Category Archives: family

My birthday Christmas in March.

My birthday hasn’t yet arrived, but since I’m unlikely to see any of my children on the proper day, the family I was with just a few days ago gave me a celebration. (Soldier had planned to come here from Colorado with Liam day, but he wisely cancelled that trip.) Presumably we’ll all be holed up apart from one another when I cross over to a new age.

The first special thing Pippin did was to drive me and the children to a succulent farm she’d been wanting to visit. We took a picnic and ate on the way; it took us a while, as it’s in Fort Jones, sort of in the middle of “nowhere,” and not a place that succulents would grow naturally, but the whole operation is in greenhouses. Maybe some of you have ordered from Mountain Crest Gardens. If you like succulents, you would have feasted your eyes on the long rows of charming species and collections.

One of them I did not find charming, only strange:

Pippin wanted to get me a few for my birthday and I chose these that are different from anything I already have:

I put them in my car to keep them safe, and I checked on them one day to see that they weren’t getting too cold. I didn’t notice then that the one on the right had evidently gotten too cold, and no wonder. My car looked like this one of those mornings.

I knew I wouldn’t be keeping that plant outdoors in the winter here, and I don’t know why I didn’t have more sense about how cold it would get in my car. At least, it is only damaged, not killed. Scout also came home with a little succulent, and Ivy collected various leaves and stems off the greenhouse floor which I told her were likely to grow into plants if they were in dirt, so she put them all together in one pot when she came home.

The second birthday surprise was nothing anyone could have planned: a big snowfall of the powderiest sort, followed by a morning when we could easily walk down the road a few paces to a good spot for sledding. That day Jamie had looked out the window and beamed, “It feels like Christmas!” and when I asked why, he said because of the snow.

I realized then how special a treat it was, after their relatively dry winter, that this dumping of perfectly fun snow should happen while I was there, and actually, on the perfect day. I had tried to make my visit other weeks that should have been more wintry. Now, in the middle of March, came my birthday gift from God.

If not for the children, I’d have been happy to look at the snow through the window, but being able to accompany them and watch them literally throw themselves into it was the joy and the gift.

They were thankful for this late snow because when it was Christmas on the calendar their family had just returned from my house and collapsed sick. They couldn’t even eat their Christmas cookies that had been laid by.

As we were pulling on our snow boots and rummaging around for the bibs and gloves, Scout said, “When we come back we can have tea with leftover Christmas cookies!”

Jamie broke trail heading for the little hill alongside the railroad track, and soon the children had smoothed out a sledding run. But after a while they all seemed to like as well merely rolling down the railroad embankment, or in the case of Ivy, just diving and splashing around in the snow, eating it.

Two days before, I had walked through the forest with the children, trying to identify species of lichens, and noticing stages of manzanita growth or death. This day the manzanita blooms were set in fluffy white.

On the embankment next to where freight trains run many times a day, snowballs form on their own, maybe from the wind of the train rushing past?

We did go home and eat those Christmas cookies and drink our tea. The Professor blew a path through the snow for me to walk on back to where I was sleeping, in a sort of guest cottage across the street. The next morning  the scene showed my tracks with no new snow.

Too many of my children have moved to where the winters are cold and snow is common, and the older I get, the more I try to avoid visiting them during the winter. I should try to remember that every visit I have had in snowy weather has been fun; remember the last time when I taught Liam and Laddie to make snowballs? This week’s snow made good snowballs, too! It was another blessed birthday to remember. ❤

 

Here with snow and a flower.

For many of us our daily lives have become more home-centered as a result of our larger community’s efforts against the coronavirus, and maybe some have more time for blog-reading. 🙂 I might have more time to write something about the mini book club reading Kierkegaard, or an update on my reading of The Plague.

If not for the fact that I drove up to Pippin’s in farther Northern California on Thursday, and my time and attention are devoted to Scout, Ivy, and Jamie for a few days. Oh, yes, also their parents! I’ve not given up on finding the wherewithal to compose a few thoughts and sentences on all the philosophical musings I’ve been doing, including those prompted by a dozen Mars Hill Audio interviews I listened to on the way up — but I’m not counting on it.

Today it’s snowing, and likely will until I go home, but yesterday I saw this lovely Greek Anemone, and send it to you as hopeful sign.

A convocation of birds and Glad people.

Meeting my great-grandaughter Lori for the first time was surely a highlight of this Christmas. Her family drove in two days from Washington state, and stayed a week. I had been to her parents’ wedding in 2017, but this was also my first chance to spend much time with her dear mother Izzy, and that too was a highlight.

Truly, it has been ten days of countless overlapping highs and lights such that at this stage the brightness confuses me, and there don’t seem to be points of focus. Also, several of our party were not feeling well in one way or another; I caught one of their bugs that is making me dull. But there are pictures!

Many weeks ago I had told my contractor that if we could just get the “floors and doors” on the new rooms, I would be content to receive my guests. That was barely accomplished by Friday evening the 20th. Primer and/or paint had been applied in some rooms; the painters worked till 11:00 p.m. Then I spent hours moving stuff around to accommodate the thirteen extra sleepers, and made multiple rounds with dust cloths, but the dust was settling for days after the drywallers had left, so that effort was disappointing.

Soldier and family had come from Colorado and were staying with Joy’s parents’ nearby. He and Laddie and Brodie came over on Saturday to put up my tree and decorate it with me. Sunday and Monday the rest of the family arrived.

In addition to Colorado and Washington, family traveled from Washington D.C., Wisconsin, Oregon, and two towns in California. Fourteen of us spread out among six rooms including the living room; 28 total were feasting together and catching up over two days. Two older grandsons didn’t make it down from the north, but a cousin joined us for a few hours. We had four children under two among us, two of whom were just six and seven months old. Several of the children were jet-lagged and a bit distressed by the noisy crowd, but a dozen aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents were on hand to rock and comfort them.

I myself started sleeping better as soon as we crossed from “Before Christmas” into “When the children arrive.” Pearl organized us all into cooking teams, and before that I’d done most of the shopping. Everyone pitched in with everything, including whatever I hadn’t done, and overlooked the dust.

I made the future sewing room into a wrapping room, for all those people who had shipped packages here unwrapped. The crib had been re-assembled Sunday afternoon and it went back and forth from that room into the new guest bedroom, along with a Pack-n-Play. Those rooms had no real window coverings, and there was ample sunshine for more than a week. What a blessing that was. In various groupings people went to the park, on a hike, on a creek walk. The conversations were compelling, and I had to force myself to go to bed while all my favorite people were still talking and laughing, and showing their wonderfulness.

On Christmas Eve Day Pippin made a list for me of all the birds we had seen that day, several of which she had identified for me.

Mourning Dove
Towhee
Scrub Jay
Tufted Titmouse
Anna’s Hummingbird
Townsend’s Warbler
Red-Breasted Nuthatch
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Lesser Goldfinch
Pine Siskin
Black-Capped Chickadee
Junco
White-Crowned Sparrow
Field ? Sparrow
Song Sparrow
English Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
House Finch
Bushtit
Nuttall’s Woodpecker

I was thrilled at the abundance of birds! Once I was carrying Raj around in the garden trying to calm him down. It was cool and sunny, and we looked at plants and flowers, and he had become quiet. I was talking in a low voice as we walked on to the patio, and suddenly realized that a song sparrow was busy at the feeder not two feet away. When we got yet closer it moved to the other side of the feeder but didn’t fly away. Close as I was, my picture is blurry, I suppose because I was holding a 30-lb child in my arms while shooting it.

On Christmas Day Kate and I took Raj and Rigo to church. The boys were surprisingly attentive and well-behaved… until they weren’t. So we had to go home a little early. In my neighborhood I scowled into my camera to get this shot, not realizing I was in the picture with the shepherds.

The last seven guests departed today, including three of the littlest ones. As far as my house is concerned, we are mostly now in the “After Christmas” period, when remodeling work is supposed to start up again. But I have a feeling things will be pretty quiet until 2020 arrives, and that’s okay, because I have lots of debriefing to do with myself, and processing of all the love and good deeds and good wishes that flowed into the house and all over the place. And a few more Days of Christmas during which I will make some plates of cookies for the neighbors, and watch the Iceland Poppies bloom.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Gingerbread Philosophy

“The great gingerbread war has heated up in San Francisco, and it all comes down to one eternal question: Is it a gingerbread house if you can’t eat it?” So asked an article in the Chronicle newspaper a few years ago. Just as I also wondered this morning, when I heard from two young women who for years have used a hot glue gun to put theirs together. I had never heard of such a thing. Their children have started asking when they can eat the house, and the mothers remind them that they always only eat loose candy while they are assembling it.

At our house, we’ve had two gingerbread construction events that I can remember. I wasn’t the instigator. I prefer to provide background support in the form of dishwashing and photography, because cake and icing have always seemed like the most unlikely media for art or architecture, and near certain failure doesn’t sound like fun.

These first photos are from 25 + years ago, when young people could do things solely for fun without having to spend time on their phones taking pictures to share worldwide. My kids and their friends were making two houses, and one never would stay standing. I think the siding was hopelessly warped from being baked on a thin cookie sheet.

In San Francisco, it’s been traditional for the chefs at the Fairmont Hotel to make their large Christmas gingerbread house (top picture) out of completely edible components. Because a gingerbread house is the last thing that should be purely symbolic, right? When my friends and I had a tradition for a few years, of a trip to San Francisco at Christmastime, we appreciated being able to break off pieces of the house to eat. Nibbling was discouraged, true, but every day the house was quietly repaired, and sometimes a repairman chef would hand a child a piece of candy from his kit in hopes that it might mean one less candy cane broken off.

“Go ahead, have a piece,” said Tom Klein, Fairmont hotel’s regional vice president and general manager. He was handing out gingerbread shingles to startled hotel guests in the lobby. Technically, eating the Fairmont’s walk-through gingerbread house is not allowed, but Klein had a point to make about the edibility of the building materials, and the kids he was handing the gingerbread to were not complaining.

“Meanwhile, at the St. Francis, its fanciful baked house was more of a medieval castle, lavishly and intricately decorated by chefs with tweezers. It’s a smaller, more intricate creation, exhibited behind a sturdy metal fence designed to keep grubby little fingers at bay.”

I have seen the St. Francis castle, too, but I don’t  think I knew that it was gingerbread. I read that they recycle the gingerbread from previous houses to make it; that would seem to make it inedible right there. On the other hand, I liked getting a whiff of the Fairmont gingerbread:

I’m not saying that the mothers mentioned above were aiming for Instagram perfection. Probably they just feel the way I do about my Christmas cookies; I enjoy the creative project and like doing it alone. And if a recipe calls for a really messy or difficult ingredient, I just won’t use it. That’s why I don’t make gingerbread houses. Even the most precise and well thought out ones, with slabs of sturdy cake baked on unwarped cookie sheets, must be accepted as “the best we could do with the materials.” Here are my pictures of the more recent one built in my house, spearheaded by Pippin and the Professor.

This year the gingerbread house at the Fairmont is bigger than ever, and you may rent it for “private” dining. Up to ten people can sit at table inside, starting at $300 for two hours. I’m really curious about who will be enjoying that luxury. (It doesn’t sound appealing to me, to be on display to every holiday gawker passing through the opulent lobby, while partaking of such a gimmick.) The population of San Francisco is notoriously low on children, but maybe some well-to-do ladies will stop by with their grandchildren on the way back from seeing “The Nutcracker.”

I do love everything about edible gingerbread houses — their colorful and aromatic, candy-laden selves, and their fairy-tale connections — as long as other people are building them. How unlikely! How extravagant and wild. My style is to let the people get old enough to want to try culinary architecture on their own, and to have the patience to see the project through to the end; until then, I’m happy to make a mess in the kitchen with children of any age, baking gingerbread cookies. And when they’ve had enough of that, and run off after a while, I will also love finishing up on my own!

From this house, what I’d like is a few puffs of malt-ball smoke. ❤