Wrapping Up 2016

A camping Christmas trip with our family ended 2016 in a delightful way!

2016 is now in the “books,” and 2017 has already seen our first snow of the winter season and of the new year.  Thankfully, it was nothing like the mega storm that introduced 2016 to us, and we only received about an inch this time.  My back starts hurting just looking again at some of the photos from last January and remembering all the snow Hubby and I shoveled for three straight days.  Ugh!

IMG_2409
Girly Girl had lots of fun in the foot of snow we received the first week of January in 2016.
IMG_2367
The foot of snow caused lots of issues for the next two weeks in our city and area, but it was so very pretty, too.

It’s been several weeks since my last post, but all is well, good in fact.  I just took a little break to enjoy the Christmas season and take a few things “off my plate” for a bit.  I also had more holiday prep work to do this year, due to our ten day Christmas and New Years trip to the mountains of far West Texas.

2016-12-25-17-46-46-1smdke
Spending “golden hour” at the top of Skyline Drive on Christmas Evening with my family is a precious memory now.  We captured some great photos of family and scenery here.
2016-12-25-17-48-28smdke
Sunset at Davis Mountain State Park on Christmas evening with historic Indian Lodge in the distance was absolutely gorgeous.  We had the view all to ourselves, something I will always remember fondly.  This was literally the last ray of sunshine on Christmas Day. 😉

 

2016-12-25-18-08-02smdke
The Belt of Venus is always so beautiful in this area, and it was lovely once again on Christmas evening.

All our kids joined us for a long Christmas weekend in the Davis Mountains, and they all departed for home on Tuesday afternoon after lunch, driving to El Paso together then catching their respective flights.  It was a most enjoyable holiday for me, and I think for all of us.  After all, what mama doesn’t like to have all her kiddos with her for the holidays?

We secured our daughter and son-in-law a room at the historic Indian Lodge (see photos below) during their stay, which was just a mile away from our RV in the state park, and our son stayed with us in the RV.  With all the additional space inside now, as compared to our previous RV, we were all quite comfortable, even with the dogs who slept on their nice, new beds next to him.

By cooking some dishes ahead of time, I was able to serve all our favorite holiday foods in the RV… tamales for Christmas Eve, sausage toasts and eggs for Christmas morning, and ham, turkey, cornbread dressing, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and yeast rolls for Christmas dinner.  We even enjoyed a Christmas morning picnic together at our site for breakfast, which was a real treat!  Truly, the weather was gorgeous the entire week we were there.

2016-12-28-12-44-46smdke
Our festive picnic table at our site for Christmas.  Snoopy and Woodstock helped to light up the holiday nights at our site, along with three mason jar lanterns on the table.

 

2016-12-26-17-52-57asmdke
It was a real treat to have a visit from several mule deer late each afternoon during our vacation week, with our first visit on Christmas Day!  We also saw several javelina at our campsite on our first night, as well as some great birds all over the park during our stay.

Following our picnic breakfast, we opened gifts inside the RV in our comfortable living area, which was so much fun.  As usual, the dogs each had a gift of their own to start things off, and I can say that we all received some very nice gifts.  My family was especially good to me, but the real treat for me was just having everyone together for a few days of fun.

The weather was gorgeous in far West Texas the entire week we were there, which certainly helped make our trip more manageable and truly enjoyable.  We even ran our air conditioner for a bit on a few afternoons, too.  I’m sure some friends may think we’ve lost our minds spending the holidays in our RV, but we enjoyed our time in the Davis Mountains with our family more than anything we’ve done for the holidays in many years.  With all the cooking done ahead of time, meals were easy and tasty with minimal clean-up needed afterward, leaving quality time for visiting, hiking and playing games together.

2016-12-25-16-56-14smdke
My long, long shadow during a walk in the park late on Christmas afternoon.  I feel so at home here now and have even entertained the thought of retiring in this very remote area that holds some family history for me.

After the kids left, Hubby and I enjoyed a few days all by ourselves, followed by two days with two friends who made their first trip to the area for the New Year’s weekend in their RV, the same friends we’ve started traveling with a bit over the past year.  We enjoyed showing them around, and they also spent some time on their own at the McDonald Observatory, which we have seen many times on previous trips.  Hubby and the friends hiked from the state park to the national park, and I picked them up there after we all toured the fort area together on New Years Eve.

2016-12-31-15-52-04smdke
We always enjoy a quick visit to the national park in Fort Davis.  Just before our trip, I also learned that a family member, now deceased, actually lived at this fort for a time when he was a young boy!

Our holiday trip was pretty much perfect for us, spending time both with family and friends, as well as quality time alone.  We even made new friends, a couple close to our age that just recently started their full-time RV journey, and we exchanged contact information with them.  It was delightful to visit with them off and on all during our vacation week.

Hubby and I opted to dine out a little more on this trip because there are some really good restaurants in town.  Rumor has it we dined at our favorite Mexican food restaurant three times during our week in the area and that our waitress knew what we wanted to order as soon as we sat down on our second and third visits.  We dined there on the evening we arrived with our son, for lunch with all the kids on Tuesday before they left, and again with our friends on New Year’s Eve.

2016-12-23-19-18-00smdke
Cueva De Leon is our favorite restaurant in the area with the best chips and salsa and chile rellenos to die for! 🙂

We also dined at three other restaurants in town during our stay, which was a nice treat for us.  All were very good, and two were new to us.

2016-12-28-12-00-48smdke
We ate lunch at Poco Mexico for the first time… yummy!
2016-12-28-17-27-25smdke
We made a return visit for burgers at the Fort Davis Drug Store and Hotel.  My green chile and Swiss cheese burger with homemade onion rings was awesome!
2016-12-31-11-44-33smdke
We enjoyed delicious panini sandwiches at The Porch, a new restaurant for us that serves breakfast and lunch and is part of the historic Hotel Limpia.

(On a side note, I couldn’t disagree more with the Trip Advisor restaurant ratings for Fort Davis restaurants, especially the #1 pick listed right now.  We’ve tried that place twice and are not at all impressed with it.  We won’t try again.  In our opinion, after many trips to the area, Cueva De Leon is by far the best in town.) 

Hubby and I also drove to both Alpine and Marfa on separate drives.  We had to make a quick trip to Alpine with our son on Christmas Eve morning in search of a new coffee pot, after ours unexpectedly died on us.  Thankfully, we found one at the big hardware store, the last one on the shelf, because we would have had a crisis on our hands without a coffee pot!

Our scenic drive to Marfa on an overcast day after the kids left was nice, and we saw the pretty courthouse there, along with the historic Hotel Paisano and the whimsical El Cosmico campground south of town.  On their drive back to El Paso, the kids stopped for photos at Prada Marfa, too.

Hubby and I also enjoyed a Thursday evening presentation at Indian Lodge where the hotel manager told us all about the history of the lodge from the CCC era to date, and she also pointed out several of the original furniture pieces from that time period, marked by the metal strappings at the bottom of each one.  It was a nice evening with other hotel guests and campers, complete with hot cider and cookies by a warm fire inside.

2016-12-29-19-53-42smdke
I’ve seen this beautiful table at Indian Lodge on each trip to the area, but it was interesting to learn that it is one of the original pieces from the CCC era.

She also shared that Indian Lodge will close in September 2017 for four months for exterior resurfacing, just in case anyone is planning a trip to the area and would like to stay there.

The week prior to our trip was a fun and busy week, too.

Prior to Christmas, I also hosted my second annual cookie swap on the Monday evening before Christmas.  It was a big success once again, with two new participants this year, in addition to those returning from last year’s swap.  This year, we actually decorated cookies together for the first time, and it was so much fun, even though it was more prep work for me.  I think we will have to keep doing this in future years, if only for the laughs… which were many!  Those ladies pretty much destroyed my kitchen decorating cookies, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

After the cookie swap, I was able to provide some awesome cookie platters to my elderly neighbor, to Hubby’s side of the family during our evening together the next night and to the state park staff on Christmas Eve morning, while also saving lots of cookies for my family to enjoy during our trip, too.

2016-12-20-09-17-49asmfs
Christmas cookies are a tradition with us, and swapping cookies with friends makes the tradition even more special.  This tray included cowboy cookies, snickerdoodles, holiday thumbprints, peanut butter with chocolate kisses, cardamom cream cheese cookie press cookies and decorated star sugar cookies that we all decorated together.  I also made a few other types of cookies not shown here, including oatmeal with fresh cranberries and chocolate chip, and I totally hoarded the white chocolate and cranberry cookies that one of the new ladies brought to the exchange!

Just before we departed on our Christmas trip, we spent a delightful evening with Hubby’s side of the family on Tuesday evening, including some family members from the Dallas area.  The big home-cooked meal was a real treat for all of us during those last busy days before Christmas, with meatloaf served as the main entrée.  It was our first opportunity to gather together in our nephew’s new home with his precious wife and girls, and they were good sports to host everyone while still in the process of moving in.  They wouldn’t have it any other way.

I didn’t have an opportunity to celebrate a friends Christmas with my two special friends here before we left on our trip, but we are hoping to finally get together one evening this week.  I have grown accustomed to this fun tradition over more recent years and definitely missed our fun gathering.

I trust you all had a wonderful Christmas and wish you all the best in 2017!

 

Wordless Wednesday – Remembering Christmas

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

D All Original Content
© fivefs.wordpress.com
All Rights Reserved

Hunkering Down

A quick look back at Christmas, 2015 family deaths and preparing for the coming blizzard

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!  We had a good week with family and friends the entire week, and I am grateful today for all of these wonderful, loving and supportive people in my life.  It was also our first Christmas at home with both pups, as we were gone in the RV with them last year for Red’s first Christmas.  Just like two little kids, they got into a tussle over one of their new toys that our daughter sent them, and we finally just had to put it up!

2015 has been a tough, tough year and has thrown me for a loop more than once, especially losing three family members this year about four months apart throughout the year.  I never posted here, but Hubby’s brother also passed away in May after being ill for several months.  I lost my dear Mother last January and my sweet cousin in October, and both of these deaths were very hard on me, to be honest.

Mother ribbon sm

IMG_2147a

This year will soon be in the books, though, with fresh opportunities and experiences awaiting us all in 2016.  Life is too short to dwell on the past that is done and cannot be changed, but the future is there, just waiting to be savored each and every day, and I plan to do just that.  I also hope to get back into writing again more regularly as things begin to return to normal, whatever that is these days.  2015 was anything but normal, for sure.

As this year winds down and after a Saturday of hurried preparations today, we are in the very beginning of what will likely be a”historic winter storm” in our area that may drop anywhere from eight to fourteen inches of snow, with drifts of up to ten feet.  While we are quite familiar with the white stuff this time of year, these amounts are not the norm at all, and neither is the potential of widespread power outages.  So, as instructed by all of the weather authorities and public officials, we are preparing to weather the storm as best we can, including helping our little elderly next door neighbor to make sure she is prepared, too.

We had originally planned to travel in the RV this next week, so we were already mostly stocked up on food for the trip, and we also have holiday leftovers.  On Christmas Eve, Hubby made a quick run to the firewood store and bought some oak firewood, which is now sitting at the end of our covered back porch for easy access.  We also decided to keep our RV in front of the house for the duration of the storm, since it has a generator.  We could at least stay warm and offer shelter to our little elderly next door neighbor, if needed.  Since we had already filled the gas tank and the propane tank, we could manage quite well in the RV for several days, using both space heaters and the central propane heating system.  We also have a propane stove and battery lanterns that we can bring in the house if needed, too.

We are under a blizzard warning until Monday morning, and the storm has just begun to hit our area late tonight (Saturday) around 10 p.m. with rain and ice falling, then likely transitioning to snow overnight.  It will probably snow until sometime on Monday, if all goes according to what the forecasters are all telling us.  I think we are as prepared as we possibly can be, and I am grateful today for our RV as a backup to keep us safe and warm, if needed.  Camping tools do come in handy at times, and this situation is just one more reason to own an RV!

Hopefully our electricity will hold until the blizzard (or #snowpocalypse2015) is over sometime on Monday.  We have not had a storm like this in our area since 1983, if it all comes to pass as forecasted.  Please pray for those affected by the tornadoes in the Dallas area earlier this evening, too.  As I feared, some people have died there.  Texas is just wild right now, for sure.

D All Original Content
© fivefs.wordpress.com
All Rights Reserved

Come On Spring!

I’m going to attempt to play catch up here a bit on the blog today, covering several things, including weather, travels, Christmas and where I’m at today in dealing with Mom’s passing.

I think this has been the longest and hardest winter I’ve ever endured.  The weather here has been quite a challenge ever since Christmas, with repeat bouts of ice and snow and slippery roads, more than we are accustomed to having, at least in more recent years during the drought.  The good thing that came of the nasty weather, though, was several inches of precipitation that has apparently lifted our immediate area out of the drought, at least for now.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that our lakes are once again full, not even close, but at least the moisture in the soil for the farmers and ranchers is back to a level where they can hopefully get by a little better.

For me personally, the icy roads were the biggest weather challenge, especially while Mom was sick.

What it looked like at home for much of this winter
What it looked like at home for much of this winter
Snow in December
The snowy view from the hospital for most of the last week of December and early January

I, or another gracious driver who offered to drive me, had to make the treacherous drive back and forth to help care for Mom daily while she was hospitalized, and on one morning, my car slid terribly on the ice.  It was the worst sliding episode I’ve ever experienced, and I was barely creeping along.  Fortunately, I didn’t hit anyone, and no one hit me.  I am so very grateful for that good outcome because many other people were not so fortunate.  About two weeks ago after several inches of snow fell in a short time, there were about 200 wrecks here in our immediate area in just a few hours, and that was just one day this season.  There were many more days just like that one.  The problem is that our roads are seldom treated properly, if they are treated at all, when ice and snow hits, and that makes driving here a real challenge in such conditions.  That is also why we have to be careful about planning our RV travel days in winter months.  Driving an RV on roads like this is just not a good plan… at all.

I need spring.  I need it for more tolerable weather and also for my spirit.  I am ready for brighter days, milder temperatures, green grass and trees, planting tomatoes, walking the dogs at the park, and hopefully an end to some of the things that have taken most of my time since late January when my mother passed away.  I am still dealing with estate matters and most likely will be for most of March, if not longer.  It is boring and sometimes tedious stuff, complicated a bit by one particular in-law that I must deal with in this process, and I am just so ready to just be done with it all.  I need to start moving on from this, but the estate business just keeps dragging me back to this hard and sad time in my life and spending more and more money with the attorney.  The latest bill was almost $2k.  Yikes!

I want to set aside the present for a bit, though, and finally backtrack to Christmas with Mom and also to two trips we made in the RV this winter.  Both trips were to Davis Mountains State Park in far West Texas, which has definitely become one of our “go to” places to visit.

We had an early Christmas celebration with my mother on the Sunday before Christmas, and we had a great time with her while her health was still good.  Let’s just say that I will always remember the Christmas of 2014, for sure.  The last time I saw my mother in good health was that special evening at our house, celebrating Christmas with her.  We kept dinner simple with a tasty chicken pot pie and lots of homemade cookies.  We then opened our gifts with her, visited together and played with the dogs.  She was still getting used to big ole puppy Red, who just wanted to be her pal, but she adored Girly Girl who is older and more settled around people.  Mom loved all of her gifts, which consisted mostly clothes and a new watch, as well as some good teas which she loved.  I took some nice pictures of her, and my last picture of her before she got sick was a cute photo of her opening her new watch that I picked out especially for her.  It was a snap-on style without a clasp, similar to the one she always wore that had seen better days, and she was so happy to receive it.  After our nice evening together was done, I took her back to her apartment nearby, carried her things to her room for her, gave her a hug and a kiss, thanked her for our gifts, told her I loved her, and went back home.

At least Mom got to wear the watch for a few days, even though she never got to wear the new clothes.  They still had the tags on them when I cleaned out her apartment.  But honestly, who could ask for a more memorable last visit while her health was good?  I definitely believe that was a God-thing, and I will always be so grateful that we had such a good last visit with her at Christmastime.  After she went to the hospital, the seizures and strokes had taken a big toll on her, and things were just not the same after that.

Davis Mountains in the Snow
Davis Mountains in the snow on Christmas Eve morning between Balmorhea and Fort Davis

We had two days at Davis Mountains State Park with all of our kids over Christmas for the very first time before we had to return home earlier than planned to care for Mom, and I have some pictures to share from both trips.  We reserved one hotel room in the historic section at the Indian Lodge in the park for our California kids, in addition to our RV accommodations, and it all worked out great.  The kids loved their room at the lodge, with the only exception being the noise of people walking around in the room above them at times early in the morning.  We opened gifts in the RV on Christmas morning as usual, and we also enjoyed our traditional sausage toasts for breakfast.  We even had a little decorated tree that was a mini version of our big tree at home, and we also had a “fire roaring in the fireplace,” which was actually just a DVD playing on the television.  The weather was crisp and beautiful while we were there, and we enjoyed some outdoor time together in the warmer afternoons, including a hike from the state park to the national historic site at the fort.  We also enjoyed an epic game night at the Indian Lodge on our last night there.  If we return here on future Christmas trips, we hope to actually make it to a Christmas Eve service in town, too.

FYI… the restaurant at the Indian Lodge is going to close in September and will be closed for about a year for expansion.  It is a sorely needed update, but food options are a bit limited in the area, too.  I hope that guests at the lodge are aware of this before they book their travel plans, and I hope that area restaurants will keep this in mind to try to help accommodate guests, too.

We all had a good time on our Christmas camping trip in the boondocks, and I hope we can have a do-over sometime and enjoy this time together as we originally planned because it was a truly great plan for our little family.  This trip was just too short, but I’m still grateful for the brief time we had together as a family once again.  Those times are scarce these days, for sure.

Christmas tree at Indian Lodge
Christmas tree at the Indian Lodge
Davis Mountains State Park Christmas Sunset
Sunset at Davis Mountains State Park at Christmas
Fireplace at Indian Lodge
Fireplace at the Indian Lodge
First Camping Christmas
Our first RV camping Christmas!

On our trip back to Davis Mountains State Park a couple of weeks ago, we had a combination of freezing weather, followed by a couple of gorgeous days, typical West Texas weather.  😀  It never snowed while we were there, but the dense fog froze and created an absolutely stunning sight, which we later learned was called a “hoarfrost.”  The entire area was just stunningly beautiful, but the sight was especially impressive at the top of Skyline Drive, which experienced more fog than the lower areas in the park and in town.  The entire Fort Davis area remained below freezing for about forty hours, which gave us a full day to enjoy this unique beauty that I called “Elsa Land.”  It was also a quiet day in the campground, since most everyone stayed indoors or took off in their cars like we did for much of the day that never got above 25 degrees, according to the temp readout in our car.

I just had to share these photos, as I doubt we will ever see such an impressive sight in this area again.  We had no clue when we went on this trip that we would see such a sight, and we will always remember this surreal and beautiful day that we spent just trying to stay warm while seeing some of the most beautiful and unique sights ever.

The high temp on Friday was 25 degrees.
The high temp on Friday was 25 degrees.
Fort Hoarfrost a
Historic old trees at Fort Davis National Historic Site
Fort Hoarfrost b
Fort Davis National Historic Site
Indian Lodge Hoarfrost b
Indian Lodge, Davis Mountains State Park
Indian Lodge Hoarfrost
Valley view from Indian Lodge, Davis Mountains State Park
RV Campground Hoarfrost b
A gorgeous ice-covered tree in the campground at Davis Mountains State Park
RV Campground Hoarfrost
The RV campground was very quiet on a 25 degree day with everything covered in ice, but it was a gorgeous sight!
Skyline Drive Hoarfrost c
The road seemed to disappear into the thick fog on Skyline Drive.
Skyline Drive Hoarfrost d
What a gorgeous sight at the top of Skyline Drive at the overlook, where the fog still hung quite heavy.
Skyline Drive Hoarfrost Feb 2015 a
Up close view of the hoarfrost on the tree at the overlook – so impressive to see
Skyline Drive Hoarfrost Feb 2015 b
“Elsa Land” at the top of Skyline Drive – what a sight!

We did quite a bit of driving in the area on this trip, and we checked out the town of Alpine a bit more.  On a return trip sometime, we want to tour the Museum of the Big Bend, which in located on the Sul Ross campus there.  We like Alpine and will probably spend more time there on future trips.  There is also an Amtrak station there, right in the middle of town.  We also attempted to find Prada Marfa on another day, but after driving all the way to Valentine and not finding it, we gave up and returned to Fort Davis via the scenic route instead of driving back through Marfa.  I’ve since learned that Prada Marfa is located just past Valentine, too.  We drove all that way and only needed to drive another couple of miles to see it.  Oh well, we enjoyed the drive anyway.  I should have done my homework better on that one.

I should also mention that the drive from Alpine to Fort Davis to Balmorhea is a must-see, as the scenery is truly beautiful, even in the winter months.  We also drove the 75-mile scenic loop at Fort Davis again, and that is always a beautiful sight as well.  Also, on this trip, we visited the library for the first time and enjoyed seeing it and looking at some interesting books on the area.

And speaking of books, I found this wonderful book in my mother’s things after she passed away.  It was given to my grandfather (my father’s father) by one of his cousins who lived in Fort Davis on a beautiful ranch with her husband for many years.  I will treasure it always now.

Old Fort Davis by Barry Scobee
Old Fort Davis by Barry Scobee, a book I will treasure always now

The trip back to the area was good for both of us.  This has been a very stressful winter, and we both needed this break.  We were blessed to have good driving weather and road conditions on the two days that we were on the road in the RV, even though our return trip was pushing it just a bit.  A big winter storm moved through our home area while we were gone and dropped several inches of snow.  The temperature did not get back to 32 degrees until the Sunday afternoon that we drove home, but thankfully, the main roads were all clear by the time we got back, and we had no issues getting home at all.  We had a backup plan in place to leave the RV at an RV park about an hour from home and just drive back with the dogs in the car, if needed, though.

Hubby and I finally sat down together and did a tentative travel plan for the rest of this year, and we are hopefully going to have a re-do of last year’s trips for the most part.  So many travel plans were upended for us in the early months of 2014, and we want the opportunity to have a re-do on pretty much the entire year, especially the trips that were impacted in some way by Mom’s various illnesses and in other ways, too.  We will decide later on what to do about Christmas, too.  Right now, staying home with all the years of Christmas memories here with Mom is not something I want to do.  It may be time for new traditions.  We’ll see.

I’m doing ok these days, I guess.  Life is just different since there is a big, gaping hole in it now, and I’m doing my best to just learn to live with that void at this point, having both good and not-as-good days.  Tears come on go on a fairly regular basis, although less often each week.  I still regularly have thoughts of taking Mom to new restaurants and stores when they open here, and I wonder if those will ever go away.  Eventually, the void will be filled with other people and activities, I’m sure.  The best thing for me seems to just continue to make progress in the tasks that need to still be done, stay in God’s word, and also take some time to do some things that I enjoy regularly.

I have enjoyed reading updates from those of you on my list over the past few weeks.  Slowly but surely, I hope to find the time to get back to posting more regularly here, but I’m just going to take things one day at a time for a while.

Right now, the sun is shining and I’m listening to birds singing outside.  I think they are ready for spring, too!  🙂

D
All Original Content — © fivefs.wordpress.com — All Rights Reserved

Happy New Year

Happy new year to one and all!  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with those you love.

I wanted to just pop in for a bit to give a little update on what has happened since my last post here.  My mother is back in the hospital once again after experiencing some seizures for the first time on December 23.  Two weeks prior to that, she had fallen and hit her head hard, but the tests done in the ER at that time showed no injury other than the cut above her left eye and the bruises on her left arm.  She was released a couple of hours after she was seen in the ER on that visit.  An MRI was done in the ER this time, and there is evidence of one or more small strokes sometime in the past, possibly in the two-week period between these episodes.  The seizures were controlled after a couple of days with medication, but she is still not responding very well mentally and has a feeding tube at this time to receive some meds and her nutrition.  The plan is for her to be transferred back to rehab as soon as the move can be arranged, likely early next week at the soonest.  Therapists will try to work with her to see if they can get her to take nutrition and meds by mouth again and see if they can make any progress with her mentally.  I will be honest and say that two different doctors have shared with me that they are not very hopeful of making progress with her, but the second doctor told me that he is “not ready to give up on her just yet.”  Those were his exact words.

Needless to say, we are now in uncharted territory with her.  If you are a praying person, I hope you will lift her and her doctors and therapists up in prayer over the coming days.  I’m praying for God’s healing for her, in whatever form that needs to happen, as well as peace for her soul right now which is sorely needed.  I would also appreciate your prayers.  This is hard.  Very hard.

We were able to still spend a couple of days on our planned “Camping Christmas” trip with our daughter and son-in-law from California, as well as our son that lives here.  It was the first time in three years that we were all together, and some family members here at home covered for me for those first few days until we returned home early from our trip to see about Mom.  We were already out-of-town, and God works everything for a reason.  I believe it was a good thing for these relatives, including my sister, to be with Mom at this time, as almost all of them do not spend much, if any, time with Mom regularly.  Some had not seen her in many weeks, even months, and it bothered Mom terribly that they did not come around very often.  Now that I am home again, I am truly sad to see that they have all dropped out of the picture once again, too.

Even though our holiday together was clouded by this unexpected event with Mom, my little family made the best of our brief time, and I feel so blessed that we at least had those days to be together.  It was a trip that had been in the works for months, and I know now that this is something I would love to continue to do in the future, if possible, even if my whole family cannot be there each year.  We even had a dusting of snow on our drive to the area, making the landscape uniquely beautiful in a way we had not seen on previous trips.

I’m sorry that I have not been able to catch up with my blog reading here, but hopefully things will settle down a bit here soon so that I can start catching up on many things, including Reader.  Life is most definitely throwing curve balls my way right now, including ice and snow on the roads all this week, which is making trips to the hospital extremely challenging.  I’m taking great comfort in familiar routines right now, such as Bible reading and my gratitude journal.  If you have never kept a daily gratitude journal, perhaps this is the year you might give it a try?  I’m not sure where I would be these days without mine and my daily time in my Bible.  It is so easy to become ungrounded during times like this, and I just do not want to go down that road at all.  I cannot even begin to say what my dear friends mean to me right now, too.  God bless them one and all.

As I take a quick glance back on 2014, I am probably most grateful for the change in my overall physical health for the better.  It took some time and patience to make those basic changes last year, but it was so worth it.  I cannot begin to tell how grateful I am for better health and hope to continue and improve in 2015 even more.  The gift of health is forefront in my mind today as I care for my elderly mother, and I realize that the gift of health is something we should never take for granted.

Once again, Happy New Year, and may this new year bring a fresh spirit of joy, peace and love to each of us and those we love.

D
All Original Content — © fivefs.wordpress.com — All Rights Reserved

Pistachio Brittle

I started off my holiday baking escapades this week with a new twist on a favorite recipe.  I have always liked peanut brittle, even though I will confess that I am really not a fan of the peanuts, per se.  The buttery and sweet brittle is what I love the most.  As I have dieted over the past year, one food that I have enjoyed almost daily for a little snack is pistachio nuts.  Costco sells a big bag of the shelled nuts at a good price, and I have been so grateful to keep a bag of these healthy nuts on my kitchen counter over the past year when a snack attack hits me.

Hubby and I discussed some of the sweets that we would like to have and give this year during the holidays, and we both agreed that substituting pistachios for the peanuts might be worth a try, as we both love to eat them.  I have also had a slightly spicy pistachio brittle in the past (similar to the recipe at that link), and it was very good.  However, for this first attempt, I opted to use a more traditional recipe and substitute the nuts as the only change.

Pistachio Brittle
Lovely Pistachio Brittle!

This was definitely a successful modification, and I seriously doubt that I will ever make regular peanut brittle again, unless I make it for someone who prefers it over this kind.  The wonderful green color from the pistachios even makes the brittle more festive for the holidays, too.

I used a recipe from Land O Lakes, with only two slight changes, in addition to substituting the nuts in equal amounts.  After adding the baking soda, I also added one teaspoon of Watkins vanilla extract, and I also turned the entire recipe out into just one buttered pan instead of dividing it between two pans.  In my opinion, it came out great!  Using a candy thermometer makes this a simple recipe to prepare, too.

Candy Thermometer
This candy thermometer belonged to my mother-in-law, and I treasure using it every year when preparing holiday treats. What a story it could tell over the decades!
Pistachio Brittle 2
Brittle in a buttered pan

I buttered the baking pan well, turned out the hot brittle mixture into the pan, spread it to the edges with a buttered spatula, then let it sit for about an hour until it was completely cooled.  Once it was cooled, I then turned the pan upside down over a large cookie sheet and gently tapped the bottom of the pan with a hammer (that I only use in the kitchen) until the brittle fell loose.  While the brittle was upside down on the cookie sheet, I used the clean hammer to gently break the pieces apart, using only the edge of the hammer when tapping.  There is no need to line the pan with foil or parchment, as the brittle slides out quite easily after it is allowed to completely cool in the well-buttered pan.

I also experimented with another new recipe that has pistachios, too.

Cranberry Pistachio Bark
Cranberry Pistachio White Chocolate Bark

I found this simple recipe for Cranberry Pistachio White Chocolate Bark online from Brown-Eyed Baker.  This took about five minutes to make, using the microwave to melt the white chocolate morsels, and it will be a regular holiday sweet treat for us.  What a pretty addition it will be to my Christmas food gifts this year!  (12/13/14 Update: Just saw where Ina Garten also adds some diced dried apricots to hers, too!)

After the holidays, I will go back to just snacking on my lovely pistachio nuts, sans all the extra calories, but I will certainly have fond memories of these tasty treats!

D Reindeer_smAll Original Content — © fivefs.wordpress.com — All Rights Reserved

Holiday Survival Kit

I made a little gift to take to our yearly Christmas party with some dear friends on Sunday evening, and I wanted to share it here.  Blame it on Pinterest.

Holiday Survival Kit
Holiday Survival Kit

Here is the list of items that I included, and I also included a separate printout of the legend of the Candy Cane story.  I only buy Bob’s Candy Canes at Christmas, and I did not include any homemade treats, as these friends will soon receive one of my cookies platters, too.

Holiday Survival Kit Text
I made a kit for each of my special friends, and they both loved their little surprise, in addition to their “real” gift.  The total cost, including the gingerbread box, was less than $10, and I used clear snack sized bags to hold each of the items on the list.  If you want to include more items, there are several good ones listed online.  Just search for “holiday survival kit,” and you’ll see some of them.

One friend keeps her little grandchildren after school each day, and they are going to explore the items in order by taking an item out each day in the order listed.  I never even thought of that possibility, but what a cute idea that is.  The kit could certainly include a few more kid-friendly items for that purpose, too.

This was such a fun little project and took less than an hour to put together after purchasing the necessary items.  Let’s just say while it not definitely not diet friendly, it is a fun little gift to make and give! 😉

D Reindeer_smAll Original Content — © fivefs.wordpress.com — All Rights Reserved