If Only In My Dreams

It was early Thanksgiving morning when I gently pulled back the drapes and peered across the back yard into the mile-wide valley below. The upstairs hall window of my boyhood home provided the perfect vantage point to see not only a part of my old neighborhood, but a good portion of the small, coal-mining community where I spent a majority of my life. My mom and dad purchased the house in the fall of 1974 and while gazing out the hall window soon developed into a morning ritual, it quickly evolved into a lifestyle and a part of everyday life.

When local fire sirens would blare, declaring a fire emergency or accident, we’d go to the hall window. When thunder and snow storms blasted across the summit of the Laurel Highlands, threatening the security of our surroundings or delivering the promise of a day off from school, we’d go to the hall window. When we spent the night watching yet another lunar eclipse, we’d go to the hall window. When spring arrived, we’d go to the hall window. When my sister and I wanted to communicate with our friends, we’d go to the hall window. When my mom and dad wanted to voice their displeasure with my actions in the back yard, they’d go to the hall window!

I can’t tell you exactly how many times I’ve visited the hall window during my lifetime, but I can tell you it is different now. The old, original window was replaced and the view is now altered. There’s no longer an old garage in the back yard. Many of the trees I used to climb are gone. Some of the houses look the same, although a few were torn down or remodeled in some way. Several of our dear neighbors have passed away, taking their eternal rest. A handful of landmark buildings were demolished and various businesses no longer exist. The town of Nanty-Glo, Pennsylvania has transitioned from an industrial era mining machine to a quiet, quaint, and unassuming community.

They say you can’t go home again and for the longest time I shrugged it off as nonsense. I could go home again! The house was there! My parents were there! The town was still there! But, I can tell you it is different now and as I gazed out the window once more I sadly witnessed scenes, images, and people fade into the dimension of yesteryear. I desperately called out to my friends to gather once more in the back yard for a game of baseball, but no one answered. I knocked on a neighbor’s door with an offer to shovel snow from the walk, but the faces appearing were those of total strangers. I leafed through the phone book to look up the names of people I knew and they were nowhere to be found. I waited patiently by the mailbox for our trusty mailman to bring me one last piece of life-changing correspondence, but he had long since retired and passed away. With tears streaming down my face I watched as familiar people, places, and events fundamentally morphed into nothing more than a distant memory. I can’t really go home again. Nothing will truly be the same as it was years ago.

It’s the holiday season and like many of you I will make my way home once again, but this time with a divergent perspective. I will cherish the present – every moment with my family, friends and neighbors will be meaningful because these times will never come again. I will look boldly to the future and embrace the Hope of Christmas for a bright tomorrow.  I will relish the past by remembering the wonderful memories of my family, friends, neighborhood, and hometown. Yes I’ll be home for Christmas Nanty-Glo, if only in my dreams.

 

“Christmas Eve will find me, where the love light gleams.

I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”

 

©Copyright 2013 Scott Rhoades/Ivory Hill Studios

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Are you tired of the traditional Christmas cookies and pies? Looking for a new and savory dessert to add to your holiday menu? Want to bring something different to that holiday party? Here’s one we recently put to the test and we think you’ll agree – it’s a winner!

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Serving Size – Makes 2 loaves

 

3 Cups – All-Purpose Flour

1 Tablespoon Plus 2 Teaspoons – Pumpkin Pie Spice

2 Teaspoons – Baking Soda

1 1/2 Teaspoons – Salt

3 Cups – Granulated Sugar

1 Can (15 oz) – Pumpkin Filling

4 Large Eggs

1 Cup – Vegetable Oil

1/2 Cup – Orange Juice or Water

1 Cup – Sweetened Dried, Fresh or Frozen Cranberries

 

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease and flour TWO 9 x 5-inch loaf pans.

Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.

Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, vegetable oil, and orange juice in large mixer bowl; Beat until blended.

Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture; Stir just until moistened.

Fold in cranberries.

Spoon batter into prepared loaf pans.

Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean.

Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

 

©Copyright 2013 Scott Rhoades/Ivory Hill Studios

Home For Christmas

The Christmas Season has arrived in southwest Ohio and we’re ready to celebrate. The tree is decorated, the fireplace is lit, the smell of seasonal spices and baking is in the air, and the classic holiday sounds of Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and Andy Williams are streaming from the radio. Christmas is such a special time!

While we are aware that many of you have special traditions and meanings in your holiday routines, here are some of our own creative customs and practices that have made this time of year so festive for us:

1.  Home Decorations

Over the years we have discovered that “less is more.” Balancing the quantity of decorations (both inside and out) may provide you more quality – less stimulation and more room to relax, breathe, and discover some real “peace on earth.” Natural and/or country-style garnishes and trimmings may soften your home, making it warm and inviting. You may also explore a house-wide “theme” and/or a theme for each room where decorations meet the everyday styles and colors.

2. Seasonal Traditions

Christmas celebration comes early at the Rhoades’ house, at least in the form of music. Scott customarily pulls out the holiday music in mid-September as a creative way to imagine and capture the meaningful depths of the season.

For the past several years, we’ve also enjoyed attending and participating in Christmas Eve church services as a means to focus ourselves on the true meaning and spirit of our celebrations. This is often followed by a quiet evening at home where we enjoy a course of dried meats, cheeses, and crackers, and an exchange of smaller “stocking” gifts. Major gifts are reserved for Christmas morning.

Just as the music begins early, so the decorations stay up longer. Scott grew up in a very diverse ethnic and religious community, so it was not uncommon for everyone to continue celebrating up until the Russian Orthodox New Year. So, if you visit the Rhoades’ home in January, be prepared for some extended “comfort and joy.”

3. Seasonal Wishes

Whatever your customs and traditions, may your home serve as a haven for family and friends and may your holiday be filled with peace and goodwill. Merry Christmas!

©Copyright 2013 Scott Rhoades/Ivory Hill Studios