Cabinet Reno, Bird Wars, and Prized Friends

When a friend tells you, “I’m coming back and we ARE going to paint those cabinets of yours”, you catalogue it under sounds fun … we’ll see what happens.

Then, when she and her granddaughter (one of our favorite small people on the planet) show up in frigid temps and a few steps ahead of a snow storm … you think, “How did I ever get friends like these?!” Another pair of friends showed up last fall and helped paint the hallway entrance and now this …

If I’d known that buying a hundred and ten year old farm-style house was such a magnet for people who love to do projects and who volunteer on their own, My Guy and I might have bought one a long time ago!

Here is a sneak peak of some of the process.

This is the “before stuff” and a rare sighting of H who, while fond of friendship, creating beautiful things, and knocking down walls with sledge hammers … which we stopped her from doing on this project … is NOT fond of being in front of the camera. I had to ignore her though because she is a beautiful person and because I caught a shot of her in the midst of her creative mojo.

I’m not any more fond of the camera but this is the best way to give a sneak peak at paint color. Also you can see H in the last photo, detailing those shaker doors. I’m so thankful for her steady hand … and her steady friendship. Painting while taking incessantly and dancing around each other and open cans of paint, we reminisced on the fact that we’re not far from 30 years of friendship. Of course this comes with the revelation that this year will find me celebrating a birthday and an age that starts with the number 6. Oh well …

Living a long drive (or short flight … whichever is most convenient at the time) from each other, we don’t get much time together any more, so her efforts to spearhead this project are more than meaningful. During our meet ups, we usually find a moment to marvel at how the unlikeliest of personalities have weathered three decades of friendship and lots of shenanigans. We met when our kids were small … kids and parents alike, have grown up together. So many stories … some tears … gut splitting laughter …stories that get repeated over and over … down on our knees prayer for our families … pushing each other into things we wouldn’t otherwise try … junk food … fancy dinners (if you don’t count the broken Christmas ornament that fell on the Cornish hens) … dead possums … all the stuff of a prized friendship.

Oops … some more contraband. I think H will approve of this picture though because it highlights her pure genius. After determining that the weird globby stuff on the side of the cabinet was glue and after endless sanding, she came up with the hair dryer trick. Worked beautifully. (Sadly, thinking of the girl who used Gorilla Glue on her hair … google it … I think the hair dryer has its limitations. 😉)

Where’s My Guy in all of this? Well, he’s the reason … thank you, Honey … that the doors are off the cabinet. And he’ll be the reason that they’ll go back up.

I think I should have mentioned that there isn’t a true AFTER shot yet. I’m working on a goal to post every Tuesday before 8:00 PM so maybe you’ll get to see My Guy and his handy work of reattaching doors NEXT week.

One reason that we didn’t quite get to the final touches before my self imposed blogging deadline (which I’ve missed by an hour) was all the entertainment outside of our window. That snowstorm I mentioned did come and it awakened ravenous hunger in the critters at the bird feeder. I have more pics for another day … but here’s a glimpse of some of the battles that grabbed our attention.

Hurried home from work to throw together dinner and get this published. Happened to catch this picture just in time to add to the blog.

He was determined to get all the doors up before we ate, which he did. Now we’re all pooped. H and VR leave tomorrow (so sad to see them go) but we’re thrilled about how far we got. New knobs and a few touch ups will take place this weekend and in a mere seven days time we’ll have our refreshed kitchen.

While you wait for the pics of the final results you can speculate about what we chose for knobs. Lots of deliberation went into this simple addition … almost as much debate as the paint color. I’m excited about what we chose and what it will add to the final results.

Until next week …

Shelly

PS

A little more of the fun we have. Can’t let good snow go to the waste, no matter what project is waiting.

** The heading is a WordPress free image and is not my own photo. All the rest were taken by me and are the property of this blog and Sausmus Photography.

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I keep.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

Angels Among Us

They say there are angels among us … a recent walk in the neighborhood proves this to be true where I live.

I’m not sure when this little cherub first arrived or who put her there, but I first noticed her in the fall. She’s positioned so she seems to be keeping watch over the town. This week she’s facing the south ends of town … a few weeks ago she was facing north … guess she’s got all of us under her watch.

The pandemic has been tough on our little town, and as goal posts in our state have shifted around, it feels recently that people are losing optimism. That’s why walking does me good. On my walks I’ve found …

Peace …

Serene neighborhood views …

And beautiful sunsets.

While the news is often bleak, the scenery reminds me of an area that produces hardy people … we’ve proven in the past to be made of sturdy stuff around here.

And with angels looking over our shoulders, pandemics can’t have the upper hand forever. Right?

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I keep.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

Scammed

I’m hypersensitive to being scammed … always on the outlook for anything suspicious; probably too leery for my own good. That’s why I’ve taken over two years to make a decision on purchasing an outdoor nativity scene … not wanting to be taken advantage of on a big purchase that will have to be shipped.

I’ve looked so much that it was no surprise to see continual ads on FB. Facebook being Facebook, I knew I would be hounded in my feed. Also no surprise were the sales ads that started popping up after Christmas. Even My Guy noticed them.

“Maybe it’s time to get one,” he said in a text, having forwarded the same ad I’d been following. I had pestered him so long that he knew it was going to cost him some money at some point … might as well buy it on discount.

I thought I did my homework. I poured through all the comments and feedback … looked at the ratings … same as I’d been doing for two years. Everything looked in order, so I went through with it.

Here’s what I thought I was ordering:

For the final discounted priced of $53.32 (tax included), here is what I got.

That sheep tho! 🤣🤣🤣 It’s okay … you can laugh … I did.

I got mad too, but not until long after I told My Guy on the phone that the much awaited package had arrived and that the whole thing had fit in a slightly larger than legal size box.

“Wait?” They didn’t deliver it to the house?”

“Didn’t need too. They had room for it at the Post Office.”

“Oh oh! Can’t wait to see this,” he knew something was up.

“Yup,” I said. “We were scammed. Actually it’s kinda funny.”

And in the moment, it was. I had been texting the company back and forth, checking on why it was taking so long to arrive, and a little curious that they hadn’t balked about delivering to our town. Sometimes, we have trouble getting stuff on a rural route, especially if it’s an unusual size.

I also had been a little suspicious that they didn’t include tax on the original receipt, but the higher amount did show up on my online bank account.

They answered me quickly tho’ and since it had gone through PayPal, I was okay when they explained.

So … the package came and of course I was feeling taken, so immediately emailed the company and also went back to the original site where I ordered. Apparently a whole lot of other people just received their shipment too. Boy were there a lot of mad … although surprisingly polite … folks.

These shysters were very slick. How did they get us all?

They ripped off another company’s ads and testimonials, BUT in the order blank, they included the measurements of THEIR product … measured in CENTIMETERS.

“No … you got the product you ordered,” the person stated in their email. And technically, they are right.

Can I send it back?

Sure I can. That part of the ripped off advertising is true. But what it doesn’t say is that it’ll cost me $59 to return it. The return shipping isn’t free.

This company has been reported numerous times to the BBB and on FB, but I tell you, they’re slick.

Here’s the original page, they posted on after Christmas.

But they’ve taken off the nativity adds … all you’ll find is hair products and angry comments from other people like me who have caught on to what happened.

Have they disappeared into obscurity? Absolutely not … what these slicksters are doing now is creating new pages under different names, offering the same shady deals. Fortunately, those of us who were ripped off are seeing these ads and speaking out. Maybe we’ll save a few people some grief. The ones who are really gonna hurt are the legit companies, like Outdoor Nativity Sets in Florida who sell the items for real … at least, I think they do … I’m not sure anymore … and who I thought I was buying from in the first place. The difference I’ve noticed is a US location, a twitter account, thousands of followers, and a clearly developed website … and of course … the measurement … that’s definitely differently.

I feel a little stupid, but with so many scams going on right now, I’m glad that at least I didn’t send hundreds of millions of dollars to Nigeria in unemployment benefits (sorry … inside joke for those of us who live in Washington state). But … if I had done that I wouldn’t be writing my blog right now … I’d be working for the Federal government. Now … that does make me a little mad.

Okay … time to stop … veering into politics usually doesn’t end well.

Instead I’ll just keep laughing in hopes of the proverbial she who laughs last laughs loudest … or however, that goes.

Stay well and unscammed, my friends!

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I keep.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

Wind and Floods and the People Who Get Us Through Them

Offta! It can storm around here.

Two weeks ago it was a combined wind and rain storm. Winds whipped us around at 30 miles an hour ALL. NIGHT. LONG.

But what really got us was the 75 mph gust that hit the town and surrounding area from the south at 4:14 in the morning. (My friend insists that was the exact time. I was awake for so many hours … I hate wind … that I lost track of time, so I’ll take her word for it.)

Whatever the time, I know I felt it. The rain suddenly threw itself against the bedroom window like one of those FB bucket challenges that was all the rage for awhile. I momentarily thought the water might break the window, it hit so hard. Then, in the next breath, our 1910 house did a little dance, swaying to the north and back to the south.

The ol’ girl hung in there and from the Post Office Gossip the next morning (with all the Covid shutdowns, the sidewalk in front of the PO is about the only way to catch up with the news around town), I found I could be glad that all I felt was a little swaying.

Neighbors lost roofing. Farmers discovered buildings that had caved in on vehicles and equipment. Large trees were cut down to size as giant limbs broke free … I didn’t think we had many left to come down after the early snow we had in October. Trampolines were crushed like tin cans, and I found one badly mangled and lonely several blocks away from its home. Crazy.

It would have been more interesting to write about the storm in real time. However, I wasn’t planning on writing about the storm at all, but then I came across this picture in a library newsletter earlier in the week. (The photo can be found on the Whitman County Rural Heritage collection.)

I glanced at the photo and thought, “That must have been some storm.”

Then I read the caption and found that this was taken in 1948, in my home town (just a few miles from where I live now), and the man is Theodore Fisher, my grandma’s first cousin.

The photo is remarkable to me for many reasons. First is Theodore. I loved him and his wife Katherine. Grandma lived only two blocks away, and she took me often to sit in their yard, drink lemonade, eat cookies (Katherine always had cookies … a family trait), and listen to Theodore’s squawking menagerie of geese, ducks, and exotic birds.

When he wasn’t busy digging himself out of a flood … sadly this was far from the only flood his home suffered over the years … he built pens and labyrinths for his collection of birds. I couldn’t wait to race from the school (the large building in the background) to see if Theodore had let the ducks out. Often he timed their swim in the creek (“crick” in our parts) just in time to greet us on our way home.

I always thought of Theodore as a cheerful, kind man … for all the floods he had to dig himself out of you’d think he’d be a bitter, miserable type of soul.

The second remarkable thing about this photo was already mentioned … the Farmington school. Behind Theodore’s head is a ghosted glimpse of the original Farmington school. By the time I came along, it had been replaced by the modern brick building (built in 1912, I believe) and the ghost-building was converted into a gym.

The other ghost in the picture is the Lutheran church … the over-exposed building barely noticeable on the right. My great-grandfather and his brothers built it, and it was attended by Fisher’s until Katherine, one of the last of that generation, watched from her kitchen window as the cross was taken down and the doors closed. The town had dwindled and no pastor was available to preach any longer. Today, the building is a private residence.

I attended first grade in the brick school the last year it was open. Two teachers … 13 kids … six grades … all those empty rooms … you can bet I have some stories. Some of them I’ve written, and they’ve been published in a town history that I will have to dig up and add to my blog one of these days. Suffice it to that I loved this building and felt my heart break when I heard that it was torn down while I was at college.

Rural Heritage Collection

The flood picture above brought to mind a ferocious winter storm and flooding that last year of the Farmington school. Every day at noon, we grabbed metal lunchboxes (with cool cartoon designs on them) from our cubbies and raced downstairs to the cafeteria on the bottom floor. The flood waters drowned Theodore’s place again that winter but this time kept on going. It crept over to the school and into the basement.

We were banished to our classrooms at lunch time which wasn’t so bad. The big adventure was getting to the only bathrooms … in the basement. 2×4’s and sheets of plywood were fashioned into a wobbly “bridge” and the whole place smelled dank and moldy. We weren’t allowed to go downstairs on our own during the floods should we decide to go puddle stomping through the flooded rooms. (Someone must have done it once … hence the rule.) The hero of the floods was our janitor, Mr. Felker, who steadied the boards with his foot when we walked across and slipped us sticks of Black Jack gum when the teacher’s weren’t looking. He gave us a wink and nod that meant, “Our secret.”

Rural Heritage Collection

This … the original Farmington school was our gym. A balcony had been fashioned high along the sides and one of my most excitable childhood memories was the year we were allowed onto the balcony to watch a game of donkey basketball that took place on the hardwood below. Big stuff for a small town.

Back to the wind storm I opened with … found out yesterday that part of the roof in the library I manage came off in that storm. How did I miss that! Granted it is a large brick building with a flat roof. I’m just glad our town workers saw and took care of it … the building belongs to and is managed by the town … but still, you’d think I would have noticed something.

I’m just glad that our that K. and D. (our town maintenance team) were on top of things (literally) and had a roofer come and put a temporary repair in place the very next day. When I thanked them for all the time they put into fixing old building around here, they laughed and said, “No worries. It’s what we do.”

That’s what I love about living here … we get plenty of storms and set backs, but there is a good core of people (and yes … a few complainers … I’ll be real … and sometimes I’m one of them) who keep us moving forward … one storm at a time.

Finally, I’ll wrap up with photos from a few other stormy days we’ve experienced since being back. Isn’t it amazing how even the darkest of clouds and most dreaded of winds are usually sandwiched with snatches of unmatched beauty?

Hope your are weathering your winter storms well … wherever you happen to be on the globe.

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I keep.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

When It’s Best to Say Nothing

Reflections

2020 was a year for voices.

Not always ones we’ve wanted to hear …

But there were things that needed to be said …

Sometimes helpful … sometimes not.

If I thought 2020 was noisy … 2021 has us screaming … already!

I’ve decided not to.

Scream, that is …

There’s so much of nothing to say …

I think it’s okay … best even … for me to say nothing for awhile … to let nature do the talking. This is what nature had to say on a recent walk at a favorite spot a short drive from my home …

It is true bliss have moved back “home” … immersed in the country side I love so much. To have all of this nature to escape to.

Putting this post together made me think of a Sara Teasdale poem that was part of the curriculum I taught in Junior English. We followed it up by reading Ray Bradbury’s story of the same name. I just noticed that Bradbury set his story in the year 2026. I hope he is wrong … that both writers prove to have given us warnings that are heeded … not prophetic pictures that come true.

There Will Come Soft Rains (Wartime) – Sara Teasdale

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild-plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Okay … that’s a little deep for this blog … probably should have put it on Rashellbud, my thought and faith blog, but this glimpse of nature is one of the joys of where we live.

Do you have any advice from your corner of the world for taking on 2021?

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I keep.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly



Scalloped Potatoes … Leaving 2020 on a High Note

I sometimes felt a little guilty about chasing the kids (and anyone, for that matter) out of the kitchen, especially during holidays.

“Out … out of the kitchen … all of you!”

We heard this every holiday and most meal times. My mom did not like having people gathered around her in the kitchen when she cooked.

“I need to concentrate.”

Sad to say, I carried on with the chase-every-one-out-of-the-kitchen tradition when my kids were small. Coming from a lineage of farmers on both sides of the family (although my immediate family did not farm), the pressure was upon me to feed people and feed them well. There also might have been something of a hidden motive of wanting the praises that come with a perfect meal. Being raised around incredible farm cooks, it was the highest compliment of any kind to be asked for seconds or to be asked to share a recipe, so the personal stakes I’d set in my head were high.

I sometimes felt a little guilty about chasing the kids (and anyone, for that matter) out of the kitchen, especially during holidays. Part of farm-style cooking involved teaching the next generation to cook well. My grandmother had the most patience in this department, especially when it came to baking . I guess holidays, though, just weren’t the day for on the spot training.

It took a few years of fussing alone in the kitchen, followed by a meal gobbled down in 20 minutes to wake up to the fact that I was getting ripped off on holidays by standards I had imposed upon myself.

Revelations:

  • It’s not fun to spend most of the holiday alone in the kitchen.
  • I like eating far more than cooking.
  • I’m too lazy to become a gourmet cook, so why try.
  • The word “lazy” has shown up in just about every post having to do with cooking … which is why I am more of an “eating” blogger, than a “recipe or cooking” blogger.
  • We have favorite family foods, but not necessarily family recipes … so every year is a bit of an experiment with a new way to try an old favorite.
  • Food experimenting has its pluses and minuses … both with extreme reactions attached … i.e. “Uhhh …thanks for the efforts” OR “That is amazing … can I have seconds?!”

This year’s food experimentation fell to the scalloped potatoes. My mom always had scalloped potatoes with her ham but she made them from a box. She worried about getting the sauce right, but knew Betty Crocker had it down to a science, so why reinvent, right?

This is our first Christmas without Mom … it seemed right to honor her with the potatoes and with a little extra effort.

The food that got us through all the FaceTime and Zoom calls on our very extended gift opening morning.

My daughter convinced me that it wouldn’t be that hard to make them from scratch. “We must have REAL potatoes,” she insisted. “Plus, Grandma would be proud of us for figuring out the sauce.” I agreed with her that rehydrated spuds just don’t cut it, no matter how daunting it felt to make a sauce from scratch.

With no family recipe to lean on, we scrolled through Pinterest until we found something that suited the ingredients we had on hand, and we went to work late on Christmas afternoon … our meal preparations had been delayed by FaceTime and Zoom visits with the rest of the family. Also to note here … it was very lax of me to get to Christmas Day without a recipe in hand.

I wouldn’t have anticipated it, but it was a golden afternoon in my daughter’s kitchen. There was no fussing about the perfect meal … just mom and daughter laughing and experimenting together … very chill.

“This is looking really good, Mom,” she cheered me on as I whisked whole milk into flour and butter. (We heard that calories don’t count on Christmas.) She dropped in grated cheese (extreme sharp white cheddar) and we each held our breath slightly, but no strange or stringy globs appeared. The cheese quickly melted into a smooth and creamy texture.

We poured it over the carefully sliced and layered Yukons and yellow onions which my daughter had artfully arranged in a prepared casserole.

“I don’t think this is big enough.” Fearing that our beautiful sauce would bubble over and meet a horrid death on the bottom of the oven, I made her prepare and transfer the potatoes to a different dish giving at least a centimeter of more room.

It’s fine,” she cut me off before I could suggest an even bigger casserole, so we poured on the sauce and slid it all into the oven.

Four adults in the house became four little kids. It was like we were waiting to open stockings or catch a glimpse of Santa slipping through the chimney the way we sneaked into the kitchen and glanced through the window of the oven, the smell enticing us as the dish began to bubble.

They came out perfectly and interest in the other dishes was a bit waining, even though all seemed exceptional this year. The real telling point of our holiday meal success came the next day with the leftovers. A bit of family tension emerged as the four of us hovered over the re-heated potatoes and tried to act nonchalant as we each assured that the potatoes were divided absolutely equally.

I sighed when the very last bite of those potatoes were gone … but it wasn’t the potatoes I was already missing.

For the week afterwards and now into a new calendar year, I have continued to think about those potatoes.

The fact that I didn’t chase anyone out of the kitchen … the joys of shedding perfectionism and just being together … cooking together with my adult daughter … witnessing how well my daughter is “adulting” … the longing all year long for this day when we would all be together even if part of it was through Face Time and Zoom …

It all emphasizes how much togetherness is deeply important to me … thus the heart of what has been both excruciating and … dare I say … wonderful … about 2020.

The pandemic has brought to my family less taking togetherness for granted in … we are much more intentional. Even though we’d like to meet in person more often, I ‘d have to say that we find ourselves more together in the same “Zoom” than we are in the same room. No one is distracted by their device … a terrible temptation for all of us … we are the device in these online meetups.

I’m sure there are others like me out there, but I hate seeing the holidays come to an end. It really gets to me how fast some stores and even friends, pack everything up and move on. We spend weeks talking about Christmas miracles, anticipating the hope and the remembrances of God’s love by sending His Son as a light into the world … the memories to be made … the family connections …

Then as fast as the gifts can be ripped open and the scalloped potatoes gobbled down, it’s back to life as usual. I’m never quite ready for that.

Oh … and before anyone asks me about the recipe for the potatoes … I forgot to bookmark them on my phone and couldn’t seem to find the same one when we went back to look. Guess, we’ll be carrying on the tradition of “same foods, new recipes” next year!

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I keep.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

Oh! The Cookies I Have Eaten

Slightly out of step with Christmas festivities, this is not a post about making cookies … it is about eating them.

Slightly out of step with Christmas festivities, this is not a post about making cookies … it is about eating them.

I’ve had an epiphany lately … If we are what we eat, then I am an Oatmeal Cookie with a large percentage of Russian Tea Cake.

Writing recently about my Grandmother, (Grandma Changed the World by Baking Cookies) it occurs to me that my family accented almost every moment of my childhood with cookies. It’s also how we solved most of our ailments.

Photo by Tina Nord on Pexels.com
  • Friday night sleepover at Grandma’s … oatmeal/chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies. “Just two,” she always instructed but then played deaf when we sneaked back to the cookie jar … multiple time! We were experts at trying to arrange the remaining cookies so that it didn’t appear that any were missing.
  • Family stopping by after church … Aunt Mary’s famous raisin cookies recipe … the one that only tasted right when Aunt Mary made it herself … we suspected that she left an ingredient or two out when she reluctantly agreed to share it after years of being begged.)
  • Fourth of July … orange gumdrop cookies … red gumdrops instead of orange (same recipe at Christmas with red and green gumdrops).
  • Snicker Doodles for lunch boxes
  • Brownies (with ice cream) for birthdays.
  • Gingersnaps for colds and sniffles or just having a bad day.
  • More bad days, especially a rough day at school … Ice Box Cookies to the rescue. It was somewhat of a cardinal sin in the family to not have a roll of vanilla or chocolate cookie formed into a log and wrapped in wax paper, waiting in the fridge for need-cookies-now-emergencies. If you don’t know what an Ice Box Cookie is, you’ll find knock off versions in the cold food section of the grocery store, next to cinnamon rolls in a can, and instant crescent rolls … all of which are handy but none of which taste anything like Grandma’s.
Photo by ready made on Pexels.com

Grandma watched TV shows about the end of the world and atomic explosions. The result was a flurry of baking in the kitchen … usually her go-to peanut butter bars. “No matter how poor we are, we always have enough ingredients for a batch of these … and they’re fast,” she said. I always suspected that if the world were about to end, she wanted to make sure we had one more sweet treat before the devastation set in. Guess that trait passed down to me … I have friends posting about the end of the world as we know it … warning us to stock up on survival gear … and I’m thinking about cookies.

I always suspected that if the world were about to end, she wanted to make sure we had one more sweet treat before the devastation set in.

Christmas Time brought out a whole new slew of recipe books and delicacies:

  • Sugar cookies with slathers of butter and a touch of cream of tartar
  • Rice Crispy® treats (made by my mom … these were too modern for Grandma)
  • Peanut butter balls rolled in chocolate (I was horrified to learn that a small amount of paraffin wax was used in these! But didn’t stop me from eating them.)
  • Spritz cookies … as long as we hadn’t lost any pieces to the cookie press
  • Thumb print cookies … filled with our own homemade strawberry freezer jam
  • German Springerle … these cookies – a work of art and true German artistry – demanded baker’s ammonia (sounds nasty, but I’m pretty sure that’s what was in the bottle deep in Grandma’s cupboard). They also required a special rolling pin … sad to say, I’m not sure what happened to the two that Grandma kept … I’ve never attempted these on my own.
  • Joe Froggers … a very laborious molasses cookie … chewy to perfection … and loaded with a lethal amount of molasses
  • Russian Tea Cakes … probably my favorite, especially with finely chopped walnuts and lots of powdered sugar

I had vowed not to do a lot of baking this year because it’s not in line with anyone’s health needs in our family … but … this list!

Maybe just ONE of these … but …. which?

Springerle (source of photo unknown) … these licorice flavored, coffee dunking cookies were part of our German Heritage.

Last minute confession: After writing the first draft, I had to run to the store for some dinner items, but couldn’t stop myself from peaking into the fridge where the instant cookie dough is kept. There was just one lonely roll of sugar cookie dough left. Even though my Grandma (and our youngest daughter, who has become Christmas Cookie Baker Extraordinaire) wouldn’t approve … I couldn’t leave the poor thing there by itself. After all … the evening news was petty bleak about the state of our world.

Wishing you Happy Cookie Eating … whatever the occasion!

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I keep.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

The Little Christmas Liar, Part II

I realize now that my brother had been about to call her out on that Christmas day.

Thank you for reading along and sharing this memory with me. Part I is found here.

PART II

After presents, the three older of us kids were shooed outside into a world of crunchy snow and cool breezes. “Blow the stink out of your pants while I finish up with the ham”, Mom pushed us toward the door.  Grandma asked if she could now tidy the room and clean the dishes which were crusting over with half-eaten oatmeal. Grandpa wanted to see Dad break in that new pipe and join him with a well-worn one of his own.  

Thus occupied, the adults ignored us as we scrambled for our rubber boots and layers of wool socks.  A stack of used bread wrappers sat by the door.  These were to go over our socks before wrestling our feet into boots that were slightly too snug to begin with.  The wrappers made “swish-swash, swish-swash” sounds as we stomped through the snow, but they did serve well enough.  Our “poor-man-snow-boots” (as my brother called them) … they would suffice. Never mind that it was so cold that snot froze inside our noses almost as soon as we stepped off the porch or that we would get scolded for spreading soggy breadcrumbs throughout the house later.

Just as I don’t remember how we finally got to the tree and presents in the living room, I don’t remember how Marla came to join us in the front yard, but there she was.  The sun, which decided it wanted to be a part of the day, sang in falsetto as it did nothing to warm up the morning, yet in its brightness, created a stunning world of crystal and dancing light as we broke into the ice-layered snow and tried to form snowballs.

“Let’s make a snowman,” Marla suggested.

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

We didn’t see our neighbor from down the block much in the winter time.  She went to a tiny, church school on the other end of town, so our playtimes were usually restricted to the summer months. The fact that she joined us now was unusual but welcome, and I wanted to please her so that she would stay.  My brother had a different mindset. 

“Snow’s too hard for that,” he snapped. “Don’t you know anything?”

Marla stay stooped over her pile of snow, patient with her attempts. Her mittens were worn through and soggy, so she stripped them off and worked bare-handed.  Once he saw that he wasn’t going to get a reaction from the girl, he huffed and marched to the garage in search of our sleds.

Marla had gotten used to ignoring him.  They were about the same age and had for some mysterious reason slid into the role of enemies.

There were a lot of things my brother didn’t seem to like about Marla. First of all, her parents were “as old as Methusela”. (He ignored the truth that our own father wasn’t any younger than Marla’s parents and was, in fact, almost two whole decades older than Mom.) He often taunted how poor they were.  We were poor too, but they did appear more in need than us.

The war between these two had escalated the summer before over a bag of bananas. The helpless bananas had been snatched out of Marla’s hands as my brother and his friends raced by her on their bikes.

Later that day, Marla’s mother trudged meekly up the sidewalk to our house and asked to see my mother.  She talked in quiet, yet firm tones which resulted in Brother having his bike locked in the garage for a week. Worse, he wasn’t allowed to play with his friends for twice that long.  It wasn’t just the stealing of the bananas, which were squished and thrown into the yard, it was the taunting.  “Marla is a baby! Marla is a baby!” they had  called out, making fun of the fact that they had caught the girl, who was their age, singing and playing make-believe with her dolls in her back yard, as if those toys were her real friends.

Photo by alleksana on Pexels.com

Marla had not cried in front of them, but wasn’t seen outside of her house for most of the rest of the summer.  “See, she is a baby,” my brother’s friends chanted when they road by on their bikes.

She might not have come around our house at all except that there were other no kids in the neighborhood.  All those who went to her school lived far out in the countryside … too far to walk or even ride a bike. As an only child, she got lonely, I’m sure. 

“What did you get for Christmas, Marla?” 

She didn’t seem to hear as she swept more snow toward her mound and tried once more to get the pile to form a ball. Her hands were red and shiny, the way mine got when I grew so cold that the pain left me in tears.  Marla seemed to know no such pain; she worked on un-phased. 

“I got a doll,” my little sister rambled, “And candy. And so many, many toys.  Santa brought us a whole sleigh full!”

“I got a China doll,” Marla suddenly stood up.

“The doll was just part of it,”  her words started in a slow cadence but gained speed as her eyes widened with excitement.  “She will sit on a shelf in our front room. She came with three of the most beautiful outfits a person ever saw.  And … “

She paused as if trying to find the perfect, magical words for something so magnificent that natural words might not do justice.

“And … I got three dresses in my size to match.  Such beautiful dresses … too beautiful for our town.  When I wear them, people are sure to mistake me for a princess.”

I sighed. I  couldn’t imagine owning something beautiful enough to be be mistaken for a princess, not that I liked dresses much or ever considered being a princess before this.

Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com

Marla wasn’t finished. Her gray eyes, much too big for such a thin face, sparkled like the crystalized snow around us. Her yellow hair stuck out in a number of spots on her hatless head like the straw of a scarecrow.  With a long neck and red cheeks, she reminded me of one of my picture books of Alice in Wonderland, minus pretty ribbons and a flowing gown. 

“We got the hugest fruit basket with the sweetest, most tasty fruits. Tropical fruits. And then! Then, there was a brand new chess set … boxes and boxes of chocolates … new stationary … a wooden yo-yo … a shiny pair of Mary Janes with an ever-so-slight heel … bubble bath and perfume … and brand new sheet music for Mama.  A new felt hat for Father and … lace curtains for our front windows, and so much food for our pantry that I couldn’t name it all … and a goose.  We’re eating goose for dinner.”

My brother had returned from the garage with our banged up metal sled … the Flying Saucer … in time to hear this extravagant list.  He “Hmmm-huffffffed” past, marching to the small hill at the end of the driveway. Once there, he suddenly spun around, gritted his teeth, and opened his mouth like he was about to shout something, but instead shut it, and chewed on his bottom lip..

“Are you going sledding with me or not?” he glared as he gripped the rope handles our dad had fastened to the round and dented metal disc that served as our favorite sled for the way it spun us round and round as we whooshed down hills.

I was not. I wanted to hear more of such gifts, so did my sister. Brother stomped off on his own.

I was both entranced and dismayed, a cloud I did not understand covering me.  It would take looking back to understand the weight of jealousy that had found its way to my heart.  My six-year-old brain wrestled with the thought that it somehow seemed unfair that my family had finally experienced great riches at Christmas, and yet plain, ol’ Marla should have gotten so much more.

Marla lived in a broken down house … more broken than ours … with broken down things.  My Dad patched our things, while Marla’s parents seemed unable or just too tired with age.  They were rarely seen except at their church or when coaxing a severely complaining truck to the mountains to gather wood  … their source of income and of heat.  Their unpainted, wooden house was paper thin.  No insulation padded the walls.  Newspapers covered the windows in the winter; both to add warmth and to keep out the stares of the nosey boys who tormented them.

Photo by Sausmus Photography/property of smallstuffliving.com

We all thought her parents odd and Marla odder.  Not only did she still play with dolls, she built forts and playhouses outside as if she were a member of the Swiss Family Robinson, banished to a life on a deserted island. Once, before the feud with my brother, she invited the two of us to roast potatoes in “my jungle” as she called it.  She had smuggled three mid-sized bakers out of the house and kept us in hushed tones as we tried to coax a flame out of leftover logs.  Without enough kindling to encourage a fire, we burned up all the matches. She crept into the house in search of more, but her mother heard and discovered what we were up to. We were sent home. I always wondered if Marla got her roasted potato that day; she seemed so hungry. 

Music. The one truly normal thing about this family was music.  Morning, afternoon, early evening, piano music escaped through those thin window pains, drifting as far as our house sometimes.  Often I snuck to the trees next to their lot and sat underneath, listening to the hymns and classical pieces played by someone who seemed to have magic fingers the way they made elegant sounds come out of that dingy house.

It was Marla’s mother who mostly played, but sometimes I heard the banging of keys and halting measures repeated again and again and again until there was less halting and fewer sour notes. I assumed it was Marla practicing, eventually growing in skill so that I had to listen very carefully to know which of them was playing.

Just as I was about to ask Marla how they were going to cook that goose for their dinner, we were called in to ours. All thoughts of Marla and my jealousy faded as we sat under the beam of Grandpa’s smiling face, stuffing our stomachs with ham, cheesy potatoes, and orange jello salad, trying to leave room for the cherry – pudding cheesecake with a graham cracker crust and Grandma’s once a year traditional, licorice-flavored, Springerle cookies. BUT not enough room for her mincemeat pie.

File image / source unknown

The rose colored glasses that viewed that wondrous Christmas didn’t crack until college.  It made no sense that while laboring over some all important paper about layers of deceit in King Lear or something like that, it hit me.  

That. Big. Fat. Liar! 

It took me a moment to know what I was even thinking about … the memory so random and so long tucked away.

Marla …. Marla lied. 

No china doll. 

No fancy gowns.  

No piles of books and puzzles or boxes of chocolate and stationery. 

No goose dinner.  

No lace curtains to replace the yellowed newspapers. (Why had I never noticed that they never appeared in those windows?)

I realize now that my brother had been about to call her out on that Christmas day.   There had been no tree in the window or decorations outside. There was likely a box of oranges and some baked goods from church members.  Maybe even a gift-wrapped classical book or sturdy, practical shoes, but that would have been it. 

My brother … yes, he could have ratted on her that morning … put his enemy on the spot. And why wouldn’t he, given the chance to get even for squealing about the bananas. But he didn’t.

He gave her her imaginary Christmas. 

And … then it occurred to me … my Dad was complicit too. He could have spoken up that day as well. He could have said no to my Grandfather’s whims … but he didn’t. He carried the burden of letting Grandpa pay for our house and a car big enough to carry all of us about. And then, to jab the knife a bit deeper, he paid for Christmas while Dad struggled to keep basic bills covered all year long.

Dad also knew the stories of Grandpa’s neglect when my mom was our age and that not all of the drinking binges led to funny endings like the night he had been locked out of the house. Now, there he was … taking the spotlight on that Christmas … a spotlight Dad might have felt was undeserved.

But Dad let Grandpa be the star.  And that was a good thing because Grandpa left us the next spring … illness swooping in and snatching him away with no warning.

Those are supposed to some of my most glorious Christmas memories because they were our last with Grandpa. But now they’re invaded by a liar, leaving a residue of guilt.  We had our wonderful Christmas … Marla’s was dismal.  And I had been jealous of her bragging only to discover that it was my bragging that likely heaped more misery on her. 

I have no idea what became of Marla, but a new thought occurs to me today.  Somewhere out there is a 60-something-year-old woman preparing for another Christmas.  It is a dark world for all of us right now (2020) but I pray for her today … and I wish I could say …

Marla,

You may have never gotten those fancy dresses or eaten goose for dinner (trust me, it’s not that great) … you may have never found your way to a mansion and may still have newspapers for curtains …

but I hope that wherever you are, that you have a piano to tap out songs of joy and peace … and I hope that the light of Love has found its way to you … you dear little Christmas Liar.

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I keep.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly