Accentuate the Positive! · Beauty · Christmas · Family · Gratitude · holiday · Something wonderful

Still shining brightly

This Christmas tree always brings joy

This is a re-run of a post I put up several years ago – which is a reprint of an article I wrote in 1993 for a small weekly paper. When my parents downsized they gave me the tree. Enjoy!

Tonight I put up the tree I “inherited” from Dad when they downsized to a patio home. Here’s the story I wrote about that tree 17 years ago for The Georgia Guardian newspaper. Tomorrow or Thursday I’ll post pictures of the decorated 2010 tree. Tonight you’ll have to make do with a picture of Pickles sitting underneath the tree:

Pickles poses by a copy of the original story of our family tree. Dad loved the story so much he matted and framed it. Once you read it, you’ll see why.

Pickles underneath the Christmas tree.
Pickles poses by a copy of the original story of our family tree.

A Tree for All Seasons

First published in the Georgia Guardian, Dec. 24, 1993
Copyright Jennifer Rust

Every family has its Yuletide traditions, and ours is no exception. We’ll be going to parties, attending the Christmas Eve candlelight service at church and decorating the tree. Yet we do something lots of people would never dream of: We pull our tree out of the attic each year.

Yes, we have an artificial tree. During my impossible-to live-with teenage years, I continually referred to it as the fake tree. I would groan and roll my eyes each time my dad pulled it out of its box, telling the story of how he bought it in 1968 for only $15. (What a bargain, I can hear him say.)

When I was in high school I would beg my parents to buy a real tree. We could decorate it with strings of popcorn and other “natural” ornaments. But each year we’d re-assemble that same old tree, sticking branches into the holes on the trunk pole and bending them into place so they’d look right.

As time passed, my brother and I graduated, left the house, got jobs. Now, I have only a few days at home to celebrate the holiday. And I’ve noticed a change in the way I feel about that tree. It happened the year before last, when my dad said, “I think we might replace this one with a new tree.”

You would have thought he suggested we replace Mom. I gasped, “No! You can’t get rid of this tree!” Even as I said it I realized why.

Because of all the laughs we have putting it up each year … because all the made-in-kindergarten ornaments look just right on it … because we’ve had it for 25 years, and how many things last that long? Heck, that tree is the same age as my brother Bill and we’re keeping him.

That artificial, fake but eternal tree has become so much more than a decorative centerpiece upon which to hang the ornaments. It is a symbol of all those Christmases past and all the memories we share. That glorious fake fir has become a holiday tradition of its won. I wouldn’t trade it for the most majestic blue spruce around.

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Accentuate the Positive! · Cooking · Family · Gratitude · Hobbies · holiday · just plain fun

Stirring up a taste of Christmas…

Yes, even before Thanksgiving! Today in the Anglican church calendar it’s the last Sunday before Advent, also known as Christ the King Sunday. This Sunday’s collect, from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer in the Anglican church started with the words “Stir up…”:

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, 1549

I’m starting the process of making a fruitcake, which does have to age a full month. For the past few years I’ve been making extra-special fruitcakes – not the bricks of old, but something that people may actually like once they take a bite out of politeness. I love seeing the reaction of people who hate fruitcake. No, you don’t. You hate Claxton fruitcakes. So do I!

This year I’m making a recipe which calls for 6 full cups of candied citrus peel. The sweet teenager at the Publix didn’t have a clue what I was asking about, and we both started consulting Google Images. He finally led me to the fruitcake ingredient aisle (they move it EVERY YEAR.) The only thing there were those icky-sweet pieces of “fruit” that were in neon colors. Time to make my own. I searched for a recipe and found an easy one on AllRecipes.com.

Life Lesson: Easy is not the same thing as Fast. Or Cheap.

– Aunt Gem

First, my actual cake recipe called for six full cups of candied peel. I shrugged and bought up two bags of Cuties (easy to peel!) and a bag of lemons. I’m $10 in and I haven’t even started on the almonds. Then I started peeling.

Only halfway to 2 cups of peel

Finally, I hit two cups after I emptied an entire bag of clementines. I have a lot of fruit to eat in the next few days. Fortunately, I’m making ambrosia for Thanksgiving.

This is what two cups of peel looks like at the start of the process.

First, you bring to a full boil. Then, you let it simmer for 10 minutes.

Then you drain everything – and repeat the whole process two more times. Finally, you wind up with this:

The two cups I started with shrunk.

And now, over an hour later, I still have four more cups to make. This fruitcake better be worth it, Martha!

Gratitude · holiday

Bittersweet….

Even though the liturgical season of Christmas isn’t over (not by a long shot!) I’m falling in line with the secular American way of doing things. The lights have come down; the wreath is off the door, and now the tree is coming down too. Last year in this house! It’s been a good Christmas.

Christmas lights 2015
I wanted to create a “river of light” between my house and my neighbor’s – we settled for a puddle around the tree. We both wanted to charge admission to the street.

Outdoor Christmas lights 2015
The lights at my house 2015, The tree with the lights is on the left.

Christmas tree 2015
In the background you see my Christmas tree. Gotta get some better glassware on the table next Christmas.

Christmas tree 2015
Last shot of the tree for Christmas 2015. ‘Til next year!

Cooking · holiday · hostess with the mostess

Welcome to 2016 – and the first recipe of the New Year

Today I’m having friends over to celebrate the New Year with black-eyed peas and cornbread. I found my new favorite cornbread recipe at martysmusings.net:

  • 2 boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup melted butter or margarine
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 16 oz. creamed corn

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together and pour into greased 9 x 13 baking dish.
  2. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes or until lightly brown.

As Ina Garten would say, How easy is that?

Beauty · Gratitude · holiday

A Solemn Observance

Today was Maundy Thursday. Our church held a modified Tenebrae service. Our choir performed “Song of the Shadows” – particularly fitting since Tenebrae means shadows in Latin.

We all wore black to mark the solemnity of the occasion. No one spoke after the service until we were in our cars.

Earlier, in rehearsal:

20130328-202149.jpg

The program cover:

20130328-202309.jpg

Gratitude · holiday

Second Night in Advent

Four wonderful friends joined me for a cosy supper party tonight. I got to do something I’ve always wanted to do – buy an Advent wreath and light the candles. Last week I had a friend over for lunch, and we lit the first candle. Tonight we lit the second and read Mark 1:1-8.

Then we settled in for supper. Menu: Salad with black bread croutons, sun-dried tomatoes, almonds and balsamic vinaigrette, deviled eggs, Chicken Divan, Parker House rolls and caramel cake for dessert.

It was a relaxing contrast to last week. Last Saturday I realized I’d lost my can’t miss chili recipe and had to find something else. Sunday morning I opened the cover of the crock pot to find a disgusting burnt mess.  What to do? I had no other food in the house; I HAD to go to church to sing in the choir – and my friend was coming over for lunch. So after church I skipped Sunday School, raced to the Publix and bought their deli-made soup. With 15 or so minutes to spare I got that on the stove to heat up and dished it up in the bread bowls originally meant for the chili.

Two candles lit on the Advent wreath
Two candles lit on the Advent wreath…Christmas is coming!

Accentuate the Positive! · holiday · just plain fun · Something wonderful

Something wonderful….

We’re already well into the New Year as marked by the Jewish calendar …. 5772!

Over the past week (Sept. 28-30) Jews celebrated Rosh Hashanah.

I started this past week in a bad mood. Then I saw this video. I played it every day since I saw it. My bad mood went away, just in time for a new year. I may be a day late, but Shanah Tovah, y’all!

Beauty · Community Supported Agriculture · Cooking · holiday · hostess with the mostess

He is Risen!

Easter Sunday 2011, the flowering cross outside Riverland Hills Baptist Church after the 9 a.m. service.

Flowering Cross

After church I cooked Easter lunch for Mom and Dad. The menu featured veggies from my first spring weekly share from my coop – Pinckney’s Produce. We had:

Spring Onion Soup
Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges

Baked Ham Slices

Cabbage-Celery-Cucumber Salad
Broccoli-Grape-Bacon Salad
Crispy Turnip “Fries”

Rolls with Butter

Angel Food Cake * Fresh Strawberries * Whipped Cream

Happy Easter, everyone.