Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I really like setting and keeping goals, but I've never been really big on the "New Year's Resolution" because they always seem to sputter before the end of January. That's why I had to laugh when I found The New Year's Resolution Generator to help.

Now, when I sputter in February, I won't feel so bad. Especially, since I've decided to FROST CUPCAKES. Actually, I may be able to really succeed in this one.

My Family Tree

I've had questions about the cool family tree from my last post. I'm working on a group of pictures for the living room right now with this as the centerpiece. It's a real work of art, in my opinion, that I purchased from a small online retailer called My Tree and Me. Jen is the proprietor who says this about her work:
I became interested in my own family history when my first child, Finley, was born. As a new mother, it felt incredible to take my place in the long line of mothers who had come before me. And in the more challenging moments, it was comforting to think that all of these generations of parents had raised children, day-by-day, year-by-year, through the highs and lows, and they made it through! I didn’t want to lose that sense of connection. By graphically interpreting our history, our family tree serves as an emotional reminder that we always have the wisdom, humor, and experience of generations to draw upon.
She has several designs, but I fell in love with this one, partly because I love the little, blue bird, but also because it sports the same color scheme that we already have going on in the living/dining area of the house.

The process was easy. I selected the design I wanted and paid for it. Then, Jen sent a spreadsheet for me to fill in with the pedigree chart information. She created a draft of the tree with all my names filled in and sent it to me in .pdf format to review and make sure everything was correct. When I gave her the thumbs up, she finished it and printed it and sent it to me in a mailer.

I'll post more pics when I finish getting everything hung on the wall. I need one more frame before I'm really ready, but I'm very close.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Music Monday -- Bon Iver

I think I missed the Bon Iver boat when it left the port. I have heard about the band for quite some time and never really sat down to take a listen. After continued mentions of them, I finally gave in and it made me very happy. The album For Emma, Forever Ago is just real, great, indie folk music with a lovely voice. It's not music to keep you up, but definitely great to keep you entertained.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Project 2010

I always love a project. I don't always finish, but having a project to work on is always fun. I also think family history is important, but I'm really not interested in genealogy by itself. So, I have two things I'd really like to do. One I'm fully committed to and the other, well we'll just have to see.

My first project is to write some personal history. My blog is a bit of personal history in real time, but I'm going to spend time writing about memories and growing up. My commitment is to write something at least once a week. It doesn't have to be super long and drawn out and I'm not going to write about a whole year each week or anything crazy like that. It might be something small, like writing about my first memory or a things I loved to do on summer vacation or a trip I took as a kid. By committing to this small step, I think I can accomplish something important for myself, and maybe I'll even do more. I'll also share some of my writing here on my blog. I'd also like to collect photos that go along with what I write, so I may have to take a photo vacation to Boise at some point to collect the pictures that go along with my memories.

My second project is a little more challenging. I have an ancestor who wrote a personal history. Then another relative put it together (mostly as it was written, but not exactly) in a book called The Trios Pilgrimage. I've read the book a couple of times and I would love to read the actual manuscript and then write my own rendition of the story. Challenge number one is finding out who has the actual manuscript and then figuring out how I can get either the manuscript or, preferably, a copy of the manuscript. I'm hoping my mom can help with that. The second challenge may be reading the manuscript depending on how it was written. The final challenge will be having the discipline to do my own writing.

We'll see how far I get with both of these, but I think it will be fun. And I just followed the first rule of starting new projects. By writing it down, it's already twice as likely to happen!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

It's been a beautiful day. We woke up to open presents and then the DH cooked up venison steaks and eggs for breakfast. We had the brother, SIL, and nephew over for a nice Christmas dinner and it turned out fantastic! We had a smoked turkey again and I just can't get over how much I love it. The SIL made the best scalloped potatoes ever, and we had a nice time stuffing ourselves.

We also had presents for them to open and the nephew seemed to love everything. However, the tribble was the highlight. The DH had gone to the EMP and Science Fiction Museum and thought that the brother would appreciate it. He thought it was good, but the nephew really loved it, at least while they were at our house. It was fun to find things for them to enjoy and we enjoyed the giving.

After everything else had died down for the day, I spent some time reading Christmas letters from my extended family. I'm grateful to my dad for pushing me and all my aunts, uncles, and cousins on that side of the family to participate in this annual tradition. I'm so blessed to know some wonderful people in my family and, since we don't see each other often, it's a blessing to catch up in letters once a year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Traditions

This evening, the DH and I will go on the Christmas Ships. We've done this every year, except last year when we got snowed in, since we've been married. It's a tradition that we came up with together and we've enjoyed it each year. The Christmas Ships are a fleet of Argosy cruise boats that are decorated with Christmas lights and the ships have choirs on them for entertainment. Then, they go around Lake Washington with a bunch of private boats that are decorated to the nines floating around with them. It's similar to going on a drive to see the lights, but we get to just hang out in the boat and the cool light displays come to us.

On Sunday, we did what I think will become a new Christmas tradition for us. We went to the Northwest Boychoir Festival of Lessons & Carols concert. The music was beautiful and it really put me in the Christmas mood. The concerts are held in area cathedrals and end with two concerts at Benaroya Hall. We chose the performance at Trinity Lutheran church in Lynnwood and thought the venue was fantastic. The acoustics were perfect for the choir and there was not a bad seat in the house. I especially enjoyed the format where the congregation gets to join in the singing. Maybe that's why I thought it really got me in the mood.

Monday, December 21, 2009

We Finally Trimmed the Tree

Happy Solstice! I love that the days will start getting longer again after today. The ancient pagans celebrated solstice with an evergreen tree, and that was the precursor to our Christmas trees.

The DH and I finally decorated our tree on Friday night. We put on the lights, the cool gold star, and our collection of all kinds of ornaments that we've gathered through the years. We even found some presents to put underneath. We're getting close!

Saturday Sweets

Last week, I felt the need to make some treats to give to friends, so I went nostalgic. This is one of my favorites from growing up and it always makes me think of my Grandpa D. This is pecan brittle, and it tastes amazing.

When I was young, my mother made this every year at Christmas time and sent a box to my grandpa in Arizona. It was one of his favorite treats that she would make. The batch doesn't make a lot of candy, so 90% of it would be packaged up to send South and the small remainder would be divided between all the six kids in my family. That meant about two pieces each. It was never enough!

Now I find that even though I could make a whole batch for myself, in theory, it's too sweet to keep.

The pecan brittle is basically just sugar and butter cooked to a hard ball stage and poured over pecans. However, even in its simplicity, it's easy to ruin. I think that's a metaphor for something. Maybe you can tell me what.

I've now made four batches and two made great brittle. The first was perfect. The second, the butter and sugar separated and wouldn't go back together. The third I burned. The fourth was perfect again. I only wasted one pound of butter. That's actually not too bad for this recipe.

After making the first batch, I packaged it up in bags to give to the ladies that I work with in my church position. It was fun to have something I made to give them.

The rest of what I made with go to more friends in the next day or two.

If you want to try this, here's the recipe:

Pecan Brittle

½ pound butter
1 cup sugar

Lightly butter a square 9x9 pan. Spread pecans on bottom of pan in a single layer. Cook butter and sugar in heavy pan. Stir all the time it is cooking. Cook until light brown in color and starting to smoke. Pour over pecans and let cool. Break into pieces.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Life is Good

These are a few things that made me happy today:
  • The electrician fixing the lights in the kitchen so I can see when I cook and the house won't burn down
  • The turquoise scarf and red shoes -- those colors are my favorite combo right now
  • Giving gift cards to the PMs at work
  • Finally decorating the Christmas tree
  • Working out so hard it hurt
  • Meeting all my deadlines at work today
  • Crocheting more than halfway around a baby blanket for Patrick's niece
  • The awesome candy mouse that one of the PM's daughters made for all of us at work today

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Thrill of Hope

I'm not sure I can even express how much I love the song O, Holy Night. I love to sing it, and more than anything, I love to hear it in unexpected places. I few days ago, I was in the grocery store and not really paying much attention to the music playing. I couldn't find what I wanted and was becoming increasingly frustrated. I'd already been to more than one store. Standing in the baking isle, I suddenly heard "Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices! Oh, night divine, the night that Christ was born." That part always gets a little louder than the rest, and it always gets to me. I'm reminded of why I am a Christian. I get a "thrill of hope" and feel the rejoicing that comes from knowing that Christ was born so that I, and the weary world, could rejoice in knowing that he came to the world for us. For all of us.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Music Monday -- More Christmas Tunes

When it comes to the more traditional Christmas music, I definitely have some favorites there. It's still not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or Andy Williams.

My current favorite is Kathy Mattea's Christmas album, Good News. My favorite song is called Brightest and Best, but it's not on YouTube. The only song from the album is Mary Did You Know, but I love that song and if you haven't heard it, you need to. It's beautiful! Of course, embedding is disabled, so you'll just have to follow the link. I promise that it's worth the effort.

You can watch this too, though. It's beautiful, but it's not Kathy Mattea.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dulcet Tones

On Friday, last week, the DH and I went to see Renee Fleming at Benaroya Hall. I wouldn't say she's my idol, but just about as close as you can get when it comes to multiplying the vocal talent. She is breathtaking.

The program included a bunch of 20th century pieces in the first half. Although I appreciate the skill required to perform those (and it is a lot of skill), it's not music that I enjoy listening to. Perhaps that just speaks to my laziness, but I enjoy a good melody.

The second half started with a group of Strauss lieder and it was exactly what I wanted to hear. Every note was perfection. By the time she'd gotten through the songs, I was so happy that we'd come to hear her.

If you're interested in hearing classical vocal pieces, I highly recommend Renee Fleming. She is likely the most talented soprano performing right now. What a delight that I got to listen in person.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

The wreath went up on the front door and the DH put up lights on Saturday, but there was nothing inside to put us in the holiday spirit. Fortunately, we were able to go to the Sunday broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Devotional on Sunday to help get us in the mood, but last night, when we finally put out a good portion of the Christmas decorations, it really started to feel like Christmas. And, although he's been saying it's too early, I think I could have talked the DH into putting up a tree last night if we'd had the time. It will have to wait until Saturday though. Once we have that, I'll really be in the mood!

We set up the Santa collection on the side table:
And put out the nativity and hung our stockings with care. I know the DH doesn't believe it, since I'm such a plant killer, but I just love having poinsettias in the house at Christmas time.
I hope you're getting in the mood too!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Small Talk

It's when you talk about the weather, or "how about those Mariners, this year?" Well, baby, it's cold outside! Can you even believe how cold it is? I sure am happy to have my furnace for inside and a warm coat for outside. I was laughing when the DH said he thought it was too cold in Boise at Thanksgiving. We're at least 20 degrees colder here now than we were there.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Music Monday -- It's Christmas Time!

Being sick for the last week really put a damper on my Christmas spirits and general holiday prep. This week, it's time to get on with the Christmas spirit, start listening to holiday music, and decorate the house. The DH has been holding out, but I'm sure we'll finally get a tree on Saturday.

When it comes to Christmas music, I hate the "classics" and don't want to hear it. I enjoy the three or four songs the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings for the Christmas devotional, but I would never put on a MoTab Christmas CD to listen to for pleasure. For me, it needs to have some kind of interesting spin or not sound too traditional.

One of my favorite albums is called Navidad Cubana by a group called Cuba L.A. Of course, they're no where to be found on YouTube. The music is fun and jazzy, but with a definite Latin beat.

I also enjoy the Brian Setzer Orchestra album, Boogie Woogie Christmas for some of the same reasons. The music has a decidedly non-traditional beat and makes Christmas time sound fun. I mean, who couldn't get hyped listening to something like this?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Faith, Poetry, Love, Romance

I just love this time of year. It is the time of faith, poetry, love, and romance. The Christmas season abounds with wonderful things and I'm so happy we're here again. I've already started a few projects that I hope to get done and I'm looking forward to all that the season has to offer -- even if we end up with snow!

Technically, advent started on Sunday, but since I'm not Catholic I'll start mine today with this: