Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reviewing the Past Year; Looking Ahead to the New

In thinking about goals for the new year, I have to think about how practical each goal is.  Will I really find the time to do whatever it is I dream of doing?  The answer, of course, is that I have just as much time as anyone else, and I just have to establish patterns or routines which allow me to meet my goals. Trying to do too much all at once is a recipe for disaster, but assuming that I can be patient with myself and set realistic expectations, I should be able to achieve my top priorities.

So, the real question is, what are my top priorities?

I love this quote by Elder Ian S. Ardern:

"I know our greatest happiness comes as we tune in to the Lord and to those things which bring a lasting reward, rather than mindlessly tuning in to countless hours of status updates, Internet farming, and catapulting angry birds at concrete walls. I urge each of us to take those things which rob us of precious time and determine to be their master, rather than allowing them through their addictive nature to be the master of us."

I have no internet farm, nor have I played Angry Birds, not because I am opposed to games, but because I know I would devote too much time to them.  Better to not start. 

Blogging has become a new hobby in 2011.  I really am enjoying it, but at the same time, I don't want it to become a time waster.  So, in 2012, I hope to use this blog as a way to keep me focused on what really is important. 

Thankful thought:  Thanks for times of reflection, thanks for the process of learning, and thanks for patience with ourselves and others as we strive to improve.

Friday, December 30, 2011

January 2012 Visiting Teaching Handout

Every month, I have the opportunity to go visit several other women from church, as part of the visiting teaching program.  It's a great chance to sit and chat and develop friendships.   There is also a message for each month.  January's message is about the visiting teaching program itself.  I decided to try to be creative and design a handout that visually captures the idea of visiting teaching.   And unlike last time I created a handout, I think I have figured out how to share it with you!



If you would like a copy, click here. Please let me know if that isn't working.  I'm still learning!

Update:  I think it is easiest to just right click on the image, "save picture as", and then open to print in whatever format you wish. 

Thankful thought:  Thanks for those who share their knowledge to help me (and others!) learn new skills.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I'm Thinking This Must Be a Misprint

We dropped the car off at the shop yesterday for new brakes.  One of the parts wasn't in stock, so we had to wait until this morning to pick up the car.  When I looked at the receipt, I realized:

1.  The car is probably due for another oil change now.
2.  A 1999 Ford Escort can go a LOT faster than I realized!




Thankful thought:  Thanks for honest auto repairmen, even if they sometimes mess up the paperwork!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blog Construction Zone

As you've probably noticed, I'm in the process of a blog remodel.  Bear with me as things change around a bit, and please feel free to leave any suggestions or comments.  I'm particularly trying to decide which tab categories to feature.  Thanks!

Wordless Wednesday: Siblings

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Loving the Change of Pace

I've decided that one reason we set new year's resolutions is because we have about a week between Christmas and New Year's Day when we have a change of pace, a chance to slow down and reflect.  I love to plan, but I don't like to be rushed, so having a week to have ideas percolate in my brain is refreshing. The thoughts are still rattling around up there, so I'm not ready to take a leap and publicly declare change--don't rush me, remember?--but I am enjoying quiet time.

In some ways, though, my house is noisier.  My brother and his wife and kids are staying with us for a few days.  His oldest child is years younger than my youngest, so we are enjoying having young children in the house.  One of their favorite games is guessing which cousin will wake up first.  We just laughed when we were told that my brother's oldest woke my oldest up by saying, "It's 8:30!! Why aren't you up? Are you sick????"  After a week of college finals, I think it's OK to still be in bed at 8:30. 

Even with young ones running around, I've found time to immerse myself in a new book.  I love to read, but don't finish nearly as many books as I did when I was younger.  Yesterday, I read "The Best of Friends," which John's mom gave me for Christmas.  It made me think of my friends and the various paths our lives have taken.  For many of my friendships, time and distance have taken their toll (facebook notwithstanding),  yet I imagine I could catch up with the amazing women I call friends without too many awkward silent pauses. 

Thankful thought:  Thanks for friends, both those I have had the pleasure of knowing since childhood, and those who are more familiar with my adult life.  Each of you has been a wonderful example to me.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Perfect Family: Another Myth Dispelled

This afternoon, one of our neighbors stopped by to deliver goodies to us.  She gushed about how much she loves having us carol to her each December.  She said that she wished her (grown) kids could be there when we sing on her doorstep, so they "could know how perfect families are." Um, thanks for the compliment, but we aren't perfect.

We do have family traditions that I am pleased with.  We have family home evening (FHE) every week, for instance.  I would be lying if I said that every FHE is a model of domestic living, though.  We are human, and sometimes the lesson or activity doesn't quite go over the way we would hope.  One joke in the Mormon community is that family home evening is the only argument that begins and ends with prayer. 

Another less-than-stellar moment occurred on vacation.  We had taken a red-eye flight to Boston.  We arrived in the morning, and in an attempt to adjust to eastern time, we stayed awake and started walking along the Boston Trail.  At one point on our walk, I stopped the family to say, in what was supposed to be a more patient voice than it actually was, "We are here on vacation to have fun! Stop arguing and be happy!" Oh, yes, I think I was mistaken for June Cleaver that day.  Not really. 

I am flattered that one of our family traditions brings joy to others, but I am not at all comfortable with the thought that somehow another family would somehow feel inferior, just because our tradition is not one in which they participate. 

If I took my neighbor to the proverbial family "wreck" room, instead of the literal one I mentioned in this post, she would find that we have had our share of challenges.  I never would have imagined some of the turns we've had in the past (nearly) 25 years.  Each challenge has molded me into who I am today.  I have learned so much, and one lesson I've learned is the importance of being patient with each other. 

I imagine that her family has some traditions or strengths that are worthy of emulation which we haven't adopted.  There are so many great ideas, habits, and traditions!  In retrospect, I wish I had kept the kids' photo scrapbooks up-to-date.  Instead, I am going to have to wade through piles of photos and try to fill in the past ten years or so.  I wish I had been more patient and less tired at the end of the day.  I wish I could have come up with a great cooking/cleaning/organizing schedule and stuck with it!

Guess what?  There will always be more good ideas than can possibly be completed in one lifetime.  We're going to make mistakes, and we're going to omit doing some things that others seem to do effortlessly.  It's OK! 

My neighbor would probably be surprised (or relieved) to know that we have various levels of enthusiasm with our family members regarding caroling.  However, everyone in the family knows that caroling is just something we do.  In the end, more good memories than bad come from it (much like family home evening).  And really, isn't that what we want in our families? 

The perfect family?  No, but it's MY family, and I love it!

Thankful thought:  Thanks for each member of my imperfect family, and thanks for each person's patience with imperfect me!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Missionaries and Christmas

The missionaries came over for dinner at our house a couple of nights ago.  My oldest served a mission to Japan, so one of the missionaries was asking him about what it was like in Japan, what foods he ate, etc.  The other missionary was fairly quiet, which was completely understandable, as he is from Cambodia and still getting acquainted with English.  (He speaks very well, however, considering how new he is.)  He did laugh, though, when we pointed out that he will be having similar conversations when he returns to Cambodia:  "What strange things did you eat in the United States?" 

I don't know Cambodian cuisine, but I made a guess that rice and curry wouldn't be completely foreign to him, and served that.  Dessert, however, was probably a bit strange.  I found an idea for Snowmen Sundaes here, and thought it was a cute, quick dessert.  We used pretzel sticks instead of licorice for the arms, though..

The missionaries try to keep themselves busy and focused on the true meaning of Christmas during December, perhaps in part to help stave off homesickness.  The elder from Cambodia is primarily experiencing culture shock, though, I think.  He said that he converted to the church about 5 years ago, and his family is Buddhist, so he did not grow up celebrating Christmas.  He said he enjoys seeing the Christmas trees.

Moms of missionaries look forward to Christmas (and Mother's Day), because the missionaries are allowed to call home on those two days.  I loved hearing oldest son's voice, and loved hearing just how much he was enjoying his time of service. 

Service, love and Christmas just seem to go together, don't they?

Thankful thought:  Thanks to missionaries worldwide, who give their time in service to others.  Thanks also to those who are kind to them, regardless of whether or not they want to hear their message.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Caroling Without a Camera

Christmastime means caroling (or carolling, if you prefer the British spelling.  I might.  I can't make up my mind.)  Anyway, each year we crazy parents insist that our children accompany us down our street to sing songs and deliver goodies to our neighbors.  And each year, there is the inevitable jockeying for position on each front porch, and discussion about whose turn it is to hand over the treats. 

I think we have caroled every December, with the exception of the year of pregnancy bed rest (OK, it was only 20 weeks, but it felt like a year--and it was definitely over the holidays!) Even then, though, John might have taken the other kids caroling.  I honestly don't remember.  But I digress again.  My point is that though caroling is such a big tradition for us, I have not once thought to document the tradition with a photograph.  I did notice, however, that one of our friends snapped a picture of us last night.  I'm going to ask if I can get a copy of it.

I'm wondering how many other traditions we have that I have neglected to photograph.  Blogging has helped me pick up my camera more often than in the past, but there is obviously room for improvement. 

Thankful thought:  Thanks for traditions, which seem to be remembered with or without a camera.  But thanks also for cameras.  And thanks for wonderful neighbors who, if they have perfect pitch, don't let on that they do.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Not Perfection, But Satisfaction

As of about 8:30 last night, I am finished with accompanying choirs for the year.  Though I enjoy playing for them, it will be nice to have a bit of a break.  It will probably take a couple of weeks for various measures of songs to exit my brain anyway, after having stewed in there for the past few months. 

Of course, I made mistakes, but they were minor and hopefully unnoticed.  The choirs performed marvelously, under the direction of talented choristers.  There was a quiet stillness after the final strains of "Silent Night" concluded.  Choir and congregation alike felt the true spirit of Christmas. 

Thankful thought:  Thanks for patient choristers and choir members, who not only ignore my (sometimes glaring) errors, but even thank me for playing for them.  It's wonderful to be around so many talented, gracious people.  Thanks also to my college kids who are home for the break, one of whom willingly acted as my page-turner yesterday.  I know I should be able to turn my own pages, and I am getting better at it, but it was so nice not to have to worry about it!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

December Garden Walk

I realize that I missed the November garden walk.  It crossed my mind sometime between the turkey and the pie, I think.  Anyway, here is a peek into my garden now.

One of the garden tasks that makes me chuckle is gathering the tumbleweeds.  I suppose if I had grown up here, I would not find the task so humorous.  Because the novelty has not worn off, I am still amused by this job.


It's starting to look like another season in the garden. The leaves are turning color and falling.  



 There are signs of life in the vegetable garden, though.  We've harvested some peas, and the cabbage is heading up nicely. 



Thankful thought:  Thanks for the seasons, which add variety to the year. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Planning Around the Sour Cream Once Again

Since we moved into our house a couple of years ago, we've been trying to figure out what to do with the formal living room. It has served as a girl scout meeting spot, as the place where all the boy cousins sleep at Thanksgiving, as a greenhouse for tomato starts, and as a boxing ring.  It has been our very own "room of requirements."  As wonderful as all of that is, I occasionally find myself thinking of just what I want that room to be.  I envision a calm room (oops, there goes the boxing ring!), and perhaps something a little more formal than we've had in the past.  (None of us are terribly formal people, so I'm definitely not talking stuffy here!)  I've been keeping my eyes open, hoping that I would eventually find a piece of furniture, or something, that would help give direction to my idea. 

Well, last week in our local Goodwill thrift store, I found an oil painting that fills the bill:


Living in the desert, I sometimes miss the rain, so it is nice to see the clouds and damp pavement in this painting. 

I wanted John's opinion before I came home with it, so that night, I took John to the store.  Then I waited at the store while John drove back home to get the van, as I grossly underestimated the size of the painting/overestimated the size of our car's trunk. 

Here it is in the room.  I like the way it adds interest to an otherwise blank wall.


So, once again, I am planning the dinner around the sour cream, so-to-speak.  If you were planning the rest of the room, what would you do?  I'm thinking it needs some sort of window covering and some furniture, and paint is always fun, but that's about as specific as my planning is.  Just about any color could tie in, due to the painting.  Here's the rest of the room, if that helps:


So, what do you think? 

Thankful thought:  Thanks for artists who share their talents, and thanks, Mom & Dad, for funding my early Christmas present! (We used a tiny bit of John's gift money as well.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tomatoes, Part 1 (Yes, I Know it is December!)

Thanks to a generous somewhat-local farmer with a greenhouse, the church recently received a donation of tomatoes. While many of the boxes went to charities and those in need, there were boxes left over. Those boxes were available for church members who wanted them. I picked up one box last Friday, but there were still boxes available on Sunday, so I picked up two more, for a total of 60 pounds of tomatoes--enough for 2 batches of spaghetti sauce to can.

I wish I could say that I have finished canning jars upon jars of spaghetti sauce, but that is not the case. However, I can say that in addition to the more traditional December activities of cookie-baking and fudge-making, I have peeled 60 pounds of tomatoes. For the curious, that is around 24 quarts of tomatoes. Tomorrow I plan to saute onions, peppers, and mushrooms to add to the tomatoes, and then let the concoction simmer on the stove for hours. I think I should end up with 18 quarts of spaghetti sauce when all is said and done.

Spaghetti sauce needs to processed in a pressure canner. Pressure canners always strike a bit of fear in me. If the food is not processed correctly, I could end up serving my family a big batch of botulism. While I'm trying to assure correct processing, though, the darn canner rattles and complains so much that the risk of explosion in my kitchen seems imminent. However, I come from a long line of survivors of home processing, so the canning tradition continues.

I have a confession to make, though. I haven't used the pressure canner in years. And you know what that means: I have to replace the sealing ring, or my family will die from poorly-processed food. I had never replaced the ring. I dreaded the task. I didn't know where to find a ring, and imagined the procedure would be horribly difficult.

Well, I was silly!!! Amazon.com carries everything, including sealing rings for canners. And replacing the ring was much quicker than replacing a vacuum cleaner belt (not to mention much cleaner). All I had to do was take the old ring out, wash the lid, and put the new ring in. It was that simple!

How many other tasks do I dread for no good reason? Hopefully, the next time I'm dragging my feet, I'll be able to remember the lesson of the sealing ring.

Thankful thought: Thanks to Mom and Grandma, who have convinced me that canning without causing illness is possible. Thanks also to generous farmers.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Candlelight Processional at Disneyland

Yesterday, we went to Disneyland.  I love to go to Disneyland, particularly when I can play tour guide, particularly on non-busy days.  Yesterday was a crowded Saturday, and I didn't bring any tourists along. But the first Saturday in December is my favorite day to visit Disneyland, because that is the day of the Candlelight Processional. 

Once a year, choirs from all over gather together at Disneyland.  Choir members walk down Main Street, carrying (battery-operated) candles and singing Christmas carols.  They start at Small World and end at the Main Street train station, where they join a full orchestra. 


A celebrity reads the account of the birth of Jesus from the book of Luke in the Bible.  Gary Sinise read this year.


After every few verses, the choir sings another musical number.  The audience joins for "Silent Night."

Literally thousands of individuals, most in standing-room-only roped-off partitions, make up the audience.  I generally don't like crowds, but in this instance, the number of people adds to the experience.  Knowing that we are all gathered together to celebrate Christmas through song and scripture brings me such a feeling of love and unity.  I might not know the names of the strangers around me, but I know they are my brothers and sisters.  What better way to start the season than that!

Thankful thought:  Thanks for musicians who share their talents, celebrities who read, and Disneyland for hosting such a religiously-based event each year.  Thanks also for my family, and thousands of others, who share the experience with me!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Deck the Halls and Ignore the Mess

I love to get started with decorating for Christmas right after Thanksgiving.  I mean, if I'm going to go to the trouble to decorate, I might as well enjoy it for a while, right?  But if I were to leave the tree up until spring, I think it would whisper "procrastinator!" every time I would walk by.  Where's the joy in that?  So, I try for an early start.

I had every intention of sharing photos of my lovely, decorated house in a blog post yesterday.  The trouble is, I'm not Martha Stewart.  The trees are up, but my house is a mess.  I'm not done.  The boxes of lights for the outside are plopped unceremoniously in the entry.  Many of the empty boxes which held the ornaments are still waiting to be returned to the attic.  And the rest-of-the-year decorations which were removed to make way for the Christmas stuff have yet to be hidden from view.  (To be honest, even Martha Stewart has to get the boxes down from the attic or where ever she stores them.  I think.)

As I mentioned in this post, it is a myth that some people skate through life in spotless houses.  That post seemed to resonate with the real women I know, so I've decided to resist the urge to make my house perfect (as if that is even in my capability!) prior to sharing these photos.  I'm enjoying the Christmas decorations, even though this is still a work-in-progress. 


(Thanks to puppy, the carpet cleaner is oft-used, and as a result, chairs get moved around while the floor dries!)


Welcome!  Don't trip over a box!  (I actually did just that two nights ago.  I've got the bruise to prove it, too.  Life can be messy.)


The table holds a bunch of stuff.  Over the next few days, I'm going to organize the display into something beautiful.  I love the anticipation of possibility!


This is the first year we've had this tall tree.  It was a bargain at a garage sale this summer.  When I went to set it up, I realized it was missing something.  Fortunately, John was able to make a stand in no time flat!


I know it's cramped, but I love displaying the nativities on the mantle. 

Even with the messes, Christmas brings a sense of peace, along with anticipation.  Peaceful anticipation sounds like it should be an oxymoron, but somehow it is fitting in December.

May you enjoy this season, messes and all. 

Thankful thought:  Thanks for the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and above all, the feel of Christmas!