Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Harbinger of Spring

The beautiful and fragrant paperwhite! Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas '08

Our church's Christmas Eve service had to be cancelled because of the weather, but we were able to attend a candlelight service at a church nearby. This always sets the tone for us for this most special celebration of the Saviour of the world.

We woke to an authentic white Christmas, with 3 new inches of snow on the ground. I know people are growing weary of this white stuff and the hassles it creates for getting around, but it was so beautiful and it was nice to have the time to pause and appreciate it. We took a long walk in the park across the street and admired the magical landscape.

Then it was time to head home for the unwrapping of presents. This was the year of the snowflake--literally as well as figuratively! Wally spent countless hours cutting out huge snowflakes which I discovered tucked everywhere on Christmas morning when I got up early. Pretty cute!

What a luxury to spend a quiet day with family and with the Lord at the center!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Window Into the Soul

Every fall we began scouring stores for advent calendars for the upcoming Christmas season. These calendars are a tradition for us and we are particularly fond of the "old fashioned" ones that have the traditional, detailed drawings of families enjoying the holiday season. This year we hit gold when we were visiting Jess in Oregon in November. We found two perfect ones at Powells Bookstore and we've been opening the windows daily since December 1st, culminating in the BIG window on the 24th which always pictures Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

It occurred to me that God uses the "advent calendar" of His Word to speak to us in well-crafted word pictures on a daily basis. It doesn't matter how many times I read the same verse over and over, He still finds new ways to enlighten me with his truths. It's like unwrapping a Christmas present every day, peeling back the layers of His wisdom as He finds new ways to give me those delightful "ah ha" moments. Each day I open the "present" that He intends for me to use for such a time as this. What a mighty God we serve!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Three Cheers For the Busman

Roads impassable? No problem! No chains or snowtires? No problem! We three decided to go on an "adventure" by using our friendly public transportation (aka the bus). We slogged through the foot-deep snow to the main drag and caught the bus downtown to our favorite Italian spot, the Torre Cafe, for macchiatos and canolis. Once suitably warmed up and satiated we ventured onto another bus, with out trusty transfers, and spent some time in Fairhaven at the book and toy stores. We met all kinds of friendly people doing the same and made it back in time for hot soup and rolls for dinner. Fun day.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Iceman Cometh--with snow....

The "December Storm" in the Pacific Northwest has brought daily flakes from the sky and we now have a foot+ accumulation on the ground and the temps have hovered around 20 for the high and 10-18 for the low for over a week. Fortunately, our schools are on winter break, or we'd be making up snow days for this until mid-July! It's not too bad getting around in it because it's a very dry snow, which is atypical for this area. It reminds me a lot of my Denver days. But....most people here are not used to driving in snow since we don't get it that often and it generally doesn't stick around long....until now! It has, however, wreaked havoc on travelers by plane and train as both are currently not running with no estimated time for renewal of service. My heart goes out to those stuck in airports or train stations and I am so very thankful that Jess made it home from Portland on the 2nd to last train to leave that station since Saturday. Her train was 3 hours late getting in because the switches were frozen and they would have to stop the train and get out and thaw them by hand!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Kiss Is Still A Kiss....but not at Christmas!

Yes, I've heard about the KISS (keep it simple, stupid), and I love that philosophy, but it won't work in this household at Christmas. We have so many Christmas decorations and so little room in which to put them, that the living room is beginning to resemble "Mr. Magorium's Emporium"!
Besides making amazing cookies, Betty Whitaker was also an accomplished ceramicist. She made hundreds of elaborate decorations for every holiday. After refining her own technique, she also began giving lessons out of her home. Most of their Yakima basement was given over to the kiln and the supplies for her craft. Each of the 4 kids have been given the very best of her Christmas items: the village, the Santa house, the church, the sleigh with its bundled-up passengers, and the larger sleigh with some of Santa's reindeer waiting patiently for take off. They are part and parcel of our holidays, and room or no room, out they come! It's crowded, but it's homey and each one bears the tokens of the love and attention to detail that she put into them. Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without them.

And if you don't have the luxury of a gas fireplace, you have a husband who comes up with a clever alternative, at least from and aesthetic standpoint....a candlelight fire

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Traditions Live On

Betty Whitaker was a whiz at many things, not the least of which was her elaborately decorated Christmas cookies. She started this tradition when her kids were young. They began this process in October. By "they", I mean all of them....shades of child labor! :) The dough had to be made (English Butter Cookies) and cut out with special cookie cutters that left imprinted designs on the cookies. These designs were used as the "canvas" to glaze and frost the cookies with ornamental frosting. They are quite labor intensive, but the results are stunning. I'll never forget my first introduction to them the first Christmas Wally and I spent in Yakima. I had never seen such elaborate cookies (my Mom was not a baker!). Hundreds of cookies were made and stored to be given to neighbors and friends each year.

I do not make hundreds, I make some...for family and whoever might stop by to say "hi". That would be Jamie (who always knows where there are free treats!) and Stacia who has provided us with homemade treats of her own over the years...ask me sometime about the incredibly wonderful shortbread cookies (in the shape of vegies) that she made and brought to me when Jess left for college and she knew my heart was aching...what a gal!'s the finished product and thank you, Betty, for teaching me the fine art of cookie making!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A "Free Day" Is....

....a snow day with no school!! And that means.....time to make and decorate Betty Whitaker's famous Santa cookies...glaze is first, frosting next...stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas.....

Wally and I just got back from a late night walk in the fresh snow in the park across the street. The sky was so light (sublimation), that it looked like dusk. All the trees have a coating of snow and the contrast made the whole scene look like an Ansel Adams black and white panorama.

We have 6" of snow on the ground and more on the way. The school district finally decided to call off classes tomorrow. Today we had a 2 hour delay in the start time, but it snowed heavily all day and it was quite the fiasco watching people try to get out of the parking lot and up the hill to the main street...especially those newly licensed sophomores. Even though I'll bemoan the make-up day in June, it's nice to have this surprise time off to catch up on last minute Christmas stuff...translation: I need to decorate the santa cookies! Jess has had 3 snow days in a row in Portland. Thankfully she'll be taking the train up on Sat. instead of trying to out-guess the weather and drive it.

Wally's handiwork

Christmas village made by Wally's Mom

Monday, December 15, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Snow arrived Saturday night and is still on the ground, at least in the parts of the county that the 40 mph winds haven't blown it off. We had a late start to school today, and it's still quite cold with more to come and, I gather, more snow. Winter has arrived!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Batten Down the Hatches....

It's a'comin'! It's blowing its way down the Fraser River Valley right now, straight out of the Arctic, and headin' this way. Temps tonight are supposed to plummet and by Monday we'll have temps in the teens, winds of 40 mph and wind chill of -10 degrees. Oh yeah, this is the famous West Coast noreaster. Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

There is something achingly poignant about winter sunrises. Although the trees are bare, the fields are brown and, more often than not, everything is dripping wet, this sets the stage perfectly for the beautiful shades of magenta, purple, rose, orange and gold that typify the sunrises in this corner of the world. For someone who tends to romanticize EVERYTHING, this suits my "new winter mood" perfectly.

In past years I have railed against winter and its leaden skies and all pervasive darkness. But what does that accomplish? Is it any less dark at 6:40 am when I leave for work? Is it any less dark at 4:30 pm when I get home? No! It occurred to me that I was only making myself miserable. So, if I can't beat it, then I need to join it, right?!

I am learning to embrace this season. True, the holidays help because there are colored lights and music and frivolity everywhere (as long as you're not trapped in a mall!) But aside from that, I'm creating a routine of sorts when I get home that is helping me to turn the blaaahs into ahhhs. I light my pine-scented candle, I plug in all the twinkle lights, I put on Windham Hill's "Winter Solstice" album and settle in with a cup of tea before I launch into dinner preparations and other chores. It's working!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Drumroll please....

Last night we attended a concert by the Whatcom Community College Collegiate Choir. The son of some good church friends was participating in it and we wanted to be there for him. It was an interesting concert. They performed some very interesting pieces -- a la Celtic.

But they saved the best for last when the Sweet Pumpkin Marimba band showed with their 7 (yes...count 'em, 7!!) marimbas and their two bongos. Now for someone who is as percussion/rhythym addicted as myself, this was sheer heaven and they did not disappoint...3 fabulous pieces from Zimbabwe and South Africa and I wore a hole in the floor in front of my seat where my feet couldn't resist tapping!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

The Whitaker clan gathered at the clubhouse at Kris and Paul's condo in Des Moines (near SeaTac) for our annual turkey feast. Jess trained it up to Tukwila so we could meet her there. It was a beautiful, warm day and we had a great time putting the food together, playing games and teasing each other. Our blessings are many:

The Beauty!The Beast! ("I can't believe I ate the whole thing!")
The betters and the man with a mission...
The food including....

Grandpa Waynee's surprise pie. The list of ingredients includes: cheesecake, peanut butter, cool whip, unknown berries...ummm.....yeah...
Friday Jess, Wally, Stacia and I did Christmas in!and....we ran into Emily who was serving her very first tapas special at Avenue Bread
In his proper role at last!
The king and his princess!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Finished Product

Busy hands = treats for loved ones...

Baby quilt for niece, Eliza's, first baby due next month!


baby sweater and hat for Maria Pineda's little girl, born last week. Maria is a Latino, whom I met while working at Shuksan Middle School. We share a birthday! Maria is a 2005 graduate from Sehome, but we keep in touch.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Necessity is the Mother of.......Weirdness

These are tough economic times! Budgets are being slashed across all spectrums of society. Our school district is no exception. In the past our library has been furnished with boxes of kleenex. At some point, every student on campus comes through here, and it's probably safe to say that about a third of them are sick with some virus or other at any given time. Kleenex is a necessity! But, it's a victim of the budget cuts, so it was up to me to come up with a solution.

Behold the Harry Potter Designer Tissue Box....Limited Editon, place your orders now!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Parents Weekend

A few weekends ago, the bearded one and I managed to grab a few days away from our respective jobs and we spent 4 days with Jess in and around Portland. We rarely have the option of taking time off from work that coincides, so this was special!

We started off Saturday with a memorable breakfast at The Original Pancake House. Think homemade hash and homemade everything else! Then it was on to many hours of browsing at Powell's Books and other venues downtown.

Sunday we worshipped with her at Imago Dei, a wonderful church which uses a beautiful old high school as its center. Roosevelt High was built in 1913 or thereabouts and it's still in excellent condition, complete with old-style auditorium.

We had the pleasure of listening to Pamela Reeve, who is 92 years young and still sharp as a tack. She was Dean of Women at Multnomah School of the Bible for 42 years! Her testimony read like my biography....God is so good! Afterwards we wandered around the eclectic Hawthorne neighborhood, checking out the import stores, wacky retro-60's stores and the great restaurants!

Monday we spent the whole day helping in Jess' class. It was wonderful to put real faces to the names we've been praying for since September!

Miss Whitaker says, "welcome to my class!"

Hard at work on the math quilts!

Teacher Wally working with a reading group!

Leaf Man!
Saying goodbye at the end of the day!

That night Jess and her roommate, Heather, made us a fabulous dinner and we played weird games with her buddies!

Stars among stars!

Cozy apartment!

All too soon it was time to head back to B'ham? :( Thanks, Jess, for such a special time!