Christmas Nostalgia!

Christmas items awaken memories.

Unpacking the boxes filled with Christmas items is an emotional time for many. My mom had two strands of bubble lights that were glass. Mine are plastic, but when I see them I remember how she arranged them around a table and being told not to touch them. Of course I touched them and quickly pulled my hand away because they were so hot. I still enjoy watching them bubble, and they don’t burn my hand.

My grandmother made a delicious fruitcake. People make fun of fruitcake but I like it. She made it with fresh coconut. I buy Claxton every year even though I’m the only one who eats it. It’s a memory.

The Christmas quilt was bought for my daughter years ago, and I put it out every year. It’s on the bed the granddaughters sleep in and it brings Christmas into the room. I told them they could take it to their house since it belongs to their mother, but they said they like seeing it here. That makes me happy! After all it provides a memory.

Last item in the picture is sugar cookies. I can’t remember when I didn’t make sugar cookies. By the time I was in high school I was the baker who made them. My family has turned cookie decorating into a competition and watching them this past weekend was hilarious. Of course we all had a different opinion on whose was the best and that made for a very loud discussion!

I would love to hear some of the things that evoke memories for you. Please share and Merry Christmas!

The Reason for the Season

Has baby Jesus been forgotten?

I love this simple drawing of the manger scene. It represents Christmas. There are are no Christmas trees, giant candy canes, red bows and no Santa Claus. Just baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph.

I’m a fan of Christmas Hallmark movies, but it would be nice if the people went to church on Christmas Eve. Instead they have parades, dances and concerts. Every movie has a Christmas tree lighting, a Santa, and an abundance of Christmas decorations in homes, businesses and even on the streets of the towns. However, I don’t see Nativity scenes in any of the decorations. Movie after movie has a similar theme and they all omit the birth of Jesus. Jesus is the reason for the season.

Some of the movies have miraculous events because as the characters say, Christmas is the time of miracles. The miracles in the movies can’t compare to the miracle of a shining star guiding wise men to a manger or angels telling shepherds that a child has been born and singing in celebration. When a wonderous event happens in the movie, no character thanks God. After all, he is the creator of miracles and should be given credit.

As I said, I do like watching Hallmark movies, but Jesus is never mentioned and he is Christmas, not Santa. Santa should be moved aside and Jesus be allowed to take center stage. After all, it is his birthday.

Thanksgiving Memories

Over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house we went.

My parents didn’t have a sleigh and we didn’t go through the woods, but we did cross streams and drove by woods on the way to Grandma’s. It was tradition to go to my grandparents farm on Thanksgiving. I still remember the smell of turkey and dressing and all things good when we entered the kitchen.

As an adult my children have heard me complain about having to sit at the children’s table. In truth, it was fun but it made me feel like a baby. The four granddaughters sat together while the older boy cousins ate as quickly as they could because this was hunting season and they went hunting every year after we ate. Dinner was at 1:00 and hunting must have begun at 2:00. The fields had many pheasants back then.

Hunting season in Ohio began on November 5 this year and will end on January 9. The Ohio Wild Life Division released move then 14,000 rooster pheasants on public hunting grounds for avid hunters. Hens are not allowed to be hunted. I don’t remember eating pheasant as a child, but I probably did. I do remember the pretty feathers.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. As you can see I decorate for it. Christmas decorations wait until after Thanksgiving. It was established as a day to give thanks, and each year I seem to be more aware of all the blessings I have. I hope all of you will be filled with thankfulness and enjoy this wonderful holiday.

Poe’s The Raven

Many students read The Raven and wonder what it means.

I never got tired of reading and talking to students about Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. The rhythm sells the poem and even if students didn’t understand it, they enjoyed hearing it read. To understand it, one has to understand the time period. The Raven was published in 1845.

The question asked of many writers is what was your inspiration? Some have tried to answer that on Poe’s behalf and some attribute it to the loss of his wife, Virginia, but she died two years after The Raven was published. However, Virginia died of tuberculosis and she would have been suffering from it at the time the poem was written and published. Poe could have been looking ahead to his life without his beloved wife. There was no cure for tuberculosis and one suffered an average of three years before passing.

Poe clearly believed in an afterlife and the suffering man in the poem questioned the raven about being reunited with Lenore when he passed. The raven was thought to be a messenger between the living and the dead, so this conversation was appropriate. The bird was merciless in answering Nevermore when asked if he’d “clasp a sainted maiden name Lenore” in Aidenn which is heaven.

The man asked if angels sent the bird, and if there is balm in Gilead which means relief in heaven. The raven is shouted at and called a prophet and a thing of evil, but anger did not change the raven’s answer from Nevermore.

The ending is painful because the prophetic bird’s words have been realized. Hell is spending eternity in that room with the demonic bird and never being reunited with Lenore. That is Halloween horror!

Worth Your Salt?

I grew up hearing “You are not worth your salt,” but I didn’t know where it came from.

The ancient Greeks and Romans used salt in trading for slaves. If they weren’t good workers, they weren’t worth the salt that was paid for them. Salt was so important it was sometimes used to pay Roman soldiers, and the word salary is derived from the Latin word “sal” or salt. Roman soldiers received a “salarium”. Historical records show how ancient people used salt around the world and the uses were many.

Growing up, we had one kind of salt in the cupboard and it was iodized salt. Salt became iodized in the U.S. in 1924 in order to address the goiter problem (enlarged thyroid) many people were having. It worked! I have three kinds in my cupboard but the iodized is used the most. In Europe, some salts also contain fluoride because fluoridation of water is not customary. In Germany, most of the salt sold also contains folic acid which is vitamin B. If salt in America contained vitamins, just think how healthy French fries would be!

Salt has been used in religious ceremonies, as a preservative, and has medicinal uses. The Bible makes 30 references to salt, and it was used as offerings and for purification. Salt was used in baptisms and in burials as an act of purification and giving salt as an offering to God was a common Hebrew practice. Ancient Egyptians and Native American used salt as a preservative and boiling brine was practiced in many countries. Being able to preserve fish with salt saved the lives of many colonists in America. Much is written about the medicinal uses of salt and gargling with salt water to treat sore throats and cancer sores was a common practice in my house growing up. Epsom salts is recommended for aching feet and muscles, and bubble baths are sold that contain Epsom salt to enhance relaxation. Salt is available and inexpensive today and is used in many countries like the people of ancient times.

I read so much about salt I can’t even begin to share all of it, but here are a few interesting things I learned: there are 12 different types of salts for cooking, constipation can be treated by drinking Epsom salt dissolved in water and the Erie Canal was referred to as “the ditch salt built” because salt was the main product transported and the salt tax paid for half of the construction cost.

The next time you reach for a salty chip, you might look at it with a little more interest. I know I now have more respect for salt.

First Day of School Traditions!

IT’S BACK TO SCHOOL ACROSS THE WORLD!

Handmade or purchased cones are given to children starting first grade in Germany and Austria. They are called schuletuete which means school bag. School supplies are in the cone along with sweets. I made mine with two favorite things…MMs and crayons. When I was in Germany many years ago, I saw them in the stores and was told they were filled with mostly candy.

In Russia, the first day of school is called Day of Knowledge. Children bring flowers to their teachers which I think is a wonderful idea. Students are given bright colored balloons in return. Children receive gifts of sweets and pencils from their parents.

Parents of children entering first grade in Kazakhstan often host a feast in celebration. The feast often includes lamb and sweets. The child is asked to recite seven generations of grandfathers. I found this to be one of the most unusual traditions.

Children in Italy wear work smocks on the first day of school and the boys’ smocks are blue checked and the girls’ are pink checked for kindergarteners. First graders and older wear dark blue smocks and they are frequently personalized.

Holland parents transport the little first graders to school on the first day in cargo bikes. It looks like it sounds. A large box sits between two wheels. It looks like a fun way to go to school.

Many of us have our own first day traditions that frequently begins with pictures. I also made a special dinner and dessert for my children. I remember chocolate chip cookies being made the most often. I hope all of our children and grandchildren will have a school year they not only learn but enjoy.

Butterflies are Magical!

Monarch butterflies bring beauty to the garden.

Like most people I welcome butterflies to my garden and enjoy watching them go from flower to flower. Many stories have been written about butterflies and fairies. Fairies are drawn with wings like butterflies and fairies are also said to catch a ride on a butterfly. However, I think they ride on dragon flies most often.

I thought I knew a lot about monarchs, but I didn’t know they only live two to six weeks until recently. The most amazing thing for me has always been the metamorphosis process from caterpillar to a beautiful winged creature. My grandmother said that butterflies carry prayers to heaven and that is why God gave them such beautiful wings. Maybe she was right.

I remember seeing dead butterflies displayed on boards when I was a little girl and hated it. I know some people did it as a teaching aid, but I thought it was cruel. Seeing dead butterflies didn’t make me want to learn about them. It just made me sad.

The butterfly in the picture is dining on my butterfly bush. I’ve only seen a handful of visitors to the bush, but I’m hoping for more. It’s almost August so the time will go quickly before they are gone. My hummingbirds will also head south and I will miss them. The good news is they will both return next summer!

Hope you are enjoying the summer visitors and these long days!

My Favorite Place!

My garden brings me such joy!

Not long ago I was in a group where we were asked to separate according to our favorite places. It was an ice breaker activity which I admit I am not a fan of. The categories were beach, mountains, and exciting city. I didn’t choose any of them. Fortunately someone else didn’t either. Hers was her home and mine is my garden.

I love my flowers and the critters it attracts. Hummingbirds are at the top of the list. This year I have a baby bunny living in the bed, and I know he or she has eaten my pansies; I don’t care. It is so cute! I feel the presence of God when I’m in my garden. Its beauty is something only God could create. I have filled the beds with a variety of flowers so that I have color from spring through fall . I sit in a chair with a cup of coffee and smile. Memories frequently fill my head because my garden has hosted many festivities. Graduation parties, weddings, birthdays, and holidays have all been celebrated there. It is a place of joy because of its beauty and the memories it holds.

I have been fortunate to have been able to travel to many beautiful places, but for me a favorite place needs to be a place I can go to frequently. It is a place where I relax and count my blessings. A place filled with memories and a place that makes me smile just by being there. I’d love to hear where your favorite places are. Please share.

Fungi Houses for Rent!

Fairies Wanted!

Looking for a new home? Newly grown fungus homes are available for rent. Their shining white domes reflect the sun during the day and the moonlight at night. Picture the fun you and your fellow fairies can have frolicking in the lush green grass! The homes are close to flowers, herbs and fountains. It’s a perfect setting for any fairy family!

I think it would be fun to have fairies in my yard, so why not advertise! When I was in Ireland, I was told we should always inform the fairies before we mow if there are toadstools in the lawn. Of course it would be better to mow around the toadstools. Some people do believe in fairies and tell stories of people who have seen them. Of course telling fairy stories is a great draw for tourists.

I think of Peter Pan’s Tinkerbell when I think of fairies. She was Peter’s friend and helped him. I have learned that people in the middle ages did not see fairies that way. In fact, they were afraid to say the word fairies and instead called them little people or the hidden people. Not all fairies were believed to be good, have wings, or were small.

Fairy rings were either thought to be good or evil. In some countries the devil was responsible for them and should be avoided or they were good luck. Since fungus does not die, fairy rings can continue to live and increase in size. France has a fairy ring that is believed to be 700 years old. Some people believe fairies dance inside fairy rings, and I like that theory.

Many children and some adults have fairy gardens. I made one with a granddaughter a few years ago with things we found in the yard. We collected leaves, twigs, flowers and created a little pond for the fairies. I remember it as a fun summer activity. I heard a woman comment that she believed in angels and had never seen one, so maybe fairies do exist. She did have a point. Has anyone seen a fairy? Please let me know.

A Place Called Waiting

Waiting is exhausting!

Dr. Seuss talks about the ‘Waiting Place’ in his book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! He mentions other non- desirable places, but the waiting place is the most challenging.

He talks about being in a slump and says un-slumping oneself is not easily done. I agree, but at least a person can do something! In the waiting place all one does is wait.

Entering an area with unmarked streets and darkened windows is scary, but one can keep moving until he or she has left the area. Moving is better then waiting.

When I’m waiting I feel I have no control. Sitting in traffic, standing in long lines, waiting for test results or a pie to finish baking are times when I just have to accept the fact I have to wait. It’s not easy.

There are other difficult places Dr. Seuss mentions, but he ends on a positive note. He says he knows you’ll face your problems and you will succeed. You have to succeed because he ends his book with Kid, You’ll Move Mountains!

I like this book because it cleverly describes the challenging areas in life one faces, like being lonely and afraid. He also warns about getting mixed up with strange birds. That always brings a smile! I know I have done that a time or two in my life.

Wishing you all a good week and hoping none of you get stuck in the waiting place!