Posts Tagged ‘Christmas in Oysterville’

The Sweet Fragrance of Christmas!

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

Lina and Eva

This morning I could almost smell those Christmas cookies baking and hear the laughter of cousins Eva and Lina — all the way from Austria!  Eva’s email about their holiday preparations included pictures of  the sisters baking and  their finished products, as well!  Yum!

Unexpectedly, I flashed back on Christmas Cookies Past – not cookies of my childhood, however.  Baking Christmas cookies wasn’t really a tradition in our family, though my grandmother’s “rocks” were usually part of the festivities.  I remember them as full of nuts and raisins and maybe covered with powdered sugar.  Or am I confusing the rocks with the shortbread cookies in perfect round powdered balls?  But those weren’t the cookies that came to mind when those photos came into focus.

Carol Nordquist – Christmas Dinner 2014

No, it was  Carol Nordquist and her cookies that come to mind.  Beginning in the late 1990s, just after we moved into this family house full time, Carol would bring a festive plate of cookies to us (and to each of the neighbors, I think) a few days before the holiday.  When her daughter Betsy was able to join her,  the two of them often did the baking and Betsy was the delivery elf.  We SO appreciated those lovely treats.  There really is nothing like a selection of brightly decorated Christmas cookies — especially cookies that just “show up” once a year — to get you in the spirit!

Lina and Eva’s Cookies

Actually, Nyel did a big batch of chocolate chip cookies the other day.  They aren’t quite what I would consider “Christmas cookies” but their appearance around here is pretty rare so I think they count, maybe even double!  And the other night John brought a citrus almond cake, “Torta de Santiago” which literally means “cake of St James and the recipe originated in the Middle Ages!   Last night Maggie brought individual cheese cakes, festively decorated with different kinds of jam.

Oh my!  It was almost a relief to enjoy those Austrian cookies via cyberspace.  Especially, a relief to my waistline!  But… Christmas only comes once a year, as they say.  I’m determined to enjoy every morsel, virtual and otherwise.


Christmas Elves

Monday, December 9th, 2019

Steve the Other Christmas Elf

Many hands make light work — or make the lights work, perhaps.  Two tall men, their four hands on high  – sometimes with benefit of ladder and sometimes just a long stretch on tiptoes — and, voila!  The upper third of that ten foot tree was lit, decorated, and icicled before you could say Rudolph-the-Red-Nosed-Reindeer.

My part was simple — evaluate, criticize, find the hooks, hand the baubles, suggest the bare spots, and clap and cheer.  Nyel left his kitchen duties periodically to come and admire.  And John and Steve probably would have continued on for the duration except that I declared it the cocktail hour!

John the Other Christmas Elf

We left the tree all aglow with lights and halfway trimmed with the promise that I would finish it up today.  Or tomorrow.  Or soon.  After dinner, Tucker came over to collect his ladder and he ooohed and aaaahed and visited a while.  It was a lovely afternoon and evening.  The tree is looking quite satisfied with progress “so far” but I can here her calling to me so… onward and downward!  The upward part is done!


Pride Goeth Before A Fall

Sunday, December 8th, 2019

My friend Maggie says, “Don’t ever hesitate to ask for help.  People like to help.  It makes them feel good.”  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I always think to myself.  And then I wonder why that reasoning is so hard for me to believe.  Could it be that I don’t really like to help when I’m asked?  Or is it something about being an only child and being imbued with the thought that if I didn’t do it myself, no one was going to be there to do it for me.”  Not that those words were ever stated.  It just seemed to be the way it was.

It was probably that way for Nyel, too.  He’s another only child and, if anything, he’s more intent upon doing for himself than I am.  In fact, more than anyone I know.  So now that we have reached the old (me) and infirm (Nyel) stage of life, we (mostly I) are trying to come to grips with that whole independence/swallow-your-pride-thing.

What I have realized is that #1, if I want to continue doing some of the fun things in life, I’ll need help.  And #2, most people aren’t good at mind-reading so I have to ask.  Oh yes, and #3, Nyel would probably skip #1 instead of doing #2 which sometimes leads to #4 — one of those heart-to-hearts.  We’re getting good at those!

So, when it came to getting ready for Christmas, there was quite a bit of necessary pride swallowing around here.  First and  foremost — the whole tree thing.  If you read my column in the Observer last week, you probably figured out that the words Christmas and tree cannot easily be separated in this household.  So… I asked Tucker if he’d help me fetch, carry, and put the tree in the stand.

It all went surprisingly smoothly.  Getting the tree centered in the stand was a bit tricky, but Tucker persevered and by lunchtime yesterday the ten-foot (no eleven-footers available this year) noble fir was standing proud in our bay windows looking out to the east.  And thanks to Tucker’s good humor and a few “Christmas tree” stories of his own, our own pride is still intact, as well.

This afternoon, our friends John and Steve (who are tall!) are coming to put up the lights, the angel, and the ornaments on the high branches.  Again, I didn’t have to do more than ask and suggest a time.  I’m actually looking forward to it.  Tucker brought over his sturdy ladder for them to use — ours IS pretty rickety — and I feel that we are definitely being mindful of that old “pride goeth before a fall” expression — especially the “fall” part.  Ladders are at the top of my Not Any More list.

Another First For These Old Ducks!

Sunday, December 1st, 2019

November 30, 2019

Yesterday (and right on time as it turned out) we received a small package in the mail from Austria.  The return address said “Richardson” — my cousins Eva and Lina (and friend Dietmar) who were here in September at the time of Our Grand Affair!  How fun!

We opened it to find a cheerful-looking Christmas card — a special one according to the greeting inside.  In neat “European handwriting” (so different from our public school printing or cursive) it said:  This is an “Adventkalendar.” Beginning with Dec. 1st you open a little window each day until Christmas Eve.  It is an old Austrian tradition and we thought the two of you would like it.  So Merry Chirstmas from over here.  Many many hugs and love, Lina, Eva, & Dietmar,”

Though neither Nyel nor I have ever participated in the Advent tradition with regard to lighting candles or celebrating each day of advent with a small gift — not as children nor as adults — we both associate it with friends and relatives who do.  When I was a child, my good friend Trudy (whose mother was Jewish and father, Catholic) celebrated both Hanukkah (which I also knew  little about) and Christmas.  In my little girl mind the menorah and a small gift for each day leading to Christmas were totally confused and were definitely things I thought our family should be doing as well.

Advent Card, December 1, 2019

So, here at last came a small version of those advent calendars I’d wondered about.  No presents attached to this one.  But, I did a little research to learn that, this year, advent begins on December 1st, so the package from the cousins (and Dietmar) arrived at the perfect time!

This morning, over coffee, Nyel and I opened the tiny window marked “1.”  It revealed a picture of a little girl in a pretty hat.  We didn’t know if had significance or not.  Perhaps we’ll understand a bit more as the next nineteen windows are opened.  At this point, however, the greatest meaning of this lovely little card is that it came from my beloved cousins in Austria and I will be thinking of them each morning as I anticipate the arrival of Christmas!

Golden Garters and Finger Cymbals

Friday, December 28th, 2018

Santa might have been a few days late in getting to our house, but he sure knew what to stuff our stockings with!  For Kris-the-Musician there was a slide whistle and a Jew’s harp (if you feel the need to be politically correct and aren’t bothered by historical accuracy you could call it a ‘mouth harp’).  For Nyel-the-head cook, a chef’s toque, a sheriff’s badge, and a Santa hat and, for me, golden garters and finger cymbals and a book about Uppity Women Speak Their Minds. 

There were also wind-up toys – a monkey, a frog, and a tiger – and chocolate and a very practical (but strange) lemon or orange juicer from Jack’s housewares department as well as a set of pick-up sticks and a book of Sherlock Holmes puzzles.  Oh!  And did I mention the fancy plastic red and green light up rings suitable for all occasions?  We all thought Santa had hit the mark for each of us and immediately formed an orchestra complete with an exotic dancer (that would be me.)

The first page I flipped to in my Uppity book was about Florence Nightingale who (apparently famously) said, Not even a doctor…gives any other definition of what a nurse should be other than…’devoted and obedient’…This definition might even do for a horse.  Definitely words to live by, doncha think?

All in all, the wait for Santa Claus was well worth it!  And the day went happily downhill from there.

Christmas some more! With Kris!

Thursday, December 27th, 2018

And the beat goes on!  Kuzzin Kris arrived early yesterday afternoon.  She came laden with food – “I stopped at Safeway and those chickens smelled so good, I just couldn’t resist” – and mysterious packages wrapped and beribboned and, most importantly, her Christmas stocking.  We hung it by the chimney with care almost before we hugged our hellos.

That was the deal, after all.  Kris would be here for Christmas and we would confine our gift-giving to the Christmas stockings which Santa would take care of on the morning of the 25th.  But as in the most organized of best laid plans, things went awry before we could say “Merry Merry!”  Kris got some dreaded cold/flu/bronchial thing that laid her low and so our plans for Christmas were postponed.

The little gathering planned in her honor – all her special peeps from the year and a half she lived here at the beach – was postponed from the 23rd to the 26th.  That, of course, was yesterday so within an hour of her arrival from far off Eugene (via a stopover in Portland) we were in our mostest hostest get-ups and ready to party.  The food was great, the beverages plentiful, and the company hugely enjoyable.  Kris, of course, was inimitable as usual!

In my foray out to the kitchen this morning for coffee, I noted that Santa had arrived in the night.  Those stockings are looking pretty bulgy.  And I have it on good authority from the man, himself, that there are a few more additions to be made if only someone will give him some wrapping paper and ribbon.  And tape.

It will all be leisurely because that’s how we older folks like it.  And after all the excitement is over – but probably before we clean up the debris – we have a movie marathon planned for this afternoon.  “You Can’t Take It With You” and “Love Actually” will be the double feature matinee.  Tonight… probably a toss-up between “Jeopardy” and “The Big Bang Theory” on TV or another movie or maybe even a card game with friends depending on who all comes to dinner.  The choices are endless – until about nine o’clock.  That’s usually lights out around here… even on Kris’s Christmas visit!

A Quiet Christmas in Oysterville

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

There were four of us here for Christmas dinner yesterday – neighbors and family, too, if you count that Tucker and I are fourth or fifth (or maybe sixth) cousins, probably several times removed, on the Espy side.  Ralph figured it out once, but I’ve forgotten.

We divided the labor – Tucker and Carol had oven duty; us, stovetop.  And each of us had an assignment – Carol the turkey plus dressing and gravy; Nyel the cranberry sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, and the rolls which turned out to be bread, instead; Sydney, the spinach casserole and the platter of crudités and other condiments; Tucker the Marion berry pies (four individual ones!) and ice cream (from our freezer.)

The festivities began with a tradition that Carole Nordquist had started in the village when she hosted Christmas dinners at her lovely home two properties south of us – Christmas crackers!  This year they were shaped like Santas and came apart with a big pop.  Well, not mine.  I don’t have the knack.  Inside, each of us found a paper crown, a toy, and a paper of riddles and trivia information.  And then the eating began!

Afterwards, we ‘retired’ to the library and spent the better part of the evening doing what we do best – talking and laughing.  We talked about most memorable Christmases and about the best present we ever got as kids.  That segued into whatever happened to our toys – Tucker still has his; Carol said she mostly got socks and underwear; Nyel and I each still have ‘issues’ with our parents who got rid of our toys before a move.   And what about those pets who “were now on a farm with plenty of room to play…”

This morning Tucker sent a bunch of photos!  I don’t know whether they capture how much fun it was or if they don’t really do it justice.  We’ll take on that topic of conversation another time.

Hooray for the Shortest Day!

Friday, December 21st, 2018

And, tomorrow night, a full moon!

It’s the Winter Solstice!  The older I get, the more I look forward to this turning point each year.  Granted, it takes a long time to really get the benefits of the longer days.  At about two more minutes of daylight per day, it usually takes until well into March before the chickens and I really notice the difference.  But it’s actually all about attitude, not necessarily reality.

Just thinking about those longer days goes a long way to improving my outlook.  I can cheerfully lug those loads of firewood into the house with double anticipation – a cozy fire tonight in the here and now plus the thought that it won’t be very long (in the great scheme of things) until we can be enjoying the out-of-doors until well after winter bedtime!  It’s always good to have something to look forward to.

Winter Solstice

I was reminded of that when Kuzzin Kris called last night.  She sounded dreadful.  “I have a cold and fever and am not fit to see man nor beast,” she said.  “Much less travel.”  Oh no!  There go our Christmas plans.  Without our ‘kids’ coming for the holidays, all our hopes were pinned on Kris.  We planned a little party in her honor, made sure that Santa knew she’d be here Christmas Eve to hang her stocking with care, stocked up on favorite old Christmas movies…  Damn!  Damn!  Damn!

What Pooh says…

But, the good news is, she is still coming after a three-day delay in her plans.  She’ll arrive December 26th instead of the 23rd and we’ll adjust accordingly.  She’ll miss out on Christmas dinner with Tucker and Carol and for that we are sorry.  But we have high hopes that our extended anticipation of her arrival will lead to an even more wonderful visit!  Today may be the shortest one of the year but our Christmas festivities will be the longest on record.  Get well, Kris!  We are full of anticipation!

Hark! Let the caroling begin!

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

This afternoon! Two o’clock at the Oysterville Church!  The (sometimes) annual Oysterville Christmas Program will begin!

I’m not even sure “program” is the right word these days.  A hundred years ago when my mother was a girl, it was a Program with a capital P.  All the school children were involved – each one reciting “a piece” – and there was a Christmas tree with presents for each child and, also, for the “bachelors” and others who lived alone.  It was at the churh because the schoolhouse was too small.  The whole town attended and sang carols and shared in the joy of the season.

The only all-inclusive Christmas programs I remember, by the time of my own childhood, took place in the local schools.  In those days (and even during the sixties, seventies and eighties when I was teaching) we could still sing songs about the baby Jesus and the shepherds watching their flocks by night.  And we could still call them “Christmas Programs.”  Now… the celebrations are for “the holidays” and everyone tries to be politically (or, perhaps, commercially) correct, at least in the schools.  Church is another matter, thank God (ahem!).

In the nineties – the 1990s that is – when Leigh Wilson-Codega still lived in Oysterville, she and her sisters often invited the neighbors over to the church to sing carols with them and to hear Nyel or another of the attendees read the Christmas Story from the Book of Luke.  No one called it “a program” or anything else, for that matter.  It was just an “are you going over to the church this afternoon?” sort of thing.

It was soon after Diane and Hal Buttrell moved here (ten years ago???) that Diane picked up Leigh’s idea and suggested a Christmas Carol sing-along at the church.  Gradually, she urged the Bayside singers to become involved and now the “tradition” has segued into part ‘program’ part community carol-singing, and the participants have expanded far beyond just the Oysterville neighbors.

So… perhaps we’ll see one another there this afternoon!  Hark! and Joy! and Alleluia!

Getting Into The Spirit!

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

Christmas Season 2018

There’s nothing like a gathering of friends around the fire on a blustery December evening to get everyone into the spirit of the season!  Last night, two of our newest Oysterville neighbors – Chris and Cindy – joined us, making a cozy group of eight.  Among us: a Cindy, a Cyndy, and a Sydney! which could have led to confusion but didn’t seem to.  No more than usual.

The discussion ranged from the (sometimes) harrowing trip to the Peninsula over Highway 26 – in the dark, low on gas, nothing open, the kindness of strangers – to our mutual delight in the Observer and its headline stories as well as the always intriguing Police Blotter.  We talked, too, about the Christmas Bird Count (today!) and the nice note many of us had received from Kathleen Sayce: My group will be in Oysterville in the afternoon; we start at the Port in Nahcotta, and work north. So, if you see people peering into yards with binoculars, and exclaiming over thickets of songbirds, this is what is going on.

Tucker’s Cards and Ornaments

That led to a discussion about ‘our’ (in the Oysterville sense of the word) eagles.  The young have been gathering in the Monterey Cypress treetops across from Cyndy’s and have been chattering to one another for a number of days now.  We talked about other unusual birds we’ve seen lately, including the Snow Goose that has been hanging out with the flock of Canada Geese in the meadows between the bay and the buildings of the village.

Birds, too, were part of Tucker’s “Show and Tell” at the end of the evening.  This is the 49th year that Tucker has made his Christmas cards and an ornament (sometimes matching) for each of his family members.  He brought the collection of ornaments to show and pass around – all hand-made wooden treasures.  For the forty years or so that Carol did a family dinner at Christmas, each place setting included an ornament that served as place card and could then be taken home to hang on each guest’s tree.  Now, though the family dinners are no longer occurring, Tucker continues the tradition.  They are truly wonderful!

Card and Ornaments – The Hobby Horse Year

In recent years, Tucker has gifted Nyel and me with ornaments, too – (well, Tucker and I ARE related, albeit distantly, on the Espy side!) and they are displayed each Christmas on the piano with the cards we have been receiving from him for a number of years.  One of my favorite ‘combinations’ is the card he did of his four grandchildren during their Oysterville hobby-horse phase.  The figures on the (silkscreened?) card look exactly like each of the kids and the accompanying ornaments are – of course! – tiny hobby horses, each different from the other, one with my name and one with Nyel’s.  I love them!

It was a lovely evening and truly left me “in the spirit.”  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if everyone who was here felt the same way.