Rhylah got a hand-knitted hat and mittens from grammy but wondered a
bit about why we put them on her in the playpen!

The girls played "tag" in the hallway at gramma's house!

Asher models his crown from the Christmas Cracker he got from Uncle Leon!

Rhy even put on her pretty Christmas dress and then sat with it in a "poof"
for this really adorable shot!

A sweet holiday shot of Rhylah with big brother Gabriel!

The final gift from under the tree... Gabe and Ash got their Wii
from Papa, Gramma, Uncle Leon & Aunt Gret.

Could Gabriel look any MORE excited??

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Day with Sydney

Sydney Grace came and spent the day with us today while her mommy and daddy were at work and we had a GREAT time. She played with all her favorite toys; Gramma's piano, the greyhounds on the mantel, Papa's pots on the pot rack, and Chas. She "helped" sort the mail... she loves paper, so we gave her ALL the envelopes after we opened the Christmas cards. And she crawled EVERYWHERE in the house she could go! We had a LOT of fun!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Oh Bottle Brush, Oh Bottle Brush" (a corollary post to Kate's "Oh Christmas Tree")

I am an old fogey.... I must admit it. When it comes down to it, I am a veritable Scrooge about the thought of tramping about a tree lot and seeking the "perfect" tree. (Note to all you natural tree lovers out there... the perfect tree does NOT exist! We cut it down back in 1983 and there's never been one since!)

Tree shot with flash... yes, it really TOUCHES the ceiling!

Tree shot with ambient light... pretty, huh?

This year, we've sunk to new levels of "fogey-ness" - we purchased a 9 ft. PRE-LIGHTED tree! Yup! Eddie no longer has to play round and round the May-pole, tediously untangling strands of half-lit holiday bulbs! Our tree goes up in 3 sections, and down in the same; two plugs connect and voila, we have a tree! Considering that, after that point, it generally takes us three nights to get all the ornaments onto it, I'd say it's an excellent choice for us! No mess, no fuss, and with the right potpourri even the smell can be simulated!

Years ago, my father mockingly called these "bottle brushes" - but even he, in his later years, succumbed to the allure of "easy trees". Even the hardened naturalists among us will admit the look of these babies has changed substantially since the 1980's. So look at the cutting fun my kids in Michigan had last weekend and then picture me, cocoa in hand, sitting cozily by the fire with a little Bing playing softly on the stereo...
Merry Christmas to all,
bottle brushes or real,
It's not in the tree,
'Tis how it makes you feel!

Part of the Snowman collection!

All of the snowmen, having a committee meeting to discuss
the new tree. Even theirs is artificial!

We have tree! Huzzah! Ed goes happily back to reading in
his cozy chair!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Zap those Jedi Clones or whatever they are!

I have a fun story to tell... but I can't reveal too much since it could give away Christmas secrets! Today I used a "personal shopper" for the first time in my life. And the hilarious thing is my shopper turned out to be an 18 yr. old boy. Now before you blanch and wonder if I've lost my mind, hear the whole tale.

It began on Sunday with a call from Kate, asking me to be on the lookout for a particular toy for a particular grandson. Apparently, this toy has been unavailable in Michigan and Kate asked me to look for it here. I agreed to keep my eye out for it... no problem. Well, a small problem, I haven't done too much shopping myself yet, and I was not sure how soon I'd get to looking for the much sought item. From the title of the blog entry you can guess what movie it's associated with... and I'll only need to add one more word... Legos

8am today - So today as I greeted my students, it suddenly dawned on my that I had daily access to 105 kids who LIVE to shop! They love it and do it constantly. So I put out an "all points bulletin" - I said there was a $10 "finders fee" for the person who found this toy, called me to confirm I still needed it, and grabbed it before it got away. Several kids wrote down the item, and I went on with my day thinking I had a slightly better shot at locating the item than before.

3 pm: the day ended and in walked my personal 18 yr. old guy from one of my early a.m. classes. And he HAD THE GOODS! Turns out, this guy has "early dismissal" so he gets out of school before I do each day. He hopped in his car, scooted over to Toys R. Us near our local mall, and was back with the much sought toy before my day ended! I happily wrote him a check for the purchase plus his fee and felt pretty proud of myself! Mission accomplished!

So here's the idea... teenagers out there, tune in! You could become "personal shoppers" too! Find out what people need and go get it for a fee! What a gig! Combine your love of shopping with my lack of time to do it - it's a win-win situation all the way around!

Hmmmmm.... now I wonder if I could find a "personal Wrapper"?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Turkey for me, Turkey for you!

Ahh... Thanksgiving! My favorite early winter holiday! And this year was no exception.

Early morning was spent watching the St. Louis Thanksgiving Day Parade downtown. The weather was perfect and it seemed that everyone along Market St. was in high spirits. The funniest thing was when Ash saw his first giant balloon. He backed up about a foot and hid a bit behind his mom. Once reassured that it was just a balloon, he quickly recovered by saying, "Can we get one?"

Next, we spent a wonderful afternoon with family and friends. We all gathered at Gretchen and Leon's around noon and took our time finishing the meal preparations. Dinner was a little after 3... Doug, Carol, and Jesse Gaunt were there, and all the Harrmanns! So altogether there were 13 of us. The menu was huge and stunningly delicious... Turkey, Lamb, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cheesy brussel sprouts, gravy, herb-cheddar biscuits, cranberry salad, regular rolls, pumpkin pie, and chocolate pecan pie. WOW! Every cook involved brought out their finest skills! It was great!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fireside Chats

This isn't exactly what Carol's stove looks like, but the hearth area is
similar. (sans the bear rug on the floor! yikes!) Next time I go, I'll take a camera!

I spent a happy 2 hours tonight with my best friend Carol Gaunt. Now Carol has a woodburning fireplace sort of stove in her family room. It is possibly one of the coziest places on the planet. I sat there toasting my toes and talking with her while rocking in a comfy rocking chair near to the hearth. As I got home later and reflected on my evening, it made me smile. You see, Carol is only just lighting her fireplace this year! It's been in her house since she moved into it almost 6 years ago, but until this year she didn't light her fireplace. Two winters ago we had a big ice storm. And it's taken that long for Carol to get the chimney checked and everything she felt needed to be done in order to eventually use her stove just in case there's another ice storm in the future.

Tonight, as we sat there talking and toasting, we laughed about all the things we each have on our personal "to-do" lists that seem to only get longer with each passing season. But just for tonight, we enjoyed the fact that Carol & Doug have checked the one called "get fireplace working" off their list! It is a great place to sit and I plan to do it repeatedly this winter! So here's to friends with cozy hearths! May the logs burn bright and conversation never run out!

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Time of Greyness Begins

My husband and I are not great fans of the return to "non-daylight savings" time. It seems that we get up in darkness and return home in darkness at a time of year that one can barely tolerate being in darkness... the weeks just preceding the Winter Solstice. Then you add rain and cold damp weather....

What you see here is the view outside my classroom window. Wet, grey, chilly... miserable. I am not excited for the arrival of the wet times.
On the other hand, I love winter. Pure, crisp, cold winter. It seems like it's the genuine article. No fooling-around-flat-out cold! I say let's skip the grey, wet, murky days of late fall and jump right into winter. Oh wait! I live in Missouri! There's SNOW in the forecast for tomorrow! Huzzah!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Scottish Eggs and Other Yummy Tidbits!

Eggs Benedict... Scot style. That's salmon between the poached eggs and the baguette!

Clock wise from the silver dish... smoked salmon, bridies (little tenderloin stuffed pastry puffs),
Scotch eggs, and sausage rolls.

Well, I must admit, we like food. And some of the food we like is rather unique. Today was one of those "unique" dining experiences. We visited a place in St. Louis called "The Scottish Arms", a restaurant/pub specializing in authentic Scottish food and pub grub. They have a Sunday Brunch there that was AMAZING! (Cock-a-leeky pie anyone?) So of course, I had to bring out my phone and take photos of our plates. The food was as yummy as it was strange looking. I had a Scottish take on Eggs Benedict...they called it the Seamus MacBennedict; however, instead of Canadian Bacon on the entree there was smoked salmon! It was GREAT! Ed had the "Highland Hangover", a delightful sampler plate which included sausage rolls, bridies, salmon, and Scotch eggs. Everything was so good that we've decided we have to go back at dinnertime someday. They have Fullers, Guiness, and Newcastle all on tap... and all of those go much better with dinner than breakfast! For just a little while it felt like we were in Edinburgh again! Lovely!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Election Reflection.... or the Day After

Our entire family blogs, so it's been interesting to see and share one anothers thoughts on the developments of the past 48 hrs. I, too, had to put my thoughts into print on the day after this now "historic" election.

As my family is an interesting and tolerantly loving "camp divided", I found myself thinking about what I would most want to say about the election results. and my chief inspiration ironically came from the election night speeches of both candidates which were, in my mind, eloquent and unifying.

The beauty of the American democratic process is that we all have this opportunity every four years to stop and evaluate what it is we value in leadership and direction for our nation. We align ourselves in various and sundry ways behind the national and local candidates and ballot issues and we vote. Prior to that vote, things can get a bit heated at times; we wrangle, debate, campaign, and agonize about "what the other guy" will be doing on Nov. 4.

However, the beauty of our system is also what happens on the Wednesday AFTER we vote. My students were wrestling with this today. Teenage emotional highs and lows were all over the hallways of my school. Kids were proclaiming loudly about which foreign countries they might need to move to (next week!) and even some rather darkly inappropriate things were said about what could "happen" to our President elect prior to Jan. 20th. That's when I had to speak up and remind them about what happens in America on the day AFTER the election. That's where the true beauty of our democracy shines its brightest and best... where we become collectively "Americans" again... divisions aside, and look around and say, "So how will I be involved in making my country stronger and better? Where do I fit in the next four years? or (in a very Lutheran sense, ironically) What does this mean?"

That's not a pie-in-the-sky thing to do... to reflect. To stop and think, to realize one can't spend the next four years being either euphorically the victor or the angry defeated. Because to do that, devalues what the process is all about, exercising one's citizenship is as much about what we do in the four years between elections as what we do at the polls on one day. So I find the day (and days) following to be ones where I must examine what I will do and where I will find ways to make a difference as a citizen.

This campaign was long, and perhaps the very length of it explains why we all feel so jubilant that it's finished. It also might explain why feelings seem to be running so deep on both "sides" afterward. My prayer is that all Americans can manage not to be inclined to view the results the way we do our sporting events, with a winner-loser mentality. Politics are not a competitive sporting event, they are a reflective event, a visionary event, and a radical exercise in what it means to be citizen owners and cultivators of our democracy. We are a marvel to the rest of the world as we particpate in the process every 4 years. May God bless us all as we continue to grow our democracy; it's always a work in progress!

This is my favorite poem about what Election Day means... I have it on the bulletin board in my classroom all year round. Leave it to Whittier to put it all together so clearly.

The Poor Voter on Election Day
by John Greenleaf Whittier (1852)

The proudest now is but my peer,
The highest not more high;
To-day, of all the weary year,
A king of men am I.
To-day alike are great and small,
The nameless and the known
My palace is the people’s hall,
The ballot-box my throne!

Who serves to-day upon the list
Beside the served shall stand;
Alike the brown and wrinkled fist,
The gloved and dainty hand!
The rich is level with the poor,
The weak is strong to-day;
And sleekest broadcloth counts no more
Than homespun frock of gray.

To-day let pomp and vain pretence
My stubborn right abide;
I set a plain man’s common sense
Against the pedant’s pride.
To-day shall simple manhood try
The strength of gold and land
The wide world has not wealth to buy
The power in my right hand!

While there’s a grief to seek redress,
Or balance to adjust,
Where weighs our living manhood less
Than Mammon’s vilest dust, —
While there’s a right to need my vote
A wrong to sweep away,
Up! clouted knee and ragged coat!
A man’s a man to-day!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I live in Disneyland... oops... St. Charles

There's no way to deny it, St. Charles is a lot like a small downtown Disneyland. Every now and again as I walk around downtown St. Chuck (as we like to call it), I am struck by how totally picturesqe my town is. It's one of those cases where you are occasionally blind to your surroundings but all it takes is a gorgeous fall day to bring it all vividly back to mind. Take today for example; 78 degrees, driving with the convertible top down sort of weather... and there we were, walking around in short sleeves and soaking up the fall beauty. Now, give us 24-48 hrs. and all that could change dramatically. But just for today, it was perfect. Check out these photos and you'll see what I mean.

A vine covered winery on Main St.

Just one autumnally decorated shop of the over 80 on Main Street.

Yeah, the color is actually THAT beautiful!

Ed and Chas by the Lewis & Clark Memorial in our riverfront park.

Me and my puppy... yes, it really IS Nov. 2nd!

Pretty riverfront... cute canoodling couple on a blanket... fall in Missouri.... Beautiful!

So if any of you are looking for a great place for a fall vacation... give us a call... you can't beat uh, St. Charles!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Ladybug, Ladybug, Time to Trick-or-Treat

"Gramma has an electric punkin??? How weird is THAT? Oh well, never mind, these leaves on the porch
are more interesting to look at."

"Don't you just love my spots, grammy?"

"I don't know WHY I am in this get-up, but it makes my papa smile, so it's all good."

"Mom, why don't YOU have a costume on?"

This is actually Syd BEFORE she went out for her candy... gotta rest up to make the rounds!

Halloween... and we had our "rookie" Trick-Or-Treating Ladybug to make us all smile and feel like little kids again. Sydney made the rounds of family friends and neighbors, escorted by her parents who had possibly even more fun than she did. Funny though, we could tell by her giggles and smiles that she knew this night was a special one, she seemed to sense that THIS kid's fest would be one that she would want to do again and again in years to come.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Lovely Day at the Meadows

This past Saturday we had such a beautiful day at the Vineyard that I had to shoot photos and tell all about it. First, it was a "classic" Missouri fall day... not too warm, nice in the sunshine, light breeze... the works! Next, we had some really great visitors at the winery. We hosted our first ever BOOK group! It was wonderful. They brought snacks, had a wine tasting, and then spent about 3 hrs or so discussing their book of the month while laughing and sipping wine. Very mellow, totally neat and what an obviously great group of friends! We are hoping they'll come back again for a repeat... however, the weather was amazing and something we told them was made to order for their day!
Later in the day, our son-in-law, Leon, brought out his youth from St. Charles. They came for "fun on the farm" night... and we had a bonfire, roasted hotdogs, did the classic s'mores... and discovered that creative teens can make croquet a hilarious sport when they really put their minds to it! Again, what a fun bunch to have hanging out with us at the farm!
Finally, our neighbor did some haying across the lane, which made for a chance to get some rather "scenic" and idyllic photos of the farm from out on the lane... I love the look of the round bales in the fields. All in all... a great Saturday!
The book club ladies!

The croquet champions start their match!

Brad Rogers supervises the bonfire!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Harvest is Finished!

We finished our harvest work this weekend and with the help of many friends and family who came out to enjoy a gorgeous Saturday, we picked just about 1800 lbs of Norton grapes. They were crushed just before the sun went down, and we could put our feet up and sigh happily.

The grapes came back well from the freeze of last year. If all holds, this year's vintages should be very good! More things to be thankful for in a time when a lot of things seem a bit shaky and unpredictable. Happy Fall everyone!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A weekend in the North

We zipped away to the cooler North this first weekend in October... and visited Katie, Nathan, and the grandmunchkins! What a beautiful time! We celebrated Rhylah's upcoming first birthday just a few days early and just RELAXAED! I will be posting her birthday pics on the actual day of her birthday (Oct. 8th) but I couldn't resist posting just a few. In many of these she's wearing the new sweater that I made her. She looks so cute in it!

We also got to visit with Uncle Carl. He's Ed's bachelor uncle who has been such an important part of the family for over 80 years. He came for dinner on Saturday night and he and Rhylah had a great time chatting with each other.

Rhylah models her new cardigan.
I absolutely LOVE knitting for my grandkids!

Working the remote... 1 year old style.

The Harrmanns by their fireplace.

A sweet smile while swinging in her baby swing.

Rhy and Uncle Carl share some conversation and smiles.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Farewell summer!

Tomorrow is officially the first day of fall, so today I had to take one last "official" summer swim.
The pool is down to a briskly refreshing 72 degrees, so none of my fellow family members would swim with me. (one advantage to carrying a few extra pounds is that one can swim and be a bit better "insulated" from the cold than other folks). Gret was over and even went jogging, but couldn't bring herself to leap into the chilly water. Actually, once I got it, it felt really great... and I got a bit sad to see the end of summer. Soon we'll be closing it down for winter, but not yet... this week it's supposed to hit 82 or higher each day.

Speaking of this week... it's been dubbed "National Stay at Home Week" - how very convenient too, since it is the start of the season premieres on television. I know I am anxiously awaiting the new season of "ER", my perennial favorite. I am also hopelessly nuts about "Dancing with the Stars' and have picked the winners for the past 3 seasons! My latest favorite is "America's Got Talent" - and I can proudly say that I picked ALL of the five finalists! Now my dilemma, which one to vote for in the finals! Oh no! I can't choose!!!! Reality TV reminds me of the old days of Carol Burnett and Ed Sullivan. Variety shows of all types used to abound... and I rather miss that sort of entertainment. There was something so innocent and "family" about seeing regulars do comedy sketches and watching new talent be showcased.

Well, enjoy your first week of Fall.... the leaves will be falling down in no time!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Up, up, and AWAY!

We were all bobbing in the pool last night enjoying the last official night of summer, when Sydney decided to dazzle us with her latest accomplishment. She was playing peek-a-boo with her papa and I from her vantage point in the playpen placed at poolside. And that was when she decided to use the mesh sides of the playpen to leverage herself up to a standing position! We all cheered, perhaps a bit too loudly, and she tipped over and plopped back down into the mattress. However, she was ready to try again, much to the delight of herself and all her loyal fans. Look out world, she's going to be WAY more mobile now!

Look at the grin... she knows she's done something big!