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when the bee stings,

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when I’m feeling sad

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I simply remember my favorite things

 

and then I don’t feel so bad.

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Just a few of my favorite things.

img_2151What things make you happy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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laura-ingalls-wilderpioneer-girlBe Still

They come to me, these simple words, in times of trouble, of worry, or distress. They come, as well, in times of happiness, solitude and joy.  They comfort me; a soft and simple prayer that gives me strength in the darker hours of woe. They settle me. They calm me.

Sometimes, I just say “Still” or “Still my heart Lord“. The words come bidden, and sometimes not. They are often just there, hanging like morning mist upon my thoughts. Always, my heart IS stilled and my hurt, or worry, or anxiety lessens.

Monday afternoon, after running a few errands and starting our evening meal, I set the teakettle on a slow flame, for tea should not be rushed, and I picked up this great “find” my son-in-law Tom gave me. He knows my interest in Laura Ingalls Wilder and, a kindred biblio-spirit, he caught a university book sale that was not to be missed. I snatched a pinwheel cookie, my book and my tea and settled onto a favorite reading spot. img_2267

This mug was a gift from Jennifer and Jason. The flower looks much like my blooming Amaryllis bulbs, brilliant in their papery essence; delicate yet strong. The words, Be Still, sit perfectly inside the rim of the cup and meet my gaze each time I take a sip of something warm and comforting.

This mug is thinner than most mugs. In fact, it feels much like a teacup. It holds the heat in well and it fits my hands just so, letting my fingers wrap around to snuggle the warm, golden liquid.

So it was, on a wintry afternoon, just as dusk was starting to fall, the twinkle of candlelight dancing along with the steam in my cup, that stillness overcame me and that I embraced it, as it brought me back to where I should be.

Still.

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. . . and other sweet treasures.

I couldn’t find the recipe. It wasn’t in my recipe files, nor was it in a small notebook with Hollie Hobbie on the cover, a gift from a student a long time ago. Inside it are old, faded favorites with tell-tale splatters.

No luck!

The recipe for Fruit Pizza was given to me by my friend, Linda, who first brought this delectable delight to my family many moons ago. Jennifer liked it so much that I asked for the recipe. Maybe it was in the Field School Cookbook. Linda’s children attended the same elementary school as Jennifer and Katy, so I thought it might be in there.

No luck!

I love these recipe books that come from PTA’s, women’s auxiliaries, civic organizations, etc. I call them church lady cookbooks, and I keep them, even if there is only one recipe in them that I use. These are the best of recipe books, for no woman puts in her worst recipe, does she (or he)?

At any rate, I could not find the recipe for Fruit Pizza, even in the school cookbook, but, I did come upon my friend Donna’s recipe for Lemon Sherbet! Donna served us this refreshing and sweet delight as desert for our book group’s annual Christmas Book Discussion in early December.  The tartly sweet frozen sherbet, along with a tray of Christmas cookies, was a perfect complement to her dinner. Then and there, I decided to make sherbet for our Christmas Eve dinner. This young lass helped me. The Lemon Sherbet accompanied not only our Christmas Eve deserts, but, our Christmas Day festivities as well.

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Ezra and Kezzie (and Papa) also frosted Ethel Cookies, an old family favorite. Our kitchen became a confectionary lab for young hands as we slid on a floor covered with powdered sugar and sprinkles.

Both children awakened before their Mommy and Daddy on Christmas morning. Kezzie was eager to make Pinch Cake, a Christmas morning tradition ever since our own daughters were young.

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Unable to find the recipe for Fruit Pizza, it occurred to me that it was one of our Jennifer’s favorite treats and that I must might have put it in a cookbook I made her – and I had! She brought it over on Christmas. We made it later in the week to bring to Aunty Jenny’s.

It is always a joy for me to bake with our grandchildren. It is rewarding as well; not only for our taste buds, but, the for the ritual of baking for them, showing them how we prepare the food we eat, and, of course, eating the things we make.

The first step in making fruit pizza is to make the cookie crust. It is basically a sugar cookie base patted and rolled onto a pizza pan and baked.

Kezzie was quite the young expert at rolling out the dough and patting it in the pan.

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When the cookie dough was done, we let it cool while we made a cream cheese frosting.

Then, like any good pizza, it needed toppings. Kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries were carefully placed around the pizza, with both children topping if off. Ezra LOVES fruit. It seemed the perfect kitchen activity for him (and it was).

Round and round the pizza they went with circles of fruit marching along in a palatable parade that made for a perfect desert at Aunty Jenny’s and Uncle Jason’s Gnocchi Night!

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Do you have a church lady cookbook (or more)? How about a fun fruit desert? Are you doing anything to bring in the New Year, and, lest I forget, Happy New Year to all!

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. . . and so, dear ones, the traveling vase once again returned to our home.

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Jennifer arrived on Christmas with the latest floral arrangement to grace this simple glass bowl, which has been reigning on high in the dining room, catching candlelight and sunshine.

The sun was streaming in the windows this morning, and for a brief spell lingered on the alstroemeria and mums. I love the use of the beaded bumble-bee and am impressed with how Jennifer used foil wrapping paper to add dimension, color, and support to the stems inside the bowl.

Well done, Jennifer!

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Interested in our Sisterhood of the Traveling Vase?  Click here to start at the beginning.

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img_1799It was in a box. A gift box from a local Ohio store. One of those sturdy boxes with the department store’s name etched on it. It was the kind of box that once held a crisp, white dress shirt or a silk slip. The box was full of loose photos, newspaper clippings, funeral cards; the bits and pieces and fragments of life that have the tendency to build nests inside boxes and quietly nurture the past.

Although I never had the pleasure of meeting him, I instinctively knew the man in the photo was Tom’s grandfather, John, and that the photo was one of those “finds” that demanded a frame to enclose it and a shelf to rest upon.

This is a small photo, with a bright light shining upon John. It has a folksy look that always makes me wonder what Norman Rockwell would have made of it.

John spent much of his life as a farmer. We have another photo of him with his first team of horses. John has the same honest, direct gaze in his eyes in that photo, as well.

Like many farmers of his time, of any time, in truth, John also worked side jobs to eke out a sustainable income. Farm life was, and still is hard, struggling from crop to crop, season to season. So it was that John did custodial work for the local school and the Lutheran church down the road; buildings that needed to be kept warm for students and for parishioners, as well as odd jobs that kept everything going.

This photo harkens the holidays. John is standing on a small stage, much like a stage I once stood on in my own childhood. These wooden stages were a few steps up, usually in the church basement or school gymnasium. They allowed for recitations, commencements, ceremonies and meetings. Perhaps you had , or still have, one in your life.

John is looking directly into the camera, a pipe in his mouth, wearing overalls and work shoes. He is leaning on what appears to be a dolly. At his side is a freshly cut evergreen tree. My ever-active imagination conjures up scenes of John and another going off to find the tree, felling it, loading it onto a platform in back of  the “machine”. Farm folk, and some city folk, often called automobiles machines. Finally, the tree would be put to rest at the foot of this stage. A hand-wrought wooden tree stand holds the tree. The tree awaits tinsel and ornaments, a star or an angel on top.

This little snapshot in time speaks volumes of a kind and hardworking man who struggled to make ends meet,  yet, still smiled as he looked his neighbor in the eyes, puffed on his pipe, and held, frozen in time, an act of goodwill and anticipation.

Have you ever found a long-ago gift in a box or drawer or whatever?

 

 

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img_1736Nostalgia has once again infected me, eliciting an audible sigh, a smile, a tear or two. My nostalgia is filled with gratitude and joy, memories and such. It comes with the bits and pieces of family and friends’ gifts and simple inheritances that find their way onto tree branches and shelves, as well as in the scents, sounds, and sentiments of the season. Many of you experience the same feelings, no matter what holiday or season you are celebrating.

This day, I bade the Antler Man to take down my Christmas plates, which were nestled on a high shelf. These plates are usually employed into service (I’m really missing Downton Abbey) after my birthday and a few weeks before Christmas. They grace our table until Christmas is put away, which is after Epiphany here on the Cutoff. I treasure them for their simplicity and for the memories of my mom that accompany them.

When the Christmas plates come out, so does this platter. I do not know who the maker was. It was a part of a set of  “nice dishes” that belonged to my Yia Yia and were used when we had company. The set had either flowers or a scene in the center. I do not remember them, except for the lacy, gold trim around the rim. This platter must have been a bonus plate – at least it was a bonus for me. One fine day, sometime after Ma gave me the Christmas plates, she gave me this platter. I think she enjoyed my holiday fancies as much as I me.

Ma also gave me this toy banjo, which you can read more about here. It was the only gift she and her siblings received, on Christmas Eve – every Christmas Eve. Each child was allowed to play with it, then sent off to bed. My grandfather would then play with it. Christmas often brings out the child in us in the simplest of ways. We should never lose sight of where simple pleasures may be.

Imagine it. The same present, every year, for all to share on Christmas Eve!

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I digress.

The Christmas plates are now on the shelf in the kitchen cabinet, replacing, for a month or so, our everyday dishes. They hold not only  memories of Ma, but, the memories of all those who have broken bread at our table,. They tell of conversations over Irish Mist stew and baked ham, leftovers and lasagna. Our daughters ate Rudolph sandwiches on them and we ate Pinch Cake and Eggs on them. Every one from Grandma and Grandpa, friends with nowhere to go, out of town relatives, and so many others joined us come December, and no matter their faith or viewpoints, their social status or education, no matter for all have eaten on these plates.

My Christmas plates –  ’twas and still ’tis another gift that keeps on giving.

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img_1699One of the first gifts I ever purchased with my own earned money was this angel. She sat sedately on a shelf in a five and dime. I was drawn to her sweet, angelic face as she rested upon the shelf. She was gazing down at me.

I gently picked this angel up, held her, turned her around, and discovered something moveable on the bottom. It was a round, wooden wheel, hidden under the angel’s skirt. I turned it, and to my delight, it was a music box.

I wound the wheel, and watched her twirl around, ever-so-slowly, as Silent Night hummed through the store. The angel spun round, her serene face never altering its peaceful expression, her delicate hands gracefully holding her music, her soft cheeks in a sweet blush.

She was the first angel I ever bought, though she was not to be mine. That I would keep her never entered my mind when I discovered her. I was not looking for a Christmas present. I was just looking around in the youthful way of a young girl in the 1960’s.

There was a small sticker on the bottom. It was $3 and some cents. I had about $8 on me; a rather large sum for then. It was money I saved; for what I did not know. I had been doing a lot of babysitting. At fifty cents an hour, it took me six hours to earn enough money to buy this angel. There was a sense of pride and accomplishment at having earned it and a sense of purpose as I made my purchase.

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I would give the angel to my Yia Yia for Christmas.

I showed it to my father, asking him if I could give it to Yia Yia. In those days, in my home, it was the right thing to do; to ask first, respectfully. I sought affirmation for my purchase as well. He was kind in his response, and, I recall, just a little surprised. “You bought this with your babysitting money for Yia Yia?”.  It was one of those moments that I knew Daddy was proud of my actions. He told me it would be a very nice gift for her and that Yia Yia would, indeed, like it.

She did! She turned the little wheel and she enjoyed the music, then she put it on her nightstand. Every-so-often, I would hear the tinny sound of “Silent Night” and my heart would swell with love.

After Yia Yia passed away, my Aunt Christina, Yia Yia’s only daughter, gave me the angel. I keep it out and turn the wheel, every-so-often. Come Christmas, this little angel joins a congregation of others who have formed a choir of heavenly hosts atop the piano. She occasionally takes a few turns around her base, or innocently strums a few notes if someone with a heavy footfall walks past.

The oft used phrase, the gift that keeps on giving, comes to mind when I bring this angel out to our Christmas Room each Advent Season. She has gone from the hands of this granddaughter to her grandmother, and then back again. A certain young miss, who first named the Christmas Room, noticed the angel last year. I think it is time to tell her this little story, and to tell it for a few years more, perhaps. I think family stories, no matter how small, have a way of ripening with the retelling and with age. We need to know our stories, to hear them and to receive them in our hearts  first.

Do you remember the first gift you bought with your own money? .

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I love that the angel’s book has notes on the pages.

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