New Year’s Eve Traditions

Do you have a New Year’s Eve traditional celebration?  If you believe the movies, you’d assume everyone attends a fancy gala while wearing a fabulous dress.  Personally, I do not know a single person who goes to a fancy event on New Year’s Eve.  Everyone I know generally stays home, or maybe goes to a friend’s house for board game night. In my little family of four, we generally make an array of appetizers, play board games, and watch a Beatles movie.  Then the parents are in bed by about 10:30, while the kids stay up and watch the t.v. performances (if anyone they like is on.)  The t.v. productions out of New York City are pretty boring for me… especially knowing that with the time difference, it is tape delayed 3 hours.  I don’t know any of the performers any more.  I don’t idolize celebrities.  Watching someone else party is about as fun as watching paint dry.

I know some that look forward to watching the t.v. celebrations, but we prefer to watch something else – and maybe something unusual in a theme.  We’ve been watching a Beatles movie every year, but as there aren’t too many of them, we might have to move on to something new like Monty Python movies, Elvis movies, Mr. Bean movies, or the “Carry On” movies. We’ll have to pick a new movie tradition…

With multiple appetizers to make, I seek out easy and tasty ideas.

A simple dip I like to make is super quick if you have a mini cuisinart. Adjust measurements to suit your preferred taste and texture.

Mediterranean Lemon Dip

1 cup feta cheese

1 Tbl fresh lemon zest

2 Tbl fresh lemon juice

5 Tbl olive oil or almond oil

2 large garlic cloves, minced

Combine all and mix well until smooth.  Serve with garlic flavored crackers, or fresh veggies.

What are our favorite family games?

Our kids are 17 and 20 so we’re well past the Candyland phase.  While our son loves Monopoly, we’re generally looking for games that aren’t too long, or too easy, or too competitive.  I love word games.  Or games of chance with just a dash of skill.

Our favorite dice game is “Pigs and Chickens” (aka 10,000) where you roll the dice and add up points. The first to 10,000 wins.  You can be a “pig” by trying for more points, or be a “chicken” and take the small amount of points.

Good games that require a bit of skill as well as just plain luck are:  UNO, Sorry, Sequence, or Journey Through Europe

Word games are my favorites, like Scattergories, Balderdash, Password, or Bananagrams

Good group games are Pub Trivia, Whoonu, or  Apples to Apples


Have a fun and safe New Year celebration!


My Christmas Ornaments: With a Little Help

Everyone who has a Christmas tree, has a different Christmas tree.   I love that everyone’s tree is unique.  For me, I love that almost every ornament on my tree is different.  My neighbor’s tree is only clear glass ornaments.  A dear friend always has green and blue ornaments. My sister has a different theme every year. DSCF3981

This year, I asked my husband and teenage son to help me decorate the tree.

I want to do this as a family – especially this year when our daughter isn’t here to decorate with me.  There have been years where I was alone in the living room decorating the tree while the sounds of some James Bond movie was on in the t.v. room nearby.  I don’t enjoy decorating the Christmas tree to sounds of gunfire.  So this year I “heavily encouraged” my two guys to help out.  Of course, here I am today with my “mom in charge” mode in gear, looking at the tree days later wondering “where is the lion ornament? where is the cat on the ball ornament?”  The ornament I purchased as my 2018 ornament is no where to be found.  DSCF7081Hmmm…. Mom will have to go on an expedition, because my efficient husband packed up the empty boxes I have for each ornament, reboxed them and hauled them out to the garage.  I just can’t have a Christmas tree without my favorite ornaments! I think I may have a “disorder” of some kind.

I admit, each year it seems to be harder and harder to find an ornament I like.  Most I find in the stores are too large to fit on my 7 foot tree.  Stores are stocking less inventory ever since the recession and thus have less to choose from. There isn’t a Christmas ornament pop up store in the mall anymore. The quality has gone downhill too. About 15 years ago, I found so many fun ornaments. This year I found one that would work on Etsy.   Christmas apparently also comes in October now.  If you haven’t purchased your Christmas decor by at least the 2nd weekend of November, you are out of luck. Unfortunately, I am not in the Christmas spirit immediately after Halloween.  I am a believer in the “one holiday per month” rule.  (A rule I think I invented.)

The racoon playing the banjo in an example of the kind of silly, but well-made ornaments IMG_0708I love.  I have an acrobat, Jolly old King Cole, a set of elves playing musical instruments, a lion lifting weights, a man with an xlyophone body, a clown made of buttons, and just so many different types of ornaments – nostalgic, funny, glamorous, handmade, Swedish, rustic, and many more received as gifts.  These are the ornaments I look forward to unpacking each year – they are a joy to unpack, not a chore.  And while I am a teensy frustrated that my guys managed to leave some treasured ornaments unpacked and they felt not worth the time to put on the tree (I kept hearing mumblings of “isn’t this enough yet?) I understand that they are not the sentimental creature I am.  And so I shall go unpack my bin of ornament boxes and I WILL FIND those missing ornaments, still wrapped in tissue and tucked safely away.  Next year I may rethink my plan and open the boxes myself and lay out the most important ones that must go on the tree.  But I still want my guys to help – to the sounds of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra singing Christmas carols in the background. Because it should be a family event.DSCF3940















The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month

If only.  Imagine if the armistice signed to end World War 1 had actually held. The fact that we had to start numbering our world wars should be enough to bring the world to stop and think.  But there will always be maniacs that have a need for power and brave men and women who will fight to keep the right of people to be free.

Today I honor my father-in-law who, at an age he should have been in college, was trained to be a pilot to fly bombing raids over Europe.  I look at the list of his bombing missions and see places his granddaughter is visiting this year as she studies abroad in Florence, Italy.  He bombed targets in Italy.  He bombed targets in Budapest and Vienna.  – both places she just returned from last week.  She loved Germany. She loved Budapest. She loved Vienna. She loves Italy.  Because of the sacrifices of soldiers like her grandfather, she is reaping the benefits of a free Europe where she can travel and enjoy the beauty, history, and unique personalities of all the different countries.  I do hope that her grandfather is able to see her and know it is thanks to his generation’s great sacrifice to rescue Europe from dictators that she is free to have coffee in Amsterdam, hot chocolate in Bruges, pastries in Vienna, beer in Hamburg, or chianti in Italy, and making friends with people in each country along the way.

My father-in-law did not really like to talk about the war.  He called it “a long bad dream.”  And yet he still kept his war trunk filled with memorabilia, old uniforms, flight logs, and medals.  He didn’t put them on display, he kept them shut up in a trunk, but he kept them.  It was a life-changing experience for him and loved going to reunions with the many good friends he made while in the Air Force.  He and his two brothers all went to the war – he and his older brother Bob were in Italy as pilots.  His eldest brother John was in the Navy in the Pacific.  His parents were extremely lucky to have all three sons return home safely after serving.

And so today, on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, let us all pause and say thank you.

veterans day russ


WeekendCoffeeShare: the final weekend.

If I was sitting down to a cup of my favorite Verano coffee with you, I would tell you about my plans for this weekend. This weekend is the final weekend. The last two days I have with her. Our cherished daughter is flying away Monday morning for her study abroad term in Italy. I won’t see her again until the Christmas tree is up and snow could be on the ground. I am thrilled for her, jealous of her, nervous for her, and sad for me. She will eat the best gelato, see amazing architecture, experience a different way of life, taste the most wonderful pasta, live amongst history. She is twenty years old and wants to see everything. She has an adventurous soul, but is still so naive that I worry. I am so thankful to be in this age of electronic communication so that I will be able to FaceTime her and know she is alright. I can’t imagine sending my little girl off to Italy for three months depending only upon postcards for communication – kind of like I did when I was naive and twenty. I traveled to England, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, and Scotland with a girlfriend and made it back alive. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

So this weekend we get her packed. We get her room tidied up. We clean out her car. We do all of the mundane chores that will take my mind off the inevitable looming departure at the airport. We’ll take her out for a farewell dinner – or brunch or lunch if she prefers. We’ll play one more game of croquet or cornhole or bocce ball as a family because she loves playing games. She and her 16 year old brother will laugh as only she can make him laugh. She and I will watch one more Agatha Christie mystery together while we drink a pot of tea – because we love to do that together. Last night we all sat outside and played Uno by candlelight under the stars until we could no longer tell if it was a green two I just put down or was it a blue two? She loves playing card games.

Our weekend will be whatever she wants it to be, because she is my baby girl and I am going to miss her terribly. This will be a good weekend because we have nothing scheduled, but one filled with a rollercoaster of emotions for me.

Me and my fellow tea drinker…

Daytrip: Oregon Coast and Devil’s Punchbowl

Last weekend my family and I made another day trip.  This time we aimed for the Devil’s Punchbowl.  It is a circular outcrop at the base of a cliff where the center has eroded.  At minus-tide, you can walk into the center of it.  At high tide, it fills about half full.  During storms it can fill all the way to the top.  The viewpoint directly overhead was rather windy, but what a view! My husband and teenagers ventured down inside while I stayed up top to take photos.


My kids looking at the sea anenomes inside the punchbowl.


There are many viewpoints at which you can stop and take photos along the Oregon Coast hwy 101.  We stopped at a viewpoint just north of Devil’s Punchbowl and had a spectacular view overlooking Otter Rock and Devil’s Punchbowl.

My favorite view overlooking Otter Rock
Overlooking Agate Beach with many brave surfers


A bit further north we stopped at another viewpoint with great views.  A group of college aged boys were joking as they headed into the Lookout Souvenir shop “I must buy a refrigerator magnet!”

DSCF5023DSCF5008bridge oregon coast

As we headed north, we stopped for a frisbee-break at Tierra del Mar beach.  We tried stopping for lunch at Pelican Brew Pub in Pacific City, but couldn’t find parking.  We don’t usually go to the coast on the weekends, but wowza! Large crowds there.  There was extra excitement as a group of good samaritans helped lift a Subaru stuck in the sand as the tide was coming in.  They literally had to lift it out of the water and to dry land.  There are just a few beaches that allow cars on them.  (I’m not a fan of cars on beaches.) From Tierra del Mar we headed north all the way to Cannon Beach where we headed back to the heat and traffic of the Portland Metropolitan area.

Tierra Del Mar
Neakhani mountain
Neakhani Mountain
Tide’s coming in…
beach exercise