|Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Conrad's!!!|
We have a Christmas Eve neighborhood tradition that started several years ago - one household makes luminaries for everyone and we all put them down our driveways and on the side of the street in front of our houses. It's really pretty to look down the street and see all the luminaries, especially with the fresh snow. Anyway, the instructions are to put them out at 4:00 p.m. and they should burn till midnight - they're 8 hour candles. We gotta admit that it wasn't much fun putting them out - our hearts were pretty heavy yesterday. They were, of course, still burning when we went to bed. We slept really heavily for the first few hours - probably because we didn't sleep much the night before - but when we woke up at 2:00 a.m., we could see them from our bed - they were still burning. Back to sleep for awhile - 3:30, they were still burning, and still at 4:30 and 5:30 and two were still burning at 7:30 when we got up. NO other luminaries were burning past 2:00 - we saw one across the street when we were awake at 2:00. There's just no explanation other than Meg, it's just so Meg to be trying to let us know that she's ok and helping us to heal gently.
Energy is an amazing thing….
It will be a very white Christmas in Minnesota this year. We received 8-10” of snow overnight, and they are predicting another 6-12” overnight on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day. Hopefully everyone will be able to travel to their destinations and be able to spend time with family and friends.
The dogs love the snow. Snicker and Onyx bound through the deep snow. Kona follows in their paw steps.
I would think the snow would make Santa’s travels easier (sleigh and reindeer and all). I’m sure Google Maps and GPS units also make Santa’s visits to the homes of all the good boys and girls (human and 4 legged) more efficient.
I've been using Google Analytics to track website visits to the Flashback advent calendar this month. To date, the Advent calendar as been viewed from 8 countries, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland and Germany. Within the US, the calendar has been viewed from 37 states.
Thanks for you all your support! I hope you have enjoyed the calendar.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Ch Beacon's Dash of Nut-Meg AX AXJ NJP EAC O-EJC ECC S-TN-E TG-O WV-E CGC Can. AGN
3/9/99 - 12/23/09
Meg passed very peacefully here at home in our arms tonight.
God Speed beautiful, gentle soul.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Putting the ornaments on the tree at the Conrad household take a few days. Over the years we have collected many ornaments to commemorate what was currently going on in our lives. One year in Florida we found a small starfish painted as a Santa. One year in Duluth we found birch bark cut in the shape of a star. When our son was on the golf team in high school, he received an ornament of a bag of golf clubs. We also have accumulated many ornaments of animals, loons, blue jays, cardinals, whales, etc. And of course many dog ornaments.
I love to fish, and have many ornaments associated with fishing. One of my favorites, depicts an ice fishing scene. Last year's calendar blog (December 6th) described one of our summer fishing adventures. But, I fish both in the summer and the winter. Here is an ice fishing adventure that included Kona.
My son and I were fishing on Carl's lake near hear, it wasn't too cold and Kona came along with us. Kona liked to visit others fishing, so I had attached a long clothes line (approximately 25') to his collar. Fishing was slow so Chris walked a ways off to see if he would have better luck. Kona wanted to go with him, so Chris tied his rope to the handle of the 5 gallon pail he was sitting on.
Now, if you live somewhere where they do not ice fish, I realize this may not make a lot of sense, but please follow along.
So Chris needed something he had left by me, so he walked back to where I was fishing. Kona (not surprising to those of you who know Kona) did not want to be left out. He followed, without realizing he was tied to the pail. Nobody realized Kona was tied to the pail. When Kona got to the end of the rope, the pail tipped over. There was not a lot of snow on the ice, so when the pail tipped over it was kind of loud. Kona does not like loud sounds. It startled him, and he ran a few steps. The pail followed. Kona is a bright dog, so he immediately deduced that this pail was trying to get him. He ran further, the pail followed. He took off running full speed, and that evil pail sped up too.
Picture Chris and I standing in the middle of the lake (with many others fishing), Kona is running full speed in a huge circle around all the fisherpeople, and this pail is bouncing on the ice, flying high in the air only to bounce on the ice again, and on and on. My calls to Kona went unheard, he was trying every evasive maneuver he could think of to loose this pail, all to no avail.
The story did end happily, he came close enough to us and he slipped so I was able to dive toward the rope and fall on it. Without that rope, Kona may have run until he was exhausted.
All around the world children practice the tradition of leaving Christmas cookies out for Santa Clause on Christmas Eve. As the myth goes, Santa gets hungry flying around all over the world delivering to all the good boys and girls and he needs a snack.
Children are happy to oblige setting up a plate of cookies and a glass of milk before retiring to bed on Christmas Eve. Many children fight to stay awake hoping to get a glance of Santa, or to share their Christmas cookies with him in person.
Most children know however, that Santa doesn’t come unless they are fast asleep though it is hard to fight the urge to take a peek. Often Santa leaves a note to the boys and girls thanking them or telling them how much he enjoyed the Christmas cookies.
The tradition of Christmas cookies for Santa isn’t an incredibly old one. In fact, it is believed to have emerged around the time of the Great Depression when parents wanted to inspire their children to share with others, especially in hard times.
The favorite cookies in the Conrad household are Almond Thumbprint Cookies. These are not the easiest cookies to make, they are a bit time consuming. But, they taste great. The rumor this year is that our girls make a huge batch of Almond Thumbprint cookies, but they ate so many of them already that they needed to make another batch.
Does it surprise you to hear these same girls claimed to be tortured each Christmas eve because they were not allowed to open gifts until Christmas morning (after Santa arrived!)?
By the way, Almond Pawprint Cookies might be just as good!!!
cups Sifted all-purpose flour
Chopped pistachio nut for garnish
Preparation time: 45 minutes Baking time: 16 minutes
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. For cookies, sift flour, sugar and salt into bowl. Cut in 1 cup butter with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Blend in almonds and vanilla. Work mixture with fingers until a ball of dough is formed. Then shape into 1-inch balls.
2. Place balls on greased cookie sheets; make a depression in center of each cookie. Bake about 8 minutes; remove from oven. Dent again and bake about 8 minutes longer; cool.
3. For frosting, blend 6 tablespoons butter, half-and-half and brown sugar in saucepan. Boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Cool about 15 minutes, then stir in confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth and thick.
4. Fill depressions in cookies with butterscotch frosting and sprinkle frosting with nuts.
We enjoyed a cozy fire in the fireplace this evening, and wondered how it became tradition for Santa Claus to deliver gifts by coming down the fireplace chimney.
The tradition of hanging Christmas stockings by the fireplace actually started with a man (a very long time ago) who squandered his fortune away. Some say it was due to depression after his wife's death. Nevertheless, he left his three daughters penniless and without a dowry.
Because these three women had no dowry, they would be unable to marry. After all, in those days a man didn't usually marry a women without a dowry attached (I told you it was a very long time ago).
One night, as the sisters had left their socks by the fireplace to dry, St. Nicholas rode by the girls' home on his horse, saw the stockings hanging and flung down the chimney. The coins landed in the girls' stockings, becoming the very first stocking stuffers.
So what happens in homes without fireplaces???
It’s been a busy December, and I waited until today to buy a tree. Not a good idea. The garden center where we usually buy our tree had about 8 Charlie Brown trees left. I purchased a tree there in previous years just a day or 2 days before Christmas and had a good number to choose from. The tenuous economy must have prompted them to limit the number of trees they cut, so that they don’t end up as wood chips the day after Christmas. But, good news, I found a nice Fraser fir at another local lot. As you can see, Onyx likes to help prepare the tree for bringing it into the house.
We have been buying Fraser firs for our Christmas tree for years. The Frasier fir is a small evergreen coniferous tree. The crown is conical, with straight branches from horizontal to angled 40° upward from the trunk.
The Fraser fir is widely used as a Christmas tree. Its fragrance, shape, strong limbs, and ability to retain its soft needles for a long time when cut make it one of the best trees for this purpose. The Fraser fir has been used more times as the Blue Room Christmas tree (the official White House Christmas tree of the President) than any other type of tree.
Historically, evergreen trees represented eternal life and the promise of replenishment during the cold winter solstice. Apples and other fruit were hung upon the tree to represent the plentiful food to come. Candles were lighted to symbolize the warmth and brightness of the sun.
This year should be much easier for me to trim the tree. Last year at this time I was still in my back brace, and bending over was difficult at best. Then again, perhaps there were few ornaments on the bottom of last year’s tree due to our 7 month old flat-coat. This year I hope for an even distribution of ornaments on the tree from top to bottom.
Doggies, do you know where your tails are?!?!?
Kona not only enjoys playing with logs while outdoors, he also enjoys geocaching.
Geocaching is an outdoor activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container (usually a tupperware or ammo box) containing a logbook. Larger containers can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little value. Geocaching is most often described as a "game of high-tech hide and seek", sharing many aspects with orienteering, treasure-hunting and waymarking.
The latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates, along with other details of the location, are posted on a listing site (www.geocaching.com). Other geocachers obtain the coordinates from that listing site and seek out the cache using their GPS handheld receivers. The finding geocachers record their exploits in the logbook and online. Geocachers are free to take objects (except the logbook, pencil, or stamp) from the cache in exchange for leaving something of similar or higher value, so there is treasure for the next person to find.
Geocaches are currently placed in over 100 countries around the world and on all seven continents, including Antarctica. As of November 22, 2009, there are over 945,023 active geocaches throughout the world.
90°N 0°W, why the coordinates of the North Pole, of course?
Kona has always liked bells. When Kona was a puppy (at that time he was our only dog, I can’t even remember having only 1 dog), we taught him to ring a bell to go outside. The bell is hanging on a string by the front door. He learned to whap the bell with his front paw when he needed to go outside. The flat-coats followed, and they never picked up this skill (don’t know whether that was due to trainers or trainees). To this day, Kona rings the bell when he wants to go outside.
So, this morning I wake up and find our First Gift of Christmas Bell on a ribbon around Kona’s neck. How did this bell get around Kona’s neck? The last time I saw this Bell it was in one of the elfies hands, as the elfie was sitting up on the mantel above our fireplace.
The First Gift of Christmas Bell remains on our mantel year around. The story of the First Gift of Christmas Bell is told in the book The Polar Express. The Hero Boy is handpicked by Santa Claus to receive the First Gift Of Christmas. Realizing that he could choose anything in the world, the Boy asks for the beautiful-sounding silver bell (that only believers can hear) which fell from Santa's sleigh.
Read the book, or rent the movie to find out the details on how the Boy received the Bell from Santa as the First Gift of Christmas, lost the Bell and still ended up with the Bell on Christmas Day.
“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe." Hero Boy, The Polar Express
P.S. Kona hurt his foot playing out in the yard yesterday, he'll be fine in a couple of days. Yes, that is Vikings purple, GO VIKES!!!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
It's a tie, Meg, Snicker and Onyx all like to run in the snow the most!
Follow the link below for more pictures of Onyx running in the snow!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
OK, who do you think likes to run in the snow more, Meg or Snicker?
Follow the link below for more pictures of Snicker running in the snow!
Monday, December 14, 2009
Meg thinks running and playing in the fresh snow is fun.
Follow the link below for more
pictures of Meg running in the snow!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Meg took the day off from decorating the house to do one of her favorite wintertime activities, rolling on her back in the new snow.
OK, for almost a week now we have been suspecting the elfies and the dogs have been “frolicking” around the house overnight. We have not seen or heard anything definitive, it’s just the way the dogs look at the elfies each morning.
Last night, in the middle of the night, I thought I heard something. I got up to check. There was Snicker making believe she was sleeping with the moose! I watched them both for a couple of minutes, other than breathing, they did not move. I gave up and went back to bed. The next morning, the moose was back on the coffee table where it was the day before.
Most of the elfies are in different places each morning (they are moving around way more this year than any previous year), and as the dogs see them, their gaze lingers a bit, it is almost as if they are winking or nodding at the elfies, acknowledging something!
“A wink is a facial expression made by
briefly closing one eye. A wink is an informal mode of communication
usually signaling, depending on context shared hidden knowledge or
intent. In most cases it is only meant to be known by the sender and
their intended receiver(s).”
Ain’t that the truth!!!
Thomas Edison, the inventor of the first successful practical light bulb, created the very first strand of electric lights. During the Christmas season of 1880, these strands were strung around the outside of his Menlo Park Laboratory. Railroad passengers traveling by the laboratory got their first look at an electrical light display. But it would take almost forty years for electric Christmas lights to become the tradition that we all know and love.
Before electric Christmas lights, families would use candles to light up their Christmas trees. This practice was often dangerous and led to many home fires. Edward H. Johnson put the very first string of electric Christmas tree lights together in 1882. Johnson, Edison’s friend and partner in the Edison’s Illumination Company, hand-wired 80 red, white and blue light bulbs and wound them around his Christmas tree. Not only was the tree illuminated with electricity, it also revolved.
However, the world was not quite ready for electrical illumination. There was a great mistrust of electricity and it would take many more years for society to decorate its Christmas trees and homes with electric lights. Some credit President Grover Cleveland with spurring the acceptance of indoor electric Christmas lights. In 1895, President Cleveland requested that the White House family Christmas tree be illuminated by hundreds of multi-colored electric light bulbs.
On Christmas Eve 1923, President Calvin Coolidge began the country’s celebration of Christmas by lighting the National Christmas Tree with 3,000 electric lights on the Ellipse located south of the While House.
Today we expect to
see the holiday season (and, at times our dogs) become aglow with electric
strands of light.
After one of the warmest Novembers in recorded weather history, winter has come to the Twin Cities. Yesterday brought just under 8" of snow, wind chills today are predicted at colder than 10 below! Air temperature this evening will dip below zero, who knows how low the wind chill will be tonight.
So, rather than continuing to decorate the house (no Christmas tree yet), we decided instead on a roaring fire in the fireplace. Kona helps load the fireplace, but only before the fire is started. None of our dogs like to get too close to the fire, I think its just too warm for them. And yes, we have a fireplace that burns wood. And, we will have a Christmas tree that loses its needles.
Hope everyone will be warm tonight!
OK, now I understand that elfies know all
there is about Christmas presents, and these days there certainly are lots
and lots of electronic gifts, PS2, DS, Wii and on and on. So I needed to
get up early for an early meeting at work. I walk into the family room
and what do I see, here is an elfie and Onyx on our Wii Fit Balance
Board. First Onyx was lying down on the board with the elfie standing
beside him, then Onyx popped up with his front feet on the Balance Board.
Of course, the elfie did not move, we have never seen an elfie
move. They change positions almost every night, but we have never seen
them move. Elfies are truly Magic! The TV was on too (volume was turned
almost all the way down). Who was on the screen? Jillian! Then
Snicker and Meg came down and practiced their "feet" on the board.
This is just too bizarre.
After the elfies triumphant return yesterday, it is time to continue decorating our home. They are predicting snow for tomorrow and Wednesday, today it is time to put the wreath on the front door and to get out some of our holiday candles and candle rings . Meg, Snicker and Kona were called into service to help carry decorations up from the basement. They were somewhat reluctant, but, they did help, and our front door wreath is ready for the new fresh snowfall.
Wreaths displayed at Christmas are in the form of a circle, signifying eternity. They also serve to wish people happiness in the new year. Christmas wreaths are decorated with holly, evergreen, red berries and pinecones, symbolizing the fall harvest. The wreath brings a warmth to people's hearts and helps them to reflect upon the true meaning of this very special season.
Perhaps the best Yuletide
decoration is being wreathed in smiles.
The elfies have arrived!!! We awoke this morning to a house full of elfies. It was great to see that they have returned, and we walked throughout the house to see where they all were stationed. They are up to their mischievous ways, as a matter of fact, perhaps a bit more mischievous than usual for the first night. One was perched on top of the Keurig coffee maker, I hope he moves to another place soon, I like a cup of coffee before I head off to work. The llama elfie that Kona met up at the north pole last year is here this year. He had created quite an interesting pattern in the Zen box. We remember Kona told us that year that llama elfies do not like to be called llamies!
The biggest problem is the elfie that is sitting on our flexi leash. We had to get a flexi out of the car to use today. If this year is like past years, the elfies will move around each evening until they settle in a place that gives them good visibility to everything that goes on in the house. Remember, their job is to report to Santa who should be on the nice list and who should be on the naughty list.
Do you think the dogs see the elfies moving around overnight???
Saturday, December 5, 2009
So who is this St Nic? In many countries of the world, St Nicholas, not Santa Claus is the main gift giver. His feast day, St Nicholas Day is tomorrow, December 6th.
The feast of St. Nicholas comes at the beginning of the Advent season, and the beginning of the shopper's season. As the patron saint of shoppers St Nic proclaims, ‘Keep it simple!' Keep it simple enough to fit in a shoe or a stocking.
St Nicholas delights with small surprises and good things to eat. Nicholas gives in secret, alert to others' needs, and expecting nothing for himself in return. Children will find treats of small gifts, fruit or nuts, and special Nicholas candies and cookies, gifts that could fit in a shoe, or in a stocking hanging on the fireplace. St Nicholas gifts are meant to be shared, not hoarded for oneself. It is this selfless generosity which seeks only the good of the other that made Nicholas' gifts the gifts of a saint.
Tonight the dogs will help us put out our St Nic stockings. Honestly, we do not wish for fruit or candies (and we certainly hope that we do not receive coal!). The gift we hope for is the return of our elfies. The return of our elfies truly kicks off our holiday season.
We wish you time to enjoy the simple pleasures of this holiday season. May your holidays sparkle and shine, be filled with wonder, be touched by peace, believe in the miracle.
Tomorrow, we hope to celebrate the return of our elfies!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more." — The Grinch, Dr. Seuss
OK, now we know the Conrad elfies are expecting our home to be decorated for the holidays with the learning of our dogs’ adventures last year at the North Pole .
Yikes, where do we start?
We closely watched our dogs’ behavior to see if we could fathom a clue on where to start. Again, they were acting a bit weird, standing at their food bowls long after they had eaten all their food. What were they trying to tell us?
It was getting late, we had to guess. We had already unpacked our Christmas coffee mugs (remember, our new candy cane elfie was hanging onto the edge of my favorite mug). But, we had not unpacked any of our Christmas china.
We guessed the dogs were telling us that it was time to get out our dishes!
Oh what chaos! Check out some of these pictures, we pack up our placemats and napkins with the dishes, Meg thought a placemat would be a great bandana. Look at Snicker trying to help unpack some of our glasses, I hope I don’t get this glass to drink from. And do you think Onyx really needs a dog blanket, it's a rug, not a blanket!. And look at Kona, he got into the middle of everything!
We all give up (and all the dishes are finally unpacked). Overnight tomorrow night the elfies come back, we hope they will understand that we’ve only just begun to decorate our home for Christmas.
By the way, don’t worry, no dogs (or people) were harmed in the production of this day in the Flashback Advent calendar.
Another morning with no visible changes around the house. Each morning we get up a bit earlier, anxiously looking around to see if more elfies have arrived. Finding one yesterday in the kitchen cabinet threw us for a loop, in years past the elfies have always been visible, they seem to distribute themselves around the house in different rooms, seldom will you see 2 elfies in the same room (except for the elfie meeting we interrupted last year, see December 2, 2008). We always thought they positioned themselves in visible positions so that they could keep an eye on us! Kind of a “if you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you” truck kind of thing.
Gosh, this year the advent season is sure starting out slowly!
Wait, Linda just hollered and told me she received an email from the elfies! I’ve copied and pasted a section below.
Oh Boy, the elfies are expecting our dogs to help decorate our home, how do you think that will work out??? Les and Linda
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
December 2nd brings no changes at the Conrad house. The mouse elfie remains hidden in the plant, no sign of any other elfies. Linda and I are really surprised, after last year, we expected more activity as soon as the calendars changed to December. Our dogs also seem strange. We may be "looking" for something different in their behavior, but they just seem different, almost as if they were hiding something from us.
We all will just have to wait to see what happens over the next few days. By the way, both Linda and I made sure we had perfect behavior yesterday, we don't want our mouse elfie friend to provide any bad behavior reports, do you know what I mean???
'Till tomorrow - Les
Update: OK, so I thought there were no changes, until I opened the cabinet to get a coffee cup for my morning java. There, hanging from a candy cane on the edge of my favorite coffee cup was a brand new elfie! This is truly one of the happiest elfies I've ever met, don't you just love this little guy!!!
I skipped coffee this morning, there was no way I was willing to risk reaching in for a different cup. As you know, elfies are magic. If you accidentally touch an elfie, they remain magic if you quickly place your index finger on your nose and spin around 3 times, definitely not the way I want to start out my day!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Today is December 1st. We woke up this morning uncertain what we would find. Our thoughts went back to last December. You all may remember what happened last year, the Flashback dogs had quite an adventure!
Last year, all of the Conrad elfies arrived here in Prior Lake on December 1st. That was a bit early. In previous years, our elfies would arrive on St Nic eve (December 5th). Not last year, the elfies were here on the 1st. By last December 3rd, our dogs had traveled to the North Pole through the elfie portal (who even knew there was anything called an elfie portal), they spent last December helping the elfies with the final preparations for Christmas 2008. If you do not remember last year's experience, you can check out last year's advent calendar at 2008 Flashback Advent Calendar.
This morning, no elfies yet!
Actually, that is not exactly true. In early June, I noticed one of
the mouse elfies hiding in a artificial plant that we have on top of one
of our glassware cabinets. I'm not sure how I saw it, it was buried
in the plant, just peeking out. I didn't even tell Linda that one of
the elfies stayed the year. We have not seen that happen in years.
It happened quite a bit when our kids were young. We used to tell
our kids that they stayed the year round because Santa wanted the elfies
to keep an eye on our kids all year around, behavior issues. Do you
think the elfies felt the need to keep an eye on Linda and I year around???