Sunday, December 30, 2012

White Christmas

Yes, we had one! It was a doozy- so much snow fell on Christmas Eve and Christmas morn that we had to cancel our morning church service and worship at home.  After our Christmas celebrations and exchanges of gifts we all dressed up and headed out for a walk in the winter wonderland.

We stopped at the neighbors for a bit of "Joy to the World" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas!"

Then we tramped on to the trail through the white woods.

Snow balls flew of course.

I have five boys, remember.

And it was perilous to walk under snow-laden tree boughs because one of those boys delighted in lobbing snowballs onto them just as someone walked underneath resulting in a pile of snow on their head.

But he eventually got his come-uppance.

Snow angels were made too.

There are lots of ways to have fun in the snow.

Danner got to release his inner Iditarod husky.

We made some fun Christmas memories this year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Best Gifts

My dad always said that the best gifts are homemade. He lived by that too. Every Christmas the family would look forward to the hand crafted surprises made with love by him. His last career (of many) was working as a cabinet maker and kitchen remodeler. On Christmas Eve there would often be some new pieces of furniture or cabinetry with a big red bow, everything from footstools, sewing cabinets, baby cradles, to TV entertainment centers. Dad was also an amateur oil painter and sometimes had a new work to give. Another of his hobbies was collecting rocks, typically agates, that he would polish and with which he would make jewelry. When I was a teenager I followed his lead and presented crocheted shawls and afghans as gifts.

Dad's philosophy sprung from his youth when he grew up in northern Minnesota in a family that was short on money but long on talent and ingenuity. He told how at Christmas the big brothers would take a well used toy truck and fix it up, give it a new coat of paint and present it to the littlest brother as a new gift. Any of the years that the family was struggling stood out in memory as one most full of love at Christmas.

Our youngest boys are getting to an age where they can start employing their own skills and creativity for gift giving. This fall they learned from homeschooled friends how to make an archery set out of pvc pipes, duct tape and wooden dowels.
The simple bow works so well and is so much fun to shoot that the guys made three sets as gifts this year, one for a cousin and two for the neighbor boys. Sam and Peter had a great time in the local hardware store with their list, gathering up the various supplies they needed for their project which they purchased with their own hard-earned cash. Each bow set was spray painted a different color.

Duct tape has always been lauded for its versatility but who would have thought it would make good arrow fletching? I think Dad would have been proud.

The arrow tips can be blunted with pencil erasers but of course these boys want them sharpened.

Since Sam has been attending art school he is honing another skill to use for gifts. He gave several of his works for presents, including this special request from his dog-loving little brother. I helped Sam find a photo of a painting on the internet that he used as a reference to paint this St. Bernard at class with help from his teacher.

He gave this pencil drawing of Mt. Hood to his older brother and a lovely colored pencil rendering of a rose to me.

The homemade gifts didn't end there. The boys had requested aprons on their Christmas wish list so they wouldn't have to wear mom's girly things when they are helping in the kitchen. Their big sister came through with these homemade aprons that have a more manly appeal.

Gifts that are homemade have power to bring warm thoughts and memories of the giver. With the time and effort that goes into them they are expressions of love and thoughtfulness that are satisfying to the giver as well. I'm so glad my little boys are learning these lessons.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

This night a wondrous revelation
Makes known to me God's love and grace;
The Child that merits adoration
Brings light to our benighted race;
And though a thousand suns did shine,
Still brighter were that Light divine.

The Sun of Grace for thee is beaming;
Rejoice, my soul, in Jesus' birth!
The light from yonder manger streaming
Sends forth its rays o'er all the earth.
It drives the night of sin away
And turns our darkness into day.

O Jesus, precious Sun of gladness,
Fill Thou my soul with light, I pray.
Dispel the gloomy night of sadness
And teach Thou me this Christmas Day
How I a child of light may be,
Aglow with light that comes from Thee.

Caspar F. Nachtenhofer, c. 1683
Tr. Anna Hoppe 1922
The Lutheran Hymnal 88

Friday, December 21, 2012


You may have wondered where I've been. I've been doing what I've been doing all year-- standing at the sink washing dishes.

It's cookie gift box month in the Fleur Cakes kitchen and this year I estimate that I made 900-1000 cookies. Boy, are my beaters tired!

I delivered the last client gift box yesterday and I don't care if I never see another cookie again.

Fleur Cakes does  have three more cake orders this month, including the last wedding cake of the year (number 51) on New Year's Eve, another small wedding with a diminutive tiered cake.

Of course there were the usual December activities- school, piano recital, shopping, class presentation, and decorating.
The first sign of Christmas to appear here is the village. The boys are experts at its creation now.

We also had a family Christmas party to decorate our little tree. For the first time in many years, all the kids attended and they each brought friends too. We ate smoked salmon spread and listened to Nat King Cole.

After weeks of warm, rainy Oregon weather, our first snow of the season finally arrived in mid-December. It didn't last for long and after another larger snowstorm we had pouring rain that created some seriously dampened spirits, squelching the hopes for a white Christmas.  A few days later the weather turned wintery again and we had another proper snowstorm. We are now under a wonderful white blanket of Christmas snow, nine inches deep. Yesterday morning when I drove Samuel to his art school ride before sunrise, I was stunned by the early morning winter landscape. The mountainous hills around us were like a painting, all the trees frosted with snow, the fields edged with fog, the white road bordered by snowbanks, all in the glowing blue hues of a winter morning. Seeing the beauty of it made rising before dawn and going out in the cold all worth it.

It's a good thing that the snow arrived during our school break because when that first clean covering of snow arrives, all other activities cease for the boys. For them, the only thing in the world is the snow and there is so much to do with it.

They forget to eat and do their chores. We should have a name for the first snow sickness.

So there are four days left until Christmas and I am about 70% ready if I don't count all the cooking and feeding of people yet to be done. I'll finish my shopping today and then the cooking will begin as well as church activities. Another December, another Christmas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On Stage

So while Sam has been going off to art school and painting pictures, Peter has been attending rehearsals with the local community theater.

When the theater company had auditions for Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, we knew it was a good opportunity for Peter to use his talents for imitation and mimicry. He loves to ham it up and to put on accents but he had never had the chance to do it on a stage with others.

His big sister has performed in a number of high school productions. She volunteered to participate with the community theater so that Peter could do it with her.

They both played members of the Crachit family and did a wonderful job. I was especially impressed when Peter played in the scene after Tiny Tim had tragically died. He was very serious and emoted grief with his stage family very well.

Maybe I've seen too many high school plays in recent years because I was surprised  by how much I enjoyed this more professional production. It was so well staged and acted. I've never cared much for Dicken's story or really paid much attention to it at all. Maybe it has become too much of a Christmas cliche after being produced and parodied in so many different ways, but I paid much more attention to the dialogue and message of this production. It's statement about greed and materialism still certainly has importance today.

I also enjoyed the carolers and their renditions of old time Christmas hymns.

I'm really glad my kids got to participate in this. And it looks like Peter has now been bitten by the acting bug.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Art School

The kids are finishing a term at art school. Samuel finally brought this work home. I've been anxious to see what he was working on. The students always start learning to paint with landscapes.

He's not completely satisfied with it but we think it is lovely.

Alyssa brought this one home from her first term. She loves the clouds. I like the light, the meadow and the sky.

I'm proud of my kids!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holiday Spirit on Parade

Our little tourist town has started having a Christmas parade to kick off the holiday season. It has only happened a couple years now but already it is becoming a well-attended community event.
This year the parade was held on an unseasonably warm evening. Though we couldn't have a Christmasy snowfall, we were all thankful that it wasn't raining.

We have found we like the Christmas parade much, much more than the annual July 4th parade which has turned into a procession of cars advertising their businesses. No floats or marching bands at that summertime parade, just classic cars, delivery trucks, fire engines and a few horses ridden by local vaqueros.

The Christmas parade on the other hand is much more colorful and creative.

Businesses sponsor actual floats that take time and imagination to execute, rather than just slapping a poster board sign and some crepe paper onto their company car.

This year's parade even had a surfing basset hound. Not sure what that has to do with Christmas but....cute anyway.

Following the parade, everyone assembled on what our town considers its town square- the intersection of State and 2nd streets where the water fountain and landscaping can accommodate a large Christmas tree. Vendors gave away free hot cocoa and cookies. Free hot apple cider was provided by the local orchard juice company. After a countdown by the crowd the tree was lit and the Christmas season officially began. (Someone alert the department stores.)

The crowd then drifted down to the other end of the block (Oak and 2nd streets) where professional musicians led the singing of Christmas songs.

My favorite part of the evening was when some thoughtful group of citizens sent about twenty of these lovely flame-lit lanterns floating into the night sky.

Does your community have any special events like this that bring a whole town together in an old-fashioned way for fun and fellowship?