Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve, 2010

OK, maybe not.

I've had a pretty good year. How about you?

"I think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the year's."
Henry Moore

Henry Moore is one of my favorite sculptors.
Not above my all-time favorite, but a favorite, nonetheless.

In that we are not too big on the "stay-up-all-night-and-bang-pots-and-pans-at-New Year's-Midnight" party circuit, I will return to the kitchen now and finish the chicken soup for dinner (not just any chicken soup...I think this one is going to include black beans and rice and corn and cumin and onions and garlic and rice. And red pepper.)

And while I cook, I will mull the coming year. I'll throw some "more" ideas into my mental mull...more cycling, more running, more Shakespeare, more painting and quilting and reading and writing.

And that's what's going on here, tonight.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Pryor Creek, Oklahoma
At Gma and Gpa's house

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Merry Twelve Nights: Fun and Joy

OK, this post is an aside to my planned Twelfth Night posts and pics. But I have to tell you what the guys are doing tonight.

It is dark.

It is windy.

The guys (That Spouse o' Mine Paul and the College Kid Graham) got kites in their stockings at Christmas. From Santa Claus! They (and the daughters) have flown them already. Tonight holds an above-freezing temp, and 15 mph winds. I just heard that Spouse o' Mine say to Graham, "It's really not that cold out."

So the guys have taken their kites out just now (note: 200' of nylon string; that's an altitude for kites!), and they have added their bike lights to the kites. They want to see the kites at 200' in the dark.

Yep. Merry Twelve Nights.

Postnote: I just went out to the dark, dark pasture. I could not see anything, but I heard two voices talking about the kites, the wind, the night. Father-son, Christmas memories.

Michigan Winter

East Lansing, 1991

Graham is 11 months old.
Notice the giant bruise on Gill's forehead.
Claire is now sporting bangs
because she took scissors
and cut her own bangs a few months earlier.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 2009

Twelve Days

It's December 28th, three days after Christmas Day. We still have our Christmas tree up, the lights in our windows are still lit each evening. We have a few remnant gifts, wrapped and unwrapped, under the tree.

Even though the new week and work beckoned us from our fun-filled weekend, we are still in the Christmas season, and will be until January 6th: Twelfth Night, and the first day of Epiphany. For those who celebrate liturgical church traditions, there are twelve days of Christmas, and then comes Epiphany, the season till Ash Wednesday - the beginning of Lent, which precedes Easter.

OK, that's enough calendar chat. What I really want to say is that these twelve days of Christmas, to me, are the most peaceful and relaxing days of the winter. Advent, to me, has become a horrible, manic time of hurry-hurry-hurry! and Let's-Do-Christmas! and advertisements to shop!-shop!-shop! and Get-that-tree-up! - DECORATE!! and Omigosh-I-have-to-make-Christmas-memories-NOWWwwwww!

After all the hoopla between post-Thanksgiving and Christmas, let me tell you, these twelve days are wonderful. We can really meditate on Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men.

I can have fun fun fun the coming days, baking whatever comes to mind on any given morning. Or not baking anything. There is no "CHRISTMAS COOKIE SCHEDULE".

We played Scrabble last night. The College Grad flew home to Virginia (thankfully, no snow to report last night!), the Grad Student has left for her home, the College Boy is at a party. Tonight, the tree is lit, the candles are on, and that Spouse o' Mine is making dinner. I have a table-full of quilting on the docket. We have week-old twin lambs to bottle-feed for our neighbors down the road. That Spouse o' Mine is finishing up the closet trim in our bedroom. I have a new book to begin tonight.

And what is in store for the rest of this week and next? New Christmas recipes. Old Christmas recipes. Christmas carols. Arts and crafts - that's what is nice about dark winter: one can enjoy indoor creativity, instead of outdoor activity. The College Boy has a set of watercolors he is using these two weeks. The Grad Student has a myriad of knitting projects going. The College Grad has indoor plants that she is nursing. That Spouse o' Mine has a new Christmas guitar.

In the twelve days of Christmas, I will enjoy the peace and quiet...of food, family, arts, snow (hopefully), and plans for the new year. And our blessings.


Monday, December 27, 2010

The Golden Hippo

Family and friends gathered for the Golden Hippo Competition.
(our version of Top Chef).

Christmas 2008

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Family Fun

Three generations
Christmas 2008

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Stillwater, Oklahoma, 1996

Friday, December 24, 2010


Merry Christmas, Pryor Creek, Oklahoma, 1962

It's Christmas Eve!

"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments,

but what is woven into the lives of others." ~ Pericles

Holidays. Traditions. Decades.

Back in the 1960s, when I was a wee one with a head full of imagination, I would pore over the Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalog. We all did. That annual book was full of fingerprints and circled pages and circled toys. Figure: five kids with high hopes for BB guns, Chatty Cathy, Spiro Graph, - oh, you name it! If it was in the Sears catalog and had a well-written description, then it was on our Christmas lists.

We Websters never celebrated Christmas on Christmas Day. We were always headed west, to what was then the "Big Family" Christmases. We studied the Christmas story in the Bible and in church, and before it came time for us seven to pile into our station wagon, by some miracle, Santa would have visited our house and brought our presents early - earlier than all the other families' deliveries in the neighborhood. Amazing. Totally amazing. So many years I recall my Dad getting up before us kids, and shutting the hall door. He told us he was shaving. We were gullible. He was hauling out the Santa gifts, of course, just an hour or two before we would drive west for Big Family.

And there was the year, no doubt when I was the last, youngest, "believer" in Santa, and my oldest brother Jerry and my sister Barb took us five out mid-afternoon, in broad daylight, for a drive around Pryor Creek to look at Christmas lights. Gullible little kid that I was, I took in the lights, which of course were not lit, and when we returned home, omigoodness!!!! Santa had come while we were looking at Christmas lights in the mid-afternoon!! A miracle!!

I loved Christmas.

I still do.

The miracle of the birth of Jesus Christ is always what we celebrate at this time of year, but my wise mother taught us decades ago that we celebrate Christ's birth every day of the year, not just at Christmas time, with Santa and all. Mom is pretty wise. So we enjoy the Christmas story, and singing the Messiah (which details Christ's ENTIRE life, not just the manger part), but we know to hold this in our hearts all year long.

The Santa bit? Only in December. For most people, only the eve of December 24th. For us? Well, the 60's tradition of Santa arriving early happily skipped right into the next generation, with Saint Nick acknowledging our kids' plaintive letters that we would be travelling from Michigan to Oklahoma on Christmas, so could Santa please come early? And he did. The best year I recall in our East Lansing years was our herding our kids to our backyard neighbors' home, the Taylors, under the guise of a Christmas party. (Four parents and seven kids: happy holidays!) In the meantime, our next-door neighbors, the Phillips, were in our house, pulling all our "Santa" gifts out and putting them under the Christmas tree in our absence. What a great neighborhood. The pièce de résistance was that Dr. Phillips/Santa took the time and attention to take his boots, dirty them in our fireplace ashes and proceeded to make "Santa" footprints throughout our living room, from the fireplace to the Christmas tree. Our kids were manic when we returned home that evening.

So now, here we are, middle-aged parents with college-aged kids. What is our Christmas like ? Lovely. Some years we have done the early Christmas plan, and headed west to the Rockies, but last year and again this year, we opted to enjoy Christmas time at home - no doubt the peripatetic lifestyles our kids are leading now is part of this decision. The warp and woof of our holiday now entails trips to airports and coordination of three "twenty-something" schedules: time off work, time off for the semester, time off for the quarter. Some years we have overnight guests for Christmas Eve. Last year's Christmas Eve blizzard saw us five, plus a couple of boyfriends, plus my brother Bob's family driving slowly the twelve miles home after church services and the Patterson Christmas party... the drivers could only navigate the snow-blown road by looking out for the next electrical pole through the driving white winds of snow: there was no road to be seen in the blizzard.

Santa, of course, still comes. Nowadays, he delivers fun things like ice axes, duct tape, sledge hammers. How his reindeer managed the blizzard last year, we do not know, but there were exciting things under the tree for all of us the next morning!

Some things change, some remain the same, we have traditions, and sometimes those traditions meander to fit the wants and needs of the day. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "We change, whether we like it or not."

Merry Christmas, you all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Big Family

Big Family Christmas, 199?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

1621 W. University

1621 W. University, Stillwater, Oklahoma: 2000

We were heading out the door for Graham's Stillwater Boys Choir Concert...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ho Ho Ho

Yesterday's post was a scathing criticism of Sarah Palin in not nice words,
and that Spouse o' Mine recommended that I take it down.

So I did.

So for the rest of the holidays, through 12th Night,
I will post photos of Christmas Past.

1993, East Lansing:

Gillian, Claire, and Graham

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wordless Wednesday:Holiday Chapter:

So...the holidays are coming up! Big Family Christmas for us is in three short short days! Am I excited? YES! Am I worried? NO! Should I be? Perhaps!

Backtrack a bit: Big Family Christmas Expectations #1

And soon after the email from my SIL, I received this, from a big brother:

The first annual “Short Story Writing Contest starts now!

You have two ways to participate.

One, write a story (or dig one up you already wrote).

Or, two, read, enjoy and rate the entries.

Well! We are a tribe of competitors, and so I am competing. I was up late last night, conjuring up a great (so I thought) short story. When I reread it this afternoon, I began harboring doubts: Long Island, a Jewish family, what? I think it is good writing, but not up to snuff for the judges who will be judging.

And so here I am, on Wordless Wednesday...wordless.

Burning the midnight oil...

Oh - and the Big Family Christmas Expectation #1? Under control, in a maniacal way. Who am I to fret with homemade Dirty Santa gifts? I tell you: the creative Armstrongs are coming, girded with gifts unimagined.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


There's this:

And this:

Heliotrope, Freiburg, Germany

And my birthstone, the heliotrope, aka bloodstone:

And we can enjoy this:

Heliotrope Bouquet by Scott Joplin

And how about this, blooming in my home in mid-December?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A(nother) Good Christmas Song

I usually dislike the song Greensleeves. It could once again be attributed to my 5th Grade piano lessons, but I think it is just a dreary song, period.


I really like Sarah McLachlan's version of What Child is This? It's really fun to turn it up loud in the car and sing along with Sarah:

What Child is This?

Sarah does not sing the melody, for the most part, and that makes belting it out all the more cathartic.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Good Christmas Song:

I hated this song ever since 5th Grade piano lessons. What a dreary song.

But then, this happened:

Good King Wenceslas

Not only are the words fun to sing, but Mel Torme's scat just invites you to join in!

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear them thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather.

"Sire, the night grows darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.

"Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing."

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