Sunday, December 27, 2009

Blizzard Alvin Sabotages Christmas

We just returned from Hatton after spending the night of the 24th and all day of the 25th and 26th sitting around in sweatpants at my parents' house watching every dvd anyone got for a gift and anything else that was on TV. None of our expected guests were able to come and it was pretty boring. We didn't get to do our "As Seen on TV" gift exchange game and my Grandma was stuck by herself in Red Lake Falls. There were no cousin antics or jokes about eating beans. I got alot of presents though! Including a new camera and computer! Here are some photos I took. . .

These three spend several hours of Christmas day playing "The Farming Game" (Which, if you didn't know, is a monopoly-esqe game involving crops, livestock and market fluctuations.) I don't think I've ever seen this game played in my life but it finally saw the light of day!

This was taken out the front door on Christmas night. It's hard to see, but it is still raging out there. I thought the little trees looked pretty.
On the 26th I put on some snowpants and went trudging around the yard while my dad was busy with his snowblower tractor attachment. (He also went to our neigbor's house because his snowblower was trapped in a garage with a huge drift in front of it and also out of gas! What a mess this whole weekend was!) Once it was possible to leave the yard, Justin and Pete ignored the "no travel advised" warnings and went to Grand Forks. On the way they pulled the same car out of snow drifts 5 times (for real!) Pictured above is the huge drift against our garage.

Pretty trees. . .
We left the farm early this afternoon. We drove through town and I can say that I have seen alot of blizzards in my life, but I've never seen such big snow drifts. The whole fronts of houses and buildings were blocked! Then we were on our way back to Bismarck where we came upon. . .

This! And. . .

THIS! Oh, what fun. . .This took Justin about 1.5 hours to clear with a snowblower. Some kind neigbor had cleared the way to our front door and the sidewalk in front of the house, but other than that. . .I hope it doesn't snow for a few weeks. Snow removal is not fun. I have shoveled that driveway once this year when it snowed 2 inches (Justin has more) and I don't like it. I haven't done much shoveling in my life due to living in apartments and before that due to my dad's previously mentioned snow removal equipment. A drawback of having a house, for sure, but it's still worth it!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Dress from Old

As I previously mentioned, I was at home for my brother's graduation last weekend and while I was there I finally did something I have wanted to do for awhile. I shortened the red, floor length bridesmaid dress I wore for my sister's wedding last year! I might be wearing "coctail attire" on New Year's Eve this year and I wanted a new dress but didn't want to buy a new dress. Most of the cheap ones just look cheap or else are to "young" for me (no one wants to see a 26 year old's thighs!).

Here it is before: It had two very long ties that were intended to be fashioned into a big, dramatic tie for the wedding. This picture seems dark, but it could be because I'm sitting by a window right now.

I didn't want to pay the cost of having a professional do the work (I could have just bought a new dress!) but I am no good at pinning or cutting or sewing a straight hem so I had to have my mom, an experienced dress sewer since her teenage years, pin and adjust it.

Finally, I cut the long sash ends, sewed the ends under, gathered, and sewed them under close to the zipper! It still looks kind of bridesmaid-y, but with black tights, non-conservative shoes and some obnoxious jewelry it should be a fun look for New Year's!

This reminded me that I forgot to mention a favorite Christmas book in my Christmas story post. The book is called "The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree". I takes place during WWI. The town where it takes place has a tradition where each year a family is chosen to provide the perfect tree for the town. The family chosen for the year of 1918 is a little girl and her parents. However, Christmas is near and the father hasnt' returned from the war yet and no one knows where he is. Meanwhile, the girl has the role of the Angel in the school play. She is thrilled and tells her mom she needs a new white dress with big sleeves that flow like wings. The mom is in a bind because they don't have money to buy a dress or to buy fabric to make a dress. When the girl is sleeping one night, the mom takes out her wedding dress and uses the fabric from it to sew a new angel dress. I remember reading this story as a child and not being able to fathom cutting up my wedding dress! There are many stories of resourcesful women conjuring new clothing to keep their dignity in desperate times, though, aren't there? (Remember Sound of Music and Gone With the Wind and of course Pretty in Pink?)

Merry Christmas everyone! I am all packed to go home and just waiting for Justin to get home from work!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Just When the Paint Smell Faded. . .

Lucky you! You get a break from my nostalgic Christmas nonsense to actually hear about a project dealing with our house! This weekend, I went to Grand Forks for my brother's college graduation. The ceremony was at 2 on Friday, so Justin didn't go because of work. He stayed in Bismarck and painted in the basement! I am not going to re-post "before" pictures of the family room because it is just a white bare room and I believe there is a picture of it in previous posts. He chose a color called Hemlock and it looks like this:

He picked it out, and I was glad because I picked the upstairs colors and it is alot of pressure! You can see there is some finishing around the floor. The trim was brown before and Justin is going to replace it with white to match the trim around the windows and doors down there. See Allan's little tent area? He loves the look of his new room. He loves it so much that he ended up with a streak of paint on his side this evening! We had to pin him down and wash him off so he wouldn't lick it!

The work extends to the staircase. Below is how it looked before.

We have plans to carpet the family room in the future and also the stairs, so Justin removed the old carpet.

I especially like this undertaking because I have not done any of the work (yet)! No paint on my hands and in my hair! This is a contrast from when we painted upstairs and I was paint-y for weeks! I did make some mediocre tasting and looking spritz cookies today though! I did something!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fave Christmas Stories

I was in the library today (to get books, not study, which I still find delightful) and I saw a display of children's Christmas books which got me thinking about all of my old favorite Christmas books from childhood and beyond. Once I thought about it, I realized there are quite a few!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: This book is really funny and all of the Characters are so real. I thought everyone had read this book, but for whoever hasn't (JUSTIN) here is a summary: The narrator is a girl in elementary school and her mom is wrangled in to being the director of the church Christmas pageant even though she dreads it. The girl and her brother also dread it and hope for small parts. Meanwhile, there is a big family of really badly behaved kids named the Herdmans who are always in trouble and terrorizing the whole neigborhood. To everyone's suprise, they show up at the first practice because they heard there would be food there and end up having main roles because none of the other kids want to be in their way (even the perfect minister's daughter who assumes she will get the role of Mary). Chaos ensues, but by the end everything works out and everyone realizes that the nativity with the Herdmans, who are outcasts and kind of ragged looking and scared on stage, is more realistic that the perfect display that is usually portrayed in nativity scenes.

Christmas Day in the Morning: This story is by the author Pearl S. Buck. It's about a boy sometime in the "old days" who feels bad because he doesn't have money to buy his hardworking farmer father a nice Christmas present. He has the idea of sneaking out of the houes in the middle of the night and doing the farm chores like milking the cows all by himself as a suprise for his dad so he can be with the younger kids when they see the Christmas tree and presents in the morning instead of in the barn doing chores like he has had to do in the past. Very touching.

Winter's Gift: This one could make anyone choke up. It's about an elderly man who is reminiscing about choosing a Christmas tree with his wife and getting out their special Christmas star to put on the top. Sadly, the wife has passed away and he is having his first Christmas alone. He is too sad to get out the Christmas decorations. On Christmas Eve, he hears noise outside his farm house and discovers a lost and starving horse that seems to be in pain. He brings it into his barn and feeds it and makes it a bed. The next morning, he finds that the horse has given birth during the night and the baby has a star pattern on its head! He takes it as a message from his wife to continue living and enjoying life. Kind of an adult theme for a children's book, but it has a good message.

The Sweet Smell of Christmas: This book is for very young children and entails a family of bears where the parents are preparing their little bear for Christmas. Every page explains some aspect of Christmas and has a scratch and sniff stickers to tie in the smell. I remember it had a candy cane, hot chocolate, a pine tree, and an orange. For as long as I can remember, my family's copy of the book has had stickers that were scratched to capacity and didn't smell anymore. I think they still make it because I know my mom has given it as a baby gift.

A Christmas Sonata: Gary Paulsen wrote this and I love his writing. This is a "chapter" book for elementary school kids and is about a boy and his mom who take a long train ride to Northern Minnesota to spend Christmas with the mom's sister's family. They have a son who is dying of cancer. It is set during WWII and the boy's father is at war. On top of his confusion about his cousin dying soon, they boy sees a drunk man in his apartment building dressed in a shabby Santa suit and is worried Santa might not be real. The uncle overhears the two cousins talking about whether Santa is real and makes arrangements to prove to them that he is. Their belief is affirmed at the sight of Santa complete with a sleigh and reindeer on Christmas Eve. I hadn't read this book for years because my family's stash of Christmas books somehow got lost in our attic, so I looked it up on the Internet for a refresher. I came to a site where people recommend and rate children's books and there is a system to rate any aspects that parents might dissaprove of. This book got a negative rating for alcohol use because it "portrays a man dressed as Santa Clause drinking wine"! Also, it portrays a child with cancer. If any parent wouldn't allow their children to read this for those reasons they have problems. People like that must want to promote illiteracy and ignorance in society. If a kid is smart enough to read a chapter book with no pictures, I think they should be able to handle reading about a kid with cancer. Anway, great book for Christmas time. It is sad but also uplifting. I remember a part where the boy is baffled by seeing how happy his mom is and how she laughs until she is doubled over while she is working in the kitchen with her sister. He's not the first male to be awed by the behavior of women.

I could think of more, but this is getting long so I'll stop for now. No one reads blogs to read extensive essays.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I Have a Scanner. . .Watch Out!

I got a scanner for Christmas from Justin's parents and when I was in Eastern ND last weekend I grabbed some pictures (It seems like alot, but I only took one family album from when I was pre-school aged, a few prints from a box, and an envelope of pictures from my grandparents' 50th anniversary in 2004.) My favorites that I have added to my digital collection are a few professional photographs from the 1930's and 40's of my Grandpa and his family.

My grandpa Glenn is the middle boy in the back with the cute grin. I can't help but notice the classic style of the clothing in the picture. It looks pretty nice and I think anyone in any decade would agree. This picture didn't have a date, but I estimate it to be between 1938 and 1940. Little did they know that 33 years later they would be wearing clothes like this:

Oh, what happened during those years? I bet those little boys in those austere black suits couldn't imagine their own children would be wearing clothes like this:

And a few years later they would have clothes (and hair) like this:

I won't even get into what those children's children (Myself and my siblings and cousins) were wearing in the 80's and 90's because it is even worse in different ways. At least we learned our lessons and will never go back.
This is Glenn again at the age of 17. It's a nice picture, but when I was looking at it, I noticed something that I have notice about myself in many photographs. Look at his eye (his left, on your right). The eyelid is slightly droopy. Keep reading. . .

This is a picture of my parents before a homecoming dance at NDSU in the late 70's-probably 78?? They look pretty nice, nice dress, understated suit by 70's standards. . .

There it is! The droopy left eyelid! Nothing extremely noticeable but. . .
This is Justin and I at a dance in college where they had a professional photographer. And there it is again. . . eyelid! I have always kind of noticed that eyelid. What makes it worse for me is that my eyelashes are two different colors. The left one is the whitest blonde and the right one is like my hair. So in childhood pictures it looks pretty off-kilter sometimes. It doesn't bother me a whole lot and it's not the worst feature to have (although I don't go anywhere without mascara!) but it is funny that the same trait on the same eye is present in 3 generations. I haven't noticed it on my other relatives. (If you scroll back to the 1930's picture you can see it also).
Ok, me and my eyelid are going to wrap this up!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Light it UP

I sent a big pile of Christmas cards today, so expect an awesome suprise within the next few days!

House projects...not too much going on in that area. Last week, Justin put some new light fixtures in the basement.

This is one of the old fixtures. I didn't really mind them. I like old, vitage-y things sometimes. But whatev. . .the new ones are fine too. I didn't really care if I were involved with this project at all, but I ended up standing there holding a flashlight while he connected the wires. Oh, it was exhausting, let me tell you!
We were in Eastern ND this weekend for a wedding and a Birthday party in the Lankin/Park River area. I also spent a day at my parents' house in Hatton and enjoyed being around all of the Christmas decor of my youth. . .especially these!

Our stockings! My mom made each of these quilt style stockings beginning with the Mom, Dad, and Maren versions back in the 80's when I was a baby. The style caught on in the family and she has made them for several of our relatives' families. It has been about 12 years since the last baby was born (my cousin Olivia) but the addition of two new husbands called for her to return to the Christmas fabric box and also invent some new appliques (no cutesy animals for Kirk and Justin!) I love that stocking because it holds ALOT. Haha. When I have children I am going to name them something longer than 6 letters. . . she could use a challenge. . .

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Songs

I love to run my mouth (or fingers, I guess you would say) about what I think about stuff, and I could go on forever about music if I have someone willing to talk to me about it, so I thought I'd do a blog about Christmas songs. Also, Roommate was writing about them on Facebook and got me thinking about it.

Some of my faves:

Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming: This song isn't very popular or well known, but it is lovely. Here is a version I found on Youtube. Ignore the nerdy-ness of the choir. They sound pretty good, I think.

Oh Holy Night: This is a very popular song and many people list it as their favorite. It has a beautiful melody and conjures Christmas Eve imagery that make people reflect on Christmas. However, I like it for other reasons as well. Has anyone paid attention to the later verse in the song that goes:

"Truly, he taught us to love one another,
His law is love and his gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease."

The song, all three verses, originated as a poem by a French wine merchant named Placide Cappeau in 1847, when he was asked by a local priest to write a poem for Christmas. Cappeau had a composer write a melody to match the poem and it was introduced at a mass service that Christmas. It caught on quickly with the French people, but soon religious leaders in France tried to ban the song due to Cappeau's social views. He was known as a liberal freethinker and a non-Christian, and many people opposed his anti-slavery views and the anti-slavery message in the song. The song continued to grow in poplularity, however, and eventually an American minister in the "North" translated the French version and was moved by the abolishionist, "slave is our brother" message. So anyway. . .I remember reading something about this story in a newspaper or magazine a few years ago and was interested enough to look it up, which is where I learned about Mr. Cappeau. I liked "Oh Holy Night" before, but this made me like it even more. It is actually kind of hard to find a popular recorded version with the "Truly he taught us" verse, but it is in most church piano hymals I have seen.

Good King Wenceslas: This is the first Christmas song I learned on the piano in third grade that actually had chords and wasn't just a single line of notes. It made me feel very grown up! This song has an uplifting message about how the king and his servent went out into a bitter cold day and walked a long distance to bring food and firewood to the poor. It was so cold the servant almost gave in to exhaustion but was able to make it by walking in the footprints left by Wenceslas in the snow. Wenceslas was a real person (according to Wikipedia he was Saint Wenceslas, Duke of Bohemia, who lived from 907-935, and was known as a good worker who gave charity, actually working in person, to orphans and widows, as well as those seen wretched by most others, such as prisoners and those with disabilities and mental illnesses). He died at age 28, which means all of his good works were done as a young man. Hmmm. . .kind of makes me feel like a pile of crap. . .sitting here on my computer watching TV. . .

Prepare Ye The Way Of The Lord: This song isn't strictly a Christmas song. It is from the musical Godspell (which I've never seen). I associate it with Christmas because when I was in middle and high school it was a yearly tradition to sing this as the closing of our Christmas concerts. We would dim the lights, and the middle school and the band students who weren't also in the choir would form a circle around the gym and hold a candle. People loved it so we kept doing it every year. When I was in high school, I was the piano accompanist as well (which is much better than me singing!) I loved the piano arrangement. It was loud and full sounding with big chords. I tried to find a version on youtube, but all I found was the 1970's Godspell clip which isnt' a Christmas theme and is actually pretty cheesy. So look if you want. . .

Let it Be Christmas: This song doesn't have some long winded historical reason for my liking it. It is by Allan Jackson, and usually I don't like "contemporary" Christmas songs because they are usually annoying and cheesy (Can we say "Christmas Shoes" anyone?"). This one is really good though. Roommate and I listened to it all the time in College.

The Coventry Carol: This song was on a "Stars Come Out For Christmas" cd my family had (still has) when I was growing up. I liked the song, so I looked it up (I know this is nerdy, but I was lucky enough to have the internet become available just when I got old enough to start wanting to know more about everything! I had a endless, uncensored reference library at my fingertips! Lucky you, right?). It actually has a pretty violent background and refers to the Holy Innocents, the children in the Bible that King Herrod slaughtered when he was trying to eliminate the newborn Jesus. But, there is more to Christmas that just the beautiful, idealistic part, and it's all part of the story. So on December 27th, which is the traditional Feast of the Holy Innocents, think of what it would be like to live in those lawless days. . .

Garth Brooks' cd "Beyond the Season": I love the whole thing. . .ahhh. . .

A Mighty Fortress/Angels We Have Heard on High (the Amy Grant recording): I really don't like any of Amy Grant's music that much, except for her Christmas songs. They are some of my favorites. I love this version because I grew up in a traditional Lutheran Church and "A Mighty Fortress" was composed by Martin Luther during the Protestant Reformation as a rallying song for reformers. Although I don't claim to be devout in my religious practices during the last few years, I have always been inpsired by the huge undertaking that was the Reformation and how it was an important turning point for religious freedom in western cultures (And no, I didn't get that idea from church. I learned about the far reaching implications of the Reformation it in Western Civilization class at NDSU.) What would the world be like if no one had ever questioned the way something was done? In the musical arrangment I am referring to, the song begins with a loud and assertive instrumental version of "A Mighty Fortress" and then bursts into a joyful sounding "Angels We Have Heard on High". Thank you Amy!

What Child is This: I love it because the melody sounds so mysterious and really Christmas is a mystery. . .wouldn't it have been amazing to have been there, whenever it happened? (Some people believe, based on scriptures, that it could have happened in the spring or fall. It is also speculated that early Christian clergy placed Christmas on December 25th to distract from Pagan festivals that happened at the same time.) Who cares when it really happened, though, as long as it is observed and celebrated!

Had enough yet? OK, sorry, this went on forever. . .

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Goodbye "Root Cellar"

Under our basement staircase is a storage room. It was fulled from the floor to the ceiling with shelves of wood that were perfectly placed to hold jars. That, combined with the big, weedy patch in our back yard, leads me to believe that the previous owners enjoyed canning and preserving vegetables.

My mom used to make pickles at the farm. We had a garden that was placed in a small field in our yard which used to be a pasture. The weeds were unstoppable, but for a few years we managed to grow a good variety of vegetables and even pumpkin patches. Most important were the cucumbers and the dill! Oh, I love the smell of dill. . .it makes my mouth water whenever I smell it. . .

Unfortunately, the shelves, although numerous, were not practical for our storage needs. So last night Justin ripped them all out and replaced them with new shelves!

I never took a picture of the previous shelves before started working, but I got a few in the process and after. This is what is in there: empty boxes for future present giving, things we use occassionally be don't have room for in the kitchen and luggage and air mattresses. Oh, so much crap everywhere! At least it's nice to have it all with us and not strewn about at our parents' houses and in a storage unit.
It was cute to discover behind the shelves some carving in the wall done by the children who used to live here (they are all adults now). Very cute! I almost want to carve my own name down there!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Virus attack

No, I don't have the hini. . .My computer is having some issues, however. Last week I was downloading some Christmas music and suddenly everything got very slow and strange windows started popping up saying I had viruses. It is my own fault for downloading music and having outdated virus software. What this means for you is that I can't post pictures until I get this fixed! (I am on Justin's computer). I know, it's so dissapointing. . . I am avoiding it until the weekend is over. So stand by. . .I might have to have some non-picture related content for the next few posts.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree. . .You Look So Good!

The tree is up! I love it and believe it looks the best it has ever looked. Well, it is only on its third Christmas, so that isn't really saying much. I tried ot go heavy on blue decorations this year because I have a box of blue ornaments from IKEA. Of course, I could never leave off my or Justin's old favorite ornaments, regardless of theme or color!

I was worried that Allan would be a pain in the a$$ about the tree, and at first I was right and very concerned about saving Christmas! He wanted to climb right up and start chewing on the cords! The tree has been up since Thanksgiving, though, and he has lost interest in it for the most part. We kept ornaments off the bottom few inches to minimize temptation.

I love this picture. . .I don't know what setting I was using but it looks so pretty even though he is being naughty!

Here it is finished! Well, almost. It looks kind of crooked but we have addressed the problem. As you can probably tell, that tree is fake. It is slim and marketed toward apartment people. Andrea and I bought matching ones on clearance 3 years ago! I look forward to having a bigger one eventually, but our house is small, and it fits perfectly into this corner so we will probably keep using it for a few more years.
I love all Christmas trees, fake and real. When I was young, during our Wyoming days, we always had real trees. Our first year on the farm, we cut one out of a shelter belt (owned by my family, of course!) and it flew out of the pickup multiple times on the way home and looked even more off kilter than it was to begin with. By January, it was so dry and brittle that my dad cut it up in the living room and threw it out the window in pieces to avoid a trail of disintigrating tree running through the whole house. After that, my mom bought a fake one from Hardware Hank in town (now sadly out of business). Now, there are two trees on the farm! One (the Hardware Hank tree) is in our sun porch and is decorated with the tacky, old, and more "country" looking ornaments and ornaments we made as kids. The one in the living room is the more eleagant tree (if you can call it that-it's no department store tree, that's for sure, but it is beautiful to us!) This is the first year I haven't been there to decorate! It kind of makes me sad, until I think about trudging up two flights of stairs to get to the freezing cold attic and trudging down multiple times hauling boxes then having to bring the empty ones back up again. Sigh, sad I missed it. . .