Random Musings

I've been thinking again....

Busy work, not mind work, has been the order of most of my days lately and so my mind has been free to wander and roam where it will.

I really enjoyed looking through a 1958 Woman's Day magazine yesterday.  Truth be told, I enjoyed it far more than looking through any of the modern day magazines.  There were fun advertisements to read, fashion hints, decorating shots (did you realize that in the 1950's folks were so very fond of BRIGHT colors?), recipes (one of which is on my list of January menus to try), fiction to read, educational pieces, social study type pieces...Well let's just say that little magazine held my attention for well over an hour and then I went back through it a second time.  And you know what is even nicer?  If I picked up another magazine for the same month in the same year, I'd actually get to read something different...Anybody else notice how modern day magazines these days all have pretty much the same items/articles/decorating/recipes/fashion ideas.  I am so over our current reading material, I am really.  I mean to get some new vintage magazines this next month!

When I was a little girl, I loved looking at Mama's old photos, but I always felt so sad for her...I always wondered what it must have been like to have no colors to enjoy, to live in a black and white world.  Shades of "Pleasantville" anyone? lol  Well it's true, that was exactly how I thought and if only I'd seen magazines from her growing up years, I might have realized they did indeed live 'in color' even 'way back then'.  Looking at this magazine yesterday I found the 1950's version of one of our current popular color waves: pale blue and brown, and another of a lovely gray accented with pink...but what really caught my attention was the blue and white room with open cabinet doors in the dining room revealing a shocking LIME green interior for the cabinet.  Very dramatic.Very daring.  And very cheerful.  So much for the idea that life might have been less colorful!  Case in point is the above picture.  You might note the BRIGHT red walls used in that illustration.

Making cookies this morning.  Especially at this time of year, my mind rambles back over the many many years I've baked cookies.  Granny, as I've said, never baked cookies except for the rare batch of what she called tea cakes.  Granny was a cake, pie,cobbler sort of baker.  Grandmama C. made cakes but they weren't her best asset as far as her cooking went.  That prize went to her fudge which she prepared pretty much the way I do my brownies, not really measuring just knowing, what was needed, how long to stir and cook and such.  Grandmama's fudge never failed and I thought she was the smartest thing ever because I'd seen how difficult it was to make.  You can imagine how terribly disappointed I was in her later years when she began to make the 'instant' sort with condensed sweetened milk and melted chocolate chips.  No where near as good, even if it was sweet and chocolate.  And she never to made cookies that I can recall.  Those she bought packaged from the store, always the very cheapest ones available, always the cream filled variety.

Mama was the cookie maker and at Christmastime we made just loads of cookies.  One of her favorites which made a HUGE amount, so much batter as a matter of fact that it had to be mixed in a dishpan and required us kids putting our arms into it to mix it up by hand, was fruitcake cookies.  They were tasty too, and a favorite of everyone she gifted them to, but my gracious!  Making fruitcake cookies required a full day of doing nothing but making fruitcake cookies.  There was all the candied fruits and nuts to chop and I've already shared what a huge batch this recipe made up. We kids took it in turns to mix that dough and we did really use our hands and arms, up to our elbows in that dough!  Then there was the many many pans of cookies to be baked.  I don't think Mama does and I do even now.  I have two cookie sheets and one is prepared and ready to go into the oven the moment the other comes out.

Mama also made a cookie we called "Shaggy Dogs" which was a date, rice krispies, and butter and sugar mixture.  When it was just barely cool enough to handle, we would roll the mixture into balls and the balls in sweetened shredded coconut.  We also used the same mixture for 'Snow Balls' which were rolled and dropped into confectioner's sugar.  I liked those best, because as the sugar melted in your mouth it had a sort of cooling sensation which added to the over all effect of the crisp, chewiness of the cookie ball.  Of course, she made the Stovetop cookies as well, the same recipe I used today to make those.  I don't make them because Mama did, though.  I make them for John because his stepmother always made them for him at Christmastime and since these days it is essentially just us (his brother lives in Texas and all the cousins and aunts live in south Florida or upstate New York) I figure he ought to have something of his family traditions.

Flash forward to my early married years when money was terribly tight and things to bake with cost little.  I started the tradition of cookie gift boxes to all the elder relatives who thought it a grand idea.  By the time Katie was born I usually made 120 dozen cookies every single Christmas and every one I knew (friend, family and sometimes foe) got a box of cookies from us.  When John came along he just hated to see it all ongoing.  I suspect what he really hated was exactly what he dislikes today: seeing me knocking myself out to do far far more than I ought and paying for it later with over tiredness, whines and real physical pain as well.

So one year, along about the time we downsized the Christmas tree and stopped having that big annual Christmas party, I agreed to make only the very favorite of each family member.  I went to each and asked "If we went without making one of our annual Christmas cookies, which would make you feel that Christmas was just ruined without it?"  Turns out all I needed to make were four batches of cookies (seemed several people had the same most favorite).

So this year, I shall make the very favorites of the four of us.  Stovetop cookies (already made) for John, magic cookie bars (Samuel) and Ruby thumbprints (Katie).  If I have time I mean to make a pan of shortbread for myself, but if not, there's always the first batch of cookies for the New Year ahead to make and mine can get made then. 

There'll be no 120 dozen nor 12 dozen cookies either.  I've divided the doughs I made into rolls and will bake one roll of each of Ruby Thumbprints and chocolate chips and the rest of the dough will go into the freezer for baking next year.I mean to pack and freeze a portion of the magic cookie bars as well.  Not the Stovetop cookies though.  I found those don't keep well in the freezer.


Stuff...I've been hearing a lot from friends lately about their stuff.  STUFF.  Things they have accumulated, which causes them angst as they try to find places to cram it and which they have a hard time letting go of, even though it's making them and the people they love unhappy.  It takes up space that ought to be living space. It prevents them bringing in the new and lovely things they might have because their STUFF is already filling that space.

I used to be the same way at one time and I am converted.  Why?  Because I found the amount of stuff I thought I had to keep overwhelmed me.  Because I wanted the beautiful and the lovely around me and so little of what was in my piles was either one.  I gradually began to see that I'd never have the things I wanted if the spaces were already filled...  

A lot of things I'd kept for 'someday', you know.  I might need that some day.  I might could use that some day.  I think part of my problem was the poverty I lived in.  When you have little of value, every little thing you own can take on value.  We just keep assigning value to an increasing number of things when we're in that mindset.

I still remember the day I'd had enough.  A neighbor stopped by as I dumped boxes filled with things on the side of the road for the city truck to pick up.  "But you might need that!" she cried out as a box of fabric went roadside.  "I took out the really nice lovely pieces.  The rest I don't even like.  And I've yet to NEED any of it.  It's been packed for five years!  Time to let it go."  As it happens I eventually got rid of the lovely pieces of fabric as well.  I unfolded one piece and discovered that it had rotted along the folds...So much for that some day!  The fabric wouldn't have been a bit good if some day had arrived.

Over the years, I've let go of more and more.  I fight now not to take other  people's stuff...True I will accept the lovely and rare and beautiful that doesn't fit another's life (and I do thank you dear V for the beautiful books and the picture that is right at home on my wall!) but I do not accept the junk, even if it might have had value to some one else at one time.  Case in point: when Granny died, Mama brought me a quilt.  The quilt was tattered and stained and stank to high heaven.  I kept it for two or three weeks thinking how much I loathed it, but it was Granny's and hand stitched.  I finally decided to wash the old thing.  And when I unfolded it found a hole in the middle of the fabric the size of a dutch oven.  I picked it up and threw it away.  John was relieved.  He'd just hated seeing the nasty old thing in the room.  Mama was shocked.  I was relieved myself.  As it happened, unbeknownst to Mama, Granny gave me a quilt about two years ago.  "Put this away and don't let your Mama see it," she'd said.  It's a beautiful thing. 

I guess what I mean to share here is this:  Look long and hard at the things you're keeping and decide if they have value or if they are just stuff that burdens you.  Odds are, you'll be able to buy fabric and books and knick knacks when you want to.  Seriously consider this: open up one box and ask yourself: if this weren't already mine, would I buy it?  If the answer is NO then toss it out!  You've just proven that it's not something you'd be willing to exchange cash or labor to own. Why exchange space for it?   It's got no place in your life.

Batteries...We have reached a point where we need batteries once again.  For ages we managed with just a few here and there but lately the batteries in our house apparently think they are light bulbs.  You know how light bulbs burn out one after the other?  Batteries in our house this week have been about the same.  It started with a little mag light flashlight I have.  John and I use those on these dark mornings to 'flash' one another goodbye.  I also keep mine in my purse or car so that when we're out in the dark I can see a clear path to the door.  Nice to have around.  But last week my little mag light's batteries went out.  No problem.  I'd just replace them. No.  That little flash light takes three batteries, AAAs at that.  I had two.  Fine.  I had a spare mini mag light I kept in the pantry so I could see there more clearly when the light was low.  And another at bedside for emergencies.  You'd think I'd be well covered wouldn't you?  Low batteries in all.

Then I meant to take photos of something I was making in the kitchen.  My new camera wouldn't even turn on at all.  I got another set of batteries to put in but no good, the camera wouldn't turn on.  A third pair: No good.  I thought the camera was broken, so I got my old camera out and all three pairs of batteries were tried out.  That camera would turn on, screech the beep beep beep of low battery, shut off.

For some reason, John was adverse to the idea of my removing batteries from the remote to use to take photos...Can't imagine why, lol.

And then while playing the guitar John came out of the music room and said, "Doggone if my battery isn't dying in the guitar." (It's an electric acoustic guitar and yes, it requires a battery too).

So this week I will be buying batteries.  I'm only just barely NOT tempted to buy that 36 pack of batteries I saw advertised at Best Buy this past week...

And though I assure you my mind has roamed many other places as well, I am so sleepy at the moment...There's a gentle dripping rain coming down and the sound of it on the roof just makes my eyelids sooooo heavy..

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