Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.



"Father Christmas" is often synonymo...

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I have a suggestion–why don’t we move Christmas to January? Just think, we’d have an extra month to shop and decorate and spend money.

 We might actually get things done we’ve always wanted to do, such as knit beautiful stockings and quilt mind boggling tree skirts. Create a handmade ornament for each of our friends. Bake things our mamas used to bake like divinity and peanut brittle. (I don’t even know. Do you bake divinity?)  

We’d have time to make Christmas seem really Christmassy.

Yes, Virginia, I know Christmas is celebrating the birth of Christ, and you can’t just change a birthday willie-nillie, but couldn’t we call it Christmas-30?

Come on. If St. Nick is also Father Christmas, he must have some daughters. He should be used to some females running perpetually behind. This could only help.

If we change the date, I might actually get the top 1/5 of my trees decorated. And have something in my yard besides dead grass, leaves and one lonely wreath. (At least the lights work on it.)

We could send out Christmas-30 cards and sing Christmas-30 songs. We could tell the kids that Santa missed us on the way past, or better yet, tell them he was running late. (They might as well get used to “late” from the beginning.)

In Oklahoma, anyway, we’re much more likely to have snow in January than December, so it would work out better for Santa, too.

Whatdoyouthink? Anybody with me here?

Okay, yes. You guessed it. I’m late getting ready for Christmas again, as usual. Think my kids will accept IOUs in their stockings again this year? 8)




Lunar Eclipse

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I got a call from G-Man yesterday while I was at work. “How would you like to get up at 2:3 0 in the morning with me and watch the eclipse?”

Always ready to do something different, I answered, “Sounds like fun!”

*Snort!* We looked into it a little deeper and found it actually started at 12:30 and would end around 4. By 10:30 I was ready to crash. (I’m usually out like a boxer with a glass jaw by ten. Not a big party-er. Can you tell?)

So G-Man set his alarm for 1:00 am and we hit the hay. When the monster blared, I hopped out of bed, changed out of my sleep shorts into my just-crawled-out-of-bed pants and skipped downstairs. Okay, I didn’t skip, but I made it down the stairs without falling on my face more than once.

When I got down, I didn’t stop. (Afraid I wouldn’t get moving again.) I just headed straight out the door. The earth’s shadow had taken a bite out of the moon, covering a good third of it. I thought about grabbing my camera, but that meant actually unzipping the bag and taking off the lens cover before I pointed it at the sky, so I eighty-sixed that idea.

After watching the moon not change for a few moments, I glanced around to see if my neighbors were all out, oohing and awing. Nope. (Smart neighbors.)

After a few, G-Man came out–fully dressed–to join me. We looked again (moon still hadn’t changed) and went back inside where he had a bowl of ice cream. I had a Diet Dr. Pepper and turned on the TV.

When our treats were gone, we wobbled back outside and the moon had turned a shadowy red color. Now that was worth getting out of bed for, and probably why a lunar eclipse is also called a blood moon.

We admired the moon’s new look for a couple of seconds before we staggered back to bed.

Sorry I don’t have pictures of the big E for you. Now you don’t get to see the eclipse and it’s all my fault. I’m sure you can find a ton of them other places online, or do this–next time there’s a full moon look up, then hold your finger in front of your face so that it covers up about a third of it. You can make your own eclipse. 😉

I wish I could tell you I’d made whipped cream topped hot chocolate in cups rimmed with powdered peppermint for G-Man to sip while we enjoyed the show last night, but I didn’t. (Sorry.)

I did good to get out of bed and not spew. Being startled awake by a blaring monster in the middle of the night upsets my stomach for some reason. Fixing my glass of DDP was almost more than I could handle.

But hey, there’s another  lunar eclipse next year in December. Maybe I’ll do better then. (Really, don’t count on it.)

Did you get up and watch the beauty of the eclipse? Did you take pictures of the blood moon?

Wanna share? 😉


John Vinson Cookies

Ready for a Christmas recipe or two?

For several years, G-Man, the boys and I lived in Pryor Creek, Oklahoma. While we lived there, we owned a pharmacy (or maybe it owned us.) The best thing about living in PC and owning that business was the people we came to know and love.

One of those people was John Vinson. John was an older man who lived with his wife outside of town. Something had happened to John in his younger days (I don’t know what) and he lived with a tracheotomy–a hole in the base of this throat.

He’d found a way to talk by swallowing air and forcing the words out. Before very long at all, he was very easy to understand. For a man who’d come through something as awful as what he must have and having to live with whatever trouble the trach caused, he was a delightful man. He always had a smile, a story and a joke to share. I never once saw him less than happy.

One year at Christmas, he came in telling me I had to make G-Man a batch of fruitcake cookies. Now, I’ve never been a big fan of fruitcake–at least the store-bought variety. Home baked might be delicious! But at that time, I thought I knew. 

John brought me his recipe, G-Man encouraged me, so I bought the ingredients and baked our first batch. I have to tell you, it was delicious!

I still have trouble getting other people to try these cookies because they think they know what it’ll taste like. They have no idea how good they are.

I used to think John had a secret going here, but I recently found two similar recipes. Barefoot Contess and The Pioneer Woman both have cookies that are very close! And they like them, too. <G>

This is from Ree’s blog

Before you recoil at the word “fruitcake” and run screaming from this website (and I realize it wouldn’t be the first time you’ve probably run screaming from this website) please listen: You must try these cookies! They are completely divine.

These cookies are wonderful with coffee or milk or just by themselves. 

Suggestion–if you want to try a batch and aren’t sure whether you’ll eat them or not, find an old man to share them with. I’ve found that old guys like fruitcake better than anyone. 

BTW: Rather than Fruitcake Cookies, we changed the name to John Vinsons’s Christmas Cookies. Sometimes people will try them before they hear the FC word and padlock their jaws. 🙂

Try them. You’ll adore them!

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C sugar
  • 2 1/2 C flour
  • 2/3 C real butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp whiskey–cheap bourbon (John’s directions!)
  • 1 tsp soda dissolved in boiling water  
  • 1 C white raisins
  • 1 7 oz pkg dates
  • 1/2 pound candied cherries
  • 1/2 pound pineapple
  • 1 pound pecans

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, mix each group of spices with flour taken from 2 1/2 C. Chop nuts by hand. Chop fruit with sissors. Keep separated, flour as mentioned above and add to batter one at a time. Add nuts last.

The batter is very stiff. Drop by heaping spoonfuls on cookie sheet. (Don’t let them get too brown.)

Bake in a moderate oven.

Word of warning–I had trouble finding the candied fruit this year. I went to three stores before I found it, but according to my friend who makes a fruitcake every year for her father, it stores well. So I bought enough for three batches.

Enjoy and merry Christmas!


The Grandmother Tree

See anything weird about my tree? (Besides the fact that there are no ornaments on the top where I can’t reach.)

No, it’s not a squirrel. Look again.

You can tell now. Right?

Now you can’t mistake what’s weird. Those are gloves, and I hang them on my tree every year.

All right, maybe it’s not weird weird, but it’s kind of different. Here’s why I do it. My family of five used to live in Grandmother’s house, with all of Grandmother’s stuff and most of our stuff. It was just a little(!) crowded, but we were looking for a house of our own. We didn’t expect to stay long.

While we lived there, I found a box full of Grandmother’s gloves from the ’50s and ’60s, which she’d saved, along with just about everything else she ever owned. (If you look up the definition of my maiden name, I think you’ll find it means never-throws-anything-away.)

When we moved to our own house, I took Grandmother’s gloves with me along with her old ornaments. (Yeah, I got the keep-it gene, too.) A year or two later, G-Man and I spent the weekend in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and we found an antique store that had a lot of old ornaments. We bought them, then had to buy a new tree to put them on. (I didn’t want to mix them with my other ornaments.)

I have a tall ceiling in my living room, so we bought a big, fat tree. When I put on the old ornaments, it was a little sparse. I didn’t want to add new ornaments, didn’t want to add bows, so I decided to add the gloves. (I tacked them together at the wrist so I could hang them from branches.)

I also put hankies on the tree, but they don’t drape as well.

   This is one of Grandmother’s old ornaments. I’m not sure what year she bought them, but they’re plastic so they can’t be too old.

So’s this one–

Looks like Sputnik, doesn’t it? 😉

This isn’t one of Grandmother’s. I bought Merry Christmas because Mom had one like it when I was small. It was my favorite and I always wanted to be the one to put it on the tree.

Now I get to be the one to do it every year. *sniff*

Until Grandmother passed away, she had a huge family party on Christmas Eve for all her kids, grand- and great-grandkids (and anyone else we dragged along.) 

We’d all dress up in our crisp new Christmas clothes and go to their house (next door to my parents) to spend non-working time together and gain weight (she and her offsprings and their wives were all great bakers and candy makers.)

Each family took the Grandmother and Grandad a gift, and for years, Grandmother bought and wrapped a gift for each person in her big family. Later, she gave the adults and any kids she knew wouldn’t keep what she picked for them anyway money, and asked the other kids’ parents to help her shop for their own children.

At the party, she stayed busy the whole night in the kitchen while Grandad swore to any kid who’d listen that he had Santa tied up in the powerhouse. We had so much fun!

Those were beautiful, easy days with very few worries. Thinking about them never fails to bring a tear to my eye.

I have a lot of great Christmas memories, so I can’t say this is my absolute  favorite, but putting up my Grandmother Tree each year helps me keep it fresh.

How about you? Do you like shiny and new and latest or do you keep it and use it forever? In other words, patina or shine?

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I’m in Love

Wild Olive

Have you seen Wild Olive T-Shirts? I’m usually the last one to find something this wonderful. They’re a totally feminine and beautiful, and they put your faith on display without beating anyone over the head with it.

Wild Olive

I don’t know if Wild Olive sells their tees in stores anywhere, but if they don’t, they should. And I have a great place for them to start.
Celebrations!  😉

Being a writer, my imagination has gone crazy with stories built around WOTs.

And I have a few suggestions for tees they could use, but I might just keep them for my stories since I’m fairly sure they don’t need any help from me.

Here’s what I’d tell them if I had the chance.

Numbers 6:24-26  The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.

Why don’t you pop over and see the Tees yourself? (I think you can click on one of the pictures above and it’ll take you there.) Then come back and tell me which one is your favorite.

I almost forgot–they’re having a give-away. Why don’t you jump over, check it out, sign up, THEN come back and tell me which ones you liked best. I’d really like to know.


Santa at the Manger

Years ago

I saw my first Santa at the Manger–aka Kneeling Santa. It was in the home of my mom’s good friend, Nina Gay. After a few years, Mom got one of her own. I don’t know where she got it, but I know she cherished it and took very good care of it. (She had six kids and umpteen grandkids and it was never broken!)

Mom had a true heart for God, so this little statue that shows Santa kneeling to Jesus was perfect for her. When I grew up, I decided I wanted one of my own. Of course, I’d embellished it in my mind. I “remembered” a bag of toys discarded near St. Nick when he dropped to his knees in humble ecstasy over finding the Christ Child.

Check it out–not there. LOL.

Every time G-Man and I went to Eureka Springs, I’d prowl the Christmas Store(s) and look for this statue. I found ornaments that copied it and a children’s book about it, but never the actual statue.

G-Man suggested I go online and order it, so I did a search for Kneeling Santa. Oh. My. Stars. Never do a search for a kneeling anything online. You’ll see things you never imagined and never ever wanted to.

Finally I found one at . . . you guessed it. Celebrations. <g> (I promise, I don’t get paid for liking this store. They just have great stuff and a wonderful staff. And the fact that Nina Gay’s DIL and son, who I’ve known since he was too little to talk plain, own it doesn’t hurt.)

I snapped that puppy right up, and I’ve had my own SATM ever since.

Sometimes he’s in the entryway and sometimes on the piano. This year, it’s in the place of honor–on the fireplace mantle.

In case you’re wondering, I believe SATM is made by Roman. And historians out there–I know Santa couldn’t have knelt at the manger, since he came a few centuries after Jesus was born, but it’s the feeling that counts.



Getting Closer

Nutcracker christmas ornament

Image via Wikipedia

Since you won’t be coming to my house this Christmas, I thought I’d share a few of my purties. Some aren’t mine, but I wish they were! LOL.

I have this guy sitting in several places in our house. The message–Santa is watching.

There are angels

all around! (See the tag? These girls are still at Celebrations. For now.)

BB won this in a coloring contest when he was in grade school. It’s a music box. Beautiful, huh? He also won tickets to The Nutcracker for the entire family. I was impressed.

One of my favorites!

Isn’t this beautiful? It’s for sale at Celebrations. *Not a paid advertisement. ;)*

Dirty-Santa-thief prize. Thanks, Marilyn!

In my entryway.

And this–to tell you I wish you a very merry Christmas! Thanks for coming by to check out my Small Town World. (Yep, it’s from Celebrations.)