Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Make Mine Toast!

Recently the Sunday Morning news magazine had an article on collecting toasters. One of the men they interviewed has a small appliance museum full of some 700 toasters. That museum which opened in October is called The World’s Largest Small Appliance Museum and is located only a few miles from me. So this morning DH and I made a quick run to check it out.

Built off the end of a Western Clothing store, the museum is filled with small appliances including all those toasters. It was amazing to see some “modern” things that we grew up with now labeled as antiques or collectibles such as a metal percolator or a hot dog cooker. While some of the early toasters were rather crude and even dangerous looking, toasters from the 1930s were absolutely gorgeous in many cases. I could picture Marlene Dietrich or James Cagney still in silk robes fetching toast from the beautiful stainless steel. The of course, I enjoyed seeing 1950 toasters that made my morning toast for years.
The second most numerous items in this collection were electric coffee pots and tea pots. Oh, some silver pots were so smartly shaped that I longed to take them home with me! The amazing ones were the porcelain pots with art deco or floral designs. These pots were stunning in their elegance. In many cases there were matching porcelain waffle irons too.

The owner is willing to meet groups or individuals there for demos of the appliances. I might have to make an appointment just to touch these handsome
appliances once used in some contemporary woman’s kitchen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Books

We don’t always start collections; sometimes they start themselves. That is what happened when I first found a Christmas book on sale after the holidays. It then became a practice to add a Christmas book to my “collection” every year. Like collections do, this one got unruly, and I had to weed. But still, I kept some very special Christmas books on hand. I often use a beautiful Christmas book even as décor during the season.

One of my favorites is Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory. No matter how many times I read it, it brings a lump to my throat at the end. Then there is that wonderful book The Polar Express. Don’t kid yourself, this is not a child’s story but actually an adult book. Only adults can truly grasp the pathos of not hearing the Christmas bell! No disrespect to William Hurt or Tom Hanks, but famous actors reading the book aloud almost spoiled it for me. Hearing the voices in my head was so much better than anyone else’s interpretation!

If you like westerns, the great writer (Shane) Jack Schaffer wrote a Christmas story called Stubby Pringle’s Christmas. When the school librarian was weeding old books from the shelves, I literally begged to have the copy she was tossing. Mari Sandoz wrote The Christmas of the Phonograph Record, and then there is the Louis May Alcott’s Christmas Treasury. Oh, and another goodie is the Walton’s Christmas story of Pa getting home in the snowstorm during the Great Depression.

This year I was the lucky winner of a new Christmas book from Donna’s Book Pub ( Christmas Village by Melissa Ann Goodwin is a delightful and imaginative story of a 12 year old boy who does some time travel on Christmas Eve. His own life is saddled with worries, and while looking at his grandma’s Christmas village laid out in the living room, he wishes he could live in the old time village where people seemed happier. Jamie falls into the 1932 village where the people celebrate the Christmas season with a Depression backdrop with problems of their own.
Author Melissa Ann Goodwin tells a good old fashioned story here despite the modern element of time travel. The characters fight good and evil along with love and loss in a story bound to become another Christmas classic for readers of all ages. She ties all the ends up in a charming finale that is magical and charming, the delicious elements of any good Christmas!

So what about you? What are your favorite Christmas stories or books?

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Christmas Contest Entry

I haven't been able to keep up with things around here lately, and I was about to miss a great little writing op! So this morning I made a effort and entered a Christmas contest over at Things I
Want to Tell My Mother at
It is a memory written in hundred words and gives a chance to win a $25 gift card. It closes Dec. 5. For full details go over to the blog.

It was the year of the ballerina on pointe and wearing a pink tutu. I wrote Santa after pouring over Christmas catalogs wondering which doll he would bring me. On Christmas morning, there she was. I lifted her from the box to see one eye pushed back into her head, permanently damaged! Didn’t those elves check toys?

My gasping shock was shadowed by Mom’s own distress at neglecting to inspect the box in a holiday rush. In the end the defect didn’t matter as I cherished my beautiful ballerina. My actual Christmas gift was learning real love isn’t always perfect.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turkeys Transition To An Angel

The transition between Thanksgiving and Christmas is one of the fastest seasonal changes there is. It has to be since the days are numbered before December 25th. Today is the first Sunday of Advent so

Christmas is now on the countdown officially. Yesterday while son drove four hours back home to the west, I spent the ame time and more taking down turkeys and putting up Santas.

Last year I weeded the Christmas boxes, but they could still use more cleaning. I did not put out everything this year. Though I love all my special holiday pieces, something about having less "stuff" sitting around is more therapeutic than being crowded. I wanted to use this white angel too this year which changed the table setting. She belongs to my mother-in-law who sat her out for many Christmases that I remember. As the dismantling of her home began, she would not take the angel to assisted living. She told me to bring her home with me. Now I did not need one more thing in this house, but I could not leave the angel there in the farmhouse all alone. Maybe someday I will let this angel go, but this was not the year to say goodbye. I brought her home and she will reign here in my home, watching one branch of the same family,  this year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving, 2011

Autumn days and Thanksgiving in particular always meant quail hunting at my house. Dad would arise in the dark, load up and head out to a farmer’s hedge row to hunt quail alone. They were numerous in those days and Dad, an excellent shot, always got his limit. He would return and then take grandpa and nephews out again once the sun was up. Again, the bounty was good and the freezer filled quickly with tiny birds for winter eating. Sometimes a few went right to the Thanksgiving table, fried golden and crispy.

Meanwhile, Mom would stuff celery, stir up Chex mix, or pick out a few pecans while we hunkered in from of the Macy’s parade. We kids waited for Santa to appear at the end of the parade because that meant Christmas could now be eagerly anticipated; the Sears Wish Book would be opened in the afternoon for some serious yearning.

Thanksgiving might mean a road trip to Oklahoma for huge dinners, family gossip and ballgames with Mom’s people. But most years it was a block’s walk to Grandma’s house where Dad’s family gathered. Food spread across tables like a scene from a Normal Rockwell painting. In Oklahoma, tiny pearl onions and olives were special, but at Grandma’s it was plump homemade noodles swollen to doughy perfection in turkey broth.

Things change and there are no more festive trips to Oklahoma; Grandma is gone and noodles have never been the same since those days. This year one son will come home, and we will join my friend and her daughters for a holiday meal. I will be free of making a big meal, but this morning I cooked cranberries in wine to take as my contribution. It will noisy and jolly tomorrow, but I will still miss particular faces, remember specific dishes not served, and hunger for days gone by. Amid the activities I will acknowledge that life changes for us all. I will be thankful for all I have now as I nod a bit in my head to what used to be.

May you have a magnificent Thanksgiving Day and weekend ahead.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Duel with Dust

Thoreau said SIMPLIFY! He thought if anything caused you to spend time cleaning it or caring for it, throw it out. Sounds good to me, but then again I can’t part with a lot of my “stuff”. What I have done is get careless with taking care of it. So many of us around here since that F5 tornado realize that stuff is just stuff, and it can be taken from you in a matter of seconds.

My mother kept a chest in our utility room where she stored drawers full of table linens and hand-crocheted pieces by her grandmother. She never used them, and to be fair she had a small house with rumbustious kids and dogs. (However, that very chest was to burn in a house fire a few years ago…what a waste of pleasures went up in smoke.) When I got old enough to be left at home alone, I would go to that chest and unfold the beauties, feel their richness, admire their color, and appreciate their workmanship. I said if I ever had a home of my own I would use my things. I have kept my word for the most part, which means some stained pieces or some broken porcelain. But things were meant to be used. Nothing more moving than buying a cup and saucer that was loved by some other women in her toasty kitchen before your own hands caressed the same china.

The other day some of us were discussing household dusting or the lack of it. One gal said she no longer lifts a doily but merely dusts around it. Another has removed things that need to be dusted. My own solution is to never move anything because then you can see where the dust starts and stops! Just don’t touch a thing and everyone glances over the dust! One of my grandmothers took that a step further. She never dusted or cleaned much. When things got too bad, she said it was time to paint. We all knew that when a refurbishing of paint or wallpaper started, it meant Grandma thought it was time to “clean”.

My mother-in-law, who was an artist, told me to leave the dishes in the sink, ignore the house chores and go paint, write, or be creative. I never could do that. The work had to be done first before I “played” and the result was not much fun time because the work never ended for a mom. She, however, could walk away from household burdens. Lately, I have been able to at least ignore that dust!

Despite trying to minimize dustable things in my house and trying to avoid flea markets, I still fall prey to collectibles. This last week after my Tai Chi and Tea class, my friends and I drove by an estate sale. The car nosed into a parking place by the curb before we knew what was happening! Items were priced fairly but not cheap inside the little bungalow. The other gals found things, but I ignored items calling my name. Until—I saw this master knife rest. Wow, I didn’t have a master one (like I needed it!). The crystal was so pretty, the light bouncing off the cuts. Well gee, I guess it won’t take TOO much dusting will it?

What about you? How do you fight the Duel with Dust?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

This Year's Flock

When I read about her new turkeys for the season on Susan’s blog (, I thought of my own few Thanksgiving birds. I only have a couple, but this year I added two to the flock. One is very old and DH found it while cleaning out his parents’ attic. He tossed it down and asked me if I wanted it. Well, it is rather an ugly thing, paint scuffed off in places, and not something I would long for except that DH said he saw the thing for years on his mom’s Thanksgiving table. Hum, while I wasn’t a witness to those years, I am sucker for tradition and continuity in family holiday rituals. Since our families are fading away through children’s jobs, aging parents, and even death I grabbed on to the turkey even though I know none of the kids coming after me will want to “own” this guy. Something about him called to me, for this year anyway.

The other small turkey is fairly new although I did pick him up in a flea market. I love the totally white ceramic bird and I have so many white pitchers and plates, I thought he would be at home here. After all, he doesn’t take up much room. While he won’t spend much of the year out and about, he can nest with the quail, turkey, and silver birds of winter holidays in the off season! If I can find another inch in the storage closet that is!!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friends and Storm Country Reading

The Storm Country readings and book sales were last Sunday evening in St. Louis. I would have had hard time doing an eight hour drive round trip for two hours of readings, but the night worked perfectly for me because we were in route back home from Kentucky. It was tight since we got in at 4:00, were cleaned up although not refreshed, and were at our friends’ house by 5:30. DH stayed with our friend who is recovering from surgery while his wife came with me to the readings. It was a nice evening for all four of us.

We have been friends with these people for 41 years after living next to them in an apartment in Hazelwood, Missouri as newlyweds. We have worked to stay in touch through tragedies and triumphs. All my friends mean everything to me. Like my grandma always said, “You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends.” I am one lucky person to be able to cross paths with so many people worth the “picking” for friends.

While the Storm Country evening was nice, the best part was meeting some of my Blogger Buddies in the flesh. They are just as charming and delightful as the words they write. How odd it felt to walk up to someone you have never laid eyes on before, yet you knew them in your heart. I never meant to blog, didn’t want any part of it. But then it became a little lifesaver to me, opening doors to some fun and meaningful things.

Donna at was the first blog I ever read. I think because she reminded me of my teaching friend I began to follow her. Her kindness and sharing of writing tips kept me coming back so that I met Linda ( and Becky ( and Lynn ( You should check into these blogs if you want some laughter, some talk about writing, or sometimes a life reflection. I check at many blogs but can’t follow them all or I would get nothing else done. So I do limit who I follow, but highly recommend these St. Louis gals who feel like they are right across the fence to me since I live in Missouri with them.

These busy days make friendships harder to hold. Days are hectic and everyone is reduced to twitters, email, and dashed off lines that are incomplete. Gone are the days of long letters and beautiful words penned with care and affection. We have to work so much harder to stay in touch at all. Right now I have a list of letters waiting to be written. When I look at the names each day I hear that song “Tomorrow, Tomorrow…” because I keep moving the letter writing to tomorrow! But at least I do still plan to write, even if it is an email on colored “paper” that sails through the air. I do appreciate people, friends, and want to keep in touch with them. They are valuable to my life!

              Donna, Lynn, and Linda as they read their work at the Storm Country event.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kentucky Days

I find the landscape of Illinois and Indiana tedious after several hours. The corn becomes monotonous. However, I found Indiana interesting to watch on this last trip. For one thing both states were no longer under that horrid dark water of spring flooding! But this time, the trees had lost their leaves in Indiana and while it looked wintry, it was more open and less claustraphobic feeling. It was fairly cold, wind was a terror, and the sky dark and heavy like snow. We actually saw snowflakes briefly once we hit Kentucky. Fields had been harvested and some fields still had standing corn, the stalks as dry as parchment. It all left me with a feeling that soon after the trip we would be hunkering down in a "long winter's nap" mode.

We took back roads when we could find them, passed through French Lick area, came out in the quaint town of Madison. We stopped there for a delightful lunch in a little gift and coffee shop. I had a turkey pesto grilled panini with apricot good. We passed on going shopping, heading straight for grandbabies.

While visiting, one of our trips was to the Cincinnati Union Station that now houses three museums and an Omni Max. Duke energy sponsors a seasonal train display which was the draw for all of us that day. It was fantastic but for me, the best thing was this gorgeous structure. Can't you just picture the trains and passengers that arrived in this building in its heyday?

Our trip through displays were fast and furious because we had a not quite three-year-old, a baby of ten months, their parents, and two old people. Everyone tired out pretty fast; Papaw lost baby Simon's coat and Gramme lost her own coat! We were all glad to get back to the house in Kentucky.

Since we believe strongly in Ben Franklin's adage that fish and company both smell in three days, it was time to head back to Missouri.

                                                                   MEN AT WORK?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Home Again, Jiggety Jig

After a week driving across middle America getting to Kentucky, we arrived back home this afternoon. Now we face the crush of holidays coming and staying home for a while waiting on winter to come and go. Laundry fills the utility room and my mind is mush but just had to write a few lines here hoping to return to some kind of normal...whatever that is!

We left here last Wednesday in a frigid wind, making it to Lebanon, Illionis about 1:00. We were just in time to catch a late lunch in this quaint town we have visited before. Remembering the wonderful pie in the Tapestry Room, we drove the mile off the highway to sample it again. Pie isn't good for us, but we put sense and caution on the back burner for the trip. We ate lunch and then ordered cream pies. You can see we had to snatch the first bites even before the camera came out!

Lebanon is only about 20 miles east from St. Louis, so if you are ever in the area be sure and check the town out.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Christmas Cactus

I have been so busy getting ready to travel to see grand babies and the gear is about loaded. It has rained for two days (and earthquaked!) along with feeling chilly. It is seasonal weather but...still my few deck flowers left are holding up to it all. Leaves clutter the boards and flower pots. Autumn is here.

Inside things are in the pink! A friend brought me this Christmas cactus this summer. I know nothing about them , and it seemed to break easily all summer. When the temp started dropping to frost range and there were tiny buds all over the plant, I moved it inside. It has burst into flower! I hope they last a long time, that there are buds on our return.

On such a dark, damp, and dreay day this is the only sunshine I found. I thought it worth sharing with you....before you have to look at all those baby pictures I will posting!!!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Today (Nov. 5) Roy Rogers Would Have Been 100!

Today would have been Roy Rogers 100th birthday. He and fellow singing cowboy Gene Autry had a big impact on my life. Both reinforced the values that my parents were teaching me at home. Nothing like coming through the front door after school and settling in for some bang bang gunfire (without much blood or death reality), hearing a good song about tumbleweeds or little doggies, and seeing the good guys win! Gosh, it was so much simpler then.

I will admit that liking Dale Evans took more work for me. Oh, she was a good gal in reel life and real life, but I was always a little jealous of her getting my guy. When I would watch scenes where Dale was snippy to Roy, I wanted to punch her myself. Of course in the end, the guy always got the girl and I never wanted her to be standing in what I considered MY place either.

I was lucky enough to visit the Roy Rogers Museum in Branson shortly before it closed for good. Oh, I had such a good time walking down memory lane. I saw Nellybelle, holstered guns, lunchboxes from my childhood, and Dale’s flouncy gingham skirts loaded with rick rack much like the skirts I wore too in those days. After tootling around the memorabilia, we went in to hear the musical program. When I heard Roy’s son Dusty sing those old favorites full of a cowboy’s longing under a star-filled western sky, tears trickled down my old cheeks remembering the “good ole days”.

There was the Roy Rogers Riders Club in the 1950's with rules that encouraged kids to live a life that exhibited a code of goodness. Being clean, polite, obedient to parents, kind to animals and not wasting anything was high on the list. The guidelines also encouraged attendance of church, respecting our country and flag, and to love God. Who could argue with any of these doctrines for growing up to be a decent adult? Then when you heard Roy and Dale sing "Happy Trails", well life was just plain old good. I wish there were such decent role models for kids today.

So happy birthday, Roy. I miss you but appreciate all you left behind in me. Now, I think I’ll go listen to the Sons of the Pioneers sing "Cool Water".

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Table Rock and Miss M

November 1 and a feel of shorter days makes us push to squeeze in any bit of activity before the winter darkness descends to stay. Due to the wildly strange summer weather, there was next to no fishing and the bass boat never left the yard this year. With rain in the forecast for tomorrow and a sunny 72 on tap for today, we went to Table Rock Lake. Late fall makes for good times because the lake is nearly deserted and the quiet is heavenly. Today the gusting breeze was a factor but we tolerated it, watching the leaves sail down and hit the brilliance of wind-blown water. The trees were hues of sienna, tobacco, and ochre with occasional dashes of tangerine. Shortened sun rays were warm but not piercing. I felt like a bear at a honey tree stoking up for hibernation, only my substance was sun and fresh air.

It was a perfect day to start re-reading Two-Part Intervention (by Madeleine L'Engle) while DH caught and released. It had been years since I had been between the book’s covers, and the story read like it was next to new. The parts I knew were like meeting an old friend for conversation and a picnic lunch at the lake. I saw I had underlined passages, and I found they were ones I would want to mark again. The years might put a different touch on them for me in some cases though.

The first favorite lines were describing reading in her childhood. “…that interior dream world has stood me in good stead many times when the outer world has seemed to be collapsing around me.” Miss M captured my own feeling to a T! I grew up in a village-sized town where sports was the end all, but I had Sydenham’s Chorea as a child and was not allowed to run, jump, and cavort. My recesses were spent with a thermometer in my mouth followed by sitting for a rousing game of jacks. Once I could run…well, I was NO runner. I found a world in books where I could do and be all I wanted.

Childhood followed by adolescence…Miss M’s take: “…no adolescence is lived through without pain.” Again true words. I was thinking about such things this weekend because I was digging deep into the past while cleaning trunks and closets. I have been thinking about such work here, but earlier in the week as we began the horrendous job of tearing down of the in-laws family farm, I knew I had to do this at home for my own children’s sake. One thing that got tossed was school letters; no one wanted them. Yet, years ago for all of us, those letters and the gold bars on them meant achievement, success, recognition. Wow, they were so important then, and sometimes there were both physical and emotional pain in getting or not getting those gold bars. Now they were tossed away, meaningless.

Miss M felt one important thing she learned was “…the artist is not separate from the work and therefore cannot judge it.” This resonated more with me now as I have been writing and publishing more. I see it in the critiquing groups at guild meetings too. All of us, write what we think it good, is working, is our best. We cannot separate ourselves from the work and see it objectively.

I can see that without the wind in my face and sun reflecting off the water, this book will read fast. I got through more than three chapters which included a lot of thinking. Like Miss M, I too was very naïve as a young girl…ah, make that most of my entire life. I, too, put myself in some risky situations out of ignorance. I guess there really must be some Guardian Angels for people like Miss M and me. I think I can hear mine groan!

One new phrase I underlined today was “part of my deepening” when Miss M referred to her piano and visits to a favorite church just to sit as a young woman. I like this phrase and will think about it for a few days. I hate losing the naïve person I was because she was sweet and good after all. I don’t want to let cynical thoughts and actions take over…to be a cranky old lady…in fact, I think I want not to age but to “deepen” in my life!

What about you?