Family Ties

Hasselnuss StengeliAndrea here, continuing our daily celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmastide with short posts on the spirit of the season. The holidays have been a bit quiet for me as this year, instead of our usual Christmas Day gathering, my family has been scattered around the globe. In celebration of my niece getting her PhD in English two weeks ago, my older brother and his wife took her to Rome (it had to be that timing because both my niece and SIL are teaching at different universities with different breaks) My younger brother and his family just moved houses in Wyoming and were frantically getting their old place ready for sale . . . And my nephew (the PhD's brother) jetted off to Brazil to be with his fiancee. (Niece and nephew pictured here)

IMG_4996So, I was feeling a little nostalgic with everyone so far away. And then very early on Christmas Eve morning I was awakened by the "beep-beep" of a text coming into my cellphone. Hmmm. I was tempted to ignore it—I'm not big on texting or being a slave to my phone. However, I decided to take a quick look and it's my nephew from Brazil, apologizing for the wake-up call but in need of immediate cookie help! He was surprising his fiancee with a batch of traditional Swiss "hasselnuss stengeli" Christmas cookies and couldn't remember how to make the lemon-sugar glaze.

So off we go on a flurry of texts . . . He has very fond memories of making the cookies with his grandmother (my mother). As do I. (He loves to cook and is very good at it.) The missing piece of the recipe was easy-peasy to send off but for the next little while we were also exchanging funny memories of past holidays . . . like the time my mother's usually well-behaved German Shepherd, who NEVER stole food, walked through the dining room in mid-feast with a huge wedge of Jarlsberg that he had snatched from the low cocktail table in the living room . . . and the time my mother was insisting on taking SO many group pictures of the family that he instigated getting everyone to take their shirts off when she was fiddling with the camera. (She framed that picture.)

IMG_0605Anyway, when it ended, I was laughing aloud and feeling, well, very connected, even though we were very far away. To me it was a perfect vignette of what the spirit of the season is all about. Family, friends, laughter, sharing . . . and though I don't think of devices are a very good way to do that, I was grateful for modern technology letting me connect to a loved one and share a few laughs.

What about you? Were you able to celebrate together with loved ones? Or did you do some long distance connecting too?

Celebrating the Gifts That Give for a Lifetime

Cara/Andrea here, Wishing everyone a joyous day filled with peace and love. This is traditionally a day to gather and make merry with family and friends, brightening the darkest days of the years with festive good cheer and sparkly decorations.

It's also a time for exchanging gifts, and giving thanks for our blessings. In that spirit, I'd love to share with you a small Holiday ormament made by my late mother, who was an amazing artist along with her many other talents. It's made out of vintage type ornaments and for me it not only celebrates the Season, but reminds me how she encouraged my love of reading from an early age. We shared countless hours through the years talking about stories and characters that entertained and inspired us. Reading taught me the joys of dreaming and using my imagination. That books are an important part of who I am is something I consider one of the great gifts in life.

Happy Holidays, Everyone! Thank you for being part of the Wench family! I hope books are among the presents sitting under the tree and in your stockings!

Red ornament-large


Lost & Found— A Love Story

Mom&Me1 Cara/Andrea here,

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, it got me to thinking about all the little things that connect us to the ones we love. This Sunday, we will exchange special gifts, and most likely overindulge in chocolate (there is a good reason that the Aztecs considered it the food of the Gods!) However, amid all the flutter of heart-shaped cards and rose-colored corsets, I began musing on some of the unexpected gifts we get in life, all the more beautiful for their appearing out of nowhere.

So, here’s a short love story.

I was an only daughter, so my mom and I had a special bond, and a shared love of art and books brought us even closer together. As a child, I was already captivated by historical stories, and loved reading about medieval jousts and  knights in armor. So it’s no wonder that from an early age, I was fascinated by her beautiful gold signet ring. Engraved with her family’s crest, it had been a gift from her father on her eighteenth birthday. I loved that ring . . . and she used to smile at me and say, “Someday it will be yours.” Over the years, there were various birthdays where we planned to have one made for me, but somehow we never got around to it.

Mom's-signet-ring It’s been nearly two years since my mom passed away, and that signet ring is one of my treasured mementos. It sat in my jewelry box for a long time, a bit too small to fit on my finger. Then, this past summer I finally decided to have it re-sized so that I could wear it. I chose to take it to a small shop in New Haven. CT,  a bit of a drive for me, because I remembered my mother telling me that the proprietor was a artisan goldsmith who had done a lovely alteration on one of her other rings. I didn’t want to trust my heirloom to just anyone, so off I went.

Derek was there that afternoon, and he listened patiently as I explained my ring's sentimental value and asked him to take great care with it. He looked it over for a moment, and his brow rose a notch. “I remember your mother,” he said. A pause. “She got very mad at me.”

I blinked.

“Yes,” he went on. “She commissioned me to make a ring similar to one she had bought in Turkey. She brought me detailed sketches, and I made a prototype. But then somehow I lost it.” Another pause. “She was not pleased.”

Now, my mother did have a strong personality. And if you said you were going to do something, she took you to task if you didn’t come through.

“So she ended up canceling the order,” he finished.

I smiled. “Well, let’s let bygones be bygones. She thought you were a wonderful craftsman.”

Ring-1 A funny expression crept over his face. “Wait here for a moment,” he said, and then disappeared into the back of his shop. Sounds of rustling and rummaging floated out from behind the half-closed door. Several minutes later he reemerged and opened his hand to reveal a wink of silver. “I found this the other day—it’s the ring your mother designed.”

Staring down at his palm, I blinked again.

“It’s not finished yet,”  he murmured. “But if you want it, I can go ahead . . .”

Did I want it? In a heartbeat!

So now I have another ring connecting me to my mother, all the more special because I never expected it. As  I turned to leave the shop, another woman who was perusing the cases came up to me and said that she couldn’t help overhearing us, and thought it was one of the nicest stories she had ever heard.

I smiled and told her that I was a romance writer . . . But that not even I could have made it up.

So, that’s my love story. How about you? Any unexpected moments in your life  or little love stories that have made your heart sing?