Sunday, December 31, 2006

Christmas Gifts...

"The best gifts are not the ones you can see or touch, but those that you can feel with the heart..."

In the insanity of our bathroom remodel and trying to buy a new house and sell an old one, Christmas crept up on us this year for a surprise attack. Mind you, Riff and I had not been walking around all green and grinchy, we were just in our own little world and almost oblivious to the holiday cheer being spread around. Actually, I had been sewing alot and our out of town boxes for the most part, got out on time. It was the kids who live at our very own house whom we had neglected to invision gift under the tree for. Dustin actually said to us, "Where do you have the presents hid? Shilo and I have looked all over the house and we haven't found ANYTHING?" (the little snoops!) In a moment of clarity, we realized that we only had a couple of shopping days left, so off to the stores we ran the Friday before Christmas. Oh the madness, oh the hoardes of PEOPLE! We actually had pretty good luck, gathered up our loot and went home. We dashed to the bedroom, arms full of wrapping paper, tags and scissors. "Where's the tape?" "I dunno. Didn't you buy any?" "No!" "Hmm, here's some packing tape. It'll have to work." Well, the little buggers had presents under the tree and we once again pulled it off.

Christmas would not feel like Christmas without family. We were blessed this year (our "gift of the heart") by the presence of Sam and Jessica. Sam just returned from Iraq, is on a 30 day leave, so they drove up from Fort Hood, Texas. We had not seen our oldest son for almost 2 years. It was wonderful to have them home and to get to know Jes a little bit better. She is a very sweet and nice young lady. So glad to have her as part of this crazy family. It was very hard to watch them go the morning that they left. A pull on the heartstrings for sure.

Ryan and Natascha celebrated Christmas in Germany, but we did get to vistit with them. Brittany and her boyfriend, Chris, are still in Wyoming, but we did talk to them on the phone also. Merry Merry Christmas! We missed you guys...

Below are pictures of the madness of 7 people opening gifts in one small living room. What fun we had!

Here we have Sam and Jess on the beach. Chilly and cold, but it's still the beach!

The kids really enjoyed the hot tub. Probably the most used item at our house this past week.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Aprons...

Here they are ~ some of the 9 aprons that I made for Christmas gifts. I tucked some blank recipe cards into each pocket. They were alot of fun, and now, since I'm done with the gifts, I'm going to make myself one or two...

I also made 11 of these "beanies" for all of our skiing, snowboarding family members, and for some who don't partake in winter sports, but do live in snowy wintery areas of the country.

Hope you all had a wonderful, homemade Christmas...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Homemade Goodness...

Don't you just love homemade goodies? This bundle of wonderfulness came in the mail the other day from my sister, Gidge. She crocheted the adorable tree potholder, made the bag that holds her own homemade pinecone potpourri, whipped up the very cute basket liner, pockets and all, and filled the Christmas tin with homemade cookies and rice crispy treats. I love it all! Thanks Gidge. You're the best...
We also received a box full of delicious homemade cookies and quick bread from my stepmom, Sharon. Sharon, they were wonderful and have long since been gobbled...
May you all be blessed with homemade goodness...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

For Sale By Owner...

For Sale By Owner:
1918 charming Craftsman Cottage in the coveted Peter Pan
neighborhood. Three bedroom and one newly remodeled
bathroom. This delightful home has all the craftsman charm
from an era gone past.
~Vintage-style kitchen
~Original Hardwood floors
~Bonus room in basement
~Dining Room
~Covered Deck with new hot tub
~Fenced back yard
~Paved off-street parking
Don't wait ~ This charmer won't last!
Wahoo! She finally replied and our offer was accepted. We are very excited though the hard work has just begun. Our bathroom remodel isn't quite complete, but we must now find a buyer fast. We have yet to put our sign in the yard as we are trying to get closer on the bathroom project. Can't wait any longer now, so the sign goes up tomorrow. Yikes! Wish us luck ~ If any of you Astorians roaming around out there happen to know someone that's looking, please, send them my way.
I'll try to post some picture of the new house soon.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

On a Stormy Night...

We survived last Thursday's incredible storm. It was another Pacific Northwest winter storm that would have been classified as a hurricane elsewhere. Winds were clocked hitting our coast at well over 100 mph., leaving havoc in their wake. Five people lost their lives to this little storm. Three in Washington and two right in Seaside. Please say a prayer for their families. Trees and power lines are still down all over. Many people are still without power as I write this.
The power for us went out about 2pm Thursday afternoon. After doing two escrow signings by candlelight (very accomadating, dont'cha think??), I came home to elk steak on the grill and mashed potatoes made on the coleman stove. Lights out for us turned into a rouzing game of Yahtzee played by the hiss and spit of a coleman lantern. The dice were not good to me, but Shilo and Riff both walked away with Yahtzees in their pockets. Dustin and I did not fare as well, but we were good losers. It was a fun night for us as we were one of the lucky ones whose power (and heat!) were restored about 4 am. My boss, Mary, lives right behind me and still does not have power.
May you all be blessed with electricity and heat...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Chaos...

"The stockings were hung
by the chimney with care
in hopes that Saint Nicholas
soon would be there..."

At the Niziolek household chaos reigns as usual. We are in the midst of trying to re-model our old icky bathroom, get our Christmas packages sent out around the world, and, (we must be crazy!), we have put an offer on a house this week. We are waiting for the seller to accept or counter. If she accepts then the chaos increases ten-fold. Yep, I've just decided, we are crazy!! If you see me walking down the street, babbling to myself, pay no attention. It's just my poor little mind that has gone out for a time. Hopefully it will be back soon...

May you all be blessed with a calm Christmas season...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Daily Gifts...

(This is our little fake fiber optic tree. The real one isn't up yet. I'm running behind, as usual...)

This little blurb is from one of my many Christmas books. I thought it worth sharing to help us remember that every day is Christmas...

It's not too early to give some things away this Christmas. Not just on Christmas Day, but during all the days leading up to December 25th. We could call these daily gifts our "Christmas projects". Maybe one per day from now 'til then. Here are a few suggestions.

Mend a quarrel.
Seek out a forgotten friend.
Dismiss suspicion.
Write a long overdue love note.
Hug someone tightly and whisper, "I love you so."
Forgive an enemy.
Be gentle and patient with an angry person.
Express appreciation.
Gladden the heart of a child.
Find the time to keep a promise.
Make or bake something for someone else~anonymously.
Release a grudge.
Speak kindly to a stranger.
Enter into another's sorrow.
Smile. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more.
Take a walk with a friend.
Kneel down and pat a dog.
Read a poem or two to your mate or friend.
Lessen your demands on others.
Play some beautiful music during the evening meal.
Apologize if you were wrong.
Turn off the tv and talk.
Treat someone to an ice-cream cone.
Do the dishes for the family. (wait, I think I do this every day!)
Pray for someone who helped you when you hurt.
Fix breakfast on Saturday morning.
Give a soft answer even though you feel strongly.
Encourage an older person.
Point out one thing you appreciate most about someone you work with or live near.
Offer to babysit for a weary mother.
Give your teacher a break; be especially cooperative.

Let's make Christmas one long, extended gift of ourselves to others. Unselfishly. Without announcement. Or obligation. Or reservation. Or hypocrisy.

This is the spirit of Christmas, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rabbit Proof Fence Scarf...

(I just realized what a terrible, dark picture this is. If you double click on the image, you'll be able to see the scarf a whole lot better...)
I have finished 5 projects in the last few days. I'm so excited to have some of them done! I cannot show most of them yet as they are Christmas presents and my nosy sisters will peek if I post them here. This scarf is for Riff's Grandma Mary and I think it is safe to post. I'm fairly certain that Grandma doesn't read this little blog. If you're peeking Grandma, I'm sorry that this won't be much of a surprise! Grandma Mary belongs to the Red Hat Society and loves to dress up, so I thought this purple angora yarn would be a good color for her. The pattern is from Morehouse Farms and is called Rabbit Proof Fence. It is an easy pattern in which you drop a stitch here and there (counting carefully, of course, to know where you are at) to create the "holes in the fence". I really am happy with the way that this turned out and may make myself one in black sometime.

Someone, who lives in my house, sometime today, messed with my camera and erased every picture that was on it. I'm a little red in the face about it (okay, alot red in the face!) and will find out which one of you darlin's put your grubby pea-pickin' hands on my Canon. From here on out I better not catch it in anybodys hands but my own without written permission from the powers that be. (That would be me, and only ME!) Fess up you scoundrals or you will find coal in your stocking ~ "He knows when you've been naughty or nice"~ Do you remember those lyrics? Take them to heart, you cowards...

May you all be blessed with finished projects AND pictures that remain firmly in place on your camera....

Monday, December 04, 2006

So Many Birthdays...So Much Good News...

We have an incredible amount of birthdays to celebrate within a week. Natascha kicked it off with her birthday last Friday, November 30th. Ryan and Natascha called from Germany before we even had a chance to call and wish her a happy day. They were terribly excited and couldn't wait to tell us the news....A baby is on the way! They found out on Friday ~ what a wonderful birthday gift. We are so happy for you guys and excited for our very first grandbaby. On the other hand, OH MY GOSH!! We are going to be grandparents! I keep telling Riff that he is definately old now, but I'll be a Grandma before I'm 40. My goodness.... Congratulations you guys. I better get sewing...

Sam was next in line, turning 25 on Saturday, December 2nd. Riff and I talked in the morning about missing being able to wish Sam a happy birthday, since he is still in Iraq. About 1 pm the phone rings. It's Sam calling from his home base in Fort Hood, Texas. Again, OH MY GOSH!! What a wonderful birthday present. A year of hell in the desert and home on your birthday. He actually had a lay over in Bangor, Maine, so Kathy, the boys mom, who lives in Maine, got to hug her baby boy on his 25th birthday. We are so glad he is home. I think maybe Riff will sleep better now with both the boys out of there.

Shilo turned 17 today, December 4th. My poor little girl had a very rough 17th birthday. We all have to have our hearts broken sometime in our lives, but why did it have to happen on her 17th birthday. My heart is crying for her today...
Her she is putting on a brave face and modeling her new hat and mittens. She requested sloppy joes and curly fries for her birthday dinner, so Riff slaved over a hot stove and popped them out for us. She also requested carrot cake (that she was to full to eat!) then Shilo and I went to a movie together. We saw "Stranger Than Fiction" which was a bit strange but really pretty good. Happy, Happy Birthday MILO ~ I'm so sorry that I can no longer fix all of your owies...

Sam's wife, our Jess, is the last birthday in this week long progression. Jess celebrates her day this coming Saturday, December 9th. Jess is very excited to have her husband back home in Texas with her. They will actually be able to celebrate their first Christmas together and be sharing it with us, as they plan on coming home "to Dad's house" for Christmas. We are so excited to see them and to get to know Jess a little bit more. Happy day, honey, we'll give you a call....

Friday, December 01, 2006

Christmas Meme...

Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Neither. Anything with even a hint of dairy in it hates me, so I'll stick with my tea. Celestial Seasonings puts out some great Christmas flavors this time of year. Gingerbread Spice, Sugar Plum Fairy, Candy Cane,....

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Santa has always delivered just one gift to each sparkly eyed person at our house. He doesn't wrap his gifts, just sits them nicely under the tree. He does such a good job picking out gifts for us all that there has never been any confusion as to which gift belongs to which "kid".

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
I have always used colored on the tree, but someday I'm going to do an all white and gold tree. White lights will adorn the outside of our house this year. I've informed Riff that he will be putting them up soon!!

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
I have once or twice, but not as a tradition every year. Too much smooching going on for me!

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Shilo's birthday is December 4th, so I always try to wait until after her birthday. Seems that a few decorations always sneak their way in beforehand anyway...

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? many to choose from. I guess it would be Riff's crab stuffed mushrooms. Yummy!

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
When I was small and growing up in Elgin, we would go into town to Grandma and Grandpa Simmons house every Christmas Eve. Santa came around on the fire truck and, with a mighty HO-HO-HO, flung the door open of every house that had their porch light on. He would give all of us kids brown paper bags (lunch bag sized) filled with nuts, hard ripple candy, chocolate drops, and an orange. Oh what fun that was!
I can still taste that wonderful candy. We would always share our nuts with Grandpa especially, as he loved nuts so much. He always had a bowl sitting on the table with a nutcracker at hand.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
What truth about Santa? What in the heck are you all talking about?? I would be careful, he knows if you've been good or bad...

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Yes, we started doing that at my parents house when my kids were just little beans. We would go over and open the "Grandma Gifts". After we moved away from them, I still let them pick just one gift on Christmas Eve to open.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
My tree is very "kiddy" still. We still decorate with all the ornaments that the kids have made over the years. I keep thinking that someday my tree is going to "grow up". Maybe next year...

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
I grew up in snow country. You didn't see the actual ground most years from November to April or so. Snow is beautiful for a short time. I can do without it for the most part. My darling husband LOVES the snow. I have told him that we can move back to snow country on the condition that we have a nice cozy house with a fireplace that I can curl up in front of, knitting needles in hand, and not have to leave until the snow melts.

12. Can you ice skate?
Yes, we grew up with several ponds on our property that froze over in the winter. I am not at all a graceful ice skater or even a good one, but I can get around.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
The gift I always remember was a special little doll. I don't remember her name, but she had blonde hair, a pretty pink silk nightgown and she kneeled to pray with her hands folded in front of her and her eyes closed. She had a little tiny pink record in her back that played the prayer "I pray the Lord my soul to keep" prayer. I was 8, I think, that year. I had snuck downstairs EARLY EARLY in the morning, (it was mostly likely still night!) and saw her sitting under the lights of the tree. She was so beautiful that I stayed there for hours it seemed, just wanting to hold her...

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Family, friends, and giving to others. I always try to participate in some kind of charity work for the needy. This year it was the Hearts to Hands mitten program, helping to keep some little hands warm.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Gingerbread with homemade whipped cream.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Driving around looking at Christmas lights with the Christmas music blaring. We usually do this the weekend before Christmas.

17. What tops your tree?
A porcelain angel.

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving?
Giving! Totally! I wish I could be Oprah Claus!!! ( I have to agree with Monica here!)

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Love them all! I start listing to Christmas music very early in the season much to the annoyance of my dear spouse. My favorite CD's right now are my Alan Jackson Christmas Cd and our Lynyrd Skynryd CD. I know kind of a strange mix, but hey...

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
Yum! And I've always liked to decorate with them also. When the kids were little I always hung the mini candy canes on the tree. By Christmas the bottom half of the tree was always "candy cane bare". You could always tell how high the little rats could reach!