Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas Message 2015

We hope that your Christmas celebration and time with your family and other loved ones is wonderful this year.  We have really enjoyed this Christmas season,  trying to slow it down, do less running around and to be more intentional in our reflection upon what is most important.  It always boils down to faith in Jesus Christ, our Family and Friends.  We have used this time to ponder more upon the significance of Christ’s importance in our lives. Also how it pertains to our spirituality and our way of living each day as He would have us do, in remembrance of Him. We have been studying more together.

Us in April at a Relief Society Conference
Manning our Booth on Family History

Our church service has been very fun this year and we have learned a lot and enjoyed the fellowship of other like-minded people in Family History.  We extended our service mission for another three years.  Jim continues also with his Mondays in the engineering department at the Temple which he dearly loves to do.  We have benefitted immeasurably by what we have learned about our ancestors this year.  Especially in Wales and Italy.  I have especially enjoyed teaching.

Jim and his good friend Dave have been out serving others most days and they have totally enjoyed that as well.  There is something about service that is so wonderful and magnificent.  You take the focus off of yourself and give of your time to uplift others.  Gifts from the heart are the best kind.  Things that money just cannot buy.  We've had a Santa's workshop going on in our shop and all kinds of fun things to keep the guys more than busy.

I always like to decorate the house in every room in preparation for Christmas.  I have thought a lot about why I enjoyed this part so much this year.  The reason is quite simple.  It is our tradition.  The thought of it is always daunting, but when I open each box and see the treasures inside it just fills my heart with love of Christmases past and wonderful times over the past 47 years.  There are sweet things my mother gave me when we were first married and had very little money for such things.  We used to call her Mrs. Claus.  She delighted in Christmas and went all out.   We have my Dad's Sleigh Bells from his home back in North Dakota,  in the early part of the last century when he was a boy.  We have serving pieces that belonged to Jim's Gramma Marge and many other sentimental treasures.

People often give me Christmas things for our home.  Each gift brings back memories of the beautiful people in our lives.  Each year I bring out the photo in a little heart-shaped, silver frame of our little kids sitting on Santa’s knee.  That really brings the memories flooding back.  The little eager kids, in bed late and up before the sun on Christmas morning, with wrapping paper flying and excitement in seeing their merriment.  The relaxing Christmas days when the months of preparation and planning were just past and realizing it has all been worth it.  The miracles we experienced when our cup was always overflowing when we didn't know before hand how we could do it.  

Most years since we were married we have had a Christmas family gathering at our house.  I love creating the environment for that Christmas party.  We want our family to have the best time and every little detail is part of that effort for both of us.  Making memories is the best!  When I take out our Christmas dishes now nearly 35 years old..the thought of all those loved ones and friends who have used those dishes over the years come to my mine.  Each person.  The grandparents and great-grandparents of the kids, all gone now but one.  I think of my Mom, our Fathers, Jim’s Brother Gary, Gail and Becky, Gramma Marge and Grampa Andrew, Nana, Lala Angie.  And Uncle Tom and Aunt Jean and Ruth come to mind. My brothers and their families, my cousin Bob and his wife Beth, and all the children, ours and the little cousins.  And then the grandkids.  As Jim says often and I quote, "It doesn't get much better than this."    The memories of the excitement of the children when Santa would arrive each year during our all comes back.  Especially the time little Nicholas was positive he had seen Santa's Sleigh outside our big picture window in the dining room.  That little Christmas baby is turning 35 this week.

We would cook old family favorites and still do.  Especially the Italian delights from Jim's grandmother's recipes.  In fact Jim is doing that right now as I write this.  Traditions are so important in a family.  I am sure you have some fabulous ones too.  Do your children or grandchildren act out the nativity scene with each other at your gathering?  Do you sing  Christmas songs like we do?   The carols are such a part of Christmas here.  Whatever you do, may it be the Merriest this year. Traditions, both spiritual and secular, are what keep us grounded and unified in a changing and sometimes frightening world.  We embrace them as best we can.  As things change and time marches on, these are the memories that I keep in my heart and in our Christmas boxes of decorations.  All of it is overshadowed by the love of the Savior for each of us as individuals and as families.  God is love and that is all we need.

The Prayer by David Archuleta

Not everything was wonderful this year.  There were trials and challenges but we try to stay focused on the good and keep a positive attitude.  We lost two friends this month in unexpected deaths.  Very sad and we miss them,  and we pray for their families.  Christmas brings comfort in such times.  May we each find the comfort and peace in it.

This beautiful picture was taken this past Friday Night.  Our long time friends, Velda and Ed, were photographed as Mary and Joseph.  The next morning Velda passed away unexpectedly.  Her wonderful life will be celebrated in a memorial service the day after Christmas. What a beautiful picture to be her last...a real testimony of who she really was.  God bless you dear Ed.

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2015 in Review~The Travels

Reflecting on our 2015 as we approach 2016... 
Wasn’t it just Y2K?

This year has been one of travel, adventure and being with our family for us.  We figured out that one or both of us were out of California for some part of all but three months.  It was exhilarating as well as tiring and our November and December have been a time to relax a little bit and get organized and back into a routine.  

One thing we have discovered is the travel seems to make things slow down.  Not that we aren’t on the run, but each day is different which makes them more memorable.  Our big trip of nearly five weeks in England and Wales that was sandwiched in-between time on each end in Rhode Island was extraordinary.  During that time we spent quality time with both Chris and Laura’s families.  We enjoyed splitting up the long plane ride that way too.

Rhode Island is always a fun place to visit.  It was in May and the blooming trees were spectacular.  

Their neighborhood is just so pretty and peaceful and quiet.

This house is so picturesque!
Just down the street from the kids.

We were able to be there for Spencer’s 16th birthday party and his ordination to the office of a teacher in the church.  That was really neat.  Spencer said, "This is the happiest day of my life!"

 We were able to watch Ross with his new kitten Cheeto which was so much fun.  He loves their kitties (Cheeto and his mom Autumn) and nurtures them in such a sweet way.  They are strictly outside cats and he spends a lot of time with them.  The kitten was tiny in May but has grown to this size already.  The boys have grown up some more too!

Ross and Spencer

We went to Boston and that was really exciting.  We toured The Old North Church in Boston which was incredibly beautiful and the history is so impressively preserved.  The inside was beautiful as you see. This is the choir loft below.

"One If By Land, Two If By Sea!"

We also spent a delightful day In Lexington and Concord, MA.  Very Historic and learned all about the Minutemen..the mascot for Concord High in CA.  We love going where the things we've learned from the past actually happened.  

Lexington Square

We toured the new Museum of WWII in Boston which has over 7000 artifacts from that time period.  It is a private collection and there is a lot of hands-on encouraged.  This is a must see for anyone interested in WWII.  The best part was just being with our family and enjoying their home, their activities, their friends, and I must say discovering the best Italian restaurant e.v.e.r. in Providence, RI.  Zuma's!

Zuma's Dessert with Laura and Robert
Better than Italy itself.
The Boys thoroughly enjoyed it too.

We will truly miss their home in Rhode Island. 
 The above short video is my last memory of it.  
A wonderfully peaceful haven in a very crazy world.

These guy moved to Virginia in mid-summer and are now enjoying life in a new place for the first time in 5 years.  Everyone is settling in to their new school, work and ward family.  The neighborhood is fabulous and all is well.  Their family is remarkably adaptable to military life.

There are no words to describe our time in England except to say that being with Chris and Missy and the kids was a dream come true.  Living in a house and experiencing a country that way is spectacular.  We've been able to do this in three countries now; Scotland, Italy and now England.
The kids really had the time of their lives there and they shared it with us in the best way.  We traveled around England a bit and fell in love.  The countryside is like no other.  Just lush and green and quaint and lovely.  

Our rental car and the guy who tackled all of 
that backwards inside out driving and won!

The Backyard of their House in England
Loved that sun room!

Our first few days in England were so great.  We got a royal reception from Chris, Missy and the kids.  The kids still had some school left before vacation so we took off on an adventure of our own. The driving adventures were both frightening and funny in retrospect.  Jim clocked 2150 miles with not even a scratch on the car.  He was incredible.  I could have never done that!  The two of us took a side trip to Wales where we did some discovering of 'places past' for my Welsh ancestors.  We stayed in the Carmarthen area in a great BnB cottage.  Oh my, those few days was so rewarding and enlightening and too short.  We plan to go back.

We did a lot of churchyard exploring in Wales.
It is such a beautiful part of the UK
We spend time in Rhandirmwyn talking 
to people and seeing where my ancestors lived.

When we returned to England we met our kids in Canterbury for a fabulous time there. 

Canterbury Cathedral

We visited castles and museums and little towns, various wards for church, libraries, famous places like the Grand House-Chatsworth and Sherwood Forest and ordinary spots and had a ball the whole time we were in the UK.

Zach, Owen, and Aynslee
Rope course and zip line in Sherwood Forest!

A scary high adult zip line for Conner and 
his two friends visiting from America.

We also went to Chester and visited with my long time cyber friends Marie and Todd.  What a delightful day we had.  We had our first authentic pub meal with them.  Of course we did not miss London (I saw the airport and the rest of them did London one day.  

Chris and Jim on The Eye

This was pure Eye Candy during our drought at home.

For me the countryside was the best.  I did copious amounts of writing while on the trip about our experiences which I have yet to finish and publish.  And Jim loved everything we did, especially Dover Castle where they had a live reenactment of the WWII going on.    We went to the movies, ate in fun places but the very best place by far was Chris and Missy’s house.  Missy is a gourmet cook and she did English cooking like no other!  What a gem she is!  Their whole family made it so much fun for us.  It was hard to leave them all and come home for sure.

Aynslee, Connor, Owen and Zachary on their trip
 to Holland during the year they lived in Loughborough, England.
They took advantage of many of their weekends and 
school breaks to travel throughout Europe.

Almost all the rest of our travels involved going to Utah.  I had the privilege of attending RootsTech in February with my great friend, Carol.  We had a wonderful time and we are already gearing up for this coming year's adventure.  In July I attended the BYU Genealogy Conference.  It was definitely a highlight in my year.

 We were able to spend time with Jen and Lowell’s family also in April at Easter time.  That was really fun.  They always do such a super job of making holidays fun for everyone.  Easter was no exception.  Nobody makes an Easter Basket better than Miss Jen.  Lowell had been to Scotland the week or so before and brought back treats and sweeties from Scotland.  The British do some very cool and unique candies.  She creates the fabulous baskets and then makes tags for each of the girls.

Jen and Lowell

Girls and their Easter Baskets and 
Grampa cooking breakfast on Easter morning.

They had some of Lowell's family over for dinner on Easter.  They are great people and just part of the family for us too.  It was a beautiful day and great to be together.  We had a day downtown on the Salt Lake City inter city train system.  Of course it included a visit to their new fancy mall.  We did a lot of cooking one day to stock up the freezer for Jen.  It was just fun to hang out and be with them. And to love up these girls of course.

Hazie in her very fancy dress!

Julia Got Braces!

Piper and Chloe~Sweet Sisters!

We got together with the other kids and cousins and shot this fun photo that day in August. I was there for the BYU genealogy conference and then Jim drove out with his Mom for Owen's Baptism.

 Back row:  Julia, Zachary, Chloe, Piper,
 Front row Connor, Aynslee, Hazie, Owen

Owen's Baptism Day
It is so nice to have them back in the States now!

The Stewarts also came to visit us this summer in July.  We love it so much when the kids come to visit.  We found a spot for everyone to sleep and we just had a great time.

Hazel's the corner on the window seat in the family room. 
 She loved sleeping there.

 We went to San Francisco twice, the beach, the aquarium, Santa Cruz Boardwalk. We had a big backyard party so that they could catch up with everyone.  We went to Muirwoods and Muir Beach Lookout Point.  It is just the best to have them come home.  We find that no matter where you go in the world there is so much beauty right around home to enjoy as well.


The Little Sisters!  Chloe teaching Hazie about the redwood trees.

Fort Point View of San Francisco Skyscape

We also did fun things at home like making peach cobbler!
Hazie loved making this but never tasted it...
she is not liking peaches apparently!

The Big Sisters!
We are so happy you all came to visit!

Our final trip of the year was to Washington state in September for a family reunion with our beloved cousins, the Hallsteds.  It was so much fun and something we hope to do again soon.  We love car trips and enjoyed the north coast of California and most of all seeing all of them for a relaxing several days!

California Coastal Redwoods 
Simply Breathtaking!

Our Beloved Cousins,
My Dad's Sister's Kids.
These are some very fine and loving people!

We're going to travel far less next year but we would like to go to Virginia and see Laura and Robert's family and new home.  Then there is a Family Reunion in Utah someplace.  And at least one Conference in Salt Lake.  So the beat goes on....Life is good.  

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Around The Cottage 2015

The Dining Room

Guests Arriving Soon

Our family dinner this year the past Sunday
Left front Bob, my cousin, his wife Beth, 
My brother Steve, Jim, Steve's wife, Emily, 
Marilyn my brother Gary's wife, and Gary my youngest brother.
this is the Italian First Course. Antipasto

Byer Carolers and my Dad's Sleigh Bells on the buffet.

Mantel with a close up of the garland

The stockings

The Nativity

The Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom Tree

Dresser Top

Chest of Drawers top

The Kitchen

Kitchen Table Center Piece with Oil Lamp on Copper Tray

The Kitchen Fireplace

Christmas Eve at Joe and Nancy's tonight.
They gave everyone one of these Christmas Tree ornaments
commemorating over 50 years of Mattsons gathering
each Christmas Eve.
Sometimes it pays off to be just down to the wire
with publishing a Christmas Greeting Blog.

The Guest Room~No takers for Christmas so far!  ;-/

Santa~Main Bath

Main Bath

The Family Room

My office area looking into the Family Room

Laundry room

The Shop is not decorated this year but next year it will have a big wreath
 on the double doors and a sign that says Santa's Workshop above them!

Our friend, Forrest, Santa's Elf making a doll house for his kids!
It turned out very well.  Lucky kiddies.

Merry Christmas To All And To All A Good Night!

With Love, Bonnie & Jim