Friday, December 28, 2012

In-between Week


Ah, the joys of the “in-between week”! Christmas is over but New Year’s is on the way. Celebrations and food and visiting and such continue to crowd out exercise, moderation in food, and cleaning. One can kick back and do nothing without as much guilt.  I compromised and put away outside lights while weather was dry and took down the tree. All the rest I am leaving out longer as originally planned. Tree down gives more space in the room,  and the remaining reds and tiny lights will help keep winter’s doom at bay.

I have managed to dawdle away some hours in some good reads. I sampled poems in a Mary Oliver’s Evidence; I read some short stories in Amy Hempel’s Tumble Home. I also read most of the pieces in the anniversary edition of Cuivre River by the Saturday Writers where I am lucky enough to have an essay included. I read a memoir, My Name is Nancy, published by my high school friend that has made this holiday reading week memorable. I read the middle school book titled Finding My Place by Margo Dill. This was a great little read about a girl struggling through the Battle of Vicksburg in the Civil War. I am sure author Dill did mountains of research because it shows in her realistic details!

 
DH snatches my read.
 
This morning I picked up my next book club read which is River Town by Peter Hessler. It is about the author’s two years in the Peace Corps on the Yangtze River. The first few pages are very promising.  Two new books are waiting for their turn. I am anxious to get to Eight Girls Taking Pictures by Whitney Otto. Otto is always a good read so I expect this book to continue with her distinct quality. The other new book is Consider the Fork: the History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson. This is going to be my reward book in January…that means a chapter only when my writing work is finished for the day…or so goes the plan.

Yesterday the mail held a check and a win for me from the Lebanon Poets’ Society 2012 Poetry Contest. It was such a nice bonus to my “in-between” days this week. It is a nice ending for the year and gives me promise and encourages commitment to the new year of writing.

Now…tea pot and reading…hope your own “in-between week” goes well!

 

What are you reading?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Day After


                                                           Storm waits for Santa
 
Why do only a few hours make a difference in that Christmas feeling? The musical and mystical hours of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, no matter how quiet and ordinary they might be, evoke such different feelings than Dec. 26 or maybe Dec. 27th. Today we got up to bitter cold in Wichita, but the snow had not materialized as expected. We packed up and left Storm watching as our son headed into work and we headed east to stop by all the parents on the way home. Even as I wanted to get home, I knew it would feel different.

As we walked in, the phone was ringing with the first of several incoming scam and spam calls, despite the Missouri No Call law. Then I opened the computer to find my blog splattered with long lists of spam addresses in the comment sections. I can’t figure out what to do about that; anyone know? Then the mail…lots of bills finally arriving to be paid. No, not what I would consider a welcome home!

One of my emails from a friend said her tree was down and put away on the 25th. I looked at my living room and thought how I dreaded to shove ALL this back into the closet again. Then, Christmas does last until January 6th so if I could ignore the “stuff”, it would not be as dated as it feels this evening. Still tonight I will plug in all the little white lights and continue to enjoy them as long as possible.

Long-cooked oatmeal sounds good for supper tonight…maybe some real butter on toast and a pot of herbal tea. I think of the New Year coming and the plans begin to form. What will I blog? What will I submit? What will I write? How will I fight the tight waistbands of Christmas 2012?

From the corner of my eye, I see new books and magazines waiting. Ah, everything can wait one more night! Miss Scarlett would approve: I will think about all of this tomorrow!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saturday Centus/Teacher's Joy



The last Saturday before Christmas and everyone is busy,busy! Jenny took time to put up a nice prompt this morning for Saturday Centus: White Snow. Bright snow.

Although my own effort is a little lame and probably not line correct, it was fun to smack out a little ditty to join in the Centus this morning. For more entries and rules to play, visit Jenny's blog at: http://jennymatlock.blogspot.com/2012/12/saturday-centus-week-139.html


Merry Christmas to all  my readers, Centus and otherwise!




Teacher’s Joy

 White snow, Bright snow.

Students crowd around the window.

One and all begin to pray.

 

White snow, Bright snow.

“Flakes please fall and wind do blow,”

They begged the entire day.

 

White snow, Bright snow.

Gray clouds hovered and hung so low

While more flakes began to dance and play.

 

All through the night came the snow,

And before the dawn I seemed to know

There would be no classes held today.

 
Thanks White snow, Bright snow!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Eating Marathon


Always by the time I get to Christmas Day I feel like I have been on an eating marathon. Food lust starts at Thanksgiving; I guess that taste of creamy mashed potatoes, not to mention pumpkin pie and whipped cream, awakened the gut to the glories of sugar again. It begins…the stream of cookies, chocolate, cream, breads, and more and self-discipline has disappeared.

Today was, I think, the last scheduled eating splurge before Christmas Day.  The Tai Chi and Tea exercise group met as usual, but everyone was lethargic to movement. We did some stretching to Christmas carols and read St. Patrick’s Breastplate prayer instead of meditation. We held all those in such pain with sorrow this season close to our hearts before having a cup of hot tea on a blustery day—a day with 40 mile an hour winds pushing the chill right through the bones.


Then we went to the edge of town for a Christmas Luncheon at the White Rose. This is a small winery and bed and breakfast with the flavor of Ireland as the owners are of Irish descent. They had a welcoming blaze in the fire place and the table all set. Leek soup and chicken salad included a wee bit of brown soda bread, all followed by dessert.
Afterwards we were encouraged to tour the house where each room had its own tree. It was a lovely time before we all dispersed to our holiday chores. We will meet again on January 3 to begin again working off the fudge and such from this year’s holidays!
Irish themed tree
 
 
Three Wise Men themed tree
 
 
                                                         Cowboy themed tree




Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Christmas Star?


No, this is not a Christmas star, but it is a star detail from a quilt my grandmother had pieced years before her death.  Unknown to me, she had somehow gotten two of the stars put in backwards. This last autumn, my Sunset Hills friend quilted it for me. She had it finished and waiting as we passed through town in November. I thought it had some flour sacks used, but her elderly friend, another long time quilter, said no. She thought all the fabric was from the 50’s and 60’s. I recognized some of the fabric pieces as dresses my grandmother wore and shirts of my grandfather. Grandma NEVER bought material to quilt with says my mom, her daughter-in-law.

So no, this quilt is not the artistic creation of today’s quilters. They use matching fabrics, vibrant colors, bolts of material in all hues. Grandma used what was in her scrap bag. I wouldn’t want it any other way. On a cold day, I can run my fingers across star points and “feel” my grandmother’s soup stained dress as she hugs me. On a summer’s day I can lie on a field of stars and “smell” Grandpa’s aftershave or his Sunday Go to Meeting shirt. A garden dress reminds me of Grandma’s dirt encrusted nails, red polish chipped for she never wore garden gloves.

Funny, how wrapping ourselves in memories is warm and comforting, no matter what season it is.
 
Do you USE your quilts or save them?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Eating Season


The whole month of December seems to be eating. It is one luncheon or dinner after another. In between times, the oven goes full steam and nibbles occur daily. Every magazine has some delicate recipe or an artistic presentation made from edibles. Thanksgiving opens the food door with pumpkin pie, Christmas coconut cake and spicy pecans rush in.

This has not been a good cooking year for me. I seem to have one failure after another. Even my old standbys are less than stellar in looks and taste. I really do NOT need to buy any new magazines for recipes or decorating ideas. I have limited space for the lovelys shown in magazines. The recipes are often the same ones with new names or slight variations.


A new magazine on the market is The Cottage Journal. The pictures are elegant and inspiring, worth dreaming over with a cup of hot tea. The Winter edition had some good recipes worth trying…despite my track record this year! I made the Parmesan crackers; they turned out well but too strong a taste for us to “love” them.

However, last night I made the Lemon Chicken Soup with Spinach. It was easy in that it used rotisserie chicken and enough lemon juice to give it a citrusy kick. I knew DH would balk when he saw green stuff in his soup, but I did it anyway. He has had a virus for five days and I convinced him he needed the iron! Even he liked this simple and light soup. Instead of a holiday soup this one will become a steady favorite I think.


There is another soup recipe waiting to be tried and that is a Creamy Leek and Onion. It takes eight cups of onions and then two more of leeks. I think I will wait a few days to cook that one up…I was pushing my luck last night with a pound of spinach!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday Centus/Poncho's Save


Today Saturday Centus is using a picture prompt just like Friday Fictioneers! This was quite a challenge this morning. I am scrupulous about sticking to the 100 word limit, but today was a problem. I hope you give the gift of indulgence as I went a wee tad over. Sorry.

Picture prompt and story below. For more stores and Saturday Centus, visit Jenny at http://jennymatlock.blogspot.com/2012/12/saturday-centus-137.html

 


 Poncho's Save
I grumbled watching the elf shovel grain into the trough. Reindeer got all the fame, and now they chomped the best meal. It was November and the North Pole was busy. All Donner and his buds did was eat, waiting to fly in December!

I scurried across the barn rafters waiting for leftovers and then Santa’s call came. A bad growing season in Georgia had ruined the pecan crop. What would the South do without pecan pie for Christmas?

So I, Poncho, saved the day. My friends and I set to work cracking and shelling. When the last meaty morsel was bagged and tied in red ribbon, Santa patted my hatted head in appreciation.

“Ah nuts, it warn’t nothin’”, I said, cheeks puffing with pride!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Book Club Christmas Luncheon


This seems to be a real season of eating. Everyone wants to have a luncheon or dinner to celebrate the month of December. It is fun but it can make you feel bad; however, no one stops.

Yesterday the book club had their annual December luncheon out. We decided years ago to no hostessing with food and drink; there would be no house cleaning necessary for our book club. We met at the library, dashed in, discussed the book, and left to finish the rest of the day tending our own affairs. We did plan to eat a Christmas luncheon out each December.

This year we went to Mohaska Farmhouse, a new place. They bake their own breads and build a menu around bread dishes. They offer sandwiches, soups, and wood-fired pizzas with thick crusts. There is a Bohemian air about the place. Sawed circles of trees serve as the wall d├ęcor…interesting. If their fire ever burns low, I guess they can burn the walls!

Our December books are always slight volumes due to the busy season. We save the block buster, 500 page types for other times of the year. This year we had two small books: The Last Night at the Red Lobster and Billy Graham’s Nearing Home. I was sorely disappointed in both. No one had rave reviews for either book. One gal did like Red Lobster because of the great characterization the writer did in his story. However, she too agreed that the plot was lame….ended with no real resolution or direction.

We will take January off. River Town is the book for February. But there are many things to be done, many books to be read, many meals to be eaten before then!
 
                                                   Isn't this waitress a cutie?

Friday Fictioneers, Hallways


It is Friday Fictioneers again and I am ready to play. For complete rules about writing a 100 word ditty related to the picture of the week, go to http://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/7-december-2012/. This week’s picture and my effort is below.
 
 

Hallways
She had been down that long hallway many times, had dealt with situations behind the many doors so often. It had been a lifetime of injuries, accidents, and even death. Now here she was again padding down the sterile hall, feeling the slightly cold, stale hospital air.

She opened the door and the residue of a lifetime's use of Este Lauder met her at the door along with the raspy breath of the woman under thin white sheets. The body had heard the door creak and opened her eyes. That was when she saw the face was her own.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Do You Have to Like an Author to Like His Work?


A long time ago a walking partner and I decided we would never be able to write a bestselling book because neither of us had a shocking story to tell. We had not been abused, sunk into the abyss of alcohol or drugs, had abnormal childhoods, or managed to overcome anything. We had not designed or invented anything; we had no startling insight for the human race. We would have to settle on reading the works of others.

I read a lot of non-fiction so I live vicariously in the lives of others I guess. I take a memoir with a grain of salt because after all the memory is the author’s alone, from her viewpoint only. Maybe she doesn’t “remember” all the details. When I read fiction, it has to have a story that is at least plausible. Too many fantasy or sci-fi facts leave me cold.

Today DH and I had another doctor visit in Springfield, a new one this time for an old problem. No new info, only an optional surgery which will take some thinking about for a while. However, a super bright sunny day and news that could have been so much worse made us both relish the rest of the day. Lunch at our favorite Zio’s, a smidge of mall shopping, and then we went over to the Barnes and Nobles where we had not visited for months.

Barnes and Noble bustled with Christmas shoppers! I was disappointed in most of the titles I saw. The Christmas books were all shallow or fluffy or preachy. The new titles were not from favorite authors, and the titles did nothing to entice me to try new ones. So I went to the poetry aisle, pulled up an employee stool and kicked off my shoes to stay and read. Again, I found nothing tantalizing enough to make me spend money. I was a cheap date.

So later when we were on the road home again I picked up my biography of Zane Grey to read while DH drove us home. Hum, this book had the effect of rankling me a bit. I had no idea Zane Grey was born Pearl Zane Gray…changing his name later in life.  I did not know what an avid fisherman he was nor did his fishing interest me much. I was disappointed to learn he was a flagrant womanizer when his wife supported him in every way possible during their marriage. The more I read about him, the more I disliked this man. I would like to admire the writers of books I enjoy. I will have to reread some Zane Grey westerns and see if I can erase today’s images of the author’s “real” life.

When I got home, I found a new rejection of my own work. However, it was an uplifting one. My little 101 word piece of flash fiction called “War Pony” garnered a lot of respect from the editor. She told me it was wonderfully written, and she advised me to consider extending the piece into a short story. She said it was too powerful a line for flash fiction. A rejection but words of encouragement are as good as acceptance when an editor takes time to write you personally.

So day ends and I have lots of thoughts scudding around in my head like a rack of freshly broken billiard balls.  I must get back to the keyboard and hammer out some stories that I like, for writing must please ourselves first even if it doesn’t please other readers.

So, do you have to like an author before you like his work? Do find it easy to maybe like the writer but not his work? Hum……

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thrift Store Outing

 

When I saw the lovely ME tray that Susan over at  http://writingstraightfromtheheart.blogspot.com bought at a thrift store, I wanted one too! I think I had a Christmas tray at some point, but I must have given it away with cookies. So the other day heading to Wal-Mart, I stopped in at the new Goodwill store that is next door. A quick sashay in the household goods department yielded lots of goodies including this tray!
 

This tray is not an ME tray, but it is bright and cheerful…and I bought it for 25 cents! Well, you know once you have the bargain it makes the blood pump like having a winning lottery ticket. So I kept looking. I found these gorgeous trays. They look like glass but are heavy plastic. Amazingly beautiful if you could see them in reality. I took them at 50 cents each.
 
 

Then a stupid and emotional buy…I think this is a drinking mug, but it is heavy duty so I  could use it as a planter. Nope, doesn’t look at all like my present teacups and floral teapots, but it tugged at my heart strings because it took me back to being about five years old. My paternal grandmother who wasn’t much of a giver brought my sister and me each a plastic boot mug from California. What fun to drink from them especially since these were the days of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry! My mother eventually tired of washing them and put them up on a shelf, and after all, I did get a little too old for a plastic mug. But this mug took me back so many years to a different time and like the commercial says, memories are “priceless”.
 
 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Last Day in November


Everyone is talking about the warm winter ahead, how nice not to have a terror of cold days. Well, I find it one more stamp of global warming/climate change, and I think it is scary at best. I will admit it has been a gorgeous autumn thus far and a welcomed reward for enduring the inferno of the last two summers. We had to take a road trip across the state line for in-law business, and traveling on a warm fall day made it more pleasant.

There is something about those days after Thanksgiving and before Christmas that are special in so many ways. November and December bring on nostalgic thoughts and a super awareness of how time flies. The mind floats backwards easily recalling earlier days. The earth is visibly shutting down into moratorium mode. Bright colors are gone but various earthy shades of browns are abundant. I stood on a hill and snapped pictures north of my little hometown, but the camera fails to capture the expanse of horizon seen when the trees are bare. The Divine Presence is made known by the vastness of both sky and land meeting in the distant vista.

Roughly five miles northwest of town, the Neosho River meanders through an area where Presbyterians once tried to convert Osages to Christianity. Eventually, the effort failed only to be taken up later by the Catholics about ten miles to the east. I would love to step back in time for one hour and visit this part of the country then. The Osage were more of an Eastern tribe but were pushed and pushed into the Midwest as we know it. It was the Black Dog band of Osage who lived near my town and farm boys often talked of finding arrowheads and spear points as they tilled or walked the land.


The day was long but our town was having art walk in the evening. With a most perfect evening, I went despite being tired. Our town is known for its fall Midwest Gathering of Artists which relies heavily on western art. Now artists of all kinds are popping up. A walk around the town square showed many stores hosting potters, jewelry arts, watercolor, photography, and one gal had both books and paintings. I was excited to see a dab of written arts…maybe this will catch on and writers will be included more. Some host stores had barbershop quartets, guitar strummers, or piano players as well. There snacks, wines, and punches. With the town decorated for the holidays…it was festive!
 

One of the newest artists in town is Alice Lynn Greenwood. Her paintings are bright and colorful. They deal with sayings and wit as much as scenes. I particular liked this piece warning readers not to take women lightly! For more of Alice's work, see her at www.alicelynn.com.

But like all little Dorothys from Kansas, after treading the yellow brick road and seeing the bright lights, there was “no place like home”.

Friday Fictioneers



Okay, so it is not only Saturday and December now while I am still on a Friday in November. It is time for both Friday Fictioneers and Saturday Centus, both 100 word writings. These exercises are both terrific because if you follow the rules and stay at 100 words, you really have to write tight! For rules about writing with Rochelle's picture prompt and more stories go to http://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/30-november-2012/ . Below is this week's picture and my effort.


 
 

Franky looked down the empty street, no shoppers as planned due to dinner hour, and wondered where Paul was. He worried the duct tape would hold the jeweler long now that the job was done. He heard the tinkle of the bell ringer in the next block and noticed the crisp lights blinking on store fronts. The nippy air tapped on his cheeks making his eyes water slightly. Where was Paul?
The pillowcase, plump as Santa’s belly, shifted as his tense arm flexed, but he was still alone. Paul’s red Honda slid into the curb. It’d be a good Christmas!