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Archive for December, 2007

We celebrated Christmas yesterday and the day before with the Slusher branch of our family. We ate a big dinner and talked and had Darlene’s delicious fudge. Jonathan and Emily got several cute toys. However, Missy Em played with a cloth mouse that actually is a cat toy. She turned it into the “vampire rat” and came up with all kind of stories and scenarios. A 30 cent toy. Guess what we can get her next year?

I think that proves what we already know. How many times have you seen children play hours with a cardboard box? My guys used to spend hours, days with a large cardboard box, down in the basement playroom. That provided lots of entertainment for snow bound days in Nebraska. The price was right too!

Although the “Santa” part of Christmas is over, in the Episcopal Church we celebrate Christmas until the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Magi come to acknowledge the Christ child, on January 6th, next Sunday. Which means we leave the decorations up. A difficult concept for my Baptist neighbors. I’ve explained this to them for 20 years. Epiphany is the end of the 12 days of Christmas. We culturally compress the different parts together. One of my favorite poems by TS Eliot is “Journey of the Magi”. (You can find it online.) I used it earlier this month when I was discussion leader for our book club and we discussed How Far to Bethlehem? by Norah Lofts. I’ve been continuing to think of that book all month. It’s just a sweet, thought provoking rendition of the nativity story. I need to go back to Lofts books. I have a bunch of them on the shelf. However, first I need to finish the book of Martin Luther King, Jr. that contains his famous speeches and articles. That’s our January selection for book club. I did sneak in A Christmas Carol, an charming three hour read.

Overall, Bruce and I had a simple Christmas. I’m glad. It was so enjoyable. Simple and serene. What it is supposed to be.

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Food Revisited

As a homemaker, cooking is a large part of my job. Bruce readily washes up after a meal if I cook. Looking back over my blog I realized how often I discuss food. And leftovers. However, the real reason is that I’m totally unimaginative when it comes to lunch ideas. I took leftovers to school for lunch. Before I taught and lived in a small town and had just a regular job, I went home for lunch and had leftovers. The only other choices it seems are sandwiches or salad or soup. Leftovers from the previous night’s supper always seem to offer a greater variety. They’re easy to warm up in the microwave. They’re a small amount. Don’t need much for lunch, just something to tide a body over between breakfast and supper. Those little quantities aren’t wasted. Perfect.

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I mentioned early this holiday how much I enjoyed a country music CD entitled “Mary, Did You Know?” — a compilation of Christmas songs performed by a variety of country artists. One song I really like is The Christ (A Song for Joseph) by Billy Dean. He’s also one of the song writers.

Poor Joseph usually gets third billing at Christmas. Father Jim preached a sermon about him a couple of weeks ago, citing Joseph’s dedication and care. The novel we read in book club this month, How Far to Bethlehem?, offers a strong characterization of Joseph as a older, solid, practical, loving man who knows how to protect Mary and Jesus. Joseph is the patron saint of carpenters (obviously) and the protector of homes. For Christmas I got Bruce a wall plaque of St. Joseph. He hung it by the front door. How appropriate.

However, while listening to the new CD, I finally realized why I am not a greater fan of country music. It’s the grammar thing. In the song Joseph is the speaker, discussing the Christ child. “You didn’t even cry, as much as her and I.” It should be “she and I”. (“You didn’t cry as much as she (Mary) and I cried.”)  She and I are the subjects of the clause.  Why not use the correct pronoun? Cry and I are the rhyming words. It wouldn’t spoil that. So why? Is it obligatory to use sub-standard English in a country music song? If so, why? Are people NOT going to understand if the usage is standard? Can anyone explain this to me? I just don’t get it.

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What a Grind!

We spent the day getting ready for the Slusher Christmas tomorrow. Time to wash the pet covers on the sofa and easy chair. We, after all, have furry room-mates who shed. Although I vacuum, Bruce can VACUUM. Man, he can get in and clean. He, on the other hand, hates to clean bathrooms. I don’t mind. So we dug in.

For the dinner I wanted to have ham loaf, a Hubble tradition. (Years ago I called Aunt Wanda one day for Grandma’s recipe.) We have it every so often. The recipe feeds a crowd. However, the ham has to be ground. Until a couple of years ago, I would find a nice ham, take it to the meat counter and the nice man back there would grind it for me. Not so anymore. FDA regulations, is the excuse I get. I tried calling around. Same response. Okay, so I had to grind it myself. Ms. Self-Sufficiency could do that. I finally found a grinder in an antique store! It was tricky, but I figured it out.

When Bruce moved in he brought his mother’s grinder, which was newer. However, it was supposed to have a vacuum base, which we discovered no longer worked. We held it down and muddled through. A lot of work, but the dish was good.

Today we again muddled through, taking turns and trading off the grinding. It was work. When we were finished, Bruce went to the internet and found a reasonably priced electric grinder. Come Easter dinner, we’ll be ready.

Here’s the recipe.

  • Four pounds of ground cooked ham
  • Two pounds of ground pork sausage (I use Jimmy Dean’s mild)
  • Five eggs
  • One cup of milk (sometimes you’ll need to add more if the ham is drier)
  • a sleeve of saltine crackers, ground into a meal (use the blender)

Beat the eggs with the milk and stir in the cracker crumbs until they are the consistency of thin baby cereal. In a very large bowl, stir together the meat and the egg mixture until well blended. Make a loaf in a 13 X 9 greased pan. Bake for 2 hours at 350. (Can baste with fruit juice or honey mustard sauce during the last half hour of baking, if desired.) Let it sit for 20 minutes before slicing.

Hope you enjoy!

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Shopping

Wednesday is my day to grocery shop. I’m a “Wednesday Lady”. Publix offers a 5 % discount to people over the age of 60 who shop on Wednesday. That’s me, darlin’. I drive several miles further to shop at a place whose motto is “Publix – Where shopping is a pleasure.” Here’s why.

For many years I shopped at Bi-Lo as they were the nearest store to the house. It was fine. Yet, as the years rolled by, here’s what happened. At one time they carried Ore-Ida frozen mashed potatoes. I really liked them, however, they would have them only at holiday time. I’d stock up.  Eventually they stopped carrying the potatoes. I wrote them an email one day at noon to complain, explaining that 14 kinds of frozen french fries did not compensate for no MASHED potatoes. That afternoon at 4 pm. — a mere four hours later, I got a phone call from the manager of the store! He, of course, apologized– profusely.  I was surprised.  SHOCKED.  Wow, complaining gets results.  For a few months, there were the potatoes in the freezer case.  One day, they were gone.  I sent another email.  This time the call came the next day.   The Bi-Lo chain had stopped carrying them.  Sorry.  I wrote the chain.  I wrote Ore-Ida.  Nothing.  Why a chain stops carrying a common item that sells well, I don’t know. Because they don’t care, perhaps?

At the same time, the customer service declined rapidly.  The checkers stopped greeting customers.  Didn’t greet, meet or even bother to say Thank you.  If I said, thank you, they said No problem.  What the heck does that mean?  The thank you was their line.  One day Bruce, also fed up, emailed a complaint.  He got a call how what’s-her-name, the surly checker he encountered that visit, was having a bad day.  However, she seemed always to be in that state.

Bruce and I both worked in grocery stores back in other lives.  We know how a grocery store works.  We’ve both worked retail.  You don’t get to be rude and surly.  The customer may not always be right, but you make them think they are. And you say, please and thank you, like polite people should, retail workers or not.  So these young people have to work for a living.  Welcome to the world of grown ups.  Tough.  Too bad.

We voted with our feet and left that store and took with us our thousands of dollars we spend each year on groceries.  And now, shopping is again a real pleasure.  No problem.

 

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Fire and Rain

We came home today from a quiet, small Christmas Day service to the smell of chicken. Last night I put a large baking hen in the crock pot. It was easy to bake the dressing, while I fixed the potatoes and green beans. What a delicious meal. We finished it off with Ambrosia and Watergate salad.

The smell of chicken baking always reminds me of Grandma Hubble’s house. Obviously, mother cooked chicken, however, I think chicken at grandma’s was always an occasion. A special time. I made sure we had plenty so supper was an easy re-cycle.

A cold front came through this afternoon so we have a hard cold rain falling. However, inside it’s toasty warm by the fire. I curled up with a 104 year old copy of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that belonged to grandmother Esther Farrington Washburn. The language is clever. The imagery is vivid. The moral is strong. What a great way to spend Christmas afternoon.

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Simply Christmas

The simpler Christmas is the better. We observed Advent more strictly this year, with daily readings and a study group discussing the upcoming Sunday readings. It was thought provoking.

We’ve whittled down the gift buying. The less we buy, the happier I am. And it’s not about the money. It’s the complications, the hassle, the commercialism; keeping it simple means a truer focus. We all have plenty of things. We don’t need anymore stuff. We do need fun, companionship and love, and good memories. And, thank heavens, those don’t need a Mastercard. Just our loved ones. And the love of our God and all the joy it brings.

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