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Home In 2020

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Home In 2020

2020 has been a year like no other. We learned to wear a mask everywhere we go.  New phrases such as “COVID-19”, “social distancing”, & “social bubble” have become commonplace.  Teddy bears line our living room window to remind our neighbors love resides. Our living room has been “the office” since mid-March.  I am on my work computer undertaking county government employee programs & benefits while Dean researches files & tags old photos for the National Archives.  We try to time our Zoom staff meetings & webinars to not conflict with each other, or Dean wears his earplugs. I return to the Clayton office once a week for a couple of early morning hours to retrieve my mail and file papers. I brought home my comfy office chair and bought a narrow table to fit at the one of the living room windows for my make-shift desk. We have found solace at our small cottage as our home & workplace during the COVID pandemic, racial discord, stormy election, & natural catastrophes.  Birds, blooms, blogging,“ bear chairs”, “brinner”, beverage breaks, the aroma of freshly baked goodies; these are a few of our favorite things in 2020.

The start of 2020 before the news of COVID, we met up with Dean’s cousins in Eureka Springs, AR for a long weekend. Those long weekends became fewer after the CDC announced the pandemic. Home bound we were and still are. I never dreamt I would be working from home, and for this long. I rather love it as an introvert.  That time I normally would be commuting to work, my early mornings are greeted with the sunrise or the kiss of the last sunrays at dusk while I walk most days of my week.   This is an opportune time with the challenge of a speed walking program.  I continue into this colder season, but I have shortened that time and venture out mid-day.  My allergy to the cold keeps me indoors with my perennials, crafts, reading, writing, cooking, baking, & antiques.  Dean with his extra time has taken to his “man cave” (the basement) tinkering & plane model building after seeing the real ones.  Our entertainment is the livestreamed Opry from Nashville, Turner Classic movies, and The Big 550 KTRS catching the Farmer Dave and McGraw talk shows. Dean & I turned 60 this year, me in late August & he on Thanksgiving Day. We both are healthy.  The worst of our complaints have been the shortage of toilet paper & antibacterial hand soap at the stores, and the body aches from sitting at our work computers all day then becoming weekend warriors with our yard projects.  We count our blessings.

Every year we enjoy feeding the neighborhood songbirds.  Early spring Dean & I added a bird bath/fountain we found “on sale”.  Funny how “a bargain” multiplies 1 major project x 5.  Dean resurrected nearly buried rocks from the alley area out back to create a rock garden for under the bird feeders & fountain nearby our living room window.  It took us 8 hours to piece together the puzzle of mossy rocks & purchased flat stones. We also built our pebble patio in the front situated under the dogwood tree.  For our outdoor seating pleasure Dean assembled & painted 2 wooden Adirondack chairs dubbed “the bear chairs” as they are made by The Bear Company.  The chairs’ color nicely matches our “nifty turquoise” front door.  It is such a peaceful sanctuary under that dogwood tree.  Well, until the neighborhood Cooper’s hawk comes for a visit.  The birds chatter & squawk until the bigger bird of prey flies away with or without lunch.  We finished out our warm season projects with a new retaining wall between our house & the church next door, then mulched between the flowering hydrangeas & peonies.

The green thumb report … Lettuces & greens grew prolifically at our screen house at Boone Hollow Farm, and our potted herbs & perennials here at Deanna’s Cottage. Such a truly gorgeous spring & mild enough summer we had here in our parts of Missouri.  In 2021 we may grow birdhouse gourds, which need at least 180 days of frost-free days & plenty of climbing space.  Here at the cottage, my garden projects will be to prep & stain a vintage cart, potting table, & garden bench as well as grow old-fashion flowers to attract more bees & butterflies.  I was inspired by the colonial-style garden seen while on vacation. For our big backyard Dean will build a new deck/porch & replace our fencing.  We will hire for tree removal while others need trimming.  The shade of our grove of trees provides a refuge for our feathered & human friends alike. 

Summer into autumn was bittersweet.  Sweet was the week with granddaughter Elise at our home, a weekend with my grandkids exploring Meramec Caverns, and our 10th wedding anniversary travels to Williamsburg, Virginia.  We drove to avoid the close confines of an airplane, besides we like the journey along the way. Multiple masks and hand sanitizer packed.  Also, we welcomed 2 new grandbabies, Jefferson Dean & Clara Jean, one living in St. Louis & the other in Lee’s Summit.  In October we had a long weekend at a cabin in remote Kentucky with Dean’s brothers.  We played hooky & snuck in a brief couple of uncrowded weekdays in New Orleans. We drove once again. The bitter part, my mother became ill during late summer into autumn, but not from COVID.  Mom was very cautious, staying home away from people during the pandemic.  My brothers, sister-in-law, Dean, & I were gradually allowed in her “bubble”.  I would bring Mom library books & comically brought her a box of 48 rolls of commercial-grade TP.  We all would share photos & stories about the kids & grandkids.  By the time she braved going to the doctor, it was too late.  After 3 weeks of medical tests Mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung & lymph node cancers.  Hospice care was arranged.  My sister & nephews made their way home for their last visits with her. Exactly 1 week after that diagnosis, Mom passed away at her home.  My mother was a tough yet classy lady, & loved her family.  Today I had the notion to call her & check if she would like to bake Christmas cookies this weekend.  I miss her. Mom is Home now with our Lord, my Dad, grandparents, & many other loved ones who have gone before her.

The Christmas tree is decorated, adorned with a new “mask-wearing” Santa ornament.  Holiday shopping is limited to uncrowded local boutiques or ordered on online & waiting for the packages to arrive on our front porch.  Gifts are coming together nicely in the guest bedroom.  Homemade goodies fill the cookie jar.  Old-fashion Christmas carols stream from the TV.  For us holiday parties, extended family gatherings, & Advent church services are virtual.  Quaint gatherings are planned. Distractions have lessen considerably by being at home, allowing quiet reflections to abound.  Authors Ann Voskamp, Matthew Kelly, and Rick Warren continue to inspire me. The Word of God is full of wisdom. This winter more frequent blogging will fill my hours. God loves you & I.  He is still in control even though the outside world seems chaotic. “Wasn’t He awakening me to Beauty everywhere, because beauty is the way of the inner eye?” Ann Voskamp questions in her One Thousand Gifts book.  “Beauty was all around … I sat very still, taking in the spirit of the night, until I felt that I was in a place as holy as a church.  And I was ready to be home”, author Dominique Browning once wrote.  I am ready to be snug at home this holiday season.  Are you?  Make home your most favorite place to be until you are called Home as the old hymn goes …

Come home! come home!
  Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
    Calling, O sinner, come home!

The Coziness of Winter

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The snow storm has all the schools closed as well as many offices closed or on a shorten day.  Dean’s office closed for the whole day and my office closed before lunch.  Fortunately our Jeep gets us through everything thus far that Missouri’s winters have dished out.  Don’t know what we will do when that vehicle dies.  Dependable.  It has almost 300,000 miles on it.  My Prince Charming came and swooped me up at the end of the sidewalk next to my Clayton office, onward to our cottage home in our blue metal carriage.

I came home to a bottle of Irish cream on the dining table and the Christmas tree set up, ready for the ornaments and trimmings.  A festive afternoon it is to be.  What a thoughtful hubby!   The cottage is small, and as well as our tree.  We always wait about a week before Christmas to decorate our tree.  Boxes of our holiday trimmings were brought up from the basement.  We had such a cozy day into the evening with the snow falling outside the window, Christmas carols playing, hanging the ornaments, decking the rooms, the warmth of the smooth spirits, butter cookies, and snuggles.

Our European friends create this atmosphere naturally through their traditions. “Koselig is a feeling: that of coziness, intimacy, warmth, happiness, being content. To achieve the feeling of koselig, you need koselig things. In darker months, cafes provide blankets on their outdoor chairs, and shops light their entrances with candles,” written in Living In Norway  by David Nikel.  “You could roughly translate koselig (pronounced “koosh-lee”), as ‘coziness,’ but that leaves out crucial components of it, like enjoying the company of others and a connection with nature. There’s no direct English translation, but there are regional equivalents such as the Swedish ‘mys,’ the Dutch ‘gezelligheid’ and the most well-known of these, the Danish ‘hygge’,” writes David G. Allan in is CNN health and wellness column “The Wisdom Project”.  “Basically anything can (and should) be koselig: a house, a conversation, a dinner, a person. It defines something/someone /an atmosphere that makes you feel a sense of warmth very deep inside in a way that all things should be: simple and comforting… a single word to express all at once love, friendship, comfort, trust, and most of all happiness” author, Lorelou Desjardins describes “koselig” in her blog Frog in the Fjord. 

So what makes you feel love, friendship, comfort, trust, and happiness all at once?  Could it be hot chocolate with home-baked cookies, sipping spirits, fire in the fireplace, candles lit, warm socks, cozy blankets, homemade jam made with local berries, snug long johns, soft flannel, oversized sweaters, scarves, slow & soft music, nature brought indoors, vegetation draped on a table top, and a communal encounter with a Christmas carol?  I wish you koselig this holiday season and into the New Year.

 

Back When

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The “Christmas Trees For Sale” sign in the store front window caught my attention.  Fresh pine scent, the friendly “howdy” greeting, footsteps on the squeaky wood-planked floor, and the jingle of the door bells as I enter and close the door into the little gift shop … each liven my senses … bring me to back when.  A little pony-tailed blonde-haired girl.  Cannot wait for the holiday season, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years.  But all the events leading to those wonder-filled holidays.  Baking, decorating, crafting, wrapping, and for me living on a tree farm, setting up the pine trees to sell.  Always Thanksgiving weekend my Dad and Grandpa brought in a truck and trailer overflowed with fresh cut Christmas trees.  Scotch pine, white pine, and spruce trees planted, trimmed, and cared for by Dad, and any family members looking for some extra $$ pitched in.  My siblings and I included.  We would play hide-n-seek in the pile of cut trees until there were no more to set-up.  Snow, ice, or rain, it did not matter. Wholesome fun. We had the time of our lives back when.

 

A weekend away in Branson, Missouri for early Christmas shopping and a membership inquiry with a vacation club for more of these empty nest long weekends and longer week dream vacations.  Dean and I are local shoppers, whether in our home town of St. Charles, Missouri or while on vacation.  There is something down-to-earth about brick & mortar and mom & pop shops.  Branson has the downtown landing and tourist attractions, but take us where the locals shop, eat, and play, please!  Nostalgic Dicks 5 & 10, Main Street Flea Market, the Classy Flea, and the Farmhouse Restaurant … Back when the Nativity was in every shop, home, and city hall.  The holidays included real pine rope trimmings with bright red velvet bow wreaths and pine cones.  Back when that fresh field-cut Charlie Brown tree was dressed with hand-sewn ornaments, Shiny Brite glass balls, and a collection of heirloom from Germany or England, wherever your family originated from.  Back when home-baked breads were served at every meal with a home-jarred fruit preserves, and your favorite sugar cookies piled on a plate or in a large jar for the eating any time.  But not too close to your mother’s or grandmother’s home-cooked dinner, “not to spoil your appetite”.  The house smelled of a fresh pot of chicken & dumplings.  I imagine my father’s Christmases in the 1940’s.  Filled with joy to have his father, my Grandpa Earl back home from the war.  Grandma Anna doting over the menu preparations.  Two or three simply wrapped presents with his name “Marty” on the tags under the tinseled Christmas tree.  Back when is close to my heart at this present moment in the guest bedroom of our 1940’s house.  My family has been blessed with fond memories and we will make more.

 

A Dizzy Daze or Simply Sacred Season

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My best Christmas was the year my son, Ben was born. He came to this earth the Saturday after Thanksgiving 22 years ago. Ben was my “oops baby”. Not planned for, but dearly wanted and loved. My son acquired pneumonia immediately after birth from a strep B virus I carried, which I did not know I had. A scary time, but Ben quickly recovered with hospital care his first 10 days. Within a few days I had my energy and strength back, made daily visits to see my son sometimes twice a day to cuddle and nurse.
I knew I would not have the energy or time to enter into the stores those first 3 or 4 weeks after my son’s birth. So I planned ahead, and had all the Christmas shopping completed before Thanksgiving. In those 28 days after Ben’s birth leading to Christmas I adjusted my sleep to his feeding and napping schedule. It had been 9 years before that when my middle child was a baby. I worked from home as the bookkeeper for our church, and was graciously given the month off from those responsibilities. Instead, I meandered into the advent season, wrapped gifts between naps and feedings. The silver pine was decorated one evening after my daughters’ homework was completed. Cookie baking with my mother during the Saturday just before Christmas was done with ease. I meditated on scripture and sang “O Holy Night” with feeling. Joy. Celebrated the miracle of my baby. It was a simply sacred season.
Since that year of 1992, I have yet to have all my holiday shopping completed by Thanksgiving. For many years, I am well into Christmas Eve almost into the wee hours of Christmas Day wrapping gifts to put under the tree. A dizzy daze the Christmas season can be. And how did it get that way? Too many parties, gifts, food, family, and expectations. Advent is lost, sometimes found again in those wee hours of Christmas Day before the pitter-patter of children’s feet as they hit the floor running to see what presents have been placed under the glowing tree.
“Advent” means “coming”. Jesus, the King and our Messiah is coming. I pray you and I have a simply sacred season this holiday. Less shopping, baking, eating, and doing. Just be in His Presence. Come, Jesus. God’s gift.