Saturday, December 15, 2007

What's Up With Christmas Candy?

Have you ever noticed that Christmas candy is, well, not quite on par with say...Halloween's?

My sister brought home a can of those peach blossoms. Even though they come in a can, they don't taste like peaches; they don't look like peaches; they aren't even the same color as peaches. They do have a funky peanut butter filling. She said, "I love peach blossoms. " I looked at her with my brow furrowed and declared, "I hate them!"

She said, "Well, they do match the dish beautifully."

"Hmmmmppphhhh," I said.

Funny thing about those peach blossoms. They've been disappearing at an alarming clip and no one has been home except little ole me. :?

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Christmas Cup of Tea

Oh my gosh, just a couple of more comments about yesterday's post. Believe me, I heard more than four comments...everything from "what a meanie" to "are you out of your mind?" Thank you to the four brave souls who dared to comment: much appreciated. This post spiked more hits at site meter than any for the past two weeks. Okay then...skating right on, shall we? LOL!

This little poem was sent to me last year by a friend. I really loved it and saved it to my essays and poems folder, which means that I can now share it with you. I love all the little stories about Christmas time, don't you?

A Christmas Cup of Tea
by Tom Hegg

The log was in the fireplace, all spiced and set to burn
At last, the yearly Christmas race was in the clubhouse turn.
The cards were in the mail, all the gifts beneath the tree
And 30 days reprieve till VISA could catch up with me.

Though smug satisfaction seemed the order of the day
Something still was nagging me and would not go away
A week before I got a letter from my old great Aunt
It read: Of course I'll understand completely if you can't,
but if you find you have some time, how wonderful it would be
if we could have a little chat and share a cup of Christmas tea.

She'd had a mild stroke that year which crippled her left side
Though house bound now my folks had said it hadn't hurt her pride
They said: She'd love to see you. What a nice thing it would be
For you to go and maybe have a cup of Christmas tea.

But boy! I didn't want to go. Oh, what a bitter pill
To see an old relation and how far she'd gone downhill
I remembered her as vigorous, as funny and as bright
I remembered Christmas Eves when she regaled us half the night.
I didn't want to risk all that. I didn't want the pain.
I didn't need to be depressed. I didn't need the strain.
And what about my brother? Why not him? She's his aunt, too!
I thought I had it justified, but then before I knew
The reasons not to go I so painstakingly had built
Were cracking wide and crumbling in an acid rain of guilt.

I put on boots and gloves and cap, shame stinging every pore
And armed with squeegee, sand and map, I went out my front door.
I drove in from the suburbs to the older part of town
The pastels of the newer homes gave way to gray and brown.

I had that disembodied feeling as the car pulled up
And stopped beside the wooden house that held the Christmas cup.
How I got up to her door I really couldn't tell...
I watched my hand rise up and press the button of the bell.

I waited, aided by my nervous rocking to and fro
And just as I was thinking I should turn around and go
I heard the rattle of the china in the hutch against the wall
The triple beat of two feet and a crutch came down the hall.

The clicking of the door latch and the sliding of the bolt
And a little swollen struggle popped it open with a jolt.
She stood there pale and tiny, looking fragile as an egg
I forced myself from staring at the brace that held her leg.

And though her thick bifocals seemed to crack and spread her eyes
Their milky and refracted depths lit up with young surprise.
Come in! Come in! She laughed the words. She took me by the hand
And all my fears dissolved away as if by her command.

We went inside and then before I knew how to react
Before my eyes and ears and nose was Christmas past, alive, intact!
The scent of candied oranges, of cinnamon and pine,
The antique wooden soldiers in their military line,
The porcelain Nativity I'd always loved so much,
The Dresden and the crystal I'd been told I mustn't touch.

My spirit fairly bolted like a child out of class
And danced among the ornaments of calico and glass.
Like magic I was six again, deep in a Christmas spell
Steeped in the million memories the boy inside knew well.

And here among old Christmas cards so lovingly displayed
A special place of honor for the ones we kids had made.
And there, beside her rocking chair, the center of it all
My great Aunt stood and said how nice it was that I had come to call.

I sat and rattled on about the weather and the flu
She listened very patiently then smiled and said, "What's new?"
Thoughts and words began to flow. I started making sense
I lost the phony breeziness I use when I get tense.

She was still passionately interested in everything I did.
She was positive. Encouraging. Like when I was a kid.
Simple generalities still sent her into fits
She demanded the specifics. The particulars. The bits.

We talked about the limitations that she'd had to face
She spoke with utter candor and with humor and good grace.
Then defying the reality of crutch and straightened knee
On wings of hospitality she flew to brew the tea.

I sat alone with feelings that I hadn't felt in years.
I looked around at Christmas through a thick hot blur of tears.
And the candles and the holly she'd arranged on every shelf
The impossibly good cookies she still somehow baked herself.

But these rich and tactile memories became quite pale and thin
When measured by the Christmas my great Aunt kept deep within.
Her body halved and nearly spent, but my great Aunt was whole
I saw a Christmas miracle, the triumph of a soul.

The triple beat of two feet and a crutch came down the hall
The rattle of the china in the hutch against the wall.
She poured two cups. She smiled and then she handed one to me
And then we settled back and had a cup of Christmas tea.

P.S. ...and totally unrelated... Every now and then I read about a blogger's frustration with her header. Today is my turn. No matter what I do, I cannot get my header straightened around. I find these kinds of upsets completely maddening. Yes, my name is Vee and I am a Type A personality.

Sooo, if anyone knows the answer to this dilemma, I'll be very grateful. Spending any time in the chaos and confusion of Blog "Help" is absolutely maddening. Guess that the Blogger folks realize that there is a problem and are working on it as stated right here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Santa Debate

Now I don't want to open a can of worms here. No. I really don't. I just loathe rocking the boat. (Mrs. G., stop chuckling!) But I found this letter written by Mark Twain to his little girl Susie away back forever ago and found it so utterly charming, whimsical, even magical that I wanted to share it here in its entirety:

Palace of St. Nicholas
In the Moon
Christmas Morning


I have received and read all the letters which you and your little sister have written me by the hand of your mother and your nurses; I have also read those which you little people have written me with your own hands--for although you did not use any characters that are in grown peoples' alphabet, you used the characters that all children in all lands on earth and in the twinkling stars use; and as all my subjects in the moon are children and use no character but that, you will easily understand that I can read your and your baby sister's jagged and fantastic marks without any trouble at all. But I had trouble with those letters which you dictated through your mother and the nurses, for I am a foreigner and cannot read English writing well. You will find that I made no mistakes about the things which you and the baby ordered in your own letters--I went down your chimney at midnight when you were asleep and delivered them all myself--and kissed both of you, too, because you are good children, well trained, nice mannered, and about the most obedient little people I ever saw. But in the letter which you dictated there were some words which I could not make out for certain, and one or two small orders which I could not fill because we ran out of stock. Our last lot of kitchen furniture for dolls has just gone to a very poor little child in the North Star away up, in the cold country above the Big Dipper. Your mama can show you that star and you will say: "Little Snow Flake," (for that is the child's name) "I'm glad you got that furniture, for you need it more than I." That is, you must write that, with your own hand, and Snow Flake will write you an answer. If you only spoke it she wouldn't hear you. Make your letter light and thin, for the distance is great and the postage very heavy.

There was a word or two in your mama's letter which I couldn't be certain of. I took it to be "a trunk full of doll's clothes." Is that it? I will call at your kitchen door about nine o'clock this morning to inquire. But I must not see anybody and I must not speak to anybody but you. When the kitchen doorbell rings, George must be blindfolded and sent to open the door. Then he must go back to the dining room or the china closet and take the cook with him. You must tell George he must walk on tiptoe and not speak--otherwise he will die someday. Then you must go up to the nursery and stand on a chair or the nurse's bed and put your car to the speaking tube that leads down to the kitchen and when I whistle through it you must speak in the tube and say, "Welcome, Santa Claus!" Then I will ask whether it was a trunk you ordered or not. If you say it was, I shall ask you what color you want the trunk to be. Your mama will help you to name a nice color and then you must tell me every single thing in detail which you want the trunk to contain. Then when I say "Good-by and a merry Christmas to my little Susie Clemens," you must say "Good-by, good old Santa Claus, I thank you very much and please tell that little Snow Flake I will look at her star tonight and she must look down here--I will be right in the west bay window; and every fine night I will look at her star and say, 'I know somebody up there and like her, too.' " Then you must go down into the library and make George close all the doors that open into the main hall, and everybody must keep still for a little while. I will go to the moon and get those things and in a few minutes I will come down the chimney that belongs to the fireplace that is in the hall--if it is a trunk you want--because I couldn't get such a thing as a trunk down the nursery chimney, you know.

People may talk if they want, until they hear my footsteps in the hall. Then you tell them to keep quiet a little while till I go back up the chimney. Maybe you will not hear my footsteps at all--so you may go now and then and peep through the dining-room doors, and by and by you will see that thing which you want, right under the piano in the drawing room-for I shall put it there. If I should leave any snow in the hall, you must tell George to sweep it into the fireplace, for I haven't time to do such things. George must not use a broom, but a rag--else he will die someday. You must watch George and not let him run into danger. If my boot should leave a stain on the marble, George must not holystone it away. Leave it there always in memory of my visit; and whenever you look at it or show it to anybody you must let it remind you to be a good little girl. Whenever you are naughty and somebody points to that mark which your good old Santa Claus's boot made on the marble, what will you say, little sweetheart?

Good-by for a few minutes, till I come down to the world and ring the kitchen doorbell.

Your loving SANTA CLAUS
Whom people sometimes call "The Man in the Moon"


My own children, now long grown, began their childhoods by believing in and loving the "Santa" part of Christmas. On the day that my son climbed into my lap and earnestly told me that he loved Jesus all year long, but at Christmastime he loved Santa best, I felt that we had a problem. A big problem. I believe that he was nearly five that year and his sister was 7.

So I purchased the most beautiful picture book of the story of Christmas...not that the true story of Christmas had not been already shared, but because I was about to do Santa in and I thought the exquisite picture book would help in the task. Their father was very supportive of this idea and one evening a few weeks before Christmas we all climbed into the sofa bed before the Christmas tree and I presented the story. Then, as gently as possible, we told them that Santa was a real person who loved the Lord and that he now lived in heaven with God.

Ohhhhhhh, the wailing! Ohhhhhhh, the weeping! Ohhhhhhhhh, the intense sorrow and sobbing. My husband and I stared at one another over the tops of the children's shaking shoulders and grimaced at one another. Dear Lord, what had we done???? So our poor kids went through the holidays grieving St. Nicholas's death more than 1700 years before. Sad. When I botch something, I really do it completely! This very story was just repeated to me a few weeks ago by my daughter and son. They can laugh about it now, but at the time, it was very traumatic for them.

In hindsight, I wish that I had never allowed them to believe in Santa. Why? Because the Christ of Christmas should not have to compete with the fat man in the flying sleigh who gifts children with all the desires of their expanding greed. There's more wonder in the true story of Christmas than ever needs to be supplemented with the fairy tale. I am not sure how Christian parents balance the two. What's been your experience?

Picture Source (link broken, but picture allowed to stand)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wrapping Central

So where are you guys wrapping gifts this year? I used to set up a card table in a bedroom corner, but this year my back is balking at that kind of bending so it's back to the dining room table for me. (Yikes! Alliteration run amok!)

We had a good wrapping session last night, my sis and I. She knows all about atmosphere and had purchased the nutmeg candle just for that purpose. We sipped on our hazelnut coffee, chatted, and she wrapped while I watched :) and opened Christmas cards.

Ohhh, do you see that one? It's from Kari. She loves to send cards. She thinks it is important. She loves to make her own, too. This one is so pretty. There's so much detail. I love it! I've already told her that I may have to reform and start sending more cards again. I also loved finding mine in the stash she photographed. Now I can say, "there it is!"

Okay, now I'm wondering if I have time, before work, to bake cookies. I was supposed to take some for a cookie share day and I just ran out of energy last night. Let's just the call of cookies louder than the beckon of blogs? Hahahahahaha...sometimes I just crack myself up. Later!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmasing With You

Greeting cards have all been sent
The Christmas rush is through
But I still have one wish to make
A special one for you

Merry Christmas darling
We’re apart that’s true
But I can dream
And in my dreams
I’m Christmasing with you

~Frank Pooler & Richard Carpenter

Finally found my Christmas cds over the weekend. A couple of years ago, my nieces, deciding that I was, after all, a definite 70s gal, gave me one of the Carpenters' Christmas cds. Last night, I drifted off to the sweet, mellow tones of Karen singing "Merry Christmas Darling." Must be true because that's what I woke up singing this morning. ;>

I miss Karen. I miss John Denver. I miss Mama Cass. I miss Bobby Goldsboro. I miss my darling. I have been missing a lot of family and friends who are no longer with me. This missing is a painful fact of life. Second only to seeing the Lord is the joy of knowing that I will see my loved ones again. Still, sometimes Christmas feels lonely...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Creating a Header All By Your Very Own Sweet Self

or how to change something like this

< photo removed >

to something like this...

A blogging bud asked me for some advice about creating a header. Since it was going to require thinking and stuff, I decided to write it down as a tutorial and then anyone can see what I do. Disclaimer: This is how I do it, which doesn't make it the best or easiest way.

1. Take a picture.

2. Upload to the computer.

3. Save it in Pictures or wherever you save your photos.

4. Open PAINT. (I am using a Windows XP and I find PAINT by clicking the START button, clicking ALL PROGRAMS, then clicking ACCESSORIES, finally clicking PAINT.)

5. Once in PAINT, you should see a big white page with color choices on the bottom, tools on the side, and these words across the top: File Edit View Image Colors Help
(These words are where the action is for creating a header.)

6. Click on FILE and then on OPEN in the drop-down menu...this takes you to a box where you can select the spot where your photos are stored by using the arrow at the right.

7. Find the photo you wish to use and double click. Your photo will open in PAINT and be gigantic! Do not panic.

8. Click on the IMAGE button at the top of the page and select STRETCH/SKEW from the drop-down menu. A new box will'll only be working in the top half or the
stretch section. You will see two small white boxes with these words: Horizontal and Vertical. Each box will have 100% written in it. I use 30% in both so change both the horizontal and vertical boxes to 30%. (Whatever you do in one, you must do in the other or the photo will be distorted...perhaps you'd like to experiment with distortion, but my world is wonky enough.)

9. Click the OKAY button on the right and the photo will now be completely visible to you.

10. Return to the FILE button and select "Save As" at this point.

11. Choose a new name to write in the "File Name" box that opens just to be don't want to lose all your good work so far.

12. Leave the photo in JPEG format in the "Save As Type" box. Hit okay on the right side. This saves your photo and you'll be able to find it again back in Pictures if anything should happen during the next steps.

13. Your photo will be square...this is where cropping comes in...either that or you'll be resizing once again by returning to step 8.

14. Crop by finding the teeny-tiny-wee blue button in the middle of the right side of the photo or the middle of the bottom of the photo. Click on the blue button and drag inward or upward to your spot. Now you may find that you have extra photo at the top or on the other side. Do not panic. You'll have to flip the photo. I said, "Don't panic!" :)

15. Flip the photo by going to the IMAGE button and selecting the Flip/ Rotate button that opens in the drop-down menu.

16. Select "Rotate by Angle" and experiment... I usually just work with the 90 degree angle until I can use the teeny-tiny-wee blue button that only ever appears on the right and on the bottom (have I already said that?) Actually, there is a teeny-tiny-wee blue button in the corner as can be useful...experiment!

17. Once cropping is complete, straighten the picture by using step 15.

18. Return to the FILE button use SAVE AS and rename the photo in the filename to something that includes "header."

19. Back at the blog, you'll upload the photo in the usual way for the header. I just use my font and font colors to create my header from there.

20. Wasn't that fun???? (Good luck, Judy!!!)

Now, if anyone knows of an easier way using PAINT, I'd love to hear about it. Thanks!!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Warmth and Cheer

...whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. ~Philipians 4:9

Scenes like this one warm me to the bone and, after posting the new header, I decided that my haven needed a little warmth and cheer itself.

We all need warmth and cheer and how is it to be achieved? Should we wait for others to toss us a bone? Should we shop until we drop? Sip our brandy alone? I don't think so! We begin by creating for ourselves what we most need. And, if we take care of ourselves, we can take care of others. Instead of focusing on whatever is going awry (there'll always be plenty of that), we can focus on all that is good and right. I stole one of FlyLady's expressions some months ago and it is proving to be helpful...I may not be able to do THAT, but I can do THIS.

Enjoy your Sunday by creating a marvelous one! God bless...

Picture Source