God Jul

My blog readers know that I am Norwegian on my mother’s side, so I am sending you a photo of the traditional Norwegian wreath cake which is found in most Norwegian homes at Christmas. God Jul. If I were half Swedish this might be a photo of me with a wreath of lit candles on my head a la St. Lucia, the mythical bearer of light. The wreath cake is a lot safer.

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Here it is decorated.

We had dinner Christmas Eve with my brother and sister-in-law. Farikol was the main dish (lamb in cabbage) which is another Norwegian national dish. It was delicious.

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My sister-in-law has her own tradition for dessert on Christmas Eve. She has some Swedish genes, but passed on the lit candles on the head and served us a fabulous baked Alaska. They turned out the lights in the dining room, poured brandy over the top and lit it. It was beautiful but I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the flash on my phone camera in time to get a flaming picture.

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Merry Christmas to all. Enjoy this day with your dear ones.

Why House Tours are Good for My Mental Health

Last weekend I was a hostess at one of the houses on the Christmas in St. Michaels house tour – a lovely big house, on the Miles River, at the end of our street. Twelve years ago the owners demolished the small rancher (probably just like mine) on that lot and built a new house. It’s really nice. Of course all the houses on the tour are decorated – sometimes by the owners, often by professionals.

I had a two and a half hour hostess shift during which I stood near the top of the stairs on the second floor and told people about the three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and the adorable space created when the owner realized what had been in the plans as a storage room had fabulous views. An additional window was added and it was turned into a small fourth bedroom/sitting room. It really was a perfect place to curl up, watch the river or read a book.

When I came home I told my husband that these house tours were bad for my mental health. That’s because when I walk back into MY house with the clutter, the dishes in the sink, the manuscript living on the table where we eat, the bed still unmade and the headboard I’ve been thinking about recovering for three years shouting at me…for a very few minutes I believe I live in a hovel.

Those hovel thoughts doesn’t last long when I look at the overlapping photos of my grandchildren that cover my fridge.

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Or the artwork by my mother which adorns many of my walls.

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That’s when I’m reminded that I love my little one story house that doesn’t hurt my knees with second story steps. I see the only Christmas decorations I have in place. A boxwood topiary tree I made at a Green Thumb meeting and a ceramic Christmas tree that Laura gave me when my husband and I were helping her clean out her mother-in-law’s house. I am beyond grateful that she is in my life with her creative energy and friendship.

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Maybe house tours are to remind me that most of us live in palaces compared to so many people in the world. A reminder that gratitude should be the order of my days. My fridge is full of healthy food and when I run out, the grocery store is minutes away. I hear the furnace go on and am grateful that we had the money to replace it this fall.

During this holiday season, I’ll try to be more present with gratitude for what is already in my life – including my adorable cottage nestled among large old trees and the gardens I’ve created. In my mind it is house-tour worthy.

What are you most grateful for?

 

 

So Much to Do, So Little Time…

The annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference is 20 years old in 2017. I attended my first conference the year after we moved to St. Michaels, MD – in 2007. The next year I was on the planning committee doing publicity and have been ever since in various roles. I’ve even been a co-chair with Laura Ambler and Diane Marquette a couple of years.

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Currently I (with a committee) find the thirty plus conference speakers we need, update the website, oversee production of the conference program, answer emails sent to the conference mailbox, update the evaluation form and pull together the information, and put down tape on the college floor the morning of the conference to make sure people know how to get to the cafeteria and the second building we use. It’s a  lot and as much as I love this event that brings an affordable writers conference to the Eastern Shore, this will be my last year doing all these tasks. I need to have time to write.

Today I was involved in filming a short documentary about the conference. We talked about how the conference got started and how it has evolved as the publishing world changed dramatically. When the conference began none of us were concerned about marketing on social media and there was no on demand printing. Once the film is available I’ll put it on the website and you can take a look.

I am also going off the Eastern Shore Writers Association board in January. I have been acting as the membership chair but we are transitioning to Wild Apricot, a membership software that will do most of the tasks I was doing. More time freed up.

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This weekend is Christmas in St. Michaels – a 30 year old event that raises money for good causes in the Bay Hundred area.

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The Bay Hundred is the area from St. Michaels down to Tilghman Island that could muster one hundred militia men during the Revolutionary War.

This is a very giving community. People work year round to make this festive event happen. There are so many moving parts beginning with a big party on Friday night. I went with a couple of lady friends one year (there was no way I was going to convince my husband to put on a tux) but after that decided I could donate to the cause and not go to the party. And it wasn’t like I had a closet full of gala outfits. This year they are not calling the event a Gala, but it costs the same. Apparently lots of good food, open bar and music. It will be fun for those who attend and I will be home in my PJs in front of the fire we’re now having every night. It’s very cozy.

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I baked cookies to be sold at Santa’s Wonderland for Saturday and on Sunday I am a docent at one of the houses on the house tour. It’s down the street (on the water) from my house. My house has a water view if you stand at the end of the driveway and squint.

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I am hoping to get out to mulch/mow the leaves still on the yard, but winter temps have finally arrived so I may just move the mower from the garage to the shed and call it an end to fall. Then I can organize the garage and think about painting those elephant ear leaf castings I made in October.

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Our dining out group gathered at our house this week. We’d made a reservation (way in advance) for dinner at Scossa, but they called to say they had double booked the room we were supposed to be in. I knew that meant they had gotten a booking for a larger party than our group of ten. But it all worked out. Some of our group have had health problems this fall and weren’t sure if they’d be able to go to a restaurant. I said come to the Burt’s and if you can only stay twenty minutes it will be okay. If you need to come in your PJs that would be fine, too. Everyone showed up wearing clothes and everyone brought something so it was easy. I did a ham. Another wife made one of those decadent potato casseroles, another a fabulous spinach salad with cranberries and gorgonzola and another green beans with lemon butter. For dessert one couple brought a beautiful trifle that was amazing. It was so light we were all lulled into believing it had no calories.

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I’m looking out the window of my office at the leaves on the grass. I might just have to dress for Antarctica and start up the mulching mower.

On the Writing Front

Lest you think Laura and I aren’t writing any more, we sort of aren’t. But that doesn’t mean we’re not working.

One of our scripts made the quarter finalist list on Scriptapalooza’s Screenplay Contest. We didn’t get to semi-finalist, but we keep trying. Sometime in December we are supposed to get some feedback about the script from the people who read it. That will be very helpful.

We also entered the same script in Final Draft’s Big Break contest and made the quarter finalist list. We didn’t get to semi-finalist in that contest either, but someone who was one of the judges for another category asked to see the whole script based on the log line. We sent it off that Friday afternoon (people read scripts over the weekend) but haven’t heard anything since.

We had been asked to write that movie script by a producer we know. It was on spec (we didn’t get paid to write it) and we liked it so much we registered it with the Screen Writers Guild of which Laura is a member. That means we own that script. We had another idea about how the script might be tweaked for TV and pitched it to the producer. He liked the idea and pitched it to some other producers. That project has generated some interest and now we have more research to do.

I can’t tell you any more about the project at this point, but if something begins to happen, I’ll let you know. It’s exciting, but we’ve been excited before so I haven’t bought that expensive bottle of celebration wine – yet.

Note: We thought our play, The Santa Diaries, was going to be produced by The St. Michaels Community Center this year, but despite a lot of hard work, they weren’t able to cast the male lead. Everyone else was in place.

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They’ve got a year to find someone to play Will for 2017. They really want to do the show and we really want it to be back home in the community that inspired the original idea.

A White Christmas and a Winter Harvest

We spent Christmas in Montana with my son, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters home from college. It was snowing when we were picked up at the airport and kept snowing for the next four days. About 24″ in all. I call this a Montana snow gauge. It’s a piece of plywood on a post and in the summer it’s a bird feeder. In the winter it makes a handy snow gauge.

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The snow was beautiful. It’s been years since we’ve experienced a white Christmas.The house should be on a Christmas card. In Montana life doesn’t stop because of snow. We drove through snow covered roads to see the new Star Wars movie. I have to say I was a little disappointed. Maybe because I must have missed some of the intervening movies.

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Warm and cozy inside the house, we knit, baked cookies, and my granddaughters made a Kransekakke – a Norwegian wreath cake. The recipe is: 1 lb ground almonds, 1 lb confectioners sugar, 3 egg whites. The dough is rolled into snakes and put into special pans which create 18 rings – each a little smaller than the one before. This has become a tradition for the Christmases we spend in Montana. Traditionally you remove the rings from the bottom up so the tree shape remains. We took a vote and after Christmas dinner (where everything on the table with the exception of a can of cream of mushroom soup came from the homestead), and began eating the cake from the top down.

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When I posted pictures of the snow on Facebook people responded that they had the AC on on Christmas day on the Eastern Shore. We came home yesterday and today I went to my raised bed at the St. Michaels Community Garden. Here’s my harvest from December 29th, 2015. Kale, chard, spinach, hakuri turnips and carrots.

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I was wondering when the seed catalogs would start to arrive. This is what was in the mail we picked up at the post office Tuesday morning. Spring gardening will be here before I know it. In the meantime, somebody needs to tell the daffodils NOT YET! Plants on the
Eastern Shore are very confused because of the warm temps.

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An Early Christmas Gift

Yesterday I had errands to do and every time I got out of the car I was hit by the nasty cold wind. Winter had finally arrived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My last stop was the Bank of America. They closed their branch in St. Michaels a couple of years ago, including what I call the Magic Money Machine. It’s really inconvenient. We have to drive fifteen minutes to get cash, so we try to combine that errand with others in Easton.

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Anyway, my last errand was the bank. The woman in front of me was trying to get a check cashed. The teller told her she had to take the check to the bank where she had an account. Apparently she had already been to that bank but it wasn’t open on Saturday morning. I heard her say she couldn’t drive because of her eyes and had walked from home. When she turned to go I asked her if she wanted to wait and I would drive her to her bank and then back home. I was finished with my errands and didn’t have a pot of anything on the stove that needed tending. She demurred, not wanting to inconvenience me. I again said I’d be happy to give her a lift and reminded her how cold and windy it was outside. So she said yes.

The open branch of her bank was on the other side of town by the Walmart, so we had time to chat. By the end of the ride she had me on her prayer list for my husband’s feet and for me to be more patient. I need all the help I can get in that department.

She was a calm presence in my car for those twenty minutes – an early Christmas gift during this busy time. She thought I was helping her!

So, thank you, Betty, for accepting my offer of a ride. It was the bright spot of my morning. I know you don’t do computers, but you have my phone number. I hope I’ll hear from you because I’m sure I’ll need your prayers in the future.

Letter to an Obnoxious Little Girl

Dear Little Girl,

You stood in line at Santa’s Wonderland last weekend waiting to come into the Shop and Wrap room. That’s where there are tables full of donated items that kids can buy for their parents and siblings for 25 cents. I was one of the volunteers helping kids wrap their gifts.

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© Roxichka25 | Dreamstime.com – Little Smiling Girl Photo

The people at the door were supposed to let one child in at a time who would be helped by one adult. They were also supposed to tell kids the rules: they could select six gifts, if they needed more for their family, they had to get in line again.

Suddenly you were at my side with a basket full of gifts. Way, way over the limit. When I gently told you you’d have to put some back, you whined. I don’t like whiners. That kind of set the tone, but almost immediately you realized that whining wasn’t going to get you anywhere. So, you began to argue with me. These weren’t the rules last year. Nobody told you the rules had changed. Why did we have these dumb rules anyway?

I tried my best to be patient but you were really getting on my nerves. Finally your seven (okay I did give in a little and there did seem to be some confusion about what the volunteers at the door were telling the kids) gifts were wrapped and you went out to get in line again.

After the event I kept thinking about you. I wondered why I experienced you as so annoying.

Here’s what I think it was. I was a little girl in the 50’s. We were supposed to wear dresses, be polite and never question adults. I ended up in the Principal’s office a number of times because I did.

The message to girls in the 50’s was be submissive, defer to boys and adults and generally keep quiet. Those weren’t the rules in my house. I had two educated, liberal parents, but the world gave me very different messages.

Those recordings in my brain still get activated from time to time and you turned them on, reminding me of the little girl I used to be. Thank you. I still need to work on those messages.

Here’s my advice. Cut the whining, but keep asking questions. Rules do change and sometimes it’s important to ask why, because sometimes the rules are just plain stupid. Your question might be the one that gets adults to rethink a policy. You’ll learn to pick your battles, but don’t automatically defer and don’t be submissive. Maybe if women of my generation had been more assertive we wouldn’t still be fighting for equal wages.