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Hawk

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I saw him as I rounded the bend in the road.

It is really just a slight incline that opens from the small forest that borders our little island of homes. It is a pleasant enough bend in the road as we rumble along to the main street.

I have noticed him several times recently, but, had not expected to see him right them.

I slowed down, engaged the emergency flasher on my car, and watched, hoping no one would drive up behind me.

There he sat, a prince perched on a lofty branch, surveying his principality. He seemed to stare at me, daring me to open my window on a bitterly cold day – so, I did! No sooner had I clicked  – or whatever it is that a cell phone camera does –  when he swept upward, exposing his red tail and underbelly, executed a brief half circle, then soared across six lanes of interstate traffic before he dipped onto the small hill of opposing vegetation, then swooped up to a tree on the other side, prey in his talons. Phew!

 Luncheon was served.

As I engaged my still mocha colored VW with a latte interior, eyes on the road ahead, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but, another red-tailed hawk! This one was atop a light pole, and did not wait for me to capture his likeness. He just lifted up and across, following the west bound traffic on the other side before disappearing from sight.

It was a good day.

I won’t attempt to write about the silly sparrow who chose to shop at the grocery store!

 

 

Be Still

 

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.

Fruit Pizza . . .

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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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Today and Always

” . . . 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

Gifts in Old Boxes

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?

 

 

Another Gift That Keeps on Giving

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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