Dec 14, 2014

Christmas Reflections

The Christmas season can be a difficult time for those of us who have lost loved ones. I've given it a lot of thought on this 34th Christmas without Tony and Amanda.

Why is it so hard?

When I look at it from a faith based point-of-view (and I AM full of faith) I say, "This is the celebration of the birth of our Saviour! The one who makes it possible for me to have faith in that glorious resurrection when I will be reunited with my children."

So why is it so hard?

I've reflected on Elder Joseph B Wirthlin's talk Come What May, and Love It. But I've decided that I need to change that just slightly to-

Come What May, and Love HIM

With that slight change in wording I'm able to trust in the Lord. Trust that He will never leave me comfortless; He will never leave me to *go it alone*!

But why is it so hard?

I've decided that the Christmas celebration embodies everything that is good and family. It is frequently one of the few times that extended families gather and reconnect with their loved ones: older siblings come home from college or far-away locations. It is a concentrated dose of familial love which makes us feel more keenly those who are not with us here.

So is it still hard?

Yes, and no. Some fifteen years ago a friend, who'd also lost a son, was visiting at Christmas time and I commented that this was the first year that Christmas wasn't so hard. She lamented that I shouldn't tell her that because, in fact, 20 years was a lot of sad Christmases.

How can I make it NOT be hard?

Well, the only way I know of is FAITH! Faith in my Lord, Jesus Christ. Faith in His promises. Faith in His timing. And faith that He will help me CHOOSE to be happy.

And that, for me, is the key. I have to choose to be happy. I avoid those things that will throw me into a funk. When those sad, longing feelings come, and they always do, I try to replace them with thoughts of joy. Joy that my children have been freed from the trials of this world. Joy that I will be with them again someday. Joy that I was am given the privileged of  being their mother. Joy that they are ever near to me... just through the thin veil that separates us temporarily.

Yes. I choose joy.

On a lovely side note-

Today we had a special Stake Conference at which Bishop Gérald Caussé was our visiting authority. As tender mercies will happen, our Stake President, W Vince Wilding, was a missionary in young Brother Caussé's ward in France 35 ago where Brother Caussé served as the branch pianist.

Bishop Caussé and his wife spoke. She apologized for her broken English and strong French accent but spoke movingly of our Savior and the words of the song What Child Is This. When Bishop Caussé got up to speak he said he had a surprise for his wife. He went to the piano and played the most beautiful arrangement of What Child Is This. I was so touched not only by his ability to *speak* that pure language of music but the sweet gesture it was to his wife, who struggles to speak in English.

Dec 9, 2014

Linzer Cookies

I was invited to a Christmas cookie exchange by a new friend in my neighborhood. She's recently moved here from Virginia and this is one of her traditions from back home. I was excited for this way to welcome her.

A cookie exchange is usually about nice cookies... not just your run-of-the-mill chocolate chip cookies. (Although they are very yummy!) I knew that I wanted to use a cookie that I'd found 6 years ago online. I love any sort of shortbread cookie and then if you add raspberry it just kicks it up a notch. Behold the Linzer Cookie.

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But here's the problem... I got a bad cold a week ago and have been feeling like Pooh-Bear- my head is stuffed with fluff! And although I am feeling better than I was, my brain is still not too sharp. I had the hardest time adding 38+15 last night trying to get to the that magic number of 60 cookies (wait... this gets better!)

Yesterday is when most of the work took place. I needed things from the store so I took a trip to Ream's and should have just bought blanched almonds but I'd just toasted 3 cups of UN-blanched almonds. The process of blanching is fairly easy, but time consuming and made harder by the fact that I'd already toasted them. Gordon came to help: many hands make light work! But did I get a photo? NO!

Those 3 cups of blanched almonds get ground up and added to the dough. I rolled and cut AND rolled and cut... for a long time- until I had the necessary 60 cookies. I made extra just in case some didn't turn out ok.

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This morning I assembled the cookies. I wanted to use some of my homemade raspberry vanilla jam. Which, of course, involves more work to strain out all of the seeds. But definitely worth the effort.

Just add about 1 tsp of jam to the bottom of the whole cookie and then top it with one of the cut cookie.

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Since I was making 60 cookies I needed a fast way to fill that center well... ah... my turkey baster!

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NOW we get to the best part of this whole story-

I just looked at the invitation again, don't know why, and guess what?

I'm supposed to bring 6 dozen cookies...  NOT 60!

I was able to scrap together 68 cookies... 

OMSH... it's not easy being me!!)

Nov 24, 2014

OUR Thanksgiving...

I've said it before (and I will continue to say it!)-

I would rather have
on any day than
half of my children, or stressed-out children on THE DAY!

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And it is in that spirit that we always have OUR Thanksgiving on the Sunday before the actual Thursday Thanksgiving.


Our family just keeps growing and growing (look at all of those tall people!! And then there's Grammie! Joan, you really are that short!!)

We were joined by one of our adult grandchildren this year (boy can that make you feel old!)

The only thing that would make this a better day is for us to have our out-of-town children join us.

Here's hoping you and yours have as joyful a time as we did on our Thanksgiving!

Nov 19, 2014

Nature is Back in Balance!

I posted a pix to Instagram and Facebook last week when my bed went flat... the responses were quite amusing! So maybe I need to start by way of explanation-

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It all started in 1974 when I hurt my back loading firewood... wait... maybe that is too far back for this post, but a necessary fact nonetheless!

From there I will fast-forward to 10 years ago (Is that any better? My brother-in-law teases me that when I tell a story I go WAY back!) We'd recently moved to Utah and I was called as the Girls Camp director for our ward. I took my blow-up mattress with me, no sleeping on hard surfaces for this Grammie. Shortly thereafter I ran away back to CA because I missed it so badly! And I slept on my air mattress again for the 3 weeks I was gone.

When I got home I realized that my back didn't hurt as much (see I told you this would be important) so I decided to make myself a poor-man's-sleep-by-number-bed. Gordon and I had been sleeping on two twin bed mattresses pushed together to make a king-sized bed anyway, so it didn't impact his bed.

That first mattress lasted for a bunch of years before I had to replace it. The later models just didn't seem to have the lasting power.

Last fall I had a soap-bubble party out on the back deck locating all of the pin-hole leaks in various mattresses of different sizes and patching them. (Whew... this is getting long!)

ANY-way, about a week ago my air mattress, which had been patched, started leaking again. And since my back has been worse lately (lo, these 40 year later!) I decided it was time to get a REAL mattress!

I decided on a Novaform foam mattress that is similar to the Tempura-pedic sold by Costco. They didn't have any in the local warehouse so I ordered it at and waited patiently on a Rube Goldberg make-it-do situation of leftover foam pieces, two pillow and a foam topper that used to be on the air mattress. I felt like I was sleeping on a trundle bed!

But Monday finally arrived with the UPS dude delivering a HUGE 72-pound box that contained my shrink-wrapped mattress. It took a few hours to for it to "recover" (Sleep Innovations term for getting un-shrink-wrapped) but...

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And I'm not the only one who is pleased about that fact!

But here is the last bit of fun that came with my new mattress... the gi-norm-ee-ous box transformed by the Grammie-faerie into a Fiona play house!

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She was a little unsure whether she wanted to go inside to get her new pony but Camille sent me a couple of photos last night of her thoroughly enjoying her new digs.

Nov 8, 2014

Mountain-Goat Grammie

Earlier this week a friend posted a photo of her and her walking buddy, Cooper, on the trail that runs above our houses- the Bonneville Shoreline trail. It looked so glorious that it tempted me right out of the house and up onto the mountain.

I grew up right at the base of the mountains in our little town in the Indian Valley, California. I used to take off and explore all over the mountains. It always refreshes and rejuvenates me to take a hike (which is different than a walk!)

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Harley could hardly believe his good luck! I never let him off the leash when we go on walks. But since this was a hike and we were up the mountain I told him he needed to stay where I could see him or he'd have to go back on the leash. (Yes, I talk to him like he's a person... a little person in a hairy-suit!) He understood and was quite obedient to my conditions; well, most of the time.

We hadn't gone far when the view opened up across the valley to Utah Lake with the cerulean sky overhead.

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At this point I couldn't tell where the trail went next... silly me, I should have just looked on Google Maps on my iPhone which clearly shows the trail. So I doubled back and headed up the side of the mountain on a mountain goat deer trail.

I wanted to get up to the power lines and survey the fire damage (which is almost imperceptible after the wet September we had). I quickly realized that this mountain goat trail went up and down each of the gullies that one almost doesn't perceive when looking up on the mountain. After one such gully I was seriously doubting the wisdom of where I was (what if I tumbled down the mountain and had to call for a rescue? Now that would be embarrassing!) and decided that I needed to just start down hill until I hit the real trail again.

There is a lovely rock that was just right for resting on. I spied out my house. It was easy since my other neighbor has a wonderful bright red tree in her yard.

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I'm always surprised at how a camera diminishes distance. This photo doesn't reflect how far this Grammie had hiked!

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I've often thought I'd like to hike to the top of this mountain... but not this day!

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We got back home just as the light was turning all golden and lovely.  We'd had a happy outing on this golden, stolen November day!

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I know that all too soon we will have snow and it will be months before this kind of hike will be possible.

Oct 31, 2014

My DeLoris

DeLoris Percy
July 21, 1921 - October 30, 2014

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I knew this day would come... it does for all of us. Yesterday my ga-LOR-ee-ous De-LOR-ee-ous was released from this frail existence to go home to home to her loving Heavenly Father.

DeLoris has been my dear friend nearly from the day I moved to Utah. I was blessed with being called to be her visiting teacher. The Lord knew exactly what I needed when I moved here. I was just 52 and I was assigned with a bunch of octogenarians! It didn't take long for DeLoris and I to become fast friends.

DeLoris couldn't drive because of her pain patch so I frequently became her chauffeur. She introduced me to many of the local delights (other than WalMart!). In the fall of 2005 we began our yearly tradition of driving the Alpine Loop.

In fact, we just made our last annual drive 2 weeks ago.

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I went to visit with DeLoris and asked if she would be up to a drive to which she replied, "Let's go!" With her uncertain health (we had a scare before her birthday) I knew that we had to seize the opportunity IMMEDIATELY!

I also knew, from past experience, that she was no longer tall enough to see out the window without some help. We joked on our last trip that she needed a booster seat! So I yoinked a couple of pillows off her bed and away we went.

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This dear sweet friend, my DeLoris, is such a marvelous example of uncomplaining patience through trials. Oh, how I will miss her!

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God be with you till we meet again...

Oct 25, 2014

Grammie's Costume Box of Memories

In 1979 I made my little kids Halloween costumes. I was so pleased with the how they turned out. (Please to notice the barn wood shelf, the very stylish macrame owl and plant hanger- accenting, of course, the harvest gold couch)

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Previous years I'd done easy things like a ghost, cowboy, fireman etc but this year I went all out.

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My first thought was that these would become pajamas but I was so happy with them that they became the first residents of the Halloween box.

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(When I ran across this tomato costume last week I'd forgotten that it was this old and I was that young.)

Over the years I've added more costumes: the Fruit of the Loom guys (a bunch of grapes and an apple), the tortoise and the hare, salt and pepper, pirates, hula girl, shepherds, Tinkerbell (a hand-me-down from Sue), an old woman and many more. Each Halloween we'd pull the box out and have a costume parade... and I loved it.

My favorite will always be the years Bek and the boys would come to visit. Stuart would usually have us in tears of laughter. I searched in vain for my blog post about this and I just now remembered- it's not on my blog but tucked safely in one of my many scrapbooks (you remember those days before blogging?)

So I was happy when Camille asked if the kids could come over and *shop* in Grammie's costume box for Halloween. Yes, please!

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But this was our unexpected bonus... we put Fiona in her Auntie Amanda's 35 year old costume. (And see Mama-Camille's cute *costume*?)

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What do you think this little costume would say about this?

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Grammie says it makes her heart very happy!

Oct 21, 2014

Oreos at the Beach

When I first mentioned to Deborah that I was going to be coming to see them she had this wonderful idea! Let's surprise Spencer! I'm always in for a good surprises! (He was very surprised)

Spencer told Deb he wanted to go to the beach on Saturday. (She texts me on the low-down and says Grammie, you up for the beach?) So I packed up the two sand buckets that have been chillin' in my garage since for-E-ver! (But did I remember to pack my *babing-suit*? NO! Not me!! Sheesh! And have you ever tried to buy a bathing suit in September? Yeah, right! Rant over.)

When my little kids were growing up our favorite beach was always Ventura Marina beach. The crowds are usually smaller and they have a wonderful pirate ship complete with zipline! Spencer wanted to go back there this time too. Deb kindly took this pix of us, I *thought* I took a photo of their family too but, apparently, failed!

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It was breezy and cool and I didn't what Baby Belle to get blown on. She eventually went to sleep and took a little nap in her stroller right there on the sand.

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When she woke up she was hungry so what did Grammie do? Well, what any self-respecting Grammie would do... I twisted open an oreo, snarked off the creamy-peanut butter center and gave her the chocolate cookie part. (See how nice Grammie is?)

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This was a taste explosion in her little baby-girl mouth!

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She continued to gnaw on it until she had a respectable oreo-goatee!

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It reminded me of the days when her Daddy was small and his Daddy would come home from work with a permanent ink marker and draw mustaches on him and his sibs!

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All the while Riley was totally enjoying his time in the surf. He and Spencer played there for a very long time.

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It was a lovely day. We ended by having a fish and chips dinner and a quiet ride home. Both Riley and Annabelle knocked out within 5 minutes and slept the whole way home.

And, you know, this blog post wouldn't be complete without at least one random photo from the day before of Baby Belle and her Grammie!

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Roxie's Special Dress

Roxie just turned 8 and, in keeping with tradition, I told her I would make her baptism dress. Part of the fun of this tradition is that said granddaughter and Grammie go shopping together to pick out fabric and a pattern. I showed Roxie my progress and she was still marveling at 3rd Sunday Grammie-dinner how she could choose just what she wanted.

I finished it up today. And it is so Roxie!

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I love how her personality shows through in her choices.

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I truly enjoy sewing something special for my littles. I even got to learn a new technique (thank you Pinterest!)

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I will be back in a couple of weeks with photos of my darling girl in her special dress.

PS... If you'd like to see Ashton's dress go here.

Oct 8, 2014

Yosemite National Park- A Heritage Vacation- Day Three

Thursday we planned for a mule ride! I was very excited about this bit of reenactment! I've ridden a mule once before, at Mammoth Lakes in 1994 but apparently it was an atypical, cooperative mule! I love Grandad's description of mule riding...
"Every day we hiked to points of interest. The falls were nice and full in July and we explored them all as far as we could go. This [the trail to Glacier Point] is the trail over which the guides take their tourists by horse- or mule-back. We kept pace with them almost all the way up the trail; sometimes we would pass them and later they would pass us sitting down to rest. A mule is a very aggravating animal, especially on the trail. The guide would be up in front, mounted on a horse, and occasionally a mule would spy a nice green sprig off to one side of the trail, and the rider couldn’t stop him from getting it—which as very uncomfortable to the rider, who would have a hard time to keep from sliding backward out of the saddle. When this occurred in the middle of the line, it caused quite a jam and the guide would have to come back and get the mule to change his mind again. We saw one old fellow in this kind of a fix and he hollered bloody murder until the guide righted his mule again."
We were set for a 4-hour trail ride that started at 8 am. We needed to arrive early to watch their safety video and get our mandatory riding helmet. There were only 5 riders this day, plus the two guides. They had the mules all lined up on one side of the hitchin'-fence and told us to wait on the other side (the safe side) until we were matches up with our mule. Imagine my surprise and delight when they said, "Joanie, this is your mule, Elsie!" I won't lie... it brought tears to my eyes. What were the chances? Just a coincidence? I THINK NOT!!

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Rebekah got paired with Melvin. We were assured by our guides that none of the mules were suicidal and to trust them. I loved watching Melvin's little mincing steps as he maneuvered his way on the trail, keeping my acrophobic daughter safe... even in the face of sure death!

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But it was a close thing. About three-quarters of the way up the steep mountain trail the mule right in front of me stepped on the side of the trail as it maneuvered one of the many hairpin turns, knocking loose some rocks, which, naturally started a mini rock slide. Welp! Elsie decided to take exception with that! (And if you've ever been horse or mule back riding, you know what I'm talking about!) That 16-hand-tall mule turned on a dime that would make any good cuttin' horse jealous and started tearing off down the trail away from that evil mass of rock wedging her way between Melvin and Rebekah on the inside, uphill side of the trail pushing her puny friend and rider right up to the precipice of death!! Luckily I am an experienced horsewoman (oh, but mules are a different breed!) and was able to stop her in quick time.

Rebekah mentioned that her leg and knee hurt but it wasn't until later that we saw the extent of the damage... and this is before the bruising started to bloom.

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But Bek cowgirled-up and we had a lovely view from the top.

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We wanted our guide to capture our likeness, just like Bill and Elsie 102 years ago, but Elsie-the mule is a big girl...

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and we needed a better vantage point so we could even see Rebekah and Melvin.

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The stables are right at the base of Royal Arch, where Grandad and Grandma camped those many summers ago.
When we checked in at the Ranger’s Station, we were assigned to Camp 8 which is under the Royal Arch, which is within walking distance of Camp Curry, where they had an entertainment each evening, which was climaxed by the fire-fall from Glacier Point each night. Glacier Point is about 3,000 feet above the floor of the valley and each day they make a big pile of wood which is lighted in the evening and when it burns down, the embers are pushed over the precipice—thus the fire falls. Midway down the face of the cliff is a ledge upon which the embers fall and burn themselves out. A person at the top of the cliff cannot throw a stone or stick hard enough to fall on the valley floor, for the draft will suck it in so that it falls on the ledge every time.
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And it is where my mom, Elsie, was conceived.

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No trip to Yosemite would be complete without a photo of El Capitan!

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And Grandma Elsie thought so too.

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We saw several climbers scaling the face. We pulled out my 70-300mm zoom lens and could see them toiling bravely weighed down with way too much stuff! And, what, may I ask does one do when they have to go potty in the middle of a climb? It take two days and they sleep in a hammock set-up over night. Just one more reason I won't be doing any rock climbing!

And that's it... our wonderful heritage vacation. We had a lovely time. It was just the right amount of time.

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And it only took us 2-3 days to get over the soreness of hiking and mule riding!

If you'd like to read more of Grandad's history you can find it here. The story about their Yosemite vacation begins on page 17.