The Star of Christmas

The star of Christmas shines for all,
No matter great, no matter small,
No matter spotted, brown or white,
It bids us all to share the light.
                        ~ Unknown

Two Rabbits (Kobi). By Kobi (active 19th century) (http://www.hwwilson.com/Databases/artmuseum.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Two Rabbits (Kobi) (Photo credit: Wikipedia). By Kobi (active 19th century) (http://www.hwwilson.com/Databases/artmuseum.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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In an Atlanta gift shop, on the last road trip my mother and I took together, I bought a packet of Christmas cards designed by a local artist. In the background on the front, there was a star; in the foreground, there were three rabbits–brown, white, and black-and-white. The verse above appeared inside. The design was simple, unsentimental, and touching.

I used all but one of the cards, and kept that one thinking I might be able to find more. But I couldn’t, and sometime over the past twenty-eight years, the last card disappeared. I hope I’ve quoted the verse exactly. The image above doesn’t duplicate the charm of the original, but perhaps it’s close.

I’ve searched the web for the name of the artist-poet but have found nothing. If anyone reading this knows the artist or has seen the card I’ve described, please leave a comment. I would like to give proper attribution. If possible I will contact the author to ask permission to use it; if he wishes, I’ll remove the post. (Note: A friend pointed me to the website of Michael Podesta. I suspect the card might be one of his.)

I don’t usually post anything without getting permission and crediting the author, but I love the card and it seems a shame not to share.

Burnt Toast: A Christmas Story

Christmas Day 2015 is the 65th, approximately, anniversary of the day my grandmother burned toast. I wasn’t there, but I heard about it after I arrived.

At the bottom of the page, I’ve added links to posts and to entire blogs about burnt toast. One post instructs how not to burn toast. Another describes what to do when you haven’t followed instructions.

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I burn toast.

It’s hereditary. My mother burned toast. My grandmother burned toast.toast

Once when my grandmother was making cornbread dressing for Christmas dinner, she burned three consecutive baking sheets of toast.

My father, who ambled into the kitchen in time to see the process, drawled, “Mrs. Barrow, you’re a failure.”

While I was thinking about that story this morning, I burned the toast.

David came downstairs to see what the yelling was about. I pointed to the cinders and said, “That was the end of the loaf, so we’ll just have to eat it.”

David is more tactful than my father was. He turned away, but not before I glimpsed the corner of his mouth twitch. He, too, has learned about the family habit.

He’s also learned about some habits that are mine alone.

I lock my car keys inside the car. Sometimes I lock the extra set of keys and the cell phone and my purse in with them.

I use a two-quart saucepan to make four quarts of soup.

I hoard both fat clothes and skinny clothes for the time when they once again, someday, maybe fit.

The list isn’t exhaustive, but today is Christmas Eve and I have to get busy.

Anyway, I used to ask myself, “Why do I do these things?”

Lately, however, I’ve thought, “So what?”

I have a good working relationship with the roadside assistance folks: I send money and they send assistance. I’ve helped people this way. One locksmith, in fact, said I’d just made his day by not acting like it was his fault I’d locked myself out.

Regarding soup, when the fixings reach the brim, I drag out a larger vessel and arrange a transfer.

Some years that gray wool suit fits and some years it doesn’t, but it’s in excellent condition, and there’s always hope.

And it’s not as if I’m completely devoid of talent.

Soup is a challenge, but I can pack the trunk of a car so every suitcase, garment bag, and Christmas present fits without spilling over into the back seat.

I can get pills down cats.

My book talks make sixth-grade boys want to read. And that’s the truth.

I make killer ice cream.

Surely these things count in my favor.

The day of the latest conflagration, I found–serendipitously–the blog Burnt Toast, whose author points out that, while regular toast is boring, burnt toast has “flavor and character.”

I like that. Without burnt toast, I wouldn’t have the story about my father teasing his mother-in-law.

So in 2016, I shall say, “So what?”

I’ll try to keep keys in hand, but when I don’t, I’ll call a locksmith and just make his day.

I’ll take clothes I can’t wear to the Salvation Army, but I’ll keep the gray suit.

I’ll be grateful for soup that expands beyond the bounds of my expectations.

In short, I’ll embrace burnt toast, relishing the flavor and character it brings.

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“How to Cook Toast in an Oven,” from Livestrong.com

“Move the top shelf in your oven to the highest it can go.”

The instruction is correct, but it’s also the first step toward having to take the batteries out of the smoke alarm. Moving the shelf to the second highest level affords a better chance of getting the bread out unscathed. I don’t care any more, but other people might.

“If you do not have a baking sheet, or need to toast more pieces than will fit on the baking sheet, you may place the bread directly on the oven shelf.” 

This works, too, but only if you don’t care that crumbs will fall to the bottom of the bottom of the oven and turn into tiny flakes of toast, and you’ll have to sweep them out. You don’t have to sweep them out immediately, but if you tarry, they’ll convert to tiny pieces of carbon that will eventually stick in place.

Warning: Always keep your eye on the bread as it toasts. Bread burns easily and quickly and a simple turn of the head can be enough to turn your golden brown toast into a lump of black and burnt bread.

Well, d’oh.

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Blogs about burnt toast:

http://burnttoastblog.com/

http://myburnttoast.blogspot.com/

https://burnttoast2010.wordpress.com/

https://toastisburnt.wordpress.com/

And, finally, a post about what to do with burnt toast when it’s ready to eat:

http://food52.com/blog/12442-meet-kate-coffey-who-dared-to-stick-burnt-toast-beer-pretzels-in-caramel-with-very-good-results

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I wrote this post for Whiskertips in 2009 and recycled it a year later for this blog. I’ve made some changes, but one thing remains the same–the toast is still burnt.