For the record

The September arrival of Ellie and Mark at the little house (Dianne and Stephen’s Scituate rental) has become a new tradition, ushering in family reunions, and signaling to me that the time is right to conjure up our Christmas pick toys for upcoming Hoss holiday gift giving assignments. And when sister-in-law Ellie posted an image of her needlework creation on Facebook recently, this year’s toy topic became clear.


I finished the 15 decorated ornaments shortly before Ellie and Mark’s arrival, in plenty of time for distribution at Madeline and Paul’s dinner party that followed – later documented in Ellie’s sketchbook diary shown below. She paints too.

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All of the Hoss women cook very well and know a lot about fine foods – their interest instilled at an early age by mother, Lavalie. They raise their preparation and delivery to a form of art, while I as one of their lucky recipients watch from my culinary distance.

Ellie’s pot luck luncheon followed Madeline’s dinner a few weeks later, shortly before their return home to West Virginia. “Would you bring chocolate chip cookies?” she asked. Yessiree, that I could do – an assignment totally within my wheelhouse. She knows me.

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My first experience with the Toll House cookie came by way of my grandmother Mildred. For several birthdays during my early teen years Nanny would deliver a shoe box lined with wax paper and filled with cookies made from her version of the Nestle recipe. These, she would announce, were to be ONLY for me – much to the annoyance of Marlene. And as I recall, brat that I was, I did not share.

I found her cookies to be exceptional, too often almost finishing the box in a sitting. And although we never made them together, I do remember her saying she used shortening instead of butter and increased the amount of brown sugar – doubled? The question led me to her recipe box sitting on my shelf, one of my few possessions from the archives not yet explored. (There’s a sweater name in there too I’ll bet, its discovery left for another day…)

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You can see that the C divider has been ripped away, certainly from repeated use I reasoned, giving me hope that within that alphabetical slot I would find a card written in her hand entitled “chocolate chip cookies” recording the details of her recipe variation.

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I found cards for cocktail sauce and chicken casserole and custard, among others …. but sadly not my cookies.

And then, tucked away in the back among the newspaper clippings, I found this – carefully cut. Circa 1965 would be my guess.

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Clearly I was on my own. So in preparation for Ellie’s, experimentation followed. In the first batch I used butter, just to get grounded, and in the next two made with shortening I used increasing amounts of brown sugar. I felt I was getting close...

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I brought them all to Ellie’s pot luck the next Sunday for a Hoss vote – butter on the left and shortening on the right. The verdict? Shortening clinched it, by just enough to validate my preference and retain Nanny’s crown.

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Ellie and Mark are home by now and summer is officially over. It’s been another September for the record books, our recipe and sketch books that is, with another round of paper toys – as we look forward, and backward, while aiming to stay in each moment. It’s all good.

Paper toys 2018

With the onset of September, my to-do list signals that the time is right for holiday planning – making the paper toys, that is, for Hoss gift giving assignments, our annual event.

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Commemorated on this year’s ornament is my sister-in-law Madeline – retired special education teacher, avid gardener and chef, poet, and most notably for my purpose now – botanical artist.

Stunning, right?  I save everything she sends.

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Happy holidays for real, before we know it.

Paper toys 2017

We had Sunday dinner at Ellie and Mark's yesterday and its end-of-summer timing was just right for distribution of Hoss holiday gift giving assignments – our annual event.

This gift pick toy commemorates a year of special generosity and selflessness, as we witnessed our Sheryl's kidney donation to her aunt Dianne.  Approaching their 6 month anniversary, both are doing well and we're grateful.

Paper toys 2016

The Hoss clan had dinner together last night, celebrating Ellie and Mark as they get ready to head back home to West Virginia after our usual summer of fun.  With all of us in attendance it was the perfect setting to distribute this year's paper toys for holiday giving assignments, so I hustled to get them done, finishing up finally on the car ride to Scituate. 

The panorama that wraps each was taken at one of our parties on Ellie and Mark's ocean-view front porch, and hints at the happy craziness that's gone on there over the years. 

But this time their departure is different.  They're packing up everything and clearing out on to new adventures.  After a lifetime of ownership they've sold their cottage and won't be returning to it.  They will, howeverbe returning to us, for more happy crazy times, where ever we are.  We'll make sure of that. 

Paper toys 2015

This year's paper toys are ready for distribution to the Hoss clan, complete with Christmas giving assignments.  I'm Santa's secretary (er, administrative assistant) and cannot wait!

2015 marks a year of extraordinary happiness, with 3 weddings(!) – nephew Derek to Erica, niece Sheryl to Dan, and favorite daughter, knitting muse, and sweater model Juliet to favorite soon-to-be son-in-law James;

and also a year of loss as we've said good-bye to brother John.

These events are represented perfectly, I'd say, by 3 diamond rings and a wreath on the water – the circle(s) of life. 

Paper toys 2014

Christmas in September! at least for me, as I put aside my knitting and orchestrate annual gift giving assignments and their paper toys for special delivery to my 16 brothers and sisters-in-law.

We lost our brother Bill this year – our marathon runner.  All the Hoss men are athletes and by now most have settled into golf for sport.  Bill remained a runner to the end, competing in 66 marathons during his lifetime.  He, and we, are particularly proud of his 1981 Boston Marathon – finishing first place for his age group in a time of 2 hours, 34 minutes, and 15 seconds.

This one's for you Bill.

Paper toys 2013

It's August and time to focus on my paper toys and Hoss family Christmas gift giving assignments.  Ellie and Mark celebrated their 55th(!) wedding anniversary this summer,  and as soon as I opened the party invitation I knew I'd found the theme for this year's Christmas Pick announcement.

A walk through Bloomingdales a few weeks ago spawned lots of ideas for a knitted gift.  I picked one and am running with it – will be posting about it by next week for sure.

Paper toys 2012

Every August I pause from knit design to orchestrate something else – the Hoss family Christmas Picks.

I make paper toys that highlight an event from the past year and announce the upcoming holiday gift giving assignment for each of my dear in-laws, 16 of us in all.  This year we celebrated Pam and Scott's new home.

By now it's well known that Santa Deb will deliver something knitted.  And sure enough, design work is underway.