Archive for December, 2009

A Gift of Sunshine

Hannah received these lemons, along with the lovely basket, as a Christmas gift from her oboe teacher. Her teacher grew them in her backyard. They are as big as small oranges! I made hot lemonade last night, and the juice of just two lemons yielded a full cup of juice. Tina started me several lemon trees earlier this year. This is the first time that I have lived in a place where lemon trees thrive, and I can hardly wait until I’m harvesting my own lemons and giving my own gifts of lemony sunshine.


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The Smells of Christmas

The only fundraiser that I have truly enjoyed was selling Christmas wreaths as a member of the Denison High School band. Inhaling the heady, pungent evergreen scent as I helped unload the delivery truck, and delivering the wreaths to calls of “Merry Christmas!” was fun work. One year, in response to my knock at an unfamiliar house, a woman called through the open door for me to come in.  I wasn’t in the habit of entering homes to solicit sales, and I proceeded with my “support the band speech” from the porch. She replied that she was crippled, and reiterated that I needed to come inside.

As I approached the friendly woman seated in a recliner, she informed me that she always bought a wreath from the band. I documented her order, and then watched with interest as she deftly picked picked up what looked like stubby nails and poked them into an orange. Although I was familiar with ground cloves that Mom cooked with, I had never imagined whole cloves to resemble miniature nails. I admired the pomanders and their spicy smell so much that all of my spare time for weeks was devoted to poking whole cloves into oranges. By Christmas eve, I had a very, very sore thumb, and a sack full of tissue-wrapped pomander balls to give as gifts.

Making orange pomanders in November and December is a tradition that I have passed on to my children, Sunday School students, and many preschoolers. Andrew even made and sold them door to door in our neighborhood. I solidly stud the oranges with cloves like my mentor showed me, instead of arranging the cloves in a pattern as some do.  I also adopted the use of a nail to pierce the orange skin to save my thumb. When the orange is completely covered in cloves, I leave it in a paper bag for several weeks to allow it to shrink. Then it’s ready to be decorated with ribbon or yarn.

Mom made repeat trips to the grocery store around Christmas time to replenish my supply of whole cloves. I still marvel at where she got the extra money to buy them because they are expensive.  Mark purchased my current supply of cloves from The Spice Man in Indonesia.

The blessing of selling Christmas wreaths, and learning to make orange pomander balls continues to this very day. I am rich in the smells of Christmas.

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In looking over Hannah’s American history notes, I was intrigued how words and terms popularized by the Civil War fit so well with Tiger Wood’s domestic civil war.

Tiger Woods wished that he had learned to tar his heels and stick closer to home when he was forced to skedaddle from his house in the middle of the night when Elin thought he was a copperhead.  Now his distinctly chilly home is nothing like his antebellum home.  Since his sponsors are dropping him like a hot potato, Tiger might have trouble paying his federal income tax and find himself living in a pup tent.

1. Tarheel

The Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origin says that tar refers to North Carolina’s long-leaf pine forests which produced an “abundance of rosin, turpentine, and tar.”  The earliest recorded referrence to the heel part, in 1869, stated that ‘”A brigrade of North Carolinians . . .failed to hold a certain hill, and were laughed at by the Mississipppians for having forgotten to tar their heels that morning.”‘ I suppose that if the soldiers had tarred their heels, they would not have “slipped,” and lost the hill.

2. skedaddle

Civil War soldiers who ran away, scrammed, or left unceremoniously were said to have skedaddled.  It’s possible that this definition is related to the word skedaddle used in Northern England which meant to spill but no one is sure.

3. copperhead

Northerners who were pro-Union but sympathized with the Confederacy were considered to be as dangerous as lethally poisonous copperhead snakes.

4. antebellum

It simply means “before the war” because ante is the Latin word for “before,” and bellum means “war” in Latin.

5. federal income tax

The nation’s first income tax was levied by the North in order to reduce economic stresses.

6. pup tent

The primitive, wedge-shaped tent for two people was considered to be kennel-like, only fit for dogs or puppies.  Hence, it was called  pup tent or dog tent.

Although Tiger may end up paying more money to Elin than to the federal government, I doubt if he will ever see the inside of a pup tent.



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Don’t Forget George’s

Grandma Maude tucked this letter into The Bookcase, and I’m glad that we can enjoy it today.

Dear Mrs. Young,
I don’t have anything new to tell but I know you are looking for a letter so will let you have what I know.

We are all fine, had a sweet long letter from George Fri, but haven’t heard since. He told me I wouldn’t as he may go to Pittsburg Penn, on Fri. That is 350 miles from where he is so I guess he went or I would have heard. Altho he was low on Stamps & money when he wrote. He told me not to send him sweet things So I am trying to think up some other things he would enjoy. I have him a radio, which will be a big surprise to him I hope. Be sure and not forget a[nd] tell him in your letter because I want to surprise him.

I have been sewing on the grandsons robes. It’s not easy either to not be able to try them on even tho I took the measurements Thurs.

Richard is begging for an air Rifle for Christmas, but Sam just pulls a stunt when he mentions one. So I don’t know how he will come out. I don’t think It would be bad as Richard is by him Self, not any children around here for him to play with. That is where the danger comes in I think.

I have been making some cuptowels & pot holders for Marg birthday. Don’t forget George’s because he is so far away. The 11th[.] I sent his card today. It was early but I got mine early too.

We are having some nice weather, haven’t we?

Tonight is my night to stay up til 11 oclock to watch “Tonight” Do you watch Jack Parr & Elsa Maxwell I enjoy them on Tru Tue night.

I am glad to get my machine back. Can’t get along very well without one. Charlotte got most of her sewing done. while she had had it.

Well I must write Margaret

Love, Rachel

I am the keeper of Grandma’s Bookcase, and this is what I found.


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Schlumbergera buckleyi

Christmas cacti bring me a lot of pleasure. They thrive on minimal care, live for as long as 20 years, and give a generous Christmas gift of delicate blooms. Even though it’s called “cactus,” it thrives in the same tropical environment as orchids, and is a native of Brazil. Grandmother Rachel always had one that bloomed pinkish-red around Christmas.

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Cranberry Happening

A blizzard flurry of big, fat snow flakes was the perfect accompaniment to fresh, out-of-the oven cranberry nut bread. Now it’s all a lovely memory. Here’s the recipe so that you can create your own memories.

This recipe is of the pass-along type: from Aunt Margaret’s dear friend, Ann, to Grandmother Rachel to Aunt Margaret to me to you and . . . I barely grabbed the picture before it all disappeared.


2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soda
Juice of one orange with enough water to make 1 cup liquid
Grated rind of one orange (about two tablespoons)
2 tablespoons shortening, melted
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups coarsely chopped cranberries

Sift first 5 ingredients together into a large bowl. Add liquid and beaten egg. Blend well. Add chopped pecans and cranberries.

Bake in a greased loaf pan at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Let cool in pan about 15 minutes before removing from pan. Wrap in foil or plastic wrap for 24 hours before cutting and serving.

Obviously, the bread was consumed straight from the oven. I’m sure that it would have been even better 24 hours later.

I reduced the sugar to 3/4 cup, and replaced 1 tablespoon of flour with 1 tablespoon of wheat germ.

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Snow Frolic!

Little bur oak


Roses' end.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Beau!

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