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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

IMG_6421My posts seem to be arriving as sporadically as Spring. Business and busyness are wiggling their way into my life these days.  I wonder about your life as well.

We had a quiet Easter Sunday here on the Cutoff. Following a moving church service and a time of fellowship with good friends, we wound our way home, taking the scenic route through towns with estates, down country-like roads. on to the vast acreage of the Cook County Forest Preserves. We do this as often as we can, appreciating the beauty that anchors our lives, feeling fortunate and blessed to live so close nature and thankful of those who came before us who preserved such large areas of forest and prairie, fens and marshes, trees and wildflowers.

We were also on a mission. Earlier in the week I noticed a flock of birds, unfamiliar to me, who had congregated along the shore of the nearby Saganashkee Slough. I will write more about them in another post, but, below is a photo of our migratory visitors.

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Once home, our cameras loaded with nature shots,and a few of my feet or Tom’s nose, we each found a nest of our own to nestle in, relax, read, watch television, even take a little nap. It is good to relax and refresh sometimes.

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A big meal really wasn’t practical for just the two of us, but, a nice dinner, by candlelight, filled with flowers and reflection rounded out our Easter.  It was a simple supper; pork tenderloin (which I stuffed with apples and raisins), fresh, roasted asparagus spears, and baked sweet potatoes. Peter Rabbit joined us, munching on his carrot, and I, dear reader, felt once again the warmth of the season before us, the sacrifice so long ago behind made, and the hope of what lies ahead.

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I hope you are enjoying your emerging season, whether here in the northern hemisphere where the grass is turning greener and trees are showing buds, or you are enjoying autumn and look toward the  winter ahead in the southern hemisphere. I wish you peace as you begin your week, and soon a new month.

 

 

 

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IMG_5117A darkened sky with heavy clouds and frosty air are wavering without, the soft glow of candlelight, tree lights and table lamps are glowing within. It is very still here. But for the click of the furnace kicking on, the creaks and the groans of our old house, or an occassional branch brushing against the roof,  my simple life here is remarkably still; a silent night on this, the seventh day of Christmas.

My Antler Man is down for the count on the sofa, quite under-the-weather with a bit of a stomach bug. Chicken broth is simmering on the back burner; nourishment for his sore tummy.

Our northernmost family left hours ago for their long, winding trek home. The local contingency, who graced us often this Christmastide, are hopefully headed out for an enjoyable evening. All is as it should be in my little corner of the world.

As you may know, I am not one for resolutions, nor do I harbor regrets, but, I do wish for a healthy and peaceable year to come. For you, each and every one, I wish you a healthy and good 2016. Thank you all for visiting here; for reading, for commenting, and for being exactly who you are. So, as the minutes tick by, wherever you are, please take this as  “a cup of kindness” for all time.

Happy New Year.  Penny

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Dawn is breaking here, tossing a heavy blanket of clouds overhead. The early fog is lifting and there are shadowy shapes of deer gliding across the neighboring lot of nothingness. They are quietly grazing for food, reminders of all that is yet to be had.

The house is still. Not a creature is stirring, not even a grandchild, affording me these few private moments to sip my cup of piping hot tea and to reflect on Christmastide here along the Cutoff.

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The house has been full of goodness, excitement and love, though our Ezra was very much under-the-weather on Christmas Eve. He perked up and was feeling better come Christmas Day, and even entertained us with some lively renditions on the piano.

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Our Kezzie has been my “cook fantastic”, eagerly helping us frost Ethel cookies and making Pinch Cake.

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Our family has gathered around the Christmas tree, exchanged gifts, and dined  around our sturdy table, an abundance of food and sweets upon it, many times. It has reminded me, once again, of how fortunate we are in what we have and of the joy of this season.

December has not been without some challenges, nor have I spent each hour rejoicing, but, for now, in the still of the early hours, I will bask for a bit in the hopes and cheers of Christmas.

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I have missed you, dear readers, and am sorry for not writing for a spell, and I hope your days have been good, and your evenings restful. I will write again soon, but, for now, I need to find the rest of my flock of sheep.

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IMG_4821My Christmas books have slowly appeared on the coffee tables and sit on the occasional chair. There is even a children’s section on a low bookcase in the hall. I’m hoping a youngster, or two, finds them to read. I adore children’s literature. Over the years, I have acquired a nice  sampling of books of the season; both through my own purchase and as treasured gifts from family and friends.

A few gifts have been purchased, but, I am running behind. I have started gathering ingredients needed to begin my holiday baking. For me, it IS holiday baking. Not everyone I share the gifts of my kitchen with celebrate Christmas. What we do all celebrate is a collective godliness and goodwill during our holy days, and I find great joy in the gift of giving food whenever I can.

Joy.

A theme of this season and one that has been visiting me often lately.  “A Woman’s Christmas; Returning to the Gentle Joys of the Season” was the first of my Christmas literary treasures to find its way back into my hands. It was in this little volume where I found the quote in my previous post. This is a lovely little keepsake book, full of joyful quotes, photos, a few recipes and short essays. It found me last year in one of my favorite antique haunts, Jackson Square Mall. I gravitate to books Victoria Magazine published, especially those of the late 1990’s. There is a gentleness of spirit and sensibility to them that calls to the old fashioned girl in me.

Joy.

It showed up again in Sunday’s sermon. Our pastor is a gifted speaker and his message sang out to me as he spoke of the difference between happiness and joy. He seemed to expand on the words in the aforementioned quote – a coincidence I soaked thirstily up. His words and those of scripture spoke to me, making a “joyful noise” inside my soul.

Joy.

Later, as I pushed my shopping cart through T. J. Maxx, looking for the perfect gifts while gravitating to decorations I did not need, I thought of my happiness at learning that our family will all be together on Christmas this year, then, the pure joy of anticipating a full house overcame me.

My Tasha Tudor Christmas books will eventually make an appearance, especially her book, “Take Joy”.  I have written of it before, here on the Cutoff, and will try to share it again sometime soon.  In-the-meantime, dear reader, I wish you joy.

” . . . No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instance. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy! Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty . . . that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it, that is all! . . . And so I greet you, with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away.”

“Letter to a Friend” by Fra Giovanni, 1513

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IMG_4678It’s been far too long since we’ve talked books.

My reading has been rather erratic these days; a season of life where my mind tends to wander as randomly as the snowflakes on this post. I’m on the computer, running more errands than Speedy Delivery, and the “this and that” of life that sometimes overtakes our best intentions. This season of reading lapses has been rather long and chronic, but, I’m thinking a cure is at hand; at least, I hope it is, for books have been calling me.

Here are few books I’ve been dipping into, even double dipping, and I’m finding them to be very tasteful morsels.

Nan, who writes wondrous Letters from a Hill Farm, manages to consistently steer me towards authors I might not otherwise hear of. Her engaging post on Heather Lende’s books, which she wrote about HERE, intrigued me so much that I promptly ordered Lende’s “If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name”. Then I remembered Sallie, visited Haines and its vicinity last year, posting about it HERE, where she lives a Full Time Life, taking us along on her adventure.

I love the way blogs interconnect.

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Belle, whose charm and grace always come through in her posts on Belle, Book, and Candle, graciously and generously sent me “Everyone Is Entitled to My Opinion”. Belle wrote about this compilation of one page commentaries by David Brinkley HERE. Some of you will remember David Brinkley (and his on air news partner, Chet Huntley). I miss the long ago days of the likes of Huntley/Brinkley, Walther Cronkite, and their ilk. Still-in-all, there are good writers like Heather Lende who give us snapshots of life in well written ways.

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As if these weren’t the only books to keep me company for a brief spell whilst sipping tea in a favorite chair (though not the one that got away), or a hot latte in a coffee shop,

My collection of Christmas books are starting to creep into the scene. Books I never tire of and that feel brand new each season. Perhaps I’ll share a few soon, but, right now, my main Christmas book is “Advent and Christmas from G. K. Chesterton”. A quote, a verse, a prayer, and an action. It helps me to remember the season and keeps me a bit grounded in a month of busyness and in a time of such worldly turmoil. Today, the action, in part, is to “turn one would- be grumble into an occasion for thanks”.  I’m working on this.

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Our December book group discussion will be on  Marina Chapman’s “The Girl With No Name”. I’m just getting started with this read and finding it a challenge to put it down. We will, I am sure, have a lively and engaging discussion in a few weeks along with our (wait for it) annual book exchange and food is always involved. I promise, no double dipping there.

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Well, time’s a wasting. The sun is out, temperatures are mild. It is a good day to get the car washed, for salt and snow and soot and such wreak havoc on cars in our climate. My Christmas shopping has barely begun and there is all that baking, which I love to do. Did I mention our garden club meeting on Monday? Oh, I should have, for this month we are celebrating the 1950’s and all things Disney. I can’t wait to see what our members wear, but, first, I need to consider what I’ll use for a table arrangement. Hmmm. I think I will turn this grumble into an occasion for thanks; for this remarkable consortium of gardeners, for the ability to do the work needed, and for all the joy it brings.

How about you? What are you reading?

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Taking the time

IMG_4649As the clock ticks towards our Thanksgiving Day meal, my thoughts wander from the turkey roasting in the oven, family soon to surround us, and the bustle of activity that comes with this annual November cooking frenzy. The reason for all this November cooking frenzy in the first place?

Thanksgiving.

Taking the time to count one’s blessings and to be thankful.

We have had a rough year, for sure, but, we have also had more blessings than not, experienced grace, and been shown mercy. Our home is warm, our stomachs regularly filled. Loving family and friends are ever-present and we are sheltered from the winds and snow and cold. We are also mindful that not everyone is as a fortunate as we are.

I sit in a quiet moment of this Thanksgiving Day and I think of my ancestors, boat people all, who sailed across the Atlantic; some at the turn of the 20th century, others much earlier in time, and of those already here who opened their doors, fed them, housed them, found them jobs until they could find their own way in this vast land. I think as well of those my family in turn sheltered, tended their children as they worked, fell ill, buried husbands or wives, mothers and fathers. Each in turn, taken in, shown the way, keeping to customs and religious beliefs and slowly assimilating to others.

I sit here in my quiet moment and remember those Thanksgivings of change as loved ones passed away or moved distances afar, when money was tight and when it was plentiful. I think of the Thanksgiving when our world seemed to tilt in its axis when John Kennedy was assassinated.  We have broken bread on Thanksgiving with authors and musicians, students and immigrants; some at our table, some at the tables of family and friends.

One Thanksgiving our little, fledgling family hosted one guest. and I remember him this Thanksgiving. Gabrielle came from Croatia, by way of a Soviet gulag. Arrested and sentenced to years in a prison, his crime was distributing leaflets while a young man studying to be a priest. This kind man entertained our young daughters with stories of the kitten who befriended him during his darkest hours in jail; a kitten he shared his meager meal of bread with, and he shared his faith, which did not waver. It was a Thanksgiving so long ago now, but, still as fresh as the meal now roasting, for its poignant moments and Gabrielle’s joie de vivre.

I chuckle at the recollection of the frozen turkey that almost killed me, propelling toward my head at 35 mph and of the turkey whose giblets I left in the bird, only to find upon carving. There was the pumpkin pie I dropped trying to move it up a rack in the oven, shooting pumpkin custard all over the kitchen, including the ceiling and me and the youthful Thanksgiving when it was just my immediate family – a rarity growing up. My mother decided to roast a capon, whilst I worried how in the world she could cook, and worse yet, we all eat a bird with a cape on.

I sit here in my quiet moment, smelling the aromatic scents of our own roasting “bird” and can recall the flavors of my life along with the many faces across our table and other tables we have dined around. As I remember, I wonder and I hope that this simple gift of Thanksgiving on a Thursday in November will always be a day of Thanksgiving, no matter where our ancestors came from, and will be more  than a prelude to Black Friday, a paragraph in history.

My bird needs basting and some vegetables need to be diced, so, I best end this quiet moment of memories. Before I do, I need to say thank you, one and all, for visiting here on the Cutoff, reading my words, sharing your thoughts, taking the time to be here.

 

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BraveCompanionsI was looking for something to read; a book to pick up with a stand-alone chapter to pass an hour or so on my Independence Day afternoon. David McCullough’s” 1776″ and “Truman” were standing at attention as I reached for his “Brave Companions: Portraits in History”.  A bookmark with early scenes of Boston rested inside. It reminded me of the charming bookstore, Toad Hall, where I purchased “Brave Companions ”  on a trip to Massachusetts several years ago. Just what I needed on a slow, holiday afternoon.

I enjoy reading David McCullough’s books. His conversational style of writing brings historical characters, events and places alive.His unique voice and storytelling style often make me want to learn more. Be it about Harry Truman or the first year of the Revolutionary War, I always come away from McCullough’s books feeling a wee bit more knowledgeable about subjects I love.

So it was on this Fourth of July that I opened “Brave Companions”, surveyed the chapters’ topics,  landed on Washington on the Potomac, and took a brisk stroll with Mr. McCullough. We walked past historic venues and notable spots, with bits and pieces of the people and places and occurrences that make Washington, D.C. a remarkable capital city.

I finished the chapter, a fitting essay to read on this day, then I rested my eyes for a spell, thinking about my favorite Fourth of July. It was the summer we took our girls to D.C. for a family vacation. We did the touristy things one does in D.C., but the memory that stands clearest was how we spent the Fourth of July.  We walked from our hotel across the Mall and heard a dramatic early morn reading of the Declaration of Independence in front of the National Archives. We took the trolley to Arlington Cemetery, then to the Lincoln Memorial, several buildings of the Smithsonian, the Vietnam Wall . . . and walked and rode on and on, ending our day with fireworks on the Mall, the Washington monument looming above as if holding the colorful display for all to see.

It was nice to remember that Independence Day, appreciating Mr. McCullough’s words on the pages just read, and feeling grateful for what I have.

How about you? Have you read any history or historical fiction lately? Have you read anything by David McCullough?

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