Monday, 14 December 2015

Holiday Spirit, Competitive Spirit!

For years and years we have been decorating a gingerbread house as part of our Christmas holiday tradition. I can't remember exactly when we started but it definitely goes as far back as when our nephew Zak turned 13 (and he is now in his 30's). After we decorated our masterpiece that year, Zak thought it would be fun if we stood on our balcony and chucked big rocks at it. We thought that was an odd way to celebrate but we placed the house on the grass in the backyard, gathered some rocks and headed upstairs. It made a spectacular crash!

Fast forward to the past few years and we have gotten better with a piping bag and more creative with our building materials. 2011 was the introduction of water elements, see HERE. 

2014 was all about the Grinch (by Andrew and Melissa) and using sugar cones for trees and dancers (our idea):

2015 showcased Hometown USA with a doghouse made of candy bones (made by us) and Aliens and a spaceship that crashed into a house in the desert (by Andrew and Melissa):

Clearly if this was a competition, our house would LOSE each and every year, both on lack of original theme and sketchy technique (although we were quite proud of our river in 2011 and this year's working chimney, made from a marshmallow and torched for heightened realism).

This year's festivities ended with lively banter and considerable trash talk as we felt our dog bone - dog house warranted extra points.

Bottom line, we eventually and grudgingly bowed to the creativity of the Alien house.

And when I say grudgingly, I mean we texted photos to relatives in TWO different states to vote on BEST HOUSE and they both confirmed that we placed 2nd.

Regardless, the four of us have stepped up our game over the past four years that we have frosted together and I don't know if it was the rush of sampling too many gum drops or the bottle of wine with dinner but we think we are ready to enter an actual contest next year.

To that end, we checked out the local gingerbread house contest on display at the LaCosta Resort to see what competition looks like beyond our kitchen table.

 Hmmmm, are we ready for 2016?

You be the judge.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Wednesday Night Tree Shopping

Generally we pick out our tree on the weekend. But we may have stumbled upon a new tradition.

Last night we drove to Evergreen Nursery at 7 pm.

One family was leaving and one couple was wandering the aisles so we had our pick of parking spots.

Yes, it was dark out but the lot was sufficiently lit so you could see if a tree had a big ole bald spot.

Plus we got to chat it up with Mr. Christmas, the only tree bagger/loader attendant on duty.

At least that is what the earnest little kid, who was leaving as we were parking, called out to him, "Thank you Mr. Christmas, thank you." 

Because it was a slow weeknight, I got to have a conversation with Mr.Christmas. He said, "I recognized you guys as soon as the Bronco came around the corner. Your husband always brings his gloves and you never need me to do anything but bag and help toss the tree in the truck." 

Yep, that's us.

But kinda hysterical that he would remember a couple he sees only once a year.

As I went up to the counter to pay, I asked the gal how many trees they sold on Saturday and she said, "Three hundred and eight-two."

I wonder if Mr. Christmas remembered all the folks that bought them.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Collection of Aprons

One more apron and I would be a 50's housewife!

Rivalling June Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver.

Are you old enough to remember that show?  Black and white.
Wally and Beaver and Eddie ran around saying 'golly gee' and gave each other 'the business'. It was broadcast before I was born but I do remember the reruns.

If I wanted to, I could get from Monday through Saturday without wearing the same one twice.

But like clothes and shoes, each one has a different personality.

Like the French girl…

Or the pastel one that ushers in Spring.

And this one that gets unpacked, along with ornaments, every year and screams, "LET'S BAKE CHRISTMAS COOKIES!"

So I do….

Happy Holiday Baking to you and a shout out to June!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

The best holidays end with pie.

This year we celebrated at my brother's new house which he moved into just a little over a year ago.

He grilled a whole turkey on his outdoor BBQ (a first in our family) and we ate outside under a big tree (another first).

We shared stories and pictures and played scrabble until it started to rain and then promptly moved the party inside.

Drank more wine.

And ate pie.

Hope your holiday was festive and filled with a few firsts!

p.s. Pie recipe can be found HERE. Thanks Joy!

Friday, 20 November 2015

Thanksgiving Feast with Refugees

In 2010, I passed a background test and went through a Volunteer Orientation and became involved with the IRC, you can read about the organization HERE.

I bring this up because there is so much talk/debate/fear in the news right now about the subject of refugees.

Prior to my involvement with this organization, I doubt I could rattle off an exact definition.

refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

As a volunteer, I spend time in a classroom with adults that are learning English and I teach them how to cook healthy dishes, how to spell and pronounce all the words/food items associated with the recipe and then we share a meal.

Every year, we celebrate an American tradition, the Thanksgiving Feast ---- with turkey, gravy, cranberries, beans, stuffing, potatoes and pumpkin pie.

So that is where I was this afternoon.

Sharing and eating and bonding with a group of people that are learning our language, our customs and our traditions.

As I was conversing with a lovely woman from Somalia, I kept thinking that it would be nice if all the folks that are so terrified of refugees could sit down and have some pie in the classroom with us.

It might change a few minds.

Because most of the time fear is just ignorance.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Boston - Trip Down Memory Lane

Boston Public Garden - the swan boats come out in the Spring.

When I was 26 years old I came across an ad in the Los Angeles Times looking for a technical trainer. The software company was based in Boston and needed someone to cover the West Coast.

It caught my eye and I wasn't even job hunting.

This was in the days before Indeed/Monster. This was before the WorldWideWeb. When job prospects were in the NEWSPAPER, not on the Internet.

So I MAILED my resume and cover letter (using a stamp)  to Camex Inc. at 75 Kneeland Street.

And I got the job.

On Day 1, I flew to Boston (my first trip there) and stayed at the FOUR SEASONS HOTEL (yes, that gorgeous high-end hotel chain) for a MONTH. My view was the Boston Public Gardens. Every morning I walked a few blocks (through the theatre district and over to Chinatown) to go through a rigorous training program on the Breeze, the Scanner and the BitCaster.

It changed the course of my life.

I made wonderful friends. I met the man that I would marry. I started traveling, nationally and internationally.

After six months as the West Coast software trainer they asked me to relocate to headquarters.

So I went to LIVE in Massachusetts and bought my first winter coat.

I moved into a condo in the quaint town of Hingham on the South Shore and I took a FERRY BOAT, yes, seriously, a BOAT back and forth to work every day.

In the winter we all huddled below deck to keep warm but in late Spring, Summer and early Fall we gathered on the top deck and sipped wine as we leaned across the railing and watched Boston Harbor disappear from view (this was on the evening trip home as I don't think they served cocktails to the morning commuters).

Earlier this month, my husband, my dear friend Linda that I met on my first day at Camex, and I took a walk down memory lane.

Everything looked exactly the same.

The bar across the street.

The sign out front displaying 75 Kneeland.

The lobby.

The elevator.

So much so that it was almost shocking to step out of the elevator and realize that Camex no longer existed (the company was bought by DuPont ages ago) and what was once the floors that we spent so much time on were now gutted/completely renovated and occupied by medical groups from Tufts.

The lobby at 75 Kneeland Street.

Local pub, Jacob Wirth, where we often met for drinks and going away parties.

South Station for those that commuted by train.

View from Rowes Wharf for those of us that commuted by boat to the South Shore.

Boston is an old city with a lot of history (like Paul Revere's House, Faneuil Hall, Old North Church, Granary Burying Ground, etc.) that will be there year after year after year.

Regardless of who moves into 75 Kneeland Street.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Emily Dickinson

A WORD is dead
When it is said,
Some say.

I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

Our guide recited this poem as we started the 45-minute tour of the Emily Dickinson house in Amherst Massachusetts last weekend.

American poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) is known for her use of slant-rhyme, unconventional punctuation and reclusive habits.

Example of slant:

“The Mind is Smooth – no Motion –
Contented as the Eye (slanted)

Upon the Forehead of a Bust –
That knows – it cannot see”(slanted)

Her poems did not have titles. They were not dated. 

Fewer than a dozen of her poems were published during her lifetime. After her sister Lavinia discovered the collection of nearly 1800 poems, Dickinson's first volume was published four years after her death.

We learned that Emily dressed in all white, even to garden. A replica of one of her dresses is on display and was fancy enough to get married in!

She baked and filled a basket of treats and dropped it out her bedroom window to share with kids playing outside.

Although she was a homebody, there were acres and acres of land around her family property so she did enjoy nature.

We were told that Emily was buried behind the Mobil station nearby and sure enough that is where we found the cemetery.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

New England Leaves

We flew home from Boston last night.

Since we were on the East Coast for Halloween weekend, we expected bare trees and cold weather as this is well past the prime leaf-peeping schedule according to Fall foliage maps and charts of New England.

What an unexpected surprise!