Donnerstag, 31. Dezember 2015

The Seventh Day of Christmas and Sylvester

On the Seventh day of Christmas my true gave to me
Seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying,
Five gold rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves, 
And a partridge in a pear tree.


Yesterday a few tiny angels got their wings and are ready to fly to new homes, some leaving today, and some after the New Year holiday.


Today is a neighbor boy's birthday. We half adopted him when his single mother died, and Thom is celebrating with him. So - "Mom, would you wrap this gift?" Ooops. Mom has no gift wrap for a boy for a birthday, and no one wants his birthday just to be an extension of Christmas, so - time to get creative, and disguise the recycled paper.

Today is also Sylvester and the end of this year. For us it will have a fondue/raclette dinner with guests. Time to clean house and concoct a menu.
And you?

As the Swiss say: Guten Rutsch: We wish you a good slide into the New Year.

Mittwoch, 30. Dezember 2015

The Sixth Day of Christmas

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Six geese a laying,
Five gold rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Regarding a comment about the numbering of the days of Christmas:
Because Epiphany is a separate festival, the days of the celebration of Christmas end on the eve of Epiphany. Thus the first day of Christmas is Christmas Day, the second is St. Stephen's, etc. to January 5th, making twelve days. I read that some places and times only celebrated ten days, but twelve is nice.

My yesterday was spent in writing a paper and bits of cleaning, so no art or craft to show here. (One wonders what's the use of being retired if one is still too busy to do arts?) Also my Technical Adviser was busily finishing writing a chapter in his next book yesterday - which Mom gets to read first! - and is presently jaunting off to practice organ for his BIG recital test next week, so the song post is still to come. And today's dog and pony walk was in un-frosty weather, with moderate fog, and entirely uneventful, so no pictures.

Happy six geese day.

Dienstag, 29. Dezember 2015

The Fifth Day of Christmas

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Five Gold rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And  partridge in a pear tree.


Maria got a lovely gift from a friend in the States. It is a little lamp from a craftswoman, and the lamp is made from egg shells. Quite creative.

Frost and fog

I know I already showed photos like these, but one can enjoy Beauty more than once, I think. These are from my walk this morning. It is cold outside these days.

The mailbox greens

Frozen spiderwebs

Spring colors, but not spring.


This was the "lighter" fog when I started. By the time I returned, I could not see any indication of our house until I was about fifty yards from it - very heavy fog.

The brave sun when I started walking. It gave up after awhile.

Ah, the glow.

Sugared leaves.

At one point, when I turned from one road to the next, I saw a blinding steam of light from a house across the field. A step or two this way or that and the light was absorbed by the heavy fog. But at just the right angle the sun must have caught the window reflections and set them afire. This was totally gone when when I got back; in fact the house was invisible in the fog.

Light streams through the fog - for just one moment, from just one spot.

Twisty frost

Such pretty colors in such a small spot.
This why we take walks, isn't it?

Remnants of autumn.

The low sun catching some weeds at the edge of a plowed field. God likes the little things, too.

Song soon

The Christmas song will have its own post. Coming when technician is ready.

Montag, 28. Dezember 2015

Christmas Catch-up from Katie in Michigan

I was contemplating recently how much fun children add to the Christmas preparation and celebration.  My kids are old enough now to really enjoy the different fun things and decorations and we are making our own traditions that they will always remember.  One of my goals is that we do more preparation during advent, and celebration during the 12 days of Christmas-- not a very popular idea around here.  It's hard to keep the celebration going if we feel all "partied out" by St. Stephen's day, and the rest of the world is moving on.  I try to plan some fun thing each day during the 12 days, even if it's just a small treat, with bigger things like visits with friends or fun outings scattered throughout.  An additional hurdle with this idea is that we always seem to spend the week after Christmas being sick-- I think it's the combination of pastor's-family-stress and not enough sleep and waaaay too much sugar.  Sigh... I can't win 'em all.

We have enjoyed the Jesse tree pictures.  We've talked about the people and the kids like to color.  I wanted to do the coloring, too, but didn't seem to get to it every day.  It kept the kids happy for a while each day, though.  After a while, my boys became very concerned that their pictures were colored just like the pictures they saw on this blog and would run back and forth to check the colors that Sarah used.  I did not get a tree made for the figures... the kids put them into little books instead.  Maybe next year...

Now for a tragic comedy about Advent wreaths.

The day after Thanksgiving, with my Thanksgiving decoration still on the table, I made two Advent wreaths.  Why?  Because the one I had from last year was ugly (a plenty good reason) and the other because the church wreath caught fire last year when the first candle got too short during the Christmas Eve program.  

So I made two, one went to church and one went on my dining table.

I also ordered 12 (yes, really, 12) sets of Advent candles because they were $4 per set that way and they are impossible to find in stores.  Sad, isn't it?  

Turns out, these cheap candles burn up waaaay too fast and we were replacing the church candles in order to get through all the services without another fire.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve, after we got home from the program at church, my husband lit all the candles around the house, including the Advent wreath.  While opening some presents (because we don't have time to do it on Christmas Day), our oldest son stood up and yelled (you know where this is going, right?) "Look! Fire!" and sure enough, there were 12-inch flames engulfing part of my pretty new wreath. 

My husband picked up the wreath by the burlap I had it on and threw it all out the door.  He got a face-full of plastic smoke which gave him laryngitis which made it a little hard for him to preach the next morning.

Good thing we don't have real candles on the tree or we would be homeless, no doubt.

The one Christmas decoration I made this year was a little tree using a foam cone and some green burlap, gold ribbon, butcher's twine and a folded gold paper star.  It was so fun that I found myself wishing I had a more foam cones to make a little group of burlap trees.  Maybe next year...

I set it on the piano near my treasured little wood carving of the Holy Family.  

I'm not much of a collector of anything, but I do find myself gravitating toward little nativity scenes and Holy Family figures that I put around.

And on the theme of favorite decorations, I snapped a photo of a Brandenburg lace ornament that was a gift from a sweet elderly woman who taught painting classes that I attended years ago.  She was an amazing teacher and lived a very artistic, creative life and I think of her every time I hang up this angel.

I tend to always spend the morning of Christmas Eve baking.  I failed to take photos of the finished breads, but these are what I had rising that day-- a number of wreaths filled with fruit and nuts and chocolate and a cinnamon twist Christmas tree that is always greeted with excited lip-smacking at the gathering we go to in Indiana for Christmas Day.  Down in the left corner you can see one of the "present rolls" that the kids made because they like to play with dough, too.

This is my little Levi's first Christmas.  He was just the right age to be fascinated with the sparkly lights and pretty paper.

Oh, and one more thing.  I have an acquaintance who is an artist with a camera (find her blog here:, and this year she did a special photo shoot in which she rented a historic building and booked little 15 minutes sessions for families to get creative Christmas card photos.  It was so much fun and the photos turned out so great. It was the first time we have had professional family photos taken.  I AM working on getting cards sent out this year (starting to look more like Epiphany cards than Christmas cards, but they're happening!) with a photo or two, but for now here is one of my favorites.

Fourth Day of Christmas and STORY Time!

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And partridge in a pear tree.

We do know that the original gift was Collie birds - which means "black" and refers to crows - but I like green birds.
Quite a lot of interesting information is out in the ether about this song and its history and various versions. The gifts have included such things as bears a baiting and lads a-louping or cocks a crowing or asses racing, or bells a ringing or ladies spinning (not sure if that means with a wheel and flax or from strong drink). Sometimes the gifts were sent instead of given. And we are told that the "secret" Biblical meanings are all made up - though I don't think it can hurt to find Biblical associations with anything: thus thinking of the four Gospels with the four Colly birds is quite all right. Many artists have made beautiful works on the theme, too.

I can't transfer the images, so here are sketches.

Maria's Story

My technical adviser said I should put the story right here. He is rushing off to play organ for a funeral, with a saxophonist. (No, he isn't running off with the saxophonist; he will accompany the saxophonist - just so we are clear here.)

                                                         ghjSOUR JIMjhg 

“Merry Christmas, Jimmy!” Charlotte landed with a whir of feathers and whipped her neck back and forth as she danced beside the bulbous male pigeon who still had his head tucked in nearly level with the rest of his body.

Sour Jim opened one eye. “Again?”

“What do you mean, again? It's only Christmas once a year!”

“Precisely. So it was last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and so I say, 'again?'.”

“Ah Jimmy, you're funny.” And she giggled.

“And you're...” muttered Sour Jim, but his adjective was lost in Charlotte's chatter.

“I just saw the most charming ad this morning on TV. It's about an old guy who fakes his death...”

“Hah!” burst out the male, standing up straight and flaring his flashy neck feathers, suddenly genuinely amused and interested.

Charlotte cocked her head sharply and looked at him. “ order to bring all his busy grown children together one last time. It's very touching.”

The iridescent feathers folded and Sour Jim tucked himself into a ball again. “Sappy sentimentalism. Bah.”

“Oh, be that way,” said Charlotte, undeterred. “I thought it was sweet. But what I actually came to say was that today being Christmas, you are cordially invited to participate in the Annual Christmas Reward Against Parsimony. That is...”
“You realize what that makes as an acronym, yes?” Sour Jim interrupted her, straightening himself up again. “Not to mention you and your mates from the neighborhood club probably mean plain old unkindness, not parsimony, because we pigeons have nothing to do with money. And thirdly, I'm not interested.”

Charlotte was silent for a moment, but she rallied. “Well, you can participate anyway. We're looking for the most remarkable good deed done by a pigeon on Christmas Day. This evening at sundown we'll give away a baggie of hemp seed to the winner.”

“How good of you.”

“Anyway, you're in, Jimmy. Bye. Merry Christmas.” She sounded a bit less chipper when she flew away, but Sour Jim didn't care. Charlotte was new to the area. The new ones always thought they could make a mark for themselves by getting cozy with Sour Jim. And they always sidled off in the end. He knew the routine by now, how to keep his peace and quiet.

He dozed for while until the sun was strong enough to give a little warmth. Then he shook the frost-turned-dew from his feathers and headed out to find food.


Six hours later he was back at his perch under the roof of a pawnshop, and in a worse mood than usual. He hadn't found much to eat in the dirty, day-old snow, and he was hungry. It was getting dark now, though, so better luck tomorrow. More people would be out tomorrow, too; there'd be food then. These silly holidays kept everybody at home, and when there was snow on top of it all... Lousy business.

He was just tucking his head under his wing when he noticed a plastic baggie one rafter over. He studied it for a moment. It had seeds in it, that much he could see. His first impulse was to fly over and help himself, but he remembered Charlotte's chatter and was immediately on the alert for any catches.

Maybe she'd thought herself terribly smart, thinking he might have the hidden decency to
return, or at least keep the baggie for its rightful owner, whichever dumb pigeon had, what, done the
biggest and best good deed that day. Or she and the other neighborhood club busybodies were hidden somewhere, just waiting for him to help himself, and then lay into him and take it away... Yeah, that was it. It was a trap.

With a little pigeon whistle-snort he pulled in his head.

Just then the street lamp came on, making him look up. He saw a whole flock of pigeons flying in. Hah. No doubt they were expecting to find the baggie gone, or open, or scattered... He was going to pretend he hadn't even noticed it, but he inched in the opposite direction anyway, until he was snug against the far rafter.

The pigeons set down on the pawnshop roof, and the streetlamp, and the telephone wires. Sour Jim was annoyed at being surrounded, but he sat plopped in a fluffy ball as if it didn't concern him in the least.

He heard some quiet consulting among the pigeons; then Charlotte flapped up to his spot and landed. “Hi Jimmy!”

Her cheeriness was back. Well, she was in for a letdown...

“Well?” he replied. “Did you find a pigeon that did a great and wonderful good deed on Christmas? Because after all, they count extra on Christmas, when everybody is nice to each other anyway...”

“Oh you,” she laughed. “We weren't looking for biggest and best. We were looking for most remarkable. And you betcha I saw something remarkable today. I saw Sour Jim down at the train station save a homeless guy's sandwich – his one meal of the day – from a rat.”

Sour Jim shot bolt upright. “Say what? I wanted that sandwich. The...”

“I know, I know,” Charlotte said, hopping around excitedly. “But then you saw a rat going for it too, and you fought off the rat, and the homeless man woke up and was able to rescue his sandwich and eat it himself. It's pretty cold out; who knows – he might not have lasted through tonight if he hadn't had something to eat.”

“Tonight isn't...” Sour Jim stopped himself. He'd wanted to say, “over yet,” but he realized that in this moment silence was golden. So he twisted his gape up in a little smile and tried to look proud of himself.

Charlotte beamed, and another pigeon, Tom or John or Matt or something, flew over with the baggie of hemp seeds. “We're glad to be able to give you this, Jim” Tom-or-John-or-Matt said, ruffling his wings a bit. “You've been around a long time, and we're always a bit worried about how you're doing, you know... We're real happy we can share a bit of Christmas with you this year.”

Sour Jim kept his gape curled just right and nodded, then grabbed the baggie and pulled it toward him. “Thanks, folks. Been a pleasure. I'm pretty glad of this prize, since I didn't get much to eat today...”

Tom-or-John-or-Matt laughed, and Charlotte laughed, and all the pigeons laughed, and after a whole round of Merry Christmases they finally flew away and left Sour Jim alone.

That was the point when he started grinning for real as he tore into the baggie, trying to make enough holes to scatter the seeds. “The suckers. 'Most remarkable good deed,' indeed! The bum was sleeping off his latest fifth, and his sandwich was out for anybody to grab. Doggone rat got there same time I did, so yeah, I had to argue with him, and it woke up the bum, who put his sandwich where it won't do anybody any good, and I went hungry. But hey!” He suddenly stopped pecking at the seeds. “I am doing a good deed! Charlotte and her clubbers wanted a sappy Christmas anecdote, and they got one. No matter if they put their own twist on it. Hah. I earned this prize after all.”

Quite pleased with himself, he tucked in.


Over Christmas dinner we had a discussion about the meaning of this story. Several different views were propounded, but I was asked to let you comment before I say what we said. Was Jim actually a Grinch and  Scrooge or not, Should one write grinchy stories?

What do you think?


The Christmas song will have to wait until technical assistance gets home again.

But in the meantime, we send a big THANK YOU to all for Christmas cards and letters. They mean a lot to us, in whatever form they come. We did notice that this year has seen a return of sending cards and letters in the mail. A couple of years ago we got almost none, and we thought the digital age had taken over real life. Not so - so thanks.

This came from sunny Florida today. It shows you what Floridians wish they had - well, maybe not. Thanks, Mom.

Our annual card wall - full this year, with more still likely to come.
Still hoping to see your Christmases here.

Sonntag, 27. Dezember 2015

Third Day of Christmas

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

So, do they look French?


'Twas busy. We started the day with our St. Stephan's Day service, with red candles this time.

Afterward some of us went to Singrüeni.

Still green
Not furnished yet, but the fire is cozy.

 In the evening, after work, we went to look for a place to eat. Turns out all restaurants were closed for Christmas - can't blame them.

The lighted covered bridge on the way.

Except one, called the Urwaldhaus Bären. We had never been there, though we tried once when it was closed. We are glad it was open. The cook is marvelous; actually, his food is - I haven't met him.

This was called Winter Salad and it was delicious: lettuce, cress, figs, oranges, pumpkin and sunflower and poppy seeds.

Chicken on Risotto, garnished

Beef, forest mushrooms, and vegetables.

Alaska salmon, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, olives, etc.

Veal roast, mashed potatoes, vegetables and forest mushrooms, with the sauces below:.

Saffron, peanut, and orange sauces - marvelous.

The Wirtin/proprietress is new there, after the long-time former people got too old and sick to run the place. We noticed from the menu that her brother caught the Alaska salmon offered. We talked with the young lady who runs the place and found out she loves going to Alaska, her brother has lived there awhile, and he probably knows people we know. She will ask him. Small world.


Maria agreed to let me put her story here, so tomorrow I will add it to the post, D.v. It is called "Sour Jim" and is a Christmas story, Maria version.
And I'll try to post the Christmas song.


The answers to some of the Christmas questions are in the Comments section for Christmas.