Thursday, December 29, 2011

pretty, happy, funny, real

Merry Christmas!

Like everyone, I'm guessing, we've had lots of pictures in the last week or so.  Here's a sampling...

There were plenty of pretty pictures recently, but I guess we don't need to see pretty pictures of the girls over and over, so here are some things - besides our daughters - that are pretty :)
Cookies the girls decorated.  So, yes, we could have used more food coloring and actually gotten to a  true Christmas-green - and red instead of pink - but we thought these colors were pretty.  And I know some of the shapes are not traditional Christmas... the girls like to use ALL the cookie cutters when we get them out.

We had some freezing fog one day.  It's pretty when it happens because there's ice on everything!  It's even prettier when there's also snow on the ground.

More frozen trees.

Pretty much every picture we've taken recently would classify as happy, but here's an extremely edited list of some recent happiness.
Candy Cane pudding!

The doll got a new outfit and a new chair!

There's nothing like a chocolate fountain to make a room full of kids happy!

We had a full house for brunch on Christmas Eve.  We - and most of our friends here - are geographically far from our extended families, so it's wonderful to get together for holidays.

The chocolate - from the fountain - kind of got everywhere.

This was after midnight Mass - must have been closing in on 2:00AM.  The combination of extreme excitement and  near exhaustion was making them sorta funny.

I think this was supposed to be a photo of me and the particularly cute boy sitting on my lap, but I looked away (at just the right time!) and another particularly handsome boy behind me got caught putting a whole cookie in his mouth!

Though it is Christmas, some "real life" has been happening as well. Our free time - since we moved to this house in September - has been taken by projects, large and small, inside and out.  In the last week we got the old floor torn out of the mudroom (tile going down this week) and ALL the hardware from the kitchen cabinets taken down, repainted, and replaced.
Here, the first layer of linoleum is taken off.  Unfortunately, there were a couple more layers of "stuff" underneath this that had to come out.

All the knobs.  A particularly clever way of holding them up to be painted, don't you think?

I didn't think to get a "before" shot.  They were shiny brass on the ends and some sort of white plastic in the middle.  The paint job is probably a short-term fix, but considering all it took was a can of spray paint, it will be worth the effort for however long it lasts.

Everyone got in on the floor work.  There were A LOT of staples that had to be pulled out of the floor.  She kind of liked this job, so it didn't bother us one bit that she worked on it off and on over a few days.

Thanks for visiting!  You can find more links to other {p,h,f,r} posts at Like Mother Like Daughter.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

pretty, happy, funny, real - Christmas tree edition!

Linking up again this week with LMLD...

We've posted about our tree once or twice already.  Not to go completely overboard about the tree... but it seems that most everyone has some emotional attachment to the family ornaments, right?  So, in reality, this {p,h,f,r} post is dedicated to ornaments.

the decorated tree

some of the ornaments with the happiest memories attached...
from the year we bought our first home (and it did look something like that - though the windows weren't gold)
Perhaps a little funny looking to the casual observer, but this fish is from our honeymoon in the Caribbean. 
This one is obvious :)
We have lots of ornaments that belonged to Mark's grandmother.  This is one of our favorites.


The girls got this for me last year.
A gift from the first year we moved out West.
Can you see these?  They are: a cocktail shaker, wine glass, and martini glass.  There is a wine bottle as well, but it was behind a branch :)

OK, so while lots of ornaments are simply pretty, funny, or loaded with happy memories, some speak to the reality of Christmas.
I love this one.  It's one of the tiniest ornaments on the tree, but the detail of the figures inside - and the bright colors - make it so neat.
always hung on the east side of the tree :)
So, the {p,h,f,r} posts are supposed to be about what's been going on in our everyday lives, right?  Well, I've spent a fair bit of time looking at these ornaments recently.  I could have talked about many, many, more than just these few.  Isn't it something how the memories of ornaments build over the years? 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

pretty, happy, funny, real

~pretty, happy, funny, real~
Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life.  

For more great {p,h,f,r} visit Like Mother Like Daughter, this Thursday and every Thursday.

Last year I started a Little Women Hospitality Group.  Do you know about this program?  If you have daughters in the 10-14 age range you might want to look into it.  In our case, the group came about as a way to be sure that our oldest (who is the most social creature we've ever known) gets to see ALL her friends on a regular basis.  It's fairly easy for me to schedule an afternoon for one of the other girls to come over and play, but this group allows a bunch of girls to get together twice each month.  We have 12 "Little Women" in our group.   On this particular day we learned about setting a formal table.  As you can see, we also practiced arranging flowers to be used as a centerpiece, or other decoration.  I love having fresh flowers in the house, so it was neat for me to see how much the girls enjoyed this activity.

She is one happy girl.  Her top front teeth have been missing since August.  It seems that some kids lose the baby tooth, and then the "big" tooth appears quickly, but in this case we don't see any sign of the big teeth making an appearance.  I love that she's had no teeth in the front for so long.  It's the perfect look for a 6 year old.  This face could make anyone happy!


We had some flooring installed last week.  One of the installers was friendly and fun and the little girls quickly made friends with him.  Do your kids do that too?  It's not like we have people working in our house all the time, but when we do the girls always want to make friends.  This particular guy was kind enough to let the girls try out his headphones.  I just assumed that the headphones kept out the noise of the hammering, sawing, sanding, etc. but apparently, they had a radio built in.
One of the girls loudly declared, "I hear cowboy music!"
When we moved to this house a couple months ago, we dropped cable and the land line.  Mark has been an almost exclusive cell phone user for a couple years, so this was a non-issue for him.  It really wasn't a big deal for me either, but the phone I had was several years old, so we thought it might be a good time to upgrade.

So a few days ago I dropped the new phone.  Apparently.  I don't really remember it taking a fatal fall.  But fall it must have.  The front screen is shattered.  But, no worries, right?  We bought insurance!

I sauntered into the Verizon store expecting to receive a brand-spanking-new phone.  Nope.  The helpful employee explained to me that there is an "administration fee" to make a claim - and the phone has to be sent to some other company, etc. etc.  Ugh.  I'm not entirely sure my phone has a retail value equal to the "administration fee."

So, where is all this taking us?  To my phone, which I'm happy to report, works just as wonderfully as on the day I got it.  And thanks to some skillfully applied scotch tape, there are no shards of glass falling into my ear or embedding in my cheek.  I'll get a new one soon - there are just more important things happening at the moment - but for now the tape fix is fine.

Monday, December 12, 2011


"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance.  The Lord is at hand." (Philippians 4: 4-5)

Here at Aspen Springs, we are joyfully anticipating the celebration of the Lord's coming at Christmas.  
As was related in an earlier post, we acquired our Christmas tree a few weeks ago.  After a few weeks of sitting in a bucket of water in the sun room, the tree was brought into the house on Gaudete Sunday.  We knew we wanted to get a tree that would fill the highest space in the living room - and this one certainly does that!
For most of the day, we worked together on the first round of preparing our home for Christmas:
Mark put lights on the tree

The girls made paper chains, snowflakes, and paintings of angels

Colleen got out the Nativity scene(s) and carefully stowed the baby Jesus figures in the same place so that none of them get lost or misplaced.  It's a small thing, but isn't it wonderful how exciting it is for kids to look for baby Jesus on Christmas morning?
The girls call this "the glass Jesus set".  It's Waterford crystal (a gift from Colleen's parents) and it's beautiful.
This set is obviously more kid-oriented - we don't mind if they touch this one!  It's sitting on the windowsill in the kitchen - a great place for everyone to see it each day.
And, finally, the "traditional" nativity.  This one is beautiful too.  The holy family figures were wedding gifts from an aunt and uncle; we have added more pieces throughout the years.
So, are your preparations underway?  It seems that everywhere we go we hear people talking about whether or not the shopping is finished - and that is important, in it's own way - but that's not the most important preparation for Christmas.  And neither are the decorations in our home, right?  It's the preparation in our hearts that really matters.  Hopefully our hearts - and our homes - are carefully prepared to joyfully receive the Lord at Christmas.

Makes me think of a hymn.  Did you sing "On Jordan's Bank" this Sunday?

On Jordan's bank, the Baptist's cry
Announces that the Lord is nigh;
Awake, and hearken, for he brings
Glad tidings of the King of kings!

Then cleansed be every heart from sin;
Make straight the way of God within;
Prepare we in our hearts a home
Where such a mighty Guest may come.

All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
Whose advent sets Thy people free;
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Spirit forever more. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hurray for the Blaze King!

It's really cold here today.  Come to think of it, it's been unusually cold for probably 3 days now.  This is our 3rd winter here, so we're getting used to what's "normal" - and normal for early December would be something like 29.  Today's high was 8 and last night the temperature dropped to about 5 below.  That's not record-setting - by any means - but it certainly feels cold.  And, of course, we're having issues with our heat.  Isn't that the way it always goes?  But all is well; There's a huge fire in the basement keeping us warm.

We have a Blaze King wood stove.  The thing is a beast.  It really is.  It puts out enough heat that we're hardly noticing the lack of our electric heat.  Take a look at the features:

We have a nice big wood pile, so we'll be cozy until the weather warms up a bit - or the breaker for the electric heaters gets fixed - which, of course, will probably happen at the same time :)

Besides the fact that the Blaze King is keeping us warm, I love the smell.  It's sort of like a campfire without the actual camping.  It's also delightful to sit in the basement on the comfy couch and watch a movie while the fire blazes.  Makes me warm and sleepy just thinking about it!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

pretty, happy, funny, real

Another Thursday linkup with Like Mother Like Daughter...

{pretty, happy, funny, real}
~capturing the context of contentment in everyday life~

snow, ice, rock, trees, mountains...yep, it's pretty

Sisters sharing a room.  They each have a bed, but this is how we found them one lazy morning over the Thanksgiving weekend.

No one was really "policing" the whipped cream, so she made the most of the opportunity!

A leak in the laundry room ceiling - ON THANKSGIVING!  It doesn't get more real.  The good thing is that Mark found the source of the problem and fixed it up without much stress or toil.  Oh, and I'm aware that the laundry room is quite ugly.  Give us time :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A great $8.00 day

We have found that some things in a small, western town are more expensive than in a more "metropolitan" area.  Then again, some things are WAY LESS expensive:  Christmas trees, for example.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend we bought our $8.00 permit from the forest service.  The permit is good for one tree (up to 20 ft.) cut anywhere within the Shoshone National Forest.  Let me tell you, that's a lot of trees to choose from!  Problem is, the vast majority of those trees are at elevations that are nearly impossible to get to in mid-December.  So, we decided to get our permit and find a tree early.  We have had a bit of snow this year, but nothing major yet, so the roads up into the higher elevations are still open.
Before we seriously started in on the tree hunt, we visited one of our favorite lakes and found it pretty darn near frozen.  The girls were able to slide around to the heart's content.  Mom and Dad tried to pretty much stand still in one spot - seeing as though our bones are not nearly as rubbery as the children's.
We are sort of Christmas tree snobs.  So, though we were surrounded by objectively beautiful trees, it took a while to find just the sort we wanted.  We're bad with names of the varieties, but we know the one we like when we see it.  After a few excursions among the wrong kind, we stumbled upon "the one"
It is a bit tall, but we have nice high ceilings in the living room.  So, after just a bit of trimming it will be perfecto!
In our minds, it's not decorated-tree-in-the-house time yet, so our 2011 tree is sitting in a bucket soaking up lots of water until it's time to come in the house.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Swedish Chef is funny

When we moved to Aspen Springs in September one thing we DID NOT bring with us was the cable company.  We realize that there is next to nothing on television that we have any desire to watch - and this move was as good a time as any to cut out the cable.  The "appropriateness" of television has been declining for years, though we'd been keeping cable for a few programs here and there.  Even some of the cute cartoons for little kids had become pretty much off limits (in our opinion) because of the commercials.  Ugh.  We just didn't need the girls sitting through all that.

So, are we TV free?  Nope.  We have a television.  It's in the basement.  And it does get used.  We can rent movies on DVD or borrow them from the library.  We also have Netflix through the wii.  And, we have the ability to watch all sorts of great stuff via Mark's MacBook.

We do screen the films we watch (both as a couple, and those we watch as a family). One reliable guide is Decent Films Guide. This site provides analysis from a Catholic Christian perspective.

There are a couple good things about this set-up.  We can choose shows that are OK for the girls to watch and add them to the Netflix queue.  They get a little entertainment and it's commercial-free.  We find that after a day of school and chores and playing outside, they appreciate and enjoy a little television time.  If it happens at all, it happens while I'm getting dinner together.  Sometimes one of them will choose to do something else - or help me in the kitchen - but normally I get some alone-time and a peaceful dinner preparation.

We have rediscovered some of the old shows that were fun back when we were kids (and well before)... The girls are currently on an Addam's Family (the 1960's TV series) kick.  They also really enjoyed the Dennis the Menace series from the late 1950s.  When Grandpa was here for a visit a few weeks ago, we watched some skits from The Carol Burnett Show and all had a good laugh.  We especially enjoyed anything with Tim Conway.

As a family, we occasionally watch an episode of I Love Lucy after dinner.  A recent favorite was the episode in which Lucy wanted to learn about wine making while visiting Italy.  It is certainly a classic.  Isn't it wonderful that these old shows - that parents and children can enjoy together - are still available to us?

And, just this week, we found some snippets from The Muppet Show.  We were nearly in hysterics over the Swedish Chef!  (bork, bork, bork!)

There are lots more examples of shows/movies/series from the past that we can watch together as a family.  What are some of your favorite oldies-but-goodies?