"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it." - Hebrews 13:2

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mom’s Christmas Nut Roll

Quick update here: I'm on a blogging break until January 2nd. I wish you all a Happy New Year!

I’ve shared part of this story with a few of you. It’s about tradition, friendship, remembrance, and giving. One of the most wonderful and thoughtful Christmas presents that I have ever received was a nut roll.

Let me explain. Nearly 10 years ago, my mother passed away on a cold November day, just before Thanksgiving. I found myself totally depressed that she never knew that I had started writing, even though I had whispered it to her on her deathbed. She was the one who had always encouraged me to write. She knew I had a gift. She saved my essays, creative writings, and reports from school. She would always say, “Write, Laura. Just write.”

As Christmas approached that year after losing mom, I was feeling extremely blue. In my early years, I would know it was just a few days until Christmas by the smell of the house. My mom would make her divine Christmas nut rolls. The entire house was filled with this incredible nutty, sweet, doughy goodness.

The morning of the last day before winter break for my kids, I got up and rested on the couch while they were having breakfast. Suddenly, I was overcome by a smell of a baking nut roll. I know this sounds crazy, but I really did smell it. I thought perhaps I was dozing and dreaming, but I got up and asked the kids, “What is that smell? What are you making?”


I actually opened the oven expecting to see a pan of nut rolls baking.

“Don’t you guys smell something baking?”

“No, mom. You must be dreaming.”

“I swear I smell my mom’s nut roll.”

By this time, Eric had got up. I must have sounded convincing enough for him to come out to the kitchen to take a whiff.

“Loree, I don’t smell anything. You must be dreaming.”

Just as suddenly as it appeared, the smell went away. I sat on the couch with my coffee. I couldn’t believe what I had just experienced. I didn’t really understand it, or know how to digest it. It was just one of those strange moments in life…but then came the warm feeling. After the kids went to school, and hubby went to work, I was overwhelmed at what had happened. I cried, not with sadness and grief, but with a great joy. I knew, somehow, through God, that my mom knew that I was writing, and she was proud. However it came, or why, that smell was meant for me…and me only.

Now, I take you to five years later. I was with some friends, and we were talking about Christmas traditions. I mentioned about how I always knew it was two days to Christmas because my mother always made her nut roll.

“The house smelled wonderful with the rich aroma of Christmas nut roll. I wish I would have learned how to make it.”

That year, two days before Christmas, my dear friend brought me her homemade, unbaked nut roll for me to bake in my oven and fill my house with the aroma of a fond memory. Every year since, when my friend makes her Christmas nut rolls, she sends one over to me to bake— to remember my mom's Christmas tradition. It’s one of the most thoughtful gifts that I have ever received.

What about you? I would love it if you would share your favorite or most thoughtful gift.

Dear friends, I’m going to take a blogging break during the next two weeks to spend with my family and friends. I also plan to read Mind Over Madi by Lynda Schab. I had hoped to read it earlier this month, but I didn’t get to it as the holidays approached. I’ve heard nothing but great reviews on her book and look forward to the read. I will return with a post on the first Monday in January. In the meantime, I hope your holidays are filled to the brim with happiness and joy, hope, faith, and love. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Between you, me and the gatepost,


Monday, December 12, 2011

The Civil War Bivouac ~ The Civil War Christmas

Thomas Nast illustration of a couple separated by war, January 1863 – Harper’s Weekly

December 1861 saw little fighting during the Civil War. The watchword remained All Quiet on the Potomac as General McClellan trained his Grand Army.

During the Civil War, Christmas was an especially difficult and emotional time for the Federal or Confederate soldier who was away from his home. Men who once brought in the Christmas tree for the family, found themselves scavenging for firewood to keep warm, and singing carols around the campfire with comrades on Christmas Eve. Despite the holiday, the grim tasks of war continued as if it were any other day…guard duty, punishments, and even an execution for desertion.

Christmas accentuated loss and hardships. The vacant chair was more noticeable for the family left behind during that season than any other.

War is war. It’s the same today, as it was yesterday.

Many of the same Christmas traditions we observe in the present were also practiced during that time. Children from both North and South looked forward to a visit from Santa Claus, gifts were exchanged, and people attended Christmas services together, whether it was a grand cathedral or in a tent. As the war dragged on, it became increasingly difficult for the war torn south. Southern children were told that “Santa couldn’t get through the Yankee blockade”—or that “Santa was a Yankee” so Confederate pickets wouldn’t let him through.

The loss and hardships were felt by everyone.

In camp, a tree branch decorated with hardtack and salt pork might be found. Some soldiers were lucky enough to get packages and sundries from home. Some were truly blessed to be served a meager warm meal, although men in a permanent camp may have received a holiday feast. For entertainment, the chasing of a greased pig or a snowball fight took place to keep melancholy from setting in. Some soldiers turned to alcohol to fight the blues.

Many of the same beautiful Christmas carols we sing today were sung by the soldiers in camp or the families in around the tree. “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem," and "Away in a Manger.”

Slaves spent the Christmas season, cooking, cleaning, and serving their owner’s family. Few were fortunate to receive time off duties after the work was done to spend with their own families in celebration.

It was a time of mixed emotions. All at once one could feel, joy, sadness, love, piety, hope, and despair.

Miss Loree and Corporal Eric saying a tearful goodbye.

Between you, me and the gatepost,
We wish you all a Merry Christmas!
Eric and Loree Huebner

The Civil War Bivouac (formally The History Corner) normally appears with the first post of the month. Due to influenza, we had to post it one week late. Thanks for your patience.

~If you scroll to the bottom, you will find another Christmas image of Corporal Eric and Miss Loree~

Monday, December 5, 2011

Three Days in the Trees...

In the trees - from my bedroom window
Photo by Loree Huebner

Last Thursday, I left work early. By 6 pm, my body was not my own anymore. Pain shot through every molecule of my being. Every muscle and joint ached with such intensity that it was difficult just to move. My insides decided to turn outside on me…yep, at both ends. I was trapped in a horrific case of influenza with no way out. This isn’t happening!

On Friday, you would think it would get better after my stomach finally settled...nada chance. I lay in my bed, burning with fever, feeling like I had been run over by a truck. I had two brief moments where I struggled to sit up enough to pop open my lap top, check email and blogs. Yes I can do this…a no I can’t. That would be it. No writing. No reading. I couldn’t sit up for more than ten minutes at a time without my head spinning and pounding. The TV was on, but all I could do was stare out at the beautiful bare trees from my second floor bedroom windows. The view is quite a lovely sight—it’s like being in the trees.

As Friday slid into Saturday, the pain and misery only got worse. I remember thinking at one point that people have died from influenza. I understood the seriousness of it. This case of “the grip” had me wondering if I should go to the hospital. I think myself to be a strong and healthy woman, but I was no match for this “grip” thing. I remember starting to remind my husband where the important papers and life insurance documents were…you know, just in case. Eric smiled and quickly hushed me, as he put a cool rag to my head. I would doze, dream, and wake to be in the trees again.

Late Saturday afternoon, I began to feel a turn for the better—ever so slight, but a good turn. I was finally able to eat some toast and drink down some tea. Eric sat down on the bed next to me. He looked out the window and said, “I love looking out of the windows up here, it’s like being in the trees.

Sunday morning, nearly 48 hours after I got sick, Eric got the flu. Now he’s in the trees.

Ever get the flu so bad that you were just totally incapacitated? We're you ever left as weak as a kitten by an illness? Ever use an illness, or describe a sickness in your writing?  

Since Eric is “in the trees” - this week's The History Corner post will not be included in this post. It will be posted next week. He also is going to change the name of his posts to The Civil War Bivouac. Please visit next week for his post, along with my regular post.

Also, take care, there is a wicked flu monster on the loose out there. 

Between you, me and the gatepost,