Sunday, November 30, 2014


R.H. and I are home from visiting our son Defee's and daughter-in-law Wallace's home.

A too short trip to meet our new granddaughter CC.

Too little time to hold this adorable little sweetheart.

Too little time to play with her big sister Nora.

But the memory of Nora's face when she woke up from her nap to find her Mimi and Paw-Paw there, a priceless memory to last forever.

Such joy in seeing these two amazing parents with their daughters.

A deep content is in my heart after seeing this daughter-in-law of ours, mother of a two year old and a two week old, calmly unwrapping candles this morning after breakfast, putting them in old silver candle holders, arranging a few twigs of holly around it that Defee went outside to cut. Lighting the first candle and then quietly reading Scripture verses for the First Sunday of Advent, letting Nora blow it out while explaining that next Sunday they would light a second candle.

Without any fuss or worry, Wallace made not only an Advent wreath but an event that may stay in Nora's heart where she will always associate it with Christmas and the Birth of the Baby.


Advent Calendars and An Ordinary Life

I have a thing for Advent Calendars. I probably enjoyed them even more than my children did when they were little. There was something so exciting about watching the kids open the next window to a surprise hidden inside. Another piece of Christmas revealed each day. 

Having not had reason to buy one since Zack and Defee were in high school, yes high school, I waited too late to order an Advent calendar for my two young granddaughters this year, but recently ordered some from Germany so that I'll be ready by next December. And I confess ordering one for myself, too.

Here's the one I ordered, one for me and one for my daughter because we're both kids at heart when it comes to Christmas. The Eisenhower family had one just like it. That fact won't mean much to her but to me, old enough to remember seeing him inaugurated, it was enough to make me choose this one, to peek behind the windows that the Ike Eisenhower family peeked behind.

This is another one the company makes, but it's not the one for our granddaughters as that should be a surprise next year.

Aren't they lovely? Here's a link to the company in case you want to look.

Below is an excerpt from James Salter's Light Years describing an Advent calendar that the husband Viri makes for his children. Viri's Advent calendar must be exquisite, just as Salter's prose is. 

"He had made a whole city, the sky dark as velvet cushions, stars cut with a razor blade, smoke rising from chimneys and vanishing in the night, a city that was a compendium of hidden courtyards, balconies, eaves.

"It was a city like Bath, Prague, a city glimpsed through a keyhole, streets that had stairways, domes like the sun. 

"Every window opened, so it seemed, and within was a picture. Nedra had given him an envelopeful, but there were others he had found himself. Some were actual rooms. 

"There were animals sitting in chairs, birds, canal boats, moles and foxes, insects; Botticelli's. 

"Each one was put carefully in place and in secret--the children were not allowed to come near--and the elaborate facade of the city glued over it.

"There were details that only Franca and Danny would recognize--the names on street signs, curtains on certain windows, the number on a house. It was their life he was constructing, with its unique carapace, its paths, delights, a life of muted colors, of logic, surprise.

"One entered it as one enters a foreign country; it was strange, bewildering, there were things one instantly loved."
James Salter in Light Years

You could almost fall in love with a man who was capable of making an Advent calendar like this for his children, couldn't you?

How does his wife Nedra feel about Christmas?

"She adored Christmas. She had a wonderful idea for cards; she would make paper roses, roses of very shade, and send them in individual boxes."

Salter describes Nedra this way:

"Nedra was working in the kitchen, her rings set aside. She was tall, preoccupied; her neck was bare. When she paused to read a recipe, her head bent, she was stunning in her concentration, her air of obedience. She wore her wrist watch, her best shoes. Beneath the apron, she was dressed for the evening. People were coming for dinner.

"She had trimmed the stems of flowers spread on the wood of the counters and begun to arrange them. Before her were scissors, paper-thin boxes of cheese, French knives. On her shoulders there was perfume."

See why I think Salter's prose is exquisite? I've read few books where the prose was more compelling. I could not stop reading Light Years, but in the end I was depressed and picked up Rosamunde Pilcher's Winter Solstice as a tonic. Viri and Nedra sound charming, don't they? If you were peeking through their windows and watching them prepare for Christmas? I'm afraid it was all an "elaborate facade."

Viri and Nedra were not always so charming, but I wanted them to be.

Why can't someone of Salter's talent write a happy book? It made me so mad that Viri and Nedra did not give their children a continued childhood that was safe and colorful and interesting and Father Knows Best. 

Why can't we do it? Why can't everyone do that? Something to think about, isn't it?

So, read Light Years for the beautiful prose but not for a happy ending. I wanted a happy ending of someone who wrote this:

"Autumn morning. The horses in nearby fields are standing motionless. The pony already has a heavier coat; it seems too soon. Her eye is dark and large, the lashes scanty. Walking close, one hears the steady sound of grass being eaten, the peace of the earth being milled."

Nedra told herself:"The only thing I'm afraid of are the words 'ordinary life.'"

Strange, it is the ordinary life that I now crave. Ordinary, but beautiful. As with a beautiful Advent calendar, I want to peer through a window, especially my own, and see something lovely. Perhaps that's why we blog, to peer into each other's windows at something exquisite and to offer others something lovely through our own windows, even if the basket of clothes waiting to be folded is just out of sight. 

Friday, November 28, 2014


I'm such a slowpoke this year,
not a tree trimmed,
no boxes littering the rooms.

I'm thinking about Christmas, though.
Surely I'll begin soon.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Most Handsome Pilgrim

[The American Boy Magazine November 1931]

Could People Magazine please put this Pilgrim on their list of Most Handsome? 

I love the pink sash!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Edna St. Vincent Millay Cleans the Kitchen

"One way there was of muting in the mind
A little while the ever-clamorous care;
And there was rapture, of a decent kind,
In making mean and ugly objects fair:

"Soft-sooted kettle-bottoms, that had been
Time after time set in above the fire,
Faucets, and candlesticks, corroded green,
To mine again from quarry; to attire
The shelves in paper petticoats, and tack
New oilcloth in the ringed-and-rotten's place,

"Polish the stove till you could see your face,
And after nightfall rear an aching back
In a changed kitchen, bright as a new pin,

"An advertisement, far too fine to cook a supper in."

from an "Ungrafted Tree by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Aren't sisters grand?

Nora thinks so.

Baby Sister CC thinks so, too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pocahontas Plate

What does Pocahontas have to do with Thanksgiving?

Absolutely nothing.

But I always put her plate out this time of year.

Here's a closeup of her saving the life of Captain John Smith:

The daughter of Powhatan, a chief, she kept them
from beating the brains out of Smith.
Yes, she saved his life, most historians agree.
No, Disney, they did not have a romantic fling.

She married John Rolfe, had a son, and many descendants
who became some of the "First Families" of Virginia.

And BTW, let's not forget that Virginia was the site
of Thanksgiving Day celebrated at least a year before 
the Pilgrim's famous feast.

But no, Pocahontas had nothing to do with Thanksgiving.
I still display my pretty plate
made by the Crooksville China Company.

 Look at what sits by it this Thanksgiving season:

Two pretty turkeys who came in the mail:

Made by none other than Nora.

Now that's Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

We're Thankful

What are R.H. and I thankful for this morning?

(cover from The Farmer's Wife, November 1938)

We're so very thankful for--

the birth of a new granddaughter!

The Bible verse in my devotion book on the morning of our new granddaughter's birth was from 1 Thessalonians 1:2 and began: We give thanks to God always, for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers…..

And our hearts are full of thanks this morning over welcoming our 6th grandchild into our family. You are an answer to many prayers, little one. There will be pictures of you with big sister Nora eventually, many of them!, and a name, when I'm sure I have permission from your proud parents.

Meanwhile, R.H. and I celebrated this morning with a special Sunday breakfast in your honor. I set the table with our favorite breakfast dishes called The Clock:

R.H. fixed the special Jake's Sausage that's made near us and popped some frozen biscuits into the oven, and I made a special omelet, one where I separate the whites from the yolks, beat the whites with a mixer and fold into the yolks, and put goat's cheese carefully on one half for my lactose intolerant husband, and cheddar on my half.

And then we tried putting a dollop of my cranberry sauce on the omelet the way that a 1950s magazine suggested. It was delicious!

This morning Mimi and Paw-Paw are so thankful for our new granddaughter arriving safely, and finally knowing that she was a girl--her parents wanted to be surprised! 

And yes, Ladies, we are so thankful for the good eggs you gave us for the omelet, as you reminded us, peering into the kitchen as we ate breakfast. It's a terribly fuzzy picture of you, but thank you--Gray Girl, Sunny, and Cher.

Feeling Nostalgic

While I look forward,
to Thanksgiving Days ahead,
sometimes I look back to those behind.

Today I'm remembering 1986
when we sat around the table solemnly,
each telling what we were thankful for.

They were so young--
weren't we all?

I'm feeling nostalgic.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Not Just for Thanksgiving Day

A few years ago it occurred to me that cranberry sauce didn't have to be limited to Thanksgiving Day. After all, I usually put extra bags of berries in the freezer for muffins for coming months. I realized that nothing was stopping me from making cranberry sauce more than once or twice a year. 

Not only is a dab of cranberry sauce on my mother's recipe for cornbread dressing my favorite food of the Thanksgiving Day Dinner--well, that and pecan pie--but making cranberry sauce is so satisfying to make.

Cranberries seem to please all five of the senses. The cool tactile sensation I feel as I pour them into the palm of my hand to be inspected for stems or mushiness before adding to the sugar and spiced boiling water.

I look at the glistening berries and can't imagine a prettier color than these ruby globes. 

The friendly hissing and popping I hear as I let them boil for just 5 minutes to leave plenty of them whole before lowering to simmer for an hour.

And that scent? Cranberries combined with a tiny pinch of cloves and ginger and a little more of cinnamon? Especially if it's Vietnamese cinnamon? The scent perfumes the house, as evocative of Thanksgiving as watermelon is of the Fourth of July, or spicy fruitcake is of Christmas.

Yes, few foods please my eye more than the color of cranberries, in the bag, in the hand, in the pan, or on a silver spoon as it approaches my lips. The perfect juxtaposition of cold cranberry sauce eaten with hot cornbread dressing and a sliver of turkey as a condiment.

And then I taste it. And it's so good. Even without the cornbread dressing that will come later in the month. Actually, I plan on trying out a suggestion I read in an old 1950s magazine…a dollop of cranberry sauce on a cheese omelet. That sounds intriguing.

Now to show a picture that hopefully only my nearest and dearest of family and friends have stuck around for through the end of this post. I finally had a good haircut after six months of growing out a really bad haircut. Here I am afterwards at the grocery store buying some more cranberries. 

Windblown and feeling slightly shorn but knowing from the way it felt that it was a good haircut and that a second haircut a couple of months from now would finally eliminate the bad haircut that depressed me for months. Here is a close up after we got home.

Now, if I can just buy some foundation that I've been out of for two years--and not eat too much cranberry sauce, and pecan pie. [You have no idea how brave this post was of me, and to actually hit Publish. Of course I did schedule it for 24 hours later in case I wake up in the morning and decide to hit Delete.]

"At Stillmeadow…"

From "Dairy of Domesticity"
by Gladys Taber

The simple good things,
such as neighborliness and kindness,
           such as gardens and clean curtains,
                      such as candles and fire on the hearth,
                              these we must preserve.

And our Thanksgiving should be that we still have an ideal
of home-loving people, a faith in God unshaken,
and a will to freedom.

At Stillmeadow, we have the Thanksgiving family dinner
with an added prayer for grace.

And sitting around the apple-wood fire, we are not forgetful
of the terrors of our time.

We feel we must live more deeply,
           more truly,
                     and never lose hope in the future."

Gladys Taber
From "Diary of Domesticity"
Ladies' Home Journal
November 1950

[photo from Stillmeadow Album of "the old corner cupboard with the H hinges" and the milk-glass collection that had "a memory attached to every piece."]

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Glad Not To Be A Turkey

Sunny: "Aren't you glad you're not a turkey, Gray Girl?"

Gray Girl: "Uh, I dunno. What's a turkey?"

Cher: "I think you're both turkeys, 
you feather-brained cluck heads."

[Perhaps Sunny, Cher and Gray Girl
would prefer you to think about 
vegetarian Thanksgiving themes?

See link here.]

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Spittlecock'd Eel

"No man lards salt pork with orange-peel,

or garnishes his lamb with spittlecock'd eel."

William King

Now that's an interesting quotation--

but how in tarnation do I work it into a conversation?

I'm chuckling, wondering if you think I've lost my mind.

The title got your attention though, didn't it?

Here's the next topic for today,

do you have any Indian corn in your autumn decor inside the house?

This was my vase last year and about this time little holes appeared in the kernels

and little moths hatched out, flying everywhere.

That's about as gross as spittlecock'd eel on lamb.

No more Indian corn inside the house for me.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Feeling a Little Puny?

Not quite sick but dull, out of focus?

Lost your joie de vivre?

Been avoiding calls?

Letting voice mail do the work?

Wanting to cocoon?

Pull the blankets over your head?

Thinking the party is over?

Sure that the lights will stay dim?

Well, snap out of it, Dewena!

Remember Mama's sick-a-bed cure,
tomato soup and saltine crackers.

Weigh your priorities.

Count your blessings.
Look at some old Christmas magazines.
Put aside that bestseller and pick up Gladys Taber.
Buy a new perfume.
Pack away the Halloween clutter.
Polish some furniture.
Eat pasta.
Iron the Christmas tablecloths.
FaceTime with Nora.
Get a haircut, dear.

Get off your butt!

Time is not standing still, Dewena,
and you can't blame the flu shot forever.

Redeem the time.

Now, don't you feel better already?