White Christmas

The week before Christmas we went to the joint handbell-choir Christmas party. What a blast! The music director’s house was full of musicians, delicious food, and good wine. Then someone brought out the crazy hats…

Ariel and Nicole got run over by a reindeer

Christmas Eve brought snow, but we battled our way through it to the 11:00 service. The prelude music started at 10:30 and included a couple of fantastic handbell pieces and a solo by my dear husband. There were a couple stumbles but after all we weren’t there just to play or listen to beautiful music… We were there to remember the ultimate gift, Christ humbling himself to come to earth and be a human in order to pay our debt. We tolled in Christmas Day, put the bells up, and dragged ourselves home to bed in the wee hours – but for all the right reasons!

I remember my mom taking me to a midnight service at a Lutheran church when we lived in Texas (we were Bible church people so it was a change of pace). There was something thrilling about the tradition and ritual and of course staying up late. It seemed so special, so sacred, going out into the cold, dark night, just as Jesus brought his light into the cold, dark world. I’m glad the handbells play at the late service.

On Christmas morning, Chris made us a tasty breakfast and we Facetimed with my family while we opened our wonderful, thoughtful presents from family and friends. Then I got the best present from my job… the afternoon off!!! We spent it walking the dogs, clearing the driveway with our new electric snowblower, and making mac ‘n cheese to share with our friends the Hills. We had a feast with our friends… chicken, stuffing, mac ‘n cheese, salad, and apple pie for dessert. Sooo good! We also played one of our Christmas presents, the fantastic game Citadels.

So here’s the picture of us looking nice and Christmas-y, but you can’t really see the dog. He’s black so he blends right in. Here is the picture with flash:

Doesn’t the dog look like a robot?!!!

Anyway, we had a very merry Christmas… even though family were far away, we were able to celebrate with them through technology and the power of UPS. I hope the rest of you had a very merry Christmas!

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Visit to Omaha

Last week I drove down to Omaha to visit my brother and sister-in-law, Mic and Morgan. I had a FANTASTIC time. The ride there and back was enlivened by listening to my Kindle read me a great fluff YA book, Tempest Revealed.  It’s the third in a series about a girl named Tempest who discovers she’s a mermaid and is torn between her human boyfriend and a handsome selkie prince.

Of course listening to it brought out different things than reading it would have. After the first few hours I wanted to take the narrator by the shoulders, shake her, and yell “Stop feeling guilty for everything! Own your decisions!”

But I digress. When I arrived in Omaha, it was in the forties!! It hasn’t been that warm here for weeks!! Mic took me to a few of the places he’s picked up work over the past few months (doing prescribed burns and now ski instructing) and then we checked out some local shops downtown. The most beautiful was Mangelsen Photography; he has some stunning images from around the West, and Mic used his panoramas of the Tetons to show me which mountain was which! Afterwards, Morgan joined us at Blue Sushi for supper.

Aren’t they cute?!! That’s our giant selection of tasty sushi in the foreground!

Then Mic made us some super-tasty “special” hot chocolate for dessert, and I captured this Christmas-card worthy shot of the family, including their kitty Otto.

Mic also regaled me with exciting tales from his fire season adventures. 

The next morning, Mic and I had a delicious breakfast (wildberry stuffed French toast, yum!) at Lisa’s Radial Cafe. Crispy bacon, scrumptious French bread, hashbrowns, and bottomless coffee…  Then Mic and I hit up the mall, the Memorial, and the Joslyn Art Museum. Here we are in front of a eye-boggling sculpture.

The Joslyn has several stunning works by Thomas Moran, a painter who worked up in the Tetons (actually one of the mountains is named after him!). Between Mic, Moran and Mangelsen, I think God is encouraging me to visit Wyoming. 

We had tasty burgers at a local pub and then I took off back to Rochester. I finished listening to my book on the way. Thank goodness, I was getting tired of Tempest! That’s the danger of listening to a first person narrated book I guess, it was like a 5 hour monologue by a whiny teenager… albeit one with a really good story…

I can’t believe there’s only 4 days til Christmas. This month has flown by. I will miss being with family this year but I am so thankful for them. I am so glad I got to visit Mic and Morgan and saw Chris’s side of the family in November, and I am looking forward to seeing my family in Colorado in January.

To close on a serious yet joyful note… my grand-grandmother passed away recently. Although I will miss her, I am glad she is with Jesus. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Here is a picture of us together 4 years ago.

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Godspeed, Gram!!

‘Tis the Season

January has come early this year, or I have selectively edited out the fact that December is COLD. It seems like just yesterday I was walking the dogs in sweat pants, and now I have to wear snow pants over the top. I just had an experience the other night that was very similar to Jack London’s story “To Light a Fire” except I was trying to pick up poo off my neighbor’s lawn. For the life of me I could not get the little plastic bag open! I had to go home, thaw my fingers, and return to pick it up! 

It’s cold but beautiful, with the bright glow of Christmas lights on the snow. We don’t have any Christmas lights… we haven’t even managed a tree yet this year!!… but we’re working on it. I got the Nativity scene up anyway. However, I have done some shopping, and I’ve been to several Christmassy events. For example, a MFC Girl’s Night Out in which we drank hot cocoa and played the 3 Favorite Things game (everyone brings 3 favorite things for less than $6 and goes home with 3 new favorite things!) And this weekend on another of Chris’s rare days off we went to Wabasha’s Old Fashioned Christmas.

Wabasha is one of our favorite towns. First we went to a church bazaar where I got a fantastic green scarf. Then we went to the Flour Mill, a delicious pizzeria where we always get the “fennel fig and pig” pizza –  sweet fig, spicy fennel, a hint of basil, and savory prosciutto, served with a side of an amazing view of the river!!! The adjoining chocolate shop happened to have a wine, port, and chocolate tasting so of course we sampled those and bought some of their amazing turtles. Then we wandered over to the Book Cliffs, the local used book store, and found some gems. We came back to the Flour Mill for one more glass of wine. On our way out, we stopped by a new massage parlor that’s opening that offered free coffee. If I were into massages, I would love one at this place… again, stellar view!

Then we met up with some friends to wrap Christmas presents for a little family they had adopted for Christmas. At deacons last week, someone read a devotional with a line to the effect of: “Imagine it’s your birthday but everyone gives presents to each other, not to you. That’s Christmas.” What are we giving Jesus? How are we honoring him?

Something to think about this week as we work on Christmas presents, Christmas decorating, and Christmas parties!

Thanksgiving: Tales, Travels and Travail

Last Friday, we left our babies in the capable hands of our friends, the PRs, and headed back to Virginia to spend time with family. The PRs bravely took on two 70 pound golden retrievers EVEN THOUGH they had both sets of family coming into town. Thankfully the corn turkey-substitute and the majority of their stuffed animals survived our dogs.

We had a great time in Virginia. Chris’s grandpa celebrated our arrival with a full Thanksgiving dinner, and on Sunday Chris’s mom made a roast. We did some shopping and watched Hunger Games on Monday and ate dinner with Chris’s high school friend Laura. On Tuesday, we drove with Papa through the rain and wind to North Carolina to see the family farm. Weird thing about me: I love family farms and graveyards. Our visit to the family graveyard was especially illuminating as I learned more about the story of Chris’s great grand-parents:

Many years ago, Nat King, a handsome local of about 25 began coming around the Eaton household and courting the farmer’s daughter Belle. As time went on, however, Belle began to figure out that Nat was actually interested in 16-year-old Zora. Nat and Zora didn’t want to tell her dad the truth. Instead, they eloped and were married under an apple tree by a friend of Nat’s who had just become a pastor. They were married for over 50 years and had two fine sons.

In our educated day and age, that would be creepy but through the lens of time it’s romantic and respectable. Why would that be ridiculous nowadays? More education? Extended childhood and adolescence?

Chris’s papa treated us to BBQ at Ralph’s, a famous buffet, and his dad took us to Q, a great Richmond landmark. Both places had great BBQ but the treatment was completely different. Ralph’s was completely country with great pulled pork, amazing banana pudding with meringue on top, delicious meat loaf, and a red sauce so sweet it tasted like candy. Q was very urban and polished;  the corn pudding was delectable.

We also went to visit our friends Mike and Tater. Mike just had the worst month ever but he is much, much better. It was great to see them; they are a big part of the reason we have golden retrievers and have cared for us through some rough times.   

We spent Thanksgiving with the Boswell clan and had a great time with all of them. When I was growing up we usually just had Thanksgiving with us and the grandparents; it was never a big affair. So it is interesting to experience the Crowd Phenomenon where there are more than 6 people present. The extroverts were all mingling outside and in the kitchen; the introverts were curled up in corners on their phones or watching the game. As an extroverted introvert, I did a little of both.

On our way back to Minneapolis we broke our streak of early flights when our plane had computer issues twice. They even had us all get off… we thought we were goners (in the flight actually taking off sense). “Can we fly into Rochester? How are we going to get our luggage and our car from Minneapolis?” It brought back memories of my two night stay in Chicago during the winter storm of 2006.  That time, I ended up flying to Omaha where my mom and brother had to drive 7 hours to pick me up so I could be home for Christmas.

Thankfully the plane ended up taking off about 2 hours late and we got to Minnesota just fine. We were reunited with our bags, car, and doggies and are settling back into real life with only a slight holiday hangover. “You mean I can’t sleep in til 9? I have to go to work? Family members won’t take me out or make every meal?”

Waking up is hard to do!