We canceled the Mother’s Day trip to see my daughter’s family because the kids caught some non-Covid virus from daycare. The entire family was not feeling well.
I rescheduled our trip for Memorial Day weekend. It is also my daughter’s and her hubby’s anniversary. Whenever we visit them, I offer to watch the kids so they can go on dates. Since this last weekend was their anniversary, they went on a two-day trip to the beach.
Mercy is a master planner. She made a comprehensive list of suggestions from breakfast to bedtime for us to go by. Even though I’ve been watching the kids for four and a half years, it helps to have her suggestions to fall back on.
Autumn has no problem with mommy and daddy going on dates or a short getaway. Nora is attached to Mercy. She was not happy to see mommy walking out of the door after breakfast on Saturday. Fortunately, I had a special treat for the girls to distract them, at least to calm down Nora.
It turned out that both Saturday and Sunday went smoothly. The girls painted the garden stones, read, and played together, but did something separately with grandpa and grandma. Grandpa is Nora’s favorite. Grandma is Autumn’s favorite. It is just perfect. It was easier for us to handle while they got our individual attention.
It was raining most of the day on Saturday and Sunday. Whenever the sun peeked out a little, we headed out to the school playground right away. One neighbor has some goats. Nora loves to feed the goats. The kids rode their bikes to the playground on Saturday and just walked there on Sunday.
There was something I tried to do this time around. I asked Lynton to read bedtime stories to Nora and put her to bed. Amazingly, it turned out to be a success. Yay!
It worked out perfectly because Autumn wanted me to read her many books. I could just relax to spend time with Autumn without worrying about Nora.
During the two-day trip, Mercy and Will went wine tasting, hiking, and strolling on the beach. They came home after a late-night movie on Sunday. I was happy that they had a wonderful time.
Monday was the Memorial Day holiday. We went on a family walk together. The girls rode their bikes, and Will rode his skateboard to keep up with the kids.
By the way, Lynton and I did the cooking for all the meals from Thursday to Tuesday. We tried to cook different main dishes, such as salmon, veggie & sausage casserole, pizza, and tofu. Lynton cooked mashed potatoes a couple of evenings. I cooked the same mixed vegetables. It turned out perfectly because we could eat what we normally eat at home. Mercy and Will loved to have some days off without doing cooking.
The theme for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week is Memorable Events. Ann-Christine invites us to show some memorable events – new ones or delightful memories!
Our family trip to Hong Kong and Japan in January 2019 was full of memorable events and emotions. My husband Lynton, my daughter Mercy and her husband Will, their daughter Autumn, and I traveled to Hong Kong to attend my nephew’s wedding. We took advantage to stop by Japan on our return trip.
We arrived on January 12. Three days later, I got a message from sister #12 Yolanda, mother-in-law to be. She said sister #8 Canty was in the hospital. Later that day, Canty’s son messaged me that his mom had liver inflammation, hydrocephalus, and congestive heart failure. On the 17th, the third day of being in the hospital, Canty’s condition made a sharp decline at noon. The family was rushing to the hospital by taxi. She died in the evening with the family by her side.
Canty was passionate about Ballroom Dancing. She took part in the Dance Championship Fundraising on November 4, 2018, two and a half months before she passed away. Here is the video – 1:42 minutes. She wore purple and yellow.
My nephew’s wedding was a marathon ceremony. They played Chinese traditional games when the groom picked up the bride in the morning. The bridesmaids made up the games and the groom and best men responded. When the games had favorable responses, they opened the door for the groom to pick up the bride. There was a church wedding in the afternoon. After the wedding, we went to a restaurant for a cake ceremony in the garden. We took a break to wait for a nine-course Chinese banquet in the evening. The bride and mother-in-law (my sister) changed their gowns four times during the banquet.
Here is the wedding photo gallery.
Two days after the wedding, we were in Tokyo for four days visiting Mercy’s and Will’s college friends. Both husband and wife were engineers there on a five-year contract. We took the bus sightseeing.
Tokyo’s Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples are some of the most interesting sites in the city. We stopped by several.
We went to the top of Arashiyama to visit the Monkey Park.
In the Reindeer Park in Nara, Japan, the reindeer are used to the visitors. They were persistent in asking for food.
There were about 1,500 deer living in the park in July 2017. Wild Sika deer freely roam in Nara Park. This deer bowed to us asking for food.
“O Holy Night” (also known as “Cantique de Noël”) is a well-known Christmas carol.
Back in 1843, in a small French town, Roquemaure, a man named Placide Cappeau was known more for his talent at writing poetry. A priest asked him to write a poem for Christmas Mass. He took his request seriously. Placide Cappeau began thinking about the birth of Jesus. With that inspiration, he wrote “Cantique de Noel.”
Placide was so pleased with how the poem came out that he decided it needed to be a song. Since he was a poet but not a musician, he turned to a friend, Adolphe Charles Adams, to see if he would set his poem to music. Adolphe was a famous classical musician who had composed many works all around the world, but he agreed to come up with music for his friend’s poem.
In 1843 or 1847, according to two different sources, he composed music to go with the beautiful words, and the song was performed a few weeks later at a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
The song was premiered in Roquemaure in 1847 by the opera singer, Emily Laurey.
In 1855, an American writer, John Sullivan Dwight, saw something in the song that moved him beyond the story of the birth of Christ. An abolitionist, Dwight strongly identified with the lines of the third verse: “Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother; and in his name, all oppression shall cease.” This verse mirrored Dwight’s view of slavery in the South. He published his English translation of “O Holy Night” in his magazine, and the song quickly found favor in America, especially in the North, during the Civil War.
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Our church performed the Christmas Concert one year. “O Holy Night” was one of the songs at the concert. I was privileged to sing this piece. As part of the concert, I sang the first verse of the song. A friend sent me the mp3 of the music and I made it into a video.
I want to thank Robbie Cheadle, who inspired me to make this video. When I posted the information about my Messiah performance last year, she mentioned she would like to hear me sing.
I also want to thank Diane Wallace Peach, who created the trailer for my poetry book, Song of Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude. She inspired me to use PowerPoint to create to presentation and insert the music to create this video.
Staci Troilo invited us to have a Virtual Cookie Exchange and share our recipes on Thursday, December 16, 2021. My recipe, along with many recipes from the friends in this blogging community will be there. Please be sure to visit her tomorrow when she shares all the goodies with you.
My husband used to have a sweet tooth. I don’t bake cookies for him anymore because he is watching out for the sugar intake.
During the last two visits to my daughter’s family, I made cookies for the grandkids. I made chocolate chip cookies with M&Ms on top. Autumn doesn’t have those cookies regularly. She doesn’t do many things regularly such as watching two movies in a row, only when grandma is there (I tried so hard not to be a grandma who spoils the grandkids)!
Hubby and I will be visiting the grandkids for Christmas. I wanted to make some cookies for them. I wanted to make some chewy cookies, so they’ll stay soft until we get there. These are oat, fruit, and nut cookies.
I did a variation on the ingredients. Let me talk a little about the ingredients first.
Vegetable Shortening – I used vegetable shortening instead of butter. Butter contains milk solids, fat, and water. Butter can cause steaming while baking which can dry out the cookies. Vegetable shortening is made up entirely of fat that melts at a higher temperature which gives the cookie batter more time to rise.
Egg yolks – I double the egg yolks and omit the white of each egg which tends to dry out when baking.
Brown sugar – I used all brown sugar with no white sugar. Brown sugar contains more moisture. You can use half white and half brown sugar.
Nuts – I used mostly pecan for nuts because they are softer.
Temperature – I baked in 325o F instead of 350o F.
Here are the photos of the baking. The recipe is below.
Oat, Fruit, and Nut Cookies Recipe
Prep: 25 minutes
Bake: 10 – 12 minutes
Stand: 1 minute
Total: 36 – 38 minutes
Yield: 3 dozen cookies
½ cup vegetable shortening (or butter)
⅔ cup packed brown sugar (or half brown and half white)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks (or 2 eggs)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup dried mixed fruit bits, dried cranberries, raisins: and dried apricots, snipping the large pieces
¾ cup chopped walnuts and pecans
Step 1 In a large mixing bowl beat vegetable shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat on medium speed until combined. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla until combined.
Step 2 Sift in flour gradually and beat with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon. Stir in oats, mixed fruit bits, and nuts.
Step 3 Roll dough by hand into balls and place them 2 inches apart onto a greased cookie sheet.
Step 4 Bake in a 325°degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Let cookies stand on the cookie sheet for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
November 2021 proved to be an extraordinary month for me. My heart swells with gratefulness and joy.
Back in early October, I invited my daughter Mercy and her family to come from Portland, Oregon, to spend Thanksgiving with us in California. Her husband Will had talked to his cousin in Seattle about visiting her for Thanksgiving. They couldn’t decide because his cousin was waiting for her dad to see if he would visit her family for Thanksgiving. Each one’s decision was depending upon another person’s decision.
I wanted to book the air tickets early. The airfare was reasonable, and many seats were available in October. Thanksgiving is one of the two most travel holidays of the year. The closer it gets, the more expensive the airfare is, and the seating availability would be limited as well.
The last time my daughter came to visit was Thanksgiving 2018. Autumn was fourteen months old then. Autumn is an excellent traveler. She flew with her parents about ten times before turning two. She slept most of the way or enjoyed doing things even when we went to Hong Kong and Japan in January 2019. My younger granddaughter is twenty months old. I would like her to have the advantage of flying for free before she turns two.
At the end of October, I asked my daughter about their plan. She said they hadn’t heard from Will’s cousin. I didn’t want to rush, even though I was anxious. Then on November 1, she texted me, attaching many photos of Halloween trick-or-tricking with a message that they were coming for Thanksgiving.
I got on Alaska Air right away to look for the flight schedules. The airfares for the flights fitting their schedule had gone up to about $695 to $1095 each. The main cabin on several flights was fully booked. I could find a few flights with seats close to each other in the Premium section. I gathered the flight schedules and seating and emailed them to Mercy. After she passed on the info to Will, we video called to do the booking.
The anxiousness fell off my shoulder after I clicked “purchase” for the air tickets. On the flight coming, I got the only three seats together in one row. On the returning flight, I got two seats on one side and one seat on the other side of the aisle, but at least they were in the same row.
Mercy said they would check in two car seats and a Pak-n-Play. The car seats would be free, but they would have to pay for the Pak-n-Play. I remember the much luggage they took when we went to Hong Kong. It was when they had a sixteen-month-old Autumn. This time around, they have a toddler and a twenty-month-old. I can’t imagine traveling on the plane, taking care of the kids, carrying the luggage plus two car seats and a Pak-n-Play.
I got busy right away, calling my friend Rhonda and asking if I could borrow something from her. Rhonda has nine grandchildren from toddler to eleven-year-old. She said she had a toddler car seat, Pak-n-Play, and a stroller for me to use. I took photos of the items borrowed and texted them to Mercy. She was delighted to find out she only needed to bring one car seat.
The amazing thing was that I got a free infant car seat the next day. There are Facebook groups called Buy Nothing. It is a group where members post items they want to give away. Other members show interest in those items. The givers and receives make arrangements for pickups. I’m a member of one local group. I had posted many give-away items. When I scrolled through the posting, there was a person giving away two infant car seats. She said she was a foster mom but didn’t want to take any more infants. I showed interest in one and picked it up the next day. After I told Mercy, she was really excited that they could travel light.
Now I could get the house ready for their visit. Mercy’s bedroom is always kept in the same way as it was when she lived in the house. I just needed to fix up the other bedroom for Autumn. There is a full-size bed in the room. I was debating whether to put it away to replace it with a twin bed or not. I picked out a stackable twin bed and a mattress online and saved the online links. When Mercy lived in the house, I had a bunk bed for her, and it’s stored in the attic. Setting up the bunk bed was another option. It would be a lot of work. Nora won’t be ready to sleep in a bunk bed for many years. I may not want to have it open yet. After all the considerations, I used the existing full-size bed. It would be a little big compared to the toddler bed Autumn has in her house. I picked up a couple of large stuffed animals to make the bed comfy and cozy.
There are student activities in the attic from my teaching days. I found a set of six new puzzles, coloring books, simple board games, dominos, and large Legos. I also saved some of Mercy’s medium and small size stuffed animals. To complete the activities, I bought sets of 20 crayons, 10 washable markers, and four-color play dough. These would be enough to keep them busy.
There are boxes of books for Autumn also, but I took the age-appropriate books to her on my previous trips. I’ve been reading to her every six weeks except during the pandemic. I know the books she’s interested in. The local library is only two miles away. I checked out twenty-two books for Autumn and six books for Nora.
After getting all the things needed, I converted the family room into an activity room for the girls.
The next thing to do was to get the food. Mercy’s family is vegetarian, and Mercy is allergic to dairy products. I couldn’t buy some things too early because of the expiration dates. A few days before they arrived, I bought individual yogurt, cheese sticks, fruit, non-dairy milk, and creamer for them. The day before their arrival, I cooked two dishes of veggie quiche and two packs of tofu. I wanted to reduce the cooking time and spend the maximum time with them.
All the preparation paid off. The kids felt very much at home. With no surprise, Autumn went to the books and picked out a bunch for me to read to her. Nora had fun playing with the play dough and building towers with the Legos. My husband played with Autumn one day before I got up. She finished four puzzles. After I got up, I watched her finish the other two puzzles.
When I’m around, Autumn prefers me to read bedtime books to her. Since it’s a special treat for her, she could ask me to read three to five books plus her devotional book. Even though sometimes my throat gets dry and sore from reading, I don’t want to stop. She likes me to read to her. On their returning trip, I went with them to the airport. Will drove. She wanted me to sit in the back seat with her and read to her all the way to the airport.
One of my daughter’s best friends since third grade lives close by. When her friend went to college in New York, Mercy visited her. When Mercy got married, she came from New York to attend the wedding. Whenever Mercy is in town, they always get together. Mercy’s friend’s mom was an OB/GYN and their Girl Scout leader. She presented sex education in a mother-daughter meeting. I laughed so hard when she drew a big circle on an easel and a large almond shape in the middle. Having a childhood friend is precious. They are like your siblings.
On Thanksgiving Day, I cooked a yam dish and a corn dish. Will cooked a pumpkin pie and a mixed-berry pie. We got together at my husband Lynton’s brother’s home. With the six of us, we took two cars. Will drove my Acura. Lynton and I took the Hummer. The drive was surprisingly pleasant, with no trucks on the freeway. I found out later that most of the major stores, such as Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Macy’s, and JC Penny, were closed all day, partly because they were open super early on Black Friday.
There were twenty-five people at the Thanksgiving dinner. My sister, Queenie, and her daughter were there. I hadn’t seen my sister for three years. She gave me the exciting news about her engagement a month prior. I was so happy for her. It has been eight years since her husband passed away from cancer. I jokingly offered Autumn and Nora to be her flower girls.
Several days zipped by in a flash. We all had a wonderful time together. Now, I’m looking forward to Christmas.