Friday, January 31, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Memories of My Youth in Leadville, Colorado

It snowed last night.  Some schools here were on a delay start. Snow is causing all kinds of problems for so many people this year.  It seems that SNOW is the big story this year.  Thinking of snow, school delays, and icy road brought back many memories of my youth in Leadville, Colorado.

I've written about Leadville before, but just as a reminder,  Leadville, at two miles high,  is the highest incorporated city in the United States.  The average snowfall in Leadville is 127 inches a year.   It also averages 310 days of sunshine a year.  It is a beautiful place to live.  It also is a challenging place to live because of the altitude and the snow.  I loved living there in my youth from ages 17 until age 20.  Some of those years were spent in college, so I mostly just lived there during my senior year in high school and during the summers when I was in college.

We lived in reclaimed baggage and freight building that had been turned into a house when my father was transferred to Leadville as an agent for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.  We had to live in company housing as part of the requirement for the job.  This old baggage building was gutted by my father and redone before he would move us into this old place
.  The building no longer stands where it did in the railroad yards.  It has been moved to another location and serves as a storage shed.  Once this place was home to me.  It holds many dear memories.

The main part of the building was our living room, dining room, my parents' bedroom, and there was also a long narrow room on the left rear of this building that we used as a t.v. room and a place where my brother would stay when he was in town.  The attached building at the rear was the bedroom that my sister and I shared.  There was a partition about two-thirds of the way into this room that provided an additional "room" that served as a bedroom for my youngest sister.  At the back of the building, there was another addition that no longer exists.  This addition housed the kitchen and the bathroom.  

Winters in this house were both cosy and cold.  It depended on where you were in the house.  The house house was heated by a Stokermatic coal stove that looked a bit like this:

Guess where the warmest place in the house was.  You are right if you guessed that is was on top of this stove or standing in front of it.  The stove was located in the dining room which was right next to our bedroom  (Third window in the photo of the house was the dining room.  Fourth photo in the house was my bedroom.)

Memory of Winter Mornings

We never went to bed dreaming of snow days during the winter in Leadville.  Never.  In 2012, there was quite a stir because there was a snow day called in Leadville.  Many said it was the first snow day ever called in Leadville. On a cold winter night, my sis and I would turn on our electric blankets and try to stay warm.  I don't even remember where my youngest sister slept in the winter because we had to close off her room and hang heavy blankets over the doorway to this room in the winter because the heat never got back to this part of the house.  The window of that room would have a thick layer of ice on the inside of the window throughout the winter.   Our room was pretty cold, but we would stay quite warm in our beds until we would be awakened around 4:00 a.m. by the snowplow outside our window.  On mornings when the snowfall was heavy during the night, the snowplow drivers were out early to get the roads plowed.  Snow was not a surprise, and there was a plan, when it snowed in that tiny mountain community.  The dirt road right near our house was plowed because the Standard Oil bulb plant was right next door.  Mr. Carson had to be able to make deliveries of propane oil no matter what the weather.  My father had to keep the trains running.  We were plowed out early.  

Sometimes when the early morning snow plows awakened me, I would actually get out of the toasty bed and make my way to the window to see how much snow had fallen.  Memories of those early mornings when the town was asleep under its thick blanket of snow are precious.  I recall being mesmerized by thousands of silent fluffy flakes falling to the ground outside my window. Soon, chilled, but peaceful,  I'd make my way back to bed.  When my mother would awake me for school, I had an early morning college-prep English class at 7:00 a.m., I would resist getting up until the last possible moment.  Once up, I would run into the next room and stand in front of the Stokermatic coal stove to get warm.  My father had been up early to get the coal into the stove so the house would be warm.  Before I made my quickly executed move from the bed to the furnace, I had gathered my clothes.  These were placed on top of the furnace to heat up so I could put on warm clothes.  

This photo reminds me of the place where the ashes would come out of the stove.  Daddy put the coal in the stove.  Mother emptied the ashes.  I luxuriated in the warmth the stove gave off and did not even think of the work that went into keeping me warm.  

Side note:  The time frame for this story is the winter of 1962 - 63,  In Leadville, where we lived, we still heated with coal in the main part of the house.  The coal that heated the house was railroad coal that was provided as part of the salary for my father's job.  The company, The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, paid for our house and our coal. The agent was given these perks.  One would not consider these perks these days.  The coal was delivered by the work crew from the railroad. It was stored in a coal shed behind the house.  We had left a brand new house in Pueblo, Colorado when my father was promoted to this job in Leadville. At the time, I wondered how this house, and this job was a promotion.  It seemed to me we were going back in time, and, I guess in some ways we were.

Never one for breakfast in those days, on those early school mornings,  my mother would hand me toast as I made my way out the backdoor to the car.  My father would drive me to school on these early snowy mornings as he was on his way to Malta (Click to read about the rich history of Malta.) which was the actual railroad stop on the D&RG line.  (The main train itself did not come into Leadville.)  I have this photo taken in the 60's of my mother with an oil painting she did for my father of Malta.  It was taken inside the depot that was my father's office. I wish I had a better photo of the painting because it is quite beautiful.  I will have to take one.  I'm proud to say my mother is a very accomplished artist.

When I was a young girl in Leadville, I remember the snow being up to my knees more than once.  As my dad would say, "I have the picture to prove it."  I love the backdrop of the boxcar in this photo.  Trains provided the backdrop for my life.  I am a proud railroader's daughter.  Trains are in my blood as much as the high mountain places of Colorado are there.  The D&RG provided our bread and butter and a rich family heritage as my grandfather and two of my uncles also worked for the railroad.

During those days in Leadville, my senior year in high school, I would come home to the wonderful smell of my mother's homemade vegetable, beef, and barley soup.  She would start the soup from scratch using soup bones in the morning.  She would cook the soup on top of the small propane stove that heated the back part of the house which included the kitchen and bathroom.  This was the best slow cooked soup ever.  My taste buds and watering as my memory recalls that warm soup that had simmered all day.

Hanging on the outside of the kitchen wall was wonderful old toboggan that would hold four or five people.  One winter evening, my friends and I decided it was perfect sledding weather.  We drove over to my house and stealthily removed the toboggan from the side of the house.  We had a problem with our idea: there was no way to attach the toboggan to the car.  I imagine it was Mary Carson's car.  We found a solution.  We rolled down the car windows and hung out of the windows and grasped the ropes on the side of the toboggan as we drove across town to a sledding hill.  It wasn't the best hill.  There was not a safe landing at the bottom, but our hands were frozen so we chose the first hill that looked like it would work.  The icy, clear, star-studded night was filled with our teenage laughter and screams.  Have you ever seen the star filled sky in Leadville?  If not, you have really missed out on a beautiful sight.

No doubt after sledding, we made our way back to my house to re-hang the toboggan before we headed to the Golden Burro to warm-up.  My favorite drink during those days:  hot lemonade.

When we first moved to Leadville, my father took me to the old Daniel & Fisher's Department Store and bought me good winter coat.  I loved that coat.  It was a London Fog made of a gold colored suede like fabric.  The lining was a plaid blanket.  It was so warm and beautiful.  I was set for winter with that coat.  I also had some wonderfully warm boots that were the forerunner for Uggs I think. Are these the boots, or these my sister's ?  This photo was taken front of our house.

Sad, Red-letter Day in Leadville

Today, these memories were conjured up by the sad news that an "iconic" building in Leadville collapsed under heavy snow during the night last night, January 30, 2014.  (Click here to see more photos.)  The building, located on Leadville's main street, was home to Sayer-McKee Drug for many, many years.  As the news circulated on Facebook today, many wrote of all memories made in this store.  It truly was iconic.  Some said it was the best example of a vintage drug store in the State of Colorado.  The well worn hardwood floor aisles  that I seem to remember (They were hardwood, weren't they?) were lined with shelves holding all kinds of great merchandise.  Valentine's Day, my boyfriend in high school no doubt bought the red fabric covered heart shaped candy box that I kept for years at this store.

I remember that my father had an account there.  I learned about it by chance when I went to pick up a medication one day and the pharmacist asked if he should put it on the account.  "Yes," was my quick answer.  "And could you add this to it too?" I asked as I handed him my mascara and lipstick.  Of course I was judicious in my use of this knowledge, but I must admit that I took advantage of using it.  My dad never said a word.  He just paid the bill.

Whenever we visit Leadville, I would always have to stop at Sayer-McKee.  It would seem I was entering a time-machine and my mind went back to those days of long ago.

This is a red-letter day in Leadville today for another reason: SCHOOLS WERE CLOSED.  This is truly a rare event.  It is snowing hard here in the flatlands where Colorado Springs is located.  I hear it is really, really snowing in the mountains.  I hope those in Leadville are safe and warm and not out in the elements.

Some More Memories of Leadville

  • Being the new girl in town.  
  • Hiking over Mosquito Pass right after I moved to town with my dear friend Mary Carson who passed away in 2010.  (Mary deserves an entire blog post.)
  • Remembering that when Mary first met me she said, "My dad once had a mule named Sal."
  • Being crowned homecoming queen of Leadville High School.
  • Jeep rides with friends all over those surrounding mountains.
  • Making the best friends ever.
  • Listening to "true" ghost stories at night while we sat in cars parked at the foot  abandoned mines.
  • Listening to "true" ghost stories in the cemetery.
  • Driving to the top of Vail Mountain before it was a ski mountain and a resort.
  • Our senior trip to Denver to see "How The West Was Won."
  • Senior skip day to Glenwood Springs that was nearly canceled because we had tied beer bottles on the bottom of the bus.  
  • The bus breaking down on our trip over Battle Mountain.
  • Walking through knee deep snow in my Bermuda shorts on my way to my father's office in the depot behind our house so I could type my senior paper.
  • Listening to Pete Seeger sing This Land is Your Land and Where have All The Flowers Gone? and thinking folk music spoke my language.  
  • Reading Dr. Zhivago in my English class and falling in love with Russian literature.
  • Reading War and Peace for the first time right after high school graduation.
  • Working as a carhop at the local A&W which was across the street from my house.  (I kept my tip money in the above mentioned heart shaped box.)
  • Hearing Barry Sadler sing The Green Beret for the first time while we were playing pool at a beer joint.  Barry Sadler was a Leadville boy.
  • There are so many memories, but mostly I remember the beauty of this place.  Who wouldn't want to live here?  This photo was taken where our house used to stand a few years back.  My youngest sister and I are standing in front of what was the view from our living room window. 
I hope you enjoyed reading about my memories because I had so much fun writing about them.  Now I'm off to make Mother's vegetable, beef, and barley soup.  It's snowing.  That means I make this much loved soup.

Oh, one more thing:  GO BRONCOS!!!!  View this video for a taste of Colorado in the high country.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wrapping Up Christmas - Part III

My goal is to get this Christmas thing wrapped up before it is a month after Christmas.  I partly write these posts for family history.  I realize that the news is old, but writing blog posts become a repository for memories that I don't want to forget.  So, bear with me.  I'm nearly done with these Christmas posts.

This was an unusual trip to Utah for us.  Over the past fifteen years, we have always spent most of our time in Utah in Ogden where both daughter Keicha and son Ryan lived.  Now, Ryan is living in Bountiful which is between Salt Lake and Ogden.  This trip, we mostly stayed in Bountiful and did not make the twenty mile trip to Ogden but a few times.  This meant I didn't get to spend as much time with daughter Keicha and granddaughter Gillian as I would have liked, but we did get to have lunch a few times, and we went on quick shopping expedition so Keicha and Gillian could spend their Christmas money.

On that particular day, after a nice lunch with Keicha, I was able to also drive out with Keicha and Mike, Keicha's boyfriend, to see a project he has been working on for work.  As part of the responsibilities for his job, Mike is working on building a place where boys that are in treatment for addictions will learn woodworking.  (He works at a treatment facility as a counselor.)  These boys are using the skills they are learning to build an enormous skateboard ramp.  This ramp is connected to the wood shop and another shop where skateboard supplies are sold.  The boys in treatment work in the shop.  Mike is teaching these young men woodworking skills.  It is all quite impressive and a worthy endeavor.

 Another day, I had to make a lunch trip to one of my favorite lunch places, so I called my daughter and invited her to go along.  The draw of the restaurant:  Mormon muffins served with honey butter.  Yum.  It is sort of a tradition for Kiecha and me to go here for lunch when I am in town.  Attached to this lunch place is a fun shop where I once took my children shopping for Christmas ornaments when they were young.  I have many happy memories of this place over the years.  Here is my lovely daughter at our lunch.

The two of us...
Of course we could not go to lunch without getting muffins to go.

One day during our time in Utah, we went to Sheridan's shop in Salt Lake City.  I didn't take my camera that day, so I don't have any photographs.  I love to go shopping in my soon to be daughter-in-law's shop in the 9th and 9th area in SLC.  The name of her shop Hip and Humble more than aptly describes this great boutique.  If you live in the Salt Lake City area, you have three of these great boutiques to shop in.  There is a Hip and Humble in Salt Lake, one in Sandy, Utah, and one in Bountiful, Utah.  Sheridan is a partner with her sister in the ownership of these shops.  I'm proud of these two entrepreneurs.

As always, I can't go inside the shop without picking up a few things.  In fact, I bought that great looking scarf that I have on in the photo above at the Hip and Humble.  I also bought cute matching earrings.  And, I bought another great scarf.  It is an infinity scarf.  Sheridan, your shop is just too tempting!  I love your shop.  And, I bought a gift for my husband:  this cute picture to hang on the wall.  

While we were on our trip, my hubby really missed his big red dog.  This saying is a true saying when it comes to my husband and Boston.  His dog does own his heart.

 Jim and I combined family time in Utah with a bit of a vacation by spending three days in Salt Lake City at the downtown Marriott near the new City Creek Mall.  During out time in Salt Lake we continued to get together with family for fun activities like eating at special restaurants and going to the movies.  With the family, we saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  Neither Jim nor I had seen the first movie in the series, nor had we read the books.  Surprisingly, we were captivated by the movie and quite enjoyed it. Then, the two of us saw Saving Mr. Banks.  We loved that movie.

Funny story:  On our way to see the movie early one evening, Jim and I walked past a restaurant we thought Ryan had told us about as being a place he wanted to go with us.  I sent a text that said, "Just walked past the Copper. Do you want to meet us there for dinner after we see the movie."  The reply, "Sure, we will drive down and get a table because it is hard to get a reservation.  Txt us when the movie is over."  So, when the movie was over we texted that we were on our way.  We walked a couple of blocks in the cold winter evening air to the Copper Canyon Restaurant that we had seen earlier.  The problem was that this particular restaurant was not crowded as Ryan said it would be, nor was Ryan anywhere to be found inside.  I called him.  He said the restaurant was right next door to the theater.  I said that was impossible.  We finally realized that Jim and I had gone to a different theater than Ryan thought we had, and I had not specified the name of the restaurant we had walked past in my text.  I just call it The Copper.  Talk about miscommunication.   That's what I get for shortening how many words I write in a text.   Number One Son soon drove over to where we were, picked us up, and took us the right restaurant which was the  Copper Onion.  Wow, what a neat place.  We had a wonderful "adult" dinner that night.

One day Jim and I spent the entire day just walking all over SLC shopping and enjoying a few special meals.  Our breakfast at Eva's Bakery and Cafe was outstanding.  Not only is the food delicious, but the ambiance is really special.

When we went inside for our leisurely breakfast, the weather outside was pretty awful.  It was cold and smoggy.  When we walked outside, I actually let out a bit of shout.  The sun was shining, and I saw something I had not seen in days:  our shadow.

We spent the rest of day exploring the mall.  We had our shoes shined at Nordstroms.

And, I bought my man a new hat.  It is a wool, water resistant cap made by Wigens. He had actually not brought a hat on our trip, and he needed one in the cold winter weather when we were out walking.  This cap even has earflaps.  So far, the cap has been worn daily as Jim take Boston on his walks.  He loves it.

A few days after Christmas, Number One Grandson, Parker, decided to go duck hunting.  His dad and I had to take his gear up to him so he good go hunting.  Yes, this kid is a true outdoorsman.  Dad is putting the rifle in Parker's Subaru.  Parker has his boots.  He is set to go.  Yes, the hunt was successful.

Before he headed out, father and son shared a quick conversation.

While we were in Utah, the flu virus that seemed to making its rounds around the nation did now pass us by.  The grandchildren were sick with terrible coughs.  I had just gotten over the same thing before our trip, and I had also just gotten over an ear infection, so I worried about getting sick again.  The air quality in Utah was poor.  This did not help matters for any of us.  Then, Jim got hit with a stomach virus that was especially nasty.  A few days later, on the night of the 30th, I also got the same stomach virus.  It was no fun.  I spent nearly all day of the last day of 2013 in bed in the hotel room very sick.  Later in the afternoon, on New Year's Eve Day, Ryan's children, Sheridan's boys, and Sheridan's niece and nephew came to the hotel where we were staying to go swimming.  I went down to watch the grandchildren romp and play in the water.  They all were having so much fun.  I couldn't help but begin to fill better just watching them all expend their great energy.  Soon, this old grandma was feeling better and smiling.

I did not want to miss the New Year's Eve party I had been looking forward to at Sheridan's sister's house.  By evening, I got dressed-up and off we went to ring out the old year.  I was not sorry to see the year go.  The party was great.  The food looked outstanding, but I wasn't quite ready to eat anything.  I enjoyed the party despite having been ill.  I especially enjoyed my visit with Sheridan's sister's mother-in-law. It was great to meet and get to know Ryan and Sheridan's friends.  Some of these friends had been Julie's friends in college.  It truly was wonderful to be at this party.

As I look back on this trip to Utah, I will remember the many moments Jim and I spent sitting at the island in Sheridan's kitchen watching my son cook us up many great meals.  I will remember drinking his special lattes that he made while we chatted and laughed.  I will remember the warmth of hospitality and family love that made this time a time to treasure.

I will remember the times with the family around the dinner table.  I will remember my son's seven day old turkey (which I did not eat.)  Did he ever really serve it?  I will remember that nothing, absolutely nothing,  is more special to me than time spent with my family.

We were gone from home a total of ten days.  We flew out of Salt Lake City to return home late in the day on January 1, but we never made it home, which is only forty miles from the airport in Denver, until January 2.  Our flight was delayed due to storms in Denver.  The flight itself took one hour and one minute, but between the delayed flight itself and the weather that had hit in Denver, we decided to spend the night at the hotel at the airport when we finally made it back to Colorado at nearly midnight.  

All in all, despite being sick, and being on the go nearly non-stop, our weeks long Christmas celebrations were really special this year.  I am just now catching up with life again.  We are moving into 2014 with full speed ahead.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Wrapping Up Christmas - Part II

This was the year that I was going to keep Christmas simple.  I was not going spend as much money, and I was not going to do as much decorating.  At first,  I thought we would aim at a quiet Christmas at home.  Then, I changed my mind.  I decided I really did want to go to Utah for Christmas.  It had been nearly two years since I'd been over to see the grandkids.  I did not want to miss out on seeing them all again.  Jim hates to drive over to Utah in the winter.  Despite having written a recent blog post (click on highlight to read) about not driving in the snow, I had convinced him, and myself, that we should drive the twelve to fourteen hour trip during the 2013 Christmas holiday.  I suggested we leave a window open on the date for departure and leave when the weather promised to be best.  Somehow, against his better judgement, my husband agreed to this plan.

A few days after we had made the decision to make the trip, my daughter Amy called and said that there were great airfares on round-trip between Denver and Salt Lake City on Frontier if we were willing to fly on Christmas Day.  Then, she went on to tell me she did not want us driving.  She said driving was foolish, expensive, and dangerous this time of year.  She said we needed to fly.  Of course, she was right.  Jim immediately went on line and booked our flights and rented a car to use while we were there.  Deep down inside, I was relieved.  Flying would be so much easier than driving.

The change in trip plans meant I had to get all the gifts wrapped and ready to ship.  I did not want to carry them on the plane with me.  This also meant that we celebrated Christmas about four times.  First, we celebrated with the family in Colorado.  Then, Jim and I exchanged gifts on the night of the 23rd.  Then on Christmas Eve, we left early in the afternoon to drive to Amy's near Boulder, Colorado to spend Christmas Eve with her and her two children.  We exchanged our gifts with them that evening and then went out for a special dinner.  Jim and I then drove to DIA (Denver International Airport), which is only about twenty minutes from Amy's house, and spent the night at a hotel.  The next morning, Christmas Day, we flew to Salt Lake.  We were surprised how busy both airports were.  I guess more and more people travel on Christmas Day.  I do think the lower rates make it more attractive to do so.

Immediately upon landing in Salt Lake City, about 3:00 in the afternoon, we drove the twenty minute drive to the home of my soon to be daughter-in-law's parents' home.  I had never met Sheridan's large family, nor had I met her parents.  We literally crashed into the middle of their huge Christmas party.  Sheridan is one of six children, and nearly every child has a large family.  Being a part of this family gathering was an awesome experience.  They are a wonderful family.  I felt blessed knowing that my son in marrying into such a beautiful and gracious family.

The Happy Couple
Ryan and Sheridan
When Sheridan and Ryan tie the knot later this spring, they will be creating a blended family that will include Sheridan's two young boys and Ryan's three children.  These kids are already just like siblings. It warmed my heart to see the love and connection they all have with each other.  I captured this precious picture of Sheridan, note the beautiful engagement ring on her finger, giving a loving glance towards her son Max and Ryan's daughter Regan who are sharing a chair and a moment.  Ryan's son Parker is looking on as he sits in front of the fireplace at Sheridan's parents' home.

Here, Max is helping Ryan's son Bridger check out the cool hunting pack that Bridger got from one of the cousins on Sheridan's side during the family gift exchange.  Bridger, and Max, both loved the gift. 

Soon, it was time to move on to Sheridan's home for another Christmas party.  We planned to exchange our family gifts after daughter Keicha, her daughter Gillian, and her friend Mike drove down from Ogden.  After the gift exchange, we would all have Christmas dinner which was prepared by Ryan and Sheridan.  Sheridan's sister and her family would also join us.  (I know, I should provide a chart so you can all keep track of who is who!)

After we drove the mile or so to Sheridan's house and walked in the door, we literally almost tripped over Parker (my oldest grandson) who was right inside the door putting together the family Christmas present from Santa.  It was a green machine.  Soon, it was assembled and moved outdoors.  As you can imagine, it is designed to give the rider a wild ride full of excitement.

Upon entering the house, on the entry table, Sheridan had a tasteful display of family photos, books, plants, and artwork.  There among the special items was a bit of a heartbreaker.  A framed photo of Julie with her head in the mouth of a giant lion statute at the Salt Lake Zoo was placed next to a small urn of her ashes.  That photo was taken about twelve or thirteen years ago when the entire family made an excursion to the zoo. Julie was teasing the children who were toddlers then.  Back in those days, Julie was Sheridan's roommate, friend from work, fellow student at the U of U, and best friend.  While we all knew Sheridan well, Ryan had never met her until after Julie died. Now, Sheridan, will soon join our family when she marries Ryan.  

Not long after arriving at Sheridan's, I went to the window and snapped a photo of the Salt Lake valley below her beautiful home in Bountiful.   The sun was beginning to set on a wonderful Christmas Day.  We had successfully made our trip, and we were with family.  Nothing makes me happier than to be surrounded by my family.  I was a happy mama.  

It is always great when cousins can be together.  Here is Regan, Ryan's daughter, and my second oldest grandchild, with Gillian, Keicha's daughter, who is my fourth born grandchild.  They were both born the same year, but because Regan was born in January, and Gillian in October, they are one year apart in school.
Gillian & Regan
The kids are ready for another round of gift opening, but I think Grandpa Jim is tired and over the gift exchanges that have gone on for days.

I like to pick out gifts for the grandchildren for Christmas, but I worry that they won't really like my selections.  If they ask for gift cards, or money, that works too.  I was so excited about Bridger's gift.  I don't know why, but I hoped he would really like them.  I had so much fun picking out these red Van's.  I see a small smile on his face as he opens the gift.

Phew…I think he really likes them!

Now, I worry about Parker's gift.  Will he like a Pendleton shirt?  Will he like red?  He seems to like it.

Yep, he likes it, and I think he looks very good in it.  Ok, I am a grandmother, and I brag about my grandkids, but, isn't he one handsome boy?

The girls unwrapped their matching pajamas and matching scarves along with other gifts from me.  Hannah also got matching p.j.s.  I wish she could have been here with her cousins for the Utah celebration.

This year, all of my children received the same sentimental gift from me.  While I was on Vashon Island in October, I found a gift shop called Giraffe Home.  Of course I was drawn to the shop because Julie's favorite animal was the giraffe.  It seemed that all of us would always look for a giraffe keepsake to bring home to Julie on every trip we went on.  At Giraffe Home, I found the perfect card.  On the front of the card was a drawing of a giraffe that caught my eye.  Inside, there was a beautifully written poem called Giraffe Blessing.

In so many ways, the poem epitomized Julie.  It seemed to be a message she would want us all to take to heart.  I bought a card for each of my children.  I also found the perfect Christmas tree ornament to go with the card:  A silver giraffe.  We all cried when the gift was opened.  I am sure Julie would have loved the gift.

Soon, the gifts were all opened and Ryan and Sheridan resumed the preparation for our scrumptious Christmas dinner.  The girls got into their new p.j.s.  (I notice that Parker made an appearance in the photo in what is called a "photobomb."   Note his flexed muscle on the left of the photo.  I didn't notice it until I published the photo.  Kids these days!  LOL)

Parker tried on his new backpack, a Christmas gift from his dad. This outdoorsman who loves to hike, ski, fish, and hunt is ready for more adventures.

I also caught a photo of Bridger warming up in front of the fire.  I think this spot,
and this one, are favorite spots in the house.  This is the same fireplace that gives off warmth on two sides.

Christmas Day 2013, was anything but simple.  It was complicated and took great planning.  It was also packed with so many gifts.  Jim and I enjoyed a relatively easy flight early in the day.  We then were blessed to be included in Sheridan's extended family celebration.  It was a rare and special treat to be with my two oldest children and their children on Christmas Day.  We then were treated to a truly fabulous Christmas dinner that was prepared by my son and Sheridan.  We enjoyed spending time with Sheridan's sister and her family who joined us for dinner.  This celebration was truly one for the books.  Jim ended the day by reading his Kindle in his own special spot near the Christmas tree.  Thank you Ryan and Sheridan for this special day.

Only one thing would have made the entire Christmas celebration better:  having son Jonathan and his family with us.  They did not come to either Colorado or Utah for the holidays this year.  We missed them greatly.  Maybe next year…

*  There is still more to come.  I will share our "vacation" part of the trip to Utah next.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wrapping Up Christmas - Part 1

The holidays, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, are a bit of blur.  It seemed we were constantly on the run going to parties, and shopping.  At the same time we were battling the cold, the snow, and illness.
I got sick before Thanksgiving, and I'm still not completely over whatever it was that hit me.  Despite the fact that I had my yearly flu shot, I got some sort of virus that laid me low for weeks.  I ended up with an ear infection and sinus infection.   I tried not to let the bug that bit me slow me down much.  I also tried to not pass it on to others.  For this reason, and because we were so busy, I took a blogging break from Thanksgiving until after Christmas.  Now, I'd like to catch you all up on some really old news:  Christmas!

Mid-December, I was really on the party circuit.  We had so many fun gatherings with friends new and old, that I was glad that I took a break from blogging so that I could, despite being sick a lot of the time, enjoy the wonderful parties that we had the pleasure of attending.  Of course, one of the highlights of the season is always our high school girl friend party.  This year, we again laughed and ate and laughed and joked and shed a few tears as we shared updates about what we had been up to since we last met in September.  We may have met more than 50 years ago, but we are still girls at heart, and "girls just want to have fun."  I love these girls and am so blessed by our friendships.  Here is our 2013 Christmas picture.  Aren't they all lovely ladies?  They are all among my great treasures in life.

We held a family Christmas party at our home on the Sunday before Christmas so we could celebrate with our Colorado family.  The night before the party, my daughter Amy came down to spend the night and to help me prepare for our guests.  Since this particular night was December 21 and the Winter Solstice, we celebrated the occasion by going out for pizza.  After eating we made our way to the Broadmoor Hotel to see the Christmas lights.  I need to work on my photography skills, but at least you get some idea from the photo I took of how beautifully the grand hotel was all decked out for Christmas.  
One of the great draws for the Christmas visitors this year was this gingerbread house made by the bakers at the hotel.  It was amazing.  

And, it provided the perfect backdrop for a photo of the grandchildren.
Hannah and Mason
I was touched by the beautiful expression on my husband's face when he showed me this menorah that he found on display at the hotel.  I see both pride and sadness in this dear face as he no doubt  remembers and honors the fact that he is the son of Holocaust survivors.  

When we got home from our night out, Mason and Hannah got out one of the board games.  They played the game of Life.  I love how they like to play board games.  We always seems to have that tradition of playing some sort of card or board game when we are all together.  

The next day, we were all jumped into high gear as we got ready for our Christmas dinner for the family.  I remembered a few more things we needed from the store.  Mason, at fifteen and a half, was thrilled because this meant he could drive Grandpa Jim to the store.  Off they went with Mason driving his mom's car while Jim became co-pilot.  I must admit I got a tear in my eye when I saw my grandson drive for the first time.  Where did my cute little curly headed baby boy go?

Amy, took over in my kitchen.  I could not have done it all without her.  She set up all the tables and decided how we would serve the food.  I just realized we sure have a lot of red in this house!  Can you tell it is my favorite color?  

I wanted to bring out the china for dinner and use real silverware.  Amy and Jim had their way.  We used paper plates and plastic utensils.  In my childhood, and whenever I have entertained the family in the past, we used the china.  This year, I was overruled.  Everyone thanked Amy and Jim when it came time to clean up.  I guess I am just a traditionalist.  My father was always strict about a well set table with all the proper utensils and a salad bowl and or bread plate.  Those habits of setting the table properly for holiday dinners are just too ingrained in me.  I also remember all the fun the aunts all seemed to have as they gathered in the kitchen to wash all the dishes and pots and pans after a big family dinner.  Ok, maybe they didn't have fun, but it seemed to me they did.  At any rate, we threw our dishes and utensils away when we finished dinner, and Amy set up everything up quite nicely.  
Once her chores were done, as we waited for all the guests to arrive, Amy put her feet up for a bit while I pretended to be in charge of kitchen.  

Son-in-law Greg, married to Jim's second daughter carved the ham.  

Grandpa Jim helped greet his daughter and others as the house began to fill up with our children and grandchildren.

We had an eclectic meal, but traditional for us, of green chili made by Grandpa Jim, and tamales.  We did not know where to buy good tamales in Colorado Springs, so we got these from Costco.  They were very good.  

We also had ham, and a wonderful jello salad made by Jim's daughter, and my Spanish rice.  (This year I didn't explode the pan on the stove just before the guests arrived as I did a few years ago.)  I also made homemade rolls.  They weren't my best effort.  I'm a bit rusty, but everyone said they were still better than store bought.  

The new hit for our family dinners, is this kale and pomegranate salad.  Amy first made it for Thanksgiving.  Thia then brought it for Christmas.  We have all declared it one of our favorite salads of all time.  

We now have mostly teenagers for grandchildren.  I don't know how that happened so fast.  They gathered to fill their plates for dinner.

Thankfully, we were able to seat everyone.  We had three tables set up throughout the house.

The older kids...

The younger kids...

The adults...
Trinette, Jim's daughter looked so lovely in the sweater that matched her eyes that I had to take a close-up.  What a beauty she is, inside and out.  

After dinner, we all went downstairs to exchange gifts.  Here I am with daughter Amy and her children Mason and Hannah.  

Olivia, Avin, Rachel, Daphne, and Trista all gave me their best smiles.

It's smiles all around.  Caleb, Darby, Greg, and Daphne await the gift exchange.

Brad and Thia check out a gift.

Grandpa Jim loves Christmas.  He really does.  I think the kids all like the contents of the envelope he gave them too.  They all got something green and it fits in an envelope.

At the end of the day, Jim and I were pretty tired when everyone left.  He has a saying about when the kids and the grandkids visit.  "I love to see the headlights, but the tail lights are even better."  We say this because our energy is not like it used to be, but we also can hardly wait for the next visit.

Jim went directly to his chair and used his new Christmas gift from me:  an electric throw blanket.  This blanket is pure evil because if you dare to sit in a comfy chair and turn the blanket on during a cold evening, I guarantee you that you will not want to get up and do another thing!  He loves his new blanket.

There is more to come.  On Christmas Eve, we went north to Amy's house for a celebration.  Then, we flew out of Denver the next day and headed to Utah to see more of the children and grandchildren.  Stay tuned...