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Saturday, December 31, 2011


Here's a fitting poem as we approach the new year.  If you love old movies, perhaps you are familiar with it, as it's read at the end of The Mortal Storm.  It's known as The Gate of the Year, but it's actual title is God Knows.

God Knows
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
So heart be still: What need our little life Our human life to know, If God hath comprehension? In all the dizzy strife Of things both high and low, God hideth His intention.
God knows. His will Is best. The stretch of years Which wind ahead, so dim To our imperfect vision, Are clear to God. Our fears Are premature; In Him, All time hath full provision.
Then rest: until God moves to lift the veil From our impatient eyes, When, as the sweeter features Of Life’s stern face we hail, Fair beyond all surmise God’s thought around His creatures Our mind shall fill.
~Minnie Louise  Haskins~

Wishing all my dear friends a happy and hopeful New Year!


PS:  Blogger isn't working at the moment.  Just want to let you know that I've read your current posts and will respond once Blogger allows it. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Hello dear friends!  First, I want to thank all that sent me cards, e-mails, and warm wishes via the comments.  It really did my heart  good.  Bloggers are some of the kindest and sweetest people on Earth.  Hope you are enjoying your holidays.

 Which me leads me to the subject of how we spent the last few days after Christmas, laying new vinyl flooring in the dining room and adjacent kitchen.  Isn't that what normal people do during their holidays?  They do if their names happen to be Ran and Jane!  After all, relaxing is so passe (yawn).  But of course, why stop at just laying flooring?  While we have the opportunity to splatter paint, might as well paint the walls, using a colourwash technique that is very messy.  We like the slightly decrepit look of imperfect walls  (and good thing too, since there's not a smooth  surface in the entire house) and beside it ekes out the paint we have left over from other projects.  When we were finished, we discovered that the paint dried to a more bluer hue than we had anticipated (we were looking for more of a pale teal), so the curtains didn't match.  So we had to exchange them with some curtains in another part of the house.  Hanging curtains is on of my least favorite jobs. With the new colour and curtains the room was starting to look more tea-roomish  than colonial, so the electric sconce had to be switched out to a white one that I've carried with me from all of my past houses.

The second biggest job, was moving the china cupboard from the kitchen to the dining room.  Yes, I really do use all that china!  Just not all at the same time.  Lots of good memories tied up in that frippery.

Today will be picture hanging day. The walls look so empty.  Then maybe, just maybe, we'll be able to put our feet up and read some of the books Santa brought us.  But it's doubtful, as I write this Ran is out chopping wood.  We never sit for long!

Friday, December 23, 2011


I Will Keep Christmas

I will keep Christmas in the cold hedgerow,
With red shining holly and winter snow.
I will keep Christmas far from any town
On the frosted side of the windswept down.

Stars will be candles of sweet silver fire,
Swinging at midnight over tree and spire.
Waves will be booming bells and break the air,
With glory and greeting and winged prayer.

I will keep Christmas alone and away,
Praising the Lord of all on Christmas Day.
~P. A. Ropes ~

Merry Christmas to all my dear friends!


Thursday, December 22, 2011


My mother sent me my birthday card with a ten dollar bill inside. :)   She instructed me to spend it on myself. So per instructions, I bought two  pairs of sherbet colored socks from the dollar store and a pair of pretty hair bobs (hair's been out of control lately).  A beautiful vintage Pendleton wool skirt , ballerina pink sweater, and  a happy vintage floral scarf from the thrift store.  And a bean burrito fresco style from Taco Bell.  For a grand total of  $9.00.  The remaining cash , I dropped in the Salvation Army pot, although I must confess, I thought hard about spending it on a donut with  green, white, and red sprinkles.  Oh well, I got more enjoyment out of hearing the ringer say  "Merry Christmas". I think I did that ten dollar bill justice!  Who says it isn't fun to be thrifty?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Hello!  Happy first day of winter!  Now the days will begin to grow longer.  Hurray!  Seems like we've been mole-people going around in the dark lately.  Maybe it's just me getting older, but this year, it really seemed like the darkness fell unusually early.  Anyway, to commemorate  the first day of winter, I thought I'd post some thrifty tips for staying warm through the cold season.  I wrote a similar post on my earlier blog and it became one of my most popular posts.  An advertiser even linked to it.  Life is strange! My apologies to those that have read this already!

I used to have a neighbor that always complained about the high cost of heating her house in the winter, but she was always dressed in shorts and light cotton blouses when she was  at home.  So the first tip is to dress for the weather.  Duh!  But you'd be surprised at how many people I see out dressed in shorts even in the winter.  Don't automatically turn up the heat when you feel chilled, instead reach for a sweater.  During the winter I wear corduroy or wool skirts, a light sweater with a bulkier sweater at hand if I feel cold.  Under the sweater I wear a t-shirt  or one of those silk longjohn shirts and I always wear tights even under pants, and boiled wool slippers.  Tights are a good value.  They keep you warm and they last forever.  About two decades ago, I bought some expensive for the time (around $20) woolen ones and they still are doing duty.  At about a dollar a year, that's a bargain! My son wears flannel lined jeans and hoodies.  My latest little trick is to iron and fold my clothes the night before and place them near the radiator.  It's quite a luxury to slip into toasty warm clothes in the morning.

Inside the house, I made little draft stoppers for all the double hung windows.  Even with the newest and best construction, a lot of heat is lost through windows.  Just put your hand by yours and see.  To make the draft stoppers, just sew a cylinder the length of the window and fill with cheap white rice. Here's how the look:

Also hang thermal lined curtains.  You can find the old fashioned pinch pleated ones at thrift stores without a big output of money.  If  you can't find any that you like, you can always sew them fairly inexpensively made from  plain onsaburg fabric backed with outing flannel or you can buy the thermal backing to make nice simple curtains.  Curtains are the easiest thing in the world to sew.  They are basically just large rectangles (make them 1 1/2 - 2 times the width of your windows) with a channel sewn on the back to accommodate the curtain rod.  Hint:  I use that wide blanket edging that you can find in any notions department for the channel.  A don't forget the door!  By nature, doors are drafty, so we hang a long thermal curtain across ours and pull it shut during the night.  We also roll a rug across the bottom.  Or you could make one of those draft stoppers for that purpose too.

Go around and check your house for drafts.  We discovered that we were getting quite a chill from our attic door.  So we tacked a heavy piece of carpeting across the   door on the inside and again another rug rolled up against the bottom.  Shut off the registers to rooms that you don't use, such as guest rooms. 

Don't overlook little ways to add warmth either.  When you are finished using your oven, leave the door ajar.  I check the forecast and do my baking on the coldest day of the week.  Ovens generate heat!  Ditto for your dryer.  When you get older, you find that you use less and less of your house.   My parents closed off the upper floor of their home by putting a false wall and a door at the stairs.  On the rare occasions that they had overnight visitors, they used a small electric heater to warm the room. Why heat a living room that you never use? Do you only use your bedroom for sleeping?  Then close the register up.  Heat will travel to the room.  We have one of those cute little electric fireplaces for our room, bought for $80 at Meijers.  Just running it for an hour in the evening warms the room up.

Speaking of bedrooms, I dress the bed with flannel sheets, wool blankets, and a down blanket and top that with a quilt.  Down blankets are a good investment although costly.  I found some nice ones made by Woolrich at Target that didn't cost an arm and a leg.  Sometimes you have to spend some money to save some.  Shop around, the prices vary greatly. I purchased some nice heavy woolen blankets for my friend's son mission at the thrift stores, so I know you can find them.  If they look a bit ratty, you can always sew new silk binding to the top.  Or how about a cute calico from the scrap bag?  I used to think the toastier the better for bedrooms, but have discovered that I actually sleep better in a cool room.  Which is good, since our old house's upstairs is unheated.

That's another thing.  Experiment with how much cold you can tolerate.  Set the thermostat down a degree and see if you notice any difference. Once you get used to the temperature, turn it down another notch.  Pretty soon you'll wonder how you ever tolerated all that heat!

Friday, December 16, 2011


I love to ice skate.  Some of  the best times of my life have been spent at the skating rink, so when I saw this pattern for a skating bonnet, I knew I would have to knit it.   This is truly a quick knit that can be made up in a weekend.  What I love about it, is that it's snug around the ears.  Did you know that I'm a medical miracle?  When I was fifteen I contracted the German measles and my eardrums burst because of the infection.  Most people that this happens to die, but not me.  Though it was quite touch and go for weeks and as a result I'm profoundly deaf.  My deafness has been somewhat corrected with high power hearing aids so that is why I need a snug fitting hat to wear outside when the wind blows.  The wind really wreaks havoc with hearing aids.  My eardrums are quite fascinating to every doctor I've ever come in contact with.  How many people can say they have fascinating eardrums?  I think I'll leave them to science!

So there you have it.  If you'd like the pattern, just e-mail me.

Monday, December 12, 2011


What do I love about Christmas?  That it is a time to put away petty arguments and silly fears.  It is a time that belongs to Mamas and Papas and all their little bears.  It is a time to sit in laps and listen to stories  about "when I was little".  It is a magical time to sit quietly and listen for sleigh bells and reindeer's hooves. It is the time to celebrate love. Many times in our marriage, my husband and I  would look at our  bank balance at the end of the year, and realizing that the amount would not keep the wolves from the door anyway, decided to spend the meager amount on a Christmas celebration.  One Christmas in particular, it was as though fate was not with us.  Following the happy occasion of our son's birth, I developed a massive blood clot and had to spend ten days in the hospital.  So we had some major medical bills. I had no sooner been released from the hospital, when  my husband awoke to discover that he couldn't walk.  After many doctor visits (and many doctor bills) he was finally diagnosed with what we had thought all along - a rare form of arthritis.  Fortunately, we found an excellent doctor, who prescribed a treatment that sent his arthritis into remission.  On top of all that stress, our area had not the one hundred year, but the one thousand year flood.  Our property became a lake overnight, ditto for the basement. Oh!  Did I mention that all this happened during a time of high inflation and wage freezes? 

 So you see, I know about hard times too.  But we were determined to give our sons a merry Christmas even if the bank book said zero ( probably negative).  My husband and I would conspire late into the night after the boys had been tucked into bed.  He made blocks and little push toys from wood scraps.  I knitted mittens, sewed stuffed animals and made candy for Christmas stockings. We poured so much love into these meager offerings. Outside our "lake" had frozen, so my dear husband swept off the ice and made a skating rink.  He turned some buckets upside down and placed boards on them for benches, then made ice candles to set around the perimeter.  On Christmas Eve, instead of our usual smorgasbord after church, we went outside and skated and roasted hot dogs (79 cent turkey franks) over a fire under the starry Christmas sky.  And do you know it was one of the most memorable Christmases we had ever celebrated?  Can't say the most, because  one of our sons was born on Christmas and we became engaged on that day too, but it was certainly one of the dearest.

Lessons Learned

Children really don't know the value of things, so you don't have to feel guilty about how little you spend.

After a few gifts, small children become disinterested, so it's really a waste of money to have presents stacked to the ceiling.  If you can't bare it, then buy the things they need like socks and underwear and wrap them.

Babies really do not care if the receive a present at all. And they will not have any memory of their first Christmas.  So don't be silly, buying lots of toys.  Whatever the grandparents or godparents give will suffice.

Older children can be very understanding.  Have a frank talk with them about your money situation.You might find it brings you closer together.

Spouses should be on the same page.  A moratorium on gift-giving  to each other should be obvious.

Don't be shy about telling your relatives that you can't afford to send them presents this year.  You might be surprised  to learn that they are in the same boat.

If you feel you must buy for relatives, consider a family present instead of lots of individual gifts.  A board game, puzzle, a tin of cookies, or a box of chocolates, are all inexpensive gifts.

Pay attention to the gift wrapping.  It can make a simple gift look like a million bucks. Use gift boxes and tissue wrapping to make a pretty presentation.  Look for pretty ribbons in the thrift shops. Buy fancy gift wrap at the after-Christmas sale.

Lastly, but most important, besides the main reason for the season, Christmas is about family.  All the time saved by not going out shopping,  wrapping  gifts, attending parties and concerts, gives you more time to spend with them. Tell stories, play games, just cuddle and watch a movie on TV. 

Praying that your Christmas is filled with love, joy and peace. All free for the taking!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Just in case you didn't have enough things to do this December, you might want to spruce up some of your furniture.  Inspired by James Cramer, I've been painting my chairs in different shades of white.  With these tips,  you'll have that authentic, old-fashioned "grandma" look.

How to "antique" a chair

1.  Lighting is  important.  Choose the poorest lit room in the house for your project.  After the sun sets is the optimal time.

2.  The right tools are important also.  Purchase  your paintbrush from a dollar store, to ensure that many bristles will fall off while painting.

3.  Forget sanding.  The paint will stick to the varnished spots  won't it? This will give you the desired alligator effect that is so en vogue at the moment.

4.  Ditto for using a tack cloth.

5.  Have a small dog that sheds a lot (like a corgi) keep you company while painting.  Dog hair gives the paint job character.

6.  Slap the paint on in a lackadaisical manner.  Don't bother to catch the drips.  This will give your chair that old-timey  look just like Grandma used to have.

7.  Move the chair before the paint dries.  This guarantees that some paint will lift, replicating years of wear.

8.  Be ready to soak in the compliments that you receive from friends and neighbors, who marvel at your good fortune to find such a lovely "antique" chair with just the right amount of wear.   

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Along with the gift buying, baking and tree trimming, another annual event is the "I don't celebrate Christmas because it's a pagan holiday."  sermon.  I wouldn't mind listening to it, if the preacher was truly telling me these things because he/she fears for my soul and on occasion I have heard some very sincere pleas,  but on the contrary, usually those people are using their argument to show us how better of a Christian  they are compared to us.  Sort of like measuring us up with a spiritual yardstick and pridefully  (what does the Bible say about pride?)showing us that they are much more pious. Of course, they always preface it, by saying "I'm not making any judgements, but...", but of course they are judging you, and rather harshly, I might add. By the way, if you hear the phrase "I'm not judging you", you can be assured that they are.  I have to laugh, because it is almost comical, like Dana Carvey's  Church Lady the way they like to make you feel small.  Oh!  The church ladies I've run into in my lifetime.  And friends, I am telling you now, that if you think you can evangelize by being one of these holier-than-thou, I'm-a-better-Christian-than-you type people, you have another think coming.  I know, because for many years, I was one of those running away from such people.  I've talked to enough non-believers to know that when they see this  judgmental example of a "good" Christian, they want nothing to  do with our faith. After all, are we all not sinners? This being said, if you truly believe that celebrating Christmas is sinful and you believe it is your duty to warn others, do it in a loving concerned manner. 

So yes, I celebrate Christmas for many reasons.  First, my family is spread out over the country.  Usually Christmas is the only time that we all have vacation days at the same time.  Secondly, there are a lot of traditions involved in Christmas. Those old ornaments on the trees have been in my family for generations.  Some are the only tangible things I have of  my grandparents.  Traditions and memories are  what sustain us when times get rough.  Thirdly, what's wrong with celebrating?  Even in the Bible there were celebrations. I truly do not believe that God gave us life so that we were to go around acting joyless.  On the contrary, being cheerful and kind can be two of the best example of being a Christian.  I once  had a substitute teacher, Miss Schmidt, that was the very personification of joy and patience.  I learned more about what it was to be a Christian from spending one day with her, then I learned in a year of sermons.  As for some of the customs being pagan, well the devil likes to take all that is good and make it his own.  I even read that putting a candle in your window is a pagan practice.  Really? How about it just looks pretty and I like the idea that it's lighting the way for anyone who is lost to come and I will feed you and give you a place to lie your head?  These things are just symbols anyway, what matters is what is written in your heart.

The finally argument is that Jesus was probably not born on December 25th.  What does it matter?  If God had wanted us to know the date, He would have given us it in the Bible.  What is important is that we acknowledge that "God so loved the world, He gave his only begotten Son to die for us. That he that believeth shall not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16.  As a Christian, everyday should be a Christmas celebration and Thanksgiving!

Friday, December 2, 2011


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, inside and out!  Woke up this morning to the soft diffused light of snow.  I defy anyone not to feel happy and childlike  with the first snow fall, it's so magical and fairyland-like.  As you can see in the second picture, just yesterday the grass was green.What a difference a day makes.  It certainly puts you in the Christmas spirit!

So I'll be in the kitchen today baking Christmas cookies.  Every year I say I'm not going to bake any, being zaftig (Ha!  Spell check  didn't recognize this word and suggested softie! That too!) I certainly could do without the temptation, but then someone will say, "just our favorites"and pretty soon I've baked up dozen upon dozens.  But it is nice to give away tins of the goodies.  They are nice to have on hand for unexpected gifts, too.  Plus they've become part of the Christmas traditions  for many of my family members.  Been hearing from some relatives that have been silent lately.  Of course they always mention the tins that I send them.  Hmmm?

When my sister and I were girls,we made batches upon batches of fudge to give away.  We had quite a long list; grandparents, friends,teachers, the vicar, Girl Scout leaders, and of course that cute boy in class. Does anyone make fudge anymore?  You never hear of it.  Probably gone the way of crinoline slips and sock hops!  Well, here's a recipe  that we used:

Mamie Eisenhower's Fudge

Boil for 6 minutes:

4 1/2 C. sugar
2 tbsp. butter
1 can evaporated milk

Pour over:

1 bar German Sweet Chocolate
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 small jar of marshmallow topping
2 C. cashews, chopped

Stir until blended.  Pour into a 9" greased pan and refrigerate until set.  Cut into small squares. A little goes a long way!

I've talked myself into it.  I'm going to include some of Mamie's fudge in my Christmas tins. Hope my sisters will enjoy this blast from the past.

While all of this festivity is fun, let us not forget the real reason for the season, the birth of our Savior!