Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Cookie Factory

Just some of what's been keeping me busy these days. We have eldery neighbors and single moms I'm going to surprise.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Little Holiday Joys

Winter holidays are about the warmth of memories. These little china musician angels are among the fondest of my childhood. Carefully stored for most of their lives, they'd appear magically to herald the holiday season. I remember them often being arranged on a small gate-leg table with fancy turned legs adding to its charm. The candles were always old fashioned bayberry because according to ancient tradition ~
A bayberry candle burned to the socket, will bring joy to the heart and gold to the pocket.
In retrospect, I think maybe Mom must have been buying imitation bayberry. Eventually a house fire took most of our family mementos. Sad yes, but thanks to eBay, but not tragic. With a little patience and good fortune, I've discovered that joy can indeed be purchased quite reasonably and the sweetness of memories is not diminished if a little gold leaped from my pocket to another.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Happy Thanksgiving, Family and Friends. We all seem to take stock at Thanksgiving and I've read gratitude lists with everything on them from a warm place to sleep, food to eat, an Xbox and even TiVo. And they're all good. I think its ok to be grateful for the luxury of material things you enjoy.
For me, it's not important what you may be thankful for or about, it is that you actually are in living in the moment long enough to be in a state of thankfulness.

Tonight as I reflect, I am thankful that I live in a country where blithering idiots can speak their mind and I can ignore them.

I am thankful for my bills because they remind me on trying days that I have my dream job that allows me to pay those bills.

I am thankful for the sounds of The Viking's C-Pap and the snoring. One day I may not hear them.

I'm thankful for the challenges life has presented me and that I wasn't behind the barn door when resourcefulness was being handed out.

I'm thankful for the luxury of introspection.

I'm thankful for the amazing strength of friendships discovered in unexpected places.

And, ok... I'm also grateful for TiVo, chocolate, chai latte for my Keurig, men who wink and the Internet. I'm just as shallow as everyone else.

In my email today I got a one liner that says it beautifully:
Thanksgiving is good; Thanks living is better.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mother Natures Finery

In New England, Mother Nature rails agains the encroaching winter like a fiesty, willful teenager. She dresses in her flamboyant, firey reds and dazzling oranges as though she is defiantly daring winter to rob her of her finery.

Ultimately, she knows she will be donning her gray and white robes but she won't give in silently, she wants you to remember her in brazen splendor.

Fall in New England reminds me of Scarlett O'Hara dressing up in grand style sewn from her mama's green velvet drapes, masquerading as the once elegant lady she was, preparing to ask for help from the Yankees. Tara may be a thousand miles away from New Hampshire, but for me, that's fall in New England.

Here in Texas, Mother Nature shows us a different aspect of her glory. Like a grand old Victorian lady who cherishes her memories of younger, wilder days but knows there is nothing to gain by challenging the inevitable, she presents a maturity earned by experience. No less beautiful, but tempered.

She dresses herself in deep mossy greens, coppery russets and butterscotchy golden hues as she prepares to meet the winter. Grasses turn a soft faded honey as they prepare to rest. Gracefully, she accepts her subtley colored brown cloak. She wears it lightly.

I heard it said recently that no one would ever come to Texas for the beauty of the fall foliage.
Beauty, I believe, is where you find it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Great Grandma Flora and the Green Monster

This post is a response to the Ancestors Ball Blog Party.

We're approaching the holiday season, beginning now with our modernized holiday of Halloween. It's roots are much different, being the time of rememberence of our ancestors and the loved ones we've lost. In the very olden days, this was a special, spirit filled time when the veil between our world and the spirit grew thin and we could feel each other's presences more clearly.

I've been spending almost all my free time recently working with my sister on our family trees. Ancestry has been important in our families and we're lucky because both sets of grandparents had research that we've been able to work with. Unfortunately, enough of it has been discovered to be inaccurate that now it's left to us, my sister and I, with the advantages the Internet provides researchers, to straighten things out.

No matter many names and dates I find, I still wonder what their daily lives were like. Especially the women. We think women today shoulder most of the burden of homemaking and childrearing. I shudder to imagine my great,great grandmothers' lives. I wonder a lot about the meals they prepared. I have this fantasy that one day a handwritten recipe book belonging to one of my great grandmothers or aunts will appear on Ebay and I'll win it.

This is my great grandmother, Flora. She taught school before she married. She may have been a bit unusual in her day, not because she was a teacher but because she did not marry until she was 28 years old. I met her when I was five. Photos preserved the day, but I wish I could remember it. The black and white photo is her on that day, aged 85.

A few recipes and family traditions have survived through my mother's family. One of them most of us wish would have never begun, yet in reality it is very likely the most important of them all because it ties generations together across time.
Jello has been popular since its introduction in the early 1900's. But it wasn't until 1930 and the introduction of the lime flavor that this ghastly tradition began. Although I don't really know when Flora began making this "treat", our family history, as passed to us by my mother, is that the dreaded green jello salad was made as a special treat for visiting family. What made it special....prepare yourselves.... marachino cherries ...ok, not so bad..... American cheese bits.....getting worse...and OLIVES!

Mom would make this "treat" every Thanksgiving and Christmas, lovingly bringing it to the table each holiday with the story of her grandma making it and loving it as a child. (I think they had not yet discovered real food at that time.) As you can imagine, children in the late 1960's weren't nearly as enamored of lime jello "salad" as a child in the 1940's obviously was!

I grew up thinking this was a distinctly Flora Tollman creation. Recently, I have discovered how completely wrong I was. It seems as though someone in the corporate Jello kitchens decided that through the war years, lime would be the perfect vehicle to enable homemakers to use up bits and pieces of their non-rationed foods to perk up their meals. How ingenious.

Jello concoctions became almost patriotic, in their own way, and certainly allowed Mom to give the family a little treat. I also think they musth have had lower expectations back then about what qualified as a treat.

So that explains the beginning of the very strange combination of ingredients. But it doesn't explain why Jello kept at it through the 50's and 60's!

So now I know truthfully, my great-grandmother wasn't just being frugal, she probably was considered downright fashionable to be serving a weirdly colored jiggling mass of suspended bits of artificially colored food. Cool.

What I also know now is something more profound. My mother, who is in her late 70's, continues to make this, even though she is the only one who eats it. Really, she only has a couple of bites and is done with it. But that's not why she makes it. She makes it and brings it to the table in order to suddenly become transformed into a six year old little girl, thrilled to be having dinner at her elegant grandmother's formal table. When my mother sees the glistening greenness, I believe she sees the shining eyes of her grandmother and for an instant, feels the sense of belonging, security and love that you only get when a heartstring is tied.

And I leave you now, Wendelynn, daughter of Jolene, who is the daughter of Clara, who is the daughter of Flora who is the daughter of Fredericka. In this season of remembering our ancestors, I hope you'll find something that ties your heartstrings too.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spooky Things

Spooky things are beginning to appear in my home. It's been quite a while since I did anything crafty but this idea was just not to be ignored!

Of course, not having gotten my fingers messy with glue and paint for quite a while required a trip to Michaels to buy absolutely everything I needed. It must be against some cosmic law to not have any craft supplies, but sadly, that was the case. So the moment of inspiration was put on hold and off I went to Michaels.

I hate shopping. Really, I do. But if I have to shop, Micheals is the place to go. I had not been in one for about 4 years and I have to admit, it was overwhelming at first. And then just a little dissapointing as I discovered that although there must be hundreds of thousands of items in the store, there was not as much true variety as I would have liked. I guess the days of smaller individual companies are long gone. All Hail Martha Stewart. Apparently, It's A Good Thing. Honestly, I'm not bashing Martha. I'm a fan, especially of her Halloween ideas. But I like diversity more.

Craft supplies are more expensive now than I remember. Basically all I needed was paint, glue, brushes, Mod Podge, ribbon and embellishments. I didn't expect to spend as much as I might have for dinner out. Oh, I needed blocks too.

Boy, did I need blocks. The tallest of the set are 4 inches. The shortest are 2 1/2 inches. Kudos to Lowes for not charging me a cut fee for each of the individual cuts it took to turn a 10 foot 2x4 into three sets of multisized blocks. I think the guy at the saw was happy to see me leave the store.

These little cuties are simply clay, peralized paint and microglitter. They're more goofy than spooky, but they'll do. I rather like their goofy eyes.

These Jack-O-Latern lights are from Target this year. They remind me of vintage paper lanterns. They're made of some type of silky papery polyester I think, but they look great. They weren't so great to put together. The globe shape is held open with a wire armiture that you install on your own. It's tricky at best. I broke two of them while carefully trying to insert the frame into the shade without tearing it.
Love how they look!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What I Have Learned This Year About Myself

Having spent several thousand dollars this year on medical care, I have learned:
I have asthma, not blood clots.
My heart is in good shape even with a murmur and irregular heartbeat.
My lungs are great.
My highly acidic stomach can be tamed with the right meds.
My blood pressure even pre-surgery is normal. ( They want to know how I do that!)
I'm good till my next 100,000 mile checkup.
If you have anxiety and insomnia, get a new boss.

And most importantly, if you are a coffee drinker, my local hospital very nicely puts a caffeine shot in your IV.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

TiVo Rules

I knew it was a doomed relationship from the start. One look at the antiquated interface and it really was just a matter of time. But, I'm no quitter ; I'd promised to try it out at least a month but I never promised to keep quiet about the growing pains with this new relationship. In truth, he was as dissappointed with the Charter DVR as I was only he was willing to suffer in silence. I'm not so good at keeping my feelings to myself.

He said he'd called them to cancel our service, forcing us to welcome Chater's puny DVR with open arms. Honestly, I think his intentions were pure but the Viking was ill prepared to resist the siren songs of a well seasoned TiVo CSR who was determined to not lose an account. Free service. No shipping. Incredible discounts on upgrading our equipment.

He was strong and resisted. He really did. He even ended the call with the service cancelled.

Then he tried to find a show he wanted to watch in the upcoming week. He couldn't. He's not a technological idiot, but he couldn't do this most basic function of a DVR. I was even more useless.

Two days later, our shiny new Premier TiVo box arrived. They hadn't told us that free shipping meant 2 day service! Chalk up another win for amazing service. TiVo rocks.

They say love is better the second time around. I don't know about that but TiVo sure is!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chowder Time

This is the weekend of the biggest event of the year in my home town of Ledyard, Connecticut. The 65th annual "agricultural" fair. I haven't been in more than 35 years, but I always think about it the weekend following Labor Day. When I was a girl, it was the first place mothers felt safe letting their young teen daughters wander alone with friends. They probably shouldn't have even in the late 60's early 70's.. older guys hit on us and tried to take us for rides on the Ferris wheel.

I found this geat photo of the fair at the official Ledyard Fair website. I hope no one gets upset that I'm borrowing it. The midway was much like it is today at traveling carnivals that come into small towns for a weekend these days. The beckoning lights, the barkers, tinny music crackling out of bad speakers. And the games... where you could win your mother cheap sparkling cut crystal dishes for only pennies; if you were lucky enough to get your penny to land and stay inside the dish.

By morning's light you'd realize that you could have bought her the same little bowl in the dime store for fifty cents but under those twinkling magical lights, they were the most delicate crystal in the world. Who cared if it cost almost your whole allowance and buying one would have been cheaper. The feeling of satisfaction as you accepted your prize could never be bought in Bastian's.

Our fair food in those days was distinctly New England. A uniquely Ledyard version of clam chowder, clam fritters (3 for 25 cents), Italian sausage sandwiches and grinders. Most years, it would be chilly at night by mid September and the steam coming from your bowl of chowder warmed you and carried the fragrance straight into your soul. The chowder tent was discretely set up just far enough from the animals for polite society yet close enough to the tractor and horse pulls that the men would let their women and families linger to enjoy the soup.

I credit that chowder for my lifelong love of soup and my personal mission to recreate the wonderful chowder in my memory. I've developled into a pretty good soup maker, thanks to the fair.

It may still be 90 degrees at midnight here in Texas where I live now, but I think it's time for chowder and fritters for dinner.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

TiVo, I really miss you. I mean I really,really,really miss you. The Charter DVR may be $500 a year cheaper but it will surely never win my heart as you did. No alpha search. No easy to read program synopsis. No suggestions of programs I'd never find on my own but end up loving. A display that is an immediate throwback to Pong and monotone green on black video CRT sceens. It's about as bare and utilitarian as somethign as advanced as a DVR could get.

Charter should be ashamed of itself.

Most importantly, no more cute little dancing TiVo icon.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Why Fireworks on the Fourth of July?

I've often wondered about the tradition on fireworks on the 4th of July. Our founding fathers (and mothers) would be pleased to know that we still love the flash of light and resounding noise of fireworks. John Adams had this mind as the way to commerate of this nation's independence. He wrote to his wife, Abigail on July 3,1776:

The day will be most memorable in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival…It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade…bonfires and illuminations (fireworks) from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.

So apparently even in 1776, people were setting off fireworks even before the Declaration was signed. I didn't know this until I finally decided to solve this mystery for myself. Almost everyone knows that fireworks originated in China, along with gunpowder. The Chinese took to using them primarily for the protective nature of the loud noise they made, to mark important events; births, deaths, marriages and the New Year. The loud noise would frighten away the evil spirits, protecting the celebrant.
Fireworks appreared on the European continent in the 13th century, most likely carried home by the early Crusaders. Fireworks became an element of religious festivals and of course, public entertainments. I mean, who doesn't thrill at fireworks. Even today they delight us, mesmerising us for a few seconds where we are instantly transported back into our childhoods.

The first recorded fireworks show in England was to celebrate the wedding of Henry VII in 1487. Subsequent monarchs had fireworks displays to mark their coronations, marriages ( wow...Henry VIII must have used up the nation's supplies!), military victories and birthdays. Queen Elizabeth I even had a court position, "Fire Master of England", she loved them so much.

Early English immigrants to the lands that eventually became the United States brought the fireworks tradition with them. Black powder with it's furiously boiling heavy smoke and loud retort was commonly found element of celebrations. Fireworks continued as a firmly established part of major celebrations in America. The first celebration of our independence was in 1777, six years before we had actually won that freedom.

We Americans have always been an optimistic lot.

In my family, we celebrate a birthday on this day too. The spirit, perseverance and dedication symbolized by Independence Day has been in her nature from the beginning. Coincidence? Probably not.

Happy Independence Day!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Words and More Words

I must admit I love words. When the first Magnetic Poetry set came out I was in heaven. I immediately got a couple of sets, a magnetic easel and then even a magnetic calendar designed for the little word bits. It was a match made in heaven. I think I may have run across a kindred soul yesterday. The entire tuck was covered in lovely little word bits! There were a few random sentences, most of which I don't think I'd really want to repeat, but very creative.

This morning, I'm wishing I'd have hung out to meet the owner of this beauty. The truck and words were so clean, this must have been a recent wild hair because everyone else's vehicles in Texas are covered with dust and pollen.
The Viking thinks it's a good thing that my vehicle is mostly plastic. It made me smile. Click the images if you want to read the words.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spring in Texas

Spring Throws a Wild Party in Texas!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Magical Memories

My middle sister has a knack for remembering and then finding the toys of our childhood. It's fun when she sends the reminders to me, I instantly remember them but would never have thought of them on my own. We use to have this Santa bank. My gruff Grandpa D sent it one Christmas. I'm sure the reason he sent it was that it was a bank and just a toy.

I remember being totally in love with it, especially the foil wrapped packages. Isn't that goofy? He rang the bell and drove my mother crazy. Looking at it now, he looks a little scary, doesn't he? Like he had one too many magic mushrooms in the 60's?

This one's up on E-bay right now, it's a nostalgic temptation. She's been sending me other blasts from the past this week, and that could be a dangerous thing.

I found a video of this toy. So for now, let's zip back to being 7 years old and believing in magical Santa toys. Just for a moment. Remember Joy.

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Years Day 2010

When I was in grade school in the 1960's our vision of the future has turned to be vastly differently than what we're now living. I was a huge fan of the Jetsons and I could hardly wait for flying cars and Rosie the housemaid robot to appear in my life.

Apparently I am not the only a little annoyed at the way things have turned out. Tim Wilson, wildly opinionated and totally enjoyable comedian/songwriter expresses it quite nicely. Fair warning ,there's a little adult language in this. If you're not an adult, don't listen or don't complain to me if you do! Enjoy and Happy New Year!