Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year ~~ 2011!

As my first year of blogging comes to a close, I want to thank all of you who follow along. Since I started tracking them near the end of January last year, there have been 3,993 visits to my blog (but who's counting? haha!!). Not all who pass by become regulars so, to those who do continue to read this blog o' mine, please know how much that means to me.

I want to share this photo of three very special Christmas gifts Rich and I received. Each of the grands created a painting on canvas...aren't they just amazing?!?!?!

On top of all that creativity, Dylan made each of us a duct tape wallet using colors selected for each of our tastes. It was a very special Christmas for all in our family!

After our beautiful white Christmas with snow piled everywhere, it has been above freezing for two days now and rained a lot today. This photo was taken late this afternoon. Do you see the 'stream' running behind my favorite four trees? I enjoy this view so very much since the golf course removed all the overgrown brush along there.
But northern Arizona has been getting a LOT of snow and the kids spent today on the slopes in Flagstaff! The boys were planning to snowboard and the girls were going to ski. Sandee texted a little while ago that they had just left the slopes after a great, great day. I can't wait to hear more!

Lovin' Life ~~ Anticipating Another Amazing New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More Winter Fun - Four Lakes Skiing

Yesterday morning we went to Four Lakes Ski Area near here. It is a bunny hill with rope tows but Rich just wanted to see how he felt on skis so he could decide whether or not he'll ski in January. Oooh, I can tell you that he hasn't lost any of his form...that man o' mine is a vision on skis!
I did not get even one photo of him on the slopes but here are two very short movies of him from the top of the run. I am so excited for him because he was on top of the world just being out on his skis again for the first time in many years. Neither of us has skiied for 15 years and even then we took our boots but rented skis, so his favorite skis haven't been used for a very long time.

Here he is jubilantly heading for the car after enjoying a few short runs.

Lovin' Life ~~ And MOAO!

White Christmas at Ludlum Hill

A white Christmas...isn't that what we all dream about? Isn't that the perfect Christmas scene? We were in Carlinville for the holidays and it SNOWED most of the day on Christmas Eve. Mom, Rich, and I celebrated with my brother and sister-in-law's family which includes their daughter, her husband, and their three young boys.

When Wayne and I were growing up, all the kids in our part of town would go sledding on Ludlum Hill which is in the yard of the college president's home across the street from the campus of the private liberal arts college there. I don't know what they call it now, but in those years it was the residence of Dr. Robert P. Ludlum who was president of Blackburn College from 1949 - 1965.

Mom sat in Amber and Ross' van watching all the excitement while the rest of us enjoyed the beautiful snowy afternoon on Ludlum Hill.

I took several short movies (the longest is only 41 seconds) of the sledding and snowball throwing so here are a few of them...

Lovin' Life ~~ and Playing in the Snow

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Tree, The Magic, The Love

Knowing that this photo was taken last evening, a reasonable assumption would be that Rich is taking the lights off of our Christmas tree...hmmm
But then you might remember that this was the Christmas tree in our living room...
Which would lead you to wonder if we put up a Christmas tree last night...nah, couldn't be...could it? Why in the world would we do that on December 27th?

Well...we had searched this season for a tree that would set on the living room table, not be pre-lit, not be too tall for the windows, but would hold some of our favorite ornaments and look like a real Christmas tree. Nothing met all our criteria until yesterday when we found this one at Menards...and at half price too! Isn't it lovely? I wish you could see the darling little pine cones on it! And there is tinsel on some of the needles so there are little glints of silver! And it is so much easier to manage than our big tree.
We are having guests tonight, tomorrow night, and Thursday night which is why we decorated our new Christmas tree last night. Santa and Mrs Claus with the puppies and my favorite wooden reindeer still reside at the base of the tree. Christmas continues at our house all this week!

Speaking of Christmas and our new grandpup, Dexter. Santa brought him to the kids for Christmas! The magic of Christmas, the magic of Santa, the magic of's all love!!!
Lovin' Life ~~ Still Celebrating the Magic

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Strawberries

My SIL used my camera to take pictures of Mom and I making chocolate dipped strawberries. This is what happens when I trust someone else to take pictures...

Just look at this...

and this...

AND THIS...for Heaven's Sake!!!

My SIL even took one of me scarfing down the leftover chocolate for cryin' out loud! Well, no, I didn't offer Mom any...her share is on the strawberries!

But, Mom was thrilled to get some chocolate dipped strawberries made on Christmas Day...and made with that divine Harry & David milk chocolate!
Lovin' Life ~~ And Fun Photos!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Our Decorations - Part XIV Nativity

Merry Christmas!

On this most special of holidays, I want to share a most special nativity. It is my hope that this will remain in my family for generations. The simple childlike figures with their innocent faces belies the auspiciousness of the occasion...Jesus' birth.

Sometime in the early 1980s, my BFF in Jacksonville convinced me that we should make these ceramic figures. We purchased the greenware; she made hers and mine just sat in a box under my bed. When she volunteered to clean my greenware, I quickly accepted. When a wonderful woman in my department at Capitol Records offered to paint them for me, I quickly accepted. She was an artist; I was then and remain today in awe of the detail with which she painted these for me.

I have lost touch with everyone in that department, except my BFF, but I think about Rae every year throughout the holidays and consider this to be one of the best gifts ever.

When Sandee was in 7th grade, a friend of hers and his dad made these wooden stables. He gave us one to house my beautiful figures commemorating the birth of Jesus.

So...always...during this season of wonders, old friendships and special gifts are paramount in my memories of years past.
Lovin' Life ~~ And All of You
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Our Decorations - Part XIII Piggies & Paws

It's here! Today is Christmas Eve!
And today I am posting this photo of my most precious holiday treasure. This is not a decoration that only makes an appearance at this time of year; this hangs in our family room year-round. The kids gave us this for Christmas two years ago. Look at it very closely...
Do you see?

Through the red diaphanous garments of Santa and Mrs. Claus you can see Jackson's and Shelby's upside-down footprints; in the center is Dylan's handprint. Jackson's footprint provides the base outline of Santa; Shelby's footprint provides the base outline of Mrs. Claus; and Dylan's handprint provides the Christmas Tree. Sandee's sweet friend, Jen, is one of many artists around the country affiliated with a company called Piggies & Paws. Using the kids' footprints and handprint, Jen created this very clever and astonishingly beautiful work of art. I posted the company's logo and website below in case any of you want to get more information and find out if there is an artist in your area.

Lovin' Life ~~ And Family Treasures

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Treats - Part VII Chocolate Covered Ritz

Last night I was making these and wishing that Shelby was here to help like she did when we were at their house for Christmas. So, I called them. Shelby didn't remember this but it turns out that's not surprising since it was three years ago when she was only four! I thought it was two years ago and there was a chance she would remember. I looked at the 2008 Christmas photos taken at their house but nothing. When I checked 2007 Christmas photos, there we were making these yummy treats together. I'm really shocked that it was that long ago.

She was such a great help. I would spread peanut butter onto a Ritz cracker and she would top it with another Ritz. Then I melted chocolate flavored almond bark (also great using vanilla flavored almond bark) and dipped each cracker and peanut butter sandwich to entirely coat it. They firm quickly on waxed paper. Here are some photos of our process three years ago. Isn't she just the cutest little helper?

And speaking of cute, check out her brothers that Christmas...
Of course they're all still perfectly adorable today!

My timing was great this evening, they were all home so we got to talk for just over 2 1/2 hours! They are so much fun to chat with and Sandee had time to talk too! Then I finished making these treats (both chocolate and vanilla) all by myself...wish I'd had some help.
Lovin' Life ~~ And Christmas Memories

Our Decorations - Part XII Woodland Santas

Yes, this is another post of my favorites. That's not exactly accurate because they are not just favorites...I adore these guys. And, there's our old friend the charming moose who hangs out with them on the buffet in our front room.

I suppose you have to see my Woodland Santas in person, and possibly even handle them (not recommended if I catch you though...haha), to appreciate that they are truly unique and rare. They are substantial in size and heft; clothed in fur, velvet, leather, wool; carry interesting well-made accessories; and their faces..oh their faces...

...their eyes sparkle as they look at you like they are listening intently to your every word. They appear so lifelike in their features and expressions. It's as though they're just waiting to respond to you.

If you saw them, you would never guess their history. The shocking truth about these guys is that we purchased them at Wal-Mart...and at a bargain price. Yeah, you read that right. My son, Greg, and I were just browsing through the holiday decoration aisles at Wal-Mart, early in the season several years ago, when we saw these. It didn't take long to decide that they were destined for our home. I've never seen anything even remotely like this at Wal-Mart since that day, so I've always thought that they were put there especially for me...a very lucky me.
Lovin' Life ~~ And Lucky Timing

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Treats - Part VI Christmas Breakfast

Whenever we celebrate Christmas Day at our house, this tops the menu ~~ my famous (if only among our family and friends!) Breakfast Casserole. If our family is visiting us at other times of the year, it will often appear then too. I have been making this for decades a few years or more; I just took these out of the oven...mmmmmm

Some of the ingredients are best left unnamed to protect the taste buds of the finicky eaters who nevertheless scarf down a helping or two of it. When a dish contains an ingredient that is disliked, it is difficult to get folks to eat it, even though the dish is composed of many ingredients, the sum of which tastes completely different than any of the individual ingredients.

In economics this is called The Fallacy of Composition which one of my favorite bloggers recently posted about, using banana bread as an example. Click on the link to read her blog. The Fallacy of Composition is the principle that the combination or sum is better than the individual parts. Pretty cool, huh?

This dish is certainly better than its individual ingredients would indicate! We're taking these pans of it down to my brother's for Christmas Eve breakfast...if they remain intact that long!

I wish you were all going to be there to enjoy breakfast with us! What is a favorite holiday dish for your family?

Lovin' Life ~~ And Family Favorite Dishes

Our Decorations - Part XI White Flocked Trees

Pauline gave us these trees quite a few years ago and we have enjoyed them immensely. The flocked trees glisten softly in the light.

For the past several years, they have sheltered Santa and his little snowman friends. This is another of my favorites from my Possible Dreams Santa collection.

This year though, Santa and friends had to find another place to play. This small grove of trees now serves as a winter RV park for the perfect little collection of ornaments that we have received as gifts. These three are representative of the evolution of our RVs. Many, many (don't you dare ask how many!) years ago I had a small pull-type camper on a lake in central Illinois. It didn't have a Christmas tree in the window or a darling little red and white awning like this one from Marianne though. The blue and silver one in the middle is reminiscent of the Class C which was the first one Rich and I bought a year and a half ago. On the far right is a Class A like the one we traded for in Spokane, WA this past August. Both of the motorhome ornaments were from Barb and family. Isn't this scene precious? It certainly brings forth lots of great memories!

Here's another view of just the one that looks like our Winnebago. We can hardly wait to get back on the road in it...but first...let's celebrate the holidays!
Lovin' Life ~~ And Looking Toward New Adventures

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Our Decorations - Part X Holiday Dishes

Until we received this lovely gift a couple of years ago I had no idea that you could have Lenox china pieces personalized. I was just bowled over when we opened this. That is why I decided to feature these pieces to represent all of our special holiday dishes.

Here is the first photo I took which clearly shows the exquisite oval shape of the small Believe bowl. After I uploaded and looked at this photo though, it looked rather Mickey Mouse like to you see it? I didn't want the composition of the photo to detract from the pieces themselves so I led with the other photo even though this one shows them better.
Lovin' Life ~~ And Beautiful Dishes for Serving

Our Decorations - Part IX Wooden Wall Santa

Perhaps my brother & sis-in-law can answer this question because I really don't remember. How long have I had this Santa? The reason they may know the answer is that they created him. And isn't he remarkable? The detail, the painting...I do love him! 

He has hung in a prominent place of greeting in our home for many a holiday season.
Lovin' Life ~~ And Holiday Greetings

Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Decorations ~~ Part VIII Snowman Tree

Before I say anything else, let me be upfront about this...I painted this tree too.

Now, on to the accolades. Isn't this just the most adorable, happy, delightful little Christmas tree!?!?

I am just about the least artistically talented person I know but, when given a set of instructions and lots of time, there are some things that I can pull off quite successfully.

Over several months one summer and fall a few years back, I made three of these...mine, Sandee's, and one I donated for a charity auction at work. Most evenings would find me at the dining room table, squintingly focused on this task. My friend across the street was making them and convinced me to paint one too...the other two were my choice because I was so thrilled with the finished tree. I am so grateful to her because I love looking at it. It makes me smile!

Lovin' Life ~~ And Holiday Memories

Christmas at Marianne's

Rich's sister, Marianne, always hosts the family holiday celebration the weekend before Christmas. Saturday was the day! She goes to great lengths to make the day special for all of us from the beautifully set tables to her lovely tree and many other holiday decorations to the delicious meal.

The lovely tables...

The children's table is decorated too...

Her gorgeous tree...

Making pierogi for that many hearty appetites is no small feat...and that's only one dish. The final step in the making of pierogi...

Our nephews' kids really enjoy the party and we love spending time with them during the holidays...

Rich, Marianne,and their brother, Joe...

Joe and Carol's family...sons Rob & Dave; their wives Lisel & Kristen; and their children Sophie, Zoe, Nicholas, & Oliver...

Greg and Jenny were there...

as was I...forever behind the camera though, where I'm most at ease.
Lovin' Life ~~ and Family Celebrations