Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Catalogues

Sears Wish Book 2007
~ Good Old Days meet New Age

60th Anniversary Issue from 2012

and most recently:

Talk about custom and ceremony, and annual tradition! I don't remember my family referring to it as the "Wish Book," but I well recall the excitement of marking all of our favorite pages in the Sears Christmas Catalog every year. For a more in - depth look at Christmas / Catalog Season, see my latest post:
"Wish Book"
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th]
literary blog of connection & coincidence; custom & ceremony

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Boxing Day

December by Kate Greenaway

Somehow this year, I started falling behind right around Thanksgiving time, and here I am, the day after Christmas, still trying to catch up. I almost started to worry about how many ornaments are still in the boxes instead of on the trees and how many cards are still stacked on the kitchen counter instead of winging their way to you -- not to mention that I never even got around to making the Christmas Pudding! But then I happened to recall the important lesson learned by the Grinch Who Stole Christmas: Christmas will come, no matter what! It will come, and it will be happy, even if the cards are late:

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

. . . It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
"It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
. . . Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
"Maybe Christmas--perhaps--means a little bit more!"

from How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
by Dr. Seuss

So -- somehow or other, even without the pudding -- Christmas came!

We were not, however, without . . .

Gerry's specialty ~ Christmas Cake!

Cut - out Cookies from Katy

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve ~ So Fair a Fancy

Christmas Pageant 1966 ~ Us Four Little Kids

Look closely and you can also see photos of older sibs
Peg (10th grade) & Dave (Vietnam) on mantelpiece.

And, one on each end:
two big gallon jars of "hard rock candy Christmas."

This was in our house at
704 Baxter Street Road ~ Neosho, Missouri

With me as Bath Towel Madonna,
my younger sister Diane as the Angel ~
and her doll Floppy as Baby Jesus;
my twin brother Bruce as Joseph;
my younger brother Aaron as Shepherd ~
and Big Doggy as sheep.
[Don't ask me why, but we had a way back then of describing our toys
rather than actually naming them, as with my Boy Doll;
and Aaron's Tractor - Boy and Blue - Eyed Bear.]

The Oxen
Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel,

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Yuletide in a Younger World
We believed in highdays then,
And could glimpse at night
On Christmas Eve
Imminent oncomings of radiant revel—
Doings of delight:—
Now we have no such sight.

We had eyes for phantoms then,
And at bridge or stile
On Christmas Eve
Clear beheld those countless ones who had crossed it
Cross again in file:—
Such has ceased longwhile!

We liked divination then,
And, as they homeward wound
On Christmas Eve,
We could read men's dreams within them spinning
Even as wheels spin round:—
Now we are blinker-bound.

We heard still small voices then,
And, in the dim serene
Of Christmas Eve,
Caught the far-time tones of fire-filled prophets
Long on earth unseen:—
Can such ever have been?

both poems by Thomas Hardy, 1840 - 1928
English novelist, poet, and Victorian realist

Saturday, December 21, 2013

O Christmas Tree O Lantern


"Look around you, look up here
Take time to make time, make time to be there
Look around, be a part
Feel for the winter, but don't have a cold heart"

lyrics from "Lady"
by The Little River Band*

We observed the Solstice by laying our three large outside pumpkins to rest on the compost heap. They had graced the back doorway since Halloween but, having lasted handsomely through the long season, were at last falling in on themselves after several freeze / thaw cycles! Still, we had three more inside that had escaped Halloween carving and Thanksgiving pie - baking. We broke one down for pie puree and seed roasting, carved the second into the Christmas Tree O' Lantern that you see above, and, hopefully, will create a Happy New Year O'Lantern with the one remaining. (Not forgetting Superbowl - o - Lantern!)

Processing homegrown pumpkins,
roasting seeds, making pies from scratch,
and baking pumpkin bread with chocolate chips:
Sam and Ben have been doing it since childhood!
Here they are in our big kitchen on 48th Street
Philadelphia ~ 1997

*See also my previous references to this romantic, wintry tune:
"Cold Morning Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye"
& "Don't Have a Cold Heart"

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Ephemera

Years ago, my younger son Sam looked long and hard at the above vintage Christmas images, which appear on the top of our British cookie tin, and asked, "Mommy, was that you when you were a little girl?" I just had to say, "Yes." Then after studying the little guardian angels, on a page in our Victorian sound board book, for a minute, he pondered, "I wonder when I'll have boots like that?"

Monday, December 16, 2013

Making a List, Checking it Twice

It's definitely the season for lists -- presents to buy, cards to send, movies to watch, parties to attend, menus to organize, groceries to pick - up, chores to complete. In the course of my general, random reading over the weekend, I came across several lists that went way beyond the usual "ten ways to prepare for the holidays" or "ten tips for winterizing your beauty routine."

These insightful, memorable lists are more about winterizing (or summer - izing) your heart and soul. Allow me to summarize:

My friend Meta suggested:

Eight things cultured people do differently, according to Chekhov


Six Life Lessons from Tolstoy

Liz posted

a Three - point formula for happiness


Five tips for emotional wellness

thanks to Ann Dibble for this helpful list of

why not to criticize

and to Patricia Henley for

"Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid"

Lots of excellent advice here for the upcoming New Year!

Friday, December 13, 2013


Sugar Cookie Kitten & Play - Doh Santa

A fun and delicious custom for St. Lucia Day is baking Luciakatter ~ St. Lucy's Cats. The traditional recipe is a saffron yeast dough, twisted to resemble a cat. I like to make my cats out of gingerbread or sugar cookie dough. If you make some extras and add some hooks, you can hang your Luciakatter on the tree!

Catching the Light

A Chubby Luciakat

Cookie Cat & Lacing Card Cat

For more Lucia Day customs, see my previous posts:
Santa Lucia & Day of Light
& Tiffany's post at A Stranger Here~ "Lucia"

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Burning Bush

First Snow Flakes, 11 November 2013
"Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God . . . "

from the poem "Aurora Lee"
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

"So the poet's habit of living should be set
on a key so low and plain,
that the common influences should delight . . . "

from the essay "The Poet"
Ralph Waldo Emerson


I also like the way that in this photograph
the entire heavens are afire with God!
Photo of Dickinson's House by Stan Lichens

In honor of Emily Dickinson's birthday:
Born this day in 1830
[died May 15, 1886]

I posted a few days early this week on
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th]
literary blog of connection & coincidence; custom & ceremony

Hope you will enjoy my essay

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Color Just Invented

Taken from my deck, last December 2012

Journal entry from Jan Donley, two years ago:
winter / 7 December 11

Winter is funny, the way it happens gradually—just like aging—it startles you one day. The texture of the air changes. Shadows appear where before there was light. And when the snows come, the branches sag closer and closer to the frozen ground. The trees go gray, the sky goes gray, even the dirt, the walkways, the streets—all gray. And when a cardinal or a blue jay appears, you feel such deep joy, as if color were just invented.

Previous Jan Donley Posts on my blogs:
Lucky Rock
Lost & Found
9 / 11 Retrospective [also on Quotidian Kit]
Dagmar's Birthday [also on Quotidian Kit]
Everyone Loves Stories
There On the Edge of Autumn

Sleight of Hand
The Little Door
Savor September!
Happy Birthday Coyote!

The House You're Standing In . . . or Holding in the Palm of Your Hand

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

December Trees: A Way of Seeing

Backyard Sunset ~ Lambent Sky

Not long ago, a dear friend wrote to say
"We need a poem -- but would prefer a miracle."
I sent her this poem, which is as close
to a miracle as anything I can think of:

Between You and Me

Don't you love that breathlessness before dusk
when trees are crisp and black against December?
Less a fragment of late afternoon
than a way of seeing, each roof and branch
pressed flat against lambent sky.

I used to believe I knew myself.
I used to believe I was separate
from what broke in waves around me.
Lately, I have sensed a different way
of moving through days --
something softer and slower, like pushing gently
through clouds and water, only you, too,
are the clouds and the water,
the green memory of someone you loved
and the distance and the grief.

It's all right if you don't understand.
It's all right if you want a life
as polished and precise
as one of those twigs stenciled on twilight.

But have you ever walked home at noon or at dusk,
in winter or in summer, and not remembered
how you found your way back?
And when you realized you had not been
you, but all that you walked on, and by,
and through, weren't you happier for it?
Couldn't you almost name who you were?

by Francine Marie Tolf, contemporary American poet
found in her book Prodigal

See also my earlier post
"Love Me Love My Cats"

Thanks again to Francine for her generosity
in sharing her work and her beautiful poetry.
The December sky means even more to me each evening,
now that I have the words of this poem
to carry around inside my head!

Sunday, December 1, 2013


After reading my recent Fortnightly post

"The House You're Standing In . . .
or Holding in the Palm of Your Hand"

my friend Burnetta added the following intriguing comment:

"Kitti, I remember being in elementary school and loving the whatnots that came my way, putting them up on a shelf and carressing them with my eyes everyday. They meant something, something I still can't describe, but you come close to it in this essay. Interiority. I look at my shelves and see odds and ends, all valuable to me and no one else, even if a few are rare or valuable in dollars and cents. Thanks for the gingerbread house essay. I have never made one, but I can understand the art in it, and now the mystery as well, a little bit anyway. Love your essays."

Her reference to "whatnots"
reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut's clever observation that

“Like so many Americans, she was trying
to construct a life that made sense
from things she found in gift shops.”

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Slaughterhouse-Five, 39

Though I will always have the greatest respect for Vonnegut as one of the wisest writers I've ever read, I wonder if in this case he was underrating the validity of such a construct. Perhaps truth can be found in a gift shop. One just never knows where the meaning of life may be discovered, and a gift shop is certainly not the most unlikely place. It just might work, or at least help, or at least not hurt.

I understand that Vonnegut is warning us not to look for depth in the trivial; but it's equally important not to overlook the magic of interiority! Speaking of things found in gift shops, I was mesmerized by what my friend Jan Donley wrote in her journal and think you will be too:

House / 13 January 2012

You received it as a gift—a ceramic house to set on your mantle or on a shelf or on a table. You hold the house in the palm of your hand—a triangle roof and a square base. No windows. No doors. Just the shape. Simple. The house a child would draw if you said, “Draw a house.” Or the house in a dream with no entrance and no exit. You’re just suddenly there. In the box of it, or you’re looking at it from a distance. Or there it is in a coloring book. You color it blue or brown. Maybe you add windows and doors. Even a dormer. And then the house starts getting complicated, and you can no longer hold it in your hand or remember your childhood or even dream it. Suddenly the house becomes a cape or a colonial or a bungalow. And there are too many words to remember, and too many memories to hold onto, and too much loss. The world is no longer the world you knew, and houses stretch for miles: triangles atop boxes. And you want to hold one in your hand. More than anything, you want to hold a house in your hand. . . . [Click here to read more.]