A Step Back.

Here are wayward snapshots from Thanksgiving, way too many pictures of the girls sitting on a be-curtained, living room couch (non-relatives: permission to skim; McGamma: the dresses are gorgeous!), and some new snapshots-- chocolate-infused-- from yesterday.

I've yet to make four more kinds of cookies (one is cooling and one is in the works) and rum creams, but I've just about had it with baking and confecting. Last night at two in the morning I ran low on chocolate chips, so I ended my candy-making for the night. Now it's nearly two in the afternoon, John arrives home in an hour, and, shortly thereafter, we leave for Nanticoke! Hurrah! (If only we had vacation days to visit the much-loved and much-missed Owens in Long Island, too, that "hurrah" would have been a double hurrah...)

We take with us about 20 pounds of freshly-made chocolates, one batch of toffee bar cookies (and if I get cracking, the rest of the cookies, too), and a carload of gifts for us and them.

Last night, after celebrating Advent, putting the girls to bed, and newly befogged in a candy-making haze, my mother reminded me over the phone that all this peripheral pomp and circumstance doesn't matter one whit. I needed the reminder-- me and my chocolate-smeared face both. (No need to ask the reason for chocolate smudges near my mouth...)

So let us rejoice in the Lord of all that was, that is, and that will be, Who clothed Himself in human skin to walk among us! Hallelujah!

Mary's Song

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest...
you who have had so far
to come.) Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled
a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.

His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world.
Charmed by dove's voices, the whisper of straw,
he dreams,
hearing no music from his other sphere.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed
who overflowed all skies,
all years.
Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth
for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

- Luci Shaw

First Coming

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

- Madeleine L'Engle

My mom saved some delicious, ugly apples, stored outside in blankets. We made 27 quarts of chunky and smooth applesauce, 5 quarts of apple butter, and a five pints or so of apple jelly. (Actually, mom made the last two batches of smooth applesauce without me lifting a finger to help because I was editing my brother's fascinating paper on TR and the Panama Canal...)

some pies.

I went to my friend's White Coat Ceremony at Cornell. She's now nearing the end of her veterinary studies! (I passed some of the time taking pictures of as many bald heads as were in range, which may be the reason why my camera had no battery power left when I wanted to take a picture of white-coated Mags later.)

"Someone" uses his stapler as a bulletin board, as I discovered when I went to staple something.

Brother Luke came home from school with new glasses!



I kept accidentally leading Millie into the thorn trees when we were sledding.

She hides my pregnant form quite well, eh?

Debbie and Millie on their way to the barn.

I dread the day that Apache dies. He is 29 years old and looks like the hoary-headed old man that he is.

Millie helped feed the horses (and the pony)

good old Gimli

Brother Joel putting on winter tires.

Watch out, here comes a glut of Christmas couch pictures..

two girls.

and another


cocked head


finally, a grin.





Merry Christmas!

One of John's coworkers gave him an enormous roll of paper. So cool!

I gave Millie, normally clothed, a spatula to lick. Five minutes later, I hear her in the living room saying, "Oh, my beautiful faerie crown..." In short order, she'd changed her clothes and revamped some Christmas decorations to become a sloppy faerie.

millie points out that annie, too, has eaten chocolate



orange zest

chocolate sampling, counter-clockwise from upper left: sweet cocoa-dusted espresso truffles, peanut butter buckeyes, and nut rocha

from left: white-chocolate drizzle-dipped raspberry truffles, peppermint crunch balls, sugar-dusted orange truffles, (confectioner's) sugar-dusted dark chocolate mint truffles, and sponge in the center.

chocolate sponge (not the kind I'd thought the recipe made, but good enough)

chocolate covered cherry jellies



How does one, in the thick of things, get stuck on sweet confections?

I have so very much to do in the next week and a half, little of which I'll accomplish without divine intervention, but I'm (weather appropriate) frozen on one thing.

So, quickly now.

If you like chocolates and candies and gummy things, pick your knee-jerk reaction, "that sounds good," top 10 picks from the list below.


1. peanut butter buckeye balls (creamy peanut butter inside coated with semisweet)
2. mint balls (peppermint patty meets candy cane crunch coated in semisweet chocolate)
3. nut rocha (toffee layered with chocolate sprinkled with almond pieces)
4. sponge candy (light, airy, melting crunch of inside covered with semisweet choc.)
5. spiced nuts (pecans, walnuts, and maybe almonds toasted, spicy hot with cayenne...and sweet with Christmas spices)
6. Sugared nuts (same as above, only toasted spicy sweet only..nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, etc.) OR
7. dark chocolate mint bark with white swirls
8. pecan-caramel "turtles"
9. jellies (cherry, mint, vanilla, anise, etc.)
10. cinnamon hard candy
11. butter mints
12. chocolate-chip-cookie truffles (cookie dough truffle inside wrapped in semisweet)
13. crunchy praline nuts (kind of like brittle, only with more nuts and less brittle)
14. tiger bark (peanut butter, white, and semisweet chocolate)
15. chocolate covered cherry jellies
16. espresso truffle (dark chocolate ganache with the crunch of roasted coffee, rolled in sweet cocoa powder or nuts)
17. almond truffle (smooth almond-chocolate ganache rolled in chopped almonds)
18. raspberry (melting raspberry-dark chocolate ganache center rolled in sweet cocoa or nuts or dipped in semisweet or white chocolate)
19. maple cream (covered with semisweet)
20. lemon cream (covered with semisweet)
21. orange cream (covered with semisweet)
22. rum cream (covered with semisweet)
23. coffee cream (covered with semisweet)
24. rum truffle (rum-flavored chocolate ganache covered with whatever)
25. mint truffle (mint-flavored dark chocolate ganache rolled in confectioner's sugar)
26. chocolate-orange truffle (dark chocolate ganache flavored with orange oil and orange zest)
27. hand-pulled taffy (peppermint, anise, cinnamon, lemon, orange, raspberry, molasses, etc.)

Do you see why I'm frozen?

Narrow my focus a bit, please, with your favorites.


In Passing.

Nearly a month's march later, I return to blogdom with a slew of snapshots. (Marches of much, in truth.)

Fall has swept in and out again, leaving us with a sharp and lively memory.

Sharper yet is the wind that now rushes at our windows. The Nixie has discovered the bite of handheld snow in bare palm, and--the glee!--Millie has renewed her acquaintance with snow-stomping. Both gladly share their wonder in the newness of it all, and our receiving of the same tempers the bleak gray and early morning slushiness.

John continues his steady whittling away of school tasks; only three weeks 'til the mountain crumbles! The road to prison comes ever closer...

Baby Berry is a contained jig, a constant note of life in this season of sleep. I welcome the jut of hand and foot and, grinning, watch my belly jump in rhythm. God is good, and we delight in the burst of life curled close within.

Our rear downstairs neighbor is moving to a new home tomorrow. We will miss her generous spirit and monotony-breaking visits. She takes with her Mr. Washer and Mrs. Dryer, so be awatch for snapshots of the local laundromat to attend the rest. This morning I wistfully placed the final two loads inside those magical machines... I am grateful that, because of her generosity, we haven't had to set foot in the laundromat for the past year and a half--something I should remember as I grumble my laundry-laden way in ice and snow. Oh, and she also gave us her table and chairs! No longer do the four of us have to squeeze ourselves, food, and condiments on a two-and-a-half by two-and-a-half foot table! Hurrah!

More bright spots--
Dude, Dudette, and Sarah Owen visited a few weeks ago. It was so good to visit and laugh with them again, and to enjoy the company of long-distant loved ones we see too rarely. Dude replaced the starter on our comatose car while John finished some schoolwork, and we're grateful to have extra wheels again. They showered us with gifts, goods, and a hearty helping of love, and I blame Dudette and a certain Honey-baked Ham (not my lack of self-control) for adding more weight to my ponderous frame.

We leave today to visit the Johnson clan in Nanticoke (not the whole clan, as all the other married siblings celebrate elsewhere this year). John plans to deliver three girls before driving back to Buffalo to finish up the Big Papers he has yet to write. It seems awfully unfair that he has to toil for a week and a half while we girls play and visit and (hopefully) go sledding, but when he comes to pick us up, he'll be ours in earnest! When we meet again, he'll be finished with school, and he can rest from the juggling act of the last year-and-a-half.

I'm off to take Cran-Orange Bread and Pumpkin-Raisin Nut Bread out of the oven. Our entire apartment smells edible.

P.S. One last oddly-placed joint for this disjointed post.
I've posted the recipes of last week's culinary adventure on buildabelly, so if you're the baking kind, take a peek.

I'd never imagined or heard of such a thing until we moved to town. A giant vacuum cleaner on wheels!

Gone, all gone.

There's a house down the street from us called "Frank's Place." Every holiday, or even the tiniest whisper of a holiday or season change, transforms the house, its alleyway, and the trees in front in a splendid display of tacky plastic and day-glo color. We like to walk by from time to time to marvel over it.

The windows aren't for looking out of, of course, they're just clear walls on which to hang things.

Ah, let's see you step up those front steps, eh?

She loved the color while it lasted.

We like to duck-watch on the busy bridge. The big-wheelers make the bridge shiver under us.

The river...alas, no ducks here.

The way home. (But still 10 minutes from our crowded street...)

A bathroom break for Mildred means a snapshot of Annika and I. (This outdated photo doesn't reveal the truth of my growing double chin, which now weighs about as much as Baby Berry, estimated at around 2 pounds.)

Millie got a bike for 2 dollars, and she's a speed demon. (On a side note, she picked out outfits for herself and Annika this day.)

Ah, those good ol', balmy days when we could wear hats with skirts over pants...

John's sister Sarah brought home the girls some beautiful dresses from her last missions trip. Millie calls them "dancing dresses," and she and Annie wear them several times a week to dance to Mother Goose Melodies.

Getting prepared to...