My Favorite, Noel.

I decorate for Christmas.  

Some years, not a single soul sees it. Some years, maybe one or two or three tops.

But, that’s because I travel, and it really doesn’t matter. I do it for me.

I refrained for many years. I could only see painful reminders. I suppose if there was such a thing, I’d say my grief has matured.

One year, I decided I’d at least try. I went through the box and struggled through each memory. Then, I went to World Market and Target and Meijer and struggled through buying new non-traditional décor in fuschia pink and winter blue and brilliant 80’s lime-ish green.

I couldn’t bring myself to put up the unique partial tree that Jeff and I had marveled over. Imagine a fake three-foot fir in a wicker basket – neatly sliced in verticle half to allow for wall hanging.

We used it in the townhouse, much to Miss Fred’s annoyance. She’d sit near the wall and balefully mewl. I suspect she was either trying to convince the tree to come down and play or she believed her caterwauling would spur us into action and bring all the shiny things down to her level.

It seems every year, I’ve managed to find the baby-steps, bits and pieces strength to add another sentimental piece. At least that’s what my lighted, miniature, fake burlap sack ensconced pine tree is telling me.

These are a few of my favorite things:

The purple and gold swirl paint bulb Jeff made.

The beaded snowman pin that Jeff also made

A tiny box with a big message from my mother-in-law, Sally

The tree topper is a handmade ornament from Nannee Vincze

The paper folded pinecone is a purchase I made at a craft show from a couple who reminded me so much of us.

The glass chili pepper is part of a set of six I bought for Jeff the Christmas after our store opened.

The Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh were a beautifully authentic biblical present to myself, and to others one year.

The Hershey kiss angel, by my best guesstimate, is somewhere between 20-25 years old – the result of a crafting episode with my sister-in-law.

The illuminated pine bottle was a gift this year from a friend who likes to call me ‘sis’.

The miniature Hannukah lamp was a gift from my mother that year we took her to Bronner’s. That is a story unto itself.

The nativity was my first, acquired the same year I purchased my condo.

The tatted cross is a gift that is a story unto itself, as well. A heritage heirloom I was astonished and honored to receive from a family that wasn’t mine to start with, but now completely is.

The Christmas Loon comes from the same family. No one has ever able to explain why, and the only thing I’ve found on the internet is a reference to the Loon being the state bird of Minnesota.

And I have no idea where the super shiny sparkly pine cone came from or how it landed in my Christmas storage tote, but… I like it.

All of this sits on the top of my living room hutch. There’s a lot of love crammed onto the four-foot-long top, which is conveniently completely Blu proof. He’s got jumping issues.

Happy Christmas from me. Repeating an adored adopted phrase, I’m the one who wants you to know – God loves you, and so do I. Noel.

Picture for the Week: 2019 12 24 Merry Christmas Noel jakorte

The Way the Crinkle Crumbles

Back to the Crinkles:

The first issue, was that I proceeded to try and puncture the cookie with the toothy strength needed to break through our family tradition of over-caramelized undersides and dry snappy hardness.

As a result, I overly chomped right through the softness and took a mini-chunk out of the inside of my bottom lip. Reflexively, I attempted to shout like hurt people do, “Oh, ow!” Instead, on the inhale, I vacuumed some of the powdery topping (which, being unfamiliar with Crinkles, I didn’t realize was powdered) into my mouth and throat and very upper bronchials.

I spewed forth a spattering cloud of exhaled wheezing, followed by immediate tears; continuing with a deep barking coughing spell that seemed like it was never going to end. Jeff handed me a cup of presumably water, which turned out to be milk. Not fond of straight-up milk, I unhappily expectorated it before it got too far. Jeff’s eyes bugged wide, eyebrows rising toward his hairline in astonishment.

He grabbed a kitchen chair, rolled it over to me and pressed down on my shoulders until I was seated. Firmly patting me on the back, his face mere inches from mine, Jeff alarmedly asked if I was ok. I shook my head ‘no’ at first, but eventually, croaked out that I thought I would be. “Ok.” Jeff bobbed his head, clearing his face of concern. With my hands in his, hope in his eyes, and an adorable earnestness, Jeff took a deep breath, then asked, “So, how’d ya like it?”

He never did make me an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie, but believe me: the ones he made were surely enough. Snickerdoodles and Sour Cream cookies. Buttery Sugar Cookies and melt-in-your-mouth Spritz.

Soft Peanut Butter and rich Scotchies. Potato Chip cookies and Billy Goats. Almond Crescents and Thumbprints. Perfectly spiced Gingerbread, both, soft rounds and firm, but not tooth-breaking, rolled.

Anise Stars, which, without fail, he would purposefully mispronounce, then laugh out loud at his own  joke. No-Bakes, which I firmly argued against calling a cookie.

Later on, and only for us, Jeff spiced cookies with various degrees of heat. Habanero shortbread; dark-chocolate cake-based cayenne. Spicy icing and mini-cheesecakes flavored with an awesome heated line of dessert hot sauces called Toad Sweat. 

Oh, and what turned out to be one of my favorites – Crinkles. I would safely lick most of the sugar off of the pretty tops, before delicately biting to ensure injury-free enjoyment.

Quote for the Week:

2018 12 25 For good measure, the proper ratio of sugar and spice jakorte

Cookie Season

I like cookies. I’d say I love them, but that wouldn’t be fair to cake. Especially, since cookies actually fall third to my super love: donuts!

Oh, who am I kidding? Unless it’s got a walnut or pineapple in it, I’ll eat any cookie that comes my way. It’s Cookie Season, now. I’m plumping up a bit, but that’s what New Year’s resolutions are made of.

Cookies weren’t really varied in my youth. Standard homemade choices were chocolate chip, peanut butter and oatmeal. All crispy, all crunchy, all of the time.

With the exception of rarely made and ridiculously rigid sugar cookies, holiday cookies were softer. Concocted of a cream cheese enriched dough; featuring some sort of jelly, preserves or fruit butter. The same ingredients, just presented differently, depending on the celebration.

I had no complaints as a kid, but Jeff taught me about other confections. My contented hard-cookie horizon expanded to a galaxy of undiscovered soft and chewy treasures.

Jeff made marvelously moist Oatmeal Raisin cookies, often. I once (and only once) requested the addition of chocolate chips. He stared at me in confusion for a beat, then simply stated, “There’s not supposed to be chocolate chips in ’em.”

He didn’t understand rather involved Rugelach, but he made them for me, anyway. Minus walnuts, plus my chocolate chips. As far as I’m concerned, he invented the stunning combination: chocolate & unseeded-raspberry rolls of delight.

I’d never heard of a Crinkle Cookie, until Jeff made them for Christmas. They looked so pretty on a tray: gently sloping, round mounds of contrasting dark dough and a bright white, crack-emphasizing topping.

“Try one,” Jeff encouraged.

“What do they taste like?” I wanted to know.

“Like a chocolate cookie,” he answered matter-of-factly. “Try one.”

Death by Chocolate can be a very real thing. That pastry almost killed me.

Quote for the Week:2018 12 18 What's normal for one is novel for another jakorte

Cookies brought to you by J, T, V & Me.

It’s good to know folks who make cookies. Those who makes cookies are usually good folks!

 

Bystanding; Beside You

Little moments change us every day.

Mostly, we hardly notice; adjusting with a four-second, second-thought: next time I’ll…

It’s the tremendous moments that throw us. Moments so life altering, we clutch our chest, gasping it in. Release comes way too slowly; a barely audible woosh, because there are no words and there never will be.

Just as misleading as “A Year of Memories,” losses pile on.

a daughter, a father and husband, a brother, a mother and friend. pls, a closed head injury, stage 4 lymphoma, melanoma, and some sort of vague, obviously understated, emergency surgery I still don’t know enough about.

This is your year of firsts.

The first day, the first week, the first month. The first winter, spring, summer and fall. The first birthday, the first holiday, the first missed ritual. The first of many commonly ordinary, unspecial wishing days.

It’s ok. It marks time. It gives us a measured outline, a flowing structure. 

It’s ok to have an honest day;  especially, an honest holiday. 

Holes lives leave cannot be filled, cannot be fixed, and are not meant to be, anyway.

They’re yours – to have or to hold or to heal.

I just want you to know: you’re not alone.

I’m walking beside you, because, that’s what love leads to.

Quote for the Week:

2018 12 04 It's ok to have an honest day jakorte

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jalapeno Puppy!

My holiday seasons rarely lack spice. I know a lot of folks who like it somewhat hot, and some weirdos who like to see how hot they can go for equally weird bragging rights. There’re stories there, but ….

First let me introduce, Sadie the Pepper Pup. As hyper as she was, she also was terrified of weather an sounds. Not just rain and thunder, winds and motorcycles were equally scary. While having her nails clipped at a Lenawee Humane Society fund-raiser, Sadie shook a bit. When we said she was scared of a lot of things, we were advised that she should own a thunder shirt.

We eyeballed each other and seemed to silently agree to give it a try. On our way home with a pink camouflage doggie hoodie and a clipped puppy, Jeff mentioned he was kinda surprised I wanted to buy one. He thought I’d be doubtful. I was absolutely doubtful. I only went along with it because I thought he believed. We chuckled about that. As soon we got home, I sat Sadie down, and said, “Here goes nuthin…”

To our mutual surprise, she didn’t balk. It was surprisingly easy to get her in and out of it. And it was surprisingly easy for her to get it dirty. Instead of washing it every day, I went back and bought her another one.

After which, “I got to thinkin’” as Jeff would put it. I figured I could go to Salvation Army and get her some kids clothes. “What?” Jeff raised his eyebrows, “You’re gonna put her in pants?” “No, no. Not pants!” I shook my head. “Dresses?” he asked. “No, no.” I squinted in his direction. “Not dresses.” Just cheaper shirts so we didn’t have to do doggie laundry every other day. Just enough to get through a week. Jeff crinkled his eyebrows; his face and forehead followed. “She’s gonna have seven shirts?” he tried to clarify. “No, no.” I grinned at our silly conversation. “I’m thinking eight or nine, so she’ll have one to wear while we hers are in the washer….” “Geez,” he teased. “That dog’s gonna have more shirts than I have!”

Sadie’s (and my, our) fondness for shirts meandered easily into to holiday outfits. An American flag t-shirt for 4th of July, red with hearts for Valentine’s day, green for St Patrick’s day.

I was amazed when Jeff found a dog store on-line that also had  a wide selection of Halloween costumes. They were all so cute. As he was scrolling quickly, one in particular caught my eye. My crazy-chicken lady-ness kicked into high gear. “I want it!” I squealed. “That one,” I pointed – “that chicken dog-fit with a matching chicken head hat!”

Jeff said, “Oooo-k…, but what I really want to show you is… THIS!” he announced in a ta-dah flourish. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but an obviously, divinely, inspired red satin chile suit with ‘just picked’ greens as the neck.

“Ooooo,” I leaned over to get a better look, touching the screen as if I thought I could feel it. Both were definitely higher priced than the second-hand toddler shirts I’d been collecting. For some reason, though, the hot pepper was way more expensive than the chicken.

Leaning on Jeff’s shoulder, I decided out loud, “Well, we’ve just got to get that one!” “And the chicken, too?” he turned to ask. “Umm,” I pondered. “No, not right now,” I said. “Let’s just get this one. Maybe, we can make it a business expense…” Jeff just arched his eyebrows at me.  “You know…” I shrugged with a little smugly smile. “A business suit… for our new mascot!”

And that’s how Sadie the Pepper Pup came to be.

Quote for the Week:

2017 12 19 there seem to be more misunderstandings jakorte

Bonus Pictures:

2017 12 19 MHSC first year store Christmas card and santa and Sadie bonus pix jakorte

 

ps… would you please let me know if you’ve read this? all feed back welcome.

believers & broken snow globes & christmas ferrets

I love Christmas. In a completely different way than ever before. Before Jeff, I mean. And before after Jeff, too. Especially, in the middle.

I wish I could have spent a believer’s Christmas with Sally and Nannee. It’s only being a believer that makes it ok now. Well, more than Ok. My Christmas’s now are Thankful.

Oh, it’s still about the presents, but with a difference. I enjoy being the Christmas ferret. I’m sure I’m not the one out there trying to find something that will mean something more than just a gift. I listen all year in a kleptomaniac sort of way, hiding away personal tidbits. I suppose you could say I hoard memories.

One of which came to mind while I was drafting this week’s entry. The only thing that broke on our move from the townhouse was a Christmas gift we had purchased for Sally. I discovered it while my mother was helping us unpack in our new home. I didn’t grow up with snow globes. I know it sounds silly, but I didn’t know they could easily break.

It was irreparably broken. Another thing I didn’t know about real snow globes – the bottoms don’t twist off and globes aren’t always replaceable. I immediately burst into tears, and Jeff immediately promised we’d get another. It wouldn’t be hers but it would still remind me of her.

We made the trek to Bronner’s in Frankenmuth. It wasn’t winter but it never even crossed either of our minds that we wouldn’t find one there. Or that the particular one we were looking for would be discontinued. Still, we were well into the days of internet, so Jeff consoled me with the backup promise of finding it on line. He scoured, I scoured.

We both came up empty; just like the place in my heart I was sure would never mend from losing this piece of Sally.

In fact, it still bothers me so much that I interrupted my story myself just now, opened a new tab, and searched. My heart did a funny flip-flop as the very first image to pop up was my missing treasure. He was perfect. Just as I remembered. Even came with the original box. I couldn’t wait to buy him, my mind already jumping ahead: I’ll put it in my cart and then I’ll go get my wallet. I clicked on the image and a whole lot of other items came up. I carefully scrolled through and reviewed all 2 pages, twice. My shoulders slumped. Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy.

But then again, it was. Just that easy to remember how much I thought it looked like her spirit. Easy to remember how her eyes lit up. Easy to remember her laugh. Just that easy to remember, it’s the memories that matter, not the matter of the memories.

Quote for the Week:

2017 12 12 Its not the matter of your memories jakorte 12 12 2017
Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Why We Hold On: Sentimental Items

Snow Globes: All About

And Just Because: Frosty the Snowman

 

Stealth & Pink Purses

Jeff’s father’s side step-family is tremendous, based on the size of my family. It only took me a few events to remember all of the children’s names. The names of the seven plus parents and all of their spouses calling out to them, took me a little longer. What a bunch of wonderful, fun and funny people.

Not a white-elephant or a Yankee-swap since we’re in Michigan, this group’s Christmas gifting tradition included a set budget, and an indication on the gender of the intended recipient or not.  Order picking was determined by drawing of numbers, and some rules designed to make the exchange only an hour or two long. The free range made for lots of laughter and gift stealing.

My second year of participation, I was a nervous wreck. Jeff had solely taken care of my first, but gave me the duty of picking out a women’s gift the following year. We went shopping together, of course. I don’t remember what he purchased, but I decided on an adorable pink purse. I was terrified no one would like it, no one would want it, and it would become the unintentional joke gift of the year.

I promised, myself I would watch carefully and if the hands it ended up showed any reluctance, I would make a point to steal it back. By the time the gathering came around, I had pretty much convinced myself it wasn’t a good fit for the exchange, even though I loved it. I fully expected to be going home with the pink purse. I did have it in my hands for one round, but it was stolen away from me! I ended up with some beautiful Christmas towels. We didn’t own any fancy guest towels. It was a good fit for us.

But, still, I wished I’d ended up with that purse, because, truly, it was just that cute. On the way home, Jeff commented that the purse had been well-received. “I know,” I said. “I kinda wish it hadn’t. I got sorta attached to it.”

Jeff chuckled, shook his head a little and gave me that “you’re adorable,  but crazy” look.

A few weeks later, I was unwrapping Jeff’s Christmas gift for me. I truly expected some sort of cute chicken/rooster thing. I was amazed and astounded when I parted tissue paper to find a pink purse! No, it wasn’t the same as the one that went to a good home. It was actually more awesome and I absolutely loved it.

Of course, it came with a story. Jeff had managed to run through JC Penney on his way home from work. He’d had to wait until we weren’t together to do it. He spent quite a bit of time searching the accessories section and was about to give up when he saw one on display. He related how he’d stealthily slipped the purse off of the mannequin’s arm and then run (briskly walked) across the entire store to pay for it.

He thought if he spent too much time, was later getting home that I thought he would be, I’d probably worry and ask him where he’d been. He didn’t want to have to tell me. “You’re impossible to surprise,” Jeff pointed out, mid-story. “You’re always looking at statements!”

He said felt weird carrying it. So, to make sure it was clear that it was not his personal purse and that he had no intention of stealing it, he held it at arm’s length stuck straight out in front of him, moving as quickly as possible. Jeff reached down and picked up my newly unwrapped purse to demonstrate his technique.

My big burly, bearded guy in his work uniform, duck boots along with a plaid jacket, big M ball cap and suspenders; swaggering and trying not to swing a pink purse.

That image crinkles the corners of my eyes and makes me giggle every time.  Sometimes silently; sometimes aloud.

I wore out that purse. Used it every day for years. Finally had to let it go due to serious non-repairable deterioration. I suppose I could have kept it for some crafty reason, but at the time I had no idea I would miss it or the man.

It still ranks up there as one of my all-time favorites gifts, and has given me yet another, more-laughing-than-crying story to share.

God Bless.

Quote for the Week:

2016-12-20-stealth-purse-jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Purses: Ew, that’s gross

Purses:  sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t

Purses:  J Geils Band, First I Look at the Purse