Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sweet Farmhouse Memories of Cutting the Christmas Tree

Peace on Earth. Good Will Toward Man. 
The holiday season is upon us. Friends, family, food, Christmas music and movies during the season of giving make it merry and bright.   Our tree, like many, went up right after Thanksgiving.  Mine is a beautiful, artificial one this year, though in years past it has been a real tree.

The first tree husband Jeff and I had in 1975 was a six-foot artificial one, like those you see at the dollar store. It was very special—our first as a married couple.   I still have a picture of me standing next to it almost as tall as it!  By today’s standards it wasn’t all that. Know what I mean? But it was ours. And it was perfect.

 One year, many decades of years forward, we were to be hosting Christmas Eve at our new farmhouse, so I decided our family should participate in cutting a live tree. Everyone was all in.  Several weeks before Christmas, we gathered at our farm to “go get the tree” and return to decorate it.  A crockpot of chili was simmering for our return.
I love red barns. This is a keepsake ornament. 

 Heading out, we loaded up in several trucks and caravanned to the tree farm. The tree farm’s barn had live animals, a small boutique of country crafts, hot chocolate, and Christmas music playing, plus a small heater to warm by if needed.    All trees, any size was only  $25.  Sweet! Away we all went, saw in hand searching for that perfect tree.  The guideline was: it needed to be at least eight feet tall, straight and full, no bald spots—tall order indeed. It is the perfect tree not to be found.

Up and down the rows of trees we went. “Keep your eye on this one. It just might be the one we’ll get,” I called back to Mother who had said those exact same words to us thirty years prior at the tree lot in Owensville one cold winter’s night. Sister Debbie and I thought she’d never say, “We’ll take this one,” and mean it.  Chilled to the bone the man hurriedly tied it up and crammed it in her car trunk before she changed her mind yet again.  
Warm woolen mittens to warm the hands. 

Finally, at my tree-cutting event that day, some became weary and hungry; I declared with a nudge from my husband, “Alright, we’ll cut this one!” Everyone cheered! At home, that afternoon, bringing our first big bertha tree through the door of our new farmhouse, was like threading a camel through the eye of a needle. She was so much bigger than we had thought. In the great outdoors she looked a fraction of her size. Trying to fit her through the door was almost impossible, unless you have men who want to watch the sporting event of the day. Then look out. It will fit!   

With one ginormous push and pull from all the guys, the tree went plowing through the door and thousands of pine needles departed their lovely branches like a winter’s snowfall. Everywhere the needles scattered once again as they impelled her through another doorway like a missal.  Finally in her destination of the music room, standing her up, as you guessed, she was way too tall. Down and up, two cuts later and several “turn it to the left, now to the right, and not so much…” we settled.

The chili from the crock-pot was a delicious idea.  Afterwards, we girls decorated singing along with Christmas songs playing on the radio and belted out those we grew up singing at the piano—like  “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” a big hit in the sixties.

So Here's the Thing...As nightfall came, we turned down the house lights and all gazed at the illuminated tree.  It was beautiful, just as I had imagined it would be.  Memories...for making and keeping. 
A lovely red-bird so pretty against the ice and the snow. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgivings Over. It's Time to Shop,

This week of Thanksgiving memories for 2016,    I read it is a “short work week ending in lots of food and shopping and doesn’t get any better than this!” Many look forward to this time of year, all year long.  They’ve stuffed themselves with roast turkey, buttered rolls, pecan pie,  loosened the buckle on their belt  and plan to  gather  in groups to “shop till they drop” for some all out greatly discounted buys. And some super good ones too. 

But then there are others, perhaps this is you like me, who prefer not to be out amongst the traffic and the crowds and do a good bit of your shopping online. Perhaps you shop online ordering through Amazon (my favorite)  similar to how we used to do catalog shopping. Do you remember?  It was bought over the phone or by mail and delivered to a catalog store in the area, like JC Penney and Sears once was in Georgetown, also Sears Catalog store  was in Hillsboro once when I was a child.   Or, if that was too far away to pick up your order, you paid the shipping fees and had it shipped directly to your house. I love to get a package on my doorstep. Even if I am the one to order it and know exactly what is in it, it makes me giddy.  

 This is the way I most prefer shopping.  Ordering in my pajamas, coffee on the table next to me while Christmas music plays through my laptop.  I prefer this to the stories I’ve read of shopping day gone bad. Like this story I read once of a gal that got punched in the face over an electronic. Yep, that’s right. The fight broke out over who was going to get the last one. She jerked on the box declaring, “I had that first!” And then out of nowhere BAM she got slugged in the face.   In the end, she lost the fight and the deal. Angrily storming out of the store, cursing all the way, she got to her car   in such a rage that she backed out of her parking space hitting the car waiting patiently for her spot.  She pounded the steering wheel with her hands. “Great! (it was a different word but I couldn’t write it here)  Just my luck.”  

 Her luck gets worse when the cop arrives and while writing her citation, notes that she is driving with an expired drivers license—two years past expiration. “Oh my God!” she cries out, “Are you kidding me?” In which the cop replied, “No Ma’am. I don’t kid about stuff like this.” In tears, she reaches for her phone usually in her back pocket so someone could drive her home when she realizes she must have lost her phone in the scuffle, not a cheap one at that, an IPhone six. Now she was forced to go back inside to hunt it in hopes she didn’t see her opponent again.  

Shortly after I write this on Tuesday, I’ll be heading out to buy my Butterball turkey.  (or eating the leftovers, depending on when your Press is delivered.)  I’m hoping there won’t be any fighting at the grocery store. I think that may have happened a time or two over spectacular deals on Butterballs too.   On this one, I’ll have to take my chances and shop.  Only in the movie the Christmas Carol does one have a turkey delivered right to their doorstep that must be plucked and gutted.  But with a thankful heart, Bob Cratchit did so and Tiny Tim was ever so thankful to enjoy a meal with his family in spite of his illness. There is much we can learn from that movie.   A heart transformed and a truly thankful family in spite of life’s calamities. Hope your Thanksgiving is/or was truly enjoyed with a thankful spirit setting you in motion for a season of giving. 
I got up about 6:30 AM and made real stuffing like Mother always did. And crammed it in  the bird. just like her. 

No Butterball this year. Instead I got a  Riverside turkey in the size I wanted. Mostly because I liked the packaging.  I lathered it with  butter like Mother always did. This brand was delicious.  

So Here's the Thing...I must admit the older I get the more I enjoy simplicity. I enjoy shopping on line in my jammies! I used to love shopping out and about. And occasionally I still do just that. But either way, no matter your preference,  it is totally  fine. Don't you agree? What is your preference?  

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Don't Forget the Pilgrims' Progress

What a harvest we had on the farm. The Pilgrims would have loved the pumpkins, the squash and the corn for winter rations. 

The month of November evokes memories of being in grade school and learning about Pilgrims, Indians, corn and fish, and Thanksgiving, and now more so about  being  excited for the turkey dinner with Mom’s famous dressing recipe.  Or is it called stuffing?  What’s the difference? Best of all, for school kids, it was  knowing we would have four days off school that made the approaching holiday even more exciting to think about.  

A few years back, 2013, we traveled to the East Coast, to Boston and drove south to visit Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts (always hard to spell) where the original Thanksgiving feast took place. But I learned so much more than I remembered.     

During the visit, we toured the Mayflower replica docked on the harbor along with many other boats. ( We took pictures but I can find mine.) It is recorded that,  the Mayflower departed Plymouth, England, on September 6, 1620 and arrived at Cape Cod (not the right place) on November 9, 1620, after a 66 day voyage.” You remember that right? I didn't.   

The smell of fish, at Plymouth’s harbor, I noticed immediately was potent on the seashore. Inside the small, a wooden ship, I realized what a sacrifice our forefathers made. Oh, my!   The ship was small, dark and gloomy. There were no beds. No bathrooms. No windows.   Everyone I was told, “slept on the floor” except for the captain. He had a drop down shelf to make a bed on. No longer than five feet. “People were smaller back then,” the guide told us.  The Mayflower's cargo we learned, was usually   “ wine and dry goods, but on this trip the ship carried passengers, all hoping to start a new life on the other side of the Atlantic.”
My Mom always made the best stuffing, well, so did her Mom. And now, I think I do! 

Originally, there were two ships sailing together to the new land, but the Speedwell developed a leak and both ships headed back to shore and then all passengers boarded the Mayflower, 102 in all.  This delay, I learned, caused them to be at sea during the height of the storm season. Seasickness was rampant from the rough, rough sea. Can you imagine?  But they made it to the New World after two horrible months. Some died before arriving. Many more that first year.

Finally on shore, they set up in an abandoned Indian village. About half died that first winter. No wonder they started a Thanksgiving celebration. They truly were thankful for all they had endured and lived to write their history that first year.  And why?  We learned in school for our religious freedom, escaping the jurisdiction of the Church of England, to establish a new church in the New World, seeking our religious freedom.  

The Pilgrims I hope eventually felt the New World gave them all of these things. 
So Here's the Thing... as November unfolds, think about the Pilgrims' progress on your behalf and mine. Give thanks to them for being the “stepping stone” in a great land of wonderful freedoms. My ancestors, the Phillipses weren’t on the Mayflower I learned on that trip, but came several years later.  And just so you know, I found the answer to the initial question: stuffing or dressing? Well you might have guessed it already. In the bird—stuffing. In a pan—dressing. Unless you are from the South then it’s always called  “dressing” siting that stuffing is “unpleasant” sounding. Be as it may, I like Mom’s dressing stuffed in the bird for Thanksgiving day.
I love stuffing with lots of celery, onions and sage. I love it stuffed in the bird! 

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