A Nitwit Knits

On one of those days in January when you feel like you should set a goal, I declared to the world that I wanted to learn to knit or crochet in 2014.

And so, with the clock ticking quickly toward the end of the year, I held a little party at the barn this week and invited everyone I knew to come on over and join me in learning.  I begged for some teachers to come along too.

I attempted knitting, and the evening was a howling success!  I was surrounded by good friends while the glorious aroma of hot apple cider mingled with vanilla macadamia nut coffee.  And I laughed.  Oh, how I laughed.  It seems like ages since I was laughing so hard I couldn’t stop crying.

First Attempt

Some say knitting is a great way to de-stress.  Well, in my case, most certainly so.  I’ve even given it another go today.  I’m still disastrous at it.  It hasn’t calmed me one bit, but it has given me so much joy just to keep laughing at my pathetic attempts while I enjoy the fun memories of my knitting night.

Very interesting!

I shall try to crochet sometime in 2015.  Seeing just how difficult the knitting turned out to be, I think that one goal should be plenty for the coming year!

~

 

Nutcrackers

When I was a child, you didn’t just pop into one of the many stores lining the streets and choose items from a huge array on the shelves.  This was especially true because I lived in a small town.  And so I remember very vividly the first time I laid eyes on a toy soldier nutcracker.

My sister had just moved to Houston where she was starting her career, and I had just entered college.  We went down for a visit, and she took my mom and me to her favorite new store.  It was a year round Christmas wonderland.  When I saw this fellow, it was love at first sight.  My sister bought him for me.

I don’t have collections.  (Other than the coffee cups!)  But I do have a delightful collection of nutcrackers, and they make me smile every single December when they come out to play.

This is my first Steinbach.  My Nana took us Christmas shopping one year and told us to get anything we’d like, and this beauty fell right into the price range.  Here’s the funny part.  Although she had given me dolls for Christmas most of my life, now that I was a young married woman, she was determined to buy me clothes.  I kept insisting I wanted this hunting nutcracker.  She really balked at buying me “a doll” that year.  (Nana hadn’t been gripped by the nutcracker bug!)  I kept insisting that the clothes would be mine for a short while, but this treasure I would keep forever.  I’m a bit sorry I argued with her, but I’m sure glad I got my way!

Once my collection was growing, my Grandma enjoyed adding to it with the beautiful smokers.  Since Gary loved fishing in the islands, she enjoyed searching for fishermen.

I bought this man for myself.  He’s a woodworker with a musical lathe.  A “must have” when I saw it!

My dad found this “King of the Nutcrackers” at furniture market one year.

Friends and family have treated me many times over with sweet additions.  Precious miniatures hang on my Christmas tree.

Now days you can find these little darlings in almost every store in every town, and in every character imaginable.  I love my classics.  This one holds a special place in my heart.  We found him in an antiques store on our honeymoon.

I cherish these little people!  They’re a treasure chest full of grand memories!

~

 

It’s Time for Trees

Oh, the fun I have with these jewels!

When the first cold front hit New Mexico, I was ready and waiting with my trusty glue gun and my beautiful pile of old jewelry.

It seems I’m better with a glue gun that I am with a camera.  Just can’t capture the depth and richness of this wonderful old costume jewelry all tumbled into place.

There are two annual events that warm my heart when the cold weather arrives every year.  The Open House for the New Mexico Christian Children’s Home, and the Holiday Happening sponsored by the Altrusa Club in Portales.

It’s my privilege to contribute to the silent auctions for these excellent occasions.

Here’s hoping everyone has a grand time decorating Christmas trees in the coming days!

~

 

An Audrey World

So many times I long for a fairy tale world.  Yet, even as I type that, I realize a fairy tale world would still be filled with villains and tragedy.  There’s no escaping that.

I suppose my daydream actually finds me acting out the roll of the sweet soul who never harms another, always has a pleasant countenance, spreading charm and elegance and good tidings wherever I roam.

Not only myself, but everyone I know.  We would all go about our days in this manner.

There you have it.  I long for an Audrey Hepburn world!

Meanwhile, I live in a Sandy Fields world.  I scowl quite often.  I grumble about the pettiest of infractions.  And horrors… I can’t seem to stop my tongue from rummaging around in my teeth if there’s some pesky particle of broccoli giving me fits.  Audrey would never have made such faces in a restaurant!

I’ve spent the morning reading the story of her life.  She enchants us all.  My darling little great-niece loves Audrey.  I’m so glad she does.  So thrilled that a four year old wants to watch “My Fair Lady”.  So hopeful that we’ll all aspire to be more gracious and giving.

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Valuable

I get such a kick out of moments like this.

I was having my eyes examined for the latest prescription for reading glasses.  And my optometrist – with his high powered vision gadgets – said “Pretty earrings.  What is that gemstone?”  He proceeded to tell me that he collects gemstones.

Being the ever-frugal-pat-myself-on-the-back soul that I am, this was my response.  “I’m pretty sure they’re blue glass.”  (I’m pretty sure of that, because they cost $10.)

I thought they were the beautiful color of the ocean, and I also thought they might make my eyes look a little more blue… and that’s how I chose them.

Here’s the reason for this post.  I have a young friend who was quite upset recently.  Some people were making her feel that she wasn’t doing enough for her children.  She’s a mommy of four.  Along with her husband, she’s made the decision to only do some part time work so she can be home with the little ones.  Their budget is tight, and doesn’t include trips to the mall for closets full of new clothes.

Oh, how I applaud you, my friend!  You hang in there.  We should not be valued by the amount of money we have spent on our clothes and our jewelry and our shoes.

I hope that maybe a little bit of that sapphire blue color from my earrings will send a sparkling reflection into my eyes.  And so much more importantly… I hope you’ll see love dancing there when you look into my gray eyes.  If so, you’ll make me feel very valuable.

~

 

Election Day

It’s Election Day.  If ever there was a day to wave a flag and wear red, white and blue, this is the day.

Surely the founding fathers could never have imagined America today, filled with interstate highways, airports, cell phones, super stores and computers.  But I do believe they dreamed the nation would survive, and the citizenry would treasure the privilege of electing its officials.

My vote means as much as yours.  The vote from a college student is equal to one from a multi-millionaire business owner.  A naturalized citizen gets the same say as a voter whose American family tree goes back generation after generation.  It’s a powerful and amazing system.

Voter turnout for presidential elections has hovered between 50 and 60% in the last five decades.  I marvel at this.  Yes, I’m climbing up on a soap box.  I’m astounded those numbers aren’t 80 to 90%.

Exercise your right to vote today.  Go stand in a line with your neighbors, friends, co-workers and strangers.  Blood was shed to secure this right. Millions around the world envy this opportunity.  Today is our day to help chart the course for the future.  May we choose wisely, and may God bless America.

~

 

Magic Moments on the Zaandam

Special, calm, peaceful, magic moments.  That’s why I cruise again and again.  It doesn’t matter where the ship is going, I’m just happy to be on it.

With a relaxing cruise ahead of me, I’m looking forward to sharing one magic moment a day.  The simple pleasures on the ms Zaandam that will become sweet memories all too soon.

Day 1 – Always a hectic day.  Rude alarm clock in the pre-dawn hours, two flights to catch, luggage to check with hopes of retrieving later, long lines, taxis, shuttles.  Finally to the ship, finally some French onion soup… but still… so exhausted.  And then the moment literally came wafting over me.  My bags  were unpacked, the plump pillows awaited me, and the sharp citrus scent of that Elemis soap in the hot shower let me know I was back in my home away from home.  I love that shower gel.  Thank you, Holland America, for never changing this shampoo and soap.  Truly… it’s what made my day!

Day 2 – We’re crossing the Pacific on our way to Hawaii, so plenty of slow, relaxing sea days.  Tonight was our first formal night, and much could be said about the lovely clothing and the ever-so-tender filet mignon… but my magic moment for the day was dressing for dinner.  Actually, watching G in front of the mirror putting on his cuff links and button covers.  I love that we have these ships where our hurried lives take a break, and we waltz into a world of tuxedos and velvet.

Day 3 – Who can resist a 75% off deck sale?  That would be me, along with the darling crowd I love to call “my peeps”.  It’s no secret that the average age sailing with Holland America is a few years beyond my own.  So there we were, rifling through the pretty little Alaskan sweatshirts, then draping our finds over our arms, waiting in line while Hawaiian luau music played softly over the speakers.  Today’s magic moment had me grinning at the thought of having a matching sweatshirt with a group of great-grandmothers from Vancouver!

Day 4 – Live entertainment after dinner is always a highlight of our cruising day.  Tonight’s  performance was truly grand.  After a delicious dinner with the events coordinator – a young man we met a few years ago and always love crossing paths with on cruises – the three of us attended “Classique”.  The show was even more special and fascinating because of all the behind the scenes things we had learned over dinner conversation.  For some of the young singers and dancers, this was their first performance ever on a ship.  And they gave us a dazzling evening.  Those costumes and that finale of Bohemian Rhapsody… a magic moment indeed!

Day 5 – The day was perfect, the evening was perfect.  I kept wondering how I would select one special moment.  On this formal evening we chose to eat in the Pinnacle for “An Evening at Le Cirque”.  I had anticipated that butternut squash soup, and thought my first taste might be THE magic.  And oh, it was grand.  The night was perfect… the meal, the entertainment, the dancing, the stroll on the Promenade… but the shining moment came when least expected.  Waiting on our bed, beside the sweet towel swan, was a little gold silk crate with two miniature drawers behind a tiny door, each one holding a white chocolate truffle.  There was a note from the restaurant wishing us the perfect ending to our evening.  Thank you for spoiling us!

Day 6 – On this final sea day before reaching Hawaii, I attended an afternoon concert by Henry Kaleialoha.  There was none of the polish and pizzazz of the marvelous evening entertainment.  This was a gentle performance by an aging musician who has been a star in the world of Hawaiian music.  He was in the orchestra of “Blue Hawaii”, and was the linguistic coach for Elvis in that movie.  Today he needed help onto the stage, and into his seat, but he never missed a note with the music.  As he played the ukulele for an audience mostly from his generation, I was quite overcome with bittersweet emotions.  I felt so privileged to be part of the crowd.  Another special moment for my collection.

Day 7 – The day began with a magical scene.   I was awake in dark, sure it was morning, waiting for my alarm to go off and prove me right.  I was eager for today to arrive… not because we would finally be reaching land, but because we would be touring Pearl Harbor for the first time.  I knew this would be an emotionally charged day.  The view from my balcony as our ship approached Oahu was breathtaking.  Dark mountains against a dark sky, outlined by the twinkling lights of the waking island.  The mood and beauty of my day – captured perfectly before the sun came up.  Today was a day of tears as we toured World War II Memorials, but also a day of amazing moments.  Our small group had signed on for a day of touring not only Pearl Harbor, but other military bases on the island.  After lunch at Schofield Army Barracks, to everyone’s surprise – and totally by chance – we were greeted at Fort Shaftner by Four Star General Vincent Brooks.  Photos and handshakes all around as he thanked the veterans in our party.  A great day from beginning to end.

Day 8 – The most beautiful island views for me have always been those with water in the foreground.  So my favorite moment of the day came as the sun was setting behind the massive Mauna Kea on Hilo, while I watched it from my dining seat at a wall of solid glass.  The bright strip of hot sunshine reflecting on the blue water gave way to a shimmering sea of silver and the sky turned a soft turquoise with rose highlights.  The top of the mountain eventually became a black silhouette with the peak soaring high above a layer of clouds as our ship slowly pulled out of the bay into the dark night.

Day 9 – I love long cruises and I love small ships.  This one holds 1400 guests… small by many standards, but quite large to me.  Getting into a routine, learning the names of several in the crew, I always feel at home.  This morning as I approached the breakfast counter the chef grinned at me and said, “Three eggs over medium?”  What fun to have a personal chef!  Another delicious start to a beautiful day.  Speaking of delicious, my favorite thing about Maui today was my raspberry shave ice!

Day 10 – Our first time to Kauai.  What a beautiful island. And what a marvelous treat to watch the approach into Nawiliwili Harbor this morning from the front of the ship, then to stand on the back deck as we left this evening.  That was my magic moment… slowly slipping back out into the open waters of the Pacific under the heavy clouds of sunset.  Our four days in the Hawaiian islands have been perfect.  But how I love the sea days!  So this evening we had a lovely farewell combined with the joy of knowing the cruise is far from over.

Day 11 – After your first cruse with Holland America you become a “mariner”.  As the beautiful cruising days go by, you’re rewarded with sweet little perks… champagne with the captain and the all important laundry discount.  The mariners’ brunch is always a special time for me because I can’t wait to see the new Delftware coaster given as a gift on every cruise.  My collection is growing, and I keep dreaming of the project I’ll put together someday.  A table, or perhaps a kitchen backsplash.  Not sure yet.  In the meantime, I’ll keep working on that collection.

Day 12 – There was nothing to do today.  Nothing.  I sat on a reclining deck chair and looked at the Pacific Ocean… and looked at the Pacific Ocean… and looked at the Pacific Ocean.  It was pure bliss.

Day 13 – Just before our afternoon classical violin and piano concert, we had an appointment with a photographer to look at the photos from our shoot a couple of nights ago.  They’re all in black and white, quite romantic… and to play upon our emotions, this lovely young woman from Hungary had soft music playing as she began the slide show.  The magic moment of the day arrived right on cue.  Gary and I both loved the photos, and for the very same reason.  And this was the explanation for my tears to the sweet photographer…  One day you wake up and realize you’re middle aged.  So… there we were… all dressed up… as much in love as we’ve ever been… with wrinkles around our eyes… smiling at each other in the string of photographs.  We bought a few.  They captured the mood of this cruise for us.  It’s been a strenuous year, and these two weeks on the Zaandam are washing our cares away.

Day 14 – After dinner dancing to “The Neptunes”… it’s always a favorite time on every Holland America cruise.  This band has been exceptional.  The piano player/singer reminds me of Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole at the same time.  The knee surgery this year has put a damper on my dear dancing partner’s fox trot, but he still twirls me on the wooden floor every night.  Our touching moment tonight came while we danced to “Sentimental Reasons”.  One couple entered the dance floor ever so slowly… as the man could only take the tiniest of steps.  There they swayed back and forth in the same spot to the beautiful music.  I hope we’ll still be dancing even when we can barely walk!

Day 15 – Last day at sea.  More beautiful music, more delicious food, sun and shadows playing on the ocean under moody skies.  One final night to dress to the nines.  But this is what I choose for the best moment of the day… knowing that it was also one final afternoon to completely relax… and choosing to take just one more nap.  Ahhhh… I am well rested.  How grateful I am for that.

Day 16 – Today we toured Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia  The most enchanting gardens I’ve ever seen… with a wonderful story of how they came to be.  If this cruise must come to a close, then this was a lovely ending.

Day 17 – There are no magic moments on disembarkation day.  But arriving home to our purring Peloton after a very long day of traveling is always special.  Now it’s time to start dreaming of the next voyage!

~

 

Nothing Funny About Fungus

It’s been too long since I shared a limerick!  I laughed myself silly writing this with my nephew a few weeks ago.  He was telling me all about the business he was about to launch, and quite frankly… the subject matter was just begging for a rhyme.

So, here’s to my nephew in Sugar Land, Texas!  Wishing him great success with his new business.

~

Check out his website… Nail Correct!

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They’re nasty, they’re bumpy, they’re gross

You’ve gooped them up dose after dose

If you’re walking among us

Nails covered in fungus

The cure for your mess is quite close

~

It’s a laser you need for those feet

If the fungus you’re going to beat

Just do it today

Let us zap it away

Your toenails will finally look sweet

~

 

Flourish

My roses were just beautiful first thing in the morning.  The nights have been cooler, we’ve had lots of magnificent cloudy skies, I’ve been doing my best to combat the caterpillars… so this fresh outpouring of rose buds was all set to make a splendid appearance.

And this morning when I went outside with my morning coffee, the bouquets covering the bushes couldn’t have been lovelier.

But alas, the weekend brought with it a terrible heat wave.  Those roses were getting used to kinder temperatures… lulled into the sweet security that summer was going to tip toe out.  They just weren’t ready for the relentless 105 degree blow torch wind that blew all day. This evening the beauties were just fried, and it made me sad.

There are days when we all feel their pain.  Days when we start the morning thinking we have the tiger by the tail, but by sundown it seems the tiger has us.

One step forward and two steps back.  There have been many days that have felt that way this year.  Nothing major.  Just aches and pains, delays on the job, disappointments.  You try to start fresh and the hot wind knocks you down.

If you’re right there with me, remember this.  We know for certain that cooler days are coming.  Those roses will flourish.  And so shall we.

Psalm 40:11 – You, O LORD, will not withhold Your compassion from me;  Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.

~

 

The Game

A friend recommended the movie to us and said we’d love it.  We were headed to Amarillo to pick up supplies for a remodel project, making it a perfect afternoon to look up a matinee showing before we drove back to Portales.

Searching on the tablet for a place to see the show led to the reviews… which were abysmal. One piece did concede that audiences gave the movie a much higher rating than the professional critics.  We decided to trust our friend’s judgment and go to the movie – even though one of the reviews warned you should only see it if you were in need of a good place to take a nap.

I’m willing to place a few bets about the people who gave this movie less than 20% approval.

I’m betting they don’t have a brother-in-law who was so weak after a series of medical treatments that he didn’t have the energy to stand, so he coached his high school team to victory by rolling around in an office chair at the practices.

I’m betting they don’t have a dad who still loves to reminisce about the ballgames he played in the 1950s.

I’m betting they never stood on the 50 yard line and brought a marching band to attention while the student body roared out applause.

I’m betting they don’t have nephews who buy matching shirts and ties and stand shoulder to shoulder while teaching young men how to handle pressure on a ball court.

I’m betting they don’t have cousins who spend hours and hours driving their children to little league events of all types, proudly posting their darling photos in their sports uniforms all over Facebook.

I’m betting “Friday Night Lights” is not a phrase in their vocabulary.

I’m betting they’ve never yelled themselves hoarse while huddled under a blanket at a freezing game between rival schools.

I’m betting they’re clueless about people like me who really don’t care much about the game of football, but who dearly love the grand tradition played out all over America every fall.

The movie was wonderful!  It’s the story of legendary coach Bob Ladouceur, and the winning streak of the De La Salle football team.  I hope you’ll go see it.  Our teenagers need movies like this.  We all do.

“When the Game Stands Tall”

~

 

Banana Nut Ice Cream

What can I say about this ice cream?  It’s grand.  It’s simply grand.  I’ve just had a little bowl for breakfast.

Here you go….

2 Bananas

1 Can of Eagle Brand (that’s sweetened condensed milk)

½ Cup of Sugar

1 Quart of Half and Half (that’s 4 whole cups!)

1 Dash of Salt

1 Dash of Vanilla

1 Cup of Pecans

Just mix those ingredients up with a mixer – except for the pecans – and pour them into your favorite ice cream freezer.  When the mixture is getting good and ice-creamy, add the pecans little by little.  I like big chunks of pecans.  I broke halves in half.

Make a batch of this, then come back here and let me know if you love it!

~

 

Small Town Classmates

I wrote this for my weekly column in my hometown newspaper.  I’m literally surrounded by classmates here in Portales, New Mexico.  In my mind I can so easily hear the chanting at pep rallies… “Class of ’81 – - is BEST!”  I truly believe it.

Here’s to growing up in a small community.  An amazing blessing!

And here’s that column…

Another school year begins.  Today I’ll share some thoughts with the high school students who are blessed to be attending school in our small community.

Don’t be too quick to determine who has the good looks.  There will come a day when you look back at the senior pictures of your classmates, realizing that every young man was amazingly handsome, and every young woman was beautiful beyond compare.

Be nice to everyone.  The person you hardly know will someday be your next door neighbor.  The shy and quiet girl may give birth to a son that your daughter will marry 25 years from now.  You will buy lumber from the cheerleader, and hamburgers from the football player. One of you will become the mayor.

Look around you.  Choose five people from totally random groups.  Down the road you may very likely sit around a table with this mix, talking about old times, family members, maybe even aches and pains.

You will join together to buy flowers for funerals of those who will pass too soon.  You’ll understand that you have more in common with one another than you ever dreamed.

Trust me on this.  Make the most of this year.

~