Wednesday, December 30, 2009

the old bank on the square

The old bank on the village square has seen better days.

Days when the customers dressed up to do business; hat, bow-tie, and spats. Days when ladies skirts swished through the heavy doors and high-button shoes tip-tapped across the floors.

Those were the times of hand-written receipts, every penny counting for something, and a quaint dose of formality in each transaction.

Little children who accompanied their parents to the bank looked on with awe as the bank manager regally conveyed leather pouches of cold, hard cash in and out of the iron vault.

The iron vault was likely NOT painted lipstick red at the time.

Since those days of yore, the old bank on the square became the village post office. The townsfolk did their financial business a few doors down, on the corner where the present bank stands. But they brought their letters and packages here to be weighed and stamped.

Stamps were cheaper back then, I'll betcha.

In the early 1960's, a more modern post office was built around the corner behind the present Hometown Cafe. The old bank on the village square then became a dwelling.

I use the term dwelling in order to harken to shades of ancient history.
As in a cave-dwelling. Where cavemen munched greasy chicken over their plastic TV dinner trays and then threw the bones over their shoulders.

Let me not be too hasty in my assessment of the humans over the years who have inhabited the old bank on the square. Some of them were probably ordinary folks who took their garbage out.

Instead of close-ups of nasty debris, I bring you a view from the inside front door looking out across the square. The lace curtain gives it a romantic edge to the scene -which makes me want to carry that curtain throughout the entire house and peek at all the rooms through its lacy haze.

The old bank will be undergoing a transformation in the days and weeks to come. From where things stand, it can only get better. And maybe, just MAYBE we will find a sack of money in one of the walls.

The eternal optimist signs off for now.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

good for you

Roasted Winter Vegetables

4 carrots
1 large turnip
1 large acorn squash
1 pound brussel sprouts
1 small sweet onion
8 fresh garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
1 t dried thyme
1/4 t ground paprika
a few shakes of ground cayenne pepper
salt & pepper to taste

peel the vegetables and dice into 1" chunks. Toss into a large casserole dish along with the EVOO, spices, salt & pepper, and garlic. Coat evenly. Roast uncovered at 350 degrees for one hour (or until vegetables are easily pierced), tossing occasionally.

Serve with fresh bread sticks and salad. This dish is so hearty, meat is optional!

Monday, December 28, 2009

all good things

All good things seem to come to an end, and that is why the tree will be taken down tomorrow. I have truly enjoyed its golden warmth and festive cheer.

When every bauble is nested away in its cushioned box and all the dry pine needles are vacuumed up from whence they fell -only then can I begin to face the new year. It's the way I roll.

New paint also helps ring in the new year, don't you think? I bought a gallon of interior paint today for the front stairway and hall. This little project should keep me busy while Hubby and kiddies work on the apartments up the road. Stay tuned for the results!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


The first sound that creeps into my ears in the early morning is the muffled thunder of the falls.

Even under the ice and snow, the waters of the Grasse River spout over the spillway and the dam. The river matches the sky, which today is slate gray.

The color of the water is every shade of fairy-white. Ballerinas long for tulle skirts as dazzlingly white as these churning cascades.

The frothy, lacy, icy hues spin through the dizzying tornado of cataracts and emerge downstream, unwinding lazily as if barely subdued.

I doubt that I ever will tire of this beautiful water.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

why He came

11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

-John 1:11-13

I have been meditating on this wondrous snatch of scripture, which is not your stock Christmas verse. When I awake early in order to cream butter & sugar for cookies... it is there, having rumbled around for days and days. It rises placidly to the surface, past the bobbling Christmas week goals I have made for myself, and makes itself known to me like a cheerful red buoy in a steel gray ocean.

He came to that which was his own. His very own people around whom He shaped history to show His love!

He came wrapped in cast-off clothing which smelled of barn animals. There was no place to lay this heavenly king, so they made his bed in a manger where sheep and donkeys nudged him, seeking their evening meal. Piles of fresh manure fragranced his first earthly sleep.

...but his own did not receive him -the people he came to save.

Those scoundrel innkeepers! Not making room for Baby Jesus and his road-weary parents! What species of blackened, unhospitable heart had they? Beyond being disingenuous, they pushed him away, offhandedly suggesting to Mary that she give birth in a barn.

I stop to think about the universality of humanity. I grudgingly agree with the bare fact that my heart has looked like their hearts. Two thousand years has refused to erase the uncanny resemblance. I resume my festivities with a humbler, more grateful soul.

Swimming in holiday chores of my own making -baking, cleaning, decorating, rehearsing, socializing, I purposefully tune in deeper to what He is declaring:

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

I find myself in the Christmas story in a different guise each season. So we all can find ourselves there, if we are honest enough to admit it. Innkeeper, shepherd, wise man, all.

Merry Christmas, seekers & receivers!

Monday, December 21, 2009

links for today

crafting: these, using card stock. They look so beautiful twirling in the window!

listening to: this. My latest musical revelation is ukelele. Who knew?

planning: a few of these. On the heels of last night's cookie-decorating extravaganza, I may go for a low-sugar variety. If there is such a thing!

ordering: the main ingredient for this. Christmas dinner is on the radar screen. Everyone asks for lamb. The carnivores shall get what they are craving!

reading: this. The story never gets old.

I hope your Christmas week is full of a little of everything that makes it special.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

who needs the lottery?

My Christmas Blessing List:

-my two teens. They absolutely love spending time together. Not a day goes by that they are not texting, emailing, face-booking, or calling each other. They get together for lunch. They attend social events together. They hang out and do nothing together. I like that.

-my Hubby. He is doing the dishes right this very minute. I insisted he NOT, as he put in a very full day. But he is in the kitchen, scrubbing away. He is even humming as he goes about it!

-our insert wood-stove. #1 Daughter and I have taken up residence in front of it in the morning. Today we read a few chapters from the book of Daniel and also Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs. I highly recommend reading both books! I also highly recommend warming your feet in front of a wood stove while you do so.

-my mom-in-law. The other day, she came upstairs to give me a generous serving of red globe grapes, seeded and cut in half. She called it a belated birthday present. It was the absolute PERFECT snack. If you have never tried these grapes, you simply must! It takes only a few minutes to cut them in half and scrape the seeds out. Do a whole bowl full and then enjoy the fruit of your labor (literally). My mom-in-law, who I affectionately call Mumsie, is always looking for ways to be a blessing.

-My pastor and his wife. They happen to be the best two friends a person could wish for. They also happen to have wonderful children, too. I like to be around them; any place, any time. It is also very handy that they live up the street only a short walk away.

Life is good.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

oooooohhhh! what are THESE?

I'll bet you don't know what these are. But if you are a lady with excellent taste, your heart is beating quicker nonetheless.

Before I tell all, please take one minute to check out this website. Then come back to me.

I have a box of 25 beautiful, handcrafted aprons. Each one comes in a sturdy little bag which could have other uses. No need to wrap this gift! The packaging is a gift in itself.

Inside each bag is a matching apron. Each one is unique.

They are MY kind of apron: pockets EVERYWHERE!

Every housewife needs proper pockets in her apron.

Notice the creative stitching, the bars of contrasting fabric, and the cool prints. You can't find this material in JoAnne Fabrics. I have tried.

These aprons are not only perfect gifts for the ladies in our lives ( moms, daughters, grandmoms, brides-to-be, college grads, etc.) but they also support women who have been rescued from horrific circumstances. The hands that crafted these lovely aprons have seen hardship that you and I cannot imagine.

What a meaningful way to bless others: giving to those that are in need while blessing a friend with a useful, handmade gift.

Each apron, with its matching bag, is $25. There is no overhead. I received them directly from In His Steps Ministries. Please contact me to choose styles! And hurry.....they may sell out quickly!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

alright already

I bow to my reader's wishes in posting this pic of my newest auction deal. Stop begging, now. It is very unbecoming.

At approximately 11 feet long and 4 feet wide, this shaggy piece of furniture will look really spiffy in our dining room -that is, after it is scrubbed, repaired, and buffed to a satin-like shine with the TBA finish.

Initially, I am considering putting a coat of satin poly on the legs and the "apron".....and painting the top a shade of slate black to match our 8 ladder-back chairs. Since this table will comfortably seat 18, we shall have to acquire a few more chairs eventually!

Not too many homes have a dining area that can accommodate such a large table, which made it easy-peasy to scoop this baby up at a local auction for a very modest amount. A little less easy was getting it home! I am blessed that Hubby was able to load it on to his trailer with only inches to spare. He dryly mentioned that he was wondering what he was going to do with the large space in the barn that he recently cleared out.

As you can imagine, my list of Winter Projects is growing. Anyone who has a little extra elbow grease can come join me when the projects begin!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

just an ordinary day

Today I had my clock cleaned.

Our grandfather clock has not run properly since we bought it at an auction last summer. Can you believe there actually is a clock repairman in the area?

Isn't that a nice thing to know?

He is a very nice man who promised to clean the clockworks and have the parts returned and up and running by next week. Hubby has declared that this is my birthday present from him.

The gift that keeps on giving: every hour and half-hour for months to come, I will enjoy those copper chimes.

Is it cliche to use the term "Winter Wonderland"?

-because that completely describes the view that greeted us this morning from our front porch.

It was a perfectly normal day, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that would make a headline. But here are a few shining moments that I wish to think upon as Jack Frost decorates my window pane tonight:

-the light that shone in Friend #7's eyes when she was presented with one of her birthday gifts. It was an antique stoneware mixing bowl, replete with her favorite design. It had a chip on its gilt edge and it didn't make Blanchard's Auction House rich with it humble sale, but she told me it is her "new favorite thing".

-my impetuous purchase of an 11 foot harvest table. I didn't even see it until the bidding started. My survival instincts ( the same ones that cause me to load up on carbs in the winter) kicked in and I raised my card in the air without thinking. Bam. Sold for to the lady with the crazed look in her eyes for $120. I promise to post pictures AFTER I clean it up. You will laugh at me if I post pictures now. I know you will.

-a drive through dark, wintery roads to a cozy, warm, inviting home which houses a lovely lady and her family. This lovely lady has been confined to the couch with some seriously painful back problems. But we brought beef stew and two batches of soup and buttermilk biscuits and assorted Christmas cookies. Oh, and two loaves of fresh bread. And who can feel bad after that kind of love?
We also had an uplifting time of healing prayer and a good medicinal dose of God's Word -which was read aloud in front of the glowing coals of a wood-stove. I tell you, there was goodness in that room!

-coming home to a house that smells of balsam fir.

Some people count sheep. I count blessings.
Good night, friends!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

simple does the trick

Although I seem to chat incessantly when Friend #7 comes over to visit, I really haven't had much to say. Certainly not much that is blog-worthy.

As for having much to do, well that's a different story. The baking, decorating, shopping.
cutting of the perfect tree, holiday gatherings, and the special music ---let's not forget the special meals! All this can set my poor head spinning. It can make me distracted.

I am only human and God knows I forget so quickly. (As #1 Son interjects in conversation, "SQUIRREL!". If you are a fan of animated flicks, you know what this means.)

This Christmas season is our first in our old stone home. Those deep window sills! A fireplace with a real mantel! A river view from just about every window! A front porch that begs to be decorated! All this and so much more. Last Christmas, just days after we signed the final papers on our stone house, I was chomping at the bit to enjoy the holidays here.

But now that we are here, inspiration has come slowly to me. Each day finds me tucking a few sprigs of fresh pine somewhere, in a vase, over a mirror, upon the mantel. I sorted through a large selection of decor and left most of it in the green plastic bin where it has been stored. It all seemed too noisy to me this year.

Fresh greens. A few simple touches of red and white berries. Dozens of white candles. A quilted table runner. A fresh swag on the porch. Classical Christmas music on Pandora.

I read the biblical account of Jesus' birth over and over this season, relishing every familiar word. I use my imagination to fill out the details: the color of the Judean hills, the humdrum of the day before an angel appeared and changed lives forever, a scared young mother with many questions but unshaking faith, a long, unsteady ride upon a donkey, and the the birth of an ordinary baby with an extraordinary nature.

If we wish to simplify the season, do away with the glitter & glitz, bring our souls back to the bare bones of His amazing gift, it can be done. If it can be done without a single visit to the mall, I
wish to do it.

Please forgive the rambly nature of this entry. Somewhere in here, I hope I finally had something to say.