Monday, December 4, 2017

From Me to You for Christmas

December already. Christmas loons. I really want to give my lovely readers something. I’ve run out of gold bars and the grandkids have claimed all the cookies. I could blibber blabber on and on about the true meaning of Christmas but the little kid in me just whapped me upside the head and said, “Um - no”. So I’ll listen to her and offer something light as a kind of respite should you need it. Here it is - my Christmas gift to you. 

A Christmas Carol – I found the whole movie on Youtube and watched it the other day. This one is from 1984 and stars George C. Scott as Scrooge. Two scenes moved me in particular. Marley’s ghost shows up early on and is horrifying. One gets the feeling that his message about the chain we forge in life is true. Made me shiver. And then at the crux of the story, Scrooge, having received his spectral visitors on a cold Christmas Eve, gets it. When George C wakes, his joy at his own salvation is awesome to behold. It made me want to sing and shout. Here’s the link:

“Mary Did You Know” – I think she did at the end. And here’s 

John Rutter: Oh, my stars. No wonder the queen knighted him. I love all of his Christmas offerings but one of the newest “All Bells in Paradise” touches the heart in a stunning way. The sentiments expressed here are most certainly true. They just have to be.

For a bit of fun I direct your full attention to these.

1.    “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey.
2.    Christmas Vacation the movie. Really
3.    A Charlie Brown Christmas.
4.    “Baby It’s Cold Outside” This version is a hoot.

What Christmas is not.

Magical – Save that for Disney movies
A Time for Family – Please  have that more than once a year.
A Time for Giving – Actually, it’s a time to think of what we were given. Jesus belongs to all of us.
(Okay - the whapping little kid didn't Totally dissuade me)

Next,a real treat. My Mom’s date nut bread recipe. It fills the house with “essence of Mom” every time I make it. I miss her. 

Christmas Date Nut Bread

1 package whole pitted dates
1 cup very hot water
¼ cup soft shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teasspoon salt
½ cup chopped walnuts

Chop the dates finely. Place in bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside.
Combine shortening, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Add alternately to date mixture then add nuts.

Bake at 350 in greased and floured loaf pan for about an hour or until inserted paring knife comes out clean. (Mom used a paring knife instead of a toothpick - I can't explain it)

I’ll be back in January. I hope you enjoy my gift to you. I apologize if you were counting on a gold bar or a box of awesome cookies. Maybe next year? 

Merry Christmas!

Know the Reason
To love the season

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

I love when children get excited about a holiday. I wonder how many of them realize that those days set aside to celebrate something are holy days. Yup. I dragged out my old dictionary and that’s the first definition. A. Holy. Day. A day set apart for a reason. And we have one coming up. Thanksgiving.  Abraham Lincoln declared the third Thursday in November as a day for the nation to celebrate the bounteous harvest so graciously bestowed on us by God. To celebrate with thankfulness.

So – I’m perusing the local grocery store ad and emblazoned across the top of the page is this –Turkey Day! And the bounty was all on  sale.

You know I’m going to say something about that, don’t you? About a possible trend in Holy Day reduction. The origins and meaning of them, that is. Now, I’m one of the first to allow children free expression when it comes to their views on who, what, where and when to celebrate something. Turkey Day, the Easter Bunny, Fire Cracker Day etc. That suits until about the age of two. After that it’s time to go heavy duty on them. It’s time to begin the conversation about why.

God, not any human, provided the seeds that led to the harvest. God placed the sun in the sky to warm the soil. God sends the rain in due season to water the soil that sprouts the seed. And we tend that garden. That’s our part – to steward the earth and gather the resulting harvest.

God instituted the family. Mom, Dad, sister and brother. Showed us how to love each other. Brings us together to celebrate the bounty that the seed, the soil, the sun and the rain bring forth. Our part is to prepare the feast. See? We get to do something. How cool is that?

God designed turkeys. Magnificent, meaty, stuffable birds. Enough for everyone. Days and days of thankful eating.

Perhaps there are those whose thankfulness is re-directed by trends and the butcher, the baker and candlestick maker come more quickly to mind than God. Perhaps the idea of thanking an immortal, invisible God who is wise and loving, is foolishness to them. Or perhaps, you're one who celebrates a Holy Day with true thankfulness to God for your life and all that's in it.

If you do that – wonderful! If you don’t, it may be that someday you will. I’ll hope for that. In the meantime . . .

Happy Thanksgiving!

PS: To be fair – the following week the grocery ad read 'Happy Thanksgiving". So there’s that. 

Photo: First pumpkin pie of the season. Yum. Hand over the whipped cream, Alice!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Food Glorious Food

I’m sitting here at my computer occasionally glancing out the window at a morning that saw 26 degrees. Brrr. It got me to thinking about the end of the year, upcoming birthdays (all three of our sons were born at the end of the year), the holidays and food. Specifically all the good stuff everyone will  be making to celebrate all those things. It’s put me in a generous mood. Hang on a second while I run downstairs to get my recipes box, books and folders. I have some good ones for you.
Okay, I’m back. Here’s my first share. Excellent cheese ball and goes a long way. Super rich but oh, so yummy. Got it from a woman at church many years ago. She’s gone now, but her cheese ball lives on.

Holiday Cheese Ball

1 8 oz pkg. cream cheese (regular)
1 stick butter
2 tsp minced onion (dry or finely chopped fresh)
1/8 cup beer
½ tsp dry mustard
Crushed walnuts

Soften cream cheese (can be left out overnight) and also the butter. Mix well with onion, beer and dry mustard. Shape into ball. Will be messy. I would say roll it in the crushed walnuts (really crush those babies), but it’s easier to pat the walnuts onto the ball. Place on a pretty plate, covered, and keep in fridge until you need it. Serve with nice crackers.

This next recipe I’ve had for ages and probably got it from a now defunct magazine. It, too, is rich. Maybe if you feel your monetary riches are passing through your hands like craft sand from all the holiday shopping you have to do, you’ll enjoy one of these and have richness restored. Or something like that.

Chocolate Truffles

10 oz baking chocolate (semi-sweet, bittersweet, or milk) Melt in microwave.
4 Tbs. of heavy cream stirred into melted chocolate along with 6 Tbs. of butter
1 Tbs. of your favorite liqueur or extract

Chill mixture

Sift ¼ cup of cocoa powder onto waxed paper. Scoop chilled mixture out one teaspoon at a time and form into a ball (yup, messy. I use a melon baller). Roll in cocoa powder. Place on pretty holiday plate or store  covered in refrigerator until your adoring grandchildren pop through the door hankering for chocolate or  you need a quick sugar and caffeine jolt.  

I have one or two more that I’ll post a few weeks before Christmas. If you try these, let me know. And if one of those truffles restores your riches - really let me know!

The photo up there is of my crusty old recipe box. I’ll bet you have one, too. Am I right?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Staying in October

Tomorrow is Halloween. Once all the ghosties and gholies have come and gone there will be a non-stop roll towards Christmas with only a brief pause at Thanksgiving. This means that Fall, our romantic version of it, will fast fade as we dream instead of frosted window panes, winter moons, babies in mangers and jingling bells. But just for a moment I want to stay in autumn and I always turn to music to help me do that. Wanna come along?

Jo Stafford was a singer from the 1940’s and 50’s whose exceptional voice graced us with “Moonlight in Vermont” found here:
Her clarity of tone wrings every bit of emotion from lyrics that take us right out under that moon. Makes me want to hop in the car, drive east and stroll beneath trees shivering out of their red, orange and gold leaves. I’ll snug my warm sweater up under my chin and trace the lacy patterns of clouds drifting across the darkening sky. Thanks, Jo. 

Nat King Cole renders a poignant version of “The Autumn Leaves” here:
His voice is one of those, that when it makes you sigh, that sighs says everything because words fail. What a gracious gifted man and singer we had in him. When he sings this romantic song everything about autumn, all that we love, comes and kisses us on the cheek. Roger Williams piano version is also beautiful, but it’s hard to beat Nat.

Barry Manilow gives us a bittersweet goodbye to October in “When October Goes”  Oh, my goodness. I just love this song . So much so that I only listen to it a couple of times a year and only at the end of October. I never want it to seem tired or worn. I hate to see October go just as much as Barry does. That little ache in his voice says it all.

I know November has its own sort of loveliness and I’ll be all about the holidays in a week or two. But for today I’m still hanging around in autumn. I hope you get a chance to listen to these or whatever else might help you stay there for a while.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, October 23, 2017

Some Stuff You Should Know

I am fascinated by the origins of words and phrases and also quirky facts about our world.  Today I thought I’d share some of my finds with you. I’ll bet you can’t wait. Here goes.

EVOO – Okay, that’s not exactly a word or phrase, but it’s an acronym put into the Oxford American College Dictionary in 2006 because of its frequent us by Food Network star, Rachel Ray. It stands for extra virgin olive oil. Yeah, no, don’t say E-voo like some arrogant cow trying to impress you with her foreign accent. You say each letter so it kind of sounds like one word. Just listen to Rachel.  

Nerd – This word was coined by Dr. Seuss when he gave the name to one of his oddball creatures way back in the day. They were all that way, with their unruly tufts of hair everywhere, don’t you think? Perhaps I’ll start making up a word here or there and see how many stick. My first attempt? Blurf. I’ll imagine what it means in a minute.

Enervated – Ha! This does NOT mean full of energy. It means drained of energy. Sure does sound like the opposite, though, right? Well, the next time you say it, drape your hand over your brow and hang onto the nearest chair or counter. Nothing like maximum drama to illustrate a word's true meaning. “I am enervated beyond belief by this pile of laundry.” Ask the arrogant cow if you might borrow her accent, too. As you glide to the floor you’ll impress everyone.

Jump on the bandwagon – In the late 18th and early 19th century horse drawn wagons, carrying a band (imagine that) were used by circuses, in parades and during political campaigns. And who wouldn’t love to be invited to “jump on” and join the fun? Every Tom Sawyer and Jane Finn out there, that’s who. Of course that meant you were all in for the clowns, drum majorettes, and the mayor. I once jumped on the “Spam for everyone!” bandwagon and have yet to live it down. Ugh.

Have a baby? Get a pet – This I read in a recent Reader’s Digest. Canadian researchers found that babies one to three months old living in homes with furry pets that carry high levels of (hang on while I type these loooong words) Oscillospira and /or Ruminococcus, gut microbes, have a lower risk of allergies and obesity. Hello, Fido! My father-in-law’s maxim of “You have to eat a pound of dirt before you die” kind of fits in with this study. In my mind anyway.

So, that’s probably enough continuing education for you right now. Go ahead and add to the list, though, if you’d like to and have time. I’m all ears.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, October 16, 2017

Charlie, Ichabod and Wind

That song that’s not about Christmas will be creeping up on us soon. You know the one  “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens . .” Maybe we associate it with the holidays because we all have favorite things that come to mind when a new season is upon us? Dunno. Anyway my favorite things list is long and seems to begin climbing the peak about now because summer has nearly completed her annual striptease and awaits the kiss of autumn – that naughty boy. She’s asked me to share some things on my list for October.

Ichabod and Charlie – I broke down and bought DVD’s of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. I’ve loved them both for many years. Charlie and I go way back. I was 16 when the Pumpkin debuted on television – yes, smarty pants -they had television back then. It was a greatly anticipated event and it didn’t disappoint. That pumpkin patch, mouthy Lucy, Snoopy with his WWI obsession. And, of course, the no show of the Great Pumpkin himself made this cartoon what it is today, a national treasure.

Ichabod and I go back even further than that. When I was in elementary school, living in Southern California, we only had one car. If Mom needed it for the day, she would drive Dad to work in the morning and sometimes one or more of us would go with her in the evening to pick him up. On the way we’d pass through a section of town we dubbed “spooky hollow” which amounted to a dip in the road and a clump of trees. It was all we had and our homage to the Disney special about Ichabod and his encounter with the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. We loved plopping in front of the television to watch it every Halloween. Now I live in upstate New York where autumn is on full display every October and actually live in the Ichabod Crane School District. Huh.

Wind – My favorite kind of weather. Not of hurricane proportions, but the kind that almost makes you think God is speaking to you. Whirling around tree trunks and rattling our old shutters, it’s a reminder that another kind of weather is headed our way and why the heck don’t you have the storm windows up yet? We only have the two in the kitchen. I’ll get to them. Soon as God gives the word.

Sweaters – Early last week I pulled open the bottom drawer of the dresser in the spare room and there they were. I drew back the tissue paper I’d covered them with last spring and grinned. The teal blue one, the red one, the black one with tiny cardinals on the front. They spoke to me, “Hey, sister, time to think about getting us out of here. Did you hear that wind last night?” I took the teal one out and told the others to pipe down –for just a few more weeks.

From here I could rhapsodize about the big bags of Halloween candy on sale at CVS. Snack size Snickers, Almond Joy, Kit Kat's and hardly any calories if you only eat ONE. I could go on and on about the big pile of pie Wiapples in the bowl on the kitchen table or the whopping pan of lasagna I made for company the other day. The heat from the oven warmed the house nicely. It’s not quite time to crank up the furnace. I’ll save that for November.

Now – I’m guessing you have some things on your favorites list too. Brown paper packages tied up with string perhaps? We'd love to know. 

Image : Free Digital Photos

Monday, October 2, 2017

Oh, Masterpiece

Masterpiece Reviews

I’m a big fan of Masterpiece Theater. Especially the mysteries, but also some of the historical fiction. Here are my opinions on two of them.

Poldark – Ross Poldark is a scar faced (be still my heart) British soldier returned home to Cornwall from fighting in the American Revolution. He finds his fiancĂ©, Elizabeth, engaged to his cousin, Francis, and his estate in ruins. And you think you have it rough. But, because he’s our hero, he forges on and eventually marries Demelza his servant girl. He’s remains besotted with Elizabeth, is determined to re-open an old mine on his property, becomes involved with smuggling and there are side plots, too. This all from the first season and it was just okay. Ross scowls a lot. A. Lot. Maybe that’s the reason for the “dark” after the “Pol”? I dunno. But he does even more of it in the second season where we’re bombarded for two hours with all the women’s problems. Such as jealously. Ross sneaked out and slept with Elizabeth in season one and – surprise! Demelza didn’t like it. She smacked him a good one upside the head to show him, too. And then the pregnancy. Whose baby did Elizabeth deliver – her husband’s – Ross’ mortal enemy - or does the wailing infant belong to Ross? And then there were war ships lost at sea with two of the other characters, the doctor’s wife and Elizabeth’s cousin, having husbands aboard. Oh, no! Are they alive or will Carolyn and Verity become widows – possibly on the same day! Oh, no! I’m sorry, this kind of stuff makes me glad I had my Kindle in hand and a Spider Solitaire game going. Yes, I could have changed the channel, but I just kept hoping it would get better. Like another mine explosion or Errol Flynn emerging from Sherwood Forest to capture Demelza's heart (so there, Ross!). Something. 

Grantchester – A little better. But this time there’s a brooding vicar and we’ve moved forward a century or two to 1953. The love of his life has also abandoned him to marry another, but at least Sydney Chambers and his police officer buddy, Geordie, have murder as a distraction. Grantchester is the name of this fictitious little town near Cambridge, England, and it’s full of charming characters who have it in for each other. Really, what would Sydney do if he couldn’t help out here? Oh, yeah. He smokes and drinks and pines for Amanda, the heiress he can’t have and he occasionally gives a tortured sermon. But then someone is murdered. Whew! Let’s get to the meat of the show here and shove personal problems aside for a bit - please. But, all in all, once you get all the characters straight (which his new assistant isn’t – though he struggles with it), this one can be enjoyed. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out whodunit but I don’t glance at my Kindle nearly as often whilst I'm trying to figure it out.  

Maybe I’m past the age where I can appreciate yet another female giving birth for our viewing pleasure or men scowling and lusting or horse and rider dashing along seaside cliffs. Or perhaps it’s just that these two fall short of my expectations. I’m much more inclined to love Sherlock, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre or Downton Abbey. All of which were superbly done in my estimation. Thank you Masterpiece!

So, there ya go. Any thoughts? 

Image: Free Digital Photos