Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year ~ 2012

Here's wishing all of my family and friends a very happy and blessed New Year. I'm not one for New Year's resolutions. Most often, New Year's Day for me is just another day - but a holiday, at that. One thing that a new year triggers is the start of a new slate of PTO at my job (personal time off), and I'm particularly thrilled because I will have earned 5 extra days at the beginning of 2012!


Today a friend and I went to view The Museum of Russian Art. Neither of us knew a special exhibit was on display, so we had mixed feelings. Both of us were anxious to see the awesome Russian art which was imported in the early 90's (The museum was formerly located next door to my workplace and a few of us would walk over now and then to appreciate the gorgeous originals - huge paintings in stunning, carved wooden frames.), but were surprised at the exceptional quality and beauty of the display on loan from Ukraine.

Now, I've been fortunate to travel to Ukraine (2008), but I didn't know that they had such extensive artifacts from centuries ago. Yes, today we saw ceramic jars, brass swords, and gold jewelry from as long ago as 6th century B. C! The gold was incredible - earrings, belt buckles, headpieces (rosettes), clothes fasteners, bowls, urns, ornate animals, and more. It was interesting to see how the wealthy were buried: wives were killed, to lie with the deceased, along with horses!

When I was in Ukraine, most of what I learned referred to the suffering of their people under communism and during WWII. This display predated this. The other part of the display was the original art work of Oleg Vassiliev. Mr. V has immigrated from Moscow to Minneapolis. While living in Russia, it was illegal for him to paint for himself, so these paintings were hidden. For income, he illustrated children's books, which was perfectly legal. On display are six or more of the books - mostly fairy tales. It would be fun to own a copy of his illustrated book of Little Red Riding Hood.

Photography in the museum is not allowed, so my photos are of the beautiful gift shop. They have so many lovely things, but even with the huge post-Christmas discounts, things were still spendy. We learned displays change from time to time, so we will return sometime in the future. Hopefully, some of the Russian art will be on display again. If not, we'll broaden our minds a bit more with the unexpected.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas with My Family

L to R: Dave, holding Luke, and Jill and Emily

Peder, Sarah, Felix, and Aurelia

Jerry and Nancy


Pat, bless her heart, made a plum pudding for us. It was delicious!!

Pat, standing in her beautiful, new kitchen (It's not quite finished.).

* * *

Yesterday, many from my family gathered at my Aunt Liz's house for a special time of visiting and eating a Christmas dinner together.

Since Aunt Liz passed away in April, many changes have happened to her home. First, during some heavy rains in the summer, a neighboring culvert collapsed, causing the creek to flood the lower level of her home. A week later, using fans 24/7 to dry out the walls, a fan over-heated and began to smoke - heavily - causing smoke to fill the entire house and billow out the windows. Neighbors called Pudge and then phoned the fire department. When the 3 big fire trucks and firefighters arrived, Pudge was already there and had actually walked through the downstairs, protecting his lungs with a cloth over most of his face. He told them the cause and warned them not to use the hoses and to put down the ax. Pudge has been a volunteer firefighter in the past and knew these measures weren't necessary and would only cause more damage to the home. Following this event, professional cleaners scoured the entire house and its contents. Pat and Pudge hired an architect and moved forward with some plans.

After a few walls were moved, construction for a new downstairs kitchen commenced. The most obvious change is the enlarged room and beautiful new cabinets! Who wouldn't be happy with this kitchen?! Currently, there is no carpet in the upstairs, as it was damaged by the smoke, and all of the pictures on the walls, plus window coverings, have been removed, cleaned, and are now packed away, since all of the walls will need to be painted.

It was so fun to have Diane and Dave return from their new home in New Jersey, and for their daughter, Jill, to come in from Denver. Emily, Ross, Ethan, and their new little boy, Luke, were there, too. Another treat was seeing Brian, Pat and Pudge's son, who stayed for a little while. What a cheerful guy is he! His laugh is infectious! Peder, Sarah, Aurelia and Felix, as well as Jerry and Jan were there, and I brought my dear friend, Nancy, along with me. A HUGE thank you to Pat and Pudge for hosting this wonderful time together. It was especially nice since they were only here from Arizona for 11 days and were flying back today!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

A big part of Christmas Eve was spent at my church where I sang in our choir for the 2, 3, 4, 5, and 10 pm services. I also sang at the Wednesday evening Christmas Eve service, which is provided for those who cannot attend the services on Christmas Eve. During that time, I was so impressed with the floral display, and determined to take a photo of it. This photo was taken Saturday before anyone arrived.

Today, Christmas Day, I drove to Jerry and Janet's to celebrate with them and to meet my great-great nephew, Levi, who is 9 months old. Janet has many beautiful Christmas decorations, but this grouping catches my eye. Note the angel hair among the snowmen. It is spun glass, and is no longer available. We grew up with this, and I recall my mom and dad putting some of it on our Christmas tree.

Introducing Levi, a very sweet, little boy, with gorgeous blue eyes. He played and played, ate a little, including a dill pickle, and took a short nap. It was really fun to get to meet him and watch him play.

Not one sour face did he make!

Jerry, yours truly, and Janet

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Blessings

I've been thinking about the best gift(s) I have ever gotten - besides Jesus, of course - and hands down, it is my three kids. No matter how old they get, they will always be my kids - my treasures.

In the past I have written a Christmas letter and shared some of what they are doing with family and friends. For the past couple of years, I guess I've gotten lazy and haven't done so. I want to take a few minutes and tell about them here.

Hans is still in the US Navy, and just this year was promoted to Commander! Wow! What an incredible accomplishment. During his promotion ceremony, his Captain asked him how long ago he had entered the Navy, to which Hans replied, "23 years, Sir." Rachel and William (now 2 years old), were able to be part of the ceremony, which was very special for them. Hans is stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, and is the Executive Officer on a Navy cruiser. They have 3 of my wonderful grand kids, Josiah - 7, Annika - 5, and William - 2. I was blessed to get to visit them over Memorial Day this year. It's so nice to have them back in the US once again.

Peder and Sarah live in Minneapolis, so I get to see them now and then. Peder continues to work for Carlsonwagonlit (corporate travel agent), and actually offices out of their home. Sarah is teaching school, and they have 2 of my wonderful grand children, Aurelia - 4, and Felix - 19 months. They are expecting a new little one in April!

Heidi and Chad still love living in Seattle. Heidi is continuing to keep the airlines on track at SEATAC where she's an air traffic controller, and Chad has been having success in a business he started with treadmill sales. They have my little grandson, Marshall - 3. I got to be at his birthday party this year in November - first time for me. Their dog, Brian, had ACL surgery this past autumn, so he is recovering from that.

While I would love to see and hear from my kids more often, I realize they have made lives and families of their own and are involved with that and their careers. I'm thankful for the times we do get to be together.

So this Christmas, I feel blessed. I have memories that I treasure in my heart. It's rewarding to be able to look at what you helped create, and see the good in it. Merry Christmas to you, Hans, Peder, and Heidi and to your families.

Love, Mom

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Lights

A memory of Christmas from my childhood is all 5 of us piling into the car — a big, old green Plymouth, 4 door — to drive around Austin, looking at the Christmas lights on Christmas Eve. I remember liking all of the light displays around town, but getting nauseous as the evening wore on from sitting in the backseat, going ever so slowly. (To this day, sitting in the backseat of a car isn't a pleasant feeling for me.) Some houses were really decorated pretty, and the lights along Main Street were always beautiful. Every year, Santa would visit our house while we were away.

More recently, the lights remind me of my dear little friend, Cassie. Oh, how she loved the lights! I remember driving her around Bloomington at Christmas time at least twice. I would turn the car radio to a station playing continuous Christmas music. She would "Ooh!" and "Ah!" at each display.

Cassie, born in the early 1900's, grew up on a farm in western Wisconsin - a farm with no electricity. She told me how exciting it was when her boyfriend, Warren, drove her to Minneapolis for the first time. She LOVED the lights! Store lights. Street lights. Lights in buildings. It didn't have to be anything special. It was light versus darkness. I really miss Cassie, but especially at Christmas. She died while we were on the family & friends cruise to Alaska in August of 2008. What a dear, dear friend was she.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Landing

Today my friend, Shirley, and I went to The Landing, in Skakopee, Minnesota. During December the various houses and other establishments in the village, are preparing for Hanukkah and Christmas. This is the earliest building at the Landing, 1845, French Canadian Fur Trading cabin.

Fur traders

Browning off the salt pork with onion in the fur traders cabin.

French Canadian fur trader

French Canadian wife of fur trader - 1845

Nativity scene in French Canadian fur trader's home. Notice the Indian visitors to the stable (on the left).

German settler

Early German settler at the kitchen table
Gorgeous roosters on the German farm

I loved this tree in the school house. We made paper chains for our trees when I went to school.

School teacher

Believe it or not, I had a school desk such as this when I was in second grade.
Doesn't this pot of potato soup look good?!

Kolaches and braided fruit bread adorn this Czech kitchen table.

Straw was strewn under this Czech Christmas tree. I found it interesting to see the gold painted walnut ornaments on this tree. My maternal grandma had the same on her Christmas tree.

Straw ornament in this Norwegian window

Norwegian woman checking for the doneness of a potato, sausage, cheese hot dish. She was baking this, and popovers, in a wood cook stove/oven.
Lefse, rosettes, fatiman, krumkake, and molded cookies in a Norwegian kitchen
A Norwegian Christmas tree. On Christmas eve, straw was brought into the living room to cover the floor. The entire family, guests, and hired help all slept on the floor that night to show equality. Special food was given to the stock to honor them.

Shirley, outside the Czech Church

Santa and the village actors in the church Christmas pageant

This tree was in the English home. The English family was the wealthiest family in the village. They had electricity and radiators. Their maid told us not to bother going to the Irish home/boarding house, as the Irish were dirty people and their house was disgusting (We found this partly true.).

I wasn't aware of ribbon candy being of English origin.

English plum pudding and crackers

The dry sink and water pump in the English home reminded me of Great Aunt Ett's kitchen. Aunt Ett and Uncle Johnny lived in Butternut, Minnesota. We loved going to their farm! They had little, or no, electricity. Aunt Ett cooked with a wood cook stove and made delicious meals.

Chicken pot pie just being taken from the wood stove oven in this Moravian home.

Skating pond
One of two reindeer

I would have loved shopping in the General Store!

Clerk in the General Store
Beautiful Belgian horses, donning bells, pulled the wagon.

Notice the straw on the floor, under the Swedish Christmas tree. The straw ornaments help to bring light into the house. On Christmas eve, the children slept on the straw under the tree, saving their beds for the Holy family. Cookies are a popular item on the trees.

A Jewish dining room table.

Inside the Jewish home, a menorah in the window is ready for Hannakuh, which starts on December 20 this year. This is the first time I have been in a Jewish home.