It's not what you gather, but what you scatter, that tells what kind of a life you have lived.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Whew! Game over!

Well, the holidays are over, except for New Year's, and that is just plain fun, so it doesn't count on the stress-o-meter. I hope your holidays were as nice as mine. I actually had the gifts for the family that's here in Montana done a couple of days before Christmas, and I have those that have to be mailed almost finished. I know that's backwards, but my family knows that's the way I work. Every year, I swear that I will have them ALL ready by the 1st of December, but it has only happened once! This year, I am going to try it again, and because I will be reporting to you, maybe it will get done!

I have twelve living grandchildren, so if I do one a month, I will have them all done but the last one by the end of November. Then I just have one to do at the beginning of December, and I'm done. Sounds like a good plan, but we'll see how it goes. In the same month as I do the kids, I can do the parents, too, and REALLY be done! Wow! I'm on a roll here......

Well, this is just a short note to wish you all the best, and to show you what Christmas in Montana looks like.

Snow in the air
long before the first flakes
started their long fall from the heavens
snow in the feel, the smell,
the texture of the air
feeling the falling barometer
the shift in the weather
Falling lightly at first, while
I stood at the sink,
mesmerized, watching
their dance downward
Go upstairs, roust the girls,
hear the excitement, the joy
at the first real snowfall
Accumulating white, flake by flake
on the ground, the cars,
still quiet snow, light and airy
a film of white, cell by cell
cleaning the world
in white

by Raymond A. Foss
Wishing you all the best for the coming year. May all your dreams come true. Gramma G.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Day Twelve of the Twelve Days of Christmas

The 12th Day of Christmas!!! Wow! How are you fairing? Are you done with everything and relaxing for the evening? Or are you still running around like a chicken with its head cut off? (Do you know that chickens will really do that if you don't have a hold of them when you cut off their heads?) Well, if you are like me, I usually have a kazillion things to do on Christmas eve, NOT including filling stockings. Today's project is a little doll to help you get rid of your frustrations, so you can enjoy tomorrow. It's called a dammit doll, and it's almost as simple to make as the idea behind it.
You can see by the photo that she (or he, depending on your frustrations) isn't real detailed. Just a basic body shape, two pieces sewn together, with the seams on the outside, even! Stuff her lightly, and sew the head shut. Be sure when you cut her out, you cut an extra 2" at the top so you can fringe it for hair. I rarely even put a face on her. She has more genericity that way. (HA! I just made up a new word! It means she's more generic, and represents ALL your frustrations, without name or face.) There is a little poem that goes with her, and it goes like this:
When you want to hit the wall or just stand up and shout,
Here's a little dolly that you cannot do without.
Just grasp it firmly by the legs and find a place to slam it,
And as you whack the stuffing out, yell "Dammit, dammit, dammit!"
Be sure you have one every year around this time. In fact, you could pack her away with the decorations, and then you'll know right where to find her next year. Have fun with her and make a dozen or two for your family and friends.
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
God bless you all at this time of celebrating His greatest blessing to us all....the birth of His Son.
Merry Christmas, Gramma G.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day Eleven of the Twelve Days of Christmas

On day eleven, we get fruits and beads and pretties. We are making a beautiful handmade garland to festoon your home. Mine is hanging above the window in the living room, hence the blinds you see in the photo. This one will take a little longer, but it's worth it!

Start by slicing apples and oranges about 1/4" thick and drying the slices. This can be done in a dehydrator, which is the method of choice, or on cookie racks placed on cookie sheets and put in the oven on the lowest temperature, usually about 150 -200 degrees. Turn them at two or three times a day until dry. How long this take will depend on a few things, but shouldn't take longer than 2 or 3 days. If you do this in the oven, you need to leave the door open a crack so the moisture can escape.

While the fruits are drying, you can be getting the rest of the material together. You will need large, wooden macrame type beads and little wooden thread spools, both of which you can get at a craft store like Michaels. Mine has a combination of the two, and I used approximately 40 pieces. You might use more or less, depending on how you space them. You will need 2 or three fabrics (or more, if you like), complimentary to one another, torn into 1" wide strips and cut into 5" lengths. You will also need a piece of jute or heavy cotton string, about 8 ft. long.

Start by a sliding all your beads, spools and fruit slices onto the jute, in any order you like. (For ease of instruction, I will call the spools beads from now on. You will slide whichever one you have on your jute.) Its good to have a bead on either side of a fruit slice to hold it in place. Fold down about 5" at one end and tie an overhand knot to form a loop. Take one of your fabric strips and tie it over the knot. (You can just tie this once, it doesn't have to be tied in a knot. It's not going anywhere and has no stress on it.) This will keep your bead, etc. from sliding off the end. Tie another 2 strips on, then slide a bead over next to them. Then tie 2 or 3 more strips, and slide a bead or fruit slice, whichever you have strung next. You are going to just keep tying strips between beads and fruit slices until you have filled all but the last 12" of the jute. Make a loop at the last end and tie an overhand knot, tying strips over the knot, as before. Hopefully you can see from the photo and the drawing what I mean. This garland has a cozy, homespun look and feel, and it makes me feel right at home when I look at it. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Now...the fruit of apple and orange are used to make Wassail. If you have never tried it, you don't know what you're missing. Here's a really simple recipe. Take 1 gallon apple juice, 1 qt. cranberry juice, 7 sticks of cinnamon, 15 whole cloves and 1 sliced orange. Put all together in a large pan and heat on medium heat until warm. You can turn it down and simmer it all day to make your house smell good, too. It's a wonderful drink to get you warm on a cold winter's day. Enjoy!

Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves of green.

Here we come a-wandering, so fair to be seen,

Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too.

And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year!

And God send you a Happy New Year.

I hope you are enjoying the last few days before Christmas as much as I am. I finally got my gifts taken care of, as much as I can on a VERY limited budget. My husband will be losing his job any day now, so we really have to watch what we spend. But I'm used to doing a lot with just a little, so I know we'll get through this one way or another. "If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." Anne Bradstreet.

'Night all. Gramma G.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Day Ten of the Twelve Days of Christmas

I love snowmen. The more the merrier! I like them short or tall, fat or skinny. So today's project is a snowman. He's the tall, rather skinny sort, and he's made from PVC pipe. You need a piece of 2" PVC(inside measurement) anywhere from 4" to 8" long, and it's kind of fun to make one of each and group them together. Clean the writing and markings off the pipe with the appropriate type of cleaner. Your friendly hardware guy can help you there. Then measure around the pipe and cut a piece of fabric or fleece or flannel an inch wider than that measurement, and anywhere from 8" to 12" long. The difference is to adjust for the height of the snowman and how long the hat will hang down. The snowman in the picture is 6" tall and his hat is 10". You can see that if it were much longer, it would touch the table, and that's OK if that's what you want, but I don't. Make adjustments according to your own preferences.
Next, make a seam the length of the hat, starting with 1/2" width and tapering it to a point at one end. Trim excess fabric away and turn right side out. Turn up about 1/2" to 3/4" for the cuff of the hat and set it aside. Cut a piece of matching or coordinating fabric 1" wide and the length you need to tie it around the snowman for a scarf. I made mine 16". Fringe the ends and set this aside also.

Now it's time to give him a face. I have included the pattern that was used on mine, but you can give him any face you like. Acrylic paints are good for this and so are paints pens. Spray him with a little crystal glitter spray and then a clear acrylic and let him dry. When he is good and dry, put his hat on his head and tie his scarf around the bottom of the pipe. and you have a very easy, very cute little snowman!
Here's an old, child's fingerplay:
A chubby little snowman (arms make a fat tummy)
Had a carrot nose. (fists out in front of nose)
Along came a bunny, (hold up tow fingers, hop hand)
And what do you suppose? (shake pointer finger)
that hungry little bunny, (rub tummy)
Looking for his lunch, (shade eyes and look around)
Ate the snowman's carrot nose (fist in front of nose)
Nibble, nibble, crunch! (open and close fist twice, grab nose with fist moving toward nose)
Some of my best friends are flakes, so guard your noses, everyone, and good night to all. Gramma G.
P.S. Sometimes this blogging is so frustrating. This program just decides sometimes that it won't put spaces where I want them!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day Nine of the Twelve Days of Christmas

There is an old tale that says there is a German tradition of hiding a pickle on the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, and whoever finds it on Christmas Day receives on extra present. But there's a lot of doubt about that. The Germans don't seem to know anything about this custom except what they've been told by the Americans. It seems to really have started with a man in prison during the Civil War. He is close to dying and asks for one last pickle before he dies, (yeah, right, a pickle!). The guard gives him a pickle, which gives him the strength to go on, and after the war is over, he writes to his family in Germany, telling them of the life-saving pickle. They make it a tradition to hang a pickle ornament on the tree each year to celebrate his survival. The tradition never catches on in Germany, but somehow makes it's way back to the United States as a rather comical Christmas tradition which no one call really explain, but which everyone enjoys. With this little history lesson, we will proceed to create our own Christmas Pickle.

I have found through trial and error, that Crayola Model Magic is just about the best stuff to make the pickle from. It's a very light-weight, air-drying type of clay (which is not really clay) and its easy to work with. It comes is colors, when you can find them, but I just use the white and paint it. Take about a 2" ball of model magic and roll it around in your hands to get it warm and workable. Start rolling it between your hand until you have a hot dog shape about the size of a pickle. Now put a slight curve in it and use a toothpick to make a few grooves, not too deep, and some little pock-marks. Form a little time ball for the nose, and fasten it to the pickle about an inch down from the top. Above the nose, make two indentations with the toothpick. This is where you will glue the eyes. Last of all, push a little eyehook or a hairpin into the top for hanging it by.

Now, let it dry according to the instructions on the package. When dry, paint with green paint, and a little yellow for some highlights. Glue two small black beads in the eye indentations and tie a ribbon through the hanging loop. I like to tie a piece of curly curling ribbon on the hook, too, to add a little decoration. Spray with clear acrylic spray, and your pickle is ready be hidden in your tree. I also like to make a little bag to keep it in so it stays nice. I put a little paper crinkle in the bottom for cushion, and this all makes the pickle seem really special. Whether its a German tradition, an American tradition, or no real tradition at all, it has surely become one to a lot of folks, who play I Spy on Christmas morning so they can be the one who finds that pickle! If you would like to see a cute video about Christmas pickles, go to :


I hope you will add the Christmas pickle to your family's traditions. Whether real or not, its fun.

And remember what Albert Einstein said; "I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Inspiration is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." Use your imagination a create a pickle for your tree. 'Night, Gramma G.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day Eight of the Twelve Days of Christmas

Day Eight's project is a wreath made from puzzle pieces. Its really very cute. To start with, gather you puzzle pieces. You will need anywhere from 12 to 20, depending on the size. The smaller ones are better, but the larger ones work also. You are going to glue them to a cirlce of cardboard, so place five or six of them in a circle, with the pieces as close as you can get them without overlapping. This is the approximate size circle you will need. Cut the circle out of heavy cardboard or chipboard, something along that line. Cut a hole in to center, so that it looks like a wreath and the width of the wreath is no wider than your puzzle pieces.

Now take your puzzle pieces and your cardboard and paint them all green, both sides. I prefer spray paint, because its faster, but you can use acrylics and a sponge brush, too. When they are dry, start hot-gluing the first layer of puzzle pieces onto the wreath. The next layer should cover the joints and spaces of the first layer. I usually do just two layers, but sometimes a third layer is needed to fill all the gaps. When you have it all glued together, take a little white paint and a stenciling brush, or a very stiff-bristled brush, and dab a little white (snow) around the edges. Not too much, just a dusting.

The next step is to put some berries on it. You can use little red buttons, or jingle bells, or beads. Whatever you like that will add that little bit of red. Glue a red bow at the top, and you can either glue a ribbon loop to hang it on the tree or a pin back so you can wear it. If you have used small puzzle pieces, you can use two of the extra ones to make earrings. Put a dusting of snow on one edge, glue a little red button (or whatever you used) onto it, glue earring posts to the back and Voila! Your have earrings to match your pin. These make cute gifts, too.

I apologize for such a terrible photo. My camera died and I borrowed my daughter's and her doesn't work either! I am trying to find one that I can afford, and I am using the camera on my cell phone until then. I hope you can visualize what it is, but if you have any problems, just email me at grambug1@yahoo.com and I will try to help. Thanks for your patience.

"Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la."

Here's the quote for the day, from William Arthur Ward. "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." Always share your gratitude with those whom you are thankful for. 'Night, Gramma G
P.S. I got a new camera, so I replacced the photo with a better one. GG

Friday, December 19, 2008

Day Seven of the Twelve Days of Christmas

Today's project is a bird's nest. There is an old legend that says that great happiness and good fortune come to those who find a bird's nest in the branches of their Christmas. I like the legend, but I like bird's nests even more, so I have several to choose from to nestle in the branches of my tree every year. If you are not lucky enough to have the real thing, you can make one. They also make nice gifts, with a little card attached telling the legend and wishing it to come true for the receiver.

Find a small, vine wreath, or make one if you have vines in your area. If you are making it, you will need more vines than you think to make a nice, full wreath. Take 5 or six vines about 18" long and form a circle a little smaller than you want your nest to be. Now take another long vine and start twining it around the circular vines, going in and out and around, so that the wreath becomes sturdy and holds together. When it's the size you want, simply weave the end into the other vines and you're done!

Now you need some moss. Spanish moss is the best because it's kind of straggley. (Not really, but that's the best word I can come up with.) Use the moss to fill in the whole in the wreath and to pad the nest. Hot glue it in place, but be careful, because it's thin and the glue will come right through to you! (I always keep a cold drink next to me when I craft, and I can dunk a hot-glued finger in it and stop the burning immediately.) Your little nest is done. Add a little bird or some tiny plastic eggs and put it in the branches of your tree. I don't know if the legend holds true for homemade nests, but I like to think so.

"And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests...." Luke 9:58
"Another parable he put forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches." Matthew 13:31,32


Today's thought is from Gramma G. Jesus is the reason for the season, and that's the most important thing to remember. 'Night all.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day Six of the Twelve Days of Christmas

When the wise men came to see the baby Jesus, they presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Now, we all know what gold is, but do you know what frankincense and myrrh are? Frankincense is an aromatic resin obtained from the Boswellia tree. It is used in perfume and incense, and in aromatherapy. The Egyptians ground the charred resin into a powder called kohl, which was used to make the eyeliner you see in many of the figures in Egyptian art. It was also used in religious rites, and is mentioned in Exodus 30:34 as an ingredient of incense.

Myrrh is also a resin from a tree, this time the Commiphora Myrrha tree. It is a reddish-brown color, and is also used in perfumes and incense. It was the main ingredient the Lord told Moses to use in making the annointing oil. It was also used as an embalming ointment, and as a penitential incense for funerals and cremations.

Now, what does this have to do with anything? Well, I love potpourri, and those earthy smells. I love watching the flames in a fireplace when they change colors because of the different ingredients in whatever you put in there. So today's project is potpourri that smells good, and pine cones that will make the flames turn colors.

For the potpourri, you will need the following: cranberries or holly berries, cinnamon sticks, small pine cones sprinkled with ginger, sweet gum balls or other seedpods, dried bay leaves, dried holly leaves, glycerin-preserved evergreens, whole cloves, and cinnamon oil. Dry the cranberries by making a small hole in each berry and letting them air dry. You can also put them in a dehydrator, which will do the trick a lot faster. Break up some of the cinnamon sticks and leave some whole. Mix all the ingredients together and sprinkle with a few drops of cinnamon oil. To make the mixture smell even nicer and look good, too, bake some little gingerbread men and over cook them until they are dry, and add to the mixture. This is a very pretty potpourri that will make your whole house smell like Christmas. It makes a nice gift, too.

The pine cones are even easier to do. You need some craft glue, some sodium chloride, which is table salt, some potassium chloride, which is no-salt substitute, and some copper sulfate, which you will have to have your pharmacist order for you. You will also need 3 gallon-size ziplock bags and a paint brush. Put each chemical into a seperate bag and set aside. Using the paint brush, paint craft glue onto the pine cones, one at a time, and immediately put them into one of the bags with the chemicals. Shake well and remove from bag. Place pine cones on waxed paper or foil to dry. To use them, just toss them into the fire. The sodium chloride will turn the flames a bright yellow, the potassium chloride will make violet colors, and the copper sulfate will turn the flames a pretty turquoise. Keep your pine cones in a basket by the fireplace, and give some away.

"And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." Matthew 2: 11

As with the wise men, we should remember that gratitude is the sign of noble souls. 'Night, Gramma G.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day Five of the Twelve Days of Christmas

Christmas is all about blessings. We give the gift of service, which is a blessing to others, as well as to ourselves. We give other gifts as well, and we receive gifts, of service or otherwise, which bless both the giver and the receiver. It all starts at Thanksgiving, and continues on to Christmas, and long after, if we are true Christians. So today's project is a blessing box.

You start with a box of some sort. Not too big, not too small. An oatmeal box works well, or I have discovered a garbage bag box works great! I use a Hefty Tall Kitchen, 13 gallon size bag that comes in a box of 40 or 45 bags. The box has the opening on the top and makes a perfect slot for our purposes. Cover whatever box you choose with pretty paper, or have your children draw pictures of things they are thankful for and use them to cover the box. If you use an oatmeal box, cut a slot in the lid. If you use a different box, such as the garbage bag box, be sure to put glue around the edge of the opening and cut the paper to the shape of the opening. If your box doesn't have an opening already, cut one.

Now cut some brightly colored paper strips and put them in a baggie by the box. Each day, maybe right before you bless the evening meal, have each family member write on one of the strips something they are thankful for, and drop it into the box. Maybe you want to do this only with the Sunday meal. It's all up to you and your family, of course. (If you have a large family, you may only want to do this once a week, or you will have too may strips.) On Thanksgiving day, read all the strips and then staple them into a paper chain to use for decorating for Christmas! And start all over! Decorate a new box every year, and this will be a wonderful family tradition that will help you all to remember what you are truly thankful for.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Here's a thought from Oprah: "Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." So true. 'Night, Gramma G.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day Four of the Twelve Days of Christmas

Angels We Have Heard On High! Sweetly singing o'er the plain. Angels are most often associated with music. We read in the Bible about heavenly choirs of angels, we say she sings like an angel, we say a beautiful song or rendition of a song is heavenly music. So today's project is an angel. And of course, she has to have music to go along with her. (I'm sorry the photo is so lousy. My camera is having issues.)

First, you need to find a Christmas carol that you really like, or use the one mentioned above. Make a photo copy of the sheet music, maybe from a hymnbook or sing-along book. You will need a wooden plaque to put the music on. You can stain the wood or paint it, or leave it it's natural color. Your choice. You can size the music so the whole thing fits on the plaque, or you can just use a part of it. I like just using a part of it, and I tear the edges so that it looks like I once had the whole piece, (which I really did!) and decoupage it onto the plaque. You can use a commercial decoupage medium, like Royal Coat, or you can make your own from 2 parts white glue and 1 part water.

While the plaque is drying, it's time to make the angel. This can be done in any number of ways, but I will give you two ideas. One way is to make her out of salt dough. Form the angel and bake her at 250 degrees for about 2 1/2 hours. When she is cool and hard, you can paint her, or leave her the natural color, and varnish her for protection.

The other way is to make a small rag angel. This is fast and easy, and all you need is a piece of muslin 6" to 8" square, a small ball of stuffing, some moss for her hair, and a little ribbon. Fold the muslin corner to corner, forming a triangle. (If you tear the muslin square, you get nice raveley edges, which I really like.) Place the ball of stuffing inside at the middle, and tie the muslin around it with a piece of string or some heavy thread. Glue the moss on the head for hair, glue the two side points of the triangle in front for her arms, and glue a piece of ribbon around her head for a halo. You can use a fine-point permanent marker to give her a little face, or leave her just like she is. (Faceless is kind of cute.) You can also glue a little tiny rosebud to her hands and one on her halo to add a little decoration. Now glue her to the plaque, leaving enough of the music exposed so you can tell what carol it is. Put a picture hanger on the back, and proudly display your musical angel. Or give her as a gift. These are great gifts for your children to make for teachers. My kids made the salt dough version many years ago, and I know for a fact that their teachers still have them and bring them out every year at the holidays.

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God is the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:10-14

Remember, if the only prayer you said in your whole life was "Thank you", that would suffice. 'Night, Gramma G.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day Three of the Twelve Days of Christmas

In the Bible we read of the wise men who came from the east to worship the Christ child. They followed the star, and who knows how long it took them to get there. They had a visit with Herod first, and then when they found the holy family, the scriptures say they came into the house, not the stable, and saw the young child, not babe, so it probably took them a while to get there. The nativity sets we get today almost always include them, but they probably were not there at, or even close to, the birth of the Savior. But that's OK. They came and worshipped, and they need to be included.

Today's project is an ornament representing the star that lead the Wise Men to Bethehem. It's fairly simple to make, and will be enjoyed by all, especially any little ones that are around to help make them.

Start with a piece of waxed paper and some sparkly fabric paint or glitter glue. (The glitter glue makes a harder ornament that will probably last longer.) Draw a pattern for your star ornament and place it under the waxed paper so you can see it. Use the fabric paint or glue to draw the ornament on the waxed paper. Make sure your lines are thick enough to have body when they are dry. Also be sure to draw a loop on one point so you have somewhere to put the hanger. Let it set overnight, thread a tiny ribbon through the loop, or just an ornament hanger, and hang it on your tree! You can make quite a few in one sitting and let them all dry at once. After they are dry, you can turn them over and do the other side too, so that they are puffy on both sides. Have fun making different types of stars...just outlines, filled in, long pointy type stars like you see in nativity pictures, whatever your heart desires. There is no right or wrong, just fun. (This is a good way to make snowflakes, too.)
"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem....And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him..." Matthew 2:1, 11
Have a wonderful night as you watch your stars twinkle on your tree, and imagine how it would have felt to be there with the wise men. Here's a thought for you: Friends are like stars. You don't always see them, but you know they're always there. 'Night, Gramma G.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day Two of the Twelve Days of Christmas

What do you know about candy canes? There are many stories and "legends" out there about this simple little candy, but most of them evolved after the candy cane came into use. One story has it that a candy maker in Indiana made the cane to represent Jesus. The stripes represent the beating He took, the red for His blood, the three small red stripes for the Trinity, etc., etc. One story has it dating back to early Christians and being a secret symbol by which they recognized each other. The truth is that the candy cane didn't come into being until at least the latter part of the 17th century, by which time most of Europe was already Christian! And as for the Indiana candy maker, candy canes were around long before there WAS an Indiana, and they were originally all white. The stripes didn't get their color until the beginning of the 20th century.

The story I like the best is only part fact and part fiction, but I still like it. It says that a priest in Cologne Cathedral about 1670 invented the candy cane to help keep the little children in the live nativity quiet through the evening. Now, we know he didn't "invent" it, but he probably did have the canes made in the shape of the shepherd's crook to entertain the children. It was still all white, though.

The candy was originally straight, too. It was made as a decoration for the Christmas tree soon after Europeans adopted the custom of having Christmas trees in their homes. The bent shape made it easier to hang on the tree, too. Christmas cards from before 1900 show all white canes, and those printed in the early 20th century show stripes on them.

Whichever story you subscribe to, the candy cane is a great thing! It represents the embodiment of the season, because you see them everywhere, whether in a secular setting such as with a department store Santa, or in a religious context, representing Christ as the good shepherd who saved us all. (If you turn it upside down, it's a "J" for Jesus, too!) I love candy canes, so today's project is two candy cane recipes. One for the actual candy, and one for a scrumptious bread in the shape of a candy cane. Take your pick.

Mom's Recipe For Candy Canes
3 c Sugar

1 ts Peppermint flavoring
1/2 c Water
3/4 c Lt. corn syrup
3/4 ts Red food coloring
1/4 ts Cream of tartar
Combine the sugar, water, syrup, and cream of tartar in a large sauce pan and heat till the sugar is dissolved well. Divide equally into two saucepans, and bring to a boil, but DON'T stir until each is 280 degrees. Add 1/2 tsp. peppermint to each pan and add the coloring to one, leaving the other plain. Pour onto an enamel or marble table to cool. Oil the table first, so the candy won't stick. Now, like taffy, you have to stretch and pull the candy and form it it into ropes of red and white. Put one rope of each color together and twist them around each other to form your candy canes. Leave them on the oiled surface to harden. Voila! You have real candy canes. Give them to your family and friends (and don't forget the neighbors)
, with a little card attached sharing the story you like the best about it's origins or meanings.

Now for recipe number two. This is a candy cane coffee cake that is really yummy. I got the recipe from "A Taste of Home" magazine.

Candy Cane Coffee Cake
1 TBS active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 TBS sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
Filling:
2 - 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
Topping:
1 TBS confectioner's sugar
1 jar (12 oz.) cherry jam

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, sour cream, eggs, sugar and salt. Add the yeast mixture and flour. Beat until smooth, but do not knead. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top, and cover and refrigerate overnight.
For the filling, mix the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla until blended. Now punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half and roll out each half out into a rectangle16"x10" and place on a baking sheet. On each long side, cut 1 1/2" wide strips about 3" into the center. This will leave about 4" in the middle uncut. Spread the filling down the center of each rectangle, and starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across the filling. (I hope you can see from the picture what this is supposed to look like.) Pinch ends to seal and curve one end, forming a candy cane. Cover and let rise until doubled, about one hour.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Carefully remove from baking sheets to wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Stir the jam and then spoon over the tops of the loaves, creating stripes. (Be sure to refrigerate your leftovers because of the eggs.) Do the same as above, with a little card telling the story you like best.


"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, kwwping watch over their focks by night." Luke 2:8

Remember, the Twelve Days of Christmas are not about how much you can give, but about spending time with your family and loved ones, doing good and enjoying each other's company. Here is a quote from Mother Theresa, who showed the whole world how to treat one another. "Spread love everywhere you go...let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier." 'Night, Gramma G.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas 2008 - Day 1

On the First Day of Christmas.....This is the beginning of my 12 Days of Christmas ideas. Make a small manger out of heavy paper and put a bag of straw or a mini bale of hay by the side of it. For each good deed done by a family member, they get to put a piece of straw in the manger, and hopefully by Christmas eve, there will be enough straw in the manger to cradle the baby Jesus. Here is a pattern for a paper manger that is easy to make and easy to store for the years to come. Cut heavy brown cardstock to the dimensions shown on the pattern. Fold and cut according to the pattern. Slip the two rectangles, which are the legs, into the slots you have cut and you have a manger! It will look something like the drawing to the left. Kids love to do this, and adults think its pretty fun, too, so give it a try.

I plan to keep these ideas simple and easy, so that you actually have the time to do them, without too much prep time or money spent. I hope you like them.

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:7

Remember what this season and this celebration are all about as you go about the daily job of living, and hold Him in your heart, for this will bring you peace. 'Night, Gramma G.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Baa Humbug! :)

Christmas is coming up too fast and I am not ready! I am working madly to get something done for each of the kids, but I think I am fighting a losing battle. Maybe more of them will get gift cards. Yuk! I think gift cards are so impersonal, but I am up against a brick wall--both time-wise and also not knowing what to give them. They are getting older now, and have very definite likes and dislikes, and I don't know them well enough to know what they like. I didn't find an old-fashioned game this year to make for everyone, so I'm wracking my brain, small though it is, for something that I can give them that I can make in a week. HA! HA!

The library pocket books are almost finished, and they are looking really cute. I hope the library ladies will like them as much as I do. Sometimes I wonder why I do this? I could just make fudge and cookies, and call it good, and don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that, but I always seem to feel the need to do something more personal. And that something is never quick to make. I always swear that I'm going to start in January for the next Christmas, but I never seem to do it, except for last year. By last December, I had almost everything made but the last-minute stuff, and it sure was nice. I will be trying to do it again next year. I am going to try to simplify my life, and that will help.

I've been talking to some of my children, trying to convince them that they need to down-size Christmas for their kids. They need to teach their children what Christmas is REALLY about, and it's not presents and parties and stuff. In fact, they have too much stuff. I was talking to a young mother last week who says that she and her husband started a family tradition a few years back that has simplified their Christmas and given them a lot more time to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, and on giving service. She has three children, and they each get 6 presents for Christmas. One from mom and dad, one from each set of grandparents, one fron Santa, and one from each of their siblings. That's all. No more. No going into debt for huge amounts of money, no trying to make sure that all the kids have the same number of presents, no lo-o-o-o-ong lists for Santa.....just 6 simple gifts. I thought about that for a week, and I think its one of the best ideas I've heard in a long time. By the time her children get to be teenagers, they will know that they are not going to get a mountain of presents and they won't expect it! I wish I had had such an idea when my kids were little. We have always made our gifts, but I really like the simplicity of her plan. I just wish my children would embrace that idea.

Well, I really got off on a tangent there, didn't I. But I guess what really bothers me is that I've got grandchildren that don't even know what the true meaning of Christmas is! They know nothing about the Savior, his birth, death and sacrifice. To them, Christmas is Santa and presents, and the more the better. This makes my heart hurt. I'm just not sure what I can do to change it. I am going to think on it.

I wanted to do a "12 Days of Christmas Series" for you with ideas for gifts and for service, but I don't know if I have it all together. I will start tomorrow, which really is the 1st Day of Christmas, and we'll see how it goes. I may skip a day here and there and let you come up with your own ideas. So here's to you and your good ideas. If you do something and it works out well, let me know. Post it in the comments for me (and others) to read. Or you could tell me about something that may not have worked out like you wanted it to, too, and maybe we can figure out a way to make it better next time. All will be welcomed.

Oh, by the way...I am 54 today! I am never sure I will make it to see another birthday, but I did this year. My husband turned 54 two days ago, and we are quickly approaching honest-to-goodness old age. We feel old now, but I know there's worse to come. I tell myself that every day that I wake up is a good day! Both of my parents died at the age of 59, so I have a few years left to go. I'll try to make them good ones.

For now, I must bid you adieu, and remember.....time with you is better than ice cream! 'Night, Gramma G.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wow! I'm a Slacker!

WOW!!! I didn't realize it had been so long since I wrote. My life has been so hectic. My daughter has moved into her own apartment with the two boys, and my son has moved in instead with his little girl, who's 4. In a couple of weeks I think we'll have his other two, also, who are 10 and eleven. My husband and I were looking forward to having some time to ourselves, but that's not gonna happen! We could even use a bigger house! Life just never seems to follow the plans we lay out for it, does it? At least not for me. Oh well, it will give a chance to get to know these grandchildren better. The two oldest have been living with their mother in Tennessee, and the little one has been with her mother in Arizona, so we haven't gotten to see them very much lately. And we will still have the two boys for two days and nights a week, so our house will be rather busy.

I have also been busy trying to get another book written. I've got the drawings done, I think, and now I just have to type it all up together. This will be number one in the kid's crafts series. Now if I just knew what to do to get them published. There's a small publisher here in town, but they don't do children's books and they don't do craft-type books. That's what they told me. I gave a copy of the first book to the head librarian at the public library, and she said she really liked it. She led me to a big fat book (that I have no time to read) about how to get published, but it will be a while before I get around to it.

I have been busy, too, with helping to get the plans laid out for the year for the library story time. I am a volunteer for that program, and I really enjoy it. We read and tell stories, do activities and crafts, and have snacks. We did a Jackson Pollock painting a couple of weeks ago, and you should have seen the kids flinging that paint on that paper! They had a ball, and so did all of us adults. We all wound up with paint on us, but it was worth it, and it was only tempera paint, so it washed out. Sandie, who is in charge of Story Time, even wound up with purple paint in her hair! Last week we dedicated the whole day to Dr. Suess, and I wrote a poem in as Dr.-esque style as I could. Here it is:

There's a grouch on my couch.
He just walked in my door
And I really don't want him
Around anymore!

He grumps about this
And he gripes about that,
And he even complained
About the name of my cat!

He sits around eating
My cookies and chips,
And he ate up my veggies
And all of my dips!

He's rude and he's selfish
Like an old crocodile,
And he needs a new comb!
(Or a different hairstyle.)

I'm going to talk to him,
Tell him to go.
Tell him to leave here
And don't make it slow!

I don't like this grouch.
I just want him to leave.
Oh, wait, I forgot........
He's just make-believe!

I drew couches and some sample grouches and they colored them and cut them out and glued their grouches on the couches. They had a lot of fun, and it was the first time any of my writing has been public. It was kind of fun, even if it was only at Story Time! The next week we wrote a group poem about a ghost and a pumpkin, and then I wrote a companion poem to go with it. It was a lot of fun, and the kids love doing that sort of thing.

Now I'm trying to get the Christmas gifts going. I have a few done, and a few bought, but many more to go. I am making library pocket books for the ladies at the library, none of whom even know I have a blog, so I know I'm not giving anything away by writing this here. I am making ABC books for some on the grandkids, a game for Hal, a coloring bag for Hannah, and I'm not sure about the rest of them. The two oldest will get gift cards, I think, even though I hate the thoughts of that, but I don't know what to get them! And I need to send a nice care package to my oldest son, who just moved to Glendale, Arizona, to go to school. He knows no one there and doesn't start classes until Monday, and I'm sure after he starts classes he'll make some friends, but the holidays will be lonely, so I want to send him some cookies and fudge, things he likes. Maybe a magazine or two, some socks.....you know, kind of like what he would get in his Christmas stocking. I better get busy if I'm going to get it done, huh?

Well, I better go and get busy now. Too much to do and too little time. I will try to post more often, and not let so much time go by. Here is something I read a while back that I think is great: Live simply, love seriously, care deeply, speak kindly; leave the rest to God. Later, Gramma G.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Computers!!!

I have been having computer problems. My hinges have been slowly giving way, and they finally went gone! I finally found a pair that I could afford on ebay, and then they had to come from Hong Kong, and that took two weeks! But now they're on and my laptop will now hold its head up with dignity, whereas before it just laid flat, like a pancake. Not very condusive to much use. I've gotten very brave about working on my laptop. I have changed the monitor screen twice, (0nce was actually not necessary, because it wasn't the real problem) and I have replaced the converter at the bottom of the screen. Now the hinges. Not bad for an old lady, huh?

Talking about computers, I read an article in a magazine the other day that was about the 17 greatest advancements in the 20th century. One of them was the internet, and I sure do agree. I know there are a lot of things on the internet that are not good, and certainly people use it for purposes that are totally at odds with what I believe to be true and right, but think of all the good that has come from it. You can now keep in touch with family and friends in real time if you want to. You can send greetings, pass on advice and touching stories and recipes, all with the click of a button! How amazing is that? And think of all the genealogy that has been facilitated because of the internet. There is so much information available on our ancestors, and now we don't have to travel miles and miles to get it. That's not to say that you can take all that information at face value, because you can't. You still have to check it out, but its so much easier now. Being able to order birth and death certificates online is great, too. It really cuts down on the time we have to spend fact-finding.

My grandmother on my father's side used to spend a lot of time getting information on her (and mine) ancestors. She wrote letters, ordered microfilms, took trips to see people and cemeteries and record books....all of which I can now do from the comfort of my living room. And the programs just keep getting better! Now I can check and double check my information before I do anything with it!

I can also do my shopping from the comfort of my own living room, if I want to. And I do sometimes, because I'm really a home-body. I would be happy to stay at home all the time as long as I had my sewing and crafts and scrapbooking and art and genealogy and family and the supplies I needed to take care of them all. Unfortunately, I have to go out sometimes, but I would love to have a little cabin in the woods away from everything and (almost) everyone. I could be happy with that kind of life. Oh, well......

Now it's time to go. I have Christmas gifts to make, and I'm not making much progress, so I had better get busy. Remember, peace comes from within, not from outside sources. So look inside yourself and find your true peace. "Night, Gramma G.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Short and Sweet?

Oh my gosh!!! I can't believe it's been 2 weeks since I last posted! What a slacker. I have been so busy with everything else, I keep forgetting about this until it's the early hours of the morning, like now, and I'm too tired. I know, this is a recurring theme. I will try not to repeat myself again.
I am having a real problem with the spacing in this blog, and I can't figure out how to fix it. I also can't figure out how to get my slideshow the right size so the right-hand edges of the pics don't run of the edge. I even changed slideshows, and slideshow providers, and it still does it. Oh, well, what would I have to do if I had no problems?
Problems are what life is about. It isn't about being happy all the time, or having everything you want, or even everything you need necessarily, but rather it's about how we handle our problems. How we deal with the lemons life throws at us. As I get older, I think my lemons are getting bigger and bigger, and I'm not sure if I'm equipped to handle them, but I perservere! I'm not given to depression as a rule. I have my bouts of the blues, but mostly I try not to get down. It doesn't help or change anything, ad it usually just makes it worse by making others feel bad. My husband suffers from depression, and I have several children who do, also, and it's not fun, either to have or to deal with in other people. So when I start feeling down, I try to find something I like to do that will make me forget what's making me blue. It doesn't always work, and sometimes it takes me longer to realize what is happening and to do something about it, but I do try. Right now, days are good. I have these books to keep me occupied and I'm enjoying working on them.
What is it about the word (or even the thought of) diet that makes me hungry???? All I have to do is think about it, and I'm starving. I want to eat everything in sight. I do all right for a few days, even a week, and then Wham! I find myself gnawing on my arm if there's nothing else around! This is the thing that depresses me more than anything...my weight. I lost 45 lbs. last year, and now I've gained almost all of it back. And I went on a diet, starting last Monday, and I'm failing miserably! But I'm determined, because I don't want to be too fat to have fun with my grandchildren. And I got rid of my fat clothes when I lost that weight, so now I have nothing to wear! If that's not incentive, I don't know what is.
It's really chilly tonight. It has been all day, because we've been having rain. It's been cold enough to put the boys in long pj's and have slippers on our feet and blankets on our legs! Isn't that nice? In the middle of August, no less! I really love this weather.
I added a guest book to this blog tonight. If anyone is reading this, I hope you will sign it for me. There may not be anyone reading it. I don't know quite what to do to get it out there. I'm still learning about this stuff. I found a website tonight that I will check out tomorrow, called blogtobook.com. I think it's about selling your books on your blog. At least I hope that's what it's about, because that's what I ultimately would like to do. If anyone has any ideas to help me, let me know.
I'm making this a short one tonight (or should I say this morning?) because I need to get some sleep. Amanda leaves for work at 6am and I am in charge of the boys after that. They got up at 5:30 this morning, so it's been a long day. Until next time, Gramma G.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Good Night

Tonight is a good night. I have been working on ideas for the next book in the Baggy Grandma books. More Recipes for Mom. Disappearing ink, slime, more silly putty, face paint, things like that. I think it will be good. Now I have to get started on it. I'm not too sure why I'm doing this, but maybe someday something good will come from it. I'm also going to start on the Kid's Crafts series. Volume 1 will be full of ideas for everyday crafts, Volume 2 will be summer crafts, etc........there are 10 or 12 total, each with 10 ideas in it. Just small little books. I have them all outlined and the projects chosen, now I just have to write them up and draw the illustrations.
I have just been made the chorister in Relief Society, plus I am doing the bulletin board and the newsletter. All of this came at the same time, so I am feeling a little overwhelmed right about now, but as soon as I get into the swing of things, I'll be OK. I love doing the bulletin board, and the newsletter is fun, too. Leading the music is more work, and the RS sisters have been asked to sing in Sacrament meeting next Sunday! With time for only one practice! We'll see what happens. The ward music chairman chose Hymn #113, and that's a familiar one, so we should be OK.
I have a new recipe for you. I got it from HungryGirl.com, and if you've never seen that website, you should check it out. They give all kinds of ideas and information on ways to scale down on fat and calories. It a great site! Anyway, this recipe is an "instead-of" recipe for those frozen lemonades you get at fairs that are so good, but not so good for you.
Lemony Sip-its
2 tsp. lemonade powdered drink mix (Crystal Light)
1 tsp. fat-free non-dairy creamer (like Coffee Mate)
8-10 ice cubes
Dissolve the creamer in 1/4 cup warm water and mix well. Add 1 1/4 cups cold water and the lemonade mix. Mix well and place in a blender with half of the ice. Blend at high speed until thoroughly blended. Add the rest of the ice a cube or two at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Pour into a tall glass and spoon or sip your way to lemony satisfaction. For an even slushier drink, put it into the freezer for about 20 minutes before enjoying. Really easy and really good! And if you're on Weight Watchers, the whole thing is only 1 point!
If anyone out there is reading this blog and has ideas to share for humanitarian projects, email me and I will share your ideas with everyone. Or if you have a group that does humanitarian projects, let me know. I know you're out there. Speak up! My sister-in-law is knitting hats for veterans, and she has 88 done so far. She started out with a goal of 50, and then moved it to 100. It wouldn't surprise me if she does about 150 before Thanksgiving. She's really fast. I used to be, but my poor hands don't work so purty good any more. Last winter we did hats for the children's cancer ward, plus "chemo cans", which were gallon paint cans, decorated outside and filled with goodies like crayons or colored pencils, notebooks, coloring books, scissors, toys and games, slipper socks, all kinds of things. We collected beanie baby animals for months! I haven't come up with a new idea for this year yet. I don't even know what is needed in this new place we live. I need to do some research, but ideas would be helpful.
Well, I think its time to close for tonight. It's 1:51am and I need to get some rest. See you next time. Take care of you loved ones. They are you most important assets. 'Night, Gramma G.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Family Trees

I'm going to continue with the genealogy thing. I have another family line that I'm stuck on. It's my McGrew line. It has taken me 25 years to get back just three generations, and now I'm at an impasse again. Someone out there must have the information I need, but I haven't found them yet. My great-grandmother was Sylvia May McGrew. She married Walter Henry Harrison and they had George Walter Harrison, who was my mother's father. They also adopted a daughter, Alice. Sylvia's father was Robert Kelley McGrew and her mother was Ara Matilda Bridgman. Now here comes the problem. Robert's father was named Finley McGrew, and he was Irish. It seems that every family unit in every generation of McGrews had a Finley, and I can't find a connection to any one of them! There is a ton of information on the McGrews, and one man even wrote a book that claims all McGrews are related, but he doesn't have any information on my line! I know that a lot of them were Quakers, and the Quakers have extensive records, but I can't even find them there. I know that when Robert remarried after the death of his first wife, the children from his first marriage were put in a children's home. I can find all five of them on the census for that home, and Walter and his brother worked there as laborers. That is how they met, I am sure. It took a lot of years to find the Harrison family line, too, but I finally did. Now if I could just find that wily Finley McGrew, I would be so happy!

I have a lot of information on my mother's mother's line, but I have yet to get it all sorted out. She came from Georgia, and there was a fire there that destroyed a lot of vital records. My great-aunt went back there to see what she could find. She met a lot of people who were related, got a lot of photos and stories and such, but it's all kind of mixed up. (And there are some people she has information on that I'm not sure how they're related, or if they are.) These are the Kerby's and the Hoopers and all their families. They were all over Georgia, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina....good ol' southern families. My mother's grandfather used to tell her she was part Indian, (we don't know if its true or not) and he used to tell her his name was Jonathon DeWitt Talmadge Crackass and Popcorn Kerby. Now is that southern or what? My other main line is the Bagshaw line, and my grandma did a lot of work on them. They go back to England.
It's a good thing that we are not defined by our ancestors. Sure, they give us a sense of identity sometimes, but we are more than that. We are everything we see, do and hear while growing up along with everything we are taught and that which we make up as we go along. A lot of really good or great people have come from poor immigrants abut rose to their greatness because they were not held to the family business.
Well, I'm falling asleep again, so I guess I'll go to bed. 'Til next time.....'Night, Gramma G!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Tube Ski Hat Thingy....at last!

I seem to be having trouble finding the time to blog, and I really hate that because I do enjoy it. I have been so tired lately that I have actually been in bed before 3am! That's unusual for me. Then I have the two boys in the daytime, so there's no way I can write then. I need to figure out a better way to do this.

Guess what? I finished the tube ski hat thing. I think I will call it the neck warmer hat. It's really quite good at keeping the cold air off of your neck and head, and half of your face if you want it to. I think I will make some for the kids who live in cooooooold Tennessee, and those that live in Utah, too. Maybe a few extra ones to have around when anyone comes to visit Montana! The photos could be better, like if they were of an adult that the hat fit instead of my 2 and 3-year-old grandsons, but I think you can get the idea. And they thought they were hot stuff, trying on grandma's new hat thing, even though it drowns them! The pattern is really easy, too. I used the largest yellow circle loom for the one I made, and it's about right for an adult. For youth or children, I would use the next size down, the green loom. I used three yarns for mine because I wanted it to be heavy and really warm, but you could use just two if you don't want it quite so heavy.

Knit 16 rows, then form a cuff or brim by reaching inside the loom and bringing the first row of loops up and putting them back onto the pegs, keeping the rows straight. Bring the back loop over these loops and off the peg. Now continue knitting as usual, until the piece is about 15 or 16 inches long. Work the knitting off the pegs as you normally would, except don't draw the yarn up tight. Instead, make sure the cast off yarn is loose enough to stretch over your head. Tie it off and weave your ends in and clip them off. That's all there is to it! And man, is it warm!

My poor littlest grandson is suffering from allergies, and I think he's having a reaction to the medicine. He has diarrhea so bad that he has welts on his little butt from where it touches his skin. When I changed his diaper tonight to get him ready for bed, he just screamed because it hurt so bad. I finally took him into the sink and sat him in some warm water to get him clean. I felt so bad for him. He hasn't felt good for 4 or 5 days now, and I hate it when they don't feel good. It makes me hurt. He has been spending a lot of time on my lap, and when he does that, I KNOW he doesn't feel good, because he's a mover and a shaker. He doesn't usually stop for much. We're going to give him some children's Imodium, and I hope it will help.

Independence Day just came on and I have to watch it. I watch it every time it comes on. I love this movie! I think the President's speech just before all the pilots take off is a classic. And of course, the movie is just plain good! I own it on video and I still watch it every time it comes on TV.

I'm trying to get back to working on my genealogy. There is so much left to do, but now that its a three and a half hour drive to the temple, I'm not getting as much done. When we were in Nevada, I went to the temple almost every week and I was getting so much work done. I think I might send some names down there to friends and see if I can't get the work done a little faster. I have come to some brick walls in some of my lines, and its really frustrating. I especially have one that is nigh unto impossible to figure out. My grandmother's grandfather came from Germany during some type of political unrest there. The family was nobility, and his father sent him and his brother out of the country to get them away from being conscripted into the army, where they would have been sent to the front lines and most assuredly killed. Our family has heard this story many times, and we all know that their name was von Markus, and they changed it to Markus, and then to Morris. What we didn't understand was the depth of their fear that if found, they would be sent back to Germany and killed. My grandmother spent a lot of years trying to find a connection in Germany to trace the family line, and not too long before she was put in a rest home, she received a letter from a lady who told a different story. She said that the von Markus name was her family name, and that the two brothers traveled with her family to America and used their family name so as not to be caught. I assume those two brothers were so afraid of being sent back that they never told anyone the true story. The big problem is that now I don't even know what name to look for, and the work that has been traced back to Germany isn't our family. I don't even know where to turn or where to start. I know he married Mary Gertrude Schmidt, and that connection is how we got this tidbit of information, but I don't know the name of the lady who wrote to Grandma, and I never found the letter after she gave me all of her genealogy paperwork. If anyone has any ideas for me, I welcome any and all.

Well, I think it's time to close for tonight. I will try to be better at keeping this going. Next post will have a really good recipe in it! Take care and remember to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Don't wait until it's too late. Night, Gramma G.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Miscellaneous Ramblin'

I'm sitting here watching Phenomenon with John Travolta. I think it's my favorite Travolta movie, because I like him to be the good guy. Plus he's so down-to-earth in this one. He doesn't want any fame or fortune, all he wants is to help others and get the girl. I think that's a nice way to live your life. The scene when Kyra Sedgwick cuts his hair is one of the most truly sensual scenes I've ever seen, without being dirty or tacky. Really romantic. O love this movie!
Tonight, I'm feeling pretty good, although I'm not sure why. I don't know how we're going to pay our rent, but most of the other bills got paid. I will probably have to go to work soon, because we're not making it. When there is work, my husband makes pretty good money, but if the work's not there, the pay's not there either. It makes planning anything really difficult! But I guess I feel so good because I actually finished the first book in the kid's craft series. It's a book of recipes for moms. I did little illustrations and all for it, and now that it's done, I feel relieved. I don't know quite what I'm going to do with it, but it's done, nonetheless. I gave a copy to the head librarian and asked her to read it and give me her opinion, so we'll see what she thinks of it. She has helped at least one author get published in the past, so maybe.......
I started my diet, and I think when I get on the scales tomorrow morning, I will find that I have gained, not lost. I seem to want to eat all day long and everything in sight. I haven't been writing everything down, though, and I think that's a big eye-opener. Most of us don't realize just how much or how often we eat until we see it in writing. So I'm going to start a food journal. I have the diet tracker on my MyYahoo, and that helps, too, because I have to weigh in once a week and enter it into the computer. I have to see it in writing, too, and that's pretty scary. But I am determined. I have gained so much weight that my temple dress doesn't fit anymore, and the Spokane Temple is one of the small ones and doesn't have rental dresses, so I can't go to the temple until I get a new dress! Or lose some weight. If any of you have some good, low-fat recipes that are quick and easy, email me. I need all the help I can get.
Well, I'm sitting here falling asleep, so I better say good night for now. Remember, this earth life is for testing, not for resting! Gramma G.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Anniversaries

Well, today was July 24th and nothing happened. For Mormons, it is usually a big holiday and I miss the hullabaloo. The parades, the rodeos, the programs, the BBQs, you name it, I miss it. There are quite a few of us here in Montana, but its not like living in Utah or Southern Nevada. There will be a program and ice cream social or something like that on Saturday evening, but that's it. I will go and I'm sure I will enjoy it, but I still miss all the rest of it. (For those of you who don't know, it's the anniversary of the first Mormon pioneers reaching the Salt Lake Valley.) Part of the difference is the change in society. When I was young, we still had people around who remembered the hardships that the pioneers endured. My grandmother's grandparents were some of those pioneers and she kept that sense of history alive for me, but the farther we get from that generation, the more that gets forgotten. I have tried to keep that history alive for my children with the telling of it, and by participating in the festivities every year, but I can still see it dying. Don't get me wrong. They are proud of those ancestors who crossed the plains. a few by the side of Brigham Young, but those people have been gone a long time, and my kids don't see a lot of relevance between the two lifetimes.

The other reason I think we don't have the big celebrations is that everyone is so busy today. It takes a lot of time and a lot of work to put together those events. And it takes a lot of people to make them possible, too. People who don't have the time. Life is just rush, rush, rush nowadays and there doesn't seem to be enough time in a day to do what needs to be done, without adding frivolities. At least some people think of it that way. I, on the other hand, think that it's important to keep the past alive, so we never forget where we came from and what our ancestors went through to give us what we enjoy today.
Okay, enough of that. How about this instead? This Monday will be my 35th wedding anniversary. 35 years! WOW! My husband and I are one of the few couples from our graduating class to still be together after all this time. We have never been married to anyone else; we were married right out of high school. We have five children and 14 grandchildren, and we're still sane. At least relatively so. Every time I tell one of my children that I'm losing my mind, they tell me you can't lose what you never had, so maybe I don't really know what sanity is! But I'm still here, and I guess that's what counts. I love my husband very much. He is my rock, what keeps me going when times are tough. And they are really tough right now. We are having some real financial difficulties, and I don't know right now if we'll make it through, but we keep pluggin'. It's all we can do, and as long as I have him by my side, I'll be OK. I think we'll probably go to dinner and a movie for the big day. My daughter is off that day, so I won't be watching the babies, and we will be able to take some time for us. That will be nice. Then again, we may just decide to stay home and lounge around. I don't know. We'll see.
I'm still trying to get the ski tube hat done. My hands have been really bad lately, plus I have been doing the arts and crafts project every week at the library for the summer reading program, so it's not getting done very fast. Some days I can barely get anything done, my hands hurt so bad. I promise it will get done, though, and soon, because I want to share it with you before its to late to make them for winter. Oh yeah....I forgot to tell you that the Pineapple Lush Angel food Cake was really good. I made it with sugar free and fat free everything, and it was still really good. Try it! You'll like it! I'm also trying to lose weight. Again. Almost two years ago, I lost 45 pounds, but I've put most of it back on again. I lost it by going to Weight Watchers, and I can't seem to do it again on my own. I need the motivation of the meetings and the members to keep me going. I did find out that we have a WW meeting right here in Stevi, so I think I will have to find the money to join again. I'm so tired of being fat. And I felt better, both physically and mentally, when I was thinner. I need to lose a lot more than the original 45 lbs. but that's a starting goal. Then I will worry about the other 30 lbs. after that. Maybe if I blog about my struggle, I will feel accountable, and will be a good girl. We'll see if it helps at all.
Tonight is going to be short, because it's now 2:28 am and I'm tired! I'm going to take myself to bed and see if I can get to sleep. I usually lie awake for an hour or two before I finally drop off, but I'm pretty tired today, so we'll see what happens. Here's another little tidbit I heard at church the other day: "Don't ever permit yourself to do anything that you wouldn't want to see you children do." I think that's pretty profound. What about you? Call a family member and remind them of how much you love them. 'Night, Gramma G.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Camping is Great!

I've been so busy since we got back from camping that I haven't had time to write. The camping was wonderful! The lake was so beautiful and blue, and not a mosquito in sight. The campgrounds were clean, and we just happened to luck out and get a spot that had firewood that was left by the people before us! A whole stack of really nice firewood. All we had to do was collect kindling, which was so readily available that I didn't even need to make fuzz sticks. We had a very enjoyable weekend, and when we left, we went to a ghost town that my husband's boss told us about. We almost didn't make it there. When Don told us about Bannack, he made it sound like it was just a hop, skip and a jump from where we were camping. It was 150 miles!!! As we are driving along, and driving, and driving, we almost turned around and went home, but I finally convinced my hubby that we were so close that it would be a shame to go that far and not go the last 28 miles. As it turned out, we were glad we did. Bannack is a really neat place. I took a mess of photos. We got there at the same time as a big group from Michigan, 30 people that I think were all members of the same family, so when it came time to pan for gold and garnets, it was really crowded, so we didn't do any panning, but maybe sometime we'll go back. It looked like fun.

As we were traveling to Bannack we passed through several little towns that almost weren't towns. They were so small, they didn't even have a service station. Some had schools, but some didn't, the same with churches and stores, and it made me think about life the way we live it. How many of us could live without our conveniences? When we left Bannack, we came home a different way. We went over to Dillon and then up the freeway. Now Dillon isn't a very big place either, but way larger than places like Jackson or Wisdom. There was an LDS church there, and that answered the question of where all the mormons in that part of the state went to church, but it would be a real drive for some. Would I be willing to go that far to make it to church on Sunday, or to get my kids to mutual, and what about seminary? And then I thought about my mom. There were times in my youth when we did live that far away, and my mother always made sure that we made it to church. I got to all my school activities and church activities and everything else that I thought was important, and my poor mother, she spent a lot of time sitting in the car reading a book. I don't think I have ever really thought about the sacrifice she made of her time, just so I could be part of whatever was going on.

When I was in high school, we lived 40 miles away from school and church. My dad had just retired from the Air Force and went to work for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, at a pumping station out in the middle of the desert. My mother spent a lot of time on the road for me, as well as reading a whole lot of books! At that time, we had Sunday School in the morning and Sacrament Meeting in the evening, so we made two trips every Sunday, plus she had Relief Society on Tuesday morning, I had MIA on Tuesday evening, and mom taught Primary, which was on Wednesday after school. Then there were all the ball games and dances and concerts, and practices and everything else connected with school. I don't know how she kept her sanity! I do know that we put so many miles on our cars that my parents were able to use it for tax purposes! (Because my dad's job was out in the middle of nowhere and required us to live there, mileage was allowed for a lot of things.) I wonder if I were in her shoes, would I be as gracious about giving up my time (and money) as she was? I don't think I ever heard her complain about all the hours she spent waiting on me, and they were considerable. I was your typical ungrateful teenager, who thought my mother's life revolved around me and that she was supposed to give up everything for me. Boy, have things stayed the same at the same time that they've changed! Teenagers are still selfishly ungrateful, but mom's are out of the home more and more, with less and less time to spend with their kids. Wow!!! Did I get off on a tangent, or what? Sorry!

Back to camping.....the weather was so nice. It wasn't too hot or too cold, no rain, just perfect, actually. And there were a lot of little squirrels and chipmunks running around, trying to find food to store away for the coming seasons. The birds woke us up in the morning, and I think we were the first ones up in our area of the campgrounds. We're pretty early risers normally, anyway, so it was kind of nice to be up before all the noise and rambunctiousness started. It's the best time of the day, especially in the woods. We watched the sun rise up over the mountain as we started our fire for breakfast, seeing it turn from a weak little light to a bright golden sun. We were right at the foot of the mountain, so it took a little while to reach us as it inched its way down the slope and through the trees. In the this photo you can see a momma duck and her little babies. They were so cute! My husband did some fishing, but he only caught one little one that he threw back. It was a good time all the same.
As I close today, I want to leave you with something I heard in church this morning. "Try to learn from the mistakes of others, because you don't have the time to make them all yourself." Hug someone you love. 'Night, Gramma G

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Goin' Campin'

My husband and I are leaving early tomorrow morning to go camping for a couple of days. We're headed south to Lake Como, with a visit planned to a ghost town nearby and lots of fishing. That's fishing for him, not me. I read or knit or write or draw, but I do not fish! I help if he needs it, you know, holding the net or the stringer or such, but not actually fishing. I leave that up to him. He fillets them when he catches them, too. I will cook them, though. I really like fresh fish. I used to hate fish until I tasted my first fresh-from-the-stream trout, (I think they were trout) and now I've actually grown a taste for them. Not all of them, though. Catfish is usually to "fishy" for me, as are a few others that I don't know the name of. Unless the catfish is Cajun and fixed by Dottie or Abe Manual in Milton, Tennessee. That is the best fish I ever tasted in my life! They cook true Cajun style, not all hot and over-spiced, but with a nice spicy flavor that lets the true taste of the fish come through. Man, oh man, that's somethin' good! It will make you do the Louisiana boogie! Dottie also serves up a Banana Split Cake to die for. Absolutely scrumptious!

Back to the camp outing. This will be our first in Montana, and its been pretty warm lately, so we packed only light blankets. Then tonight, it got quite chilly. I had to close the front door while we were watching TV because I got cold. And I never get cold! So I'm thinking that I better pack a quilt or two so we don't freeze. But I like the cold, so we won't stay home because of it. We'll just pack a little warmer. And I'm really looking forward to that Dutch oven chicken and potatoes I'll be fixing! It's one of my favorite meals, and we haven't been camping for a long time, so I've missed it. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

We've never been to Lake Como, but we hear tell that it's nice. There are two or three campgrounds, and I hope running water and a bathroom. We're taking plenty of water just in case, but I really don't want to dig a latrine! I'm pretty sure there are facilities there. If not, we may go somewhere else to camp and just go fishing there. Gotta have a potty! Have you ever camped rough? I have an uncle who was a tree-topper in the forest above Sacramento, California, and they had logger's camp every summer. My parents and I visited one summer for a week and I had so much fun. They call it rough camping, but they take everything up there! Even the kitchen sink! My aunt had three Army-sized tents put together for her "camp house". One was the bedroom, complete with a huge feather bed, one was the kitchen, complete with a wood burning stove, and the last one was the living room, rocking chair and all. She actually had more living space at camp than she had at home!

But the potty was the point of this whole long spiel. It was a hole dug in the ground with a toilet placed over it, and a refrigerator box, maybe two, around it. Aunt Irene insisted on privacy. So... we had been there for about a day, maybe two, when my dad had a little "accident". He was in the habit of leaning on the wall when he was taking a leak at home, and he forgot that those walls up there were only cardboard. He fell through, knocked down the wall, and gave everybody a good laugh! He was lucky he didn't really hurt himself when he fell over the toilet. Meanwhile, no one could go to the bathroom until repairs were made.

Of course, one of the favorite pastimes at logging camp was drinking. They went through more beer after work than I had ever seen in my life up to that point! Some of them were loud and rowdy, but mostly they just drank while they played cards and told stories of past camps. I have a picture of me, I think I was about 11, in front of a giant pyramid of beer cans. It kept me busy and out of trouble for a long time. If I can find it, I will post it. Those are some good memories, because my dad was in the Air Force, and we lived all over the place and didn't get to be around family much. I think that's one of only 2 times I ever got to meet my Aunt Irene and Uncle Armond, and they were good people. I wish I had known them better.

As for camping, I have loved it since my first experience. I was in 5th grade, and interestingly enough, we were living in Great Falls, Montana, when I went camping for the first time. It was the Young Women's group from church, and I wasn't actually supposed to be there, because your were supposed to be at least 12 years old and I was only ten, but my mother went as craft director and my dad went as life guard, so I got to go, too. And it was primitive camp. We dug our own latrines, and lashed long branches to trees for the seat, hung blankets around the whole set-up and had a community bathroom. No showers, just the lake. We had grease pits, where we dumped our cooking grease, as well as our dish water, etc. and of course, we cooked over an open fire. I thought it was great! I learned how to build fires, do First Aid, cook over a fire, do lashing and carving, AND...... I learned how to make a fuzz stick! That was the best. If you don't know what a fuzz stick is, it is a little piece of a branch that you "fuzz" by taking your pocket knife and making little cuts all over it. They are used as fire starters, and they work really well. I may have to show my husband all about them this weekend. Of course, it won't be a big deal to him, but it will be a good memory for me. I also learned how to go snipe hunting. If you have never been snipe hunting, you haven't lived! There is a certain way to hunt a snipe, and I won't give it away here, but if you've never been, you need to ask a friend who likes to camp to take you snipe hunting. It's a blast!

Well, that's enough for tonight. When we get back, I'll tell you all about it. At least the good stuff, not the boring day-to-day stuff. We'll see if there's anything to tell. Remember this quote from Oscar Hammerstein, the "love in your heart wasn't put there to stay, love isn't love 'til you give it away." 'Night, Gramma G.
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