Monday, December 31, 2012

Twinkle Little Christmas Lights

Shining on the tree...

The theme song for December is Christmas and we’re at the last verse. It’s a bit sad for me to see the trees, cast aside on the edge of the road with a bit of tinsel still attached and blowing in the wind, or packed away, branch by numbered branch, in a box to be stored on a shelf until next year. The other decorations, hung with care months ago, are quickly extinguished and removed, stuffed onto shelves in dusty garages and warehouses, waiting for the next season.

A park with a light display. All the pictures are from there.
The opening arch.
The last thing to come down is usually the lights. I adore the lights. Growing up, we never had lights on our house that I remember. But my grandparents did. After many tiring miles of highway, the lights would twinkle a warm welcome to us weary travelers. Grandmother would meet us at the door with her customary, “Christmas Eve Gift” greeting.

A train.
All the presents were wrapped with care...
The lights were standard old time big bulb Christmas lights. Granddaddy climbed a ladder to hang them evenly along the edge of the roof. After the holiday he would climb that same ladder to take them back down. And in between, if a light bulb happened to go out, the ladder was ascended again. But it was imperative for them to come down. It was a big faux pas to leave Christmas lights up all year, even if you lived in the country!
Get the star on top!
A stocking full of goodies!
I’d be content for the lights to stay hung and lit all the time. It makes things seem more cheerful somehow. They disguise ugly buildings and light up bland, lifeless towns. They add a welcome glow to the doors and windows of common people, binding them together, regardless of beliefs, for one round of the hour glass. Lights celebrating Christmas have been a tradition for a long time. Originally candles were fastened to tree branches with a bit of melted wax or later, a candle holder. Eventually it became conventional to use electric lights as decorations, unattached to the tree, outside and inside of homes. Cities and towns, regardless of size, often have a central Christmas tree or at the least hanging decorations lining their streets with a cheerful glow. One of those silly holiday movies I like to watch said that it was a way to welcome home WWII veterans from their tours of duty. I don’t know but it sounds nice.
A nativity scene. This is the only part I could get in but it was complete.

When we go to the mountains we often see lights outlining storefronts and houses, regardless of the time of year, hanging down in a fake icicle configuration and glimmering in the wind. It’s both welcome and welcoming. It’s hard to describe but it just seems to add something.
A sugarplum cottage.
Old man winter? The only snow happening here!
Things change as the years progress. Personalities develop and relationships transform. Gone are the carefree children who played together and loved one another unconditionally. Gone are strong family connections. Gone is the gratitude for the season. The Christmas lights are going out, one at a time, slowly. But surely.
Beautiful arches.

We’ll pack up our decorations in a few days and take down the tree and store the pretty lights. But I think I’ll leave some out this year. I’ll string them across the mantle and leave them on as a welcome, for me. I’ll be reminded of Christmas past and remember the good times. And I’ll have faith for the good to come.

Never seem to shine so bright...

Christmas knitting wasn’t too stressful this year. I have a couple of things left to finish but they weren’t really presents so it doesn’t matter. I did finish a Gaptastic cowl, in a rainbow color, for my daughter-in-law. She liked it I know!
Gaptastic for Jenni.

The glow of love is all around us.
So twinkle on Christmas time...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pretty Paper

Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue… 

Have you ever played one of those ‘dirty Santa’ games at Christmas? You know, the kind where you can pick a gift then someone has the option to take it away if they like it? I don’t even think its fun. In fact, they can become brutal!

All the presents are there, waiting for the first person to pick. After serious scrutiny, the package that is wrapped the prettiest is chosen. But unwrapped, the gift inside is less than ideal.

There have actually been studies showing that nicely wrapped gifts set high expectations and magnify disappointment when the gift is less than perfect. It’s even been recommended that unexceptional wrapping can improve the joy of receiving even a wonderful gift because the wrapping won’t build up any false hope. Who knew? I’ve been wrapping correctly for years!

A long time ago we actually thought it was fun to go shopping the day after Christmas. We seldom had a specific article in mind but rather went for the amusement of finding a bargain. One of the things we usually picked up was wrapping paper. There was some kind of warped thrill in finding $4.00 a roll wrapping paper for fifty cents.

One year we found “Space Jam” paper at an after Christmas sale. “Space Jam” was one of those movies that combined cartoon characters with real people. Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan were the stars. By the time we got around to using it, “Space Jam” was available on tape (back then) and the kids didn’t even know who the man with Bugs was on that paper!
So you’ve probably gathered, I don’t spend a lot of time and money on the outside of the gift. But it’s not a bad thing, especially since it becomes trash the minute the present is opened! Not only do I usually not have the time but I don’t have the skill. Enter one of the best ideas ever. Besides my odd collection of wrapping paper, I now pick up gift bags and printed boxes on sale! It’s the greatest thing yet! Put whatever you want inside, stuff in or wrap tissue paper around and voila! It’s done!

Next time you get your choice of the wrapped presents don’t turn up your nose at the one that’s mediocre looking. It might be the paramount of surprises!

Wrap your presents to your darling from you…

I told you about the knitting Secret Santa exchange. I finally got all mine together and got it sent off. She liked it! Here’s what she said: 
"My box included Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Free-Range Knitting, Mary Beth Temple's The Secret Language of Knitters, a skein of Manos del Uruguay in the most wonderful variegated reds with a little purple and brown. You could not have picked a better color to send me if I'd been with you when you bought it. I also found note cards, a list pad and cupcake cups from Mary & Co., a lovely tape measure from Vintage Impressions in an antique silver finish, a clip-on OttLite with 12 LED's with a peacock feather in purple on the cover, 3 patterns for fingerless mittens, a hat pattern, and the tiniest sweater from Lantern Moon...a key chain. There was also a lovely pumpkin spice candle which I know we will enjoy. Every item was wrapped in glittery tissue paper and tied with red ribbon." 

Secret Santa package going out.

It was fun and sounds like a lot more when it’s listed, but I’ll have to admit I went overboard. Did you notice she said every item was wrapped? ;)

Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Back to December

And I go back to December all the time…

Well, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! And it has been since before Halloween. It sure seems to come around fast these days. And here I am, with all the good intentions I had almost 364 days ago still in the planning stage or forgotten altogether.

One of these days when we come back to December, I’ll have an advent calendar ready. Of course I guess it will just be for Alan, but I’ll still have it ready. I did that once when the kids were little. Yes, you read it right; Once. And that once they really enjoyed it. It was just a little set of cardboard drawers I'd ordered from the Current catalog. Because there were three of them I wrote little poems and clues and put those in the drawers. At a certain time they would gather, receive the clue orally, and proceed to explore until the treasures were found. I didn’t think about it making an impression, but to this day all three of them still speak of the great fun they had with that project.
I saved it for next time, if that time ever comes!

There was a time I had all Christmas presents purchased and sometimes even wrapped in October. Possibly there were a couple of items left but the majority of things were done. Done. DONE! I didn’t know then how good that would feel today. I have started the gift shopping but nothing is wrapped. I did stock up on bags and pre-printed boxes. I know that’s probably cheating but it’s a life saver this time of year. But one of these days I’ll wrap everything and have it all under the tree BEFORE anyone gets to the house. Yes, one of these days.
One year all the presents were wrapped!

Baking and cooking is something I like to do. It’s also something I’m good at. I don’t do anything fantastic looking like what my daughter Callye does with her cookies but at least it tastes good, regardless. Most of the time anyway! I would scour my cookbook collection looking for something easy and good to bake. I’d come up with cakes, cookies, pies and breads. And they would all be ready to sample after stepping in the door. Not now. I’ll have plenty and nobody will be hungry, but it won’t be nearly the spread it has been in previous years. Maybe it will happen again, one of these days.
Yum! Buttermilk pie. My favorite!
Dinner fit for a family!

In the past I had more time. Seriously, more time off. And I had more energy to use that time in a productive manner. This year the last day of work before holiday break is December 21. That gives no days until the guests arrive on December 22. Granted, I don’t go back to work until January 3. That’s a good thing. But I could use more time up front to get things ready.

Maybe, if I start planning now, I can be ready for next year. Because before you know it we’ll be back to December. 

I go back to December, turn around and make it alright.

I’m in an online group of knitters. Every year we have a Secret Santa exchange. It’s so much fun! This year I got a wonderful package from mine, Carrie. She loaded a great project bag with yarn, stitch markers, a handmade Christmas dish cloth, and some Scentsy! A very nice December surprise indeed!
What fun!!

I go back to December all the time, all the time...

Friday, November 30, 2012

Grateful, Grateful, Grateful

I'm so grateful for everything you've ever given me...

November is a time for giving thanks. I guess it’s because of the Thanksgiving Holiday. It’s kind of silly if you think about it. Shouldn’t we be thankful every day? Despite that, every year I’m ‘going to’ post what I’m thankful for on a daily basis. But it seems every year I get behind from the start and manage to stay behind until well beyond the first of the new year. Still, I decided I had so many things to be thankful for that I needed to list them, mainly as a reminder to myself.

I’m a list maker. I should own a portion of the sticky note company because I have them all around my desk. Although I seldom get to the grocery store with said list, I decided I could sum it up nicely if I used the alphabet to make my record of things I’m thankful for. So…here goes!

Alan, apples, airplanes (when they are on time), aprons and autumn

Bryce, Belle, Bernie, babies, buttons, butter, beer, bottles, bubble baths and bacon

Callye, Caleb, candy, cars, chairs, candles, cats, Christmas lights and carols 

Dads (mine especially), dreams, and doors

Evan, eggs, elevators, electricity, and eyesight

Family, friends, fun, fireplaces, and French fries

Grandkids, Grandparents, green chili, and guitars

Haircuts, hot water, and heaters

Ice (in the summer), icicles (in the winter), imaginations, and Iris

Judi, Jimmie, Jennivee, jelly, jam and jars,

Knitting, kites, kindness and kittens,

Lights, laughter, LSSK, and leaves

Moms (mine in particular!), money, mountains, and medicine

Napkins, nighttime, and noise

Oranges, online bill paying, and October

Pennies, pants, pajamas, pizza, pedicures, and Paypal

Quilts, quiet, quality, and quarters

Reading glasses, Ravelry, and rocking chairs

Starr, sweaters, seat warmers, snowflakes and snowmen

Tyson, talking, Tartan, tea, teachers, and Texas!

umbrellas (and the chance to use them), unity, and underwear

Veterans, vests, and Valentines

Wine, WHIBSIB, water, and warmth

Xerox copies, x-acto knives, and eXums!

Yarn, yams, yo-yo’s (fabric), yesterdays, yawns and yellow

ZZZ’s, zippers, zoos and zigzags

Well, that was a little tougher than I thought it would be! And, I believed I had invented this brilliant idea but I Googled it and found tons of people had made their list this way. Regardless, however you come up with the things you are thankful for, just remember to take the time to be grateful. It makes you feel pretty good to realize all the things you have instead of focusing on the things you haven’t! 

I wanna show my gratitude, gratitude, show my gratitude to you.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving in Utah this year. It was a very long trip and I got a lot of road-knitting in! I had two GIGANTIC scarves to make for a couple of my son’s friends and completed one and like only a couple of inches on finished the other. 

I’m finishing up some surprise gifts too. It’s going to be here before we know it! Be pleased that you’re here to enjoy. 
Gossamer Infinity Scarf
Rainbow ruffle
Dropstitch cowl

I wanna show my gratitude, gratitude.
I wanna show my gratitude,show my 
Yeah, my gratitud...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy

I chose you for the one...

My blogger friend, Frugal Mummy, recently posted Ten Things that Made Her Smile. She invited others to join in. Well, it took me forever to write it up, but I thought of ten things, I put in alphabetical order, that make me happy. I thought it would be very difficult. It wasn't as hard as I thought after I got started.  

Lighting candles make me feel cozy.
I have them for every occasion
Fall is my favorite season. I like it all; the colors, the smells, the chill in the air that warrants a sweater but not a jacket.  
From our Vermont trip a few years ago

Flowers remind me of my grandmother. I could never have a flower garden like she did. I don’t like to get my hands dirty! I plant things in my pots on the deck and celebrate my single blooms!
My cute little zinnia I grew from seed. Then the cat used the container for his bathroom. :(

I like food. I like to cook it. I like to eat it. I like to try new things but fall back on my comfort foods for…well, comfort!  
We are one of those weird families who take pictures of their food and put it on Facebook!

Music keeps me company. I know a lot of the lyrics to both country and rock songs and I sing with the radio in my car. I hum along in my office. I’m really quite good!
Anything goes. Well, except Rap. And maybe classical. I like things with words...that I can understand.

I recently moved to a corner office. Doesn’t that sound impressive? It’s not, believe me! It’s at the intersection of two halls. But the best thing about it is that it has a door! And that makes me happy.  
Is it pessimistic to look at the door as half closed most of the time?

Old tv shows and movies are entertaining and I enjoy watching them. They aren’t violent and scary, like the programs today, even when there’s a murder.
Give me Jessica Fletcher, Perry Mason and Andy Griffith anytime!

A quilt on the top of a bed makes me feel welcome and reminds me of summers spent with my grandparents.
Old quilts, hand quilted.

The Littles have the best hugs and kisses! They love me unconditionally. They truly think I’m great! They make me smile. I know as they grow up and get busy I won’t be in the spotlight. So I’ll enjoy it now, while it lasts!
One of my favorite old pictures. This was when Belle was born. But they are still glad to see me!

I have more yarn than I can ever use. That’s hard to say! In knitting talk it’s called a stash and when you have as much as I have it’s called SABLE. SABLE means Stash Totally Above and Beyond Life Expectancy. My kids will have a heck of a garage sale one of these days.
Just the tip of the iceburg...or is that yarnburg?

Now it’s your turn. Tell me ten things that make you happy. It will make you feel good. And it’s not hard at all. Leave your list in the comments or leave a link to your blog post. That would make me happy!

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy...

Friday, October 19, 2012

I Fought the Law

And the law won… 

The other night when I got out of the car to open the gate I noticed my right headlight was out. Darn. I planned to get it fixed but I figured I was fairly safe for a while being that every third car (it seems) has a headlight out. It worked on high beam and there were a couple of times I just left it on high. Nobody blinked their lights at me so I supposed it wasn’t too obnoxious.
One headlight...Cockeye!

When we were kids, my sister, brother and I played a game with cars only having one headlight. If such a car was spotted we called out “Cock-eye!” If there were three of these, you got a wish. (It was a lot safer than the slug-bug game!) I think this was something my mom and dad played because mom was the one who told us. I believe we may have added the three for a wish option but the original saying was hers.

Running errands after work made it dark when I finally headed home. All was well until I was a couple miles out of town. A car whizzed by as I set my cruise control. Suddenly the dreaded red lights came from the shoulder of the road. I just knew the car who whooshed by me was in for a ticket. I pulled over, because that’s what you are supposed to do when you see flashing lights on an emergency vehicle and darned if he didn’t pull in behind me. I knew he’d probably made a mistake because I wasn’t speeding. I didn’t even think about that blasted headlight.

Just the other day I’d heard some people talking about what was expected when you were pulled over by the police. I put my hands on the top of the steering wheel so he could plainly see them. I didn’t turn the dome light on; are you even supposed to? But he had the spotlight going and could see clearly where my hands were.

He got out of his car and headed to my driver’s side, all the while shining a bright flashlight in the windows. He didn’t approach the door but stayed behind shining his light in the backseat and all around. He finally came up to the passenger side and I lowered the window to speak with him.

This state trooper was a kindergarten cop! He was so young I wondered if he shaved. It gives me an odd feeling in the pit of my stomach to think how young these men (and women) are, defending us and taking chances every day for our safety. It’s humbling in a way.
Age requirements to become a state trooper in Texas

He explained he’d pulled me over for the headlight. I told him I knew it was out and was planning to get it fixed. He asked a lot more questions; where was I going, where had I been, where did I work, and what did I do and so on. I guess that’s routine but I really don’t know. He asked for my license and current insurance card. I had the license but the insurance card was another thing entirely. My oldest son is the insurance card police at our house and he hasn’t been there to make sure I’m legal. It had expired in January. The trooper was nice though, and said he could look it up. He kept inspecting the inside of my car.

Let me tell you a little about that. It’s a mess. When you live in it for two or three hours a day you sometimes become lax. I keep what I need in the passenger seat, Kleenex, candy, water, my purse and whatever else I think is useful. If someone wishes to ride with me all of that goes in the backseat. And it doesn’t always come back out. So there are piles of miscellaneous junk. I guess it was a lot to look at.
How they used to do it. Picture from

He took my information and walked back to his car while I patiently waited. He finally came back with the dreaded ticket book in his hand. Actually I think it was some kind of computerized thing but I didn’t see for sure. He was still looking around the car. I had a glass of tea from work and the ice had melted so it was a nice whiskey color. I wondered if that was what he was checking out so I told him what it was and offered to let him smell it if he wanted. He laughed. He then wrote me a warning which I graciously accepted. I told him thank you for what he does and he looked at me strangely and said you’re welcome. Then it was finished.
I thought about the polite young man who actually had the power and authority to do whatever he felt was needed when he stopped me. And I thought about how he was someone’s little boy and how proud and worried they must be for him. And I got the headlight fixed because I doubted I’d be that lucky if stopped a second time.

Guess my race is run, 
I fought the law… 

Not much knitting going on. I have a couple of finished items except for working in the ends. I'll post pictures when that's done. But now I’m doing a scarf for someone who took knitting lessons and didn’t get a feel for it. I tried to salvage her work so it would be a part of the item but it didn’t work. I’m just about finished.
Drop stitch scarf for a friend.
The yarn is really more brown than this picture. Pretty though.

I’m reminded of a silly knitting joke involving a policeman. It goes something like this: A policeman spots a woman driving and knitting at the same time. Moving up beside her, he shouts out the window......"Pull over"!! "No," she shouts back, "Cardigan!"

Be nice to the state troopers and they’ll be nice to you. And be thankful for what they do.

I fought the law and the law won…

Sunday, October 7, 2012

It’s a Small World

It's a small world after all…

Oh my goodness! That’s about the only thing I can think to say about Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany. Well, I can also say awesome, amazing, astounding as well! This truly was an incredible place!

Because we were on a limited time schedule, we decided to let Bryce be our tour guide on the recent trip overseas. We could have used valuable time standing in ‘queues’, waiting to see the standard museums and attractions but decided that could be for another trip when we were able to stay longer. So he put on his thinking cap and came up with some great things to see and do while we were there. So we were off to the warehouse district to look at miniature trains.

Yes, that’s what he said. I was skeptical at first, but remembered looking at train exhibits at the State Fair in New Mexico, growing up, and enjoying the intricacy of the landscapes. And I’ve always liked ‘mini’ things, so it sounded like it might be a good idea! And I am glad! It was one of my favorite things on the trip.

Minitatur Wunderland came about as a project between twin brothers, Frederik and Gerrit Braun. While wandering around one day Frederik happened upon a model railway shop. It brought back many childhood memories and he immediately called Gerrit and told him, “We are going to build the largest model railway in the world!” And they did!

HHLA home of Miniatur Wunderland
The twins are from Hamburg and have a deep love and loyalty to their city. They agreed the only place to build was Hamburg. They searched out a spot that would be easy for tourists to find and also which had adequate floor space to allow for future expansion. With help from the Chamber of Commerce an agreement was reached with Hamburger Hafen und Logistik (HHLA) and Miniatur Wunderland found a home.
Command Central with about 55 computers controlling the automation.
There are three floors to explore and we looked at it all. There are currently 8 completely constructed regions and plans for at least 4 more are in the works. While the areas aren’t exact replicas, the various sections are easily recognized, if you know your geography! It’s estimated approximately 580,000 work hours have been delivered by 250 creative employees to add around 1,000 trains, 375,000 lights and 250,000 figurines.

There's a little bit of everything and something for everyone!

Airports and parking...
Knuffingen Airport...Planes taking off, landing and all the action required between times included.
Parking garage at Knuffingen Airport...luggage, people, lights and vehicles.

Boats and docks...
Boats under repair.
Along the pier.
Even a raft. Complete with skinny dippers!
 Brideges and dams...
A suspension bridge. Look at the detail.
Traffic on a bridge.
Nighttime traffic.
A dam. I'm not sure what country this is. Switzerland maybe?
A view from the top.
While we were touring I was able to read the signs to know which geographical area I was viewing. But after I got home and looked at the many pictures I found I had forgotten. But I still got some great photos!

A little bit of America...
Mount Rushmore. It would have been funny to put the twins pictures there. Who knows? Maybe they did!
Las and night! The time cycles so all scenes are shown daylight, dusk, dark and sunrise.
Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo. Funny what we're known for, huh!
Southwest...Arizona/New Mexico Indian Pueblo
Roswell, New Mexico...Aliens!!!
Kentucky Fried Chicken. American favorite? :)
A castle. Austria maybe?
A mossy cottage. Switzerland? I'm not sure but I like it!
The seasons...
A winter wonderland.
Snow celebration.
A summer celebration. Concert?
Flower power!
A soccer game.
Country fair.
Fall on the mountain.
Fire! Emergency!
Weddings and funerals...
A wedding.
A cemetery.
No bull about it!
Dinosaurs! Caleb would know their names.
And, well...throughout the exhibit little people doing the 'dirty' are hidden. It was kind of fun to find them!
Don't wait too long at the porta potty! You'll get TP'd!
A hotel where you could peek in the windows at night. There were lots of interesting things going on in there!
The stork arrived at the airport parking lot!
Car trouble...and no help from the monks!
Something missing...
I didn't see any yarn or knitting or spinning...but there were sheep!
If you are ever in Hamburg, this place is a must see. It’s awesome. It’s amazing. It’s astounding. It is truly an incredible place!

It's just a small world after all.