Christmas Memories

They say the first Christmas is the hardest. The first one without someone you love. And in some ways it has been tough. Mom missed Nathan’s special decorating techniques – like putting all of the ornaments on one side of the tree. 🙂 For her it was going to church on Christmas Eve without him. For me it was dishing out the rommegrot today and not making a dish for him.

IMGP4590And not wrapping a package of Mountain Dew (he was supposed to have diet, but I figured it was a sister’s right to give him all the sugar he wanted!) and Pringles.

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But with the memories of someone who enjoyed Christmas so very much, how can one be sad for long? He loved getting clothes.

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Silly Sammy was a favorite present, nearly worn out by the New Year!

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Nathan played the bugle with his nose. He absolutely refused to put it to his lips!

IMGP4596His joy was always real and raw! Nothing was more fun than watching Nathan open his gifts.

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Merry Christmas in Heaven baby brother! I wish we could make new memories but am so blessed to remember the twinkle in your eye.

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The Santa Bear with the dirty nose because you loved touching it.

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The shriek of joy when you opened up a package of socks or box of candy.

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IMGP4592The tree that fell over in the middle of the night because all the decorations were on one side.  Your pistachio pudding salad.

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The boxes lined up from the Christmas tree in the corner of the basement all the way to the stairs because you preferred lines instead of piles. The electric wine bottle opener that you made Mom buy for me on Black Friday.

IMGP4579 The joy you had in handing out presents to everyone else. How much you enjoyed eggnog and lefse. How you wanted the Christmas story read, but not finished!

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Thankful

“Stop focusing on how stressed you are and remember how blessed you are.”

I read this on facebook the other day. Need to post it in huge letters in my kitchen, my office, my bedroom, my bathroom, my car…… Because, although I seem to prefer worrying about getting the next job done, paying the bills, rounding up more customers, ordering nuts for the candy and plants for spring, I am truly blessed. In so many ways!

I have 47 years of memories to treasure. Thank you, Nathan.

I had the best childhood a girl could ask for. Thanks Mom and Dad.

I get to make my living playing in the dirt and feeding people stuff that they don’t really need but makes their lives a bit sweeter, yummier. Thank you to those who have taught me how to do what I do and those who work for me and keep me on track and looking good!

I am blessed to have all sorts of critters in my life. (Yes, honey, I mean you, too!)

Living in North Dakota, USA, where I have the freedom to make choices about the important things in life – religion, education, vocation – is a blessing so few have. Thank you to those who protect that right for me and mine!

And then there is the rest of my family: the family with whom I grew up and consider mine; the one I married into; and the next generation of both; and my close friends, those who listen when I babble, are there when I need.  Thanks for treating me like your own.

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And, above all, I am blessed by the grace of God. He knows I have done naught to deserve all of this!

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Horses and fruitcake 

November 15 and nearly 60 degrees. What unbelievable weather for North Dakota! What a great weekend for a horsemanship clinic. And that is why I am pouting. You see, about six weeks ago my husband asked which weekend in November would work best for me. Really? When was the last time I had a weekend off in November? Many years ago!  
So while I was wearing my Sonja’s Old Fashioned Delicacies hat at the Pride of Dakota Holiday Showcase, my friends were breathing in that wonderful horse smell and getting all sorts of tips to improve their riding skills. 

From what I have been told, it was a wonderful time!  (Insert Soni’s pouty face)  

  
But I have to admit, if I had to be stuck inside, I had it pretty good.  We had a great show: the shelves were darn near bare at the end of the day. My elves are going to be busy!  
 
I brought biscotti back into the line up and it sold very well. 

  
But the real kicker was fruitcake! We brought that back after a five year hiatus and it has been selling out! So nice to know there are so many fruitcakes  out there! 
 

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Is it really that time?

My elves kept telling my it was time to get ready for the holiday baking season.

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Time to make and wrap caramels.

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Time to form the sandbakkels

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Time to get the shortbread formed and in the freezer.  Pistachioberry

Time to mix up biscotti.

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Time to mix up a million batches of Molasses Spice Cookies.  cathedral cake ingred (1024x768)

Even time to make the fruitcake!

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Today was Fattigmand day.

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It’s always best to make that at night or on a weekend. None of my elves like going home smelling like lard!

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As usual, my elves were right. We should have started mixing up our flour and butter and sugar a long time ago. Our first Pride of Dakota Holiday Showcase is only 5 days away. And all of our goodies will be oh-so-fresh!

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Because when the pansies are blooming on November 1 in North Dakota, it is sooooo hard to think Christmas!

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Changing Seasons

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This little patch of pansies has been a source of joy to me since early spring when they appeared along the edge of my sidewalk. The first to bloom this spring, they are still pushing out cheerful little blossoms despite being mowed, suffering from heat, drought and, today, frost.

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Yesterday I attended the funeral of the wife of an old college friend. She was way too young, only 49. Her death was sudden and unexpected. I had never before been to a funeral that was standing room only-in a large church. She wasn’t famous. She wasn’t rich. She was apparently simply a good woman who was a good mother and wife, partner in life, and generous with her knowledge and wisdom and talent. I did not know her other than by sight (college was a long time ago, and friends lose touch). I am heartbroken for those who did know her and will miss her presence. But I am also inspired by her life, as are so many others. What a blessing she was to so many!

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So today, the season worked on changing. It has been a late, warm fall. No hard frost until last night. The fog was dense this morning, leaving a bit of hoar-frost.

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As the fog lifted, the colors started to show. Frosty edges accentuated the reds and browns of changing leaves.

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This photo is poor quality, but just look at those colors! Not typical North Dakota colors. 🙂

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This sweet hollyhock lends some femininity to the autumn landscape.

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This Polar Joy Canadian rose is quite brave!

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As is Captain Samuel Holland!

The seasons are changing. The frost is on the pumpkin. It’s baking season!

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This is NOT a Dog Blog!

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This is Not, I repeat, NOT a blog site about dogs. But right now the most fun part of our lives happens to be furry with stubby tails, very wiggly and covered in black and grey spots.

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Elmo and Elroy are five months old now. Their personalities are diverging. Elmo did very well at obedience school. He likes to sit and watch. He ponders. Usually responds to commands. Elmo has more of a herding instinct. At least, he is the one to give chase to the horses at inappropriate times! He is our smooth and steady one. And seems to be the dominant pup.

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And then there is Elroy. Our butterfly chaser. Our mouse hunter. He never sits still.

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With one exception. Every night he crawls into Mark’s lap and has his tummy rubbed. Last night he literally snored for about 15 minutes in this position!

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Yesterday they had gate-guarding lessons. It went tremendously well. Until there were horses around. 🙂 I guess if enough dry runs go well, then maybe someday……….

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So far they are almost always the best of friends. And we are so blessed to have such an entertaining distraction in our lives!

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Evening Ritual

In July our family grew.

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Meet Elmo and Elroy. They are 4 month old brothers; Australian Shepherd Border Collie mix.

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At the same time we acquired five kittens. Now, keep in mind, I am not bragging about our intelligence level. Just stating the facts! 🙂 We wanted the puppies to get along with the cats, so we threw them all together! So far, so good!

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So now our days are filled with waiting. Waiting to grow up. Elmo spends a lot of time watching and waiting. Elroy prefers chasing butterflies.

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The boys are also learning how to shred things. They spend their days in their super-sized kennel. Or tearing around the yard chasing butterflies and each other.

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At night the coyotes come out so the menagerie moves to the barn.

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It’s a rough life our critters live.

The boys are taking us to obedience classes now. So each evening we practice sit, stay, down, heel, leave it. The cats do their best to distract the pups.

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Then Mark and I sit and watch the show. Puppies chasing each other. Puppies chasing cats. Puppies chasing flies.  Cats tormenting puppies. And each other.

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Cats climbing everything.

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Of course, we are very stern with the cats and dogs. No puppies on our laps. No tummies rubbed. Ha.  I think we are getting soft in the head.

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The only evening ritual that is better than our barn time is Park time!

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Thanks for the memories!

Sometimes it’s hard to remember the lesson my dad tried so hard to instill in me: that making memories is so much more important than getting stuff done!

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Spring Promise

Spring is supposed to be a time of joy, renewal, optimism, sunshine. But sometimes, like Christmas, the stress of the season can be overwhelming. Those of us in any form of agriculture feel the pressure of weather, timing, the gamble of growing a crop which will pay our bills for the next 12 months. Weariness and worry can be shadowed with personal loss (RIP Nathan, Ernie, Sally).

But God sends us little reminders (and big ones!) that all is well.

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Seemingly magically, tulips burst forth with bright, cheerful colors.

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And fantastical forms.

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Bold, blue muscari reflect the spring sky.

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The Chestnut apple

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and the Harelred apple trees tease us with delicate blooms that promise a harvest of pie and sauce.

And we are reminded that all will be well.

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Drive on, Nathan!

Last Thursday, May 14, 2015, on his 48th birthday, we laid Nathan to rest. It wasn’t what we wanted to be doing on a cold, wet, windy May day. But if it was what we had to be doing, it was a good day.

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The day celebrated the life of a unique human being. We decided to make the day one he would have enjoyed.

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Nathan loved trailers; horse trailers, car trailers, boat trailers, big trailers, little trailers.

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So his pine casket was carried from the vault to the cemetery in our horse trailer.

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And from the horse trailer to the plot next to Dad pulled by a Cub Cadet tractor, the only vehicle Nathan ever drove. He wore two of them out as a teenager.

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We had a brief interment service.

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Then, because of high ground water, the backhoe had to come back in to remove water. At the time, I wasn’t happy with this, but afterward everyone commented on how tickled Nathan would have been to have a backhoe as part of the ceremony! And he would have.

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We kept it simple. Nathan was gently lowered into the earth by people who had loved him and whose lives were touched by his infectious smile and twinkle. I can just see him trying to grab a rope and help!

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After we had shed our tears and said goodbye, these ladies let me take them back up the hill.

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These guys didn’t trust my driving. Nathan wouldn’t have either. 🙂

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Drive on, Nathan! Rest in peace.

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