About Me

Monday, December 31, 2012

Time to Consider

Received the following in an email. Since someone forwarded these words to me, the only attribution I can give it is to someone called  Tommyapex@aol.com.  So, to that unknown Tommy and to Marvin who sent it on to me...I say thank you.
As we look into 2013, we look at a block of time. We see 12 months, 52 week.  The gift of time is not ours alone. It is given equally to each person. And it's all is a gift from God. We have done nothing to deserve it, earn it, or purchased it. Like the air we breathe, time comes to us as a part of life.
Rich and poor, educated and ignorant, strong and weak—every man, woman and child has been given the same twenty-four hours every day. 
Another important thing about time is that you cannot stop it. There is no way to slow it down, turn it off, or adjust it. Time marches on. And you cannot bring back time. Once it is gone, it is gone. Yesterday is lost forever. Yesterday is lost, and tomorrow is uncertain.
We may look ahead at a full year's block of time, but we really have no guarantee that we will experience any of it. Obviously, time is one of our most precious possessions. We can waste it. We can worry over it. We can spend it on ourselves. Or, as good stewards, we can invest it in the kingdom of God.
The new year is full of time. As the seconds tick away, will you be tossing time out the window, or will you make every minute count?

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Sweet Stick

The Christmas Candy Cane originated in Germany about 250 years ago. They started as straight white sugar sticks.

A story says that in 1670, in Cologne, Germany, the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral was worried about the children sitting quietly all through the long Christmas nativity service. So he gave them something to eat to keep them quiet! He asked a local candy maker for some sweet sticks for them. In order to justify the practice of giving candy to children during worship services, he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick, which would help children remember the shepherds who paid visit to infant Jesus..

From Germany, the candy canes spread to other parts of Europe, where they were handed out during plays reenacting the Nativity.Sometime around 1900 the red stripes were added and they were flavored with peppermint or wintergreen.The candy cane has been mentioned in association with Christmas since 1874, and as early as 1882 was hung on Christmas trees

Sometimes other Christian meanings are giving to the parts of the canes. The 'J' can also mean Jesus. The white of the cane can represent the purity of Jesus Christ and the red stripes are for the blood he shed when he died on the cross. The peppermint flavor can represent the hyssop plant that was used for purifying in the Bible.

Around 1920, Bob McCormack, from Georgia, USA, started making canes for his friends and family. They became more and more popular and he started his own business called Bobs Candies. (and yes, the apostrophe is left off intentionally) This is where many of our candy canes come from today.  What you might not know is that Bobs is also on record as having produced the largest single candy cane in history with an impressive sucker measuring 8 feet long and weighing over 100 pounds.  In 2005, Bob's Candies was bought by Farley and Sathers but they still make candy canes!

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Lighted Tree

Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols. In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations.

Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. In 1846, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched standing with their children around a Christmas tree. What was done at court immediately became fashionable…the Christmas tree had arrived. By the 1890s Christmas ornaments ordered by German immigrants were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise.

The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German-American sect continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn joined in after being dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts. Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree dates back to the Depression Era days. The first tree at Rockefeller Center was placed in 1931. It was a small unadorned tree placed by construction workers at the center of the construction site. Two years later, another tree was placed there, this time with lights. These days, the giant Rockefeller Center tree is laden with over 25,000 Christmas lights.

Christmas trees have been sold commercially in the United States since about 1850. 98 percent of all Christmas trees are grown on farms. Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states including Hawaii and Alaska. The best selling trees are Scotch Pine, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir, and White Pine.

The tallest living Christmas tree is believed to be the 122-foot, 91-year-old Douglas fir in the town of Woodinville, Washington.  Since 1966, the National Christmas Tree Association has given a Christmas tree to the President and first family.

Friday, December 21, 2012

What's a Christingle?

Christingle is a symbolic object, related to the pomander, used in the advent services of many Christian denominations. A Christingle consists of:
  • an orange representing the world
  • a red ribbon around it
  • dried fruits or sweets skewered on cocktail sticks pushed into the orange 
  • a lit candle pushed into the centre of the orange

The word Christingle means 'Christ Light' and celebrates the light of Jesus coming into the world: but no one is really sure how Christingles came into being.

There are several stories told of how the custom was started. There is an ancient Welsh service called a 'Celenig' where Christingles are used and the Moravian Church (part of the Czech Republic) has held Christingle services for over 200 years. This is how some Czech people think the first Christingle might have been made:

Many years ago, children were asked to take a gift to put beside the crib in Church. One family had no money for gifts but were determined to take something. They found an orange which they felt would be okay, but were disappointed to find it was going mouldy at the top. However, they thought they would scoop out the bad bits and put a candle in the top and turn it into a lantern. Thinking that it looked a bit ordinary, one of the girls took a red ribbon from her hair and tied it around the middle. They had difficulty getting it to stay in place, so fastened it with four small sticks, on the ends of which they put a few raisins. They took their lantern to church and were afraid of the reactions of the other children. 

However, the priest acknowledged their gift and told the congregation how special it was for the following reasons:
The orange is round like the world.
The candle stands tall and straight and gives light in the dark like the love of God.
The red ribbon goes all around the 'world' and is a symbol of the blood Jesus shed when he died for us.
The four sticks point in all directions and symbolize North, South, East and West - they also represent the four seasons.
The fruit and nuts (or sometimes sweets!) represent the fruits of the earth, nurtured by the sunshine and the rain.

Some children in the UK make their own Christingles and gather together to light them in a Church Services that raise money for children's charities.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A 'kissing' ball

A sprig of mistletoe hung over a doorway during Christmas remains one of the season's most beloved traditions and it has an ancient history. Known as a parasitic plant, mistletoe grows attached to trees, especially oak. Its Greek name means "thief," referring to its rootless existence. As a parasitic plant, mistletoe grows on the branches or trunk of a tree and actually sends out roots that penetrate into the tree and take up nutrients. But mistletoe is also capable for growing on its own.

The mistletoe commonly used as a Christmas decoration (Phoradendron flavescens) is native to North America. There is also a European mistletoe (Viscum album)  which is a green shrub with small, yellow flowers and white, sticky berries considered poisonous. 

Commonly seen on apple, the rarer oak mistletoe was venerated by the ancient Celts and Germans and used as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans. The Greeks and earlier peoples thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs. It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison; and an aphrodisiac.

The mistletoe of the sacred oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. The custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other pre-Christian traditions. In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches.
Kissing under the mistletoe is first found associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites.  One belief was that it has power to bestow fertility.

In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up. Later, the eighteenth-century English credited mistletoe with a certain magical appeal and created a kissing ball.

Tradition decreed that when a young lady stood under a ball of mistletoe at Christmas time, brightly trimmed with evergreens, ribbons, and ornaments, she could not refuse to be kissed. Such a kiss could mean deep romance or lasting friendship and goodwill. Thus if a couple in love exchanges a kiss under the mistletoe, it is interpreted as a promise to marry, as well as a prediction of happiness and long life.

If the girl remained unkissed, she cannot expect to marry the following year.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Celebrate with a 'burning'

Burning a Yule log is probably the oldest Christmas tradition there is and a part of traditional Yule or Christmas celebrations in several European cultures. It started even before the first Christmas.

In the fourth century AD when Pope Julius I decided to celebrate Christmas around the Winter Solstice, the Solstice Yule log tradition continued but the fire came to represent the light of the Savior instead of the light of the Sun.

The Yule log was originally an entire tree, carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony. The largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room. The fire used to burn the log was always started with a remnant from the log that had been burned the previous years festivities.Personal faults, mistakes and bad choices were burned in the flame so everyone's new year would start with a clean slate.

The first mention of the Yule log in Britain is a written account by the clergyman Robert Herrick, from the 1620s or 1630s. It was brought into the farmhouse by a group of males, who were then rewarded with free beer from the farmer's wife. The log's role was primarily one of bringing prosperity and protection from evil

In traditional Serbian Christmas celebrations, the log is solemnly brought into the house and placed on the fire on the evening of Christmas Eve. It is believed that its warmth and light symbolize the coming of Christ.The burning of the log is accompanied by prayers that the coming year may bring much happiness, love, luck, riches, and food. The log has to burn all night. Remains of the log are cherished, and in some traditions, the keeping of the remnant all the next year signified God’s  protection would remain across the year.

In Germany, the log is referred to as Christklotz, Christbrand or Weihnachtsscheit ("Christ-log" or "Christmas-log"). Kindled on Christmas Eve, the log in German tradition functioned as a lightning charm.

In Appalachia, as long as the log, or "backstick" burned, you could celebrate. Often a very large "backstick" was chosen and soaked in a stream to ensure a nice long celebration. In the early nineteenth century, American slaves didn't have to work as long as the Yule log burned. Almost everywhere, the fire was started with that bit of the last year's log, to symbolize continuity and the eternal light of heaven.

The expression 'Yule log' has also come to refer to log-shaped Christmas cakes, also known as chocolate logs or Bûche de Noël. It was an innovative French pastry chef (in the late 1800s) who came up with the idea of replacing the real 'yule' log with a cake that was log-shaped.

The dessert is usually in the form of a large rectangular pound or yellow cake spread with frosting and rolled up into a cylinder - one end is then lopped off and stood on end to indicate the rings of the "log."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Just what is 'figgy pudding'?

Every year about this time, thousands of people around the world become curious about “figgy pudding.” The term figgy pudding comes from the Christmas carol, "We Wish You A Merry Christmas," which includes the line, "Now bring us some figgy pudding" in the chorus.

The history of figgy pudding dates back to 16th century England. "Pudding" is old English slang meaning dessert. Many old English after-dinner coffee cakes are referred to as pudds or puddings. Its possible ancestors include savory puddings such as crustades, fygeye or figge (a potage of mashed figs thickened with bread), creme boiled (a kind of stirred custard), and sippets. Actually, figgy pudding is more of a cake than a pudding. Construction-wise, it's akin to carrot cake or spice cake.

To create a figgy pudding, you must count on an interminably long cooking time, collect an exotic ingredients list which includes a cringe-inducing dependency on saturated fats for texture. There are numerous recipes for this pudding, from a traditional steamed version similar to modern bread pudding to a pastry-covered blend of figs, dates, fruits and spices. Nearly all recipes call for three or four hours of steaming. The indirect heat generated by the boiling water cooks the dessert evenly and slowly.

Chopped figs are added for flavoring and texture, along with chopped dates or apples when available. Heavy cream, eggs, sugar and milk help to create the custard. The spices are similar to carrot or spice cake: cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Pure butter and shortening cannot be substituted.

William Woys Weaver, in his The Christmas Cook, c 1990, Harper Perennial, suggests that mid-19th century American cooks who could not afford imported figs from Italy or Spain used "tomato figs": tomatoes cooked in brown sugar, then sun dried.

Three or four hours later, the unveiling of a pudding was often a defining moment for the cook. The dessert would be either a solid success or a soggy mess. The figgy pudding should always be served warm. If you can't serve it fresh out of the oven, it will taste just fine to warm it in the microwave for a few seconds.

Want to give it a try? Here’s a typical recipe:
Figgy Pudding By Chef James Thomas

16 ounces dried figs
1 3/4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a medium saucepan, heat milk and chopped figs over medium-low heat but do NOT bring to a boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally. The milk will soften the figs.
3. In a medium bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt.
4. In a large bowl, beat eggs one minute on high. Reduce speed to low and add butter, bread crumbs, orange peel, and warm fig mixture.
5. Slowly incorporate flour mixture. Beat until just blended.
6. Pour the mix into the greased bundt pan. Level top as much as possible. Cover the mold with a piece of aluminum foil greased on one side, greased side down.
7. Place the mold in a roasting pan and place on oven rack. Fill with hot tap water 2 inches up the side of the mold. Bake for 2 hours or until the pudding is firm and it is pulling away from the side of the bundt pan.
8. Remove the pudding from the water bath. Remove the foil and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before unmolding. Invert bundt pan onto a serving plate and remove mold. It should come away easily.
9. Serve with a hard sauce.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

I've Been Nominated...

PictureI’ve been nominated by Judith Victoria Douglas for the coveted LIEBSTER AWARD. It may be questionable, or even dubious, for some, but I kinda like the idea.  You can find out about this information trivia from my friend judith at  http://booksbyjudithvictoriadouglas.wordpress.com/. Visit her site and read some her posts.

Here are the rules for acceptance of the “LIEBSTER AWARD.” This is important because at the end I will be nominating eleven blogs for this coveted award.

The Rules:
  • When you receive the award you must post eleven random facts about yourself 
  • You must answer eleven questions posed by the person who nominated you
  • You pass the award on to the eleven blogger friends you are nominating, making sure you notify them of their nominations
  • You write up eleven new questions for the bloggers you are nominating (and you cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you)
  • You paste the award picture into your blog along with eleven random facts about yourself and your eleven questions and answers given by your nominator. (Not much different from the Next Big Thing)
Eleven Random facts about Gay Ingram:
1. My first published novel was released under my maiden name, Gabrielle Giguere. How would you like to live with that handle?
2. I'm an original Connecticut Yankee - born in Burlington, VT and grew up in Connecticut until my husband insisted we live in his homestate, Texas. I couldn't very well argue as that's where the Coast Guard had him stationed at the time.
3. I am the oldest of eight children who grew up in a three-bedroom house so I know a lot about having to share.
4. My sole living son lives about twenty minutes away but I'm lucky if I see him once a week, he's stays so busy.
5. When my older son was two and a half months old, we rode the Greyhound bus from Texas to Conn. three days just so I could spend Christmas with my family. My husband, meanwhile, had been transferred to Hawaii and I couldn't join him.
5. There were ten years between the births of my two sons so it's like I raised two families.
6. I was working in downtown Dallas and watched the Kennedy cavalcade drive by just minutes before he was assassinated.
7. At one point in my life, I volunteered as a ESL tutor which led to my organizing and running a literacy program in my hometown, Big Sandy.
8. My writing adventure began with how-to booklets I produced about herbs.
9. My oldest son, David, who was a classical pianist, has a video on YouTube. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2emgtAjEOoI&feature=player_embedded
10. I have yet to get past the three chords I've taught myself on the guitar my husband gave me for my birthday year before last.
11. My little cabin, where I work (and play), is so small I have to pack up the oil painting stuff whenever I get the urge to sew.

My Eleven Questions from Judith:
Q. If there was one person — real, fiction or fantasy — you could spend some time talking with, who would it be?
A. I’d love a conversation with Madalyn L’Engle because I admire her persistence in writing what was inside of her.

Q.  If you could change anything about yourself, physical, mental, emotional, heritage-wise, anything, what would it be?
A.To be honest, I’m pretty satisfied with how I turned out. Not sure I would like any changes I’d have to get used to.

Q.  What animal, fish or bird, living or extinct, would you like to know more about, up close and personal, maybe even as a pet?
A. I am not a pet person which doesn’t mean I don’t tolerate them in my environment. In my lifetime, I’ve had both cats and dogs as pets…and chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, rabbits…

Q.  If you could choose your last meal, and you weren’t in prison at the time, what would it be?
A. In prison? Do they still grant a prisoner’s last meal wishes? Fried chicken, cranberry sauce, baked potato and strawberry shortcake for dessert.

Q. If English is your primary language, but you could instantly be fluent in another, what would it be?
A. At the time I was an ESL tutor I really felt handicapped by not knowing the Spanish language. I spoke only French until I entered school but even with a two-year refresher course in high school, I’m not able to converse in French although I do understand some of what I hear or read.

Q. Where in the universe, if not this planet, would you live if you had a choice and it was actually feasible?
A.Ah-h-h, if money and family were no object, I’d have myself a little house within walking distance to the seashore somewhere.

Q.  What object, place or thing do you equate with your favorite color, and why? Please state your favorite color so your reasoning will be clear to your readers.
A. Everyone who knows me knows my favorite color is blue, in any shade. As to equating it with anything…never gave it thought.

Q.  What movie would you have liked to play a part, even a minor part if the top slot was taken by your favorite actor/actress.  Name your favorite actor/actress so your readers will be clear on this, as well.
A. I have absolutely no desire to play any part in any production no matter who was the co-star. Favorite actor/actress? Movies are not really part of my lifestyle.

Q.  What book do you wish you had written?  Include why you picked this particular book.
A. I wish I had written To Kill a Mockingbird. Every time I read it or watch the movie, I am moved by how a simple story amplified such a terrible social injustice of its time.

Q.  What scientific or social (not political or religious) endeavor or event would most benefit mankind at this moment in time?  If you say a Space-Alien Invasion, please explain why.
A.There is but one solution to mankind’s troubles – the need to seek the best of others instead of insisting on “getting mine.”

Q.  How would you explain to a blind person the difference between God and Santa Claus, if both were standing in front of you? This is like The Elephant and the Six Blind Men, but its only you telling one person the difference between the two.
A. What a thought-provoking question. It’s easy to describe Santa Clause because he’s a creation of the human mind. But God cannot be contained within the natural man’s confines so all we are left with is who He is to me and everyman’s answer is unique.

Now My Eleven Questions For My Nominees:

Q, What’s your least liked chore?
Q. Ketchup or mustard?
Q. Favorite dessert?
Q. What is the worst present you ever received? The best?
Q. If you could turn back time, what, if anything would you change?
Q. What are three things on your ‘bucket’ list?
Q. What’s your earliest recollection of anything?
Q. What kind of music, if any, makes you cry?
Q. If English is your primary language, but you could instantly be fluent in another, what would it be?
Q. What book do you wish you had written?  Include why you picked this particular book.
Q. Where in the universe, if not this planet, would you live if you had a choice and it was actually feasible?

My nominees are: 
Dianne Harmon http://dianneharman.com/

Friday, December 7, 2012

Do you have yours?

One flower takes center stage at this time of the year – the poinsettia. Ever wonder why?

The poinsettia has also been cultivated in Egypt since the 1860s. It was brought from Mexico during the Egyptian campaign. It is called "Bent El Consul", "the consul's daughter", referring to the U.S. ambassador Joel Poinsett.  Poinsettias received their name in the United States in honor of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced the plant into the country in 1828. Poinsett was a botanist, physician and the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. . In 1828 he found a beautiful shrub with large red flowers growing next to a road. He sent cuttings of the plant he had discovered in Southern Mexico to his home in Charleston, South Carolina. December 12th is Poinsettia Day, which marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851.

The plant's association with Christmas began in 16th century Mexico, where legend tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’s' birthday. The tale goes that the child was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson "blossoms" sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias.

 From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem and the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus. In Spain it is known as "Flor de Pascua", meaning "Easterflower". In both Chile and Peru, the plant became known as "Crown of the Andes". It is native to the area around Taxco, Mexico and widely grown and very popular in subtropical climates such as Australia.

 While most people are not sensitive to the sap, it can cause a mild skin irritation. During the 14th - 16th century the sap was used to control fevers and the bracts (modified leaves) were used to make a reddish dye. Eating any part of the plant could cause diarrhea and vomiting.

In nature, Poinsettias are perennial flowering shrubs that were once considered weeds. The showy colored parts of Poinsettias that most people think of as the flowers are actually colored bracts (modified leaves). The yellow flowers, or cyathia, are in the center of the colorful bracts. The plant drops its bracts and leaves soon after those flowers shed their pollen. For the longest-lasting Poinsettias, choose plants with little or no yellow pollen showing.

There’s even a Poinsettia Bowl. (of course!) An NCAA college football bowl game in San Diego is named the Poinsettia Bowl. The first bowl was played in December of 1952 and was created as a military services championship game, with the Western and Eastern military services champions competing against each other. This year it’s BYU vs. San Diego State on Thurs., Dec. 20.

There are over 100 varieties of Poinsettias available. Though once only available in red, there are now Poinsettias in pink, white, yellow, purple, salmon, and multi-colors. The red Poinsettia still dominates over other color options.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Here Comes The Mail! Not!

The recent announcement by the USPS (United State Postal Service) of its soon-to-be discontinued Saturday delivery set me to wondering. Just when did rural mail delivery come into existence?

The first postal service in America arose in February 1692, when a grant from King William and Queen Mary empowered Thomas Neale "to erect, settle and establish within the chief parts of their majesties' colonies and plantations in America, an office or offices for the receiving and dispatching letters and pacquets, and to receive, send and deliver the same under such rates and sums of money as the planters shall agree to give, and to hold and enjoy the same for the term of twenty-one years."

During the Second Continental Congress, Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general. The United States Post Office (USPO) was created in Philadelphia under Benjamin Franklin on Wednesday, July 26, 1775.

Ten years before waterways were declared post roads in 1823, the Post Office used steamboats to carry mail between post towns where no roads existed. The use of the railroad to transport the mail was instituted in 1832.

Fayette County in southeastern Indiana may be the birthplace of Rural Free Delivery. Formerly, residents of rural areas had to either travel to a distant post office to pick up their mail, or else pay for delivery by a private carrier. Rural letter carriers began service with the experiments with Rural Free Delivery in 1891. 

RFD finally became an official service in 1896 under President Grover Cleveland. RFD was adopted generally in the United States in 1902. The introduction of parcel post delivery nationwide RFD service came about in 1913. Parcel post service allowed the distribution of national newspapers and magazines, and was responsible for millions of dollars of sales in mail-order merchandise to customers in rural areas. Today, as in years past, the rural delivery service uses a network of rural routes traveled by carriers to deliver and pick up mail to and from roadside mailboxes.

From the very beginning, the government's mandate to the post office was to deliver the mail "as frequently as the public convenience ... shall require." According to the Postal Service, at the beginning of the 20th century, letter carriers in U.S. cities made multiple delivery runs each day. It wasn't until 1950 that, "in the interest of economy," residential delivery around the country was permanently reduced to once daily.

Now the Postal Service says it will lose approximately $7 billion this fiscal year. John E. Potter, has gone to Congress and officially asked for permission to do away with Saturday mail. He has told Congress that this will save more than $3 billion every year.

Will you miss the thrill of seeing the mail carrier approach on Saturdays?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Anyone for shortnin' bread?

 Heard a local radio commentator proclaim his unfamiliarity with shortnin’ bread – he was asking what it was. H-m-m-m, hadn’t he ever heard that familiar tune?

Mammy's little baby loves short'nin', short'nin',
Mammy's little baby loves short'nin' bread

The first version of this traditional plantation song was written by white poet James Whitcomb Riley in 1900. His song, which he collected from East Tennessee, was named "A Short'nin' Bread Song—Pieced Out.” Al Jolson and the Andrews Sisters recorded popular versions of the song. Allan Sherman also did a Jewish-oriented satire, "Mammy's Little Baby loves Matzoh Balls, "substituting "matzo balls" and "Pesach bread" for "shortnin' bread."

For those unfamiliar with this food item, shortening bread is a fried batter bread, the ingredients of which include corn meal, flour, hot water, eggs, baking powder, milk and shortening.. It's a Southern quick bread like cornbread. The term Shortnin' Bread (also spelled "Shortenin' Bread" or "Short'nin' Bread)  implies not much more than a recipe containing fat and flour.

Shortening is any fat that is solid at room temperature and used to make crumbly pastry. The term "shortening" seldom refers to butter but is more closely related to margarine. Originally, shortening was synonymous with lard, "shortening" has come almost exclusively to mean hydrogenated vegetable oil. Crisco, since 2002 owned by the J.M. Smucker Co., is still the most well-known brand of shortening in the US. In Ireland and the UK, Cookeen is a popular brand, while in Australia, Copha is popular, although made primarily from coconut oil.

Here’s a recipe - time to make 30 min; 10 min prep: 
1/2 cup butter, very very soft
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1.    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.    Cream the butter with the brown sugar. Add the flour a bit at a time until mixed well.
3.    Roll out to 1/2-thickness and cut into "ladyfinger"-like slices. Place on a greased pan and bake for 20 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Cool completely. http://www.recipezaar.com/162011

And, if you’re ever in downtown Long Beach, CA., be sure and stop by the Shortnin Bread Bakery or check out their menu at http://www.shortninbreadbakery.com/

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Next Big Thing: Authors Tagging Authors!

I have been asked to take part in The Next Big Thing: Authors Tagging Authors!
I’ve been tagged by Iain Parke (www.facebook.com/iain.parke?fref=ts), Author of Heavy Duty People (http://amzn.to/WsvfPM).

What was the working title of your book?
Actually my latest, Second Time Around, was just released in early November 2012. So that’s the book I’d like to talk about, if that’s OK.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I started thinking about how it used to be required for women to wear hats for all occasions and thought writing about a woman and using a particular hat associated with important events in her life might make an interesting story. I even did internet research and collected a variety of hat images to inspire the plot.
But then the story morphed to be about a recently-widowed mature business woman who is suddenly confronted with a man she believes is her first love. Except…he was supposedly killed on his way to propose to her twenty-eight years previously. The story is a romantic/suspense set in Dallas, Texas with the action taking part in the 50s & 70s.

What genre does your book fall under?
I call it a romantic/suspense but it could also fit under the category of women’s fiction. I asked my publisher to catalog it as ‘silver romance’ but she said there wasn’t any such genre.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I think Susan Sarandon would make a marvelous Dolly Summers and her love interest could easily be filled by Harrison Ford.

To keep the chain going, I’ve tagged five authors so we can all learn and be inspired by each other. They have to answer the questions and pass it on.

Carmen Peone – author of  Heart of Courage http://www.goodreads.com/ Heart_of_Courage
R. Grey Hoover – author of  Kicker http://amzn.to/SpCmbI
Conrad Guest – author of The Cobb Legacy http://amzn.to/S97cFV
Peter Watson Jenkins – author of  How I Died (and what I did next) http://amzn.to/TZPySo
Carol Carroll – author of  Inconclusive Death http://amzn.to/WswmPn

Monday, November 26, 2012

A catchy hook?

Ever wonder if that mass of metal attached to those heavy-duty trucks have a name or purpose? Well, they're a modern day interpretation of a railroad engine's cowcatcher. Cowcatcher is a term that is so outdated in today’s culture that there are few people left who have even the remotest idea of what it refers to.

Also known as the pilot or cattle catcher, a cowcatcher is the device mounted at the front of a locomotive, especially a steam locomotive, to deflect obstacles from the track that might otherwise derail the train. It’s usually a strong inclined frame, usually of wrought-iron bars, at the front of a locomotive designed for clearing the track of obstructions. The shape of the cowcatcher serves to lift any object on the track and push it to the side, out of the way of the locomotive behind it. Not sure if the modern version on trucks would do the same job.

The cowcatcher was invented in 1838 by a British engineer named Charles Babbage. Babbage was an English mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer who also originated the concept of a programmable computer.

Interestingly enough, in researching the origin of this word, I came across a curious bit of information, especially for writers, regarding the usage of this word. In the craft of writing,  did you know the opening lines of books, written in such a way as to get the reader’s immediate attention, used to be called a cowcatcher? Nowadays, it’s referred to as the hook.

Following are some examples of effective cowcatchers (or hooks) I found on  http://www.wikihow.com.

“Some men walked straight out of a woman’s dreams. Some qualified as full-on nightmares.” - Obsidian Prey by Jayne Anne Krentz

"I'm sitting on a cold metal slab, and there's blood all over my shirt." - "Between Mom and Jo" by Julie Anne Peters

"Night lay heavily over the forest." - "Sunset" by Erin Hunter

But designing an effective 'cow catcher' is something any writer can learn to do. All it takes is a little creativity and a lot of determination—and a very strong desire to see your readers “herded” in the right direction.

Now...aren't you glad you took a moment to read my latest bit of nonsense?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude Day Special

I'm copying the format for this blog from a great writing blog I subscribe to, Live to Write - Write to Live, written by Diane MacKinnon http://www.dianemackinnon.com/

Writer’s List of Gratitude
3 Books I Am Grateful Got Written So I Could Read Them (Okay, not great grammar, but you get me, right?)
The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck
War and Remembrance, by Herman Wouk
The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron
3 People Who Support Me As A Writer (Even If Still Have a Day Job..)
My husband
My sisters
My critique group
3 Pieces I’m Glad I Wrote:
Comfrey Chatter - my newsletter about herbs
Twist of Fate, because I wanted to make a cultural statement
Some Write Thoughts, I desire to share the lessons I'd learned
3 Places or Things That Support You As a Writer
decaf coffee and dried fruit trail mix
My little cabin
My morning pages
3 Qualities You Love About Yourself As a Writer 
My determination to complete a task
My insatiable interest in words.
Instinctively knowing when the words are right.

Okay, that’s it. Fill this out as fast as you can and bask in your attitude of gratitude. Doesn’t it feel good?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hi...here's my card

Ordered some new business cards for myself from www.vistaprints.com this week. Their ‘free’ offer amounted to a substantial investment, but that’s another story. I’ll just say beware of hidden fees. Anyway, it started me thinking about this convenient means of introducing yourself and what you do.

It’s funny how we use the phrase “calling card” with no idea of where it came from.  I assumed it was a different term for business card, so went looking the history of this social custom.

Calling cards evolved in England and were an essential part of introductions, invitations, and visits. In the 19th and early 20th century, social interaction was a richly cultivated, well-mannered affair. The tool that facilitated these interactions was the calling card. Its purpose is to signify that you visited, and you may find a silver tray at an embassy or officer's home to deposit calling cards. Not until after the Civil did calling cards became a highly ritualized social grace where both men and women used the cards at all manner of social occasions.

During the 1800′s and early 1900′s the practice of “calling” upon or visiting one’s relatives, friends, and acquaintances was a middle and upper class social ritual governed by countless rules and traditions. Central to visiting etiquette was the use of the calling card. The giving and receiving of calling cards developed a very elaborate set of rituals and rules that every gentleman tried to master. In most Victorian homes, in the entry hall was always a table where parcels could be left and more importantly, where a silver tray or porcelain receptacle sat for receiving calling cards.

Leaving cards served as a means of social advancement.  Most afternoon social life was spent making calls, allowing 30 minutes per visit, and leaving a card at each house. There was even a code of communication that evolved. A visitor folded down the upper right hand corner if she came in person. A folded upper left corner indicated she stopped to leave her congratulations. A folded lower right corner said goodbye. A folded lower left corner offered condolences. It’s like calling card short hand. 

When the household servants moved out, and Alex Bell’s new-fangled talking machine moved in, the practice and etiquette surrounding the sending and receiving of calling cards suffered a slow death. During the heyday of calling cards, using a business card for a social purpose was considered bad manners. Calling cards were larger than today’s business card, at once more impressive and much simpler in design.

So…how many times in a conversation does someone tell you about their website or their blog, and you swear to check it out, but then can’t remember its name when you get home? A calling card is the answer to all of these situations.  A calling card can come in handy in any social situation in which you want to exchange information with someone. Your calling card should reflect your personality. In our modern society, technology has provided a myriad of ways for a new acquaintance to contact you, and your card should reflect this. Remember, you may use the blank back of the cards to write notes and invite someone to meet up with you again.

Calling cards…a lost art that still has a place in the ‘now’ of today’s society, where technology runs the majority of our lives.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Of Butterflies and Space Travel

Stepped out my door in time to catch the visit of two Sulphur butterflies checking out the two pots of  marigolds by my doorstep. Later that day, I stopped to watch a black swallowtail in flight. With nearby pastures showing a covering of frost these chilly morning, I suspect the days are numbered for butterflies this season. In fact, I wondered that there are so many still about with temperatures dropping to freeze level overnight.It will be a less-colorful world when they have all migrated to warmer climates. So much beauty and pleasure-giving...and yet so transient. Watching them reminded me of how fleeting are so many of the lives of much that inhabits the world we share.

Not only this earth, but just consider our universe. Last night my husband watched a documentary about the final space trip to the moon. Just think, this celestial body is only one of millions inhabiting the unlimited space we share. Sure does boggle the mind!

Considering those two disparate thoughts convinces me there is an intelligence beyond the limitations of the human mind. Call it God, call it a Supreme Being...call it by whatever name you feel comfortable with. But there is no way to deny its existence if you stop to consider butterflies and space bodies.

Let me bring you back to earth with a gentle mention of the release of my newest book, Second Time Around. Contact me if you want a signed copy or you can skip over to http://amzn.to/QDRNQyhttp://amzn.to/QDRNQy

and pick up your copy there in either print or digital format.

That done, take time each day when out of doors to pause and acknowledge the miracles that surround you.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Are You A Rocker?

A 6- legged gungstols ( the swedish gungstol means rocking chair) were made between the early 1800's until the mid 1870's

Many years back on a visit to my parents’ home in Conn., I spied the chair hanging from the rafters in my Dad’s garage. Immediately it brought back visions of my Mom rocking the littlest sister. I asked if I could have it and my 
Dad graciously dismantled it to fit in the trunk of my car.

Once home, i called on my husband expertise to reassemble the chair. With a new paint of mint green, it took its prominent space in the new nursery where it eventually got plenty of use.  Now that my kids are grown and with no grandchildren nearby to need its services, It is now collecting dust in the barn’s upper floor. As I rummaged about up there one day last week, seeing it brought back memories and stirred my curiosity about the history of this unusual piece of furniture.

A rocking chair or rocker is a type of chair with two curved bands of wood (also known as rockers attached to the bottom of the legs (one on the left two legs and one on the right two legs)). The chair contacts with the floor at only two points, giving the occupant the ability to rock back and forth by shifting his/her weight or pushing lightly with his/her feet.

Though Benjamin Franklin is thought to be the inventor of the rocking chair there is no historical evidence of this. They began life originally used in gardens and were just ordinary chairs with two rockers at their bottoms. The bow-spindle-backed chair, known as the Windsor Chair, seems to have originated near Windsor castle in England in the early to mid 1700's. These rocking chairs featured a round hoop back, a birdcage (with spindles known for its cage-like appearance), and a comb-back (with comb-shaped head rest).

Historians can only trace the rocking chair's origins to North America during the early 18th century.
The American Windsor rockers were introduced to the American colonies around 1750 and evolved into many different variations. Michael Thonet, a German craftsman, created the first bentwood rocking chair in 1860. This design is distinguished by its graceful shape and its light weight.

President John F. Kennedy made the P&P Chair Company rocker famous. The President was prescribed swimming and use of a rocking chair by his physician in 1955 because the President suffered from lingering back problems. The Kennedy Rocking Chair is shaped, stem-bent and assembled while green according to the original design.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dead Ringer...really?

Someone sent me this recently and gave me motivated to do a little research.

England is old and small.They started running out of places to bury people. So, they would dig up coffins and reuse the grave. In reopening these coffins, one out of about 25 were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive.
So,they thought they would tie a string to the person's wrist and lead it through the coffin,up through the ground and tied to a bell.Someone would have to sit there all night and listen for the bell.Hence, if the bell rang, the person on the,"graveyard shift" would know that someone was saved,"saved by the bell" or that he was a "dead ringer"

Although such devices did exist and were occasionally used, those phrases may have had nothing to do with bells being attached to coffins to guard against premature burial.

The Graveyard Shift, or Graveyard Watch, was the name coined for the work shift of the early morning, typically midnight until 8am. The name originated in the USA at the latter end of the 1800s. There's no evidence at all that it had anything directly to do with watching over graveyards. The 'graveyard watch' version of the phrase was normally used by sailors on watch - hardly a group in a position to supervise buried coffins.

Gershom Bradford, in A Glossary of Sea Terms, 1927: "Graveyard watch, the middle watch or 12 to 4 a.m., because of the number of disasters that occur at this time."

Saved by the bell” is boxing slang that came into being in the latter half of the 19th century. A boxer who is in danger of losing a bout can be 'saved' from defeat by the bell that marks the end of a round.

dead ringer” - A ringer is a horse substituted for another of similar appearance in order to defraud the bookies. This word originated in the US horse-racing fraternity at the end of the 19th century. The word is defined for us in a copy of the Manitoba Free Press from October 1882: "A horse that is taken through the country and trotted under a false name and pedigree is called a 'ringer.'" It has since been adopted into the language to mean any very close duplicate. As a verb, 'ring' has long been used to mean 'exchange/substitute' in a variety of situations, most of them illegal.

My thanks once again to http://www.phrases.org.uk/index.html for giving the inside goods on these intriguing turns of speech.