Monday, December 30, 2013

Trivia Quiz - Fun Stuff!

Time for a little end of the year fun, wouldn’t you say? I’m one of those people who gets little bits of useless information stuck in the crevices of my noggin. Just love to pass it on in the form of a quiz. See how you do. No prizes – just the satisfaction of getting some or all of them right.

A    You can see me and and you can feel me, but if you touch me you will die. What am I?

B    Where does Poland Spring water come from?

C    “Taste the rainbow,” is the slogan of what candy?

D     Name the original host of Jeopardy!

E     John Chapman was better known as . . .?

F    What is the third hand on a clock called?

G    The most germs on your toilet are found on the handle. True or False?

H    What is the last name of TV’s Dr. Phil?

I     Who wrote Auld Lang Syne?

J    How long does it take the crystal ball to fall on New Year’s Eve? (in NYC)

Answers (You didn’t peek, did you?)

A    The sun
B    Maine
C    Skittles
D    Art Fleming
E    Johnny Appleseed
F    The second hand
G    True
H    McGraw
I     Robert Burns in 1788
J    60 seconds

Now honestly, how did you do? Have a wonderful 2014. I'll be right there with ya!

Photo: Simon Howden                                                 Free Digital Photos

Friday, December 27, 2013

Precious Trinkets

The week after Christmas is a strange place in time. Calmer, more relaxed, and hopefully the little gray cells are full of new and wonderful events stored away to become beloved memories. Our December was packed, but some little thoughts and visions crept in at odd times.

Like at our grandson’s Winter Concert.

Sam plays tenor sax. He’s eleven. We sat in the balcony in the auditorium at Albany Academy and watched the kids file in. Nicely dressed, they were, and eager to perform. We could barely see the boy, but that sax poked over the head of the kid in front of him, bobbing away, so we knew he was playing. It occurred to me, as it does to every grandmother, that kids grow up too fast (well – except when they’re two months old and have been screaming for forty five minutes at 2:00 a.m. and you have to get up in four hours. Right then you wish they were already twelve). But you get the idea.

So the program rolled along, and finally it came time for the band to exit stage left and as Sam neared the doorway he turned and looked in our direction – briefly. But in that quick second I had a vision of a sandy haired three-year- old standing next to me eight years ago. We were trying to decide what else to draw on a big cardboard box, the one he’d soon crawl into to play. We had a door, and flowers and windows, but something was lacking.

“How about a ladybug, Sam?” I asked, magic marker in hand.

“No, gramma, I don’ like ladybugs,” he said in his precious toddler voice.

“Uh,oh,” I said, full of concern. I could still crouch down in those days, so I did. His soft eyes looked into mine. “Why don’t you want a ladybug, Sam?”

“They make me nuurvice,” he said  with the “uur” pronounced and drawn out.

I had to stop thinking too hard about that right then. No sense puddling my sentimental tears right there in the Academy balcony seat. I looked away because that small tender boy is gone, he only lingers in my grandma heart as one of many memory trinkets – piling up as the years pass.  I know there’s a decent young man emerging and that makes me so proud. But still.

And then on Christmas day. Anna, who is eight and Sam’s sister, wanted a mermaid tail for Christmas more than anything this year. As she sat in her dad’s recliner, her legs proudly stretched through the long shimmering turquoise tube with fins on the end, I had another flash. Anna at four standing for a picture in a black velvet dress holding a single yellow rose. We were at a church dinner. Her hair was long and curly then and she looked beautiful – totally unaware that at that moment her little girl loveliness was burning a memory in Grandma’s heart. I want to reach back through time and grab her for a hug. I guess I’ll have to learn to hug mermaids now. 

Before I go all “grandma” on you with stories about all six of them, I’ll stop myself. Because I know you do this, too, if you’re a parent, a grandparent, a wonderful aunt or uncle,caring teacher. The odd, poignant flashes come to you, too, don’t they?

Yes, they grow too fast. As we did. And time is a cruel taskmaster bidding us march to its tune, however reluctantly. I think, at Creation, God must have realized this, so He programmed in memory banks to allow visions and brief moments when grandsons turn and look at  you from the ripe old age of eleven and granddaughters' morph into Flipper. It all makes you realize how wonderful your world is.

Please share the memories that this Blessed Season sparked for you. 

PS: There's one from friend and fellow blogger Linda O'Connell here

Image: Free Digital Photos

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

It’s been a rough week with my tummy acting up, a good friend undergoing the stress of major surgery, and Christmas looming. Which all means I’ve been in a blog – slog. So I’m falling back on an old favorite and once again sharing Mary’s Sparrow with you. If you’ve read it before, thank you. If you haven’t I hope you enjoy. Go ahead and pass it on. Print it out, mail it to friends. You have my permission. JUST – don’t give away the ending. Okay? May God’s blessings shower down upon you this Christmas.


Mary’s Sparrow
By Susan Sundwall

     Twigs snapped and feathers swirled as the little bird landed hard on the tree branch. The terrible storm that dashed her nest to the ground had blown furiously, lifting her high and away into the sky. Chilly desert air settled around her as night fell. Alone and frightened, she tucked her head beneath a tiny wing and tried to sleep.
     When dawn broke there was no friendly bird chatter to comfort her. The ancient wind-bent tree stood alone over a battered stone well on a long stretch of road.
     Ting-ching. Ting-ching. The bird picked her head up at the strange sound. Harness bells danced to the rhythm of a caravan and she watched a ragged line of camels come towards her. The camel driver gathered the animals to the well and one plodding old camel stopped beneath the branch where the bird sat. The man in the saddle nibbled on a seed cake. It looked so good!  
     The camel looked up. “Are you out here all alone?”
      “Yes,” the little bird said, “My home was blown to bits and I don’t know where I am.”
     “Come with us,” said the camel kindly. “We are near the end of our journey. You may find shelter in the village where we stop.”

     The little bird perched between the camels’ ears, and as the day wore on the road became more crowded. Whole families traveled together and children darted about,
laughing and tossing stones. One lady, riding on a donkey, smiled to see a bird riding between the camel’s ears.
     “Small friend,” said the camel as they entered a noisy street, “our journey has ended and you will have to find your own way now. May fortune shine upon you.”
     The little bird was sad to leave the kind camel, but she was excited by all the activity in the bustling streets of the village!
     The market stalls were filled with wonderful sights and smells. Great mounds of figs and dates were piled high on rough wooden tables. Baskets filled with olives and jugs of fragrant oil sat in the shelter of billowing tents. Fisherman and weavers called out to eager shoppers. The little bird flitted among them snatching stray bits of food.
     “Get out!” The shadow of a huge foot suddenly hovered above her small head. “Silly sparrow! Garbage bird!” The mans’ eyes were cold and mean.
     Fear flew with her as the bird scurried to the doorway of a crowded inn where people ate coarse bread and drank small bowls of steaming coffee. As she darted for fallen breadcrumbs a tall woman stepped on the little birds tail, crushing two feathers. How it stung! Shuddering into a corner near the window, the small creature thought of how she missed the kind camel and the comfort of her own nest. Then, through eyes blurred by tears, the bird saw the lady who had smiled at her from the donkey. The lady’s husband asked the innkeeper for a room.
     “No! The inn is full!” blurted the innkeeper. “Shall I put you in the stable? Ha!”  
     “We can go to the stable,” said the man calmly.
     The innkeeper waved them on and bellowed at a servant boy. “Ho, boy! More wine, we  have thirsty travelers here; rich merchants who will pay well!” Then he disappeared into the crowd.
     That poor lady is tired and hungry just like me thought the little bird. Something inside urged her to follow the man and his lady as they made their way to the back of the inn.
     The stable was dark; strewn with old rags and dirty straw. The donkey groaned as the lady climbed down. The man busied himself trying to make her comfortable.
     “Psst,” the little bird called, peering down from a low rafter.
     “Who’s there?” asked the donkey, looking about him.
     “It’s me, a tired, hungry sparrow,” said the bird. “Will you help me?”
     The donkey glanced at the bird and then turned to the lady who began crying softly into her hands.
      “She’s crying!” said the sparrow.
      “She’s having a baby soon,” said the donkey. “And a dirty stable is no place to lay a little one. The journey here has been long.”
      “I saw clean straw in the market stalls!” cried the sparrow. She raced away and found some golden strands in a basket under a bench near the door of the inn. She flew  swiftly
between stable and streets, dipping here and tucking there to place each piece just so. At last there was a golden bed of clean straw for a newborn baby to lie in, safe and warm.
   The little bird now ached with hunger, but before she could ask about food again she heard beautiful singing. Through a small hole in the thatched stable roof the night sky glimmered. It beamed bright as morning and the stars shone like silver. She flew to the roof and poked her small body through the hole.  The unearthly singing made the little bird’s heart swell with joy and wonder. When the sound faded, she looked back into the stable and saw – the new baby!
     The lady looked so tired but she rocked her little son and kissed his plump cheeks as she tenderly laid him on the bed of clean straw.
      The bird drifted down and slumped against the rafter. With a contented heart she watched the mother and newborn child. The lady’s gentle voice drifted up to her. 
     “Come little bird,” she said, looking up. She lifted a palm towards the bird. “You made a soft bed for my precious child and I must thank you.”
     The little sparrow’s wings barely carried her to the upheld hand, but how warm it felt when she rested there!
     The lady stroked the sparrow’s downy head and hummed low in her throat. As the little bird closed her eyes, she thought of her ruined nest. She remembered the kind camel and the child lying in the clean bed of straw. Then she laid her head over, breathed a few gentle breaths and died. She was simply too weak and too hungry to live for another  moment.
     When the lady, Mary, saw that the little bird had died, a deep sadness filled her heart. How hard the bird had worked to make a bed for her baby, Jesus. I must always remember what this small bird did for us tonight, she thought. So Mary told the story to her son and he remembered it always. Wherever Jesus went he told people about the sparrow. Even today we recall what he said. “For God sees even the little sparrow when it falls.” And so He also sees you.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Sunday, December 15, 2013

While Baking Cookies

I love to bake and especially at Christmas time. Cookies – my family expects them and I rise to the occasion. And I make it just that. I choose my recipes, set out my racks, and turn on the carols (sometimes Rush. I know, I know!). Anyway, it’s real cozy in my kitchen on baking days. Between batches I stare out the window and think of all the little things that make life so interesting at this time of year.

Like . . .

Yesterday morning I helped decorate our church sanctuary. The Sunday school kids were in there practicing – almost done – and I wandered around trying not to intrude. Three little girls waited for siblings in a back pew. They had CYO basketball shirts on and we stuck up a conversation (our grandkids play CYO). One of them – an adorable blond – was a real chatterbox. She wanted to know all about my grandchildren who attended Ichabod Crane elementary. Names. Ages. Grades. All of great interest. When I started to move away, she left the pew and came after me with more questions. Thank God my nose was beginning to drip. I told her I had to get a tissue and beat a hasty retreat to the ladies.

Later, as we put Chrismons (Christ monograms) on the tree, several of us who are rather long in the tooth, fondly recalled the icicles that were once mandatory on any self respecting Christmas tree. The really old kind were aluminum and pressed at the manufacturers in a way that you had to sort of peel them apart to put them on the tree. After those there were some kind of clingy synthetic ones, new and improved, that would follow you out of the room if you weren’t careful. Sort of like my little girl from the pew.

We then discussed placement methods. Turns out we’d all come from the “one at a time” school (Harvard) of thought. There was unanimous consent that “icicle flingers” were of a lower order of humanity that we would never claim kin. And don’t even ask about taking them off the tree at New Year’s. That was a whole other purgatory (one at a time – draped carefully over the original cardboard – ugh).

When I was very young we were very poor. We’d migrated from upstate Minnesota to Southern California and those first years were lean. But love and excitement came from afar in the form of packages from sympathetic relatives who’d stayed behind. Those were the years when “brown paper packages tied up in string” really meant something. One year our Aunt Jean sent oddly wrapped somethings that brought out the ultra-snoop in me. It must have been a rough journey for those gifts because, to my delight, there were small tears in the wrapping. And since Mom always put them under the tree as soon as we got them, I could pick mine up and dream. Through the tear I spotted a little bit of pink and when I turned the package sideways, it gurgled. The pink moved. I was under that tree nearly every day “fixing” the tape that held it together. Turns out it was a bottle of bubble bath. Very girly and I loved it.

And then last night our not-stray-anymore cat, Agnes, found a spot under the Christmas tree, wrapped her tail around herself and settled down for a long winter’s nap. I think she likes it here and I’m so glad.

I hope you have memories and incidents like these that come to visit you in the few moments of peace you have at Christmas time. My advice is that you share them with someone over a cup of Joe and one of those cookies you just baked. Or pick one, write it out, and send it in a Christmas card to someone you know will love it.  

I made gingersnaps this morning. Want one?

Image: Free Digital Photos 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Whatcha Readin' ?

Book Reviews

Okay, it’s time to discuss books. What have you been reading of late? I hope the busy holiday season hasn’t interrupted this necessary pleasure. I’ve got a few things to say about some of the books I’ve been reading. Here goes.

The 13th Tale
By Diane Setterfield

What an interesting book. Gothic-y, a mystery wrapped in enigma.  Two women set out on a journey. Oh, gag. I hate it when someone says that. Here’s the deal. A young woman, who lives and breathes books, snags an interview with an old woman whose writing has captivated the world for decades. The thing is, the old woman has never told the world the truth about her own life – until now. Oooo, sets the stage nicely for some murder, mayhem, mental problems – and a connection the two women share that keeps them talking. I liked it.

Cover of Snow

I met the author, Jenny Milchman, when she attended our November Mavens of Mayhem meeting. I often will buy the books of authors I’ve met, and I bought hers. She told me she liked my speaking voice and she laughed at the bit I'd read from The Red Shoelace Killer. I'm a sucker for flattery, I guess. Several authors read from their works at that meeting. Raising my hand as one of them. Anyway, her book was quite good. Set locally (Adirondacks) and with a protagonist who would do what I hope I’d do if I woke up one morning and found my husband hanging from the rafters. She grieves, wonders, and then goes looking for his killer, butting heads with authorities who have held sway over the town for decades. She uncovers naughty secrets about them all and one about her husband that’s a shocker. Worth the read.

Anne Perry

This writer’s own disturbing past was revealed not too many years ago and lends a certain aura to her work. She’s a convicted murderer. Read about it here. I met her at Bouchercon, briefly, when she signed the book I’d bought. I’d never read her. And I haven’t read the book she signed because she warned me not to. Creepy sounding, I know. But it’s the last in her Monk series and she advised that I read the others first. What I did do was purchase several of her earlier books for my Kindle. The Cater Street Hangman is the first in another series she wrote early on in her career. She develops her characters and sets them up for future installments. Victorian. Detective meets strong woman. Unlikely, but guilty, perpetrator. Worth my time to the extent that I “Kindled” two more. I'll get around to Monk. 

Now, tell me what you’re reading. 

Image: Free Digital Photos

Friday, December 6, 2013

Wondering as I Wandered - In the Hannaford

My favorite Christmas story, besides The Birth, is Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. Yesterday a certain scene from the book (and movie) came to mind as I wound my way up and down the aisles of our local grocery store, Hannaford. For once I was not in a particular hurry – you know – frantically ticking off the items on my list, my mind set on what I had to do once I got home. So I had time to look around. And, OH, the riches!

In the scene that popped into my head, Scrooge is about to encounter the Ghost of Christmas Present who is resplendent in “a simple, deep green robe bordered in white fur.” And at the feet of the ghost, “heaped up on the floor to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, suckling pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince pies, plum puddings, barrels of oysters, red hot chestnuts, cherry cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth cakes, seething bowls of punch that made their chamber dim with their delicious steam."  

Okay, our local Hannaford falls a bit short of Dickens’ Horn of Plenty description in not stocking suckling pigs, but they do a great job of bringing the season forward for us. And it’s epidemic across the land, in supermarkets and grocery stores all over the country; this insistence on joining in the celebratory practices of the people they serve. I’m amazed that all of the people at the various corporate offices have read A Christmas Carol and seek to imitate the glorious bounty described therein.

So I lingered in the fruit and veggie aisle, inhaling the citrus-y smells of the oranges and lemons, the earthy aromas of the potatoes and cabbages. I marveled at the loads of cheeses and spiced meats and jaunty Santa Clause hats on the scales at the deli counter. In the drinks aisle the red and green bottles of Coke and Sprite shouted a cheery “hello” to me all in their holiday array. The end cap in the breads and roll section sported Little Debbie Christmas cakes liberally done up with colored sprinkles for the children. When I got to the eggnog I swooned. A dash of rum and nutmeg with a pillow of whipped cream on top danced in my head.One day I'm going to try the caramel flavor. In the candy aisle I picked up a chocolate snowman as a little gift for my hairdresser. And there was great joy at the checkout (for Hannaford anyway) as the cashier rang up an additional ten items I hadn’t really intended to buy. I was in the thrall of the bounty and Dickens, after all.  

It kind of made my day to wander through the harvest so to speak. It’s all given by the gracious hand of our Lord who deigned to be born among us in the bleak mid-winter and bids us remember why He did so. That realization comes later, but for now I (and I hope you) will bask in the glory of all we’ve been given and do our best to pass it on. God bless us every one.

That’s my commercial for Christmas. Thank you, Ghost of Christmas Present and Mr. Dickens, too!

Image: Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Big Reveal - My Handbag

Every couple of days, on my way upstairs in the morning, I reach into my purse and grab my wallet. It’s one of those that holds my checkbook, credit cards, bills and coins – all purpose. You’d think I wouldn’t need yet another devise to carry all my junk around, but I do. It’s called a purse, a handbag, a bag, or a pocketbook (my late mother in law always used that one). Anyway, this morning as I pulled the wallet out I spotted something brown in the bottom of my purse. I plucked it up. It was a balled up cookie tissue – the kind you use to snatch a free cookie at the bakery counter for your granddaughter who knows exactly where they are in the grocery store. She grabs the cookie and hands me the tissue. There's never a trashcan near so into the BBB it goes.

So then I wondered what else my BBB – that’s Big Brown Bag, Rhonda. Giggling. Well – what an assortment! Let me list it for you.

Keys – They love to hide at the very bottom in the far corner invoking my fury when I’m in a hurry.

Free Sample – Must have got this in the mail and thought it might serve in an emergency. It’s a foil packet of hand lotion. Nivea. Remember when free samples came in a size that actually thrilled you?

Coin  purse – This was my mom’s. One of my sisters probably gave it to her. It’s a nice one and I keep my business cards in it.

Gloves – Yikes, two pairs. I’ve been wondering where they were. Small, knit, black and perfect for driving which is why I stuffed them in there, I’m sure.

Tums – Two of them in a little plastic bag. Had some tummy issues after a friend had me try his brown beer. Ugh.

A penny – I picked it up from the pavement in front of the dollar store yesterday. Waiting for the good luck that’s supposed to come with it. “See a penny, pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck.”

Batteries – In case my camera (NOT in my purse) runs out while I’m not taking pictures. Hmmm.

Other – Cheap, collapsible hair brush from the $ store, a pen, small notebook, big weekly planner , a paper clip, two cotton swabs (???), contact lense cleaner in a neat little brown holder, tissues (new and used, not the cookie kind), my cell phone (on – must turn off), two aspirin in a little plastic bag, and Oriental Avenue. That last one is a McDonald’s Monopoly game piece from our trip out west in July. Good grief.

Boy, I’m glad I grabbed my wallet this morning. Need to balance the checkbook and then I’ve got some cleaning and tossing to do! My handy, ever-ready BBB deserves it.

What’s in your wall . . . handbag?