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Archive for December, 2008

I like gingerbread cookies. Like the cream cheese cookies, I usually only bake them once a year. Why I wonder? There is no admonition that says you can’t fix them anytime. But they are really tasty in the winter, especially with hot tea or coffee.

Yesterday I got out all the ingredients and started in. While mixing, I remembered several things. In England, gingerbread cookies taste more “gingery” (if that’s a word). Friend Betty and I ate some in Glasmere (where Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage is located.) The ones we’re accustomed to in the States use molasses; the ones in Britain don’t. If I remember my history correctly, molasses is a North American product. So gingerbread here is darker, richer, heavier. Also — again back to my history class — the spices from the “new world” were highly coveted — and expensive. Housewives locked up their spices in a cupboard so they weren’t stolen or wasted. My recipe called for a teaspoon each of ginger, cloves, allspice and cinnamon. That’s a lot! No wonder they’re special.

This will sound strange but I didn’t like the shape of the first gingerbread man cutter I used to have. His head was triangular as if he was wearing a odd cap, like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. I was glad to eventually find a proper cookie cutter with a normal round head. Even gingerbread men shouldn’t look dorky.

Anyway — the Frosting Elf helped again. Dog Ginger was johnny-on-the-spot. After all, she kept hearing her name mentioned. She got a piece — or two — or three. I cut enough large ones to share with all of our family and a bunch of little ones to fill the Santa cookie jar. They’re small so they’re easy to grab on the run. Or even standing still . . . .

Merry Christmas!

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Oh Cookie!

I vacillated for over two weeks about baking Christmas cookies this year. On one hand, they are part of the tradition here; on the other, none of us needs the extra calories. So, yesterday I broke down and stirred up a double batch of Kathy’s Semi-Famous Cream Cheese Cookies. It is actually a recipe from my mother and she used to make them more than once a year. She would roll up the dough  in waxed paper, chill the roll, then slice and bake.  Toward the end of her life, she even said mine were better. I think she was just being polite and was glad she could eat them, but no longer had to go to all the work to bake them. Actually, it’s a simple recipe; they keep well and can be frozen too, The Christmas version is rolled out and cut which is the time consuming part. They are also iced, however, here the resident Frosting Elf jumped to the task and helped in that department. His payment is all the ones he can enjoy when I’m not looking.

I used to make 8 times the basic recipe in order to have enough for our crew and enough to share. Dale would take a huge batch up to ApplianceLand where, I was told, people would sneak some into a private stash so they’d be assured of getting some before the plague of locusts found them. That’s flattering or else they were just some really hungry people.  Once at the store Christmas party someone informed me, rather indignant, that he hadn’t gotten his fair share!  Dale said he even had trouble getting a couple.  Life must have been dull around Christmas time in the appliance business.

One year my next door neighbor called to ask for the recipe.  I promptly wrote it out of her and took it over.  On the way back it hit me — she doesn’t want the recipe, she wants the cookies!   I hadn’t yet gotten over there with a plate.  It had been a rough year for her — heart trouble and several hospitalizations.  So I filled a plate and ran them back over.  There are some things you want — you just want someone else to fix them.  I told her to eat them all before the others got home from work.

Once when James still lived at home, I got busy early in December and baked up a large batch, put them in a big plastic tub and placed them in the freezer. Close to Christmas I pulled out the tub to discover it was only half full. James, and friend Sheldon, had been coming home from school and helping themselves. “Cookies thaw real fast, Mom,” I learned from the resident cookie thief — He Who Was Not Too Contrite. “In fact, they’re not too bad frozen!”

So they are traditional. I remember David “helping” me — even before James was born so he was only two years old. That’s a lot of years to make them a staple at this household during Christmas. And I guess traditional favorites are all part of the Season.

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Hits on the Obits

Perhaps you remember my observations about the obituary column and some of their odd quirks? (See Pictures and Names on March 19, 2008.) Today I noticed more that deserve comment.

A picture of a rather youthful man accompanied this notice. I changed the name to protect the deceased.

On September 9,2008, Orville John Wolfe’s wife of 52 years, Mrs. Ernestine Wolfe, came back to lead him to heaven. He was 81 years old.

First, he died three months ago. Where has he been in the meantime? Apparently sitting on the mantle in an urn. He was cremated. Second, this man served in three wars over a period of at least 20 years yet his rank is never mentioned. Yet this was noted.

He enjoyed making birdhouses and eating soup.

Huh? That’s worth mentioning in an obituary? Am I missing something? I told Bruce I’d put in his obit (should I survive him) — “He loved filling his bird feeders and eating soup.” He didn’t think that was really necessary. I better be careful. He might put something like this in mine. “She liked listening to birds and eating chocolate chip cookies.” And I’m sure everyone would think — “Huh? Did I miss something?”

The next noteworthy obituary started this way:

Stanley gently took the stairway to heaven on Tuesday evening after a most interesting career in radio and advertising.

Did you know that a radio career puts you on the stairway to heaven? No? I didn’t either. And — you’d be there “gently” too. How poetic! Among his other noteworthy accomplishments was that he “served in the USAF with top secret clearance.” Additionally, “He also wrote the original manuscript for the pilot of ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’.” Well, that explains an understanding of small stations and the radio and advertising career. And finally:

A beyond casual Celebration of Life service will be held Tuesday, December 16th, from 6-8 PM at the Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar on Washington Road.

He’ll be toasted in style, I’m sure.

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Advent and Christmas

Bruce has a fire going in our newly cleaned and inspected fireplace. A couple of weeks ago we had a chimney sweep come out — the first time in ‘lo all these many years. People have chided me for burning pine. “It will clog up your chimney and start a fire” was the scare threat I usually heard. Twenty plus years — no fire, except where it was supposed to be. Mr. Chimney Sweep said, “As long as you also burn hardwood, it’ll be fine.” There is simply too much pine on this property, not to burn it. It would be like throwing away money. We buy oak and hickory, but the pine is free. For heavens sake, it falls from the sky, literally.

I had plans to make an Advent wreath from the one I ordered from the local Catholic elementary school (as their fundraiser) but the 18 inches mentioned must have been the inside diameter. It was huge and had to go outside on the screened porch on the wall near the electric candles. So plan B was a much smaller wreath made from several items I already had and a few clippings from the giant live evergreen wreath. It’s on a tray on the dining room table. At breakfast each day we religiously read the gospel reading (every pun intended).

We have the Nativity scene on the mantle, the Father Christmases displayed. The artificial tree is decorated and lit. We stuck to just one tree this year. We decided not to buy a real tree. Instead, we donated that money to charity — heaven knows, they need it. Bruce put up the lighted deer and lighted tree in the lower yard. It is gorgeous in the dark night as we drive up to the house. Our next door neighbors put up their decorations the day after Thanksgiving and take them down the day after Christmas. We, on the other hand, leave ours up until the Feast of the Epiphany, the official end of Christmas for the church.

Our first Christmas together we realized we had enough decorations for two trees — Bruce had inherited the ones from his parents; I had mine. So we put up a real tree and got out the artificial one too, which we planned to move out to the screened porch. Surprise! It was way too big to get out the door! So — we left them both. As people came over that year, our first comment was, “I bet you’re wondering why we have two trees . . . .”

After I get the Christmas letters written and the cookies baked, we’ll be ready. Advent is all about awaiting the birth of the Lord. We’ll sit by the fireplace, eating cookies, drinking hot cups of coffee and waiting for His arrival.

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A Strange Malady

This is from Jim’s blog, JamesSlusher.com, written in October, about his children: three year old, Jonathan, and his sister, six year old Emily.

Jonathan has been slow to talk.  We haven’t determined yet what is causing his speech delays, but his hearing has been tested a number of times and it’s just fine.  So in the absence of knowing what the delay is (it could just be him taking his time), we work at getting him to say words.

Whenever he wants some juice, I make him say “Juice!”.  If he wants to be picked up, I make him say “up”.  Emily helps us all the time with this.  This morning she was giving Jonathan a good grilling.  Say “Daddy”, say “Mommy”, say “Emily” and on and on.  It got to the point the rest of us were starting to roll our eyes.  At one point, I piped up and and said, “Say diverticulitis“.

Emily stopped immediately and got a somewhat cross look on her face.

“Daddy, Jonathan can’t say diaperchickenitis.  That’s silly.”

She’s right.  Diaperchickenitis is silly.  If she thinks her old man isn’t going to work “diaperchickenitis” into every conversation he has over the next week or two, she doesn’t know me very well.

So now, if any of us have a rather vague ailment, we’re sure it’s diaperchickenitis.  It must be contagious. Look out — there is no remedy. However, I’d try Tylenol — or laughter.

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I’m not fussy about very many things, but I’m real fussy about the linens on the bed. The pillowcases are ironed and, usually, the sheets are hung on the line to dry in the wind and sun. One of the advantages of living in the sunny South is that most of the time, there’s enough warm, sun-filled days to do that almost year round.

I had to buy new pillowcases recently. Several older sets were literally falling apart. I put my thumb through one while shaking a pillow into it. There’s only so many iron-on patches you can put on something. I had been spoiled for years by a factory outlet linen store here called Plej’s. Twin sheets were $5 each, queens $8 and kings $10; pillowcases were $4 a pair. Boy, I loved them! Unfortunately, they went out of business about 2 years ago and I had been dreading the day I’d have to go back and pay real retail prices. Even on sale, JCPenneys (or whoever) couldn’t beat them. So a few weeks ago I bit the bullet and purchased three new sets. I don’t want to remember what I paid. I just found three colors I liked and clicked the online purchase. They look nice and feel great, however . . . I may be tempted to save them — which I hate — now is better than later in the comfort department.

Another dilemma I have is a pair of pillowcases I have with embroidery and crocheting that Mother did. When the original cases wore out six or seven years ago, I cut the decorated ends off and sewed them on to new plain white cases. They looked nice and I was quite proud of my efforts. (And Mother would have been flattered that i saved them.)  Well, now, those cases and the decorated parts are succumbing to time and soap and snuggling heads. I am thinking about sewing them onto a backing and then stitching that to new cases. I’ll have to ponder that solution. . . .

Last winter, in honor of our anniversary, I bought a “high loft pillowtop mattress pad” as the JCP catalog called it. The desire for one of these started in England during our 2007 trip. The Brits like comforters covered in duvats — something just used in this country the last few years. I always think to skip the sheets and have to change a comforter cover is a lot of work. But that’s just me. I put a comforter on our bed, but use a large sheet as a cover instead of a duvat, much easier to change. Anyway, in our hotel in London, they had a thin bedspread over the comforter. We laid down on top of that and thought that was much more comfy than under it. We walked all day and were hot — we didn’t need a thick cover; the thin bedspread was quite adequate. However, the housekeeping crew at the hotel did not know that was the way we wanted it. They seemed to think that the silly Americans just didn’t get it!  Once we came back to our room to find the bedspread folded up and placed on top of the clothes cupboard. We smiled and placed the bedspread back where we wanted it. Finally, they stopped trying to get us to sleep under the thick comforter. However, we liked the idea of sleeping on a fluffy surface. The mattress pad was a perfect solution. Now with autumn here, we are quite cozy — bring on the cold!

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