31 January 2011

The Faith That Binds

 Such joy was found in our mini family reunion this weekend. So much chatting and hugging, eating and laughing. The young boys tried out the zipline ... and the middle-aged boys too. Very cheer-worthy performances.

However, the sweetest part, by far, was the reuniting of my grandfather and his brother. It had been a number of years since they had been able to be together. And while so much wisdom is gained by the later years of life, sometimes the present-tense memory isn't what it used to be. But. Memories of the past? These two brothers had much to recall together.

 Sweet Aunt May had been quietly praying for this day, she told me. Uncle Frank has been asking to see his brother Alvin most everyday but she just didn't know how she could make it happen. Ability, health, geography ... so many things to stand in the way. So she prayed.

And God provided a way to celebrate family bonds and encourage us all to be faithful. Faithful to each other. Faithful in prayer. Faithful in Him. God is good.

28 January 2011

Valley of the Sun - Conclusion

And we swam and we swam until the light dimmed to floating gems ... leaving us dreaming of a hopeful return.

27 January 2011

Valley of the Sun, Pt. VII

Yes, dear. You are most impressive. In every way. And really, I'm not laughing at you. It's just a nervous giggle because I am so overwhelmed by your man-beauty and general magnificence.

I am one. lucky. girl.

26 January 2011

Valley of the Sun, Pt. VI

 Not to be forgotten, we had some fun planned with Lucette in mind, too. A horse crazy child, if I ever saw one, she was so giddy she was vibrating on our way to the corral. However, once we arrived, all of the excited energy was channeled into some serious composure and focus.

 With back straight and chin up, her posture suggested a very confident air of "This is where I belong."

 With Pops and Peter as her willing companions, Lucette was set. An hour-long trail ride in the foothills of Tempe -- 7 year-old girl bliss.

 Naturally, she wishes upon wishes that we could have our own pony, but couple this trail ride with the horse lessons from Christmas? Daydreams of galloping through fields with golden hair flying and the sun on her back ... now a seeming possibility for this electric-eyed child.

 And for the forever-younger Jane, cuteness is not enough to qualify for trail rides. Kind of hard when the stirrups can't be shortened another six inches. But not to fear, corral rides and feeding the golden pony named Pal fill up the time nicely.

 Mama stayed back with Jane and enjoyed watching her regal composure and approving glances as she circled 'round.

Just when we were fully sun-soaked and horse-happy, trail ridin' Lucette and the menfolk returned with discussions of bbq lunch at the Honey Bear. And the smiles from that day were as wide as the big, blue Arizona sky.

25 January 2011

Valley of the Sun, Pt. V

 The Sedona red-rocks. A truly glorious part of the country, I must say. We did not make it to the Grand Canyon, on this trip, but Sedona must surely rank right up there with stunning Arizona landscape.

For Peter's Christmas gift, we had planned an off-roading jeep tour. Our jeep guide drove us about and chatted us up and we all bounced and jostled about with glee. Peter took it in stride with a happy grin on his face ... and the girls got bumped and tossed into some serious giggle fits. I think the girls enjoyed the bumpy ride as much as any view!

 And of course, I took pictures. And more pictures. And more pictures. And my son stood there patiently ... until he could take it no more.

Our guide was kind enough to take a photo of all of us but insisted that the best picture was to be had if we stared straight at the sun. I think my eyes may still be watering.

But then again, squinty pictures can be awfully cute.

In and out of the jeep we went, stopping now and then for some exploring and exclaiming over all we saw. Our goal with the "experiences" was to participate as a family but enjoy in honor of one of the children. We thought this little day-adventure would be right up Peter's alley.

Now, my son is a quiet sort. He observes, thinks, imagines, responds. He enjoys people yet is content on his own. And he is, by far, the most reflective and contemplative of all my children. It fascinates me to watch him assimilate new experiences. He and I both tend to gravitate towards a sense of caution and hyper-responsibility, so his willingness for boldness, change, and challenge inspires me.

But of course, I'm his mother ... and it's all just good like that.

24 January 2011

Valley of the Sun, Pt. IV

 While hiking the impressive Camelback Mountain gave Peter and Pops a thrill, that hike was a little too fantastic for some of our wee ones. Jane did admirably and had a number of war-wounds as proof of her attempt. Us girls hiked just a portion and let the boys finish that trek on their own. 

However, one of our most favorite family-style hikes was actually the easy-to-get-to "Hole in the Rock." A kid-friendly hike with a fantastic vista and lots of fun nooks and crannies to explore.

 We spent more than an hour up here trekking about, making up silly games, and just generally enjoying the view.

There was much to make one gaze in wonder.

21 January 2011

20 January 2011

Valley of the Sun, Pt. II

It's so fun to be a parent and learn about your children. To see what delights them and captures their interest. To see it hone in over time. 

 And naturally, for 5 year-old Jane, a giant outdoor carousel replete with regally galloping creatures, fantastical colors, twinkling lights, and enchanted music ... yes, this sums up her current self nicely.

Such a simple thing -- paying two dollars for a carousel ride. But so worth the time and pocket change. 

And when you can stop and take it all in through the eyes of your child? A little bit of magic for the mama, too.

Valley of the Sun, Pt. I

Are you ready for the full low-down? Well buckle up, 'cause I got days worth to share!

To set the scene, Pops and I spent some time before the holidays, trying to dream up the best Christmas gift we could think of. The grand idea? Traveling together as a family. Stuff is fun, but shared experiences seem to build and knit families together. Plus ... memories are so much more enjoyable to store than a pile of new toys.

God is gracious and so often provides avenues to realize our fanciful ideas. Through a generous offer of accommodations, enough airline miles for five (!!!) tickets, and a boss that demanded Pops take some extra time off due to a mega-stretch of overtime work ... our trip materialized.

The plan? Head to Arizona for some sun and specific experiences in honor of each of the children. For sweet Jane, it was a trip to the zoo.

Naturally, there were many animals to gaze upon. We flounced about in our sundresses and t-shirts in the 70 degree weather (while all the native Arizonans huddled about in their jeans and sweaters !) and flitted from one heat loving creature to the next. 

And then. The girls spotted the camels. Camels that you could ride.

 Oh, glory be!

 Peter preferred to experience the animals from a more observatory perspective.

We all stood and gawked at the oddly beautiful flamingos for quite some time. So quirky they are with their ridiculously long necks, toothpick legs to balance upon, and their serenely beautiful pink feathers.


And leave it to Pops, armed with a long stick and some Mac Gyver maneuverings, to snag a discarded feather for us girls.

The children loved the day ...

 ... and Pops and I were happy too.

19 January 2011

America the Beautiful

Just home from an excursion to the awe-inspiring Arizona. The Sedona views still on my mind. Magnificent.

Back to share more photos and regale you with family anecdotes once the laundry is done!

10 January 2011

The Family That Plays Together ...

Off for a family adventure ... I'll check back in after a bit.

07 January 2011

To Wear It With Confidence

This vintage fur collar has to be one of my most luxurious thrift-store finds to date. Lined in a mauvey-peach silk with a silk-thread hook and eye closure, and smelling faintly of a regally perfumed granny ... sheer fantastic-ness.

Honestly, I'm kind of digging the collar right on top of a plain sweater. However, at Christmas, I placed it over top my camel-toned wool dress coat. No wonder the high-end ladies love their fur! It definitely put a confident swagger in my step.

So now. What do we call fur collars? Not a shawl, not a muff ... but there must be a designated term, as "collar" just doesn't seem to be a snooty enough term. Any thoughts?

06 January 2011

Afternoon Happy Snack

Perfect to whip up in a pinch. Mix all together, slap in a 9 x 13, shove into oven, and slice into bars. Makes for very happy kids when served for an afternoon snack. Makes for very happy moms when served to herself with a cup of coffee!

Grandma's Raisin Oat Bars

Cream together:
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. br. sugar

Beat in:
1 egg
1 t. vanilla

Stir in:
1/4 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1 c. flour
1 c. oats
1 c. raisins
1/2 c. coconut

Butter a 9 x 13 pan and press batter into it. (Get your fingers into it! It's sticky!) Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes. Cut into bars.

05 January 2011

Lucette Dreams Up a New Recipe

Scenes From a Merry Retro Christmas

Now how great is this 1950's Christmas tree from my parent's home?

A tinsel tree complete with a rotating color-wheel below to give sparkle and glamour.

So mesmerizing!

03 January 2011

Looking Back, Moving Forward

It was a good day. I made my second-annual New Year's trip to the city to take in some time on my own and see what God had to say to me. As chatty as I am, I find I really thrive on alone-time. The quiet. The awareness to detail. The ability to take in my environment without immediate responsibilities. And though I may or may not be actively looking ... God often shows up.

This time, He showed up in the Bijou Cafe while I was enjoying a solitary breakfast. Sweet Potato, Chicken and Kale Hash, if you please, and a cup of black coffee, too. Sitting by my lonesome, happily, I eavesdropped on the excited buzz of the morning patrons. Seems a lot of people like to start the new year with a good meal. After mine was thoroughly polished off, I pulled out my bible and notebook and smiled with an affirmative nod when more coffee was offered. 

On a whim, I began reading in Jeremiah. I was pulled into chapter 20 and read the prophet's opened soul in verses 7-18. 

• A cry of the confused: "... I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed ..."
• A cry of the worn out: " ... his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot ...
• A cry of the comforted: "... But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior ..." 
• A cry of praise: "... Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy ..." 
• And once more, a cry of exhausted despair: "... Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame ..."

Oh fickle, faithless, believing, wavering Jeremiah. I do so identify with you.

For you see, this past year has been, quite possibly, one of the most difficult I've experienced. I'm no chosen Jeremiah and my trials are paltry compared to many. My year was no shocking hardship, it was just mine and it was just hard. I cried out to God in exhaustion, confusion, in comforted joy, and in wretched, full-on-cry-me-a-river self-pity. And. All by my lonesome. The girl who loves her alone time was called to journey through a desert, for a long while ... alone. Sometimes we are given burdens to bear with God as the only refuge. The only comrade. The only promise of hope. 

And even in the midst of His fullness, the doubt and worry and plain ol' selfishness can creep in ... just to stir the bubbling pot a bit more. Ever the frugal gal, I found myself, this past year, looking to please my aesthetic sensibilities to their fullness. Translation? I went shopping for pretty things. Now, I'm far too controlled by practical good sense to really go crazy, but you know the nagging feeling ... "Did I really need that? Should I really be spending right now?" ... yup, I became quite familiar with that sensation.

While I feel like I have been delivered from my gut-wrenching sojourn (without going into detail, God stepped in with a mighty and ... nothing short of ... miraculous hand), I've been struggling with my newly formed habit of retail therapy. Pretty things are nice. Shopping is fun. But spending wisely is better.

To pull you back to my New Year's Day morning, after contemplating Jeremiah and musing over the spending issue, I spent the next three hours in a monster new/used book store. Heaven. I read, drank coffee, read, ate a pistachio gelato, and read some more. I had a pile of books I wanted to adopt, yet strangely, I purchased none. 

Back into the car to leave the city behind and head on home, I passed a little thrift shop. Now ready to get home, I buzzed through the shop quickly. Nothing really caught my eye until I spied a little blue book on a shelf. A sweet old copy of Sense and Sensibility for $1.99. I had to laugh to myself. In Jeremiah I found a relatable man who struggled in his immaturity, yet found his faith growing because of who God is. In this small title, I found encouragement in my spending dilemma. It was if God suggested to me, "Anna, I know of your penchant for pretty things and your aesthetic Sensibilities. It's okay. I made you that way. Let's just keep it combined with good Sense. Don't worry, you're not on your own. We'll work on it together."

And so. He provides. He comforts. He stands by His promises. He is faithful and unwavering ... even though I am not. Praise God. 

Moving forward, Friends ... Happy New Year.