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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Local Holiday Fare

Saturday night we ventured into downtown Palm Springs for their annual Holiday Lights Parade. We met some good friends about an hour before the start time and enjoyed some nice snacks while lounging curbside in our beach chairs. We even had to dig our jackets out of the garage as it was pretty chilly that evening (50F) and when you are just sitting on the curbside, it can get pretty cold.
I am enjoying seeing the Christmas decorations popping up around town, especially in the evening when the lights illuminate. It's festive and it's actually fun to enjoy the outdoor decor without completely freezing to death.
Soon it was time to watch the spectacle unfold. It is moments like these that Palm Springs feels likes a small town. Local high and middle schools bands and dance teams filled in between floats of all kind decorated with lights. The tubas were most impressive. I was pleased to hear that the bands were playing both sacred and secular Christmas music. I think it's a pity that schools have to be so careful now that nothing that intimates at one religion or another is forbidden. Celebrate it all. That's what celebrating diversity is about. Not squelching everyone's traditions, but rather bringing it all to the fore. Even if you don't celebrate the Christian tradition at Christmas, you can't deny that some pretty great sacred music has come out of that tradition.
This parade even boasted a few large balloons along the way. It was a long parade as well, lasting about an hour and 15 minutes. We totally enjoyed watching the various creations drive by.
It was a gorgeous night, with a half moon sitting just above us in a clear, starry sky. I love the silhouette of the giant palm trees against the the Christmas lights. It's all so different and interesting from what we'd grown used to in Europe.
The horse drawn carriages added a nice Dickens feel to the evening. 
 But the firetrucks were the most spectacular. 

 
The local news team came by in the NBC themed car.
 And one of the big local churches went all out with a large size nativity.

 
No holiday parade would be complete without Snoopy and this one did not disappoint.
The local hospital got into the spirit by creating a float that was a small replica of the hospital building. 
And of course, the parade ended with Santa and reindeer surrounded by...what else? Palm Trees!
I suppose no matter where in the world you find yourself, it's fun to discover the local traditions and take them in. It's hard to beat the charm of a Swedish Christmas, the beauty of a German Christmas market and the dramatic backdrop that London provides, but for our little corner of the world where winter is short and relative, the local folks did a good job of getting into the spirit of things and providing the community with a fun night out on the town.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

New Mixed with Old

One of the great surprises in decorating for Christmas this year was the discovery of gifts we had received as we were leaving Stockholm and thus hadn't had the opportunity to display and enjoy them during the Christmas season. The best was this beautiful German candle carousel.
Gifted to us by dear friends and faithful church members, Bernd and Rhoda from Munich, Germany, when I opened the box I was returned to that last Christmas in Stockholm. Our last Sunday at Immanuel was the last Sunday of 2014 so many of our "last times" were related to Christmas. I had totally forgotten about this treasure because as previously mentioned, we didn't take Christmas stuff with us to London. We also didn't unpack this from its original packing because we wanted it securely packed for its journey across the ocean to our home in CA. So my delight upon opening it was a rich as a 5 year old's on Christmas morning! Additionally, Bernd and Rhoda have been such incredibly affirming, supportive friends through the years. They showed up in London for our first Sunday and subsequently spent Christmas there with us last year. We know that at some point we will welcome them to the desert! They have a golden retriever that Tanner taught how to swim in Stockholm once summer and they have always spoken deep, affirming words to us regarding our ministry. To have this tangible reminder of their connection to us is indeed special. I have long adored these German Christmas candle carousels. On our first trip to Germany back in 1999, we found our way to Rothenburg Ob der Tauber, a beautiful medieval, walled city that boasts of beautiful Christmas stores and other delights of Bavaria. When I stepped foot into the K├Ąthe Wohlfahrt Christmas store Doug actually had to tell me to calm down! I was so excited to be surrounded by such dazzling Christmas decorations. It was there that I purchased my beloved Christmas nativity carousel. Each year I looked forward to pulling this out of the box and enjoying the beauty of this piece. Now I have the other one to enjoy alongside of it.
No matter the climate I find myself surrounded by, I will delight in Christmas decorations. It's festive and cozy and fun to have a different look for a few weeks of the year. And as strange as it seems to celebrate Christmas with decidedly Nordic decor in a desert paradise, the beauty of the decor still shines. And on these chilly December mornings, it's nice to create the cozy atmosphere that I needed so desperately during those dark winter days in Sweden. I love the Swedish candle holders that we've collected through the years, now surrounded by pine cones that I picked up on the golf course over the past couple of days.
I love our home and feel so thankful for it. Now, if only all of our dear friends and loved one who are scattered across the globe could pop on by to enjoy it with us, my joy would be fully complete. In the meantime, I treasure the memories the things that grace my house evoke and thank God for the multitude of relationships that have graced our lives even more.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Treasures that Evoke Memories

There was no shortage of nostalgia wrapped up in the boxes that hold our Christmas decorations. Each time I pulled something out of the box, it reminded me of the place it sat in our beautiful Stockholm apartment and evoked even deeper memories of how it was obtained. Most of our Christmas decorations have a story behind them and many of them were gifts.
So today I share with you some old favorites that have good histories.
There are two trios that represent so much meaning and joy for me. 

First, the three wise men, each bearing their gifts for the new born baby King Jesus were purchased in Stockholm from the Villeroy and Boch shop. I had first seen them in a friend's apartment and just fell in love with them. Fortunately for me, they were on sale in the post-Christmas "rea" (sale in Swedish) so I snapped them up. They used to hold a prominent place on our fireplace mantle in Stockholm but here they sit on the top shelf of our wall shelves. They look beautiful!
The attractive angel choir with the 60's hairdos are treasures from my childhood. They are marked on the bottom with my mom's initials and '66, representing the date she finished them. Yes, she decorated these ceramic candle holders and I loved them when I was a kid. They sat atop the piano in my childhood home and I remember looking at each of them, wanting each hairdo as my own, especially the pig tails. Of course, I had a pixie cut as a kid so it was all hopelessly impossible to have such chic hair styles!
Savoring the joy of Christmases past, anticipating the joy of Christmases to come, sitting in the present surrounded by treasures that evoke memories are gifts to me on my advent journey.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Advent Beginnings

Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent, a very significant day in Sweden and many church traditions worldwide have special celebrations to commemorate the day. In Sweden of course, the candle lighting associated with Advent was a welcome tradition due to the lengthy darkness that envelopes the day at this of year. Here in (mostly) sunny California, we are not craving warmth and light in quite the same way but I still can't get away from marking the weeks leading to Christmas with my own 4 advent candles. 
Still happy to count the Sundays and remember that the light shines in the darkness even where it's sunny.
Traditional Christmas decorations have been popping up around town and we attended a Lutheran Church yesterday where the Advent focus came into view. We sang O Come O Come Emmanuel, lit the first candle, and sang Joy to the World. So I was motivated to listen to Christmas music today and get decorating.
I have not seen my Christmas decorations since December of 2014. When we packed everything up after the holidays, the boxes were set aside to go straight into the shipment from Sweden. Given that we were unsure of how long we were going to be in London, we didn't pack any Christmas decorations. So today when we dragged the boxes out of the garage, it really was like Christmas morning as I opened up and unwrapped treasure after treasure. I had forgotten about certain things and others evoked strong, deep, nostalgic emotions. It was quite fun trying to figure out how to decorate our California home with traditional decorations! 
We've been having some chilly, blustery weather out here...45-60F/8-15C...I know, I'm wimpy now, so Doug even got the fireplace going tonight. It is super cozy and allows us to keep the heat off! 


I grew up in southern California so the backdrop of sunshine and palms mixed with Christmas isn't totally foreign to me. It is however Doug's first go 'round with a warm weather Christmas. It's really not all that hard to take, although admittedly today whilst decorating, I did put on a snowy slideshow from Christmases in Sweden. I will miss the Christmas markets, the coziness of candlelight in every window, the lovely decor all over the city, the warmth of an afternoon coffee and delicious treat and celebrated traditions that we enjoyed with our church in Sweden. But I am also excited to be in our own home, to establish some new traditions, to go to parades and light displays here in the desert, to play December golf. 
Truth be told, we're now closer in climate to Bethlehem than the snowy Burl and Ives Christmas scenes so that's kind of interesting. And those in the southern hemisphere have always celebrated Christmas in the dead of summer. Because let's face it...no matter our circumstances in life, preparing for the incarnation has little to do with what's going on on the outside and has everything to do with what's going on in our insides. May your journey be filled with new experiences, wonder in small things, hope, joy, peace and love.

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Thanks-filled Thanksgiving

We had such a great day yesterday! My reward for a very early start was this beautiful sunrise.
 The first thing I did was to pull the turkey out of the refrigerator and get busy making a pecan pie! 
I had never made a pecan pie before and since the ingredients for it were so easy to find for once I enjoyed putting it together. I had no idea it was such an easy pie to bake, especially with roll out crusts!
Then I got busy with the turkey getting it ready to slow roast all day long. It was nice to get it all prepped and into the oven. From there, I could pretty much relax a bit, putzing around the kitchen, getting the other dishes prepped and ready. My sister-in-law found these giant, fresh brussel sprouts and I gotta say, she made me a believer about how delicious they can be when fixed correctly!
It was a beautiful day so we sat outside for a bit and soaked in the sunshine. The Minnesota Vikings were on TV so we recorded the parade and watched them lose once again. They started out so well, but have really faded to be a very average team. But I digress.
Doug wanted us to watch the Ted Talk called Gratitude by Louis Schwartzberg. You can view it here. We've used this clip in various ways through the years and it's such a great reminder that finding beauty and gratitude in small things is how to really cultivate a life filled with gratitude. It was a great pre-meal viewing.
I was excited to set the table with the beautiful china that I inherited from my mom. I had not used it for 2 years because of moving around this world. Each time I take one of the pieces and set it on the table, I am filled with memories of our own family celebrations. The china has a great story too...my mom bought it in Sweden back in 1956 when she traveled through Europe as a single woman. We used it throughout my childhood and I always loved it. She gave it to us when they downsized and we shipped it back to Sweden! We loved decorating our table and enjoying meals with it as we gathered many people from the around the world in our home. Now it is back in California where it spent so many years in the Mullen household. It is truly an heirloom that evokes deep and warm connections. 
Our garden yielded some beautiful things that we enjoyed during the day. We juiced the grapefruit, limes and lemons and enjoyed freshly squeezed cocktails and since I hadn't bought any flowers, I simply went out and clipped away at the beautiful blossoms that surrounded us! They made for a lovely centerpiece and fit in well with the desert mileu. We ended up eating indoors because it was a bit windy on the patio but the sunshine streamed through well enough. 
While getting the food ready we got a call from Doug's brother and our nephew in Minnesota. It was fun to hear the voices of other family and know that they were celebrating well across the country.
Finally the turkey was done, the sides were finished and we were ready to dig in. 
I am very thankful that Doug's mom and sister could join us this year. It was delightful to share our first Thanksgiving back in the US with them and fun for them to do something new as well given the reality of losing Doug's dad last March. Obviously there was more than enough food! But we are set for a good round of leftovers today and my cousins will join us which will be really fun. 
We were stuffed to gills with delicious fare. 
 In fact, everyone was so full that we didn't even eat pie. But I had to at least taste it! It was delicious and I'm sure others will enjoy it today! 
We ended our evening under a starry sky around a fire in our backyard. Sitting out on Thanksgiving evening was definitely something that Doug and his family had never experienced. It was perfectly relaxing and a great way to continue the rich conversation that the day of leisurely eating and drinking gave way to. 
On this day after Thanksgiving I continue to be filled with thanks. I will not support the craze that is Black Friday. Shopping is the last thing that I would want to follow the day we enjoyed yesterday. Instead, I'll probably find my way back to the patio, relax on the loungers, maybe take a swim and soak in the jacuzzi, eat leftovers and continue to enjoy the joy of being with loved ones in this new and beautiful place that we call home. I'm grateful. I hope you are too. 

A Thanks-filled Thanksgiving

We had such a great day yesterday! My reward for a very early start was this beautiful sunrise.
 The first thing I did was to pull the turkey out of the refrigerator and get busy making a pecan pie! 
I had never made a pecan pie before and since the ingredients for it were so easy to find for once I enjoyed putting it together. I had no idea it was such an easy pie to bake, especially with roll out crusts!
Then I got busy with the turkey getting it ready to slow roast all day long. It was nice to get it all prepped and into the oven. From there, I could pretty much relax a bit, putzing around the kitchen, getting the other dishes prepped and ready. My sister-in-law found these giant, fresh brussel sprouts and I gotta say, she made me a believer about how delicious they can be when fixed correctly!
It was a beautiful day so we sat outside for a bit and soaked in the sunshine. The Minnesota Vikings were on TV so we recorded the parade and watched them lose once again. They started out so well, but have really faded to be a very average team. But I digress.
Doug wanted us to watch the Ted Talk called Gratitude by Louis Schwartzberg. You can view it here. We've used this clip in various ways through the years and it's such a great reminder that finding beauty and gratitude in small things is how to really cultivate a life filled with gratitude. It was a great pre-meal viewing.
I was excited to set the table with the beautiful china that I inherited from my mom. I had not used it for 2 years because of moving around this world. Each time I take one of the pieces and set it on the table, I am filled with memories of our own family celebrations. The china has a great story too...my mom bought it in Sweden back in 1956 when she traveled through Europe as a single woman. We used it throughout my childhood and I always loved it. She gave it to us when they downsized and we shipped it back to Sweden! We loved decorating our table and enjoying meals with it as we gathered many people from the around the world in our home. Now it is back in California where it spent so many years in the Mullen household. It is truly an heirloom that evokes deep and warm connections. 
Our garden yielded some beautiful things that we enjoyed during the day. We juiced the grapefruit, limes and lemons and enjoyed freshly squeezed cocktails and since I hadn't bought any flowers, I simply went out and clipped away at the beautiful blossoms that surrounded us! They made for a lovely centerpiece and fit in well with the desert mileu. We ended up eating indoors because it was a bit windy on the patio but the sunshine streamed through well enough. 
While getting the food ready we got a call from Doug's brother and our nephew in Minnesota. It was fun to hear the voices of other family and know that they were celebrating well across the country.
Finally the turkey was done, the sides were finished and we were ready to dig in. 
I am very thankful that Doug's mom and sister could join us this year. It was delightful to share our first Thanksgiving back in the US with them and fun for them to do something new as well given the reality of losing Doug's dad last March. Obviously there was more than enough food! But we are set for a good round of leftovers today and my cousins will join us which will be really fun. 
We were stuffed to gills with delicious fare. 
 In fact, everyone was so full that we didn't even eat pie. But I had to at least taste it! It was delicious and I'm sure others will enjoy it today! 
We ended our evening under a starry sky around a fire in our backyard. Sitting out on Thanksgiving evening was definitely something that Doug and his family had never experienced. It was perfectly relaxing and a great way to continue the rich conversation that the day of leisurely eating and drinking gave way to. 
On this day after Thanksgiving I continue to be filled with thanks. I will not support the craze that is Black Friday. Shopping is the last thing that I would want to follow the day we enjoyed yesterday. Instead, I'll probably find my way back to the patio, relax on the loungers, maybe take a swim and soak in the jacuzzi, eat leftovers and continue to enjoy the joy of being with loved ones in this new and beautiful place that we call home. I'm grateful. I hope you are too. 

A Thanks-filled Thanksgiving

We had such a great day yesterday! My reward for a very early start was this beautiful sunrise.
 The first thing I did was to pull the turkey out of the refrigerator and get busy making a pecan pie! 
I had never made a pecan pie before and since the ingredients for it were so easy to find for once I enjoyed putting it together. I had no idea it was such an easy pie to bake, especially with roll out crusts!
Then I got busy with the turkey getting it ready to slow roast all day long. It was nice to get it all prepped and into the oven. From there, I could pretty much relax a bit, putzing around the kitchen, getting the other dishes prepped and ready. My sister-in-law found these giant, fresh brussel sprouts and I gotta say, she made me a believer about how delicious they can be when fixed correctly!
It was a beautiful day so we sat outside for a bit and soaked in the sunshine. The Minnesota Vikings were on TV so we recorded the parade and watched them lose once again. They started out so well, but have really faded to be a very average team. But I digress.
Doug wanted us to watch the Ted Talk called Gratitude by Louis Schwartzberg. You can view it here. We've used this clip in various ways through the years and it's such a great reminder that finding beauty and gratitude in small things is how to really cultivate a life filled with gratitude. It was a great pre-meal viewing.
I was excited to set the table with the beautiful china that I inherited from my mom. I had not used it for 2 years because of moving around this world. Each time I take one of the pieces and set it on the table, I am filled with memories of our own family celebrations. The china has a great story too...my mom bought it in Sweden back in 1956 when she traveled through Europe as a single woman. We used it throughout my childhood and I always loved it. She gave it to us when they downsized and we shipped it back to Sweden! We loved decorating our table and enjoying meals with it as we gathered many people from the around the world in our home. Now it is back in California where it spent so many years in the Mullen household. It is truly an heirloom that evokes deep and warm connections. 
Our garden yielded some beautiful things that we enjoyed during the day. We juiced the grapefruit, limes and lemons and enjoyed freshly squeezed cocktails and since I hadn't bought any flowers, I simply went out and clipped away at the beautiful blossoms that surrounded us! They made for a lovely centerpiece and fit in well with the desert mileu. We ended up eating indoors because it was a bit windy on the patio but the sunshine streamed through well enough. 
While getting the food ready we got a call from Doug's brother and our nephew in Minnesota. It was fun to hear the voices of other family and know that they were celebrating well across the country.
Finally the turkey was done, the sides were finished and we were ready to dig in. 
I am very thankful that Doug's mom and sister could join us this year. It was delightful to share our first Thanksgiving back in the US with them and fun for them to do something new as well given the reality of losing Doug's dad last March. Obviously there was more than enough food! But we are set for a good round of leftovers today and my cousins will join us which will be really fun. 
We were stuffed to gills with delicious fare. 
 In fact, everyone was so full that we didn't even eat pie. But I had to at least taste it! It was delicious and I'm sure others will enjoy it today! 
We ended our evening under a starry sky around a fire in our backyard. Sitting out on Thanksgiving evening was definitely something that Doug and his family had never experienced. It was perfectly relaxing and a great way to continue the rich conversation that the day of leisurely eating and drinking gave way to. 
On this day after Thanksgiving I continue to be filled with thanks. I will not support the craze that is Black Friday. Shopping is the last thing that I would want to follow the day we enjoyed yesterday. Instead, I'll probably find my way back to the patio, relax on the loungers, maybe take a swim and soak in the jacuzzi, eat leftovers and continue to enjoy the joy of being with loved ones in this new and beautiful place that we call home. I'm grateful. I hope you are too.