Another try!

I’ll try this again. Maybe I’ll continue to try but no promises. I don’t know if it’s my computer or the format lately, but nothing I have written in a few weeks now has made it to the public view after I hit “Publish”. Half the time I can’t even find the button to push, so I keep telling myself it’s not worth the aggravation. Being a rather stubborn female I keep on trying, and trying, and trying. It almost reminds me of the pink bunny, but since I have no energy at all lately I’m not sure what that rabbit is representing — or is it still representing anything at all? Now that I think about it, I can’t remember seeing any of those commercials lately. Maybe I’m extinct and haven’t realized it yet. Maybe I’m actually living on another planet and can’t remember the trip. Now that I give it some thought, I can’t remember dinner tonight. I have a feeling I forgot to eat it, but then, I have been snacking most of the day.

I found a Snoopy cartoon on Pinterest a few months ago that really hit home. Snoopy has gained a lot of weight, and the caption reads, “After the virus looks”. I can relate. My diet used to be good, eating a lot of veggies and good for me foods. Since the pandemic it consists of a lot of comfort foods — barbecue potato chips, ice cream, candy, cake, pie, and possibly the worst of all — buffalo chicken wings! They are delicious but I can’t seem to get enough, unless of course, I choke on them. There’s just something about fried food that tastes better to me at the moment than the healthier baked version I used to eat. Fried catfish, fried chicken, fried potatoes, lately even fried baloney sandwiches! Covered with cheese! And washed down with my cherry coke! Followed by a large helping of homemade ice cream liberally covered with chocolate syrup! It’s a good thing I broke my leg last year and not this one. It would take the entire fire department to get me on a gurney this year, while a year ago one person was able to pick me up for the transfer.

I’ve been going out more lately than during the months before I was vaccinated. Been to visit my aunt two times since they lifted the quarantine at her nursing home, even saw my cousin last week when we both visited at the same time. We used to both visit on the same day as a way to keep in touch but now? So much change. As you may know, I don’t adapt well to change lately.

Okay, I’m going to attempt to add some photos of my dolls and then try to publish. If you don’t see this it will mean I didn’t make it!

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Well, I found the photos but most of my dolls have kinda disappeared. If I can ever find my camera again, the one I put away where I could always find it again, I’ll be able to put more photos on here. It’s difficult to find them right now after updating my computer after installing a new driver. What a mess these things can be if they stop working! That’s okay though. I have a good program that helps me repair them.

Dinner time and I’m in hog heaven!

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when march arrives

can spring be far behind? The sun has come out today, a sight we had lost track of lately with first the frigid weather, then rain, but now it’s big, it’s yellow, it’s in the sky and it’s radient. It must mean spring, but lately, who really knows? While most of the country east of the Rockies had snow we had ice, sleet, black ice and finally a couple of inches over it all, just to make walking out there challenging, I don’t think anyone in the building fell and broke anything this year, but really I can’t say for certain because I’m stuck in my apartment observing the quarantine while so many are out running around sans masks, acting like nothing on earth is bothering them. Now that I think about it, they really aren’t bothered by it all while the ones trying to stay healthy are all locked away and out of sight.

Not a lot has been happening. Or maybe it has and no one noticed. Kinda like taking your guitar to a party and not being asked to play back in the old days when we went to parties, I don’t think I would remember how to act at a party these days. Now that I think about it, I’m betting I would not be able to host one again. My social skills have redeveloped into something more akin to staying home and watching TV while my hair and waistline expand a bit more every day. Hopefully the waistline is tapering off now. I know this because I had to change my jeans back one size this morning after pulling up the larger ones for the dozenth time.

It’s really late in the day now and I’ll bet no one noticed I was gone. So glad I didn’t have my guitar with me all day waiting, LOL. I decided to take advantage of the sunshine and get some groceries before I ran completely out. I’m happy to say I can now make a chicken sandwich, but not much else because I focused mainly on getting the ingredients for caramel candy. And now I’ve just finished making that, poured it in a pan to cool and time will tell if I have to crack it with a hammer or eat it with a spoon. I’m sure it’s too much to hope that it will be just right. At least the taste is there, and for me that’s the best part. I have plenty of spoons if it comes to that. It’s just hard to send it to people thru the mail when it runs like the first batch of the year.

My good friend, Beck called while I was stirring the candy and we talked the entire time. She lived here at one time, came down with COVID, and now has moved out of this place, something I plan on doing as soon as I can find a place with wheelchair accessibility. I’ve seen some of the virtual tours of a few places that are so nice, but no ramps or elevators. I actually have never tried to drive up a flight of stairs but the little bit of common sense left tells me not to try that stunt. Seems like with all of the stair climbers they make these days there should be at least one affordable way to get a power chair up steps without an elevator. Maybe in someone’s lifetime, just not in mine.

It’s well after dark now, but according to the clock it’s not very late. Not sure if Daylight Savings Time is to blame or not, but it darkness continues well after I get out of bed in the morning, so it must be a cloud settling over me, like that kid in the Peanuts cartoon. I’m just not going to hold my breath waiting for spring to pop out. Blue faces just don’t look too good with my hair color.

Had a few more words written up there but they suddenly disappeared so my resident poltergeist must be at work. I think I’ll go rescue the candy before he gets a chance to make it disappear. I can do that myself. Make it disappear, that is. Of course I would never make it through the door again if I do that. Okay, I’m gonna stop rambling now before I get so lost in a thought someone will have to draw me a map to get back.

Well, I managed to find some of my photos but not exactly the way I had planned. So sorry about that, but I couldn’t find a way to erase them or to crop them. I guess I still have a lot of work to do to learn how to manage this crazy format. I sure don’t like it any better now than I did when they first came up with forcing it on me.

Vaccination

Last week I received my second COVID-19 vaccination shot. I have heard so many things about the vaccination, both pro and negative, so went into it with trepidation. I’m allergic to so many medicines and vaccinations that I expected the worst. Happy to say I received the best. I keep wondering what kind of needle they used since I never felt the pinprick at all and questioned the person administrating the vax if it had really been given yet. She laughed and assured me it had been and I was okay, placed a cute little bandaid on the area and told me to stay there for about 15 minutes in case of a bad reaction. I actually enjoyed the short stay because for the second time in a year was able to visit with some friends while waiting. We all observed the social distancing and were all talking at once because we were together for the second time, the first time being the morning we all received the first stage of the vax series.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the second, having heard from several people, including my youngest son, that several of them had experienced a bad reaction to that one, but it has been five days and no problems for me, although I have heard a few people speak about feeling nauseous after receiving it. Of course, one of my best friends admitted he always felt nauseous at the thought of being stuck by a needle. I guess we all hate the thought of needles. It just doesn’t seem normal to be stuck on purpose by needles for any reason, but one thing for me is that my MS has affected my ability to feel pain, so I seldom feel anything at all. Good? Sometimes.

One bad time was when I stepped on a piece of glass and it was embedded in my foot. Didn’t know it was there until a few days later. By that time there was some infection setting in. Not too sure about whether to go to the ER or not, I simply covered it with Neosporin and a bandaid, called my mom to ask if she thought I should get a tetanus shot even though I knew I was overdue for one, and was so happy when she told me I would probably be okay without. I really don’t recommend skipping that for a wound, but took her word that I didn’t need one. After all, she raised seven kids without benefit of ER visits and we all made it to old age.

Now all I really want is nice weather, temps in the 60’s, lots of sunshine and a nice long visit with family and friends that has been impossible for over a year now.

Realistically I know the pandemic isn’t over yet, but I can almost see a light at the end of a long tunnel and hope has returned. I know people are still dying from this disease and the mutations that are popping up all around us, but stll I hope! Always I hope.

Whatever

In two weeks it will be a year since I fell and broke my leg.  Three weeks later I returned home and the world had changed.

My aunt had been quarantined for a month by that time but the rest of us were still living as usual when I fell. She has been alone most of the past year while the changes have been taking place!  I was alone here during the year, but i was not locked down.  I could still go out as freely as I wished, but discovered how much I didn’t want to go!

My year has been spent working on sewing doll clothes!  The dream was to give the dolls with complete wardrobe to a thrift store that catered to foster homes, not charging the family at all if they couldn’t afford it.  We were sure the pandemic would be just a bad memory by Christmas .  that all would be well.  There would be a cure.  

  WRONG!!! A strange year. Friends have been lost to COVID-  19! I’ve reached saturation point. I don’t read the paper now, don’t watch the news.  I don’t want to know!  I want my old life back.  I want to put dolls in the arms of little girls who need them.  I want to be there when my brother’s ashes are scattered at one of his favorite places! I want my old life back.





I want to see my aunt again!

Cats and other fun

I received a message from my friend Jill about some of her cats peculiarities and it reminded me of the many, many cats we had on the farm. Since we also had dogs, some days were like living in an animal circus.

In the beginning I had a German Shepherd that my husband brought in to me one night a couple of weeks after our wedding. I have loved German Shepherds for most of my life, after taming one my dad brought home when I was about twelve. It almost became a victim of Highway 81 when he strayed too close to the road and almost got hit by one of the coal trucks that passed by us every five minutes. His name was Duke, if I remember correctly, and after that close encounter he ran up to me for the first time without his teeth bared and a growl in the throat. I held him close and spoke to him for several minutes and after a while he stopped trembling and just snuggled up to me. No one else was able to play with him, but after that incident he was my buddy — until Dad decided he was dangerous and took him back to the person who gave him to us. It broke my heart, but I was only one out of dozens who were happy to see him go.

So, anyway, my first animal on the farm was a German Shepherd puppy, named Duke after my first one. A few weeks later my hubby brought in a baby racoon that had fallen out of its nest, thinking I would be afraid of it. I named her JoJo, and now had two pets of my own. They had joined my hubs own dog, a coon hound of all things, as part of the family. Since the hound was old and just wanted to sleep all the time there were never any problems with our animal family until — the next rescue he brought was a cat with five kittens.

Samantha, the cat, was a gift for our daughter, and was kept inside the house after a few close encounters of the worst kind with the dogs. By that time JoJo had a family of her own and as soon as they were old enough they all went back to the woods and their normal wild living, so the cats seemed to be just what was needed to round out the family. The kittens were named after the favorite TV detectives. We had Stansky, Hutch, Colombo, Cannon, and Dillon. Okay, so Matt Dillon was a western sheriff, but he was also a favorite of most of us (and I still watch Gunsmoke to this day). Mama cat was named Samantha, and after the original five had outgrown house cat status and welcome they became barn cats, gravitating there each time they had escaped the confines of the house before being left out one night by mistake. Samantha was a cat only a mom could love, claws extended all the while, but my daughter was wild about her.

Time passed and Samantha’s time came round again, so one of her friends smuggled her tomcat in to play with Samantha. A few weeks later, Samantha gave birth to seven this time. Oh, daddy was a solid white cat while Sam was gray, so from that litter we got one white cat with one blue eye and one green eye. He was named Thumper. I think that was the name given after he was weaned, while one sister, who had endeared herself to us all was also kept and named Priscilla. My hubby loved to play with the cats when he came in at night, inventing all kinds of toys for them to chase, but one day he noticed that each time I used the electric can opener the cats all came running to the kitchen, thinking they were going to be fed again. The sound of the opener was usually followed by their food dishes being filled with the combination of wet and dry food I gave them, and even though they were only fed one time a day they couldn’t tell time except by their stomachs. They bolted the food in the morning and were ready for more as soon as the can opener was heard. Thumper could be heard bounding across the floor from wherever he had been hiding and into the kitchen. Pris was always a lady, making a dignified entrance. Naturally pushing the button on the can opener became hubs favorite pastime after that.

Now as for Priscilla, she was a lover. She curled around our necks and purred in our ears constantly. And I do mean constantly! Not so bad during the day when we were all awake, but at night she alternated victims, choosing from the three kids but always beginning in my bed, wrapped around my head and purring in my ear. LOUD purring! Like a buzz saw purring. After I pushed her off for the third time she would move over to hub’s head. He would shove her out into the living room and shut the door. She seemed to need to show her love for her humans though so undaunted by being shunned twice, she moved on to the kids rooms. We could only chuckle into our pillows as she picked on the boys, being pushed off with a few choice words by each of them before finally seeking refuge with her mom and a sure welcome in our daughter’s room. I’ve never understood why she didn’t go there first, unless possibly her mom pushed her off in there.

These cats also spent time outside — each time the door opened they sped out until finally they only visited inside once in a while. The number of outside cats seemed to grow, and each year we had two new white cats with one blue eye and one green eye, all tamed in some way by my husband who could be seen at all times walking around the farm with a cat on his shoulder.

The only photos I could find were of Max, my Pekinese, but none of any of the cats. So here’s Max as a puppy. Since this was his first day with me the rope was the only thing I had to tie him outside for the time I was cleaning out my car.

absence of pain with ms

Some of the latest dolls and clothes:

So, here’s the deal.  A few days ago I decided to make monkey bread, you know, cut up some biscuits, toss in melted butter, roll in cinnamon sugar, load in pan and bake.  So simple to do.  Such a mess to clean up when it goes wrong!  Didn’t have a problem putting it all together and getting it in the oven to bake.  Getting it out of the oven was when it all hit the fan.  At least I wished it had hit a fan rather than hitting my hand, my jeans, my socks, and even worse, the floor!

I am mostly to blame for it all, taking it out of the oven with one hand and then trying to balance it all with the other.  I knew it was going as soon as the pan cleared the oven.  Reached out with my uncovered left hand and felt a fast sear of pain as the pan tipped, covering the left hand with melted butter, cinnamon sugar, and pieces of biscuit before hitting the floor.  Two seconds of searing pain and then nothing.  I knew though to get the hand under cold water asap, and I held it there for a long time, not even noticing my jeans were covered with the same mess until later. As soon as all the gunk was off the hand I cut a spike off my aloe vera plant and squeezed the juice on the burned area, topped it with sterile gauze and held it on with an ace bandage that I kept in the freezer for things like this.  Ya see, it’s not the first time I have burned the same hand, usually forgetting I should grab a potholder before grabbing a pot that is coming off the burner.  Not that I’m getting old or anything, just using my head to hold my hat on instead of using the brain.  

Funny thing about having MS.  It causes the myelin around the brain cells to die, keeping the nerve receptors from letting the brain know it should be sending out signals that protect people from injuring themselves and being unaware that it is serious.  Thus a few seconds of pain that is so reduced in intensity that I have to take care of it immediately before I forget something is injured.  On the one hand, I don’t hurt physically as much as others with normal brains.  On the other hand I have several injuries that I don’t even know about because I don’t feel them.  This can lead to infection of the wound, and when it gets serious I DO feel pain.  Still not as intense as it used to be before the myelin was gone, but I could live in a bubble and still manage to get hurt.  It has kept me from getting tetanus shots when I probably needed them, but it has also allowed me to continue what I’m doing until forced to stop by the fatigue, another of the fun things about MS.

Fatigue!  My worst enemy!  The source of years of being labeled by family and friends, all of whom have labeled me lazy, no good, not much of a woman:  Hurtful things when only I knew there was nothing left inside to work with.  I knew better but had never heard of MS at that time.  No one in this area had heard of MS.  There was only one time I heard about it — when  Annette Funicello  told her story of the battle she fought with it.  I was in my 50’s before I knew I had it.  An “orphan” disease, incurable, still nothing at that time to fight it.  It’s still an orphan disease with no cure, but now there are some medications that can help control the symptoms.  I’m allergic to them all.  Lucky, huh?  The fatigue was finally explained, as were the debilitating headaches that sent me to bed for weeks at a time, as well as the clumsiness and the falling on my face so often.  And still, 67 years after the symptoms began, there are still the labels attached to me.  And there are still people who think I’m lazy.  My mom never believed the diagnosis to her dying day and some family members doubt the problem exists.  I stopped driving a car when my vision became so bad that I almost caused a wreck because I didn’t see the oncoming car as I pulled out in front of it.

Yeah, vision!   Blindness, in my case it comes and goes.  I’ve been totally blind for as long as three days, while some folks have been blinded for life.  Some days I have perfect vision in both eyes, most days I have been able to see well with one eye only if I shut the other one.  

There are thousands of people in the world living with this disease.  And yet it is still an orphan disease, mainly ignored by the public.  We have two awareness months every year — MARCH AND OCTOBER!!!  But MS is ignored both of those months, overshadowed by breast cancer, a disease that strikes so many, including my sister, but has protocols to fight it into submission and remission.  MS, never mentioned in ads during those months, seldom the recipient of donations to find a cure, is ignored.  MS actually is more prevalent than breast cancer in some areas, yet is still ignored.  I guess we live longer so it doesn’t matter to many that our lives are ripped apart because of it.  Few people even know about it.   If it comes down to it, there are people living miserable lives not knowing they even have the disease.  My symptoms began when I was eleven years old.  I was diagnosed when in my 50’s.  

No two people have the exact symptoms, so it’s not easy to diagnose. I think I would be correct in saying that a lot of us are labeled “hypochondriac:” because MS symptoms are diverse, imitating other diseases, seldom even considered by doctors inundated by true hypochondriacs who take up their time and wear out their patience when there are so many who really need their help.

Okay, no more whining. It’s a sunny day and I’m going to grab my power chair, winter coat and a blanket for my legs and get outside for some fresh air, or as much as can be breathed in by the facemask. With no immune system of my own and a working sinus infection going on I sure don’t need to be around people who might have something I really don’t want to share with them. We have a lot of them in this building!

Christmas a few years later

A little while ago I was listening to some music being streamed by Amazon Music when I heard a song that took me back to the early days of guitars in church.  At least in Catholic churches.  My sister learned to play a guitar first, teaching herself.  I had always wanted to learn so then she taught me.  And she signed us up to play Sunday Mass at a local church.  It was a small one, almost a mission church, and with MEG at the front I was happy to try it.

I think it was about 1971, Meg and I were going to make the Midnight Mass something special that year.  We enlisted some of the kids in the congregation and even a few adults to help out in the new group we had formed.  For weeks we practiced for that Mass.  We were all psyched up for something great.

In the meantime our sister from out of state came home for Christmas, bringing a guest with her.  A very unwelcome guest as it turned out.  Naturally we all went in to mom’s house to welcome her home and hear all the latest news from her part of the country, as well as to have our favorite food.  Mom had been cooking for a while getting everything ready for Christmas dinner, but we were allowed to sample the brown and serve rolls, homemade, of course from an old recipe still in the family today.  The caramels were brought out, as well as pecan pie and the cake of the day, orange slice cake I think.  We spent several hours catching up as all the family who lived away came home one by one, or family by family.

All was well for a couple of days.  With Meg doing the high sounds and playing lead guitar I didn’t have a worry in the world.  Christmas Eve finally arrived and I took a nap so I would be wide awake for Midnight Mass.   I also went over some of the songs to be sure I would remember the tunes.  It’s amazing how easy it is to forget the music to Silent Night when you are nervous.  I didn’t worry much though because Meg would be there.  She has the talent.  She has the skill.  She can make a guitar speak.  Nothing to worry about.

Oh yeah?  The hammer fell late in the afternoon when Meg called.  Her voice barely above a whisper, tears in her words, she broke the news.  Smc’s guest had reared it’s ugly face.  Everyone at Mom’s house had the flu!  Including and especially Meg!  I had to be the lead at Midnight Mass.

The big problem for me is that I can’t hit the high notes in Christmas carols, and they all have high notes. Some go from the basement to the sky in the same work. I’m an alto or at best second soprano. And I had to lead the singing? But Meg reminded me that a few of the kids in the new group had great voices that could hit those notes, so all I had to do was get them assembled and started. HA!

Time arrived and most of the kids sat back down when I told them Meg wouldn’t be there and it was up to us. So there I was, all alone behind the microphone, guitar shaking in my hands, popping lozenges to keep my mouth moist each time it dried out. Father gave the signal, he was ready to begin. In a quavering voice I began the opening procession, “O Come, O Come Emanuel “. Father sang along, and as fear took over my voice became higher and higher and all of a sudden I was hitting those notes Even the highest ones were hit spot on. My group began to form around me and it happened! Our very own Christmas miracle. I had never before done that, and I never have again but that night the angels were helping out and we formed a heavenly choir.

When Mass was over there were so many people gathered around to congratulate us, and the statement I heard most was “I didn’t know you could sing like that!” I could only tell them it was news to me also, but it’s amazing what fear can do for the human voice.

So, I never heard animals talk, but that night I heard angels singing right there in that little mission church. Joy To The World! And Alleluia.

Oh, the song that made me remember that night is “Lord, Teach Us to Pray” by Joe Wise. He’s on UTube, but I wasn’t able to put it on here. Just not that good at doing things on the computer.

Back to highway 81T

Once again in my memory I am back at that white stucco house just down the road from my grandparents and it is Christmas Eve. The baking and candy making is finished, we have prayed the rosary while trying to remain awake until it is over, and most of us are in bed. And the memories begin.

A week or so before Christmas dad would load us all in the old ’39 Ford and we would go out to the backroads in search of the perfect tree. It was always a cedar and that is the smell I most associate with Christmas. The cedars grew wild around the creek and dad knew every back road in the county. We would stop several times to check out the stands of cedars we passed, usually finding something wrong with them all in the beginning. After a while we were feeling the effects of an overpacked car and weren’t so critical. Mom always had the last word on them but we all piled out to stretch and give opinions. Dad would cut the winner down and tie it on top of the old car and we piled in again. we each had our own place with T. up front between Mom and Dad, I would be lying in the recessed area where the back window met the trunk, and the rest were elbowing each other for more space in the back seat.

Back at home the tree was taken down and carried into the enclosed back porch to be put in the tree stand we had used from the beginning of time, a large pan would be filled with water and the tree placed carefully into that pan to drink it’s fill. Mother would already have the ornaments and tinsel out *{we called them icicles}. Dad would then check the lights to see which ones needed replacing before stringing them on the tree. It was always the same, the lights first, then the ornaments placed carefully on appropriate branches, then always be moved to different areas by Mother who had strict rules about trimming a tree. Small ornaments on the flimsy top and heavier ones at the bottom. Then each icicle was separated from the rest and carefully put in their places until the tree was just about perfect. Cedars, not being very large here drooped if too much heavy stuff was at the top and since we all had our favorites.= in place. The icicles, used each year until they were too old to care about, had been taken off the year before, one at a time of course, and carefully draped across a piece of cardboard mother had salvaged and it was a simple matter to place them on the tree separately. It paid off in the rippling effect on our windows.

The lights always looked enormous to me with a glow radiating out of each one until they ran together in their beauty. For me they ran together a little bit more each year. I don’t know how old I was when my vision began blurring but it seemed so natural that none of us ever really noticed it. One of my teacher finally realized something was wrong when she would write test questions out on the blackboard and we would copy the questions and then answer them on our paper. She told Mother that I was getting the answers right, but I was not getting the questions she wrote on the board correct. I did get credit for the answers, but I also got an appointment with the optometrist. He told Mother he was surprised I hadn’t been hit by a bus because I couldn’t see the tip of my nose clearly. So just before Christmas when I was in 8th grade I got my first pair of glasses. It made a huge difference, but the lights on the tree just weren’t as pretty. So, to this day I remove my glasses when I am looking at the lights and marvel at how beautiful they are, all those radiant globes with the rays running together.

But I digress. After the tree was trimmed we had eggnog and cookies before being sent to bed. Of course as we got older our bedtimes were later and sometimes we even helped Santa place the gifts under the tree. None of them were wrapped in those days, but each child had a mound of items of our own. And we always got an orange, an apple and a banana, things that weren’t on our menu very often.

As we got older we would go to Midnight Mass, something I always loved to do. I sang in the choir and usually one or more of my brothers would be the servers. Mass in those days was in Latin, and I think we all learned the English translation of the comforting old prayers. Home from Mass we were each treated to a small glass of wine. Mogan David wine to be exact. It was a long time before I discovered that there were much better wines in this world, but not being much of a wine drinker I didn’t get the same thrill from sampling new and different vintages the rest of the grown family enjoyed. To me Champaign tastes like stale beer..

Morning came early when the younger children woke us all (okay, so for a few years I was one of them), and we would then gather in the living room to see what Santa left for us.

Dinner would be in the oven, usually a fat hen from our henhouse, and Mother’s dressing, made from biscuits we baked for breakfast that morning. She knew just how to season it and it is still one of my favorite things. I learned how to make dumplings a few years later and would always make a huge bowl of them, huge in spite of the fact that all of the boys were vying for first in line as official taste testers. Mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, peas, cranberry sauce, fruit salad and the brown and serve rolls Mom made only for special occasions rounded out the meal with jam cake for dessert in the beginning, then the applesauce cake I had found a recipe for, and finally the orange slice cake mother got a recipe from someone for.\

And now that I have done the menu I’m beginning to want something to eat! So, even though it’s late at night I’m about to raid the fridge and then hit the sack! And here in my part of Kentucky, it is 11:30 p.m. so in half an hour it will officially be Christmas in Owensboro and surrounding areas.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Christmas on Highway 81

In the past few days of this strange year we are living in I’ve been thinking back to better days. The days we grew up, the days of Highway 81 and the many Christmas seasons we enjoyed.

There was never much money in those days but I don’t think any of us noticed. My mother was a thrifty woman and my dad was a hard working man so Christmas was always exciting, with the house smelling so warm and wonderful from the normal holiday baking and candy making. In October we would all go out to the old walnut tree at the back of our five acres and gather the fallen walnuts. That tree was our climbing and dreaming tree in summer months, perfect for getting away from noisy siblings and dreaming or reading books about places we had never seen and probably never would. But in October, after the first frost it dropped the walnuts that would be in our Christmas baking. Huge black walnuts that a lot of people have never tried. I will always love the taste but they were too strong for Steve, especially after he grew up and went out into the world of gourmets and other cultures.

But at that time we seldom had pecans, they aren’t as plentiful in this area as the black walnut. Each one wrapped in a bright green outer shell that had to be eliminated to get to the hard shell inside, we loaded them in grass sacks and toted them up to the driveway where they were dumped out in the traffic area . Driving the cars over them would release them from that outer shell without staining our hands brown. Lovely shade of brown but it was kinda permanent so we really did try to avoid it, at least most of the time. We were, after all, kids and those walnuts made great “balls” to lob at each other until mother came out and made us leave them behind.

Usually by mid November the outer shells were off the nuts and ground into the driveway and the nuts had dried out enough to begin bringing them inside and cracking them. We all took turns with the hammer and bricks used for opening the nuts, and this time we all ended up with walnut stained hands, but then came the good part — using the nut picker to extract those delicious pieces of walnut meat. Mother tried to watch us so we wouldn’t eat every piece we picked out but with six of us all busy at the same time we all had our moments to pop it in our mouth rather than add it to the bowl that slowly filled up while arms and hands cramped from the constant repetition.

After that they were stored in the freezer so they could be taken out all winter for baking. I guess most of us lost one of our baby teeth trying to bite into a frozen walnut. In mid December the candy making and cookie baking began in earnest. Our favorite candy, and still to this day my favorite, was the caramel candy from a recipe mother got from a neighbor and made only at Christmas. It calls for real cream and real butter — no substitution at all on these, and cooked until a bit dropped in cold water was just the right consistency. Too soft and it had to be eaten with a spoon, not that any of us minded that at all, too hard and you needed a hammer and chisel to cut it apart. That still made a good piece of candy that just took longer to eat, from a grownup point of view that’s not a bad thing either.. It lasted longer that way. Mom seldom had a bad batch though, much to our disappointment. Each batch made about five pounds of candy, poured into 15 X 12 inch baking sheets to cool. She always cut them, using the pecans she bought just for the caramels on top of each candy! And then came the cutting, also done by mom in our younger days and pulling off just the right amount of waxed paper to wrap each individual and presumably on her part placed in containers to be wrapped as gifts to the Sisters who taught us. The sisters all looked forward to having one of us in their class because those caramels were the one gift they deeply appreciated.

A couple of days ago I received a package from my daughter in the mail. I knew by the weight that I would really love this one, and when I opened the package and took out the cannister of caramels I knew I was right. Still made the old way except for the milking of the cow and churning the butter, they are rich and creamy, not to mention fattening! Back on Hwy. 81 I never had to worry about calories but time changes everything. Now each bite adds fifty pounds. So my caramels are residing in the freezer so they will last longer and my grandson is now learning the fine art of caramel making! The fourth generation to use this eighty year old recipe and turn out the best candy ever.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you about the divinity!

Having Fun With MS and other sob sories