Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Tin Foil Star

A tin foil* star resides atop our Christmas tree. Brian skillfully crafted it out of poster board (perhaps a file folder?) and foil in 1984--our very first Christmas together.
(Brian making our tin foil star, Christmas 1984)
Our first tree was flocked (as per my family's tradition) and its branches were sparse to allow ample ornament hang (as per Brian's family's tradition.) We purchased one box of small glass balls and a string of lights for our little tree. The rest of the ornaments I had received as gifts over the years.
(Our first Christmas tree, 1984)
Secretly I had wanted a shiny and glittery tree topper like those found only at the fanciest of department stores, but Brian's star made me happy. I figured it would do until we could find something else. Years past and I finally did find a beautiful gold star to top our tree. Brian, ever the sentimental, wanted to continue with our first tinfoil and cardboard star, but I convinced him to let me use the "nicer" one for almost a decade.
(Me adding the star to the tree, Christmas 1984)
Then, in my thirties, something happened to my proud tree-topper heart. For some reason that year, when we pulled the old silver star from the box to retell the story of our first Christmas together, I allowed it to be placed atop our now round, fat, ornament-laden tree. Perhaps it was the Christmas that my brother passed away? I'm really not sure of the exact date, but from that time forward our tin foil star has presided at the pinnacle of our Christmas celebration. 
It is a symbol to me of humility, of gratitude, and of what really matters. It is memories. It is family. It is pure love. I don't even care that the foil has pulled away from one of the points. That endears it all the more to me.
(Christmas 2012)

"Star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright. Westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light."

*In reality it is made from aluminum foil, but for some reason I grew up calling the substance tin foil and continue the usage today. :)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Don't Mess With Tradition

Sound advice, really, yet this year all of our usual Thanksgiving guests had other obligations for the big feast--even the Grandmas. Once I realized it would be just the five of us, all kinds of nontraditional holiday options swirled through my mind. We could go for a hike, take in a movie, and even EAT OUT for our festive meal.

Perhaps I could have a real day of rest? No rising at the "crack of dawn" to chop onions and celery for stuffing, no peeling of potatoes, and no raw bird to primp and prepare--such holiday luxury! Surprisingly, the kids actually agreed to something different as long as my homemade stuffing and King's Arms Tavern Sweet Potatoes were prepared and consumed at some point during the week. 

A few days before Thanksgiving (at our customary Sunday dinner with the Grandmas) we had our pseudo Thanksgiving feast. Grandma S. brought her heavenly potato rolls (my personal Thanksgiving favorite) and Grandma W. brought her delicious chiffon pumpkin pie. A Costco roasted chicken was our nod to poultry.
The plan for Thanksgiving day was to go out to lunch at one of our favorite local restaurants, take in a movie, and enjoy our other two must-have pies later in the evening.

Even the best laid plans tend to go awry, and they certainly did for us. All of our favorite restaurants were CLOSED on Thanksgiving day and those that were open were only serving a "special turkey buffet." However, we simply wanted to enjoy the establishment's usual fare because our taste buds had already been satisfied with our own familial holiday food.

Nix the idea of going out for Thanksgiving dinner.
Instead, I tried a brand new recipe--Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala. Ooh, it was delicious, but suddenly our holiday meal became just like any other weeknight dinner.

While the chicken and spices were melding in the crockpot we did take in a movie--Wreck-It Ralph. We let Abby choose. The other two weren't super excited about this kid movie, but it really was quite good.

What did we do when we got home?
Watched football, of course, in our almost finished and remodeled basement. According to Travis, "watching three games of football is the most American way to spend Thanksgiving."

Luckily, the day did end in a more traditional way with Kellie's freshly baked pecan and apple pies. For the first time in years every bite of that fabulous pecan pie was savored and relished because I wasn't so stuffed when I ate it.
Sure, it was a relaxing day. We even played some games as a family, but retrospection (that wise old friend) visited as I was preparing for bed. At least one of my offspring was obviously NOT happy with the day. The other two seemed fine, but some how Thanksgiving wasn't an exceptional day. Without that extra effort in food preparation, without those special friends and family guests, it seemed like any other day of the year.

Certainly, it was more relaxing for me, but is that what Thanksgiving is all about? Perhaps the sacrifices involved in a traditional celebration are a way of expressing my gratitude and my love for all that I have and for all that surrounds me?

This year I learned a lesson and I made a resolution. No matter how few of us are left at home, Thanksgiving will be celebrated in our family's traditional way. We will invite lonely neighbors, coworkers, roommates, and distant relatives--whomever it takes--to fill our home and table. It will involve days of hard work, but it will definitely be worth it.

After all, one does not mess with tradition!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Provo Places: Our Library

Whenever I drive by this impressive structure or enter its literary walls, my feelings are a jumble of pride, joy, nostalgia, and simple pleasure. The Provo Library at Academy Square is housed in the former Brigham Young Academy building that my grandmother, mother, and parents-in-law frequented as students decades ago.
When I was a student myself at BYU, the building was a mess--abandoned, vandalized, and broken. My heart ached whenever I drove down University Avenue during the 1980s. Joyfully, the former Academy was eventually rescued, restored, and resurrected as Provo's new public library.
Two-year-old Abby and I were one of its first patrons as the refurbished doors were opened in early September 2001. Our picture was published in the Deseret News the next morning.
The public library saved my sanity many times as a mother of young children--be it in Albany, CA; Fairfax, VA; Buena Vista, VA; or Provo, UT. These libraries were NOT all created equal. Nevertheless, they were often my outing of choice. I was a happy mom at the library, and story time was a lifesaver to my sometimes monotonous stay-at-home mom duties.
Toddler Abby routinely had to stop and hug this statue as we entered the children's section of the Provo  Library, and to this day, I often see her 13-year-old self glancing at it with continued affection.
Just across the street from the library is BYU's former women's gymnasium. My mom remembers taking the required PE class "Activities of Fitness" in this building in 1961. It is currently home to a trendy boutique, but I'm so glad the facade remains.
I do love the Provo Library at Academy Square and the unique and historic building that envelopes it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dear Rachel (#14)

Dear Rachel,
I really like this picture of Timp your Dad took with his phone last week. It was taken along the trail to Squaw Peak (the one that starts from the parking lot, not from Rock Canyon.) Since your Dad isn't teaching this semester he is much more flexible during the day. I was surprised one morning when he suggested we have a hiking adventure after the kids left for school. We didn't make it all the way to Squaw Peak--it took longer than we anticipated, but now we know which of the three forks of the trail to take next time.
Basketball tryouts are on Travis' birthday this year so every day after school you'll find him at "open gym." Practice today produced a jammed finger and yesterday a sore back. Ever the clever one, he rigged up a system of keeping our old heating pad attached to his back while he did his homework at the kitchen counter. I couldn't help but chuckle. It reminded me of his solution to handling a runny nose.
We are in high destruction mode downstairs as we redo the basement. So, Travis and Abby have to share a bathroom upstairs for a while. Horrors! I think it was Travis (again with the tape) that devised this arrangement so their "stuff" would never touch.
I like to remind them that this really is a "First World Problem" and that there should be NO complaining whatsoever. (I was introduced to that term recently, and, boy, does it help keep things in perspective.) Have you heard that phrase?

Speaking of "problems", the cats do not like the weather getting colder. They are much more snugly and affectionate these days, and are always looking for new places to settle. Linus found our pile of clean clothes.
I suppose this would never become an issue if I would just fold the laundry as soon as each dryer load finished. Oh well. At least we keep the lint roller company in business.

I'll bookend this letter with another view of autumn in Utah. This one is of the backyard taken from our closet window. The colors were so brilliant and beautiful on Monday. They will be nice to remember during the gray of winter.
I'm glad your Dad has meetings in Atlanta next week so he gets to see you--even if it is only for a day or two. Make sure he gives you the things I've sent along.

Love you and David lots!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Playing with Pins: Part 2

I've been playing with pins again. (See my first report here.)
Mod Podge pumpkins are everywhere. I wanted to give them a try ever since I saw the black and white damask ones Michelle made. This year I found the perfect napkins just like hers, but my attempt was a sorry sight--the Mod Podge bubbled and glopped. I was, however, successful with a different variety. It has temporarily replaced my musical orbs on the table near my piano--a subtle bit of Halloween for my front room. (Original pin here.)
My wallet was getting rather fat and NOT from an abundance of cash so I thought this idea was so clever. I broke my old hole punch trying to punch holes in the cards, but its replacement worked just fine. (Original pin here.)
It took Travis only a few minutes to assemble this catapult as per this pin. I suggested he use buttons as ammunition, and he successfully launched them over 20 feet. Very fun!
My creative and artsy Abby loves to peruse Pinterest as well. Once homework and practicing are done I let her start crafting. I was a bit skeptical about this plastic spoon flower, but she was insistent about giving it a try.
The plastic spoons did indeed melt, but soot soon covered Abby's hands and face.
She originally planned on spray painting her rose black, but when she discovered that we had gold spray paint, her perfect rose resulted.
She was so happy with how it turned out. I was just pleased that she had found an outlet for her teenage creativity and imagination and that the TV and computer remained OFF.

The Shabby Nest

Monday, October 15, 2012

It's Really Fall

(Aspens on the Alpine Loop)
Darkness lingers longer in the mornings. There is a chill when I wake that can only be dissipated by turning on the heater for an hour or so. Hearty oatmeal and warm soups satisfy now. Colors are brilliant and beautiful.
(Bridal Veil Falls, Provo Canyon)
(Provo Canyon)
(Provo Canyon)
It's time for our annual visit to Tyler's Pumpkin Patch
This year a tin man and a scarecrow greeted us.
Tyler's Pumpkin Patch is just down the street from our home, and Tyler is one of Travis' good friends. For years Travis has loved working on Tyler's "farm". It was (and is) the perfect spot to explore, create, and celebrate good old-fashioned childhood.
(Tyler and Travis)
Abby insisted we visit the chickens. They all scurried towards us and cooperated fairly well for their group shot. The rooster even serenaded us with his "cock-a-doodle-do".
It was hard work wheeling those pumpkins, butternut squash, and cornstalks home. Thanks, Travis.
Abby's prize of the day was the colorful farm fresh eggs. No one can touch the green ones. She's claimed them as her own.

Yes, it's really Fall.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Send in the Clowns

Pink polka dots, pink pom poms and a pointy hat describe my favorite Halloween costume as a child. As with most of my wardrobe at the time, my mom made the outfit so my sister and I matched. I remember this clown costume with incredible fondness, but the mask . . . that I did NOT like. (Thank goodness for modern day face paint.)
me, my sister Charlene, and my cousin Jennilyn (Halloween 1969)
When my own daughter, Rachel, was young the typical costume conundrum arose. She had outgrown her first costume--a Raggedy Ann outfit (borrowed from the adorable over-sized doll my mom had made me.)

But, whatever happened to that pink clown? I called my mom in Virginia. The costume was long gone, but she did still have the pattern, and soon it was in the mail. Never the seamstress my mom was, I sewed up a new version with much trepidation. I barely finished it in time, and I distinctly remember my good husband staying up late with me the night before making the big red pom poms while I frantically stitched away. It wasn't perfect. Poor Rachel had marks on her wrists and ankles where the elastic was too tight, but we all were quite pleased nonetheless.
Rachel and friend Sara in Albany, California (Halloween 1990)
I couldn't believe when 11 years later I made ANOTHER clown costume (a few sizes larger.) Kellie wanted something unique, and that is what she got. Sadly, by this time clowns were no longer seen as merely fun humorous circus stars. They had taken on a more sinister role, and I didn't like it one bit. I suppose we all just wanted to hold onto the comedic delights of clowns past.
Kellie, age 11, 6th grade (2001)
We are firm believers in reducing, reusing, and recycling so I couldn't have been more thrilled when Abby decided to wear Rachel's clown costume 16 years after its original debut. (Mostly, at this point in my motherhood career I was burned out with thinking up new Halloween costumes each year.)

Abby didn't mind that the sleeves were now 3/4 length and that the pants were knickers. She eagerly added colorful socks, yet opted to omit the pointy hat.
Abby, age 7, 2nd grade (2006)
That same year Travis wore Kellie's old clown costume adding a nose and rainbow wig.
Travis, age 10, 5th grade (2006)
Finally, two years later, Abby had her turn with our second clown costume. And with that, a Halloween chapter had closed for our family.
Abby, age 9, 4th grade (2008)
Despite my obvious lack of face painting skills, I still like the sweetness and joy of good old-fashioned clowns. So, yes, just send in the clowns!