Vince fixed corned beef and cabbage
(and cheesy potatoes and barbequed little smokies)
for New Year's . . . some tonight, leftovers tomorrow.

Playing with the camera
while waiting for the cookies to be done . . .

The cookies are Cake Mix Cookies (just 3 ingredients) . . .

These were made using a Fudge Chocolate cake mix
and Heath chips.

Cake Mix Cookies [from Rosalynn]

Preheat oven to 350°.

     1 box cake mix
     2 eggs
     ½ cup oil

Mix well until lumps are gone.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 8-10 minutes.
Variation: add nuts, raisins, chocolate or other chips.


Today . . .
scrapbooking November in 2009's photo journal . . .

and putting away a few more Christmas decorations . . .


Today was errand day:
Senior Center (closed), post office, bank, WalMart.

Meals for the week . . .
Taco Salad
Corn and Sausage Chowder
Mexican Pasta
Barbequed Little Smokies

Veggie Fish Chowder from last Sunday . . .

Veggie Fish Chowder
     [from Better Homes and Gardens, May 2008, page 203]
Makes:  6 total servings

Mashed Potatoes:  Make garlic mashed potatoes
     from scratch   or   make ½ of a 7.2 ounce instant box
     using some of the soup broth after Step 4 of the soup.

1 lb firm-texture white fish, cut in 4 pieces (thaw if frozen)
2 med carrots, sliced (or half a bag of baby carrots, sliced)
1 cup sugar snap peas, halved diagonally
1 T olive oil
1 can (~14 ounce) vegetable broth
2 ¼ cups water (or another can of broth and a cup of water)

course ground black pepper
shredded parmesan cheese

1. Lightly season fish with pepper.
2. In 4-qt Dutch oven, cook fish, carrots, and peas
       in hot oil (medium-high) for 3 minutes.
3. Add broth and water; bring to a boil.
4. Immediately reduce heat. Cover; simmer for ~3 minutes
       until fish flakes easily with a fork.
5. Break the fish into bite-size pieces in the pan.
6. Put a scoop of mashed potatoes in a bowl
       Ladle the soup around the potatoes.
7. Season to taste with salt and pepper if needed.
       Serve with parmesan cheese.


31° and windy . . .
here's what's happening at my house . . .

time to get out the toys, start a fire, and have fun.

(Me? I'm inside with a cup of tea and a puzzle.)


The beginning of the snowfall,
standing on the porch and looking north . . .



Christmas Day dinner . . .
Tortellini Minestrone Soup with Focaccia Bread

Tortellini Minestrone Soup

Put 64 ounces of vegetable or chicken broth on to boil.

While it’s heating,
     slice 10-15 baby carrots
     slice 2 trimmed celery stalks
     dice ½ medium onion
     quarter and slice 1 medium zucchini (remove seed core)

After the broth boils, add the vegetables.
After the veggies have been cooking for 5-6 minutes,
     add 1 small package (9 ounces) of cheese tortellini.

Boil for another 7 minutes; then change to medium-low heat.

Add: 1 can drained/rinsed pinto beans
       1 can drained/rinsed dark red kidney beans
       1 can undrained diced tomatoes
       1 can drained uncut green beans

Spice with: 1 teaspoon salt
                1 teaspoon basil
                ½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
                ¼ teaspoon minced garlic

Five minutes before serving,
     add a large handful of washed, uncut fresh spinach.

Serve topped with shredded parmesan cheese.
Pick a great bread to accompany the soup.


Nieces Phoebe, Christine, Sarah . . .


Vince and me, Victorian Christmas 2007


Another Ian-ism . . .
(while putting some new lotion on my hand)
"Gramma has cracks".
Me, Christmas 1955


[Dinner conversation with a toddler]
Grandpa:  Tell Gramma about going to the gravel pit
                 and seeing the big pile of sand.
Ian:  It was big.
Gramma:  Was it huge?
Ian:  No.
Gramma:  Was it gigantic?
Ian:  No.
Gramma:  Was it humongous?
Ian [using his hands]:  No.  It was BIG!


My oldest ornament,
from when I was 5 or 6 years old . . .


My mother-in-law, circa 1941 . . .


In front of The Book Nook . . .
a used bookstore on Main Street


At Olive Garden . . . waiting . . .


~ The great Santa give-away ~
the participants . . .

and some of the Santas that now have new homes . . .


Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of every human being.
~ Ecclesiastes 12:13




Keep "Christ" in Christmas . . .


And, the results are . . .
(my bee in progress, my bee finished,
Anne's compass rose finished)

(this morning, the pink area has already disappeared)


Be cautious what you promise an 11 year old
with a very good memory . . .

Today, she is 18 and this evening, we get tattoos.
Happy birthday, kiddo.


How a toddler scrapbooks . . .

on his shirt, hands, legs and the bottom of his feet.


The tree was up with only the lights.
Low light; 1 second exposure; move the camera . . .


A halo above my beaded cross . . .

. . . created by reflections from                
                      Anne's snow globe display . . .


And before the day goes into fast-forward,
three of my blessings on Thanksgiving . . .

So . . . I'm gone from mid-morning until 9 pm yesterday and I already missed my goal for the month.  Ah, well.  Here's a post for Wednesday, December 2 (Happy birthday, Em) . . . a truck for sale [on a corner near where I live].  I had some fun with Photoshop (PSE 5.0).


Goal for myself:
for the month of December, I will post to my blog everyday.
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The glory of the Lord - Blessings Card

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Food for thought from "Faith and Will" by Julia Cameron
[sub-title:  Weathering the Storms in Our Spiritual Lives]

[still reading; I'm only on page 76; I flag quotes as I read and this book has several dozen flags already]

There is a way to live each day that feels in accord with God's will for us . . . All of these [daily] choices are points where our life touches God's.  God touches our lives everywhere and at all times.

If God is with us every moment, then we can ask for directions at all times.  There will never be a moment in which our prayer is unheard, although we may hurry onward, not taking time for the answer.
To know God takes a beat.
We must reach out and allow the time to feel that what we have reached out to has reached out back to us.  Most of us are too hurried to know God.  And yet we act as if God is too hurried to know us.

They say that faith without works is dead.  It is faith that allows us to make our works.  It is faith that allows us to take risks.  Faith in something greater than ourselves, faith that the bread will somehow land jam side up.  Faith is what says, in the face of "bad" news, "I wonder where this is going."  Faith knows that life is an evolutionary process and that "all bets are off" is not such a bad position to be in.  Faith puts our money on the certain number - "God" - and spins the wheel.

It is one of the ironies of the spiritual life that so much can be seen in retrospect as having been designed in our own best interest.

But people have free will and so, for that matter, does God.  God is no dummy.  God is not easily bribed or coerced.  God does not fall for our pretty, phony prayers.  God is seeking something deeper, and if we cannot muster it, God is stubborn.  God holds out for what is in our best interests.  God is willing to be unpopular.

In order to find a silver lining, we must be willing to look for one.  At the very least, we must be willing to recognize one when it appears.  We must be willing to be comforted in order to be comforted.  We must maintain an openness to spiritual realities.  We must be teachable in order that we may be taught.  It is for this reason that the great prayer is "Thy will be done."  The surrendering of our independent spirits to a higher good make it possible to find a path through darkness.  "Thy will be done, O Lord,  Thy will be done."  This is the prayer of the dark night of the soul.  This is the prayer of surrender.

When we ask God to fulfill us, we have a notion of what it is we think might best serve, and that notion is not always God's intention for us.  It is not that God fails to hear our prayers, rather that the prayer God hears may be a deeper prayer that we are able consciously to make.  When we invite God to shape us, we are yielding our notions of what our best shape may be.  We are entering a new terrirory, a world of openmindedness, where God's decisions become those we abide by and God's blueprint becomes the plan for our own unfolding.  This can be frightening.  What are you turning me into?  Will I recognize the person that I become?  Perhaps not.


18th annual
2009 Pumpkin Carving Party
Pumpkin Carving table / 102 in attendance

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Food for thought from "a big little life" by Dean Koontz:

If we allow ourselves to be enchanted by the beauty of the ordinary, we begin to see that all things are extraordinary. If we allow ourselves to be humbled by what we do not and cannot know, in our humility we are exalted.

Our faith tells us that when the last hour comes, the best places to be taken are while in prayer or while engaged in work to which we committed ourselves in cheerful acceptance of the truth that work is the lot of humanity, post Eden. If done with diligence and integrity, work is obedience to divine order, a form of repentance.

She was not just graceful in a physical sense. The more I watched her, the more she seemed to be an embodiment of that greatest of all graces we now and then glimpse, from which we intuitively infer the hand of God, infer the truth that this world's beauty is a gift to sustain the heart, and infer the reality of mercy.

Too many of us die without knowing transcendent joy, in part because we pursue one form or another of materialism. We seek meaning in possessions, in pursuit of cosmic justice for earthly grievances, in the acquisition of power over others. But one day Death reveals that life is wasted in these cold passions, because zealotry of any kind precludes love . . .

Considering the potentially momentous nature of even the smallest decisions we make, we ought to be terrified and humbled, we ought to be filled with gratitude for every grace we receive.

This was a small taste of that [death], not an inoculation to prepare us to better handle grief - nothing can immunize against grief - but a reminder to cherish what you love while you have it, so that when it passes, you will have memories of joy to sustain you.

The only wisdom is humility, which engenders gratitude, and humility is the condition of the heart essential for us to know peace.

But then I realized that I was praying for something I wanted, which is not the purpose of prayer. My faith tells me that we should pray for strength to face our challenges, and for wisdom, but otherwise only for other people.

Each of us, each living thing, lives by the hand of grace.

Love and loss are inextricably entwined because we are mortal and can know love only under the condition that what we love will inevitably be lost.

The life of a seamstress is no smaller than the life of a queen, the life of a child with Down syndrome no less filled with promise than the life of a philosopher, because the only significant measure of your life is the positive effect you have on others, either by conscious acts of will or by unconscious example.

Every smallest act of kindness - even just words of hope when they are needed, the remembrance of a birthday, the compliment that engenders a smile - has the potential to change the recipient's life.


Food for thought from "How Starbucks Saved My Life" by Michael Gates Gill:

You can't serve if you try to control the people you serve, I realized.


Food for thought from "The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios" by Yann Martel:

What should I do, where should I head? I considered various career options. In what oyster did I want to be a grain of sand?
Food for thought from "Wicked" by Gregory Maguire:

I just think, like our teachers here, that if ministers are effective, they're good at asking questions to get you to think. I don't think they're supposed to have the answers. Not necessarily.

Nanny, don't gossip, it hurts my soul.

That's doubt for you, it scours hope out of everything.

You may be right. You know, I'm getting used to stiff muscles in the morning. Sometimes I think that vengeance is habit forming too. A stiffness of the attitude.


Food for thought from "The Good Wife Strikes Back" by Elizabeth Buchan:

I'm biding my time, she said. It's an art all women have to develop.

You get tired of everything. The question is, what do you tire of least?

As the professor had argued so cogently, being good and being truthful were not necessarily the same.


Food for thought from "The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show" by Ariel Gore:
[book read in January 2007]

You ever get the feeling that your destiny is way bigger than the life you're living?

Sometimes it is right to battle death, but sometimes death has its reasons.

... one day you return ... and when you do, you will not be a stranger. This is the beauty of home.

What if our characters aren't measured by the way we live day-to-day? What if we're judged instead at moments like these, angry and running?

If you've abdicated your right to create your own life, vow to take it back. If you're ruled by your possessions, give them away. When you've finally cleared your head - after thirteen hours or thirteen years - descend from the mountain and do your work in the world.

Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.

Oh, Frankka. Anyone can be a saint on a mountaintop.

All things are passing. God alone abideth.

And embrace the radical notion that you can please God by being simply and untheatrically yourself.


Food for thought from "The Life all around me by Ellen Foster" by Kaye Gibbons:

When I told her I needed to lie there and feel like dirt a few more minutes, she said, I know you do.

Laura asked for nothing but the honor of having a girl like me, to look after and hold her daily conversations and customs with.

You can't make people behave, she said, by force of will, and you should try harder not to panic when things feel a little out of place.

He stopped walking and blurted out, If you think you're better than people like Mrs. Thumb, can you try to hide it harder so I can have a good time?

Then Laura said, The truth is not so bad, Ellen, that you need to create a story and worry yourself with it.

I've pulled myself out of many blue days just by saying I must be all right, there must be something right about me, if a person this rare and good chose me.


Food for thought from "Fear Nothing" by Dean Koontz:

I believe in the possibility of miracles, but more to the point, I believe in our need for them.

One thing I love about people is their ability to be lifted so high by the smallest drafts of hope.

How strange this world is: Those things that we can so readily touch, those things so real to the senses . . . are far less real than things we cannot touch or taste or smell or see. Bicycles and the boys who ride them are less real than what we feel in our minds and hearts, less substantial than friendship and love and loneliness, all of which long outlast the world.

Sometimes there is no darker place than our own thoughts: the moonless midnight of the mind.

Because I was not expected to survive to adulthood, my parents raised me to play, to have fun, to indulge my sense of wonder, to live as much as possible without worry and without fear, to live in the moment with little concern for the future: in short, to trust in God and to believe that I, like everyone, am here for a purpose; to be as grateful for my limitations as for my talents and blessings, because both are part of a design beyond my comprehension.

Like all of us in this storm between birth and death, I can wreak no great changes on the world, only small changes for the better, I hope, in the lives of those I love, which means that to live I must care not about what I am but about what I can become, not about the past but about the future, not even so much about myself as about the bright circle of friends who provide the only light in which I am able to flourish.


Food for thought from "Fall on Your Knees" by Ann-Marie MacDonald:

Following the ocean a good part of the way, James discovered that there is nothing so congenial to lucid thought as a clear view of the sea.

And so, day after day, Materia slowly let her mind ebb away. Until she was ready to part with it once and for all.

Frances learns something in this moment that will allow her to survive and function for the rest of her life. She finds out that one thing can look like another. That the facts of a situation don't necessarily indicate anything about the truth of a situation . . . Some would simply say that Frances learned how to lie.

James has caught on: there is a God. There is a Devil - necessary evil. You may be cursed, but at least God has a plan for you . . . But now he knows there are no accidents, only tests.

But good taste is always in style. Truly, civilization is a thin veneer. For what have we to distinguish us from the beasts of the field? Besides, of course, an immortal soul? Manners, and suitable attire.

She is praying for them now . . . It slipped her mind in church, but there is no such thing as an inconvenient moment when it comes to prayer.

There is nothing left for him now except to die, but that will take a while because he is a creature of habit, and he has got into the habit of being alive.

And he doesn't deserve the truth - forgive me, Lord, only You know what we deserve.

Yes, she will confess this sin of pushing her father. But she knows now that no good act is ever unaccompanied by evil. That is what original sin has done to us. That is what makes us human. The necessity of sin itself is the cross we must bear.

I will work hard and get to all those places. I can see it stretching out, straight through to the triumphant end. I hate it when I can see through to the end of something. All that's left is the plodding to get there.

But what has she to be sorry for? A body doesn't need a reason to feel sorry. Sorry is a free-floating commmodity.


A quiet afternoon to celebrate our 31st anniversary . . .


Food for thought from "That Voice Behind You"
by Charles G. Coleman:

... the purpose of divine guidance is not to help you do what you want, but what God wants ... what God wants is also best for you.

Each daily experience becomes a part of God's plan to fit [Christians] for their mission here on earth, and their role in the life to come.

... God is working in your life through His guidance to form you into the likeness of Jesus Christ. The more you allow Him to work in you, the quicker and more complete will be the molding process, and the more satisfying your companionship with Him.

Since God wants to fill you with His Spirit, you can trust Him to fill you if your commit your life to Him and seek the spiritual fulfillment He has for you. Total commitment is the important prerequisite.

Renew your mind each day by prayer and study of God's work.

Life's hardest battles are those you will face within yourself as you determine to learn, on a daily basis, how to let His Spirit rule in your life.

What God wants to develop in you is a daily, harmonious collaboration in which every bit of your human capability to think, plan, and decide is used in a spirit of faith and dependence on Him.

Prayer is more important to your life ... than we may realize ... consistent prayer will keep the channel of communication between you and God clear for the flow of His guidance into your life.

I believe we should put more emphasis on being a witness than on doing witnessing ... what you are will be more important to your non-Christian friends than what you say.

If you are yielded to God, the Holy Spirit can bring you into direct contact with those for whom your personal witness can be most effective.


Senior photo complications (three of them):


It's done . . . stone seating area (and retaining wall), and lots of open area for toys and bikes and a firepan when we want to sit around a campfire.


The front garden has to change because the walnut trees were cut down last year. The plants in the center triangle bed were full shade and partial shade plants and now there is sun there for most of the day. They have been transplanted to other areas here and to friends' gardens.
The triangle bed edged by bricks will be gone and is being replaced with a stone wall [both retaining wall and seating] surrounded by small white stone just like the walkway.