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The Magic of Snow

IMG_5315 - Version 2The rain was relentless, casting a fine, gray mist over everything. As I drove to the supermarket, the mist turned to rain, slowing down traffic and rendering the parking lot a hazard as shoppers pushed carts against the pelting rain, neither looking left or right to see if cars were approaching. It is the kind of weather situation I try to avoid, but, a sack of potatoes, some bacon for flavoring, and gallon of milk were needed for the promised pot of potato soup for our evening supper.

I located a parking spot and pulled into it, turned the ignition off and stilled the windshield wipers. It was there and then; one brief moment of magical transformation. The raindrops became splats and splotches and then, as if a wand from Hogwarts brushed the the air, giant snowflakes landed, one by one by one, upon the windshield.

Have you ever experienced that moment when a droplet of rain becomes a snowflake, then two and four and eight and more, like a row of kindergartener holding on, grabbing the first grade and second and so forth until a whole school of flakes take hold?

I hurried inside to make my purchases and then out again, into the elements, and home. My potato soup is simmering, waiting the addition of milk and egg dumplings. The snow has painted the Cutoff white; a pristine portrait for now, until the deer and squirrels and other creatures scrawl their signatures like footprints in the sand.

There was something about the snowflakes that brought to mind a story about a man who gained the reputation of being Snowflake Bentley. Do you know about him?

Wilson Bentley was born in 1865 and lived his entire life on the family farm in Jericho, Vermont. He was educated at home by his mother, reading her set of encyclopedias, in between working the farm with his family. Experimenting with his mother’s telescope, he became fascinated with snow crystals (snowflakes), observing that each one was different. Wilson talked his father into buying a camera that would enable him to take photos of the snow crystals through the lens of the microscope, and eventually catalogued some 5,000 snowflakes, discovering that no two are ever alike.

A shy man, different from most, with a good sense of humor, he became known as the Snowflake Man, or Snowflake Bentley.

Some years back, while on a leaf-peeping trip to Vermont, we stopped at the Old Red Mill in Jericho, and saw an exhibit of Snowflake Bentley’s photographs. I bought a snowflake ornament and this charming children’s book.

http://snowflakebentley.com/bio.htm

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I tried to capture some snowflakes as they tumbled upon my windshield. All I got were droplets of water, which are pictured above, though the reverse image of corners of our house and The Barn can be seen in many of the droplets, reminding me, in an odd sort of way, that Bentley also photographed and measured raindrops.

Funny, is it not, how transformative a trip to the supermarket can be on a snowy winter day?

If you click onto the picture of rain, it will enlarge. Scroll around and see if you can find corners of our house.

A Newborn Day

Some days just rise without the need of a camera or an image, a painting or photo. It is what it is and imprints itself upon memory.

This morning was one of those awakenings. It caught me by surprise, just as I awakened, the eyebrow window above me framing the sliver of moon in the still darkened sky. I could see it slicing through the weathered limbs of the maples and oaks, the sharpened peaks of The Barn, with a lone star twinkling below it.

I remained there, prone. I watched as lunar magic pulled me into the newborn day and the dark sky gave way to light and hope and promises to keep, until I needed to rise, and did so just as the sun decided to paint the sky with colors only nature knows, a masterpiece painted into my memory.

 

Marmalade

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I know it is just a television series. A bit of a soap opera. A serial. I know. I know, but, I just cannot seem to help myself. I am  filled with anticipation, a wee bit of sorrow, but mostly excitement for Sunday night’s premier of the final season of Downton Abbey.

I don’t mind so much that Downton Abbey will end. I know that all good things must, I am just, well . . . I just cannot wait to see what all my friends across the pond already have seen. They have all been very discreet and not spoiled the plot lines and ending for us, and I thank them.

Lady Violet is sure to have her share of pithy phrases, and if I must confess, I really like the Dowager House the best.  Thomas will be typically Thomas, I’m sure. Mrs. Hughs and Mr.Carson will say “I do” (or will they?). There are hints in the trailers about the Ladies Mary and Edith, their love lives, car races (see, Tom, I told you there are “guy things” at Downton) . I do hope Edith finds someone to love her who doesn’t leave her at the altar, or die. The Bates?  Will they find peace in their lives and maybe a wee bairn?  Will Sibbie and George get to play in the nursery together again? What about Branson? I’ll miss Mosely . . . ah, but is isn’t over yet. If fact, it hasn’t even started, so, I think I’ll just put on a pot of tea and see if there are any Christmas cookies left in the tower of tins to tide me over until the opening bars of the Downton theme start stringing their way across the telly.

When I saw this jar of Downton Abbey orange marmalade at Cost Plus World Market over the holidays, I plucked it right off of the shelf like a Sunkist orange grower. I brought it home in sweet anticipation. A certain young lad enjoyed a good bit of it on English muffins over the Christmas visit. Ezra really likes orange marmalade, and seems to especially enjoy this export from the Crawley collection. Our charming  little tyke starts planning his breakfast the moment he gets out of bed, with “orange jelly”  often the first words out of his mouth in the morning, but, I digress, as grannies often do.

Off I go, to start my day, in sweet anticipation of the beginning of the end of Downton Abbey. How about you? Are you a fan of the series? Is another series on your watch list?

A Cup of Kindness

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

Jesús, second part

IMG_4866Remember my encounter with Jesús? It was while I was on my quest to find cajetas (dulce de leche)? He was so helpful to me, taking me down aisles, looking with me, checking his scanner –  and then finding a recipe for this caramel sauce and printing it out. Jesús will remain my Christmas story of 2015.

When he found me in the grocery store and gave me a recipe for making cajetas, which he said was just how his grandmother made it, I told him that if I made the cookies, I would bring him some.

The days rushed by before I did finally find the dulce de leche at one of the larger chain stores, and I did make the Alfajores, which turned out to be quite delectable.

After the little shortbread cookies cooled, I spread the dulce de leche on them, sandwiching its sweet goodness inside. I dusted them with powdered sugar, and put them in tins and on plates, for house gifts and for our little house on the Cutoff. I made sure to set aside some for Jesús, with plans to take them to him on Wednesday: a day when I planned several stops after an early morning appointment.

I made it to the Center for Health in record time, parked my car, and went in for a quick nurse visit. Once done, I walked the inside perimeter of the hospital, which is a pleasant way to get in my “steps. I  saw an acquaintance with whom I chatted a bit. All-in-all, this took about 40 minutes.

Just as I stepped out the main door, the heavens opened and a deluge of rain poured down. I hurried to my car, only to find I could not get into the driver’s side. As this was a medical center, he or she could be 20 minutes, or three hours. Fortunately, I was able to open the door on the passenger side. I was at least out of the wind and rain – and I did have a book to read.

Unfortunately, the other driver did not return to his car for an hour and a half.

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Off I went, 90+ minutes of my day gone, two days before Christmas. I was cold, damp (actually, wet), annoyed and frustrated. I did have those Frostian “miles to go”, some holiday related errands, and a stop at the grocery store. Once inside, pushing a shopping cart, choosing some vegetables and fruit, and looking about, I asked a stock boy if Jesús was working. He was, and the young man offered to find him.

A few minutes later, there he was, coming around the bend. As soon as he saw me, a smile broke out on his face. “Are you the Jesús who helped me last week?” He was. Hidden, under my purse, a bag of noodles and a loaf of bread was the small cookie tin of Alfajores.   Jesús smile grew as I pulled the tin out from undercover and handed it to him. My own angry, annoyed heart at being hemmed in melted as Jesús opened the tin, thanked me profusely, and we both went on our way.

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PS The other stock boy, having seen the tin of cookies, asked me several times if I needed any help. :)

While Dawn Was Breaking

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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Jesús

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It started last week at our garden club’s annual Holiday Luncheon. One of the features of this meeting is the tempting and tasty array on the sweet table. Everything looked scrumptiuous, and was, but, there was one cookie that resembled a sandwich cookie. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious and the filling sandwiched in between yielded a remarkable taste sensation. The cookie is called Alfajores, which means little shortbread sandwiches, and the filling was a special caramel. Cajeta (or dulce de leche) is the magnificent flavor in between these little shortbread cookies.

Kathy graciously shared the recipe with club members, a few of which have made them already, and a recipe that I am anxious to try soon; maybe even for Christmas.

With this thought in mind and the recipe on my cell phone, I looked for cajeta while grocery shopping for a few items I needed. I was at a store that I thought might carry this caramel sauce. As I rounded a corner, a young man was checking inventory with a scanner. He looked up at me. I must have looked bewildered, for he said “You look like you need some help“, well, I did, so asked if they carried something called cajeta. I pronounced it ka-jetta. I said I thought it was a caramel spread. “Ah, you meant ka-hetta“. Just the way he said it made me more determined to find it. He took me to the baking aisle, with no luck. His grandmother used to make it, he said, as he clicked words and phrases into his scanner and said, “let’s check another aisle” – so, we did, with no luck, but, with me chattering away about the delicious cookie I wanted to make.

I think we bonded in the peanut butter/Nutella aisle asI thanked him for his help and he went back to work.

I finished up in the dairy section and headed to the checkout, but, before I could get in a line, the young man swept past, then doubled back. “Are you the lady who’s looking for the caramel sauce?“. “Yes, I am“.

My dear friends, this young man had gone into the store’s office, looked up cajeta on the computer, found a recipe for it (like his grandmother used to make), printed it out and went looking for me! I was so touched by his thoughtfulness and the time it took him to do this, and was impressed by his initiative to help out a shopper.

I thanked him and asked him his name. “Jesús”. I smiled and promised him that when I finally make Alfajores, I will bring him some at the store.

Image from here

THE LINK ABOVE IS JUST TO THE IMAGE. THE ACTUAL RECIPE I HAVE IS DIFFERENT AND MUCH EASIER THAN THIS. SORRY FOR CONFUSION.

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