Let’s play a game.  (I like games.  This’ll be FUN!…trust me)

The name of our game is “Guess What They Got For Christmas”.

Our first contestant is my daughter, Reese.  Can you guess what she got for Christmas?  (Hint: she might be wearing it….them….)…


If you guessed 3 things (at least), then you’d be right!

(Did I mention that there are no prizes in this game? Just the personal pride you’ll feel in yourself with each right answer should FILL you with great joy.)

Moving on, our next contestant is Steve.  (* It should be noted that he bought his own Christmas gift, in spite of my pleads of opposition.) Any guesses as to what he got [himself] for Christmas??

….could it be the green sweater?

…or the groovy hat??




….just in case you need another hint…



(Really???)  Don’t even ask me what they’re supposed to be.  I have no idea.  They certainly aren’t glasses.

Do you see what I have to deal with around here?  What’s worse is when he wants to wear them in public.  (Heaven help me)

And, the last contestants are my children and nieces. Hmmm….I wonder what they got for Christmas?

If I had told you they got ducks, wolves, tigers, and lions for Christmas, you’d wonder…wouldn’t you. See? My illustrations are very helpful!

Did you enjoy the game? I’m kinda sad it’s over. BUT, there’s more to show you.


In my “Heritage” post (in the main menu under “I’ve been thinking…”), I explained that my great-grandparents on both sides of my family came from Sweden and Norway.


I encourage you to read “Heritage”, to see more pictures, including Steve’s great-grandparents from Scotland, Ireland and England, and things my family brought oversees that are in our home.

Even though I’m a born and bred American, I adore my family’s Scandinavian heritage, and love incorporating into my home…particularly at Christmas.


Are you familiar with the word “Smorgasbord”? It’s a funny-looking word that basically means “buffet”…which Texans (like me) TOTALLY understand (bring on the food!)

The word started in Sweden (I bet you didn’t know that), and is a combination of “open-faced sandwich” (smorgas) and “table” (bord). Imagine an open sandwich piled with goodies…

Over time, the concept of the table packed-to-the-gills with food spread to lots of countries. I’m sure you have your own term.

Here are pictures of a typical Swedish “Smorgasbord” and Norwegian “Koldtbord”.  My great-grandparents had tables of food like this for their Christmases in Sweden and Norway.

I grew up having a smorgasbord for Christmas just like those pictures, filled with only traditional Scandinavian foods that I don’t eat ordinarily.  Here was last year’s Christmas at my mother’s house (overlook the HORRIBLE quality picture…sheesh!!! It was so dark, my camera couldn’t focus).


We gather on Christmas Eve night.  We turn off the majority of the interior lights, and just let the candles and Christmas lights shine, instead.

This year, it was at our house…


We collect our foods from the Smorgasbord table and sit in the living room to eat (….and going back for seconds and thirds).  We drink Glogg (hot mulled/spiced wine from the stovetop…and going back for seconds and thirds), and open gifts.  I can’t think of a single Christmas in my life that we didn’t do this exact routine, with the exact foods…though some new ones have been added each year.

Here are pictures of our home on Christmas Eve this year (2014), just before my family arrived with additional food for the “Smorgasbord”.  (I had to turn all the lights on for these pics, but I have candles lit on all the shelves, tables, and everywhere.)

Steve made the hutch. His dad made the red shelf. Every object on the hutch and entire wall belonged to or was made by our great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, and kids. I love that the food on that table was eaten by and taught to us by those great-grandparents.



The small tree on the table was my grandmother’s.  The tree, the white base it’s in, and the wooden angel ornaments on it are all over 75 years old! In the next picture, the taller tree by the table is filled with ornaments my children have made since birth, and the rocking chair in the loft was made by Steve for Reiley when she was 2, for Christmas…and his mom made the Santa that’s sitting on it. Heritage. 🙂 Love it!


IMG_6460 (That Christmas tree skirt…above… was handmade by my great-aunt for my grandparents when my mom was a small child, over 70 years ago.  Those stockings  have my mother’s, aunt’s, uncle’s, and grandparents’ names hand-stitched on them. I LOVE this!!!)

Then my mom and the crew came.  Miraculously, the gifts multiplied and the tables got really full:  Swedish pancakes with lingonberries, Swedish meatballs, Swedish potato sausage, Scandinavian cheeses, crackers, breads, Swedish Lefsa (potato-based tortilla), vegetables/dips, olives, shrimp cocktail, smoked white fish, sardines, and of course….chips and queso (hot cheese dip), because we’re also TEXANS. (Yeee HAW!)  All foods I’ve been eating for Christmas since I can remember.  **Note: As I took these pictures, my mother was still unloading the food.  It wasn’t all out, yet…believe it or not.





We enjoyed eating, and eating…and eating, and opening gifts, and watching Christmas movies. They left at 11pm.


Time to clean up! The next morning was Christmas morning. It was absolutely impossible to wake up Christmas morning without being filled with memories about Christmas of 2013 (last year) in this same, very incomplete room….

Back then, we were initially so sad that we were sleeping in our guest house in the back of our property without any of our Christmas decorations or traditions. Every single thing we owned for Christmas from baking pans, stockings, ornaments, and tree were all in boxes in storage. We had no stove or oven to cook or bake.  Nothing. We just worked from 8am-10pm every single day TRYING to get it to the point where we could move in.  I have a link to that post at the bottom; I’ll let you read it.


Then, there was this year (with my horrible quality camera)…


We had our traditional Monkey Bread for breakfast…(and then our dog Aspen got a hold of it…eating 1/2 of it!!) Ah…memories. (Dumb dog.)

Steve’s family always gets together on Christmas Day. We exchange gifts with them before lunch. Then his family has a “gather around the table” sit-down meal for lunch, with turkey or ham, potatoes, and other vegetables.  I was in charge of the lunch this year (I JUMPED at it. COULDN”T WAIT to make it!)

Our turkey dinner/lunch was followed by a walk in the country, and gathering around the tv to watch football and movies.


The next day we had our friends the Trowbridges, their son, and our friend Mallory come out for the afternoon and dinner.


The day after that our new LHBA (Log Home Builders Association) friends, Ken and Tosha, came from Virginia to see us, again!  This time she brought her mother. They came last year, about this time. Here were pictures from 2013 visitation…

We had a wonderful afternoon chatting about log home building. They plan to build their own LHBA home once they find the perfect spot to settle down. (This picture taken this year…2015)…

The day after that (WHEW!!!) we had bird customers filtering through the house ALL day.  Steve’s a waterfowl taxidermist (ducks, geese, pheasants, quail, you name it).  I just created his website if anyone wants to see it and his work;

I really can’t tell you how often we have people in this house. Visitors are definitely weekly.  Often many days per week.

For New Year’s, Steve was at work, and the girls and I took my mother out for a gourmet lunch.  She’s now all healed from 8 months worth of back surgery, knee replacement surgery, and one carpal tunnel surgery on one hand.  I thought she deserved a nice day out.


Just after New Year’s, Steve left for a weekend of guided duck hunting with his buddies…

The girls and I stole away for a little Mexican fun while he was gone.  Mi Tierra is my favorite Mexican restaurant in downtown San Antonio.

As soon as Steve got back, we went downtown San Antonio for our 22nd wedding anniversary, January 9th.

We’ve also spent the last days of deer hunting season in our backyard woods, sitting in our blind in the last hour or so of sunlight.  Both girls are hunters, but this was Reiley’s hunt.   She was hoping for her 3rd deer, and got it!



Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to get back to work, and finish up the house…when Steve isn’t at the fire station, or spending 6 hours a day every day on mounting birds for customers.

There’s VERY little left to do inside the house. In just one week, he completed ALL baseboards and trim boards in the house, and now it’s up to me to get them all stained (3 times each…ugh).  He finished chinking everything inside that needed it.  (And, it only took him a couple hours.)



We got a few more lights put up to illuminate the tall green wall better…

With March and April planting season rapidly approaching, we’re prioritizing our yards.  We have plans for sidewalks, garden areas, front yard pond, and landscaping that will line our whole porch going all the way around. We need to get started prepping.

Here are “before” and “after” pictures of the yard.  Perhaps you can see the difference.  Tons of shrubs and trees are now gone, fires were everywhere burning it all up.



We’ve also cleared the trees away from the area where our vegetables and chicken coupe will be, in the backyard, and will start smoothing the ground, building the raised beds, bringing in soil, and building a chicken coupe for Spring chicks to live. Here’s “before” and “after” of the backyard



I named this post “Gifts” for a reason.  As I said, if you read the post called “Christmas”, you’d see where we were last year.  The new house, the quality time with my kids, spending time with fantastic friends, being continuously contacted by new ones, being surrounded by our families, being with my mother for every single doctor appointment and surgeries for her knee replacement, back, and hand in the midst of building, and taking her out for nice dinners and lunches, and celebrating 22 years with my best friend and husband…have all been unbelievable gifts.

“Give, and you will receive. You will be given much. Pressed down, shaken together, and running over, it will spill into your lap. The way you give to others is the way God will give to you.” (Luke 6:38)

If you want to continue to the next post, click here: “Friends, family, gatherings, vacation, and construction…oh my!”  This is a chronological blog; a story.  If you want to start at the beginning, click here: “Welcome to Cottonwood Creek’“.  If you want to read about our log home build, click here: ‘What do Vegas and logs have in common?”  If you want to read about our first Christmas out here, before we officially moved in, click here: “Christmas”

I’ll close out with a few more “before” and “after” Christmas pictures of last year (2013) and this year (2014).  Happy birthday to the best gift of all… Jesus.


Romans 5:17 “But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.”

2 thoughts on “Gifts

  1. Hi Steve and Gretchen! Thanks again for having us out to visit. The progress from Christmas 2013 to Christmas 2014 was amazing. Cottonwood Creek is truly special and blessed. Can’t wait to visit you again and see how the Lord blesses you this year!


  2. So fun to see this post this morning! I’ve been thinking about you a lot over the holidays and am so anxious to see your place. I will email you soon to perhaps set a date in a few weeks!? LOVED your gifts!


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