Monday, December 28, 2009

Oh No, Not Again

Guess what?

I’ve lost my mailbox again…

DSC_0286I know it’s somewhere just off my driveway.

DSC_0311Speaking of driveways….

There seems to be something lost here too.


DSC_0290 DSC_0305





DSC_0312  Oh winter, please go away.   I hate it when you hide my things.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas 2009


Oh, the weather outside was frightful.









But Christmas was delightful.


DSC_0033DSC_0006DSC_0007Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ginger Farm Animals


Photo from Better Homes and Gardens website

Many Christmases ago I started making Gingerbread Farm Animals. I found the instructions for a barn and animals in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Both my grandfathers were farmers and lived within a few miles of me growing up and this reminded me of them.

I’ve never made the barn, silo, and fence but I do make the animals. The gingerbread animals are crisp and not too sweet. My sister-in-law Missy “reminds” me to make them each year. Then she tells me it’s my fault that she addicted because I fed them to her when she was pregnant.

I made some to bring to her house when I go over for dinner tonight.



This recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens. It makes a lot of cookies. I rolled out and baked about 1/3 of the dough today.

Ginger Cookie Dough


  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt


1. In a large mixer bowl, beat butter and shortening with electric mixer on medium speed until softened. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, molasses, and lemon juice; beat until well combined.

2. Combine flours, ginger, allspice, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to margarine mixture; beat well. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; wrap each in clear plastic wrap. Chill 3 hours or until firm enough to roll.

3. Roll dough, cut out with cookie cutters.

4. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes

Royal Frosting

Quantity: 3 cups


  • 3 egg whites (I substitute meringue powder)
  • 1 16-ounce package powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar


1. In a large mixer bowl, combine egg whites, powdered sugar, vanilla, and cream of tartar. Beat with electric mixer on high speed for 7 to 10 minutes,

I thin this frosting with quite a bit of water so it is easier to use to decorate the animals. I also prefer to put the frosting in a plastic squeeze bottle. You can buy mustard and ketchup bottles that work perfectly and are less messy than decorating bags and tips. If you choose not to use the squeeze bottles, keep the frosting in the bowl covered with wet paper towels to prevent it from drying out as you work. The frosting can be refrigerated overnight in a tightly covered container; stir before using.

Do not stack the cookies together until the frosting has dried completely. I learned this from experience, many, many years ago; I made these cookies for my Grandpa for Christmas. On my Christmas goodie platter, two cows stuck together in a “compromising position” causing me much embarrassment, my Grandpa, the cattle farmer, thought it was hilarious and got a huge laugh out of it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cleaning Mom

I love it when my mom comes to visit.

But I feel a little bit guilty too.   She’s just always so darn helpful.

I used to be more sensitive and feel like it was a criticism of my housekeeping skills when my mom came over and did chores.  I try not to feel that way now and accept it for what it is – my mom’s way of mothering me, even when I’m all grown up.  If my house were filthy, I might have a reason to feel sensitive, as it is, it usually just needs a little spiffing up.  She’ll say something about how hard I work and how it’s difficult to keep up when you have a family and work full time.  And then she’ll proceed to dust or sweep or fold.   I’m learning not to stress about it so much.

For instance, a few days before Thanksgiving, she spent a couple days at my house.   During this time, she cleaned two, or maybe three of my bathrooms and dusted my entire house, along with several other chores.


I helped by photographically documenting the dusting process. 

I’m incredibly helpful that way.

It’s a gift.

No need to thank me, Mom.    Really.


I told my mom that I was taking pictures of her cleaning so I could write a post in my blog about her.

I suggested it might be nice to have a picture of her vacuuming too.  But she didn’t fall for my ploy.  She said she doesn’t vacuum. 


As my kids have gotten older and moved out, I understand her need to mother this way.  We mothers need to keep our jobs.

On another note, do you notice the plants in these photos?  The only reason they are alive is because each time my mom comes to visit, she exclaims “Oh Mary,  your plants are so dry” and then she waters them.  My son does the same thing, except he says something like “Gee Mom, don’t you ever water you plants?” and then he waters them.  Sometimes if my mom and son haven’t been over for a while, the plants will start to droop.  I take that as a clue and water them myself.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Every year at Christmas time, I find a Christmas song I love the most that year. This year, Casting Crowns singing “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is my song.

This song is based on the poem “Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Although, I don’t know much about poetry, I did know the name Longfellow. Since I’ve learned about the tragedies in his life and the situation in which he wrote this poem, I’ve listened to this song with new ears, and it’s become more than just my 2009 favorite Christmas song.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an esteemed educator and American poet, born in 1807. He married his first wife, Mary in 1831. Mary and their unborn baby died in 1835. After a seven year courtship, and a marriage proposal rejection, Fanny Appleton finally agreed to marry Henry in 1843. It was a happy marriage. They had six children, however one daughter died when she was a year old. In 1861,at age 44, his wife Fanny’s life came to a tragic end when her dress caught fire as she was sealing cuttings of a daughter’s hair in wax; she was badly burned and died the next day. Henry burned his hands and face badly trying to extinguish the fire and wore a beard for the rest of his life due to difficulty shaving because of his scars.


Henry Longfellow was an abolitionist and wrote poetry to help draw attention to the anti-slavery cause. Still, he was dismayed by the Civil war which started a few months after the death of his beloved wife. Henry was a pacifist and disapproved of the war. Even so, his oldest child, Charles, ran off to enlist in the Union army at age 18.

In 1863, on Christmas Day, Henry Longfellow received word that his son had been severely injured in the war. His son recovered and one year later on Christmas Day in 1864, Henry wrote the poem “The Christmas Bells”

When the poem was rearranged and set to music by John Calkin in 1872, two stanzas referring to the Civil War were left out of the original poem. This anti-war poem became a Christmas carol proclaiming peace on earth, faith in God, and hope for the future. And that is how I hear the song, as a poem by a man born over 150 years ago wanting the same thing then as we long for today.

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Twenty Years

Twenty years.

It went by in a blink.  Twenty years ago, I woke up very pregnant in the morning and ended the day the mother of a baby girl.

Oh how I wanted a little girl. 

Our house would be filled with dresses, earrings, nail polish and sparkles!   I was sure she would love all the girly stuff, like I did.  And she did.   For a while.    Until she could talk and tell me she DID. NOT! 

And now twenty years later, when I’m completely sure of this girl of mine.   She changes her mind. This weekend we bought a dress that sparkles.     

It turns out that my little girl had an independent streak.   A very strong independent streak, that grew with each birthday. 

If she doesn’t want to do something – I’m completely out of luck.  Bribing, ordering, whining or stomping my feet can’t convince her to do things my way.

I asked her to poise nicely for a picture with her birthday cake….  008 012 013 009

It seems like only yesterday that she was two and refusing to sleep without a book under her pillow each night and waking up with wild morning hair that she wouldn’t allow to be combed.   

My girl is all grown up.   She’s funny,  smart, sweet, and sarcastic.   She’s strong, athletic and determined.    And now she is willing to put on a dress with sparkles.   My work is done.     Well, except for the getting her to poise nicely for the camera… perhaps next year I’ll have better luck.

I can’t believe it’s been twenty years.   Happy Birthday Jelisa!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day


We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.

~Cynthia Ozick

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Least Favorite Chore

When I was growing up, my least favorite chore was washing dishes. I HATED doing dishes. Really detested it. I dreaded every evening standing at the sink. We did not have a dishwasher until I was older, so for the majority of my growing up years, dishes were washed by hand. It took hours (or at least seemed like it) every night. A family of nine creates A LOT of dishes.

Washing dishes was a girl chore. Even as a young girl, I realized the unfairness of this arrangement. My sister and I even wrote a song about it. I don’t remember the song, which is probably a blessing, since I do recall it was set to the tune of “Like a Rhinestone Cowboy”

I don’t have any rational way to explain my next confession.

My least favorite chore as an adult is emptying the dishwasher.

Sometimes I hand wash the dishes in the sink rather than empty the dishwasher to load the dirty dishes.


How odd is that?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween 2009

My husband is a creative guy.   In late summer, he decided that we should let a zucchini grow as big as possible and then he could carve it as a zucc-o-lantern for Halloween.     

270  It got very big.   It took a careful work to hollow it out. 273

He used a Dremel tool to thin the skin so the candle light would shine through and give an eerie glow.280 It was a success and he got compliments on his unusual zucc-o-lantern.

288Most holidays are centered around family, but not Halloween.  Halloween is about proximity.  It’s neighborhood and friends who  are near.  I love seeing the kids from the neighborhood and their costumes.  It’s not just the kids either.    My neighbor dog came over, she was wearing a blue wig.    She’d just been groomed and looked so cute.  She didn’t seem so impressed though.

Spiderman and a princess came over to my house to trick or treat in the neighborhood. They were very excited.   My husband and I went to a Halloween/Birthday party and a neighbor delivered his annual treat of monster cookies to our house.   The weather was cool but nice.  I reminisced about the costumes my kids wore when they were little.   How the year my daughter was Minnie Mouse, I couldn’t find red fabric with white polka dots so I had to make my own with fabric paint.   How this wasn’t our first Halloween with a unconventional vegetable carving, as my husband carved a small green squash one year when pumpkins were scarce.

293 297 316  303

I like Halloween.


I always wear my tiara and feather boa while handing out candy.  Everyone thinks it’s just dress up, but this is one day when I really feel like myself.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Quiet Places

213Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. Mark 6:31-32 (NIV)

God wants us to go to quiet places, with him. It is where we are renewed. For me, it's difficult to put away all the projects, chores, cell phones, television and computers to make time for those quiet places and slowing down to center my life. I have a short attention span for it.

Sunday evening is when I plan my week. My husband and I plan our meals; I finish putting away the laundry so I'll have clean clothes for work; we' have started talking about what we'll do next weekend and looking forward to it; the house is organized and clean. The rest of our week will be devoted to work and general life. It will go by very fast. It always does. So, in addition to the busyness of life this week, I'm also planning the quiet places.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Studio Crawl 2009 – Marbakka Studios

Each year, my husband and I set aside the first weekend in October to attend the Studio Crawl in our area. This year, we went to only a few studios, but spent more time talking with the artists.

A most fabulous artist, and all around wonderful man, happens to be my husband’s Uncle Bob. He is a potter and we were fortunate to be able to watch him fire some pots at Marbakka Studios, which is his art studio in rural North Dakota. 031Bob made these pots and it’s difficult to see in the photo, but the pots are covered with a glaze. It’s a powdery glaze. Bob tried to explain the glaze to me but the answer involved a lot of chemistry, which I can’t begin to explain. All I know for sure is that these will be gorgeous Raku pots when they are done. 033

The pots go into the kiln. They get fired at 1800 degrees.


Bob can tell by looking into the kiln if the pots are done firing. He’s been doing this for many years. The darker colored pots in the kiln have cobalt in the glaze that is on them.

Once they are ready to come out of the kiln, the glowing hot pots are taken to the reduction area. This allows them to cool slowly after leaving the 1800 degree kiln. They are placed on newspaper, which immediately catches on fire from the heat. Then, they are covered with a metal garbage can which had been filled with leaves and newspaper. During the time the pots are covered, the glaze is bonding with carbon. Again, there is a chemistry explanation that much smarter people than I understand.

I never realized until today how much science there is in art.

043 051 052046aRaku pottery is unpredictable. Until the pieces come out from the reduction, there is no way of knowing exactly how they will look. Each one is unique. When the pots are sufficiently cooled, it is time to see the creation. This is my favorite part!


014 015

Bob uses a torch to clean the carbon from the pots. This pot had a crackly glaze. 019 The darker colored pots have more copper in the glaze.


This is a most beautiful pot, fired today. I can’t stop looking at it and marveling over the metallic shades of copper, blue, and green. Thankfully, I don't have to as this pot is now proudly displayed in my kitchen.


Pot made by Robert Kurkowski, glazed during the Studio Crawl, October 4, 2009.