What it took to fill this woman’s heart: ‘Grandma, are you going to bake cookies?’

‘Tis the season!
Or: The Permanent Grandmotherly/Granddaughterly, Motherly/Sonly Record

Booklady: “My heart is full.

“This grandmother’s dream has been to pass along some treasured traditions to the next generation. Although my sons were happily involved in Christmas preparations as kids, enthusiasm for cookie-baking did not last. When our younger son died at the age of 21, some of the joy of the season left me, too. His daughter, just over a year old at the time, lived with us for a while and spent lots of time with us through the years.


“Fast-forward to this year, when our beautiful 20-year-old greeted me when we picked her up for a visit with ‘Grandma, are you going to bake cookies?’

“‘Not unless you help me,’ I replied, since a bum shoulder was keeping me from doing any heavy-duty stirring and cookie-dough rolling. Her happiness was palpable.

“The most important must-have Swedish cookie has to be rolled so thin ‘you can see the table through the dough,’ as my Swedish grandmother instructed my mom, who taught me. I was sure this would be too tasking for Sharisha. I needn’t have worried. She toiled with the rolling pin for over two hours while I placed the cookies on the sheets and handled the oven detail.

“We talked and laughed and made our new Christmas memories — and I could feel the presence of Mom and Grandma looking over our shoulders, and yes, Sharisha’s dad, who loved Christmas himself.”

Puck talk

Hudson Grandmama: “I like to bake. I like to try new recipes. I have lots of pans, bowls and utensils of varying sizes. And I don’t mind occasionally buying an ingredient that I don’t usually stock.

“But every time I read a Wolfgang Puck recipe in the Pioneer Press, I just throw up my hands and wonder if this guy has ever baked anything in a regular kitchen in a regular house in a town without a gourmet food store. For example: Last week’s cookie recipe sounded intriguing . . . until the directions said to roll the dough into balls, place on cookie sheets and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight. Really? I don’t know anyone who has enough space in their refrigerator for two or three cookie sheets. Well, maybe if you could lay the sheets on their sides, but then the cookies would slide off — which I’m sure is not the intention. This direction leads me to believe that Mr. Puck does his baking in a kitchen with a large walk-in refrigerator with many empty shelves.

“The recipe in today’s paper for a bread pudding calls for cage-free eggs. If the eggs I have on hand are not cage-free, will the recipe be a complete disaster? And then I’d need a 4-inch-by-9-inch baking dish. Maybe he’s approximating, because I don’t have one that exact size. Nor do I have another one with higher sides to use as a water bath in the oven.

“I guess I’ll have to stick with what I know, using what I have on hand. Who knows whom I could have impressed if I announced that I used cage-free eggs?”

The little treasures
‘Tis the Season Division


The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “This photo was taken on Christmas Eve in 1952, the year before my sister and I were married. Our four older siblings and their accumulated eight children (all under the age of 12) had left, and as we started to clean up the mess they left behind, my dad and mom saw a photo op in the making. Mom glared at the Santa in her hand as Dad lamented at the empty gift-wrapping debris — while poor rejected Ingridita stood sadly behind them, waiting to be given away the next year.”

‘Tis the season (still!)

Little Sister: “One of my first and favorite Christmas memories was watching in fascination a contraption we called Swedish Angel Chimes.

“My Scandinavian parents had one that they would religiously take out for the holidays and center on the dining-room table.



“As the candles burn, the heat rises and spins the thin brass-plated steel angels, which gently ring the Christmas Bells.

“I don’t know what happened to my parents’ chimes, but quite a few years ago I found one in a Swedish gift shop that I bought for myself. Whenever I light the candles, I think of my dad explaining to me how it worked. I was too little to really understand, but in my own young mind I imagined it had less to do with science and more to do with Christmas magic.”

‘Tis the season! (responsorial)

OTD from NSP: “I think we all (or at least the women) can relate to Wicki-Yah from the Harley Household and her Christmas preparations [BB, 12/24/2016].

“We may have different traditions, but there are some things that CAN’T be changed  — that must be there even if no one actually wants to eat it (green Jell-O reference I can understand).

“I make a resolution to get organized and make the holidays easier on myself, and I am still up at 4:30 a.m. to start something in the kitchen — and, while up, dust/vacuum/whatever for just a few minutes (and all of a sudden two hours have passed). I need to finish wrapping the gifts I bought yesterday or the day before (saw something Grandkid1 would love, so needed something for Grandkids2-4 to make it even).

“I may have spent the previous three days ‘getting things ready,’ but there is always something else to do.

“Sometimes I think the best day is the day after, when I can leisurely clean up the mess, do dishes as I feel like it, take a nap and relax, because no one is going to see the mess except me.

“But I wouldn’t want to miss Christmas and all the things it entails for the world.

“Hope everyone has a joyous holiday season.”

See world

Wild Bill of River Falls, Wisconsin: “Watching critters gave me a story worthy of Aesop.

“I’ve been clearing an area on my lawn and spreading a mixture of corn and sunflower seeds there daily. One squirrel (call it Alpha) has adopted the area.

“Yesterday a crow kept trying to land there, but Alpha squirrel would run at its legs and chase it away. This went on for some time. Then a second squirrel (Beta) came over. This further enraged Alpha squirrel, who chased Beta squirrel over the snow banks, across the street, and up and down a neighbor’s tree. While this was happening, the crow landed delicately, and proceeded to eat its fill.

“Moral of the tale: If you fight instead of share, a crow will eat your corn.”

Life as we know it

Al B of Hartland: “The human mind can hold only so much. We forget important things in order to make room for useless information such as a junior-high-school locker combination.

“Forgetfulness can be frightening. Each of us has walked into a room and been unable to remember why. My Christmas wish for each and every one of you is that you never forget why you walked into a bathroom.”

Mixed messages

Donald: “Subject: Did Kool & The Gang perform at halftime?

‘From ‘SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE’ in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated: ‘North Carolina Central lost the Celebration Bowl 10-9 because of a blocked extra-point attempt that was pushed back by an excessive-celebration penalty.’”

Our theater of seasons


Writes Doris G. of Randolph, Minnesota: “When will it fall?”

Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon?
Plus: The Zucchini Wars of Winter

Friday, December 23rd email from thetravlor: “B-M: Yesterday in the hard-copy Pioneer Press, the cartoon ‘Mutts’ talked about ‘Figgy Puddin’.’ As you turn the page, there is a recipe for Figgy Pudding, and today I got an email heading for it. A triple-header!

“I seriously had never heard of it before then.”

Farmer Jeff: “OK, I will confess that I have never completely understood the B-M Phenomenon, and I’m not sure I would recognize one if it slapped me in the face. Nevertheless, I was slapped in the face today by a seemingly similar phenomenon that must come fairly close to being a B-M Phenomenon.

“While minding my own business and reading Thursday’s Pioneer Press comics, I noticed that the cat in the ‘Mutts’ comic was asking a store proprietor for figgy pudding. I must admit that I was rather flummoxed by the word ‘figgy,’ failing to realize the obvious: that  it was referring to figs. Nevertheless, while continuing to mind my own business, and remaining perplexed by the word ‘figgy,’ I turned the newspaper page only to find an article entitled ‘Figgy pudding to Wassail: Eating Christmas Carols.’ So anyway, if that’s not a B-M phenomenon, then it’s just plain old weird. I must also admit that I may perhaps be the only individual who’s never heard the word ‘figgy.’ [Bulletin Board rules: Alas, since figgy pudding is a traditional Christmas dessert and this is the Christmas season, that’s no B-M for either Farmer Jeff or thetravlor. The originator of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, Gigetto on Lincoln, specifically noted that seasonal juxtapositions are to be expected and therefore do not qualify as suitably inexplicable. Sorry! Too bad you didn’t see consecutive “figgy pudding” references in, say, July!]

“At any rate, I am also pleased to report news from the front regarding the Zucchini Wars of Winter 2016: that being that thanks to the winter cold, neither head nor tail nor hide nor hair of a zucchini has been seen in months. A true reason for gratitude and celebration in and of itself. Thank the Lord that they still haven’t figured out how to come up with a Christmas dish involving the dreaded zucchini.

“Christmas zucchini: Now there’s a nightmare concept if I’ve ever heard one.”

Fun facts to know and tell
Baseball Division

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: And worth every penny!

“A ‘FACT’ from my Twins’ page-a-day calendar: ‘The Twins’ logo of two players shaking hands across a river, which lights up over center field at Target Field, was created by freelance illustrator and cartoonist Ray Barton. Twins owner Clark Griffith commissioned the work in 1960 and reportedly paid Barton $15 for his design.’”

Our theater of seasons
Including: Our pets, ourselves

Monday email from Cat’s (Cats’, seems like) Mom of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin: “It’s a windy day in western Wisconsin. The bird feeder blew down before I could rescue it, but it did not break. The cats are happy to stay inside and sleep. I am already tired of the bleak midwinter. I am looking forward to spring and watching my newly planted flowerbeds bloom. A huge poplar tree blew down in a wind storm three years ago. When we had the stump ground down, I looked at the result and left it for mulch. Two years later, I had a nice pile of compost and we erected a raised bed around it. The iris were moved to their new sunny spot last summer, along with new ones and some lily bulbs. I am really looking forward to the blooms. Yes, I will send a picture when they do. But for now, here are the lazy cats.”



Our community of strangers

Mrs. Patches of St. Paul: “I posted to Facebook the December 23 link, with this thought: ‘This is a place of sharing among neighbors, most of whom have never met in person, or even know who each other is! The site began as a column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and is now its own site, with more room for stories, links and pictures. Today’s “Website of the Day” [Kids’ view of the Christmas story] is a wonderful view of Christmas from the mouths of children. We are to “come as a child” and these kids have the meaning there, even if the details may not be quite as we remember the story. Please look at it and enjoy. (Sometimes, I contribute to this page, too . . . I am “Mrs. Patches of St Paul.”)’

“I hope many of my friends will begin following ‘BB,’ too!”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: The more, the merrier! Thank you.

Our community strangers
And: What’s in a handle?

Email: “One of this happy band mused about the origin of our ‘handles,’ our BB names. I’m Chief Slippery Hands, and I suspect many other BB fathers with daughters will recognize that this is the form for the names in the YMCA Indian Princess organization. Usually, the dads use a name which captures part of their persona. One of my fellow chiefs was a notoriously difficult professor at our local university and he was Chief Growly Bear. Me? I’m an obstetrician-gynecologist.”

In memoriam

The Bitter and Disgrunted Guy from Andover: “My niece texted me yesterday to tell me that George Michael had died. This one hit me hard, and I am not sure of all the reasons, but I understand some of them. I think one of the things that hit me was that he was 53, the same age I am. He also suffered from depression, which affects so many people these days, me included. I just don’t know.

“I was not a Wham! fan at all. Some of their songs were catchy, but they all seemed to be written for teenage girls. I may have wrote about this before, but a long while ago, my niece and I began to play this game. It started one Christmas Eve when we sang the ‘Last Christmas’ song together as a family, and were cracking up at the whispering lines in some of the places. It evolved to my niece and I calling each other any time one of us heard the song.

“One year, I took a picture of myself in front of our big-screen TV, and the video of the song was paused in the background at a point where George Michael was sitting in front of a fireplace with his fist positioned under his chin, contemplating a woman who was the object of his affections. I assumed the same pose in front of this background. I printed off an 8-by-10 and then put some money behind it, and put it in a picture frame as my niece’s gift that year. I also autographed it. When she opened it, she wondered if I was truly nuts, (I am), but then she caught on and started laughing. I told her about the money, and she was happy. She still has that photo these many years later.

“Every year, I get her gag gifts with one real one nearby. As God as my witness, I went online this year and looked for authentic George Michael-autographed photos, and had to pass when they turned out to be about $500.

“When my friend Mike and I were finishing my basement, it happened to be during the holiday season. We always listened to the Christmas station, and whenever this song came on, I would sing it all the way through, with the whispers, and he grew to hate it. Maybe love/hate is a better word. On our trip to Green Bay this year, we were listening to Christmas music, and I said that the best thing would be if ‘Last Christmas’ came on the radio for Mike. Two minutes later, it was on the radio, so I blasted it and sang it again for him.

“The saddest part of all, to me, was that he died on Christmas. On top of that, they say that he died in his sleep and it was natural. I am sure there will be more to come out, but it seems surreal to me. It is hard for us ‘normal’ people to understand the pain and hurt that celebrities feel. We tend to think that money takes a lot of life’s problems away. The problem usually is that with all that money, they can afford to indulge in a ton of different expensive, and illegal, substances. Too many talented people have died that way. Maybe that is what makes me sad.

“The tradition will continue. I promise you, it will continue! But today I am saddened by his death.”

Vanity, thy name is  . . . (responsorial)

Donald: “In the December 18 Bulletin Board, the license plate ‘JEZABEL’ was mentioned as possibly having a derogatory connotation. When I read that, the lyrics of Frankie Laine’s early ’50s version of ‘Jezebel’ came to mind:

“‘If ever the devil was born, without a pair of horns,

“‘It was you, Jezebel, it was you.

“‘If ever an angel fell, Jezebel, it was you …'” ‘

“It would be interesting to know the back story of that plate.”

Or: Found and . . .  lost?

Peggy T of Osceola, Wisconsin: “Subject: Items left behind.

“One of our sons has held various jobs working in the post office, driving bus, and others. His latest job is cleaning trains.

“One of the items that he found left behind was half a bra. It was cut in half, and he had no idea what it was used for.”


Band Name of the Day: Aesop’s Squirrels

Website of the Day: Wham!’s “Last Christmas”

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