Sunday, December 13, 2009

You feelin' Christmasy, Punk?

So I have posted a picture of an Advent Calendar we made a number of years ago. I have not figured out a title for this post...and have to laugh at the things that pass through as possibilities.

Okay...this wasn't the first title that came to mind this morning, but it is something that popped out of my mouth the other night as I handed my husband a Christmas napkin. Dirty Harry invaded the culture and sometimes I let my guard down and like those winsome viruses we are all trying to avoid, I catch my share.

I love Christmas, but I don't like what's been done to it. One of my brothers said to me this week that Christmas doesn't last long enough...and my heart pounded hard. We were on the phone, but I could see him so clearly, working in the cold days to keep abreast of the on-going demands and that nicely positioned December 10th property tax deadline, and yet thinking of all the people he would like to make gifts for...the families he would like to stop by and see...yummy, what kind of cookies are you making? I remember the year, time was slower then, he made us all little copper pots.

But I hear stories about people just feeling all stressed out from the holidays...and that is a sad thing. There are the unresolved family issues, the concern for buying gifts that are too big or too small, unneeded or unwanted...or desperately needed and out of sight.

I just have a few of Aunt Dorothy's little Christmas napkins. She's been gone for many years now. They are faded and were just simply a collection of holly fabrics but she made them and she loved Christmas for what it is. Of course I handed my husband one of his aunt's napkins and asked him "You feeling Christmasy, punk? " I'm just fighting off what the tear it all down bullies would erect. What do you mean that doesn't make any sense? ...of course it doesn't. I should just focus my energy on the part of it all that re-members me with what really matters.

Advent, advent let your little light shine. Today another chicken flew up to roost in the manger. Christmas is coming...don't doesn't matter what you wear...or how you feel about your hair...or if your hand is empty when you arrive. Just come as you don't even need to feel Christmasy, punk.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bread Dough Ornaments Wise guys and children

It's funny how bread comes up in different ways on Bread on the Water.
I didn't think about it until I was typing in this title. I made most of these flour and salt bread dough ornaments over 20 years ago.

The ones on the top line were made by little hands.
The little people are about 1.5 inches tall and have holes in their hands where I wind little gold wires as jump ropes from which to hang them.
We won't be putting up a tree this year but I pulled these out to photograph and share them and post a recipe for how they were made. Scanning recipes on the web I noticed a lot of variation in the directions, so I wrote out my own. I learned this craft many years ago from a student at the art school in Oakland.

Here are some of my wise men...wise guys as we would sometimes joke while we painted them...Wise ones do still seek Him.
Bread Dough for Baked Ornaments

2 cups of flour
1 cup of salt
1 cup water

1. Mix the salt and flour and gradually add the water.
2. Knead these ingredients together 5-7 minutes.
Food preparer’s gloves or nitrile gloves will protect your hands from the drying salt.
If you aren’t going to use the dough right away,
store it in plastic or glass to keep it from air-drying.

After you cut or sculpt the shapes you want, place them carefully on a baking pan that won’t rust or an old one you don’t care about. Or line your pan with tinfoil. If you have trouble maintaining shape while transferring to the pan, consider sculpting them right on the pan.
IMPORTANT: You must plan how they are to hang before you bake.
Either insert a hook into a sturdy part of the top of the design or make holes in which you can later insert string or wire.

There are two successful Baking styles.
The idea is to harden them thoroughly without burning them.
You only want them to get light golden.
Thin pieces in a 300-degree oven take no more than 30 minutes.
An ornament that is ½” to 1 “ thick is going to take an hour to bake at 300 degrees.
Lower temp baking takes longer.
The other baking method is a 200-degree oven for several hours.

Painting and Decorating and Storing
Cool before painting. I have ornaments I have had for more than 30 years. You must bake them properly if you want to save them for future enjoyment. You can’t tell if they are baked hard until they are cool. If you paint and think one needs a little more baking, that’s fine as long as you have only used non-toxic water based paints.

Once you add a spray sealant, anything mineral or polymer based, do not put them in the oven. Remember to be careful with chemicals around children, pets and your own precious self. Do the finishing spray outside, in a garage or next to an open window. Read directions and cautions on all products you choose to use.

STORE in a metal Cookie box or air tight plastic.
Protect the ornaments from the can and each other with bubble wrap or some soft layers that won’t wick moisture. You can enjoy them for years.

That’s it! Have fun.

The Bavarian boy was painted by Dad one night as we all sat around the table.
I recently got these out to show to some friends and heard from them about ornaments that had been saved only to find them spoiled. I can't emphasize enough proper storage. I'm not sure that things will slow down enough to enjoy such a relaxing and playful evening such as this anytime soon...but you never know! I would love to make some more.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

On the Winning of Awards and Prizes

I once showed a photograph of our little daughter standing sweetly by the wicker bed of our baby daughter to my husband's Grandma Bessie and Aunt Dorothy. Grandma said the picture could win a prize. Aunt Dorothy said, "Oh, they already have the prize."

That's a little bit how I felt when my friend, Gretchen at Gladsome Lights gave me the Superior Scribbler Award. Writing is its own reward.

And furthermore Gretchen is my friend, and that too is award enough. Our friendship preceded blogging, but blogging has been an extension of our sharing when my moving for a job put us in different parts of the state. And blogging had been a logical extension for me as I have been writing since, as a naughty child, my mother made me painstakingly copy and recopy an apology letter she helped me compose until the script was quite legible. I suppose I could have hated writing thereafter, but that has never been the case. So the graphics of this award seem rather appropriate too, don't they? You know you have to hold your tongue in just the right place to scribble properly, don't you?

The reason I have been a little slow to respond to this award is because I have been enjoying the other four blogs that Gretchen linked to, but now I am here to gladly accept the SSA and I thank her kindly for including me in the fun.


Awards have rules and so here are the five Superior Scribbler Rules for those five bloggers to whom ( listed below) I, obeying the rules, pass this award :
lEach Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
lEach Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
l Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
lEach Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor![ And you can go there and check out the many winning blogs that are linked thus far. You might find a new favorite.]
lEach Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.
My Awards

*Alaska Steve in Unalaska, Alaska. "Just a middle aged guy trying to challenge myself daily and earn the respect of my dog." His blog is aptly named A Sense of Place. He's been traveling lately, and doing a wonderful job of sharing that, but be sure and see and read about life in Unalaska in earlier posts.

*David has lived and worked in the Yosemite Valley since 2003. He is a true scribbler. He is jotting down his joys of observation and photographing on his lunch and before work and it is a lovely visit to the valley for me every time he posts at Tree in the Door's Fauna and Flora

*Aimee of South Carolina calls her journal Living, Learning and Loving Simply. She has a very vulnerable gentle writing voice and yet could be the feature writer of a slick magazine.

*I enjoy reading Debbie at Artful Aspirations Her blog is multifaceted; she has her pen poised and her heart on the line.

* And then there is Susan Liles who does some, okay much, all right most, of her scribbling with a paint brush...but not all...she does write to teach others, to vent and to express gratitude. Her blog is a wonderful example of sharing in the blogosphere.
And if that isn't enough new blogs for you, you might visit my other blog Write Purpose. That is actually where some of my slightly more serious scribbling hangs out.
BIG POST SCRIPT....this is a rather busy time of if you can't take up this award offer right away I will certainly understand. The whole point is for you to feel appreciated, so please just know you have been read and enjoyed and that you are a Superior Scribbler!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In Burma it is Sweet December

Sweet December

I have friends who are native to Burma and they wish each other "Sweet December." The Karen people celebrate on the last night of November to mark the beginning of Christmas, which they celebrate throughout the month of December. It is also a celebration of harvest and family...generally a time of sharing. The Karens, pronounced (Ka-rans), are an indigenous people to the southeast Asian countries of Thailand and Burma. The population numbers around 14 million in that region with the majority of the Karens living inside Burma. Traditionally, most Karens are farmers . Today I read a little about the Chin people who also might wish you a "Sweet December." Many of them live in the Mandalay area.

In a little benefit shop in the California town near where I live, I found a zip lock bag marked $3.00 that contained a Nativity Scene. It is from Italy, plastic and childlike and so I bought it to set out in the garden. I placed it in a little nook in the wall in front of a two foot tall door where many years ago the milk man would deliver bottles of fresh milk.

~ Sweet December ~

If you hunt around on the web you can find news of Burma, but most of it doesn't make the front page even though it should. Not all the world is free. Burma has once again been listed as a Country of Particular Concern in the latest edition of the US State Department’s Annual International Religious Freedom Report. Burma, as Myanmar, has no democracy, and human rights and the rule of law are not guaranteed to her people.

The people of the deltas who survived cyclone Nargis of May 2008 are still in need of help and the government thwarts those who try. Recently, authorities in Rangoon’s Dagon Seikkan Township have arrested several members of a volunteer group helping victims of Cyclone Nargis. It's hard to even transfer money to people in Burma when you want to help. American dollars cannot be received directly...

When you hear of a benefit for the people of Burma, and viable organizations seeking to help perhaps you'll decide to pay some attention and see if there is something you can do.

Last August a handful of my friends responded to an appeal I made to help a village rebuild and have a boat again...the only way they can get needed supplies is with a boat.

I was so touched by my friends' generosity. Everyone loved getting this picture. I won't use any village names or the names of my contacts or how the money gets exchanged because I want them to be safe. Isn't that amazing, getting food or money to people in need, orphaned children, could get those in Burma who help in trouble?
Children at studies

Not everyone who calls Burma home can stay there..."Refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border could come under pressure from rising rice prices and a possible influx of new refugees from Burma in the year ahead. The Democratic Voice of Burma quotes Jack Dunford, head of the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), which manages the nine camps as saying there were several variables they had no control over; exchange rates, the price of rice and the number of refugees. " Thanks to Shane Abrahams for that link. I just discovered his site today. It has links to many news sources and his banner shares an old Chinese proverb that represents the kind of informative peaceful efforts he is making for the sake of so many who are near voiceless:
“Don’t curse the darkness – light a candle.”

So I've lit this little candle on my blog by touching my candle wick to the flame he has going .

And when you light your advent candles, or drive freely to and fro in your day's tasks, maybe you will think of the people who would gladly wish you a Sweet December.