Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Keith's Christmas Letter

(Keith and I take turns writing our Christmas letter. He weaseled out of it last year so this year was definitely his turn.) 

2011, I believe, is a prime number…or not?

This is a question of importance when living with the “wife of my youth.”  She loves odd numbers (me) and prime numbers (also me, currently 53).  Growing old with her is fun and “silver” suits her well.  Her blog is the best way to see what is happening in our world of Vikdom and living Up North. 

You can also find Vikdom on THE Facebook: Most of the family actively lives on the net.  Lani is not eligible yet, but I think she finds somehow to communicate via siblings. 

You will not find this prime number on said source…its invasive and promotes way too much self-esteem or something like that. I will use the US Postal service until its demise! I do have a cool I-phone on which I am fast advancing the rungs of perfection in Angry Birds.  Call me anytime. I love the sound of the human voice and you don’t have to use funny symbols on the keyboard 8>).

There once was a time without phones, radios, TV’s, computers, cars, or electricity. My, oh my, how busy we are. Let’s slow down!  (Insert collective groan from the girls. "Dad, you're starting to preach.") It’s my #1 frustration as a pastor of a wonderful church. The more we have, the more the more takes over.  I want my kids to learn a life of simplicity and service to others.  Busy is too easy to do.

This was the year of my style of vacation: a beach, a book and no agenda. Ontonagon, Michigan is a wonderful place to slow down.  Most of the girls were there and we enjoyed board games, beach time, hiking the woods, sleeping like hibernating bears, hot dogs roasted on the beach, and coffee at a local cafĂ©. Eight days went too fast, but don’t busy days as well?

Twitter style story lines for the girls:

Christina - nursing school, helps with youth group, traveled to Honduras, Boston, NY, works at a marina, great young lady                    

Kiah - nursing school, helped with young adult summer outreach, ran first marathon, barista, bought a Daewoo?! Luvlygal                                 

Erica - tech school, gone to camp all summer, barista, bought first car (black, stick, sporty) sees the good in folks                 

Anna -  gone for 6 months at camp & boarding school, quick wit and laugh, stretching her world, beauty, no beast        

Amy - finally in high school, wants to drive, knows Everybody! Took over Anna’s room (has to give it back)  lil’ lady                

Lani - most girls (believe me) are sloppy, not this one, loves to find bargains at thrift stores w/ Mom, glowing gal

(All daughters available for marriage, though two will have to be on layaway, so take your pick all qualified cute and employable guys. Dentists, auto mechanics, and plumbers have an advantage in dowry contracts.) 

Andrew and Rachel continue to become their own family and a great asset to Village Creek Bible Camp.  Rachel graduates from UW LaCrosse in May. We get to see them for Christmas!  (And yes, we’re excited) 

It is our hearts desire for you to know the One who was born a baby, died a lamb, raised a Savior and sits as King: Jesus Christ, the Lord!  Joy to you, in Him, this coming year. 
For the family,  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chai High

Smelled good in our house tonight. 

My friend Tina, who runs the awesome Bed and Breakast that I blogged about here, graciously shared her homemade Chai Tea recipe. I didn't know what half the ingredients were so shopping today was an education.

Family reactions varied.
Erica, as she poured another cup: This is the best Chai ever!!
Kiah:  You should lighten it up with two percent milk.
Keith: Does someone want mine? I don't really like Chai. 

If you feel adventurous and want a special occasion treat, try this. Your family and friends will be amazed. If you like Chai tea, you'll like this. If you don't like Chai tea, you'll like this. (Unless you're my husband.) 

I bought the bulk spices at a health food store.

Chai Tea

2-in. piece of fresh ginger, cut into thin rounds        
2 cinnamon sticks
2 t. black peppercorns (who knew?)
12 whole cloves
10 cardamom pods
2 anise stars
½ t. whole allspice
6 c. cold water
6 bags of black tea (preferably Darjeeling)
3 c. whole milk
½ c. half and half
½ c. (packed) golden brown sugar
½ c. honey 

(The blue pitcher contains milk. Our milk comes in plastic bags.) 

Fresh ginger root 
(smells nice when sliced)

Cardamon pods

Anise stars
(Smells like black licorice)

Combine first 7 ingredients in medium saucepan.  Using mallet or back of large spoon, lightly crush or bruise spices.  

Add 6 cups of water; bring to boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover pan, and simmer gently 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add tea bags and steep 5 minutes.  (in case you can't tell, those are floating tea bags in the pot.)

Discard tea bags. Add milk, half and half, sugar, and honey.  Bring tea just to simmer over high heat, whisking until sugar dissolves.  Strain Chai into teapot and serve hot.                               

Mmm, mmn, good!!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

What Next?

You may remember my husband used to be a Wii little man

The good news is he no longer spends countless hours playing Wii golf. 

The bad news is he's now addicted to Angry Birds. I suppose one shouldn't knock it until they've tried it but anything with the word, "angry" in the title doesn't sound relaxing.

(Angry Birds is a video game that Apple's app store has sold over 12 millions copies of)

We got a good laugh out of this picture Christina found. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Mugs - Holiday Treats - Housing Project

A friend invited the girls and I over to make Gingerbread houses. There's two things I don't like about making them: The mess and the EXCESS of sugar. When my friend offered to do it at her house, I jumped on the offer. I'm not stupid. The mess would be at her house.:)

This was our first time making real gingerbread. We usually use graham crackers which is in some ways easier but doesn't taste as good and isn't as versatile. I blogged about our last houses here.

We had a great time, had a sugar hangover, and Lani's house lasted two days at home before being totally devoured.

Gingerbread has to be cut right after it comes out of the oven as it hardens quickly.

Making another batch of gingerbread

Assembling the house is a two-person job


Amy's Masterpiece

The light brown things are gingerbread men-shaped marshmallows

Lani has a different style
(The white item on the protruding toothpick is a surveillance camera)

I made the snowman


 Tasty scraps

We're still friends even after we messed up her kitchen.

Love her wheat bran shingles. 



High Sugar

But lots of FUN!!

I'm linking up today with Heather at Oswald Cuties.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Making Peace With Gray

At forty-six, I became alarmed at the increasing number of gray strands taking up residence in my hair.

Keith said he didn’t mind. Said he likes my hair long. I said he could have long or he could have gray, but I didn’t want long and gray. 

He chose long and I chose not gray.

To his surprise, he actually liked the way it looked dyed.

Every few months for five years, much like a computer Paint program, a hairdresser magically erased any gray hairs that had the audacity to appear on my aging head.

I also have problems with thinning hair. Though somewhat mystified why hair grows on my chin where I don’t want it, but doesn’t grow on the top of my head where I do want it, I searched online for solutions.

Suggested options ran the gamut. I considered Rogaine for women, but was afraid with my luck and propensity to grow chin hairs that I’d soon have a full goatee.

Remembering the strong unpleasant smell of hair dye and how it tingles the scalp, I began to wonder if hair dye had contributed to the problem.

I googled negative effects of hair dye. Some websites said hair dye isn’t good for people. Ammonia and other strong chemicals can cause problems.

I considered going off the bottle but it’s hard to resist the urge to blast emerging gray hairs with ammonia-laced hair dye.

Many women my age dye their hair, so any person brave enough not to not dye, automatically looks older. Going natural requires the emotional fortitude to go around with a horizontal Cruella DeVille haircut while the color grows out.

Keith protested. Said he liked my hair dyed.

I’m not sure how God decides who gets what. I mean how come I got thin hair and chin hairs and Jane Seymour didn't. Although she’s had four husbands and I’ve only had one, so maybe looking beautiful at age 60 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I digress.

Tired of trying to fight the tide, I took the plunge (excuse the mixed metaphors) and quit using hair dye.

And the strangest thing happened. Once I got over the shock of seeing gray again, especially in the front, it doesn’t look that bad. Other than the bottom half is brown-red and the top is faded dark brown marbled with gray. 

Now that it’s growing out, I kind of like the not-so-dark-anymore hair interspersed with growing regiments of gray hair better than the not-quite-right shade I’ve sported the last few years.

Keith says he likes the growing out hair.

I’m not sure what the current ratio of brown to gray is but I know in time gray will stage a coup and take over completely. I wish I could pick what color gray hair I’ll get. (I could dye it a pretty shade of gray, but that would put me right back where I started from.)

This is not a judgment on people who dye their hair. I know why women use hair dye. I understand the desire to look younger. I've seen it tastefully done. I'm just saying that I don't want to do it any more. 

People panic at the sight of their gray hairs, thinking that means they’re old. Maybe if we let them appear gradually, as God intended, they wouldn’t be so hard to get used to.

Does gray hair mean old? I’ve known people in their twenties to get gray hairs and people in their seventies to not have any. Old is when you ask for a stepstool for your 30th birthday. When you sit on the shore instead of swimming. When you stop sledding or climbing trees. When you show up a half hour early for something to make sure you won’t be late. When the main topic of your conversations are your illnesses and injuries. When the number of things you won’t do because you might fall increases. Those things make you old, not gray hair.

So if you see me for the first time in awhile, I haven't aged alot, it just means that I'm finally looking my age (Keith is too for that matter but this is my story, not his) and it's time to change my five-year-old About Me picture.  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

If Only

If only.

If only someone else had gone first.

If only Keith had been by his mother’s side.

If only we’d paid more attention, our Thanksgiving gathering wouldn’t be permanently etched in our minds.

Excited to be celebrating Thanksgiving with Keith’s family for the first time in three years and anticipating the upcoming feast, we were careless.

And Grandma paid the price.

Shortly after arriving at our niece’s house Thanksgiving afternoon, Keith’s 86-year-old mother Marie misjudged the one step down into the living room and fell.

We all stared, horrified at the sight of our beloved sister/ mother/grandmother quietly sprawled on the floor with her eyes closed.

Greeks or Italians would have been in chaos with everyone talking loudly at once. Even-keeled Midwest Scandinavian Lutherans handle emergencies with an ominous quiet.

Responses varied. Marie’s two stoic Danish eighty something brothers didn’t move, didn’t flinch, just stared with grim resignation as they watched the scene unfold.

Someone yelled, “Grandma!”

An uncle told the kids to stay in the downstairs family room.

Keith growled “What happened?” in his “Heads are going to roll voice.” Although by that point it was pretty obvious. The thing we had all dreaded had finally happened.

I tentatively peeked around the kitchen corner and saw Marie’s leg splayed in a suspicious angle. I quickly retreated and told Keith’s niece, “I can’t look.”

Either I’m Danish and don’t know it, or I’ve picked up their traits by osmosis, or being squeamish trumps common sense, but I’m pretty sure an emotionally healthy, well-adjusted adult wouldn’t go back into the kitchen to finish making a salad while their mother-in-law lies in pain on the floor in the next room.

Marie’s health has significantly deteriorated over the last year. Mostly her memory, but high blood pressure, cataracts, arthritis, and a bad knee have taken a toll. Nobody likes to say the “D” word but dementia is slowly clouding her mind.

Last month Keith’s sister Karen moved Marie to assisted living. We wanted to put Marie in a safe place and lighten Karen’s load, but instead moving aggravated the situation. Routine and familiarity allowed Marie to function. Change did not.

Thankfully Keith’s sister-in-law Sacia isn’t Scandinavian and had recently completed Ski Patrol emergency medical training and isn’t squeamish or cowardly so took control of the situation. She methodically checked Marie’s limbs and to our subdued joyous surprise, nothing was broken.

Thankfully Kiah worked as a nursing home CNA for five years, is a first semester nursing student, and isn’t squeamish so also knew what to do.

So ironic how things come full circle. When Kiah at 18 months old, badly cut her lip on a bookshelf and had to be stitched up, her Grandma held and soothed her.

Twenty years later, when Kiah knelt beside her injured grandmother while Sacia announced that Marie had cut her head on the bookshelf and needed stitches, Kiah held her grandmother’s hand and said, “I love you Grandma.”

Keith, his brother, and niece took Marie to the Emergency Room where they put four staples into her head. And discovered an irregular heart beat, which may or may not have been caused by the accident.

The rest of us half-heartedly sat down to our Thanksgiving meal, muted, sober, preoccupied.

An ER doctor confirmed no broken bones, no concussion, nothing obviously wrong except the head wound. We’re thankful because it easily could have been so much worse.

Dementia isn’t all bad. As traumatic as yesterday was, she doesn’t remember it.

But we do. No doubt everyone’s claimed a portion of the blame and wondered what they could have done to prevent the accident.
If only.

5x7 Folded Card

Bright Merry Cheer Christmas Card
Create unique Christmas cards with Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hard Work

By Kiah Vik

Dad wants us to work
And rake the yard.
But who wants to rake,
The works too hard.

But if he should say
Go out and play
We rake and rake
and "work" all day.

You must rake for quite awhile
To get the perfect jumping pile.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy 11-11-11

Such a fun date, especially since I'm so fond of odd numbers. 

It's also the 111111 Grandest Meeting of the Corduroy Appreciation Club in New York City. (Get it - corduroy has lines and 111111 looks like corduroy lines)

I also wanted to share a totally unrelated fun cartoon from Google images.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Christmas Card Blues

Problem: So-so family picture this year. We were only all together at Easter and it's hard to get a good picture that time of year with our winter white faces and not-yet-thawed scenery.

People mostly looked okay but the pose shows no creativity, Lani's bleached out, and I appear to be either asleep while standing up or in pain. 

Problem Solved: Yay! Shutterfly to the rescue. Forget pasty white Easter pictures. Say Hello to a collage from tanner times. It doesn't matter if we can't get together for a suitable family photo or if I'm not smart enough to figure out how to photoshop absent family members into a picture.

These are so much better.

Maybe this 4 x 8 Photo card
Or this one

or a 5 x 5 square flat stationery card

or these 5 x 7 Flat Stationery Cards

With over 900 flat or folded cards to choose from, I'm not sure how I'll ever decide. Shutterfly also sells photo cards for all occasions year round. Click here to view their other greeting cards.We used this card last year for Valentines Day.

If I can rip myself away from picking out cards, Shutterfly has many other cool items for me to spend my husband's hard-earned money on. My personal favorites are their photo books. I've shared some of our albums before like the one I made for my son's wedding. Shutterfly's quality is hard to beat and if I keep an eye out for their sales, I can usually get a good deal.

Shutterfly also has an amazing assortment of photo gifts. Click here to see their line-up of everything from magnets, mouse pads, photo mugs, address labels, to photo wall decals.

* * * * * * * * * *

I need to be upfront and confess that Shutterfly is giving me 25 free cards in exchange for my review, which is easy to do. I love Shutterfly products so it's no hardship to say nice things about them. But I promise I wouldn't say nice things if I didn't mean them.

If you haven't picked out your Christmas cards yet, go to Shutterfly.com and check them out.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Two Tortoises and No Hares

Kiah shared in the last post about her desire to run the Whistlestop Marathon. She continues sharing about the journey.

After all the summer fun and vacations were over I hit the pavement hard in mid August with the only friend that that could be roped into doing it with me - Kathy of the skunk, skydiving, and garbage can fame.    

With nine weeks until the marathon, we depended heavily on weekend “long-runs.”  A long run is several miles longer than you’re used to running, and it’s ran at a slightly slower pace.  

August 20 - 8 miles 
The first long run rolled around bright and early. Kathy and I ran separately. Super tired at 7.5 miles I thought, “How in the world can I run 18 more of these!?”  To my surprise I wasn’t sore at all the next morning.

August 27 - 10.5 miles   

Kathy and I set out from the coffee shop in Washburn to Pikes Bay Marina in Bayfield. It took us 1:39 minutes.  Beautiful weather, great company, and a satisfying finish.  Conquering a distance I had never run before gave me new found courage to continue to aspire to run a distance I wasn’t quite yet sure I could run. Again, I was hardly sore the next day.

September 3 - 12 miles
Guest runner?!  I jokingly asked our friend Nathan if he wanted to run 12 miles with Kathy and I.  Being athletic, and game for just about anything he agreed without any hesitation.  We rode the bus to Washburn and ran back to Ashland.  At the beginning I felt really good, but by the end I felt dizzy and chilled.  Being chilled when it’s really hot and humid is never a good sign, so again I wondered if I was physically able to run 26 miles.  Still I was hardly sore the next day.
 Nathan, our adopted Canadian college student is 
smiling in this BEFORE picture. He wasn't so happy 
afterwards and limped for a few days.

I couldn't have asked for a better marathon buddy! 

September 3rd bus ride to Washburn

September 9 - 14 miles 
Kathy and I ran separately again.  I took a super pretty route that looped around in the country northwest of Washburn.  In order to avoid heat exhaustion again I had purchased a hydration belt.  Drinking during the run made all of the difference in the world and I finished feeling on top of the world.  The half marathon was no longer an option because I knew I could run that far.  I still wasn’t 100% that I could run a full marathon.  I was a little more creaky the next day, but by the second day was back to normal.

September 17 - 15 miles
I meant to run 16 miles.  I extended my loop from the previous week a few more miles because I had liked that route so well.  My good time made me suspicious that the route might not have been as long as I thought it was.  I hopped in my car and to my dismay found that I’d only ran 15!  I was mortified because I’d been extremely tired, and didn’t think I could’ve made it 16 miles...let alone tack on 10 more miles for a nice even 26!  

September 23. 18 miles
After the discouragement of coming up a mile short on the last run, I was determined to make 18 miles if it killed me.  I mapped out an exact there-and-back route.  After almost 3 hours of running I ran back into Washburn, high off the fact that I had just ran 18 miles!!  I had felt really great on the run, and had logged a really great time.  After this run I knew I could do the marathon. Now it was just a matter of how well I could do the marathon.

October 1 - 22 miles
30 degrees. Brrr!!! With the sun just starting to come up Kathy and I began our final training long run of 22 miles. We ran from Ashland to Bayfield and averaged a 9:45 minute/mile pace. With over 3 1/2 hours of running BEFORE noon we felt pretty accomplished and TIRED afterwards!

Carb loading the night before our 22 mile long-run.

Kathy resurrected a childhood backpack to carry Gatorade

Oct. 1 - Stretching at 6:45 am for our 22 mile run.

Again smiling BEFORE the run!

Preventative measures

A hydration belt takes all the credit for 
keeping me alive during these grueling long-runs

Starting off

Two weeks until the real deal of the Whistlestop marathon!!