Archive for November, 2010

I am constantly being asked for advice.  Constantly.

Being asked for advice, giving unsolicited advice …  Po-tay-toh, po-tah-toh.

So I have decided to start a weekly irregular Dear Mary column.

Today’s question comes from alert reader Mary (no relation) in Iowa.  She writes:

Dear Mary (no relation);

I feel so harried during the Christmas season.  Do you have any advice for how I can prioritize and get the most important items, such as making my famous fruitcakes, done?

Mary Too Fruity in Iowa.

Dear Mary Too Fruity in Iowa (no relation);

Have you ever come to the right place for help!  I have scoured my recipe library and found a wonderful, easy, lovely fruitcake that you will not be ashamed to present to your guests!  And the good news is that you still have plenty of time to make it!  (If you start this evening or 4:30 AM tomorrow at the latest.)

First, you will need to make your candied orange shells.  This must be done tonight!  I recommend not watching Desperate Housewives.  And you probably shouldn’t waste any time tucking the kids into bed.  You need to get cracking, woman!

The rest of it can wait until a week before Christmas.  But you must make your candied orange shells tonight.  Trust me, it will be worth it when you present your guests with these lovely fruitcakes in a candied orange shell and tied with a string on top!  I mean the string is held in place with a clove!  You cannot beat that!

*Note.  Do not make canding orange shells on a humid day.  Not unless you want a fruitcake disaster.

I’m so glad I could be of service.  Enjoy Christmas!

Mary (no relation)

P.S.  Don’t do a Google Image search for “fruitcake”.





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I love Thanksgiving.  It’s one of the few holidays that has, by and large, remained uncommercialized.  Plus, Fall crafts are just fun!  I first read about Thankful Trees on several blogs this year.  Here is my family’s version.  I cut it using my Cricut and just filled in what we were thankful for by hand.  Oh yeah, and I added a squirrel.  Because I like squirrels.

My mom made this altered canvas for me.  She traced my daughter’s hand, used a heat transfer pencil to get it onto the muslin, and then stitched over it.  I love that variegated thread!

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The other day, my dad shared with me the story of a random act of kindness that he was on the receiving end of.  I’ve been sitting on it even though I wanted to share because, to be honest, I don’t think my writing skills are up to the task of telling this beautiful story.  But this morning in the shower (where I do all my thinking), I was reflecting on the story and I decided it’s one that needs telling even if someone else could write it better than I can.

My dad was a Combat Infantryman with the the 198th Infantry, Americal Division in Vietnam.  He was wounded and spent several months in the hospital; first in Japan and then in Denver.  After his convalescence was up, he was stationed at Fort Hood.  The day he left Kansas City to report to Fort Hood, he had a tank of gas and $10 in his pocket.  His mother asked him if he had any money and he told her he had $10.  He says that he had planned to get a hotel room and spend the night on the way down there and he just figured the money situation would work itself out.  His mother wasn’t quite as optimistic about his plan so she gave him her gas card “just in case.”

That evening, my dad started looking for a hotel.  He finally decided on the Sheraton in Downtown Dallas.  He limped in (he still walked with a limp at that time) wearing his Class A’s and told the man behind the desk that he would need a room for the night.  The man said, “That will be $10, Sir.”  At the time, my dad didn’t really think anything of it, he just assumed that a room at the Sheraton in Downtown Dallas in the early ’70’s cost $10, including taxes and parking.  In later years, he would reflect that there was no way that was the correct price of the room.  But the man behind the counter never let on that he was discounting the room nor did he treat my dad as anything less than a guest who was paying the full rate.  How did the man come up with the $10 figure?  Call me a hopeless romantic, but I’m sure there was a still small voice guiding him.

It happened nearly 40 years ago and my dad still remembers that act of kindness.  I like this story because it has it all: random kindnesses to strangers, respect to veterans, and gratitude.  It’s the perfect story to tell today.

I would just like to take this time to thank all of our American veterans and to say I am proud that my dad and so many of the men from whom I am descended fought to create and protect our country.  I’m thankful to all our veterans every day.

And I leave you with a poem:

It is the soldier, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the soldier
who salutes the flag,
who serves under the flag,
and whose coffin is draped by the flag,
who allows the protester to burn the flag.

By Charles M. Province, US Army

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My Kind of Hike!

Back in September, I took my daughter to the castle ruins at Ha Ha Tonka State Park outside Camdenton, Missouri.  It was a grueling hike.  But I like them tough!

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