Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “holidays”

Word Nerd: Special Edition


Girandole: a spinning, rotating firework

Happy Fourth of July!

May you go Fourth and sparkle!

Oh for the love of July


When the Julius Caesar unit rolls around in sophomore English I ask what students know about the famous (or infamous) Roman. Their lack of knowledge is deplorable. Most think answering “salad creator” is going to win them points. It doesn’t. They are surprised, and some students think I’m joking when I trot out the fact the month of July is named or rather renamed for Julius Caesar.

This
Not this

Originally July was known as Quintilis, which was Caesar’s birth month. Quintilis means “fifth month” in Latin and in the Roman calendar that is where this month found.

Caesar was a man of action. Gaul is one example. When he wasn’t conquering countries and people he set about improving Roman life. The calendar is an example. It did need attention. The early Roman calendar had a glitch. Once every two years a month lasting 27 or 28 days would be added after February 23 to help even out accrued time. Caesar straightened this out and today’s calendar is pretty much the one he formalized 2000 years ago.

Whether July was renamed as a tribute to his leadership or as a nod to inventing the calendar requires further Googling.

Happy July. Stay cool. Watch out for stray sparkler flickers. Hydrate and wear sunscreen.

July is a sparkly month

It’s Flag Day (and my birthday!)


Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the Betsy Ross flag design. It was much later in life that I realized that the flags all over town were not specifically in recognition of my birthday.

Christmas Green


Mom called: “Come over and get your Christmas present. It’s green,” adding a bemused half laugh to her statement.

I laughed as well. She always gives us a check so we can buy want we want.

Apparently this year green took on a new meaning. It was quite literal.

A Christmas Tree-t

Mom decided the little palm tree plant that had fit so perfectly in the corner of her living room had outgrown its decorative touch.

What does one do with a largish palm tree plant that is unexpectedly gifted? Decorate it for Christmas, of course.

If we still have it by Easter we will be ready for Palm Sunday.

Birthday Songs


Happy, Happy Birthday to Me!

June 14th. It’s Flag Day and it’s my birthday. It’s embarrassing to admit, but clear up to the age of twelve, I believed my mother that the neighborhood, in recognition of my birthday, hung their flags out. You would think I would have become a bit suspicious of her story’s validity since there were flags out all over the town. Maybe I simply believed that strongly in my mother’s influence.

Flag Day first, then my birthday

Birthdays have always been a big deal for me. Growing up with flags unfurled can do that, I suppose. However, as the candles marked the increase of years, my enthusiasm has decreased for acknowledging my yearly passage. Unless it’s a big deal year—as in significant. Fifty was a big deal year. Not because 50 is a big deal—rather it was because my first grandchild was born the next day. That’s right, the next day. We missed sharing the same birthday by that much. This year, 2020, is not a big deal year. Two years from now, yes. Not this year. In fact, with the pandemic on, and the family separated, and in isolation, I’m not expecting much. I will hang my flag out though.

As for birthday songs, that’s another reflection of note. I’ve never understood the traditional birthday song. It’s morose sounding and usually sung off key. Trevor Noah provides an enlightening dissertation on the birthday song. He grew up with a much better version.

Years ago, my mom and step-dad began calling up and leaving a rendition of the birthday song on the answering machine. I had never heard that version before, and even though two retired permanent-status snowbirds sang it pitch unaware, it became a highlight of my birthday. Sadly, my step-dad passed away last May. No more songs, and Mom is too sad to sing solo. Yet, I discovered the song in a movie—a Disney movie called The Emperor’s New Groove. I don’t think the folks watched that movie, maybe if Barbra Streisand had been one of the voices, she would have, so I am wondering where they got their birthday song. I will have to ask her. In the meantime I will go find my flag.

Do you have a Flag Day birthday? Then happy birthday. May you have a happy birthday song sung to you!

A Wee Christmas Story


I’m taking up Susanna Leonard Hill‘s challenge of writing a children’s holiday story. It must be about a holiday treat and it must not exceed 250 (that is a challenge). From what I understand the prizes are an array of writer delights–critiques, writing courses, book bundles, references and resource books. How could I not be tempted!

This story is based on an actual recipe handed down to me from my German grandmother, my Oma. We always called it her Christmas cookie recipe, but I have since learned it is a type of shortbread. I might be convinced to post the recipe (if I can find where it’s been tucked away in my recipe books). I’ll be anticipating whether my story made the finalist list…

OMA’S SECRET INGREDIENT
 by
Pam Webb

(207 words)

“What makes your Christmas cookies taste so good, Oma? Do you use a secret ingredient?” 

Oma laughed. “I use nothing but what you see here in my kitchen,” Then, as if a thought had tickled her, she smiled just ever so. “Actually, Engelin, I do use a secret ingredient. You guess what it is.”  

Greta looked at all the different spices and canisters in Oma’s kitchen, wondering which ingredient it could be that made the cookies so delicious. 

The next day, after Christmas Eve dinner, Greta brought out the dessert tray. Glancing at Oma, Greta saw the happiness reflected on her grandmother’s face as she watched everyone enjoy the baked treats. Realizing then what the secret ingredient was, Greta selected a heart cookie from the dessert plate. She quietly made her way over to Oma, presenting it to her. “I know what the secret ingredient is,” she whispered.

 Oma whispered back, “Is this so?”

“Mmhmm,” Greta nodded. “It doesn’t come from any of your spice jars. And I know you put it in all you do, not just cookies,” she added, giving her grandmother a measured hug of love.

“Yes, my little angel, love makes everything taste that much better.”

Shortbread Cookies, the ultimate melt in your mouth cookie.Traditional or brown sugar. Your new Christmas Shortbread recipe.
These cookies disappear fast!

Do you have a special Christmas recipe handed down from a special relative?

Give Me a Break…


December consists of hurry up and wait.

At school we hurry through the last unit, hoping to complete it before

a)an unexpected snow day hits

b)the current bout of flu doesn’t empty out the classes

c)too many of my students leave for early vacation.

At home it’s a flurry of hurry as I shop, package, insert, check lists, pull down boxes, search and find–that is, when I am not grading those last minute assignments.

The wait part is counting down days to Christmas Break. We voted to make 12/21 the exit day in order to have an extra week at the end of break, instead of at the beginning. Fumes of distinctive burn out permeated the hallways on Friday. Everyone was tired. I know waiting so long for the break to begin will mean I enjoy that much more–right?

I did a happy dance in the kitchen on Saturday 12/22. Walked around in the brisk, sunny, pre-snowstorm. Definitely appreciated the Christmas weekend. Love being on break.

It’s Wednesday. Umm, how long before we go back to school?

It’s true: You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher.

So far I’ve read two books, answered a dozen Quora requests, watched three movies, straightened up my Hamlet unit, polished my Merchant of Venice lesson plan, finished a puzzle, made a batch of cookies, tried out my new walking poles (thanks, Hon), slept in (6 am!). Now what?

Sheesh–I better figure out something about down time. I’ve got about four years to retirement.

They say knitting can be fun.

Word Nerd Confessions: December


[somewhat hummed to Tannenbaum]

December. Oh, December. How colorful, your days are bright. With evergreen and flashy lights, your lengthy nights are cozy bright. December. Oh, December. Your passing will soon bring June.

Don’t get me wrong. December is fairly pleasant, considering all the snow that must be dealt with. Decorations, festivities, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Christmas Break. I like December much more than January. But that is next month. This month let’s focus on the bright, brilliant, and happy of the Christmas month.

And this last word is to bring in the new year…

November Debatable: Hot Air Argument


With Thanksgiving ads beckoning us to ready for the annual rite of feasting with friends and family, it seemed appropriate to center our monthly debate on another annual tradition, Macy’s Parade.

More specifically, we take on which kid lit character should become the next parade balloon.

I’m going for Tigger.

It’s a natural choice–right?

Mike is going for Peter from The Snowy Day. Cute, but not as uplifting as Tigger.

So–make your way over to Mike Allegra’s site and weigh in your thoughts and send up your vote.

Winter Reset Terms


Valentine’s Day reset winter by delivering eight inches of snow. I would have preferred a FDT delivery of daffodils.

I am in need of spring, that event that is a long time in finally appearing, where greenery festoons the landscape instead of mutations of whiteness. Snow is no longer pretty after three months, after it’s been shoveled, blowed, and pushed about.

February’s snow tends to be fickle. It doesn’t quite have the tenacity of January’s snow days. It’s vacillating between being fiercely winter and nicely spring. It’s as if it is acknowledging March is on the move and will definitely arrive with a spring in its step. Forget about that woodchuck and his shadowy ideas about how long we have to wait for spring. Keep him sleeping, thanks.

Last week’s unexpected snow day led me to build my annual snow guy. My students liked my snowman show and tell photo, and one class named him Perceval–Percy among his friends. 

As the snow continues to fall, and continues to hamper greener days from arriving, I thought it appropriate to dust off my snow terms list:

▪ lookitsnow:  first snow of the season–Nov/Dec

▪ itzsnowing: comment of the day until mid-January

▪ ucksnow:  bridge between Jan/Feb when people begin getting weary of shoveling, scraping, and slipping around in the stuff

▪ snizzle: the on off dance of snow and rain found in late February

▪ snain: a more serious form of snizzle

▪ smush: slushy snow of Feb/Mar

▪ smud: ground showing with snow patches, squashy walking usually around early March

▪ ohnosnow: snow when daffs coming up and flakes coming down in March/April

▪ nomohsnow: snowfall and meltaway tease of April/May

(some days there is the occasional variety to the landscape)

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