Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Books of 2010

I know I should have done this before my end of year  New Year greeting, but I didn't and so please go on to the  post following this for New Years Wishes, or simply accept my Happy New Year to  you and yours right here.  These three books are my  last full reads before closing the list of 2010; I seldom post as soon as I finish reading instead waiting till I have time and then adding two or three. All three of these books are winners and opinions will vary among readers.  Those of us who have the avid  lifelong reading habit have different favorite authors and different ways of picking our reads.  My all time preferences are with biographies and non-fiction, but I also enjoy mysteries, espionage, intrigue  and good stories so long as the writing is good.  I am not one  for pablum or what I call comic book reading, for that I'll pick up a magazine.  In backwards  order starting with the book finished a week ago, here they are....

From a fellow Sepia and sometime Magpie contributor, my bloggy friend Vicki Lane's latest is "The Day of Small Things" which fits the bill as a great story, over 413 pages in paperback, small print, well told in the dialect of Appalachia.  The characters are alive on the pages.  The interesting twist to this tale at the end made me ponder, which works best at the time or the situation, Christianity and prayer or the old Indian ways, the little people, the connection to the spirits and sprites? This is the greatest story I have read in a long time and yet it was perfect timing for me to  read her provocative  thoughts like, "our mothers, good or bad, are always with us..."  something like that near the end of the book.  The names of the characters lure the reader through the story,  some are, Least, Lilah Bel, Granny Beck, Mr Aaron, John Goingsnake, Redbird, Calven, Prim, Dorothy, Birdie, Belvy, and the places Dark Holler, Gudger's Stand, well you get the drift it's southern, Appalachian.  The dialect is exceptionally  fitting to the tale and the characters.   This link to Vicki's blog has the review from the Los Angeles Times   Here is the closing paragraph, " It will be late summer when we bury her and the yard grass will have grown knee high.   But the joy of that perfect day, with me and Luther young and happy, comes back to me every time I hang out the laundry or whenever Bernice's boy comes over to cut the grass.  He uses a power mower--that ratchety song is gone forever, I reckon--but the sweet green smell of new mown grass don't never change."  I will recommend this book to my book club and donate my copy to my local library for other  readers to enjoy.  

I knew I had to read George W Bush' "Decision Points" and purchased my first edition upon release; it is one that will stay in my personal library.  I do not recommend this book to people who have not followed news nor studied  current or prior national  history nor to those who lack familiarity with the Bush legacy and family. I would be curious if someone like that read it what they would think; I suspect they would not enjoy this book because  I think it requires some solid knowledge or foundation  as it is not written lightly and is more like a history, although not a chronology of his presidency. I have found in discussions that history means different things to different people.  To myself it is the building block of all that happens next, the basis for actions, and the key to understanding;  a mixture of philosophy and geography and  time and place; it is knowledge and awareness.  GW's own love of history comes through loud and clear.  I loved this book and now far better understand his decisions, some of which I did not agree with.  I also had read many books about and by the Bush family and  Karl Rove's "Courage and Consequences" which was another tremendous building block to  relishing this book.  It was interesting to me to recall what Rove had written as that  same situation was portrayed in "Decision Points."  There is no variance in descriptions though from different persons.   I knew before I read it that Bush had been wrongly lambasted by our very liberal media and cohorts, represented and taunted as a dummy, a joke, or worse.  Reading this thoughtful book verifies that all that was BS by the far left and worse down right lies.  The book is not difficult to read but neither is it one to whiz through lightly, not one of those simple  pleasure reads. It is for thoughtful pondering and contemplation. A book for thinking.   There are no surprises, but many simple truths.  George Bush prevails as a statesman and an exceptional leader, in fact someone who understands the prerequisites and demands of leadership and  who was able to make the tough calls and decisions when the country needed them most.  He emphasizes  relationships he made with  world leaders and their perspectives.  His greatest accomplishment is that America was not attacked again by terrorists on his watch (Thank you President Bush!)  He admits his big disappointment was in not bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.  In the introduction  he writes that as he began to consider his memoirs, historians suggested that he read "Memoirs" by President Ulysses S. Grant, which he did.  "Like Grant, I decided not to write an exhaustive account of my life or presidency.  Instead I have told the story of my time in the White House by focusing on the most important part of the job:making decisions."  

 I have other friends who have also read and relished this book, all are avid readers and historians.  We will see what others think, but it's place on the Best Seller's speaks a tribute to the well written book.  After I read it I needed to download mentally and so moved to Vicki's; while   "Decision Points" with 477 pages,  and 14 pages of index consumed weeks of reading other books are only evenings.   

The last book is Homer Hickam's  second in his trilogy about life in the West Virginia coal mining town,"The Coal Wood Way."  another exceptional read.  The story he began in "Rocket Boys"  continues  through the boys' senior year of high school and the cross roads for the mine and the town.  You know because of my ancestors' work in the mines I am drawn into the memoir.  When he describes men walking with "trudging grace to and from the vast deep mine" and the "black faces after a shift"  I see my Grandpap and my Great Grandfather Frank and so many other ancestors.  His writing is alluring, "we endured as always" a tribute to the town and the people.  "True things are filled with shining glory" summarizes why I prefer to read non-fiction.  In this  book he makes a trip to the mine to be  renovated, 11 East with Jake, his idol and  his father's nemesis, Mr. DuBonnett, the union boss.  A small cadre of Germans have arrived to direct the renovation of what his father hopes will be the salvation for the town and for the miners.  I laughed out loud when his mother  reads something that is in his desk drawer and justifies it perfectly:  " I said aloud, ' You looked at my list?'  'Sure' she answered, 'It was in your desk drawer.  Why wouldn't I look at it?'  I was outraged but knew better than to show it.  'Oh I don't know.....maybe because it was at the bottom of the drawer under a bunch of other stuff that belongs to me.....' ...'Sonny as long as you live in my house, anything you bring into it is fair game.  But before you ask, no the reverse isn't true.  Adults have things that kids aren't allowed to see.'..."is there some sense to that?" I asked emboldened by my anger.  'No, it's just the way things are...Let me tell you something.  Someday you may have kids of your own.  You'll want to know what they're up to and you'll do just about anything to find out.  When they get mad about it, you tell them ol'Granny Elsie Hickam taught this to you:  Parents can do any dang thing they want it it's to make sure their kids get brought up right."   I know I had shades of that same conversation with my son and my  Mom with me!     360 pages of a paperback and worth every word, phrase and page.    

New Year Abides

We spent the  past day purchasing and then installing a new printer/scanner which resulted from bringing home my new Bold Blackberry smartphone replacing Pearl after the two year  contract period had expired by months.  I had debated and analyzed since October and  the other day was feeling bored so Jerry suggested we go to the Verizon store and take care of what needed to be done.  Actually we could have kept on the month to month business with Pearl, but she was starting to  demonstrate some dementia, losing her touch now and then and not staying charged up.  So it was time for her to do into the box for safekeeping in the event of needing a backup.  

I believe now (too late because he is already amongst us)  that Bold is a Blabbermouth and when I was not listening he got the attention of the old HP printer/scanner and convinced it to give up it's achy existence.  The former HP printer had been limping along and I thought it  would make it for a  bit longer, but Bold told it "enough is enough and be done with you" and so it did!  Just the other day we were in Sam's and Jerry suggested we get a new printer, but I said, "Oh no, I have it working it will be fine for a while!"  I didn't know what conversations were going on...Bold had his own challenges the first afternoon as I could not download my ringtone, "Devil Went Down to Georgia" by Charlie Daniels, that's what I had in Pearl and it is most distinctive.  When we hear the fiddle play, "Fire on the mountain, run boys run!"  We know it's the cell phone.   I chose to stay with Blackberry rather than going Droid because I do not like the touchscreens and felt I am accustomed to Blackberry and would have less to learn, which proved to be almost right.  However, after a few hours I have conquered most of Bold and we are rolling along merrily.  Except that Bold, as I said, is a Blabberer and I am sure it is a HE as opposed to Pearl who is a she. No woman would tell another to go "get done with yourself" like Bold did!  Maybe Bold is somehow tied into the death panels so many are wary of with Obsama Care.  (That is another topic of conversation and interest to me because I do believe everyone should do  end of life planning which can come at any time, but I hate to see our government sticking it's nose into this process as well, but then the one paying the bill has the ability to make the rules or something like that.  Anyway that is for another time.)  

Back to gadgets and appliances, most of us home owners have been suspicious for some time that appliances and electronic gadgets communicate in languages unknown to us and behind our backs, constantly plotting so that we spend more $ and more$ upgrading, replacing and on the hamster wheel of electronicism purchasing. 

We are both  somewhat skilled with the technology but still had issues with the new HP 6500A + Office jet printer, but it's now a go and set up wireless so we hope to be able to print from upstairs when we are using the laptop.  After  three hours efforts we needed some alcoholic refreshment to celebrate and acknowledge ourselves!   My Belvedere Polish Vodka martini hit the spot and Jerry stuck with his beer.  But today the  6500 began to chew up the paper as I tried to print a belated Holiday greeting letter.  After some diagnostics it behaved and is doing what it needs to do.  Meantime we are toying with whether or not to  get another landline to accommodate its FAX capability, something we need infrequently and have managed to do by paying our local Charlie's Office Supply in town or going to our friendly Wells Fargo Banker who obliges us for free.  So that is a question for the New Year to  hook up the fax and pay another landline and associated taxes or not?  Will we or won't we?

Meantime,  in honor of 2011 lurking behind the door, wrapped in a swaddling diaper,I wish you all the best of evenings and the happiest in the year ahead.  I have one more post to prepare on the three books I have completed so that will get into this old year, but for this post, I close with  the following, again by Edgar Guest, the people's poet of days gone by. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to All

Once upon a Christmas time, long ago, a man who had a big heart, but little money, dreamt he could give his friends endless riches. When he awoke, the dream kept running through his mind, over and over. Finally, he asked himself: "If I could give my friends anything, what would I give?" He smiled as he began to think of all the wondrous things he could buy for them but then he thought: "I'm a happy man, yet I have none of those things." And he began to think that perhaps real wealth could not be measured in riches. Perhaps there were gifts of greater value than the things money could buy. In the still of the night, he pondered these things and thought of Christmas and what it meant to him. Taking out his quill, he began to write on a parchment scroll:

On the first day of Christmas I pray for you joy in abundance and laughter, for laughter cures our ills and joy makes our spirits soar.

On the second day of Christmas, I pray for you a sigh when you need one, for a sigh clears the heart as a cough clears the throat, and with a sigh comes acceptance of what we cannot change.

On the third day of Christmas, I pray for you tears when you need them, for tears clear the eyes to see the stars and cleanse the soul to let healing begin.  

On the fourth day of Christmas, I pray for you serenity, for fights and wars start in individual hearts and that is where they must end.

On the fifth day of Christmas, I pray for you wisdom, for our priceless gift is the gift of choice - and we should use it well every day, in word and deed.

On the sixth day of Christmas, I pray for you patience, for most troubles pass if we wait them out, and success comes with persistence.

On the seventh day of Christmas, I pray for you courage, for there may be many pitfalls and dangers ahead and problems can only be solved when they are faced.

On the eighth day of Christmas, I pray for you compassion, for we cannot help others until we understand them, and we cannot understand them until we walk in their shoes.

On the ninth day of Christmas, I pray for you a willingness to work, for work turns dreams to reality - whether the dreams are ours or belong to those we can help.

On the tenth day of Christmas, I pray for you unwavering faith, for faith shapes our morals and our destiny and draws us closer to God.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, I pray for you a mind full of hope, for hope determines our attitudes, sets our goals and creates our ideals.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, I pray for you a heart so full of love that every day you must give some away to those whose paths you cross.

And with each prayer, the man realized he was not giving a gift at all, but hoping that his friends would find the gifts they already had within them. Each time he wrote a prayer, a marvelous thing happened. It seemed to him that the prayer, although offered for his friends, remained in his heart and produced in him the very thing he prayed for them. The man copied his scroll and sent the Christmas prayer to special friends, and that is where the legend of the Christmas Prayer is lost in the mists of time. The man was never heard of again but, over the years, the Christmas Prayer began to appear all over the world. People in obscure villages and big cities would receive at Christmas time a copy of the scroll from a friend. And so the wonder multiplied, until the story finally reached you. May you, too, feel the warmth and enjoy the riches of the Christmas Prayer.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Happy and all that Jazz

Holy Cow it's almost Christmas
I don't know where the time goes but it does.  The calendar reveals tomorrow is December 24, Christmas Eve and here I am still have not posted all the Christmas array in the home and am I ready?  Nah, well yes.  Jerry reminds me it is just us and so what.  And so that meant I was free to take it easy and not  overly concern myself about  things.  I have always been someone who operates at maximum when there is a deadline, otherwise I meander and this is just the perfect word for this holiday season.  It is just  the two of us, Jerry & me.  We have no family around here other than his mother whom we have determined is better left in the nursing home than being here with us Christmas Day or Eve.  I made one last trip to the grocery store today awaiting inspiration for what to have for ourselves for Christmas Day dinner. While I did get inspiration at the Festival seafood counter, I have never seen so many Grinches at one place since I left CA.  Oh all the faces with such downturned mouths. People, hey remember it's Christmas!  One woman and I pulled our carts aside and breathed deeply commenting, "what are we doing here?"  We both had  only a few things to do and wished each other Merry Christmas and went along our ways, amongst them. 

Sometimes in CA when we were not hosting family  gatherings, we'd go out to brunch with another couple or two, enjoyed bloody Mary's and then later for dinner had grilled cheese sandwiches.  Well that worked, but around here the people we know are all with families and hunkered in.  Really we should have moved to a Sun City retirement villa amongst other empty nesters and enjoying it!  But bah humbug here we are. Tomorrow, Christmas eve after early candlelight church service, (no way can I make it to midnight mass!, well not and enjoy a glass of wine or two with dinner!)  we will have my famous Polish mushroom soup (Grandma Rose's recipe) and shrimp cocktails and sauerkraut pierogies.  This will link back to my Polish childhood traditional Christmas Eve  meatless suppers with a twist.  We never had shrimp cocktails then.  But it's a new  world with new and different  traditions in the making.  Christmas Day looks like New York steaks and lobster tails!  These are good quality meals for two people.  Meantime, before the holiday has totally run by I share the rest of my 2010 limited Christmas decor. 
Brocade Santa with Kitty Musical
Notice the little girl hiding beneath Santa's beard...

Brocade Carolers

Only one of our many churches out this year
with one of  hundreds of angels
The carolers were a new acquisition in 2004, the year I kind of retired but was still on the books for 5 months, running all that time out I had accumulated and could never use by taking vacations while working.  We were here in MN for part of the holiday and then headed south to Louisiana to be with friends. Oh that was the kind of winter we envisioned from now on, being on the go!  What happened to that vision, life interfered with all the obligations and duties. From La. our first Christmas in the south, where they had record freezing temperatures, we went back to California to continue to clear out.  When I was back in January the Department of Health called me and begged my help running interview panels to replace the likes of so many of us who had retired at high levels, leaving the place lacking for top management replacements.  Well being a sucker I agreed, but after one week and  3 days of early 4:30 AM risings to catch that commuter bus into downtown Sacramento, I got good hold of myself. This was  why I wanted to retire!  I would do no more.  I wanted to be done with the curtain calls, it was not fun and I was no way amused.  It was not my problem the state had imposed perpetual hiring freezes and now did not have talent to fill behind us.  In the words of a long time ago auditee who knew his organization was in deep doo doo as we departed, "Good luck, Beeill!" You had to be there to  know about this one.  Ahh  this makes me shudder just thinking about it.  Onto more holiday decor today.  The tiny bear couple on the floor have been with us for 20 Christmases.  Little did we expect to have the preponderance of  bears among us, though this couple appears only for Christmas.
The scene in front of the living room window
looks something like this.  More there now
but this  photo was taken  weeks ago.

Randy the Reindeer Ranch Elf

You saw the elves on a previous post. One you did not see was Randy, the dude from Reindeer Ranch, Newcastle, CA.  He lives outside the Christmas closet all year long and mingles with the teddy bears, but the Patriots in the Americana room have been bending his ears all year and encouraging him to be with "his own kind"  taunting him that  elves don't usually associate with bears.  Randy was created by a Newcastle friend  down to the bells on his toes in about 1991.  She taught special education children and made  similar creatures to tell tales to the kids.  I considered  not bringing him to MN but he insisted that this was Nordic territory something to which he was more accustomed, so along he came.  Generally he is content to sit on the rocking chair in the Patriotic room, but this year he  became anxious.  He reminds me of the trolls in stories I grew up hearing, the trolls who lived beneath bridges and preyed on unsuspecting wandering children.  Well Randy got gumption from listening to those Patriot Bears this year and while I was busy elsewhere he began to instigate the elves to insist on an elfin Christmas here in the home, I was in the doldrums, the blahs or the humbugs and Randy insisted I shake it.  Little by little I put out some decorations and tried to set the festivities of the season in order.  Randy figured it was time for an elfin reunion and so that is how they came to congregate for 2010.  Randy is feeling quite smug, but what he does not know is that he may be relegated to the Christmas closet now with his elfin pals when the holidays are done.  After all if he can let the bears influence him, perhaps it's best if he joins the elves who do good deeds.  Than Randy can perhaps shed some of his trollness.   

Rockin' musical Reoindeer,  1940's Red  Elf and new MN Elf

Fritz and Floyd Elves

1940's Elf
1950's Elf Band
This is my excuse for a tree upstairs on our hearth, silver tinsel wreath adorns  coat hangers clipped together and adorned with white lights and golden pieces.  Dorothy Wiedeman, an elderly local lady made this five years ago and donated it to  the church's 's white elephant sale.  No one was bidding and so trying to get something started I bid $5, you can see I won.  I think this is the last year I will store it.  The  Jack Frost Scarecrow/ snowman next to the tree also plugs in and lights. He was made in CA by an elderly lady who sold her ceramics every year at the Auburn Christmas Fair. Each year I purchased something from her.  One year it was a lovely ceramic tree adorned with animals of all sorts and tiny lights.  I gave that to the grandkids and hope their mother did not discard it, because it was quite lovely.   I loved  Jack Frost Scarecrow  at first sight and have enjoyed bringing him out occasionally on holiday time.  He is holding a small tree and I love his golden touches with the creamy glaze all over. He reminds me of the tales of Jack Frost but is far more elegant. 

The old lamp lighter of long long ago,,,,,he made the world a little brighter,
wherever he would go,,,,,Remember that song?
One of our French Bronze with brass container of greenery and candle.
Pointsettia platter with sleigh riders 
 and lamplighter

Our newest Nativity set, on upstairs mantel. It is  Royal Doulton, which I  understand is now being made in China.  Jerry picked this one up in  2005 at my  urging and it may be one of the last non Chinese made.  Regardless of the theme of my decor, I always have at least two nativity sets on display, commemorating the real reason why we celebrate.

This year I decided to spread some more holiday cheer downstairs over Jerry's objections.  If I had the blahs this year he had a double dose.  So I thought that some tinsel would tackle the darkness and proceeded.  If one tinsel tree was good surely two more  on the window sill would be better to reflect the sunshine off the white snow banks outside.  And what good is a little tinsel without more glamour.  Jerry used to ice skate when he grew up here, so I thought a bit of reminder by way of a  small village p;anaroma on a side immediately downstairs would be just the thing. 

1980's hand crafted Santa

New England Panorama
Blogspot is resisting adjustments, realignments and  further posting so this will be the holiday cheer from  our home and holiday greeting to all of you.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night, good weekend, and all that jazz!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

This is what happens, well it could

Sharing this favorite old story of mine, for anyone who thought my concern over snow and  my appointment with my hair dresser was minor!    Read on..

I was walking down the street when I was accosted  by a particularly dirty and shabby-looking homeless woman who asked me for a couple of dollars for dinner.   I took out my wallet, got out ten dollars and asked, 'If I give you this money, will you buy wine with it instead of dinner?'

'No I had to stop drinking years ago,' the homeless woman told me.

'Will you use it to go shopping instead of buying food?'  I asked

'No, I don't waste time shopping,' the homeless woman said. 'I need to spend all my time trying to stay alive.'

'Will you spend this on a beauty salon instead of food?'  I asked.

'Are you NUTS !' replied the homeless woman. 'I haven't had my hair done in 20 years!'

'Well,' I said, 'I'm not going to give you the money. Instead, I'm going to take you out for dinner with my husband and me tonight.'

The homeless Woman was shocked. 'Won't your husband be furious with you for doing that? I know I'm dirty, and I probably smell pretty disgusting.'

I said, 'That's okay. It's important for him to see what a woman looks like after she has given up shopping, hair appointments, and wine.'

Monday, December 20, 2010

Patooey it's snowing again

This may seem  minor in the scheme of whatever things are happening with you, but it is snowing again and is to keep up through the night and that means we will have accumulated about  six more inches at least by morning.  And if that is not enough, freezing drizzle in the early AM hours.  This brought me to look out the window and shout 4 letter words today as it billowed and blew white dusty stuff.  4 letter words repeated multiple times, because I have somewhere to go tomorrow.  I will tell my CA  left behinds that this snow in MN is not so bad because being retired we  have no need to go out into it, the roads are cleared courtesy of the city and county, etc....   But all I could think of is, "I HAVE A HAIR CUT APPOINTMENT AT 1:15 TOMORROW.!! DAMMIT I NEED TO GET MY HAIR CUT!"  I make these hair appointments  6 to 7 weeks in advance and as any woman knows, this close to Christmas, even though my hair dresser and I are close, she will no way be able to reschedule me.  Jerry sits calmly and tells me I do not need to be out tomorrow in the freezing drizzle, nothing is so that important that it can't be rescheduled, well,what can he know?

Besides I spaced this appointment a bit too long into the future looking toward Christmas week, I am now shaggy and hairily out of shape.  This must not be happening and why did  I agree to move here anyway to an area where winter will not respect  nor even consider my needs!

I dislike whiners, but tonight I am wallowing in it.  We have no  big Christmas plans so no troubles there, but I prefer my wash and wear and slightly blow dry styles and right now the length is requiring more manipulation than I like to do.   Perhaps tomorrow will bring sunshine and clear roads, contra to weather predictions.  Tomorrow is the beginning of winter and already we have been ahead of the calendar.  What will tomorrow bring,.. oh we will see.   

Friday, December 17, 2010

2 year mournful anniversay Sepia Saturday Week 54 (Click here for the Sepia site)

Today December 18 marks the second year of our son, Steve's passing, too soon.  I share some Christmas memories here (ghosts of Christmases past)  with the Sepia community, although these are not nearly of the vintage that I usually post.  It is a tough time for us, but  at least the raggedness of our grief has diminished, the slow healing of time,  acceptance and the remembering the good times.

Steve's first Christmas, 1964 with a Sears Santa
I used to be Mrs. Christmas with the excessive  decorating, the stockings, the presents, on and on.  I gift wrapped everythimg, even the smallest toy that went into the stockings.  Although I was certainly indulged as a child and at Christmas time especially, I never had a Christmas stocking.  I guess it just was not the practice in my Polish family.  I never thought I was deprived, but when I had Steve and we lived in CA and I always had a stocking for him.  Even as an adult, he enjoyed those  stockings.  One year, I thought I would skip the stockings and he let me know tha was not "acceptable." 

Steve always enjoyed Christmas, maybe too much.  Sometimes we'd barely get to bed after Jerry'd spent hours assembling something, when Steve would  awake, and run to check under the tree, the mantel for the stocking and  then wake us up shouting, " Mom, Dad, Hurry! Santa's been here, Santa's been here!"  We had friends whose daughter never woke up early on Christmas, in fact they had to awaken her, not so at our house!  Sometimes we made him go back to bed so we could get a  little sleep, never for long.  He would be in him room singing and shouting, "Mom, Dad can we get up yet!"

1965 Steve kissing Santa

1965 My Grandma Rose came to CA to help me out and
to care for her only great grand child.  Here they are right before Christmas.

I love this photo. My grandma said she could tell that Steve was my son, he was busy as I was. Of course she was older  then in 1965 than she was when she had the handful of me!

1966 Steve with me and Jamie, one of the McCallister boys
The McCallisters were  very good friends in CA

1967 Steve and Mikey McCallister...bare feet with a new
Christmas tie  and tinsel on the tree

1968 Steve with the Stocking, I can hear him saying, "Santa will fill this."

I cannot explain the bow in my hair nor what kind of get up I was wearing, those were the blonde days, I know that.  We still have that stocking.

1969  with another Dept. store Santa
1969 Christmas with the present from Grandpa Barney
in PA
That was the year I covered the tree with fiber cloud, what a mess it was
1969 Christmas Steve and Jerry 
1969 Steve and Me  What a hairdo!
We will stop with Steve at  five years old, except for and the very last from 1977 where he still got up early- this last photo was at 3:00AM!  Now he was past  the age of believing in Santa but he had never outgrown that early rising to see what presents were awaiting. 

1977  Early at  3 Christmas morn

This has been a  nice way to remember as we try to focus on the happy moments.  Thanks for indulging me.  As always click on the title to this post to get to the Sepia Site and see what others share this week.

Continued treasures from the box

Continuing from yesterday, I found these personalized labels of/for Helen Thickey who must have been quite the seamstress.  I have no idea who she was so the labels are tossed; not a name I recognize from the past.  I suspect she was  from the Freeport, PA area as these were in  the bag with things from the Irwins.  I wonder if she was an acquaintance of Mrs Irwin or my aunt?  An unsolved mystery.  Why would anyone have kept these?  Oh, Teofil's daughter would have,,,,,who knows???

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Time wasters, minute chasers....

Found in the box of  buttons read on
I'm caught in time wasters today although I have accomplished several things including another trip to our town  post office, which is becoming a daily trek for me.  I vowed to not send Christmas cards this year, 44 cents  for postage for each seems  exorbitant, especially when I can keep up with most folks by Facebook, this blog, email, and cell phone calls.  I recalled how in the past when we lived in CA I would have stacks of 200  and more cards to mail and that did not bother me, many of those went to elderly relatives across the country, folks who looked forward to those greetings and  with each card I'd enclose a handwritten letter.  I loved their responses about how they appreciated the cards and letters. Aunt Ruth (Jerry's) always complimented me on my letters. How times have changed!  Well most of those folks have passed on and then came one of those bolts from beyond:  I realized that we, I and my friends and cousins have become the "old folks."  I full well knew this, especially as I began to  bury cousins and contemporaries, but this reminder  gave me pause that maybe I could not just give up the annual Christmas card drill.  Besides cards began to arrive and I started to feel like Mrs. Scrooge. It's that Catholic upbringing with the trappings of guilt raising up, a lamentable thing that will turn on me  just when I think it's been conquered! So I  engaged again, not with the annual one size fits all card/letter but instead  wrote a "Merry and Happy" to most folks and even hand addressed the cards this year instead of using my dandy label computerized list. But it has been a tedious daily task which I believe I have now completed, however we will see what tomorrow's mail brings!  Next year I will not try to fool myself into believing I won't send cards, I will just plan to do so recalling my 8ball experience of 2010.

I had to hem another pair  of sweat pants which I bought for MIL yesterday,  a sewing task that  is not too daunting, so I  accomplished that.  And then  the diversion began.  While I am known to  waste hours on the computer roaming from blog to sites yet unknown and on that biggest  minute chaser, Facebook,   I can also get diverted by physical things. 

From old Mrs Irwin, Needle packets
Taunting me from a shelf  inside the sewing room was the  big cardboard box that I'd taken from Aunt Jinx' stash last year and not yet fully rummaged through.  Today was the day as this box holds all sorts of sewing accoutrement's, buttons, snaps, buckles, trims, old needle books, a real treasure trove for a junkie like me.  Some like these needle books were from the Irwins, the photos on the covers are entertaining and  certainly speak of a different time and place. 

I have learned some of these old buttons are valuable.   In Lansing, Iowa, one of our favorite places to drive to down the road to spend a day, there is a Button Shop run by an elderly woman in a wheel chair who knows more about buttons than I could ever dream.  Her store has nothing but buttons and threads.   As I told her about these collections, and all the assorted loose buttons I've inherited and gleaned, she has urged me to bring them and spend a day with her, that she will advise me about them.  I learned from her that they used to manufacture the Le Mode shell buttons from the clamshells  dug  from the banks of  the Mississippi right there in Lansing,  those were so many of the pearlized buttons of days gone by.  She had several old shells showing holes where the round circles had been cut out for the buttons and  shells dumped back along the shore from the factory, I wonder if they ate the clams or dropped them back for animals to consume.  She is a fascinating woman and I look forward to going through these buttons, some from Holland, Germany, West Germany, and England.  That is still on my to do list.   Meantime here are just a very few of the collections, look at the prices,  29 cents!  That certainly dates these buttons. .
The red/orange buttons (left) were made in Holland, 29 cents was the price

The two Bon Ton buttons (left) are made of nickel according to the back of the card
The three Le Chick buttons (right)  were made in Germany
Just the other day I was telling Jerry to not pull the snaps loose on  his shirt while he was fiddling with it because I had no way to fix those; I remember saying "they are not like buttons!"  He will only wear shirts, western style and cut trim, with snaps, but that is an entire other post because those are getting harder to find all the time.  Well, he was Aunt Jinx's  favorite and I think today she was taunting me from beyond because there were no less than 5 different packets of snaps of all types and attachment tools in this box  including some strange looking things that resemble manual old paper hole punchers.  So while I was rummaging Jerry came downstairs and became very interested in the box too.  He mentioned,. "Didn't you say you had no way to fix snaps?  Look at all these!"  I can only laugh that Aunt Jinx showing me up again!

Here it is the Match flap, I thought
Besides that little quote above on cardboard, another most interesting item in the box was, I thought a match flap, or match book, you know like matches used to come in when there were complementary matches all over free for the taking.  Do they still give away matches for advertising anywhere?  This one was from Aunt Hannah's Bread, a brand I do not recall but one that must have been in Pennsylvania.  Sorry that it must be Aunt Hannah herself upside down but when I scanned this that's what happened with it opened.  It is a silver color and quite dulled, but you can read in the middle that it says "Matchless Mender."  I was curious why a match book would be in with sewing miscellany and buttons.  However  when I opened it  there were  no matches inside it, but a mini mending kit.  I do remember seeing and having such things which often came from banks or department stores as favors.  This one from Aunt Hannah's went a step further with something resembling matches inside along with the threads and needle, something to mend hose, nylons!  What a throw back to the day when women had concerns over things like "runs."  This was too funny and made me have to  share my time wasters right here on the blog.  And that of course meant more time spent, though I do not consider this a waste no not at all...Here following is the inside of the match book.  Have you ever seen anything like this?  I remember putting clear nail polish on a run in panty hose to prevent a further mess,  but this is  a much more refined/intricate approach...

Read the instructions
Well so there you have my time waster, minutes of memory chaser for today....

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Baking and Decor

Hazelnut cinnamon biscotti await  2nd baking
It is a busy time of the year and I completed two days of charity baking.  I bake cookies for the library and the church "cookie walks."  Before moving here I never  had heard of a cookie walk, but it is a sale where customers are given trays and or boxes to fill, selecting the cookies they want from massive arrays on tables.  Customers walk around the tables,  ponder, select and then have their selections weighed and pay for them, the cookies sell for $6 per pound.  This way customers get an array of their own choosing and because of walking around the display tables, this is known as a "cookie walk".  

My contributions this year are almond sandies, and three kinds of biscotti.  I am gaining a reputation for making  the best and unusual biscott's, something many here in this small town  had not heard of nor baked, and something most adults adore. I prefer making cookies for adults, having no small children around.  My flavors this year are hazelnut cinnamon, hazelnut vanilla, peppermint candy cane drizzled with chocolate; the hazelnut is winning because we buy mixed nuts for snacks and Jerry always picks the hazelnuts (filberts) aside, leaving a big collection of these when the container of mixed nuts is gone. I have started to chop them and bake with them as there are too many for me to eat and or put into my martini or gimlet, another practice I'd never heard of until we moved here.  When I  would order a gimlet (which I prefer light on the gimlet and heavier on the vodka)  because few bartenders around here can make my favorite Cosmo, I recall the first time the bartender asked me " with or without nuts?"  I thought he was kidding, he was not.  It seems filberts are placed into gimlets much like I used to use olives or slices of lime.  I never heard of that before.  Oh the things I have learned since moving to MN!

The first photo above is the vanilla hazelnut biscotti logs cut and ready for the 2nd baking. I discovered a wonderfully easy recipe for biscotti and have adapted it to many different flavors always with success. What I once would never have considered baking has become a breeze for me. The time to bake these cookies twice in order to give them the hardness needed for dunking into coffee or tea is discouraging to many would be bakers. But having mastered it, I feel like a wizard.

  You might want this recipe and I share it but I warn you I never follow a recipe exactly.  I credit  my grandmother Rose  for my creativity, she never measured either.  So I adapt and modify and if I get an idea for a different flavor I add it. I usually always use twice the amount of vanilla in any recipe.  Here is my basic Biscotti Recipe which I modify with nuts, chocolate chips, peppermint candies crushed and you name it I try it.  You should be able to click on this photo of the recipe and enlarge it.  It is one that will go into my "Cookbook of Favorites by Family, Friends and Myself ."

Just inside and ahead in the Christmas closet
You cannot see to the left nor full floor to ceiling
 This year I have limited my interior decorating because although I have a massive collection of everything Christmas, and I love to  have my accumulations on display, I detest taking them all down after holiday and packing them away.  I am fortunate to have an immense walk in closet downstairs devoted strictly to ornamentals. I have shelves floor to ceiling and can store the items in big plastic bins which allow me to see what is inside.  You name it and I likely have it,  everything from train sets, fat friars caroling on a goat drawn cart, to Dickens village buildings, Christmas in the City displays, stuffed animals,  different adornments for kitchen and throughout the home, different Santa's, elves, my  hundreds of angels, different nativity sets and a massive collection of Fontannini figurines, and on and on.  Since there is no one to "leave this collection to" when the market rebounds I will begin to sell it off, a lesson I learned from an elderly woman in CA whose family did not appreciate her treasures.  She was selling it off and enjoying spending the proceeds, and the buyers were pleased to acquire.  

Sitting elf (1940's)  with shopping
elf, 1990's.

 For the first time in  how long, this year I declined assemblage of  our massive  7 1/2 foot fiber optic tree  for which Jerry was grateful as that is his chore to unbox and assemble.  I just  did not want to face  the taking down and packing away of ornaments.  It is a sight to behold, but I felt we could pass this year.

1967 Fontannini Nativity Musical; very rare
Fontannin no longer makes musicals to my knowledge.
 Tinsel is my addition this year

The nativity set always comes out first and this year I have two, the oldest Fontannini we bought our first Christmas in 1967 and the newest Royal Doulton.  I also put three ceramic magi in the bedroom, made by that same elderly woman who was selling off her collections in CA. The Magi  stay out until mid January as was a tradition with my Polish culture--Epiphany, which seems to come earlier in the church calendar.  Of course back when I grew up we always had real trees, put up Christmas Eve and displayed until New Years.  Traditions have shifted now to decorating right after Thanksgiving and removal the day after Christmas.   One year in CA I left our tree up until the weekend after New Years and friends did not know what to think.     

1940's Elf discoverd at  Uncle Carl's
 in PA; likely belonged to Aunt Marge
Last year I displayed the angels for the first time in several years and this year I decided to display some of the elves.  I noticed that elves are making a comeback in the commercial world.  I have some which I consider vintage, from the 40's and now replicas are on the market, likely made in China. I am taking pride that this year in our home there is nothing on display made in China; my collection is too old for that!  For example, there is a book  "Elf on the Shelf", being sold today with an elf who does who knows what.  Well I have the original 1940's red dressed little guy who was taken  out of his box this year and displayed upstairs alongside one who took up residence maybe  5years ago, handmade here by a local lady.  The red dressed impish guy sitting in this photo  has a celluloid face and  was  made in this country, way back when we used to manufacture and sell to ourselves. Then "made in Japan" began to overtake US manufacturing.  I have a tale to tell which I will do on the next post about the mischief the elves have gotten into, though as with  myself, it really was not all their fault!  That post is next to come!