With so much of the country experiencing record-breaking cold temperatures and wind chills, it seems like a good time to bring out an old favorite.

Ted and I spent the afternoon with Kari’s boys today.  Ted and I look forward to these days and, whatever we do, we always have a good time together.  As usual, we started with lunch.  History is a good predictor of the restaurant the boys will choose, so yes, we went to Steak ‘n’ Shake.

Sitting across from the boys at the table, I noticed that all three were wearing sweatshirts with orange zippers.


The best part of Steak ‘n’ Shake is always when the shakes arrive.


It was cold outside (10-12 degrees) and a dangerous wind chill advisory was posted for late afternoon through the next three days.  An indoor activity like bowling seemed like a good idea.  The boys were willing, so we each got a pair of ugly bowling shoes and picked out a ball.

The boys might have been overly optimistic about their superpowers.  Sky and Dylan selected ten-pound balls and Teddy chose a seven-pound ball.  After several frames of watching Dylan and Teddy drop, rather than roll, their balls on the alley, I suggested they look for lighter balls.  (Teddy’s ball would probably have been good for Dylan, but the finger holes were too small.)

It was Saturday afternoon on a cold holiday weekend, so all the lanes were filled with families whose kids also needed lightweight balls.  As a result, Teddy and Dylan couldn’t find anything lighter than what they had.  Due to the large crowd, the bowling alley policy was six people to a lane.  That meant that after throwing (or dropping) a gutter ball or a low-scoring ball, each of us had to wait five turns to try it again.  B-o-o-o-ring!  We finished the game, but no one was eager to bowl another line.

Here’s Dylan, using body language to coax his ball toward the pins.


These are our scores–but not really.  The screen only showed the first initial of each name, so Teddy and Ted and Dylan and I sometimes messed up and bowled on each other’s turn.


Looking at the family scoreboards across the lanes, I saw very few scores over 100–apparently there were few true bowlers present for open bowling on a holiday weekend.  The boys and I have tentatively banned Ted, the family jock, from playing miniature golf with us in the future because his score was a lot lower than anyone else’s.  We might also have to ban him from bowling with us in the future because his score was so much higher than anyone else’s.  The scores weren’t the important part of the afternoon, but I think I speak for all of us when I say we were ready to move on to a different activity.

The boys voted that we return to their house so they could show us all the things they got for Christmas.  After that, we played Michigan Rummy, using the new chips Dylan got for Christmas.  Just as Teddy was ready to quit because his chips were gone, he won several of the pots and perked up again.  The Christmas toys and Michigan Rummy were the highlights of our time together, proving again that the simple things are the most fun.  We were practicing hygge.

Last night, Ted and I had dinner at Dewey’s, one of our favorite pizza restaurants.  We eat there frequently enough to make participation in their rewards program worthwhile.  After we spend $xx, we get $10 off our next dinner.  We’ve enjoyed the $10 reward a number of times, but had no idea there was a higher reward level.  Last night, when we presented our $10 coupon, the waitress said we’d be getting something special in addition to the $10 off the price of our meal, and the manager would be right over.  Something special?  And it requires a manager to present it?  We were mystified.

When the manager arrived, she offered us a choice of a Dewey’s shirt, a Dewey’s cap, or a Dewey’s glass.  Neither of us thought we’d wear the shirt or the cap, so we opted for the glass.  The manager left to fetch our choice and returned with the glass in one hand and a gift bag in the other.

We waited until we got home to open the gift bag and were surprised to see how much our patronage is appreciated.  Inside the bag was a very nice 20-ounce mug with (according to the box) “a vacuum insulated body (and a) copper-plated inner wall to help retain the internal temperature of the tumbler longer.”  According to the box, beverages will stay hot for 8 hours and cold for 16 hours.  In addition, there was an envelope with another surprise inside:  a $50 Dewey’s gift certificate.  At a pizza restaurant, that’s very generous.

Dewey’s slogan is “Taking pizza to the next level.”  They also take customer appreciation to the next level.

Ted and I were browsing in the kitchen store at the mall and saw a breakfast idea.  Two eggs, a little bacon, and this handy gadget gives you big-eyed bunny-face eggs to make you smile in the morning.

Studies show that the Danish people are the happiest in the world.  Today I learned that might be due to the fact that Danes practice hygge.


Further reading revealed that hygge is based on enjoying simple pleasures associated with everyday living.  Friends.  Family.  Graciousness.  Contentment.  Good feelings.  A warm glow.  More hospitality.  More warmth.  More respect for each other.  A deeply satisfying and cozy feeling of well-being.

I vote that we all resolve to practice hygge.

Kari’s family opened gifts at their house this morning and then joined Kathy, Annette, Ted, and me at our house after lunch.

Kari took a group picture before the unwrapping began.

Annette has apparently been waiting years to make waffles at home.  Now she can do it.

The boys seemed very pleased with the gifts they received.  Teddy added two pigs to his collection.  Is it significant that both are piggy banks?  The jar he’s holding is “pork and beans”–little stuffed pigs mixed with bean seeds.

Here’s Teddy with his Lego piggy bank.  Who knew you could get a pig Lego set?  When Ted and I saw it, we grabbed it.

Since he was a little kid with enough money to buy gifts, Thom and I have always exchanged a Christmas Lego figure with each other.  This is the one I received from Thom this year. . .

. . . and the one I sent to Thom (on the right).

I took a group picture after the boys distributed the gifts.


After an early dinner, it was time for Kathy and Annette to leave for Kirksville so Annette could get some sleep before going back to work tomorrow.  Our two-day Christmas holiday with our girls and their families was wonderful.  We had time to visit and time to play.  Family time is always good and always goes by too quickly.  Until next time, merry Christmas and happy new year!

From Thanksgiving until Christmas, the St. Charles Historic District is decorated for the holidays and has holiday activities and performances several days and evenings each week.  There are Santas from around the world, carolers, a drum and fife corps, and over 40 costumed Victorian holiday characters from history, literature, and folklore.  All of these characters walk throughout the district and interact with visitors and shoppers.  There is an opening parade the day after Thanksgiving and, on Christmas Eve, a closing parade, followed by a farewell to Santa as he leaves to begin delivering gifts to children around the world.

Kathy and Annette wanted to do some shopping in the Historic District, so that’s where we headed after lunch.  As we were walking around the area, the Christmas Eve Parade began.  We went to the parade with Jeff’s family in 2015.  It was sunny and in the 40s.  Today it was around 20 degrees with a wind chill about 10 degrees colder.  The parade moved faster and there were fewer attendees than in 2015, but it was still fun.

Here they come. The wassailers are first, singing warm songs in the cold.

These are the Victorian carolers.

This guy is the Master of Revels.  I don’t know why his lipstick, eye makeup, and costume are bright blue.

Here comes Santa Claus!


Santa’s horse-drawn carriage is the last thing in the parade, so spectators along the sidewalks fill in behind him and follow him to the riverfront (one block east of here).  Annette, Kathy, and Kari opted to shop inside a warm store; the brave boys (Sky, Dylan, and Teddy) came with Ted and me to the riverfront where they could play in the snow some more during Santa’s farewell ceremony.

I’m not an official crowd estimator, but I’d guess there were about 200 people braving the cold to wish Santa a good trip.

The man is one of the international Santa figures; the woman is Saint Lucia, the saint of light (candles in the wreath on her head).

Four more international Santas.

There’s a short ceremony on the bandstand to bid Santa farewell.  That’s Dylan in his snow-covered jacket in the foreground.  Sky is bent over ahead of Dylan.

Santa said all the girls and boys in St. Charles are on the “nice” list this year.  Whew!  That’s Mrs. Claus on his left.

It’s time for Santa to leave so he can load his sleigh and get started with his deliveries around the world.


And then it was time for the boys, Ted, and me to join the girls in a warm store before heading back home.

Last year, when the kids arrived for Christmas, we decided to have lunch at Pizza Hut.  That was fine with me because I didn’t have to cook.  The girls and their families remembered the fun we had at last year’s lunch and said we should do it again this year.  Easy!  Kathy and Annette arrived last night, spent the morning at Kari’s house, and we all met at Pizza Hut for lunch.

We were the only ones at the restaurant when we arrived, so we parked our three cars side by side.  You can see that it’s snowing again for our white Christmas.  That’s now Kathy’s Prius on the right.

Just waiting for our food.  Dylan is toasting the fun we’re having.  Annette is still too cold to take off her jacket.


After lunch, Kathy and Annette wanted to browse in some of the St. Charles Historic District shops, so we headed downtown.  The boys are out of school and it’s our second day of snow, so they were hyped up about being outside in the snow–even if it was less than 20 degrees with a nasty wind chill.

The boys spotted a teddy bear decoration that had fallen over, so they had to inspect the fallen bear.  Dylan is in a sympathy pose, imitating the bear.

Dylan had fun rolling in the snow.

Sky and Teddy got in the sled and Dylan became the horse to pull it.

A view of the white Christmas riverfront.

Everything that needs to be done is checked off the list.  Now . . . Let there be peace on earth.

It’s rare for St. Louis to have a white Christmas, but we had about 2.5 inches of very wet snow this morning and the forecast is calling for another inch tomorrow–Christmas Eve.  We were in the 50s and 60s all week, so the ground is warm.  The roads were wet, not snow-covered, and the snow is melting quickly.  Still, white is white.  Merry Christmas.




For a number of years, Ted and I have made the Bach Society’s Candlelight Christmas Concert a part of our celebration of Christmas, and we did so again this year.

The head of the Bach Society (I don’t know his title) did a little introduction before the concert started and he was pretty funny–not something we’ve come to expect at this event.  He told us that we’d be hearing from the Bach Society Choir and also the Bach Society Children’s Choir.  (A misnomer, in my opinion, since these are high school kids.  I would call it a “youth” choir, rather than a “children’s” choir.)  These students get voice training, music education, and character education.  Bach Guy followed this information with “Hopefully, one of them will run for President” and got a round of applause from the audience for his reference to character.

It is not unusual for audience members unfamiliar with classical music concerts to applaud after each movement of a selection, rather than waiting until the entire piece is finished.  Before leaving the stage, Bach Guy asked the audience to please hold applause until the end of the entire musical piece–Handel’s Messiah.  He said the performance would be so outstanding that applause after each movement would keep us in the venue until midnight.  He then promised we would know when the piece was over.

Of course, the well-known closing of the Messiah is the “Hallelujah Chorus,” for which everyone stands.  Why?  Because at the London premiere of  Handel’s Messiah in 1743, King George II stood.  According to royal protocol, when the king stands, everyone must stand until the king is seated, so the audience stood as well.  No one knows why King George stood.  My theory is that he might have thought the piece was over and was preparing to leave, then awkwardly stood in place while the orchestra and choir finished the “Hallelujah Chorus.”  If so, he was probably glad he stayed until the end, since the final chorus is the most stirring part of the entire Messiah.

Powell Hall is always beautifully decorated for Christmas.  You can see the adult choir coming onstage behind the orchestra.


For the second half of the performance, the concert hall is darkened and each of the approximately 200 choristers carries a lighted candle (battery-operated for safety).  The musical selections are Christmas carols–traditional and new–sung by the adult and children’s/youth choirs.  The audience sings along for two or three familiar carols, and the closing is always “Silent Night.”  As the choir members sing, they walk around the perimeter of the hall and through the aisles, spacing themselves so that the audience is surrounded by music.  It’s absolutely beautiful!  After this concert, Ted and I are always spiritually in the mood for Christmas.

Ted and I finished shopping for Christmas gifts, wrapping Christmas gifts, and preparing boxes for shipping Christmas gifts as of last night.  Gift Wrap Central is in the basement, where we store gift tags, ribbon, wrapping paper, etc. and have our wedding gift kitchen table as a working surface.  It’s a good place to work on projects because, if we don’t finish, we can leave the mess, go upstairs, and continue with our lives.

I’m the chief gift wrap artist in our house, by default, not by choice.  I’m not very artistic, but I get the gifts covered in holiday paper and modestly decorated.


It’s always a challenge to find boxes for shipping.  As our family grows, we need more and larger boxes.  We assess boxes we receive during the year to determine if they will be useful at Christmas or not, which determines if we keep the box or not.  We can usually find boxes that match gift sizes.  This year, I needed one of the larger boxes from the bottom of the nested pile.  As I was putting the mailing label on the box, I noticed it was an old box of Thom’s and I had coincidentally filled it with gifts for Thom’s family.

It looks like this box has been in the basement since Ted snagged it from the NWS office in 1994.

Yessir!  Thom (then Tom) clearly marked it as his stuff!  Now there’s some new stuff for him and for his family in his old box.

At some point, I clarified which stuff Thom had in the box.  David was a doll (or whatever you call the boy version of a doll) he had–complete with “stuff” for David and stuffed animals.


Christmas gifts and memories. . . . Good stuff!

Teddy, age 9, has loved pigs for several years.  When he first asked me for a pig birthday cake, I was amazed to discover that there were hundreds of photo suggestions for “pig cake” online.  Who knew that so many people wanted a pig-themed birthday cake?  Ted and I gave him a stuffed pig last Christmas, and he loves it.  For his birthday, he asked for a pig quilt to keep him and Waffles (the stuffed pig) warm.

Now I know for sure that Teddy was ahead of the trend.  When Ted and I took our walk a week ago, we saw a pig Christmas decoration.  Yes, when I think of Christmas, I often think of decorative pigs.  (Not.)  This one lights up at night, but the lights are white and don’t show the pink color.  It even sparkles in the sun!

Here’s the pig ornament.

The pig is one member of a menagerie.  There’s a raccoon, a polar bear, a cardinal, a rabbit, an owl, and more in this display.  Lawn Ornament Christmas is evolving.

. . . Santa might come early.

Last night, Ted picked up his new car at the dealership.  We had test-driven a similar car, but hadn’t seen the model or color combination Ted chose.  Here’s his first look at what he selected.

I think he likes it.


Naturally, we had to take a picture of the new and the old.

It’s bigger than the Prius and looks huge in the garage!


Ted and I spent about two hours in the driveway today going through the owner’s manual to learn how to operate the many bells and whistles on the new car.  I think we’ve got it all figured out.  Tomorrow, we’re driving to Kirksville to deliver the Prius to Kathy.  We offered her the first right of refusal, and she said she wanted to buy it because she needs a car, she hates the thought of car shopping, and she knows the Prius is in good condition.

It’s a 2018 Honda CR-V Touring model with a “Lunar silver metallic” exterior (who names these colors?!) and a light gray interior with black accents.