Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Emolyn @ 10 months

Emolyn spent the day with us yesterday. We had so much fun playing with her, reading books to her, singing to her and going for long walks.
I had gone to Savers the day before and found the coolest toys! But what do you suppose was her favorite toy? YA, a lemon that we picked from our lemon tree!

And an old iPod that her Popop found buried in his office. She went wild over it!

Makes sense. Think about it... what does she see everyone playing with... cell phones... iPods... iTouch. So why wouldn't she want one of her very own!

Look at our little lady! (as Mamaw calls her) She thinks she's so cool. And such a big girl. (13 lbs. 10 oz.)
Oh and she loves to wave. Not that cute baby wave... but that beauty-queen-on-a-float wave. So she would often wave at me while still holding on with one hand. She was so proud. And so were we. Oh she cracks me up.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

after Christmas thoughts

~ My daughter Miranda made me a Mommy & Me book for Christmas. And I cried. I mean, come on, a photo book filled with pictures of her and I! She couldn't have gotten me anything I love more. You see, she's leaving for England in 12 days. And I will miss her. And I will cry. But I will cherish this book till I see her again.

~ I used one of those turkey bags to heat my spiral ham on Christmas Eve day and I will never do it any other way! Sooo moist and tender. And what made it even better? Well, my mother-in-law's famous raisin sauce of course. Yum!

~ Speaking of famous, I made Ree's Christmas Rum Cake on Christmas Day and it was ridiculously good. Ree happens to be The Pioneer Woman and her recipes are completely foolproof. People will be so impressed when you make anything she makes. Seriously, you can't go wrong.

~ Our house is so warm and cozy because our wood stove is working big-time with all the rain we've been having here in Phoenix. And you know how I get when it rains! Oh ya, crazy happy!

~ I love that Miranda (24) and Tyler (19) still set cookies out for Santa. And their Dad and I still crumble one of the cookies to make it look like Santa was there. And they still check to see if Santa came.

~ No one in our family has ever seen Brother Bear even though we named our dog Koda after the bear in that movie. Well, I got the DVD for Christmas from Tyler and we can't wait to watch it together as a family.

~ Someone shot out the rear window in our mini van two days before Christmas with a high-powered pellet gun. I hope they got coal in their stocking. And nothing else. Cuz that was naughty. And not nice.

~ I shared with Randy that I have never had a year that I am more mentally prepared for than 2009. I have to remind myself that it is not 2009 yet. He said he is doing the same thing... writing '09 when it's still '08. What's up with that?

~ Speaking of 2009, I am still on the hunt for the perfect 2009 calendar for my kitchen.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve day

Our sweet little Emolyn Kate on Christmas Eve day! She has no idea that she is about to discover the sights and sounds of foil wrapping paper, pretty ribbons & bows and boxes & bags of all sizes & shapes! Let's be honest, those are the best to a ten month old!

Miranda opening up a gift from Nicole... long nubby, knitted gloves for England while Emolyn is sporting the latest in hair bows.

Nicole loved the scrabble tile pendant that I ordered for her. (remember, she's a nurse)
*** Oh my gosh, HomeStudios is having an after Christmas sale... free shipping AND all Christmas pendants are $3.99!! Hey, don't leave me yet... can you at least finish my post before you... um, you see, I'm almost done, then you can go order a pendant, or two, or four... whew, thanks.

Miranda got Emolyn the sweetest baby-grand piano! Emy loves pounding on it and gets quite tickled with herself. And she happens to play the first two lines of Jingle Bells quite well.

OK, so who in the heck are the Notes of Norway? Well, they are a well known polka band back home in Wisconsin. We have danced to the Notes of Norway over the years at wedding receptions, 50th Anniversary parties and other such doings. Our son Shawn was thrilled to get a framed album that I found in my parents basement when we were back there in October.

And what did I get from Shawn & Nicole that made me cry? Why pictures of my grandbaby of course! And what did I get on Christmas Day that made me cry? Well, check back for my Christmas Day post, coming soon, to a blog near you.

Tyler loves his new shirt from Shawn & Nicole. He can't wait to wear it with the peacoat that we got him for Christmas. That boy is stylin.

Like I said, foil wrapping paper is so crinkle shiny and rivals them vintage velvety bows as a favorite with the young'uns. Emy couldn't agree more.

And at the end of the day, Popop received the best gift of all... Emolyn falling asleep in his arms. The best feeling ever he says. I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas

... from my blog to yours!

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Lego Santa Collection

They're here! My Lego Santas are back! Aren't they cute!
I started collecting them back in the late 80's and early 90's. Do you remember standing in the check-out line at Toys R Us and they would have bags of Lego Santas or Snowmen in bins for around a dollar. They would introduce a new one each year and often times I would wait till after Christmas when they were half off. I know! What was I thinking?!

We would put them in our kids stockings each year and they loved putting them together and then I would take them apart and pack them away for the next year.

Well, get this, several years ago they came out with Lego Advent Calendar sets and I was in heaven! Oh my gosh, you mean, my kids would have a Lego set to put together every day leading up to Christmas! How cool is that! And the sets were as cute as can be! One year I got a set at Barnes & Nobles and the other years at Target. I always got them half off... they're kind of pricey. But so worth the money, as they will last forever! I have three sets. And three kids. And well, that's a good thing.

Check out this 2008 LEGO ADVENT CALENDAR available on Amazon. My son works at Target and he thinks they have this set but they may be sold out by now.

A few years ago Mega Bloks came out with Holiday ornament sets. I found them at Target but unfortunately they were no where to be found last year or this year. Have you seen them? I gotta have my yearly Lego fix cuz once a Lego-maniac, always a Lego-maniac.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Tour of Homes

Welcome! Thank you for taking the time to come by my home. I am thrilled to be a part of the 2008 CHRISTMAS TOUR OF HOMES! and Kimba's Holiday Open House Party. Be sure to visit the other homes as well.
So, come on in and I'll show you around. No need to wipe your feet. That fluffy white stuff is no where to be found here in Phoenix. But snow or no snow, I am always in the mood to decorate every nook 'n cranny in my home for Christmas. I'm originally from Wisconsin, so my Scandinavian roots are everywhere. Let me show you just a few of my many collections.

Many years ago my sister-in-law Carol started giving me a lighted church every year for Christmas. My husband's a pastor now, but at the time he had his own ministry traveling around the country doing concerts and each church reminded us of the various denominations that he sang to. I think we have every denomination represented in our village. One church looks just like the little Baptist church Randy grew up attending. And one resembles the little Lutheran church I attended. So, we're thinking we may have the only Church Village known to man!

Before my daughter Miranda can set up the village each year, my husband has to set up his beloved N-gauge train that he purchased almost 40 years ago. Then we build the church village around the train tracks. And yes, our little granddaughter Emolyn saw the train going around the village for the first time on Saturday and she got so excited! (See below)

Ok, so I suppose you noticed the coffee shop. Hey, every church village needs a coffee shop! How else do they stay awake during those long sermons!
Oh and umm, you should also know that there is a haunted mansion on a hill, overlooking the church village. (enlarge top pic) I know, kinda creepy. But hey, my husband and kids insisted. So, for me, it represents how the Enemy is lurking around every corner... or hill... ready to devour us. So be alert! (1 Peter 5:8)

I started collecting homemade mittens many years ago because my Mom had knitted each of my kids mittens and I wanted to preserve them in some way. So I decided to hang them over our picture window at Christmas. They each tell a story... like how I knitted a pair while snowed in my senior year of high school... the many pairs my Mom knitted for our family... or the homemade mittens I found at thrift stores. I keep the mitten garland up through January cuz it reminds me of winters in Wisconsin.

Thanks again for stopping by. I will be posting more of my collections in the days leading up to Christmas. Seriously, you have to come back to see my Lego Santa collection! It's always a crowd pleaser!

Uffda! Now where are my manners! Here ya go, help yourself to some Swedish meatballs wrapped in Norwegian Lefse. My very favorite Christmas tradition. This is what my Mom made us on Christmas Eve growing up on the farm in Wisconsin. Of course we also had Lutefisk... but we won't talk about that.
And for dessert, sprinkle cinnamon & sugar on buttered Lefse. Mmm, yummy goodness, don'tcha know.

Oh my gosh, more Home Tours! Check out Hooked on Homes and Deck the Halls! I can't take all this holiday inspiration!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happy Birthday to ME!

I am one blessed birthday girl!
I get to be with my kids today. I get to hold my grandbaby while my kids cook dinner for me. I get to decorate Christmas cookies with my family. I get to watch my kids decorate our Christmas tree and retell the stories behind each and every ornament. I get to watch Emolyn see her Popop's train go around our church village for the very first time. I get to take our annual tripod Christmas family pic. And I get to... because, well, it's my birthday!

And sometime during the day, I get to sit back and take it all in... Shawn's ingenious ways of making us all laugh (he is so funny!), Nicole's quick wit and humor (so is she), Miranda's love of tradition (she invariably knows whose turn it is to put the star on the tree), Tyler's inability to be anything but real and sincere (and sweet), the gift of our Emolyn Kate this Christmas (the best gift of all), and delighting in how mushy and sentimental my husband is (especially this time of year).
And me? I get to treasure all these moments and never forget... how very, very blessed I am.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Emolyn's 9 months

Emolyn's 9 month photo shoot by Arizona's one and only Kelsie Pinkerton blew me away! I have watched this slideshow dozens and dozens of times and I am continually amazed at Kelsie's eye for light and color and capturing the essence of her subjects. And yes, it does help that her subjects are as photogenic as Shawn, Nicole and Emolyn. But still.

So turn up the volume, as we present to you the Premier Showing of Emolyn's 9 month Slideshow!!

Don't you just love the song that Kelsie chose for the slideshow! That little ditty has been singing in my head all week long!

Ok, now go ahead and play the slideshow again. I know you want to. It's addicting.
Is it Emolyn's little sack of sugar cuteness?
Or is it that song that is already stuck in your head, so you might as well get all the words right?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

craft fair jitters

Are we an insecure bunch or what...
Sunday our church held a Craft Fair during all three worship services. It not only gives the artists and crafters in our body an opportunity to sell their wares, but to connect as a community and get to know each other better.
Well, I was so nervous. I mean, what will people think of my stuff? I now know what my husband went through releasing his CD's over the years. It's kinda like umm, here's my baby, now don't tell me it's ugly.
I was nervous that no one would buy my thread catchers and nervous they would! You see, my fear is not only a fear of failure, but a fear of success... what it will it cost me... my time away from my family... my preoccupation with the business aspect... being a good steward of the money. You name it, I have counted the cost. I even opened an Etsy shop last year with big aspirations. Yup, named my shop Linda's Cottage. And well, that's about as far as I got.

Anyway, it ended up being the best experience. I sold one thread catcher and took two custom orders! One gal chose from the fabric I had set out for visual inspiration and my friend Lynn is having me make her a thread catcher with the fabric she used to make a dust protector for her sewing machine. How fun will that be!
We are doing the Craft Fair again next Sunday and I can hardly wait. Yes, it's putting myself out there, but so worth the risk. The risk of being known, of being exposed, of being seen as insecure and vulnerable and well, different. Nothing life-threatening mind you... but risky none the less.

And the best part, I held Emolyn for over an hour while she slept in a baby sling my friend Sarah let me use. Oh my goodness, just about the best. feeling. ever.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

more cottage chitchat

~ Our lemon tree is producing a bumper crop this year.
Did you know that some folks eat the entire lemon like an apple? My husband being one of them. Not me.

~ While our company was here over Thanksgiving, I slept on a twin Aerobed in my cozy cottage and Randy on a full size Aerobed in his office. Can I tell you a little secret? I have never slept better! We love our Aerobeds!
See, here's my theory. Guest beds take up precious real estate. Get rid of them people and buy Aerobeds! They take mere seconds to inflate and seconds to deflate. And they are SOOO comfortable! And you'll have more room for more collections! See what I'm saying!

~ My entire family is visiting the Happiest Place on Earth this weekend. Not me. I'm home alone for three whole days and loving the time to get my heart & head around the Christmas season. I am so behind. Where do I start?

~ I am so excited to have my daughter Miranda back home with us for a week before she takes off for England Jan. 7th! We are planning to scrap around the clock. Not really, but we could, cuz neither of us is working that week.
Yes, we'll be moving her home between Christmas and New Years. Can't wait for her to be done with school and work. Her schedule has been crazy.

~ For the first time in 15 years, Randy is not doing his annual Christmas Concert the first weekend in December. Which would have been tonight. Seems weird... but a welcome break. We have had so much going on and needed the year off. He'll be back next year with new music to usher in the Christmas season. I will leave you with this... click HERE to hear a portion of Randy's version of "Oh Holy Night", off his Through Different Eyes CD.

*** Oooh, and be sure to read the stories behind my plate collection below. I know. When have I ever posted 2 days in a row! Like never.

Friday, December 05, 2008

my Christmas Avon plates

I'm not quite sure how these lovely Christmas plates came to be. I wasn't looking for a new collection. I mean seriously, I have too many as it is. But when I found the first one (the 1974 plate) a couple year ago, I was struck by the significance of that particular Christmas year. And the church reminded me of the little Lutheran church I grew up going to back then. And hello, the aqua color just sealed the deal. Then when the 1976 plate came along, all those Christmas memories came flooding back. So last week when I found 1975, I was thrilled knowing my collection was complete. And I had paid only 2 dollars or less for each plate.
But you guys, how surreal... something very significant happened each of those three years. And what better way to reminisce about them but to share with you on my blog.

*1974 was the last Christmas with my whole family together while still living at home. I was a senior. I had just turned 18. I would graduate the following year and move out. So this Christmas was a big deal. I recently found one of my journal books from that year and read "Kathy came home from Oklahoma so it was a happy family-like Christmas. After us Luther Leaguers put on the Candlelight service (which was cool), we all went home and opened gifts. I was so happy. I mean, the whole family was together! That meant more to me than anything else."
An event that was also significant that Christmas, was that two days later I attended the Luther League Convention in Minneapolis and it was life changing. I wrote in my journal "Gosh, it was a great weekend! I not only learned more about my Lord but I experienced the love and feelings everyone there felt for Him. It was truly inspiring!"

*And then reading what I wrote in my journal the Christmas of 1975 still gives me goose bumps!
"I was very privileged to give the Christmas Eve Candlelight sermon. It seemed to strengthen my faith in You tremendously. I knew right then and there- I was going to be spending my life witnessing to others who need it. I felt so sure as You were speaking through me. I just Praise You for that blessed experience. May You reward me with the opportunity to spend the rest of my life telling others of You through singing and witnessing."
Wow, how profound and providential! I would go on to marry Randy in 1979 and we would be in full time music ministry for all but that first year of marriage.

I also journaled about giving my personal testimony for the Bethesda Lutheran Church Youth Group. Afterwards I went ice skating while huge snow flakes came floating down. The street lights on the shimmering ice was magical. As I skated round and round the rink, I have never felt closer to the One that came to earth as a baby. This was God become man. And He came for me. And I wrote "We went skating at the rink in Eau Claire and I experienced a joy and love for life, nature and people everywhere- I could have burst!"
So, how cool that the 1975 plate is called "Skaters on the Pond".

*1976 was the last Christmas with my family before moving to Phoenix.
I had just turned 20 on Dec. 13th and I wrote "Lord, I am loving you more and more (and more) each day. You've helped so many of us each day, forgiving, loving, giving and understanding us more. And I praise You for welcoming my friend Linda into Your heavenly family of God!"
Wow, that is the Linda that I would come out here to Phoenix with, 9 months later! Who knew the significance of that journal entry. Read all about our journey HERE.

That was also the birthday that I spent the whole day making western shirts for my best buds, Jim and Loren. I even did custom embroidery work on each shirt. Man, was I ambitious or what!

And then I wrote this a few days after that Christmas "Wow, was it ever a beautiful Christmas. I can only thank you Lord for the peace, love and contentment I felt this Christmas of '76. I have changed a lot since last year- matured in Christ, I guess."

I can't tell you how humbled I am by the Lord's faithfulness. Those three years left such an imprint on my life and helped shape my thoughts and dreams and my hope for a future dependent on Him. And He has never failed me. I can't imagine living life any other way.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

daddy & daughter jammin

My son Shawn and his darling daughter love making sweet music together. Emy likes adding the background vocals. You know, the occasional oohs and aahs. She's gifted like that.
Oh how Emolyn adores her Daddy!
Have I told you that my son is a stay-at-home Daddy? Well, he is! My daughter-in-law Nicole is a nurse and works three 12 hour shifts each week, leaving them with four days together as a family. How awesome is that! I am so proud they are making this work for them. They are so devoted to each other and to their daughter.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

a heart of thanksgiving

My Thanksgiving company left early this morning. And the house is deafeningly quiet. I'm sitting here reflecting on the events of the past 5 days. And I am so full of joy and thanksgiving, knowing that memories were made and very well documented I might add. Like to the tune of over 800 pics taken between the four of us with cameras! Yes, I'd say we captured every memorable moment. This pic being one of my favorite images from the week... Emolyn and her beautiful Mommy Nicole! Oh my gosh, look at their brilliant smiles... and Emolyn's ruffle tights... and her darling dimples! Yes, she completely captivates me.

My sister Kathy, her daughter Kristen and husband Joe and their daughters Kennady (6) and Mya (2) pulled in Monday night from Oklahoma City. What a blessing to share Thanksgiving this year with my side of the family! A first in my home, since moving here over 30 years ago! Our days were filled with movies, shopping, picture taking, fort building, hiking, park playing, singing "Tarzan" songs, scrapping memories with the girls, making meals, loving the rain, guys shooting hoops, singing Disney princess songs, IKEA runs, passing Emolyn around, playing with Koda & Wiley, picking lemons, baking and listening to Christmas music once the Thanksgiving meal was over!

Grammy & Pop Pop are sooo thankful for our miracle grandbaby, sweet Emolyn Kate.

Randy, Tyler, Joe and Shawn shooting hoops and playing horse.
Oh ya, the night before Thanksgiving I go out to the garage and there is water everywhere... from our hot water heater! So my Handy Handsome Husband is off to Home Depot to buy an 80 gallon water heater. He not only installs it that night but replaces the tub faucet that broke earlier that day. He was one busy boy. And yes, it's true, bad luck comes in threes... our VCR broke that day too.

My sister Kathy and I taking a photo op while hiking South Mountain with the family.
We live less than 2 miles from South Mountain Park. Did you know that South Mountain is the largest city park in the nation? We're talking 17,000 acres with 51 miles of hiking/ biking trails! I am so thankful we live mere minutes from quiet, tranquil hiking trails... even though we are planted in the middle of the 5th largest city in the nation!

What a cutie! Oh, and so is Miss Emolyn.

Little Mya fell in love with our Koda. And she kept calling Randy "Brandi", which is her Aunt's name. How cute is that!

And Kennady loved our Wiley. Kennady is so full of energy and creativity and passion. She loves life and savors every single moment.

What a sweetheart of a family. We love you guys to pieces!
And Kathy, having all of you here made our Thanksgiving extra special. Love you too!

Hiking South Mountain after two days of rain. Gorgeous!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Miranda's party

Miranda's 24th birthday slash Bon Voyage Party was everything and more that Randy & I could have hoped it would be. Our home was filled with over 50 of Miranda's dearest friends & loved ones! We celebrated Miranda with a time of sharing her life and affirming who she is. I know she came away with a deep sense of love and support as she embarks on her adventures in England. She is going to be sooo missed!

Her brothers Tyler and Shawn along with her cousin Lyle... joking around as always. Love these guys!

Tyler made her cry when he shared about what she means to him. Nothing thrills a parent more than watching their children loving each other. Makes me think of the verse I had them memorize and recite to one another while growing up... "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you". Thank you Lord for my kind, loving children.

Miranda found this Jane Austin quote the day before the party. Sooo Miranda.
Happy Birthday precious daughter!

*** Thank you NANCY for capturing these memorable moments!
Be sure to read her party post HERE. She says it so well.

*** Check out Miranda's blog. She had a bike accident on campus at ASU the other day! So scary, but she's doing OK... a little banged up. We are sooo thankful, as it could have been worse. My poor baby girl!

*** Oh, and I have my sister Kathy and my niece Kristen's family here from Oklahoma City all this week. I have so much to share with you! We are having so much fun! More fun posts to come! Check back this weekend! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!