Tuesday, December 30, 2008

First Christmas for the Newlyweds . . .

. . . and we were there!
Dianna and Rodrigo in front of their first Christmas tree, in their little house in Oxnard, CA. It was fun spending a few nights there; we were the first ones to use their guest room so Mike and I felt quite honored. We had a super-comfy bed with thick comforters and we were toasty warm every night in spite of the cold snap that had hit southern Cali with a vengeance.
This is the cross-stitch wedding record that I made for them. It was a lot of work, and there were a few technical difficulties because I made some modifications in the pattern and kit, but I worked them out, and I think it turned out real nice.

Here's my fave gift:
Rodrigo and Dianna gave me (among other things) a cashmere sweater and, can you believe it at my age, it's my FIRST cashmere anything! Love the color, one of my favorites, burgundy - YUM. This will be a treat to wear. You can see how super-soft it is!

The "kids" have three cats. Two are identical solid black female kittens, about 6 months old or so, Meeka and Maddy. They are nearly impossible to tell apart. Here they are playing in a pop-up cube that Mike and I brought to them:
They love it! Pancho, the third cat, likes it, too, but he's a bit older (and more dignified) and preferred spending most of his time in our laps:
Isn't he awesome? Of course, I do have a soft spot for orange male tabbies, dontcha know. He has a curly tail, too, of which this picture doesn't do justice. It curls right up over his back just like a Norwegian Elkhound! I've never seen anything like it on a cat before. I really think he should be in the movies.

We opened our gifts on Christmas Eve because Dianna had to go to work early on Christmas Day, but Rodrigo was a great host and made us a fabulous Christmas morning breakfast; cinnamon french toast, hash brown potatoes, a fancy egg scramble, and french-pressed coffee.
What a guy!
I did the dishes - in my pajamas, of course!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

To Resolve, or NOT to Resolve

Do you make New Year's Resolutions?

Some years I do, and some years I don't.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I change my mind from year to year on this subject. Some years I make well-intended resolutions - serious ones - only to have them peter out in a few weeks or, at best, a few months. Some years I only make resolutions I know I will keep, like eat three meals a day, and then reward myself for my success by eating 4 or 5 meals a day. And some years . . . I'm thinking this year will be one of those . . . I resolve not to make any resolutions at all.

Because why chance failure? I hate to fail anyway, and a self-imposed failure has got to be the worst failure of all. If I can't keep a resolution that I made for myself, knowing myself as well as I do, how can I ever expect to succeed at a task set for me by someone else?

Yeah, I feel like copping out this year. Especially after spending much of last year trying to live life a little more slowly and more thoughtfully. Resolutions to keep will just cause unneeded stress, right?

Still, making resolutions is a really good way to create good habits, finally complete (or at least make progress on) a long-desired goal, do something worthwhile, and most importantly, improve myself. So I'm waffling again.

What about you? Are you making resolutions? Help me decide what to do by leaving me a comment about your own resolution-making plans . . . or lack of plans!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Merry Rainy Christmas

We're having a wet (and very cold) Christmas week here in northern Cali. Jack's ready for the rain with his pink brolly. Our heater is running all day and at night we (and the tabbies) burrow under the electric blanket. The more delicate outdoor plants and trees in our yard are wearing their plastic capes against possible freezing temps during the nights.

I'm staying inside as much as possible, doing a little baking, and finishing up some gifts that I've been working on. I can't post photos because the recipients read my blog, but I will do so after Christmas. I'll be pretty much done by tomorrow, including wrapping & mailing (just a few), and personally delivering a few more.

Yesterday I made 4 loaves of cinnamon-swirl bread and wrapped two to give away. Today I found one of the loaves on the floor, with the pretty purple ribbon still wrapped around it, but now with a big jagged hole in the side through the plastic wrap and into the bread.


Dang it, I should have remembered how he loves bread, not to mention chewing through anything in plastic wrap or baggies. Looks like that loaf will be eaten right here at home. It's sure going to be delish for breakfast tomorrow....but NOT for Jack, he's already had his share!

Many of the blogs I follow, like this one, are filled with long lists of things that need to be done by Christmas and just reading them makes me feel very tired. I'm glad I chose to whittle my own list wayyyyy down this year, keeping just the most important ones, and taking the advice to "focus and prioritize" that another blog friend gives in this post.

Have a Merry and Stress-free Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Goats R Us

An Orinda, California, company called Goats R Us is wintering its herd here in Benicia. The goats roam and feed in the open spaces and Benicia gets free weed abatement. This is the second winter that we have "hosted" the goats.

I took the above photo a couple of weeks ago. I was driving down 2nd street toward Rose Drive when I spotted the goats; of course, I had to pull over and take pictures! I sat and watched them for a long time. Finally, a dog came running over the hill and began rounding them up! I was surprised that just one dog could get them all herded together so fast, and no human in sight either, the dog was working alone. It was really amazing. You can see the dog in the second photo, on the left; he's black with a white ruff.

Update on my dad-in-law: Good news; Art is doing great! I talked to Mike a couple hours ago. He and Betty brought Art home from the hospital yesterday. Today he's gleefully and soundly beating Mike and Betty in cards!

I'm tellin' ya, the guy's a rascal.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Staying Calm While Uncertainty Reigns

I'm not referring to the economy, which is increasingly uncertain for so many people (including us), but to family issues. Mike's dad, Art, is doing well at the moment, but he had a heart attack Tuesday evening, went to the hospital, and had surgery today to have stints inserted into the arteries of his heart.

I took Mike to the airport early this morning where he caught a 7 a.m. flight to Tampa, Florida. He'll spend at least the next week in Zephyrhills to give Betty whatever support and help he can, and to keep track of what's going on with Art. Each time Art has a major health issue we get a little more worried. He's already had two quadruple bypass surgeries. He's a stubborn old bird (and Mike is just like him!) so our expectation is that he will pull through yet again.

Mike is good at staying calm and rational. I operate more on emotions (which is probably why we make a good pair). But although I felt strongly that Mike needed to go to Florida, I don't feel a strong inner indication that we are about to lose Art. Mike and I decided I would stay here so that I can finish up two client projects that need to be completed by Christmas. If circumstances warrant it, I'll hop the first plane I can get.

Mike called earlier this evening. He arrived in Florida and had been to the hospital. He said Art was doing well; he was even up and walking a bit! So things are definitely looking up. I wish I were there; I hate to miss out on any family get-togethers no matter the reason, but we have been planning to make a "real" visit to Florida in January or February, so I'll continue to plan on that trip. I'm just keeping in mind that it's GOOD that I'm not there now because if I were it would indicate a downturn in Art's health.

So I'm remaining calm (I refer to the photo above if I start to worry), and I'm optimistic that Art will be around to pummel me in dominoes or cards in 2009 because I'm really looking forward to it!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

An Outing with Yarn Yumminess

So one-half of the team who housesat for us last year during our 8-week sailing cruise, Mary (of Richard and Mary), is currently nearby in San Jose at a housesit there. Mary and I took advantage of being within 90 minutes of each other to meet halfway, in Dublin, CA., for lunch. It has been almost exactly one year since we saw each other and it was fun to get together and catch up on each other's lives.

We had lunch at Taqueria Los Pericos and, luckily for us, we arrived at 11:30 so we ordered, got seated, and were eating when the lunch crowd arrived. The line went out the door! Mary had researched the restaurant on-line since neither of us is familiar with Dublin and it was as good (and popular) as reported. And reasonable, too, always a plus! Mary had the tostada and I had nachos and both dishes were fresh, tasted great, and arrived quickly.

Afterwards we visited a nearby yarn shop, That Yarn Shop, at 7164 Regional Street, where we spent...oh, I don't want to say how long, oohing and aahing over the yummy yarns! Wow, I think I picked up fingered and rubbed on my face a skein of every brand and type of yarn in the entire store! I took the picture below when I got home, but it definitely doesn't do the yarn justice.I can't wait to knit with these yarns, they're so soft...I have plans for them but can't say what those plans are just in case I get an item or two done in time to give away for Christmas! Of course, my gifts-to-be-made list is soooo long, and there's not nearly enough time to do everything. Still, I'm having a lot fun trying. Oh, the yarn info is: blue/purple blend is by Teseo in Italy, 55% Wool and 45% Microfibre, the red/gray/black variegated is by Berroco in Uxbridge, MA., and is 41% wool and 59% rayon. (I don't like 100% wool as I find it scratchy against my skin.)

It was a really nice outing, especially since I've been at my computer almost constantly for the past week or so, working on client projects for my digital scrapbook business. So nice to get out of the house and, once I was across the Benicia/Martinez Bridge which was socked in with fog like most of Benicia, I found myself in sunshine! Gorgeous, warm sunshine.

I have got to get out more!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Oy, I've been tagged -- sort of!

I was reading the blogs on my bloglines and came across one that had a meme on it and when I got to the end of the blog posting it said, "if you've reached number 25, consider yourself tagged!"

Ok, so I did read the whole thing so, obviously, I thought it was worth reading....so here it is, with MY answers. But I'm not going to tag anyone. If you want to do it, then Yuletide Cool; if not, that's fine, too.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I LOVE wrapping paper, ribbons, AND gift tags!

2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial. We were given an artificial tree by my sister, Denise, who said that when she and her husband put up this artificial tree for the first time they had a horrible fight (it was hard to figure out the directions) and they vowed to never put it up again, so they gave it to us. We love it, and have used it every year for the past 3 or 4 years.

3. When do you put up your tree? It varies a lot. Sometimes early in December; one year when we were still buying fresh trees and the boys were with us and we had just moved we didn't get a tree until Christmas Eve. I like to put up our artificial tree as early as possible, to enjoy it the longest.

4. Do you like eggnog? NO. But my husband and both my boys DO! So I'm the odd person out.

5. Favorite gift received as a child? A hand-sewn teddy bear with button eyes that I named Christopher. I will never forget him! I was about 8 or 9 and I will love him forever. My mom bought him at a church bazaar.

6. Worst christmas gift ever received? I can't think of one that I didn't like.....!

7. Hardest person to buy for? My husband. He just doesn't need anything, and he never seems to WANT anything either!

8. Easiest person to buy for? My parents; I love to think of something extra special for them!

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Amazingly, no. I need to rectify that because I love the whole story of the Savior in the humble Manger.

10. Mail or email christmas cards? MAIL!!! Even if we email and/or text each other all through the year, a Christmas card must be something you can hold in your hands and see your friends or family member's handwriting, and know they took precious time out of their busy lives to write it and send it. It is so much more meaningful, like spending time with someone as opposed to just sending a gift.

11. Favorite christmas movie? Hands-down: "It's a Wonderful Life." It's not Christmas without it!

12. When do you start christmas shopping? That varies a lot. One year I actually started in July! ONE year! Usually I start handmade gifts in September, and I start buying gifts in November. It's always a rush. I love to go out and find the perfect gift for people; it's an unfortunate fact of life that the process is usually rushed; that's why I prefer birthdays for gifts!

13. Have you ever recycled a christmas present? No.

14. Favorite thing to eat at christmas? I have to say chocolate-covered cherries. Since they were small, my boys always got me a box at Christmas because they know how much I love them. I still do!

15. Lights on the tree? Absolutely!! We always put lights on our tree. I love to turn off all the lights in the house and just enjoy the lights on the tree, and the fireplace.

16. Favorite christmas song? "Little Drummer Boy." I also love "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."

17. Travel or stay home? I love to be at home, but will travel in special circumstances, like this year we have been invited by our older son and his new bride to spend Christmas in their home. Can't pass that up!

18. Can you name all of santa's reindeer? Of course, can't everyone??? Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen!

19. Angel or star? I prefer Angel, but we have a star; must do something about that this year!

20. Open presents christmas morning or eve? Always in the morning. When the boys were small they always got jammies, which they opened Christmas Eve and wore that night. I miss those days!

21. Favorite ornament theme or color? We like green and white, or blue and white, on our house. I like all-white lights on the tree because it reminds me of snow. I don't have a favorite ornament theme, unless you consider hodge-podge, whatever-the-boys-made-when-they-were-little a Theme!

22. Favorite place for christmas dinner? Wherever my Family is.

23. Most annoying thing about this time of year? I hate getting caught up in the advertisers' web of you-must-buy-this-or-your-recipient-won't-be-happy trap. Christmas is about spending time together, reconnecting with loved ones, and I hope (especially this year) we can remember that.

24. What do you want for christmas this year? I already bought some "holiday clothes," so I don't need anything more. I want everyone in my family to be happy and content with their lives, as I am.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

One of my Favorite Holiday Cookies

(photo courtesy hersheys.com)

Peanut Blossom Cookies

1-3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 T. milk
1 tsp. soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
48 chocolate kisses

Combine all ingredients together except candy kisses in large mixing bowl. Mix on lowest speed of mixer until dough forms. Shape dough into balls using a rounded teaspoonful for each. Roll balls in sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Top each cookie immediately with a candy kiss. Press down firmly so cookie cracks around edge.

Makes about 48 cookies.

Black Friday - or - Doing Our Part for the Economy

(left to right, back: Jen, Karen, Mom (peeking!), Denise; front: Lisa, Kristen and Jenny.)
One of the holiday traditions in my family is the Mom&Daughters shopping trip on Black Friday while the Dads do something fun with the kids (this year they went go-kart riding). We have been doing this for years and even though we are all cutting back on our spending this year my mom, my sisters and I still made our annual trek to the mall.

We went to The Oaks Mall in Thousand Oaks, California, and as you can see from the photo we did do SOME damage to our wallets!

We also had a fun lunch together, enjoyed the valet parking, and got in some always enjoyable sister-time. This is the first time in several years that all 5 of us sisters were here so it was an extra-special day! Included in the trip was Karen's friend, Jen, and Denise's daughter, Jenny. I am not in the photo since I was behind the camera so here is a photo of me from the following day when Mike and I took a drive to the southern cali coast:I hope you all had an equally wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!