24 December 2011

Our Hearts Beat With Anticipation

Chocolate Chip - his favorite

21 December 2011

Teachers Gifts

I like to read craft blogs, I'm sure most of you know that by now. They inspire me, entertain me, wow me, and comfort me. What I did not realize is that they also shape me. As in influence the way I think things are.

Take for example teachers gifts. This time of year, and even more so at the end of the school year, it's all about teachers gifts. I thought, based on my reading of craft blogs, they were the norm. Everybody gives their children's teachers a gift. Today I found out that is not the case.

Perhaps it's the place where we live, but when Lola and I handed out the gifts we made for her teachers today, we were given genuine looks of happy surprise.

Lola had given me quite a list of teachers to make gifts for: her Jr. Kindergarten teacher, the teacher's assistant, her music, art, and gym teachers, her ballet instructor, the principal ("He's like the cops."), and her bus driver. Some of them may have thought I was the driving force behind their gift but that is not true. It was all Lola. She's thoughtful like that. I like that about her.

We made birdseed ornaments for all of them. Lola designed and made the gift tags all by herself.

19 December 2011

Merry And Bright


Dr. Perry's house it's not. But I am proud to report that our little town has one homeowner that goes all out for the holidays. We try to drive past his house whenever we can.

18 December 2011

Walking To Holland

Miss N. announced she would be leaving me in the morning because I wouldn't let her watch the show Ryan and his friend were watching downstairs. I asked her where she was going.

"Far away," she answered me.

"You have to go to school first," I told her.

"I'll go after school," she replied.

"What about your Christmas concert tomorrow evening?"

"Oh. Then I will go after that."

"Where are you going?" I asked her again.

"To Holland."

"How are you going to get there?"

"I'll walk."

"It will be dark out by then. Are you sure you want to walk along the highway in the dark, all by yourself?"

"Yes."

"Just so you know, there is a great big ocean in between America and Holland making it a little difficult to walk all the way there. You could take a boat but it takes four days. I know this from personal experience. It will take you about a year to walk to the coast. When you get there you're going have to buy a ticket for the boat but I'm not sure if you can actually take a boat anymore since they canceled the passenger line years ago. You could fly though."

I could tell Lola was pondering this information.

"Do you think I should go?" she wanted to know.

"No," I replied, "I think you should stay here with me."

"Okay, that's a deal," she said happily.

I'm glad that's settled. I kind of like having her around. And she kind of likes being around. Most of the time anyway.

15 December 2011

Let It Snow. Please.

My sister-in-law warned me when I asked for snow. “Be careful what you wish for!” She has a very valid point. But really people, when I look outside into my yard, I feel sad. It’s gloomy, foggy, damp, and dark. If I wanted Washington or Dutch weather, I would have stayed there. I want snow. I am entitled to snow. That’s what living in the Northwoods is all about, after all.

Last year around this time, we just came out of a snow storm. On this morning last year, I froze my butt off outside at five in the morning trying to catch a glimpse of the Geminids meteor shower. This year, because of the fog, I didn’t even bother getting out of bed. And yesterday Lola's 4K class went on a field trip to a Christmas tree farm to get the class Christmas tree. The weather was pitiful. It rained.


Now, I am not ignoring my sister-in-law completely. And I have found out through the years that the universe is somewhat in tune with this blog. Therefore I will phrase my weather wishes very carefully here so that the weather gods know exactly what to send our way and when.

First off, I would like a White Christmas. I have had too many Green Christmases and they are just not the same. Second, we have plans to go skiing after Christmas which also requires large amounts of snow. I think a snow storm on or around Christmas Eve would be grand. Christmas Day is fine, too. We live right next to Church and that’s really the only reason for us to leave the house on those days.

As for 2012 and the rest of winter, January and February involve lots of skiing, snowmobiling, and other fun outdoor activities requiring snow. March is when it gets tricky. I suppose it’s too much to ask to actually start spring on the first day of spring, but April showers should be rain showers, not snow.

I know I am not the only one with weather wishes. It must be very confusing for the weather gods to accommodate everyone which is probably why weather forecasters never get it right. But please, bring us some snow right now. Tis the season…

Thank you.

13 December 2011

Misfit

Miss Lola is crying very hard. In between sobs she laments: "Why am I such a misfit? I'm just a couple of misfits." It's really quite dramatic. And incredibly funny but I can't laugh because her tears are real. It doesn't matter what I say to her, she won't stop quoting Rudolph as she throws herself onto my bed and wails.

And our day started off so lovely. Lola and I were having a great time together, painting salt dough ornaments we had baked earlier and sprucing them up with lots of glitter. Everything was fine and then I left the room. I was only gone for two seconds, maybe three, I swear. Upon my return I walked right into the Great Glitter Explosion of 2011.

Oh goodie.

When I asked her what happened, Lola answered she spilled just a little bit and must have had some on her feet when she walked to her room. Indeed, there was a great big pile of glitter on the floor with two size 9 1/2 footprints in the middle of it. I could trace her steps all over the upstairs.

So for the second time that day I hauled the bulky, heavy, pain-in-the-butt vacuum cleaner up the stairs. (Why, my good Americans, why do you insist on using these outdated appliances? Don't you know there's a whole continent out there that uses lightweight, easy to handle vacuums with a retractable cord to boot?)

After I cleaned the mess in my room, I asked Lola to pick up her room. Imagine my surprise when I turned around fifteen minutes later and found she had carried all her toys downstairs instead of putting them away. I was just struggling with the impossible task of slicing a fresh baked loaf of bread and I may have lost my patience there for a minute.

Hence the misfit. At least she sparkles.

You Can't Blame A Squirrel For Trying


When I took down all the window screens awhile back, it wasn't because Martha told me to do so. It was to have a better view of the bird feeder out the kitchen window. This house came with two battered bird feeders and a concrete squirrel statue. I fixed and cleaned them all up and put them to use again. Unlike the stuck up Rhinelander birds that wouldn't give my feeders the time of day, the birds here flock into my yard every day.

So does the squirrel. The big feeder has a squirrel guard and the chubby fellow knows it. He spends most of his time hanging out underneath the feeder on top of the statue, munching on dropped sunflower seeds. But every once in a while, he gives it a go. He climbs up the tree and tries to get his little paws in the feeder. It cracks me up every time I catch him hanging on the shepherd's hook, slowly sliding down the pole.

12 December 2011

Home Is Where My Books Are

When we moved into this house, we had big painting plans for the kitchen, the living room, the dining room, and the upstairs bathroom. Consequently we didn’t pay a lot of attention to our furniture arrangement and interior decorating. However, the kitchen is taking a little longer than anticipated and everything else has been put on hold until that project is done.

After a while I got fed up with the mess downstairs and started moving the couch and the chairs around. And having my parents-in-law over for dinner seemed like a legitimate reason to put my handmade, solid oak, shipped halfway across the world, inconveniently large square dining room table together. And so, slowly but surely, we were turning our house into a home. The only things missing were art on the walls and books in the bookcases.

Ryan took on the garage this weekend to make room for the cars. Most of what was in there had already found its way into the house but there were a few boxes and some pieces of furniture left. The boxes contained my books. At first I wanted to stack the boxes in the entryway and wait until the living room was painted before I put the books away. But when I looked around at the Christmas tree and the decorations Lola and I have put up, it just felt right to put the books in the bookcases instead.

When we are ready to paint the living room I’ll move the books again, it’s not that much extra work. And the difference they make is amazing. Books give a room character. I put up some pictures too while I was at it. And just like that, we created a home.

11 December 2011

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

For Christmas this year I would like a pink pony with a crown, a unicorn blanket, sparkle shoes, and a stick horse. 

Thank you and Merry Christmas.

Love,
Lola

Just in case she was too shy to tell Santa in person, Lola asked me to write her wishes in a Christmas card for Santa. She insisted on a Christmas card, not just any ordinary note card. She also wanted to bring Santa a present. We chose one of the felt heart ornaments we made.

I am so proud that my daughter thinks to bring Santa Claus a present when she goes to visit him. She is thoughtful and kind like that.

10 December 2011

A Girl And Her Tree


After days of begging us to trim the tree, Lola was finally allowed to decorate her heart out today. She so loves puttering about with ornaments, lights, and garlands. She got her hands on my stack of felt hearts earlier this week and hung every last one of them in the tree several times over while she waited for the official go ahead.

She took care of the bottom half while Ryan and I decorated the top. I only had to move one or two ornaments Lola hung because they were too heavy for the branch she picked. She has a good eye for composition and color. When she was done she told me to turn off the lights, blow out the candles, and simply enjoy the light of the tree.

We had originally planned to set the tree in the entryway but changed our minds this morning. I am glad we did. It looks so much better in the living room. Afterwards we drank hot chocolate with marshmallows and watched Christmas movies together. We watched Home Alone and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Perfect, just perfect.

08 December 2011

This And That

My friend Petra sent me a little bag of spices to make Dutch speculaas. Thank you, Peet! It arrived without a hitch. (Three years ago she sent me tulip bulbs for my birthday. All I received was an empty envelop with a note from the Department of Agriculture politely stating they had removed the contraband items.) My kitchen smelled unbelievably wonderful yesterday afternoon. The speculaas was delicious if I do say so myself.

We have about thirty pounds of sausage and an equal amount of steak, stew meat and other cuts sitting in the small entry outside the kitchen. It is the remains of Ryan's buck that I picked up today at the butcher. To accommodate this amazing amount of meat, we bought a freezer yesterday. It still needs to be hooked up.

The buck's head has been dropped off at a taxidermist. He'll be ready for mounting on the wall late June, early July. Just in time to incorporate in next year's Christmas decor. I'm thinking lights between his antlers and possibly a red nose. The taxidermist was very impressed with Ryan's deer, called him "a dandy." We're calling him Willy.

We have a tree. Ryan took the afternoon off on Monday and we took a little drive to one of the many Christmas tree farms in the area. The sun was going down and we didn't have much time to browse around. We didn't need it. We stumbled onto the perfect tree within minutes. Even the tree salesman was impressed with our decisiveness. Of course our decorating speed leaves a little to be desired. This weekend.

07 December 2011

Doily Snowflakes


The snow is taking its time this year. We have had a few inches here and there, but that has mostly melted away. I have resorted to making my own snowflakes by freezing doilies in baking pans and hanging them in the trees in our backyard. They sparkle when the sunlight hits them.

I love it! But now I want the real thing. The forecast tells me not this week, though. Not yet.

06 December 2011

The Waiting Game - Opening Day

The Dutch Girl went deer hunting recently. For the first time in her life. Being a blogger, she brought along a journal and took notes while waiting for her buck. Don't tell her father-in-law. He would not approve.


Despite the fact that the woods look a lot different in the dark than they do during the day, I was able to locate my stand without a hitch. The light on my blaze orange hat hit the reflecting markers we had left the day before perfectly. Getting lost in the dark was one of my two big concerns. The other was wounding a deer instead of killing it. I didn't have to worry about either as it turned out.

My resolve to go hardcore without turning on the heater lasted about an hour and a half. With my toes nice and toasty, I must say hunting wasn't half bad. Of course, my stand was the cabana among the deer stands. A view to all sides, a shelf to rest my gun on, ample space for a heater, and a portable potty. All that was missing was the beverage cart. And a buck.

Just before sun up on opening day, a shot was fired close by. I thought it was perhaps my brother-in-law who was hunting about 300 yards away. He thought it was me. Ryan and his dad were hunting fifteen minutes northeast of us. Ryan, who generously gave up his spot to me, had the added excitement of sitting on top of a hibernating bear. Sometime in the previous two weeks, a bear dug out a den and went to sleep about twenty feet from his stand.

There was an animal raising a ruckus somewhere in the trees in front of me. It turned out to a blue jay. I am fairly certain he was telling on me. Aside from that blue jay, the only wildlife I saw for hours was a squirrel and a few chickadees. And then, out of nowhere and without a sound, a deer. Less than fifty feet away. My heart skipped a beat. Alas, it was a doe. We looked at each other for a minute or two, before she continued on her way. It was the highlight of my day.

05 December 2011

Can I Get A Witness?

Lola has informed me that when she turns sixteen, she does not want to drive. I can drive her around because, and I quote: "You are the best driver in the world!" Ryan can drive her around, too. She would however, like to sit in a different seat than the baby seat by then.

We can do that.

I feel it is important to document this. When she and I revisit this topic in twelve years (that seems such a short time from now) I can remind her that all we agreed on was a better booster seat. No license, let alone borrowing the car. You are all my witnesses.

04 December 2011

Musical Profiling

According to my self imposed rules, I can listen to Christmas music again. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and now it is allowed. When I am upstairs in my craft room, or working on my computer, I listen to Pandora Radio online. Pandora offers you the chance to like or dislike a song they picked out for you. And, since they don't like to play for an empty room, you have to let them know you're still listening from time to time. By liking a song for instance.

Christmas music is the perfect background for me when I am in full nesting mode. In the pre-Thanksgiving days I listen to artists that conjure up the Christmas music feeling but without the yuletide lyrics. Harry Connick Jr, Natalie Cole, Frank Sinatra, etc. Since Pandora is free of charge, they play commercials every now and then, and show ads in the sidebar. Those ads change depending on your musical preferences.

If you like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, or Ray Charles, Pandora assumes you're a single black woman looking to meet black men. Michael Bublé listeners are singles over the age of 50, even though he is only 36 years old. Harry Connick Jr's songs go hand in hand with doing laundry. But if you like Norah Jones, you're in trouble. Pandora recommends an anti-depressant.

03 December 2011

Advent Wreath

I remember making Advent Wreaths every year when I was growing up. A centerpiece with some Christmas greenery, small colorful ornaments, and four white candles. We had a special ceramic ring for the wreath. The candles would be lit one at a time, on Sundays only. They were allowed to burn for about an hour, and then extinguished. The following Sunday two candles would be lit, then three, and finally, on Christmas Day, all four.

Not once have I seen a homemade Advent Wreath in this land I call home now. I never hear talk of the first, second, third, and fourth Sunday of Advent. Is it something that only happens in church, a place that I don't visit very often anymore? Or is the homemade Advent Wreath a European, perhaps even Dutch, custom? Is it just a Catholic thing? I am not sure. But I miss it.

I made my first Advent Wreath this year. I stocked up on my favorite candles during my visit to Holland, although an advent wreath was not on my mind when I bought them. Since they are quite burly, we burn the candle(s) every day when the sun sets.

My mom still makes her Advent Wreath in that ceramic ring. Mine is quite different but I am very happy to have this as a part of my family's Christmas traditions.

02 December 2011

Some Cause Happiness Wherever They Go

This quote by Oscar Wilde is written on a magnet adorning my fridge. The magnet is a picture of Santa Claus but it stays on the fridge year round. I was reminded of this quote a few days ago when Lola and I went grocery shopping.

Lola is practicing "Up On The Housetop" for her school's Christmas concert later this month. While we were perusing the aisles of the store, she was singing: "Ho ho ho, who wouldn't go? Ho ho ho, who wouldn't go? Up on the housetop click, click, click. Down through the chimney with good Saint Nick."

Loud and clear she sang these words, loud and clear for all to hear. I looked at the faces of the other shoppers as we passed them. And without exception, my daughter brought a great big smile to their faces.

Some cause happiness wherever they go. That's my Lola.

01 December 2011

Kids And Snow

At 6:30 this morning Lola was jumping around, ready to go outside because it had snowed last night, turning the world into a beautiful winter wonderland. Half an hour later she ran back inside, telling me she found deer tracks and I had to come out and take a look. It must have been a buck, according to Lola, that passed through our yard in the middle of the night. So there I was, just after 7 AM, checking out the deer tracks that look remarkably like cat paws.

Next she wanted to play with her sled. "Can I please have my sled back?" she pleaded. I had confiscated it to use in my little front porch winter styling project. I was just about to take apart my still life when I remembered we have another sled. Lola happily played with the bright orange plastic one, rattling on about unicorns and ponies.

Meanwhile I shoveled the snow from our front and back steps. We wouldn't want the plumber, who is scheduled to arrive in an hour, to slip and break something. I'll never be able to use the dishwasher then.

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