Sunday, December 25, 2022

A Very, Very White Christmas - Week of Dec. 19th

"A balanced diet is a Christmas cookie in each hand."

The First Christmas Cookies 
Those who would like to take credit for the invention of the Christmas cookie will have to arm wrestle the Germans for it. They believe that Weihnachtspl├Ątzchen, a term that refers specifically to cookies and broadly to holiday treats, encompasses the origin of Christmas baking. The tradition goes back to the monasteries of the middle ages where monks had access to sugar and the spices we now associate with Christmas cookies: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cardamom. It’s interesting that the word “cookie” comes from the Dutch word “koeptje” because the Dutch brought the first Christmas cookies to the new world in the 1600s. Four hundred years later we live in a country that can’t imagine Christmas without cookies. In fact, cookies may have become popular at this time of year because, unlike pies and cakes, they can be stored for longer periods of time. Before refrigeration, it was possible for cookies to be baked in advance and kept on hand for visitors or given away as gifts. 

Modern Christmas Cookies 
In the average American household at the beginning of the 20th century, sugar was a luxury, iceboxes were used to keep food cold, and cooking was done on coal or wood stoves. As the gas range was introduced, cookies became more sophisticated because temperatures could be precisely maintained. Refrigeration allowed for the use of chilled doughs. When the Great Depression of the 1930s ended, buttery, sugary cookies took America by storm.

In preparation for the Christmas holiday, our cousins made their way to Grand Rapids on Wednesday for some holiday baking. Coco, Libby and Coco's kids Calla and baby Arthur arrived in the afternoon.  Amanda was hanging out with Cam and ready to join in.  This was the first time Cameron met his newest cousin, Arthur.  He is very excited to have a fellow boy cousin.  After frosting sugar cookies, dipping oreos in chocolate topped with andes mints, and baking peanut butter thumbprints with hershey kisses, we declared our afternoon a success!
Everyone in our Grand Rapids area and along the surrounding lakeshore kicked their activities into high gear with a confirmed blizzard warning beginning Thursday at 4pm and lasting through Christmas Eve/Saturday at 7pm.  
We were relieved to welcome Oma and Opa early in the afternoon on Thursday.
The snow machine began and didn't show any signs of stopping.
Chris went outside to snowplow twice daily.  A barely visible owl appeared in our treeline.

Our activities for both Friday and Saturday consisted of staying inside, gathering a few presents, cooking and choosing movies to watch.  Our theatrical list included the sequel to A Christmas Story entitled "A Christmas Story Christmas" as well as National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Noelle, a Disney movie.  Our dinner menus were comprised of salmon, flank steak and honeybaked ham.
Cam was acutely aware of the tasks needing to be accomplished on Christmas Eve- stockings to be hung, any presents still needing placement and a couple of surprises he had worked on with both of his parents individually.  He provided ongoing reminders throughout the day.

Cameron, as a 15-year-old, enjoys sleeping in on weekends and during school breaks.  Christmas morning was no exception.  Chris and Jane, along with their son, weren't awake until 8am.  Oma and Opa soon followed.  As we leisurely took our time with stockings and presents, it was joyful but serene.  The personalized gifts and experiences given were favorites.  The afternoon and evening was relaxing as we talked about the morning activities.  We all found ourselves in the living room enjoying a show.  Well, some of us (namely Opa) may have been so relaxed that the time incorporated a nap.  Even though the weather outside was truly frightful, inside our home was indeed delightful!

Camology Quotes:

As our teenager continues to figure out life, he came upon an important life lesson.  Prior to Christmas, Cam was very happy creating a personalized water cup for his mom with Chris ("Love My Mom" inscribed) and choosing an experience for his dad with Jane (Muskegon Luge lesson).  During the day on Christmas Eve, Cam said to his mom.

"I'm so excited for you and dad to open your presents.  I think I like giving more than receiving!"

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Rolling into Break - Week of Dec. 12th

"I like to compare the holiday season with the way a child listens to a favorite story. The pleasure is in the familiar way the story begins, the anticipation of familiar turns it takes, the familiar moments of suspense, and the familiar climax and ending." ~Fred Rogers

This week seems to bring on the phrase "fast forward" as we realize it is only two weeks before Christmas. Cam was scheduled for three half days on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for school.

On Tuesday, Jane received a message we'd all been anticipating- we would soon be welcoming another cousin into the world.  Our new cousin, Arthur, was born Wednesday morning and we were all super excited!

Friday evening, Jane & Chris went out to dinner while Amanda and Cam hung out together and enjoyed Culver's delicious meals and the customary dessert of ice cream custard.

As we worked to finish Christmas projects, Saturday was filled with activity.  Cam assisted both of his parents independently, keeping each of them on task. Chris and his son made chocolate covered cherries and pretzels for Chris to bring into work for a holiday luncheon. Cam helped his mom with packages to mail out to Arizona, California and the east coast.

On Sunday, we planned a trip to see Oma and Opa in Grand Haven. The decorations at Rosy Mound were so festive and they wanted us to enjoy them as well.  Cam still loves making the trip knowing that he'll be able to see them and also push every door button for entry and exit.

Oma had completed quite a bit of Christmas cookie baking so of course, everyone sampled.  We brought Cam's grandparents an early gift of an Amazon fire stick so that Chris and Cam could configure it for Oma and Opa to watch the Disney + programming.

It was easy to say goodbye this time knowing that Jane's parents are headed to Grand Rapids a few days prior to Christmas.  We were also entrusted to transport the delectable holiday cookies back to our home.  Oma appeared a bit nervous and Opa a bit sad that he wouldn't be able to sneak any more cookies for a few days.  Jane promptly put them away upon arrival as they await our family gathering. Let the willpower begin!

Camology Quotes:

On Friday evening, Chris was teasing Cam as he was getting ready for bed indicating he was certain his son had saved him some delicious frozen custard from his dessert.  Without missing a beat, Cam responded with:

"Have fun checking the freezer, Dad!"

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Picturing the Story - Week of Dec. 5th

“Every picture tells a story. But sometimes it's hard to know what story is actually being told.” ~Anastasia Hollings

Without pictures, you would simply being reading words instead of seeing visuals in Cameron's blog. Steven Sasson invented the self-contained digital camera at Kodak in 1975. It weighed 8 pounds and had only 100 × 100 resolution (0.01 megapixels). The image was recorded onto a cassette tape and this process took 23 seconds. His camera took images in black-and-white and was the size of a toaster!

We recently found a picture dated 1903 of Jane's great grandmother sitting in a loveseat that was made by Jane's great great grandfather.  The loveseat is more than 120 years old!  It's been recovered and is now a favorite perch for our cat, Stella.  The original photo was scanned, uploaded to Walgreens and made into a canvas print where it is now displayed.

This week we received our Christmas cards from Shutterfly and went to work sorting, stuffing and addressing.  It is a family tradition with an assembly line concept.  
Each year, we have a mini photo shoot to use the pics in our cards. The Gaupers have taken our family pictures since 2014 and we always marvel at their ability to capture their subjects so well.  A sampling shown here is just a fraction of what they send with the release rights in addition to web size and full resolution, all digitally.

On Saturday, Chris and Jane were scheduled for two holiday parties and Ms. Ann had committed her afternoon and evening to hang out with Cam.  
In the morning, Chris and son made two loaves of homemade bread in preparation for the afternoon gathering for the Lori's Voice board of directors holiday party.  Taste-testing followed and it was approved.

After Cam's parents left the late luncheon, they picked up dinner for Cam and Ann and arrived home before 5:30p.  

Following a quick wardrobe change, they were off again for the Fishbeck holiday party. Since Chris is the IT Director, the expectation was an on-time arrival and a later stay.
While the couple had a great time chatting with everyone and eating dinner, Cam and Ann watched the Beethoven dog movies and ranked them accordingly.

Sunday, we headed northward to bring lunch to Coco, Max and Calla.  It was a chilly day but toasty warm inside looking out at Lake Michigan.  We gifted our cousins the same new ornament we added to our own tree this year.  In honor of the University of Michigan Wolverines winning the Big 10 championship and headed to the Fiesta Bowl and hopefully, the National Championship, the handmade decoration seems very fitting. Go Blue!

Camology Quotes:

In Cam's class at school, they were creating positive messages about their families and each other.  One of his classmates provided the following message: "You are great at not running us over" which made us all chuckle.  Cam wrote the following about his parents:

"Dad, you are nice!" and "Mom, you are kind and helpful."

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Parading Around - Week of Nov. 28th

“Cats are unpredictable as they don't know what they're going to do next until they make it happen through nosiness, invention, acrobatics, and sheer force of will.” ~Stewart Stafford

Cam loves watching our cat, Stella.  They seem to have their own way of communicating.  The "adult kitty" as Cam sometimes refers to her, fully understands that if she wants something she should meow (incessantly) to our son which in turns leads him to ask/pester us until she is satisfied.  Stella also thoroughly enjoys the Christmas tree and being camouflaged underneath it.

On Wednesday, Chris and Jane were invited to attend the Adaptive Art Open House at the high school.  The principal, students and teachers were all in attendance.  Cam talked about his artwork and we especially liked his head vision pictures.

Thursday, Dec. 1st was Oma's birthday!  We had planned to meet Cam's grandparents at the Olive Garden restaurant in Fruitport to celebrate.  When we arrived, we were surprised to see the parking lot full at 5:15p.  Our scrumptious dinner was topped off by a free dessert for Oma.  She chose tiramisu and shared with us all.  It was Cam's first taste of the Italian classic and he really liked it.  He did ask about the taste of coffee and if it would keep him awake on a school night.  We won't disclose Cam's grandma's age, but we will say she seems ageless to us.

Friday evening, Ms. Amanda hung out with her buddy Cam while Chris and Jane enjoyed a date night at a retro arcade.  
Saturday morning was a chilly one with temperatures in the high 20's.  The brisk wind made it feel even colder.  We were expected to be a part of the Ada Village Santa Parade scheduled to commence at 11am.  Cam and his parents were lined up, holding the Brody's be Cafe spot at 10:15am.  The parade is always exciting, being a part of the festivities right in the middle of it all.  Jane and her son stopped off at the cafe to wait for Chris and thaw out a bit with some hot drinks.

Sunday afternoon, we made plans to meet up with Coco, Max and Calla at FMG. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is a 158-acre botanical garden, art museum, and outdoor sculpture park located in Grand Rapids.  The Christmas Around the World exhibit features 46 trees and displays representing countries and cultures from across the globe. In addition to the trees, the botanical area is filled with fresh poinsettias, evergreens and amaryllis. Volunteers help decorate the trees and set up displays, including 350,000 lights inside and outside the park.  After viewing each and every display, we were all impressed and picked out our favorites.  Upon exiting, we headed to Buffalo Wild Wings for some tasty food.

As we relaxed at home that evening, Cam's dad was feeling quite tired.  He was so exhausted, in fact, that he decided to hitch a ride on the back of his son's powerchair! 

Camology Quotes:

Ms. Ann works with Cam daily as his tutor.  One of the writing assignments was to think of a food that you enjoy that some people may not have tried.  Write a persuasive paragraph in which you convince readers to try the food you have chosen.  The following was Cameron's entry:

"Fish is really delicious.  They have breaded fish, fried fish, or baked fish.  I like breaded fish the best.  I like to order perch or cod.  You can dip it in tartar sauce or ranch dressing.  The fish tastes mild.  You should try it!"