Merry Christmas

All of the shopping is done.


All the gifts are wrapped.


The new stove arrived today so cookie making and spending time with family may begin!


The sewing machine is taking a well deserved break…


and so am I.


Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas.


May God’s peace and love watch over each and every one of you. Until next year…….


An Early Christmas Celebration

Instead of exchanging gifts this year, a friend and I agreed to treat ourselves to a Christmas lunch. We decided to splurge a little so she made reservations at the Mission Inn. The Mission Inn has a several nice restaurants and is also a first class hotel in nearby Riverside, CA. We selected the reasonably priced buffet.  It was fabulous!

There was holiday cheer and decor at every turn…


both inside…


and outside.


After the hustle of preparing for Christmas, it was nice to just relax and catch up with good food…


…and a good friend.

She broke the no gifts rule and gave me this adorable and appropriately named bracelet.


(Thank you I love it!)

There was no corner of the hotel that was left undecorated.


No detail went unnoticed.


There was something for everyone to appreciate and enjoy.


 If you are in the area, be sure to check it out!


This is a great place to visit any time of the year.


Merry Christmas!

Christmas is coming…

Last week I was happily sewing and singing Christmas carols when a friend shocked me into reality  with the words, “Christmas is only 3 weeks away.”


Well that snapped me into shape!! I took a look of the mess around me…


…like Christmas ornaments sitting everywhere-except where they were supposed to be…


…and the chaos of my sewing room.



I decided to get busy. I got a few gifts wrapped…


…then wrapped a few more…


I then decorated the tree.


I hustled about the house with visions of Christmas cookies in my head. Next weekend  two of the granddaughters are coming over to help bake. I am super excited to have their help and spend time with them.

Then the unthinkable happened…


…our oven quit!

The repairman said it would be about $350 to repair (something about an electronic ignition and a computer board!?) and since it was 13 years old, we may need to think about getting a new stove.

What! Are you kidding! We have about 25 people coming for Christmas Eve dinner!!

So…off we went to find a new one…


…and we did. Nothing fancy, just a basic stove and oven which will be here in time for Christmas and Christmas cookie baking.


Guess I know what I am getting for Christmas this year!

(and I am very happy)

Happy baking.

Christmas blessing to you all.

The wonder of a child

We all know that Christmas brings a special delight to children. You often hear about the wonder of a child-see a picture of a child gazing at a tree, a start, a gift, or Santa.  Children  are excited about the upcoming big event, lined up to see Santa, or checking out the massive toy displays and decorations at the mall.


…the wonder and excitement of a child happens every day. As young kids explore the world around them, they are fascinated with everything (well… maybe not so much as they grow older ).

I had the opportunity to watch our youngest granddaughter for a few hours this week. We got a break from the much needed rain in California so outside we went.


I barely got her off of the front porch before she was busy exploring. She was excited by the fallen (and wet) leaves on the ground.

(how do they squat like that???)


She was enthralled with the rocks along the path.


and the joy of each little thing she found.



… the wonder of a child and it is not even Christmas yet!

I can hardly wait!

Oh…when I got home I saw…


…the wonder of the cat!

Probably wondering when I am going to get around to putting up the tree and decorations!

(Soon…really soon…)

Welcome December!

Just as expected…

Thanksgiving has come and gone.

Hard to believe

We had a wonderful celebration on our Thanksgiving desert camping trip…


…had a fabulous turkey dinner…


…enjoyed the sunrises…


…and the quiet.



We had this view looking out of our tent…wpid-20141129_092201.jpg

…and enjoyed afternoon temps of 85 degrees!


The views were fantastic.

Now it is time to begin the excitement of Christmas. We received three cards in the mail today.


Thommmee started pulling out the Christmas decorations.


Its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas……

If you are new to my blog you might not be aware that I retired in January of this year. I am looking forward to celebrating this Christmas season without the distraction of a job. My days are free to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, bake (and bake some more), make some gifts-shop for others, plan a menu for our big Christmas Eve celebration, listen to Christmas carols to my hearts content, and get together with friends and family. No rush-no hustle-no frantic push. (sigh)  :)

Hooray Hooray for the first of December!


That time of year again…


One of my favorite holidays. We celebrate a very untraditional Thanksgiving which started in 1986.  Not that I don’t love spending holidays with family-don’t get me wrong-it was just that  things changed in my life around that time. I am like most people who don’t like change but decided to make this a positive experience…


Thommmee and I decided to go camping. We packed up our little car (a Volkswagen Golf) gathered together our meager camping supplies,  popped a turkey roll into the ice chest (with a few other essentials of course), and set our sights on Death Valley, California.


We began our journey-just the two of us-thinking we were probably crazy and that no one else could possibly have the same idea. We took in all of the sights along the way, stopped at Badwater (the lowest point in North America),


and enjoyed the magnificent views. We saw a few people here and there but figured we would pretty much have the place to ourselves.


We arrived at the campground (that did not take reservations) and found the place completely full! As we aimlessly wandered around trying to decide what to do, a nice couple offered us a small corner of their campsite to share (after looking us over to make sure we did not have any kids or pets in tow-which we didn’t). We made a makeshift campfire, warmed up our little turkey roll, unsuccessfully tried to light our propane lantern, and hunkered down in our little tent for the night. This was only a humble beginning of many wonderful trips to come!

Come to find out, Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest time of the year for desert camping and for Death Valley. We spent most of the next 27 years camping in Death Valley during the Thanksgiving weekend. Some years we explored, sometimes kids came with us, sometime we went alone. Occasionally we talked people into driving out for a full turkey dinner and once we ate at the small restaurant in Furnace Creek.


We got much better at this and Thommmee learned to smoke an entire turkey. We have stuffing, mashed potatoes and the entire meal with all of the fixings! Some of the kids learned to love it as much as we do and continued coming with their families and some of them have never again set foot there. We have listened to a multitude of ranger programs, hiked many trails, explored back roads, and appreciated a quietness that is hard to explain. We have had magnificent sunsets, wind, rain, and cold but have loved almost every minute of it. Well, maybe not the wind. Something about sleeping in a tent during a windstorm is just not fun. The wind is pretty much the only thing that will keep us from heading out there. A few years the Santa Ana winds have kicked up pretty bad so we have endured, left early, or not gone at all. Many people think we are a little nuts and are always asking us what is the attraction!


This year we are doing something different. We are driving a little closer to home-to Anza Borrego State Park .


This is largest state park in California and, the second largest in the continental US. It is located in Northern San Diego County and will be about a two hours drive and not the five hours it takes us to get to Death Valley. Our oldest daughter and her family will be going too. They love this about as much as we do. We are all feeling a little sad to miss our usual place but are anxious to see if this will work equally well.

The turkey is defrosting, Thommmee has started packing the car, dusted off our bicycles, pulled out the tent, and I am packing up the food. We leave in the morning for three nights and four glorious days.

This time in the desert allows me time to reflect on the year, count my blessing, commune with God, prepare my heart for Christmas, and spend time around a very unconventional Thanksgiving table. Except for the beauty of the desert in winter, there are few distractions.  I have so much to be thankful for and look forward to this time. It helps me prepare for the Christmas hustle bustle and is the calm I need to face the next few weeks.

Wishing you all a very

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cheesy Zucchini Rice

We love zucchini at our house and we love good ‘ol white rice. I know… they say white rice is not really that good for you… so I guess you could adapt this recipe to brown rice…but white rice is my absolute favorite! Growing up our large family was divided into two camps-the rice lovers and the potato lovers. Since Dad was a rice lover we ate it more often than potatoes.  I was in the rice camp. Old habits die hard, I guess.

While exploring the internet only an hour before dinner, I found a recipe using three basic ingredients-rice, zucchini, and cheese. We had everything on hand so no trip to the store required. Whew! I decided to make this delicious looking side combo to enhance our baked chicken dinner. Be sure to use sharp cheddar cheese for the extra wallop of flavor. I used a Mexican blend of cheese which was good but I am sure the cheddar would have been great! Next time…and there will be a next time. This was super easy and quick.

Cheesy Zucchini Rice-adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Café

…but taken from…

The Baker Upstairs (wow, this recipe gets around!)


1 cup white rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 medium or 2 small zucchini, grated (about 2 cups)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt + pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons milk (if needed)

wpid-20141119_165131.jpg In a medium sauce pan, combine rice and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.


Remove from heat and stir in zucchini, cheese, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Stir in milk if needed to thin out the sauce. I placed covered pan back on the stove for a few minutes because I like my food really hot! The shredded zucchini cooked in the hot rice and the cheese melted nicely. I did not need to add the  milk.



Another keeper.

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