Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category




Facebook has a little feature where one can click on a link and your profile image is superimposed (or whatever they do) into a Christmas scene. Just for fun, I clicked, and this is what appeared. Can you find me?

I’m the ghost of Christmas past.ūüôā

It is really a photo of me, when I was a young lass – none other than the Angel of the Lord at my church’s Christmas pageant. You can find¬†my story of being a fallen angel here. In the photo¬†below, there¬†I am, in all my angelic glory, on the night of the Christmas Pageant, oh-so-many¬†years ago, and from whence the apparition appears – now rising from a couch!

Good tidings!


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IMG_8656I was sitting with my laptop, on my lap, my eyes on the computer screen. my ears on the strains of music.

I always look forward to PBS’s airing of A Capitol Fourth and enjoy the program; the music, the people, the tributes, and the memories.

I was relishing it all, from military bands to pop stars, my eyes wandering from computer screen to television screen, watching performers and attendees enjoy our national birthday party.

Kenny Loggins came on, first playing Convictions of the Heart, then rolling into Footloose. Not really a song one would expect on Independence Day, but, then, again, why not? We ARE free to dance where we want. Flash Mobs pop¬†up and invade social media, those being “flashed” seem to enjoy¬†them, but, I digress.

My feet always start to move when Loggins’¬†Footloose comes on, and I did right then; ¬†I felt footloose and started dancing around, hoping I didn’t bump into the furniture, knock a lamp over, or bungle my back. Sometimes it is fun to just cut loose.

We saw Kenny Loggins in concert a few years ago. It was a wonderful outdoor concert at the Morton Arboretum. By the time the stars and fireflies came out, even  the trees were swaying to Danger Zone.

Kenny’s songs played often and loudly in our house.¬†The House at Pooh Corner was a¬†strong contenders for Katy’s father/daughter wedding dance. James (you know who) won out.

Kenny was singing, my toes were tapping, the Capitol rocked – and my memory wheel started turning back several decades to the year we spent the 4th of July, Independence Day, in Washington D.C. The girls were old enough to appreciate the trip, young enough to go along with all the historical venues (well, most of them).

We spent the entire day, July 4, touring D.C. sites, starting with the reading of the Declaration of Independence in front of the National Archives, and ending with the fireworks display on the Mall. We rode the trolley¬†to Arlington National Cemetery, quietly taking in the rows upon rows of burial markers.¬†We watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and also paid respects at the Kennedy graves, then onward to the Lincoln Memorial, which was full of people, the reflecting pond suddenly coming to life for me where it had been before only in historical photos, Forrest Gump, etc. We spent time at the Smithsonian’s museums¬†and more changing of the guard at the National Archives. We spent time on the Mall, witnessed the Viet Nam Memorial, and listened to a bit of a character expound¬†on why he was running for president . . . let’s just say there have always been characters running for president. This candidate wore a safari outfit, complete with a whip, like Indiana Jones, and he shared his arrest record.

Unplanned and unprepared, we found¬†a spot on the lawn of Mall to wait for the fireworks – after we dined on the worst hot dogs imaginable and lived to tell about it! We¬†sat on our sweatshirts, as we did not have blankets to place on the grass. Religious groups, aging hippies and folks¬†from all walks of life and countries made what appeared like a human blanket on the nation’s lawn. It was really one big block party.¬†I think the four of us will always remember it, though in different ways, with different but valid convictions in our hearts.



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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Juliet Batten

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