Category Archives: Holidays

Costumes and treats make lasting Halloween memories

ally-will-save-the-day-071ally-will-save-the-day-07by Pat Nelson

 Every fall when leaves turn orange and pumpkins decorate yards, a think of Halloweens past. When I was a child, my mother usually created a costume for me from discarded clothing, scraps of material, face paint, and imagination.

My best friend Marilyn and I liked to dress in the same theme. One year, she dressed as George Washington and I dressed as Martha. In those days, it was still safe to trick-or-treat from house to house, whether or not we knew the homeowners. Some residents handed out gooey popcorn balls or homemade chocolate chip cookies. If they gave us apples, we didn’t have to check for sharp objects.

As soon as it was dusk, we would start ringing doorbells. Some boys, intent on collecting as much candy as possible, would race from door to door with pillowcases, trick-or-treating from before dusk until past the bewitching hour of 9:00. Marilyn and I trick-or-treated until about 7:00, when we went to a party at our school.

When my children were young, they begged to go to a haunted house. I gave in one year and promised them a trip to the Haunted Mansion in Longview. My daughter was sick a few days before the event, and she was so looking forward to going that when her fever subsided, I gave in. Part way through, she became so frightened that the ghosts and goblins had to let her out the side exit, and her fever returned.

Both of my kids enjoyed entering pumpkin-decorating contests, and both usually won prizes. One year at school, my daughter entered a particularly charming pumpkin. A medium-sized pumpkin, the head, perched on a plump pumpkin body. Whimsical gourds became eyes, nose, mouth, ears, arms and legs. Alas, her pumpkin was disqualified because it was decorated, not carved. However, a carved watermelon took the prize. For her, it was a lesson in “life’s not fair.”

Each Halloween, I think of Maggie McQuarrie, a 70-something Woodland Library supporter who passed away a few years ago. The tiny woman loved to dress up in costume, and one year borrowed a green, feather-decorated sweatshirt from my grandson, along with a bird headdress, just to surprise her “morning coffee” friends at McDonalds. On Halloween, she dressed up and knocked on our door. We felt kind of sorry for the kid who had to go out trick-or-treating alone until we caught the scent of her cigarettes and heard her raspy voice say, “Trick-or-Treat.”

From the time my grandchildren were small, they dressed up and joined 1000 other costumed kids in marching past the businesses on Woodland’s Goerig Street and Davidson Avenue, down one side and back the other, stopping at each business to trick-or-treat. Woodland continues this tradition each year, blocking streets to provide safety. Many businesses that would like to participate, but that are not located in the designated trick-or-treat area, set up booths along the route in the Grange Hall at 404 Davidson Avenue.

Area kids will form their own Halloween memories this October 31 when they trick-or-treat downtown Woodland between 3:00 and 5:00 P.M.

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Filed under celebrations, Halloween, Holidays, WA, Woodland, Woodland Community Library

A return to sweet and simple things

pie and chocolateBy Pat Nelson, January 2, 2008
Reprinted with permission, South County News/The Daily News, Longview, WA

I see a diet in my future, but today, I still have a few pieces of rich, dark chocolate in a box, a Christmas gift from our nephew, Paul, who lives in Amsterdam. When Paul said he was coming for a visit, I e-mailed and asked if he could bring me just a couple pieces of the fantastic chocolate from Puccini Bomboni, a shop we visited in Amsterdam last June.We met up with Paul at his mother’s house in Dundee, Ore., on Christmas Eve, and he hadn’t forgotten the chocolates. Unfortunately, the deep blue Puccini Bomboni box he gave me contained more than just two pieces.Today, the waistband of my pants feels too tight. Either the jeans shrunk again or I ate too much throughout the past year, and especially over the recent holidays. I can’t begin a diet with those incredible chocolates in my house, so I’ll have to eat them today. Then there’s that leftover apple pie I made for Christmas. If my husband and I each eat two pieces, the pie will be gone and I’ll be ready to diet … unless I postpone it until after our New Year’s Eve party. Crumpled wrapping paper still covers the floor and the cat has shredded the tissue. I haven’t turned on the Christmas tree lights today or opened the latest batch of cards. I’m tired and a cold sore has sprouted on my lip from eating too much chocolate. The holiday is over and the phone has sprung back to life with urgent business calls. I’d like to crawl into bed with a good book, a cup of tea, a slice of pie with ice cream, and a few pieces of Puccini Bomboni chocolate, but responsibilities are calling.Ah, if only times were simpler so that we wouldn’t feel so drained — and broke — by the time the holidays are over.

We long for more and more, but sometimes lean holidays create the most special memories, standing out because of their simplicity rather than being lost in the over-abundance of food and commercialism.

When my older brothers were children in the 1930s, they didn’t have expectations of grand gifts under the tree. I remember my mother telling me, “One year, we didn’t have money to buy any Christmas gifts at all, so I took a jelly glass out of the cupboard and wrapped it for your brothers to share.”

A few days ago as neighbors gathered around a piano singing carols at a Christmas party, I remembered a Christmas when I was a child, standing the doorway of our house in Kelso on a crisp, dark December evening listening to carolers. The gift of music coming from the sidewalk was not expensive or hi-tech, but it created a lasting memory.

When I was a child, Mom often made gifts, and we made Christmas cards together from used greeting cards, construction paper trimmed with pinking shears, and little scraps of ribbon. We didn’t buy new tree ornaments every year to create a different theme, and re-visiting the familiar ornaments each December was like seeing old friends.

As 2007 ends, I finish my rich Puccini Bomboni chocolates and sugar-glazed apple pie. I toss the crushed wrapping paper from gifts into the trash can and pack away this year’s fish-themed Christmas decorations. I wonder — is a diet just about food, or can I use the same principles to celebrate next Christmas with more simplicity, not obscuring the joy of the season with an overabundance of material things — or rich, dark chocolate? 

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Filed under chocolate, Family Memories, Holidays, South County News

Thankul for Memories

Thanksgiving morning 2007By Pat Nelson, November 28, 2007
Reprinted with permission, South County News/Daily News, Longview, WA
When I was growing up, my mother would get up Thanksgiving morning around 5 a.m.to “put the bird in the oven.” She had worked hard the day before making pies and preparing side dishes. In those days, you made your own pies and lots of them. I can remember the sound of the rolling pin as it rolled across the dough, and flour flying for hours as Mom rolled out the perfect rounds that would become flaky pie shells. She always rolled out and baked the scraps of dough, too, and put jam on them for me as a treat.By the time I would get up on Thanksgiving morning, the turkey would be cooking, and Mom, tired from preparations the day before and from getting up early, would be elbow deep in soapsuds, washing the mountain of dishes she had created while cooking. That, of course, was before dishwashers were a standard item in homes. At our house, Mom was the dishwasher, and I was the reluctant assistant when I couldn’t find a way to get out of it.We’d go to church Thanksgiving morning, and then hurry home to finish preparing the meal. My aunt Agnes always brought stacks of lefse, the thin Norwegian bread made from mashed potatoes, butter and cream. Lefse looks something like tortillas, but thinner. In our family, we always butter our lefse and roll it like crepes, but some people prefer to eat it with cinnamon and sugar.We always ate Thanksgiving dinner early in the day, and I can remember my brother eating several helpings before falling asleep on the couch. There was always too much food, and it was hard to make room in the refrigerator for all the leftovers, even after sending food home with guests.Occasionally we would go to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. Dad had low blood sugar and required frequent meals. He learned quickly that if we went to one particular home for dinner, he had to eat first and bring snacks, because the meal was always served several hours late.When I decided to cook my first Thanksgiving dinner, I talked my mother-in-law into coming to my house at 5 a.m.to help me. There we were, her with sleepy eyes and me in my robe, slipping my first turkey into the oven. I was shocked at how easy it was. Once in the oven, there was plenty of time to get the rest of the meal ready. The only bad parts were getting up out of a warm bed to handle a cold bird and trying to ignore the butterflies in my stomach because I was afraid to make gravy.It was important to me that my dinner be served on time. It would have been, but one guest arrived thirty minutes late — with her sweet potatoes still in the can and the marshmallows still in the bag; the dish still had to be cooked. I was devastated. I was also tired from getting up so early.That was the only time I got up early to cook a turkey. Now, my first rule is that dinner will be served at 4 p.m. so I won’t have to get up early. Even with a 20-pound turkey, I never have to have it in the oven before 9 a.m.My second rule is that the meal be served on time; if someone is late, we eat without them.It isn’t Thanksgiving without lefse, so after my dear Aunt Agnes passed away, I learned to make it myself. It was time-consuming and I was a messy cook, with more flour on the kitchen surfaces than the pie-making ever caused. I suddenly felt guilty about the stacks of lefse I had consumed every holiday season when Agnes was alive. I had never given a thought to the time and effort it took for her to supply all of us with our favorite treat.Eventually, I learned that members of the Sons of Norway in Kelso sell lefse once each November at their holiday bazaar. The date is on my calendar, and I show up there every year for 10 packs of perfect lefse.Now, holiday dinners are no longer stressful. I get up at 8 a.m. and have the turkey in the oven by 9 a.m. I use Pillsbury pie crusts that are ready to roll out into my pans, allowing me to bake homemade pies with perfect crust and little mess.I keep the menu simple: my daughter-in-law brings the mashed potatoes; my daughter brings the green-bean casserole. I open a can of cranberries, put a few pickles and olives on a plate, and make the gravy while the turkey is cooling.I haven’t been nervous about the gravy since I learned to cheat. I cook the giblets and save the broth to add to the turkey drippings. Then, I add packaged turkey gravy mix. Along with the drippings and the broth, I make perfect gravy every time.This Thanksgiving, Woodland sparkled in the sunshine as my family arrived. The sky was blue, the air was crisp, and Horseshoe Lake looked like a mirror, reflecting the autumn leaves of the trees on shore. We shot baskets in the driveway, rode bikes and ate on time.

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Filed under celebrations, Family Memories, grandchildren, Holidays, Horseshoe Lake, South County News, Thanksgiving, Woodland

Bazaars Kick Off Holiday Season in Woodland

bazaars 2007By Pat Nelson / South County News

@South County News/The Daily News, reprinted with permission

The parking lot was full Saturday, Nov. 17, when I drove up to the Woodland Care Center for its annual holiday bazaar. Inside, tables stretched across a hallway and filled a side room, and signs directed shoppers to more tables upstairs.

Danna Barbo of Ridgefield, chairwoman for the event, sold cuddly bears from a Christmas tree for $5 each, and goodies, ornaments and jewelry from the Woodland Care Center’s tables. “Residents,” said Barbo, “put the ornaments together and baked the cookies.”

“Do they have use of a kitchen?” I asked.

“They use an Otis Spunkmeyer cookie oven,” she replied, referring to the commercial cookie ovens often used by convenience stores and hotels to offer fresh-baked cookies made from Otis Spunkmeyer cookie dough. “The fudge,” she said, “is made by the staff in the kitchen.”

Two-year-old Kylie Robertson, daughter of Jennifer and Eric Robertson of Woodland, knew exactly what she wanted. She walked up to the Christmas tree and chose a fuzzy bear the color of cotton candy. Then she also wrapped her arms around a sky-blue bear.

Kylie’s mom took the bears from her daughter and held them out. “Which one do you want?” she asked. Kylie quickly chose the pink one, and then reached for the blue bear. Barbo, unable to resist the toddler’s cute smile, let her have both bears for $5.

“We buy the bears,” said Barbo, “and the residents put the ribbons on them. A lot of them have never had a teddy bear. If there are leftovers, we use them as Christmas gifts for the residents.”

In another room, I visited with Pat Madsen at her booth, where she told me the Woodland Care Center opened in 1973. The bazaar gives her a chance to visit with friends where she previously worked as director of nurses and then administrator. “We started the bazaar as a patient activity making manger scenes,” she said.

What started as a care-center activity became a community event, and the bazaar gives Woodland Care Center residents an opportunity to buy Christmas gifts for their family members.

Evie Leonard of Vancouver sold items from the next table. Leonard told me she had been an RN at the center for eight years. Next to her, Pat Pearson, formerly of Amboy but now living in Salmon Creek, displayed her crewel work.

Asked what crewel is, she replied, “It’s embroidery in wool.” Before her retirement, Pearson was charge nurse at the center, then director of nurses, and then charge nurse again, working every shift. She worked at the center from 1980 to 1986.

“There are two other bazaars in Woodland this weekend,” Barbo said. “We share flyers.”

Hearing that, I next visited the Holiday Boutique at St. Philip’s Parish, where a column of red and white balloons on the walkway hinted at the festivities inside. I said hello to Pat Kenny, who was enjoying a bowl of “white chicken chili.” It was time for lunch, and the chili smelled great. I bought a steaming bowlful and joined Kenny and others at a table. The chili was as good as it smelled, and before I left, I bought a cookbook to get the recipe. The cookbook, called “Feeding the Flock,” is a collection of favorite recipes by the St. Philip Altar Society of Woodland and the St. Joseph Parish of Kalama.

My next stop was the largest bazaar of the three, the Sno Flake Bazaar, held at the elementary school gym. The parking lot was full, and most people leaving the building carried plastic sacks of handcrafted treasures. As I entered the building , I saw the Behrendsen Farms booth operated by Ruth Wendt and Ann Bradshaw. Their booth offered local-area products including honey and aprons, plus beautiful baskets made in Ghana, West Africa.

In the main room of the bazaar, the first table was occupied by Nancy’s Potholders, owned by Nancy Johnson of Woodland. “I’ve had the same space every year but one since 1994,” Johnson said. “I have a lot of fun and love doing it.” Husband Noel buys a lot of raffle tickets, she said. When I talked with him, he had already won three nice prizes.

One vendor, Meredith DeBuse, was there selling handmade doll clothes. Asked how she got started selling doll clothes, she said, “I got into the doll thing 10 years ago. Mother made doll clothes for me.” DeBuse didn’t have daughters herself, but now has seven granddaughters to sew for.

Charlene Brooks and Kathy Huffman, both of Ariel, were working at the bazaar to earn funds to help the Pleasant View Community Church build a home for a needy family in San Vicente, Baja California, Mexico. Along with handmade items for sale, a quilt was raffled. About 15 women contributed their time and materials to supply the handcrafted merchandise and the raffle prize.

After attending all three bazaars in town, I had been well fed, had purchased some gifts and had the recipe for the famous white chicken chili. I had visited with old friends and made new acquaintances and could see why so many area residents look forward to these three bazaars each year.

Visit Pat Nelson’s Web site at www.storystorm.wordpress.com.

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Filed under Christmas, Holidays, seniors, South County News, Woodland

Happy Halloween: Cormorants Bob for Fish

I write a weekly newspaper column about my community, and that means I have to keep my eyes open. I don’t like writing the same old stories that are written every few months, so I have to be even more alert, and I have to be ready to go when the story shows itself to me. The hardest part for me is locating my camera and car keys. Most stories don’t wait for absent-minded writers to make three or four trips from room to room on a scavenger hunt for glasses, pen and paper, keys, and camera.

Looking across Horseshoe Lake one day, I noticed activity in the water. I grabbed the binoculars and spotted divers. That became the story that appears in today’s paper: http://www.tdn.com/articles/2007/10/31/southcountynews/news05.txt

A few days ago, I saw hundreds of Canadian Geese in a field north of town, next to I-5. I could have missed a good story that day because even though I had my car keys (hey, I was driving!) I didn’t have my camera. Big mistake for a writer! I dashed home, grabbed my camera, and drove out the dirt road that parallels the freeway, where I photographed the geese and took notes. I was lucky that day, but I’ll lose some good stories if I’m not prepared in the future.

This morning presented the perfect picture of Halloween, with orange leaves stacking up at the edges of the patio and walkways. Fallen leaves rested on the tops of autumn-red Barberry bushes, waiting for the strong November winds to fly them to new homes. Crisp leaves, safe for now, had funneled down through the sharp green swords of dwarf Pampas Grass, near the plant’s thick base.

The surface of the small lake I see from my desk through the top of the Pampas Grass is covered today with a misty Halloween fog. As a dozen low-swimming Cormorants, their necks sticking out of the water, swam in font of me, I reached for my camera to capture the eerie scene of black-hooded creatures swimming through the fog. I focused the camera. Twelve Cormorants became three, then six, then four, then eight. They bobbed, dipped, surfaced, and submerged again, staying underwater sometimes for more than a minute, acting out their own version of bobbing for apples. Snapping the shutter, I thought they just might bob into my next column. Happy Halloween.

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Filed under birding, Halloween, writing