Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy, Happy New Year!

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         Happy, Happy New Year!
         We wish you all the best,
         Great work to reach your fondest goals,
         And when you’re done, sweet rest.
         We hope for your fulfillment,
         Contentment, peace and more,
         A brighter, better new year than
         You’ve ever had before.
                           --Author Unknown     

      Looking back over the year 2018, I have to much to be thankful for. Both my husband and I had health issues that were solved. I finished writing a historical novel...and then spent the last three months rewriting it. 
     In the summer, we were able to visit Anchorage for a month and meet our new six-month-old grandson. 
     My very favorite time of the year in Pennsylvania is its beautiful summers, and this year, despite the rains, was an interesting one. We had backyard visitors--three bears who spent their time trying to destroy my bird feeders. 
     Later, in the fall, we were able to visit Benezette where we saw a herd of 60+ elk. A magnificent sight. 
     Lastly, we were able to travel to sunny Florida and enjoy the warm weather. 
     It was a difficult year in some respects, but a good one! 

WELCOME 2019!      

Monday, December 24, 2018

Wigilia - A Polish Christmas Eve

Warsaw, Poland
For people of Polish ancestry, Christmas Eve is a special night. It is a night of magic when animals are said to talk and people have the power to predict the future. It’s a time for families to gather and reconcile any differences, and to remember loved ones who have gone before them. It’s call Wigilia (vee-GELL-yah) which means, “vigil,” or waiting for the birth of Baby Jesus.

Pollish Santa
As dusk approaches, the mother of the family places a lighted candle in the window to welcome the Christ Child. Straw or hay, a reminder of Christ’s birth in a stable, is placed under a white linen tablecloth, which symbolizes Mary’s veil which became the Babe’s swaddling cloth. The eldest woman of the house places the blessed Communion-like wafers called oplatki (Oh-PWAHT-kee) on a fine china or silver plate. In modern times, straw and evergreens are assembled on a serving platter and covered with a white napkin. The oplatki is then placed on the napkin.

An extra place is set of any weary stranger who happens to pass by, in the same way Joseph wandered from home to home looking for a place for Mary to give birth, and in memory of those who are departed. (The extra place is also set in hopes that Christ will dine with the family.)

After sunset, the youngest child is sent to watch for the first star. This is why the wigilia dinner is also known as the Star Supper. Only then are the candles on the table lit and the dinner begun. But not a morsel is eaten before the “breaking of the oplatki.”

The eldest family member takes the wafer, breaks it and shares it with the next eldest with wishes for good health and prosperity, and a kiss on each cheek. Each person then exchanges oplatki with everyone else at the table. It can be a very emotional time as grudges are forgotten and deceased family members are remembered.

Instead of sending Christmas cards to friends and family not present, Poles send oplatki, first tearing off a small corner to show that the donor has broken it with them as a token of affection. (In America, Polish families often enclose oplatki in their Christmas cards.)

In some regions of Poland, at the end of the supper, Father Christmas, known as The Starman (very often the parish priest in disguise), accompanied by singing Starboys, pays a visit. He brings rewards to good children from Starland, and scolds the naughty ones, who eventually get their reward, too.

Typical food dishes on Christmas Eve include borscht, mushroom dishes, herring, white fish, meatless cabbage rolls, gingerbread cookies, pierogis, poppy seed rolls, spice cake, fruit, chocolates, tangerines, and cognac, liqueurs, and vodka made into a variety of drinks.

A fun video to watch with great music:     

[Information taken from “About Food – Polish Christmas Recipes and Traditions” - by Barbara Rolek, Eastern European Food Expert.]

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Ho, Ho, Ho! No Gifts - No Snow

If you don’t have all your shopping done yet, you better hurry. This year, since our children are grown, married, and far away, we’ve all decided to skip gift-giving and just buy for the one-year-old grandson in Alaska. When I mentioned the idea of not gift-giving this year, I could hear the collective sighs of my daughter-in-law and son in Texas and daughter-in-law and son in Alaska. Trying to purchase the perfect present for adults, and then having to ship them out is a nightmare. So we’ve all decided to Skype together as usual and see what each family bought our first grandchild.

Little Alaskan Harvey will be bringing in a haul this year. And to be honest, I had a fun-filled time searching and buying toys again. For the larger, more bulky ones, Amazon with its shipping was perfect. My son, Jeff, in Anchorage is receiving Harvey’s haul and wrapping them for us.

Although my husband, Scott, and I will be celebrating alone, we will do our usual enjoyable celebration of the holiday in Florida with NO SNOW. Instead of going out—and there are spectacular restaurants in New Smyrna Beach—we cook a full Christmas meal together. This year we’ll do our usual crab legs and crab cake Christmas Eve dinner with all the fixings. And on Christmas day, we’ve decided upon ham and all its complimentary dishes. And yes, I also bake cookies, if just half a batch of various kinds. The smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven is one of the most glorious holiday smells I know.

What am I working on now? I’m working on a historical romantic mystery with a setting involving the early logging industry in the 1800s in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, when white pine was king of the forest. I pulled the manuscript back from my editor to try to rewrite and trim it a bit, so real edits will begin in January. The working title is called, “Willie, My Love.” The heroine, Wilhelmina Wydcliffe, is a feisty logger’s daughter, and the hero is a handsome, Chesapeake Bay sea captain named Jonathan Wain.

This year was a good one, even though there were some difficulties with health that had to be overcome. I hope the year ahead proves to be a splendid one—for us and our family, friends, neighbors, and associates.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and Happy New Year!  
May the sleigh bells ring, the children sing…and everything be merry and bright.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Gift Buying for the Grandson this Christmas

Black Friday is over, thank goodness, and now the holiday shopping will begin with voracious zeal. This year, I’m content to do some buying on the internet. I admit I’m more inclined to shop small businesses and take a peek at Cyber Monday to snag some deals before I’ll ever consider leaving the safety of my home to fight throngs of frenzied Christmas shoppers at the malls.

After talking with our grown children, it was unanimously agreed upon that we’d dispense with the tons of present buying this year. I heard a collective sigh of relief reach my ears without using the telephone. Instead, we decided we’d all buy toys for our first grandson in Alaska. Our son and wife in Texas, who are the aunt and uncle, and our youngest son and wife in Alaska with our year-old grandson, decided it would be fun to just Skype and see what little Harvey hauled in for Christmas.

Did you know there are over 4000 results for “toys and games – for children from birth to twenty-four months” on Amazon? They even have a plastic Radio Flyer – My first 2-in-1 Red Wagon. And there are enough pull and push toys to circle the globe if strung end-to-end. Don’t get me started on books. There is over 5000 of them for one-year-old children alone.

My next question is, “Who on this planet buys all these toys?” I’m hoping that parents are taking the time to “spend time” with their children, instead of handing over tin and plastic junk to keep them amused.

I neglected to tell my son when he called the other day that he should save all the big boxes. Kids seem to love the boxes as much as the toys inside them. I’ve even considered sending some empty boxes up to the Last Wilderness. But maybe, I’ll put a set of drums in one of them. Pay back is always fun.

If you have grandchildren, use the comment box below and share what’s on your gift list for your grandchildren this year.

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Some Truths About the Pilgrims

For me, Thanksgiving has always been my holiday of choice. It’s a time when families come together to eat, rejoice, and celebrate the holiday without the responsibility, and sometimes burden, of foraging into the crowded commercial world to buy presents.

I like the idea of the Pilgrims gathering together to thank the Almighty for their survival and also to invite and thank the Native Americans of the Wampanoag tribe who were helpful in their endeavor. Unfortunately, what we believe about the Pilgrims isn’t all facts or truth.

They did not come for religious freedom and liberty. In fact, the Pilgrims were intolerant of other religions and had specific ideas about how to worship God. They were Separatists who thought the church of the Old World was corrupt. When they did decide to set sail for America, after living in the Netherlands for nine years, they were forced to allow strangers to set sail with them because of financial difficulties. These strangers and the strict Pilgrims, although not in favor or fond of each other, banded together to enact the Mayflower Compact, which affirmed in a time of crisis, a monarch’s authority could be set aside, but the consent of the governed never could be. It was a ground-breaking document for future generations.  

Neither were the Pilgrims allies with all the Indian tribes in the area. They did make friends with Samoset, a Wampanoag Indian warrior, and later formed an alliance with his chief, Massasoit. Why? The Pilgrims had lost half their population over the winter from sickness, cold, and lack of proper food. In turn, the Wampanoag tribe had lost most of its population to an epidemic brought by European coastal fisherman. Since both groups were vulnerable to attack or domination by other tribes, the Pilgrims and Wampanoags needed each other for protection and the security in numbers.

Thanksgiving came about when Tisquantum [Squantum] from the Wampanoags helped the settlers planted corn, squash, and beans, using fish for fertilizer, in the spring. The Pilgrims also built more houses, fished the local waters, and traded with the Native Americans. As fall approached, they gathered to rejoice together after their first successful harvest was completed.

According to old records, there is no mention of inviting the Wampanoags to the feast, but Massasoit appeared with ninety men who bagged five deer to add meat to the meal. They stayed for three days and played games.

When we sit down at our tables this year to eat pumpkin pie, turkey, mashed potatoes, and all the many delicious foods, we need to thank these tenacious forefathers for establishing a colony at Providence Harbor, Massachusetts. And let us also give thanks to Abraham Lincoln who proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday for all to enjoy.