Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year! - My Last Column

Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve as We Look Back to the Future

We stand in the crisp night air, our breath forming billowing wreaths around us, before drifting slowly away. This reminds me of time – gossamer, intangible, something that cannot be held on to.  It is quiet and still and we are waiting, our cold hands wrapped snugly around our steaming mugs of cocoa laced with peppermint liqueur, a small nod to this one special night. Suddenly the distant hills come alive with the bright, crackling sparks of brilliantly colored lights. Red, green, blue and white, they rise from the quiet hills, illuminating the night sky before falling, falling and fading away. The air becomes thick with the far away booms and pops of fireworks, as the clock strikes midnight and we raise our mugs to another year. He draws me close and gently kisses my cheek. We are best friends, partners in life, husband and wife, co-conspirators, and fellow weary travelers on the road of life. This quiet celebration is exactly right.

We watch the dark outlines of rolling hills, waiting and listening, drawing in our breath, lest the fleeting moments of sparkling illumination become obscured. Our exhalations are the applause, as we silently witness the transition of time, from one year to the next. Gradually the night becomes quiet, returning to dark wilderness once more. We step inside to the warmth of the fire.

He says, “It’s been quite a year.” He says that every year. And every year I agree. He says, “We still have each other.” I laugh, but these simple words strike home, for I know how fragile and fleeting life is. I am profoundly grateful and bow my head. When I look up, I see his eyes glimmering with a sentimental mist. Yes, we still have each other.

We have celebrated many a New Year’s Eve together. A lifetime’s worth. We have gone to parties, weddings, and Hawaiian Luau shows. But more often than not, we have spent this night at home. Four children were hard to park. We had too many responsibilities, too many obligations. We had jobs and children that required early risings, even on New Year’s Day. There were pets afraid of the surrounding celebrations, destructive in their fear. For years I have painted over the chewed door jamb of one such New Year’s night out, compliments of Pete, the spotted hound.

We’ve made many New Year’s resolutions, some just recently found gracing the inside cover of an old journal. ‘Potty train the baby.  Keep the inside of the car clean. Lose 10 lbs.’ I did get one of those resolutions accomplished – the baby did get potty trained.

It’s also a good time to reflect on the year past. The song we all sing by the beloved Scottish poet, Robert Burns; “Auld Lang Syne,” means “Old Long Ago”. We are asked, “Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of Auld Lang Syne?”

As we sit by the fire warming ourselves after our wilderness light show, we talk of this “Old Long Ago”. For isn’t it our past that helps to create the people we are now, sifting through the memories and keeping the best, leaving the rest as lessons well learned?  We speak of those we have loved and lost, remembering the laughter and the joy, taking the best along with us as we move forward without them. We speak of our hopes and dreams for this New Year and all that we are grateful for. We talk of all that we have overcome in our struggles of the past.

 But most of all, we talk of our wish for the world; that everyone feels grateful to have each other. After all, we have just survived the end of the Mayan Calendar. We must be doing something right.

Below you can access my New Year's Story just published today.
At this time of New Beginnings, my experience with writing for The Tacoma News Tribune has now ended.
Last year at this same time I had read of an opportunity to become one of six 'Community Columnists' in my daily newspaper.
On a lark, I submitted the required two stories, each 650 words or less, relating to my personal experience of living in Pierce County, Washington.
They wanted a cross section of writer's from different areas and walks of life to write a column every 6 weeks for 1 year.

Living here on the very edge of Pierce County and bordering wilderness, I thought that reader's might enjoy my stories.
I was so excited to be chosen!
This has been a wonderful experience.
And very humbling.
I did not feel worthy to be included in the ranks of these talented writers.
We did have the opportunity to meet for some authentic Korean BBQ in September, organized by my fellow Community Columnist, Maria Gudaitis, shown here on the front right.
Beside her is Editor, Patrick O'Callahan, and then little old me.
On the left in the back is Glenda Cooper. She wrote a book that I recently reviewed and can also be viewed on my side bar, 'The Road to Lost and Found'.
Beside her is my Editor, Cheryl Tucker and at the very front sits Catherine Forte.
You can read all of their columns (and those that weren't in attendance) from the link I have included - under 'Opinions' on the title bar, then 'Columnists'.
Both Editor's also write blogs!
I am sad that my year with The News Tribune has ended, but I am so grateful for this wonderful experience.
I will be looking for new opportunities going forward!
Thank you, Dear Reader's for all of your encouragement and positive feedback.
It has meant so much!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cozy Dinner Party and End of Year Reflections

Last night we had a cozy little dinner party for The Mr.'s boss and his sweet wife, who are also our Dear Friends.
Sort of a Holiday Celebration between the Holidays.
Because it was just the four of us, I was able to use some of my jewel colored glassware and dishes.
What I call my 'Ruby' glass.
With my antique green depression ware.

Under the glow of candlelight and twinkling Christmas lights.
A chance to toast the New Year together.
Soft music playing in the backgroud.
But this was no stuffy formal affair.
Hearty Chicken Pot Pie was the main course.
You can find the recipe here:
Later we watched a great 'James Bond' movie curled up on the sofa's with home made Apple Crisp:
I do like to entertain, but don't do it nearly enough.
You know how it is - you always have good intentions, but life sometimes gets in the way.
So one of my New Year's Resolutions is to throw more dinner parties.
It gives me a good excuse to get the house in order.
And spend time with treasured friends and family.
And use those pretty dishes we all like to collect.
Well, this is the last day of 2012!
We woke up to bright beautiful sunshine streaming in through the curtains.
As I went about my morning, I reflected on the year about to close.
A year of exciting opportunities writing for The Tacoma News Tribune.
But also a year of sadness, losing my Dear Father to Alzheimer's.
This little tree graced his bedside table just last Christmas.
But my blessings are many.
I am blessed to have a loving family.
I am blessed to have all of you, my Dear Reader's.
We are a supportive family in Blog land, aren't we?
I am blessed to have such Dear Friends.
And I am blessed to have a home to call my own with sweet animal companions to keep me company.
 This year brought this guy to the family. An abused and neglected rescue dog, who now knows he has a forever family.
So as this year comes to a close, I am wearing my rose colored glasses once more.
In anticipation of what the New Year might bring!
Thank you for being there!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Winter in the Forest

We've had a little dusting of snow in the foothills the last few days.
The skies have been clear but heavy with early morning fog.
It is quiet, with only the sound of my resident birds, twittering in the underbrush.
This morning I saw one of 'my' Anna's Hummingbirds. She came to my new feeder!
These little flying jewels winter over here! This is the first year I have fed them. I know there are at least two of them.
We are just below the 'snow line'.
But the forecast calls for mild temperatures, so no snow for us.
Everything is so green and white.
With the faint red tinge of bare branches.
As I zoom in, I can see individual trees highlighted against the mist.
I saw a pair of Bald Eagles the other day, hunting over the river valley.

Sometimes they are accompanied by Ravens.

Whenever the skies open up, and especially if there is some wind, we see the birds of prey.
Eagles often fly with companions.
I've seen Eagles with several different types of Hawks and of course, the Ravens, all circling together on the thermals.
I always know when there is an Eagle around.
My resident Stellar Jay's mimic their calls.

They are the 'watchdogs' of the forest.

I love finding their beautiful blue striped feathers.
There has been a smaller bird of prey haunting the songbirds the last few weeks, a Cooper's Hawk. He is very fast and agile.
I always know when he is around.
It is silent.
No twitters. No warning cries from the Stellar Jays.
Just silence.
Everyone is hiding in the underbrush.

 When the sun comes out, the yard is full of activity. Squirrels scamper about and ground feeding birds scratch and search for tasty morsels. I have noticed if I leave some leaves lying on the lawn, this encourages worms and grubs to hide underneath, giving the birds a tasty snack. Yesterday I watched a whole flock of Varied Thrushes work their way across the lawn.
 These beautiful birds have a one-note, ethereal, reedy call.
Their calls are particularly noticeable on a still winter day.
They, along with the Stellar Jay's, like to eat the dry dog food I leave out for them.
Two of my favorite little birds that come to my feeders are the Dark Eyed Junco on the left and the Red Breasted Nuthatch which are fearless and allow me to get up close whenever I fill the feeder.
They travel in little flocks along with Chickadees.
I love to hear them talking amongst themselves, chirping and twittering and fluttering about.

A few weeks ago we stopped using our wood stove for a couple of days.
The Mr. wanted to clean it out.
When he opened the doors to light the fire again, a little bird flew out into the house!
Luckily for him, the wood box was nice and clean and he didn't get covered in soot.
We opened up the doors and out he flew into the night, just in time! My cat Maggie had discovered him and was giving chase. I felt sorry that he might have been in there a day or more. I never heard a thing.
The Mr. has to clean the chimney this weekend and will put new screening up.
So even though the Forest appears to be still and quiet this time of year, there is plenty of activity going on.
Especially if you are a bird!
What kinds of birds are you seeing these days?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Scalloped Ham and Potato Casserole

This is a delicious way to use up the Holiday Ham leftovers. It is very easy and something everyone seems to like, from the Mr. to the little ones.
My little ones are all grown now, but the Mr. and I still enjoy this dish.
I thought you might enjoy it, too!
Scalloped Ham and Potato Casserole
serves 4-6
350 degree oven
2 qt. casserole
2 cups cubed fully cooked ham
6 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (2 lbs)
1/4 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
3 tbsp seasoned bread crumbs (Italian)
1 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
2 tbsp dried parsley
Place half of the ham in a 2 qt. casserole. Cover with half the potatoes and half of the onion. Sift half the flour over: season with salt and pepper (if desired)
Repeat layering ham, potatoes and onion. Season with additional salt and pepper. Sift remaining flour on top.
Pour milk over all.
Bake, covered, in a 350 degree oven for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or until bubbling and potatoes are nearly tender .
Combine bread crumbs and melted butter; sprinkle on top of casserole. Top with Parsley.
Bake 15 minutes more.
Serves 4-6

Post Holiday Blues

I feel so blessed.
Thank you, my Dear Blogger Friends for all of your lovely Christmas Wishes.
I hope you know that in my heart, I think of each and every one of you and hope you had a lovely Christmas.
Now that Christmas is over, I am feeling the Holiday Blues.
You know how it is.
The preparations, the beauty of the lights, the wrapped presents, the delicious holiday treats.
The reverence for the spirit of the day.
The love of family and friends.
The kindness of strangers.
The glorious upliftment of good intentions.
Then, in one day, it is all over.
You are exhausted. You are filled with memories. You are happy and sad at the same time.
The sound of crinkling paper, the laughter of loved ones, the house full of crumbs and glitter, with the lingering scents of balsam, cedar, cinnamon and cloves, are over.
The tree somehow looks a little forlorn.
And the snow is melted.
The house is so quiet.
So you start filing away the memories. Sifting through for keepsakes, the special moments to remember.
The happy faces around the table.
The tinkling of glasses and laughter.
Sweet Jen and Son Dustin
The Christmas Cheer

Daughter in Law, Erica and Son, Gabe
The Gift Giving

Eldest Son, Gabe

The fun. 
I am blessed with a family that loves to laugh.
The guy's are comedians.
The gal's have a permanent smile. Or a little giggle. Or a big giant laugh with a little embarrassing snort. It's that kind of family.
Every Christmas we watch 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation'. They've even come dressed as some of the characters. Remember 'dickies'?
Don't let those innocent faces fool you. They can make you double over. Very unlady-like.
Here's another innocent face. Believe me, all it takes are those eyes. She uses them to advantage when trying to outwit her brothers. She can utter the funniest things while keeping her face just like this. You can imagine what she said about this! (She has two miniature Dachshunds, Peanut and Weenie Baby)
*Notice the Christmas scene on the movie behind her. Clark finally gets the house lit!*
Daughters, Jennie and Heather
They both have this talent. Believe me, I was trying hard not to shake the camera because I was laughing so hard.
They get this from their Father.

Son in Law- Eric, (Heather) Dennis, Dustin, Jennie's Guy, Josh
Besides his beautiful blue eyes (which they all inherited), he has the most wonderful sense of humor.
This comes in handy during hard times.
There was lots of humor during our life!
It kept things in perspective. Sometimes a little gentle humor is all it takes to make it through.
Yes, I am very blessed.
And I never take it for granted.
But the house is quiet now.
Even the pets are asleep.
The fire is glowing.

 There is a new dusting of snow in the hills.

And Christmas Day is echoing in my ears.
I've cleaned up the dishes, tidied up the cushions, swept up the crumbs and glitter.

And now it's just me.

Alone with my thoughts.

But with a full heart.


Now, what about those New Year's Resolutions?  
Have you made any yet?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...