Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Season of Light

The snow was glistening in the sunshine when I sat down by the window with my book. I got so caught up in the story, and it happened so gradually, I didn't even notice the sun going down, and the shadows that crept into the room. Mom walked past a while later and asked, "Why are you sitting here in the dark?" and then she flipped on a light.

The action and suspense of my everyday drama sometimes takes over and I lose sight of the Son. Shadows creep in and I start to dim out. Luckily Christmas comes along and turns on the light.

Everything looks brighter!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving with Relatives

After hours of togetherness,
Mary thought for just a moment
about flipping her family the bird.

(Now, now . . .
you are not related to a bunch of turkeys . . . )

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanks for Everything!

The Opi's went south for the holiday.

First Stop:
Trump International Hotel Las Vegas
Luxury room--$108--no casino,
directly across the street from Nordstrom's front door.
I was thankful.

The next day we crossed the desert, passed Joshua trees,
and arrived at a grand oasis--

a place to be restored!
(We were thankful.)

Opa buttered up the turkey,

Emmie buttered up the table,

And Sam buttered up his Oma.
(I'm always thankful for butter.)

All four grandparents had a personal server who filled our plates,
replenished our drinks and cleared away our dishes:





After dinner we all just kicked back for the weekend
and felt thankful.

Thanks for everything!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pie Night

Coconut Cream Pies

Yep. I made 'em—homemade pies by OMA.
I'm a little proud as you can see.
I've never thought of myself as a pie maker.

Grandma Bagley

Grandma Bagley was the pie maker. Dad stopped to check on her every night on the way home from work. There was always a banana cream, a lemon meringue, peach, apple, chocolate or custard pie. Dad was a dutiful son, but grandma employed a secret method to encourage devotion. When I worked for my dad during my teens I got in on the visit and my favorite was coconut cream.

My kids have a tradition called Pie Night. It happens the Sunday before Thanksgiving, a get together to celebrate the sweetness of family. With 7 kids, 7 in-law kids who all come from big families on every side, it's never been a goal to get us all together for Thanksgiving. Little groups meet up and have Thanksgiving—the eastern families met at an Amish cabin for a few years, a group made a trek to St. Louis last year. One of our families gets a condo in Sun Valley with the in-laws every other year. We Opis family hop—we've been to Boston, Pennsylvania, Denver, San Diego, and this year we're in Arizona for the big day.

I have a family of event planners. Any occasion deserves a name and a theme, a game or two and some spectacular food. A great joy of this phase of life is visiting our kid's homes as guests. We are treated royally. Today one grandkid is assigned to each of the four grandparents coming to dinner, as their slave. They will serve us our food, clear our plates, replenish our glasses and be our dinner companion. It's so fun to watch Luke make place cards, and Sam light candles. Emily helped me tear up bread for the stuffing while Jake went off to play (officially) in his first turkey bowl. I LOVE seeing Gabi and Brad on their own turf, totally in control of the whole day. It is a treat beyond anything . . . even beyond pie.

Which brings me to my perfect pie recipe:

Old Fashioned Coconut Cream Pie

One can coconut milk, and enough half and half to make 3 cups liquid.
3 egg yolks
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 t salt
1 cup flaked, sweetened coconut
1 baked pie shell
1 cup sweetened, whipped cream

In a medium saucepan combine eggs, sugar, flour and salt. Slowly stir in coconut milk/cream mixture. Bring to a a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 cup coconut, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 T butter. Pour into pie shell and chill 2-4 hours.

Toast 1/4 coconut on ungreased pan in a 350 degree over 5-7 minutes until golden brown, stirring often. Cool. Sprinkle toasted coconut on top of pie. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Stand back and wait for compliments!!!

Gotta go and taste-test some rolls!
Happy Thanksgiving!

P. S. I'm thankful for you!

P. S. P. S. Kirby Puckernut wants you to visit his blog! Click here!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Interior Design: Playroom

Amy's an artist.
Always has been.

She was just a kid when she started drawing on my walls. I remember a little house sketched next to the light switch in her bedroom, and some crayon designs on the closet door. A few years later she painted life-sized stick figure kids playing on our basement walls, complete with flowers and trees. It was darling!

The other day she arrived at my door with brushes, masking tape and a few cans of paint. "Want your Christmas present early?" she asked. "I'm here to paint the Cousin's Clubhouse."

That's what the grandkids named the closet under the stairs when they recognized its possibilities. I hung a full-length mirror at the back (next to a basket of dress-ups) and tucked in a toy train, but it still needed some personality.

Amy brought it! Keeping with our travel motif, she sketched a scene from Amsterdam, then taped off the buildings with masking tape and painted every other one. When the second coat was dry, she removed the tape from one building and re-taped its neighbor, so the colors wouldn't blend at the edges.

She cleaned up her gear and left it to dry overnight.

The next day she came back with black markers to add some details, and outline the buildings freehand, in her trademark style. Her girls inspected the work, and gave it high marks.

Tile corkboards were set in the painted frames, and members of the Cousins Club took their place on the official roster. The moral of my story is this:

Let your kids draw on the walls.
It's good practice!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ghost of Christmas Present

I'm the ghost of Kirby Puckernut. He's a real guy—a real elf, I should say—and Santa Claus put him in charge of a blog this year. (They're trying to put the North Pole on the map, I guess.) Anyway, Kirby got hold of me and in a very high-pitched squeak asked if I was really a ghostwriter. I assured him I was, and he squeaked, "Will you be mine?" How could I resist?

It turns out Kirby is the star of a darling new Christmas book about Christmas magic, and Santa has received zillions of letters from folks asking for tips. With the Christmas rush and all, there just wasn't time for Kirby to learn the intricacies of blogging, so I've been entrusted with Santa's secrets. I'll be posting them on Kirby's blog every Thursday from now 'til Christmas.

But I'll let you in on a secret—I need your secrets. Do you have unique ways of creating Christmas magic? Here are some questions for you to mull over with your cider:
  1. What is Christmas magic?
  2. What unique Christmas traditions bring magic into your home?
  3. What do you say to "Is Santa Claus real?"
  4. What about the Christmas when everything went wrong?
  5. What's the most stressful thing about Christmas?
I'd love to hear your secrets! Since I'm just Kirby's ghost, I can't give you credit for your ideas on his blog ("The secret of creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."—Albert Einstein) but you'll get full credit here on mine!

Leave a comment, or a link to your post.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Taking the Grand Tour

"Write what should not be forgotten."
—Isabel Allende

One of my Oma goals was to take my grandchildren to Europe. Who better? I've been "over the pond" twenty-five times, and lived there twice. I wrote this goal in my journal twenty years ago, planning the trip for when they each turned ten. Of course this was before I had twenty grandkids and when I assumed I'd be rich in my old age.

Several grandkids have turned ten (and eleven, and twelve . . .) without me, but finally I have a local grand old enough for her Grand Tour. We just took it the other way around.

Chloë in the lobby of Grand America Hotel, Salt Lake City

We pretended Chloë was from Paris, meeting her long-lost Grandmama at a fancy schmancy hotel—the Grand America in Salt Lake City. A valet parked our car, and we walked past a long, white limo, so it was easy to imagine we were traveling first-class.

Catching her breath.

Chloë took almost a hundred photos as we explored the hotel. She loved the tapestries, the fountains, and the statues of deer in the gardens. One room caught her eye—the Grand Ballroom. Even with chairs strewn all over and tables only partially put away, it made her shriek with delight. I reminded her she was from Paris and had probably been to Versailles, but this was still the swankiest room she'd ever seen, and she pirouetted around like Cinderella.

There were little cubicles off a long hall, each with a built-in desk. "There's an old-fashioned telephone in there! Is this where people sit to take their calls?" she asked. (The old-fashioned telephone was just a regular phone that had a cord.) "That is so cool."

The bathroom blew her away. Real cloth towels, gilded mirrors and two posh sitting areas, plus "each toilet has its own miniature room!" A bit classier than the 4th grade lavatory.

Chloë is overcome at the Grand America.

Seeing a place through ten-year-old eyes, with a ten-year-old imagination was absolutely grand! I was reminded that to kids, everything is new. Even just a trip downtown can be an adventure—it's all in the presentation.

"Look up, Oma!"

Chloë pointed out every chandelier and every ceiling decoration; she appreciated all the little touches. "The salt and pepper shakers match our dishes!" (At home her salt and pepper shakers match her dishes, too, but I think she expects little paper packets at restaurants.) The waiter "brought bread automatically," crusty sourdough, with a "personal dish of butter," and she got to figure out which of her three knives was especially for spreading. Afterward we stopped in the little French bakery and drooled over gelato and chocolate truffles before we each chose a macaroon to eat at a tiny wrought-iron cafe table in the corner.

"We're making a memory," I told her over lunch. "Do you think you'll remember your first Grand Tour?" "Maybe," she said, her mind on the waiter bringing her lemonade.

Lunch at Grand America

Not to worry, Chloë. I don't remember all the things I did with my grandmas, either. But somehow I knew they loved me and recognized my individuality. Although I was one of 13 on one side, and one of 24 on the other, I felt appreciated for myself, even as I took pride in being part of a large group.

Those are the memories I cherish, and the ones I hope to recreate—a deep, down, inner conviction for each grandchild that we know they are unique and love them because of it. I'll share my vast wisdom if they are interested, and if I have something to teach (that they want to learn) I'll pass it on, but most of what I want to give my grandkids is confidence and faith that they're here at this time with inborn traits, abilities and spiritual gifts that are needed. I want them to have the courage to follow their promptings to go where they can make their contribution to the world.

My true goal for them is to take their own tour of life, find personal adventures and a repertoire of experience that will prepare them for each successive tour of duty: school, mission, college, army, marriage and stops along the way I don't know about yet. That's the Grand Tour I'm most interested in. But I'm glad to be part of the training tours along the way!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

DIY Scrapbook Papered Bookcase

1 old bookcase + 12 sheets of scrapbook paper = proud Oma

The old bookcase looked pretty tired in the new bedroom, but if I wanted a new one I had to do it myself. My DIY projects have to be cheap, quick and easy, and this one was. I chose paper that was easy to match on the edges, then measured and cut the sheets to fit the back of my bookcase.

Dee sprayed the adhesive,
Benji manned the door,

And I quickly stuck the paper on the bookcase.

In typical fashion, I had measured wrong and didn't have enough paper for the bottom shelf. No worries. I just filled in with a different pattern.

The whole project took less than an hour, but it needed some finishing touches: I turned a wooden utensil box on its side to display miniatures, and glued a collage of scraps on two boring hatboxes.

Oma's reading nook

A showpiece for my showpieces!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Office Tour

"I'll see you in my office now."

This is where I spend my time.

Writing on the Wall

On one side of my office is my library. Reading, writing and research books, stories for the grands, old letters, maps and travel books (stashed in the suitcases) and file boxes along the bottom with tons of family history info.

Office Suite-y

You've already seen my computer.

My Bibles

If I turn my chair the other way I'm facing my work table. Between the bookends are resources I need at my fingertips. The loose leaf holds research I've done for my work in progress, aka The Widow's Waltz. It's a great example of my new catchphrase, "Planning is the enemy of finishing."

Since last November I've compiled almost three hundred pages outlining setting (Vienna, just before World War II) plot (American businessman is murdered) and character back-story (based on real letters) but not a sentence of the actual book. It's time to stop planning, so I can start finishing.

Editor's Desk

But I have finished a couple of big editing projects recently. Right now I'm working on a manuscript by a surgeon who served several tours of duty in Afghanistan. It's serious and funny—a little like Hawkeye's life on MASH.

Office Accessories

Little details: I use my pewter collection to hold office supplies. The IKEA Lazy Susan gives me instant access to red pens, blue pencils, scissors, chapstick and my back-scratcher. It suddenly seemed nutty that these pretty pieces were hidden away in a cupboard. What was I saving them for??

Check books

Here's my bill paying station. I chucked my ugly brown accordion folder and now I stash the bills that need attention in one fake book, and the others hold receipts, stamps and envelopes.

File It

These space-saving filing cabinets came from TJ Maxx. Since the folders are on display, I bought a package of cute blue ones to match my decor, and put them in front. They hold everything—address labels, greeting cards, newspaper clippings and blog ideas.

Inspiration Board

When I was packing up my stuff to move, I found some handmade paper we bought in Italy ten years ago. Apparently I was saving it. For what? So I cut it up into squares and used it to line a bulletin board. Postcards and old calendar pictures of women reading and writing inspire me.


A rusted, yellow mailbox begged for old letters, but the slots were too deep for my stationery. I cut some scrapbook paper up and taped a few pieces together so they'd be exactly the right size, and then stuck on some vintage-looking stamp stickers to make them look authentic. Old postcards added color.

Anything for me?

Voila! A cool in-and-out box for my desk. (I stash the real letters-to-be-mailed behind the fake ones—a check being sent to the phone company doesn't seem as cute.)

Speaking of letters . . . Nancy emailed these questions:

"How do you preserve what you've written, photos and all?
Do you have a backup system for memoirs?"

Actually, my blog is my backup system. A few years ago I accidentally deleted my archive of photos. The pictures I had used on my blog were the only ones I could find again, because they were floating around the Internet. That's why I've written a lot of my memoirs on my blog—I can access those memories from anywhere, anytime. (And so can all my descendants who can't wait to read every word Great-grandma Oma ever wrote.)

So, how do you preserve what you've written?

I loved your comments about why you blog. Now you need to write about where you blog. Leave a comment and we'll come over and tour your office.

Congratulations to Grandma Cebe!
(She won a copy of my book!)