Posted in holidays, photography, Valentine's Day

Vintage valentines

It’s possible a Valentine greeting may come your way this week.

Even though Papa and I don’t really celebrate this holiday called Valentine’s Day, I do pull out a couple of simple decorations to add a bit of color to this drab winter month. By now, I start growing a tad weary of wintery and snowman decorations and am ready to relegate them back to their storage bin.

After purchasing Valentine greetings to send to our three grandchildren, I began thinking about how that tradition of sending cards began so I researched the subject. Because I have four vintage Valentines that are little treasures to me, I wondered when sending valentines became “a thing.”  

Two of my vintage valentines appear to have been attached to the front of another card, which is missing, probably destroyed in some way. The other two are still intact and considering the ages of all four, they are surprisingly in good shape.

In the late 1700s, Valentine greetings were handwritten expressions of love and mysteriously signed, “Your Valentine.” But in Europe and the United States by the mid-19th century, especially around the year 1850, pre-made Valentine greetings began to be marketed and become quite popular.

From a couple of articles I read, the themes and styles of those cards were particular to a certain time frame or era. For example, valentine greetings from the early Victorian times of 1850-1880 included single-sided cards made from die-cut paper lace or fabric lace. Often pieces of ribbon or silk were fashioned on the cards or flowers and leaves made of silk or paper were used. Some greetings were hand-painted designs, and some had flaps on them that could be lifted.

From the 1880’s into 1900, Valentine greeting cards were mass produced and printed by means of color lithography. (Merriam-Webster definition: a method of printing from a flat surface (such as a smooth stone or a metal plate) that has been prepared so that the ink will only stick to the design that will be printed.)

Valentines made during this era included postcards, cards that opened, fan-shaped cards, and pop-up type of cards using honeycomb paper. Often those cards’ motifs were hearts, birds, flowers, and cherubs and valentines became more popular to purchase and send.

By the onset of the 20th century, more modern themed valentine cards were printed in different shapes and more detail. Some even depicted pictures of movie stars on them. Using word play with clever puns also became popular.  

After perusing this information, I surmised that the four vintage cards I have are probably from the time frame of the late 1890’s, the early 1900’s, and 1920’s.

The first two cards pictured below are remnants from larger cards as each bears a glue mark on the backside.  This one has a color lithograph of flowers and a woman’s hand upon which a dove is perched. That piece is cut out and glued onto a scalloped rectangular-shaped piece of punched cardboard. It bears this message: “Only happy hours.

This next card remnant is a tiny pale pink paper envelope with a glossy, color lithograph of a man’s hand extending a spray of flowers and a painted scene declaring the words “To my friend” glued onto the scalloped flap of the envelope. The envelope itself is glued onto a scalloped rectangular embossed paper. And that piece must have been on the front of a larger card.

Valentine number three is a scalloped card that actually opens up. On the outside, a paper lace overlay covers the front of the card. A young child peeks out through a “window” in the lace and in addition to the “portrait,” the gold printed card has white hearts on it, pink roses, and in one corner colorful butterflies and in the opposing corner, more pink roses. The inside sentiment reads: “Oh this would be a happy day, If you would but be mine. And if you’d very kindly say, You’d be my Valentine.” On the back is printed Whitney Made Worcester Mass. Made in USA.

My last little treasure is a cut-out stand-up card with the greeting “With Love To My Valentine.” It is more intricate and detailed and again features a young child surrounded by hearts and flowers. On the fold-out bottom which acts as a stand for the card it reads “To my Sweetheart.” On the back, Made in Germany is printed.

I’m certain my little Valentine treasures aren’t worth much, but I like them and keep them encased in a sealed plastic baggie to protect them. If I were clever, I’d figure out a way to display them that wouldn’t harm them in any way, but I’m not that crafty. If you have any suggestions for me, please let me know in the comment section below.

And in the meantime, may your Valentine’s Day remind you that you are loved, whether you receive a greeting card or maybe even a little bit of chocolate or not.

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” ~ Charles M. Schulz

© 2021

Posted in holidays, Thanksgiving

Words for Wednesday: grateful Thanksgiving

It’s true that there seems to be so much darkness in our world during these November days leading up to our American holiday of Thanksgiving, and I don’t just mean because the days are getting shorter and night falls earlier each day.

The pandemic continues, cases are rising, restrictions being put back into place. Election results are a mess. Vitriol and anger are still spewing forth on social media about both issues.

Tragedies and dire diagnoses of illness touch the lives of those we know and love. Our view of the near future looks uncertain, bleak, and unsettling to say the least.

It’s enough to make one throw up hands in despair and surrender and say, “Enough!! I’ve had enough!” A title from an early 1960’s musical, which I believe was eventually turned into a movie as well, comes to my mind – “Stop the world, I want to get off!”

We can’t stop the world though. We can’t put a halt to the difficulties that surround us. We don’t have that power.

But we also can’t give up. We can’t succumb to fear or despair or calamity or any other negative aspect of life. Why? Because there is always hope.

“When the world says, ‘Give up,’ hope whispers, ‘Try one more time.’ ” ~ author unknown

And hope for me comes from my faith in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit because the Triune God I believe in has the power to give me strength to endure, help to persevere, and wisdom to see blessings instead of curses.

I just must grasp my faith with all of my might, hold on, and remember to be light in the darkness.

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” ~ Helen Keller

For me, the way to strengthen my faith is to humble myself in gratitude.

Am I disappointed that my entire family cannot gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing on our Thanksgiving feast at our dining room table? Of course.

But I’m thankful that my family is well. I’m thankful they all have provisions – good health, jobs, homes, enough food to keep their bodies nourished.

I’m grateful that our family is close-knit and even if we don’t agree on issues and sometimes drive each other a little crazy, we don’t suffer from unresolved conflicts and intense arguments.

Yes, my heart is thankful for each one of my family, my blessings to count – my understanding husband; my three thoughtful and loving adult children; my son-in-law and daughter-in-law, who add even more love into our family; my three adorable grandchildren who give me so much joy; my sisters, brothers-in-law, and their families.

Blessings? They are bountiful when we choose to remember them, to count them. And that abundance of life’s blessings is what I must focus upon as Thanksgiving Day arrives tomorrow.

Focus on the light instead of the darkness.

“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.” ~ Amy Collette, author

© 2020

Posted in family, holidays

Board not bored

blogimg_8870-2At our house when the family all gathers for a holiday dinner, there’s no cause for boredom. Even if the turkey makes you over-stuffed and sleepy, there will be no naps taken.

That’s because when we all congregate around the table for good food, good fellowship, and good times, you can be sure a few good board games will follow. 

Not bored games. Oh, no! Not at our house. Our family really gets into games; it’s just how we roll (pun intended).

This past Thanksgiving, we hurriedly cleaned up the dishes, put away the leftovers, and plunked ourselves down at the dining room table for some serious game playing. First, we HAD to try playing middle daughter’s new Oregon Trail card game.

All of Mama and Papa’s children spent many hours playing that computer game back when they were young’uns. They especially liked it because we had followed the Oregon Trail ourselves by moving from the Kansas City area to Oregon. 

And years later, we actually visited some sites along the trail in Oregon and Nebraska during our trek cross country as we relocated from Oregon to our home here in Pennsylvania.

So over Thanksgiving, we tried….and we tried…and we tried….to make our way successfully on the game trail from Independence, Missouri to the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  

We used our supply cards of medicine, food, clothing, spare wagon parts, laid down our trail cards, forded many rivers, but along the way, we succumbed to the usual – snake bites, cholera, dysentery, drowning. Yep, one calamity after another.

Some of us ‘died’ early in the game, some unfairly just as the end of the trail was in sight. We laughed and we groaned and we worked together as a family team to try to beat the trail game’s hardships.  

And the Oregon Trail kicked our butts. Out of several games played, we only arrived at trail’s end one time and, if truth be told, we only did so because we didn’t quite stick to the rules of the game.

Along the way, we chose some 19th century names like Jedidiah, Hortense, Zeke, Eliza, and the like.  As each of us surrendered to the lethal skull card of death, we had to write epitaphs on the grave markers provided with the game.  We tried to be as silly and clever as we could be.

I’ll share a few examples with you: 

“Cholera called, he answered.”

“She got the cold shoulder.” (froze to death)

“Dysentery – now she’s in dys-cemetery.”

“Fangs for the memories.” (snake bite)

“She was dys close to Oregon.” (dysentery)

“This bites!” (snake bite)

“She went for broke.” (broken wagon axle)

“It kicked her grass.” (no grass for oxen, everyone died)

From that crazy game, we moved on to one of our favorites – Settlers of Catan.  Our oldest daughter and son-in-law introduced this game to us a couple of years ago and we’ve been hooked ever since.  And a ‘newbie’ at the game – my neice – won this time!

Games aren’t for everyone. I think whether or not you enjoy playing games depends on your background.

When I was growing up, one of the ways my family had fun together was playing games whether it was a board game, a card game, an outdoor game, or even just putting a massive jigsaw puzzle together.

Life is difficult enough – just read about the original Oregon Trail trekkers and your life might seem like a piece of cake – so why not spend a few hours playing?

What better way to spend time together as a family than gathered around the table focusing on one enjoyable activity? None, if you ask our family.

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.” ~ Michael Jordan


Posted in Gifts, holidays, thankfulness, Thanksgiving

Let the celebration begin

blogIMG_9983Christmas came early this year.  I am one of those traditionalists.  I prefer to decorate for the Christmas season only after Thanksgiving has passed.

That doesn’t mean I don’t love Christmas with its glitter and glow, good tidings, and best of all – the celebration of the most amazing gift God ever gave our world, His only Son Jesus Christ.

Yep, we’re all about the season here at Mama’s Empty Nest.  Just don’t expect me to deck the halls, play Christmas music, or enjoy the bauble-laden shelves of Christmas trimmings in the stores until  after Thanksgiving has been given its due.

I love Thanksgiving and I think, as a holiday, it gets the short stick.  Our culture bounces over it from Halloween to Christmas, commercialization all the way.

Sandwiched in between all the gaudy and frankly ridiculous Halloween junk and the holly-jolly holiday of Christmas, Thanksgiving seems like the red-headed step-child.  There, but shoved aside.  Sometimes forgotten in the hub-bub.

The Thanksgiving holiday spells F-A-M-I-L-Y to me.  It’s when as a family “we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.”  It’s the day we absolutely remember to be thankful and we say it out loud, even though we should practice this observance each and every day we have breath.

Thanksgiving is the day for enticing aromas of homemade dishes of goodness.  It promises hugs and laughter as family members arrive home.  It reveals itself in the glow of candlelight illuminating the faces of loved ones around the dining room table.  It speaks comfort and peace of a full nest once again.

So I don’t rush full force nor ahead of time into the harried hurry scurry of preparing for Christmas before the Friday after Thanksgiving.  I like to take my time to first savor the Thanksgiving holiday.

But Christmas came early this year with a gift.  A surprise gift.  A gift presented to me that left me speechless – not an easy task.

When our oldest daughter and new son-in-law arrived back from their exotic honeymoon trip,  Papa and I greeted them at the airport and transported them back to the empty nest.  We then pitched in to pack up daughter’s remaining belongings and all the wedding gifts for the trip to their new home several hours away from us.

Papa and I happily observed and commented as the newlyweds opened their wedding gifts.  Afterwards, Papa disappeared from the family room and then returned carrying a box wrapped in Christmas paper, which he deposited on my lap.

My brain couldn’t process what my eyes were seeing and my hands were holding.  A Christmas gift?  Now?  For me?  What the heck?

I think I actually may have babbled all of that out loud while still wracking my mind for an explanation.  Daughter and son-in-law beamed at me;  Papa smiled with that coy, all-knowing grin he has.

And I was stumped.  Really stumped.  I kept asking why?  What are you doing?  The only answers I received were admonitions to stop asking so many questions and just open the thing!

I started to rip that red and green wrapping paper off that so boldly announced Merry Christmas, then stopped and said, “I don’t understand!”  I mean, everyone in my family knows I don’t rush Christmas!

More cries of “Just open it!” ensued.  So I did.  Inside was something that I never expected.  Something that surprised me beyond words.   The sight of it simply astonished me.

Totally bewildered and perplexed, I asked my husband again, “Why?”  He explained that he wanted me to have this present because of all the effort, time, and love I had poured into our three adult children’s weddings.

He bestowed this gift to me because he knew I’d be so very excited to receive it as it was an item I’ve mentioned for a long time that I’d like to acquire but didn’t feel like we could spend the money to purchase — especially this year. 

And giving this gift was hubby’s way of showing me his appreciation and love.  He wanted me to have it now, before Christmas, so I could use and enjoy it when the holiday rolls around.

His words and that gift made me cry.  When I tried to speak, I couldn’t, only tears surfaced.

This gift, purchased in secret with daughter’s help, rendered me dumbstruck.  Inside the opened box lay a brand new digital SLR camera to replace my little purple Nikon Coolpix point and shoot.

My husband explained that he’s realized how much I’ve relished taking photographs in the last couple of years and how frustrated I get with my small and simple digital camera.  It takes good pictures outside, but indoor photos always disappoint me.  And it’s so slow, I miss a lot of neat photo opportunities.

So now, I have much to learn with this new camera, but oh, what a joy it is to use.  Matter of fact, after I recovered from my shock, read enough of the accompanying instructions to figure out how to take my first picture with it, I ran outside to start shooting.  (To your left I’ve shared a product of my eagerness.)

But not before I thanked my loving husband for such an awesome gift and thanked my Lord for such an awesome husband.

Celebrating Christmas early this year feeling loved and appreciated?  Priceless.

So hey there, Christmas season, I’m ready to start the celebration….just let me express my thanksgiving first.


Posted in family, food, holidays, Home, Life

Here we go a-waffling

To Facebook or not to Facebook?  I waffle pexels-photo-221092.jpegback and forth on using that social networking media because at times I enjoy it and other times, I just can’t stand it.

But this morning when I opened up my Facebook account expecting to see the usual – status updates, pictures, postings of friends’ blogs –  this announcement jumped off my home page – It’s International Waffle Day!

Yes, today on Page 25, Chapter 3, in my book called Opportunity, it’s a day to celebrate waffles!

Apparently this holiday began in Sweden both as a celebration of the beginning of spring and also the Feast of the Annunciation, a Christian belief which falls on this day to commemorate when the archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary with the message that she had been chosen to bear the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

For some reason, the Swedes celebrate by making waffles and it has become a custom for every March 25.   So last night, there may have been countless people exclaiming like Donkey in Shrek: “And in the mornin’, I’m makin’ waffles!”

Our family loves waffles whether they are the fast-serving Eggo toaster waffles or the deliciously tasty homemade waffles my hubby makes when the kids come back to fill up the empty nest for a visit.  Waffles serve as one of our favorite breakfast foods, topped with maple syrup or fruit.

We don’t usually consider them dessert like some do with huge Belgian waffles topped with ice cream or fruit and whipped cream, but the idea does sound delectable.   When I think of a waffle dessert, I usually picture a waffle ice cream cone filled with chocolate chip mint ice cream…mmm, mmm, good.

So drag out that waffle iron, search out some delicious waffle recipes because today is a good day to enjoy some waffles.  And I’m not waffling!

As Professor G.H. Dorr said in the movie The Ladykillers to the waitress at Waffle House: “Madam, we must have waffles! We must all have waffles forthwith! We must all think, and we must all have waffles, and think each and every one of us to the very best of his ability…”

Okay, I’m off to convince hubby to make us waffles for dinner….either that, or I’m off to find an IHOP because today, I’ve got a hankering for waffles!


Posted in encouragement, Faith, holidays, Life, Spring, traditions

A wee bit o’ the Irish

pexels-photo-132420.jpegTop o’ the mornin’ to ya!

I’m not Irish.  As far as I know, I have no Irish blood coursing through my veins since most of my ancestors were English or German.

But there’s just something about St. Patrick’s Day that appeals to me and it’s not drinking green beer!

Maybe it’s just the wearin’ o’ the green.  Green is such a cheerful color, reminding me of spring – refreshing, lovely spring  – when my yard magically turns from a dull brown to a deliciously vibrant green and when blossoms appear on greening trees and hints of green sturdy stalks of flowers poke through the hard, bleak ground in promise of more colors bursting forth.  Yeah, I like green!

When I was a youngster still in school, we always wore clothing in shades of green on March 17 because if you didn’t, you would get pinched.  I have no idea why.  Later when thoughts turned more to cute boys than cute green shirts, I can remember wearing a button with this inscription, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish,” on this day.  Again I have no idea why.

As an adult, I never forget when it’s St. Patrick’s Day, even when my mind’s a little groggy.  Twenty-five years ago today, I briefly awoke from anesthesia after major surgery and saw my husband and my pastor (dressed in a bright green sports jacket) standing beside my bed.  What were the first words I uttered?  “You wore green for St. Patrick’s Day,” addressed to my pastor.  And then I promptly went back to sleep.

For some reason, the story behind St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, intrigues me.  It seems no one is sure where the legend and reality meet, and many stories about the man are considered just that – stories.

But here are the facts.  Born in Britain, Patrick, son of wealthy estate owners, was captured by wild Irish raiders in his youth.  Held captive in Ireland for years, he turned to his faith for solace.  After he escaped and returned to Britain, he believed an angel visited him in a dream telling him to venture back to Ireland as a missionary, which is exactly what he did once he was ordained as a priest.  He died on March 17 and is credited for evangelizing Ireland for Jesus Christ.

I came across a prayer called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”  Apparently, parts of the prayer ask for God’s protection and that’s why it is called a breastplate, an important piece of armor worn to shield the heart.  One section of this prayer strikes a chord with me:

“Christ be with me, Christ be within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger

Christ in hearts of all that love me

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

I don’t know if St. Patrick actually wrote this prayer, but I do know placing Jesus Christ in all aspects of my life – each and every day – in the very heart of my being and in the very heart of my activity gives me strength to face whatever comes.   My life is so much more focused when Jesus is the breastplate in my suit of armor.

As I contemplate this today on Page 17, Chapter 3, in my book of Opportunity, my prayer is that if you don’t already wear this “breastplate” you’ll consider getting to know Him.   My wish for you this day, whether you commemorate a saint or not, is this Irish blessing:

“May God give you…For every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile, for every care a promise and a blessing in each trial.  For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share,  for every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!