Christmas Treasures

Posted December 9, 2011 by cathyso3
Categories: Holiday Books

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Behold one of the Christmas treasures I rescued from my parents’ house before it was sold. It’s the 1948 Christmas Annual Edition of the Louis Allis Messenger. I wasn’t around in 1948, but this particular book made an appearance every Christmas for as long as I can remember. I loved the contents of the book with its Christmas carols, poems, customs from other lands, and beautiful art. But it was the cover illustrations and the double page spread in the middle of the book that kept me fascinated for hours. I immersed myself into George Hinke’s illustrations and became part of the enchanting world he created. 

Front Cover

Back Cover

Inside Front Cover


Inside Back Cover

Double-Page Spread

I spent hours examining every tiny detail in the scenes. I named the elves and made myself a secret elf, feeding the cats, joining in the pillow fight, opening letters for Santa, and counting the good girls and boys. This book still has the power to evoke delightful memories and bring back the feeling of magic that was part of my childhood.

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Everything Christmas

Posted December 6, 2011 by cathyso3
Categories: Holidays

Tags: , ,

I love Christmas. I love everything about it – the smell, the touch, the taste, the sounds, the pageantry. On Thanksgiving evening, the outside Christmas lights at our house are switched on, and the Christmas season begins. Inside, we unpack the artificial tree and begin the process of transforming our house into everything Christmas. Yes, we have an artificial tree. In fact, we have several artificial trees, but we always have a real one, too. It’s the smell. There’s nothing like the smell of a live tree! A real tree is a must have no matter how big or how small.

After dishes were done on Thanksgiving, my daughter snapped into a Christmas decorating taskmaster. All I wanted to do was sit and relax, but she had us on our feet, putting up Christmas.  Before we began to decorate, there were things that had to be removed in order to make room. This little ritual drives my husband crazy. A few years ago when Christmas storage became tight, I promised him I wouldn’t add one more thing to our Christmas boxes. I stayed true to my promise until we sold my parents’ house this year. Some nostalgic Christmas pieces magically appeared in our collection.

It’s always a challenge to remember where to place our Christmas treasures each year. My very creative daughter solved the problem by giving me the best birthday present ever! Last Christmas she took pictures of the entire house – upstairs, downstairs, bedrooms, bathrooms, and even the doll house we decorate! With the help of Kodak Gallery and her pictures, she put together a book called, How the Ho Ho HOgrens Do Christmas. This year when we couldn’t remember where to put something, the answer book was right at hand!

As of last Sunday, the house was fully decorated. Okay, I did move a few things around. It’s my nature. Get that camera out! Now it’s on to shopping, baking, and writing Christmas cards. Thank goodness Christmas comes only once a year!

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” ─ Roy L. Smith

Did You Say Moysters?

Posted December 2, 2011 by cathyso3
Categories: Uncategorized

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Last week in the library, I discussed the different types of food served at the First Thanksgiving with the kindergarten class. Were there grocery stores? No! The Pilgrims and Native Americans ate what came from land and water. There were no mashed potatoes or jellied cranberries, but there were mussels, clams, and oysters.

“Moysters! What are moysters?” a kindergartener wanted to know.

Aha! A teaching moment. I pulled the “O” encyclopedia off the shelf.  

“They’re called oysters,” I said, “and they look like this.”


When the class wanted to know how you eat them, I told them you shuck the oyster and you can eat them raw or cooked.


Okay, there are no oceans in the Midwest. So leave the moysters off the Thanksgiving menu. Enjoy turkey, mashed potatoes, and jellied cranberries. 

Who knew the Pilgrims and Native Americans were such gourmands. If you’re looking for a true delicacy, try some oysters today. From beginning to end, here are oysters made to perfection!  

Unshucked Oysters

Raw Oysters


Oysters Bienville

“He was a bold man that first eat an oyster.” — Jonathan Swift

A Visit to Chicago

Posted November 29, 2011 by cathyso3
Categories: Fun

Tags: , , , , ,


My husband, my daughter, and I just blew in from the windy city. Our annual trip to Chicago coincided with the beginning of the Christmas season. For one day, and one night, the three of us ate, drank, and were merry in one of our favorite cities. Spirits were high, and the weather was unseasonably warm. It was a perfect day to be caught up in the sea of people bobbing along the streets and sidewalks.

Visiting a big city is the ultimate good time. There are museums, parks, sports teams, fabulous restaurants, unusual architecture, and in Chicago, The Magnificent Mile. Energy and excitement ooze from everywhere. If you do nothing else other than walk the city streets, it’s an experience not to be missed.

“Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin’ town

   Chicago, Chicago, I’ll show you around…”

During the day…

 At night…


The Water Tower

The Fourth Presbyterian Church


A Fountain of Light

Modes of Transportation

The “L”

A Car

A Horse and Carriage

Our Visit to Marshall Field’s (aka Macy’s)

We had brunch around the famous Christmas tree in the Walnut Room

Inside Marshall Field’s

  Outside Marshall Field’s

And there are always celebrities to see…

A Peek at Marilyn Monroe

Chicago rocks!

Cookin’ with Amelia Bedelia

Posted November 25, 2011 by cathyso3
Categories: Avatar Friday

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My good friend Amelia Bedelia taught me how to dress a turkey!

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish (Greenwillow Books, 2003)

World Building

Posted November 22, 2011 by cathyso3
Categories: Writing

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At the last two writing conferences I attended, world building was addressed. Each speaker noted that in order to create a world for a paranormal, dystopian, or fantasy novel, every detail is important. Michele Burke, editor at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, said people, history, and objects play an important part in world building.

I don’t write the type of books the speakers talked about so I never thought of simple objects being an integral part of world building unless the objects were the main focus of the story. Thinking more on the subject of world building, a picture of a cowboy hat ashtray flashed into my mind. It was a focal point for imaginary play when I was young.

This ceramic ashtray sat on an end table in my grandmother’s house for as long as I can remember. It was still there when she passed away. I took it. It’s ugly, and I would never use it for anything except for the wonderful memories it evokes. I don’t recall ever seeing ashes in it, but I do recall playing with it. It was a time when westerns were popular on television. Like horses and cowboys, that ashtray was a part of my life. It represented the pony I wished for and never got. I was magically drawn to the cowboy hat ashtray. I transformed my grandma’s living room into an imaginary western town. I spent hours creating western adventures that always included the cowboy hat ashtray.

If I did write fantasy, dystopian, etc., I’d make the cowboy hat ashtray play a vital role in a world of futuristic cowboys. Anyone in possession of the ashtray would have the ability to wield his power within certain limits. If those limits were surpassed, the ashtray would become volatile. The holder of the cowboy hat ashtray would have to know how to maintain a perfect balance of good and evil. If he didn’t, the ashtray would explode and destroy everyone and everything in the futuristic world. Who knew my grandma’s ashtray could be so powerful. It’s smokin’ hot!

Thanksgiving: What I Learned from My Preschoolers

Posted November 18, 2011 by cathyso3
Categories: Special Days

Tags: , , , , ,

On Tuesday I was all set to talk turkey with my five little preschoolers. I had a book filled with pictures depicting the story of the First Thanksgiving to share with them. Before I began, I mentioned that next Thursday was a special day. I asked if anyone knew what it was.

They stared at me with wide eyes. No one answered. I tried again. I told them it was a day to give thanks for all that we have.   

“Valentine’s Day!” shouted a little boy.

Okay. I knew my work was cut out for me. I said, “Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. It’s a time when moms, dads, kids, grandmas, grandpas, and other family members get together and celebrate. There’s a lot of food, and we eat a great big bird that says gobble, gobble.”

“Chicken,” shouted a little girl.  

“I-I-I don’t like chicken,” said another little boy.

“It’s turkey,” I said.

“I-I-I don’t like turkey,” said the little boy.

“I like pizza,” said a little girl.

It was time to reign in the madding crowd. I opened the book, Three Young Pilgrims. I gave them a very simple explanation of the First Thanksgiving. I showed them a picture of a ship.

“Can you say Mayflower?” I asked. Then I turned to a spread of Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing food. “Can you say Pilgrim?” I asked. “Can you say Native American?” I asked. “Can you say gobble, gobble?” I was beginning to feel like Mr. Rogers.

When their teacher came to the library to get them, I asked them to tell her the name of the ship on which the Pilgrims sailed. They stared at me with their wide eyes. Not a word came from their mouths. “Mayflower,” I said. “Mayflower. Everybody say Mayflower.”

The next day I popped into the preschool classroom and asked who remembered the name of the Pilgrim’s ship. No one answered. Finally one little boy said. “Flower.” And a little girl said, “Tulip.” I looked at their teacher, who had an all-knowing look on her face. “Mayflower,” I said and quickly left the room.

Sometimes we expect too much of our children. It’s up to all of us to talk to them and teach them. They are our future. If we’re not careful, chicken, valentines, and tulips could become the new way to celebrate Thanksgiving. Gobble. Gobble.


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