Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

I don't have rollers in my hair and my pink slippers don't have faces and ears on them, but I am almost that cute.

Most of us are probably wondering how the heck it got to be New Year's Eve already, and if you live where there has bee snow, that mystery is contradicted by the feeling that it has been winter for months already.

My boys are cute (no bias on my part ) but they aren't little and saying cute things any longer, so today I borrow from my two three-year-old great nephews who are cousins born two months apart.

The greater Detroit area had a lot of snow before Christmas, but it was washed away by rain and warm temperatures over the weekend. Without snow and the return of cold temperatures, little boys are stuck playing indoors and sometimes driving their parents crazy.

Josh has learned to print his name. After printing it many times and showing his dad each and every time, his dad decided to give him a new assignment, that being to draw a picture of a house. Some of you might know that the USA channel ran a marathon of House episodes on both Friday and Sunday. Josh's daddy was a little surprised when Josh presented him with a picture of something with a head, two eyes, a mouth, etc.

"Josh, what IS this?"

"You told me to draw a house. This is Dr. House"

Can't you just see three-year-old eyes rolling as he wondered what the heck had happened to daddy's memory?

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High winds took out power in many areas Sunday morning, including Alex's house. They were without power until Monday evening. When Alex woke up Monday morning, he asked his mommy if the power had come back. When she told him no, he was very excited.

"Yippee! We get to use flashlights again!"

We all need a bit of three-year-old in us, don't you think?
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If anyone has marriageable daughters, granddaughters, nieces, sisters or selves in an age range for my 28 and 30 year old sons, please contact me at

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Snowman, anyone?

Is anyone else still in a food coma from Christmas? Dinner was good, if I say so myself, but I had way too many desserts. I tried a rum cake and was afraid it might not be to everyone's liking, so I made a double chocolate layer cake too. Chocolate chip cookies are a must here at Christmas. A good friend gave me peanut butter fudge to share. I also made Chocolate Almond Macaroon Bars that taste like Almond Joy candy bars. Last but not least, these snowmen were for my great niece and two great nephews.

In the past I have dipped Oreos in melted chocolate, but this year I bought a box of white fudge covered Oreos. The ear muffs and noses are snipped gum drops. The eyes are mini chocolate chips held in place with a drop of white writing gel. Red gel was used for their mouths.

If you decide to make the Chocolate Almond Macaroon Bars and can't find chocolate wafer cookies for the base layer, you can use Oreos. I scraped the filling off of some but not all, before turning them into crumbs. I left the white chocolate chips off of the top layer as that step is truly overkill. I've had them with and without, and you really don't need them. This is very rich dessert and small squares go a long way.

The rum cake was easy to make and is still moist and delicious four days after baking it.

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 - 18.5 oz. pkg. yellow cake mix
1 - 3-3/4 oz. pkg. Jello Instant Vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Bacardi Dark Rum (important - not the light rum)


1/4 lb. butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Bacardi Dark Rum (80 proof)

Glaze instructions: Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in rum.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 10" tube or 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan. Mix all cake ingredients together. Pour batter over nuts. Bake 1 hour. Cool. Invert onto serving plate. Poke holes in top of cake with toothpick. Drizzle and smooth glaze evenly and slowly over top and sides, allowing the cake to absorb the glaze. Repeat until all glaze is used.

Getting back to snowmen, here is my 30 year old former Marine, playing in snow for the first time in 7 years. His snowman was never finished as it was more fun to pitch snowballs at this dad instead.

At Christmas, everyone is a kid again, no matter their age.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the eve of a Merry Christmas Eve....

Unlike the 24th when not a creature is supposed to be stirring, the 23rd will be a full day and a late night. We have another winter weather advisory, or as they said in the old days, it is snowing and will continue to snow for a while. The son who lives nearby is driving to the airport to pick up a friend arriving from Atlanta. I hope flights aren't delayed and the friend still owns a warm coat! Our older son is driving in from Columbus Ohio after work which would mean midnight in good weather. No wonder mothers sprout gray hairs overnight!

I owe some bloggers comments and emails to a few friends. I've had computer issues that aren't completely resolved yet. That and holiday prep has limited my posting time. Cross your fingers for me that the next fix really works.

I wish everyone could drop by today and smell the wonderful aroma of the rum cake that is on my counter. I'd even cut you a slice and bake another one for Thursday, but you'd have to plan on staying awhile. The rum in the glaze is pretty potent. Maybe you'd like to help move some dust around while you sober up?

Our tree didn't get up and decorated until this past weekend. I've enjoyed looking at many trees in blogs and thought I'd post a few pictures of mine. We have ornaments from our childhood and some that were from our parents' families. There are many Hallmark ornaments including a whole series of basketball players that will eventually go to our older son when he has his own place and tree. Many ornaments have been made by friends or by me.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, or in the spirit of the Seinfeld show, a Happy Festivus! Whatever your belief, health and happiness to everyone.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Three wise men versus four determined women

Once a month I go out to dinner with two long time friends and neighbors. In December we add a Christmas event to our dinner and end the evening going out for dessert and exchanging Christmas gifts. In past years we have seen the Rockettes' Christmas Show, A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker ballet and a spoof of Christmas classics called Forbidden Christmas.

This year our choices were limited. The big touring productions came early and had short runs. We were happy to hear about Second City's Dysfunctional Holiday Revue at a location that is normally 35 minutes away. The daughter of one my friend's works near Second City and went there to buy our tickets, saving us $5 each on TicketMaster fees. (Don't you think $5 is a bit steep on a $20 ticket that isn't being sent to your home, just held at the box office for unassigned seating?)

You know all that snow I was tired of hearing about in the forecasts? Well the weathermen were finally right. We got snow. A lot of it. Schools were closed in the wee hours of the morning yesterday. Doctors offices closed after calling patients to reschedule. We had no mail delivery yesterday. Surely the show would be canceled last night, or common sense would prevail and our group would stay home.


At 3:30 I got a call that our plans were still on, but we'd be leaving an hour earlier. Shaking off my shock, I hurried to make the transformation from chubby skank in sweatpants to a vision of holiday loveliness.

At 4:30 I stepped out of my house and wondered how the woman driving would be able to get in our driveway. You couldn't see it, you could only guess where it might be. Her husband had used a snowblower on the sidewalk from their house down to ours (4 houses away) and had cleared their driveway. I decided to walk down to their house. First step in snow as I headed to the public sidewalk wasn't bad. Second step a bit deeper. It was the 3rd, 4th and 5th that had snow going over my cute but impractical boots.

Once I was in my friend's car we compared notes on our husband's reactions and I included my son's too. Those three wise men (three wise guys?) thought we were nuts for going. Secretly I agreed with them, but couldn't look weak among my gal pals. Peer pressure is a terrible thing!

The only thing worse than getting stuck backing out of her driveway was looking at her husband's face in the window as he witnessed her struggle to get the car headed in the right direction. A lesser man would have hurt himself shaking his head like that, but alas, he has had much practice over the years.

The good news is that it took us less time to get unstuck from the next driveway. With the daughter joining us and acting as navigator, the four of us set out for dinner and the show. The 35 minute drive took us over an hour. We saw more spin outs than I care to think about, mostly on icy exit ramps.

We were all relieved to turn into the lot of the restaurant and theater. But uh-oh....the lot had not been plowed. After 15 minutes of circling the lot hoping for someone to pull out of a space that their car had flattened, we parked and went in. 90 minutes from my door to the restaurant door!

The camaraderie was far superior to either the meal or the comedy revue and thankfully the drive home was better with somewhat clearer roads and much less traffic. I guess most people get wimpy about being out at 11:00 PM on the day of a snow emergency. To them I say HA! (and quietly add please, please, please call me with an excuse to stay home if this happens again!)

The relief of turning onto our own street took a downturn when we saw all the cars parked in the street as we neared our houses. For those of you unfamiliar with heavy snowfalls, the normal width of a street narrows considerably when plowed and shoveled snow takes up room curbside. In our current state, two cars cannot be parked across from each other in the street with room for moving traffic between them. Some inconsiderate 20-something year old was having a party to celebrate the end of another college semester. Didn't these people know there was a snow emergency?

We almost couldn't get up the driveway of the mom and daughter's house. They were willing to get out where we were stuck by the driver was determined. We finally made it up the driveway and only a little sideways. Getting out of that driveway was probably the worst of the evening's driving challenges. One of the party guests had parked directly across from the driveway.

I thought we should re-enact the scene from Fried Green Tomatoes where Kathy Bate's character deliberately slams into a car, but it wasn't my car so I didn't get to vote.

Find some humor in whatever happens this holiday season. I know God has a sense of humor, just take a look around.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Turning off the news

I used to be a news junkie. I loved the morning paper and saved the funnies and crossword as a morning dessert after a satisfying meal of all the other newspaper sections. I also listened to early morning, dinner hour and bedtime newscasts. When newspapers went from weekly collections to pre-paid subscriptions, I didn't realize it was the beginning of the end of my addiction, but I think the timing coincided even if the change in payment wasn't the cause.

Prepaid subscriptions and safety issues of children as paper carriers led the way to adult delivery personnel with much larger routes and a need to deliver as quickly as possible. Repeated paper tosses from an idling car in the street (breaking three of four solar landscaping lights near my front door) and a deaf ear at the circulation desk when papers weren't delivered at all caused me to quit the paper.

Reading online isn't the same but I've adjusted. I have to go to three sources to read all of the comics I enjoy and while I don't do a daily crossword, my day doesn't officially begin until after I've done an online Sudoku puzzle.

Lately I have made another adjustment. I only listen to the local news somewhere between 5:30 and 7:00 in the morning. Later newscasts tend to hammer away at a subject at a headache producing rate, or use a favorite ploy to keep viewers glued to their broadcast: scare the viewers!

In my part of Michigan, there isn't anyone unaffected by the automotive world's financial problems. I don't need the doom and gloom reports at noon, the dinner hour and at bedtime. The past 24 hours it isn't even the news that is getting to me, it is the weather forecasts. A winter storm is expected to begin at midnight and dump 6-10 inches of snow by tomorrow afternoon. As the first flakes fall, at least three reporters per news station will be reporting live from intersections telling us! how! bad! driving! might! become! Use of explanation points here is mandatory to express their concern for the viewer. Or possibly their joy! at having more airtime!!

I realized I was again becoming a media hype victim this morning when I was ready to cancel plans for tomorrow night based on weather that hasn't happened yet. It is winter in Michigan. If we have to cancel tomorrow's plan due to weather, we can do that tomorrow.

Stay tuned readers! Come back on Saturday for a full report! Will Mother Nature spare Michigan her flaky fury? Will Brad and Angelina adopt a child from an icy intersection in Detroit? All this and more, live, here on Saturday!

Barbara Walters, 1965, possibly with a hand frozen from applying hair spray during a winter month in a northern state.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Love is Blue

I loved this song at one time. It was "our song" with my high school boyfriend.

I should have picked up on it being a sad song and indicative of how that that relationship was going to turn out. Oh well, most of us had to have some less than ideal experiences to learn about ourselves and what we want, need and will accept in future relationships.

I'd like to say I was smart, learned well and set forth with confidence when I met my husband a few years later at the ripe old age of 19, but really I was just lucky. My guardian angel knew what he/she was doing and prodded me to go out with my friends that night many years ago.

On Christmas Eve, my engagement ring will be 36 years old. The blues that I have known all these years have my favorite blues, not the "blue" of that earlier sad song.

Check out Smiling Sally's blog for other Blue Monday posts.

Oh, I meant to tell you where I find my favorite daily dose of blue. It is my husband's eyes.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Warm snowmen

I suspect there are many of us who like snowmen but not the cold weather required to make the real thing. If I ran the world (one of my many goals), I would arrange for snow only to fall where no shoveling is required. Boots would never be needed except as a fashion statement. Driving would be not be a challenge (except for drivers who shouldn't be on the road whatever the season) and cars wouldn't be covered in grime from driving through slush and salt used on slippery pavement.


In my delusional little world there is plenty of room for warm snowmen, the kind kept indoors. I have so many of them, this year I've decided to wait until January to display most of them. Once Christmas decorations come down, the house looks bare so putting them out will be a nice change of pace.

A few escaped their boxes while I was looking for Christmas items and I thought I'd use them in today's Three or More Thursday post. Please check out The Gypsy's Corner for more posts with this theme.

This photo is on an odd angle because the quilt hangs in a narrow walkway between my kitchen and living room. This wall quilt was made the friend I mentioned in yesterday's post.

This cute pair was given to me by a dinner guest one year. Hmmm, I should invite her over again!

Can you believe I got these in an online swap years ago? There are a small group of women who have been cyber buddies for years on a private message board. I hit the jackpot when my name was matched to the woman who shopped for this snowlady and Santa in blue, just for me!

I made this wall quilt 10 years or so ago, right after we added a family room to our house. The embroidery was done by hand but the quilt was machine pieced.

This snowman featuring Mickey and Minnie is by Jim Shore. He was a gift last Christmas.

This wall quilt can seem a little spooky looking to some. I made this in a class with the pattern designer as the instructor. The quilting was done by machine, free motion style. I think the black thread and the eye detail is what bothers some people. The red on his hat is a cardinal. He hangs in my upstairs bathroom.

Lastly, here is my one and only Santa Bear. J.L. Hudson used to be THE place to shop in the Detroit area. It eventually became Dayton-Hudson, then Marshall Fields and is now Macy's. In 1985 they began offering Santa Bear at a nominal price with a purchase of a certain dollar amount. No one realized that first year or two that they would become desired collectibles. This one is from 1986. Next to him is Shivers, a reindeer from Avon. He runs on batteries. When you turn his switch on, he shivers in the cold making the bells on his antlers ring.

It is cold enough for snow today, but none is predicted and the sun is shining so I should step away from the computer and go attempt to finish some Christmas shopping.

Warm season's greetings to all of you!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Good friends and being in sync

The invisible connection between good friends is interesting and something I suspect is stronger between women than between male friends. Men aren't surprised to see their buddy in the same blue sweater and that would never launch them into a discussion of did you buy that when it was a "buy one, get one at 50%" sale, and if so, what other color did you get? If the female friends are young enough, that discussion may be accompanied by an audible squeal over the sale or the fact that they both loved the same sweater.

Women may not want to find another woman in the same dress at any given event, especially an expensive formal dress, but when someone you like and admire buys the same item, it draws you closer and reaffirms your own good taste. (If Mary likes it enough to buy it too, I must have made a good choice.)

If you are a reader, have you ever called a friend to tell them not to buy a favorite author's newest book only to find that they just bought it and were about to call you with the same message?

Being in sync is a warm fuzzy and a smile maker.

Yesterday I went to see a Christmas play with a very good friend. We exchanged Christmas gifts. We share a love of handmade artistry. She gave me this beautiful blue handmade bowl from an artisan in Disneyworld. I have it tipped against a candle here to better show the interior. She also gave me the bag of homemade Christmas cookies.

Check the back of the label

Can you tell how she made them?

They are machine embroidered sugar cookies!

Unfortunately for this post, I didn't take a photo of what I attached on my gift package to her. It was a sugar cookie, also on felt, but with bugle beads as colored sprinkles sewn on.

Great minds and crafty fingers think alike.

My new bowl qualifies this as a Blue Monday post. For more Blue Monday posts, please check out Smiling Sally's blog.

Best wishes for a happy week to everyone, and may you all be as blessed as I am with friendships, both online and off.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hugs to all going through difficult times

A worry, an illness or grief doesn't know the difference between December and February, but somehow December delivers a double whammy, doesn't it? Holiday cheer may fall flat or depress or annoy someone with a lot on their plate. I never felt that way, but there were days in two Decembers that I gave in to tears. I think I had to shed those tears to make room for other emotions.

In December of 1978, my husband and I mourned the first Christmas without his dear mother and my beloved dad. Our first son was born in March of that year and had been hospitalized twice. He had turned the corner and was now thriving, but you know how it is with parents, especially first time parents, we weren't done worrying.

Four years later we mourned another loss. An emergency C-section was too late to save our daughter and a ruptured uterus resulted in a hysterectomy. I am lucky to have survived to raise our sons who were 4 and 2 when this happened. That same December we were facing my mom's lung cancer diagnosis. She was too weak to leave the hospital for any Christmas festivities.

I don't think that I was ever so caught up in the material world that I was disappointed over not receiving a particular gift or having a fit if the last hot-ticket toy-of-the-year sold out just before I got to the store, but those two Decembers really shaped who I am today. I am happy. I choose to be. If a day dawns that it is difficult to find beauty, happiness and humor around me, I know it is time to turn off the news and put down the paper.

This post is more serious than what I usually write but I know this year is hard on many and I wanted to acknowledge an understanding and offer a cyber hug. The automotive crisis is looming over this part of Michigan (near Detroit) like a huge cloud attempting to block out any sliver of sun. None of us can solve this or any other man made problem single handedly, but we can all be nice to one another and offer a smile to a stranger and a hand to a friend. It won't solve the problem or remove grief or a worry, but it can show that we are all connected.

Smiles can be contagious. Wouldn't it be wonderful if smiling spread faster than cold and the flu?

Here is one to get you started

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Take care of yourself and stay out of the sun!

I went to the dermatologist yesterday for removal of a few skin tags and to ask about a few bumps on my face. On one side the bumps are seborrheic keratoses, small round or oval areas of thickened skin. One on the other side of my face felt rough and it was good that I asked about it. That one was a actinic keratoses, caused by (and I quote) "many years of sun exposure. They represent permanently sun-damaged areas and they contain abnormal cells which sometimes turn into skin cancers". The doctor used liquid nitrogen on it, a painless procedure which froze the growth to death. The doctor is not concerned as this bump was very small. I may never have another one, or if one does develop, I will recognize it as different from the others and make an appointment right away.

The surprising part of this is that I have never been a sun bather. I burn easily and therefore avoid prolonged, unprotected exposure. The doctor commented that it could have been childhood damage, but even then I wasn't out in the sun the way most kids were. The surprises continued as he went on to say that the brown patches on my neck are sun damage too. They appeared a few years ago and I thought they were another one of those signs that you've passed your 50th birthday.

This picture isn't the best due to photographing myself in the bathroom mirror, but you can see the discoloration on the right side in this photo. The bandaid is where two skin tags were removed. Can you see an oval patch that is darker from my necklace down into my sweater neckline? The bandaid is about mid-way down the length of this patch. That might be more sun damage, but he thinks it is tinea versicolor, a fungal infection. Almost everyone has this fungus, but on some unlucky people, the fungus finds just the right spot of body chemistry to thrive and multiply. I have a cream to use. If it lightens or disappears in a month, his diagnosis is correct. If not, it is more sun damage. The light band that starts at my necklace and crosses the bandaid is a reflection from my camera. Or maybe from my teeth. I had an appointment with the dental hygienist yesterday morning. Photobucket

I have a table top again!

No burglars absconded with part of my table but that would have been a more interesting story. Only fractions of the table have been visible since Saturday, and those fractions were not clean enough for dining until almost 4:30 this afternoon. Finally done with decorations until the tree goes up, I celebrated by using new cutwork placemats from Kroger. The white dishes are Corelle Enhancement, the red are simple glass plates from Target years ago. The glasses didn't photograph well empty. I should have taken the photo with milk in them. They are clear with a raised red stripe spiraling the glass. The candle holder on the right holds 7 tealight candles with a silver snowflake in front and behind each candle. The vase is holding picks that have previously been in wreaths or in potted plants.

The downstairs bathroom is small and hard to photograph (how do they do take those shots on design shows?) but I took a few photos anyway. This shower curtain was a sale item a few years ago. Looks like I will have to steam the curtain to get rid of a few creases from storage. Guess I am not done after all. Wall art was changed to match the snowman theme. After Christmas decorations are put away, my snow people will come out. The collection has grown so large, it is too much to have them out the same time as the Santas, trees and items that definitely speak of Christmas. This curtain and the snow people will stay out until it is time to decorate for Easter.

Decorating has taken me much longer this year, but I've been switching things around a bit and setting many things aside for our son to use in his home. I've been holding onto things for years, waiting to do that!

After my camera and I both recharge our batteries, I will take more pictures of our Christmas treasures. I love looking at other people's decorations and stories and hope you're enjoying mine.