Welcome reader to my blog - a mixture of this and that. Now that we are living in a retirement community in downtown Columbia, MD my personal gardening activities are somewhat curtailed. I still enjoy visiting gardens, reading, watching wildlife on my walks, traveling, and occasional food commentary. Please leave a comment if you feel inspired to do so. I read every one of them.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Here's a story sent to me by a friend. The story has been around awhile because my pastor read it one Christmas Eve. Enjoy it and Christmas with your loved ones.

'Just in case you need a, "Really Good Christmas Story."

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid.

I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her "world-famous" cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus?" she snorted...."Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. "Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping.

For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough; he didn't have a good coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!
I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

"Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. "Yes, ma'am," I replied shyly. "It's for Bobby."

The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it.
Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.

Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were -- ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.


May you always have LOVE to share,
HEALTH to spare and FRIENDS that care...

And may you always believe in the magic of Santa Claus!'

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Resident Fox

Our resident fox came visiting this morning. I first saw him in the perennial garden and he was favoring his right front paw. He stopped in one of those flower beds and licked and gnawed on that paw for awhile. When he headed through the backyard towards the pond I figured I had a chance to catch him on camera. Sure enough he worked his way around the pond and above he is headed toward the suet feeder pole.


He came on towards my window in my study.

Stopped and looked right at me as if he was posing for my camera.

Then headed off on his rounds limping as he went.

I hope he heals.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chinese Peasant Bags





Above is a Chinese peasant bag that Sarah brought home from China. I fold it up and keep it in my purse to use to bag up purchases instead of using a plastic sack. It's quite easy to use. Just tie a loose square knot with the handles and carry the bag.

When I was in China I purchased more of these and then promptly gave them all away. At first I thought I should have purchased more, but then realized I could make them myself. With Emily's help, she took apart hers, we learned that it's made from a rectangular piece of fabric: about 45" long. I purchased fabric remnants from Frank's in Claremont, NH to use to make more.
Here is the finished product - the 4th one I've made.

This piece measured 45" long by 16.5" wide. The trick is to fold and press then stitch.

The first fold is a triangle. From this the bottom edge will be folded to lay against the left edge of the above triangle.

The original triangle is on the right with the bottom edge against it on the left side.

Here it is turned over. The point of the top left will be one of the handles. The bottom fold will be the bottom of the bag.

The last fold is to make the right edge of the bag and the other handle. The handles aren't the same length but to do that would make a smaller bag overall. This fold is to bring the selvage edge to match the diagonal edge. There will be overlap on the bottom edge. Use the iron the press all the folds.

Iron all the edges that need to be turned under.

First stitch the overlapping corner on the outside. This was made by your last fold.

Finished stitching.

Turn the bag inside out and stitch the first triangle edge to the long side of the rectangle. You will want to turn it under twice since this will be an edge once you get passed the seam.


Here's that seam stitched and pressed.

The last thing to stitch is the overlap. The corner is already stitched but you'll need to carefully stitch down the overlap and take care not to go into the back of the bag.

I pin it in place and stitch.

Stitch both on the front side and the inside.

Here's the bag done. First the flap side stitched in place.

And the reverse side.

Completed bag with ties knotted.

Once you get the hang of this it takes less than an hour to make. I have 7 made so far.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Merry Christmas from My Home to Yours!

The perfect Christmas tree - 9 feet tall! This year for the first time we have white lights.

The mantle has an angel theme. Can you spot all the angels? I think it looks better in my great room than in this photo. I wanted to get two candles that come on at the same time each day but they were sold out at Home Depot and no one else seemed to carry that type.

Just a few of my collection of nativity scenes. One shelf didn't make it into the photo.

The front hall has another nativity and smaller tree.




Decorations wouldn't be complete without Santa and Father Christmas. These grace the buffet counter.

Do you have photos of your Christmas decor? Please comment and link to it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Cookies


I realized as I set myself up to decorate these almond cookies that I hadn't done this before in this house. Time was at a premium the five previous Christmases I spent here. This is the sixth Christmas in this house and now being retired I have the time.






Now to pack them into tins to be given away. I sure don't need to eat all of these!

Author Discovered

I've discovered a new author (for me) of historical fiction: Geraldine Brooks. I read "People of the Book" first which was an intriguing account of how an ancient Jewish illuminated manuscript came into existence and was saved from destruction through out history. Now I'm reading "March" an account of Louisa May Alcott's father's experience during the Civil War with flash backs to other times in his life. Fascinating!
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