Thursday, December 31, 2009

Winter Kids

As a Grandmother, I watch the kids of today as the entertain themselves. It's so much different from what we did as children, and even from what my own children did when they were young. However, there are some things that don't seem to change very much. It's winter-time fun.

When the snows come, most kids want to be outside to play in the fluffy, cold, wet stuff. They stand with heads back and eyes gazing upward, with their tongues out, attempting to catch the snowflakes on their tonge. They might try to catch a few snowflakes in their mitten-clad hands, in order to compare the shapes, becasue they've heard that no two snowflakes are the same. It's a futile chore, as snowflakes rarely can be compared by the naked eye, and most don't last long enough to compare at all.

There seems to be a universal trait among children in a freshly fallen snow. They love to mar as much of the virgin snow as possible by leaving footprints in it. They will walk miles in a yard, marching in circles or zig-zagging narrow paths around the trees and taller bushes. The shorter
plant life, which lies dormant beneath the snow, will likely be tromped upon, but will emerge in Spring as lively as it was before it began its long-winter nap. Kids don't map their route, they just make it with little thought.

Whenever there is a snowfall, kids build snowmen. It doesn't matter how little or how much accumulation there is, children will attempt to form one snowball after the other to be stacked into a snowperson. Of course, the more snow, the better. This will allow a vast array of architecture to be formed . Each child will have his or her own idea of a snow fort, igloo, or walled structure. It's fun to watch them create.

There is the fun, too, of lying on your back, and flapping your arms up and down to form snow angels. Collecting buckets of clean snow with which to make home made ice cream or just to eat with flavored syrup is a favorite activity too. Friendly snowball fights with neighbors and friends and the bringing in of a snowball to store in the deep freeze are things that kids have been known to do. But, their favorite snow activity would be sledding.

Bundled in so many thick layers of clothing that they can barely board their sleds, they waddle to the plastic saucer or their long toboggan, and climb aboard. Down the hill they race, with the cold wind biting their cheeks and bits of ice flying toward their faces. The have little control over their vehicles, but it usually doesn't matter. The ride the hill until the sled stops, or the toss themselves off when they are ready. Then comes the trudging to the summit. It's a bit harder than it was to descend. Often the snow is slippery, and it's a lot of work to climb back to the top.

Thinking back to my own kids, I remember dressing them to go outside to play in the snow. Snowsuits, warm socks, boots, hats, mittens and scarves. Just as the fifth one would get out the door, one of the others would need to come in to use the bathroom. Undress, do the deed, redress, repeat with child # 2, 3, 4 and then 5. By this time, someone was ready to come inside and warm up.

I miss the snow. Here in SC we might see one day of snow per winter, but not yet, this year. The children here get as excited to see the snowfall as we did as children. I watch the three girls across the street, former Floridians, who had never seen snow until the winter of 2006. They were out the door as soon as the ground had a covering of it, no more than a light frosting. They formed tiny snowballs and began to toss them at each other. The laughter was loud, the squealing delightful. I just smiled, knowing that kids haven't really changed much, generation after generation, at least not when it comes to snow.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Every now and again something will cross my mind and a memory will emerge from some hidden place in the heart. Most often, when that happens, it relates to someone or somewhere in my life, which is no longer in it. Whether these people were taken from me in death, or moved on to other places in life, or a thought of a place I've lived or visited, it brings about emotion. Sometimes I call the feeling 'homesickness.'

Christmas time comes and in that season, my husband has moments of melancholy. It isn't that he's sad about the time of year, in fact, it's his favorite season. But, from the depths of his memories, some ghosts of Christmas past rise up. He grows homesick for his native state across the continent, and he misses the family members he knew as a child. They have all passed away now, and he is the patriarch of his family. He knows he cannot bring his loved ones back to this world, and it isn't so much that he wants to. But, the memories are so engraved in him that they haunt him. Christmas traditions which they practiced are among those thoughts. I've offered to incorporate them into our holidays, but even if we recreate them, they will not be the same, for the people who are gone were a part of those traditions. They cannot be recreated.

When a fragrance wafts through the air, or the sky looks a particular way, or a specific song is heard, each one of us might find themselves thrust back in time to a person or a place which we find ourselves missing. I think that is ok, for each experience we've known should be a remembrance of a good time or a lesson learned. I don't think, however, that we should dwell in that memory too long. We can never go back, and we will never go forward or enjoy the present time if we look back for too long.

Be homesick for a moment. Let the memory transport us to that old location or that beloved person. Then, put it back into the memory bank, lay it on its shelf and close the door on it. Live life as it is now, and enjoy making new memories. The ones worth remembering will not ever be forgotten.

Monday, December 21, 2009

There's a saying that goes, "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of things that take our breath away." So often we get too busy to notice those amazing things around us. How sad! Life is so full of breath-taking moments and how special it is when we are actually able to experience those.

Last winter while doing his walks around the yard, my husband discovered something he had never seen before. He ran in to get me, so that I, too, could see the wonder. When I walked outside with him, he showed me what looked like faceted 'sticks' of ice coming up from the ground. I thought at first it was grass that had a good layer of ice upon each blade, but it wasn't that. Each crystal was actually like a multi-sided, icicle which rose up from the clay soil. We are still baffled by the 'how' of it all, but it seems to happen when weather conditions are 'right' for it, as we've seen it a few times since that first day.

Daily we are aware of our sunsets, each one different from the last. The trees stand dark against the setting orb, back lit by the ever -changing color of the skies. It is something we watch for, and the reason we placed so many windows in our sunporch. Not only can we see the sky shows at dusk, we can watch the opening of day from there, as well. (Of course, being a morning dove married to a night owl, I am generally the only one who sees the sun rise. What a peaceful joy it is to sit in comfort in the porch, and watch as the dark sky brightens with gold and pink and blue!)

We enjoy the watching of the clouds, too. We're like kids, sometimes, seeing the shapes and naming the animals we see in them. The Spring weather changes in minutes around here, and it's interesting to watch the storm clouds roll in or the flashes of lightening to the tune of the rumbling thunder.

What a wonderous world we live in! There is such a variety of color, of shape, of plant life, of living things, of weather. No matter where we are, no matter what we do, there's something new to see all the time. There are wonders all around us, we need only to open our eyes and ears, and be aware. We might just find our breath being taken away.

Friday, December 18, 2009

New Traditions

There are traditions that die hard. Holiday meals are one of those, at least where my Mom is concerned. She's always cooked the same meal for Thanksgiving and Christmas. ...turkey and all the trimmings. When she was doing the meals, we had no complaint, but now that we are providing the feasts, we'd like to throw in some new ideas. We are generally met with a bit of resistance, although nothing is ever left uneaten, I've noticed!

On Christmas morning, we have the family around the tree. The littlest and the oldest of the grandkids are here with their parents, and my mother and brother show up shortly after rising from their own beds. Twelve of us open gifts together, and then move on to have some semblance of simple breakfast. Generally we've tried to pull together the full turkey dinner at Christmas. We barely get through the morning meal and clean up before we're we're sitting down to our one o'clock dinner table. It's not an easy task to do that and try to keep it all hot until everyone is seated and served.

This year we've decided to break tradition. We'll cook a turkey breast rather than the entire bird. We'll bake a big ham too. We'll prepare it all the day before Christmas when there are fewer people in the house. The table will be set on Christmas Eve as well. On the big day, we will devour our cold buffet of meats, salads, and finger foods. We'll have many choices, since we have a very fussy bunch of eaters. There should be something for everyone's palate, but fare that is easy to prepare, allowing us time to enjoy our day and our family.

Traditions are good, and they are to be cherished, but I think there is always room to add a new one or two. We'll see how all this works out. It may just become our new yearly Christmas dinner.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Past

So many Christmases past flutter through the corridors of memory. I remember only a few that were not 'holly jolly' ones. But those need not be mentioned today. In this entry, I'll focus on just a few of the many merry ones.

My earliest remembrance of Christmas is of one when I was about eight years old. We were living with my Grandmother at her house. Santa had come, bringing me a 'grown up' doll, the predecessor of Barbie dolls. She was about eighteen inches tall, and had blond hair. She came with a full wardrobe, which was made by my Mom, although I didn't know that at the time.

She was my favorite gift that year, and she got a good workout! I believe that it was also that year that Santa made a 'repeat' visit on New Year's Eve, bringing just one more gift for each of us. Mine was a cute little soft plastic, pastel colored tea set.

In our family, Christmas meant visiting. We saw a lot of my maternal aunts and cousins throughout the year, but my seeing father's side of the family (except my Grandparents) was less frequent, for whatever reason. When Christmas came , however, we'd get together with Dad's sister and some of my cousins. Usually, after the gifts were unwrapped and breakfast was eaten, we'd load into the car, and begin the hopping from house to house in East Hampton, collecting gifts from each of my aunts. The visits weren't lengthy, but each family member of the family was graced with our family's arrival on the door step.

After we'd seen the maternal side, we'd go home for dinner, and afterward, all the aunts and cousins would pop in to see what we got for Christmas, and to receive their gifts from us. After the last of the bunch had left, we'd get in the car again, and go to Amagansett to my father's sister's house. There was no gift exchange there, but there was a visit. Often we'd go next door, too, to visit a cousin who was married with a young family.

Looking back on it, I don't remember any complaints. I would think my brothers and I would rather have stayed home with our presents than to travel hither and yon to visit with relatives.
Yet, when I married and we had children of our own, we did precisely the same thing! We dragged our kids from place to place all day long, with time enough for dinner at one set of parents or the other.

Christmas is a time to reconnect with all that is truly important... spiritual things, relationships and remembrances.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Different Kind of Hostess

There are those among us who decorate their homes with style and entertain with aplomb. There are others who, try as they will, never seem to be quite satisfied. I fall into the latter bunch.

One of my friends recently stated that she loves to entertain, and fantasizes that she was meant to be the First Lady of the country. She probably could pull it off as well as any of the President's wives have. As for me, I'd be like the proverbial wart on a frog's back if I even thought of attempting such elegance.

Picture this scene. The limos pull up to the front entrance of the White House, and one by one the couples file in, dressed to the nines in their glamorous gowns, diamonds and tuxes. At the entrance to the dining hall, the guests (each with invitations in hand!) are met by the I'm dressed in a comfortable pair of slacks, probably jeans, and a sweater. My sterling silver hoop earrings gleam against the turtleneck, and the burnished silver framed oval of onyx lays upon my chest. My hands, rough from gardening, with fingernails of uneven lengths, reach out to greet these dignitaries. I attempt to make small talk with them, but we have so little in common that there are long pauses as we greet each other. These are not people I know. They are above me in elegance, in attitude and in social standing. The china gleams in the candlelight which bounces off the crystal. The huge dining room is picture perfect, except for one thing... me.

Now, flash this one through your mind. It's a simple setting with a warm fire glowing, dim lighting, a Christmas tree clad handmade ornaments from family members. There is little glitter, but for the lights woven into the branches of the evergreens. Soft instrumental music of harps, dulcimers, cellos, violins, guitars plays across the air, as I greet those at my door, and invite them in. We chat about jobs, and grandchildren, neighborhood news and local events. We eat at a large, square table laid out with a red plaid tablecloth and white ironstone dishware. A few snowflake candles floating in a cut glass bowl offer the lighting at the table. It is a buffet meal set out on the kitchen island with seating for each guest at the dining table. After dinner, we turn the music off, and all of us gather in the living room, some on the floor, some on the furniture, and someone plays his guitar, while we all join in singing Christmas carols.

It is a Currier and Ives scene, simple, warm and real, and somehow, I fit into this picture just fine.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Homemade Christmas

Many times in my life I've made the statement that I might have been born in the wrong century. That thought ran through my head again this morning as I looked over our Christmas decorations for the tree. As I touched each one, I felt blessed to see the creativity that our family has in their fingers.

Every year for many years my mother has gifted me with a few tatted ornaments that she's made. Each Christmas when I hang them on our tree, I think of the work that went into them and the time Mom took to give me this gift of herself. Each year the snowflakes and bells and angels and medallions are more precious to me. I recognize that using her creativity is more difficult for Mom as Macular Degeneration has stolen the majority of her eye sight. How she could do that tiny work with the string and shuttle, tatting the knots into beautiful lacey shapes is beyond my comprehension, even when her sight was good, and is even more amazing to me now!

I think of the other handmade things that we place on our tree each year. There are counted cross-stitch Hummel figures and paper quilled items that Kerry has done. There are flat wooden toy soldiers and mittens and reindeer and sleighs that Erinne has painted, and a number of real egg shells that she blew the contents from, cleaned and then painted in a Ukranian style. There are unbreakable patchwork balls of styrofoam covered with fabric that have been hung since the days when Megan was an infant. Many have been made since the day a friend showed me the simple technique of pressing the fabric edges into the crisp ball. Megan, herself, has some that I made for her with velvet remnants. I've crafted a variety of decorations over the years, mostly 'unbreakables' so that the children can touch them. There are small wood birdhouses with snowy scenes, tiny broomstick horses, little lollipops, glass balls which I painted with designs of the season. There are clear beaded icicles which drip off the ends of the tree branches and various felt mittens adorned with felt 'sticker' snowflakes or stripes.

This morning as I surveyed our collection, I thought of other "homemade Christmases." Uppermost in my mind are our childhood gifts. One year Daddy built stilts for us. What a time we had trying to learn to walk on them! Another year he built a go-cart for my brothers, with a pair of real bucket seats for the driver and passenger, a genuine car steering wheel and a lawn mower engine to make it run. When I say he 'built it' I mean just that. He used a metal bed frame, cutting and welding it to form the chassis. I remember my first effort at driving that vehicle! I drove it just fine until I got to the end of the cul de sac and turned the wheel to make the corner. At the age of eleven or twelve, and inexperienced as I was behind the wheel, I had some trouble with the coordination of gas and brake pedals. I took the turn too fast. I ended up in the twisted vines and underbrush of the lot at the end of the street, laughing my fool head off!

An earlier time, Santa brought a doll cradle made by my Dad. A pink doll chest and closet were a gift from my grandfather, who built them for me. I still have those three wooden pieces, and will, until I've left this earth. They are precious to me, and probably stand out in my thoughts because the men were less likely to craft a gift than the women in the family were. My Grandmother, Mom and her sisters were always doing hand work, and I was the recipient of much of it. There's a photo around here somewhere which shows my brothers and I in matching cowboy shirts that Mom sewed for us back in the 1950's. Embroidered pillow cases, lacey doilies or lace-edged tablecloths and towels, knitted sweaters, dresses, patchwork pillows and placemats. The family was a talented and loving bunch!

We've tried to keep some of that 'handmade' spirit alive through the years since the children and grandchildren were born. There have been doll quilts and clothes, even handmade baby dolls, and three large plywood doll houses furnished and fit for any Barbie family. Whatever I could do, I did, as my parents and grandparents did, with love and a hope that it would please the recipient.

As I reflect upon all those past homemade Christmases and the wonderful gifts that came my way, I am warmed by the love behind each one, and I wonder if the givers knew when they crafted them, how much more they left me with than a material gift. They gave of themselves and their time, they gave joy in their sharing, and they left me with a lifetime of memories to treasure. I pray that I might do the same for those I love.

Friday, December 11, 2009

'Tis the Season...

Ok, it's here....the season to be jolly. Party time has arrived, and the celebrations abound, with the goodies piled high and calling loudly to come and taste. For one like me, with a severe weakness for dark chocolate and anything else that looks good, it's a sure cause for a few extra pounds.

It's baking time too. I love to make Christmas cookies. Cut out angels and Santas and reindeer and stars are decorated with frosting and colored sugar and edible glitter. Of course each must be taste-tested before they can be placed out for the public. Candy, also, which I make only once a year, will be made. I use Mom's old recipe for semi-sweet chocolate fudge, sometimes adding peanut butter or coconut to the basic, delicious mixture. Then, there are the orange peel candies, a delectible mixture which I could never turn down. The family's traditional nut bread is yet another 'must have.'

There are some temptations tat pass me which I can resist, but I'm afraid that sweets are not one of them. And, please...don't pass the salty snacks either. Although we use a potassium-based salt substitute in our home and though we choose 'low sodium' products, we still get a good dose of salt in everything we eat. Why does everything on the store shelves need to have so much salt added?

I think I should walk every day through the year, just to prepare for the extra calories consumed at Christmas-time. But, alas, I don't follow that thought. Instead, I add the goodies to the 'saddlebags', and have to deal with it however I can, after the fact.

Well, it is what it is. The fact is that I have very little self-discipline regarding my diet, so let the party begin!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Do You Hear What I Hear?

So...this is Christmas. I heard the bells the other day in front of the Walmart...silver bells rung by the tired, cold and wet Salvation Army member who hoped for a few donations in his bucket. Jingle, jingle, jingle went the handful of coins the child before me dropped through the slot in the red pail.

There's a star in the East, shining brightly on these cold winter nights. It reminds us of the First Noel, when Mary's boy child, Jesus Christ, was found by Three Kings, away in a manger in a little village of Bethlehem. On a very Silent Night, the shepherds watched their flocks, and one might have said, 'hark, the herald angels sing Glory to the new-born king!' In the deep mid-winter, long, long ago, that Christmas time was very different from the way we celebrate today. People saw a child who'd been born in a manger, and they asked, 'what child is this?' Today, most of us know in our hearts that it was the birthday of a King, and yet, we continue to deck the halls with bows of holly and have ourselves a merry little Christmas, with too little thought of the real significance of Christ's birth.

I wonder, as I wander, how we've gotten so far from the true meaning of Christmas. How did Jolly Old Saint Nicholas become a star of wonder? Are the wrapped presents he brings more precious than the son of God, wrapped in swaddling clothes? Is the mystery of such a special child being born to become the Savior of all mankind so much less important than the mystery of a fat, bearded man who has reindeer who fly him through a dark night?

As we watch the faces of our tiny tots, with their eyes all aglow with the reflection of Christmas lights on the tree, let us teach them to bow and offer thanks to God for the blessings He gave us when He sent us the gift of His only Son. When we walk through the winter wonderland, surrounded by the holly and the ivy, let us focus on the rugged stall in Bethlehem and what happened there. While we are filling the stockings before the fireplace, let the bright flame of Jesus abide in our hearts and let Him fill us with the love He'd have us to give to others.

However you choose to celebrate this season, we wish you a merry Christmas, Joy to the world...and may God rest ye, merry gentlemen!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Log Cabin Life

Sometimes, throughout my life, I've wondered if I was born in the wrong century. I've always loved old things and am interested in the ways things were done before machines did the work for us. For most of my life, I've dreamed of living in a log cabin. There's is a certain charm to them, a warmth and coziness that doesn't exist in many stick built places with stark sheet rocked walls and wall to wall carpeting. The charm must be the wood.

In the 1980's we had an opportunity to purchase or rent a newly built, 3 bedroom cabin in the woods in the Springs. We had hoped to buy the place, with a 'rent to own' sort of deal, and the owner was in agreement with that sort of arrangement.

We moved into the place, putting all of our antique stuff and faux antique furnishings into the cabin. They fit better there than they have in any other environment we've ever tried to use them. Our old bed frames and quilts looked as if they belonged there. The long harvest table, surrounded by bow back chairs gave us plenty of room to feed our own mob, as well as the guests who made their way to the dinner table.

There was a wood burning stove in the large, front to back, room which housed our living room and our dining room. It was a good-sized stove, and when loaded, the fire would last all night, keeping us toasty and warm. We rarely had to use the hot water heat. A few times we cooked meals on the wood stove, due to an electrical outage. It did the job quite nicely!

The wide board pine floors and the flat log interior walls made the house feel so homey. We placed rag area rugs in the rooms, but not room-sized ones. We liked the noisey wood floors, and they are so much easier to keep clean than carpets or large rugs are.

The front porch was wonderful too! We could sit outside, day or night, rain or shine, and listen to the birds, feel the breeze, watch the squirrels and marvel at the ever-changing world around us. All in all, it just felt like 'home'.

Unfortunately, circumstances did not allow the purchase of what we called "the Log Nest", but I've never been sorry for the time we lived there. Since moving out, I've kept the dream in my heart that we'd one day own one. We did have the chance to buy property from my brother and thought hard about the idea of building a log home there. But, for many reasons, we chose a move-in ready, newly-constructed tract home. It turned out, in the long run, to be the best choice for the time being, but there still lives the memory of 'the Log Nest' . The hope remains that one day we will have the chance again to build and live in a fairly roomy log cabin, warmed by a wood stove, walled inside with wood, and entered by way of a front porch. It so appeals to the 'old soul' within me.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Few Thoughts about Christmas

It's here...the Christmas season has arrived. I don't know how it managed to barrel in so fast, but it's all around us now. The stores have had trees lit, decorations on display and Christmas music playing since the Halloween things were taken out. A few of the neighbors have had some of their outside lights and wreaths up since mid-December.

However, for me, it's too early if all this begins before mid-December. I like to enjoy the anticipation, but then I like to have it linger 'til at least mid-January too. Most of the people we know dismantle the decorations the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.

I tend to purchase gifts all year long, and I'm usually finished with the buying in me time for wrapping, for making my Christmas cards and getting those out in the mail within a reasonable time. Then, around the middle of December we drag out all of the ornaments and garlands and lights and greenery. Since we still cling to our old tradition of a real, and fragrant, cut evergreen tree, it can't be placed in the house too early, as can the artificial ones.

Artificial...hmmm. It has suddenly occured to me that most things about Christmas these days are somewhat artificial. Yes, the trees, the garlands, the lights which used to be candles. Some of that is for safety reasons, of course.'s views of Christmas tend to be out of whack, in my opinion. It seems to be all about what to buy, how to meet the financial strains, giving out of obligation, rather than a truly giving heart. And...what about the REAL reason for the season... the birth of Christ, the God-man who came to bring salvation and love to a world lost in its own way? When I look around and see what happens at Christmas, I feel that many of us are still lost in our own way.

It would be so nice to hear "Blessed Christmas" and know that the words mean what they say. It would be wonderful to lay aside the day where we would really focus on the gifts that God gave to us on that very first Christmas night. It would be so different if we sacrificed the spending for presents, and chose, instead, to dream up real gifts of giving: time, services, talents. I think it would seem more like a true Christmas season if everyone did that.

Please don't misunderstand. I enjoy Christmas, all aspects of it...the lights, the smells, the busy days, the thinking of what to give or buy for someone. I enjoy it, yes, I do. But the best part of it all for me is a candlelight service at church, totally devoted to the holiness, the mystery, the wonder of the true Christmas story. The hymns with words that tell of the coming of the promised Savior, the songs that proclaim, as the angels did, "Glory to God in the Highest. Peace and Good Will to men".

There are some who would disagree with some of my thoughts here, and they are free to do so. This is my blog of my thoughts and opinions, and certainly, I give my reading audience the right to have their own views. After all, it is the season of giving!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

Families near will gather round
Friends will join us too
Food and drink will abound
And there is much to-do.

Enjoy the gathering kinship
And relish the special day
But don't forget to include the worship
And to give thanks in a special way.

Count the blessings we've been given
Count each one with prayer
For there would be not one given
If not for God being always there

From His hand these gifts come
From His heart, with love.
Whether you're near or far from home
Today, thank the Father above.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Another Thanksgiving Memory

The week of Thanksgiving, 1985 was a gloomy one. My father, who had been diagnosed with lung cancer two years before, succomed to the disease on that Monday evening. The days following were a whirl of activity, getting my brothers to NY from SC, making sure my children were cared for, being Mom's constant companion, making funeral arrangements.

Since our pastor, Carl V. S., was away for the holiday, we had the added chore of finding someone else who would officiate over the service. Fortunately, a phone call to Fred Jones, in Georgia, brought success. Fred had been the pastor of a small Baptist church in EH where Mom and Dad had attended before Fred and his family were moved to Georgia. Fred had ministered to my father while he was sick, and led Dad to his salvation in Christ. It seemed fitting that Fred would be the man for the farewell services, and we were so thankful that he would leave his duties and family holiday to meet our needs.

Through the week, I seemed to be running on nervous energy. I cleaned Mom's house, comforted her, made phone calls, and basically took care of business. Thanksgiving dinner, and also my birthday that year, was the last thing we worried about. My brothers arrived, taking up residence in their old bedroom. The Pastor arrived, and we put him into the guest room. My husband returned from his trip and took over my child care duties.

Thanksgiving dinner was pulled together without much thought, but I remember it being the same foods we have on the table annually. It was not the joyous gathering we'd enjoyed in other years, but it was a family gathering, none the less.
I found myself thanking God for having the opportunity to know and love the wonderful man who'd lived only 61 years. My heart ached to have him back at the head of the table. I longed to hold his rough hand as we circled in our thanksgiving prayer. I hurt so much that I couldn't cry.

The funeral services were held on Saturday, much later than we'd have liked, but due to the holiday and travelers, as well as scheduling at the morticians, it couldn't be helped. I remember that it was a 'good' service, as funerals go....honoring Dad. I don't remember much of what was said, however. I was catering to my mother, who seemed to be in a deep fog for most of the week. At the cemetary, I made sure that my brother was at one side of her, and my husband on the other. It's a good thing, as her knees buckled, and she would have gone to the ground, had they not been there.

Thanksgivings come every year, and the memories do, too. These days I trade the sad memories for happier ones. I remember well the man I made a Daddy on the morning after Thanksgiving 1947, who worked hard to provide for his little family and for the future of his wife. I remember that he was a patriotic veteran of WWII, serving in Italy and in North Africa. I remember his smile, and his hearty laugh, and some of his comical sayings. I remember so many things about him. I remember....and I miss him.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Memories

The coming of Thanksgiving each year always sets my mind in motion, stirring up memories as easily as I stir up the foods for the table. Memories can be sweet or they can be sad, and this special season brings both.

1963...I was a Junior in high school. I sat in Mr. Marley's history class when a knock came at the door. Mr. Marley spoke with the teacher who'd come to deliver a message, then he closed the door and reported to the class that President John F. Kennedy had been killed by an assassin.
The Junior Prom was scheduled for that night...obviously it was postponed.

The next day I was off on a British cruise ship, bound for Bermuda. The activities at departure were somber in honor of the late confetti, no parties, nothing 'fun' until after the church services on Sunday. As it happened, my 16th birthday was also that week and fell on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. The ship had planned the Captain's Dinner for that day, as well, and the food and festivities were wonderful. It was a semi-formal occasion, and I wore my prom dress...a sleeveless dress that I loved. It had a red velvet top with a cinched waist with a lace-up at the front for looks. The skirt was white organza over fell softly and swished when I walked.

The ship's orchestra played in the dining room, and when my Aunt Sis and I entered, they were tipped off of our arrival, and they began to play "Ain't She Sweet". Our waiter, Tom, had requested it and dedicated it to me. (I had such a crush on him! My knees would actually shake when I saw him at each meal, and could hardly eat!) The Maitre D' made a big 'show' of bringing me a flaming baked alaska with a red banner on it that read "Happy Birthday Kathy" written in icing. I don't know how the ribbon managed not to burn!

It was a fantastic way for me to spend my Sweet Sixteen birthday, and I treasure those special memories. Each year, I silently send a special 'thank you' to Aunt Sis who is no longer with us, for taking me on that birthday cruise. The week was a special get away to a tropical place, with an aunt that I thought the world of.

I've had many Thanksgiving days in my lifetime, but that year was probably the second most memorable. You'll have to wait for another day when I'll share the one that is highest on the list of Thanksgiving thoughts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Article

Yesterday my husband brought me the "Living" magazine. It's sent out monthly by our electric company, and it's contents include energy saving tips, calendar events of the month and other such things of interest to the Blue Ridge customers.
I almost never even look at the magazine, but perhaps I should.

There is an article written each month by a very humorous woman who sounds as if we'd get along famously. I discovered this when Mike thrust the page under my nose last evening and said, "You have GOT to read this." So, being the obedient and obliging wife that I am, I stopped everything I was doing, and without argument or reply, began to read. There was no stopping once I started. I giggled my way through each sentence...and even called my mother to read it to her. It was so ME!

The writer is a crafter too. She says that craft items such as clay, paint, glitter, baskets, flowers, wire, etc. are to a crafter as important to life as oxygen. Yes, indeed...I must agree. She says that she hasn't thrown anything away since 1973 because somewhere, someday, someone is going to need a glittered clay basket of flowers. Oh. yes, we MUST be the sisters separated at birth!

I immediately liked this woman. She encouraged me to continue my saving for future projects. Now I have an ally. She'd never say to me, as my kids do, "Mom, you have too much STUFF. Get rid of it!" She'd never ask "How long are you going to keep that thing before you use it?" or "WHAT are you going to do with THAT?"
She'd tell me to put on the ear muffs and ignore all those non-crafting neatniks.

It seems to me that we'd have a grand time shopping together for stamps and inks and papers and paper mache boxes. She'd understand the overwhelming urge to buy a hot pink and cool lime feather boa for some crazy notion I might get while hyperventilating in the aisles at Michael's or Hobby Lobby. She'd join me in my excitement and breathless race to the dollar bin filled with spools of ribbon. Nobody else does, but she would. We'd be fast friends for life, if only I could meet her. We could spend hours together in my craft room or hers, painting and gluing, tossing glitter into the air and wiring beads to anything that will hold them. She might even have a creative thought for the milkbox full of ceramic tiles I've had for ten or twelve years! Oh the joy of such a thought!

But alas, I fear that I will know her only through her words. I must hunt up all the old copies of "Living" so I can read all of her articles. They've been saved since we moved here, because Mike tells me that I must read this or that. I never seem to get around to reading much, and since he reads everything in print, I wouldn't get anything done if I read all that he suggests. I'm far more interested in doing things than reading about someone else's adventures. However, I think I can manage to read my new friend's monthly article.

I wonder where that stack of magazines is? Let me go move the teetering pile of blank cards and tape and scrapbook papers off the coffee table. Maybe they are there.

Monday, November 9, 2009


The days rapidly approach Thanksgiving, and I think "weren't we just celebrating the onset of September? I completely lost October to the hustle and bustle of many functions, and am in danger of doing the same this month. But I will not allow myself to lose the days.

Like the stubborn leaves which cling to their branches in the cool winds, I will hang on to autumn for as long as she will let me. Her brilliance and comfortable weather invite me to take pleasure in the moments of the day when I can be outside. I relish those times when I may sit on the front porch and stare off into the clouds with mindlessness. I enjoy the free floating hawks on the air streams, and the clouds which billow into fluffy bears or waves of the ocean.

All around me life is changing. Much of the garden has turned brown and looks lifeless, but it is only resting. It will be back in all of its glory when Spring returns.
The last of the roses bloom, not as brightly as they did all summer, but they are tired, and need a rest too. It is coming.

The birds at the birdbath appear to be fewer in number, but are no less chiding when the water basin needs to be refilled. The little gray squirrels chatter as they build their nests and fill them with acorns and nuts from the trees. All Nature is preparing for the coming of the Cold.

While I watch these changes, I think that I, too, am preparing for Winter. My body craves the wonderful vegetables that an Autumn harvest brings....acorn squash and root vegetables. The meals I dream of are heartier and more filling.
I certainly do not need to 'bulk up' in size for the winter, but these foods are most probably meant to add something to keep the body warmer. We will have our heating unit checked by the heat/AC man in the morning, to be sure that it's in good order for the coming months.

The cycles of life bring such gifts with each passing of another season. I will hold on to these November hours and partake in all each has to offer, without thrusting myself too hard into the coming of the next month. Reality tells me that December is just around the corner, and I must give some thought to all the busy-ness that will come with it, but for now, just let me breathe in the wonders of Autum.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Marty and Me

We met when I was eleven and she was not far behind. I think I was her first East Hampton friend, although she had younger cousins in town. She was an only child and her Dad was in the military, so they moved around a lot. But, for that summer, she was there, two doors away, at her Grandmother's house.

Marty and I were nearly inseparable. We were creative, too, in our time together. Often we were playing 'tomboy' Tarzan, trying to swing on the vines in the over-grown lot next to her Grandma's house. We'd open our mouths and loudly yell, 'Ahhhh-eeeee-yaaaaa-eeeee-aaaaaah" . If the truth is known, we probably sounded more like Cheetah than Tarzan.

One day our backyard play was a trip....over the earth, through the clouds, and around the world on our flattened appliance boxes that we saw as magic carpets. Other days we spent at the beach together or in swimming pools at places where her aunt worked. Never was there a time that we dove in the water that we didn't sing "Fig-a-ro...Fig-a-ro...Fig-a- glub, glub, glub."

We walked everywhere we went. Sometimes we were allowed to walk to the Village, and Marty, with her allowance, would buy small troll dolls for her collection. Those wide eyed dwarf-like things with the fuzzy, colorful hair that stood up straight from their heads, were the only dolls that Marty would tolerate. I still liked dolls, but by that time, it was mostly Barbie dolls or other fashion ones.

As the years went by, Marty and I remained friends, communicating mainly with long, rambling letters while she lived in Michigan and later, England. She was in the United Kingdom when the Beatles sound first came to the USA. and she sent me two of their albums. The British versions were slighly different from the ones put out for the U.S. They were my prized possessions. (Unfortunately, a bad record player needle ruined them both, and they've long since been discarded. ) She eventually came back to East Hampton, and attended high school there. We were typical teenaged girls, playing records, going to movies together, discussing boys, and eating hamburgers at Speed's little hole in the wall. We had a trip or two to New York City, we went to Guild Hall plays together, and we even went to Shea Stadium for the Beatles concert. We had our times of dispute, but for the most part, our friendship stayed in tact.

It was I who introduced Marty to her husband. It was Marty who was my matron of honor when I married. When my daughter was born, Marty was standing as her god-mother. She was a good gift giver too! Not having any of her own children yet, she doted on mine, and though, when my son was born he had different god-parents, Marty gave as many gifts to him as she did for Kerry.

Since Marty's husband was in the Navy by that time, they left East Hampton. She had 3 handsome sons, and I had had 5 young ones. Our correspondence slowed down to nearly a halt, but there were occasional phone calls or Christmas cards. We'd get together once a year or so, when they went to East Hampton for a family visit. Now, since the advent of computers, we write here and there to catch up on things. We moved away from my hometown, and Marty and I live now in neighboring states. We hope for a visit in the future.

Life brings many changes our way. Childhood moves us into adulthood, and with that some major alterations occur. In both Marty's life and mine, we've had marriages, children, divorce, father's deaths and now, the caring for our mothers. Memories linger, and though we haven't seen each other in years, there is no dissolution of our friendship. When we write, there seems to be no loss for words. We've stored up much to share, and share we will one of these days soon.

Somethings are just meant to last....and this friendship with my old pal is one of them.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Memories of Childhood Church...

When I was about three years old, I began attending Sunday school. I remember very little about those early days, but I remember being a little older, attending first a sort of Junior Church in the basement of the Session House. Mr. Will Strong lead things and we all sang hymns like "Onward Christian Soldiers" and "Trust and Obey." One morning stands out in my memory. Mr. Strong took his place at the podium and began to speak, when he started to make strange sounds and his body began to quiver. I was afraid of what was happening. Shortly after, Mr. Strong was led out of the room, into the kitchen behind the main room, and then Walter Preische came to the podium and explained that Mr. Strong had taken ill, and he took over. Later we learned that Mr. Strong had suffered a stroke.

There were classrooms in the basement area, and we were separated by age. For the life of me, I do not remember the names of my teachers, except for Prof. Hall, nor do I remember a single lesson! So much for my Sunday school experiences!

In the 1960's, the First Presbyterian Church of East Hampton was being renovated. The pipe organ, sadly, was removed, and a new, modern instrument was added. The old pipes that were visible at the front and center of the sanctuary were replaced by red, satin drapes with a large gold colored cross placed in front of them. There were many changes made to the building, including the taking down of two side steeples, and the replacement with one centered spire. I've always thought the church looked lovely after it's renewal, but I prefered the look of the old one.

John Drew Theater at Guild Hall became our meeting place while the church was being refurbished. It worked perfectly well, with the reverand Mr. Renton preaching in his Scottish brogue from the stage. There was a piano to which we sang the familiar hymns. Being of the age where I was easily distracted, a spent a lot of time during the service examining the look of the theater. The ceiling was domed, and painted in stripes, somewhat like a circus tent. Were the lights that hung supposed to look like balloons, or am I remembering that incorrectly? The place had a musty smell odor, and a slanted floor. There was a stage where in earlier days I had played the lead role in 'The Little Matchgirl', while Jeanne Dordleman flitted around in a blue bird costume. It was difficult for me to keep my mind on Rev. Renton.

That reminds me of another tale. My best friend, Marty, and I always sat together in church. After we'd moved back to the church for services, Marty and I would sit in the balcony when I wasn't singing in the Jr. Choir. Marty was always a cut-up, and she would say things to make me laugh. For some reason I was 'afraid' of old people...and she'd work on promoting that by pointing out some older lady and saying she looked like a witch. One Sunday morning, Marty wondered about jumping off the wall of the balcony, and swinging from chandelier to chandelier.
The thought made me giggle, almost uncontrollably, and Mr. Renton looked toward us and said, "Steady now, steady!" That meant...'calm down, girls.' Embarrassed, we did just that.

Those were days when I fear I learned little at church, and yet, somehow I managed to learn to love the Lord. Today I'm actively involved in living a life which I pray is pleasing to Him, despite my rather dubious beginnings! Marty, too, is actively involved in a ministry life. I think the Rev. Mr. Renton would be pleased to know this.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Comfortable ...

Once upon a time I struggled with who I was, how I looked, and finding the 'right' words to say to people in a group. I never felt that I 'fit in' anywhere. I think that's a thing that's common to most young people. I remember having a big discussion through the mail with my friend who lived in Oregon at the time. I didn't find a lot of comfort in her words to 'just wear what you like, and don't worry about anyone else." After all, she was living in the 'laid back' west coast, in a Christian commune of hippie types. I was living in an upscale town where how you looked seemed to matter to people.

As a young mother, the family was quite involved in a church where I thought I wasn't really a part of the group. I wanted to be, but I didn't know how to look or act. I did the best I could, as I suppose most of us did. But I didn't think I was 'there'. That was the case in most of my life's settings.

The feeling of not fitting into the over-all puzzle seemed to hang around for a long time...until I reached middle age. I can't tell you when it was, but at some point I began to let go of the thoughts that I had to look, act and speak a certain way. I just began to live my life, and to enjoy it. To heck with dressing like models. I'd never look like them anyway, with their straight, boney figures. I finally came to the realization that my mother's words were true. "Beauty is as beauty does."

Since I was born with an empathetic and compassionate spirit within me, I began to let it out. I discovered that my words of encouragement seemed to come easy for me. It wasn't an overnight thing, and it wasn't always easy, but I've come to realize that when I took my eyes off of myself, I began to grow in ways that I'd always wanted to. I realized how freeing it was to just be who I was created to be, with all my idiocincrasies, feelings and flaws. Some things needed to be tempered and shaped, and I work on those. I wasn't born perfect, and don't suppose I'll ever be, but I am far more comfortable with myself these days than I've ever been.

The shell that I live in, my body, is short and round and soft. It shows the wear and tear of living. There are silvery stretch marks that came with bringing five wonderful children to life, freckles from too much fun in the sun. A few wrinkles, gray hairs and 'laughter tracks' show on my face. I can line up the cosmetics, the body filler for the ruts, the cover ups for the stretch marks, varicose veins, and age spots, the dye for the gray hair. I can, but I don't, but for a small amount of mascara and lip gloss. It's too much work for me to bother, and besides, I'm supposed to look like this! God put me together in such a way that these things would be here at this stage of my life, and I'm not going to change those outward things. I have vowed to look the best I can, naturally, without the aid and expense of a lot of paint and putty. Don't even mention tucks and nips and suctions!

It is my hope that I can live the rest of my life working toward good attitudes and actions. Whatever there is inside of me that is to come out in beautiful ways, let those be where my focus is....for the good of others. I may not be 'eye candy', but I can live with that. I've grown to be "comfortable in my own skin", as the saying goes and I'm free to be me. Take it or leave it, it's what I have to offer.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Autumn Rest

After an enormously busy month of meetings, house 're-do's' and social activities, and before the holidays, we need a break! We're taking a play day. I suggested a ride up to the Lake where we can view the mountains and forests surrounding the water, and take some photos of the beautiful Fall color.

As I drove to the church at 5:30 pm yesterday, it was raining and quite dim in the pre-dusk hour. I was immediately struck by the brilliance of the area. It seemed that over-night the frost had kissed the trees, and they burst forth in every bright color of Autumn. What a glorious sight! The golden nut trees, the red maples, the brown and orange oaks seemed to put on their very best show!

I've always like Autumn, and when it's here, it's my favorite season. I like to listen to 'the September Song' and relate it to the seasons. I'm in the stage of life that I hope is late Summer and early Autumn. I pray it will be a long season for me, in life, I mean. I so enjoy living and seeing all that life brings my way. It is ever colorful, and though I sometimes 'over-book' myself, it's good to have meaning and purpose for the days.

There are items on my calendar that await accomplishment, but today I will take off with my favorite traveling partner, and I will breathe in the cool air and the radiance of these days. I will rest in the knowledge that this day is one for relaxation and renewal and reflection.

Tomorrow I will get back to work, but I won't think about that today. I'll think about that tomorrow.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Before Dawn Activities

Before dawn , while most of the world is snoozing, I sit at my computer and explore things. Sometimes I look up places to visit, or the old hometown, sometimes I do research: genealogy, locations where ancestors lived, what happened then in history. Often I go 'blogging'. I read blogs on-line written by other crafters, gardeners, friends. But I went cyber decorating.

I suppose it all has to do with trying to put this house back together in some fashionable way following the flood. I have a lot of furniture that I like, as well as just 'stuff'. Putting it together in a cohesive way always seems to stymie me. So, I snuck into other's rooms to see how they make things work.

I found a lot of 'redone' pieces put into some homes. What I mean by that is, pieces of furniture made in certain eras that have been 'transformed' by collaging French magazine ads to it or hand-painting pink roses or vines on
the doors or elsewhere. While those looks are fine for some, they don't work for me. I'm more a 'keep it in it's original state' even if that means it's finish is marred or the paint is chipping. I don't know why, but I'd rather see an armoire that carries its scarred, walnut stain than to see it painted aqua and artificially crackled.

This morning's tour of homes gave me a greater appreciation for my own things.
I don't want to clutter my home with 'useless' stuff anymore, although I did that for much of my life. I'm ready to simplify. If it doesn't have a place or a use, I don't really want it around. I'm not saying that I'm going to live with bare walls and shelves...don't get me wrong. I need to be surrounded by things that make it feel 'homey' to me, so pillows and photos and family crafted items will have their place. But statues and jars and stuff that just collects dust isn't going to take up residence here.

I guess there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, even if you like something. That's the part that I can't really come to grips with. If I like it, and it works with my other stuff, I can't seem to part with it. Right now, that's an assortment of many embroidered samplers. I don't know where to put them, so they're sitting in a box. I had them hanging over the couch, and though I was complimented often on them, the arrangement didn't work for me, or at least, it doesn't anymore.

I've been working on turning the small loft space into an 'office' for myself. The furniture is in, but there's still much to be done to make such a small space a workable one, and comfortable. I will just keep strolling through people's homes on line until something strikes me. It will suddenly 'hit' me in one of those pre-dawn hours, and it will be just perfect for me when it does.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Autumn Days

Autumn arrives in shimmering dresses,

With crowns of acorns in her tresses,

And with glittering gems of morning dew

Set on her toes like silver shoes.

Shadows play in her gown's pleats.

They carpet the ground at Autumn's feet.

She doesn't move, standing straight and tall

Until Old Man Winter makes a call.

Then Autumn leaves and covers the ground

Silently, but for Wind's sound.

Cold Winter moves in to take her place

Placing his chilly kiss upon her face.

Away is Autumn for another year

Gone are her hues that offered such cheer.

She's taken the birds, the blue skies as well

She's left us with Winter's snowy shell.



Oct 20, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Yankee Thrift

My Mom's favorite 'old adage' was attributed to good old 'Yankee thrift'. She'd always say, "Use up, wear out, make do, do without." Oh, I hated to hear that after awhile. My folks lived by that rule of thumb, so there wasn't a huge turn over of furnishings in our house, and clothing was passed around between cousins. I was lucky there, because the only girl cousins I had were a younger one who lived near us, and an older one who lived on Shelter Island. Audrey's things were passed to me, and no one but me, was the wiser.

One of Mom's sisters was a professional seamstress, and she could remake anything to fit to a 't'. I believe that in all my years of school dances, there was only one new semi-formal bought. The rest of them were 'renewed' by Aunt Sis. Sleeves were removed or necklines changed, and with a tuck here or a hem there, I was Cinderella.

As I became an adult, married and started a family, I learned the art of 'thriftiness' too. I was more or less 'forced' to, by tight finances in our early years.
After awhile, the budget loosened up a little, but by that time, it was a way of life for me. The son was the one with the new clothes, being the only boy, and we passed those on to two nephews. Our four girls were the recipients of many lovely things which we could not have afforded to purchase for them. My favorites were the smocked Polly Flinders dresses. This is not to say that we never bought new clothing for them. We did, of course, but the best things in their wardrobes came from someone else, and I was grateful.

It was wiser to buy new appliances than having used ones, as they'd give us less trouble, and they came with a warranty. Our furniture, though, except for our mattress sets, was handed down from relatives: Mom and Dad's Castro convertible couch, Aunt Sis' maple table and buffet cabinet, even my narrow antique bed was slept in by each of my children, and remains in my possession today.

I'm not sure whether recycling was in-grained in me or if it is in-born, but we are still doing the same thing today. We buy much more than we ever did, because we are able to, but we also tend to like 'old' things, rather than new and modern furnishings. The matching end tables were new, but they came from a thrift shop and cost me a total of $70 for the pair. (I spotted one in one part of the store, and the other way over on the other end!) The matching green ceramic lamps that sit on those tables were bought at a different time in the same store, and were $8 each. I found the almost new shades for them at a yard sale for $3 each. You can't beat that. All of our living room chairs were passed on from my daughter when she moved, our dining table, which is an antique square, drop leaf pine one, is a find from a thrift shop. I watched that table as it sat in the store for months. I longed for it, but I wouldn't pay the price. Visit after visit, the price would drop, but not enough for me. I kept hearing the words of my aunt from days of old. "If it's meant to be yours, it'll still be here the next time you come." Finally it was at a point that I would pay full price, but I took a chance and questioned if there was any negotiation on it. Surprisingly there was, and I bought it for about half of what the original price was months before!

Our dining chairs are various styles from various places: bow back antique ones which don't match each other except in color and shape, 4 white, sturdy ones that we use for extras which came FREE at the end of someone's yard sale. We've got two lovely, strong, Italian made arm chairs from yet another thrift shop, and 4 Windsor chairs that were given to us by a friend. Our porch table and chairs came from my brother's house when he passed away, and though I'm not crazy about the chairs and benches that came with it, they do serve the purpose. I'm a little too sentimental to get rid of the set, and it would be a shame to break up the pieces.

Suffice it to say that we have a mixed assortment here, but we don't mind, and are always being complimented about the way things work together and the coziness of our place. One of my friends once told me that if you choose what you like, it will always work. I'm not sure how much water that actually holds, but we do just that. Whatever... our purpose is to use what's available that we like and is comfortable. There's no way that I'd ever put '60's modern in our house, whether it was useable, free or otherwise. It's just not 'us'. But...if it was all we had, we'd 'make do' until we could do something different.

I like the challenge of refinishing, renewing, repurposing and recycling. It's fun and it's usually less expensive. Of course, if one buys antique furniture it wouldn't be terribly economical, but otherwise, for the most part, I'd say that used furniture, so long as it's comfortable and clean and sturdy, is a great use of your money, especially if you have children (or grandchildren) with sticky hands and sippy cups!

As much as I hated Mom's old motto, I find myself living by it these days, or at least, pieces of it. I don't necessarily 'wear out', but items are passed along so that someone else might wear out, rather than tossing them out. Sometimes it pays to listen to your Mom.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Halloween Costumes

Sometime in the next few days, I'm expecting a body in the mail. Before you call 911 or the FBI or someone to investigate me, let me explain. I'm scheduled to make my granddaughter's Halloween costume...a mermaid. Since she lives 100 miles or so from us, I asked my daughter to make a life sized paper body of her with measurements, so that I can attempt to make something that fits her tiny self.

Halloween costumes used to be fun for me to make. When my kids were at the age where I could make something, we would talk things over and come up with costumes that both pleased them and fairly easy for me to create. We had a Renaissance princess with a red velvet cape trimmed in gold and a tall pointed hat with a veil. There was an angel with tinsel halo and crepe paper feathers on poster board wings. There was a clown with a handmade red yarn wig and yellow calico suit trimmed with red yarn pom poms. There was a flower, a Hershey's Kiss and a cheerleader, as well as the usual cowboy and indian costumes. After five children and all those years of costumes, I'm finding it hard to come up with something new. This is a feat I must accomplish soon...and in adult sizes, as we're invited to a costume party which is two weeks away.

My husband is balking about the whole thing...costumes aren't something that thrills him, and yet, he is willing to attend the party in some sort of unusual get-up, providing it isn't too uncomfortable, constricting or 'out there'. I'm thinking, since people always tell me that he looks like the Gorton fisherman, that if we can find his old rain gear...yellow slicker and hat, he could wear that, and take it off easily. He'll be hot and uncomfortable wearing pretty much anything. He also has a fire hat...but I don't think he's still got his turn out gear, so a fireman might be out of the question.

As for me, I'd love to create something that would go along with his costume, but since that's thus far undertermined, I might have to find an idea for me and run with it. Time's awastin'...and with three costumes to make, as well as an assortment of other creative projects in the works for October events, there's not a minute or a thought to spare!

If anyone can help me out with the thinking, I'd be grateful. If you can sew and want to do that for me, better yet! The door's always open, and the candy dish is full! C'mon in!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Birthday Parties

When did things get so crazy and expensive when giving a child's birthday party?
I've noticed in the last few years that a group of friends are invited to celebrate a grade schooler's big day, and it's a huge event, costing a parent hundreds of dollars. There's paid entertainment...a magician, a clown, or the like or there are rented ponies to ride, or air filled jumping things. Sometimes it's a location party, where the parents pay a (dear) price and a party is planned and prepared for them. These places range from Chuckie Cheese to ceramics places, to party spots where a theme party is done, ie: Princess party, complete with costumes to wear.

What ever happened to a bunch of kids getting together for a couple of hours in the afternoon where they would play games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey or musical chairs or peanut hunts and outside games? There would be cake and ice cream and a time of opening gifts, and everyone would go home with a balloon and a small bag of candy or a box of cracker jacks and everyone was happy.

I remember giving a party for two of my girls whose birthdays are very close on the calendar. Their friends were the same children, so a joint party made sense. (They each had their own family celebration, though, in honor of the special child of the day.) It was a 'normal' party of the times, but I'd created little corsages of crepe paper flowers and curling ribbon for each little lady to wear. Each of the guests felt special with the bouquet to take home with her. For me it was a few dollars and a few hours of preparation.

Another time, for another child who was three years old, we had an outside party. The day became so hot that we filled the wading pool, and the Mommies stripped their children to their panties, and they all had a grand time splashing and spilling water all over themselves and each other.

I remember parties with everyone digging through their slice of cake to see if they'd find a treasure which had been baked into it. If they found it, they'd get an inexpensive door prize. Similarly, if there was a special number or picture found under your paper plate or under your chair, you'd 'win' and receive a prize.

I'm afraid that I'm dreadfully old-fashioned. I've said that before, but I just don't see the need for such spending as people tend to do today for a child's celebration, when simple things please children just as well.

Friday, October 2, 2009


When I was in school, history bored me, unless we were talking about the people of other countries. Social studies did catch at least some of my attention. Hearing how other people dressed and ate and lived differently from myself peaked my interest. I guess that's why, even today, I like folk festivals.

We used to go to the Polish Festival in Riverhead each year, whenever possible. The big draw for Mike was the food, but I liked it all. We're both 'people watchers', so the crowd itself offered a huge amount of entertainment, aside from the colorful costumes, the pagentry, the music, performances, native foods and craft booths. We attended the Southampton Greek Festival too.
Never did we leave without spinach pie!

We attended the Renaissance Fair in Sterling Forest, NY on a number of occasions. It was like going back to Olde Medieval England, to the days of knights on horseback, jousting, to gypsy women belly dancing, to the days when street vendors sold their huge pickles from barrels, while madrigals sang and pipers played. Bagpipers stroll, folk dancers enjoy the circles of gyrations. . The ladies in tall hats with veils trailing and velvets and cinched waisted dresses must be terribly uncomfortable! The serfs and the wenches style is much less fancy, but probably equally as warm. The men in suits of armor, chain mail, even tights and tunics must be no less uncomfortable.

The food is delectible: bread bowls filled with cheese and broccoli soup or stews, roasted turkey legs, and other such fare. Fragrances of oils and lotions permeate the breeze. Crafts people offering silver jewelry, tankards, blacksmithed wares, textiles, musical instruments, childrens costume items of the time, floral head wreaths. There are games to watch, and some to participate in and stage performances to see. We watched a wedding in front of the Queen's castle, and rode on a horse drawn wagon with the friendly monarch. I think of all the fairs and festivals I've attended, this may be my favorite, and I look forward to attending one in NC in November.

It is such fun to move into another realm, to become yourself in another place and time, just for the day. But then, when we are full of unusual food and our minds are full of exhaustion, it's time to go home. We do so, with appreciation, knowing the comfort of the familiar awaits.

Projects, Projects, Projects...

I can't help myself. I just have to keep my hands busy with projects, and let me tell you, I currently have a few dozen in the works.

In the throes of getting our house back together after our August flood, there's plenty to do. Let's face it, painting walls and trimwork, replacing furniture and hanging pictures can add only so much entertainment to your life. I am enjoying our 'new look', though, and the work is well worth it. There is a certain degree of 'creativity' involved in refurbishing after a calamity, but it gets old fast.

I'm one that has to create something that feels like fun, not work. So, my brain is as busy as my hands are. Since October is presenting me with many opportunities to create cards, I've been stealing my sleepless, pre-dawn hours while my husband snores, and I've been devoting that time to the birthday and 'thinking of you' cards I'll need to send. At the end of the month, I'll be hosting a church women's group, so I've been stamping colored leaves on fall colored paper for placemats and on small brown bags which will hold 'goodies' for the ladies to take home. Since the theme of the evening is the scripture verse, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you. Heb. 13:5', I've written the verse on each of the bags.

Christmas is rapidly approaching, and generally I'm nearly finished with shopping for gifts. Not this year. I do have a few, but my plans for making gifts were diverted by the rush of water through the house in Aug. By now I should have a good start on my handmade Christmas cards, and I haven't even begun. Well, there's always November.

The gardens look like patches of dying weeds. They look like that because that's what they are!
They need to be cleaned out and mulched for the winter. I fear that they may remain that way 'til Spring, when the new weeds show up and will be pulled. Well, weeds are pretty in their own right, I guess. Dead ones leave something to be desired, however.

I fully intend to honor my daughter's request to create a mermaid costume for her six year old. Ok. "I can do that" I answered, when she asked. It is my usual response. the trouble is, I have not yet received my request of an outline of Selah's body, and I've not yet worked out what the design will be and how to accomplish a tale. The fabric waits in the craft room, but that's as far as it's gotten.

The shed should be painted too, before it soaks up too much rain. That isn't so much my project as it is my husband's, but I will help him with it in order to get it done. (Sometimes my hardest part of a job is getting an electric cattle prod to get him moving. He does a great job once he gets past the procrastination!)

I have a billion other things I'd like to do and things that need to be put on the 'honey do' list, but I think I need to put the brakes to the churning wheels in my head, and get these things accomplished before starting any more.

On, now, to do some stamping on placemats.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Here It Comes...

Look she comes! October, in all it's blazing glory! The colors of Autumn are brilliant in October. I think that no other month provides so much in the way of a sensual experience. We are treated to glistening dew on the morning grass, vivid landscapes of gold and red, brown and yellow.

Much is still green here in the south, but with the unfolding of October, there will soon be leaves turning and lawns browning. I look forward to a walk in the woods, with the crunching of crisp leaves underfoot and the bite of a brisk wind on my cheeks.

How I love this month, when the woodsmoke rises on the evening air! The smell of burning leaves or fireplaces that take the chill from the room causes a sort of 'coziness' to settle over me.
Why it comforts me to smell that smoke, I cannot tell you, but it does.

The Canadian geese pass overhead, with a whir of sound in their wings. Their unmistakable 'honk' as they fly past, is almost as if to say, 'Get out of my way, please. I'm on a mission. Fall is here, and I must be off to other places.' Likewise, other birds begin to vacate. Today the birdbath is filled with a little family of Carolina Bluebirds, but soon, they will be gone. The Finches have already disappeared, but the Cardinals are faithful to remain, along with the Mockingbirds.

Fall's arrival brings a yen for the foods of the Autumn. When planning meals, we naturally seem to gravitate toward the 'heavier ' items, such as squashes and meatloaf, roasts and root vegetables. We no longer think 'cool and light', and salads are replaced by thick, hot soups and stews with warm breads and biscuits. Sweet potatoes and whatever fresh produce we can get at the farm stands are in abundance in October, and we scour the cookbooks for new recipes. This is the time of year when the desire to cook and to bake fills me like no other season does.

The calendar shows full days for the next three, holidays, visits, family. I must think of Christmas and the variety of gifts to prepare. But not today. Today I revel in what October brings to me. I will honor the month as she comes with all her pleasantries and generosity, and I will be still and enjoy her company while she visits.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Clothesline...

An abstract artist friend of mine did a fantastic painting of two women at a clothesline, gossiping.
A blogger friend wrote a piece on a childhood memory of her mother and aunt talking over the clothesline, as they hung their garments to dry. These friends have evoked a number of clothesline memories for me.

These are a dozen of the many lessons I learned about the clothesline:

1) Sheets hung in the breeze, after being boiled in a big kettle on the stove to increase their whiteness, are not to be hidden behind, wound up in, or touched by grimey children's hands, no matter how tempting they may look.

2) Garments and linens smell wonderful after being hung in the sun and slapped by the wind. They have a freshness and crispness that cannot be compared to anything making it's way out of an electric box in which they have been dried.

3) Terry cloth towels, t-shirts and jeans dried on the line have a stiffness that will rub the skin off your body more efficiently than any store-bought pumice or exfoliater ever could...better than even rough grit sandpaper can!

4) Clothing hung outside in temperatures below 32 degrees freeze faster than you can pull them from the laundry basket.

5) Fingers hanging clothing in temperatures below 32 degrees freeze to the clothespins made to hold garments to the line.

6) Clothing taken in from the line after hanging in temperatures below 32 degrees must be hung again, this time from a rack of some kind which stands in close proximity to a heat source...preferably not too close to same. (for example, floor furnaces provide a good deal of heat, and clothing standing too close, or falling on to one, sufficiently alters the garment by adding a scorched pattern of gridwork, as well as a destinctive and unattractive fragrance.)

7) It makes no sense to me to hang wet clothing in 32 degree temperatures and later remove frozen items from the outside to hang on racks to thaw. Such an act returns the garments to the original state they held when removed from the washing machine....wet!

8) It makes no sense to me that clean, wet items be hung in 32 degree temperatures so they will smell fresh. My reasoning? All freshness is left outside when clothing is hung on a rack near a heat source.

9) Likewise, the hanging of said items on a clothesline in the basement removes freshness and also adds a musty fragrance, equally as unattractive as the one offered by a too-close heat source.

10) Hanging clothing on a clothesline is time-consuming, especially when you're twelve years old and would rather do something else with that time.

11) Dawdling doesn't make the job go faster, nor does complaining about having to do the job get you out of doing it.

12) That the cons far out-weigh the pros when it comes to clothes drying.

Being a person who weighs all options, I vowed that a clothes drier would be the first appliance I'd purchase when I was married. To heck with the freshness!