Archive for December, 2011


My New Year’s resolutions are simple. I resolve to be more patient, less selfish, cherish my friends, and in my small way help whoever needs help. I cannot conceivably influence the world’s destiny, but I can make my own life more worthwhile. I can give some help to some people; that is not vital to all the world’s problems and yet I think if everyone did just that, we might see quite a world in our time!

Gladys Taber. Stillmeadow Sampler. “Winter”. 

A very Happy and Healthy New Year to all of you from here on the Cutoff.


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These cherubs were playing their sweet music this year, trumpeting in the season, holding heavenly notes all these long winter nights. I knew, I just KNEW, that if I put them atop a few books of Christmases past, they would herald in a few more literary pages for me to turn in the long winter months ahead.

They didn’t fail me, these cherubs, nor my family in their giving.

It pays to properly place angels on things, doesn’t it?

It also pays to have an Amazon Wishlist.

I’m not generally one for making a list and checking it twice, and I’m definitely not making a plug for Amazon, but, I do find that keeping books on such a list helps me remember what I hope to read in the future – and I think it helps my family out as well.

Of course, there is my TBR list(s); in notebooks, on envelope flaps, napkins, and receipts, but, well, you know how most of those end up, don’t you? On the bottom of a purse, or shoe, in the wash, or on the floor of the car. This is all to ask you how you keep track of books you want to read. While your thinking on that, I thought you might like a glance at my holiday haul.

I think I’ll be starting with Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther.

The house is settling into the kind of quiet that sneaks in after the family goes home, the dishes are washed, the lights are turned on, and blissful feelings hover around moments well spent. ‘Tis good to have a few books to read as one settles in.

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The Grand Essentials

The grand essentials to happiness in this life are

something to do,

something to love,

and something to hope for.

We’ve been busy here on the Cutoff; opening presents, tasting molasses cookies for the very first time, chasing Kezzie so she can “fine” Yia Yia and have a good belly laugh, waiting for Papa to wind up the angel, again and again, and watch her wings or dance to the music.  We’ve played the “pano”, up and down the keyboard, and we watched the deer run across the lawn. We’ve managed to turn on every light in the house, by midday, because it is fun. We’ve had big dinners, long breakfasts, and gone out for pizza and we’ve played with more bubbles at bedtime than any little girl could possible hope for. Most importantly, we’ve kept the magic of the season so peacefully alive and we look forward to see what this, the fifth day of Christmas, brings.

I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. I’ll be posting more as Christmas winds down.

(quote attributed to Joseph Addison)

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Did the animals speak?

In some traditions, it is said that animals speak in human tongue at midnight on Christmas Eve. While I have not heard an animal speak at midnight, I did notice some peculiarities this morning.

For instance, these Santas, left on the table after our Christmas feast, looked a bit spent this morning as sunlight streamed through the kitchen window. On closer look, they were just hugging and otherwise resting after adorning our dinner plates last night. Jason was the last person seen near them. Hum?

Later, when I went to set the table for some hearty leftover Beef Bourguigon, they seemed to have gotten a second wind, reminding me of the June Taylor dancers from the Jackie Gleason Show. I highly suspect that Antler Man had something to do with this display.

The sheep and others were roaming around the table, enjoying the bright sunlight. I think they were also enjoying the caramels, for when I looked in the candy dish, the pile of golden wrapped gems was greatly depleted. Bah! A lamb would never take a caramel – unless, of course, he was a black sheep. Bah! Bah!

Elsewhere in our little animal kingdom here on the Cutoff, the birds were resting in a Christmas tree, looking for the herd of wandering deer that roam our property. The deer have been bedding down elsewhere this winter. At least this far into December. The Christmas Buck that captured our attention survived last winter. We would see him limping, behind the others, but still foraging through the past year. We wondered where he slept this Christmas Eve. We may never know as the animals around here certainly aren’t talking.

I’ve been resting up after the busy holiday weekend  – and anticipating more joy as the Minnesotans arrive for Christmas on the Cutoff, part two.


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Christmas Day

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday to you all, wherever you are, and thank you one and all for your presence in my life here on the Cutoff. Penny

(Christmas Day, Give or Take a Week or Two, Bev Doolittle)

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A Good Day for Reflection

Most of the baking is done and what is left to bake won’t take long. A good time for reflection.

The molasses cookies are now frosted and stored in a big, Tupperware cake tote. The tote has never been used to tote cake, mind you. Instead, is employed once a year for molasses cookies. The large lid serves as a bowl with the tray as a lid. It works famously this way and holds dozens and dozens of cookies. The very best part of it all is when the tote is opened; oh the scents that come forth are pure bliss.

I make the dough and refrigerate it, where it sits and mellows, sometimes for several days. Then, the dough is rolled and shapes cut and baked. The baked cookies sit until the next day to be frosted. There are so many to frost the job would never be done if Tom didn’t sit and help me. He remembers that Ethel used to bake the cookies and then Richard, her brother, would frost them the next day. I like to imagine them in the old farmhouse on the Ohio homestead, snug and warm within, baking and frosting the cookies.

I had trouble with the dough this year. The cookies are among the best tasting I’ve ever made, but the dough was hard to work with. It became too frustrating and I was losing ground, so, I made what I could and froze the rest of the dough for another time  with plenty of Ethel cookies for the holiday.

Sometimes life is like cookie dough, isn’t it? You have to know when to keep rolling the dough, and when to call it a day.

As I was dusting the dust of memories made and to be made, this picture looked down at me. It is small. 2″ by 4″. Though diminutive, it is large in what matters and brings to mind Normal Rockwell’s paintings. It is Tom’s maternal grandfather taken at the local school in a small community in Ohio. He was the custodian. Grandpa is standing next to a tree. A Christmas tree. It looks like a fir and is atop a push cart that Grandpa is leaning on. Gone are the days when a live tree adorns a schoolhouse, of course, but the picture is sweet and of a bygone era. Tom’s grandfather has a big, pleasant smile on his face, in spite of the work it must have been getting the tree into the school. He is smoking a pipe, taking a break from his work.

On Friday, amid the hustle and bustle, the uncooperative cookie dough and diminishing pile of Christmas cards, I met a friend for a short chat over coffee. Then I had a date with a tall, handsome, and very bright young man, our grandnephew. Scott and I share the same birthday. It was with great pleasure that he and I took in an afternoon movie. The Adventures of Tintin. What fun it was to watch with an eager young boy, who laughed with glee and slurped his soda and was “wowed” by the action. Life doesn’t get much better than this; sharing in joy with a child.

It is Scott’s great, great grandfather pictured above.

The day was, indeed, a good time for reflection for me. It doesn’t really matter if the cookie dough is stubborn. What matters is taking time with family and friends, having pride in a job well done, and knowing when to rest – and  spending time with a child.

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In yesterday’s post, Danielle mentioned about a tradition of Christmas ghost stories, then Karen put in an Amazon link to another Dicken’s book with Christmas stories, and, well, one link led to another, then to another, then, tada, to Andy Williams. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is played constantly in these parts come December; on the radio, in the grocery store, the elevator, the coffee shop. I’ve heard it most of my life, yet, I never wondered about the line about ghost stories.

There’ll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of
Christmases long, long ago

It all just got me to thinking. Do you know any scary ghost stories of Christmas?

While you are thinking about this, here’s Andy Williams.


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