Sunday, January 31, 2010

Beauty For Ashes

Well I thought I had done today's post, but Joel Osteen preached tonight on a verse that compells another post today.

Three years and 10 days ago, on January 21st, 2007, I smoked a cigarette in the car on the way to church one Sunday morning, and Pastor Erny McDonough preached on this verse:

Isaiah 61:3-4 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.”

After church that day, I never smoked again.

God took away the addiction and made me a non-smoker, instantly. My husband still smokes but it never tempts me, and I don’t notice the smell of smoke.

I don’t know why God chose to do this for me, but He did.

Thank you, Lord.

Update January 21, 2014:  Paul quit smoking a couple of years ago. He used patches, and they worked great. Recently he was able to give up the patches too.  Tobacco still neither temps nor annoys me. When sharing this story some time back, my grandson overheard me saying that I didn't know why God had chosen to heal me of this, and he said "I prayed to God and asked Him for you to quit smoking."  So remember that the prayers of our friends and family play a powerful role in our lives. God listens when a believer prays, and He hears children as surely as adults. 

Lest We Forget


God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine -
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The captains and the kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law -
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word -
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!

by Rudyard Kipling
June 22, 1897, written for the London Times newspaper, for the celebration of Queen Victoria's Jublilee, her 60th year of reign

Photo is a stained glass window in the Methodist Church here in town, featuring the dove carrying an olive branch in her beak.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A House with a Name

An unexpectedly free weekend... and it is too cold to do anything! 21 degrees out right now, my rain guage has a block of ice 8" tall in it, and my onion plants await their beds. Doesn't look like the onions will get planted this weekend unless tomorrow warms up considerably. So, I'll piddle around inside, make potato soup, and dream about Spring.

I an an Anglophile, and I have always wanted to live in a house that had a name. I love the British predeliction for retaining place names over grid numbers. I once got to visit London for work, and we stayed at a hotel with this address: "The Petersham, Nightingale Lane, Richmond, Surrey". My taxi driver from Heathrow airport literally picked his way there one landmark at a time. It was a fabulous hotel and visit and I will blog about it some day.

Our last house, everyone locally associated with the builder, who was well known and had lived in it for a year before we bought it. It never came to be "The Ours' house" - it was always "Oh - you mean the Theirs' house!" This house has been the same. We've been here two years and people still can't place it without the names of people who lived here before us. "Corner of..." Nope, can't place it. "Next door to..." Nope, doesn't ring a bell. "Across the street from...." Sorry, not familiar with it. Even "The house with the Texas Flag painted on the garage door" doesn't do the trick. But if we say "The Theirplace", the light of recognition immediately goes on in every eye.

I want a name for the house that isn't that of the former owners. So I have been thinking of names since we got here, and none seemed to fit.

But now I have just realized that in naming the blog (without much thought, really, since every name I thought out had been taken), I have effectively named my house! "Pecan Corner" is a fine name for a little cottage by the side of the road, don't you think?

Now I need a sign! :-)

* These photos of our house and garage were taken by Lani when she and Nick were here over Christmas weekend. Aren't they great?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Letterpress Printing, Metal Type and Amateur Journalism

I haven't talked about printing and presses here yet, but one of my hobbies is letterpress printing. I'm not talking about it right now because my press is inaccessible in the garage, and until I get it set up to use, I won't be able to have much to say.

However, you can learn more from several of the links in my sidebar under "Other Sites of Interest", and also by reading a couple of on-line publications:
The Metal Type Newsletter and The APA Journal

The work is soothing, precise, and solid. The results are permanent, lasting, memorable.

This stuff is heavy equipment for people who never dreamed they could be smitten with a machine. But oh what beautiful machines they are, and their contribution to our world is incalculable.

If you don't have a printing press, but still prefer the permanence of hard copies of your writing, the AAPA might be for you. The American Amateur Press Association is an organization that furthers independent amateur journalism. Its members may be writers, poets, artists, printers, or publishers. All produce works in small editions: some photocopied, some mimeographed, some printed on a computer printer and some set in type and printed letterpress on an old hand-pulled Kelsey - some even produce pdf files suitable for end-user printing. These works are gathered together each month in bundles and sent out to each member, all across the USA and to some foreign lands.

Organizations like the APA and the AAPA were the precursor to blogs. Then as now, ordinary people needed a way to share their writing and thoughts with the wider world, and such organizations (there are others as well still in operation) filled that need quite nicely.

I love the internet and it is a blessing to all of us, but there will always be a need for the printed word. Each has its place and it is all good.

*The photo is of an etched copper plate, bearing a Thomas Carlyle quote "May Blessings be upon the Head of Cadmus, The Phoenicians, or Whoever It Was that Invented Books."

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Naturalist's Vintage Calendar

This page for the week of January 10 through 16 from the 1926 John Burrough's Calendar reads

"The apples that cling to the trees, the pods that hang to the lowest branches, and the seeds that the various weeds and grasses hold above the deepest snows, alone make it possible for many birds to pass the winter among us." From "Signs and Seasons"

Sunday, January 10, 2010

In God We Trust: Daily Life In America

I started this blog as a way to organize family recipes for the young bunch of our family, and that continues. It has also kind of evolved to include notes about traditional American life and culture, both as it was, and as it still is.

I avoid posting about politics here, aside from some links in the sidebar. Our political climate comes out of the ground of our culture. And our culture grows out of the daily lives of ordinary people. In a time of change, we can still choose to pace our own lives by natural rhythms, and this gives us a firm ground from which to select which of the modern elements we choose to take part in.

Towns like Mayberry still exist, even in the cities. And yes, we can still find ways to live real lives. America isn't in Washington, it's in our own neighborhood. As always, we have to build it ourselves.

America didn't come ready made from a foreign factory: it was built with our own two hands, walked with our own feet.

It is time today to remember that, and just start doing it again.

The photo on this post is a billboard outside of Granbury Texas, advertising Dublin Dr Pepper. Dublin, Texas, has an old bottling plant that still stubbornly uses the original recipe for Dr Pepper, including Imperial Pure Cane Sugar. The sign reads:

"Dublin Dr Pepper
In God We Trust"

No fanfare. Just a statement of one of the facts of American Life.

Psalm 56:4 (New International Version)

In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can mortal man do to me?

God Bless America. God Bless Texas. And God Bless All of Us.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Three Kings Cake For Epiphany, Vintage Bisque Dolls, & the Industrial Revolution

The Kings Cake celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men who brought gifts to baby Jesus. A tiny doll, or a coin or almond, is hidden in each cake and the person who gets that piece is king for the day, and believed to have luck all year. One piece of the kings cake is set aside, the "piece for the Virgin" to be given to the first needy person who comes to the door. That part of the tradition reminds us to be good neighbors - and that need may be right on our doorstep.

The Kings Cake isn't a tradition in our family, and that's unfortunate. It is for my grandson, because his stepdad Francis is from Louisiana, and he buys a King Cake every year. In the South - and especially in Louisiana - the King Cake tradition is an important part of the Mardi Gras season up until Lent.

When I found this simple recipe for one using canned cinnamon rolls, I decided to try it for our Christmas breakfast this year and it was a big hit. Traditionally, you'd have this cake on January 6th, Epiphany, which is "twelfth night" or "the twelfth day of Christmas". Click here to see the original recipe at

It is very easy to make your own colored sugar using food coloring, 3 separate little bowls (custard cups work great). I use toothpicks to stir with so I can just throw them away. Just stir one drop of color into a couple of teaspoons of regular granulated sugar until it's mixed in and the sugar is the color you want. Maybe two drops, but you don't need much. Red and blue mixed together (2 drops red, one blue) make purple.

Shape the canned cinnamon rolls into an oval ring, and hide a miniature baby doll in the dough. Bake as directed on the package, and use the icing that comes with it. After icing it, sprinkle with the 3 colors of sugar you made up, and serve immediately! Use 2 or more cans to serve more people. I used one of my tiny antique bisque dolls for this (an unpainted bisque one for safety since these are antique). Do be careful to warn everyone if you are using a bisque doll, so they won't break a tooth by biting it! Plastic would be better but I didn't have a plastic one.

You could also use a dried bean, a whole almond or a coin - that would be quite traditional and just as much fun. In fact, it is most likely that a coin or a bean probably were in use for centuries before the little "king babies" began to be used instead. These miniature dolls were called "pudding dolls" in England (because they were put into the Christmas pudding), and "feves" in France (Feve is french for Fava Bean, which originally represented the baby in French "Galettes des Rois" or "Couronne"). They might also be referred to as "santons", "Epiphany dolls" or "frozen charlottes" (although frozen charlottes are not always pudding dolls).

I'm no expert but the tradition of using a little doll probably started in the Victorian age. This is when the Industrial Revolution made mass production possible. Before the Industrial Revolution, most goods were handmade, and made locally. Only the wealthy could afford imported products made elsewhere that weren't necessary to life. But when machines began to be invented, the creation of factory jobs and markets meant ordinary people had money to spend on something other than necessities. Trinkets and toys were suddenly inexpensive to make and the availability of money generated more commerce - locally as well as between regions and nations.

In France, the tradition of the baby in the cake really took off, and whole sets of little people in different costumes, called "feves" were made and used in the cakes. The various costumes represented each of the people in the village, who also would have visited the baby Jesus during the Nativity. Bakeries encouraged sales by putting a different figure in each cake. I always wondered why the popularity of those little sets. Now we know what their original purpose was!

Most of my little porcelain and bisque figures were made in Germany or Japan in the 1920s through the 1950s. I wonder how many of them were originally used in Kings Cakes, here in the USA?


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