The Storytelling Tree

Ornaments are special.  They tell stories and relive memories on the glistening tree.

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This year when we went on our family vacation and visited the North Pole I picked up an ornament that held nine names.  It helped seal the moment.  We will look back at that ornament and relive the fun we had riding the train and petting the reindeer.

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A glass doll named Sarah that my grandmother gave me when I was very young.  Ornaments from my other grandmother’s tree.  Doug’s first ornament (he grew up Jewish) and our granddaughter’s first ornament mingle on evergreen limbs.  Decades of tales whisper among branches.

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From our trip to Las Vegas with the children in 2004.
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Ornaments that were given to me by my students in the dance company I had brighten my day. That was a special time.
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A gift from Rodney and Pat some years back. We all dream of getting our own adobes.

The tree is filled with memories of our trip to Las Vegas.  Of our honeymoon cruise.  It tells of Bronco fever and the children in elementary school.  Ornaments that were given as gifts.  Quite a few from New Mexico.  Next weekend we will pick up another.  Everywhere we go, we get an ornament.

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My Andrew at seven years old.
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Shyanne at seven years old and Maryjane’s hand print Santa.
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A very sweet five year old Emily.

When we look at our tree, it clears its throat and begins its sweet reminisce and dreams up ideas for the future.  Future names written on the tree, travels yet to be, but the comfort of home and hearth will always be the theme of our humble Yule tree.

What are your favorite ornaments?

A Girl and her Farmdog

 

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“It’s easier,” we assured ourselves, committed not to get another dog.  Cats are really a lot easier.  We can run off to Taos and leave them some big bowls of food and water and they don’t mind a bit.  Cats don’t typically eat the couch or leave horse-like piles in the backyard.  “No, we don’t need a dog,” we said again.

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I suppose it began with a one page article in Sunset Magazine some months ago where a blond photographer and her wolf hybrid traveled the country together capturing the perfect shot.  I miss my wolf.  And a dog to travel around with me would be so fun.  I haven’t really opened my heart to a dog since Navajo.

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image_1511665275681Then there was the adorable lab at one of the fairs we did.  Then the movie, A Dog’s Purpose.  Kinda knew that would do me in.  Then I cried when my granddog went home after two weeks at my house.  My other granddog is my logo for my company and he is just too fluffy and cute for words.  I wanted a big floofy dog.

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And into our lives entered a ginormous ball of fur.  Gandalf talks like a husky, is huge and fluffy like a wolf, protective already, and at three months old is already forty pounds.  I am in love.  So is Doug.  The cats…well, not so much.  The kitten loves him though!

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If you are considering a farm dog or a city dog, it may be the perfect holiday gift for yourself and for the little soul that you bring home.  If you have extra love to give, there is a pup out there who would be so grateful.

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Enchanting Christmas Decor

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Decorating for the holidays is one of the great joys of the season.  Transforming your home into an even more enchanting version of itself adds to the details of Yule.

#1 Adding faux fur rugs and blankets creates a warm, cozy feel.

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Even if the children have moved out, or if you never had children, still hang the stockings.  One for each kid, or one for each dog, it matters not.  No nails or hearth?  Hang them from the curtain rod!

#2 Decorate as if your home were filled with children.  Your inner child will thank you.

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Oh yes, this year we have a fence around the tree!  You can get inexpensive, folding fencing at an agricultural store like Big R.  It keeps puppies and toddlers out, but the kitten is still in the tree!  This year we opted for a faux tree.  It is decked with ornaments from our travels and beautiful creations our children made.

#3 Choose a tree.  Faux trees are easier to put up, last many years, hold onto the ornaments better, are a little sturdier, and don’t die in a few weeks.  But I don’t know if they ever decompose.  Real trees are fun to pick out, make the home smell nice, create a woodsy feel, and can be used as firewood after the holidays.  But we always get one with a crooked trunk, have to tie it to the wall and since I love putting up a tree right after Thanksgiving, it does look pretty shabby by Christmas.

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#4 A wreath symbolizes unity and strength, family and wholeness.  It is the universal symbol of welcome.  Make sure you put one on the door!

#5 Greenery is one of the key ingredients to a festive home.  This stuff costs five dollars at the hardware store.  Once floofed and placed around it instantly becomes Victorian style decor.  The front porch with the ristras and my old grandfather clock look festive with their draping of faux swags.

The bar is set up in festive glow ready for visitors and guests.

#6 Tuck photographs of Christmases past into mirrors around the house.

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#7 Amaryllis bulbs tucked into potted plants burst forth with tropical Yule flair.

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#8 Scatter twinkly lights and tea candles everywhere.  Winter is ever lovelier with lights.  If it’s going to be dark at 4:30 the indoors ought to be inviting!

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#9 Have plenty of firewood on hand for chilly nights.  I do adore the glorious smell of wood smoke.

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#10 Make sure you get out and enjoy the holidays!  Go see the Christmas lights around town, go to the zoo and see their light show, have dinner by a roaring fire.  If you are in Pueblo make sure you see the Riverwalk, eat at The Place, see our darling zoo, and enjoy the beautiful weather.  And pop by to say hello!

A Thanksgiving Tale

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The hazy golden dusk illuminated the sky behind their silhouettes in the cool evening air.  The cars stopped and the elegant family of deer crossed.  The leader had a staggering limp.  Yet the two does stayed at her flank and did not attempt to cross quickly or ahead of her.  The large buck, his antlers glorious and scenic against the autumn backdrop of mountains and sunset color, stayed back with the two infants as they gingerly crossed.

In the chaos of a grocery store I stood looking seriously at disposable pans when an elder gentleman approached softly.

“Are you going to make a turkey?” he asked.

I smiled at the man whose dark tilted eyes revealed close to a century of memories and Thanksgivings.  His wife had fallen, he said.  Thank the Lord she was home from the nursing home and rehab but she still couldn’t walk good.  And well, his hip was killing him but he thought he’d come out and get a few things.  A package of frozen hash browns and a plastic container of diced watermelon well out of season sat in his cart.  One of his children was going to bring them a Thanksgiving feast.

He pulled from his inner pocket a photograph of his son to show me.  Two photos, actually, side by side on a funeral program.  A handsome young man in a navy uniform and one of the young man as a joyful middle aged man.

“This is my boy,” he says.  “He got sick from the war and died.”  He didn’t elaborate.  He just folded the three year old paper and placed it back into his inner pocket.  “Once he died my wife and I went downhill.”

Now, the crowds in the aisles bustling with noisy carts and lines of folks faded as I watched him hobble away.

The family of deer safely crossed and nimbly flitted through the fencing.  They stood together grazing in the golden field.

May we all keep the spirit of Thanksgiving in our hearts tomorrow.  I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Planting Arbor Day Trees (how to)

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Years ago we had donated money to the Arbor Day Foundation and received in the mail ten trees.  Rather, ten sticks.  I didn’t know a darn thing about raising trees and have killed many over my years, I am afraid.  Well, those first ten were subject to neglect and the lawn mower.

Ten trees…sticks…arrived in the mail from Arbor Day the other day.  Ten more are arriving next week.  3 Dogwoods, 2 Redbuds, 2 Crepe Myrtles, 2 Crabapples, and 2 Hawthorns (the primary ingredient in my heart medicine) were carefully planted in the yard.

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Gandalf was very helpful with digging the holes.  I started the hole and he finished it for me!

Dig a hole at least a foot and half wide (so that grass and weeds can’t sneak up on the tree) and a foot and a half down.  Any lower and you might lose the tree!  They aren’t very big but they are trees and the Arbor Day will send you ten with a ten dollar donation and that is a great deal for everyone.  They catch up to their older, potted cousins within a few years and will be stronger because they started so young and they will adapt to the soil they are put in.

 

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One huge mistake I have made in the past was using compost or potting soil to fill the hole.  The tree just wants regular dirt!  Fill the hole back with the dirt that was in there.  The sticks soaked in a vase for a few hours to absorb water.  Draw a two inch reservoir a foot away from and around the tree base.  Fill with water.  Put a tomato cage over it so you won’t hit it with the lawn mower! (and you will remember where you put the sticks.)  Mulch, leaving base clear, with leaves or straw, or the like.  Water occasionally through winter.

20171115_122425This is the first house we have bought in a long time and we are thrilled that this time we will actually be able to enjoy the trees we plant this year!  Time flies and it won’t be long before the trees are large and beautiful.

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.  The second best time is now.” Chinese Proverb

5 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Perfect

glassHere are a few ideas for Thanksgiving to help keep the spirit of gratitude, family, and love involved while also helping you make it go smoothly.

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*Remember, there is always room for one more. 

I remember one particular year that I was alone and not really in a great place, I called a family member that was hosting Thanksgiving to see if I could come and was told there wasn’t any room for me.  I mean, I would have sat on the floor if necessary.  I just needed the company. So, if there are last minute people that want to come.  Borrow a folding chair!

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* Make sure you ask people to bring things. 

If you already have your traditional menu planned, request something from it.  Most of the my family and friends are coming down and staying Wednesday night so they can’t really make something.  But rolls, drinks, cranberry sauce, pies, that type of thing can be bought and brought over.  Sure, I could make all those things-in fact, the Martha Stewart in me insists that I do- but I know those little things can make a big difference between my cooking most of the big meal and enjoying the day or becoming overwhelmed with too many details.

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*Make everyone feel welcome.

Whether it be your daughter’s new boyfriend that just got out of jail or your mother-in-law who didn’t get much sleep last night.  Smile, hug, ask questions about them, really care.  We never know what any given person is going through and this is a meal to express our gratitude and be near those we love by sharing a meal.  Keep that in mind above all else.

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*Take a deep breath and laugh.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.

I will have my puppy and two crazy grand-dogs running through the house.  The turkey may not cook right.  You might drop a pie.  The dog might eat the sweet potato casserole.  Aunt Sue might break into tears over a lost love. You may run out of whiskey.  This Thanksgiving, I want you to see everything with new eyes.  Every person there is alive this year.  Memorize the moments.  Watch people laugh.  Smell the turkey cooking.  Hear the ice clink in your glass.  Pet the dogs.  Have an extra helping.  These moments are precious.

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*Decorate Simply

A huge, ornate centerpiece is going to end up in the way and you will be sad that you have to move your beautiful decorations!  Try a nice napkin with mix-matched dishes.  A votive in front of each space.  Print off papers for people to write what they are thankful for.  Most of them the guest can color.  Childish?  We should be a little more childish.  Sprinkle some leaves on the table.  Or have the kids go collect some.  Place a mini pumpkin on each plate. (I for one do not like getting up during conversation to refill my plate at a buffet.  In fact, I usually won’t.  Much easier for folks if all the food is on the table and we can just pass it around!)

Put on some nice classical or jazz music.  Something that won’t clash with the volume of laughter and conversation.

You might not be able to use your hundred year old dining room table.  I will be moving all the couches and chairs into one section of the living room so that I can line up two long folding tables.  I will be able to seat fourteen comfortably in this little house by simply rearranging a little.  Folding tables are more compact but still offer lots of room. Your house doesn’t have to look perfect.

Light tea candles all over the house.  They will burn for two hours and create an enchanting ambience.

If you are in a good mood, your guests will be too.  If you are flustered, they will be too.  It’s just a meal with loved ones.  Enjoy!

 

Cocktail Hour and the Thanksgiving Drink

20171114_174503‘Tis the season for a warming drink as the cool nights descend.  My husband stoked the fire in the wood stove.  The night was ink black with the stars glistening like twinkly lights and the smell of wood smoke and fallen leaves remind us that Thanksgiving is near.

I poured us each a cocktail.  We don’t often do that but we should.  We both go-go-go from before dawn until this moment where I am scurrying to get dinner made and the puppy is running around with the remote in his mouth.  When the day doesn’t slow down fast enough, our own cocktail hour is really grand!

I am more of a craft beer and snobby wine girl and I don’t like most hard liquors.  I wanted to try whiskey though.  I’m Scottish after all and I have had a few swigs from men in kilts’ flasks at the Celtic Festival.  What I made (oh, it probably isn’t new at all but it was new to me) was a delicious autumn drink.  The apples played off the essence of the barrel in the whiskey.  And the cinnamon added seasonal cheer.

20171114_175049We picked up one of those single servings of Makers Mark to see if I’d like it. (I did.)

I had some apples that were in need of being juiced.  Freshly juiced apples make this recipe.

Fill a high ball glass half way with ice.  Add whiskey.  Add four ounces of fresh apple juice.  Add a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Sit down!  It’s been a long day.  Dinner can wait five minutes and the puppy can go outside for a second.

This would be a delicious drink with roasted turkey and all the fixings next week!

What is YOUR favorite cocktail?

Homeschooling Adventures Continue (my daughter’s new blog)

20171110_065324I will never forget the moment we decided to homeschool. The teacher that rummaged nervously through her notes looking to see who my son was.  At the end of the year.  We raised strong willed children and encouraged them to dress how they like, read what they like, and do what they like so they could learn at their own pace and really enjoy what they were doing.  Schools just weren’t keeping up.  Classes were too big.  Curriculums too restricted.  Those homeschooling years were the best years for us.  We went on vacations in the middle of the week.  Ate ethnic food in areas of Denver that we were unaware of for geography.  Visited museums.  Created.  Read in trees. We have three very intelligent, compassionate children who think for themselves.

20171110_065341My youngest daughter will be twenty-one years old in a few months.  (How that is possible, I will never know!)  She has a four year old whom you all know well as she is often the highlight of this Grammie’s blog!  Maryjane Rose.

Maryjane assists us at our shop.  She gathers plants to be used in medicine.  Helps to measure the dried herbs into jars.  Chooses teas for people based on their ailments.  Talks to fairies and squirrels and trees.  That magic begins to leave when they enter school.

schoolI am thrilled that Emily Lynn is homeschooling her beautiful, strong willed daughter.  I am even more glad that I get to help.  Emily’s long-time, serious beau, Reed came from a family of six homeschooled children.  Emily has a lot of support.  We still get the question from well-meaning family and friends about when she’s going to go to school.  But she is in school!  Every day we all wake up to a new day of school.  Maryjane will read what she wishes, write when she wants, learn the real history of the world (not the edited version available in text books), and will pursue what she is interested in.  This makes her a well rounded, delightful, social child.

My daughter started a blog yesterday.  I am so proud of her and I am glad my children are writers.  Please check it out and send a young mama some encouragement!  She has a million great ideas.  https://homeschool341.wordpress.com/

Before You Give to a Charity (really helping those in need)

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‘Tis the time of year for charities.  To give to those less fortunate.  To share some of our blessings.

We often gave money to organizations that helped the homeless.  Then we became homeless ourselves after losing our rented farm.  We opted not to go on welfare, but rather to work very hard to get jobs and get back on our feet.  About this time two years ago we were out of money and hungry.  You can only eat so many dollar burritos from Taco Bell with found change.  We looked into getting a food basket from a local charity that distributed them.  I didn’t have a coat, I was freezing.  We were really struggling and not a single organization could or would help us.  They gave everything to the “poorest” in the county.  Well, you couldn’t have been poorer than us at that moment.  You have to work pretty dang hard to be the poorest in the county.  You have to get on welfare and food stamps, and you can’t try to find work or you would lose your pay out every month.  No thanks.

Then we have the homeless organizations that we gave to.  Those are intended to serve the perfectly able folks with signs-who make more money than anyone I know- on the corners of busy streets.  We did a farmer’s market for years in a park that was popular with the homeless.  They stole, took drugs in the park, excitedly went and got free food from the food kitchen, and had no desire to change their lives.  Or they wouldn’t be homeless anymore.  It was a lifestyle they chose.  They were the first to admit it.  And that really surprised us.

Now, this all sounds a little harsh, but let me be clear, there are people out there that need your help.  They just don’t have cardboard signs and are working hard to try and make it.  They are the elderly on your block who would love company and a meal with someone.  It’s the single mom who can’t afford new coats for her swiftly growing children.  It’s the friend at work whose wife is sick and they need help with meals and cleaning the house but would never ask.  There are people all around you who could use a bit of charity and mercy and help.

Only a few cents goes to the people large charities serve.  If you were to just look around you could have a much more powerful impact, make a personal connection, and strengthen the community you are in.  I will forever be grateful to my old neighbors who showed up at my shop with a box of home canned food, squash, a winter coat, and a hug.

Before you write a check to a big charity, look around and see if anyone near you could use a little holiday help.  We all need a little help here and there.

(Thank you to all of our friends that pitched in back then with money, a place to stay, a dinner, and hugs.  We never imagined we would have been in that situation.  Amazing how much can change in such a short time. We are really grateful for all we have now.)

 

The Urban Farm Dog (meet Gandalf)

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He’s here!  Eleven weeks old and thirty-three pounds of fluff.  (And muscle and baby teeth and mischief!)

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He is a gentle giant.  My granddaughter ran into the house laughing yesterday to meet the new addition.  She ran right up to him and he began licking her face.  He played with my daughter’s dog.  He loves the kitten.  He welcomed my students to the house.  He is a friendly fellow.

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I know I will be learning a lot in the next year about training; something I have never done.  He’s a smart one.  He outsmarted the baby gates with sheer force.  He doesn’t sleep in the kennel; he wants to sleep on the floor by our bed.  But he is a good boy.  And I am excited to have him here.

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Welcome Gandalf to Pumpkin Hollow Farm!  (He set that pumpkin there!)

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