Tell Me a Story about … Turtles!

If you’re gearing up for a story about helping a cute turtle crossing the road to get to the other side safely … sorry, nope. Although, we have done this numerous times.

If you’re wondering if I have a story about those tiny turtles (red-eared sliders) in little plastic pond-style containers in the 1960s … sorry, nope. Although, we had many of those, Turtles 1too, and never got salmonella.

If you think this story comes from an adventure swimming with sea turtles at some aquarium … sorry, nope. Although, I sure wish I had a story like that!

And if you decided this story must be about keeping box turtles or wood turtles in a box or a pond on our property and feeding it lettuce … sorry, nope. Although, we may have done that a time or two … or more.

Today’s story involves vinyl tablecloths, tissue packets, felt, yarn, paper, walnuts, and … well, turtles! Let’s talk turtles and crafts.

In our home, both during my childhood and during my own homemaking and homeschooling years, arts and crafts filled many hours and days and weeks and … well, you get my drift. We were and are a family of crafters!

Turtles 5If it involves paper, paint, yarn, fabric, glue, crayons, sketchpads, scissors, cardboard, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, clay … just about anything you can buy at Joann Fabrics or Hobby Lobby, we probably owned, used, or dreamed about it. And we could sure dream up some doozies!

But since this is a story about turtles, I’ll keep my post to its 600-900 words and only tell you about the ones with four feet, one tail, one head, and unique shells. Those shells could hide things or just look pretty. Those shells came patterned, plain, colorful, smooth, or bumpy. Those shells were flat, domed, or ridged.

Turtles 6My earliest turtle-crafting memory used those flannel-backed, vinyl tablecloths popular in the 1970s, felt, sewing materials, a cardboard pattern, and scissors. In fact, I believe, I still have a bag with the pattern we used and a few pieces of vinyl cut into turtle-shell shapes.

These turtles, made from two pieces of vinyl cut into ovals about the size of a man’s palm, hid purse-sized packets of tissues. Why we made them, I don’t know. Hiding the packs of tissues in your purse came easily with the size of the purses of the day, but putting them into whopping vinyl turtles with felt legs, heads, and tails sticking out in six places made it a bit more difficult. Still, make them we did, by sewing the ovals together with yarn in a blanket stitch, inserting the felt extremities in their proper places, and cutting a line in the top of the “shell” to insert the tissues.

Another turtle craft, one with more use as décor, used walnut halves as the shell. These Turtles 2uncomplicated turtles are easy for children to make, but they can be embellished in many ways, enough to allow an adult the fun, too. The simplest ideas include gluing a walnut shell onto a paper cutout of a turtle body, adding googly eyes, and voila! You have a turtle. Put a magnet on the back to use it on the fridge. Paint the shells or add sequins or glitter. Use your imagination and see what comes!

Turtles 4Now, on to my favorites! I love to crochet. As a baby shower gift, I found a pattern for a sweet stuffed turtle with a granny-square-style shell. (The photo is the actual one from the pattern!) I believe my first one was made out of white or pink yarn, with a multi-colored shell. So cute! I’ve made at least three or four of these in various yarns and colors, and I intend to make several more for our grandbabies.

And last, I want to tell you about the tiniest turtles I ever made. I enjoy two older crafts: origami and paper quilling. In the latter, I became enamored with the three-dimensional items, such as stand-alone vases of flowers and animals. I made itty bitty (less than one inch high or long) bunnies and squirrels. As I became proficient, I had the idea to use quilling and origami on pieces of slate, adding bits of nature such as acorn caps and pinecones. I called my new craft “quilligami”! (My husband said I should patent it!)

I swirled bits of quilled blue paper into rivers, created color with quilled flowers, glued acorn caps and tiny pinecones here and there. Around the natural items, I placed quilled squirrels and bunnies, including quilled puff tails.

Last, I used one-inch-square paper to make origami birds, ducks, and … yes, turtles! I Turtles 7glued them on the water, the pinecones, and the flowers. (The pattern here will help you make your own, though I suggest starting with larger paper! LOL!)

Turtles galore … and all made with simple craft supplies and the creativity God placed in each of us when He made us “in His image.”

Your turn! You can share real turtle stories or, if you have the love of crafting I do, share your favorites you’ve made over the years. Blessings!

Tell Me a Story about … a Wristwatch!

Wristwatch 4What goes “tic-tic-tic” and brings smiles of wonderment to the faces of toddlers? A wristwatch … or a pendant watch … or a pocket watch.

Ah, the joy of receiving my first wristwatch! Christmases in my childhood home brought lots of presents for me and my two younger brothers. We didn’t get many things throughout the year, except an occasional sand bucket in summer or coloring book in winter. So, the anticipation of birthdays and Christmas filled our minds.

On Christmas morning, our stockings held such treasures as tiny figurines, cars, craft supplies, yo-yos, and candies galore. Our tree stood on top of the platform, so no gifts sat under it. Dad and Mom kept those hidden upstairs in their bedroom. After we unloaded our stockings, the big reveal would come. Jitters and wiggles abounded when Dad walked out of their bedroom carrying a giant Charmin toilet paper box, sometimes going back for another.

From the depths of those boxes, he or Mom pulled gift after gift. Puzzles and books, dolls Wristwatch 1and model cars, clothes and more. And when they emptied the box, the moment for the “big one” came. For there was always a big one, the major gift of Christmas. Once, I got Dancerina, a magical doll that, with one push or pull on the button hidden in her tiara would twirl or bourrée across the floor. The boys got “boy things.”

Then came the year of “The Lesson.” Christmas morning came with excitement in our hearts, “Jingle Bell Rock” on the record player, and wrapping paper on the floor. It was time for the “big one.” We sat on the living room floor while our parents brought the gifts down. Huge boxes hid their faces as they both came down the steps. If our eyes had gotten any bigger, they’d have popped out of their sockets.

Mom placed one big box in front of one brother; Dad put a second giant box in front of the other. The boys ripped the paper off in one second to reveal race car tracks with real motors.

I watched, smiling with happiness for them. Then I looked at my parents, expecting them to return upstairs to get mine.

Instead, Mom handed me a small package. And when I say “small,” I’m talking small enough to hold a single bar of soap. Talk about disappointment. I was shocked. Dismayed. And just plain mopey.

I don’t remember which of my parents said it, but one spoke words I’d never forget: “Big things sometimes come in small packages.”

Wristwatch 2I sighed a little and opened the gift slowly to drag out the inevitable. I don’t know what I expected, but when I opened the tiny box, the world changed. Christmas angels sang, bells rang! Delight poured through my heart and soul!

I had a wristwatch! And not just any dime store watch, but a Cinderella wristwatch, with a sparkly light blue band, a pink face, and Cinderella in her ball gown. Delicate hands pointed at the numbers to show the time. A tiny dial pulled out to wind it … but not too many times or it would get sprung, my dad warned.

I had a wristwatch of my very own! And I learned a valuable lesson, one I repeated for each of our daughters when they got old enough to wear a watch.

And yes, it ticked! But today, you wouldn’t believe how many wristwatches don’t tick.

When I went through menopause, something in my molecular system changed. Something in my skin now “eats” away at various metals. I can’t wear necklaces or earrings for more than a few hours. But wristwatches are the worst.

Because of this, I have to buy new watches every few months. And yes, before you ask, I’ve tried leather bands, clear nail polish and tape on the metal, and ones with bands you change, which worked well until they stopped making them! And one time, for fun, I bought a kids’ watch with a plastic band, a princess, and a button to push for light and music.Wristwatch 3

Now, in itself, this wouldn’t cause a problem. Drop in at the local department store and pick up a cheap watch. No trouble there.

Except I have grandchildren. Soon after each grandson was born, I would hold my watch to his tiny ear each time I laid him on the changing table. As they grew, they began grabbing for my arm the moment I walked in the door. When our most recent, a now-one-year-old granddaughter, got to have this special grandma experience, she added the delight of the cutest smile when she detects the “tic-tic-tic.”

So, you can see why I must pick a watch that ticks. And it’s getting harder. Digital watches don’t tick! Smart-watches don’t tick! And I need a new one soon, so prayers for an easy find, please!

PS: Do you realize how many strange looks a person gets when she picks up twenty or thirty watches from the store shelves and holds them to her ear?

 

How many types of watches have you had in your life? Ever had any that weren’t wristwatches or … horrors! … that didn’t tick? Share your stories with us!

Tell Me a Story about … the Moon!

Who else had parents wake them overnight on July 20, 1969, to get up and sit sleepy-eyed and wondering what the big deal was? I remember sitting on the stairs in view on our black and white television in the living room. Dad and Mom seemed excited. I don’t recall how my two younger brothers felt.

But as for me, I thought the idea of getting up after I’d fallen asleep to watch some Moon 1astronaut walk on the moon a bit over-dramatized. At nine years old, I was only interested in playing house and taking our cat for walks in my baby carriage. I let the space stuff to others. Even today, my interest in space lies in whether or not I’ll get to see the full moon this month and for the day I’ll share a moonlit walk with our grandchildren.

However, there was one time, over 25 years ago, I learned an important lesson concerning the moon. It happened the year I planted potatoes for the first time in my life.

During my childhood, my parents put in a small garden every year. They always planted Moon 2the same plants. My dad planted his spring onions as soon as the ground warmed enough. Next came the sugar peas and radishes. Then, carrots (which never amounted to much), green beans (which amounted to too much), and cucumbers (which amounted to more than all the others put together). They also planted marigolds as a border to ward off the rabbits. (Disclosure: don’t bother. The rabbits ate them!) And finally, they added tomato plants: red, yellow, and cherry.

What does this have to do with the moon? Well, the year I had my first large garden as a married woman with a young family to teach about gardening and canning, I decided to try a few new varieties of plants. Since our plot was much bigger, I planted mounds of melons, rows of sweet corn, and a section of … potatoes.Moon 3

I’d let a bag of potatoes sit until they sprouted, cut each individual eye apart from the others, and planted them at one end of my garden. I watered and weeded and watched my garden, being especially vigilant of my potato bed. The spring onions tasted wonderful slathered with butter; the cucumbers did the usual never-ending growing season; and the corn … well, the corn fed the deer.

Moon 6But the potatoes … oh, the potatoes! I never saw more luscious, vibrant plants. From the moment they broke through the soil, the leaves turned a deep forest green, and as they grew, they took on the look of mini-landscaping bushes. I was proud and excited, imagining the harvest of potatoes from such amazing plants.

When the time came, I grabbed my gloves, a dull spade (so as to not cut into any of my robust potatoes), and an extra-large tub to put all the spuds in. I began digging carefully, an inch at a time. One inch, two inches, three … hmm, no potatoes yet. After digging quite a few inches, I hit pay-dirt. My first potato! I didn’t care that it was only the size of a quarter in diameter. I’d grown a potato!

However, that elation deflated after digging many inches under ALL the plants and Moon 7having only a literal handful of itty-bitty potatoes. I could not understand it. Those gorgeous specimens of plants produced only this pitiful harvest? Why?

That’s exactly what I asked my grandparents when I next saw them, the ones who had plentiful harvests from gardens grown in the postage-stamp backyards of inner-city Harrisburg, PA.

Get ready for it … because their answer is why this blog post is about the moon. According to my grandparents (and The Farmer’s Almanac and a few scientific websites), if you want a high harvest from root vegetables, they should be planted on the “down-side of the moon,” as they called it. And if the veggies grow above ground, then plant them on the “up-side.” When looking to verify what seemed to me an “old wives’ tale,” even though I trusted my grandparents’ wisdom, I discovered the “down-side” means when the moon is waning (going from full to a new moon), and the “up-side” is when it’s waxing from new to full. Down to grow down, up to grow up!Moon 5

Look it up for yourselves! Think about the tides in reference to the waxing and waning moons, as well as a host of other physical and psychological issues. It makes sense. I never had the chance to test my grandparents’ advice, though; so, if you’ve never planted your potatoes according to the moon and try it for yourselves this year (though it’s a tad late for many areas), and you grow potatoes so large that one will feed a family of four, PLEASE let me know! Thanks! Happy gardening!

 

Time for your moon stories … at least the ones you can share on a Rated “G” blog! And in case you didn’t know, the next full moon isn’t until July 5th.

Tell Me a Story about … Cereal!

Quick quiz: can anybody identify the source of these quotes:

Theyre Gr-r-reat!”®

“Snap! Crackle! Pop!”®

“Let’s get Mikey! He hates everything!”®

If you said “cereal ads” or slogans, you get five points. However, if you can name all three cereals … without looking them up, you win the prize! (Leave a comment on this post with your cereal story, and I’ll send you a box of your favorite! No kidding!)

Ah, I remember when my brothers and I would actually get to go to our dad’s grocery store. It wasn’t really his; he worked as the Cereal 6assistant manager for the A&P chain, but we called it “Dad’s store.” As with most dads who worked (or work) at grocery stores, our dad always brought home what we needed.

But now and then, Mom would bundle us into our station wagon and off we’d go. We’d drag our feet through the aisles of condiments, canned vegetables, and aluminum foil, but when we got to the cereal aisle, magic happened. Our feet began to dance and our eyes to pop! The number of choices blew our minds.

And Mom usually would say, “Each of you can pick one box.” With our senses reeling, we looked from one end of the aisle to the other, then turned around and did it in reverse. Sometimes, we’d choose one, clutch the box to our chests, and carry it through the rest of the store to the check-out counter.

Cereal 4Before we go further, I should mention the prerequisite for choosing. It had a little to do with taste, nothing to do with slogans, and everything to do with the treasure inside the box. We’d been known to skip our favorite to take a box with little taste appeal just because of the trinket hidden in the bottom of the box.

When we opened the box at home, we’d wait until Mom wasn’t looking and squeeze it from, first, the narrow sides, then the larger ones, shaking the flakes or Os so to see down the depths of cereal dunes to catch a peek Cereal 5of the missing treasure. And when we found it, our hands (hopefully clean) reached way down, plucked the surprise out, and reshook the box, trying to make it look like the toy was sitting on top all the time. Of course, the bloated box that never fit quite right in the cupboard told a different story.

Then, breakfast could begin. We’d pour our chosen cereal into our bowls, add milk, and, if unsugared, enough sugar to make up for not having the sugared kind (and then some). And depending on the kind of cereal, our senses set to work next.

You know how moms and dads always tell kids not to play with their food? If so, why did they create Alpha-Bits®? The sense of touch couldn’t wait to pull out the letters to spell our names, placing the milk-covered letters on the table. By the time we got all the letters, the first ones were soggy and hard to pick back up to return to the bowl.

Cereal 2Of course, we all know which cereal wins the prize for the best auditory brand. You guessed it—Rice Krispies®! Okay, ‘fess up—how many of you actually listened to see if you could distinguish a “snap,” “crackle,” or “pop”?

For a treat for the eyes, I’d have to pick any of the many kinds of colorful cereals—ones with blue, red, green, and yellow Os or tiny flakes. We didn’t care about the taste, just the colors.

How about our sniffers? What cereal’s unique scent comes to mind? Okay, let’Cereal 3s face it, the apple spice smell didn’t mean apples were in the box, and the enticing chocolate odors may have added pounds from just a whiff or two, but it wasn’t from any real chocolate in the box. We admit our parents were right about the imitation this or that, but the sense of smell won us over at the time.

And last … taste. On this one, we have to agree to disagree … or agree to agree if you think the best tasting cereal was—

Oh, no, we’re not playing THAT game! You have yours and I have mine and never the two shall meet … at least in my mouth.

One final sense comes to mind before I end … that warm sense of feeling that comes from eating a cereal that brings to mind the love that went into making it. One cereal brings that to me: mush and milk, we called it.

Cereal 7Anyone else grow up having this delicacy made from Brinser’s Best Yellow Corn Meal and water, cooked over low heat for half an hour or more until thick and creamy. Poured hot into a wide bowl (to allow it to cool faster … and have more space for sugar), doused with pats of butter, covered with plenty of sugar (the bowl took care of that), and topped with milk. Nothing says breakfast cereal … and love … to me like mush and milk.Cereal 1

God sure knew what He was doing when He created the plants which give us grains to make the cereals we all enjoy and feed the cows that give us milk to pour over them … no, we won’t talk about those uncouth people who DON’T drink the milk in the bottom of their bowls when the cereal is gone.

 

So, anyone who wants a free box of their favorite kind, leave your cereal story here in the comments! Even if you don’t want the free box, we’d still enjoy reading your story!

 

Tell Me a Story about … Adventure!

Adventure 6“Hey! Since you lost your job, you could go to the writers’ conference with me!”

My mother’s words did little to comfort me, considering I had just lost what I had assumed was my dream job. But … I HAD always wanted to go to the conference with her.

“But, Mama, the conference is less than two weeks away, and I have NOTHING prepared.”

Adventure 1

“That’s okay, just start a new idea now!”

Mama forgot I wasn’t a bottomless pit of story ideas like she was. But … I guess it couldn’t hurt to sit down at the computer. It had been quite a while since I had opened a Word document and just started writing.

The excitement grew over the next two weeks, and soon Mama and I were all packed and heading to one of her favorite places on earth. This was certainly going to be an ADVENTURE.

Huh … adventure. That word has always been a favorite of mine. Ever since I was young it meant good things! Adventure Adventure 4was a good book, an action-packed movie, or a surprise sister date. But really, adventure makes me think of one of my favorite series to dive into as a kid: the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. I loved flipping through the pages, making choices that adapted the storyline. (Somehow, I always ended up getting sucked into a black hole or releasing a squirrel inside the Statue of Liberty and having to start over.)

Yes, this spontaneous road trip was definitely an adventure. I didn’t know how closely it would resemble my favorite series at the time. Reaching the Montrose Christian Writers Conference, I was introduced to some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met, and I felt right at home with the rest of the “odd ducks.”

Over that week, the idea I had typed so quickly in the weeks before became fleshed out into (surprise, surprise) my own form of a choose-your-own-adventure book. By week’s end, I had a ton of ideas, two whole pages written, and a few interested agents and editors.

Fast forward a year. Yes, a whole year.

“Hey! Since you lost your job, you could go to the writers’ conference with me!”

Déjà vu much? This time I gleefully accepted my mother’s idea and opened the forgotten document. Another ADVENTURE! By the end of THAT conference I had a whopping TEN pages written, still a ton of ideas, and more interested professionals.

Fast forward one more time to this past summer.Adventure 5

“Hey! Since I just lost my job, I could go to the writers’ conference with you!”

HA! Take that, Mama! I beat you to it!

I think God was trying to get my attention. This time, I was determined, and by conference time, I had a third of a manuscript and a few ideas left. That week however pivoted me into a very real choose-your-own-adventure. Around the fourth day of the five-day conference, I decided to meet with a publisher I hadn’t met yet (CHOICE #1), not having much to show her besides a few starting pages and a one-sheet proposal.

That conversation sparked this publisher’s interest, and she welcomed me to send her the full manuscript and proposal when it was completed, provided I had an agent. I happily accepted her words and went home with every intent of doing just that. About a month later, I received an email from said publisher asking for the synopsis and first few chapters. I considered politely declining, since it was far from ready, but I didn’t (CHOICE #2). Only a few days later, I received word from her offering me a contract! AND she wasn’t concerned that I didn’t have an agent! I would receive the actual legal document upon receipt of the full manuscript and proper proposal.

Adventure 2You would think I would have quickly finished the novel, wrote a bang-up proposal, and sent it on its way. Nope. I made the decision to not touch the manuscript for four months (CHOICE #3). See? Sucked into that black hole again!

However, around Christmastime, the book started nagging at me, and deciding to muster all the Christmas magic, I managed to write the remaining 40,000 words of the rough draft in just under three weeks (CHOICE #4)! I gave the finished novel to my mom for Christmas, and she helped me do the first edit and that bang-up proposal.

Sitting in a Panera Bread, with trembling hands, I hit send on the most important email I had ever sent (CHOICE #5). And WOW, was it a happy ending!

As I write this, I am planning the release of my debut create-your-own-adventure novel, Adventure 3Once Upon A Book. I think I made the right choices on this adventure, and I can’t wait to see where this choose-your-own-adventure life takes me next!

Once Upon A Book – coming fall 2020! Make the CHOICE not to miss it! Check out my Facebook page for more info and to join in the debut party fun!

https://www.facebook.com/FaithColleenWeaver/

From Cathy: How’s that for an adventure? Which of your adventures compare to this excitement? Share your stories with us! And don’t forget to join Faith’s Facebook page! Her book may be touted as young adult level, but as an adult, it’s a fine read, too. Plus, great for those young fiction lovers on your gift lists, just in time for Christmas!

Tell Me a Story about … a U.S. Savings Bond

Who remembers when buying U.S. savings bonds was the thing to do? A new baby? NoSavings Bond 6 diapers or bottles. Buy a savings bond! A wedding? No dishes or silver. Buy a savings bond!

Someday, that child will need a car and that savings bond will help; that couple will need a house and it will help. That may have been true when a $100 savings bond bought at $50 would mature to the $100 in a few years. But economy issues came along.

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, those same savings bonds often took two or three times as long to mature as they used to. Our daughters had some bought in those decades. When they went to redeem their bonds, they discovered they wouldn’t mature for another several years.

Savings Bond 1But the story I have to tell is about a U.S. savings bond bought in the 1960s for me as a child. I’d tucked it inside my cedar hope chest, along with my birth certificate, my SAT scores (in case I decided to go to college), and other important papers. I never looked at it or considered cashing it in, so I had no idea if it had matured or not.

In the spring of 1997, I attended my first writers’ critique group meeting. One of the members had a brochure for the Montrose Christian Writers Conference to be held that July. I’d never heard of this and was interested to see what it was all about, though I knew I couldn’t do it. For one, it would cost money … something we didn’t have.

However, one look inside the brochure set my heart pounding with “What ifs”! One of the instructors slated to teach was Elizabeth Sherrill, someone whose writings I’d long admired and would have loved to meet in person. But one look at the amount required turned my heart to stone. No way on earth could I ever find that kind of money. Still, I slipped the brochure into my notebook and sent a silent prayer heavenward.

At home, life went on. Homeschooling to finish, portfolios to make, evaluations to Savings Bond 2schedule. Now and then, I’d think about that brochure and sigh. Towards the end of May, I prepared for my annual writer’s club picnic. I’d led writers’ clubs in my home for eight years. Homeschool parents brought their K-12 students to the meetings every other week, where we learned writing techniques in fun ways. The picnic was a highlight of the year with nearly 40 kids. I had never charged for this club, nor any of my teaching or tutoring. I enjoyed it and wanted to serve my fellow homeschoolers.

Savings Bond 5At the end of the picnic, one of the mothers approached me and handed me a card. I figured it was just a simple thank-you card and stuck it in my box of supplies to take home. When I opened it, though, I discovered not only a card signed by all the kids and their parents, but money! A lot of money! I was shocked. A still, small voice whispered in my ears: “Writers’ conference ….”

Was it possible? I hurried to get the brochure and looked at the cost again. The money they’d given me would cover part of it, but where would I get the rest?

Then, God brought to my mind a slip of official paper in a yellowed envelope inside my hope chest—my savings bond. I’d heard that often older savings bonds kept accruing interest even after the maturity date, sometimes doubling the base amount. I wondered ….

As soon as I could, I took that savings bond to the bank to cash in. I waited, hoping it at least doubled. It was only for $25. Doubled would be a nice amount to add to the money from the writers’ club. Still not enough to go, but closer.

When the teller came back with a stack of bills, she began counting aloud as she laid the bills on the counter, “20, 40, 60, 80 ….” At some point, my mouth dropped open and I just stared at her.

Would you like to guess how much was there? To the exact dollar … enough that whenSavings Bond 4 added to the money in the card from my students would cover the cost of the Montrose Christian Writers Conference!

Does God delight in surprising us or what? Believe me, He gets all the glory for that year and the next 22 years at my second favorite place on earth.

 

And that brings me to letting you know to come back next week and read our daughter Faith Weaver’s guest post in which she tells about how she went to Montrose her first time by surprise. Also, check out her blog site (https://faithcolleenweaver.wixsite.com/faithcolleenweaver) for my guest post there this coming Saturday, May 16, 2020. All three posts go together!

 

And what about you? Did you ever have or purchase a U.S. savings bond? Did you redeem yours? Any interesting stories about them? Do share! We love to read your stories!

Tell Me a Story about … Tea!

As I contemplated writing this, a hot cup of Tetley tea steamed beside me in one of my numerous mugs—this one squat, round, and bearing the word “Mom” on its side. Let it be said that I LOVE TEA!Tea 3

And not any tea … no, I stock my shelves with Tetley Teas: regular black, decaf black, and my new favorite, black/green tea. I also keep Boston Mint-in-Tea on hand for those times when either my tummy wants the soothing of the mint or my spirit needs the comfort of the mint vapors (did that long before the fad of fragrant oils for health).

My cupboards … and storage areas … abound with mugs of all shapes, colors, and sizes. Some have sayings such as, “I NEED CHOCOLATE!” Others have cute characters from Winnie the Pooh® and Peanuts®. Many have animals, flowers, and birds. Some are handpainted by our daughters, including one Tea 5with a pinecone hanging on pine branches, compliments of our eldest daughter’s knowledge of my love and her animosity for pinecones. A ceramic travel-mug, paint by a different daughter with Christmas designs, I of course use year-round. And don’t let me get started on Christmas mugs; that’s another storage-shed’s worth!

As with coffee, tea brings memories of people, and yes, as with my post on coffee, I think of my grandmother, though she wasn’t a tea drinker. Those memories come from her love for china teacups. Her collection came to me when she joined Jesus, and I use them with care.

“What other people fill those memories?” you ask. Two of them probably had stock in the Tetley tea company … or should have had with the vast amounts of tea they guzzled throughout their lives. My dad drank two cups every day before he left for work. If at home, my mom made multiple pots for him, boiled dark and strong in our Corningware teapot, the one with the sweet blue cornflower on its bright white bowl. He took several teaspoons of sugar and a deluge of milk in it, enough so that the dark liquid turned a milky tan color. In fact, that’s how I learned to drink it and did so for years until I decided to cut the sugar back, then the milk, until now, my tea needs just a tad of milk, no sugar, please. And I only drink one cup that high in caffeine a day.Tea 4

Not so my aunt! Before she went to heaven, she had graduated from the normal-sized teapot to an extra-large tea-urn! It still had the required cornflower on its full belly and made a copious amount of tea. And where my dad boiled his until it turned dark, my aunt boiled hers until the cows came home … and went back out the next morning! Strong doesn’t begin to describe it. And get this! She refilled that pot at least three or four times a day! She loved that Tetley tea.

Oh yes, it had to be Tetley, the “tiny little tea leaf” tea. Strong enough to suit even the British (maybe?), though the company did come out with a British blend. However, speaking of the company, we—our daughters and I—have a bone to pick with them. Why did they stop dividing the rows of teabags in their boxes with the bookmarks?!

Tea 2“Bookmarks?” you wonder. Ah, yes, the white rectangular pieces of cardboard between the four rows of 25 teabags each, just perfect for making into bookmarks. Another memory of my aunt is the many letters arriving by mail into which she slid several of those bookmarks-read-to-be-made for our girls. Or the visits during which she’d pull out a rubber-banded stack of them (remember, she drank a LOT of tea). The girls would use stickers, markers, and other craft supplies to design the bookmarks. The photo shows two I still have stuck in with my Christmas book collection.

Today, the boxes contain no bookmarks, sad to say. Where are we to find them? Well, guess what? Today, I discovered one! No, not in my Tetley box, but in the boxed version of Boston Mint-in-Tea. Nestled between the bags … ah, what wonder, what joy! A bookmark just waiting to be decorated for … hmm, for me? For our daughter who loved making them for me? Or maybe for a young grandchild, just learning about chapterTea 1 books?

See what I mean? Tea makes me think of people. And I feel God would be pleased at that. He made tea leaves, tiny or otherwise, for our enjoyment. And He made the people in my life for me to love and enjoy … past, present, and future. May your tea-drinking years bring many times of refreshment and joy with the people you most love.

 

Speaking of those people and drinking tea, what stories do you have about tea? What brand did your family drink most? What flavors do you like in the wide array of them on the grocery store shelves and the cafés around the world? Share your stories with us!

Tell Me a Story about … Trees!

Trees 6Today’s post is in honor of our granddaughter’s first birthday! From the time she was an infant, she’s loved trees! I would hold her at the door in their apartment to look out. The tree in their courtyard delighted me with its twisty branches and limbs for sitting on. And Aria fell in love with it. Every time we’d go to the door, I’d say, “There’s your tree!” As the first tender smiles began to appear, many came at the mention of “her tree.” And the photo, taken this past Christmas (2019), shows her wonder at our Christmas tree.Trees 1

But now, let’s go back to childhood days. Three main types of trees stood tall on our property in Lewisberry, PA: locust trees with their long, brown seed pods, stately pines in a line, and four sugar maples whose leaves carpeted the yard and driveway with gold in autumn. I remember driving into the driveway and claiming it my own personal “yellow brick road” leading home.

Trees 2As children, my brothers and I enjoyed playing house outside. We never tired of creating natural concoctions in our play dishes. The tiny seeds peeled from the inside of the locust trees’ pods became raisins in mud cookies and beans in our grass soup, sprinkled with sand-salt and dirt-pepper.

Not to be outdone for playtime, the pine trees served as natural batting cages for our endless games of whiffle baseball. Most times, we’d face away from the pines to hit because there was a field on the other side. The man who owned the field often planted his garden right beside our property line (he rotated his crops in field and garden.) He didn’t cotton to little kids running through his seedlings after their wayward whiffle ball. But the pines did fine for would-be-catchers-who-couldn’t-catch.

And the maples? Well, besides their amazing beauty, the leaves gave shade for family Trees 3picnics and one outside beagle. And their whirlygigs? Anyone else remember calling the maple seeds that? I still love when those seeds come twirling down through the air, sometimes fifty or more at a time. And when they fell to the ground? Why, noses, of course! I can feel the stickiness of my fingers as we’d pry one after another of the gooey ends apart and apply them to our nose to stick straight out or up as a makeshift Pinocchio’s nose.

Then there was the climbing. We had one tree great for climbing in our childhood, and it wasn’t even ours. That same neighbor with his crops had an old apple tree that stood just off the back corner of our property on the edge of his field. He allowed us access to his field to climb that tree. I believe it was past its age of maximum production for apples, but it sure provided a harvest of fun times.

Children Playing in Nature illustrationThe trunk had grown quite large in circumference, abnormal for most apple trees I’ve seen. About seven feet up, a flat spot had been created amidst the larger limbs that continued up to its grand height. That level area, perfect for at least two kids to sit side by side, became a vehicle of varied sorts for imaginative youngsters, a picnic spot for hungry tweens, and a hiding place for angsty teens.

And I only fell out one time! But oh, what pain. I’d placed one foot on the trunk and the other foot onto the level spot, grabbed the two largest limbs on either side to heft my teenaged self up, felt my hands slip on the bark smoothed by years of similar climbs, and tumbled straight backwards onto my derrière. Physical pain and emotional embarrassment warred as I groaned, stood, and looked around warily, hoping no one had seen my “fall from grace.” That may have been my last attempt to climb that specific tree.

Finally, the last trees which played a huge part of the magic of my childhood … and still Trees 5do today as a full-grown child … Christmas trees! Through our youngest days, we bought ours from a tree lot. Mom and Dad would wait until we were asleep on Christmas Eve to bring the tree inside, put it in its stand, haul it up on top of a platform, deck it with as many lights and balls and trinkets and tinsel as it could hold, top it with a gold and cream angel, and surround it with a Lionel train and Plasticville village. Christmas morning, we’d come downstairs when our parents said we could, and there it would be – our Christmas tree, a display of radiance and love.

You know, that’s what trees are to me … symbols of love. God created the trees for us – for food, for play, for beauty. My childhood days held hours of play with our family. Christmas trees glittered with ornaments collected as gifts given and received through many holidays. Yes, trees symbolize love to me. And I’m glad I live in a state filled with many varieties to enjoy and pass on the love of to our grandchildren.

What did or do you enjoy trees for – their beauty, their harvest of fruit or nuts, their open branches for treehouses or birds’ nests, or maybe their sturdy limbs for a swing? Which is your favorite tree? What tree played a part in your childhood? Please share your stories!

Tell Me a Story about … Grandmother’s House!

“Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go!”

Ah, who doesn’t sing along to that refrain … holidays or not! When growing up in Lewisberry, PA, I thought it fun that I could sing this song for real. Leaving our home to head to either grandparents’ houses, we had to go over a river and through some woods, though not in that order. We also had to traverse the busy streets of Harrisburg, PA. (Photo of a house on Crescent Street, PA)Grandmother's House A

Which do I begin with? My paternal grandmother, whom we called Nanny, lived on Hummel Street, across from the house my family lived in until we moved to the country. She had a corner home and knew most of her neighbors. In those days, people did.

When walking through the door, we entered her living room, walked through an archway into her dining room, then through a doorway on the left into the kitchen. Most of our visiting took place there, as it did in many places we visited during my childhood. (Ah, a blog post in the making!)

Both of my grandparents’ houses stayed immaculate, nothing out of place, yet comfortable and homey. They had nice things … nice furniture, nice knick-knacks on every available space, nice carpets, and nice wallpaper. Maybe having lived through the Great Depression, they learned what it was to live without and desired to live “with,” though not extravagant … simple, yet elegant.

Grandmother's House DAt Nanny’s, jars of candies sat on a buffet in her dining room, enticing little fingers to open a lid and dip into their delights. M&Ms, orange slices, peppermint leaves year-round. Filled raspberries and red, white, and green nougats with tiny Christmas tree centers took their places for the holidays. Our daughters knew they could have a few M&Ms without asking each time we visited. Any extras, though, would need to be checked with Nanny.

The dining room table held a lace tablecloth, as did my maternal grandmother’s, no doubt starting my life-long love of crocheted and tatted laces. (I never had one on my table because of dog nails and children fails … if you know what I mean.) A centerpiece of some kind sat in the middle, leaving the expanse of white or ecru lace open and beauteous. Many Sundays found my family, my aunts and uncles and cousins crowded into the dining room and stretching into the living room through the add-on of a card table (for the kids) for Sunday dinners. 

In the kitchen, four vinyl placemats lay on the table waiting for company. A door in the Grandmother's House Bkitchen led into the tiny, fenced-in backyard and out to the alley. At the sink, Nanny would set up her ringer washing machine which she single-handedly hauled up the steps from her basement, through the dining room, and into the kitchen to use every wash day. She had lots of those because she took in laundry for other people. I can still see her ironing board set up where the ringer washer had been (after she’d wrangled it back down to the basement). She would iron mountains of white starched shirts … and my aunt’s long hair, which tended to get wavy, something the 1960s didn’t allow. (Photo not of Nanny!)

On to my maternal grandparents’ house, Mom and Pop’s. (Still not certain why we called her Mom; but my brothers and I never mixed up which “mom” we were talking about, and neither did anyone else.) They lived on Crescent Street, one street over from Nanny.

Their basic set-up was much the same: in the front door to the vestibule, through the vestibule into the living room or straight up the stairs to the bedrooms and bathroom (only one in those days!). Then, through the arch into the dining room which included a door to the basement, through the dining room into the kitchen, and out the kitchen door into the backyard. (Maybe city houses were all designed by the same architect!)

Grandmother's House CAnother similarity sat in the dining room—the table, set with its lace tablecloth and centerpiece. (Photo not my grandmother’s.) However, though we may have, I don’t recall much eating at that table. My food-related memories stem from the kitchen, where Mom would make fried chicken to beat any KFC could dream of making. And hot bacon dressing poured over open-faced sandwiches of toast, eggs, lettuce, onions, and catsup … mmm.

One keen memory happened on the stairs headed to the bedrooms. My parents had gone somewhere (something they infrequently did), and my brothers and I were supposed to be put to bed upstairs. When my parents got back, apparently, they would come upstairs, Grandmother's House Epick us up in our PJs, and carry us to the car. This time, though, my grandmother let me stay up later than my brothers and sit on the steps to watch the Miss America Pageant, something she watched every single year. I don’t remember who won, but I do recall the twinkle in her eye when she was later asked if we had gone to bed when told to.

So, “Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we …” went.

 

Where did your grandparents live? A drive-able distance or once-a-year visits? What furnishings fill your memories? Any special toys (another blog post in the making!)? Share your stories of “Over the _______ and through the _______”!

Tell Me a Story about … a Picnic!

Let’s make a movie in our minds! It’s the early 1970s. Imagine the excitement of a family from southern Pennsylvania packing to go on a vacation to their favorite spot … a cabin in the northern mountains of their state. They load the station wagon with sleeping bags, stuffed suitcases, filled coolers, sleepy children, and slobbering dogs. And they’re off!

Along the Susquehanna River, they meet a group of family members also going to this vacation spot and make a convoy of sorts. They head up Route 15, drive through Williamsport (home of the Little League Baseball Museum today, but not then), and take Picnic Aanother highway.

Finally, they turn onto the forested Route 287. Watching closely for white-tailed deer crossing the roads, they navigate curves, the three-mile hill, and the two-mile hill. Up ahead, they see the sign for the town of Morris, home of the Annual Morris Rattlesnake Round-Up. (Shiver!!) Time to break for lunch!

Now, let’s pause the movie and set the scene for the next part. Just outside of town, a pine-covered picnic glade sits off the road on the right, a perfect place to let dogs out to do their business, let restless children out to run, and let parents and grandparents have a break from the constant refrain of “Are we there yet?”Picnic B

Break out grandmother’s wicker picnic basket and unload the red and white checkered tablecloth, the sectioned plastic plates, and the gem-colored metallic tumblers. Haul out the Styrofoam and Coleman coolers full of sandwich materials, condiments (“Did you remember the catsup this time?”), potato and macaroni salads, chips, pretzels, and of course, home-baked cookies.

Wait! Don’t forget Nanny’s iced tea, the kind with the little bits of lemonade pulp! One gulp and the weariness of the trip washes away.

Everyone loads up their plates, and some sit at the picnic tables, others on green and white webbed lawn chairs. Kids gobble their food as quickly as possible to go play by the creek.

Picnic DAh, the creek … the pièce de résistance! This part of the scene delights kids and adults alike. The typical rocky bed, bubbling clear waters, and slippery mudpuppies provides entertainment for the kiddos. Their elders enjoy relaxing by its edge, entranced as usual by the rust-colored rocks sparkling in the sunlight, looking to be dusted with gold specks. The respite refreshes the vacationers and helps them get back on the road ready to finish the last leg of the journey.

What makes those creek-side picnics such a poignant part of my memories? As though taking part in this movie, I see the bright red of my grandmother’s Comet along the road and the ruby, sapphire, and emerald tumblers filled with cold drinks. I hear the children laughing and the water gurgling. I feel the give of the webbed mesh on the lawn chairs or the sturdiness of the picnic bench. I smell the pine needles covering the ground in a blanket of russet and green and the yellow mustard as it squirts from the bottle onto a ham sandwich. And oh, yes, I taste the iced tea with lemon, the bits of pulp getting caught in my teeth.

All those senses fill my mind … and my heart. But the thing that brings the memory of Picnic Cthese picnics into a reality is the rusty creek and the love of family. The unusual colors of the creek made it a favored spot for the yearly picnic on our trip to Potter County. And the family members who made up the entourage made the picnics a time of joy, a time to be remembered with love.

Today, the rusty creek is no longer rust-colored for some reason. The picnic glade is no longer there. But whenever we have the chance to head up Route 287 on our way to the cabin, I wait for the sign for Morris. I peer out the window of the car to see if the creek’s coloring came back. I check once again to see if the picnic area was reinstated. And even though those things are gone forever, if we slow the car and wind the windows down, I can almost hear someone ask, “You didn’t forget the iced tea, did you?”

 

What picnic places fill the senses of your memories? Or maybe it’s the special foods … the dishware … the tablecloth. Then again, maybe it’s just the love. Please share your picnic memories with us. Blessings!