Fido and me

Fido and me
Fido and me

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Remembering Things Past and Things to Come

Petunias and snap dragons

Cone flowers and allium


Maple tree in my back yard

Am I part of a minority group - people who love the Christmas season?  Everyone I've talked to recently is glad that Christmas is over.  Unlike them, I have the after-Christmas blues.  

I wrote about my melancholy to a friend who was glum during the Christmas holidays.  She, who is feeling much better now that it is January, sent back a thought that led to this blog post.  I shall quote her e-mailed words exactly.  "Cheer up, my dear kathy; after all, Christmas is not far away. A bit of patience and in less than 11 month's time it is going to be Christmas time again and in the meantime you'll have your birthday, spring surprises in the gardens and nature, sunny days of  summer, autumn harvest time and beautiful colours!  What more do you want?"  She added, "forgive me, I am teasing you!!!"

After I looked back at some 2011 photos showing the lovely colors of an early autumn day, I acknowledge the rightness of her words.  What more do I want?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

For Christmas, Five Gold Rings or a Glockenspiel?

The video above, from a Julie Andrew's Christmas Special made in the 1980s, was a great favorite of my sister, our mom, and me.  We always played it at least once during the Christmas season and I still have the video tape of the original program that featured Julie, John Denver, Placido Domingo, and the King's Singers.  My limited German allowed for some translation but I could never figure out just what kind of a Kuckucks Uhr (Coo Coo Clock) was presented on the first day of Christmas, even though I would hear the German words twelve times per song.

The video segment of the song finally turned up on You Tube but with Spanish subtitles.  I know some Spanish too, but evidently whoever uploaded this video was as puzzled as I was by that coo coo clock.

At Christmas time two years ago, I sent the video to a distant German cousin who now lives and works in Bavaria. At the time, he had lost his sound card on his home computer but promised to try to give me a complete translation, especially to the words before the first item, the ... Kuckucks Uhr.

For my birthday in February, I got a birthday greeting from our cousin and a great present - the complete translation. Now I could stop going crazy trying to figure out that silly coo-coo clock's description. I'm putting it on my memory blog so I never have to wonder again.

THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS, German version with some Spanish added

"Zu Weihnachten schenke ich Dir mit Liebe:
(For Christmas I give to you with love:)
1. Eine bunt bemalte Kuckucks Uhr (A multicolored cuckoo clock)
2. Ein Bier Krug (beer mug)
3. Ein Tirolerhut (Tyrolean hat)
4. Einen Gugelhupf (Specialty Austrian dessert, similar to a Bundt cake. Gugelhupf consists of a soft yeast dough which contains raisins, almonds and Kirschwasser cherry brandy.)
5. Ein Glockenspiel
6. Fünfzig Pfeffernüsse (fifty peppernuts - one German kind is made with baking soda and baking powder, honey, and is frosted)
7. Zwei Wienerschnitzel (we Germanic types all know what two Wienerschnitzel means)
8. Ein Spitzendirndl (traditional alpine fashion - some kind of "lace dirndl")
9. Ein Apfelstrudel (an apple strudel)
10. Ein Federkissen (feather pillow)
11. Two Zwetschgenknödl (two plum dumplings - "Zwetschge" is another and more complicated word for "Pflaume" - plum. It seems to be of alpine origin (swiss?) - but I'm not so sure about that).
12. 50 Knackwürste? (Its a germanic sausage and is made with pork)

Sing along!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Daddy

John Matthias Gosz

These are the only pictures of my dad as a youngster.  He was the oldest boy, born on March 16, 1904.  His parents, both first generation Americans, followed a custom of the old country.  His godfather was his grandfather, Matthias Meier.  However, he was not named Matthias as he would have been if he had been born in the Rhineland (Kreis Saarburg) as his mother's ancestors were.  Instead, he was called John and it was his middle name that honored his godfather.

How I wish that relatives with every make and model of camera could have attended his baptism.  I wonder if he cried when the water which made him a child of God was poured over his little head.  I wonder if he was born with lots of hair or was as bald as his first daughter, me!  If little John did have hair, it probably was already beginning to show how curly it would be.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Cat Named Junior

Junior and one of his big sisters
Although our mother and father had only daughters, one member of our family was a male called "Junior."  He was a ginger-colored tortoise shell cat, and his IQ, if cat's have IQ's, was the lowest of the dozens of pet cats we owned over the years. Be that as it may, he was the longest surviving of any of our barn/house cats and very memorable.

To begin at the beginning - Sister and I come from a home where my father was a cat lover.  He needed cats, of course, to keep down the mouse population in our barn, but unlike most farm cats, ours were tame almost from the moment they were born, little ears folded down and eyelids that looked like they were glued shut.  Not too long after Mom and Dad bought their own farm, Dad already had taken in a number of felines.

 From the time I was a toddler, it was apparent that I had inherited Dad's cat-loving genes.  My sister came along somewhat later - but her love affair with cats began as early as mine had.  Our poor Mom, basically a "dog person" didn't have a chance - she had to learn to like cats.  And it was my mom who gave Junior his name.

Since I'm the genealogist in the family, I feel obliged to mention Junior's family tree.  His grandmother was Tiny Tina and his father (as was the case with all of our cats) was unknown.  Tiny Tina's batch of kittens included "Teddy"with teddy-bear eyes who was mistakenly thought to be a boy kitty for several weeks.  We just pretended we had always meant to call her Teddi, short for Theodora when we discovered the mistake.  Then Teddi begot three kittens who were exactly the same color as their mother.  One of them was Junior, who had her Teddy bear eyes.

Junior's mom, Teddi, had always had the run of the farm; and when she became a teenager, she was a bit of a wild girl.  Soon she began to look like she was going to present us with offspring even though she was still almost a kitten herself.  Evidently Tiny Tina hadn't explained about Tom cats.  She definitely hadn't explained to Teddi that an expectant mother was supposed to have her kittens in the barn - either in the hay mow or in one of the feed boxes in a manger, which made a pretty good birthing room.

We got suspicious when Teddi started checking out the bottom of the bookcase shelf in our living room, curling up in the free space next to the last three volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia.  We put her out of the house each time we found her in that bookcase, but she wasn't an easy little lady to convince.  When her birthing date came, she couldn't get into the house and had to settle for the chicken coop (where there was straw but no chickens).  The kitten who looked just like her, having the same teddy bear eyes, was named Teddy Junior.  Of course, Junior was the name that stuck.

Teddi still wanted her babies to permanently live in the house.  We would look out of the window and see her; teeth clamped into the scruff of her baby kitten's neck, headed down the gravel driveway from the barn to the house.  After being carried, kitten still in teeth, back to the barn so many times we lost count, she settled on the garage as a compromise.  We should never have left the door open!

What do you do to avoid squashing a baby kitten or two when you back the family car out of the garage?  We put the babies on a high box, jumped in the car, backed free of the building, jumped out of the car, put the kittens on the floor of the garage, closed the garage door, and left - then did the process in reverse when we came home.

There were no unfortunate accidents and soon the baby kittens were old enough to bring in the house for some play on the kitchen floor.  The three had great fun running around under the table, ducking their heads to avoid the low kitchen chair spokes.  Well, two of the kittens lowered their heads; Junior just ran and the sound of his little golden head hitting the spokes--thunk, thunk, thunk--became so common we scarcely winced anymore.  I think the adult Junior's rather slow-witted responses probably came from that time, although having a mother who thought a garage was a good place to raise a family probably didn't entitle Junior to a high standard of intelligence.

Junior may not have been a whiz kid, but he added a lot of smiles to our lives.

*How many cats love pork and bean juice, licked from a paper plate after a family supper at the picnic table?  It did give him bad breath when he put his furry little face anywhere near your nose, but we got used to that too.

*There can't be too many cats who love popcorn so much that they make a dash for the kitchen at the sound of the popcorn popper being pulled from the cupboard.

*Some cats are fascinated by their image in a mirror.  How ordinary.  Junior was enthralled by some sort of reflection in a black decorative vase Mom had placed on the dining room floor.  He could sit on his haunches, moving nary a muscle, for what seemed like hours at a time, thinking his own brand of philosophical cat thoughts.

Junior and his other sister
*Junior loved books and newspapers.  If you were reading the newspaper in your favorite chair, he jumped for it like a circus dog jumps through a hoop.  Crushed newspapers are fairly easy to read, even when there's a bit of a hole in the article you were about to peruse.

*If you had a book in your hands, it was obviously too small for Junior's circus act.  Instead, he would jump in your lap and lie on his back, taking his position as a book holder - a perfect way to nap and not a bad way to keep the book's pages open!

Ah, Junior.  Life would have been much less delightful without you!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Birds of a Feather

It's raining this morning and watching the birds has taken up a chunk of my time - but well worth it. This year, for the first time since I moved here 10 years ago, I have seen both cardinals and chickadees. The more the trees around us grow back after the home development that started about twelve years ago, the more new birds we see.

At first there were mostly water birds because of our conservancy pond. Watching the geese fly into the sunset was magnificent. Later, though, when there were geese wandering all over the lawns, that thrill began to wane.

The first time I saw a heron land in "the pond", I was awe struck. By now, he or she is a regular fixture and sits on a birdhouse that one of the neighbors installed in the pond. I don't know why he thought birds would like that location, but it makes a great landing pad for Harry Heron, aka Claude by other residents of our street.

In the early spring, little merganser diving ducks and buffle heads were a revelation to me. Their black and white feathers and unusually shaped heads attracted my attention. I grabbed my binoculars and most of them were gone. But then they popped up in an entirely new location of the water. It became a game. When a merganser dived, where would he come up. I was usually wrong and spent a lot of time at the window trying again.

A little later in the spring, we had robins and red-wing blackbirds. For awhile I had a singing sparrow who sat on one of my miniature flowerbox trellises and sang his heart out. Watching his throat throb as he warbled, I called him my little Caruso. I wasn't so pleased when he tried to attack his reflection in my patio door and got muddy footprints all over the door and the two windows along side. The yellow finches delicately perched on flowers. What a variety of positions they can take! The purple finches, sometimes as many as seven at a time, crowded together on one deck trellis. Since there are three other trellises just like it, I can only assume togetherness or competitiveness is their motivation.

This early summer has brought a cardinal who, this morning, sat on my shepherd's hook in the flower bed and pecked at the fake leaves before flying off to look for something a little more tasty. Yesterday, a chick-a-dee perched on my little deck trellis and checked out this neighborhood that is still new to him.

Now I have it all - every bird I thought I'd lost when I moved from my last location and all the new ones I've learned to watch for.

What a lucky duck I am!  Or maybe a lucky dove.

Monday, July 19, 2010


At Sunday morning Mass this morning, a hymn that has always tempted me to laugh was sung by the congregation during the communion service.  It is a fine spiritual and is meant to be reverential.  The chorus, which is also the title of the song, is as follows:

Let us break bread together on our knees,
Let us break bread together on our knees,
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
Oh Lord, have mercy on me.

But from the moment I heard it for the first time, the wrong picture came to mind, and I can't get rid of it.  For I don't see a kneeling group of people, sharing consecrated bread; I see a large gathering of people, sitting on straight-back chairs, every one of them breaking a loaf of bread on their knees, crumbs flying.  I try to focus on the proper picture, but the other scene presented itself again this morning.

Loaf of farmer's bread purchased at the Golden October celebration
 in Saarburg Germany in 2004

The bread above would certainly take powerful knees to break it.  But I think it's the kind of bread that the song's lyricist had in mind for the sacred repast.

And anyone who wants to know a lot about bread as well as reverential song, don't miss the book, "52 Loaves; One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust," by William Alexander.  It's great, even for non-bread bakers such as I.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Joys of early morning

Ask anyone who knows me.  I am not a morning person.  But the weather is hot this week and getting out for a walk is only possible, for a cool weather lover like me, in the early morning or after sunset.  This morning I awoke at 7 a.m. which is almost like the middle of the night for me.  I was fuzzy-minded but not sleepy (these are two different things, as night persons know).  I went for a walk while there was still shade and the temperature was pleasant.

Even in the sun, I was mostly comfortable; and the mosquitos were not as thick as they have been at night.  I finished some deadheading of my flowers; the ones that I missed yesterday evening as the mosquitos mounted their attacks.  

As I walked toward my coneflowers, I was gifted with the sight of a monarch butterfly having his breakfast.  Oh for a camera!  I went inside to get one and lovely butterfly cooperated.  He heard more camera snaps than George Clooney!  And in my opinion he was just as photogenic.