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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Half Way There

I just couldn't wait to show you! I am halfway to my cleaning goal for this weekend. Yesterday, with Adeline's wonderful help, I cleaned and organized my craft closet. I forgot to take a "before" picture--which is probably for the best ... I really don't like to show my clutter.

So, I removed EVERYTHING from the closet and proceeded to weed out the garbage. The kitchen table, the island and the floor were filled with the contents of the closet. Unbelievable.

Can you believe all this garbage came from one closet?

Both Adeline and I were ruthless-- Adeline sorted through dried up paint and pens and tossed broken pencils and crayons....I cleaned, threw away "old unused stuff", organized, labeled and placed.

Taa Daa.....this is what the craft closet looks like now....

It feels SO good... I like to open the door and gaze.

I want to go create now. ... but first I must clean the pantry.

Monday, December 28, 2009

I am Thinking.....

The Thinker Statue
I am....

...thinking about how wonderful it was to have family over during the Christmas holiday;

...wearing one of the bargains I found at the day after Christmas sale. (Banana Republic had a super sale--30% off the already on sale items, found several tops, and also found some fantastic bargains at Anthropologie);

...thankful for a warm home, food in the refrigerator and family to love;

...creating a place to set out my new Babylock serger machine (never owned one before, look forward to learning how to use this magnificant machine and can't wait to get those sewing juices flowing);

...going to plant all remaining bulbs --this week;

...cleaning out my pantry and craft closets by Saturday (you know it is time when things spill out when you open the door or there is so much on the floor, you can't even get to the back shelves);

...hoping it rains a lot in January..and Febrary...and March...and April ---LET IT POUR!;

...hearing pitter pat on the roof --WONDERFUL;

...exercising more to get rid of the "extra" girth; and

....planning a family ski weekend for next month.

What are you thinking/doing?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Birthday Greets to Mrs. Shoe




Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Did you know that the cocoa bean.....

.....comes from the cacao tree and was originally discovered and cultivated in Mexico, Central and South America over three thousand years ago?

.....was used by the Mayans to prepared their favorite, frothy, bitter, spicy drink and they flavored it with vanilla, similar to the way we prepare it today?

.....was also used to fight fatigue, as a currency and to treat diarrhea?

....was introduced to Europe in the 1600's and that the Industrial Revolution made it possible for worldwide distribution?

....had so many functions?

I love chocolate. Good chocolate.

I don't drink coffee so my hot drink of choice is hot chocolate/cocoa.

I am talking about REAL hot chocolate/cocoa such as Valrona, Guittard or Shaffen Berger. Hershey Syrup, Nesquick, or the prepackaged powdered stuff with tons of sugar(and the like) NEVER pass my lips -- ever.

I admit it, I am a snob when it comes to my hot chocolate. I only drink hot chocolate made from pure unadulterated cocoa powder.

On a cold winter night, there is nothing more comforting and soothing than sipping a wonderful cup of hot cocoa by a blazing fire-- or having a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter morning before devouring a bowl of steel cut oats.

Did you know, there is a difference between "hot chocolate" and "hot cocoa"?

Hot "chocolate" is prepared one way.....

......by gently heating milk with a handfull of chocolate chips or chunks, stirring constantly until the chocolate is incorporated and melted.

"Hot cocoa" is prepared this way:

....by gently heating together a cup milk and 1-2 tablespoons cocoa powder.

Once the mixture is adequately heated and dissolved, add a couple of tablespoons of Torani syrup, whip the mixture together to produce a nice frothy foam....
....... pour the hot cocoa /chocolate into a nice porcelain mug (no styrofoam, plastic etc...bad for the environment...leaves a bad taste).

A sample of my favorite mugs for hot cocoa/chocolate which are stored together in a special cupboard along with my "chocolate supplies".

...and if you are really feeling wicked, spoon a dollop of whipped cream on top ......and on occasion.. a handful of marshmellows.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Remember the Real Reason

There is nothing like having your family over to spur you into getting the decorations up for Christmas. I have collected SO MANY decorations that I must now rotate my decor --mainly because I don't have enough surfaces to display everything. We are talking about both horizontal and vertical surfaces. I bring all the boxes down from the attic and then I decide which decorations I want to use for the current season . Sometimes I feel sorry for those decorations that haven't been out for years. Maybe it is time to let them live somewhere else.

I'd like to take you on a little tour.

In my family room I have my favorite Santa sitting in an evergreen forest.....

...and a collection of nutcrackers stoically standing in the foliage above the TV:

In my living and dining room I have angels heralding on the piano and buffet....

......and white glistening balls and lights floating atop the mantel.

I have vintage Santas, cups, trees, figurines, and candles in one of our bathrooms:

In the kitchen, there are little white houses ....

..... a very large "tree" with fruit ornaments...

bromeliads and paperwhites blooming in the window...
....and angels winging above a metal stocking cradling a cool plant.

Now, I love all of the above--the Santas, the greenery, the lights and the glitter. It helps to create a wonderful mood for the season. But we must not forget the real reason we are celebrating at this time of year----the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Two ways that help me keep focused on the true meaning of Christmas are...

....... listening to inspiring music. Songs such as "Oh Holy Night", "Silent Night", "Oh Come All Ye Faithful", and "The First Noel" just to name a few-- Ever since the day after Thanksgiving I have tuned to two radio stations that play Christmas music exclusively-KOIT (95.6) and KDFC(102.1)

......and gazing at my small collection of creche, a few I'd like to share with you.....

Adeline bought this creche for me when she lived in Spain for four months:

This creche was a gift from Sophie several Christmases ago:

This very old creche was purchased at an antique store a while back. Each figurine is marked on the bottom with "Western Germany" so you know this creche from the pre-Berlin wall era. I purchased the handmade stable at a different time and place. Perhaps an old gentleman constructed it for his wife, who had a collection of creche figures.

and a plaque from Italy purchased at Gumps in San Francisco:

....I am hoping each of us can remember the true meaning of Christmas....the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Through His example, He showed us how to conduct our lives, how to be kind and loving to each other, how to help those in need, and how to care for our earth. If we do our best, follow His example, we can return to live with Him again.

Remember the real reason.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Family Christmas Gathering

My family came to my house tonight for our Annual Family Christmas Party. I love having my family over.
We traditionally celebrate our gathering on the Sunday afternoon before Christmas. I am lucky that all of my sisters (except for one) and my brother live close by --within an hour's drive. We missed having our sister who lives outside of Fresno with us this year. Maybe next year we can all be together.

Here is a picture of four of my sisters, my brother and my parents. My aunt Marcine in Utah sent us all a wonderful handmade gift.

You can't have a party without food... and we love to eat. The tablecloth is one used by DZ's mother (Ilse). She would always have DZ's extended family over on Christmas Day for dinner and this tablecloth was always used. Not only do I like vintage things, but it is my way of keeping her tradition alive.

My dad and I ready to dig in:

This year we had a cookie exchange. Everyone brought their favorite cookie or treat to share. For dessert, we had ice cream (peppermint and vanilla) and cookies. At the end of the evening, each family took home a plate full of yummy treats to enjoy.
My dad trying to decide which treat to pick first. Doesn't he look pretty good for 84? I believe his youthful countenance is a result of a healthy lifestyle.

Sophie and David enjoying their first Christmas together being married. Just to think a year ago they were shopping for rings (and did not let me in on it!) Don't they look so very happy?

I have a wonderful family. We enjoy being together. There is always laughter, reminiscing, and tons of fun.

I must admit that I am always a bit sad when I see the taillights of their cars drive away.

I guess I must just start planning the next get together.

PLEASE NOTE: Credit for the above photos belongs to my sister Gwen--I took one picture the whole night--I am so glad others had their cameras clicking!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sneak a Peek Week 5: Garden Gates

We moved into our house over 23 years ago and this gate was attached to our back porch.

Four years later, we removed the gate when we remodeled. And it has been sitting there by the side of the house all these years. I like how it is rusty and weathered. A couple of weeks ago, it was used in the creche exhibit... including the rust, the spider webs and the dirt. I like the curves, the patina--I really like this gate. I want to place it in my yard. I just can't decide where .

One vision is to place it in the front and have an entry way like this:

But that might be a bit too fancy for my house.

I have always had a dream of creating a secret garden and I would use the gate as an entrance to that hidden garden. One of my favorite books is "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett--It would be so neat to have a "walled garden" covered with vines and foilage! I envision having a garden within in my garden. My very own place to nurture and care for my special plants-- hidden from all the craziness of the world. My garden could emit its healing powers just like in the book and ---oh, it sounds like I am describing is my very own backyard! I just need some more space....well, I guess that is not going to happen.

Another idea would be to place the gate across the brick walkway along the utility side of the house. I've always wanted a divider between the place where we put the garbage cans and toter, and the "formal" garden.

What do you think? Where should I place this gate? I do want to keep the rust, the spider webs and the dirt.

I know something to add to my Christmas "list"--someone to hang my gate (Peter?...).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Phone Home

I look forward with great anticipation to receiving a phone call from my dad every Sunday evening. I live only 10 minutes away from my parents, so I am able to visit them often. In spite of that, Sunday is special because my dad makes a point of calling his seven children to give each a "father's blessing". I love hearing his sweet voice. He greets me with, "Hello Karen ( or sometimes it is "KP") , this is your "Pop". I love it when he tells me about his day at church. I love sharing, just me and my dad. My dad is the best in the world. I love my dad.

When was the last time you picked up the phone to call a loved one to express how much you love them?

Not a text, or a facebook or blog post, or on a Flickr picture, but a call with a real live voice on the other end ...

Let us all light up the phone lines (errr.."air waves" for cell phones)...and make a call or two or three....today.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cars in My Life...Part 1

I'd like to introduce to you the cars in my life. Part 1 consists of the cars that carried me while I was a child. Later, in Part 2 I will describe the cars I purchased as an adult.
We will start with a....

(In) this Chevrolet...

.......I was carried home from the hospital

......my parents drove me to and from church on Sunday consisting of 60 miles roundtrip, sometimes making the trip twice on Sunday.

.....survived the bitter cold winters of northern Idaho

.....was sold when I was about 1 year old so I have no memory of it at all


(Mary, Gayle, and me in my mother's arms standing in front of our blue Ford Sedan)

(My two sisters and I sitting in front of the rear tire of our blue Ford sedan)

Our blue Ford....

.....had no seat belts

.....was our only car

...made several trips across the Nevada desert to see my grandparents and relatives in Utah and a canvas bag filled with water was carried on the front bumper in case the car boiled over .

...would carry my sisters and me to the Palo Alto library down the street, and to the duck pond and dump at the end of Embarcadero road

... would be used to move our family to a new house in Los Altos

...would be used to take my my dad to the Standard gas station to catch the train to work so my mother could have use of a car (probably to take us to the doctor, dentist or to Primary)

Dodge station wagon

Looking through the family room window you will see our 1962 Dodge Dart station wagon.

(My brother Paul assembling a car model. The white box like object is an Ironette. My mother would iron our clothes with this machine. She would even iron our sheets. No one can match the precision in which my mother can iron! To the left you will see my open sewing box which I still use. It looks like I am in the process of creating or mending some blue dresses.)

This car.....

... is pink! Have you ever seen a pink car (other than Mary Kay)

....had only two seat belts in the front seat

.....was purchased in 1962 car after my youngest sister Gwen was born. We needed a bigger car that would hold 9 people.

.....had push button gears and we thought that was so modern!

.....had an electric back window, when rolled down, would allow car fumes to enter. I am surprised we weren't all poisoned

.....had a third seat that faced backwards and I would get car sick sometimes (probably as a result of the aforementioned)

...travelled to Northern California pulling a tent trailer where our family camped at Standish Hickey Park

......was used to drive the family to Oakland to visit my Uncle Arthur during the construction of Oakland temple

....would carry the family on day trips to places all around bay area including the San Francisco Academy of Sciences and the zoo

...took the family across the Nevada desert with four siblings laying across the back sardine style (with no seatbelts, no less).

.....was the vehicle in which my sisters, brother and I learned how to drive a car. After passing my drivers test on my 16th birthday, I took my friends out for a ride and almost had an accident

.....travelled back and forth several times each Sunday to church (Priesthood, Sunday School, Sacrament Meeting) and Tuesday for Primary and Wednesday for Mutual and Monday through Friday for Seminary--lots of going to and from church in this car

.....ran into another vehicle (when I was driving) at the stop light at San Antonio and El Camino Real, bending the front right bumper

....was used to take me and my siblings to school (when we missed the bus), dentist, orthodontist, doctor, school shopping, to friend's homes...the list can go on and on and on.

....took my sisters and I to college with all our stuff

This was a well used car!

Stay tuned to Part 2....

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sneak a Garden Peek Week 4

You probably have your Christmas decorations carefully placed around your home--your lights are up, your tree is positioned in its perfect spot, and your sparkly ornaments are meticulously hung. Well, our many Christmas decoration boxes are down from the attic, but continue to sit in the garage..... waiting..... waiting to be opened.

This week I thought I would introduce some of my "garden" decorations along with a few blooming things.

This welcome orb is positioned adjacent to the walkway to our front door. It aptly expresses how I want my friends to feel when they come to visit--to feel welcome not only in my garden, but in my home.
One of my favorite flowers is the camellia (I have many "favorite" flowers). White is my favorite color, perhaps because I like how the white contrasts with the deep green leaves. There are hundreds of buds ready to pop on these two bushes. Most of the leaves in the large maple tree in the front yard have finally dropped and cover the front walkway and part of the driveway. My Prince Charming (DZ) disguised as a frog sitting in a bath of maple leaves.

The lone rose blooming in the rose garden. You know we've had a warm fall/winter because the rose bushes have new growth on the branches.

This is one of three camphor trees in the front yard. I love the green "moss" on the bark. My kids would climb these trees when they were young.
Red berries from a flowering cherry. Look at how the rain clings to the berries--it almost looks fake.

I feel so close to my Heavenly Father whenever I am in nature. I love the mountains, I love the seashore and I love gardens. I find such peace, joy and safety in my own garden. I am grateful for the beauty God has created.

Hoping you find peace and happiness especially during this Christmas season...Till next week... stay warm and dry.

(Did you notice the green, red, white color theme on this post?)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Swim This Morning

I did it

Got up

Slipped on my suit

Headed to my car

Checked the thermometer

48 degrees

Frost lingered on the roof tops

Car was cold

Thought of the trek

From the warm locker room

To the freezing pool deck


Donned my swim cap and goggles

...Inside the warm locker room

Stepped outside

Chill cut directly to my bones

Found my own lane

Slid into the water--


Sandwiched between two men

Kept up with both of them

...When swimming breast stroke

...While they swam freestyle

Think it bugged them

Like to play that kind of game

Finished a 1500

Had a nice warm shower

Had a much warmer stint in the sauna

I did it

And I feel good!

Monday, December 7, 2009

It Rained! It Hailed! It Snowed!

Last night as I was snuggled in bed, I heard the sound of rain tapping on the roof. I wanted to jump out of bed and holler a gigantic hallelulia.

Later on, I awoke to the sound of pebbles hitting the roof and peered out the window and saw that it was hailing out on our deck--

When I came downstairs for breakfast, I turned on the local news to see what happened overnight and lo and behold, snow frosted lawns, rooftops and decks at rarely visited levels in the Bay Area, sitting as low as a reported 360 feet in Alamo. Sticky snowman fodder draped the surrounding hills above 1000 feet in a stunning white sheen. I wonder if the kids got a "snow day" since it is so rare to receive a blanket of snow in our area.

I hope the heavens just open their gates and let it pour! I hear we are in for more cold weather this week.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Creche and Christmas Party

My week has been filled with helping set up the creche exhibit in Palo Alto. If you are in the bay area, you should stop by and visit this free event. It opened on Saturday and continues through Wednesday the 9th. Check out their website at http://www.christmascreche.org/ or call the creche hotline at (650) 856-3781 for information. It is truly an event not to be missed.

On Saturday morning, after hiking with Martha , I spent all day at the church setting up for the annual Ward Christmas party.

The party had a "victorian era" theme so I set up this vignette at the entrance. The scene of singing carolers helped set a wonderful mood.

A glowing star greeted everyone as they entered.

A victorian advent calendar completed the entryway decor.

A fabulous group of singers in victorian garb serenaded us with beautiful Christmas music. We are so lucky to have such talent in our ward.

A centerpiece for the table was a family creation. DZ cut the logs, and I gathered yew branches from Martha's backyard and holly branches from mom and dad. Sophie and David gathered the noble fir branches from the local Christmas tree lot. The chairperson had 30 lanterns to add to the decor. I love putting together something "green"--where you don't have to buy anything.

A creche scene on the stage.

Sophie and David at the "young married" table.

A very satisfied DZ intently enjoying the program.

Does this look familiar to anyone? I know it isn't the best picture. I wanted to show you an overview.

It was a festive event and quite enjoyable.

I collapsed in bed after a very full week.