Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ordinary or Extraordinary?

We are in the between stages of the holiday, a gradually coming down to the daily and coming back to the routine. December has been festive and wintry! My goodness, something everyday and not always what I wanted to see. So the day after Christmas really felt like a day-after this morning. The freezing fog we had at dawn was more darkness and cold, but the forecast promised a nicer day coming along. I looked out the drapes beyond the Christmas tree and wondered how I would spend the day when I felt rather blah.

Then I noticed a print on the windows. I was irritated at first thinking someone smudged the glass. Then I investigated what looked like a wing...definitely a wing. Then on the other side a lighter wing. Oh my gosh, was this an angel? DH looked and snickered, only a bird flew into the glass. But even he admitted a bird hitting the glass was very rare this time of year. If it were a bird, it was a big one. No chickadee or finch. There were no feathers on the porch.

During the day, three people said that it simply was a bird. Fifteen others said it was definitely an angel.  What do YOU think?

Later in the day, the mail brought a tiny check and notification of a win in 3rd place for free verse in the Lebanon Poetry Contest. I was also listed with an honorable mention in the same category. It was a sign to me to keep plugging along, that I should keep writing in the new year. Hum, could those angel wings have been my muse calling to me?

This has been some day-after!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas, 2013

I’m glad to have dime store Santas and plastic reindeer
To remember from my long-ago childhood,
With memories of cedar trees plucked from pastures
Shedding spiny needles on waxed hardwood floors.
I’m glad to have eaten large family dinners with shaking Jell-O salads
And Depression glass bowls filled with olives, the real star of the meal.
I’m glad to have worn rubber boots closed with elastic frogs
That failed to keep frigid cold from my childish legs
As I walked into Midnight Mass on starry nights under shadowy skies
Where not a single cloud bothered suppressing warmth from earth.
For without these memories what would Christmas be now?
Blaring canned music, multiple Santa Claus men at every store in town,
Sometimes sitting under forgotten suspended Halloween masks.
Now trees are decked out in color-coordinated glass balls
Costing the same price as a pair of chic designer shoes.
Gifts, gifts, gifts and commercialism galore.
No, without my memory of those simpler times when
Father Christmas sat among a flickering candle or two,
When paper chains and paper straw stars rested proudly
On tree limbs among tawdry silver tinsel strands,
I would be lost among the glimmer and glitz
Of today’s furry fat Santas and cold commercialism.

                                   Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Icy Day for Solstice

Yesterday morning is was warm and the moon stayed with us late into the morning, making for a long dark day readying for the Solstice.

It is beautiful standing inside looking out today, seeing ice trees, ice shrubs, ice formations off roofs. It is cold and continues to rain so who know if this will end well today. The electricity has flickered on and off for hours, but we are lucky as it comes back on while in other places residents are without power.

And so on this Winter Solstice, Mother Nature is saying:
Let winter begin!!!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Death of an Author

Some days your feet hit the floor and the left foot leads. No matter what you do, you are out of step the rest of the day. This has been one of those days. The skies hang low with dark, menacing clouds. The forecast says rain turning to ice for tonight. After a quarter of inch of ice, then snow might or might not add to the mix later. DH had to be in the next town very early for a little procedure which was then canceled. After his being under the weather all night long, he did not want to wait for stores to open for my short shopping list. So we returned home. Things just got out of step and stayed.

After hunting for two hours for my old copy of SHANE,  I gave up and went to the library for a copy. It was there that I heard Janet Dailey had died. I must have been the last to know. What a shock to lose this vibrant gal so early at 69 years. In this season of remembering those no longer with us, I had to add another recall past times and experiences of which there will be no more.

I don't remember the year, but the author was at a peak in her career. She had been in Branson for only a short while when I suggested to the local Friends of the Library we ask for her help in fundraising. Our library operated on a shoestring. No one thought it possible...said I couldn't do it...said they knew she was too busy at best! They dropped the matter, but I didn't.

I came home and wrote a letter explaining our need to raise money to help the library. I asked what she would charge for a personal appearance or if she could at least donate some autographed books for a raffle if nothing else. I figured "nothing ventured, nothing gained". I came home from work one afternoon to a voice message. It was Bill Dailey saying he was in charge of his wife's PR schedule and to call him at a given number. When I did, he said she would be glad to come, would sign books, and there would be no charge from them so any ticket sales could result in all funds going to the library. Great! Oh, but now I had to tell the board it was a done deal and Janet Dailey was on her way!

My husband and I along with a couple of others ate supper with the Daileys that night before her speaking engagement. They were lovely people. Bill was animated and full of tales of his own. Janet was a gracious woman, eager to help, share her stories, and endure questions. She made no mistake of having a super ego. She wrote romance and her fans kept her going. When she spoke from the high school auditorium stage, she made a crowd of women feel she talked to each of them individually. It was one great night and a wonderful boost for our local library.

I am so sorry that Janet the person is gone now and that Janet the author will not pen another story with a sexy cowboy or Levi-packed heroine dashing through the pages. Thanks, Janet, for all you gave the world. We will miss 'ya!

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Blue Christmas---Tea

No school here again today and roads slick this morning. The skies were dark and ugly. Now rain and warmer temps, but possibly more ice and snow tonight. After a slow start to the day, things moved again so the scheduled Christmas Tea here this morning happened after all!

Such a simple affair of just tea, cookies and nuts. But everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. That is the blessing: friends laughing and sharing, good time had by all.

I pulled out the Blue Willow cups and saucers and used at least one blue snow man teapot. It was a blue Christmas along with all the festive red today!

Isn't this a happy fellow? A special friend brought him to me for the season. I just love his face and feel quite happy when I look at his face!



Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Lunch for Tai Chi and Tea

The weather makes this December difficult because celebrations keep getting postponed or canceled. The Tai Chi and Tea group managed to get their Christmas luncheon in today between storms after going through most of their usual routines. One of the members has a bed and breakfast where she hosted the group for a Christmas lunch today.
The Grand Avenue Bed and Breakfast is an impressive Victorian built in 1893. The house was decorated and smelled of delicious foods. A cookie exchange sufficed for dessert after the meal. It was all lovely, and meanwhile outside, the sun was shining brightly helping melt the streets before tomorrow’s  forecasted freezing rain/snow.

The best gift of all is time spent with friends.
                        One of the hundred year old stained glass windows.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Enduring the Cold

Winter is always bad for eating as are the holidays. When housebound by ice and snow before Christmas, well, it is an eating frenzy. Using the oven makes the house toasty and the kitchen smell homey. But at this rate, we might not be able to get out the front door by Christmas. Maybe Santa can show us his secret?
                                                        Lunch--sausage and cheese quiche

DH warmed up his shop and went out to build with wood. That was good because then I put on the Christmas CD’s and turned up the volume so the music floated over the rattle of the washer and dryer. I lit a balsam candle to finish the mood. DH hates Christmas music. Are there any men who do like Christmas music? Surely there are, but I don’t know them. This morning I used the new Susan Boyle HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. It is beautiful…

Friday, December 6, 2013

Spice Day

Snowing, 6:30 am
The snow flies today after lurking in the dark and bruised sky of yesterday. All day we heard horror stories and cancelations fell like boulders in a rock slide. However, we sat in a pocket free from the ice and storms, waiting our turn. It is 16 degrees this morning, just right for wrapping up in a flannel robe, hugging a warm tea mug, and cradling a good book!

The cold weather also invites using the oven. The day is perfect for making nuts that will be gifts or snacks this month. I made numerous batches, including a new Mexican Walnut. Now the house smells of garlic and Worchester sauce, cinnamon and sugar, chili powder and cumin; the house feels warm and homey.

DH’s mom did not use much spice in her cooking. Salt was the big taste and some cinnamon. At my house, nutmeg, allspice, and cardamom were winter smells. Black pepper was used as liberally as salt. Black pepper sat on the table for shaking over cottage cheese and anything that did not have enough kick. Mom’s soups and chili meant cumin, chili powder, paprika. I do not remember any saffron or curry being used, however.

DH does not like spice. Over the years I have lead him to some new tastes, but put too much herb or real taste to a dish and I hear: This is too spicy! Now when we were dating, my dad always kept a huge jar of HOT Polish sausages on the counter top. DH loved those. Dad would razz me every morning when he got up and saw how many sausages were missing after Dad had gone to bed early the night before. “For someone who does not like spice, that boy sure can put away Polish sausage!”

The warm kitchen and the pages of Adriana Trigianai’s  newest book, THE SUPREME MACRONIC COMPANY, reminds me of the frozen raviolis I still have from October’s visit to The Hill in St. Louis. Yum…I feel an Italian lunch coming on!



Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December Dithers

I think it is wonderful how we have weather warnings these days; we can plan crops, plan for travel, and plan for safety. However…knowing what is coming when I don’t want it makes me feel like climbing the walls. Also switching back and forth between seasons in just a day or two is maddening. Our bodies can’t adapt well to spring today, winter tomorrow.
The last two days the weather has been unseasonably warm. My sister took the day off work for Christmas shopping, and I met her over the state line. We had a great time together which is really what Christmas is, together for pleasure. The southeastern town is home to PSU which has a gorilla mascot named Gus. (Oh, how I love gorillas!!!) I was tickled to see that Gus was included in the local mall’s holiday decorations!
Meanwhile, we are saying goodbye to a maple that shades our deck. Two years ago a quarter of the tree broke off and nailed the umbrella and deck. We were lucky no one was still sitting out there that late afternoon. We have been nervous about the tree since and finally decided to let it go. There were bad places but not all the tree was bad. However, it would have been misshapen and ugly if only partially cut.
This tree has sheltered us and our children for 40 years, its girth growing. It covered our first picnic table set in the grass. It shaded the swing set. It was home to a wood pecker each summer. It was where our returning wrens landed and sang to us each spring. Under that tree I released my Granny. She had been so ill and I had prayed so hard. Suddenly, I realized I was praying for myself not to lose her, to not be left in the world without her influence. When I realized how selfish I was, I changed my prayers about 10:00 p.m. that she be granted ease and relief.  Five hours later she was gone, and I have special feeling for that tree since.
Winter weather is coming. By the end of the week we are to have frigid cold, sleet, snow, and/or ice. I am not happy about this as the storm will hit on days when a lot of Christmas luncheons and activities were planned. I always hate when the weather wrecks December, as I consider the whole month festive! We can be housebound in January after the food and frolic are over. But I am ready for what may come: soup materials, tea canisters full, numerous books waiting.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It Beginning to Look Like....

Today is one of endings and beginnings. The year’s Thanksgiving ends as many people will be on the roads returning home after a long weekend. Today is the first Sunday in Advent, the traditional beginning of the Christian season before Christmas. The endings always seem harder than the beginnings, don’t they?
This year our holiday was a quiet one, and we faced recognizing that our holidays will be on the quiet side from now on. Parents are gone either figuratively or literally, siblings scattered, far-flung children are enmeshed with their own lives, and friends aging along with us showing us changes we don’t really want to see. Soon it will be memoires that sit at our tables in the winter months; holiday will mean any day and any place during the year that we can be with our loves ones.
Once we waved goodbye on Thanksgiving afternoon, I started putting autumn d├ęcor away. I took my time this year and tossed out a few things rather than repack. Ah…do I admit that there are still five boxes and two crates of autumn pumpkins and pilgrims? Autumn is a special season to me. The next morning I dragged out the Christmas stuff…another big ordeal.
I weeded Christmas things last year, but I did more plucking and tossing this year too. I still have much to use for decorating. Like last year, I am going to leave the decorations off the tree and rely on only the twinkling lights. I so enjoy the tree this way, a visible “less is more” feeling. I enjoyed the poinsettia trees, the family trims, the tea pot themed year, the red/white/blue year all in their day. But this year with Christmas only 23 days away, I am going for simpler stuff sitting around the house. Believe me, there is still plenty of red and green about!
I have huge ceramic nativities, but I am setting out a more modest one. The local Catholic Church does not decorate until week before Christmas. The local Episcopal Church does not put anything out until right on Christmas and the baby does not show up in the manger until Dec. 25 with the Three Kings arriving a week later. I like to have mine up early in the month to remind me in the bustle of busy days why we do all the holly and stuff in the first place. Then when January comes I want things put away for winter reflection, restoration, and writing days.
My favorite winter snowmen...made from chenille bedspread fabric. Soft and easily stored, cheery
                                                                              while sitting among us!