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Planning the garden

“When winter’s worst has lost its hold
(But still it’s very, very cold)…
When we are tired of fighting snows
And spirits seem to hit new lows,
That’s when the mail is sure to bring
Seed catalogs that herald spring.”
“Fireside Gardening” by Cleo King

The garden catalogs began arriving in the mail even before the first of the year. The first was our favorite bulb catalog, Dutch Gardens. This company’s amaryllis bulbs are truly spectacular. So are their King Alfred Daffodils. We must put bulb food on the places where our daffodil and crocus bulbs are already planted. That is, of course, when the snow finally melts and we can get out into the back yard. Other years we have found the tips of bulbs pushing through the ground as early as Christmas on the sunny side of our home. We have some daffodils in work that are growing by leaps and bounds. The ceramic pot that came with the bulbs had no drain holes in the bottom. I put the bulbs in the potting mixture provided but did not use the ceramic pot. I used a makeshift pot that was on the front porch but the bulbs are practically falling out of the small pot. I have since found a bigger pot and have repotted the bulbs. They should do beautifully. I was also given two amaryllis bulbs for Christmas. One is in the dining room; the other, in the kitchen. They had already started to grow in their packages and were growing sideways. They have since straightened themselves out and look beautiful.

After the warm weather this past weekend, the snow is receding from the grassy areas in our yard. When we came in from church the other day, I looked to see if I could see any shoots coming through the ground. Not yet! As soon as more snow goes, I can get a better look. I am always so pleased when I see crocus and daffodils shoots breaking through the ground.

Over the Christmas holiday, Hubby, daughter Sue, and I attended some wonderful family parties. On Christmas Eve, cousins Margie and Janet invited us to their home in Quincy for their annual Open House. Their home was already filled with people. The only thing I felt bad about was the fact that the newest members of our large family, cousins Olivia and Michael, both just a few months old, were visiting “the other side” of their families that evening so we couldn’t hold them. Cousin Bobby was there with his son Kevin, daughter-in-law Dara, and their sons Ryan and Adam. Bobby’s daughter Lisa was there with her husband Harry, and their kids Danny and Katie. We have a great photo of Harry snoozing during the evening. He is a police officer and works crazy hours. Bobby’s son Donald and his wife Tara were not there this Christmas Eve. They were hosting the family’s Christmas Day party the next day and were home preparing for that.

In came our daughter Jeanne, son-in-law David, and the World Greatest Grandchildren, Brendan and Erin. Our son Paul came in, also. Our daughter-in-law Alex was in bed with a bad cold and wasn’t well enough to attend, much to her dismay. Margie and Janet’s friends Michael and Jean joined us, with their daughter Maura and grandson Jared, who looked positively adorable in his little suit jacket and tie. Son Paul went around and took photos of everyone at the Christmas Open House. So did Hubby. Margie and Janet had quite a bit of food left over from the evening’s celebration and gave each family some food to take home. It is always such a happy evening, seeing so many family members.
On Christmas Day, Hubby, Daughter Sue, and I went to the 8:30 a.m. Mass at St. Ann’s. When we arrived back home, Hubby had already cooked some bacon the day before so we splurged and had bacon and eggs. When we finished, we first had to put away the things that we had received for Christmas. (Hubby, Sue, and I had exchanged gifts after coming home from Margie and Janet’s Christmas Eve Open House.) We put everything for cousins Carolyn and Rock’s Christmas party by the door, ready to put in the back of our wagon. We weren’t sure how many members of our family were able to come to their home for Christmas. Sue had her potato salad and chocolate pudding pie. I had all kinds of soda and some eggnog. (We like the Garelick brand the best.) We had onion dip and low-salt chips. (You don’t need the regular chips with onion dip, which is salty in itself.) We gave ourselves a half hour to drive to Norwell. Unlike Thanksgiving Day, the traffic moved beautifully.

Carolyn and Rock’s home looked beautiful, with snow covering the front and back yard. There were electric Christmas figurines, dressed handsomely in velvet clothing, moving slowly in the front windows. They are so beautiful. Carolyn had come out to our car to help us in with all the presents and food that we had brought. She had put Christmas candles in the rooms on the first floor. The Christmas tree looked gorgeous in the corner of the living room. Carolyn had the Irish ornaments that I had given her over the years down the front of the tree. Rock was in the kitchen, busily cooking for the Christmas meal. Their two Maine Coon cats, “Kittery” and “Sanford,” named for two towns in Maine, were out in the warm sun porch with Carolyn and Rock’s daughter Katie and their son “J.R” and his girl Amy. Rock had the wood stove going for us.

The dining room table was partially set with dishes, silverware, and napkins. It would soon be filled with all kinds of food. Rock is a magnificent cook, who gets most of his recipes online. For Christmas he cooked a ham. He made meatballs and a shrimp dish. The one dessert that was the same as at Thanksgiving was a cherry pie. I think that it is “J.R.’s” favorite. He also made a apple-cranberry pie that was scrumptious. I had to have a small piece “to make sure it wasn’t poisoned.” While we were eating, Carolyn’s niece/my cousin Laura called from Minnesota. She said that they were almost snowbound. It had been very cold and snowy on the weeks leading up to Christmas. She said how much her young boys, Elliot and Calvin, were enjoying their Christmas. Carolyn passed the phone to each of us so that we could all speak with her.

Cousin Richard came in with his girls, Julianna and Emily. Emily had on the cutest Christmas-tree-shaaped hat that vibrated. I understand that she got it from Betty Cikacz, one of Richard’s co-workers. Did we laugh when she put it on her head. Cousin Diane also joined us but didn’t stay too long. She was sick and felt terrible. She just wanted to go home and rest.

I already mentioned that our daughter-in-law Alex was sick on Christmas Eve and wasn’t able to make Margie and Janet’s Open House. Right after Christmas, daughter Jeanne came down with a fever and sinunitis, that knocked her for a loop for a couple of days. Then daughter Sue had a nasty case of pharyngitis. She spent all afternoon one day during Christmas week at Carney’s Emergency Room with an IV in her arm to help reduce the swelling in her throat. By the way, she praised all the employees in Carney’s ER for working so hard with so many different illnesses and accidents. Within a couple of days of this, niece Terri came down with a terrible cold. We had never had so many family members ill at one time.

During the December school vacation week, the teens from the Leahy-Holloran Community Center played a dodge ball game with officers from District C-11, the Gang, and the Drug Unit. Corrine Ball showed me a photo of the group and told me that they all had great fun. During the February school vacation week, the police are, once again, going to play against the Leahy-Holloran teens, this time, in a game of water basketball, in the pool. (The center has just purchased new water-basketball nets.) Doesn’t that sound great! If your teen is not a member of the Leahy-Holloran Community Center’s Teens, join now. I think it would be just fun to watch. Look for further info on the game.

You probably have received one of your new phone books at your door in the past few weeks. Please don’t throw your old one in the trash. Be sure you recycle it into your new big blue recycling bin. According to a memo from John McCarthy from Boston’s Public Works Dept., for every 1,000 telephone books that are recycled, we save: 17 trees, 4,100 kW of electricity, enough to power the average home for six month, 7,000 gallons of water, and 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space. That should be enough proof that we need to recycle our phone books.

The news from Haiti has been just heartbreaking. Since I didn’t have time to sit in front of the TV, I kept the radio on WBZ. One of the reporters on the scene interviewed one family. The husband said that all he could salvage from their home was “one chair, one table, and two pair of shoes.” That was unbelievable. Another reporter said that he saw a man dragging a body down the street. (It had to have been a family member.) Every time I hear Leonard Gengel’s voice on the radio or see him on TV begging for help in finding his daughter Britney, my heart breaks and my eyes begin to tear. It is so sad. I know that my friend and former co-worker Richardson is safe. Rich is now working in Haiti. He was the first person I thought of when I heard of the quake. Thank God, he is O.K. As of this past Saturday evening, Catholic officials in Haiti think that as many as 100,000 may have died in the quake. What a tragedy!

This is a wonderful Chinese proverb: “Do not be afraid of growing slowly; be afraid of only standing still.”