Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fabulous December Part II

We delivered the last of our popcorn balls on Christmas Day to some of the neighbors we had missed.  What a fun tradition this has been for our family and now just Rich and I.  We've had quieter Christmas preparations these days, but no less fun.  We did six batches of popcorn balls so that is about 120 popcorn balls altogether for mostly neighbors and family.  We love the tradition and have been delivering this fun treat since the first year we were married  -- so many years ago.  We use Rich's mother's recipe which is so quick and yummy!

     This is where I spent most of my day today catching up!  It was glorious!
So back to the beginning of the month.
Las Vegas 
On Dec 4th Rich and I flew to Las Vegas on our way to visit Jeremy's family in California.  We stopped in Vegas to see Mike and Rosy.  (my brother and his wife) They have been in Vegas for a year and a half, but we haven't seen them since August of 2010.  That's just too long and I was too lonesome for them.  What a busy life they have serving as the mission president in the Las Vegas area.  We had a wonderful evening visiting over dinner and catching up.                                           
The next morning when we got up Rosy had been gone several hours.  She was at the hospital with a sister missionary who needed emergency surgery. We didn't see her again until we returned two weeks later.  We were able to serve the zone leaders lunch and it was fun to be there to help.
Here are the missionary shoes in the foyer of the mission home.  Such a cute picture.
                               My brother, President Michael Antone Neider and I at Las Vegas Mission Home.
One of the sister missionaries ask me if President Neider was as good a man as he seemed.  I told her,
"Yes, he's that good a man!"  He is!
Mike and Rosy will gather all of their children and their families for the wedding of Natalie, daughter number five on the 29th.  They are busy busy.  Thinking about the Michael Neider Family today altogether.  Wish we were there for the celebration.
 On to Fresno
We rented a car and drove to Jeremy's home in Fresno.  Rich and I love a good driving adventure.  We made it to Jeremy and Shelly's with the kids noses pressed against the windows waiting for us.  So exciting to see them.   We had a great great visit with Tanner, Carsen, Emery, Chase, and of course Jeremy and Shelly.
This little guy met Grandpa at the door with arms outstretched. 
 Chase really won our hearts.  He is such an adorable one year-old.
                                    On the bed watching a football game -- four peas in a pod.
                               Here's the family.  Tanner (11) Carsen (9) Emery (4) Chase (1)
 It was fun and exciting visiting in CA for almost two weeks.  We don't get to see enough of this cute family.  They are beyond busy.
We had a lovely dinner at Shelly's parent's home,  Uncle Dean and Aunt Laurie Witt stopped by with cheesecake one night.  Shelly and I got to shop - not enough tho'.  We saw two of Tanner's bball games.  The kid is a natural athlete.  Took Tanner and Carsen shopping for birthday gifts.  So fun.  Grandpa told stories every night.  Had lunch at Sweet Tomatoes - Rich's favorite.  Visited Christmas Tree Lane.  (an entire neighborhood of homes with extensive Christmas lights)  Very impressive.
I really love Fresno, Ca with the beautiful trees - sequoias, and the tall skinny cedars.  What I really love tho' are the Crowley kids who live there.  They are a beautiful family.
Grandpa and Tanner shooting hoops.  I wonder who won?  Jeremy said this bball stand is the best investment he has ever made.
Carsen beaming with his new star wars guys.

                  Tanner in his new bball socks.  Once he got them he wouldn't take them off.  He even wore them to church.  That was his birthday gift.  Then for his Christmas gift, he wanted two more.  He is set. 

Shelly's beautiful centerpiece.  The Christmas decorations in their home were beautiful!
Grandpa is the favorite.  Here's Em and Chase.

 What a cute family -- they just live too far away from VA.  After we made a few Christmas goodies, made a quick trip to the Honey Baked Ham store - and yes ate the ham at a fun dinner, it was time to head back to VA.  Gabe picked us up on Charlottesville and I could have slept for days.  I actually did sleep until 10:30 the next morning.  What a great trip.

Back in Virginia

We got home in time to add a few more decorations for the Christmas celebration.  We listened to Christmas music nonstop.  It was so peaceful.  Rich and I found this beautiful Nativity in downton Culpeper before we left.  I love it.  Their faces are so sweet.  I put it on the high table to avoid little fingers.

I love decorating my tables.  This is in the dining room.

These Christmas treasure come out every year.  Andrew, Matt and Jeremy made these when they were in grade school.  Matt made the little green tree, Andrew the candle and Jeremy the Nativity.  These are special treasures and I can see the beaming faces so tickled with their gifts when they were given to Rich and me.

After saying I would not buy one more Christmas decoration, Shelly took me to a beautiful shop in Fresno and I fell in love with these trees and had to have them.  I brought home four of them in my suitcase.  They are stunning.  I love trees.

I loved decorating the railings.  Shelly's mother, who is a decorator extraordinaire had this in her home and I wanted to try it.  It turned out beautifully.  So thanks Nancy!  And yes I had to get the mesh ribbon for the railings that is 21 inches wide. 

This really tickled my heart!  I know, I'm a little crazy.
Okay I bought these beautiful sparkling ornaments too.  (the round ones)  They came home in the suitcase too.

 In the middle of all of this we received a call in California to ask Rich and I if we would speak in sacrament meeting and deliver the Christmas message.  After we were home we realized the humbling responsibility of the task.  Rich has spoken many times at Christmas, but this was my first Christmas talk.  In making preparations it brought me to my knees several times seeking inspiration from the Lord as to what would be meaningful for our congregation.  We had just laid to rest two very dear members of our Ward and with the slaying of innocent ones in Connecticut, I felt especially humbled, saddened and emotionally very raw.

This was a tough assignment for me, but as I told the story of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's tragedy and writing of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" and the scripture story of Samuel the Lamanite preaching to the Nephites to repent and follow the  righteous traditions of their fathers and his prophecy of the Savior's birth,I felt the love of the Savior for all of us.  I also tied  that feeling of love representing Christ to some of our own righteous traditions, I felt the talk coming together. 

I quoted Martin Luther King at the end. MLK stated, "The moral arc of the universe is long, but bends toward justice." 

WE are the benders of the arc.  All of our righteous acts can help overcome the evil in our world.  So I made it through the talk -- broke down several times, but I felt like it went pretty well. Rich's talk was (as usual) amazing.  The study of the scriptures for the talk and feeling the closeness of the Spirit and love of the Savior -- especially this year -- left me with a greater appreciaton of Christ's  sacrifice and understanding of our pain.

Christmas Eve
We had a pretty low key, early Christmas Eve dinner with Matthew and Andrew's families.  Everyone helped with the dinner.  Gabe plated the ham beautifully with parsey, orange slices and cherries.  (no pic -- darn)  Rich made delicious mashed potatoes, Melanie made green bean bundles!  Matt did the drink and Andrew set the table.  Wonderful dinner. 

We had the kids open a gift from Grammie and Grandpa and our kids found what was in their stockings. 

 Here are Nathan, Jocelyn, Charlotte, and Audrey waiting patiently to open their gifts.  You can barely see them all huddled in anticipation.
Nathan gets a digger with rocks!

 Nathan opened first and then he was done with the rest of us.
 Here's Jocelyn with her Penelope Peapod doll, Charlotte with her stamp set and Audrey with her new suitcase.  You'll notice that Audrey found a princess dress to wear.

What sweethearts these girls are...there is always excitement when they are around.

And here is Harper trying to be part of the group, but too young to know what's happening.

We had a fun Christmas Eve with the gang.  After the families left Rich and I watched a movie, made sugarlump bread for morning, cooked up the sausage links, and one more batch of popcorn balls.  Busy little elves we were.

Christmas morning  Gabe called us at 8:45 to tell us they were ready for us to come over.  Ha Ha she woke us up.  That has never happened to me in my entire life on Christmas morning.  Read it and weep all of you so tired parents.  Sleeping later than 8:30.  It finally happened to us, but you have a few years to wait.

Our morning with Matt and Gabe was fun.  We had our sugarlump bread, sausages and orange julius.  Oh, and Matt scrambled some perfect eggs.  Santa came to their house and Charlotte and Nathan were having so much fun with their new toys.  Then later in the day we went to Andrew and Melanie's for Christmas dinner.  The little girls were so excited to see us and show us the new toys Santa had brought.  Melanie and Andrew had three crock pots cooking our dinner and it was a perfect day.

I think Rich and I were the only ones who were able to sleep in on Christmas morning.  Our kids were all tired.

Best Gift I've ever had!
The kids gave us this fabulous picture album of the adventures of the Crowley Family this year.  It is fantastic!  Thanks Crowley kids.

Here are some of the wonderful pictures.

 This book of photos is such a treasure.  Page after page filled with the bright shiny faces of my 10 grandchildren.  Priceless!  I am restraining myself.  You will have to come visit to see the rest of the pictures.
Our Christmas season has been amazing.  Fun and festive and now quiet and peaceful.  No set schedule.  So relaxing.  The real world starts soon.  What new adventures await us?  We'll soon find out -- Now on to 2013!  Oops, I forgot, I still have to blog about the fun August we had.  It's still coming.  Hopefully before 2014.  (A Neider/Hansen Reunion and my class reunion)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fabulous December Part I

December has been fun-filled and very busy and I'm sure I'm not alone in the fun and busy part.  All of you also have been there also.  I'm reporting on the following in two parts:

1.  Harper's Blessing
2.  Trip to Mission Home in Las Vegas
3.  Trip to Fresno to visit Jeremy's Family
4.  Back home for Dr visit
5.  Memorial Service for a dear friend, Anne Leggat
6.  Speak in church for the Christmas message
7.  Christmas Eve dinner with Matt and Andrew's families
8.  Christmas breakfast with Matt's Family
9.  Christmas dinner with Andrew's family

And now it's December here we go!


Blessing of Harper Elizabeth Crowley

                      Harper and Grammie

Look at our beautiful new granddaughter. 
On December 2nd, the family gathered in Bristow for Harper's blessing.  Andrew gave his new little daughter a beautiful blessing and she cooperated very nicely.  In other words she wasn't screaming.  We had a wonderful day with family. A blessing day in our Church is a time for coming together for the family. Usually the dad prounces the name for the baby and gives a blessing in our sacrament meeting. It is a special honor and day. It was a very edifying day for our family.

 I was in the church pew in the middle of four grandchildren - two two year olds, a four year old and and five year old.  Cutest grandkids ever!   But I was pulling out all of tricks to keep them happy and quiet.  Melanie's family came from Utah, Melanie's cousin from North Carolina and we had the Maryland Crowleys and Virginia Crowleys to help celebrate. 

After the meeting Melanie and Andrew hosted a luncheon at their home for friends and family  Melanie made several soups and desserts, Gabe brought her homemade rolls and the feast was on!
                             Andrew and Harper, brother Mathew and cousin Drew Hurley
                           From left to front: Aunt Tricia, Junior Baker (Melanie's father), Uncle Ken Crowley, Drew Hurley and Rich
                                  My picture skills aren't too great on any of these, but here are my neices Kara and Shannon.  Charlotte on top and Audrey holding Hailey (kara's baby).

                                                   More Crowley Girls!
                                            Charlotte, Harper and Jocelyn
Kara and Hailey

Shannon with her neice Hailey
Our beautiful grandson, Nathan.  He doesn't have a chance with all of the girls!
And finally this cute picture of Harper enraptured by her daddy as he was singing  the sacrament hymn.  So precious.  Gabe took it from across the asile.
First offical photo posted in the B&D Neider Family group.

I'm astonished I didn't get a picture of  Melanie with Harper.  I'm searching now to see if anyone else has one I can post.  I didn't get Melanie's mother Carrie Lee Baker or my daughter-in-law, Gabrielle either.  I have to do better.

More December to come!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

November Wrap-Up

Thanksgiving is a gerund. Ha Ha Ha Ha! I just had to say that -- you know an ing verb used as a noun. No not a participle. Okay, I've gone too far now.

We've been lucky this year with the calendar giving us one more week in November to enjoy our blessings before rushing into the Christmas season. It's been nice to have November hang around this extra week after Thanksgiving. Many years ago I gave a talk in church on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I think it was about twenty years ago. I like to read it over again around the turkey holiday to keep life in perspective. It's also been fun to read the month of gratitude on facebook from friends and it's a good reminder for us to be grateful for what we have.

Quoting from my talk -- and I'm quoting someone else -- a grateful heart is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. And Cicero said that gratitude is the mother of all virtues. We are told in the scriptures "thank God in all things". Not for God's benefit but our own. Social science has shown that a person who is ungrateful cannot stay emotionally balanced. So there you have it. Yet another charge from the scriptures that benefits us personally. A blessing to ourselves if you will!

So it's nice to recount all of our blessings -- especially on those days when we feel like we have no blessings. You know you have those down days sometimes. November is a good reminder to be grateful. So I have lots of events to report during the month of November celebrating Thanksgiving (a gerund).

Thanksgiving with Charlotte's Kindergarten

Well, here is the face of an angel Indian Princess at the kindergarten celebration.

She was beaming from ear to ear. The classes sang sweet Thanksgiving song and then feasted. What a sweet girl she is.

Gabe and Nathan

Matthew and Nathan

We had a fun afternoon visiting Charlotte's class. She is such an amazing girl.

Thanksgiving Day with the Crowley Family

We had a very fun Thanksgiving Day in Culpeper this year. We hosted the Crowley family from Maryland so together with the Virginia Crowleys {Matt and Andrew's gang) we had 18 in our home for the day. We started with appetizers and then broke up into teams for the Crowley Family Amazing Race around Culpeper.

Check this out
Our own turkey veggie platter. How fun! Shannon and Tricia brought this fun creation.

Andrew, Shannon, Drew, Audrey and Charlotte won the Amazing Race with Audrey (4 yr old) as the MVP of the team. The adults couldn't find the big red ball in Culppeper after googling it etc., Audrey said, "Let's go to Target." Yes they won. No pictures tho' . Oops!

We had a great feast with everyone contributing. Uncle Ken ALWAYS carves the turkey and does a masterful job. Rich ALWAYS makes the mashed potatoes and this year they were perfect. We had to split into two tables this year with sixteen needing to be seated. We all have our favorites and the pies end the feast. We had lemon cream, pumpkin, chocolate mouse, regular chocolate, apple and coconut cream. Something for everyone and I noticed some were sampling many.

First the kids table! Okay so most of the kids were adults -- Andrew, Drew, Matthew, Shannon, Charlotte, Audrey and Jocelyn. No pictures of the people. Darn.

Here's my mother's beautiful china. When I was visiting her in Utah several years ago, she told me she wanted me to have her china. I was thrilled to say the least. We went straight to the storage locker and then shipped it to Virginia! What a prize I have.

I was a little girl when this set of china arrived in a big wooden barrel (I think). I remember all of the
excelsior in which it was packed. Mother and all of her sisters and Grandma Hansen received a beautiful set of china. It was sent by Uncle Nathan and Aunt June who were living in Japan after WWII. Our Neider family had many family gatherings and especially Thanksgiving using these beautiful dishes. They are a precious gift!

And look who showed up for the centerpiece -- we'll call him Tom. Yes, he is also a part of our tradition.

Okay I know I went a little bit overboard with the table pics and no pics of people. What a dope. Just love my mom's china. My sterling I started collecting when I was in high school. It took many years to complete all of the settings, but the table looked beautiful. I'm an old-fashioned girl at heart.

We had a wonderful day and just so you know, all of the Crowley women beat the Crowley men in basketball. We didn't get to finish the little tourney as the Redskins game started. Yes, the Redskins beat the Dallas Cowboys. Finally! Retribution Clint Longley! What a fun family day.

         Thankful Tree

After the feast the girls, Charlotte and Audrey took their apples around to all of the guests to find out what they were thankful for!  They had a great time.  I really like the apple that said, "I'm thankful Andrea is my grandma."
Gabe drew the cute tree and Nathan and Jocelyn were too young to get the idea.  The two year olds just posted the green apples on the tree.   Those green apples were posted in other places as well.  One of the little ones got tired of the apples and stuck the whole post it pad on the tree. 
We have so much to be grateful for in our lives.  The only thing that would have made the day better would have been to have all of the Neiders and Crowleys here.  We escpecially missed Lauren and Jeremy's family, Shelly, Tanner, Carsen, Emery and Chase.

We rounded out the month in Charlottesville where Rich had yet another surgery. This one wasn't as tough as the last two and he is doing very well. He's tough. So grateful he has such fortitude. Love that guy so much.

So now it's time to turn all of our gratitude (our Thanksgiving gerund - a verb used as a noun) back into a verb of action. Giving to others. Thanking others. Serving others. What a great thing to do during the month of December. My good friend Patty Z once gave a talk in church and said that every Thanksgiving she picks someone who is very dear to her and sends them a letter of thanks. Such a great idea. Can you imagine a real hand written letter? I'm somewhat late, and haven't done it yet, but I'm still going to write that letter this year.

Thinking about my blessings, and I have so many, I am singularly grateful for the cheerful and willing spirit with which I have been blessed. On the days I can't find my muchness, I just start counting my blessings and that cheerful and willing spirit returns.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Something is wrong with my Halloween gene.  I have never really loved the holiday and it seems every year the celebration gets bigger and bigger.  I use to love helping my boys figure out their costumes and loved having the tradition of our first chili dinner for the year, but I just didn't love the holiday.  I remember one year when Andrew was about six, he ask me if we could put up some decorations so I got out a little scarecrow holding a pumpkin and he was thrilled.  I kind of feel badly about that now.  Poor little guy had to beg his mom.

This year I decided we needed a Halloween celebration at the Crowley home and I even found myself getting excited about the preparations!  Who said you "can't teach an old dog or maybe that should be old witch new tricks".  We do have four amazing tricker treaters in the Crowley Family who were very excited so here are the pictures of our celebration!

My name is Andrea Crowley and I am a recovering Halloween Hater! 

Here is one of the pictures from one of the boy's scrapbooks a few years back.  Matt is sporting a good look as a punk.  Andrew is a pirate and Jeremy is a scarecrow!  These pictures are hilarious.  Thanks Rich for this great picture.  I do remember having fun with Matt's hair and painting Jeremy and Andrew up.

The other cute trickers are my cousin, Bob Farmer's kids.  Mark is the cowboy, Bjorn is the baseball player, Antje and Ingrid are little princesses and Soren is a cute little Swiss boy.  Matt is about 10 here so Jeremy is 8 and Andrew is 5.  Yes, I admit it is a fun memory. 

So here are two of my boys just a few years later with kids of their own to dress up for.  My boys the leaf people.  Look how excited they are in their costumes.

Charlotte is a cute Jedi warrior and Audrey is a witch - I almost cut this good witch out of the picture.
Here is the gang!  Gabe, Matt Andrew, Nathan and the Grandpa Towel Monster.
Audrey, Lottie Jocelyn (who couldn't take her eyes off Gabe) and Melanie
The sublime - Princess Harper's first Halloween
To the terrifying Zombie Gabe!

Cute as can be,  Charlotte the Jedi, Audrey the witch,  Jocelyn as Minnie Mouse , and Nathan the engineer.

The Donut Game!  The kids loved it.
 You can see how concerned Jocelyn because Nathan ripped the donut off with his hands.  Notice her hands are behind her back.

Nathan ripped his donut off right away.  He came back later for the last piece.

Here's the towel monster reading to his little engineer and Minnie Mouse.

 One more shot of the gang minus Melanie who was taking the picture. 

We had a great pre-Halloween party.  We had our bread bowls with chili, played the donut game, tootpick game and decorated cookies with candy corn!  What a fun day.  Good memories.