Bring Me That Horizon

Welcome to jennyweber dot com

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Home of Jenny the Pirate

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This will go better if you

check your expectations at the door.

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We're not big on logic

but there's no shortage of irony.

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 Nice is different than good.

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Oh and ...

I flunked charm school.

So what.

Can't write anything.

= Jennifer =

Causing considerable consternation
to many fine folk since 1957

Pepper and me ... Seattle 1962

  

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Belay That!

This blog does not contain and its author will not condone profanity, crude language, or verbal abuse. Commenters, you are welcome to speak your mind but do not cuss or I will delete either the word or your entire comment, depending on my mood. Continued use of bad words or inappropriate sentiments will result in the offending individual being banned, after which they'll be obliged to walk the plank. Thankee for your understanding and compliance.

= Jenny the Pirate =

Hoist The Colors

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I am a Blue Star Mother

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Insist on yourself; never imitate.

Your own gift you can present

every moment

with the cumulative force

of a whole life’s cultivation;

but of the adopted talent of another

you have only an extemporaneous

half possession.

That which each can do best,

none but his Maker can teach him.

= Ralph Waldo Emerson =

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Represent:

The Black Velvet Coat

In The Market, As It Were

 

 

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Contributor to

American Cemetery

published by Kates-Boylston

A Pistol With One Shot

Ecstatically shooting everything in sight using my beloved Nikon D3100 with AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G VR kit lens and AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G prime lens.

Also capturing outrageous beauty left and right with my Nikon D7000 blissfully married to my Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D AF prime glass. Don't be jeal.

And then there was the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f:3.5-5.6G ED VR II zoom. We're done here.

Dying Is A Day Worth Living For

I am a taphophile

Word. Photo Jennifer Weber 2010

Great things are happening at

Find A Grave

If you don't believe me, click the pics.

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Dying is a wild night

and a new road.

Emily Dickinson

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REMEMBRANCE

When I am gone

Please remember me

 As a heartfelt laugh,

 As a tenderness.

 Hold fast to the image of me

When my soul was on fire,

The light of love shining

Through my eyes.

Remember me when I was singing

And seemed to know my way.

Remember always

When we were together

And time stood still.

Remember most not what I did,

Or who I was;

Oh please remember me

For what I always desired to be:

A smile on the face of God.

David Robert Brooks
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 Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.

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Keep To The Code

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You Want To Find This
The Promise Of Redemption

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;

But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

So then death worketh in us, but life in you.

We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I BELIEVED, AND THEREFORE HAVE I SPOKEN; we also believe, and therefore speak;

Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.

For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

II Corinthians 4

Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it, have never known it again.

~ Ronald Reagan

Photo Jennifer Weber 2010

Not Without My Effects

My Compass Works Fine

The Courage Of Our Hearts

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Daft Like Jack

 "I can name fingers and point names ..."

And We'll Sing It All The Time
  • Elements Series: Fire
    Elements Series: Fire
    by Peter Kater
  • Danny Wright Healer of Hearts
    Danny Wright Healer of Hearts
    by Danny Wright
  • Grace
    Grace
    Old World Records
  • The Hymns Collection (2 Disc Set)
    The Hymns Collection (2 Disc Set)
    Stone Angel Music, Inc.
  • Always Near - A Romantic Collection
    Always Near - A Romantic Collection
    Real Music
  • Copia
    Copia
    Temporary Residence Ltd.
  • The Poet: Romances for Cello
    The Poet: Romances for Cello
    Spring Hill Music
  • Nightfall
    Nightfall
    Narada Productions, Inc.
  • Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
    Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff
    RCA
  • The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion
    The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion
    by William Voegeli
  • The Art of Memoir
    The Art of Memoir
    by Mary Karr
  • The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems
    The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems
    by Emily Dickinson
  • Among The Dead: My Years in The Port Mortuary
    Among The Dead: My Years in The Port Mortuary
    by John W. Harper
  • On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
    On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
    by William Zinsser
  • Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them
    Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them
    by Steven Milloy
  • The Amateur
    The Amateur
    by Edward Klein
  • Hating Jesus: The American Left's War on Christianity
    Hating Jesus: The American Left's War on Christianity
    by Matt Barber, Paul Hair
  • In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms
    In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms
    by Dr. Laura Schlessinger
  • Where Are They Buried (Revised and Updated): How Did They Die? Fitting Ends and Final Resting Places of the Famous, Infamous, and Noteworthy
    Where Are They Buried (Revised and Updated): How Did They Die? Fitting Ends and Final Resting Places of the Famous, Infamous, and Noteworthy
    by Tod Benoit
  • Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays
    Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays
    by Candace Savage
  • Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans
    Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans
    by John Marzluff Ph.D., Tony Angell
  • Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!
    Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!
    by Andrew Breitbart
  • 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative
    11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative
    by Paul Kengor
  • Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds
    Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds
    by Bernd Heinrich
  • Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits
    Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits
    by Matthew Rolston
  • Mortuary Confidential: Undertakers Spill the Dirt
    Mortuary Confidential: Undertakers Spill the Dirt
    by Todd Harra, Ken McKenzie
  • America's Steadfast Dream
    America's Steadfast Dream
    by E. Merrill Root
  • Good Dog, Carl : A Classic Board Book
    Good Dog, Carl : A Classic Board Book
    by Alexandra Day
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
    Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
    by Lynne Truss
  • The American Way of Death Revisited
    The American Way of Death Revisited
    by Jessica Mitford
  • In Six Days : Why Fifty Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation
    In Six Days : Why Fifty Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation
    Master Books
  • Architects of Ruin: How big government liberals wrecked the global economy---and how they will do it again if no one stops them
    Architects of Ruin: How big government liberals wrecked the global economy---and how they will do it again if no one stops them
    by Peter Schweizer
  • Grave Influence: 21 Radicals and Their Worldviews That Rule America From the Grave
    Grave Influence: 21 Radicals and Their Worldviews That Rule America From the Grave
    by Brannon Howse
  • Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow: The Tragic Courtship and Marriage of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore
    Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow: The Tragic Courtship and Marriage of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore
    by Eleanor Alexander
Easy On The Goods
  • Waiting for
    Waiting for "Superman"
    starring Geoffrey Canada, Michelle Rhee
  • The Catered Affair (Remastered)
    The Catered Affair (Remastered)
    starring Bette Davis, Ernest Borgnine, Debbie Reynolds, Barry Fitzgerald, Rod Taylor
  • Bernie
    Bernie
    starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey
  • Remember the Night
    Remember the Night
    starring Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Beulah Bondi, Elizabeth Patterson, Sterling Holloway
  • The Ox-Bow Incident
    The Ox-Bow Incident
    starring Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews, Mary Beth Hughes, Anthony Quinn, William Eythe
  • The Bad Seed
    The Bad Seed
    starring Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, Henry Jones, Eileen Heckart, Evelyn Varden
  • Shadow of a Doubt
    Shadow of a Doubt
    starring Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, Macdonald Carey, Patricia Collinge, Henry Travers
  • The More The Merrier
    The More The Merrier
    starring Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn, Bruce Bennett, Ann Savage
  • Act of Valor
    Act of Valor
    starring Alex Veadov, Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano
  • Deep Water
    Deep Water
    starring Tilda Swinton, Donald Crowhurst, Jean Badin, Clare Crowhurst, Simon Crowhurst
  • Sunset Boulevard
    Sunset Boulevard
    starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich Von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark
  • Penny Serenade
    Penny Serenade
    starring Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Edgar Buchanan, Beulah Bondi
  • Double Indemnity
    Double Indemnity
    starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Porter Hall, Jean Heather
  • Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged
    Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged
    starring Gary Anthony Williams
  • Fat Sick & Nearly Dead
    Fat Sick & Nearly Dead
    Passion River
  • It Happened One Night (Remastered Black & White)
    It Happened One Night (Remastered Black & White)
    starring Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert
  • Stella Dallas
    Stella Dallas
    starring Barbara Stanwyck, John Boles, Anne Shirley, Barbara O'Neil, Alan Hale
  • The Iron Lady
    The Iron Lady
    starring Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Harry Lloyd, Anthony Head, Alexandra Roach
  • Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection (4 Disc Set)
    Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection (4 Disc Set)
    starring Peter Sallis, Anne Reid, Sally Lindsay, Melissa Collier, Sarah Laborde
  • The Red Balloon (Released by Janus Films, in association with the Criterion Collection)
    The Red Balloon (Released by Janus Films, in association with the Criterion Collection)
    starring Red Balloon
  • Stalag 17 (Special Collector's Edition)
    Stalag 17 (Special Collector's Edition)
    starring William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck
  • The Major and the Minor (Universal Cinema Classics)
    The Major and the Minor (Universal Cinema Classics)
    starring Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland
  • My Dog Skip
    My Dog Skip
    starring Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane, Luke Wilson, Kevin Bacon
  • Sabrina
    Sabrina
    starring Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Walter Hampden, John Williams
  • The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer
    The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer
    starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple, Rudy Vallee, Ray Collins
  • Pirates of the Caribbean - The Curse of the Black Pearl (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
    Pirates of the Caribbean - The Curse of the Black Pearl (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
    starring Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport
  • Now, Voyager (Keepcase)
    Now, Voyager (Keepcase)
    starring Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Gladys Cooper, John Loder
  • The Trip To Bountiful
    The Trip To Bountiful
  • Hold Back the Dawn [DVD] Charles Boyer; Olivia de Havilland; Paulette Goddard
    Hold Back the Dawn [DVD] Charles Boyer; Olivia de Havilland; Paulette Goddard
That Dog Is Never Going To Move

~ RIP JAVIER ~

1999-2016

Columbia's Finest Chihuahua

Simple. Easy To Remember.

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One Word, Luv: Curiosity
Monday
Dec312007

I-O-U a B-L-O-G

I said I'd tell you about Melanie, and I will ... but you know, this has been a crazy week. If a semblance of a normal routine does not emerge for me sometime soon, I'm going to lose my mind for real. This holiday rigmarole has gotten totally out of hand; I want it to be O-V-E-R.

Thursday
Dec272007

A Burning Memory

Last evening after putting the finishing touches on my blog, which I posted at five-ish, know what I did? I went to bed. I went to sleep. I do this two or three times a year: I get so tired, and so tired of being tired, that I simply shut down. Does this happen to anyone else? I climb under the covers long before my normal bedtime and within moments I've fallen into a deep sleep, usually waking after seven or eight hours to get a drink of water and walk around the house a little bit, realizing that my family lived an entire evening without me and took themselves off to bed and have been asleep for ages without my even being aware of it. Then I go back to bed and sleep for several more hours, and get up the next morning at my normal time. It's a weird thing to do, I know, but I can't help it. I've never had much stamina and at this time of year I seem to have even less. It doesn't help that for weeks there's been no discernible routine and there's too much sugar on hand to eat, and as I've said on more than one recent occasion, certain memories have a tendency to haunt at Christmas.

I figure you'll all be glad when I cease to belabor this subject, this dead horse that I seem intent on beating long after the dirges have been sung over his lifeless body. I'm sorry! Blame it on all the sugar! But before the new year officially begins and I can put all these sad thoughts away -- just as the ornaments and lights and greenery that now festoon my house will soon be relegated to eleven months of dusty forgotten repose in the dark attic -- I feel the need to process a straggling Christmas memory or two. The first one involves something that happened on December 23rd, 2005.

A couple of months before the date in question, we had moved out of our house and into a larger house we'd purchased about ten miles away. We were ecstatic with the new place, which provided much more room for when the family gathered, as it was preparing to gather on December 23rd ... for obvious reasons. It was Christmas! On that particular day our eldest daughter, Stephanie, and her family were en route to South Carolina from Pennsylvania, where they lived at the time. Our youngest daughter, Erica, was running errands and finishing up a job with her dad. Andrew was at work. Middle daughter Audrey was with me ... we had been out buying last-minute gifts and food to prepare our festive holiday menus for the week.

The weather was mild and, much like this year, our entire state was in the throes of a drought. There had not been any measurable rain for months, and everywhere the grass was dry and brown. Our house had been put up for sale "By Owner" and we had found a solid buyer. His loan had been secured and closing was set to take place on December 30th, one week hence. The house sat empty, poised at the end of a cul-de-sac in a semi-rural area, looking lonely with dark windows and no cars in the driveway, no comings and goings, no Christmas decorations. We were so glad that in seven days, the sale would be final and we'd be out from under that uneasy feeling of having to meet mortgage payments on two houses! Then the phone call came.

Audrey and I had just arrived home (from Wal-Mart, no doubt) and were hauling groceries into the house. In fact, I was on the steps in the garage, about to open the door to the kitchen, when my cell phone rang. It was Becky, our neighbor who lived next door to the vacant house that was about to be sold. I'll never forget what she said immediately after identifying herself to me: "Jennifer, your house is on fire and it looks pretty bad. I've called the fire department and they're on their way." I thanked her and, fighting an overwhelming urge to black out, called my husband. I had to say it a few times before he understood that I meant our old house, not our new one, was on fire. He and Erica rushed over to the house. Since bad news has a dreadful tendency to travel very fast, Andrew had heard and was there shortly as well. The firemen were deftly handling the blaze, which had already done substantial damage.

Within twenty minutes of their arrival on the scene, the fire investigators had canvassed the neighborhood and knew how the blaze had started. They approached my husband and handed him a sheet of paper with several names written on it. They asked if he recognized any of the names, which he didn't. As it turned out, three boys -- ages 10, 9, and 6 -- had been playing on our street (they lived a few streets over) and apparently got bored. One of them remembered he had some fireworks, so the boys went to his house and dug them out. The grandfather of one of the boys supplied them with matches. For a reason I'll never understand (it was the middle of the day), the boys decided to light the fireworks and play with them in the street directly in front of our house. When the dry grass caught fire and the flames steadily worked toward the house, the boys ran away. They told no one what they had done. If our neighbor, Becky, had not been home and seen the flames, the house would likely have burned to the ground.

To make a long story short, only about half of the house was destroyed. Absurdly, it took an entire year for the insurance company's contractors to repair the damage (and we were forced to hector them about it for most of that time). Luckily Allstate made the mortgage payments on the house during that year, and our buyer (bless him) hung in there. He made other living arrangements in the interim, and just before Christmas last year we closed on the sale of the house that he and his family now call home.

Still amazing to me is the fact that not one of the children, or any of their parents for that matter, have ever attempted to contact us in any way to apologize for the havoc wrought in our lives by their actions. I guess they were waiting to see if we'd sue, but we never even considered doing that. After the statute of limitations had run and the guilty parties were not served with suit papers, I would have thought they'd at least want their children to look at us and say "I'm sorry." That would have been nice. I never looked at the paper provided to my husband by the fire investigator, and I have no idea who any of them were. I don't want to know.

I've thought so many times of how awful that time was, but whenever I do, I am thankful that it was no worse. The house was empty; no one was hurt. Of all the houses on our street, I was glad the boys picked ours to play with fire in front of, because if they had chosen any other house, there would have been much greater loss of personal property and perhaps even of life. It was bad, but not as bad as it could have been. Still, it was heartbreaking. And, like an ache or a pain that's barely noticeable during the day but which plagues you in the night reaches, at this time of year I tend to get that same queasy feeling that I got when I first heard the bad news. Thanks be to God, it's in the past. I think I'll forget about it now ... and next year if I feel the smoke in my eyes again, perhaps it won't sting as much.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about Melanie.

Wednesday
Dec262007

After, There's Laughter

Anybody besides me breathing a huge sigh of relief today? Mercy ... Christmas was fun and all that (sort of), but I admit I am very grateful it's over. Or almost over. Know what I did yesterday? I cooked. Yes. That's all. Or almost all ... I got up (not early, I am happy to report) and made Baked Peach French Toast (the instructions for which are tacked onto the end of this post, just so you know), a wonderful recipe I got from my dear friend Susan W. (thanks again darling), and served it to the family with Jimmy Dean sausage patties ... was that ever delicious! Plenty of hot, fresh, strong Folgers Black Silk coffee with Original Coffeemate (liquid variety) braced me for what lay ahead. Thank goodness there were only us and our kids (well, most of them) on hand for Christmas Day, so there was no call to be sociable.

First I had to start the pretzel salad. Sometime maybe I'll give you that recipe. It would help if you beg. It's not a complicated recipe (how could it be, with Jello and Cool Whip among the ingredients?) but there are several steps and you have to be on your toes. Luckily I was on mine ... all ten of 'em. Anyway, I baked the crust for that before putting the turkey into the oven. Our turkey was actually a seven-pound breast (turkey torso as it were) and so required under four hours to cook, and since we'd had a big breakfast and had nowhere to go, we opted to have Christmas dinner at the traditional dinnertime rather than the one o'clock thing we so often do when visiting relatives. I liked that part. More time to spend in the kitchen on your feet, cooking, while everyone else does something else! More time with your special inward Christmas thoughts. That's a good thing, right ... right? Why are you ignoring me?

Anyway, with the crust for pretzel salad cooling, I turned my energies to the creation of a sweet potato casserole. No recipe for that. Well, there probably is one in existence but I was not inspired to locate it. Just call me Julia Child. Okay! I'm lazy! I'll thank you not to snicker! I simply mashed up the sweet potatoes (from a can) and threw in an egg (minus the shell) and some brown sugar and some vanilla and cinnamon and a dash of salt, and a small amount of milk. I mixed all that up real good without measuring anything, and then threw in a big handful of walnuts. They had long been parted from their shells just like the egg, so that was nice and easy ... and then I poured that into a dish and added a nice thick carpet of mini-marshmallows. Popped the top on and set it aside.

Then it was time to ready the white potatoes for mashing later in the day, right up next to mealtime so they'd be the proper temperature. When I was growing up we never looked at a white potato on Christmas, but Northerners (like my husband) need their spuds so I've learned to adapt. Plus my mashed potatoes are rather tasty if I do say so, and they're good with turkey. While peeling them I longed for a pair of the special potato-peeling gloves I'd seen at Hamrick's for $3.98 (the ones with sandpapery palms that you just rub over the taters to rid them of their skins), but alas my gloves were yet hanging in the darkened store so the potatoes got peeled the old-fashioned way. Then the chunks got thrown into a big pan, covered with cold water, and set aside to await the flames that would later prepare them to be blended with all the fats and seasonings that would make them really creamy and delicious. This is science and this is art, y'all.

No smell says "Christmas" like a turkey baking! I had massaged its nubbly clammy skin with EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) and a combination of kosher salt, coarse-ground pepper, and creole seasoning. Yum. Judging by the aroma, things were going well in the oven. I decided to set the table. A red tablecloth went underneath my white lace one. It was cloudy outside with a promise of rain on our humid 60-degree day, and It's A Wonderful Life was playing on my kitchen DVD. These are delightful conditions in which to prepare a Christmas dinner table, I can assure you! No snow, but in South Carolina we've learnt to do without and I must say I do not miss it. I was, however, hoping for rain because I love rain. Some had been predicted and you know how reliable weather forecasters are.

In the center of the round table but facing opposite directions so all five diners could enjoy their gaze, I put two antique-gold cherubim poised high atop dowels planted in square carved platforms, the angelic babies clutching urns the perfect size for holding two dark-red tapers aloft. The tapers were decorated at the base with sparkly red and gold fruit-and-leaf candle rings. Quite festive. Between the cherubim stands I put a tallish cut crystal candle holder (it actually looks remarkably like a vase) with its own sparkly ivy around the bottom, and flanked it with two smaller, chunky crystal tealite holders given to me some years back by my sister. I was anxious to light the candles but I waited! I waited until it was getting dark outside and almost time for dinner. Other candles in the house had been lit earlier by Erica, so the itch had been scratched as it were, and somewhere I found patience. My white dishes and Christmasy napkins made a circle around the cherubim and the crystal candleholders. The candles Erica had lit in various rooms decorated the air almost as much as the turkey in the oven. Almost.

After admiring my table for a while I realized that the pretzel salad crust had sufficiently cooled, so I finished up that dish. Like I said, several steps are involved and were I in a divulgatory mood, I might divulge them, but the details shall remain shrouded in mystery for now. Then, wielding my handy Swing-Away, I decapitated a can of whole-berry cranberry sauce (pre-chilled due to my astonishing foresight) and dumped its contents into a small square glass dish. It's the perfect size for this condiment and has its own matching top. That was easy. I put it in the fridge to stay cool, followed by the pretzel salad.

I loaded up the dishwasher with everything I'd used so far, dispensed two big squeezes of detergent, and set it humming. My daughter looked as though she could use a cup of hot cocoa and I was in the mood for one myself, so I whipped that up and drank it while waiting for things to develop further. Nothing like a shot of sugar to make you want to keep right on cooking! I think this is the part where we opened presents, which didn't take very long but it was fun. Everyone was happy and beginning to get hungry, apparently. And all this was without even a single drop of rum!

The turkey breast was ready to come out of the oven, golden brown and sizzling alluringly, so I brought it out to sit and wait its turn for my attention. Next I shredded a block of extra-sharp cheddar and mixed the shreds in a saucepan with cream of celery soup, mayonnaise, and lemon juice. I thawed a bunch of frozen broccoli florets in the microwave, arranged them in a baking dish, and poured the melted cheese-soup-mayo-lemon sauce over them. I sanded the top down real good with bread crumbs and popped that into the now-empty oven along with the longsuffering sweet potato casserole which for all I know was beginning to feel totally forgotten. I may not have bothered to learn the secrets of preparing Southern-style cornbread dressing, but I'll not do without yams on Christmas.

I turned on the fire under the white potato chunks and began getting the butter and milk and sour cream and seasonings all ready to finish them up. I carved the turkey breast and threw out all the sad gray bones. I heated butter and milk together in the microwave and added the mixture to the softened and mashed potato chunks. I threw in a bunch of salt and pepper and some Tony Chachere's, and a generous dollop of sour cream, then pureed the potatoes with my hand mixer. They turned out perfectly, the cholesterol and carbohydrates and calories all vying for supremacy. I don't know which one went home with the prize, but the potatoes sure were good. Southerners should serve more white potatoes on Christmas.

Erica got the job of arranging the Sister Schubert's frozen yeast rolls (you really should try those) on a cookie sheet, ready to pop in for browning when the broccoli and sweet potato casseroles vacated the oven. Things were clicking along nicely and I got that adrenalin rush you sometimes experience when you know all the dishes are going to come up piping hot at the same time. And voila, suddenly there it was, our Christmas spread: steaming, white, moist turkey breast slices; a mountain of cream potatoes; my mom's broccoli casserole, smooth and tangy; sweet potatoes with a bumpy, gooey layer of browned marshmallow; cold whole-berry cranberry sauce from a can; cool, white-and-red, mysterious pretzel salad; Sister Schubert's yeast rolls; assorted soft drinks or milk if you'd rather; and pumpkin pie (store-bought ... don't look at me like that; I'm no cook!) waiting in the wings to be slathered with Cool Whip and consumed as lustily as if it were heavenly manna.

Is that Sandra Lee on the phone, asking for me? Tell her I'll call her back; I'm blogging now. My true passion has nothing whatsoever to do with food or its preparation. I'm with Willy Wonka on this one ... of his special whole-meal gum he said: "It will be the end of all kitchens and all cooking ..." I'll take a case of that. Throw in a candlelight dinner with Johnny Depp and we're there.

Later we all played Apples to Apples (Erica won) and Scene It, Turner Classic Movies Edition (I won). There was much laughter, and it was raining hard outside, and we lit the fire, and the candles were still perfuming the air. Javier had endured a bath earlier in the day courtesy of Erica, and his fur was so soft under my hand as we played our games. Today we did away with about half the leftovers before Audrey drove back to Tennessee so she can go to work tomorrow. I hope she comes back for New Year's ... I think we'll have frozen pizza.

Happy New Year, y'all!

BAKED PEACH FRENCH TOAST

1 8-oz. package Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
14 slices (one inch thick) French bread (or you can use Texas Toast)
1 can (29 oz.) peach slices, drained
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (or more ... I use more)
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup maple (or maple-flavored) syrup
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread cream cheese liberally on both sides of bread slices (if using Texas Toast I then tear the slices in half). Tuck bread slices tightly into 13X9-inch glass baking dish (the slices don't have to lie flat; in fact it's better if they don't). Prick bread slices several times with a fork. Arrange drained peach slices over bread. Sprinkle nuts over peaches. In a large bowl whisk together eggs, milk, butter, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Pour mixture evenly over the bread. Bake 20-25 minutes or until set in center. Serve with more maple syrup. Tres bien, mon cher, mon ami!

Tuesday
Dec182007

Persisted Living

Guess what I did today? I put my money where my mouth is! Somebody take a picture! I don't do that often enough, y'all ... I enjoy giving advice far more than I like taking it. Allow me to explain. I had been talking to someone close to me about that Christmastime blues thing, and she confided that she's been feeling unusually "down" for a few weeks. We agreed that once Christmas is over it would be a good idea for her to see a doctor and get a full physical exam, just to be sure nothing is clinically wrong. And although I firmly believe that unsolicited advice is a mild form of criticism, the "pearls of wisdom" I bestowed upon her next were not meant as such and I knew she would not take them that way. I shared with her what a wise person told me many years ago: when you are feeling down, one of the best forms of therapy is to reach out to someone less fortunate than you, and try to encourage them. It doesn't have to cost anything, and both people can be helped at the same time. Sort of a hidden bonus, as it were. Two for one.

I counseled her to choose an evening this week and, instead of sitting alone in her apartment, go to the nearest assisted living center or rest home. I said, take your Bible and take a small gift if you want, or maybe a Christmas card. Go to the desk or office and ask for the name of a resident who seldom or never has a visitor. Go to their room and introduce yourself, and then just sit down and start asking questions. Spend some time reading from the Psalms if they would like, or read the Christmas story in Luke chapter two, and perhaps pray with them. I told her how, years ago, my friend Cindy and I would go once a week to such a place near both our homes. Cindy, a gifted pianist, would take along a portable keyboard. I brought a hymnal. We'd go to the room of someone we knew, talk for a few minutes, then ask the person the name of their favorite hymn. They almost always responded "Amazing Grace." So Cindy would play and I would sing. Although I'm in no danger of getting nominated for a Grammy, I can stay on pitch ... but I'm not sure it even mattered. Most people living in nursing homes don't hear all that well, and they're certainly not in a position to be picky when it comes to live entertainment.

But hey ... when we did that, the neatest thing would happen! About the time Cindy and I got to the part that goes I once was lost but now am found ... people would begin drifting into the room. Clad in everything from bathrobes to threadbare sweats, pushing walkers and rolling oxygen tanks, in wheelchairs or shuffling along on foot, they would come. They'd stand or sit, usually smiling beatifically, and just listen. You'd have thought Cindy and I were Branson headliners or something instead of average ladies with nothing much to recommend us except for the fact that we were there, presenting eternal truth in song. And without fail, as we went to four or five rooms and repeated our little performance, Cindy and I were the ones who got what I firmly believed was the greater blessing.

As I was telling my special someone to follow my somewhat outdated lead and hie herself over to a nursing home so as to be a blessing to someone less fortunate than she, I began to think about how long it had been since I had done the very thing I was suggesting that she do. It had been a while, my friend ... and today I decided to do something about that. Like most people struggling to get it all done a week before Christmas, I had a long list of errands that had to be run. Menus had to be planned, gifts bought and wrapped, cards mailed, free-shipping web sites plundered, et cetera. But amid all that social-secretary routine I did a little bit of hasty research (until today I didn't even know where the nursing homes are in my community, I am sorry to say), punched in a number, and spoke to a very nice lady. I told her my name. "Uhm," I began. "I was wondering, is there anyone living there who doesn't have very many visitors as a rule, who might enjoy it if my daughter and I came by to visit and maybe read to them or just talk to them for a bit?" The nice lady sighed. "You could be referring to just about everyone in here," she said. "Oh," I said. "Well, is there someone that you think might especially enjoy having a visit today?"

She thought a moment, then said there was one gentleman who has no family and never gets a visit from anyone. I asked if he'd like a tin of cookies or something. "Oh, he's diabetic," she said. "But he loves Cheez-Its." I said I'd show up later, armed with Cheez-Its, and she said that would be great. "Come any time," she said. Erica and I went to Dollar General, procured Cheez-Its and a tiny fake Christmas tree, and headed for the nursing home, which sits at the end of a dead-end road (an exquisite metaphor, no?) not five miles from my house. We parked and went inside. The typical nursing-home smells (to me it's always eau de cabbage mingled with old age) met our nostrils as soon as we were inside the door, but we could quickly see that as assisted living facilities go, this was probably one of the tonier ones. With a little help, we located our target sitting at a table in the dining room. It was nowhere near a mealtime, but we soon learned that he "loves to eat." He told us so at least half a dozen times. I'll call him John, because as it happens that is his name. John T., born September 14, 1923, died ... not quite yet.

We sat down and told John who we were and why we were there, and he seemed to be okay with that. We placed the Christmas tree and his card on the table in front of him, but his eyes were on the Cheez-Its. I handed him the box, which he got into faster than you can say Geritol. He pulled the inner-freshness plastic bag about a third of the way out of the box, and in no time had it open too. He began consuming the Cheez-Its with great gusto. "I love to eat," he told us. We said we were glad he liked the Cheez-Its, and proceeded to have a nice chat with him. We read from the Psalms and he said he was familiar with the passage. In his youth, John was a trumpet and saxophone player. His career included directing a high school band in a town about fifty miles from Columbia. Later when we went to John's room to put his Christmas tree on his bedside table, we saw a large framed portrait of him taken during the '40s. Dressed nattily in a suit, young and debonair, he is smiling broadly, holding a shiny trumpet with obvious pride. Years gone by.

In the spirit of in for a penny, in for a pound, Erica and I decided to cheer up John's roommate, a fellow octogenarian who was napping on top of his made-up bed and simultaneously talking a blue streak. Unlike John's side of the room, Mr. M's space was decorated for Christmas with a wreath and some festive (unlit) candles, and a few cards. I approached his bedside, repeating his name, watching for signs that he heard me. After about a minute he woke with a start and smiled real big when he saw us. He told me to sit in the chair beside his bed where he claims that his wife, whom he married when she was a girl of sixteen and he a young man of eighteen, sits each night and "fusses" at him. I'm not sure how she manages that, as she passed away last April, but he assured me I was not sitting on her. She only materializes in the wee hours, apparently.

Turns out Mr. M. served our country in Germany during WWII, where he was wounded badly enough to be flown to Johns Hopkins for a critical operation. Only problem was, en route to Baltimore, the plane he was being transported on crashed in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He spent the next year in a hospital there, and has had health problems throughout his long life as a result of his injuries. He told us all about it. Unlike John, Mr. M. is lucky enough to have a devoted daughter who lives nearby. He glowed as he told us about his grandchildren and great grandchildren. We read a Psalm and prayed with him, and as we left he said he thought he might sleep some more. He looked chilly to me but he said he didn't want his blanket, which was folded neatly at the end of the bed.

Erica and I swung back by the dining room on our way out. John was still decimating the box of Cheez-Its, having wolfed down at least half of the orangey squares. "I love to eat," he reminded us. We chuckled as we bade him goodbye, promising to bring him a fresh box of crackers next week. The return to society was quick and painless. As Erica and I merged into heavy traffic, bound for Sam's Club and points beyond, I marveled once again at the resilience of human beings. In the face of pain and loss, loneliness and deprivation, old age, illness, and every doubt and fear that besets us, life persists. Christmastime celebrates the birth of the One who came to give us life eternal, as a free gift. Life as satisfying and delicious as a bottomless box of Cheez-Its. Persistent life. Precious life. And best of all, the promise of a greater life after death.

Saturday
Dec152007

I'll Have A Blue Christmas ... Guaranteed

Christmastime is depressing! There ... I've said it. Or maybe I should have said, everything that is normally depressing, is extra depressing at Christmastime ... and other things that are hardly depressing at all, become so at Christmastime. At least to me. Every year I find myself attempting to understand -- and sometimes even explain to friends and/or family -- why Christmas leaves me feeling emotionally bruised. It certainly isn't because I have anything to complain about. I'm healthy and happy and extremely fortunate; I have a loving family comprised of my darling husband and my precious children and grandchildren, as well as dozens of extended family. I have a good job and lots of friends. I have hope for the future and the ability to forget the part of the past that needs to be forgotten. I think I'm relatively well-adjusted, except for those times (few and far between) when I become totally irrational for no apparent reason. My husband could tell you all about those, but he'll have to start his own blog first. I would advise you not to hold your breath.

It's just that, while I can't stand the thought of homeless people, sick children or children nobody wants, dogs nobody wants, terrible misunderstandings that lead to years of hurt silence, people in the world who are starving, or those who die young (just to name a few things), at any time, for me it becomes unbearable to think about these things occurring -- or continuing -- at Christmastime. Everything that hurts, hurts worse in December. Every disappointment is sharper and every regret is deeper. Doubts and fears that usually niggle just a little, niggle a lot when those multicolored lights are glowing everywhere. As the season waxes toward The Day when families get together and most of the presents are opened and big meals are prepared and consumed, then wanes tragically into that limbo week of non-time between Christmas and New Year's Day (which day I despise for some reason), things that are already sad simply become sad to the millionth power. Until I can hardly bring myself to dwell on them. But I do anyway, just because I think I should. I think we all should.

Just last week someone in our Sunday School class requested prayer for a family. This family had two days previously lost their 24-year-old son when he suddenly passed away during a routine tonsillectomy. December 16th will mark the second anniversary of the day a brother and sister, age 23 and 29 respectively, who grew up in the community where I live, died together in an automobile accident about 25 miles outside of town. Their parents had no other children. My friend Rosemary lost her 17-year-old son in a traffic accident in late November of 2006. I try to imagine what the parents are going through, dealing with these heartbreaking events at Christmastime, but I really can't. Surely any time of year is a terrible time to receive sudden tragic news, but at Christmastime? To me it seems as though it would make an unthinkably difficult situation even worse.

And then there are the relationship problems that people endure every day of the year -- whether of longstanding duration or of more recent vintage, no matter -- that complicate what is supposed to be a joyous time and make it horribly difficult. It's not bad enough that for most of us there is never enough money or time, or both, to accomplish what you would like to during the Christmas season. Throw in a custody battle and I imagine it becomes like a nightmare. Yesterday I was retained to cover three depositions. The proceedings were set to begin at nine o'clock in the morning, with each deposition immediately following the one before it. We should have been finished by noon at the latest. But before the first deponent was even seated, one of the lawyers had bad news. "I have to be in family court at ten," he revealed to the other six interested parties assembled at the conference room table. "I just found out about it late yesterday afternoon. The judge has to rule on where my client's ten-year-old child will spend Christmas Day." As I drove home to spend the three-hour recess there before we reconvened the depos after lunch, I pondered the sadness of a child whose parents cannot cooperate about where their child spends Christmas, without a judge's intervention. I counted my blessings a couple of times just to be sure I hadn't missed any.

Later, during the third depo of the day, a deponent was asked to provide the names of his adult daughters. After stating that they both still went by their maiden name, he had to correct himself. Seems he is estranged from one of his children and has not spoken to her in years. "She may be married," he testified. "I wouldn't know if her name has changed." I thought that was so sad. It must hurt at Christmastime more than, say, on Memorial Day, if there is so much bitterness between yourself and your own child, that you don't even know whether they've gotten married. The same man, when questioned about his marital status, provided the names of three former wives as well as the lucky lady who is his current wife. He said that of the three women he has at one time or another in the past called his wife, he has no earthly idea where two of them live, or if they are even still alive. Call me a dope, but that made me sad! It probably wouldn't affect me at all two months from now, but yesterday it cast a pall. Mistakes and failures are just worse at Christmastime.

My husband once ran over a squirrel when we were on our way to a Christmas party. He didn't mean to! Now, it was a cold day and although I would always mourn the passing of a small animal under the wheels of my automobile, on this particular day -- at Christmastime -- it broke my heart in two. The little thing's legs were still jerking and I made my husband stop the car (we were in a quiet subdivision full of mature trees alive with bouncing, jumping squirrels) so that I could move the poor dying critter out of the road. I couldn't stand the thought of him getting run over again, flattened, decimated. I was wearing gloves because it was so cold. There was hardly any blood. I gingerly picked him up and nestled him in some leaves at the edge of the woods. He looked peaceful but I still cried. It was just awful, being responsible for killing a squirrel at Christmastime. Years later our Beagle, Quincy, was run over and killed in December. Our neighbor, who had tried but failed to avoid "Quince" when he ran out into the road, apologized over and over for killing our kids' pet at Christmastime. He knew it would hurt differently given that it was Christmas, and it did. The kids were devastated and they all got extra presents that year.

My husband doesn't feel the sadness of Christmas like I do (except maybe in his wallet), and if I allude to it in conversation, he is likely to kid me about it, gently. So believe it or not, on this subject I generally keep my mouth shut. I'll thank you not to guffaw. Case in point: a few days ago we were driving somewhere and I saw what I thought was a dead dog in the middle of a busy road. A car in the next lane was partially obscuring my first glimpse of the object, and all I saw was that it was brown. Brown like a dog. But then the car moved and I saw it was only a box. "Oh, thank goodness," I sighed. "I thought it was a dead dog but it's only a box. A dead box." My husband grinned in his maddening way. "A box that ran out into the road," he added. HA HA, very funny. At least I didn't ask him to stop so I could give the box a decent burial. I'm in favor of flattening box roadkill at Christmastime, but please, let's put all the world's sadness inside first.