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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

As often happens, holidays bring the loss of a loved one to the forefront. It was particularly so for me this year with Greek Orthodox Easter. It isn’t that Dottie and I celebrated together every year. We didn’t. It was missing the unique, shared experiences that siblings hold. I miss her.

Memories are precious.

This is a re-blogging of a post from six years ago.

 

Harry, Sam and Us (from April 16, 2012)

After greeting each other on Sunday with Christos Anesti, followed by Alethos Anesti, Dottie and I quickly rolled into a phone conversation ranging from Greek Easter bread, which I had just put into the oven, Easter eggs dyed red in the Greek tradition, favorite pastries and how I was making pastichio. One comment lead to another and soon we were recalling the long ago morning we first learned the ancient hymn sung by Orthodox Christians in the early morning of Easter and for the next forty days.

As often occurs with siblings, we each recalled different aspects and had different points of view; how old we were, what room of the house we were in, what time of day.

Dottie and I had been attending Greek school, learning to read and write the language. We had also been attending Sunday School and knew the story of Holy Week and Easter, but we had never attended the Easter Sunday Agape service.

That Easter morning, my mother and grandmother were busy preparing dinner; lamb and potatoes were roasting, the bread was sitting, a red egg in the center, waiting to be sliced, and pastries were hidden from eager young mouths. My father called to us and said he was going to teach us a song. Our cousin Teddy joined us.

We sat upon my parents’ bed as Daddy explained the sacred hymn sung only at Easter. He was going to teach us and then we were going to church for the Agape service. We would hold candles and sing the chant; Christos Anesti. Christ is Risen. He said the words in Greek and we repeated them and then he sang them. We followed suit until we mastered it, which we quickly did., except for the very last line.

Dottie asked me, her voice rising, “do you remember Harry, Sam and Us”?

I did, I exclaimed! One of us, or was it all us?  We couldn’t remember who couldn’t quite master the phrase, just my dad trying to help us through it and finally saying “Haa-ree Sa-a-a-menos. Say it like  Harry, Sam and Us”.

Harry, Sam and Us!

We laughed as we remembered my father’s way of teaching us and we reflected on how lucky we were to have had a father who spent so much time with us and our cousins as well. We remembered that service, our first time in participating in it, so rich and beautiful, the Gospel being read in four languages, the candles and sense of community that comes of faith. We talked, as we often do, of how lucky we were to have the parents we did and the childhood we lived.

We celebrate two Easters here on the Cutoff. Somewhere along the years they have taken on the names of Regular Easter and Greekster. Sunday was Greekster. Our table was laden with traditional food, our talk was lively, and I smiled to myself as I recalled the memories of a long ago Easter morning.

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If-truth-be-told, we are often out-and-about in separate cars, yet, somehow, we usually manage to find each other by the time we reach the end of the road.

So it was on Friday that we arrived in separate cars. Tom needed to be at church earlier than I did, to help set up for the Good Friday service. He also brought the cross, which he meticulously crafted for our newly established satellite church location.. It was a labor of love and an act of humility from the wonderful carpenter Tom is.

I had a busy day doing household chores, running errands, checking table coverings, picking up ingredients for Sunday’s Easter dinner. I would arrive a bit later than Tom did, serve as a greeter, then, side-by-side, the two of us would worship together. It was a moving and meaningful service, both contemplative and experimental, solemn yet hopeful.

The evening air was rather pleasant as pulled out on to the road. A wispy veil of clouds floated above, hinting, then giving way to a moon that pretty full.

 

Kezzie’s Moon!

It is a sweet story, told here on the Cutoff a time or two, especially her first, full moon, which you can read about here.

Eight years have passed since that special night. While on our long ride home, the day after our granddaughter was born. Tom and I (in the same car 🙂 ) stopped at a tollway Oasis to stretch our legs. As we got out of the car, there, just coming up on the horizon, was the moon. It was big and bright and brilliant and I declared “it’s Kezzie’s  moon!”- and so it was and is and will be forevermore.

It warmed my heart when I later learned that Kezzie, way up north where she lives, was also watching the moon rising, and that she proclaimed that it was her moon, Kezzie’s moon, which gave me pause and a moment to reflect on how wondrous it is that we can also manage to find each other by the light of the late March moon.

 

 

 

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The traveling vase has been resurrected!

The vase been sitting on the chifforobe since Christmas, patiently gathering dust. It was last filled with flowers when my daughter, Jennifer, made a festive Christmas floral arrangement.

Last week, my friend Bev shared photos of some clever Easter arrangements using –

wait for it –

jelly Beans and Peeps!

I was up for the challenge.

I already had a bag of jelly beans sitting on a kitchen shelf and Marshmallow Peeps are readily available this time of year. My friend Marilyn suggested placing a jelly jar inside the vase; the jar to hold the flowers and to act as a barrier between the Peeps and Jelly Beans.  A jelly jar to keep Peeps in line and hold jelly beans in place!

I ended up putting a shot glass inside the jelly jar to hold some daffodils. Daffodils are toxic to other flowers in an arrangement, but, I knew I wanted to pick some from the garden to add to the spray roses and Hypericum berries I had purchased. Glass inside of glass allowed to use the flowers I chose.

Daffodils are putting on a sustained performance in our garden, now that Spring has finally arrived.

So it is that the traveling vase has once again traded hands, hopping down the bunny trail to Jennifer’s house. Who knows when it will return or what will hold, but, I know it will be special. Very special, indeed.

The story of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Vase begins here.

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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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” . . . 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

img_1916I bid you peace at this holy time with the warmest of wishes for a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah and joy today and always.

Penny

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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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