“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”

Growing up and the majority of my lifetime I lived where having a white Christmas was part of the Christmas decorations created by mother nature. Around Halloween the first snow would arrive, large feathery snowflakes whirling slowly downward in the still and quiet night arousing the Christmas spirit for the year. My favorite time of the year.

By Christmas, there would be several snowmen taking up residence in the yard. Birds and mule deer would wonder in curious about our new temporary residents and to check out the food stored in the barn for the horses and chickens.

Since moving to Texas, I have very rarely seen snow. The opportunity to make a snowman has occurred only once, and not around Christmas. I work at creating my own Christmas wonderland. Instead of mule deer wandering into the yard, I have lighted metal framed deer to remind me of years past. There are plenty of birds who visit, and cardinals. Growing up the area I lived in had very few if any cardinals. I decorate with artificial trees in the yard creating a forest where my artificial deer hide. The lights are hung on the house eaves and the trees lighting up the area I have decorated with a manger and various other seasonal decorations.

Yet, I miss the guardians of Christmas past, the snowmen. Each year I purchase one new Christmas decoration for my collection. This year I was planning on the purchase of a snowman and snowwoman. But money has become tight, so there will be no snow people in my Christmas yard.

Each year when I am writing Christmas cards with letters for each person on my list, I think of Christmas at “home”. Like the song, “White Christmas”, I will be home for Christmas if only in my mind. And perhaps just a Christmas wish for a white Christmas this year in Texas.

amtolle

Preparing for Thanksgiving

This year we are having my husband’s daughter and her family down for Thanksgiving. Along with her and her family of four children, she is bringing down a boyfriend to meet her father.

They have been seeing each other for a least two years. Their relationship is getting serious. Her children like him, and his children like her, and the children like each other. A big positive for a relationship of blended families to work. Thanksgiving we are meeting the boyfriend.

A week ago, I was calling to confirm the dates they would be here to visit, and getting a commitment on staying at our house. My husband’s daughter, Ms. T, jokes just like her dad. I made some reply and heard him in the background with a reply and I said something back. Soon he was on speaker phone, and then he and I talked for two hours. He was mostly asking questions and learning about me and the farm.

It is common being nervous meeting the parents and vice versa, meeting in the boyfriend. At the beginning of the conversation with Ms. T, she was sharing about flying in an airplane to meet his family. She relayed we could fly to Colorado and visit them this summer. We were joking back and forth on why I do not fly anymore. I mentioned the reason being no place to escape during an anxiety attack when you are thousands of feet in the air, from the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He heard I had PTSD. He also has PTSD.

We had common ground. He began talking. He asked for me to share the event, I do not share the event. Then we discussed my triggers and his triggers, both of us wanting to avoid exposing the other to triggers during their visit. Then the conversation moved to horses, as he wants to learn how to be around and eventually get on a horse. From the horses the conversation evolved to nationalities, spiritualism and cooking. After two to three hours of conversation, he was excited to come for a visit. He was no longer nervous and wanting to be option of staying in a hotel. His last words of the conversation, “Yes, we will be staying at your house”.

I never thought a condition I suffer with daily, would be used to open the door for a relationship. This man is important to Ms. T and I am glad that with our conversation, he is more comfortable about coming down and meeting the father.

Now I am busy preparing the house for six people. Getting beds ready that have sit vacant for four months, dusting and clearing cobwebs out of the spare bedrooms, moving the extra boxes I have stored in one room to the storage building. Determining the menu and making sure there will be enough food and drinks for their visit.

I am even thinking of putting up the Christmas decorations early. As we will not have family here for Christmas, and Christmas is my favorite holiday. I am thinking of combining the Thanksgiving and Christmas in one celebration this year.

amtolle

Halloween Ideas

Halloween will arrive in the twitch of a cat’s tail. I do not have any kids at home to do the dress up and trick-o-treat. That does not mean Halloween has to be boring, depressing or sad.

I do decorate my house. Each year I spend $10 to $20 dollars on a new item to add to my decorations. I did not decorate for Halloween until seven years ago. My kids did dress up and go trick-o-treating until they became teenagers. But I did not decorate the house. A fun way

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One way to decorate is to carve pumpkins. I would carve one side to show for Halloween, then turn the carving portion to the wall or fence, and use for Fall and Thanksgiving decoration. Last year we decorated pumpkins using sharpie markers, some glitter glue, eyes and imagination. It turned out nicely and the pumpkins lasted a long time. My daughter finally disposed of the cute creations this last April, upon my insisting they were rotten. This year, I am decorating Halloween pumpkins, but they are artificial pumpkins. I purchased two pumpkins to use sharpie or some paint to form some decoration. I will be able to reuse these pumpkins each year.

I decorate with flowers and maple leaves as well. The past years I have purchased artificial flowers to put in vases and to make wreaths. The table is so much brighter with a vase of color. The fall colors of yellows and oranges add a cheery atmosphere to the home.

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With fall comes cooler temperature. I am one of those people who wait as long as I can tolerate the cool temperatures before turning on the heater. I can heat my home with baking. I love to bake and try new recipes. Fall is when I start baking the cinnamon rolls and sourdough bread. The baking takes the chill of the early morning out of the house, and fills it with delightful aromas.

As the cool temperatures arrive I enjoy a firepit in the evenings. Sitting by the firepit with some hot tea, hot cider or hot chocolate and enjoying the evening stars, watching the moon come up. Or if I have a craving for something sweet, roasting marshmallows and making s’mores.

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When we moved to Texas and a larger town than what we have lived in prior, we were introduced to trunk-o-treat. People decorating the trunk or back of a pickup with a Halloween theme and handing out candy in a parking lot. There are competitions for the decorating. I like to visit the Trunk-o-Treat event to see how creative people are as well as to see the costumes. People show up hours in advance to decorate their vehicles for these events, as you can not drive the vehicle with the elaborate and creative decorations assembled.

Haunted houses are a major topic this time of year. I am not one who searches out haunted houses to visit, although I have known some people who do. The little town where we live, a group of people decorate a home into a haunted house. Three years ago they used a home destroyed by fire, and the proceeds of the event went to the family. This year I have not been able to find the haunted house. I know the street, just have not found the house. The outside decorations are always good.

Like Christmas, I seeing the homes decorated for Halloween. This is the first year our small town is having a Halloween decorating competition for home and businesses. There is one home that has skeletons rising from the ground in a graveyard. If I was a kid, I would not visit that house as it looks real. There is one resident offering their decorated yard for people to take family photos using their decorations as the backdrops.

There is one fall event I really miss that I did back home. The Aspen trees in Colorado are bright yellow, against the pines in the fall. I would load the kids up to see the colors change in the mountains. It was a short drive, 5 minutes and we were in the mountains. We would do it on a weekend, drive up, have a picnic lunch, smell the fall air, and return home in time to do chores.

Perhaps this is the year to have a few friends over for some finger foods, warm apple cider and games. Or maybe to cozy up with a scary book or movie and eat popcorn. Join with another family to hand out candy at a trunk-o-treat.

There are options for each person to celebrate Halloween if they choose. I made a choice a few years back to celebrate the season and holidays regardless who is with me.

amtolle

Lonely Holidays

The holiday celebrations of Thanksgiving and Christmas are approaching. For some those holidays are surrounded with family and friends. There are others who spend the holidays alone or only with a spouse.

Last year we were blessed with family and friends for Christmas feast, great conversation and just the presence of people in the home. This year it will only be my spouse and I to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. Family members have other places they need to be this year.

There have been many celebrations at our home with only my spouse and I to attend. A few years past, I decided not to put up decorations, reasoning was no one was coming to see or share. After three years of no decorations, I realized that regardless of who visits or does not, I still need to celebrate.

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My husband and I have lived in our current residence for twelve years. In those twelve years we have not had one child, teenager or adult come to our home for trick-o-treating. There were children across the street, and down the road. No one came. I still buy candy, just in case I get a visitor on Halloween night. I still decorate, carve a pumpkin and enjoy the evening watching Harry Potter movies with my husband. We celebrate for ourselves.

Thanksgiving will be celebrated alone this year. My husband has to work the holiday. I will fix the traditional turkey dinner, give thanks, and we will have leftover for days. We are blessed with family, him having a job, the sheep doing well, and we have good health. Reasons to have a celebration of thanksgiving.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating the holidays alone. Most times we are depressed because the holiday is not what we had visioned. Other times it is missing loved ones who are unable to attend, or are no longer with us. Time changes our lives and those who we share it with. These changes do not mean we can not enjoy celebrating holidays, we just change our way of celebrating and start new different traditions.

When my husband’s son and family lived close, they have two boys, I started putting a train under the Christmas tree. Kids love trains under trees or just anywhere. I enjoyed the train. I also have the beginnings of a Christmas village, that is added to one item each year. Five years ago, I put the Christmas village and train together on an 8 foot X 4 foot board. Last year with all the people attending Christmas, I did not have room for my Christmas Village and train. Tonight, at dinner, I was discussing with my husband I think I can get the board with my train to sit over the couch, since no one will be here to sit on the couch, that way I have room for my train and village, and the Christmas tree. He just laughed.

Each year there is a laugh over our Christmas decorations. One big joke between us is that not everything on clearance at a really low price is the best item to buy. Three years ago, we were in Wal-Mart looking at Christmas clearance, after Christmas. There were 7 foot Christmas trees on sale for $25.00. I thought great, my old tree ( close to thirty years old) was showing some wear. We purchased the tree. The following year I went to put the tree up with a vision of putting the tree on our square coffee table with the train underneath. Vision burst when the tree was way too tall. It is a laugh each Christmas on where I am going to put the Christmas tree as there are limited places due to the angel or star hitting the ceiling. I am glad we have a vaulted ceiling.

Holidays can be lonely times. I was depressed that my visions of having a house full for holiday celebrations did not and would not happen. Last year was great. This year will be my husband and I. He has to work, and my daughter and her family will be staying home. I will still fix the traditional dinner of Navajo Tacos with green chilli. We will open gifts, maybe have some wine and watch ” A Wonderful Life” followed by “The Grinch”. Celebrating helps with the depression that arrives during the holidays, even if you have to celebrate alone or only with your spouse.

Life is a celebration, it is up to us to choose to celebrate Life.

amtolle

Happy Labor Day

Labor Day was started to recognize the working people who keep things going for our everyday needs, mostly unions and labor organization would celebrate this day as honoring the working class. In 1893 New York City had the first Labor Day parade. States began recognizing Labor Day as a day of celebration for the working class. In 1994 Labor Day became a federal holiday.

The Bar BQ, picnics, and family get togethers are another common tradition of Labor Day. The last time of gathering for some summer fun and family connection before the school year started. Many still participate sharing Labor Day this way with family.

While the working people may not be recognized by government or the media, they are the gears that keep our economy and life going. Working to provide the products we need, as well as supporting their families. To have a federal holiday for this celebration is a small reward.

I had my first job at age 15, although I helped my father in his business before this. I have worked everyday since then to support myself and my family, almost 50 years. Since I do not have a huge nest egg for retirement, I will continue to work for the rest of my life. I can celebrate Labor Day as my holiday, a day for the common worker.

There are many traditions associated with Labor Day. One well known tradition is not wearing white after Labor Day. This custom was started by the wealthy elite to distinguish themselves from “new money” and the working class. Wearing white while vacationing was a way of showing their wealth off to others. Personally, I wear white as I look good in white, regardless of the time of year.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy celebration this Labor Day weekend.

amtolle

Christmas In July

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Christmas is my favorite holiday to celebrate. I enjoy decorating the house for Christmas. Each year I create a new item to add to the decorations for my house. For me, I need to start early in creating the new item as I have a busy schedule.

One other tradition I started when my children were small is Christmas shopping. I start in July. By starting in July I have time to make unrushed choices in the gifts I purchase for family and friends. I have the time to research and make quality choices in the gifts I purchase.

Another benefit to starting my shopping early is the ease on my bank account. I am able to spread the cost of Christmas gifts over six months, instead of three or four weeks. By spreading the cost over several months, I have a larger budget for Christmas shopping.

Another option for those who love to fight the crowds on “Black Friday” is to have discipline to start early and save for the purchase of gifts. I personally do not like the large crowds in the stores on “Black Friday”. And there have been times I waited hoping for a better price on “Black Friday”, only to not be able to find the gift to purchase. Starting in July, I may not have the lower price, but I do have the item to wrap and give.

I like to wrap the gifts to look special. I am able to spend time a creatively wrap the gifts for each person. Creating name tags and bows unique as the person receiving the gift.

Christmas cards are started in July. I pick out the card and address the envelopes using Calligraphy. In December I will write the Christmas Letter to place in each envelope, seal and mail. Most people receive junk mail and bills in the mail, I keep an old fashion tradition of giving Christmas cards to send cheer in an unexpected place, the mailbox.

I do go shopping in December. I pick out the next year’s Christmas cards as they go on sale. I also buy wrapping paper and supplies when those items are on sale in December. Stocking stuffers are purchased along with peppermint candy canes and candy that is only around during the Christmas season.

After Christmas is a shopping time with every store wanting to get rid of all things related to Christmas. Three years ago I purchased a six foot tree for $25.00 on sale, regular price was over $100.00. There are good deals after Christmas, although the selection is very meager.

Each year when I put the tree up, for a short time there are numerous creatively decorated presents under the tree, until I package and ship.

amtolle

Frog Eye Salad, a tradition

There are some recipes our family uses in celebration of different seasons and holidays. Frog Eye Salad is an Easter dinner tradition. I found the recipe years ago in a school generated cookbook. The school collects recipes from the families of students attending, and compile the recipes into a cookbook and sell them to raise funds for specific items or programs at the school.

Where the name Frog Eye salad comes from I do not know as there are no frog eyes in the recipe. It is a sweet tropical pasta fruit salad. There are three parts to the recipe: the sauce, the pasta and the fruit. I do variations of the recipe depending on what is in the cupboard at the time. I will put my variations in parenthesis to show the difference from the original recipe.

The Sauce:

1 Cup of Sugar 2 Tablespoons of flour 1/2 teaspoon of salt 1-3/4 Cups of Pineapple juice ( I get the juice from the cans of fruit I am adding, or if I am using fresh pineapple, after blending the pineapple I strain the juice into a cup ) 2 eggs beaten 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Combine sugar, flour and salt, stir. Beat eggs then add to pineapple juice. Add the juice/eggs to flour mix, stir well, cook over moderate or medium heat, stirring the mixture until it thickens. I like the consistency of thick gravy. Once the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat and add 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice, can be fresh or bottled.

The pasta:

The type of pasta is Acini de Pepe or pearl pasta. Same pasta two different names.

16 ounces of pasta

Cook pasta according to directions until al dente. Really soft pasta does not hold up in the pasta salad. Drain.

In an airtight container mix the pasta and the sauce together and refrigerate until cold.

The Fruit:

3 – 11 ounce cans of mandarin oranges, drained 2- 20 ounce cans of pineapple chunks, drained 1- 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained

(I will substitute fruit cocktail for a can of mandarin oranges or one can of pineapple. The pineapple makes the salad. One fresh pineapple is substituted for all the canned pineapple chunks and crushed. I also drained Maraschino cherries to add color to the salad for July 4th. )

1 – Cup of miniature marshmallows (I consider these optional, if I have them I use them. If I do not it does not distract from overall taste.)

1 – Cup of coconut (This is listed as optional, but I consider it a main ingredient. The flavor combination of pineapple, oranges and coconut are what give this salad character. )

Fold the fruit, marshmallows and coconut into the pasta, until well blended and refrigerate until cold.

If kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator, this salad can keep for up to a week.

amtolle

Easter

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I love spring, the beginning of the year for me. When everything comes out of the winter hibernation and shows their bright new colors, flowers, trees, grass, and the animals. The animals get a winter coat, when they shed off the winter hair, their color is brighter, cleaner.

Before Easter, there is spring cleaning. The house looks and smells great after a week of deep cleaning. Removing the old to let the new in.

All these things cause a renewing of my inner being, soul and spirit, much as it was intended by our Creator. Easter the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Resurrection of what was dead to new life displayed each spring and celebrated.

I always dream of having all the children, their spouses and the grandchildren in one place for Easter. As yet, the dream has not happened. Each child has their lives and their children to celebrate. Not to mention the hundreds of miles that separate all of us.

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This year my husband has to work. I will go to church alone, which happens a lot since he works most weekends, a crazy schedule 7 on 2 off 8 on and 3 off. Crazy schedule. For some strange reason I have yet to learn the basis of, I still spring clean the house, decorate two weeks before the celebration. A day or two before Easter, I will dye or color eggs, I enjoy the colored eggs that become deviled eggs or potato salad later. I will prepare a meal for Easter, even if the meal is only for two.

I will not let the fact my children and grandchildren will not be present to celebrate, keep me from celebrating and having joy for the Easter. A friend decided not to decorate any longer for Christmas or fix a special meal, it was too much work, there was no one but the two of them. Their children grown with families, and distance prevented them from being with my friend and her husband. They stopped celebrating Christmas, and Christmas became a depressing time of the year for them. I refuse to let that happen to me.

Time changes the way we celebrate occasions as children grow up, have families, people move. Change does not mean to stop celebrating, only to celebrate differently. My children call, I talk with the grandchildren. I am sent videos of the funny or cute things that happen that day. I am always sent pictures of the egg hunts and activities.

We may not be in the same location, but in our hearts we are celebrating together.

Happy Easter. Happy Resurrection Day.

amtolle

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Birthdays

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Today is my husband’s birthday.

Another year older, and I hope a lot wiser.

For years, actually most of my life, I did not give much thought to my own birthday. It was another day, I received gifts, but no big celebration or fan fare. I began to believe that my birth nor my being was of much importance in the universe. My self worth was very low, I was unimportant and there was no need to celebrate me becoming older. Age is just a number, no need to acknowledge or celebrate one more year.

Then I joined the “Birthday Club” at a church I was attending. Each month we would celebrate not the birthday, but the fact a woman was born. When we signed up, we were to put our birthdate on the form so the organizer would make sure we were not acknowledging the fact we were born in the same month of our birth. I realized that my birth was important and a reason to celebrate.

Now I celebrate the birthdays of those I know. Those I can be with get a card and gift. I like to send flowers to my daughters. I mail cards and sometimes small gifts to my grandchildren. I want them to know I think they are important to me and I love them.

The day of our birth is special and unique as that is the very first day we greeted our parents, became a family, and said “Hello world, here I have arrived!” We should celebrate each year we have shared our lives with others, as others did not have some many years to share with others.

When I celebrate my birthday, I celebrate that I have survived as long as I have. Acknowledging all the health warnings for activities I did as a child, it is a miracle I am alive.

Yes, I drank from a garden hose, rode in the back of a pickup truck traveling the speed limit or more down the highway. As a child, the vehicles were not made with seatbelts. It is a wonder the baby boom generation even survived at all.

But I had a life of roaming anywhere I wanted, only had to be home for supper. I remember riding my bicycle down the gravel hill near home barefoot. We would go to the top of the hill and pedal as fast as we could, then let go of the handle bars plus put our feet up on the back fender of the rear wheel. On one run, I missed the back fender and my bare toes went into the rapidly spinning spokes. WIPE OUT! Nearly took my toe off in the spokes. Blood all over my toe and foot. Removed my toe nail off my big toe. My reaction, go into the house for a pair of shoes, and out the door to see if I could go faster. Have I gotten wiser as I have gotten older. I would love to try that stunt again, only I will keep my shoes on.

Birthdays celebrate the number of years you have shared your life with family, friends and others.

How to you feel about birthdays? I hope you feel they are worth celebrating. You being alive is worth celebrating.

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amtolle

Happily Ever After

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We all dream of living a “Happily Ever After” life with someone we love. We observe couples who always seem to be comfortable and happy together. Often a thoughts comes to our minds – they are only acting in front of others, behind closed doors I bet it is different.

I believe in “Happily Ever After”. That does not mean my husband and I agree on everything all the time. Or we never have negative feelings about the other. We do not agree all the time and sometimes we get frustrated or upset with the other. But we placed rules on our relationship at the very beginning.

We had both been in in unhappy marriages, both gotten divorced, and both knew we did not want to live in the type of relationships we had before.

First Rule – do not yell or raise your voice in anger. Nobody likes to be yelled at. I had spent 15 years being yelled at by my previous husband, and I yelled back. Kids do not like parents yelling at each other. Likewise, he had experienced the same thing, just not in front of his children. Talk to me, do not yell at me.

Second Rule – We have to agree before making big purchases. Money is the number one reason couples fight and for divorces. We decided to discuss purchases great and small. We usually shop together, since I am not fond of crowds. But at gift giving, we agree on maximum amount to be spent to keep our budget balanced. I balance the money accounts and track all expenses.

Third Rule – We have to communicate. We talk everyday, about everything. If he does something I do not like, actually it is usually something he does not do that bothers me. We have a focused discussion, I tell how I feel about the subject, we come up with a solution or compromise. I have had to change some behaviors and he has had to change. Then as you get older you both change and have to discuss those changes as well.

In our relationship, the house and place are mine to do with as I want. If I want to paint a wall red, I can. I decorate, plant bushes and a garden. I care for the sheep and critters we have. The house is my place to do pretty much what I want.

One day, my husband comes home from work and finds the neighbor’s tractor in our front yard, an enormous pile of dirt in the yard and a large pile of chunks of cement, and a huge, deep “moat” in front of the house, and unable to get to the front door.

My husband enters the home using the back door and askes, “Honey how was your day?”

My response ” I am tired of skunks!” We had a serious skunk problem.

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Then he asked, “why the tractor and dirt was in the front yard?

“Because the skunks walk up the sliding sidewalk to get under the floor of the house. We can not sleep in our bedroom again, because it stinks. I removed the sidewalk, now they can not get under the floor of the house. In a week I can sleep in my bed.” He laughed and said “ok.”

When he said ok, I realized I probably should have discussed this plan of action with him before I had the moat in the front yard. But, I am married to an awesome man, he was not angry, upset, frustrated. I was at the skunks. He just laughed and went on. The skunks were a problem, and I came up with a solution.

Communication is also just asking about the other’s day, expressing ideas, discussing a movie or book. Just everyday talk to says “You are important to me and I value you”.

Rule Four – Forgive and Learn. We learn from our mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. My husband and I have made a decision together, and it was a mistake. The reminding of mistakes does not help a relationship grow. I call it dragging around the garbage. If you have discussed the problem, learned from it and come up with a plan or solution, and forgave, then leave it in the dump.

I learned from the skunk story, I should discuss large actions with my husband before I start them.

I am sure there are other principles and rules a person could say leads to a happy and healthy relationship with someone. But these are the main ones for us.

After 12 years of marriage, this summer we had our first fight. Not much. I got angry, he got angry, we both yelled at the other. We did not let it stay and simmer long. We both calmed down, important to calm down before continuing. Then we discussed why I got angry, then why he was angry. We learned what each one did wrong and right, we forgave and moved forward.

I am married to my best friend, my biggest supporter, my rock as he keeps me from doing too many projects at once, and the love of my life.

amtolle