Thursday, December 31, 2009

With apologies to C. Clement Moore

'Twas the night before New Year
When up to my door
Came the postman with a package
Marked "fra-gee-lay", nothing more.

From a friend, said the box,
It's address plainly showing
A farther north dwelling
Where the ice and snow are glowing.

What could it be,
Was my curious mind's query?
Was it candy, or nuts, or cookies inside?
I answered, "Open it! Don't be so leery!"

To my utter amazement,
There resting inside
Was a sweet little "Bearly Awake" bear
Who was trying to hide!

"For your tree," said she,
"One replacement for many,
The ones now in bits and pieces,
And it won't cost you a penny."

But wait! That's not all!
Beside her dressed in scarlet and silver,
A vial of goodness
That made my heart quiver!
(Hey, I never SAID I was C. Clement Moore!)

The other occupant of that frozen abode
Added something heady
Scented with seeds from a faraway land,
Oh gosh! Must get my oven ready!

Choosing a cake or some cookies to bake!
Oh dear, my head's in a spin!
Don, will you help me decide
What goodies to showcase the wonder within?

Can it be that I have 359 days to wait
To adorn said tree with my bear?
Maybe it would look good in its place
In my living room until next year!

Thoughts about the year...and the decade

A few of the things I've learned...
  • It doesn't always have to be "all or nothing at all". It can be a little at a time and the job still gets done.
  • To be a better listen more and advise less.
  • I've learned a lot about photography from my blog friends. I was a passable photographer I think I do pretty well.
  • There's a lot about photography I still don't know or get.
  • I've learned so many things about navigating my way around computers and the internet.
  • A little learning can be a dangerous thing.
  • That one doesn't have to die from a broken heart.
  • That I'm damned good at rolling with the punches.
  • To travel alone.
  • That I'm a pretty good writer.
  • That I can write poetry from time to time.
  • A lot about politics.
  • That I have a phobia about commitment.
  • That I seem to have lost my interest in flower gardening somewhere along the way.
  • That getting older has a lot more advantages than disadvantages.
  • That there is a whole world of amazing, talented, gifted, caring women who just happen to be bloggers.
  • That we're all connected in some way.
A few things I've loved....
  • Welcoming five wonderful babies into our lives.
  • Watching our grandchildren grow and learn. Sometimes it amazes me how quick they are.
  • That the two oldest ones "get" sophisticated humor.
  • That the same two think I'm funny.
  • Making enduring friendships through this medium.
  • Fulfilling a childhood dream of staying at a lake cottage just like the one where I went as a child (only much better).
  • Traveling with a friend on a road trip and taking in beautiful and sometimes breathtaking sights. And talking nonstop for ten days.
  • Staying connected with old friends and reconnecting with a few.
  • Being married to the same wonderful and honest man for 37 years.
  • Being able to express my thoughts in words and pictures and the people who look at them don't laugh unless I want them to.
  • Knowing that I can do this blogging thing for the rest of my life, if that's what I choose.
My wish for all of you, dear friends, is that the coming year and decade will be no worse than the last one and hopefully much better than you expect. Happy New Year!

(a photograph I wish I had taken)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday Movie MeMe--Don't Know Much About History

Today's Monday Movie MeMe theme, hosted by The Bumbles, is Historical Films. Out of the thousands of films that could be included in this list, I chose to concentrate on an area that fascinated me as a teenager...World War II movies. I watched as many as I could find on our three television stations. They still intrigue me.

Saving Private Ryan  tops my list as having the most realistic battle scene on the beaches of Normandy. My father-in-law wanted to see this when it came out, so I took him. In all, I've seen it four times. David asked me how I could watch it more than once.

The Longest Day was the original film depicting D-Day, and you can't have a WWII movie list without including one of John Wayne's best.

Patton won eight Academy Awards, including a Best Actor Oscar for George C. Scott. General George S. Patton was a complex man who wrote poetry, loved America and hated diplomacy. Who can forget him standing in front of that gigantic flag and giving his famous speech to the Third Army?
"I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country."

Tora! Tora! Tora!  was a collaboration between Japanese and American co-producers. It tells the story of the bombing of Pearl Harbor from both sides and how the United States almost fumbled the ball in the Pacific theater. As the two sides plunge closer to war, the tension escalates until the final, spectacular air raid, the most realistic ever filmed.

The Bridge on the River Kwai is David Lean's best film. It tells the story of British and American prisoners-of-war in Burma who are forced to build a bridge by their Japanese captors. The officers conspire to blow up the bridge so that it can't be used by the enemy, but Colonel Nicholson (a fabulous Alec Guiness) takes pride in the structure that is built under his supervision and tries to stop them. It won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Guiness).

Schindler's List is Steven Spielberg's finest movie to date. Oskar Schindler is a pragmatic, womanizing businessman who uses Polish Jews as cheap labor in his factory to make cookware for the Third Reich. Schindler slowly comes to realize the immensity of the evil that is taking place as the Jews in the Krakow ghetto are quickly and systematically taken away to be liquidated. His workers end up in the concentration camp run by the sadistic Aman Goeth. Schindler strikes a deal with the money-hungry Goeth and smuggles his workers out of the camp to his factory in Czechoslovakia. With the help of his accountant, Itzhak Stern, he manages to get 1100 people to safety. He can't rest though, because he believes he could have saved more.

The Pianist is Roman Polanski's story of Wladysaw Szpilman, a classical pianist who performs for radio audiences in Warsaw. Adrien Brody perfectly captures the heart of this survivor. His family is all whisked away, but somehow Wladysaw manages to survive, sometimes on sheer will alone. His imagined playing of the beautiful music that he loves helps him overcome the loneliness and hunger that surrounds him. The climactic scene in which Szpilman has to actually play for a German soldier is filled with spine-tingling tension and keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

The Diary of Anne Frank captivated my young mind, both in film and in the book. The director, George Stevens, wanted to pay tribute to this courageous young girl after having witnessed the Nazi death camps. Anne makes the best of a bad situation when her family of four is forced into hiding along with four other Jewish people. Anne's hopefulness and romanticism in the face of impending doom makes us hope for the best, even though we know the outcome.

There are so many more movies I could have put on this list, but as usual I've gone on too long. Forgive me, I love movies.

This clip is from the final scenes of Schindler's List. It is an emotional one.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Un-decorating the tree

For future reference:

Never leave a Christmas tree loaded with lovely glass ornaments unattended when there are a curious 3 1/2-year-old and 1 1/2-year-old in the house.

(click to see the full effect of destruction)

On a positive note:
     It didn't take long to get the remaining decorations off the tree and put away.

     It won't take nearly as long to decorate the tree next year.

     And last, but not least, no one was injured in the de-construction of this post.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

To all my dear friends here
A very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas movies make me happy

Holiday Faves is the theme for this week's Monday Movie Meme hosted, as always, by The Bumbles. Oh dear, how can I pick just a few?

Little Women (1994) is the one I want to watch when I decorate the tree. I know that purists  prefer the 1933 version with Katharine Hepburn and Joan Bennett, or even the 1949 version with June Allyson, Elizabeth Taylor, Margaret O'Brien and Janet Leigh, but the newer one is a sentimental favorite because it's the one that Aimee and I watched and cried over together when she was a teenager. And it's just prettier. And let's face it...Christian Bale is a much better actor than Peter Lawford.

This year I couldn't watch 'Little Women', because the VCR is broken, so I watched another longtime favorite....White Christmas. Sure, it's kind of hokey and Bing Crosby got a little carried away with the stage makeup and the settings are totally unbelievable, but the main reason I watch this year after year is for Rosemary Clooney's singing and Vera Ellen's dancing. And who doesn't love the last scene when the whole crew dresses up in their beautifully lush Santa-inspired costumes to sing 'White Christmas'?

On everyone's list is A Christmas Story. There are so many memorable lines in this movie that it would take all day to quote them here, but my favorite is "Fra-gee-lay. That must be Italian!". I even have it written on a box of fra-gee-lay stemware in my basement!

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, another perennial favorite of the whole world it seems, has topped many a list. Who doesn't love to laugh at the "old-fashioned Griswold family Christmas"? Again, too many gut-laugh-worthy lines to mention here, but I bet you can guess my favorite one:
Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I'd like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where's the Tylenol?
I've never been able to memorize that one even though I drive my kids crazy when I say every other line along with the actors!

One Magic Christmas is relatively obscure, but I love its message of hope for a despairing mother. It's a nice take on 'It's a Wonderful Life' (a fave, of course) with excellent performances by the under-appreciated Mary Steenbburgen and Harry Dean Stanton who portrays Gideon, the angel.

Honorable mentions:

Elf (I love Zooey Deschanel)
Miracle on 34th Street (the original and not colorized)
Home Alone
Christmas in Connecticut

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Portraits 101....

...or Why I Will Never Be a Children's Photographer.

Rule No. 1:  Three days prior to Christmas portrait event there will be no running by children whose portraits are being taken (that includes tripping and bumping heads on hard basement stairs.)

Rule No. 2:  Scissors will not be left in full reach of said children thirty minutes prior to Christmas portrait event, resulting in one previously long-haired blonde girl who now sports a pixie-ish emergency haircut.

Rule No. 3:  The portrait hack artist will not mess with the camera settings prior to said Christmas protrait event resulting in strange pictures because she could not get the camera to go back to its normal state.

Rule No. 4:  The photographer will not attempt to create studio conditions when all she has to work with is a king-size sheet and a 42" plasma television on a stand.

Rule No. 5:  The photographer will, prior to the event, take the maximum amount of Advil allowed.

The girl with the nice bruise between her eyebrows.


Gaige practicing his yoga while Nathan attempts to distract him.

Nathan caused a lot of laughing.

Matthew was a whole lot easier last year when he would stay put. This year he just wanted his mommy!

It's like herding cats. Seriously.

Out of hundreds taken, here are a few that made the cut.




(the previously long-haired girl!)


Best cousins, best friends.

Oh well, there's always next year!
Here's looking at you, kids!

Christmas Bonus

Cranberry-Pecan Bars
(a tried and true recipe of many years)

For the crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 cup finely chopped pecans, divided

For the filling:

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 beaten eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped cranberries
2/3 cup shredded coconut
Zest of one orange

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13 x 9 inch pan with cooking spray (or butter if you prefer).
  2. Chop pecans in food processor. Reserve 1/2 cup for filling.
  3. Combine 1 cup flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, butter and 1/2 cup pecans in processor and pulse until you have coarse crumbs.
  4. Press into prepared pan. Bake 15 minutes or until light golden brown.
  5. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, mix 1 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons flour. Stir in eggs, milk, vanilla and orange zest.
  6. Stir in cranberries, coconut and remaining pecans. Spread over hot baked crust.
  7. Bake 23-25 minutes until light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on rack. Cut into bars when cool.
Note: it takes about 1 1/3 cups pecan halves to make 1 cup chopped pecans.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Merry Christmas, Darling

In 1970, I was a senior in high school full of romantic ideas, crazy about boys and one boy in particular. We had dated off and on for a year or so, but he was in college and understandably didn't want to settle down with a seventeen-year-old girl. That Christmas, as I was pining away for my true love, The Carpenters released a little number called "Merry Christmas, Darling" as a single. It fit my yearnings to a tee. I went to Kresge's and plunked down my hard-earned babysitting money for the record and put it on the console stereo. I don't think I removed it for two months...well past Christmas! Karen knew about my aching heart and sang about it in her clear, pure alto voice.

It wasn't until 1978 that The Carpenters came out with their "Christmas Portrait" album. By then I was happily married with a three-year-old and one on the way. There wasn't a lot of money to spare, but I had to have that album. So I saved a little here and a little there and bought it. I played that thing to death. I loved the way each song segued seamlessly into the next one. I sang along with Karen and knew every note and pause and breath. I loved that the very first thing you hear when it starts is Karen taking a breath. I loved that they included the little known first verses of several Christmas standards.

When the children (all three of them) were going to school, I would wake them every school day during the Christmas season by playing the album. It's one of Aimee's most loved memories of childhood...waking to "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear". 

When the CD came out, I retired the worn-out album (which I still have) and replaced it with the new technology. I still have the same one. I still play it to death every year. This year, I've uploaded the songs to my MP3-capable cell phone. It's the one Christmas album that I never get tired of.

Oh, you're probably wondering if I ever got together with that college boy. I did. And we've been married 37 years. You do the math.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Let's play....Name That Blog!

Ruth, at synch-ro-ni-zing, was feeling a wee bit silly (and entertainingly clever) a couple of weeks ago while she was experiencing a sleepless night. Normally (not that she was being abnormal ), Ruth is a serious writer who challenges and inspires us with deep ponderings from her intricate thought processes. In fact, she has told me that somewhere in her past childhood she skipped Silly Ruth and went straight to Serious Ruth. She, in her moment of whimsy, challenged her followers to tell the true story behind the clever names of their blogs.

Therein lies the challenge for me. My blog name is neither clever, nor probably  interesting to anyone other than myself, but I shall forge ahead!

I was initially inspired to write my blog by a fellow chicken lover from the message board at Backyard Chickens. I found this website when I googled "raising chickens". It's a very informative resource for novice chicken owners who can ask questions of veteran chicken owners. My screen name there was BearSwampChick.

When I decided to start my blog, the only name that came to mind was "Bear Swamp Reflections". I live on Bear Swamp Road and I saw my blog as a way to reflect on the happenings of my life and my children's and grandchildren's lives. In fact, at the beginning my title had a subtitle which read "....on herding chickens and grandkids". Later on I dropped the subtitle when my writing and photos started branching out. My purpose still is to create something that my family will be able to read someday when I am gone from this world. They will still be able to hear my voice; sometimes sentimental, sometimes funny, sometimes snarky. As my daughter Aimee says, "Better a smartass than a dumbass." The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, friends.

So, since my blog name story is rather boring, I thought I would give you a little tour of my past blog headers, starting with numero uno.

This photo was taken on one of our Hocking Hills hikes.
A pool of water formed in a bowl-shaped depression in a large rock, reflecting the trees overhead,
thus the "reflections" part of the blog name.

Ruth, I have to confess that I copied you on this one.
Right after I started following synch-ro-ni-zing, I admired Ruth's collage header so much that I wanted one for myself.
And I was tired of the dark reflections photo.
I also copied Ruth's format by changing from Rounders 3 to Minima Stretch.
I like the wide open page layout on Minima.
This is also when I learned how to "write" on my photos!

So, I got tired of the super-bright collage after a while and
chose this picture of a bent trillium that I took at
It provided me a sense of peace and quiet.

Then in June this year I changed to this photo of my flower garden
in all its early summer glory
with the view of the barn in the distance.
I also added back a subtitle.

The subtitle theme stuck around for the midsummer photo exchange.
I took this one after David got my clothesline put up (finally!).

My current header, which may be my favorite so far, came about after I did a post on the covered bridges in our county. I think I'll keep it for a couple more weeks, until the Christmas season finally catches up with me. I have the decorations out and ready to go. I'm just waiting for the right moment.

The header, as of December 1, 2009.