Titles Ben Would Win At Westminster

Ben and the Snowy Sunset

As you may know, Sunday marked the start of the famed Westminster Kennel Club dog show in the Big Apple. Westminster comes just before things begin swinging into action again after a bit of winter’s rest—there will be seeds to be sown and outbuildings to plan—and as a gal hailing from a very long line of dog lovers, it’s a fun two evenings during these cold, mixed-precipitation-y February evenings.

From my mom’s side of the family comes a love for herding dogs—specifically, rough collies. At least three generations of us have had them now, and since we are in fact part Irish and part Scottish, I’d be willing to bet a batch of cookies many, many generations of my ancestors have had a collie or The Ben of Autumnthree in the house or on the farm.

Collies are amazing dogs—a little weird, sometimes, but wonderful creatures, especially and famously around children. Of course our very own Benedict is truly the most faithful and wonderful of collies. Years ago, I thought about training him for agility—good, fun exercise for both of us, and herding dogs excel in agility—but my own health kept me from doing this. It’s okay. Ben is still a fine dog. In fact, we are about to celebrate the tenth anniversary of bringing him into our family within a couple of weeks. Talk about timing—Westminster and ten years of Benedict the Brave at the same time? This, my friends, is too much temptation to resist. Let’s talk about Westminster Kennel Club titles Ben would absolutely win!

 

Most Handsome

Let’s get the most obvious out of the way first, all right? Ben wins this one in a waltz. Further proof in other categories, too. Contemplative Ben

From the archives: Summer Ben

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The Look of Ben

The Sadness

Despite his striking good looks and life of being undeniably pampered—even when in the throes of serious, lost-ten-pounds-in-two-days illness, I’ve taken him out for his walks during heavy rainstorms—Ben can lay on the Sad. Big time.

Sadness, Personified

(no comment from Ben)

He can’t help that collies are naturally grave and serious most of the time. Besides, with those good looks, he probably worries no one takes him seriously. The unbearable heaviness of being handsome: Ben knows it.

The Daily Life of Ben

Friend To Kitties

Brotherly Love

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A December Home-going

My Grandmothers' Bowls

Both of these yellow bowls are family heirlooms, if something so simple can be an heirloom (to me, the answer is very much “yes”).

The sunny Pyrex bowl in back belonged to my paternal grandmother, who died before I graduated from high school. A month after my grandfather died, twenty years later after Grandma, just a few years ago now, Dad brought a box of things from their home to me, including Grandma’s Pyrex bowls. They’re actually a gift from my beloved Aunt Judy, who knows I, like herself and my grandmother (her mother, of course) and great-grandmother, love cooking and baking, and kindly wished me

1953

My paternal great-grandmother and grandmother, working on the family farm in Iowa, 1953.

to have them.

Those who’ve known me for a while have surely heard me talk about my Grandma Sally and endured my tales of her simple but fantastically good all-American cooking and baking, and her well-used bowls gained an instant place of pride in my kitchen—not incidentally, beside the pale blue Fire-King given to me by the aforementioned great-grandmother.

The butter-yellow stoneware bowl in the foreground belonged to my maternal grandmother, who it seems I christened “Nannie” when a toddler still learning to talk. Her first name is my middle. She didn’t enjoy cooking and baking as quite as much as Grandma Sally (I’ve told you about the still semi-frozen Christmas turkey that finished cooking in portions via the microwave to the sound of chuckling and giggling, right?), but among other fine characteristics, she did appreciate lovely things, and filled her home with them; some were practical, like the bowl, but of course, as women are often wont to do, others were just there to grace the home with loveliness.

I don’t know where this simply pretty and very sturdy bowl came from, but it fit the home of my maternal grandparents well and I’m sure dished out all kinds of good food. It was given to me last summer, when my grandfather, preparing to sell the home they’d lived in for so long, suggested the family come pick up anything they’d like, and was also given an affectionate place of honour in my kitchen.

Monday, Nannie went home to be with the Lord.  Continue reading

Bitty Christmas CD Recommendation

Hit play and enjoy as you read!

I’ve some strict rules in my life, and one of them is ironclad: No Christmas anything until the day after Thanksgiving. On this day, my own family’s tradition has been to put up and deck the tree and home for Christmas, a tradition I’ve carried over into my own homes since striking out. Of course, at that point, it is no holds barred celebration, because if God coming to earth to live a perfect, God-honouring and -glorifying life and then dying an awful death to pay the penalty for my wickedness so that God might declare me righteous is not cause for going all out…what on earth is?

(Needless to say, the “understated Christmas decor” trend is not for me. It’s tasteful, but you can’t miss it around here.)

Anyhow, that rule about no Christmas extends to music, much as I love so much of the Christmas music, both sacred and secular. But surely you, too, have noticed that the Christmas stations have become nauseatingly repetitive, no matter where you may be. And it’s not as if the catalog of Christmas music—in the States, especially—is paltry. It is enormous. You could  probably have a station of solely 1930s-40s Christmas tunes and not repeat a single song for many days. But here we are, I can’t stand the thought of Brenda Lee’s party or Karen Carpenter’s Christmas cards anymore (sorry, gals), and long to hear the superb Nat “King” Cole and Bing Crosby sing the other songs

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Photographing things in my car since I don’t care to say how long.

they sang so beautifully, so last year, began buying up Christmas albums.

One of them is “A Magical Christmas*” (it seems I lucked out, paying under five dollars for the set at a used bookstore!), chosen for its blend of the aforementioned sacred & secular and lack of songs Hubby and I can no longer bear. You’ll have to track it down at a used CD or bookstore, but it’s quite worthwhile, so if you see it, snap it up. There were two numbers we both found particularly enjoyable, from the two-dozen plus numbers (only one or two of which we considered clunkers—not a bad percentage!).

One was the opener, “Christmas Medley” by Harry Belafonte, at the top of this post. Lovely, yes? A perfect and enjoyable beginning to the collection, plus, one hears “O Little Town of Bethlehem” so rarely on the radio these days. That said, for us, the real standout happened to be a song one doesn’t usually think of as a Christmas carol, and was once in fact a regularly heard worship song, but one oh so rarely used by worship leaders anymore. But it wasn’t just the song, it was the singer performing it. Kids, it’s Bobby Darin singing “Holy, Holy, Holy”, and it’s beautiful.

Isn’t that marvellous? And we’ve nothing against Darin; it was an unexpected delight. So I hope you enjoyed it, too, and that you also find this CD for well under the apparently suggested seventy dollars. These two tunes alone are worth finding this for, and honestly, I think Darin’s “Holy, Holy, Holy” is worth the price of admission all by itself.

(You also get an Elvis very influenced by doo-wop, some Mario Lanza, of course Bing and Nat and Frank, Dean-o, Ella—albeit one solitary song, but her Christmas albums are all worth having—Doris Day, Peggy Lee—oh, and a fun little novelty song performed by Bing with the Andrews Sisters about toys throwing a party for Santa; the Bing-as-Santa laugh makes it worth a listen.)

I’m not a professional music reviewer, but I do enjoy good music, a laugh, and have gotten old and cranky and therefore cannot stand a majority of the contemporary stuff.

* Affiliate link. Please see my affiliate note at the bottom of the page, but hey—we have to keep our beloved senior collie in treats somehow, yes? 😉

Writers Write.

Ohio Beauty

It’s an old saying, and a true one. The unspoken second part of this, though, may well be that a writer who isn’t writing is a writer beginning to go a bit antsy. That has been yours truly for a couple of years, after the whirlwind sale of our house (in 24 hours, with several offers) and moving (within 30 days) while looking for a new home (nope) ended up with our living in a windowless (almost entirely not kidding) apartment “for only about six or eight months, until we find something”…Six months that turned into two years. The best-laid plans…! We ended up buying acreage and building a carriage house, which we settled into by mid-May. But you can imagine that so much upheaval isn’t really conducive to writing (particularly the no windows bit, and again, that’s not completely hyperbole. What are architects about these days, anyhow? Certainly not human beings).

Our spring has been most eventful. The most eventful thing is something I’m simply not sure I’m ready to write about here—though if you know me, you know that I’ll probably decide I’m ready next week. (Women, right?) But even before we moved and everything else that has happened, I found myself thinking it was time to write again, that it’s something I, personally, simply need to do. After all, I’ve been wordsmithing since childhood. My husband agrees this will probably be a good thing for me to do, too.

So here we are! But some notes first.  Continue reading

Preparing to weigh anchor…

The Winged Lady

The Winged Lady

Well, the time is finally near—a week from tomorrow (Friday), we are putting our current house on the market! Despite my natural Felix Unger-like tendencies, that has meant a lot of throwing stuff out, a lot of packing, a little decluttering (mostly de-personalizing, really, as I’m violently allergic to clutter), and some extra-deep cleaning (happily, due to my previously noted proclivities, this is not actually difficult in any way; being mildly obsessive-compulsive has its benefits!).

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Merry Christmas!

Gerard van Honthorst 001

The Adoration of the Shepherds, Gerard van Honthorst [Public domain], 1622. via Wikimedia Commons

Yes, today is Christmas Eve, but we all know many people are already zipping from one Christmas gathering to another. Let us begin the joyful moments early! (Besides, I have people to cook for.)

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

First of all, I have created a little gift-ette for you—a playlist of some of my favourite Christmas songs.

I hope you enjoy them!

And of course, everyone seems to love seeing Ben for Christmas…

Santa's napping. For disturbing him, you've been placed on the naughty list. Congratulations.

Well, we need to get by his “secretary” first! Buckley doesn’t seem to keen on letting us disturb his buddy, but…

Merry Christmas!

Poor Ben. The festivities have not even begun, yet he’s already tired!  Continue reading

Monday Escape: How about some snow?

First Snow

As mentioned recently, the weather here in Ohio has been quite grim despite the rapid approach of Christmas. Until yesterday, when the sunlight burst through in all of its long-desired glory, we’d had only two really sunny days since a couple of days after Thanksgiving! If you don’t believe me, here’s a satellite look from the NWS:

You remember the warm, colourful cheer of my summer garden?

Pollinator Garden

Ahhh. Well, here it is late Friday morning, being inspected by Ben.

Sunless Days

(Yes, yes, the trellis needs to be placed inside the shed, I know…)

 

Dark. Isn’t it *dark*? In the middle of the day! Continue reading