Easy Chair Gardener

Sing a song of Winter,
The world stops dead;
Under snowy coverlid
Flowers lie abed.
Cosmo Monkhouse (1840–1901)
They’ve been appearing in the mailbox, sometimes more than one a day, since before Christmas.
 Some have been leafed through, some just tossed on top of the growing pile for later perusal.
They keep coming, with their "buy me, buy me" plant covers,
and probably will till sometime in late spring
when they’ll be replaced by catalogues with enticements
 to buy bulbs, or pansies or mums for the fall garden.
With snow covering the ground, and still falling to cover it some more,
for over a month, no spirit has moved me to sit down,
with catalogue in hand, and imagine the photographed hollyhocks, larkspur, and foxglove
making lovely in my own garden.
And Gurneys is offering $25 worth of products for free, Van Bourgondien $50!
 But anytime now the garden bug will bite, and those catalogues will be scoured, from front to back,
for some new plant or seed, for something desired but not yet possessed.
 Lists will be made. Maybe some new groundcovers or grasses will catch the eye.
 Costs will be calculated. Can just one more be squeezed into the order?-
Then, the least valued plants will be eliminated, but kept in mind for next year’s rotation.
Ebay will be scoured, and the internet searched for the best bargains and sales
on plants for shade, plants for wet, and plants for sun or dry.
Into the wee hours the process will continue to reach the exact amount that assures free shipping –
or at least a free gift for a certain amount of purchase.
Before the season is over, late arriving catalogues will be warning of 
one last chance to get 10%, 20% or more off purchases and throwing in free plants galore.
 "Hurry", the front covers will warn, in gigantic, glaring letters, "this offer will soon be expiring."
"Be the envy of your gardening friends. Don’t miss this chance to have the most gorgeous garden in your neighborhood." 
At some point, probably soon, the bait will be taken and an order, or two or three or more, will be made. 
Long, cold, snowy winters do that to itchy, stifled gardeners.
They become easy chair gardening freaks, flipped out fanatics via plant catalogue.

Only a sampling of what passes through the mail!

Posted in Word Rambles - Just Talking | 4 Comments

One Raggy To Stay and One Raggy to Go

Five small ones had already been made from several plaid flannels of different colors found in the fabric stash. Time was passed, during the winter of ’09, putting them together. Flannel was cut, sewed, snipped and washed to remove as many of the tiny threads as possible.
Scraps of flannel, and bits of fuzz covered the floors of the little house at the head of the valley, and snipped threads clung to stockinged feet. Somehow, the remnants of sewing made their way to every room in the house. How did that triangle shaped plaid get to the bathroom? How did that ziggy zaggy piece get to the front porch? No! What is that in the fridge?
By the end of January, after much snipping and numb, sore fingers, everyone in the family had their raggy quilt, with the exception of one. The time for that wouldn’t be found till the end of the year, right before Christmas.
Over several months flannel had been collected in colors that might please a little girl. Little thought was given to how large Little Gal’s raggy quilt would be when the flannel purchases were made. A variety of patterns and colors was the goal.
When the time came to begin cutting the yards of material into blocks, there was much more than needed for one raggy quilt for one little gal.
What to do? What to do? Make two. One to take home, and one to keep in the top bunk at Grandma’s.
More cutting and sewing but much easier snipping (with the purchase of spring tension scissors) and Little Gal found two large boxes containing her very own raggy quilts under the tree on Christmas morning. One raggy quilt (mostly pink) went home, and one raggy quilt (lots of colors) stayed behind at Grandma’s.
 Probably the easiest quilt you can make.
 How to Make A Rag, Raggy, Raggie or Raggedy Quilt (or Blanket)
Posted in Hobbies | 8 Comments

A New Year and A Blue Moon

Sarah Doudney (1841-1926)
Good-bye, kind year,
we walk
no more together,
But here in quiet happiness
we part.
Tonight, New Year’s Eve, there will be a full moon – 
the second full moon for this December, 2009.
Called a "Blue Moon", if the sky is clear, which it hasn’t been today,
we’ll see how blue it is or isn’t.
Once in a blue moon it does happen.
Another "Blue Moon", the musical variety, turns up more often than once in a blue moon in most performer’s repertoires.
Is there anybody who sings who hasn’t sung "Blue Moon"?
It’s been used in a doo-wop ditty:
and an unusual pairing of Mel Torme and Elvis Presley:
and this skip-a-heartbeat tune by Chris Isaak:
The perfect song For this New Year’s Eve, 2009, has to be "Blue Moon".
A Blue Moon on New Year’s Eve is very rare.
It won’t happen again until 2028.
With any luck at all, by then, I’ll still be around,
but a doddering old lady.
Actually, some say the Blue Moon will bring good luck 
to anyone who stands and bathes in its moonbeams.
May your sky be clear, no cloud in view –
May you see the moon, and may it be blue.
Happy New Year from the Valley!

Blue moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Blue moon
You knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for 
Someone I really could care for

And then suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms could ever hold
I heard somebody whisper ‘please adore me’
But when I looked, that moon had turned to gold 

Blue moon
Now I’m no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Posted in Holiday | 4 Comments

Candy or Fudge?

From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:
 CANDY, a confection made with sugar and often flavoring and filling
FUDGE, a soft creamy candy made typically of sugar, milk, butter, and flavoring
Well, in my family, we didn’t call it fudge. It was chocolate candy to us.
Though we weren’t wrong, to be more exact, we should have called it fudge.
I remember one or the other of my two older brothers next to me,
 the oldest brothers had been long gone by now, and my memories of them are weak,
I remember one or the other of them sitting on a stool, close to the gas stove,
stirring candy with a metal spoon.
I don’t remember that we had any wooden spoons in our house back then.
Sometimes they would add peanut butter to the mixture when they took it from the stove, sometimes not.
Maybe that depended on whether there was any peanut butter in the house at the time.
They never added nuts. My memory doesn’t hold a place for nuts.
Nuts probably would have been a distraction to them.
Cracking and chopping, that would have taken too much time and effort.
And I doubt that my mother would have had packaged nuts on the shelf.
I don’t remember that they were selfish with the candy they made.
I don’t remember being rationed or not allowed to have any.
If I was allowed to be a glutton, I don’t remember that either. Probably not.
In our house, there were too many hands reaching for a piece for anybody to get too hoggish about it. 
When I became of candy making age, I remember stirring it and dropping it from a spoon into cold water (and I remember adding ice to the bowl of water I used) to check for the soft ball stage.
There is no memory of a candy thermometer being in my mother’s kitchen during those years.
This was always the tricky part of candy making for me.
Sometimes I got it just right, and the candy would be creamy and smooth, a wonderful texture and delicious.
But, then, there were other times when I didn’t get it right, and it would either be a sticky, gooey mess or a dry, grainy batch of hard, brown "stuff".
I don’t remember that I ate much of the candy when my culinary effort resulted in failure.
 But, my younger brother probably did.
The recipe my family used when we made chocolate candy was on the back of the H**shey cocoa box.
 I haven’t made that candy, or even thought about it, for a long, long time until this recipe came my way.
 It comes from a guy named Mike.
He calls it "Dirt Farmer Fudge".
 But it could just as well be "Mountaineer Fudge" or "Prairie Fudge", or "Seaside Fudge", or "City Fudge"
or any number of other fudge names.
It’s the same or similar to the one my family used. 
It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that just about everybody growing up during the fifties and sixties
 in twentith century America
 made fudge exactly like it using the recipe on the back of the H**shey cocoa box. 
Dirt Farmer Fudge

6 cups sugar
1  1/3 cup H**shey’s cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
1 stick butter or margarine
1/2 to 3/4 pound walnuts

1.  Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large sauce pan, at least 4 quart. 

When you boil the fudge it rises a lot!

2.  Pour in the milk and mix it with the dry ingredients. 

It won’t mix well until you start to heat it, but mix it the best you can.

3.  Place over medium heat and stir constantly until it comes to a bubbly boil. 

Once it starts boiling you can stop stirring.

4.  While the fudge is boiling grease a 9" by 12" glass dish with butter. 

Get the rest of the ingredients ready. 

You’ll add them to the fudge as soon as you remove it from the heat. 

Layout a hot pad for the hot pan when it comes off the stove.

5.  It’s a lot easier if you spoon out the peanut butter onto a small saucer

so when it’s time to add it to the fudge you can just push it off the saucer into the hot fudge.  

If you don’t like peanut butter or nuts, just leave them out. 

Dirt Farmer Fudge is still kick butt without them!

6.  Keep an eye on the boiling fudge and start checking it for consistency. 

As it boils it will thicken. 

If you under cook it you will have a sticky glob that will never harden. 

If you over cook it you might not even get it out of the pan.  

Or if you over cook it, it will set up almost immediately when you pour it

which means that it will not be creamy and it will be too dry,

and I’ll be really disappointed in you. 

Okay, maybe it won’t be that bad, but you’ll never know how good this fudge is when cooked perfectly.

7.  Test the fudge by dropping a small amount into a dish of cold water. 

When it is done perfectly it will puddle in the bottom of the dish

and you’ll be able to push it into a small pile with your finger

then you should be able to pick it up between two fingers. 

Test the fudge early and often.

If it can’t be picked up, rinse the dish and add fresh cold water and test it again soon.  

It takes a while for it to boil down to the perfect consistency,

and there is a fine line between over cooking and under cooking it. 

Check if often.

8.  As soon as the fudge is done remove the pan from the stove and place it on a hot pad. 

Immediately add the butter, the vanilla, the walnuts and the peanut butter. 

Do Not Stir it Yet!

9.  Just let the fudge cool a bit. 

This is a critical and scary time

but you really want it to cool down to about 140 degrees Fahrenheit

which means that you can almost place your hands on the outside of the pan without burning them. 

Please be careful, do not stick your finger in the fudge and only put your hands near the outside of the pan.

10.  Once the fudge has cooled some, start stirring it. 

As you stir it, the fudge will thicken and lose it’s gloss. 

Get ready to pour quickly once that happens. 

Sometimes you barely get the peanut butter mixed by the time the fudge is ready to pour into the dish.

11.  Pour the fudge into the dish and quickly push it into the corners of the dish

then quit smoothing the fudge. 

The top will set up quickly,

but if you’ve cooked it perfectly the rest of the fudge will need several hours,

up to 24 hours to really set up completely.

This makes a really moist fudge

so I cut it into small squares and place it in a container or onto a serving tray. 

Often times the bottom of the pieces will stay moist

so I lay a paper towel in the bottom of the tray to help wick away some of that excess moisture. 

I stack it on the tray with a little space between the pieces so the edges can air dry

but inside the fudge is nice and moist.

When done perfectly, Dirt Farmer Fudge is to die for!


H**SHEY’S Baking Tips Library

Scroll down for Fudge & Candy making tips.


Posted in Holiday | 5 Comments

High Kicking on the Kanawha

When was I first aware of them?
I don’t remember. Many, many years back.
How did I become aware of them?
I don’t know. It had to have come from television.
Maybe The Ed Sullivan Show. Ummm…
From whatever time and place my awareness began,
I’ve always wanted to see them – not on film or TV,
but live, up close and personal.
This past summer an email came from the Civic Center
 in our capital city.
In December, they would be there
with their Christmas Spectacular
for a special, live performance.
My dream, less then three hours away!
So, on Monday, off we went, driving south to the river city.
With excitement and great joy,
Little Gal, her mother and I sat eight rows back, CENTER,
and watched the amazing talents of
The Radio City Music Hall Rockettes!
In her second year of dancing lessons, Little Gal watched,
entranced with the dancers.
In her mother’s words, her eyes were large as saucers.
"There’s one with red hair, Grandma."
Sure enough!
Bouncing around on my arthritic knee , (oh, yeah!) she did some
shoulder dipping along with the Rockettes and lots of clapping.
The "my hands are sore" kind of clapping.
"When we get back to the hotel, I’m going to show you and Mommy
how high I can kick."
And so she did.
Another high kicking performance on the Kanawha.
We got an enormous kick out of The Rockettes and Little Gal, too.
In the Lobby
We weren’t allowed to take pictures during the show.
This is what we saw.
Posted in Holiday | 3 Comments

Driving Home For Christmas

I remember, so many years ago, being far away from family and driving home for Christmas . I remember, too, when I was still a young girl, how wonderful it was when one or more of my brothers were able  to bring their families and  drive home  to us for Christmas.
Now, my sons , with  their families , drive into the valley and home for Christmas.
If there is nobody for you to drive home to this Christmas, I hope somebody is making plans to drive  home to you.
Merry Christmas from the Valley
Driving Home For Christmas.
by Chris Rea
I’m driving home for Christmas
Oh, I can’t wait to see those faces
I’m driving home for Christmas, Yea
Well, I’m moving down that line
And it’s been so long
But I will be there
I sing this song
To pass the time away
Driving in my car
Driving home for Christmas
It’s Gonna take some time
But I’ll get there
Top to toe in tailbacks
Oh, I Got red lights  all around
But soon there’ll be a freeway, yea
Get My feet on holy ground
So I sing for you
Though you can’t hear me
When I get through
And feel you near me
Driving in my car
I’m Driving home for Christmas
Driving Home For Christmas
With a thousand memories
I take  a look at the driver next to me
He’s just the same
Just the same
Top to toe in tailbacks
Oh, I got red lights all around
I’m Driving home for Christmas, yea
Get my feet on holy ground
So I sing for you
Though you can’t hear me
When I get through
Oh, And feel you near me
Driving in my car
Driving home for Christmas
Driving home for Christmas
With a thousand memories
I Take a look at the driver next to me
He’s just the same
He’s driving home , driving home
Driving home for Christmas 

How much time do you have?
Can You Choose a Favorite?
Michael Ball has a beautiful rendition, too, but I can’t find a video.
Chris Rea  (He wrote it and sings it very well – I love it)
Mike Denver (Sounds a little bit country…or Irish – I like it)
Ed Rambeau (Remember him? – He’s still singing!)
Brane Kac (Love the craggy voice)
Piet Veerman (OK, but a bit formal for me)
Peter Van De Velde (Not too bad, but not the best)
Fady Maalouf (Believe he is German)
Posted in Holiday | 8 Comments

Merry Christmas To You All

Up the valley, at the home place, there is no computer, no TV, the radio only works if it’s pointed in the right direction, and cell phones don’t work at all. Spending a few days up there leaves you out of touch with the outside world. Coming back down the valley, it’s always surprising how little’s been missed.

Because of work schedules, our family Christmas will come two days early, and the gathering place is almost ready. Just a little more baking, a few things to wrap, and a touch of cleaning will make the house holiday ready.

The cottage on the back road will be occupied again by the end of the week. Until then have the happiest of holidays with your family and friends. Much love is sent to each one of you from my little valley in the mountains.

A Blessed Christmas to You All!


Little Gal’s Christmas Fashion Show

(She does wear shoes!)



Baking Sugar Cookies

(Sorry, no time for the story)


Riding the Christmas Train

(Oops, we lost Santa Claus!)


Posted in Holiday | 33 Comments

Little Gal Gets Her Guy – 2008

When the weather turns cold in the valley,

and Christmas lights start twinkling

on houses in the village,

the quest begins.

Every year the anxiety and excitement mounts

until a new guy is added to Little Gal’s collection.

It’s been so since the year of her birth,

when the first guy came into her life

and shocked her mother at his size

and the rest of the family

because he looked so bazaar.

He was the size of Little Gal,

and then some.

She wasn’t quite two months old.


To find the perfect guy for Little Gal,

the Internet is searched,

the pattern box is searched

and Grandma’s cluttered mind is searched.

Because it can’t be just any guy.

It has to be the right guy

for Grandma’s Little Gal.

Sometimes a pattern is used,

Or, sometimes Grandma dreams up one of her own.

This year’s guy came from a picture chosen

From all the pictures of guys

saved and kept in a folder.


A pattern was drawn,

then enlarged onto tissue paper.

Cut from muslin dyed a gingerbread tan,

Little Gal’s guy took shape

with well stuffed

legs, arms, body and head.

Clothed in a vest with holiday theme,

Red buttons lined his chest and belly.

White rickrack circled his arms, legs and head,

And black eyes looked out

from his rosy cheeked face.

A wide smile stretched

from one ear to the other –

(But the certainty of ears is in question).

Snowflakes were danced across his forehead

and one of his legs.

A plaid heart,

matching the lining of his vest,

Was needled and threaded to the opposite leg.

Lastly, for remembering, a tag with Little Gal’s name

and the year the new guy entered her life

was hung around his neck.


For six Christmas’

Little Gal has gotten her guy.

In some of those years, though,

to be truthful,

she’s gotten a gal instead of a guy.

This year, there is question

whether she has a gal or

whether she has a guy.

It isn’t known for sure,

But, whatever it is,

it has a new home

with the five other members of

Little Gal’s Gingerbread Clan.


2008 Gingerbread



2008 Gingerbread With Gingerbreads From Little Gal’s Past


(You might recognize

Kermit the Gingerbread Frog

in the above picture,

the first gingerbread oddity

that had family members chuckling

and tongues wagging.

He was named by an amused uncle

who recognized his froggy characteristics.)


Last Year’s Gingerbread – 2007


Posted in Word Rambles - Just Talking | 25 Comments

Little Gal Visits the Valley – What! No Boots?

  At the head of the valley snow often comes sooner, falls heavier and lasts longer than it does down below, Around the Homestead. Over Thanksgiving, throughout the valley, an uncommon snow fell, and fell, and fell some more.

It fell deep and stayed long in the upper reaches of the valley, where as a family, we gather, coming from all directions, on most holidays during the year.

With her family and Jack the Dog (also known as JackiePoo), Little Gal came from the Big City, where snow isn’t as frequent, as lasting or as deep, to the little house in the bend of the creek, at the edge of the wood, where snow can keep you snuggled inside or give you a purpose to go out.

Little Gal came with a firm purpose in her expanding mind. Her purpose was to have some rousing fun in the snow. Little Gal’s intention was to go out.

To go out, she was longjohnned, tobogganed, gloved, jacketed, hooded and, finally, booted. Little Gal was raring to go. She couldn’t wait to go out, to romp in the glorious snow. But before she got to the door, she had to quit. Her boots didn’t fit!

A wintertime tragedy for Little Gal! Playing in the snow had been talked all the way from the Big City to Grandma’s, then all the way up the valley from there.

Maybe she could wear her boots without socks? Grandma vetoed that suggestion. She needed more protection than that.

Well, Grandma had worn her boots. Perhaps with some extra pairs of socks? No, it didn’t work. Little Gal clopped and flopped. 

Couldn’t she just wear her Sketchers and socks? This idea got an emphatic "No" from Mother. Her feet would get too cold and wet.

Heartrending times like these require serious innovation. These are the times when Super Wise Grandma must assert herself and commandeer the situation.

These are the times when everyone knows (who has good sense and distaste for family discord) to disagree with Grandma is a total waste of verbiage. Because she’s Grandma, and Grandmas always know best! 

Post haste, Little Gal was socked and shoed. Next, she was plastic bagged to her knees to keep out the cold, wet snow. Then, with a final stroke of genius, she was socked with a pair of her Daddy’s huge, sixteen size socks (with a hole in the bottom, so it didn’t matter) to keep her from slipping around in the snow.

Little Gal’s foot cover was a Thanksgiving masterpiece, one of Grandma’s best quick-thinking inventions. From such Grandma-based brainstorms springeth a happy Grandchild. 

Excitedly outside in the wonderful, marvelous snow, the first thing to do was build a fort. Using a garbage can to form the snow into firm blocks, Little Gal and her Daddy, a think-on-your-feet inventor himself, built a snow fort in the side yard, and the snow battle was on.

Fists full of packed snow flew back and forth between father and daughter, with Little Gal hunched behind the fort, popping up to pelt Daddy with all the snow her five-year-old hands could hold.

The battle ended, but for Little Gal there was no thought of abandoning the cold and snow for the warmth she would find in the house. 

A day in the snow wouldn’t be fun in the snow without a ride downhill on a sled. And Little Gal had her saucer, an end of season purchase last year and never used.

With some nudging from Daddy, she flew down the hill (a little girl size hill) on her saucer of green. Trudging back up, with Little Gal determination, she did it all over again.

Going down the hill was cinchy, even for a little girl like Little Gal. Coming back, not so much.

Carrying her saucer in pink mittened fingers, the climb back to the top was a chugging effort. But, Little Gal made the trip several times, enjoying the zippy ride back down to the bottom. What luck to have a hill in the side yard!

In time, Little Gal’s snowy adventure came to an end, except for the memory she carried with her when she left the valley to return home to the Big City.

The snow fort was left to melt and break apart in the side yard, to be remembered in pictures taken of the day.

The boot socks that had kept Little Gal’s feet warm and dry were tossed into the garbage, no longer an important accessory for a little girl who had come in from the cold. Their important purpose for Little Gal’s Thanksgiving escapade in the snow had expired.

Sometime soon, she’ll return to the valley, a valley that will likely be covered with snow. This time, though, inside her bag of this and thats will be a good pair of little girl boots. Boots made for hours of playtime in the snow. Boots that will fit Little Gal perfectly.

Posted in Word Rambles - Just Talking | 14 Comments

What the Hay?




A TURDUCKEN is three birds nested together. The  tur is (turkey). The duck is (duck). The en is (chicken).


A deboned turkey that’s stuffed with a deboned duck that’s stuffed with a deboned chicken. The cavity of the chicken is usually filled with sausage, breadcrumbs, or stuffing. Born in the South in the 1980s, it can be braised, roasted, grilled, or barbecued. Many people serve a turducken in place of the turkey on Thanksgiving.

From The Cartoon Lounge – The New Yorker

November 19, 2008

More on Turducken

I have to say the whole idea of turducken grosses me out a little. Maybe it’s because it starts with the word “t–d.”

But just the idea of stuffing one animal carcass into the hollowed out cavity of another seems disturbing to me. It’s like something from a horror film. It’s like those Russian dolls that fit inside each other except it’s made of pimpled, pink poultry flesh. But if you’re into that sort of thing, why stop with just three birds? How about this—how about you cram a quail into the chicken and then you’ve got yourself turduckenquail. I’d even go a step further and farther afield and stuff the quail with a shrimp.

What else? Maybe wrap the shrimp in bacon? Then stick the whole thing in a goat in a pig in a cow and then deep fry that sucker.


Posted by Matthew Diffee

TURDUCKEN at the History Channel

Paula Deen’s TURDUCKEN Recipe


Another TURDUCKEN Recipe


No TURDUCKEN  at our house.

 We’ll feast on turkey and ham.

Posted in Holiday | 20 Comments