Friday, January 18, 2013

Grilling at 20 Degrees

Unusually cold temperatures continue for Boise.  Because so many people are burning wood in fireplaces the air quality is on the yucky side.  Folks are hunkered down just trying to stay warm.  When I came home from  work yesterday my husband had his big coat and hat on and I asked him why.  His response was "I'm making dinner".  Gotta love a guy who will brave the cold to grill out in January.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What keeps me up at night....

Last Friday my beloved and I attended a class on researching family history put on at our church.  It was very well done. That training sesson has opened up a whole new avenue of interest for me.

 I've worked at compiling genalogy research on and off over the years.  At one point back in Kalamazoo, Michigan  (1990's) I worked as a volunteer in a family history library. After we moved to Washington I continued to do research on my own family,  and also put together extensive notebooks on my husband's lineage.  When we left Washington in 2002  I packed all my records up and put it away,not touching it at all for quite a long time.   A couple years ago I started back at it again, shifting a lot of my old print records to digital.  I put up a blog about my efforts in doing family history work that I called "Spirit of Elijah".   

My Grandmother, Florence Kurtz, attended Alhambra School in Phoenix, AZ in 1916.  This is a photo of the full student body.  Florence is in the front row sort of in the middle.
So doing this stuff is not new to me.  However, it feels like everything about doing genealogy has changed for two reasons:  first, the information available now via sites like is nothing short of amazing.   With just a few clicks of a mouse I can see census records, old city directories, miliatary records - you name it.  In many cases I can get digital photos of the origianl record.  Other times I get just the typed information.  But either way - this is hugely different than the old days of  writing query letters to research librarians all across the country, travelling to cemeteries and court houses or cranking old microfilm machines.  Using I've found wonderful  load of information in days that would have taken me months or even years to track down in the past.  I've even found wonderful old photos of some of my ancestors that I'd never seen before.
But the biggest thing that has changed doing genealogy for me is that this is the first time ever my husband has joined me in the effort.  It has always been my hobby that he was supportive of but not all that interested in, even when it was his family I was researching.

Edward Bennett Sr. served in the "Black Hawk Indian War" 1866-1867.  He is pictured here with a group of veterans and some of their wives - photo probably taken in the early 1900's.
(Edward is man laying down in front on far left)
The class we went to last Friday has somehow changed that.  For the first time ever, my sweet husband seems genuinely interested in the process of  looking for information and in reading the records that we already have. It has been a blast to share this with him as we both dig together through my old notebooks to see what we can learn about our various family groups.

I don't know how far we will take this pursuit.  I know from my own past track record that I have a long history of going hot and cold with genealogy research.  Eventually I'm sure we'll pack it all up again and may not look at any of it again for quite some time.  But for now, I am savoring this season of sharing this mutual interest with my man.  It has brought so much sweetness to us as we marvel  together at the stories of people like Nathaniel the shoemaker who lived in Navoo or  Eliza Ann Stevens and Nancy Marie Badger, strong Utah pioneer women who raised granddaughters after their own daughters died young.
Doing all this genealogy is wreaking havoc with my sleep patterns - spinning me back into erratic nocturnal wakefulness that leaves me groggy and drained come morning when I need to get up and get ready for work.   But I love doing it.  For now, it's a blessing that brings me much joy.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Snow Day

Winter continues to envelop us here in Idaho.  After spending most the day hunkered down inside where it was nice and warm, late this afternoon I finally got antsy and headed outside to shovel some sidewalks and take the dog for a jaunt around the block. When we came back from our walk I went wondering through the yard, noticing the different perspective the winter light brings...

It seems like just a short time ago we still had luscious grapes on our back porch arbor.  Now we have icicles.

Everywhere I look I see frozen shrouds, but I know that spring will come again.  I know what will be there if I just have the patience to wait for it.

One of the things I really like about living in Boise is the fact that we have four distinct seasons.  It was one of the specific characteristics we were looking for when choosing a place to land for keeps.  I very much enjoy watching the land change through all its phases.  

Although there was a time I seriously considered a move to Alaska, in retrospect I'm glad we came here instead.  Glaciers have their grandeur, but I just don't think I'm cut out for months upon months when I would      scarcely see the sun.  Besides, with my lousy night vision I almost never drive in the dark...I'd be trapped in a place like that.  

With every passing season I feel more certain that I fit here.  Even in winter.  I like living in a place where it snows just enough to feel sort of special and magical without the long duration to make it dreary.

So I'll appreciate my icicles while we have them.  I know they won't be here long.

Monday, January 7, 2013

No more banana belt

 I've often heard it said that Boise is the 'Banana Belt" of Idaho.    
                                         On the City-Data website it states:

"The four seasons are distinct in all parts of Idaho, but not simultaneous. Spring comes earlier and winter later to Boise and Lewiston, which are protected from severe weather by nearby mountains and call themselves "banana belts" ... Mean temperatures in Boise range from 29°F (–2°C) in January to 74°F (23°C) in July."

Yes, Boise IS warmer and drier than much of the state.  But eventually, winter hits.  We had temperatures in the low 20's all week last week and then today the snow hit.  It's pretty light and powdery since we are still below freezing.  Still, the streets are a mess.  Because it snows so infrequently here the city isn't really geared up to deal with it.  To make matters worse, drivers here don't seem to get it that snow conditions mean to we all need to slow down and leave more space between cars.

Photo from KBOI2 at which says:

"Dozens of crashes and slide offs are being reported in the Treasure Valley due to snow, icy and wintry conditions. Idaho State Police says troopers have responded to about 35 crashes so far Monday."

I am ever so thankful that I have a job with a very generous flex-time policy and can even work from home in my jammies if I choose to so long as I don't have meetings scheduled.  I'm thinking tomorrow just may be a PJ day.

I really don't mind the cold, or even some snowfall, as long as the sun comes out.  Today, however,  was mostly grey.

Apparently they are only claiming three inches of new snow at Bogus Basin, but I know we had more than that here at our house.  My back and shoulders are sore from spending the afternoon playing secret shovel fairy to the neighbors.  Don't you just love how work is always so much more fun when it's done as a surprise for someone else?

Ah well, at least I'm not living in Bejing.  I hear China is having the coldest winter in 28 years.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Christmas 2012

After many years of  feeling either sad or stressed or just plain "Bah Humbug" during the holidays, I feel so blessed to have gotten back into the groove of Christmas.  I thoroughly enjoyed everything about the holiday season this year - from the food to the lights to the music and all the rest.

Our holidays started with Larry participating in "Hymns of Thanksgiving",  a Boise tradition that has been bringing sacred music to the community for 10 years now.  He had been invited to sing in the choir last year, but didn't feel he was ready for it then.  This year when he was asked again, he decided to go for it.  I'm so glad he did.  The choir of over 250 voices along with a full orchestra gave a stunning performance on November 18, and set us into the mood of reflecting on our blessings as we entered into the holiday time of year.

Then for Thanksgiving day Larry and I chose to stay home to have a quiet feast for just the two of us.  We had invitations to share the day with others, but this time we wanted to celebrate in our own house in our own way.  We spent the morning out at  Eagle Island state park romping along the trails with the dog.  It was a lovely, sunny day, just chilly enough to make a jacket feel good.  We had a nice time walking along the river talking about what we were grateful for.

Then we went home to prepare our feat - roasted Cornish game hens,  brussel sprouts, yams, jello salad and pie.  I admit we bought our pie from Costco rather than make it ourselves, but our goal was to have a relaxed and easy holiday - not spend all day cooking.   Most of what we did make came out really well except for the double corn spoon bread.  I got busy talking / laughing / dancing in the living room with my man to an old Elvis Presley CD, so I was distracted and somehow missed a step with the cornbread....left out half the milk.  It was pretty awful, so that dish ended up being the dog's Thanksgiving treat.  Morgan seemed to appreciate it and we certainly had more than enough food for just the two of us.

Later that evening my brother and his wife came over for pie and music.  Larry and Andy played guitars and sang songs while Kathy and I visited.  So it was really a nice blend of quiet, peaceful time with just Larry and I, yet still having family connection to savor as well.

Once December came we somehow seemed to find just the right balance of celebrating ---participating in enough festive traditions and events to keep our hearts light without trying to do so much we would ever feel frantic or overwhelmed. 

We put up our fake Christmas tree that we've been using for many years now. In true "Charley Brown" fashion it always starts out looking lopsided, bedraggled and rather pathetic but then turns out pretty once it's all decorated with our ecclectic baubles and the lights are on.  Sometimes I long for a real tree, but this one works just fine as a place to hang ornaments, and it's nice that it's all pre-wired with lightst.  Besides, my beloved says "I  only kill things I'm going to eat."  In a way that makes sense.  It does seem a shame to cut down a perfectly good tree just to decorate it then throw it away after a few weeks.

We got out my collection of many, many Nativity scenes.  I have big ones, little ones, elaborate and fancy ones, humble ones ... a hodge podge of wood, porcelain, metal, glass,  gathered over the years.  Some I have purchased.  Many have been given to me as gifts.  They are always a special reminder to me of what Christmas is all about.

We went to hear the Boise Chordsmen and others put on a Christmas variety with our friends Carolyn & Henry.   We also went to the annual concert of the Boise Institute Choir with pals Carma and Emery.   We had our Nampa friends, Larry and Judy, over for an afternoon of playing cards while our house was all decorated and Christmas music playing.  That was a lot of fun.   Then we went to the Boise Botanical gardens with my friend Katrina and had a blast taking in all those sites. We took plates of cookies to neighbors and went caroling one night with a group of friends.

We went to see the musical "White Christmas" produced by the Nampa Civic Music Theater.  For the past two years we've had season tickets for all their productions and have very much enjoyed them.

 (Photo from Idaho Press Tribune

As we did last year, we went to Arizona to spend Christmas with Larry's sons and the grandkids there.  We also visited with my mother's cousins who live in Arizona and connected with some dear friends of ours we knew from back in the day when we lived in Ohio.  We had a very special time with them.   The whole time we were in Arizona was a really fun trip.

Before we left town we had my brother and his wife over for a holiday dinner of roasted turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, special stuffing and all the works. We had a very sweet visit which reminded me all over again that one of the reasons we moved to Idaho was to live near family, this being the one and only place both my beloved and I would have a sibling near by.

So all in all it was a very nice holiday.  We enjoyed special time with family.  We had fun savoring  the sparkle and glitz.  Through it all we reflected on the birth of the Savior and what it means to us to have strong testimonies of Jesus Christ.

I suppose to some extent I will always think some about loss during the Christmas season.  Having both of my parents die in December made me associate everything to do with Christmas with funerals instead of joy for a long time.  Nevertheless, Christmas is no longer a time of grieving for me.  These days the holidays truly are a celebration of  fun, laughter,  love and light.

For all it's magic, I admit it feels good now that it's all over to have everything packed up, taking down the tree, putting away all the decorations--sending them  back up in the attic where they will belong till time to get it all out again next year.  I'm ready to have things cleared out and get back to a regular routine. Still, even though the holidays are over and we are now marching our way through January,  I'm still walking with a spring in my step and grinning with the spirit of Christmas.

 When we put everything else away, I decided to leave out just one of the many nativity scenes from my collection so  I could continue to see it and enjoy it all year long.  This particular one I chose to keep out is one I received as a gift this year from my dear friend Carma.  I just love it's simplicy, classic lines, and beauty.   It reminds me of faith.  It reminds me of friendship.  It reminds me of how much there is to be joyful about, not just at Christmas, but every day of the year.

Truly, I had a very Merry Christmas in 2012.  I have no idea what this New Year will bring.  But I do know this: I have a great deal to be thankful for.   I'm especially glad to be living in Boise, Idaho   I loved traveling over Christmas and spending time with people we love.  We had such a good time.  Yet, when it was all over, I was very ready to come back.  Arizona will always be a special place for me - the place where I grew up and where I still have lots of family and friends.  But this is home.

That, more than anything, has been the best gift of all.  I feel at peace here.  I feel home.