be the Christmas tree…

It’s been an “interesting” week. I was feeling marvelous on Sunday, when I got slammed with an ocular migraine that put the “aura” into both eyes, rendering me almost blind. Well, it was very bright in there, but I couldn’t read my text book or write any notes about what I was reading. So, studying had to take a back seat for a while, until my vision cleared. The thing about this type of migraine is that it doesn’t always turn into a headache. Unfortunately, I not only got a bad headache, but I was feeling queasy as well. And when you can’t eat much, for me, being hungry will make a headache worse. 12351762_10153712583099976_309084352_oAnyway, I fought through it and kept studying, and then survived yesterday’s exam. Not without having lingering aches in my head, but at least I could eat normal food again and stop drinking ginger tea. I say all this to led up to a more cheerful outlook for the week, now that the worst exam is over, in a way, since I absolutely abominate in-class essay exams. Now, I have two take-home exams to write, and one will be long… but at least I can pace myself.12334250_10153704798709976_403542948_oAlso, I was in bed before nine o’clock last night, though I didn’t turn the light out until about 10pm. No studying, just some relaxing and then a much-needed ELEVEN hours of sleep. Yup, you heard that right. I woke up this morning, feeling amazing, and praying that this lasts for the whole week. Also, as soon as the pressure was off from my first exam, I had time to relax and goof off with my phone. Hence, the selfie that I’m posting down below. 12355785_10153713456899976_2145821784_oBut since one method of relaxing for me is still taking pictures, I thought I’d include one that I took on campus, while waiting for my brother to pick me up. That’s one thing that I absolutely love about winter, how the bare branches are outlined against the sky… and then the sky can take on so many colors and even textures. Of course, anyone who reads my posts regularly already knows that I have something of a tree addiction. Hopefully, I’ll be taking my “real” camera out during the break, and having some fun with it.12342901_10153703881964976_2099653931_o12334524_10153706594024976_1998174422_oEvery Christmas, I manage to start taking pictures of the Christmas tree, even though some of the same ornaments always end up in the shot. I love how the lights reflect on the snowmen and snowflakes… and, of course, I had nothing to do with decorating the tree this year, so I have to help remind myself that Christmas is actually coming. School keeps me so busy that it really doesn’t feel real. So, staring at my pictures does help.12334462_10153712084099976_799253162_oLast night, I was playing with selfies and trying to get some reflections of the Christmas lights on my glasses, when I came across a filter that changed my hair color in that lighting. I always wondered what my hair would look like, if it were blue or green, didn’t you? So, here you go, my attempt to be a chameleon and blend into the Christmas tree. Well, that is, if my hair is green. If it’s blue, then I really shouldn’t blend, right? I could’ve put the pic in full-size, but the lighting was quite dim… so, too grainy. Now, I have to stop goofing off and start writing my take-home exam for my South America class. If I get it finished in good order, and turn it in early, then I will have a full 24 hrs to study for my math exam, which is tomorrow night. 12355957_10153713708489976_449474971_oHave a great week, and I hope to keep coming back on here more regularly over the Christmas break. Oh, and if you are also taking exams this week or next, then I wish you luck on those, also! : )12351802_10153712586354976_775561797_o

Christmas break has broken…

My Christmas vacation began on Thursday night, as soon as I finished my last geography “report”, which was really just a longer homework assignment. Before that, I had three exams, one each on Mon, Tues, and Wed… and then fiction portfolio was due on Thursday! My two final drafts (for this semester) for that portfolio were so crisp and clean and beautiful. And then it was over!10834714_10152866313979976_743309326_o10844515_10152866185429976_61046275_oI only just realized that my last post on here was before Fall Break. So sorry about that, I haven’t been swamped, but I do manage to stay busy. At the end, I didn’t have any big papers due for any history or literature classes, but I did have to finish my stories and read one last book for history. That kept me busy during some of my Thanksgiving break, which I spent in Florida. Even though we were in my brother’s place, I still manage to find time to work on a few school things, which was good.10825049_10152866180794976_124053857_oLet’s see, what has happened since I posted last? Aside from probably achieving all A’s in my classes again, I mean. We’re taking care of my brother’s dog while he’s away, so Bullet’s getting used to living with us and having four people to be entertained by.10844591_10152860790974976_569860123_o

We’ve decorated for Christmas, so all the trees are up and looking cheerful. Oh, at school, they’ve finally gone up “above the fence” while they’re rebuilding Freeman Hall, so I’m sure it’ll look almost complete when we get back from our break. No, we haven’t started any Christmas baking yet.10821814_10152855592604976_1118922527_oI feel like there’s probably something else I’ve forgotten, but oh well. I’m going to go empty my school notebooks so that they’re ready for next semester and so they’ll stop cluttering the furniture in my office area. I’m assuming that I’ll be back on here before then, but if I get busy, I hope you and your families will have a splendidly wonderful Christmas!10834475_10152866184189976_177036601_o10840097_10152866973814976_109514920_o

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

This is the time of year for…DSC_0794

…cookies and other treats to share with friends and family.DSC_0785

DSC_0801…Christmas ornaments to decorate the tree, full of memories of years past.DSC_0808

DSC_0816…watching someone else decorate the Christmas tree, because you have too many papers to write to be able to help. : )DSC_0834

DSC_0947…cozy dinners of toasted open-face grilled cheese sandwiches on Christmas Eve.DSC_0865

…presents under the tree, and tired, not-morning-people that are still happy to be awake, even without little kids to squeal over boxes and wrapping paper. DSC_0872

DSC_0880…debates over cinnamon rolls and pancakes that are solved by having both for Christmas morning breakfast.DSC_0900

DSC_0907…Christmas presents that might just be bigger than you are.DSC_0917

…gifts of books to catch you up on all the books that you haven’t bought this year.DSC_0929

…delicious Christmas dinner of turkey and all the trimmings!DSC_0987

…remembering Who came on that long ago night, was laid in a manger, and how the wise men found Him by the light of the star of Bethlehem.DSC_0845

seeing the only great light…

A friend of mine posted pictures on FB of her toddler, after his daddy carved the Halloween jack-o-lantern. He was fascinated by the candle they had lit and put inside of Jack Pumpkin. Understandably so, I think this must be where every child learns to think their parents are superpeople. And then, not long after that, he gets to see the magic of the Christmas tree, glowing with its beautiful lights! We can’t know what is actually running through their heads, but I’m sure part of it is “That’s so awesome!” and also, “My parents are awesome!”DSC_0643

I think of this whenever it’s late at night, and the only lights lit are the Christmas lights. Out of the darkness, the colored lights from our big tree, and the white lights from our little trees are shining in the darkness, and it’s a beautiful sight. I now know that my parents did not invent Christmas lights for my personal benefit, as I might have thought when I was little, but I am still fascinated by the magical quality of the lights.DSC_0649

DSC_0648Some people may think that Christmas trees are pagan or that they’re all about encouraging children to think of what they can GET out of Christmas. Maybe they are, and maybe some families don’t teach their children any better. But no matter how old I am, just as when I was a child, I am amazed and fascinated by the small beauties of Christmas, like the lights on the tree.DSC_0647

DSC_0646And you can be assured, that when I was old enough to understand, I learned about the truly amazing reason why we celebrate Christmas, and why our joy at Christmastime should be in giving to others. Because what more wonderful and amazing gift could have been given to this world, but God in the form of the man, Jesus Christ? As some people might put it, in this day and age, “Best. Christmas. Present. Ever!”DSC_0645

Or as the Bible puts it, “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” –Matthew 4:16 (which was Matthew’s quote from Isaiah 9:2)DSC_0644

P.S. Assuming the video works, I hadn’t actually intended to say anything while filming, but then I forgot I had the video camera on, and commented on the tree being pretty to my aunt. I was afraid it would be SO loud on the video… now I can’t understand how that’s even my voice. I must’ve been whispering AND getting over my respiratory infection, still.  : )

snowmen peeking…

When I woke up again, the second time this morning, I could hear the rain coming down and checked the weather report. I say I woke up AGAIN, because it’s normal on Saturdays for me to wake up earlier, once, check a few things on my Kindle and go back to sleep. This time, I slept until almost noon, but that’s ok! Because not only is it raining, it’s Christmas vacation!DSC_0557

DSC_0556The weather report looked rather odd… I couldn’t decide if that neon blue cloud hanging over Pennsylvania (I used to live there, so I keep it listed on my weather app) looked like that, on purpose or not. Turns out, my weather app uses a bright blue color to denote snow clouds… and this one seems to be hanging all over Pennsylvania, New York, and the surrounding states, until it runs into bright green and yellow rain clouds (what if they really looked like that?) in parts of Virginia. That rainy weather front lasts all the way down the east coast.DSC_0558

DSC_0559But all that snow and rain hanging in the air, hiding us from the sunshine, or the sunshine from us (depending on how you look at things), reminded me of some snowy little fellows that are all over our house. Yes, we have a lot of snowmen hanging on our Christmas tree, and a few scattered in different locations. What better place to share them, on this dreary day… when I’m free to do it!DSC_0572

DSC_0573DSC_0580Did I mention it’s vacation? : )  Honestly, it has been years since I haven’t been working a job where I had to work over the holidays. Christmas break for students never really caught my attention, because I was working right up until just before Christmas. Well, last year, Fernow Street closed for two weeks, and I was “laid off” for that amount of time, but it wasn’t a very cheery, free feeling, because I didn’t get vacation pay, and didn’t dare to go anywhere on money I didn’t have.DSC_0588

DSC_0590This year, it’s back to that feeling we had in high school, and before, from being free from school on the Christmas break! And since it’s college, it’s so much better than Thanksgiving break, because if I didn’t tell you this before, the only day I had off during Thanksgiving vacation was on T-day itself. I spent the two days leading up to it, working solidly on my final English Literature essay, and the day AFTER Thanksgiving, I not only came down with a cold (that developed into an upper respiratory infection), I had to give my entire attention to my military history paper. DSC_0600

DSC_0602DSC_0603No, I take it back, I had to get up in the mornings (no excessive sleeping in) to work on my Chemistry homework and a take-home quiz, and then in the afternoons and evenings, I devoted myself to my paper on the battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam), during the American Civil War. Three solid days of it, almost, and when school started on Monday, I worked on it between classes and as soon as I got home, until late. English Literature essay? I got an A. Military History paper? I got an A. With some really nice comments from both of my teachers, about my writing skills. So, it was worth it.DSC_0605

DSC_0608DSC_0615But now? Freedom! I can go to the movies (and plan to)! Read books all day, books that I WANT to read! Bake cookies! Sleep in! Watch DVDs and listen to Christmas music, now that I don’t have to study anymore (I can’t study with music on, if it has words)! Hooray!DSC_0624

DSC_0632I hope you enjoy our snowmen. : )  We certainly do. DSC_0636

a touch of Christmas…

While I continue studying for final exams, here’s a little bit of what Christmas looks like at our house. I can’t wait for the end of this week, so I can fully enjoy it, catch up on sleep, and get started on the cookie baking part of things! Also, getting completely over being sick would help, too. : )  Enjoy!DSC_0486         DSC_0480DSC_0487DSC_0494DSC_0506DSC_0511DSC_0517DSC_0530DSC_0531DSC_0532

so busy, but the end is in sight…

It is so nice to see that people are still dropping by my blog to read older posts, especially since I haven’t put up a new one in at least two weeks. My life, lately, has been full of constant literature papers and military research papers and studying for German tests and such. Tonight, my final research paper, which I spent most of my Thanksgiving break working on, will be turned in. No more papers.DSC_0140

The upside of that, in a way, is that after the paper is that I can relax a little bit and just study. Sure, studying is time-consuming, but at least I don’t have to write anymore until the day of the exams. I just have to work on cramming lots of review into my head. Oh, and brush up on the subject of my group chemistry paper, because we’re doing a presentation on that, tomorrow. I couldn’t do it on Tuesday, because I “called in” sick.DSC_0194

Well, to be exact, I e-mailed in sick, even though I didn’t need to. But I didn’t want my chemistry teacher thinking I was cutting class and abandoning my partner, and I did want my English Lit professor to know that I watched the movie we were assigned for Thanksgiving break. That assignment was to watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I really, really liked it. I would have enjoyed being there for the class discussion about it, even if I didn’t need the extra credit from the little quiz he gave. When you’ve gotten A’s on all your English papers, and you’re exempting the exam, you don’t worry too much about extra credit.DSC_0205

DSC_0307-001If you’re wondering about me being sick, I’m finally pulling through, after going to the doctor and being diagnosed as having an upper respiratory infection and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Of course, everyone in my household caught a cold, within the last week or two, and some of them turned it into bronchitis and sinusitis, but I decided those were lame, and switched it up. But most of us have caught pink eye, by now, and we’re waiting for the last members of the household to give in and get it, too.DSC_0443

For those that are keeping up with me, in any form or fashion over the last months, I do have numerous photos of autumn leaves in the surrounding area, that I hope to share, once the Christmas break begins. I also spent a weekend at my Seabrook conference, and have beach photos, and doesn’t everyone have pictures of Thanksgiving dinner? And our Christmas trees are up, with plenty of photo opportunities for closeups of ornaments, and lights and the wonderful home-iness of it all. DSC_0479

So, I hope this will be a tasty sampler (sorry, food pics got to me) of the photos I hope to put up soon, and don’t think that I’ve abandoned you! But finishing all my papers and studying for my exams… that is definitely the priority, at the moment. : )DSC_0503

blessings of the New Year…

One year ago, I was in Australia, and I was sick. I had made it through Christmas without my family, been welcomed by my friends in Brisbane for a few weeks, and traveled extensively beforehand. My brain never could comprehend that it really was Christmas, because for one thing, it was HOT outside. Christmas is not supposed to take place during the summer, if you’re an American, and it never did completely click.DSC_0738

It started with an earache. If you read my blog post about Magnetic Island, I walked to the chemist’s (pharmacy) to get some hydrogen peroxide and ended up running back to the bus station in the noonday sun. The results of that were not only near prostration for this non-runner, but that I lost my library book, which has never ceased to irk me. The symptoms went away, and then returned with a vengeance on Christmas Eve Day. Who wants to be at the after-hours clinic on Christmas Eve? Not me. But my friend’s mom cheerfully called every doctor in town and then took me to the hospital.DSC_0740

At that point, I was willing to take anything to get rid of the pain, because it hurt so badly, I couldn’t move my jaw. Despite the delicious Christmas dinner my friends cooked, I wasn’t able to enjoy it properly. I slept the afternoon away and then talked to my family on Skype, during their Christmas morning.DSC_0745

Over the next two weeks, I regretted that medication like I’ve never regretted anything before. I wanted my earache back, because the side effects… caused everything to go through my system quickly, leaving nothing to sustain me. I had to eat and drink every few hours and I didn’t want to eat or drink. Over the next two weeks, I visited another doctor on New Year’s Eve, and he wasn’t able to help, and I ended up flying back to Emerald early, because Aussie roads don’t have regular rest stops, like in the U.S. That’s the only plane ride where I ever got motion sick, and I finally understood what my friends regularly go through.DSC_0748

I arrived back in Emerald and went to my local doctor, immediately. I trusted him to fix this problem, because I knew him from my last several illnesses AND since I didn’t think I could take much more. I lost ten pounds in two weeks and was starting to think that going on a drip sounded good.

When I arrived back at my Aussie family’s house, they were all delighted to see me, and there is something to be said about going on a trip, in order to make those you love excited to see you when you return. My Bub’s face, when she saw me, made it worth it to come back. The adults helped me haul my luggage upstairs, because I didn’t have the strength to do it. And once inside my room, I found two boxes from the United States waiting for me.DSC_0749

On Christmas morning, when I spoke to my mom, I joked with her that she should fill my stocking and hang onto it until I arrived home in May. She gave some sort of noncommittal answer, but I never really picked up on it. So, when I opened my Christmas box, I was unprepared to find my stocking in that box. There were other gifts, but for some time, I saw nothing else. That stocking had been mine since I was a baby, and while my brain could not be convinced by the calendar that it was Christmas, that stocking certainly could.DSC_0750

I picked that stocking up and hugged it like it was my only hope of survival, while I bawled like a baby. I had nothing left, no energy, no defenses against those tears. Being sick had taken it out of me, and if I couldn’t have my mom or my entire family, that stocking was the next best thing. Thankfully, there wasn’t anything breakable in it, because it was a while before I could let it go. But, of course, between opening all my gifts in that box, and the other box my friends had sent me, I did a lot of crying.DSC_0751

This story ends happily. The medicine finally kicked in, and my bosses stopped worrying that I wasn’t going to make it. My mom stopped trying to figure out whether she could get overnight plane tickets to Australia. I started to like the idea of eating and drinking again, and hope I never take it for granted again.

Maybe this seems like an odd story to share on New Year’s Eve, but I’ve been thinking about it for some time. Not only because I was too embarrassed to tell it LAST year, but because of the memories that surfaced this year, when I saw my Christmas stocking. Such a little thing to break through the walls to being homesick or being overly emotional. But then again, it’s not really a little thing. This year, my mom’s gift of two children’s books that I remember from Australia almost made me crack again, but I held it together. I hugged those two books hard, instead of crying on them.DSC_0753

I hope you all have memories of both recent Christmases and far distant New Years, memories that touch you to the core. Memories of family and friends, loved ones present and presently-in-heaven. And if you don’t have any of these memories that you treasure close to your heart, I hope that you’ll make some to share with those you love, in the future. Everyone should have those moments that they cherish and remember.DSC_0755

Now, I can see the humor in my episodes of illness. I can treasure the memory of my Aussie friends that took care of me while I was sick (and I was sick several times, while I was over there). I can even stand the inevitable teasing over getting mono, while in Australia. And I can cherish the reminder of how dear my family is to me, no matter where we are, at home or overseas.

As you celebrate this New Year, make some good new memories to share with your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, or share some happy remembrances with your friends of many years. Don’t forget to tell them all how much you love them. Be thankful for them all, and may your New Year truly be blessed.DSC_0756

haul out the Christmas cookies…

What would Christmas be like without the cookies? Our waistlines would probably be thinner, I suppose, but who worries about such things during the holidays? Don’t answer that. Our family got a head start on the Christmas baking and eating, because my mom was making some to mail to my youngest brother (he’s in the Air Force), and some for my older brother’s graduation party. So, some of the cookies were well on their way or already baked by the time I arrived home from work.DSC_0513

DSC_0491But the afternoon that press cookies were the order of business, my hands were in demand, as soon as I arrived home. Some of you may remember my press cookie mishaps (“cookie ups & downs”), while in Australia, but that is not generally how things work out. Normally, we make up the dough, I grab a stool to sit on, and then I whip out several trays of tiny Christmas trees, pinwheels, and wreaths.DSC_0496

DSC_0502Our press cookies are made with an old-fashioned Mirro cookie press, with a twist handle (or knob?), instead of a button or trigger like some of the more modern ones. My family has never used anything different to make them, as they work beautifully, year after year. In fact, I make a habit of wandering through antique stores, looking for this particular Mirro brand press, so that when my brothers get married, they’ll still be able to have them.DSC_0514

DSC_0505My hand quickly got tired of all the twisting, but we finished all of those trays. Thankfully, we had a back-up press, when the first one had a part break. It’s funny how the knack of turning the press returns to your hands, just like riding a bicycle. If you let too much dough come out, you get a more squashed piece of dough, with a design printed on top. But if you do it just right, you get the actual shape of the tree (or pinwheel or wreath), almost in danger of coming apart into separate branches.DSC_0510

DSC_0517On Saturday, as soon as I woke up (I sleep late), I joined in the making of the cut-out sugar cookies. If you’re looking for the recipe to either of these, they’re both in the link listed above. My cousin recently commented on the tediousness of making these, but if you don’t have a helper, it definitely takes longer. My mom did the rolling out of the dough and cutting out the bells, trees, and stars, and I was on oven duty.DSC_0518

DSC_0521You must understand, in our house, we don’t condone the use or making of cookies that are crunchy. They have to be just barely cooked and have not a hint of brown in them, to be perfect. Underdone is perfectly acceptable, because all cookies are supposed to be soft. So, basically, you have to stalk the oven, and make sure you pull them in time, every time. But I’ve been helping with this branch of baking for at least twenty years, so I am perfectly trustworthy when it comes to bringing out the beautifully baked delicacies. Nothing got burnt on my watch.DSC_0525

DSC_0529When we finally finished the baking, the icing was started for both the press cookies and the cut-outs. Same icing, we just use milk to “water down” the icing for the press cookies. When my brothers and I were younger, this was our favorite part, mixing up several colors in the icing and liberally coating the cookies with icing. There were several years when (to my mom’s horror) we mixed up horrible versions of purple and neon pink for some of them.DSC_0531

DSC_0532This time around, though we stuck with mostly white and green for all the press cookies, I managed to put too much blue in the icing for the cut-outs. I blame it on using the food coloring “gel”, whereas we used to use a food coloring that was liquid. You had to use a lot of it to make a good color. So, I got a very rich blue, but considering the other icing colors were in the pastel range, I think it balanced out quite nicely. And at the end of it, we combined the leftover blues and greens, resulting in a more turquoise color.DSC_0533

DSC_0543Funny thing is, I can look at all the cut-outs, and tell exactly who iced them. Since you have to use knives on these, it’s a little more difficult than dipping the press cookies. Mom’s tend to be thinly iced, and beautifully spread to the points of all the stars, like an artist would. She doesn’t like icing as much as the rest of us, so she ices them accordingly.DSC_0544

DSC_0545Mine were more liberally iced, up until the end, when I ran out and my last ten were spread so thin it looked like I’d used paint on them, instead of icing. And, of course, mine were all blue. Matt was having a little more trouble, as he seemed to be trying to ice both of his hands, as well as the sides of the cookies. But the icing lovers in our house will like his best, because they had more icing than mine, even.DSC_0546

DSC_0554This is not to say that our icing activities were accident-free. For some reason, I couldn’t get my knife to stay on the edge of my bowl, so I kept shrieking when it fell off, and caught it in my lap. Or when it hit the floor. I was a little worried that the blue would stain the carpet, but it came off. Of course, my clothes were in need of washing, afterwards, because I managed to get a lot of icing on myself, too.DSC_0568

DSC_0547These two kinds of cookies were not the only ones made during the last few weeks, but I wasn’t around for some of the rest. Scandinavian thumbprint cookies (to be filled with jam), Russian tea cakes (or snowballs or wedding cookies), peanut blossoms, mini pecan pies, and Mrs. Fields cookies made up the rest of the assortment. Of course, Mrs. Fields cookies are NOT Christmas cookies in our house, but they were mainly for Joe’s Christmas box. It’s kind of interesting how this particular Dinger household doesn’t do chocolate chip cookies for Christmas, but our Dinger cousins do. Traditions are strange and wonderful things, wouldn’t you say?DSC_0508

Now, all this writing about dessert has made me hungry. I think I’ll go have a cut-out Christmas tree. What are you munching on this Christmas season? If you don’t hear from me sooner, have a blessed and wonderfully Merry Christmas with your friends and loved ones!DSC_0553