Category Archives: holidays

Preparing for Harvest

I know it’s still summer, but I’m already thinking about autumn. It’s my favorite season, not only because of birthdays and anniversaries but just for that beautiful, almost wistful feeling I get watching the days grow shorter and nature beginning to fall asleep.

Summer is a time of growth, and heat. But I also see it as a time of preparation. All the fiery summer festivals have an aspect of pointing to the future: St. John’s Day — making the path straight. Midsummer — a time to burn away what is unneeded and ask for abundance in the coming season. July 4th — the beginning of a new American nation. Bastille Day — a turning point in French history.

I feel that I am in a strong period of preparation in my own life. We’ll soon be buying our first house, and our finances are being radically transformed. We’re making plans to buy what we’ll need for the house, and I’m already thinking of next year’s gardening. Next week, school starts for my kids, and the week after, I return to the college classroom for the first time in 16 years.

What are you preparing for?



Filed under Deep Thoughts, holidays, life, Nature

Happy Easter!

Can we go look for eggs yet?

Can we look for eggs yet? Can we now? How about now?

I just wanted to dress up!

Another reason to dress up...I can get behind that!

Dressed up for church

Looking nice for church

Peace be with you.

Peace be with you.


Filed under Family, holidays, Napoleona, SillyBilly

Two Things

The Chicago Manual of Style Online Q&A made me smile today:

Q. Hello, I saw Barack Obama speak and he seemed to make a grammar error. I was wondering if I was missing something. He said, “President and Mrs. Bush invited Michelle and I to come to the White House.” Another time he said, “It was for Michelle and I.” Shouldn’t it be “Michelle and me”? My husband thinks I’m crazy to spend my time thinking about things like this, but it bothers me.

A. You’re right—I’ve heard Obama say that myself. But you have to feel for the guy. I’d wager my job that he knows the correct grammar. But he knows that hardly anyone uses it and that if he does, he’ll sound either incorrect or “elitist.” What’s a pol to do?

Q. Consider the following situation. A woman is wearing a sweater which has black-and-white stripes, and the underlying color is blue (base color), and a short skirt with a tartan plaid pattern involving the following colors: red, black, white. Is the correct way to describe this person as follows: “She is wearing a black-and-white-striped blue sweater and a short plaid skirt (red, black, and white tartan)”? Or “She is wearing a black-and-white-striped, blue sweater and a short, red-black-and-white-plaid skirt (tartan)”?

A. At last—a serious style question. I would go with version 1, but change the sweater to black cashmere.

Q. I am writing a novel. How do I write a title of a song in the body of the work (caps, bold, underline, italics, etc.)? Example: The Zombies’ “She’s Not There” looped in his head.

A. Noooo! Now that song is looping in my head (“but it’s too late to say you’re sorry . . .”). Use quotation marks. Thanks a lot.

Q. We are editing a scientific book. We have to follow UK spelling. Per the dictionary, sulfur is the US spelling and sulphur is the UK spelling. But in one chapter the author has used sulfur and in another chapter sulphur. Since we are following UK spelling, can we change sulfur to sulphur? Or, per CMOS, since the IUPAC recommended spelling is sulfur irrespective of UK or US spelling, can we change sulphur to sulfur?

A. Good grief. You can’t lose—just pick one.

It’s nice to read that other crazy people grammar police folks out there notice and care about this stuff. And that editing can sort of be funny.


Is there anything so melancholy as taking down the Christmas tree? After feeling somewhat revived this morning from yesterday’s horrible stomach virus/purgatorial day in bed, I finally got around to packing up all the holiday decorations. What was once festive and sparkling now seemed frowzy. But I still felt a pang of sadness putting everything away.

On the bright side, we can now reclaim our living room, and in place of the nativity, our nature table now features a serene setting of crystals and pine cones. Despite the warmth and joy of the holidays, there something equally nice about clearing it all away and starting afresh with Less Stuff.

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Filed under editing, holidays, Nature tables, Silliness and Mayhem

Whirling, Twirling

This time of year, it seems like no matter how much I intend to plan ahead and not procrastinate, I am always in a full dither by the week of Christmas. I think I’m getting a bit better each year, but still — three days to Christmas (and Hannukah starting now) and I’m still making presents! Sheesh.

My thoughts have been like whirling, twirling snowflakes lately too. In no particular order:

  • Snow is charming. The giant clumps of icy mud adhering to everyone’s wheel wells are not. Though, when they fall off in big clumps in the middle of the road, I can amuse myself by imagining what sort of snow horse left those kind of road apples.
  • I just finished reading Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth for the first time. I was shocked by the ending. What an amazing moralist and social observer. Now I’m in the middle of The Custom of the Country.
  • God moves in mysterious ways. I’ve been stressing out lately over the unpredictability of my freelance income. Then I got an email a few days ago from a long-time client of mine, offering me essentially constant work for the next few months and — get this — a weekly paycheck. I’m so grateful.
  • I had the pleasure of hearing Anthropapa sing with the ISU Camerata Singers on Friday, performing Puccini’s Messa as well as a variety of shorter pieces and carols, in the beautiful Stephens Performing Art Center’s Grand Concert Hall. The Puccini was a bit uneven, but not because of the performers — it’s all Puccini’s fault.The Kyrie was oddly light-hearted, considering the text is a plea for mercy, and the Gloria seemed like a choral Gilbert and Sullivan piece. But the Credo and Agnus Dei were amazing. Now I get to plan for April’s performance of one of my favorites, Orff’s Carmina Burana.
  • I made several holiday gifts this year, with crochet, knitting, embroidery, felting, and clay sculpture! The kids helped with the sculpture too. I think I’ll plan to do the same for next year, only I’ll plan a bit farther ahead. Really, I will.
  • I also tried to make a stable for the nativity scene on our nature table. Since I didn’t plan ahead for this either, I had to use what was at hand: cardboard from the recycle bin! It teetered over some time yesterday, and I have not had time to fix it. So we missed this Advent Sunday’s addition of the shepherds, because the whole thing is in such disarray. I’ll fix it in time for Christmas, I swear! Sigh. So much for the wonder and awe of the season.
  • We finally got our Christmas tree yesterday. The kids helped me decorate it, and it looks sweet. We have such a mishmash of ornaments, but most of them have sentimental value. I like that the tree doesn’t look “Decorated” with a capital D.
  • The night I went to Anthropapa’s concert, his co-worker had our kids over for her son’s birthday party. When we arrived to pick the kids up at a late and cold hour, she plied us with hot buttered rum and rum balls. Now that was yummy. And we slept well.

OK, off to bed now. We’re supposed to be getting more snow with wind tomorrow, which should make it oh-so-fun to get groceries and mail gifts like I’d planned. At least I got to get all this random useless crap stuff out of my head!

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Filed under Crafting, Family, holidays, Nature tables, papa, Silliness and Mayhem

Yes, We are Hobbits

We ended up having two, count ’em, two Thanksgiving dinners this weekend.

Turkey #1 was had at Anthropapa’s boss’s house on Thursday. We brought homemade rolls and brussels sprouts, she made everything else. Which was great, as we didn’t have a kitchen full of dirty dishes, and we had a wonderful, convivial meal. Our kids ran around with their kids, we marveled at the wonders of secret gigantic food storage closets* (the house was originally built for a Mormon family), and we had two kinds of pie with ice cream for dessert. Abundance and gratitude, all around.

But, no leftovers. No turkey sandwiches, no turkey curry, nada.

The boss was at Costco today and saw that they had indeed overstocked on turkeys as she thought they had, and were selling them for 49 cents a pound, which was about 1/3 what she paid for her turkey. So, she bought us one and dropped it off for us! And refused to take any money for it.

We love Anthropapa’s boss.

Now, it was a fresh turkey, so I felt compelled to cook it today. Mostly because there was no way at nineteen-pound turkey would fit in our fridge under current conditions. It barely fit into our apartment-sized oven in any case.

Typically, Anthropapa is in charge of the turkey, but he was in Salt Lake City trying to rescue his broken MacBook at the Apple store. So I made turkey #2, all by myself. And made mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables (OK, frozen, but still, it was another pot of food on the range), cranberry sauce, and gravy.**

So we had Second Thanksgiving. And we were very thankful.


After we ate, we decorated our Gratitude Turkey. I neglected to charge the camera batteries, so you’ll just have to use your imaginations until I decide to post a photo. I made the bird out of construction paper, and made separate tail feathers. As everyone told me something they were thankful for, I wrote each thing on a feather, and taped them on the bird. We’re a little behind on hanging it up since tomorrow is the first Sunday in Advent, but I think we will anyway.


* That is, gigantic closets for food storage, not closets for storing gigantic food.

** No stuffing. Nana’s is the best, and I only have so many pots/hands/stovetop space.

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Filed under Crafting, Family, Food, friends, holidays, papa

O Frabjous Day!

O, blessed day! Oh day of cleaning and crafting and cooking! Oh, no turkey leftovers!

Wait, that last one’s not so good. Darn.

I boiled some newspapers that the kids had gladly ripped into tiny shreds. The goal is papier mache pulp. Right now I have a steaming pot of gray pulpy stuff with blackish bits floating in tan water. Right, Christmas presents ho! I have all confidence that said ugly stuff will transform into items of delight. At some point.

Anthropapa and I went on a mini cleaning spree, in anticipation of holiday decorating. Amazing what a few minutes of focused attention will achieve, when one has previously taken to simply gazing around in consternation and giving up. Meanwhile the kids played outside for several hours, at one point playing hide and seek with some neighbor kids. Love that!

I made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Recipe here. They are the bomb. Hard to go wrong with butter, sugar, flour and chocolate. With pumpkin.

On another, less frabjous note — as I was writing this, Napoleona slipped on the kitchen floor and split open the underside of her upper lip, up where the lip turns into gum. Ow. And nothing for it except an ice pack, and perhaps some weak sage tea rinse later.

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Filed under Crafting, Family, Food, holidays, Napoleona, papa, play, Silliness and Mayhem


We had a good day. We shared a wonderful meal with friends and family. We have a safe, warm home, and we are all healthy. Much to be thankful for.

In our family, we always hold hands and say or sing grace before meals. The graces are very simple, and the kids always participate. These say it all:

For health and strength
And daily bread
We give our thanks, O Lord.

For flowers and bunnies
And birds that sing,
We thank you, God, for everything!

The sun, the moon, the earth, the rain,
And the work of many hands
Have brought us this food,
And we say, Thank you!

Oh, the Lord is good to me,
And so I thank the Lord,
For giving me the things I need,
The sun and the rain and the apple tree,
The Lord is good to me,

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Filed under Family, Food, friends, holidays

Have you seen it?

Have you seen the ghost of Tom?

Long white bones with the rest all gone.

Oooooh, ooh ooh oooh ooh ooh….

Wouldn’t it be chilly with no skin on?

Happy Hallowe’en, Dia de los Muertos, Samhain, All Soul’s Day, Toussaint…

Calavera clip art by Lee Hansen Graphics.
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Filed under Crafting, Family, holidays, Nature tables

The Mother of Invention

Seems like it’s been a loooooo-oooong week. Anthropapa was out of town for a few days, and then when he returned the kids promptly got sick. SillyBilly’s been on his nebulizer again, and he couldn’t go to his school’s Hallowe’en fair. As a result, I did not make and therefore do not have pictures of the red-tailed hawk costume that he commissioned and I designed in my head.

Now Napoleona is sick, with a wicked cough and, tonight, a fever that sent her to bed at 6 pm.

While SillyBilly had to stay home from school so I could monitor him, he wasn’t so sick that he had to stay in bed. So, what to occupy a six-year-old who can’t go outside to play?

Papercrafts, of course.

First, he declared he wanted to make a book. He’s done a few in the past, but was a bit unclear on the concept: he’d draw some pictures, then staple them together in the middle, making it impossible to see what he’d drawn.

So, this time I convinced him of the need for advance planning. I explained that we could staple the sides of some paper together, or sew them up like a real book. Guess which one he chose?

SillyBilly chose a bunch of construction paper colors, and I showed him how to measure along the side and make pencil marks so that the holes would line up. This proved beyond him, so I did the marks and he punched the holes. We did the sewing together. Then the book needed a spine. Out came the ruler again, and he cut out the appropriate shape and we taped it on:

Then I advised him that it might be good to plan out where the words and pictures will go, and to make a light mark to divide the pages. I showed him the various illustrations in our Complete Beatrix Potter book, where some have square borders while others blend into rounded shapes with no lines. Also we looked at the different layouts: half image, half text; several small images here and there; and so on.

He decided this will be an “encyclopedia of cars” and began doing some drawings, but then he pooped out. We’ll see where he goes from here.

Later that day we decided our house needed some holiday sprucing up. So, out came the construction paper yet again.

SillyBilly and his sister have been drawing lots of spooky scenes lately, positively littered with ghosts, mummies, and haunted houses. We don’t especially emphasize the scary part of this holiday, but they seem to have a natural fascination.

And I mentioned to him that every Hallowe’en, Nana still hangs up a spider ornament I made when I was a girl. Since we didn’t have the materials to make that craft (though we do now — don’t worry Nana, I’ll be sure to post pictures!), we decided to make flat paper spiders. It snowballed from there:

SillyBilly made the spiders and ghosts, I made the jack-o-lanterns and the haunted house.

The ghosts bear some resemblance to one Muppet or another:

While the spiders are just happy to be here:

What’s next? Well, we were talking about Dia de los Muertos, so I think we’ll be making some tissue paper marigolds and possibly some paper calaca masks or clay calaveras. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of honoring our ancestors on this day, something shared by both the Mexican culture and the pagan/Wiccan religion (where it is known as samhain). I may just clear away our autumn nature table and put up some pictures of loved ones instead.

And maybe I’ll get around to that red-tailed hawk costume, too.

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Filed under Crafting, Health, holidays, Napoleona, Nature tables, Parenting, SillyBilly

Belated Birthday Pictures

Last weekend Grammy and Grampy came from Washington to celebrate SillyBilly’s birthday.

While Grammy and I did some crafty shopping and got the birthday cake, Grampy and Anthropapa took the kids bowling at the ISU student union.

Check out the boy’s awesome moves, and his amazing rental shoes!

The thrill of victory…

And the agony of defeat.

We enjoyed a yummy, very unhealthy, luridly colored birthday cake.

The next day we showed Grammy some of the ISU Rock Walk while the kids rode around on their bikes

and climbed trees.

And here’s SillyBilly upon completing the whole LEGO shebang with Anthropapa and Grampy.


Filed under Family, Food, holidays, Napoleona, papa, play, Silliness and Mayhem, SillyBilly