Family Christmas Countdown

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Snow Much Fun!

It FINALLY snowed in Farmington, and almost the whole family enjoyed a brief snowball fight. Then Jed, Laura and Alli stayed out there long enough to build three snowmen...something they probably won't have many opportunities to do in Dallas. Now hopefully the snow won't make their return trips too hazardous. Cory and Joanna returned home to Utah yesterday. Hopefully their trip wasn't too treacherous. It looked from the weather maps like they were heading away from the storm, not into it. The others are returning home after the first of the week.

Happy New Years to ALL!

Love, Earlene, Scott, Julia, Jed, Laura, Alli, Paul and Nicole

A Plethora of Pinata pics

As most of you know, we have a pinata party at some point during the holidays each year. We used to do it as part of our Christmas Eve festivities. But, now that we live in NM, our Christmas Eve traditions have changed somewhat we usually do the pinata some time between Christmas and New Years. It is fun to pass the tradition on to the next generation. The little ones seemed to really enjoy it. The big ones didn't have too bad of a time either. :) It is one of our favorite traditions. We now reinforce the pinatas with duct tape, to make them strong enough to give everyone a turn before the final destruction. LOTS of laughs!

Christmas Morning

Here are just a few shots from our Christmas morning...unwrapping presents. Actually we had a couple of different "Christmas mornings" on Christmas morning and one the night that Joanna, Cory and Gabe and Paul and Nicole came into town. We have stretched our celebrations out across the whole week. Fun times!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Grandpa Whisler's post

Here's Grandpa Whisler's post from last night in case anyone didn't get to read it....

Love, Joanna

It is now Christmas Eve so time to put ours in. Last night we had a family christmas party for Debbie,Debbie's family and Kami's family including the 3 great grandchildren here. Carole put on our usual meat and cheese tray with all the trimmings, heated little sausage's and enough other food to feed an army of 500. There is probably enough for 300 of those 500 left for today.

All the people here opened their presents and that leaves just our presents to each and what ever everyone else has sent to open. We do it Christmas Eve as Carole always did and since there are no little kids, it really doesn't matter.

Tonight, we had our tradional christmas eve dinner out with Debbie and Bob, that is part of their christmas to us. Tonight, we ate at Mimi's and I am now stuffed.

Tomorrow we will go to Kami's to see what the kids got from Santa Clause, but I guess that isn't part of Christmas Eve. Then tomorrow afternoon, we will go to Debbie's for dinner.

It is not time for Yogi's cheese and he will then go to bed. Carole and I will probably watch TV for a while then get ready for bed then open our presents. That about rounds it up except to wish all of you a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Happy Christmas

Well, we survived Christmas Eve. On Sunday morning, we went to church. We just had the Sacrament program - it was just music and scriptures. all 5 of our pianists were out of town, so we just sang our song acapella - we sang "come Lord Jesus" from Savior of the World. It was the final song in the program and it was a nice ending.

When we came home, Alicia and I didn't feel well, so we laid down and slept then we ate our breakfast and opened our presents. We had a small Christmas, but it was very pleasant. then we watched a movie and brian went to bed. I started to have a panic attack and a seizure, then we realized I had a high fever and had the flu. So I was sick for a couple hours and finally went to bed. Alicia was feeling the flu, too, but held herself together better than I did.

this morning we slept in and we all feel pretty good so far, although I'm still on 7-up instead of food. We have a lovely ham in the oven that Brian started and he also boiled eggs for deviled eggs and Alicia is making egg nog. We still make it the old fashioned way that Daddy taught me, we don't worry about eggs like the rest of the world.

Well, this is kind of rambling, I just wanted to say Merry Christmas. Love, Charlotte

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas to All!

Merry Christmas to all of you! It is just before midnight on Christmas Eve. Julia went to Midnight Mass at the Catholic Church tonight, and I am waiting up for her, so I thought I'd write a note to send our love to all of you. And, I am finally getting around to posting pics of our Christmas trees.

We spent this evening at Mama and Papa Rhien's house....Scott's parents. There were fewer of us than normal, but still quite a group. We had a fairly simple dinner with three kinds of soup, salad, rolls and lots of goodies. After dinner we opened our gifts from Mama and Papa and siblings and watched everyone open theirs as well. After visiting and taking pictures we helped clean up the kitchen and then headed out on a drive to see the Christmas lights before settling in at home to read the Christmas story and open our Christmas PJ's.

It is so fun watching the next generation enjoy Christmas. Alli charmed everyone this evening. She loved her new pajamas which were covered with cute snowmen, until she saw that Julia, Laura and I got pink pajama bottoms. She LOVES pink and wanted to trade with Julia. We finally convinced her that Julia's were too big. It will be fun to see her enjoy things in the morning.

Last night (the 23rd) was our annual Rhien/Webb dinner...a reunion of sorts for all the descendants of Maxine Rhien and her brother, Marlo Webb. There were around 65 people present, and that was probably just a little over half of the people that could have been there, but weren't in town. It is amazing to me that two people could have such an amazing progeny. Crazy stuff! It is such a big crowd that we hold it at the cultural hall at church.

Well, I have stayed up long enough now to officially say, "Merry Christmas!" We love each of you so much and have so enjoyed the blog. Our hearts and thoughts are with all of you as we celebrate this wonderful day.

The pictures above are of our two trees. The first one is our tradition family tree by day and the second is our tree by night, with lights. The other two pictures are of our smaller tree, which is more of a theme tree.

Much love, Earlene, Scott and Julia

Our Christmas Eve

I think its a great idea to share what we are doing for Christmas Eve!

We have some mixed traditions, where we combined mom and dad's Christmas traditions. We have breakfast for dinner on Christmas eve, then a little later we open our presents. Dad's family always opened presents Christmas Eve, but mom's opened after a big Christmas breakfast, so we mix the two and get the best of both worlds - a big yummy breakfast and presents on Christmas eve. Then tomorrow we will enjoy our presents, visit with everyone, and then have a ham dinner. Oh, and we always have eggnog for breakfast tomorrow morning. Usually we would have it with a sweet roll, but I'm not into making it this year, so I think we're going to skip that and just have cinnamon toast or something.

And that's about it for us - just a quiet, at home holiday. Hope you are all well, and safe traveling! Love Alicia

Revisiting another family tradition....

Well one thing I remember when I was little (especially really young) was getting sick around Christmas time. I don't know if it was actually a flu bug we seemed to get every year, or getting sick from too many goodies - or maybe just getting so excited for Santa that we made ourselves sick. Either way - it seems like I remember being sick around Christmas frequently.

So this year I guess we decided to revisit the old tradition. We have had a bought of the stomach flu that has left me exhausted, Gabe cranky - and Cory tired from taking care of us. Hopefully we're on the mend, and will be able to enjoy the next day and 1/2 before we head off to Farmington. We're hoping to be over it so we don't spread our holiday "cheer" to those in New Mexico.

Anyway, I thought if anyone is checking the blog today (Christmas Eve) that they could share what they're doing tonight to celebrate.

We're going to our friend the Springer's home for Christmas Eve dinner. We were trying to decide what to have for dinner and I suggested that our family always had Mexican food. So we're going with the Rhien Family tradition and we're having enchiladas and 7-layer dip. To add to our festivities we picked up a pinata to do with the kids (our friends have a 3 and 4 year old, and Gabe). It should be a lot of fun.

Then we'll come home and open our new jammies, read the Christmas story and "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and go to sleep. In the morning we'll do Santa presents, breakfast (we're having German Pancakes), and open the rest of our presents. Then I think we're goign to hit the movie theater and take Gabe to see "Charlotte's Web" (although I think it's more for me....)

And that's our plans in a nutshell.

Hope everyone has a WONDERFUL Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and knows that we're all with you in thought and spirit.

Love, Joanna

Saturday, December 23, 2006

It's 9pm and I just started

decorating my tree. After a 90 minute struggle last night that left the tree standing at a 30 degree angle in two directions (and remembering that a friend had my super lopers, so I couldn't cut off the big branch that made the tree sit crooked) and a busy day today, I finally shimmed up the tree stand itself on one side, and then tied the tree with fishing line to a nail in the door jamb until the tree stood straight. It will only be up for a week or so anyway. . . So I've got most the lights up; just the two strands of minis to go. On my five foot tree I have three strands of the big old lights, with some clear blinkers interspersed, a long strand of those multicolored pearl lights they came out with last year and a strand of those smaller "flame" bulbs. Oh and the strand of the bubble candles across the middle. So I still have the white and colored minis to put on, and then its time to start jamming on the ornaments. I used to go for all white minis, but as you can see, I have veered far toward loud and gaudy. I live in a neighborhood with immigrants from all over the world, and they decorate their houses will all sorts of colored lights all jammed together, and I have been charmed by the sincerity of it all--it seems more heartfelt than all those tasteful clear lights carefully outlining the shapes of the roof. . .

I am drinking silk soy egg nog (really not bad, and for you wwers, it's got lots of fiber in it!) mixed with 3/4 soda water. It's like diet icecream--as long as you don't think about it too much it almost passes for the real thing.

I already cleaned the crab meat from the bodies of six big crabs, leaving the legs for tomorrow so I could start working on the tree.

I am so liking this christmas blog. I miss the voices of Blake and Johanna but am glad that so many have participated. I hope we keep it up through til the new year!

I thought we were going to buy a digital camera today so I could post some photos, but instead we went and got new towels for our newly painted bathroom at a special sale. Eventually. . . .

Love to you all, Sandra

Miraculous driving conditions

Merry Christmas all. Jed and I have been pondering about how much the Lord loves us all. We have been particularly blessed this year. We've looked back through the year, and seen so many blessings. Jed has not only graduated from school, survived an intership at a great place that has never hired an intern before, has been hired anyway, and we have been able to make ends meet better than we thought we would.

We've had the most relaxed December yet, quite opposite from Paul and Nicole and probably everyone else. Our shopping has been done early, and we have not had any final tests, or pressing projects at work even. It seems that we have been very blessed. It's been a great season for us!

We are currently at Jed's parent's home. It was a long drive, but Alli handled it like a champ. We were supposed to hit some pretty nasty weather, and there was a small window of time that the weather was supposed to let up and we tried to aim to travel around that time. We weren't sure how slick it was going to be, but we know there were people praying for us. The roads were great, almost as if there wasn't ever bad weather at all, though we read that there was. Along the road, we saw a few cars and trucks that were still being cleaned up from the night before. It looked pretty bad. But the report for the roads when we were driving were miraculously dry. We know we have been blessed.

Paul and Nicole, we are very impressed with how great you are handling all that you have been doing; you are great examples.

It has been fun to read this season about our family, and find out new things about each of you as we have read in this blog.

We love you all very much. - Love Laura, Jed, and Alli

ahhh, old age

So I did something funny the other day. I have recently switched from roll-on deodorant to a spray and I was having trouble with the nozzle clogging up and to get it to work, I had to hit it in short sprays, tap tap tap, and hope enough came out to work. I also switched to a new kind of hair spray and didn't notice the cans were virtually the same size. Of course, I don't wear my glasses when I am getting ready.

so after my shower, i reached for my spray deodorant, and it wasn't clogged up, it just sprayed right out, so i really sprayed under both arms to be sure I got good coverage. then I noticed as I put on my make-up, that my underarms wanted to stick down, so I thought, well, I better put my undershirt on so It can absorb some of this deodorant. So then after I was all ready, I noticed that I couldn't lift my arms. the spray had cemented my shirt to my arms and my arms - from the elbow up were completely stuck down.

I couldn't lift either arm over to unstick the other arm, so I called out and alicia took a wet cloth and peeled my arms up and swiped them with a wet cloth. she thought she had got it all, but the water just seemed to reactivate the spray and my arms stuck down even more. I called her back and we tried to peel my shirt off and she tried to rewash them, but she started laughing so hard, she had to hang onto the counter to keep from literally falling on the floor and roll around and laugh, she had tears streaming down her face.

Finally we got it all washed off and the real deodorant sprayed on and a new shirt put on. They still stuck every once in a while, until I showered again.....and now I put the two cans on opposite sides of the dressing table. I'm just so relieved it was only level 3 hold hairspray.... we would have had to do skin grafts if it was super ultra hold level 4.


Kate and the candy canes

I can't remember if I posted the whole story of Kate and the candy canes, so I thought I would take a minute. It is kind of a funny story. Those of you who remember our dog Kate (I think Paul remembers her - "DOWN KATE! DOWN KATE!"). she was quite a character and pretty stubborn.

In Joseph, we would get these huge 10 to 12 foot trees that could be like 6 feet or more around. We had a huge living room, with vaulted ceilings. Anyway, when we were first married, Brian's mom made us these horse head holders for candy canes. We had always had candy canes on our tree, since always, but as we were decorating the tree, we found that the scent of the canes was interesting to kate, so we only put a couple canes in the holders and put them at the top of the tree.

Just before Christmas, they asked me to work a day at the 4-H office, so the secretary could have a day off. Usually, I was home most of the time. It was the first time I think Kate had ever been home all day by herself. She had not shown any interest in the tree when we were home (that is after we removed the wrapped box of chocolates she discovered someone had given us under the tree).

When I got home from work, the tree looked pretty normal, but when I sat down, i noticed that the entire back of the 12 foot tree was bare. She had eaten every ornament on the climb up the tree to reach the candy cane at the top. We were pretty worried about her, she ate glass balls, plastic ornaments, cloth ornaments, and the scariest one of all was a tiny basket that had balls of twine and a pair of nails in it that looked like a knitting basket. The nails were a good 2 1/2 to 3 inches long and we never found them, EVER. We were so afraid that her intestines would be punctured as she digested them, but she was fine.

We never have hung candy canes on our tree again. She's gone now, but out of her memory, we still don't hang anything edible. We do miss her sniffing powers. We used to get boxes wrapped that contained chocolates from several people, and she would always find those for us when we put the presents under the tree. She wouldn't tear into them or anything. she would just keep at us, until we removed them and put them in the fridge. One year, after we opened presents, we went over to Brian's parents and left the presents out. His parents for 20 years gave us one of those huge boxes of chocolates you get at Walmart or Kmart and while we were gone for Christmas with his family, she age almost the whole box. It was a good thing she was a big dog and it was sort of fake chocolate. They say that chocolate isn't good for dogs, and a litte dog would have died from that much chocolate, but then a little dog wouldn't have eaten the whole box, like she did. Ahhhh, she leaves a gap in our lives and we remember her fondly at Christmas.
Love, Charlotte

Caramel corn

My world famous recipe for caramel corn came from my good friend Pier. The secret is to bake it after you mix in the caramel. she bakes hers on cookie sheets, but I do mine in my big roaster pan. When we lived in Joseph, we cooked it for an hour in the oven, but we have found that leaves the corn too sticky here at sea level in the moist if you live near the ocean or near sea level, you might add 20 minutes in the oven, as we do.

Pop 1 cup corn kernels - it will make 6 qts. Hand by hand move the corn into a Pam sprayed pan, shaking and sorting out the old maids and the dead kernels. Pier would place the popped corn into a warm oven to hold it, but we don't.

2 cups brown sugar
2 sticks margarine
1/2 cup corn syrup
Boil for 5 min. Add 1 tsp. baking soda and 1 tsp. salt
(watch out, it will foam when you add the soda)

Stir into the popcorn. Bake on cookie sheet or large pan for 1 hour, at 200 degrees, stirring every 20 minutes.


Christmas has been such a BUSY time of the year this year that it is hard to believe that the day after tomorrow is Christmas day. When most people say that, they mean that they've been busy going to work and church Christmas parties, been busy Christmas shopping, and baking for friends and neighbors, etc. Busy with Christmas things.

Starting with finals and finishing up with school, and then with working late into the night almost every day this week (until 2, or 3, or 4am), I am just exhausted. What might make it a bit more worth it would be for teachers to post final grades for the semester or for my bosses to express a little more appreciation for the hard work that everyone's been putting in this week. My mother-in-law asked what we're going to do when Nicole and I get to their place this afternoon, and I told her "sleep."

I'm not complaining too much. Many neighbors/ward members have been busy with moving and traveling long, long distances this week. And at least I'm not trapped in the Denver (or any other) airport. Nicole and I have been able to take care of some Christmas projects this week that have helped us get in the "mood" - participating in the things that Christmas is all about. This Christmas blog has brought our family together this Christmas in ways that I don't think gifts could have - reminiscing of Christmases past, sharing our Christmases present, and looking forward to Christmases future.

I'm looking very forward to relaxing these next few days... taking a "vacation from my problems (what about Bob?)" and really enjoying the last few days of Christmas! We do have approx. 3 inches of snow on the ground here in Rexburg. I'm assuming there is even more snow in Driggs - a white Christmas :) We don't need snow, however, on the 26th when we'll be traveling - hopefully the entire way to Farmington - by road. So keep us in your prayers on Tuesday.

Anyway, I just wanted to take a few minutes this morning to reflect, share my busyness, and tell you that I love you.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Now the holiday begins for real

Well, ok, since I still don't have my tree up (should be done by tomorrow night, I think), the first way I know it is really the holiday is that I am DONE WORKING for 10 days!@ I have once again managed to land at a place that closes for the week between Christmas and New Years. And I sent everyone home at 1:30 and met my friend Jeannie for a late solstice lunch. Then I dawdled my way north, stopping at this store and that for things I wanted. I was looking for some special cheeses from my favorite cheesemaker in the whole world, Cowgirl creamery, in Pt. Reyes, but neither of the stores I went to had it. So I had to settle for my second favorite cheese Humboldt Fog, made by Cypress Grove further up the coast. Getting special cheese to go with those good Christmas pears.

I am happy and grateful to be nesting down in our cozy home, not having to travel more than 50 miles, not having any shopping let to do, just being able to slow down and read and listen to music and putter.

Tomorrow morning I will go to the farmers market, including getting the six fresh crabs from the fish folks for the crab cocktais we are taking to Christmas eve dinner at Linda's (besides the Indonesian coleslaw and an as yet undetermined vegetable dish) to go with the Indonesian Sate they make for christmas dinner. Then in the afternoon, get my hair cut and finish the tree.

Ho ho ho to all of you, and our prayers as you journey. Love, Sandra

Carper's multi-million dollar Fudge

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Carpers searched for the perfect soft fudge recipe. We tried lots of versions and combined some to create this. We make one batch on the day after Thanksgiving and sometimes make a second batch later in the month, but now that Blake doesn't live at home, the second batch never gets finished. The recipe was originally based on the number of chips left in the bags after the drive home from Safeway in Enterprise to Joseph. It isn't an exact science. Just grap some chips out of the bowl before you start making the sugar syrup. Be sure to have the chips and marshmallow creme ready in the big bowl before you start.

4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 can (regular size) evaporated milk
1 cup margarine
dash salt

Heat in saucepan until boiling, stirring constantly. Boil 6 min. without stirring. Remove from heat, add:

1 TBL. vanilla

In a large bowl, put
1 12 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 12 oz. pkg. milk chocolate chips
8 oz. marshmallow creme

Pour boiling misture over chocolate bowl and stir until chocolate is melted and mixed thoroughly with the marshmallow creme.

Pour into 2 13x9x2" buttered pans. Add walnuts to the top of one or both pans and press into the fudge. Cool at room tempurature for 24 hours. Cut into pieces and put into refrigerator boxes with tight lids and store in fridge. Makes 5 lbs.

Grandma Marilyns

Monday, December 18, 2006

mantle decorations

I wish we had a digital camera, so I could share my mantle decorations (still haven't started on the tree). I was home sick today, but in the afternoon, when I finally got up at 3pm, I did the mantle decorations. We've never had a mantle before (the old massive rock fireplace didn't have a mantle, and we just got the one installed on the tile fireplace about a month ago). so it made me happy.

I put down a striped gold woven cloth, then laid down fir greens, cuttings from the bottle bush with red-tipped ends, and some fresh bay cuttings. I have two large gold-painted candle chimneys and two little ones. And the mantle is heaped with those fake fruits that have the sparkly "snow" or "sand" on them in shades of red, gold, mauve, pink--apples, pears, pomegrantes, grapes. Little gold and copper star ornaments scattered about, and little gold twigs. On the cabinets on either side I have the arrangements with the berries and the eucalyptus and the copper glittered branches.

So even though the tree isn't up yet, I am really happy to have this luscious display on the mantle, and happy to have a mantle to decorate!

PS Grandma Marilyn got her computer today, so maybe she will be online sometime this week!

Much love, Sandra

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Sorry that we have been somewhat inactive on blogging... We read your posts, but have little time to post ourselves. We are hoping that with school done for me (Paul) tomorrow that we can really enjoy the rest of the Christmas season and feel the spirit if it this week. Here are our answers to the Christmas questions:


P: I don't drink too much of either, but like them both. I want to try the chocolate egg nog at Reed's Dairy in Idaho Falls that I
have heard great things about.
N: Usually Hot Chocolate. This season, it's Jamba Juice Orange-A-Peel (one of the few liquids that'll stay down).


P: Looks like he has this year.
N: All except for the really big ones.


P: White on our cute little tree.
N: Colored when growing up, but now white.


P&N: Not yet, kissing isn't as appealing to Nicole recently because of nausea.


P&N: The decorations went up on Thanksgiving, but our tree was up much earlier (by 2 weeks or so :) ). Because this is our first Christmas, we're still trying to figure out some traditions.


P: Hard to say. Probably 7 Layer Dip
N: Honey Ham with cherry dipped in a mustard ring


P: I was given the assignment of putting up the lights. Of course, I'm a Rhien, so I wrap them in an out of the branches and always have to go buy more lights.

N: Our Christmas decorations are special because when I was in high school, there was a family at my dad's work that lost their father suddenly due to a brain aneurism. They had a tree but no decorations just before Christmas so I was given the job to decorate the tree. The family was very grateful and let me keep the decorations after that Christmas.


P: Santa Claus!?! I know him! I still believe.
N: I don't remember.


P: In Norway, Christmas Eve is Christmas. We opened ALL of the presents then. I think only pj's this year though.
N: I do now, but only pj's.


P: They all kind of blend together. Mostly going to the bathroom 700 times in the night - because I was so anxious!
N: When other families provided Christmas for us during a difficult year.


P: Yes. and I love it. This year, the school's rink is up on the hill by our church, AND the city is building a rink on Main Street. We'll have to go before it's too dangerous for Nicole.
N: It's not dangerous unless you fall:)


P: My first palm pilot in 8th grade or a Jr. Jazz membership when I was a bit younger or a HUGE box of basketball trading cards when I was into NBA and the UT Jazz.
N: Last year being sealed to Paul!


P: Being with family and loved ones. The magic of the season is in how everyone treats everyone so kindly.
N: Remembering the reason for the season


P: There are so many good ones - Candy Cane Cookies are near the top though (P.S. Mom, can you please save several for us? :) )
N: Peanut Brittle


P: The pinata is a fun one, or reading the Bible's rendition of Jesus' birth, or Christmas Caroling, or looking at the lights, there are so many good ones. I'm excited to create traditions in our new family :)
N: Strawberry waffles Christmas morning


P&N: A gold, sparkly snowflake that we bought at Walmart


P: O Holy Night or Feliz Navidad
N: Silent Night


P&N: some of both. but mostly giving (especially when it's the perfect gift.)


P: It doesn't matter anymore.
N: I don't know, that's tough to say.


P: Besides the fact that we haven't done any Christmas baking. Yes.
N: Besides the fact that we haven't gotten anything for each other yet. Yes.

MERRY CHRISTMAS! - Paul & Nicole

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Cat troubled

You might notice on the picture of Carper's Christmas tree there aren't any ornaments on the bottom of the tree or anything really shiny or dangly. Our cat is very disgruntled with the weather this year and he keeps playing with the tree. A couple times, he has gotten behind it and then sat and yowled because he couldn't figure his way back out. We could post a picture of it, but all you would see is the tree rocking back and forth and a fuzzy black tail sticking out. Poor guy. He ends up spending a lot of time in the garage where he has sand to play in and creatures to chase. but sometimes we forget he is down there. We have started doing a census at certain times during the day - at noon and every night at 6:00 and at 9:00 - to check where the cat is, and every couple days, someone will jump up and say, "OOPS, I forgot. He's been in the garage for 3 hours." But he must not mind because he still goes out there if someone opens the door.

Today, the jet stream is a straight line from Prudoe Bay to us. It is a NASTY north wind with a snowy blizzard filling in our driveway. BRRRRR. There are trees blowing over out there that we've never seen bend before. Makes me want to huddle under the tree, myself. charlotte

Friday, December 15, 2006

Carper's Christmas decorations

We just thought we'd share some of our Christmas decorations, not that we did a whole lot this year. The first one is the tree, obviously. We didn't put any lights on this year, though we usually do white lights on the tree, so we used the white Santa on top, and our traditional ornaments.
The next few pics are our nativities, the small ones that is. Mom just started collecting them last year. Its kind of a fun hobby, but we're having trouble finding places to display them. We have 2 big ones to put out yet. This clear one is only about 3 inches tall at most.
I bought this one for myself this year. I don't know if you can see in this picture but they have really cute little faces. Its at most 2.5 inches tall. Even the little sheep have smiles. Fun!
Here's the 3 small ones together, on top of the tv.
We decorate the stairs with green garland (fake), wrapped around the banister, with colored lights wrapped around it too. This isn't a great picture, but you can see the lights.
Same picture as above, except with the flash, so you can see the quilt.
That's pretty much all of our Christmas decorations, well except for the door wreath that is, but its basically just a wreath with a few pretty accents. Looking forward to seeing everyone else's decorations! Love Alicia

Peanut Butter Cups

Mom and I made peanut butter cups last night, for the first time in a long time. The last time we had made them we lived in Oregon, so it had been a while. They aren't really hard to do, just time comsuming like any candy. They sure are good though! If anyone wants the recipe, just say so, I'd be glad to post it. Love you. Alicia

Another office holiday party

So this is my first party at my new job, as well as my first holiday party here. I know a little bit about what will happen because I had to approve the budget and because the party organizer reports to me. But I find myself surprisingly anxious.

Office hoiday parties are such strange beasts--the point is to recognize the season with the people you spend most your waking life with. Like any family, there are usually traditions and customs, spoken and unspoken. An currents and eddies waiting to turn into whirlpools. And then layered on top of that is all the usual political complexities of office life swirling about, adding to the complexity. It's actually amazing anyone ever manages to have fun at these things. . .

And if you don't drink, sometimes they seem REALLY long. The people you least like in the office are not usually improved by that third glass of wine or beer. . .

And I am worried about eating way too much.

So here's my plan: spend time talking to each of my colleagues and to the three or four people I know I really like. Only let myself eat one cookie per hour.
Don't feel a need to talk to much--ask others questions instead. Enjoy the silly gift exchange. Once the dancing starts, dance a LOT. Be sure to leave at 5:15 so that I can make it to my painting retreat starting at 6. Now, if I just didn't feel like I was fighting off a virus.

I am glad to have this place to share.

Love, Sandra


Well, it's getting chilly here in Dallas.

It's down to 55 today! Brrrrrrr.
It's ok though, it should get back up to 78 tomorrow- whew.

Seriously though, what kind of a December is this? It's wierd when your neighbors still occasionally use their air conditioner and it's mid-December already!

The apartment complex had a free holiday dinner buffet for their residents last night, and we ate outside without our jackets on, and it was comfortable (I'm guessing mid seventies).
I got a mosquito bite a few days ago, it appears as if it hasn't been cold enough for them to die yet.
I haven't got my winter coat out yet here, because the few days it did get chilly (in the 30's or 40's) a jacket was plenty warm.

Good thing Santa uses a flying sleigh, because if he counted on snow to be able to ride on, we'd be sunk!

Hope you all have a great week.
Love you all- Jed

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Little Holiday Cheer some of you are going to accuse me of having too much time on my hands. :) A niece sent us a link to this fun web-site....and well, I couldn't resist.

Have you ever wondered what you would look like as one of Santa's elves? Well, I can't say that I had either. But, once I saw our niece, Liz, and her family as elves, I just couldn't resist playing around a little myself. So, here are Julia, Scott and I as dancing elves. Relax and have a little holiday fun.

Here are the links:



Much love, Earlene, Scott and Julia
p.s. I wonder if Scott will withhold my Christmas present after seeing this??

Congratulations and Good Luck!

First of all--join me in a big shout out of congratulations to Nicole. Today is her last day of student teaching, which means one thing...SHE IS A COLLEGE GRADUATE! Way to go, Nicole. We are all so proud of you and happy for you. It has taken years of hard work and dedication to get to this point. Good work! She will be walking in the graduation ceremony in April, so that we won't have to make that big trip up there in December.

Secondly, let's send some positive vibes to Paul and Julia who are in the midst of finals. Julia completed her college chemistry class final last week and starts on her high school finals on Friday. She will finish up on Tuesday of next week. Paul is in the midst of his. Both would be grateful for your prayers and positive thoughts, I'm sure. Paul is also working lots of extra hours at the bakery. They are basically working round the clock between now and Christmas Eve, baking up lots of breads and goodies for Christmas gift baskets. So, he's covering his regular early morning shifts, but also some evening shifts. Nicole is even going in to work a few shifts to help out. We hope that everyone's holiday plans and activities are moving forward as we head towards Christmas. You are all in our thoughts.

Love, Earlene

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Santa's Treat

At the Carper house, we figured Santa had been all the way around the world eating cookies and since we lived in one of the last time zones, we should give him something besides cookies if we wanted him to bring really great stuff..... so on Christmas eve, before bed we leave a nice carrot for his reindeer (and they always take a big bite out of it and leave the half eaten stump) and we leave Santa either a bowl of home made ice cream if it is really cold or a slice or
Toni's Real German Cheesecake.
This is the recipe:
the crust is a graham cracker crust. You can use a purchased shell or make your own by:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup melted butter
1/3 cup sugar
Mix together and press into a pie pan - use the bottom of the cup to get an even crust. Set it aside.

2 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
Cream cheese until smooth. Blend in sugar and eggs. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes. Increase oven temp to 425.

1/2 pint sour cream,
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teas. vanilla.
Combine and spread over baked filling. Return pie to oven and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.
For it to set up, cool overnight in the refrigerator, but Santa prefers it fresh and still a little warm.

Sunday, December 10, 2006










































Saturday, December 09, 2006

Merry Christmas!

this is one of the cutest I have seen in a long time Ted

Friday, December 08, 2006

Charlotte's Gift of the Magi story

The year that Mother and Daddy got divorced was a rough Christmas for me. The first thing I said when I heard about the divorce was, "But what about Christmas and birthdays???" so when Christmas came, we were all looking for ways to get thru the season.

For over a year, I had been saving money to buy myself a set of Little House on the Prairie books. They had just come out with them in a paperback set and I longed and longed to buy them. Money was always tight in those days when I was a single mother and I just didn't have $25.00 to buy those books for myself. Because I worked for the church, I got a discount at Deseret Book, and so every night on the way home from work, I would stop and press my nose to the store window and count how long it would be before I could save up the $20.00 I needed to buy them with my discount. $20 seemed so much closer than $25. It was a lot of money in those days. As it got closer to Christmas, I thought I might be able to treat myself, and buy them as a gift for Blake to give me.

Mother had moved into a tiny cabin and was also having a hard time earning her own way. So Earlene and I decided to pool our extra money and surprise her with a box of personal supplies that we knew she couldn't afford. It had been a tradition in our neighborhood before the divorce to leave a gift box on someone's door in a year when they had a hard time and we wanted to continue it for her. So we went shopping and bought all her favorite brands of products and left the box on her step while she was at work. We got home around 9:00 and felt very good about our sacrifice and I didn't feel that bad about having to wait another year to get my Little House books. When Mother got home around midnight, there was a car in her drive that spun away when she pulled up. She assumed it was whoever dropped off the gift box, but it was probably someone getting ready to steal the box and she got home just in time to save her present. It took her a bit to figure who had left it, since of course, she didn't recognize the car that was driving off. After she examined it carefully and realized it was all her personal favorites, she knew that it had to be us because no one could randomally guess all her favorites.

On Christmas, we all made the brave decision to open our presents one last time as a family. It was a very emotional and special day to spend together. I don't have any idea what anybody got for Christmas that year, I just remember thinking about what I was feeling. After everyone opened their gifts, I noticed that there was one plain little box under the tree - no ribbon, no box, no tag. I mentioned it and someone brought it over to me and I stammered - "it's for me?? Who's it from?" but no one would say. I tore open the paper and saw my box of books. I just started to cry and cry. I still treasure them for what they symbolized to me that day - my family coming together one last time to help make my Christmas truly magical. My own gift of the Magi story. It is one of my most precious memories.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Earlene's Christmas Quiz answers

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
That is a hard question for me to answer. I LOVE egg-nog, but probably drink more hot chocolate. Stephen's Mint Hot Chocolate is my all time favorite.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Santa usually fills the stockings and leaves one big present for each person next to their stocking. I am toying with asking him to wrap the big gifts this year though. We'll see.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or clear?
White lights on the trees--LOTS of white lights. We have two trees. The largest one, our traditional family tree, has 11 or 12 strands of lights, woven in and out of the branches. It takes me several hours to do the lights. It is my least favorite chore of the season, but I love the look and enjoy it through the whole season. We don't have lights outside. We have wreaths hanging outside each window and a fake candle light burning below the wreaths.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Not usually, although we sometimes have in the past. It has been awhile though.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Usually Thanksgiving weekend.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Hmmmm...besides dessert? Probably some sort of Mexican food. We have rarely done a big Christmas day meal, but usually have a meat and cheese platter for sandwiches, so no one has to spend the day in the kitchen. We have a bigger meal on Christmas Eve.

7. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
Our big family tree is decorated with lots of lights, and a collection of traditional ornaments that we have collected over the years. Some were made by me or the children, others were gifts. It is quite a varied collection. It is completed by taffeta bows tied on throughout the tree. We also have a slightly smaller theme tree with two types of red glass balls, some gingerbread men, some wire snowflakes, some cute Santas made from long cinnamon sticks, and some red berries.

8. When Did you learn the truth about Santa?
I think that I was about 5. I had just started reading that year and read everything in sight. I had seen a box out in the shed with the words South Bend on it. Then come Christmas morning I received a doll stroller with those same words on the wheels. I put two and two together and figured it out. I asked about it and when they confirmed my suspicions I immediately realized that the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were stories as well. But, I still believe in Santa. :)

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
We just started this a few years ago. We usually open pajamas (but I have yet to decide if we are going to this year). We also go over to Mama and Papa Rhien's house on Christmas Eve for a big family party and we always open whatever we receive from them...and other Rhien Family members.

10. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
When I was in 6th grade I was sick in bed from Halloween until the week after Easter. I slept and rested a lot during the day, which made it hard to get to sleep at night. I would sometimes lay awake for hours. That Christmas we had big blinking colored lights outside and I can remember laying awake watching the lights flash around my room and made a game out of trying to guess which one would come on next. Somehow those lights were a great comfort to me that year.

11. Can you ice skate?
We did as children in Montana. But, I can't skate AT ALL now. And I mean AT ALL!

12. Do you remember your favorite gift?
One of my favorites was one year when Charlotte and Brian and Alicia gave me counted cross-stitch supplies. They gave me cloth, pattern books, a box to keep the threads in, and TONS of beautiful threads. They wrapped all the blues together and all the reds....and on and on. Beautiful!

13. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Family, traditions, the Savior, the music, the smells and the general feeling of goodness and kindness

14. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Candy Cane Cookies, homemade caramels and fudge

15. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
We have a pinata breaking party one night between Christmas and New Year's. I used to make them, but they are now store-bought. It all started when Joanna was 2 years old and we have been doing it ever since. I also LOVE attending the luminaria festival at San Juan College every year, and reading stories and playing I Spy With My Little Eye around the tree.

16. What tops your tree?
An ugly angel...Every year we talk of replacing it. The other tree has a star made of twigs, greenery and red berries.

17. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Silent Night. I also LOVE all Amy Grant Christmas CD's.
18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving?
Both are fun! I love giving when I can come up with a great idea for someone. But, I sometimes have gift anxiety sometimes.

19. What is your favorite gift you’ve ever given?
A Love At Home Needlepoint sampler that I lovingly stitched for Scott when Joanna was a baby. It was just so fun to work on it when he was at school--knowing that he had no idea I was doing it. I also went to a shop and made my own frame for it when it was complete. I also enjoyed a personal history book I made for Dad and a vacation scrapbook I made for Scott. I love giving homemade gifts, although I rarely do anymore. :(

20. Are you ready for Christmas this year?
Not quite, but I am getting there.

21. Favorite Christmas movie?
I have three: Holiday Inn, White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life

Christmas Quiz -Laura

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?

Egg Nog, but not this year, unless it's lactaid brand!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?

Santa? I am santa, I definately wrap, but no promises on how pretty it is! ( :

3. Colored lights on tree/house or clear?


4. Do you hang mistletoe?


5. When do you put your decorations up?

well, we always say the day after thanksgiving, but I think we get ansty and do it the sunday before thanksgiving, right before Jed's b-day

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?

ham and mashed potatoes I guess,

7. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
Gold and red, with some family ornaments, and hand crafted ornaments

8. When Did you learn the truth about Santa?

I never believed, it was just for fun

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

Nope, but we are trying to continue the pajamas on Christmas Eve thing from Jed's side; mostly alli just get a pair so far. Jed has too many to begin with!

10. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:

All four of us kids were in the basement, TRYING to sleep. I got a lot of slack for not believing in Santa that year, so I thought I would listen extra close for footsteps and jingle bells; but really that christmas was the best because we lost a lot that year. We were paying house payments and eating by the generosity of grandparents and the use of credit cards. A neighbor gave us a fake christmas tree, that had very little branches, but the fun and challenge of helping that tree become beautiful was so much fun. All of our special ornaments were ruined in the fire, so we made our own ornaments. I knew that if we got any gifts that year, we'd be lucky; we prayed a lot and drew together as a family; Still, I was young and the excitement of recieving a gift was fun. So maybe I hoped santa was real so I could get something. Santa did come, but it wasn't the magical man everyone talks about, it was members of our ward, and thoughtful family members, and my mother's creativity. That year, i learned more what christmas was all about, and it wasn't the gifts!

11. Can you ice skate?

nope. I love to pretend. i can stay up for longer than 10 seconds, does that count? Acutally, I miss going skating

12. Do you remember your favorite gift?

I recieved a pink teddy bear from my grandma from my mom's side. I actually thought it was sorta ugly at first, I didn't like pink for one, but people kept giving it to me. Anyway, I still loved it instantly because it was from my grandma; She died the next year. I carried it everywhere. We went on a vacation and i lost it. I was devastated, and all I wanted for Christmas or a birthday was a bear like it to play as a sub for it. Then one year, I thought I was going to get it, but I didn't, but when we all got up to have breakfast, my sister pointed under the tree and said, "Laura, there's one more gift for you" It was Teddy; I still have her, and now she's one of alli's favorite stuffed animals, but she's renamed her "pink bear".

13. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?

family, remembering Christ, and being more Christlike

14. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?

MOMMY RHIEN'S carmels!!! YUM

15. What is your favorite holiday tradition?

reading books by the trees, I spy, caroling, .

16. What tops your tree?

a star

17. What is your favorite Christmas Song?

Carol of the bells, Oh holy Night, and well I LOVe most songs, Alli's however is Jingle Bell Rock

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving?

Both are, good; but I have to say giving is a lot more fun

19. What is your favorite gift you’ve ever given?

Not sure; I liked one year when Daddy Rhien took us all Caroling and we gave a christmas movie and a pass-along card that were produced by the church to each home we sang to

20. Are you ready for Christmas this year?

96% done

I'm going to throw one last question in:

21. What's your favorite Christmas movie?

um....I'm not sure, but the Santa Clause movies sound good, and Miracle on 34th Street.. OH wait, my definate favorite is What a wonderful Life, especially if I'm watching it with lots of other people to like it!

Running with Reese

I thought you all might like this. I knew they would be hard to understand, so I repeated what they said or most of it. They like to say, "ready, set, GOOO" and take off. You can hear alli say, "excuse me" and "Oops", and "I fell on my Bum Bum! " and by the way, "bum bum" isn't something we used for a long time, and only when changing her diaper. Anyway, miss ya'll

Charlotte's answers to the Quiz

Family Christmas Countdown: "1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Hot chocolate with a scoop of ice cream on cold December nights - but then egg nog from Christmas Day to New Years.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
At our house Santa wraps the presents. He doesn't come on Christmas eve, except to leave a stocking for the kids- he leaves the presents there before Christmas
3. Colored lights on tree/house or clear?
Colored for me. All the businesses do clear and they all look the same. Although, we usually do tiny clear lights on the tree so that the focus is on the ornaments
4. Do you hang mistletoe? NAH. If you've ever lived where mistletoe grows, you know it is a fungal parasite that grows on other trees and that kind of ruins the mystique of it.
5. When do you put your decorations up?
As soon as Brian will let me. If it was just me, I would decorate on Thanksgiving weekend, but he doesn't like that. Now Alicia does most of it.
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Baked Ham, I guess
7. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
We switch off between all the funky old folk ornaments we have collected and made over the years or we do the tree all in blue and silver. We decorate it on the second Sunday of December during the National Finals Rodeo. We don't put candy canes on any more because one year our dog got hungry while we were gone and climbed all the way up the back of the tree and ate every ornament, looking for the one she could smell - the candy cane - which was hung at the top of the tree.
8. When Did you learn the truth about Santa?
I don't remember how I learned. When I was about 8, I got to stay up for the first time to be an elf, so it must have been around then. What I learned is that Santa is very busy and he needs lots of elves to help him each year. I still believe he is real.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
SIGH..... Brian's family opens all their gifts on Christmas Eve - some years we have opened them as early as 4:30. GROSS. But I enforce a rule that no Christmas present can leave the living room area until the day after Christmas.
10. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
Probably the year we were really poor and I got the hand made marble game that made a lot of noise and somehow mysteriously disappeared.
11. Can you ice skate?
Indeed I used to. I learned how in Montana - where the towns have the coolest public ice rinks.
12. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Little House on the Prairie books. I'll write about that later.
13. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Helping those less fortunate to have a good holiday - Angel tree, or Adopt a family, or whatever.
14. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Homemade ice cream - made with -20 degree snow instead of ice.
15. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
the Angel tree shopping or the adopting a family
16. What tops your tree?
I prefer a pointed glass tree topper like we had as kids, but I am stuck with that stupid lighted, tin foil Mexican star.
17. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
OH HOLY NIGHT. I can belt it out for you, if you would like to hear it....
18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving?
I like them both - there have to be recievers in order for there to be givers.
19. What is your favorite gift you’ve ever given?
One year, when I was 16, (well not one year when i was 16, it was the only year I was 16).... Earlene liked this blouse that was really in style and I was making one right in front of her, and I told her it was for me for a party I was going to after Christmas, and then on Christmas morning she opened it and it was for her all along. I like gifts like that that are such a surprise to the receiver.
20. Are you ready for Christmas this year?
Ummm, I usually start Christmas prep in January, but this year has been a particular year for us, so I'm sort of running around in my brain going AAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!! Although we did get the box to Iraq sent on time.

Christmas Quiz - ALICIA

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?

Egg nog for me, made with mom's recipe. Yum!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?

When Santa comes to our house he leaves a stocking, nothing wrapped.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or clear?

Colored on the house and banisters. Clear on the tree.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?

I live with my parents, so no. hehe. :)

5. When do you put your decorations up?

After Thanksgiving, during the National Finals Rodeo

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?

This is tough - it comes down to the deviled eggs, ham, or the breakfast we have for dinner on Christmas Eve.

7. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?

Either traditional family ornaments, or silver and blue

8. When Did you learn the truth about Santa?

I really don't remember, I guess I still believe.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

We open all presents on Christmas eve, I'm into instant gratification.

10. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:

Oh, there are so many. I loved the Christmas when Blake came to see us, before we moved to Alaska. We rented video games, movies, and just had so much fun, and there was a great snow storm, so everything was so pretty, and it was such a peaceful happy Christmas. I also loved the time that I got this huge barbie house, that we were all trying to put together, and there was 40 some pages of instructions, and we were trying to put it together (I say we, but really it was everyone but me), and we finally took a break, and played the tape Blake got for dad (Hank Williams Jr.).

11. Can you ice skate?

Yeah, I guess I can, but I'm certainly not that good, it hurts my feet too bad. I can do it though.

12. Do you remember your favorite gift?

I got this cool little table and chairs, and a little kitchen when I was a kid, and those were so cool, but there have been so many. I just love presents, so they're all great! I got a cool stuffed sharpei dog (from Blake) that was cool, he still stays on my bed most of the time. In my cowgirl phase I got a really nice set of cowgirl stuff. But the list could go on and on and on and on....

13. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?

Having fun with my family. Cooking, watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and the Tim Allen Santa Claus movies. Mostly just having fun, and enjoying the season.

14. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?

Cheesecake (our special recipe) or sugar cookies

15. What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Having breakfast for dinner, with a homemade sweet roll, and then opening presents on Christmas eve.

16. What tops your tree?

A lighted Mexican star that mom HATES, but dad and I like.

17. What is your favorite Christmas Song?

Nutcracker Suite, Grandma Got runover by a reindeer, Leroy the redneck reindeer, or Bing Crosby.

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving?

I'm going to brave the crowd and say I like receiving! hehe. But I like giving too.

19. What is your favorite gift you’ve ever given?

I like giving most gifts. I like finding the stuff that people mention in passing and surprising them with it.

20. Are you ready for Christmas this year?

Not really. I haven't got any presents for anyone yet. I just am not that into presents this year, so I'm having trouble. I know its going to be here way too early and I won't be ready!

I'm going to throw one last question in:

21. What's your favorite Christmas movie?

National Lampoon Christmas Vacation, or the Santa Claus movies, or Holiday Inn.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Jed's answers

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Hot Chocolate with a spoonful of Marshmallow creme
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? both
3. Colored lights on tree/house or clear? clear lights on the tree. No lights on the apartment because we have no outside power outlet :(
4. Do you hang mistletoe? Year round.
5. When do you put your decorations up? As soon as I can
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Homeade Tamales. This year our ward had a mexican christmas fiesta with tamales, the cheese and jalepeno ones were the best! Yum.
7. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? We have white lights, red bows and red glass ornaments. We also have an assortment of handpainted wooden ornaments that we got the second year we were married. The first year, we simply made popcorn strands, cut snowflakes with different colored paper, and a few strands of lights, and I put all the Russian Stacking Matroshka dolls in our tree. Since Alli got older, that doesn't work so well because she likes to play with the dolls, and lose the parts. We still have all our Russian dolls on display durring the Christmas season.
8. When Did you learn the truth about Santa? When I asked for an art desk from Santa, and I saw it in the garage the week before Christmas. I pretended that I didn't see it.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Not unless we have pajamas to open.
10. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: When I was 13 or 14, I set up a Christmas for a less fortunate family who had nothing for Christmas for my eagle scout project. It was the best feeling to bring in a turkey, a Christmas meal, a tree with ornaments, and more gifts than we had around our tree at home, and give them to someone who had nothing for Christmas. They were so excited and happy to see that they would have something for Christmas that year.
11. Can you ice skate? Sure, I can do the spiral of death and the triple klutz moves quite well :)
12. Do you remember your favorite gift? I liked two years in a row when I got nice watercolor brushes and paints (from Sandy and from my parents.) I was really excited. Oh yeah, and the year I got a car!!!! That was a huge suprise!
13. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you? being with family, singing, feeling the magic of the season that you feel when you can give to others selflessly.
14. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? fudge and caramels
15. What is your favorite holiday tradition? breaking a piniata with my family.
16. What tops your tree? a stained glass star that is almost a foot tall, and very beautiful! We got it in the after christmas sales for 90% off.
17. What is your favorite Christmas Song? God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (an arangement by the BYU- Men's Choir), or Jingle Bells by Barbara Streisand.
18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving? Giving.
19. What is your favorite gift you’ve ever given? I like giving Alli some Alphabet blocks that we made her last year. We hand painted them, and they turned out quite nice. It was something she likes to play with a lot, and it was fun to see her happy to receive it.
20. Are you ready for Christmas this year? Totally! More than ever before in my life. We only have one more gift to send off, and then we are ready completely (besides wrapping all the gifts which we are sort of waiting on since Alli would most likely want to open them right now if they were under the tree.

Merry Christmas Ya'll- Love Jed

Sandra's answers

. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Eggnog, definitely. I've even found a soy alternative that's pretty good, even mixed with soda water so it isn't so sweet.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
No kids, so Santa doesn't come to our house
3. Colored lights on tree/house or clear?
I used to be a fan of clear, but now I have switched to a crazy potpourri of different colors, kinds, sizes--round and pointed, mini and large, clear and frosted, blinking and solid
4. Do you hang mistletoe?
5. When do you put your decorations up?
Well, I never took down the outside lights or the swag over the dining room sliding doors, though I did refrain from burning the lights over the summer (except for the 4th of July). I leave the outside lights on until daylight savings time starts, so that when I come home in the dark I have those cheery lights to greet me. We have that ornamental cement block work with the petal shapes along the supports to our porch, so it l0oks sort of like stained glass with the bulbs shining out of the individual spaces.
I did my winter holiday arrangements in the copper vases beside the fireplace last weekend.
I usually decorate my tree sometime around the 15th. The painters will be here all next week, so we will see what impact that has on the decorating thing. . .
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Fresh comice pears and blue cheese, smoked salmon
7. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
All kinds of lights, and then loaded with ornaments, plus red bead and gold star garlands. Ornaments are either shiny or handmade. Some from my past and from Susan's. I have the beatup old Santa that hung on Grandpa Whisler's tree when he was a kid and some of the ornaments from our childhood tree. Themes--frosted fruits, pinecones, bells, musical instruments, angels, trains, bears, corndoll girls, glass
8. When Did you learn the truth about Santa?
When I was six or seven. Janine told me, and then I stayed up and snuck a peak at my parents arranging the presents. I remember what I got--a little table with two chairs and a viewascope that looked at these rings of slides in 3-D.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
We used to. Now we celebrate with Susan's fam on Christmas eve at Linda's house (where we eat Indonesian sate), so we open presents there (we draw names)
10. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
I must have been 10 or 11, and Father had been in Houston on storm all fall. He came home just before Christmas. So we got a tree late and did it all in a rush. It was so fun to have him home, and he brought me carved leather shoes and A TRANSISTER RADIO!!!!!!!!! I loved that radio--I would fall asleep everynight with the earplug in my ears, listening to rock n roll.
11. Can you ice skate?
Hah. No
12. Do you remember your favorite gift?
That's hard. My bicycle when I was six. The eight champaigne glasses when I was 22.
13. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
The lights, the decorations, the opportunity to slow down, the way so many people are more joyous, more loving, more community minded.
14. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Killer ginger molasses cookies
sugar cookies
15. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
lately we've been taking trips to see the migrating waterbirds
16. What tops your tree?
Our tree toppers seem to have short lives--something always happens to them. The most constant is a balsawood Russian orthodox church I made in 1972.

17. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Silent night, and Bruce Springsteens Santa Clause is coming to town
18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving?
Giving, though I used to prefer receiving
19. What is your favorite gift you’ve ever given?
The first full year S and I were together I made us matching pjs
20. Are you ready for Christmas this year?
No, absolutely not, worst ever

Joanna's answers

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
• Hot chocolate – Stephen’s brand. Either mint truffle or hazelnut
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
• Some of both. The really big stuff we just put under the tree, or by our stockings, but sometimes Santa wraps other stuff so we can spend more time opening presents.
3. Colored lights on tree/house or clear?
• CLEAR. Although this year our neighborhood has a lot of colored lights, and they’re growing on me. We didn’t put up lights this year, we just have our lighted wreaths and garland…kind of disappointing, but at least we got that up.
4. Do you hang mistletoe?
• nope
5. When do you put your decorations up?
• Generally the Sunday after Thanksgiving. However, because we were traveling home from Farmington, that didn’t happen this year…In fact, I don’t even have all of our decorations up this year. I’m waiting for Cory to clean them off (they’ve been in our dusty basement all year)
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
• Hmmm….is it fair to say all of it? I do love our traditional hoagie sandwiches on Christmas day, it’s so relaxed and still YUMMY! I also love a cheese ball that Grandma Whisler used to make (and now I make it).
7. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
• We have kind of a rustic Christmas theme on our tree – wicker garland, rusty ornaments, BIG rusty bells sitting in the tree, wooden painted ornaments. It’s all in more country/rustic colors.
8. When Did you learn the truth about Santa?
• On a sad day in 6th grade….my social studies teacher read us a story about how Santa wasn’t real, but that his spirit and memory are real. I came home totally upset because how could my teacher lie to me!?!? I remember that day being by far one of the most devastating I’ve had.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
• Sometimes we do pajamas. But it seems like since we’ve done that tradition the last many years that I have too many pajamas….and since it’s just one more thing I have to shop for – we might skip it this year for the adults. (I already bought Gabe’s)
10. Favorite Holiday memory as a child
• When Santa Claus came to our house in the middle of dinner to visit us. He looked EXACTLY like Santa, knew all about us, and brought us small presents we’d asked for. In fact, it was because of this awesome memory that I still believed in Santa in 6th grade...(hence my answer to #8)
11. Can you ice skate?
• Not really. In high school we’d go several times a year and it was fun. But I went with the Young Women when we lived in Rexburg and I was HORRIBLE. It was one of the most miserable nights of my life. Don’t think I’ll be doing it again anytime soon.
12. Do you remember your favorite gift?
• Oh I have lots of favorite gifts….but it seems like my favorite gifts are the ones that don’t cost a lot of money, but are meaningful. One year Cory did the 12 days of Christmas for me. He did the sweetest gifts the whole time! But my favorite gifts that year were these little coupons he made (with my scrapbook paper and supplies – and even chalked the edges of each coupon!) There were coupons for time to myself, and coupons for trips to the temple. They were so thoughtful and sweet!
13. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
• Being grateful for the blessings we have, spending time with those we love, and feeling the love our Savior has for each of us. I also love the extra opportunities for service.
14. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
• My mom’s candy cane cookies with a piece of fudge on the side.
15. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
• I love driving around singing Christmas songs and looking at the lights. I also love the excitement of waiting in the hall to go see what Santa brought us while Mom and Dad turn on the Christmas lights and check to make sure Santa came.
16. What tops your tree?
• This year we bought a new rusty punched tin star that’s lighted.
17. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
• Silent Night. Every time I sing it it reminds me of being in Choir when I was a little kid. Singing “Silent Night” with the Northridge Choir always brought tears to my eyes, and still does now!
18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving?
• Giving. I wish I was better at it sometimes…I wish I could give totally heartfelt gifts to everyone….but since I procrastinate so often it’s hard to do that for everyone.
19. What is your favorite gift you’ve ever given?
• I loved the year we told my parents we were expecting Gabe – to see the look on their face when they opened the gift with the card telling them was priceless. I also loved the missionary scrapbook I made for Cory one year, or the quilt I attempted for him a few years ago.
20. Are you ready for Christmas this year?
• NOPE! It’s surprising how un-ready I am this year. But I do know that Gabe will have by-far more presents than he needs! We’ve shopped and shopped for that little guy!

Christmas Questionaire - JOIN IN!

A friend of mine emailed this questionaire to me. I thought it would be fun for us to all participate. So each of us should copy these questions, open a new post and paste the questions and include our answers.

Can't wait to see everyone's responses!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
3. Colored lights on tree/house or clear?
4. Do you hang mistletoe?
5. When do you put your decorations up?
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
7. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
8. When Did you learn the truth about Santa?
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
10. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
11. Can you ice skate?
12. Do you remember your favorite gift?
13. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
14. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
15. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
16. What tops your tree?
17. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving?
19. What is your favorite gift you’ve ever given?
20. Are you ready for Christmas this year?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wizards in Winter

Christmas lights that rock the house


I talked to Grandma Marilyn a while back. She has been having computer problems, and her computer is not working at all. I thought I'd let everyone know so they could call her to say Hi, or include a snail mail letter or two this season so she could hear some from us. It's strange how much we rely on our computers and e-mail and blogging, and the internet in general.

Not much is new here in Dallas. I'm sort of having a tough time getting in the Christmas spirit too much this year, because It's my first year I've been working full-time at Christmas time. Usually when Final examinations are involved in school, there is a huge push for the year to be over... but now, it seems that every day is a lot more similar than in the past. I don't feel stressed about finals though, so I should count my blessings.

We have enjoyed spending time as a family this Christmas season. It is fun to see Alli get excited about Christmas. We watched the church christmas broadcast on Sunday, and the Christmas music that was sung was so beautiful. The mormon tabernacle choir was stunning as they sang wonderful renditions accompanied by the orchestra. You can still see this online at if you missed it.

Love- Jed

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ok, so all you folks who decorate your houses on Thanksgiving weekend will laugh, but I have made an important discovery today. I usually get my tree later in the month (sometime between the 12th and the 19th)—I used to do this in Chicago so the tree would last longer into January. Now I usually take it down the first weekend in January (while Susan is at work counting the ballots for the annual election of officers for the society she runs) to get in the recycling in time. so it doesn’t really matter.

So tonight I went to a Delancey Street lot (it’s run by a drug-recovery nonprofit, so the profits go to a good cause) to look for a tree. Lo and behold, there were lots of good trees—I picked the third one I was attracted to and the first one I even pulled out of the stand. Took about 15 minutes from start to finish, including their tieing it on my (old) car.

So we have a nice 5-6 foot Noble fir, sitting on the side of the house in a big tub of water, probably until the weekend. . .

Duh, I don’t know why it never occurred to me that there would be a better selection of trees earlier in the season. . . .

And now, you all know that we chose a “real” tree for one more year. . .

For some reason it reminds me of the Christmas of 1972 or 3, when Charlene and I had our apartment on Harper in Chicago. Bob Shirrell and I had a date to go get the tree for the apt on Friday night after work (in the city, you carry the tree home by hand, so it helps to have more than one person). On Thursday and Friday morning we had had one of those warm wet sloshy snows and then the temperature plummeted. It was a total slip and slide to get to the lot, and it was really cold--13 below. The lot was only about 2 blocks from the apt., but even so, by the time we got the tree home, we were exhausted and frozen. So that night we just stuck it in a bucket and tied a couple cords to the top and nailed them to the picture molding so the cat wouldn't tip it over. Then, the next day when Charlene and I decorated it, we were too lazy to pull it out and put it in the stand, so we just left it in the bucket the whole season.
Anyone else would have decided to wait a few days til the weather improved before buying the tree, but I just HAD to have one. . .

Love you all, Sandra

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

We read this classic story tonight, and thought it appropriate to share with all. I'm sorry that it's kind of long, and takes up a lot of space on the blog. Love, Paul & Nicole :

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pierglass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?"

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

Jim looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.