5 12, 2022

Christmas Stockings – Tradition and Legacy

By |2022-12-04T10:20:59-06:00December 5th, 2022|A Writer's Life, Holidays|1 Comment

Why do we hang stockings at Christmas? The origin of the tradition comes from a folkloric story. The Cliff Notes version goes like this:

A kindly Saint Nicholas learned of a penniless widower with three daughters and no dowry for them. St. Nick came to the widower’s house and filled his three daughters’ stockings, hanging on the fireplace to dry, with gold coins.

Different versions, each with its own twist, have continued to fuel Christmas decorating for hundreds of years. You can read more details here.

Our family’s Christmas stocking tradition started with my Irish grandmother, who made stockings for each of her grandchildren.

Every Christmas morning we’d go over to her house to find Santa had left our stockings. We never questioned why there and not at our house. Instead, on Christmas morning we piled in the car with our mother and went to her house to find our stockings stuffed with small gifts like jewelry or nail clippers, an orange, an apple, Hersey kisses, pecans, almonds, walnuts, and Brazil nuts.

The orange supposedly represented the gold coins the three impoverished girls found. The nuts, I think, were merely filler. I never ate them as a child.

That ritual continued until I got married. Then Grandmother made a stocking for my husband soon to be followed by three more for our children.

We always hung the stockings and opened them on Christmas morning along with “Santa” gifts from under the tree. Because we never lived nearby, we never got to continue the stockings at grandmother’s house tradition.

Time passed and our children married and had children. We’d lost Grandmother so making Christmas stockings fell to me.

I made four stockings for children’s spouses and twelve grandchildren. Plus, a couple for nieces and nephews.

Our grandchildren started getting married which meant more stockings to make for spouses and three great-grandchildren. I’ve made seventeen!

Grandmother would never make stockings for pets. I couldn’t say no and have stockings for granddogs and grandbunnies.

She’d shortened long names like Stephanie Jean, to the initials S.J., which troubled my youngest all her life. Remembering how she felt, I don’t shorten names on stocking instead I substitute nicknames like Alex for Alexander and Theo for Theodore. I’m hoping the guys won’t mind when they’re older.

Making Christmas stockings is a labor of love, a family tradition, and this Nana’s Christmas legacy.

28 11, 2022

Is It Time to Pitch Your Turkey Leftovers?

By |2022-11-27T16:58:25-06:00November 28th, 2022|Holidays, Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

If you live in the U.S., you probably sat down at a Thanksgiving table loaded with enough food to feed a third-world country for a week.

We sure did. And we had leftovers.

For me, leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving. I love the smell of the stripped carcass simmering with onions and celery in our traditional turkey brown rice soup on Black Friday.

With only two of us now, cooking the whole turkey carcass into soup is too much. This year’s bare Tom Turkey bones went with a granddaughter and her growing family. Instead, we took enough slices of turkey for sliders on Black Friday.

I’m guessing many are still moving leftover turkey or dressing or sweet potatoes around in your refrigerators to eat next week…but is that safe?

It depends upon how long the leftovers sat before being stored. Did you refrigerate perishable foods quickly after your meal?

If not, it may be time to pitch the leftovers or risk foodborne illness – isn’t that a lovely way to say food poisoning?

Bacteria don’t typically change the taste, smell, or look, you can’t tell until the nasty germs attack your digestive tract. Happily, most cases of food poisoning can be prevented with proper food handling.

According to this Forbes article, you should follow these six guidelines for leftover food storage,

  1. Store leftovers within two hours of serving.
  2. Use clean airtight containers or wrapping
  3. Remember the three-to-four-day limit for refrigeration of leftovers.
  4. Froze the leftovers? Remember the three-to-four-month limit for freezers.
  5. Check refrigerator temperature is 40° Fahrenheit or lower.
  6. Heat leftovers to at least 165° Fahrenheit before eating.

My advice, check any leftovers, Thanksgiving or otherwise before you eat them. Better safe than sorry.

21 11, 2022

Thanksgiving Blessings

By |2022-11-15T15:57:16-06:00November 21st, 2022|Holidays|0 Comments

The American holiday is not celebrated in Ireland. Likely as not, my Irish forefathers never heard of an attitude of gratitude. All the same so many Irish blessings and quotations show a deep awareness of the importance of showing appreciation for our blessings.This is one of my favorites:

“Hem your blessings with thankfulness,

So they don’t unravel.”

Chicken Wrangler Sara and I will be gathering with our family this week to count our blessings. See you next week.

9 11, 2022

Veterans Day Gratitude

By |2022-11-06T09:54:13-06:00November 9th, 2022|Holidays, Wednesday Words|0 Comments

Veterans Day is the day set aside to honor all those who have served our country in war or peace — dead or alive — although it’s largely intended to thank living veterans for their sacrifices.

Pause a moment this Veterans Day to say “thank you” to a friend, relative, or co-worker who is a U.S. military veteran or actively serving.

Spectators and veterans hold up “Thank You” signs during the 2012 Fayetteville Veterans Day parade, Nov. 10, 2012 in Fayetteville, N.C.

31 10, 2022

Halloween Costumes

By |2022-10-30T18:13:16-05:00October 31st, 2022|Holidays, Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

A little synchronicity going on with blogs this Halloween.

Chicken Wrangler Sara’s post for last Friday about crayon costumes she’d made for her children arrived for me to schedule as I was searching through my stash of pictures for a Halloween costume photo to use for my blog today. As I told her, great minds think alike.

My search for the photo of her brother and sister in their costumes turned into more of a search than I wanted. I discovered two things:

#1 The albums I used back in the 1970s were disintegrating. The pictures were fine the photo holders not so much.

Not a big problem. Now I know there’s an issue. I’ll switch all those photos to albums like the other years before cell phone photography and cloud storage.

#2 Daughter #2 (the one in the picture) had the photograph.

That proved to be more of an issue. After texting Daughter #2, I learned she did have the photo I wanted for sure along with several others. All taken with permission. However, she couldn’t find the photo of her and her brother in Halloween costumes.

Thus began the great Halloween picture search at our family gathering to watch the opening game of the World Series. She brought a huge pile of pictures for us to search through as we sipped craft beer and cheered the Astros.

No luck that night so her search continued.

No luck the next day or the next. “No worries,” I said through my disappointment.

Then I got a text late Sunday afternoon: “I never did find the original but suddenly remembered that I had scanned it in on my old phone!!” The photo we’d been searching for was included. I had to laugh at the full circle…snapshot to jpg. Computers to the rescue.

Here’s the picture. Our son is in a devil costume I made and daughter #2 is one of the three blind mice. (Back then Halloweens were kinder and gentler.)

After that buildup, you’ll probably find the photo anti-climactic, but don’t miss the paper decorations in the windows.

17 10, 2022

Why I love Noah Webster

By |2022-10-16T12:44:49-05:00October 17th, 2022|Holidays, Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

A day to honor Noah Webster’s birthday on October 16, 1758. You probably recognize the name.

Webster is the “Father of American Scholarship and Education,” and author of the Blue-Backed Speller which taught generations of American school children to read and spell.

Because he disliked the complexity of English spelling rules, he streamlined our American way of spelling certain words like “color” instead of the English spelling of “colour.” His first dictionary was published in 1806.

A year later he began work on a more comprehensive dictionary, which took him twenty-seven years to finish. He learned twenty-six languages to evaluate the etymology of the seventy thousand words included in the work.

As a child, I spent hours poring through the pages of my grandmother’s eight-inch thick copy of Webster’s New International Dictionary (of the English Language).

The fifteen-pound book had leather alphabet tabs cut into the pages. The illustrations were detailed and the maps gorgeous. There were diagrams, charts, and thousands of words. It was a fertile resource for a blossoming logophile or wordsmith as I prefer to call myself.

Wonderful magical stuff can happen when you use a print dictionary. You discover word origins and its root which can give a deeper understanding of meaning. You also find synonyms and antonyms that provide possibilities for rewriting or a totally new idea.

Sure, you can get all that in a nanosecond online. But do you scroll down to discover all that? Probably not. Even if you do, you miss all those other words your finger glides over as it scrolls down the printed page. Words that you might never have seen.

As an author, I keep a print copy of Webster’s Dictionary closeby, and I use it often along with the online versions.

Authors and anyone who publishes also have another reason to appreciate Noah Webster. He played a role in forming the Copyright Act of 1831, which extended copyrights from fourteen to twenty-eight years with an option of renewal for another fourteen years. That changed with even greater protections under The Copyright Act of 1976, but Noah Webster started the copyright ball rolling.

Thank you, Mr. Webster, for your hard work. You do deserve a national day of recognition.

4 07, 2022

All-American Holiday Trivia

By |2022-07-01T10:22:37-05:00July 4th, 2022|Holidays, Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

Every year in the United States July 4th celebrates the day the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.

text of U.S. constitutionTechnically, independence was declared on July 2 and the Declaration of Independence wasn’t fully signed until July 19. But who cares?

July 4th is the federal holiday where we traditionally celebrate our freedom. Fourth of July gatherings or events to celebrate the birth of our nation will vary across the country, but parades, fireworks, and outdoor fun are sure to be found.

Fun facts and trivia to share at your backyard celebration.

  1. The first White House Fourth of July party was held in 1804.
  2. John Hancock was the only member of the Continental Congress who formally signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
  3. The Fourth became a paid legal holiday for employees of the federal government in 1938.
  4. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe died on the Fourth of July.
  5. Yankee Doodle, the celebrated patriotic song, was written by British army officers to make fun of backwoods Americans.

Prefer statistics?

  1. Roughly 2.5 million people lived in the newly formed nation’s 13 colonies. Today, 246 years ago the U.S. population is more than 331.8 million.
  2. A whopping 150 million hot dogs are consumed on the 4th of July — enough hot dogs to stretch from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles more than five times!
  3. Display firework sales were $262 million in 2021. The consumer fireworks industry grossed $2.2 billion.
  4. Pet disappearances increase by 30% on the 4th of July.

Not only will pets suffer on this holiday, but many PTSD veterans will also be cringing with every blast of those fireworks set off in your driveway. Consider attending a fireworks display or watching one on the television instead.

Statistic Sources:

Go to Top