There's something so magical about Christmas.

I'm not sure what it is about this Christmas, but it feels more special this year.

Is it the way snowflakes silently fall to the ground and on their way down some tuck
themselves away on tree branches while others cover the ground in a perfect sheet of
flawless white.

And the world suddenly falls silent.

Is it the smell of the freshly cut tree that was cut at the local Christmas tree farm where
carols play in the fields and caramel corn waits at a stand in the field, families strolling
here and there looking for

the perfect tree -

and then gathering around the crackling bon fire sipping hot apple cider.

My hubby and I strolled the streets of this quaint little town near out home earlier this week,
the air filled with the sights and sounds of Christmas,

carolers singing on the street corner -

and my hubby singing "Ho Ho The Mistletoe" in my ear.

As couples strolled by, listening to the laughter in their conversations as they juggled packages filled with treasures.

I come downstairs in the morning, turn on the Christmas tree lights and light the lighted grape wreaths in the windows, put a log on the fire and a pan of apple cider with cinnamon sticks on the stove to simmer all day.

This morning my youngest daughter called just to chat.  I asked what her favorite memories of Christmas were growing up in our family.  Without even blinking she said -

all the cookie baking.

I always remember the cookies.

It made me smile because it took me back to my childhood and my mom baking Christmas cookies right after Thanksgiving, tucking them away in the upstairs pantry just a few steps from our bedroom doors, and warning my 4 brothers and I to stay our of the cookie jars til Christmas.  Which was an open invitation for us to raid them every night before we crawled into bed.

And we did.

And I'm pretty sure every year when she told us to stay out of the cookies -

she knew -

they'd be half eaten by Christmas.

And she never said a word.

She also remembers when she was 6 years old and asking Santa for a purple watch.  On Christmas morning she ran down to her stocking and there it was -

the purple watch.

She stills remembers the excitement she felt thinking that Santa knew where her house was -

and. . .

that he brought her exactly what she wanted.

A memory that still makes her happy to think about today.

I love the traditions our family has created.  And I love hearing other family's traditions.

My same daughter called 2 nights ago to say -

she asked her 6 year old daughter if she'd like to make gingerbread cookies and decorate them.  And she said, "No", I do that with my GaGa Sandy.

So she asked her  if she would like to make Christmas sugar cookies and decorate them, and her daughter replied, "No" I do that with my GaGa Sandy.

Traditions + Memories -

Is it because they all blend together to make us who we are today and to make this magical season even more magical for each of us for all our own reasons.

Or -

Maybe -

is it the story from another time so many years ago on Christmas eve when a man and a woman traveled by donkey on a journey to deliver the most precious gift of all -  traveling in the most primitive of ways over hills and through valleys not knowing when they arrived in a town unfamiliar
to them in the middle of the night the only place to lay their head that night would be in a stable nestled among donkeys and sheep filled with the anticipation of the gift they were bringing to the world in the form of a tiny baby boy who would spend his first night in a lowly manager -

And who would one day be called our - Savior -

His name is Jesus. . .

Happy Birthday Jesus.




I am grateful. . . 

Grateful to live where I drive around a lake nestled in the country to get to the grocery store. . . 

Grateful for neighbors who feel like family. . . 

Grateful for the phone call from my son a couple of weeks ago when he was out to dinner with a friend - 

just to say,  

“thank you mom for all the canning you did while I was growing up”.   

He went on to say they were talking about growing up in a family and what was special to each of them.  He recalled all the canning that took place in our kitchen every summer. “Especially the pickles” he said.  I can remember all the fruit from our fruit trees being made into sauce - but I can’t for the life of me - 

remember the pickles. . .  

This is the same son that many years ago said, “thank you mom for sacrificing your career and staying home to raise us kids".  He didn’t know it was far from a sacrifice, but a special honor and privilege to be home every day, not missing any moment of their growing into the beautiful adults they each are today. 

Every day as a mom we’re busy doing all the things that feel routine to us,  

for sure - nothing extraordinary to us,  

but then some of those moments attach themselves to our children,  

they notice - 

Grateful on 9/11 when my hubby called at 7am to tell me to go turn the TV on.  There was a terrorist attack on New York City. Heading out for my morning walk, passing by a neighborhood church that already had hung a sign out front inviting our community to stop in to pray for those across the United States whose world had just been changed forever.   

A place to feel peace for that moment.   

As I sat down in the back pew I felt connected to all those people 3000 miles away, even though I didn’t personally know any of them.   

That’s what tragedy does.   

It brings out the best in each of us. And draws us close to strangers. 

And then coming home, getting out a bowl + flour + yeast and kneading bread dough.  Picking up the dough and holding it close to my nose to inhale the smell of yeast.  The smell of the yeast was calming and gave me a strong sense of normalcy. My oldest daughter calling  

to say - 

you’re kneading bread, aren’t you mom? 

She knew. . . 

Grateful for a loving heavenly father who loves me and  

cherishes me. . .

Who holds me in the palm of his hand everyday.   

Just because I’m His child. 

Grateful for this very special friend in my life.   

They’re one in a million - 

They’re like no other. 

If you have one, you know what I mean and how blessed I feel. 

Where there’s accepting and forgiving, laughing at each other, hours and hours

of endless, meaningless conversation about white dishes and even whiter pillows

and linens and - 

where there’s loving and caring and sharing. . . 

To the two of us - 

it’s all meaningful. 

Grateful for family because that’s where it all begins and ends. . . 

Grateful for my hubby, our four children, our granddaughter and most importantly all our

friends who form an invisible circle around us with their love, who become family. 

Grateful for the memories of this past year -  
For the special moments -

For the ordinary moments. 

And grateful of course, that I love the smell of fresh falling rain. . .



Leaf Kicking Walk

I love the changing seasons. That’s the Minnesota girl in me. Outside our front door hangs a sign that says, 

Fall is in the Air” - 

 Soon Time for a Leaf Kicking Walk. . . 

And yesterday my hubby and I did just that.  Went for a leaf kicking walk as we wandered the streets
in our neighborhood.

I love the familiar sounds of fall.  Every year I wait to hear the sound of the school bus clunking down our street the week after Labor Day to pick up the neighborhood kids waiting on the corner.  

I love the sound of their laughter that floats through my kitchen window as I stand at my stove stirring  oatmeal. 

The sound of the first fall rains as they dance on the roof overhead. 

I love exchanging flip flops for boots. . . 

T-shirts for chunky sweaters. . . 

and warm, cozy scarves. . . 

Raking leaves and everything looks so clean and then a few days later the winds return to blow more leaves off the trees replacing the ones I just raked up,

sigh. . .

the last mowing and knowing gardening is behind me for the next few months.  Emptying the outdoor pots of flowers that look weary from the hot summer sun and replacing them with decorative cabbages.   
The resident squirrels that show up at our back door every morning waiting for their winter stash of peanuts. 

Then. . . 

One of the most fun, fall activities - heading to the pumpkin farm with my friend to find our white, flat pumpkins. Walking up and down all the aisles searching for the -

perfect pumpkins. . .

Asking each other, what do you think?

Maybe - Maybe not. . .

And of course, every fall I‘m on the hunt for - 

a new winter sweater. . . 

When our granddaughter was born one of the first places we took her was to the beach, put her bare toes in the sand and walked her to the waters edge to smell the salt water.  From the time she was a baby I would take her to an open window during a rain storm and say to her, Niya Lilly, just smell the rain.  I talked to her about the rain,  

how softly it falls -  

how fresh it smells - 

and how quiet the world feels when it’s raining.   

She just turned six and last week she called from Idaho just to say -

Ga Ga, I just wanted to tell you,  

“I’m smelling the rain”.   

Which of course, made my heart smile. . . 

Happy Fall!!! 

Take time for a leaf kicking walk.



Every summer our guest room (“The Penthouse”) has an overflow of guests.  We love this time of year.  And are excited for each one that calls to reserve a time.  In April I go up to check on what needs to be done to freshen the room.   

Usually it’s pretty simple.  

This year I headed up the stairs with new linens for the bed and by the time the first guests arrived I had repainted the wicker chairs, an ottoman -

a table and a bench, put up curtains,

new white towels and wash clothes,  

a couple of rugs and pillows.   

Went into the attic - 

(may I remind you, the last time I went in I was followed out by a band of bees singing “I Wanna Sting Ya”.),  

to find a net swing purchased some 20 years ago and had never been used. Thought it would make a great towel holder.  

As I sit here writing, our first group of 4 left just a few days ago.  And in a few more days
new guests arrive. I love all the fluffing and preparing to make our guests feel welcome and comfortable,  

making a list and then checking it twice to ensure nothing's forgotten. 

Ten years ago our 9 year old niece from Minnesota came to visit during the summer.  One day down at the lake we took this picture. 

Last week we went back to the same spot and updated the picture.  She is now 19 and just completed her first year of college. 

I know. . . 

She’s taller than me. 

When she was here 10 years ago on a rainy day she wanted to do a creative project.  Something with paint.  I went out to the garage and found a small white chair that had sat in my mothers’ kitchen when I was growing up.  Along with that chair I brought in a white utility ladder. And the creativity began. 

After most of the family left for home last Monday we headed to Seaside with our niece
(who stayed on for an extra 5 days) for days of beach strolling, making sand art, walking barefoot on the beach trying not to step on the jelly fish that the waves had randomly placed all over the sand.  

And eating gelato at the local gelateria made fresh daily by the owners.  Just in case you’re wondering??  Marionberry with chocolate shavings is my new fave.  Wasn’t even tempted to order the chocolate.  Even after sampling it.  I know. . . With the name “Chocolate Girl” Marionberry should not have even been an option.
Car naps -  

and treasured conversations tucked in amongst all the busyness. 

Conversations sharing stories, dreams, with lots of giggling mixed in between.  It’s in these quiet conversations that we get a glimpse into parts of each other we hadn’t seen before. 

and then followed by the hardest part of these visits -

saying goodbye. . . 

one hug. . . 

then two. . . 

then - 

one more.



I love this time of year!  Spring makes me -  

joyful, and my thoughts are all stumbling and tumbling all over themselves- 

thoughts about buying this and moving that. . . 

days are longer. . . 

I pass by my gardens and see little green things poking their heads through the

soil that I forgot were there. . . 

and then I feel an excitement stirring inside of me to get my hands in the dirt 

and - 

let the spring cleaning begin.

At first it’s so much fun because every piece you clean up and prune and fluff makes such an - 

impression on the yard. 

I’m pretty sure I see the yard shift with pride.  Not so anyone else would notice.   

But I’m pretty sure it did. 

At first it feels easy and then one day I stand up and look out over the vast yard and realize there’s so much to hoe and dig and all that sleeping dirt to fluff so it resembles a  

Better Homes and Garden picture.   

And then I call my friend and say “I’ll come and pick you up and let’s go

nursery shopping for plants and yard art and  

I’ll be there in 10 minutes and  

no, you don’t need to put makeup on. 

Well, maybe just lipstick. 

And on the ride to the nursery we share ideas and we both get so excited we over talk each other - 

And then in all my excitement I invite friends over for dinner the following week and  

won’t it be fun walking them through the yard and listening to all their sighs and ooohs and aaahs about how beautiful everything looks and - 

who would have thought to put that there! 

As I dig and plant and water, my eyes wander up to the back deck where all my summer pillows have found their way down from the attic.   

I take a minute to go fluff and tuck and move this pillow over 2 more inches which totally made a huge difference in how it looks with that little bit of a move and slide another one back where it originally started. 

I know . . .

It’s such a process. 

And how am I going to get my favorite red and white striped sling chair out of the attic

because as I collected my pillows a few days earlier I was greeted with a swarm of bees that had made their home in the attic over the winter and raced me to the bottom of the stairs. (I won!)

And will my deck look the same without that chair?   

especially with company coming. 

And then as I headed back out to my garden at 7 am this morning (clearly I wasn’t thinking clearly to have a shovel in my hand at that hour on a Sat. morning) I decided

to take a deep breath  

and. . . 

made a plan for our guests arrival. 

I will only walk them through the parts of our yard that are proudly waiting to be part of the garden tour- and no one will notice the piles of rocks waiting to find a home in the landscape, or the bare spots that still need attention.  

I will distract them with a fancy table setting and even fancier food.   

Well, I don’t know about the fancy part. 

And now - 

I can’t wait for our guests to arrive.

Water Therapy


 On any given day when I have free time you will find me by the water - salt water.   

The first place we took our granddaughter even before she could walk was to a salt water beach.  I took her shoes off, put her toes in the sand and whispered in her ear,  

Niya Lilly, “do you feel the sand in your toes”,  

and then I walked her to the water’s edge and said,

Niya Lilly, smell the salt water”.   

And we both took a deep breath. And then we looked at each other and -  

 I knew - 

she smelled what I smelled.

When she looked up at me and smiled, I hoped with everything in me that I had planted a seed in this new little spirit.

If I’m working in my office and there’s rain falling outside my office window, you can be sure, my window will always be cracked open.   

Just so I can - 

smell the rain. . .

I have shared my love for the smell of fresh rain and all that comes with it with Niya.  One afternoon it was raining hard and Niya and I were in our den watching a movie.  I took her over to the window, opened it up wide open, snuggled up around her while she leaned on the window sill and whispered in her ear,

 Niya Lilly, just smell the rain. 

Watch the rain as it bounces off the bright shiny leaves and listen to how -

 quiet it is.

I talked about nature and how beautiful and wonderful it is, and how it relaxes our spirit.

How when we sit by the water or walk in the woods we forget that the rest of the world exists.  Now when she comes to spend the night and it’s raining, she’s the one who takes me to the den, opens the window and says,

“GaGa, let’s smell the rain.

We have a fountain in our entry way and I have one in my office and one outside our front door.

This week we added one to our bedroom.  My hubby found this little fountain that sounds like a quiet babbling brook.  Last night as we lay in bed with the smell of fresh falling rain carried by a cool breeze floated in thru our open bedroom window, and the sound of water softly tumbling over rocks lifted from our new fountain as we drifted off to sleep.

If I ever lived another life before this one (and I’m not so sure that I did), I’m pretty confident I was a fish. 

That’s how much I love water.


The Cookbook

In October my oldest daughter Kym came to me and said,  
“I know what I want for Christmas”. 
I want you to make me a cookbook.   
In the last few years I made one for 2 of our nieces as wedding shower gifts.  They were filled with recipes and stories from aunts and cousins and friends and grandma’s.  With doodles showing what the recipe might look like, well wishes for the future that lay ahead for these young girls. 

Pages filled with love and lots and lots of memories.  Stories that made you laugh.  And then laugh some more 

I knew this was what my daughter was asking for. . . 

She wanted stories and recipes from her grandma when my 4 brothers and I were growing up,  

Stories and recipes from our family when she was growing up.

From the beginning I knew it was less about the recipes and more about the stories behind the recipes.  She wanted a -  

memory book. 

Soon emails were sent, notes sailed across the states, phone calls were made - 

and then. . . 

letters with attached recipes began filling my mailbox. 

Friends dropped by to write in her book. 

As we go through everyday life raising our children we don’t know what attaches to them, the memories that become their favorites and that define them, the ones they will take into their homes. 

Family and our family history has always been important to our daughter Kym.  As with all families we had special traditions, family gatherings for  

everything and anything. . . 

When my mother passed away Kym came to me and said, now that grandma’s gone you are the matriarch in our family,   

It’s up to you to keep the family traditions alive.   

She is our little event planner. After we lost Phil’s sister Judy, Kym had a big hole in her heart and she needed to find a way to fill it. It didn’t take her long to create a new tradition to add to the old ones that were already solid.  From her new idea was born “Girls Week” with Phil’s sisters and their daughters and me and my daughters.  The following spring we all headed to Palm Springs to a family vacation home to have our first “Girls Week”.  Some of our favorite trips have been to San Francisco, San Diego

and wine country in Sonoma where we rented a home from the Sabastiani family who own a winery in Sonoma.  What we find on these girls trips is when you spend 5 days together you have these special pockets of time with each other that never take place in family gatherings or when you stay in a hotel.  These are the times when we really get to know each other.  When stories are told that we otherwise wouldn’t hear.  When we let ourselves become vulnerable with each other.  Where we become real.  

And so as I sit putting this book together I know it’s important to leave empty pages

scattered among the written ones to make room for Kym’s stories that she will add one day.  To add her own stories to our family history.