Sunday, March 29, 2020

A Ten-Day Beauty Plan

Way back in the day when I was in my early teens plagued by acne, I would have done anything to get rid of those pimples. In fact, I did but still pimples blossomed all over my face. After reading a magazine ad stating if you used their product faithfully for ten days straight, your skin would be rid of acne. In fact, it claimed, "You will be beautiful!" That's all I needed! I bought a jar, convinced there'd be no more reason to hide my face with my hands or turn away when seeing popular upperclassmen.

For ten long days, I'd grab the magic jar and cover my face with the magic, silky lotion. Then I'd wait for however long I was supposed to before taking a clean washcloth put under warm water and then cold before wiping the magic, silky lotion off my face. I did that twice a day for nine days. At the end of the tenth day, I went into the bathroom and shut the door. Then I picked up the jar of magic, silky lotion and covered my face extra carefully. I left it on a little longer. I could feel myself getting excited. The long wait was over. No more pimples! No more being embarrassed or hiding my face with my hands. No more spending time on products that did nothing as promised in their ads. I was certain the magic, silky lotion I'd used as directed twice a day for ten days straight had rid my skin of acne.

With a clean washcloth put under warm water and then cold, I slowly began to clean the magic, silky lotion off my face. I took my time. Beauty, I decided, is to be savored. The only problem was when I looked in the mirror, I had even more pimples than I'd ever had. Throwing the not-so-magic lotion in the waste basket, I ran to my room; threw myself on my bed and buried myself in blankets. I stayed there until morning.

One good thing when I woke up, it was a Saturday. I didn't have to see anyone with my face smothered in pimples. I didn't feel like doing anything but decided to go next door to my grandmother's house. She was always up to something. I hoped her something on that Saturday would help me take my mind off my face.When I walked through the front door, I could hear her sewing machine humming. I knew where she was. Walking through the kitchen, I slowly approached her sewing room. Hesitating for a second, I took a deep breath and walked into the room. It made me feel better just to see her. I felt like crying but her words stopped me cold.

Looking up from her little black, Singer sewing machine with a tape measure around her neck, she smiled at me and said, "Well, don't you look beautiful today!"

"Really?"
"Yes. Really!"

I spent most of the day at my grandmother's. I decided, with brown spots on her hands and long gray hair twirled up in a bun and lines on her face that told her life's story, she was the most beautiful woman in the world. I was in good company.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Playing Marbles


Right about this time of the year when growing up out in the country, I’d be looking for my bag of marbles. It wasn’t a fancy bag. It was a paper bag and there weren’t that many marbles in it. My older brother was the one with the marbles. He kept them in a plush-like bag with ties you’d pull shut so the marbles wouldn’t fall out. Sometimes when he wasn’t home I’d sneak into his room, pull open a certain dresser drawer and grab hold of that plush-like bag. Then I’d sit on his bed. Open the bag and spread the marbles out in front of me.
One time a marble rolled off his bed and disappeared just as I heard him come through the front door. I panicked. I scooped up the marbles and dumped them in the fancy bag. Then I got down on my knees and searched for the one that got away. I couldn’t find it! I was running out of time so I put the plush-like bag back in the drawer and hurried to my room and shut the door. I waited for him to start yelling at me. I was convinced he’d find it. But that never happened. He never went in his room. A few minutes later I heard him go back out the front door. Watching him walk up the road, I hurried into his room and eventually found that marble and put it back where it belonged.

I think most of my marbles came from Woolworths or Newberry’s. I didn’t have any fancy ones like steelies, but my brother did. And like his marbles, he had steelies in all sizes. My marbles were just your regular sort of marbles. Some, like the solid white ones and solid yellow ones, looked like gumballs. I had a few favorites chosen because of their swirling colors.
My cousins and I would get our marbles outside as soon as the snow started melting. We’d play with them in what grass there was despite it being frozen. Our marbles would roll in the snow; in mud puddles; down the cinder driveway; into the little stream beside our grandparents’ farmhouse waking up and getting a little bit bigger most every day. Our hands would be freezing.  Our feet would be soaking wet but we didn’t care. We were finally outside playing with our marbles after waiting all winter long.

I don’t know what ever happened to that paper bag holding those glorious little balls of fun. I guess you could say ‘I lost my marbles!’

Thursday, March 5, 2020

A Magical Little Stream

After passing by the creek shown in the attached photo, I found myself turning back around to take a closer look. There was something about that creek; bringing me back to another creek waking up in springtime.
When growing up in the country, spring surrounded us with the smell of the earth thawing and the honking of geese announcing their return. The creek that ran behind those four homes full of relatives would overflow its banks like clockwork when the temperature began to rise. One day it'd be frozen in place. The next day it'd be moving along swiftly, spreading out into the surrounding fields like a wildfire out of control. It was exciting to see that creek expand. Sometimes while having supper, we'd watch muskrats sitting on chunks of ice flowing by as if on a carnival ride. We weren't allowed to play near that creek when the water was full of cakes of ice and moving along at full speed but that didn't matter. There was a little stream that ran alongside our grandparents' farmhouse. It was the perfect-sized little stream even when it overflowed its little banks. I'd play outside with my cousins in and around that little stream until dragged inside, soaking wet and anxious to get back outside to continue our playing.
The little stream came flowing through a tunnel built under the road, bringing waters from other fields to our little stream; then to the flat rocks and eventually to the big creek with cakes of ice.
If the weather changed and the temperature dipped, that little stream would turn to ice. But that never stopped the play. We'd find shovels or picks and open our highway of water back up so we could find more twigs and use them to race each other's twigs down that little stream to the finish which was the flat rocks.
Racing those twigs was so much fun. Sometimes a twig would get lost underneath the edge of ice still in place. Sometimes a twig would blend into a glob of twigs or dirty, leftover leaves. If that happened whoever owned the twig would have to take their mittens off and recover their racing twig, I don't ever remember being cold when playing in that stream even when my mittens were soaking wet and my nose was dripping and my boots were full of mucky water mixed with leaves and stones. None of that matters when you're a kid and spring turns your winter playground into something brand new and exciting, offering brand new things to play and explore until spring turns to summer and that little stream dries up and disappears under the sunshine and heat of the new season.
But with that flat rock in place, something magical happened in the heat of the summer. That's when a natural bubble would pop up and out of the flat rock. It was so cold and so delicious. It was worth clearing away the green moss, lying down on the flat rock and getting good and wet just to drink from that natural bubble-proving once again how magical it was to play about that little stream-that wonderful little stream offering hours of never-ending fun at no charge and no batteries required.
All that was required was Imagination.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Rding Horses Bareback Out In The Country

Did you ever look at a photo and wish you could remember that moment; remember what lead up to it and what everyone was saying and who took the photo and what happened after the photo had been taken and life continued on?
I had all those questions and more after receiving the attached photo from a cousin. That’s me sitting on a horse behind my Uncle Paddy-my cousin’s father. My older brother is sitting on the other horse. I have no recollection of that day. But I do know if my Uncle Paddy was involved, it would have been a fun day. Most in the community knew him as owner of a shoe store. I knew him as an uncle who was a kid at heart.
Uncle Paddy was the one who built us kids rafts out of telephone poles so we could go off on adventures on a creek that ran along behind our homes. Uncle Paddy was the one who helped my cousin and I set up a tent behind his house so we could camp out on occasion over summer vacations. Of course he was also the one who loved to scare us later on and then show up early in the morning for fried eggs and toast cooked over a fire consisting of twigs and creek grass producing lots of smoke that made our eyes water.
Uncle Paddy was the one who spent hours planning what became an annual Easter Treasure Hunt when we all lived out in the country in those four houses in a row. Before we were awake on Easter morning, he’d go about that huge plot of property and hide clues for us to find. The pot of gold was individual brown bags of candy, lots of candy, for each one of us. We worked for that candy. He hid the clues in hard to find places. Some of the clues were near impossible to figure out. A few times over the years we’d ask him for help when we were stumped, but he never said a word. He’d just laugh and tell us to keep looking. He loved watching us running from the creek to the barn to the grain shed to cars and rock walls and everywhere else in between. After we finally found the treasure, we’d hurry inside to discuss the hunt with the treasure hunt creator himself.
Later in life, it was my Uncle Paddy I’d go with to the movies. He’d always buy us popcorn in that downtown theater of long ago. I think Dr. Zhivago was one of our favorites.
I still have so many questions about that photo. I’m thinking my Aunt Claire probably took it with her Brownie camera since we were on our horses right in front of her home and she loved taking photos. The horses probably came from a nearby farm. Of course I’m just guessing.
The one thing I know for sure is my brother and I were having lots of fun and lots of laughs riding horses bareback out in the country with that kid at heart.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Little Valentine Tree


This past December when going to the woods for a Christmas tree, I came back home with two trees. One was for the living room. The other was for the room where Brian and I spend most of our time. We call it the Groove room. It used to be a back porch. Now it’s where it all happens; everything from singing and dancing to TV viewing and CD listening and writing and watching the leaves turn and the snow fall and the garden grow and the deer pass by. It overlooks the back yard and the fields; a rock wall where rabbits live and the old barn with a light in the upstairs window.


I’d thought about putting a small Christmas tree in the Groove room before but I never followed through. Something was telling me to do it this past Christmas. So I did. Once Christmas was over, it didn’t bother me to take down the tree in the front room but that little tree on the old back porch was a different story. Brian and I weren’t ready to say goodbye to what had become our favorite little tree. So we decided to keep it up through January. But by the end of that month, we still weren’t ready to say goodbye to that precious little tree.


Because I love Valentine’s Day for all of its color and warmth in the midst of winter whites and greys and chilly temperatures, I suggested to Brian that we turn the little Christmas tree into the little Valentine Tree. He liked the idea, probably because it meant a few more weeks of having the little tree within view. 


As Valentine’s Day approaches we feel blessed to have our little Valentine tree. And once Valentine’s Day comes and goes, I’ll take that little Valentine tree back outside where the snow will eventually cover it and the wind will blow and the birds will sit on its branches and the seasons will keep changing. 

But the memories of that little Christmas/Valentine tree will remain in our hearts forever.


Saturday, February 1, 2020

Winter Suppers


With the snow and the wind and below zero temperatures, I sometimes fix something simple for myself when suppertime comes around. This doesn’t happen every night but when it does happen; whatever I fix not only warms me up but fills me with an even deeper appreciation of winter. I’d never think of having hot cereal for supper in the summertime. But I do during the winter. And I enjoy every spoonful as much as I would enjoy a full-course meal. After the hot dogs and potato salads and the boiled dinners and turkeys, winter offers a time of slowing down and occasionally treating yourself to simple, warm and relaxing suppers.


Besides a bowl of hot cereal, which could be Oatmeal, Corn Meal, or Wheatena with an added treat of dipping a piece of toast into any one of those cereals, my simple winter supper might be buttermilk pancakes with either blueberries or bananas on top. When the kids were little I had a Hello Kitty-shaped pancake skillet. Those pancake suppers were quite popular.


Another simple winter supper—which was sometimes enjoyed for breakfast as well— was a favorite when growing up in the country where I was blessed with having a grandmother living next door. Those of us who gathered around my grandmother’s kitchen table in wait of her serving her quite popular rice croquettes could never get enough of such a simple, yet such a delicious meal. Now looking at her recipe, it’s hard to believe the joy and satisfaction we experienced from rice mixed with 2 beaten eggs, then shaped into croquettes and rolled in flour or bread crumbs and cooked in deep fat until browned. Maybe it was the hot tomato sauce covering the croquettes that we loved. Or, maybe it was because we were gathered around our grandmother’s kitchen table and we would have enjoyed whatever she was cooking.


One of my aunts loved having an egg on toast or chipped beef on toast or creamed peas on toast. They were all simple winter suppers. This aunt also loved going out to a diner for breakfast. She’d come home with more than a few packets of sugar or little creamers in her purse.


Some winter suppers are a little fancier yet remain on the simple end of preparation. Tuna casseroles, creamed tuna on toast (can you tell I love tuna fish), or corn bread served with regular goulash or my grandmother’s French goulash all hit the spot when the snow is swirling and the wind is howling. Homemade soups and shepherd’s pie get a little fancier but worth the effort.

Winter suppers, simple or not quite so simple, are all about being home; being content as the wind howls and the snow falls and you are safe and warm with less dishes to do and more time

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Snowy Day People

The other day as big, fluffy, beautiful January snowflakes fell, Brian started listening to a Gordon Lightfoot CD I'd bought him for Christmas. I bought it for one particular song that he's always liked. After he listened it, I suggested he listen to the other songs, telling him the other Gordon Lightfoot songs were just as good. So he did.
I was in the kitchen when a certain song started playing. It used to be a favorite of mine (still is) so I started singing as I began to gather ingredients to make him an omelet.
"How do you know that song?" he asked.
"I don't remember. I've just always liked it."
"Come sit down and listen to it."
So I did.
It was peaceful sitting there with the snow falling about the fields. I went on a bit about the beauty in winter; the peace I find in the stillness and how absolutely breathtaking it was outside.
Of course Brian has heard me go on and on about winter many times before. This time he laughed, telling me, "You're a Snowy Day person!"
I agreed.
The way the snow was coming down reminded me of the times of long ago when skating with my cousin down at the creek that ran behind our homes. We spent hours at that creek. We'd never get cold. That's probably because we just kept on skating. And sometimes those snowy hours spent on the creek led to a bowl of piping hot cereal at our grandmother's house.
My grandmother-my aunt-my mother all cooked hot cereal. They each had their variations. Some used brown sugar. Some sprinkled cinnamon in the bubbling mix while some served it with cream instead of milk. My grandmother would add a dab of butter as she dished her cereal into a bowl. When making the hot cereal, she'd always use a simple sauce pan with a top that had a dent in it. She used the pan for years. My aunt used it too.
On Sunday mornings in the wintertime, that pan made serving after serving of hot cereal, depending on how many of us were gathered around the table. Besides Oatmeal, favorites included Cream of Wheat and Corn Meal. We weren't picky as long as it was hot and served with buttered toast for dunking. Of course there were no microwave variations-just spoonful after spoonful of creamy, delicious hot cereal cooked in a certain saucepan and served around the table as the snow fell and the wind blew.
So that afternoon as Gordon Lightfoot kept on singing and with hot cereal on my mind, I asked Brian if he'd like a bowl of hot cereal.
"What about my omelet?"
"You could have both if you'd like."
After thinking for a minute with Rainy Day People playing again he replied, "Hot cereal!"
"Wonderful. I'll have a bowl too."
And so as those snowflakes kept swirling outside, inside we sat and enjoyed some piping hot Oatmeal because that's just what Snowy Day people do on a snowy January day.