Monday, December 28, 2009


Christmas Eve in the doublewide–yikes, the tree really looks like it's ablaze!

An easy, quick centerpiece: some pomegranates, a cheap red candle, some potpourri and a pie dish from Tater Knob Pottery outside of Berea, Kentucky on top of a Zanesville "Country Fare" platter.

With every parcel sent to friends and family this Christmas, I included a sprig of mistletoe from a large cluster that my boys brought to me a few weeks ago from our own farm. The white berries grow only on female plants.

Christmas was a quiet and special time for us–our second here on the ridge. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care and organic carrots from a Mennonite friend were placed out with a cup of milk and some cookies and a letter to Santa. (One year Santa got a glass of Bailey's® and some leftover cocktail shrimp...that was high-end living, I'll tell you what.) PHOTO–A gold-lipped, but inexpensive, trifle bowl is filled to the brim with old vintage glass ornaments.

My husband got me a "Sugar Devil" for Christmas (and some lovely silver bracelets and a pile of good books and cookbooks). This unusual tool was used to dig out dried stuck sugar or fruit in old store barrels. I'm convinced that every woman needs one! In fact, I could have used it a few days before to tackle a bag of brown sugar for my banana bread that had caked.

We were also finally able to pull off a surprise, six months in the making. On Christmas Day, after our roast beef dinner, which I was to have cooked on Christmas Eve but our elfing and gift-basketing got away from us, we headed over to the Hursts for hymn and carol-singing. Let me say that sitting around on benches and gathered around the woodstove and kitchen table in a cozy, well-kept farmhouse with about thirty other people (many who are closer friends) singing their hearts out, a cappella, is a magical experience (even if there are a few sour notes on occasion). The singing was the only sign of Christmas as Old Order Mennonites do not decorate or have a tree like we do. But their spirit is willing and, as with everything else, they pare it right down to the essence of the season. PHOTO–A snowman at a Mennonite farm the day after our "big snow" on December 19th. He didn't last long.

View of Hopeful Church: The weekend before Christmas we had a good bit of snow on the ridge but it didn't stay long.

It's odd but I was reminded of the Whos in Whoville who gathered on Christmas morning to sing, "Welcome Christmas!" For it arrives whether we are ready or not or whatever our circumstances. [I have recently been reading about the Appalachian tradition of "Old Christmas" but that's another blog: in fact, in this period of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" I plan to linger longer in the holiday reveling, so please bear with me. I like to stretch things until Epiphany, or "Twelfth Night," which is also the date of "Old Christmas" on January 6th.]

This log barn still stands in one of our fields and in the snow, for the first time, it reminded me of the kind of humble stable where Christ was born.

When someone started in on the birthday song (and it's a much different, more lovely and easier to sing version than we are accustomed to singing), Anna and I snuck off to get Temple's Friendship quilt which she had put the finishing touches on since our "quilting" in late October (here is my blog entry about selecting the fabric for it back in July). We walked in during the birthday song and he was truly surprised and delighted. He even nudged Melvin and asked, "Whose birthday is it?" (Temple's birthday is today, actually). [My satellite Internet access has been giving me fits for several weeks but I will post more this week and photographs from our "Quilting" now that it has been given and there is no chance of ruining the surprise! Just tonight I was able to upload photos with ease after increasing my bandwidth....ergh! DSL it is not!] PHOTO–Last year in the fabulous post-holiday sale at Gooseberry Patch I was able to score two Christmas Raggedy Anne dolls quite inexpensively: one for my mother and one for me!

My dear friend Beth-from-the-Crib (right) and I, taken summer of 1980 when we both painted cars in her backyard in Akron before I went off to college. We might be 47 now, but we feel 25! Right, Beth?

This weekend we were supposed to travel to the 50th anniversary celebration of two dear friends in South Carolina. It was not meant to be: exhaustion, a bit of a flu bug, and just needing to rest precluded our trip. (This Mom knows her limits, especially at the holidays.) So we sent lovely thoughts and wished them well from afar. "Aunt Sally and Uncle Dale" have known me all of my life, or at least since I was a babe in arms, and I grew up with their daughter, Beth, from the crib back in Akron. My own parents would have celebrated their 50th in 2011 but that will never be so I really had wanted to be a part of their celebration. We are also not used to traveling at Christmas and that is clearly another component of the "holidaze" that I had not anticipated! PHOTO–"Aunt Sally and Uncle Dale" who just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Saturday, sent us this ornament this year that I had sent to them in 1990. What a great thing to do one day: go through all of our ornaments and give them to children and dear friends whom we have known over the years. We put it on our "Kitchen Christmas Tree" (believe me, I have enough ornaments for trees in every room...but our two trees this year have our most special ornaments on them.)

This lovely red berry grows on bushes outside of our doublewide. The woman we bought this part of our farm from was a great gardener...but I have no idea what these are but they're festive!

This weekend we just did what we wanted to do and I did a lot of reading, catching up on needed sleep and recovered from the "wobblies", with the occasional movie; Temple split wood over at the shop intermittently with the boys; and the boys are endlessly happy and involved with creating large Lego things while listening to country music on Henry's new CD player (I never thought I'd hear country music in my home, but there it is: much more tame than what I used to listen to and still do in the car...or when alone. But Henry enjoys U2 and Talking Heads and Kings of Leon and The Killers as much as I do, so there's that.) Our daughter is working up in Vermont and we miss her but she sounds busy and happy and received all of her gifts in time for Christmas.

So this is the way I remember the Christmas afterglow: warm and cozy and that family spirit of harmony lingering still.

I enjoy collecting vintage Christmas items. I painted the "Noel" board years ago on an old barn board with stencils and the five angel bells were in my father-in-law's collection. The snowmen, below, were given to us from a friend's mother-in-law's extensive Christmas collection. [We've gone from nine mantels over nine fireplaces in our former historic home to just one so it does limit the Christmas decor I can put around now...]

NOTE TO MY FAITHFUL READERS: Here In the Pantry I try to keep things upbeat, but I do have the occasional introspective lapse. It is with that spirit of levity (and reality) in mind that I want to provide this link to another Christmas-related blog I posted this morning over at our virtual book group, Cupcake Chronicles. Kind of a point-counterpoint to this entry but of equal truth and measure to my Christmas experiences of recent years.]

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