Saturday, December 26, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 19 - Memories of Stockings from Natasha and Ben Smith 2010

My family has always had a lot of trouble keeping track of our stockings. We would always have about a billion different red and white stockings floating around our Christmas stuff. We would take glitter and glue and write our names in cursive on the stockings, but without fail by the following year some of the glitter would come off. By that point a stocking would be missing and we'd have to buy a new stocking for someone. The dog would get an old stocking with somebody's glitter remnants. Every few years we would end up buying and redoing all new stockings because we couldn't stand the slight variations in red coloring, size, or texture. 

The stocking fiasco still continues yearly at my family's house, but I can't stand that sort of uncertainty. I mean, the suspense over whether or not your stocking is MIA is almost too much to handle. Plus, there was a fair amount of stocking hijacking going on. It is amazing how a little squinting and creative peeling of glitter glue can make the name Natasha look like Brittney and vice versa. 

Last year I seized the opportunity to rid myself of the stocking conundrum by buying beautifully embroidered stockings from Pottery Barn. Yes, I spent a little more initially, but the happiness that the matching orderly stockings brings me is priceless. Maybe I'm bland and boring for not making my own or making sure everybody has something different, but I'm alright with boring. Boring is aesthetically pleasing.
My stockings look like they are straight out of a warm and inviting catalog photo...and they are!!! I have the peace of mind that when I have children I will not have to spend forever searching through piles and piles of stockings to find one that only kind of matches. Nope, that won't be me because I can't do kind of matching. It must match exactly (did I mention I have OCD?). When the time comes I will just hop on my computer and go to the Pottery Barn website and fill out my order that will ship to me in 5-10 business days. When the time comes to get another stocking there will be no fight over glitter pen colors, no arguing over the prettier imitation velvet, and no lost stockings. Just a couple taps on the enter button and I will have another perfectly matching stocking. The simplicity of it all kind of makes me giddy.

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 24th - Past Christmas eve 2010 with Natasha and Ben Smith

I'm giving my grandma a break from my incessant interviews. Afterall, it is the holidays. Oh, and I'm sorry about the lack of photos. My photos are on my computer, but I left the power cord back in Texas, but I will add photos later. 

I have never really thought of my family as being a family big on tradition, but as you "melt and merge" new families together, you realize all the small things that go into making the holidays wonderful for your family. My family always gathers together on Christmas Eve to listen to Christmas music ushered in by radio personality Delilah. We sit around the Christmas tree and open one special gift. When we were really young we got to open up a set of pajamas, but as we got older we received an ornament. My grandma Mary Ellen usually comes over to take pictures and gives my mom an ornament. Afterwards, my little brother and sister put their homemade gingerbread cookies and Pepsi out for Santa (The Pepsi thing started when my other sister and I were younger because we are lactose intolerant and apparently Santa is too.). They then sprinkle their reindeer food on the front lawn and run off to bed where they pretend to sleep. Everyone else stays up super late trying to cook and get the rest of the presents wrapped. We also set out the presents from Santa creating a picture perfect scene. 

Last year, My mom gave me all of the ornaments that I had been given throughout the years to place on my own tree. All the decorations match on my tree, so instead of putting them on my tree, I put them on garland throughout our house. Ben and I decided to take up the old tradition of giving pajamas to each other on Christmas Eve. We really enjoy the pajamas because we stay in our pajamas all day on Christmas. 

For the first time last year we had a dinner on Christmas Eve in addition to out Christmas day dinner with all of my mom's side of the family. Everyone came over to our apartment and I hosted our Christmas Eve party. I made bread and fresh Crab chowder with plenty of sides. We ate yummy food and opened presents from each other. This year we are doing something similar with Ben's family. They have their Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, so we will be going over to my brother and sister in-law's for dinner tonight. I'm still unclear on many of their other traditions, but I will report back with more details later.

Advent of Christmas Memories - December 26, 2015 - Christmas Eve past -2010

This year, our family was not all with us for the Holiday so I thought we could revisit Christmas Eve 2010.  That night, we gathered together and had a Christmas Eve that was reminiscent of some I had while growing up.

We warmed ourselves and our tummies with what has become a new family recipe this year, chicken tortilla soup. The kids played and the rest of us rushed to wrap a few remaining gifts. We settled in with some Christmas music on the TV and gathered everyone up to play Family Feud with prizes. We really got to see some competitiveness come out of those family teams! After food and fun, we shared our gifts with one another. We also entertained ourselves by watching our big Theo cat follow Brittney's tiny Mecca dog around the house chasing after the leash that was hooked on this neck. I have a greed not to discuss Rusty's complete humiliation of being run out of his comfort zone by a dog a third his size. (Rusty, your secret is safe). 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories December 24, 2015 - Christmas Stories

There are so many beautiful Christmas stories that we have enjoyed over the years but my favorite story has always been "The Littlest Angel" written Tazewell Illustrated by Sergio Leone.  I was Given a copy in 1963. It is tattered and worn now but I still get teary eyed when I remember the story.

The little Angel has such a wonderful journey searching for a perfect gift for the Savior. But he feels humble and unable to give a beautiful gift.

So he gathers all of his dearest possessions and places them in a small rough box and offers it up as his lowly gift among all the other treasures. He knew it was ugly and he felt it was worthless. He wanted to snatch it up and hide it from the sight of God. But it was too late! "The hand of God moved slowly over all that bright array of shining gifts,
then paused,

then dropped,

and came to rest on the lowly gift of the Littlest Angel" (cue tears!)
"And the Voice of God Spoke, saying, ""Of all the gifts of all the Angels, I feel this small box pleases Me most. It's contents are of the Earth and of men, and My Son, too, will know and love and cherish and then, regretful, will leave behind him when His task is done. I accept this gift in the name of the Child. Jesus. born of Mary this night in Bethlehem.""
And it became The Star of Bethlehem.
If you have never read this beautiful story, please do,

Merry Christmas to all and a Blessed new your from our home to yours.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Advent of Christmas Memories December 16, 2015 - Christmas Travel

Our family is no stranger to Holiday Travel. While I was growing up we would always travel to Sterling Colorado to have dinner with my grandparents.

Later, when I was married and moved away from Colorado, sometimes my parents would come to Arizona to visit for the holidays. We always kidded my mom because she had a big duffel bag and she would pack potatoes and other vegetables from home as well as the TURKEY! One year it all backfired when the bag went missing at the airport. My dad very calmly told the airline personnel that he was sure they would find it soon, if not, everyone would know where it was when the turkey and steaks thawed out! About 2 in the morning, the bag was delivered to us, all the meat was still frozen, dad had a good chuckle over it.

When my daughter Sandi's husband got stationed in Bad Kissingen Germany, I took my first overseas flight to see them and my granddaughters. It was the most beautiful Christmas ever, just like an old fashioned Christmas card. I was outside, video taping when my oldest granddaughter Natasha came out to ask me..."Grandma...haven't you ever seen snow before? Her little sister Brittney was right beside her saying "ya...snow before?" We all had quite a laugh over that one. I assured them that I had, but seeing snow in a small village in the "old" country was a very good reason to take pictures!

The last two years, Sandi and the two youngest have been able to visit Natasha and Ben in Hawaii! Gee how times change!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 15, 2015 -Ornaments

Last year was amazing. I located my missing Nativity sets and all my family is so glad that I didn't put through another manic hunt thinking they were lost in the move. This was one of my favorite topics for the Advent blog. Although some of this post will be the same as a couple of years ago, last year, I wanted to add some pictures I have found and some information on the little village houses and the Nativity set.

I had three favorite decorations or ornaments, the Nativity, the small cardboard village houses with the hole in the back and the original colored bubble lights that were both an ornament and a light! (In case you can't tell from my previous blogs I was born in the '50's).

My parents bought the simple Nativity set when they had my oldest brother (15 years older than me). Both of my brothers, Doug and Willard were in charge of it until I came along. I did some research on this Nativity and found out that it was sold both pre and post World War 2, at major department stores.

It was Italian made and was made out of a chalk like material. It had a young looking Joseph and Mary and the Baby Jesus had a manger made from a strange brown piece of organic material with small sticks glued on the side for legs (by the time I came along, rubber bands were added).

My favorite Shepherd was tall and kind looking and carried a lamb over his shoulders.
The camels were very heavy and for some reason, the bull's horns had springs sticking out them. The barn that Joseph, Mary and the baby stayed in was made out of such rough old wood that I believed that it actually came from Bethlehem! All these years later only a few of the pieces remain.

The Christmas before my brother Doug passed away, he found a complete set just like the original at an antique store and purchased it for me since I was so attached to it. It now is lovingly displayed each year with the remaining original pieces AND the organic brown manger.

I still have the cardboard village houses as well. "Back in the Day" I spent hours putting the fat Christmas lights through the hole in the back. The windows all were covered in colored cellophane and when the lights were shining, all the houses looked like families were home, warm and safe in the snow sheets.

I hope that you and your families are all able to sleep tight tonight like the families in the little cottages.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories December 13, 2015 - School programs

My earliest memory of a school Christmas pageant was in first grade. I attended school in the only grade school in Wiggins Colorado, a small rural farm town. I remember the pageant so well because I got to wear a choir robe. Of course it was made out of a cut up white sheet with a red ribbon bow on it. I loved learning the carols to sing and my favorites were silent night and silver bells. The best part of silver bells is that we made our own silver bells out of paper cups covered in foil with yarn stringing them together. It was a big moment for me. Only recently I found the picture of my older brother Doug in his Merino Colorado school choir. All I can say is that his robe was nicer but he did NOT have the cool silver bells.

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Dec 14, 2015 -Cookies!

My dad credits the fact that he was the youngest child for his love of baking. He often talked about how he loved being in the kitchen with his mom while she baked. He always wanted to help especially when the cookies were being made.

My first and lasting memories of these cookies were of a colorful tin with wax paper lining and stacks of beautiful, soft, yummy cookies that never lasted long enough to dry out.

When we made them at our house, the dough was cut using old silver tin cookie cutters shaped like stars, trees, wreaths, bells and Santa's.

I loved to put the silver balls on the wreaths and trees, and decorate the rest of the cookies with bright frosting and sprinkles.

When my brothers and I had children, they joined in as well.

Now it has come full circle and my grandchildren decorate and frost the cookies. We still use that treasured recipe...and keep the tradition going.

*Thank you Veer Images for the cookie pics.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories December 12, 2016 - Fruitcake Friend or Foe

I had to reach out to my brother Willie for this post because he had at least 12 more years of fruitcake history than I did.

He says that no matter how strange it seems, the fruitcakes DID get eaten, but they were usually last because they were hidden away. I still couldn't understand why they wanted to eat them but he let me in on a few secrets. First of all, they can have absolutely anything in them and you never knew what you were eating. Second, they often came soaked with alcohol and according to him that is the root of a LOT of alcohol issues in the world. The third thing was that they were aged over a year or two so if you were able to survive eating it with your teeth still in tact you were a star! The fourth was that you could find it stashed in the house all times during the year and in a sugar emergency or, in his case, an emergency where he was looking for any old thing to eat, he could be sure that he could find it

In later years when the grandkids were little, mom started making gumdrop fruit cakes and those were a little more popular. So I guess for us the vote is Fruitcake vote is split - 1 for friend and one for foe.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Advent of Christmas Memories December 11, 2016 - Christmas at Church

We did not really attend services as a family when I was growing up. My parents had never decided which church we should go to. My father and his family were Methodists and my mother was christened Lutheran. From time to time friends or relatives would take me to church with them so I attended lots of different services. I remember very clearly that no matter where we were worshiping I felt overwhelmed with love for the Savior, I was also touched by the music. The times I attended on Christmas were very special to me.

When my oldest daughter Sandi was almost 4 months old, my mom and I attended midnight services at the neighborhood church. It was cold and snowy Colorado night and it was a beautiful sight walking in the snow up to the old stately church. My mom was carrying Sandi in the popular baby carrier at the time, it was hard plastic, with a metal frame. The baby was bundled up tightly and when we were almost to the door, my mom slipped and fell on the ice and the carrier went flying across the ice and snow. I was so frantic and praying both mom and the baby were alright, that I don't even remember which one I got to first. When I picked up my baby, she was still sleeping and bundled up nice and warm however, my mom was a little worse for the ware. We were helped into the church by onlookers and settled into the pew. The church was so beautiful and the spirit was so strong, that when the services started, my mom and I were both already crying. We were filled with love for the Savior and each other, and thankfulness that we had just experienced our own small miracle. It was an unforgettable Christmas service.

Now that I have found my own church family, Christmas services are always very special. I love knowing that I am surrounded by others who share the love of Christ. I'm always brought to tears by the choir and the special part the children play in the services. I always feel very blessed to have the life and family I have. And most of all, because of my faith, I know why I am here.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories December 10, 2016 - Christmas Traditions Reindeer Run!!

We have many traditions we have brought down through the years but several years ago, an trip to see the Christmas Lights with the grandchildren turned into a new tradition! We started out by wearing our selected Christmas Santa and Elf hats and bundling up in the car with the windows down driving through the neighborhood singing our loudest to the Christmas music on the radio! Taytum is usually the most avid photographer of our group. We make lot's of stops to walk around and check everything out. We always include a fast food stop and lots of hollering random shouts of REINDEER RUN! which is the name of this road trip! Can't wait until this year's run but here are some pics from the past!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories December 9th 2016 - Christmas Crafts

We love the fact that we have trees we can decorate in out backyard. Last year, Jazmine, Jayden and Taytum came over to do the honors. We used glass ornaments that we wrote on and hand crafted wooden ornaments hung up in the trees. 

We also clearly had to be very crafty to string lights between all the trees!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories December 8, 2015 - Shopping

We are a very competitive family when it comes to finding shopping deals all year round but especially for Christmas. My mom planned very early in the year because she often made some of the gifts. Then, as the season progressed she would look for the best deals so she could get the most for her money. She never really got to participate in Black Friday sales but she would have loved them.

Over the last 15 years or so it has been a combined team shopping effort to fill every one's list, it is planned with ads and spreadsheets and strategic team member location in various stores. Some year even merit the coveted "Queen of Shopping" award of valor.

I have many fun shopping memories but one of my favorites was long ago when my girls were young. We lived in a small home on Smith Street in Fort Collins Colorado. As young parents, most of our Christmas mornings were very sparse. This particular year, we were both working and were given bonuses. After taking care of all our obligations, we had had enough to so get several gifts each for the girls. Their dad was not much for shopping but this year he had a change of heart. We hatched a plan. We decided to only put the regular amount of packages under the tree so it looked like our normal Christmas. Then, we went shopping, each of us took a cart and filled it up with goodies. When we got home, we hid all the gifts and did not wrap or put them under the tree. On Christmas eve, we both wrapped gifts and put them under the tree. By the time we were done, the whole front room was full of brightly wrapped boxes. We left the tree lit and went to bed. On Christmas morning, as the girls wondered out of bed, expecting to open the few prizes under the tree, they were beyond surprised to see the tree. Then came the infamous "little girl squeals" lots of hugs and many joyful memories. It was truly a once in a lifetime Christmas morning.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Advent of Christmas Memories December 7, 2015 - Christmas movies and TV

I love the the old holiday shows that i grew up watching when I was a child and then when we had kids and grandchildren. It seemed to be magical that they were something you could always count on to be exactly as you remembered. I can remember very clearly bundling up to watch the set when they finally came on.  Some of our favorites were Charlie Brown, Frosty, Rudolph and the Little drummer bo


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories December 6. 2015 - Santa Claus

Our family has always loved Santa and we have so many "Santa" memories that I will only share a few here. I have kept many of my dolls and plush from when I was young and remember where each one came from except the "elderly" stuffed Santa that was with my treasures from my earliest memories.

I always made sure he was well placed with the Christmas decorations, and because he seemed like a much older wiser Santa, I made sure he was never slighted by the newer, brighter and flashier Santa's. I didn't find out where he came from until just a few days ago when I discovered a photo of him in one of my parents' albums.
 Lo and behold, there he was sitting very proudly under the tree between my grandparents, Manley and Priscilla Dunn. What a surprise, I think I was right, he was a very distinguished Santa before he came to live with us.Another favorite Christmas eve was when my daughter Sandi and her cousin Lon were about 2 or 3 years old and Santa came to visit walking right up the sidewalk to the house. My mom had arranged for Santa to come to the door instead of down the chimney (since we didn't have one) bringing some very special gifts. In Santa's bag were toys and life sized Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls that she had made, including matching Raggedy outfits for the kids. Santa even spread his visit to the little boy next door who was terrified and would have no part of it!

And finally, I saved the sweetest for last. In 2004 the three youngest grandchildren Jayden, Jazzie and newborn Taytum were visited by a very special helper of Santa's. Our 13 year old grandson Joshua, agreed to help Santa out and let his cousins and little sister have their pictures taken with him.It went something like this:
ME: Josh, I think you would make a great Santa

JOSH: I don't think so grandma

ME: Sure you would, we will even get you a cool suit to wear, just like

Ummmm I'll think about it 

Sometime later:

ME: Josh, look, your mom found a really cool Santa Suit!!!!

JOSH: MOMMMMMMM!!!!ME: Please?????


JOSH: Ummmmm, well, I guess I could do it, it does look KINDA cool

Christmas Eve 2004

Uhhh grandma???

ME: Yes Josh?

JOSH: This is really really hot and sweaty........How long do I have to wear it for?
 JOSH: Grandma???
Grandma???? where did you go????????
 man I gotta get outta here.............

ME: THANK YOU JOSHUA .......Here comes Santa Claus here comes Santa Claus.......

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories December 5th, 2015 - Holiday Recipes

My dad's mother was born in England and at Christmas time, there were always special foods we did not normally see throughout the year. One of the dishes was suet pudding. I might have been able to try it if I had not watched my mother make it. I could not ever get it past my chin, and I could not understand why you would eat something with FAT in it and think it was so yummy. The next treat, bread pudding, was another matter entirely. It was made and served with the best thick lemon sauce to put over it. It was very mysterious, as it was always kept wrapped in wax paper in a tin and kept in the refrigeratorRelated imageThis was the treat my dad always coveted, hid, and snuck out to the kitchen for in the middle of the night. The other two foods that seemed to be very popular were the mince meat pie and the fruitcake. You never had to worry about me taking anyone's share of those! I did not find out until much later that every Christmas was a test of sorts for my mother, who was not from England, but she worked hard to prepare the special menu items perfectly so that they would pass my grandmother's inspection. Maybe that was why she didn't really care for the traditional foods???

Friday, December 4, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories December 4, 2015 - Christmas Lights

2014 was our second Christmas in our new home and our first year to decorate.  
We coordinated our outside lights with our neighbors so we blended together with the same lights.  Steve was really happy to see that the previous owners of the house had already put nails up to hang the lights from! 

 I concentrated my efforts on decorating the Agave and desert plants as well as our little palm plants! We really enjoyed finally being able to make our house our home!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories -Dec 3, 2015 -Christmas Music

Christmas music was always a big part of our family Christmas's. When I was growing up, we had one of the big console radios with a phonograph it.  We listened to Christmas music on the radio and we had a few 78 records with Christmas music as well. 

Image result for 1950s 78 christmas recordsThe one I remember best had a yellow label on it with Santa and Reindeer on it. I think I almost wore it out. It had all the popular kids songs on it by the original singers.Image result for 1950s 78 christmas records alvin I also had the Alvin and the Chipmunk's record. When the school would put on Christmas concerts, I always signed up. I know my brother's sang in Choir at church as well. When I was 10 I learned how to play the organ and a friend of ours gave me hers. I practiced everyday throughout the year but I loved to play the Christmas music every night when mom and dad got home.When I was older and moved to Arizona, I joined the Dickens' strolling caroler group and spent many enjoyable hours singing for others. I also participated in church choirs and the Arizona Mormon Choir. These experiences have been some of my most treasured memories. It would not be the same for me on Christmas if we did not share it through music.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories December 2, 2015 - Christmas Cards

I'm fortunate to have a collection of my grandparents and parents' letters and cards. Some of them are as old as the early 1900's, but the majority of them are like the ones shown here from the 1940's. I love the soft colors and innocent images, these are the images I grew up with in the family scrapbooks and albums and they almost seemed like storybooks to me.

Not only are the cards beautiful, but the personal notes inside were handwritten with beautiful penmanship and hopeful messages for the upcoming years.

I feel so fortunate that I have been able to learn so much about my ancestors from these cards. So many of the cards are from brother's and sister's and aunt's and uncles that had passed long before I was born. The cards I treasure the most are the ones that were sent between my mom and her mother. Some of the thoughts they shared showed how much love and concern they had for each other and how much they missed being able to see one another.

We no longer exchange cards in the family and I can't help but feel an obligation to make sure that my grandchildren appreciate the treasures in this little box of memories.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 1, 2015 Christmas Trees

This year has brought so many blessings in our family along with an new little Blessing Malachi who arrived in January.  This year, I wanted to Blog about our Christmas memories again this year so I decided to re-post this first entry from 2012! I hope you enjoy it!

I love putting up the Christmas tree each year, but some years are more memorable than others. My favorite memories are of trimming the trees with my children and grandchildren.  It seems like we are opening boxes of treasure as we pull out the ornaments. Everyone has their favorites that they remember from year to year.
Luckily even the ornaments my parents had survived through years. We usually end up with ornaments and lights tangled together before we are finished because I always try to string the lights first and everyone else wants to put them on last!  

Finally, the best moment is always lifting one child up to put the Angel and Star on the tree to finish!  The most precious times were when we all would finish and my oldest granddaughter would get in the big rocker and read our favorite Christmas stories.