Thursday, December 22, 2016
Nora and Joe and I lit the first Advent candle the day after Oliver was born. We have been marking the days by hanging the tiny figures on our vintage Advent calendar. We have baked Candy Cane Cookies, joyed in the twinkle lights of the Christmas trees, and tried out a few carols. Solstice has come and gone, darkness leaning now toward the light - Advent reflections are in everything. Even in our part of the South Texas Gulf Coast we have had a share of cold weather. Winter is here, although the picture is one from years past. Our Peace sign in the front courtyard is out for Christmastime, but the blessing is for always.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Sunday, December 11, 2016
Friday, November 4, 2016
So there is the start of our Christmas, before September's song or Halloween. Note the pumpkins nearby! We will do the rest of our decorating soon, since baby Oliver is due to make his appearance around Thanksgiving! "For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”
― Charles Dickens,
Friday, December 18, 2015
I am often asked where I learned to love cooking. A great deal of that became a part of me because Mother and Daddy owned a cafe most of the time I was growing up. Mother worked there and cooked more at home, but Daddy cooked for the cafe, creating the best hamburgers and lunch plates. He got up early and went in to make scratch pies and hot rolls. So as I watched Nora and her Mom, Kristen, make a gingerbread house, I thought how much Daddy and Mother would have loved to see this project! At 21 months, Nora was intrigued by putting the little candy dots on the house. Perhaps it is a good thing she does not eat candy yet.They did a fantastic job. There was not much cooking in this kitchen project, but she will be standing on a stool helping me make cookies soon! You made your great granddaddy proud, Nora! It was Kristen's first gingerbread house, too! But she bakes beautiful cakes, so she knew how to handle that frosting.
Friday, January 9, 2015
As we packed away our home's Christmas dress, took ornaments off the trees, and reflected on all the comings and goings of our busy family during this season, I thought about the gifts we gave our children and grandchildren. We all know our best gifts are not topped with bows and found under the Christmas tree, but I want the gifts that are there to have meaning. Almost always there are gifts of music and books and games. Every year, I like to wrap up one thing for my "boys" - all of them, including their Dad, that will be fun and bring back memories of childhood Christmases. I enjoy giving them things that encourage their own home building and hospitality. But this year, there was a gift for each of our married sons and their wives (plus ones I mailed for my nieces) that took a little explanation. They all know my fondness for estate sales and might have thought on first look that I got carried away when I found a box of old silverplate. But these gifts were nothing I shopped for, and cost me nothing other than a few minutes' time to assemble them.
They each opened a tissue-wrapped, tarnished, mismatched knife, fork, and spoon. Any questions about the odd set I hope were answered with the printed message I included explaining the origin of the old flatware.
This worn, tarnished, mismatched knife, fork, and spoon belonged to Mary Clyde Curley Terrell, your great grandmother. I have had these for many years, and thought for a time to make something from them - a piece of jewelry, a windchime, or kitchenart perhaps. Somehow, it never seemed right to alter them. Do with them as you wish, but I hope you will remember their story, her story. Grandma Terrell likely never had a matched set of anything, that is part of your knife, fork, and spoon story. She lived in the years that I remember her best in an old frame farmhouse on a hill not far from the cemetery in Bullard, Texas where she is buried. In the kitchen where she worked I remember a wood stove, a bucket and dipper which were for water drawn from the well by the back door, and a window at one end where food scraps were thrown out for her chickens.
She worked hard with her hands and loved fiercely with her heart. She had few material possessions, never drove a car, never had indoor plumbing util she was nearly 80. She cooked food that made my mouth water - peas and other fresh vegetables from her garden, biscuits, cornbread, and teacakes for a little girl who adored her ad watched everything she did never knowing she herself would someday have granddaughters.
Friday, December 26, 2014
Sometimes, family story is as simple as looking at what has been kept and how it is used today. On Christmas Eve 2014, Nora finds joy in this stuffed Santa who wiggles his head while music tinkles "Santa Claus is Coming Town!" This Santa made her Daddy giggle when he was her age, and through the years perched on various bookshelves, stair steps, and kitchen counters in many different homes through our years of moving often. He is one of the beloved Christmas decorations we pull out of a bin when we happily begin dressing our home for Christmas every year.
An even older story comes from the wooden high chair where Nora and Santa are playing. It is also where she joined our family yesterday for her first Christmas dinner at Grandma and Papa Terrell's old oak table. The high chair, circa 1941, used by my sister in the mid 40's, all of our sons, including Nora's Daddy, and our granddaughters as they arrived and shared meals at our house. The worn spindled back, scuffed footrest, and dented tray hold stories of 4 generations (5 if you count my grandparents, who without doubt frequently joined Mother and Daddy for mealtime). That is a great deal of joy!
Friday, December 19, 2014
What traditions are important to you in all the busy preparations for Christmas? How do these change your "list?"
Thursday, December 4, 2014
Recently a group of friends gathered for a meal and story sharing. We each told a story of a Christmas remembered. How valuable it is to hear each others' stories! Most of the stories were fond memories of a childhood Christmas experience. So much of our family preparation for and pleasure in Christmas includes ways we have done it before - stockings, and where they are hung, manger scenes and where they are placed, tree decorations, taken out of the box one by one with memories of each, carols around the piano, lots of family around for help and hugs, and cookies baked from recipes so old they are spattered and yellow.
I recounted the tale of our first married Christmas, when Joe and I were far from family and were beginning our own Christmas traditions, starting from scratch for Christmas decorations. I told part of this story in a previous post. Our First Christmas
In our conversation and shared storytime that recent evening, I also told of disappointment (we would have to go back to Texas the first of the year), of grief due to the death of my beloved grandfather and the fact we could not leave in time to drive back to the funeral, of uncertainty for what the future held, and some of the ways those beginning traditions and stories have played out in our lives. Since that first Oregon Christmas, except for the Christmases we celebrated while living in Indonesia, we have always had some of the decorations for our tree that hung on it the year before. Those years from 1987 to 1991, all of our Christmas decorations including family stockings were mistakenly sent to storage when our overseas shipment was packed in California! That was one of the first boxes I looked for when we got the storage shipment back in 1992!
Even though the beginning Parker family Christmas may have seemed like starting from scratch, it was not entirely. We each brought to our marriage a faith that had been nurtured in our families of origin that was the reason for celebrating Christmas anywhere, at all. The trimmings for the tree, our handmade gifts, the clever folded angels Joe cut from paper for me - all of those were not just traditions carried on from the past, they signified the reason for those traditions: the coming of God to be with us in the form of a human baby, to show us how to live and love. Fifty one years and many many Christmas candles and carols, evergreen trees and manger scenes, stockings and presents, boy grins and grandgirl giggles later, the traditions are precious, and the Christmas Story remains the same.
Friday, January 11, 2013
On the left is a small torn piece of paper with a tiny handmade Christmas tree. It arrived one year as a card from dear friends. I love it perched on a branch as it reminds me of friendship and how much it means to make something for a friend.
On the right, the small cross-stitched banner is my own handwork. I love the little carolers. I love more their song. So, as I go back and forth to the garage with my boxes packed with Christmas heirlooms, they leave behind their message. Joy to the World, the Lord has come!
Friday, December 21, 2012
Carol of the Birds
I am strangely attracted to a Christmas carol rarely sung -
treasure of music, words with sweet mystery,
quiet, wondering melody
Questioning feathered twitters.
“Whence comes this rush of wings afar,
Following straight the Noel star?
Birds from the woods in wondrous flight,
Bethlehem seek this Holy Night.
Tell us, ye birds, why come ye here,
Into this stable, poor and drear?
Hastening we seek the newborn King
And all our sweetest music bring.”
Stirring some ancient warmth within me
I play the notes and sing each verse,
decorate a small Christmas tree
with vines, berries, woodland birds.
Greenfinch, Philomel sing
Re, mi, fa, sol in accents sweet
from woodland edges, farmland hedges
Noel, Christ on earth with man to dwell
Someone singing this tune for 400 years,
before that, once an older one now lost?
Could it be I am pulled by what I cannot remember?
Song and my great grandmother both born in southern France
She died when I was a baby.
Did she sing it, rocking me
in the old wooden rocker in which I rock my own grandchild?
Friday, December 14, 2012
My granddaughters are a delight all year 'round, but Christmas brings more fun than ever. We enjoy making this tea tray with a tiny tree, teacups and teapots. We add a mix of pretty tea bags and Joe's mother's small spoon collection plus the book A Cup of Christmas Tea.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
Cutting paper snowflakes can make young children into magicians and grandmas into little girls again. There is mystery involved in the folding, choosing just the right place to cut, and carefully trimming little triangles and curves and slashes. But there is wonder in the unfolding! Much like the real ones, no two snowflakes turn out exactly the same. I have never lost that sense of expectation and trying to imagine how this one is going to turn out.
Forty-nine years ago Joe and I celebrated our first Christmas as a married couple. That December found us far from our Texas family and friends, in Corvallis, Oregon. The original plan for Joe to enter graduate school there had been delayed. In the meantime, he did any odd job available, including painting houses. I worked as a nurse in a busy pediatric practice within walking distance of our apartment. One of our doctors had a farm outside of town where we were invited to come cut a Christmas tree. We tramped around the hillside brushing away blackberry vines to find a perfect small Grant pine. Its symmetrical, graceful branches had wide spaces that were perfect for decorating. But we were beginning our home and our traditions. We had no old familiar ornaments to unbox and remember. We also had no extra money in the budget for buying same. So we hung a few candy canes, made some string balls from twine and starch and balloons, and carefully cut lacy snowflakes. That year I knitted my new husband a green sweater with sleeves twice as long as his arms. He painted a tiny recipe box for me and pasted "Good Things You Can Fix" on top.
The photograph is the few snowflakes that remain after all these years. I framed them last year for a gift for Joe. This year we will remember our 1964 snowflakes when we make paper snowflakes with our grandchildren. If you have never cut a snowflake, try this project. You will agree with Charles Dickens - "It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself."
For some wonderfully fancy paper snowflakes, visit www.bontempsbeignet.blogspot.ca/2011/11/faux-sneaux-flakes.html