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Yule Cookie – English Matrimonials

English Matrimonials

1 ½ cups sifted flour
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 ¼ cup rolled oats
½ teaspoon of salt
¾ cup of butter
3/4 cup of raspberry jam (Mom used Mary Ellen but use the good stuff)

Measure flour, sugar, oats, salt and butter into bowl.
Mix with hands to a crumb-like consistency
Place half of mixture in an ungreased 6×10 Pyrex pan and press firmly
Cover with jam and top with remaining half of mixture
Press firmly
Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 40-45 minutes

Should be slightly candied around the edges and not too moist in center
Cut when cool
Makes 3-5 dozen

The recipe can be used as a dessert by substituting 1 can of whole berry cranberry sauce or cherry or apple pie filling for the jam. Serve warm with ice cream.

Away in the Manger Memories

When I was little our house was full of music and never more than in the holidays. Everyone in the family except my dad was in at least one church choir and us kids were in more than one, usually at least a bell choir and regular kid’s choir but Cam and I were also in a special kids choir that sang during the second service and was in Wylie Chapel. It was a miniature service just for the children from 4th to 6th grade.

The holidays meant lots of rehearsal and lots of singing at Church events and when we got to Junior Hi through High School we got to sing in the 1000 voice choir at Disneyland every year because our Minister of Music founded it. It was hard work but we thought a free night at Disneyland was worth it and we got to have adventures we probably shouldn’t have because we were back stage at Disneyland.

But my earliest memory of Christmas music was singing in the car with my mom. We were at the school my dad taught at. I can remember being in the backseat and my mom had moved to the passenger seat so dad could drive us home. Mom usually didn’t take time with me other than reading to my brother and I and that’s probably why it sticks in my mind. But I can remember sitting there in car and learning to sing “Away in the Manger” which is probably why it’s still my favourite holiday song.

It was probably because I could always sing and hold pitch and that was important to mom so it’s something I remember so clearly that I was alone with her and she was paying attention to just me.

It’s a rate good memory of my mom when I wasn’t disappointing her in some way,

Here is the pagan version I wrote so I could still sing it:

Away as I’m walking ( I prefer the Flow Gently Sweet Afton Tune)

Away as I’m walking upon the far moors

I look to your heavens and stand here in awe

I watch as the far stars all turn in sky

I’m small and a tiny part of the whole.

 

Be near me O Goddess

I ask thee to stay

Close by me forever

And bless those I love

I’m standing here silently under your stars

I can offer you humbly my hands and my heart

(2016 Kat)

 

 

Beloved Dead

Goddess, I miss him so much

Some years are worse than others

I miss my shadow

I miss my near twin

I miss his huge smile

I miss his hugs

Oh Goddess

Why does it not getting any easier?

He’s gone and he always will be

I miss his humour that was different from everyone else in the family

I miss when he didn’t get our jokes

I miss him trying

Goddess, grief is an unfillable hole

Yes, grief reminds us we loved

But oh, it hurts sometimes

It hurts to stand alone in the memories

Memories that only he and I held

I miss him hiding behind me when dad hit me

I miss being his protector

I miss him in the audience when I sang

I miss being his audience

Goddess. I’m selfish

I miss his love

I miss his smelly feet

I miss knowing I could call him if I needed

I miss the secret names we called each other

I miss seeing his eyes when we came out to each other

I miss the wonder of knowing he was gay too.

I miss knowing I wasn’t alone with my secret

I miss that he will never know how Harry Potter ended

The last book he read was number 6.

I miss that we can’t share Star Wars rebirth

He kidnapped me to the very first one

Insisting I would love it.

Goddess, I miss my baby brother

And it hurts so much…

I hate the idea of dressing like a nerd for Halloween

I have to admit this whole ‘dress like a nerd” thing is hitting a nerve with me.  I hate to channel the millennials and be offended by everything but it’s just too much like it was in school when they start with the stereotypes. Those people being othered were my people.

I had very few friends in high school and I mostly liked it that way because I had been miserable in Junior High. I think my parents may have suspected or not but they sure kept me busy with activities outside of school all the way into High School. I stayed in Camp Fire way past the time most people had dropped out until my sophomore year in High School when there was no group to join nearby any longer. Some how that led me to be dropped into Junior Achievement and start Candystriping and that didn’t count Church activities like choir, Bell Choir and Bible Study after School and being in school choir and Latin Club.

And when I wasn’t being kept busy I was reading every spare moment or working on needlework projects and designs. By High School I had learned to ignore the teasing and had decided they didn’t matter to me, most of the time. When my brother got to High School 2 years after me all of a sudden I was included with his friends my Senior year. (Our high school was 10-12th grade then) Cam was a band and orchestra geek, a Boy Scout and in Latin too. Somehow in my Senior year, I had a circle of people around me and we added some from A Cappella Choir like Clayton and a few girls that were enamoured of my brother and his friends. Which looking back was pretty funny because most of the guys in the group that the girls were following came out of the closet after graduation. Jerry became a designer, Tony was a pianist for the Opera. Cam became a bank manager before he got cancer but the rest of the guys were fairly stereotypical and we were nerds. And because we travelled in a huge pod we confused the hell out of people because they assumed we were dating each other and we’d go to the movies together but always sat with different people in the group. Now I know that the guys were trying not to be with any one girl and out themselves, I just thought for once it was fun to have friends.

Those of us that weren’t in the marching band comprised the majority of the Pep Squad with the two school mascots. I look back at that yearbook picture and besides the Latin Club and the Science and Computer Clubs and the AV team, there wasn’t a bigger group of nerds in school. We happily did all the shit work the Drill Team and the cheerleaders were too good for and dumbly did it with no complaint. We painted all the signs and did all the things before games that actually involved work, including an enormous paint fight with purple and white paint that year before homecoming and hiking up in the middle of the night to defend the ‘H’ that was limed on the mountain above school. Got threatened by some old man with a shotgun but did it anyway.

We didn’t dress in the height of fashion. None of us cared to or could afford to and some of the girls including myself made some of our clothes. Those of us in Latin Club thought drilling for the next convention was fun and Latin Club had some cache because we won the state sweepstakes every year and were the only language classes that got to travel because of the Annual JCL convention. (Junior Classical League). We were the only nerds that got featured in the Purple Press, the school newspaper. How nerdy were we? I won a first, two seconds and a third in Roman History and Daily Life in competition over 4 years and a second my Senior year in writing Latin poetry.

So this nerd thing is bugging me. I don’t want to dress in pulled up pants, suspenders and a bowtie. I don’t want to put tape on the bridge of my glasses. That alone brings back horrid memories of the time my best friend and I broke our glasses on purpose. I don’t remember why K did it but I did it because mom had bought pink glasses frames and because I had drops in my eyes I couldn’t really see what she had chosen for my next frames at that visit to the eye doctors. I hated pink and she knew it but it was her last attempt at making me a girly girl. I was horrified when I saw them. So K and I made a pact to break our glasses and we thought if we broke the bridge our parents would replace them but noooo our parents decided to punish us. K’s dad was a dentist and glued our glasses back together with huge hunks of pink dental cement. The stuff you make dentures with. It was ugly and we had to wear it to school for months before we could get new frames.

That was almost as bad as the time I complained about having to wear saddle shoes all the time because they had corrective braces and heels so mom got paint and painted the damn things royal blue so they didn’t look bright white and blue.

I do not need to relive the horrors of my childhood, thank you very much. I may outsmart them and go as a Ravenclaw witch which is suitably nerdy but not horrifyingly like my childhood.

Edit: A navy blue sweater vest, Ravenclaw pocket patch to put on it and a navy striped tie have now been ordered from Amazon. dark pants and tennies and one of my besoms and I think I have this nailed. That way I’m a witch and no one who doesn’t already know has to know anything more. Oh and if it isn’t over 90 degrees that day, my reversible cape, blue on one side and black velvet on the other.

 

Dem Swedes in the woodpile

Going through these old photos of my great grandparents makes very conscious of how much loss they went through just to have a family. Their first two sons died 2 days apart, Axel at 3 and two days later George died at age 1, the next child, Ella (Veldma) survived until she was 18. Then came Hattie (Hatta or Harriet), Della (Lilly), my grandfather Carl, William Blaine who died at less than a year, Elsie (Alla), Robert was the last one. So three sons and one daughter died as children and three girls and two sons lived. The ones who survived Hattie made it to 73 and the others were all over 80. Great Grandma died when I was 5 at 95 in 1959.

I’m thinking my mom advocated for us all having Scottish names after growing up with the Swedish ones. All the girl’s names were suspiciously like the names of the Borden cows in the commercials when I was little. The names in parentheses are the first names they were born with and the other name is the American name they went by after they moved to LA. They started out in Minnesota when it was a territory and then Hilda (Halda) moved them all to LA around 1900 because she swore she was not going to live someplace colder than Sweden. I found the citizenship docs for the kids but Minnesota became a state in 1858 so I have no idea why they needed them if they were born here even if Isaac and Hilda weren’t citizens.

It must have hurt to lose 4 children. I can’t find any death certificates that say what they died of but they were living in Duluth at the time so maybe there was an epidemic of some sort in 1890 when the first two boys died. What killed Ella/ Veldma in 1908 at the age of 18?

Hilda is listed as a Smeddotter on her emigration report in the church records in Sweden. (Why church’s had emigration records I have no clue) Smeddotter means blacksmith’s daughter. So I have smiths on the Swedish and Scottish sides, probably where I got the urge to whack metal with large hammers. Funny, how things you like to do can maybe travel along your genes as well as what you look like. Kind of cool.

I know they all spoke Swedish until Hilda made them join the Presbyterian Church because it was the only church that has services in English and she wanted the kids to learn English because now they were in a America. There was one problem with this. When she got very old when I was little she would slip back into Swedish. I can remember my Uncle Don trying to get her to say “Jam and Jelly” and she’d reply “Pass me the yam and yelly” which used to reduce me to giggles.
Hers was the first funeral I ever attended. For some reason I spent most of it with my grandmother in the car. That was fine with me because Grandma could tie a handkerchief into a rabbit and make it hop up and down her arm and she kept Livesavers Chocomints in the handbag. I wish they still made those.

The biggest change after she died was the unanimous refusal to ever serve lutefisk at a holiday meal every again. Everything else Swedish was fine but no lutefisk, ever!

I got so much from them. My love of photography, grandpa gave me my first Brownie camera so I could be like him with his Leicas. Most of the photos I have of us as kids are from him. Dad took slides and so far they resist copying because they are too colour saturated for my scanner.

I got my boobage from my Great Aunts. I’m built like them to my mother’s horror. She would look at me and say, I don’t know where you go those but I look just like her aunts so it wasn’t hard to figure out.

I got my love of milk and pastries at breakfast from them. And some of my baking talent comes from them.

And I got my nose and I think my enormous hands from them. I bet I have bigger hands than Donald Trump, I had to wear men’s gloves when I was a bell ringer. Women’s gloves were way too small. My piano teacher in college loved them. I could reach more than an octave. Dad called them farmer hands. My sister has these long graceful thin fingered hands but even when I was skinny my hands were not but it was great for doing gymnastics because I rarely missed if I could get my hands on the bars. And it tickled my ortho that even when I had horrible tendinitis I had a grip strength of 80lbs in my left uninjured hand. Most women have a grip strength of 30 lbs or less. The right was only 70 lbs injured. And more than a few men that tried to give one of those handshakes they think are going to crush a women’s hand to exert dominance regretted it immediately when all I did was grin and bear down back. LOL! So dem Swedes were good for a few things. I think it’s the blacksmith’s fault,

It’s going to be a rough week.

July 30th is always a hard day for me, thank heavens it’s not a weekday this year because I tend to turn into a sieve while also turning into my own version of a pensieve, so many memories. July 30th is the 11th anniversary of my little brother’s death.

Today the pensieve is serving up music which is always hard since music was a bond our whole family has. I remember lying on the floor with him, playing 78s from mom and dad’s collection of records. Everything from the Mikado and Victor Herbert to Bozo and the Birds and Danny Kaye telling fairy tales and Hans Christian Anderson’s stories and a lot of Scottish folk songs and Harry Lauder.

He was a year and half younger than me, so I had a shadow whether I wanted one or not. We were in choir together, and in bell choir and in school choir but he took a left turn and took up the trumpet after torturing us for a semester on the violin, it was not his instrument. He joined band and orchestra and I stayed firmly in choir but played my guitar and recorders at home, you can hide in choir.
Mom and dad took us to concerts and musicals from the time we were little. Some of my earliest memories are sleeping in dad’s lap at the Hollywood Bowl under a starry sky and watching deer creep down the hillsides. I think our first musical was Brigadoon but it may have been Peter and the wolf too.

When we got to college we took voice class together and I was always more terrified for him than me even when we had to do recitals. He went on to do musicals and I was stage security and prompter. I did take piano but had to drop out because every time I had to play in front of the class I spent the hour before vomiting from stage fright. When Cam took piano the professor recognized him by his hands. He told Cam I had the best piano hands he’d ever seen. Wish he’d told me that but I just couldn’t do it.

I have a rather eclectic music collection and I put my Kindle on shuffle today, I shouldn’t have. It started to play Broadway musicals and the switch got flipped. I remember him singing in Fiddler as one of the sons, I remember him in the chorus of Hello Dolly but most of all I remember him in Babes in Toyland.

He played Barnaby and had a grand time twisting his moustache and trying to scare small children. That was the show I did security because some idiot had designed the stage door to open onto the main hall and not into the dressing rooms. Cam had to navigate the hall to get to his dressing room and the first time he got kicked all the way down the hall by small children with hard shoes since you used to get dressed up to go to the show and tennies are not dress shoes. His shins were black and blue. Cam was the bad guy in the black cape lined in bright red and with his top had and moustache he was easy to see especially since he was 6’4”. After that night I was his protection and since I was really good at the death stare, no kid dared kick him. Pretty funny 5’8” me staring down 5 year olds and sending them running. Cam was a big teddy bear, I am not! And I’d already been camp counseling for 5 years so I was good at the death stare. He hated scaring the kids in real life,on stage it was funny, I thought it was funny, period. I wish I had a picture of him in full makeup. I’m sure there probably is one back at school but I would have no idea how to get something from the mid 1970’s from them.

He ended up getting his BM in Music, in Opera, the one kind of music besides rap I’m not that fond of and one in computer science after his brain cancer went into remission the first time.

So this is going to be a hard week and Saturday was Mary’s birthday so the fun just keeps coming. Sigh…

We live in Fire country

For those not familiar with Southern California, there are two seasons: hot and on fire and cool and on fire. We really do have 4 seasons but they can come at any time and are mostly identified at least by me, for the quality of the light. And even then there can be difference in geography, the light on the west side near the beaches is different from the light in the San Fernando or San Gabriel Valleys and that is different from the light up on the mountains like the Angeles Forest that is burning now.

The problem with the mountains burning is that LA is built on mountains. They thread in and out and while some refer to them as hills they really aren’t. I laughed when I was in Scotland and they said how high Ben Nevis is. It’s only 4,414 ft. The camp I worked in in the Angeles National Forest was at 1 mile and Mt Baldy is 10, 064 ft. This is a listing of the peaks in and around LA: http://www.laalmanac.com/geography/ge05.htm

Mt Verdugo, for instance, is the hill behind the house I grew up in at 3126 ft. So we know fire and we know mountains. The house we moved to in Glendale had almost burned the year before we moved in due to a huge fire that burned around a good share of LA from the beach to Glendale where we moved to in 1964. When we moved in there were foot holes in the roof because the neighbors were on our roof trying to protect our house because the owners weren’t home so a garage roof burned down the street, the scorch marks on the inside of the garage were a fascination for us kids growing up.

We early on learned which things to grab if we had to evacuate, Photographs and papers and meds first since those are the hardest to replace. And we learned how to get the garden hose up to the balconies on our house so we could spray the shake roof if we had to do it. All the other rooves in the neighborhood were Spanish tile but no, my parent bough a big Tudor house, the only one in the area. It was the most expensive house in the neighborhood, $36,000 at the time and since dad was an underpaid teacher, I think my grandparents may have helped them buy it even though they sold our tract home in the Valley to move where dad taught 6th grade.

I don’t know how many times I came home from something as a kid and saw flames on the mountain behind our house but it was a lot.
You are always aware of the consequences of a cigarette thrown from the car, which by the way, is illegal but idiots do it anyway. When you work at a camp, you get a bit paranoid about whether the campfire is all the way out. Lightning storms also can put you on high alert.

When I worked up at a camp near Idylwild, a fisherman with no brains lit a campfire to grill his catch, under a tree. It was two of the counselors from camps day off and saw the guy do it on the other side of the lake and there was nothing they could do to stop him. That fire raged for a week and burned through several camps and ranches. It almost got our camp but the wind changed direction and the fire burned through the Girl Scout camp instead. We spent that afternoon in the pool waiting. They couldn’t get busses up to us and the only safe place was the pool so we had orders to sir on the edge of the pool and if the fire came to get under water fast and hold our breath. The rangers had told us because we had a huge grassy meadow that the camp might burn in as little as 30 seconds. I remember hauling fire hose and laying it out and we could see pine trees going up like giant match sticks and it was terrifying.

I remember being pissed off because all the guitar players were told we had to leave them behind if they could get the busses up just because it kept our minds off what could happen to us and the kids.

So those of us who are natives can be a bit paranoid. Last Wednesday I was walking out to take the bus home and smelled smoke. Some idiot had thrown their cigarette into our bark mulch and there was a fire burning about a foot across. This made the old Girl Scout in me rise up and get creative. No hose near by, so I used my cane to spread the mulch onto the nearby gravel. I was not impressed with the coworker that drove out the gate yelling she was going to call security. I kept at it and the next woman jumped out of her car with a couple of water bottles and helped me get the big pieces out. She said she couldn’t figure out what I was doing until she saw the flames and that was when I had it pretty well spread out but we got it out and I didn’t even miss my bus. I found out a day later from security that they had been afraid something like that would happen because under the mulch is some sort of weed cloth that is flammable and if that caught our 2+ acres would go up like a match if it got going under the mulch. That is what happens in a forest when the duff catches fire underneath the trees and spreads underground. My Girl Scour Good Deed for the day in 98 degree weather too.

So now we deal with a huge fire that is only 10% contained. Containment means they have a line around the fire. It’s burned 33,000 acres. http://abc7.com/ for news if you are interested. It’s been in the high 90’s and low 100s for temps for the last week of so here in the SF Valley. This really doesn’t help when fighting fires. Saturday the smoke was blown low which led to the apocalyptic photos I posted early and everything is covered in ash. I went to the ATM and had to wipe the screen off to even read it.

For those who use Celsius 90 degrees Fahrenheit = 32.22 Celsius = bloody hot. 100 Degrees is 37.7 Celsius. 33, 000 acres is 51,562 square miles which is bigger than a lot of cities.

So we are about 10 miles as the crow flies from where the fire is burning and hoping it doesn’t destroy everything and every being on the mountains

A lot of love and energy is being directed at the brave firefighters who are out there on the line.