Thursday, December 31, 2009

No Place LIke...

Vermont for the holidays.

Lately I've been thinking that I was born into the wrong state, not mental state -- for we know that is true, but geographical state.

I caught the inkling 6 years ago with a full blown case of the maple sugarmaking fever. In the fall I inventory the buckets, lids and taps. In the late winter, eyes glued to I watch for the 40 - 20 temperature differential -- the start of the blessed season. There are few times so special as being out in the sugar shack.

When we are not sugaring, it is camping with family and now friends. It used to be just Labor Day at Half Moon State Park. I won't mention our favorite site number, (I would hate to cause a rush on the reservation website), but it's the one with the private boat launch, and the log which is great for catching pictures of the early morning water fowl. Our Vermont camping has expanded to include Fourth of July, and a week in August. Our parks of choice are Emerald Lake and Lake Elmore; both wonderful places.

And now, for New Years we are up once again visiting family and friends. Playing games, knitting, playing with my bro-in-law's new camera, (be still my heart), going for walks, sharing a coffee, or a meal, attending Mass together; it's wonderful.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


We have been chilling here. Moving slow. Knitting a baby hat to match some baby socks, and taking it a day at a time. Time is charging past. To dos fall by the wayside. Meals consist of leftovers and catch as catch can; and I don't care. I'm not packed. Not focused. Not anything, but sitting. Sometimes you just have to get off the merry-go-round and... nothing.

Maybe nothing will be my New Years resolution. Maybe instead of accomplishing the world, I'll focus on accomplishing nothing. For someone who is constantly moving, that would be an accomplishment.

And then sometimes, if you are patient, you get something from nothing. For instance last spring, when we decanted the maple syrup out of the quart canning jars and into the fancy pints for gifts I collected all the sediment and that little bit of syrup that always gets left behind. I filled a jar with the maple sand, and stuck it in the back of the cabinet. Then last week when I was making maple Kahlua I found this:

almost a full quart of syrup that would have been washed down the drain with the sediment. Goes to show you have to be careful about what you throw away, and what is worth keeping.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Our Nativity

Besides representing the birth of the Christ child, our Nativity gives a glimpse into my family history. For our set is made up from the sets of my grandparents and from their parents before them. The oldest piece is a shepherd boy from my great grandmother. He is always given rank among the five angels. The angels are from my grandparents on both sides. We have a great flock of sheep, some cows, two baby Jesus, (twins?), and five wisemen. All of which take a journey about the house. Arriving at the stable on the Epiphany.

The stable itself was built by my grandfather well before I was born. It still has its original straw roof.

Of all our Christmas decorations it is the creche and these figures that I value the most.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Sign for Times to Come

Now that Christmas is over and New Years is dawning, the sugaring season cannot be far behind. Six, seven, eight weeks we'll be tapping trees and collecting sap.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

The girls were up at 12:30, 2 and then finally 3:45... Coffee in mug we attacked our stash; all the presents came out of the closet. All are happy. It's 9:30 and we have already played two new games.

Merry Christmas everyone. Enjoy your family. Kiss the children. Rest and relax.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

O Holy Night

A few nights ago my dad called to say he had heard a guy playing the banjo with Steve Martin on a local news show; lucky dad. But lucky me, because dad called to give me the guy's website, Well the banjo player is Tony Trischka and he has the tablature for O Holy Night for free. So of course I printed it out and have been trying to play my favorite Christmas carol ever since. I even took the music to my lesson, and Arthur and I worked on it.

Arthur loved the arrangement. Besides being my favorite carol, I love the fact that the arrangement is a great vehicle for learning chord placement. All those hours of Arthur trying to make me see the relationships among the chords and this piece actually uses some of these relationships. Lucky me again.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Veil Has Been Lifted

Last night while I was puttering downstairs the little powers that be were snooping about upstairs. How did I find out? The cherubs greeted me in my room with the AG catalog in hand and all that "Santa" was bringing was circled.

Being very trusting, stupid me, I at first thought what a great guesser I was. Imagine, out of all that high priced plastic stuff, I had picked the cream of their dreams. Then later, light dawned on this marble head and I when I looked through the stash, noted Santa's boxes were opened.

I'm angry. I've worked so hard around these holidays; cooking, planning, impromptu baking, shopping, wrapping, sending, and awhole bunch of other verbs all ending in -ing. On the better other hand, my husband is understanding, (not my -ing verb) "All kids do it," he says. And he is right, but it's so difficult for me to put this aside. We talked about calling off their Christmas, but agreed not to. There was mention of bringing the presents back and getting something else. Now, who really wants to do that, or has the energy or time. Instead those presents rifled through will remain in the closet. It is going to be a thin Christmas. Poor kids.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Children, Christmas and Cooking

I have one daughter that hums and sings while riding on the back of my motorcycle. Whenever I could use a lift I invite her for a ride. She is ecstatic. but truly it's for me. Hearing that little voice, singing away brightens my day.

And I have another child that equates Christmas with cooking, specifically baking. She would bake every night of Advent if given half a chance. Tonight she, with her sister and I, in the on deck circle, made from scratch a Lemon Ginger Cake. I just left her in the kitchen humming away, wiping up flour from every horizontal surface in our kitchen. While adding the dry ingredients she failed to shut the mixer off and the blade caught the measuring cup and sent its contents everywhere. She was all set to give up. I asked, "Why? Over a cup of flour?"

She recovered, the cakes are in the oven, and the kitchen is being cleaned up by the amazing humming baker.

I love when my kids hum.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Too many pies; not enough fingers

I am a collector, a gatherer, a hoarder of concepts, hobbies, crafts, projects, cookbooks, Barbies, salt and pepper shakers, yarn, material, cross stitch patterns, plots for stories, wool... I have bins and stashes of this and that tucked away attic to basement. I have stuff, like deer skulls and the odd antler that I've found while walking in the woods, and leaky old Maple Sugaring buckets, just because. There is a project tucked into every room of this house: baby socks being knit, stained glass windows being created, quilts being sewn, a basket of roving to be spun, two banjos leaning up against the living room wall. I have a creative outlet for every day of the week, or just about.

Last Thursday I erranded over to a new yarn store, Iron Horse, in a neighboring town. The store, a temple to the yarn goddess, is serene, and naturally well lit. The yarn is so soft that it has to be heaven spun. The lovely owner offers knitting and spinning lessons. I drooled over the spinning wheels. Oh, to have a wheel to finish spinning the stashed away two sheep worth of wool. And then to knit that lovely wool. Right now when we ladies gather to spin, it's with dropped spindles and over coffee. But to have a wheel... But when, and how? For to get a wheel involves taking a class, and when would that happen? When would I spin? After investing in a wheel, it would have to be a hobby of priority. Priority over stained glass or banjo... Probably not. For I am in deep with both. Over knitting? Doubtful, I'm about to embark on a sweater. I could use another day of the week.

For I am finding I have too many pies and not enough fingers.

Free Shipping! Sale! In time!

I am amazed at the offers and ads that are coming in these few days until Christmas. Last Chance Free Two-Day Upgrade. Free Two-Day Shipping. Shipping anything from garlic press to range top for $9.99. Still buying time till Christmas! We'll ship for Christmas Eve delivery. We'll wrap and put a bow on it. We'll kiss the FEDEX man for you, dress like Santa and be there for the opening of presents.

Buy! Buy! Buy!
We'll ship, ship, ship.
Last Chance!

I think I'll put together the Christmas pudding.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

And snow it did...

What a storm. The flakes are fluffy. The winds are still. The perfect day to be outside enjoying the crisp fresh air. One daughter shoveled the front walk. The other did the side. Then we ladies all took turns using the snow rake to get the snow off the roof while Daddy walked the snow blower clearing the driveway and up by the mailboxes. I cleaned up after the plows which drop their load of ice and slush at the end of the driveway, and dug out the fire hydrant. I love days like today.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Snow is Coming! The Snow is Coming!

The Snow! The Snow!

Tonight, before the snow, was the Christmas party at our parish. I donated a copy of Forever Yours towards the door prize collection. And when they drew the numbers I won my book! I never win anything... and tonight my number was drawn.

I gave the winning ticket to a friend.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Too many words on the page

"There are too many words on the page." That is what my little one would tell me last summer when I would try to get her to read a beginning chapter book. Of course my retort was, "It doesn't matter how many words are on the page. You read word by word and you know all these words."

No luck. She refused. No reading chapter books. Not that day. Not ever.

In her defense, despite coming from a family of readers, reading had never come easy. Her eyes don't focus equally, but we caught it. She undertook vision therapy and now the only stumbling block was the preprogrammed responses held in her grey matter. It was this parent's nightmare. Without reading where could she go? How would she make it through the growing rigors of third grade and then beyond?

We hired tutors; one hour a week. Lovely teachers, who would sit and play "the reading mommy" with her. Still this summer she fought the chapter books, and to be honest I was thankful it wasn't me in the ring.

Then this Fall it all clicked. Our tutor is a local kindergarten teacher; only 30 minutes a week, and she offers support to classroom materials first, then fun books. My lovely goes willingly. The lovely is reading beautifully and just might be at grade level for the first time ever in her school career. Last week her sister and she were reading the Star Spangle Banner in its entirety. Sounding out the old English and then figuring out each words meaning.

But the creme de la creme was last night. For last night, sitting at the kitchen table, having hot chocolate, the little one, her sister and I were reading our individual books; together. The little one is reading a Redwall, and at one point she announced, "This is a chapter book, (No clue the thing is huge.) but it doesn't matter 'cause you read one word at a time."

I nearly fell off my chair. Yet another Christmas present delivered early. No need for wrapping.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Moment of Grace

I heard that phrase recently and I wondered exactly what it meant. What is a moment of grace and when do we realize it's there? Is there an inkling of it's onset, or is the ah-ha only after it passes? A moment later; a day; never. Was it at the grocery store when I found the voice to ask a young mom with a crying baby if she wanted to take my place in line? Is it in the unsung everyday making of lunches and folding of laundry; or is it found only in the extraordinary?

Does God have to be the giver of grace? Or is it a gift we give eachother? Or a gift we bestow upon ourselves? Can grace be found when we are alone?

Something to think about...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I wrapped presents this morning...

some of you will be getting something... maybe... :-)

Trying to see past some bumps in the road, and trying to stay focused on the Reason for the Season, I am almost in the Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

No Room at the Inn...

The phrase, "No room..." flashed across my frontal neon sign when I received word that in order for our town Girl Scouts to take cookie delivery at our parish hall the town service unit (Girl Scouts) would have to pay $300 to the parish and show proof of insurance.

What kind of a message are the powers that be putting forth? Yes, the townwide scouting organization is not a parish group, but we have been accepting cookie delivery at the hall for at least five years, are nonprofit and centered on doing good works of community service. We give young girls a place to go and many opportunities to experience. We are not flush, but scrimp and scrape pennies together to offer girls in town opportunities.

I'm disappointed. Like so many other organizations and activities that have left our parish, so shall the Girl Scouts. I fear that pretty soon our once vibrant parish will be a hollow shell.

It's coming...

Christmas is coming. The mom is getting fat... Pleased to put a penny in the old girl's hat.

Ready or not; and it will be not. There is no way I'm going to get all the presents bought, all the packages sent, or all the stuff done before the jolly 25th. And I sit here, slogging through the daily to do list. Run here, deliver that there, work on this school project, put that thank you gift together.

What's the reason for this season? I am not getting caught up in the frenzy. It's like I have some sort of governor on Christmas Craziness. The 'rents and bro' are coming over Christmas Eve for an afternoon of presents, and seafood followed by Mass. I am so looking forward to spending time with them. Eating great food -- the bro' is bringing the calamari, I'll make the clam pie and there will be shrimp and some sushi for the more daring. Then the kids will play until it's time for Mass.

Bring it on. I'm relaxed and ready.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nothing to say today

Strange at that may seem, it's true. How can that be, me who has a thought, or a voice on every subject? But today when I stop to think, there is nothing. Only the desire to eat chocolate. It is probably a good thing we don't have chocolate in the house.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Travelling the Tobin

Please sir...

May we have another.

As I was scraping the last of this ultimate delicious, fought over honey out of this jar that line from Oliver Twist came to mind. In a flash, I imagined our entire tea drinking family walking the 150 miles, barefoot, head bowed, shoulders rounded into a C -- the empty jar shaking in our extended hands to the home where we acquired this bountiful gift from their very own bees.

Of course, in all reality we are not begging for more, but showing our deep gratitude for the gift that sweetened our oceans of tea. Thank you Happenings on the Hill. With each spoonful we reached across the miles, offering a prayer of thanks for your friendship.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It's not the cover. It's what's inside.

While conversing with someone they said, "Your book should have a flashy cover." My reply was, "It's not the cover. It's what's inside." Haven't we been told forever that we shouldn't judge a book by it's cover?

True how true. Honestly I designed the cover to be classical. I wanted a cover that would represent the depth of the plot; not flashy -- but meaty. And then there is me. Hardly do I write on this blog about anything quite as personal as my weight. Still with all this weight that I have regained after losing it for a second time, I find that I am having a tough time not judging me, for my own padded cover. Oh don't say, "You look fine. I can't tell you've put it all back on..." I can tell. And though I joke about being soft and sensitive -- it's true -- I am soft and I am very sensitive.

While treadmilling the other day I recalled that past conversation about my book, and I tried to apply it to life, experiences, people. It is more often than not that good comes out of what was first perceived as a bad experience. You just have to be open to it.

So I am waiting to see what good comes out of outgrowing one's clothes... maybe I'll meet a big book publisher while shopping for clothes that fit and they will pick up Forever Yours in a big multimillion deal; a girl can dream.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Every year, it's the same affair

For 12 winters now I have knowingly and willing entered into the same affair. Maybe the surest way into to this old girl's heart is through my feet. For when I slip those tried and true Sorrels over my toes it is love at first step. Yes, I love them. I love how they keep my feet comfortably warm but not overly hot. I love how they keep my feet dry. And those oh so wonderful rubber bottoms offer good traction when I slog through over ankle deep icy puddles. The felt liners are thick flannel soft. My toes are never pinched or rubbed the wrong way. I can head out for a morning of errands and know my feet will hold up to any check out line or mall walk. They never fail during the long hours of maple sugaring. They are this maple sugarmakers best friend.

Some might say they aren't stylish; missing a nice turned heel and a flashy buckle or two. I say flash fades and heels are never a girl's best friend. Steady, reliable, warm, protective, soft, comfortable -- that is what this old girl thrives on.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


You've been fleeced.

Our Girl scout troop made hats and mufflers last year. The hat involves one seam and then some cutting and tying. The muffler takes two seams; one machine stitched and one hand stitched. It was my daughter's really great idea to add the mouth.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I always say...

Instead of getting frustrated, I always say a prayer when I am delayed for whatever reason or stuck in traffic. In someway I feel it is God telling me to slow down. Offering me a cushion between having an accident somewhere along life's way.

Usually I leave for my stained glass class to arrive 15 minutes early. We are allowed entrance to work during this time, but without instruction. I try to make every minute count. Yesterday morning I was talking on the phone with a friend as the clocked ticked off the minutes towards then past my usual departure time. We were chatting about family and kids, important subjects these days; I would miss the early work. It was fine.

Our conversation ending, I said good bye and hit the road. On the Mass Pike, three miles from my exit, brakes lights flashed up illuminating all three lanes. Something happened. Within seconds, a squadron of police cruisers, fire rescue and highway safety vehicles barreled down the breakdown lane. I moved over from the slow lane, (after all I had been traveling at a paltry 65 mph), and into the middle lane, thinking it was crawling abit faster. And then we sat.

Something was up. Something terrible. I called my girlfriend and left a message thanking her for our conversation. For whatever was ahead of me, could have involved me, if we hadn't been chatting.

Twenty minutes later when traffic crawled past the accident site it looked like someone had peeled forward the left fender of a truck like a banana. Fifteen or more police and other rescue workers were standing around. The site was somber. Later I learned a man died in that accident. And the man he was assisting was also hurt. Very sad.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Careful what you ask for....

I was complaining about how busy I am this week and prayed for a break in the actions. Well my ever important Tuesday inventory was canceled. And the Wednesday appointment was overtaken from me. Both turn of events have repercussions. Proving yet again that silver linings have a darker side.

Life will go on. I will have enough plates and cups and a third coffee maker for hot cider for this weekend's concert. And as far as Wednesday is concerned, the change in plans gave me the opportunity to speak my mind.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Another week to slog through

The calendar is an overwhelming to do list. Home stuff, school stuff, glass stuff, church stuff, scout stuff, all stuff clamoring for my attention and direction. Baking, cards, the concert, the party, mixed with school projects, house cleaning, food shopping, laundry.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Christmas List

One of my Christmas movie favorites is "The Christmas List." In the movie, the main character, Melody Parris, is urged to write a 1980s greedy Christmas List. Trying to make some sense out her life, as a cathartic exercise she writes a list which including such items as a new job, new clothes, a car, contact lenses, an engagement ring. No sooner is the list delivered to Santa and she starts getting all her heart's desires but with a twist.

Her new job is a demotion. The car, she won in a raffle, but she has to share it. She gets $5000 out of her Christmas account, uses it for a down payment on a store front only to find out the money was mistakenly given to her. Her boss steps on and crushes her glasses. It goes on, it gets better -- rent the movie.

Given how well 49 has been going, I have been contemplating writing my own list, but I'm afraid of the backlash. Still what would I write down...

and if forced to be greedy I would have to submit to the jolly old elf: A Cooper Mini. Please no plastic models... just the real deal.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Lastnight we took a road trip into the big city. It wasn't your grandmother's adoration.

Friday, December 04, 2009

A thumbless mitten

A few weeks ago a friend put out an email to her knitting friends, "I need a mitten for my brother in law." Her brother in law had a stroke and lost the function of his right hand. The mitten had to be big with a long cuff and no thumb.

I could knit a mitten. I went online and found a pattern a the Victoria and Albert Museum. It already called for a long cuff and I modified the pattern so the thumb doesn't leave the body of the mitten, and so the cap and bottom were completely attached instead of hinged. I love how the lines of the pattern hug the gusset.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Kids and Money...

may they never mix...

Well, no that's not what I mean. The story for today is focused on whether and when do kids grasp the concept of money and it not growing on trees. To this end, my husband has been giving the girls an allowance -- for years now. The idea being that they pay for all their extra expenses. That through this exercise they will learn about the value of a dollar and how to budget. I have disagreed since day one and I still disagree. Even after hearing a financial expert on a radio program outline the same program we have at home (Who knew my husband was a financial genius?).

Case in hand, two days ago I escorted the young ones to the local school book fair. Plastic in hand, I let them pick out books, but I would not put out for the $2 eraser or the $5 invisible ink pen (How do you know it is works if the ink is invisible?). The next day the little one informs me her class is going to the book fair. I stated, "But you went." She came back with, "The whole class has to go," and she asked to take some money with her. I knew she was angling for some of the junkie pens and erasers that were by the check out. I reminded her she was saving her money for our next family trip. She took her money anyway -- all of her savings and spent over $18 on crap.

Of course I was disgusted. I am the woman who bends over to pick up the penny off the street. One hundred of those will make a dollar I didn't have. And my children (for both little ones are guilty of this) spend like there is no tomorrow. If it is plastic and it's pink, it's theirs.

The middle one seeing the new bought bounty of the little one asked me for money this morning. For what I asked back. "Something at the book sale, but I forget what," was her answer. Can you believe that? I couldn't. And the purse strings remained tightly drawn despite her sulking.

Growing up I can remember bringing my meager savings to the bank and getting my pass book stamped. I would go after the first of each month just so see how much interest I had earned. Call me a tightwad, a miser, a spend thrift... and maybe I am an extreme, but how can one family gain balance?

I have already informed the big spenders that there is no reprieve on vacation. They will spend only what they have saved. Maybe a lesson will be learned.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Fruitcake Day

Today was fruitcake day. Dried apples, peaches, pears and plums. Raisins, cranraisins, currants, and apricots. Coconut, pecans, and candied ginger drowned in rum rum and more rum.

Who wants a fruitcake?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

December 1

December... already. Where did the time go? In the refrigerator is a double batch of Grandma's Molasses cookie dough. Yesterday, before working on homework and the Native People project the dough was put to together and set to chill. Last night, as I shut the lights off in the kitchen I saw the pans awaiting their turn in the oven; the cookie dough still chilling.

So before school, tutoring, and stained glass class, I'll squeeze in a baking stint. These cookies are for a cookie swap and the parish Christmas party. This is a bake and freeze situation. Get done today so you can squeeze in more stuff tomorrow.