Happy New Year!!

Wishing us all, a 2009 that is filled with peace, kindness and caring. This past year we've all probably seen or been through things that we never dreamed would happen. I believe in hope! So when I wake up tomorrow morning I will wake up with heart filled with hope for a great 2009 for us all! It's a brand new year, a brand to start of new beginnings. Happy New Year!


I Love Technology!


There she is, my little grandbaby waving "hi" at everyone. To me it is just amazing to watch someone that you know will be so very special to your family grow! It's these moments that even in the worst of days I'm reminded of what is important to me and I'm grateful.
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Happy Birthday Dad

My dad would have been 88 years old today. It's amazing when I think of what he saw in his life time. He grew up during the Depression, joined the Army and went to Germany during WWII and came home on the Queen Mary. When he got out of the Army he married my mom. She was a Texas girl, born and raised in Temple, but he convinced her to move out here to be with his family. My dad went to work for SoCal Edison and worked there until his retirement. Then he started refinishing antique furniture that he use to sell at Vet's Antique Swap Meet when it first started. Guess that's where I got the antique bug from. He loved my kids. His grandkids meant the world to him. He loved cats, and my mom. My mom died four days after Riley was born. As I've always said, I think she just hung on long enough to know Riley was here healthly and safe. When my dad died, they said the cause of death for my dad was Alzheimer's complications, but I think it was from a broken heart and he passed away on Valentine's Day, five months after my mom died.

My dad made me crazy most of my life, especially as he got older and struggled with the dementia/Alzheimer stuff! It was just the nature of our relationship. He was "head strong" and I guess looking back, so was I. When I look at the picture above of me and my dad, it brings back the good memories. There is something safe and secure being held in your dad's arms when you are little. I remember when our roles changed and it was my turn to take care of him. He accepted it, and evenually I did too, although it was still was difficult. But most important, I think he trusted me and hopefully felt a little more safe in the confused mind he now lived in.

After my mom had died, and he would hold Riley in his arms, he would "always" tell me, "your mom would have loved this baby" and then get a big grin on his face. That was always a hard one for me, always a struggle to keep those tears from streaming down my cheeks as I told him, "yep, she would have loved Riley". Last Valentine's Day, which was a year to the day my dad died, Riley looked at a picture of my dad and said, "Papa", that's what my kids always called my dad. No one ever taught Riley to say this, no one ever said anything about the picture, it just came out of her mouth. This morning, on my dad's birthday, Riley woke up and looked at Katie and said, "Papa", which freaked the hell out of Katie. I guess this is kind of what life is about, you know. Those you love may not be here physically, but they are always with us in our hearts. I never thought I'd say this, but I do really miss my dad, especially arguing with him, that was our speciality! Happy Birthday Papa, we love you.


We're Just Days Away From. . .

It's Country Roads annual biggest and best sale ever, "I'd Rather Shop Than Watch Football Sale" is almost here. On New Years Day, January 1st, 2009 from 10am-4pm you can make some time for yourself and "shop" rather than sit in front of the tv and watch football!! This is the time of year that our dealers are ready to "clean house" so we have some awesome sales for you. For the best stuff, get here early so you have first pick! And thanks for joining us as we begin our 17th year of business. Our customers are the best, thanks!


Christmas Memories

My family's Christmas started off at my house the way we "tradionally" do it, a pancake breakfast. Pancakes happen to be one of Riley's favorites! While everyone was finishing up breakfast, Riley couldn't wait to open presents, so Bryce let her open one from him and Justine.
Riley and Justine watching everyone opening Christmas gifts. Bryce & Katie's husband, Vinnie, "always" have the tv on. Since it was driving me crazy, I turned it to the annual "yule log fire" station as Katie and Brande "warmed" their hands by the festive yule log fire! As you can see, this was one of Riley's favorite gifts. It was a little stuffed bird that came with a book Brande had given her. Next, Brande & I went over to Katie's house to watch Riley open her gifts from Santa. This year, Katie and Vinnie did Christmas dinner. Everyone came from my family, my sister's family, Vinnie's family and more.And as awful as it sounds, there were more presents to be opened. But in the end, it's always "the box" that the kids like the best, especially when Uncle Bryce pushes you all over the house in it! I probably say this too much, but I really am blessed to have such a great family and so many good friends. Hope you all had a wonderful holiday as well!


Merry Christmas

Well, after all the work and effort our favorite time of the year has arrived. I'm hoping this is time to relax and enjoy our family's and friends. There is always something magical about Christmas, especially if you have little ones running around. Above is a picture of Josalyn & Riley at our small staff party. And below this are a few more that I hope you enjoy as well. Josalyn, Riley, and Arianna having a good time. The "girls" enjoying the presents. Sometimes its tough being not only the youngest, but the only little guy in a group of girls, right Azul? The aftermath of all the presents being opened! Brande joins the girls for some quiet time with the playdough. Azul decided he had enough of "the girls" and was busy doing his own thing. Even though there are times that it is really tough to make the time to enjoy those we love, it is always worth it. Merry Christmas to you all and hopefully you are lucky enough to see Christmas through the eyes of a child this year. It is the best thing ever!


"Thank God For Kids"

There is an old Western Christmas song about. . . . . "thanking God for kids"! With Christmas around the corner, and just finding out Bryce & Justine are having a girl, and having my Country Roads family over tonight after work to celebrate Christmas and getting to play with all their kids and Riley. . . .I KNOW that I am truly blessed. The world has been a tough place to live in this past year. But when you look in the eyes of little kids, suddenly everything magically gets a whole lot better. Brande took Riley down to the beach yesterday. It was a COLD beautiful day here, and despite the cold, wide open spaces never make little kids even think about the weather. Since Brande moved down to Seal Beach, the beach has become Riley's most favorite place to go! Just looking at her smile and the freedom of being able to run around in one of my favorite places also, reminds me how "grateful" I am to have the life I do. Happy Holidays!


Girls 4, Boys 1

My son Bryce and Justine went to have the 3-D or 4-D ultra sound today. My new grandchild is going to be a girl! Riley's new cousin that is due in June will be a little baby girl. I'm so excited, being a gramma has been by far, my most favorite thing in life. So now, our Country Roads family will still be filled with little girls (Riley, Josalyn, Arianna, and the new baby) totaling 4 girls, while little Adrian Azul will be the only little guy in the group! I have a feeling, he has a tough road ahead of him!

Christmas Arrived Early

This is an "old" picture of me and my sister visiting Santa. Why did all the Santas look like perverts back in those days? Anyway, my sister helped Christmas arrive early for me yesterday. She sent this guy over (no, don't get excited)from Make It Work, similiar to The Geek Squad. I had gotten a new computer and other electronic issues I needed help with. These guys are NOT cheap. He spent four hours at my house, setting up my new computer, updating and adding programs to my laptop and Bryce's. EVERYTHING works so perfectly, I am still in shock. It was such a cool thing for my sister, Teri, to do. This will definately be a Christmas I always remember. Thanks again Teri, you are the best!!


Happy Birthday Katie!

Katie was born 27 years ago today at 1:19 in the early morning. And like today, it was COLD! I always feel bad her birthday is so close to Christmas. But, as you see in the picture above, they sent Katie home with me all bundled up in a Christmas stocking that the Women's Auxillary League at Long Beach Community Hospital made for all the Christmas babies!This is a picture of my mom showing Brande her new little sister. It kind of appears by the look on Brande's face that she preferred to be an only child!!
Those first years with my two little girls passed by so fast, and before I knew it, Katie had turned one year old. And I was so in love with my girls, I was already planning to have another one. I always wanted to have four kids, and then Bryce was born! He was such a busy little guy, that I thought a little bit more about having another one as Bryce got older and began torturing his sisters. Actually, we are all going out to dinner tonight to celebrate Katie's birthday, and I'm sure not only Bryce, but Riley (with Uncle Bryce's encouragement) will join in to give poor Katie a tough time. Happy Birthday Katie, and sorry you are the "middle" child. But you handle it well!!


Hope Speech

"Without hope, not only gays, but those who are blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors -- the 'us's' -- without hope the 'us's' give up. I know that you can't live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you have got to give them hope." - Harvey Milk, "Hope Speech," 1978

You know, last time I posted my feelings about Prop 8, I wondered if I should have done so or not. But in hindsight I'm glad I did. I think the quote above sums up my feelings. I think I was pretty naive when it came to Prop 8 in that I was sure it would be defeated. I was really saddened that it passed, and still am. I sincerely "hope" with all my heart that it will be overturned. Prejudice and discrimination, and inequality is what Prop 8 was about. And it isn't "just" about gays, but it is about everyone, think about that. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie. And I'm "hoping" our courts will do the right thing when it comes to Prop 8's defeat. Harvey Milk made that speech 30 years ago. How can we still live in a world filled with prejudice? I will never understand.


It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

When my vintage Shiny Brites are out, I know it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I think we are all alike when it comes to bringing out all of our Christmas decorations that have been stored away for a year. Once I get mine out and start displaying them, I am always reminded how much many of my Christmas decorations mean to me. Here are just a few of my favorite things. My snowman collection is probably one of my most heartwarming collections. It was started as a gift from a friend, who gave me my first "really" awesome snowman, on the day my ex-husband was moving out of our house, which is now ten years ago. That same friend added to my collection over the years and even though we are no longer friends, her gesture of "giving" still remains with me. After my parents passed away, I added some of their snowmen to my collection along with one or two from Country Roads. A few years ago I started collecting old silver, loving cups, etc that I fill with ornaments and other random decorations. I especially like the vintage loving cups that have been engraved with different inscriptions like the one in the picture that was for the winner of the Baja Fishing Derby! This is a portion of our seven Christmas stockings that hang above my fireplace. The one on the left is Brande's, and the one on the right is Bryce's. My mom made each of my three kids these Christmas stockings after they were born. It didn't matter if it was close to Christmas, she made them anyway. And not a Christmas passes without thinking of my mom taking all the time to make stockings for my kids when they were babies. I know she would be so proud of them all. I guess that is what makes my holidays so special, those memories And lastly,the little handprints above were gifts to me from each of my kids when they were in pre-school, (the little funky Christmas hats on my butter churn are also what my mom made). The school would have them do a handprint with the date and wrap them up for us at Christmas. On the back of the little handprint "plaques" is a verse that goes like this, "Sometimes you get discouraged because I am so small, and always leave my fingerprints on the furniture and wall. But everyday I'm growing up and soon I'll be so tall, that all those little handprints will be hard to recall. So here's a little handprint just so you can remember exactly how my fingers looked for Christmas in December". It seems like yesterday when my kids gave those to me. Where does time go? Time, just like our kids, is a gift. I hope this holiday season we can all "make" the time to do what warms our hearts, you know? Happy Holidays to you all!!


The "Coolest" of Cool Cats

About ten years ago, right after my ex-husband left, a stray tom cat showed up. Turned out, I liked Leonard much better than my ex-husband, so it was a pretty good swap! I've always had cats, but Leonard will always stand out above and beyond them all. He was an outdoor cat for a long time, great at leaving rats and birds on my door step for me! Then as time passed, I kept him at night, and now he is strictly an indoor cat since he has become a senior! For some unknown reason, ever since Riley was born, Leonard has been in love with her. And now that she is a busy little two year old, he patiently plays with Riley. She looks at his teeth, turns his ears back, and LOVES to put her little chef apron on him as in the picture above. Then Riley goes back to her toy stove and cooks for Leonard. After the meal has been "prepared" Riley then attempts to feed Leonard the play food! I was always brought up around animals, as were my kids, as is Riley. But I have to say, Leonard is by far, the "coolest" of all my cool cats!!


The December Daze!

So, if you were washing your hair, which product would you choose? The conditioner on the left, or the shaving gel pictured on the right? Well, because I'm beginning to show symptoms of the "December Daze", I chose the shaving gel on the right this morning instead of conditioner! I get up early in the mornings and my time in the shower is when I, "think, think, think" as Riley likes to imitate Tigger when he is thinking and pointing to his head. I don't have a cell phone ringing or all the other distractions my days are always full of. It's truly "my" time for as short as it may be. December is hectic enough with Christmas just around the corner. Then it's the time of month my books close, ads are due, articles to write, Christmas cards to address, shopping to do, and the list goes on and on. I actually bought "blue" icicle lights for my house a week ago. I wanted "clear" lights. When I went back to return the first bunch of blue lights to Lowes, what did I do? I bought "blue" icicle lights again. What the hell?? As Bryce dragged the ladder out again to hang my lights and saw they were again "blue" he just shook his head, asking me "don't you SEE the blue lights on the box? I even had my glasses on this time!! I'm giving everyone out there the heads up, the "DD" virus (December Daze) is spreading fast, along with its side effect CRS!! Just remember to take a moment here and there to breathe deep and "think, think, think". Good luck.


Two Of My Favorite Kids!

This is a picture of Pam & Yesi, two of my favorite kids at the store that work with us. It was their "Charlie's Angel" pose at Pam's wedding. Yesi hates the picture, I happen to absolutely LOVE it!! Pam just got her wedding photos back so check back for some more fun photos of our Country Roads family!


My Family Celebrating Thanksgiving

We had a great Thanksgiving last night. We all met at Brande's apartment in Old Towne Seal Beach and then walked to Main Street for dinner at O'Malley's.While waiting for our dinner, Brande and Bryce joined Riley in some some "coloring" activity.As everyone knows, there is nothing better than when it's time for dessert for a two year old!
Dinner AND dessert were finished so Riley went to the other side of the table with Uncle Bryce and Gramma.After dinner we walked down to the pier where there is also a little park in the sand. Brande has always taken Riley there since she was a baby, and her favorite thing to do is go on the swings with Auntie Brande. The Pier looked awesome with all the holiday lights and decorations reflecting off the ocean.This is MY family, I couldn't be prouder,and of course I made them pose for my Thanksgiving family photo. These are my favorite kind of pictures!Riley insisted on having on last ride down the slide with Uncle Bryce before we left to walk back to Brande's apartment.Brande made her very first pumpkin pie and cupcakes for dessert for Thanksgiving(note, Riley was the only one that had dessert at O'Malley's). Of course Riley was ready for more dessert, her favorite part of any meal. She just needed a little help drinking some milk she was having with her pumpkin cupcake or should I say "icing".Bryce and Justine, sitting on Brande's couch, were pretty much ready to call it a night after the Thanksgiving chaos we all usually create."MY" girls, both enjoying Brande's holiday baking project that turned out quite nice!And just before we were all getting ready to go home, we got a surprise visit from Jamie Bill and her husband James. They came down from Vegas to celebrate Thanksgiving with Jamie's family. And as many of you know, Jamie was part of our Country Roads family years ago as one of our "cheerful" counter staff! Just looking at all the smiles see my family's faces, reminds what a wonderful Thanksgiving we shared. It's one that I will always remember and as I write this today, I'm very, very grateful to have been able to spend time and share laughter with my kids! It means the world to me.


Have a "Grateful" Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a time to be "grateful" for whatever has filled and warmed our hearts this year. I feel very fortunate, thankful, blessed, and all the other words that make me happy I can sit down at a Thanksgiving dinner table surrounded by all of my grown kids, my granddaughter, and my new grandbaby that Justine(Bryce's wife)is pregnant with. We have kind of a tradition of going out to eat on Thanksgiving. All of us work so much, it's become a nice tradition. We go to this Irish pub, Omally's in Old Towne Seal Beach. We go out because that way we can just sit down and relax and enjoy each others company without stressing over cooking and cleaning up. I know personally I am very thankful we are able to do this. It hasn't been a easy year for many, including myself. I'm hopeful for the new year, for Barrack, and a brighter future for all of us.

And if you are wondering why there is a picture of bricks with this blog, well here's the deal. My parents bought their house, brand new in the early 50's. With the appliances, it cost $9500! After I was born, they brought me home to this house. I grew up in that house, and myself and my kids spent many Thanksgiving dinners at that house. After my parents passed away, Katie and Vinnie bought the house. This past year they re-modeled and took out the old, original fireplace. The bricks in the picture above are from that fireplace. The bricks sit in my office on a work table behind my desk. Sometimes it's just nice to look at them and remember the past, like tonight. Believe me, our Thanksgivings at my parents house were never perfect. My mom really wasn't too good at cooking the turkey. My sister and I use to call it "turkey dust", it was pretty dry, as in no liquid to even make gravy with! It was okay though, it helped me become a vegetarian! But it was never about what we ate (obviously) but who was at the dinner table to spend time with. So, with all that said, its nice to have stuff from our past, like my fireplace bricks, to bring back fond memories. I hope you all have a "grateful" Thanksgiving tomorrow! And, BTW, I still won't be eating any turkey tomorrow!!


The Life of Riley

Riley and I spent the day together today. She's now a little over two years old, and like most little kids that age, she is busy. The other day she had a meltdown in my kitchen because I "thought" her and I had bought a bag of gingerbread men cookies. When I opened the bag it was the "ingredients" to make the cookies. Note to self, wear glasses when grocery shopping. So yesterday while at Trader Joe's I saw these big gingerbread cookies already made. Riley was excited today to have one, but just not too sure how to eat the big cookie!

After Riley finished her cookie, we went down to Seal Beach to see Auntie Brande in her new apartment by the beach. I don't know what it is about when Riley goes to visit Brande, maybe it's just some place new, maybe is the fresh ocean air, but whatever it is, Riley turns into a crazed two year old and does everything from jumping on the bed, to trying to climb up into the windows! There are sometimes you just have a have a quick "time out" to gather your thoughts. I don't think Riley quite agreed with me on that one though.

By the end of the day, with NO nap whatsoever, Riley unfortunately had experienced a couple of more time outs. When Brande moved out, we rotated rooms in my house. Bryce & Justine moved into Brande's room, I got my old office back, and Riley got her playroom back. As tired as Riley was at days end, she wanted to go play in "her" little room. One of my cats, Leonard, is old and fat and the ONLY cat that will tolerate Riley. As you can see, Leonard is wearing Riley's little "chef" apron. That cat's patience never ceases to amaze me. You can also see how very much Riley loves Leonard. I know it made her feel good to have a buddy to hug at the end of a long day!

McCalls Candles Now at Country Roads

Country Roads has been carrying Warm Glow candles for awhile now. But recently, we just picked up another line of awesome candles. Some of you may be familiar with them already as they've been around for some time now. The are the McCalls line of candles, the one's that come in the cute little canning jars! We've got all three sizes and the scents and fragrance these candles give off are unbelieveble. Come in and "smell" for yourself. As you walk in the door at Country Roads, there is no denying that we have Warm Glow and McCalls candles. You smell them the minute you come inside!


Our Fires

I live in Long Beach, not too far from the beach. It's considered LA County. This is the sky above my house, which is NOT near any of the fires! As you know fires have been burning up in LA County, which is north of me, the past few days. My store, Country Roads,is in Old Towne Orange. It's very close to the fires that are now burning. As I drove to work yesterday morning I noticed the sky ahead looking smokey. And as the day progressed, and as the news has told us this morning,there is fire everywhere! There is ash in the air and all on the ground, our roofs, and in our pools and gardens. As I was lucky and graciously able to water my garden this morning, I was reminded of the colors of nature that we find in our gardens. I still have my garden to water, my home to live in, and business to work at. I have no words to even begin to say what it must be like for those that suddenly don't have these things, these things that were so quickly taken away from them. No words at all! We've all had a tough year with the economy, but now with the fires and so much loss and devastation it is hard to find positive words. But then I'm reminded of hope and the goodness of others that have rushed to total strangers homes to help put on fires or hose down their roofs! I guess in the darkness of the smokey clouds, there is still that ray of hope and warmth in knowing that people are still good. Strangers still care about other strangers, they still help when they can. Right now, let's hope the weather gives us a break and puts an end to all the devastation. And most important, we all need to remember those simple things in life that we sometimes take for granite, like just being able to "have" a garden to water!