Category Archives: Holidays

Tuesday musings – Happy New Year!

“All of us every single year, we’re a different person. I don’t think we’re the same person all our lives.” — Steven Spielberg

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” — T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

“The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul.” — G.K. Chesterton


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Auld Lang Syne

Andre Rieu and The European Pipe Band

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes
And pou’d the gowans fine.
We’ve wandered mony a weary foot,
Sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae sported i’ the burn,
From morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin’ auld lang syne.

And ther’s a hand, my trusty friend,
And gie’s a hand o’ thine;
We’ll tak’ a right good willie-waught,
For auld lang syne.


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Renaissance Girl’s Recipe Corner – New Year’s edition

There are at least as many beliefs about how to bring yourself luck on New Year’s Day as there are cultures in the world, and many of these traditions involve food. According to, the most commonly referenced auspicious foods are grapes, cooked greens, legumes, pork, fish, and sweets, particularly cakes. Lobster and winged fowl, particularly chicken, are considered unlucky.

In my part of the U.S., the usual New Year’s meal is pork cooked with sauerkraut. Since I’m vegetarian, I’m offering an alternative that makes use of two of the foods on’s list: cooked greens and legumes. I came up with this recipe during a very brief relationship with a man from the South, where blackeyed peas and collard greens are common fare on New Year’s Day.

New Year’s Day Lucky Stew

2 15-ounce cans black-eyed peas (or equivalent amount cooked dried black-eyed peas)

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped greens (collard, mustard, turnip, kale, chard, or spinach; can use fresh but you’ll need to use a *lot*, as they shrink during cooking)

2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes with green chilies (can substitute diced stewed tomatoes for one or both)

any other vegetables you like, diced (onion, celery and bell pepper would all be good)

water or vegetable stock

Liquid Smoke to taste

Tabasco sauce to taste

Drain the cans of black-eyed peas; *don’t* drain the cans of tomatoes. Put black-eyed peas, tomatoes with juice, greens, and vegetables in large Crock-Pot with water or vegetable stock to cover. Add Liquid Smoke and Tabasco. Cook on low for several hours. Check seasoning and add more if needed (I like it spicy but know not everyone does.) Serve over cooked rice, with corn bread, or with Irish soda bread. I like Bob’s Red Mill’s mix.

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Tuesday musings – Merry Christmas!

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” — Bob Hope

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” — Sigrid Unset

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.” — Eric Sevareid

“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself if you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thougts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open? Are you willing to do these things for a day? Then you are ready to keep Christmas!” — Henry Van Dyke

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Tuesday musings — 12/18/2012

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph.” — Shirley Temple Black

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Renaissance Girl’s Recipe Corner

I’m making these cookies for our church’s cookie walk this weekend.

Flourless PB&J Cookies (original recipe from a 1970s church cookbook; the spices and jam are my additions)

Makes 2 dozen; easily doubled or tripled

1 cup peanut butter (This is *not* the time to use the natural variety; can use either chunky or creamy. I prefer chunky.)

1 cup sugar (Can use either white or brown; I actually like them better with brown sugar.)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon ginger

(The spices are optional but delicious.)

Mix all ingredients. Drop with teaspoon on *greased* cookie sheet. (I had to fix that. Sorry for any inconvenience.) Bake at 325 degrees no longer than 15 minutes. Immediately after removing from oven, make small depression with a teaspoon or the end of a wooden spoon. Fill with your favorite jam or jelly or with Nutella. Let cool.

The next two recipes I’ll be making for my family.

My Mom’s Favorite Cookies (original recipe from a Diane Mott Davidson mystery)

Makes 3 dozen (give or take, depends on how big you make them)

2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2/3 cup baking cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

Optional: 1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (can substitute Blue Bonnet or Imperial margarine)

¾ cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chunks or chips

1 8-ounce package dried cranberries (craisins) or dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt (and cinnamon, if you’re using it) in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Gradually beat in flour mixture. (You may have to switch from a mixer to a wooden spoon.) Stir in chocolate chips or chunks and cranberries/cherries. Drop by well-rounded teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes or until centers are set. Cool on baking sheets.

Mocha-Chip Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen

2 ¼ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

2 T. instant coffee (the only appropriate use for instant coffee, IMHO)

½ cup + 1 T. unsweetened cocoa

Optional: cinnamon to taste, up to 1 tsp.

2 sticks butter, softened (can substitute Blue Bonnet or Imperial margarine)

¾ cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup light brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 package white chocolate/semisweet chocolate swirled chips (You can use all white or all semisweet, or even milk chocolate chips if you prefer)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa, instant coffee, and cinnamon. Gradually add dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture. (At some point you’ll want to switch from the mixer to a wooden spoon or spatula. This is a really heavy dough.) Add chips. Drop by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes. They’re not going to look “done” when they come out; don’t worry about that. Let cool on cookie sheet. If you make the cookies smaller, decrease your baking time by 1-2 minutes.


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I have a beef with Jurassic Jimmy

Disclaimer: I am an Episcopalian with a great respect for science. If you believe the world was literally (rather than metaphorically) created in six days 6,000 years ago, you may wish to stop reading at this point, as I will be talking about evolution. Caveat lector. 


The toy store where I’m working during the Christmas season has a wonderful line of friction-powered vehicles made by WOW Toys ( Among them are a garbage truck named Flip ‘n’ Tip Fred, a tractor named Harvey Harvester, and construction vehicles named Dudley Dump Truck and Dexter the Digger. Bright colors, sturdy materials, gender-diverse people to go in them, no batteries required. Apart from the lack of racial diversity and the fact that they’re manufactured in China (though designed in Great Britain), I have no complaints. There are even vehicles targeted to girls, although there’s certainly nothing to stop you from buying your little girl a Fireball Frankie instead of a Whiz-Around Amy. I considered one of their vehicles for my toddler-age niece but settled on other gifts instead.


But then, there’s Jurassic Jimmy. A jeep piloted by a Cro-Magnon man (at least I think he’s Cro-Magnon; he doesn’t look Neanderthal to me), with a trailer behind and a space in the trailer for a cute little purple Apatosaurus. I grew up watching and enjoying “The Flintstones,” and later, “Dinosaurs,” but Jurassic Jimmy still annoys me. You see, most boys and many girls in WOW’s target demographic (ages 1 1/2-5) think dinosaurs are incredibly cool. Said children also ask a lot of questions, and may well get around to asking whether dinosaurs and humans were ever around at the same time. A thoughtful parent will say, “No,” and give a preschool-appropriate explanation of the different theories why dinosaurs became extinct, then conclude by saying that human beings have only been on Earth for four and a half million years. The child will listen to his (I’m being presumptuous and assuming it’s a boy simply based on my own experience) parent, then look at his toy, and experience some cognitive dissonance.


I should probably be equally annoyed by George’s Dragon Tale, which has a knight and – you guessed it – a dragon. But for some reason, I’m not. Maybe I read too much medieval literature in college.

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Tuesday musings — 12/11/2012

Only two X chromosomes could account for the creation of pomander balls by thousands of women who otherwise seem not to suffer from any grievous psychological ailment . . . .If you told a boy he had to make a gift for someone he loved out of rotting fruit, hairpins, and cheesecloth, he might find the concept intriguing—think of the possibilities in terms of making a mess, after all—but when he discovered that the process involved the systematic implantation of hundreds of cloves, he would plead his case to Child Protective Services.” – Gina Barreca


I will be baking cookies and making assorted goodies for my parents’ Christmas present (I’ll post recipes later), and I painted Christmas ornaments to sell at our church’s cookie walk/craft sale, but that is where my creativity ends. No Santa outfits or jingle bell collars for the cats. No stringing popcorn and cranberries for the tree (if I put the tree up; Little Trouble gets airborne sometimes, and I have ornaments that are 50+ years old and came on the boat from Europe with my maternal grandmother). No handmade cards for my entire Christmas list, including people I haven’t seen in years.

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Sappy Cat Blogging

The Jingle Cats purr-forming “The Waltz of the Flowers” from The Nutcracker:

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Retail rant

OK, so I got a seasonal retail gig working in a toy store to supplement my jobs. It’s a lot of fun; how many workplaces let you play with toys all day? But there are some things that irritate me.

1. Yes, we encourage kids to play with the toys. Please remind any children with you that this is a place of business, not their playroom. Do not let them take over floor space with the toys or leave them where someone can trip over them. Do not let them put things in their mouths.

2. We are not babysitters. Please keep at least one eye on your child while you shop.

3. If your toddler needs a diaper change, please go take care of that, THEN finish your shopping. (This happened today. I could smell the child four feet away, and I have a cold at the moment.)

4. Put your phone away while I’m checking you out.

5. Hand your money or credit card to me. Do not leave it on the counter for me to pick up. (When did this become acceptable?)

6. Yes, we offer complimentary gift wrapping. Feel free to take advantage of it when the store is NOT crowded.  (Sidebar: I am the world’s worst gift-wrapper, even when not handicapped by the cats.)

7. Do not give me a vague description of what you’re looking for and then seem offended when I have no idea what you’re talking about.

8. Do not ask for something you “saw on TV” without giving me a product name. I realize each commercial kills 1,000 brain cells, but surely you still have enough to take notes.

9. Do not joke, “I guess it’s free!” if you don’t see a price tag on something.

I’m fortunate to have a great manager and good coworkers, and most of our customers are nice, but some behaviors just annoy me.




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