Archive for the ‘Living Simply’ Category

(4) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: SPAM

July 5, 2012

Warning: This post may not be for the faint-of-stomach.

Until I read Writer’s Almanac this morning, I was going to write about something else.  But once I found out that today is the 75th anniversary of SPAM, I knew what my Thankful post should be about today.  Here’s what I read on Writer’s Almanac:

On this date in 1937, SPAM was unveiled by Hormel Foods. It is precooked pork and ham in a can, with a little potato starch, salt, and sugar. Sodium nitrate is added to keep it pink; without it, pork tends to turn gray.

There’s no consensus on what the name actually stands for; one theory is that it’s a combination of “spiced meat” and “ham.” In Britain, where it was a popular wartime food, they called it “Specially Processed American Meat” or “Supply Pressed American Meat.” A host of tongue-in-cheek acronyms have also arisen, like “Something Posing As Meat,” and “Special Product of Austin, Minnesota,” Whatever it stands for, Hormel specifies that it should be written in all caps.

Yes, I am grateful for SPAM.  The canned meat product, of course, not the pesky stuff that gluts your inbox.  We don’t eat much meat here at the Doublewide Ranch, but occasionally, we enjoy eating (for a change) protein that doesn’t come from legumes or dairy products.  Chicken is our meat of choice, but every so often, we like to indulge in our favorite canned meat product, SPAM.

I have a long history with SPAM.  When I was young, it was a rare and special treat in our family.  Mama grew up on a farm, where most of the meat they consumed was fresh off the hoof or wing.  They knew where it came from.  So Mama had understandable mistrust for gelatinous meat that slid with a squidgy pop, like dog food, from a can.  But once in a great while, she’d give in to our whining and wheedling and serve SPAM.  I loved it.

In fact, I loved it so much that after I started making good money when I was nine from working in tobacco and harvesting cucumbers, I bought my very own cans of SPAM.  Unfortunately, every time I’d open a can, slice off a couple of slices, and put the rest in the refrigerator, my brother would steal what was left.  Mostly, I resigned myself to that, but here’s where I’ll confess that there were times when I ate the entire loaf of SPAM in one sitting.  At nine years old (I mean, I was nine, not the SPAM, haha)

I still love the stuff, but these days, one or two slices is sufficient.   And I eat the SPAM Lite now.  There are some wonderful recipes out there, but I always created my own.  One of our favorites when the kids were young was a casserole I made with potatoes, onions, and SPAM.  I called it Spam ‘n’ Spuds.

Sure, I know SPAM is the butt of jokes, but I don’t care.  Probably most of those who make fun of it never ate it.  Maybe they should come to the Doublewide Ranch, and I’ll whip up a little Spam ‘n’ Spuds for ‘em.   Maybe they’ll turn out to be a rabid Spam Fan like me.  You never know.

Happy 75th Anniversary, SPAM.   Thanks for all those years of pure SPAM happiness.

(1) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: Buoyant Optimism

July 2, 2012

As mentioned in the previous post, I’m proud to be called a dork optimist. So I was thrilled to read your comments and discover that I have so many dork optimist comrades!  It seemed appropriate, then, to make my first Thirty Days of Grateful Praise post be about our ability to find joy in simple pleasures.

Interestingly, for me,  some of this likely has its roots in less than happy circumstances—the fact that my life has, in many ways, been hard and there’s never been a lot of money for the “extras” seen as necessities by modern society.  Clearly, when you’re in this situation, mourning the things you don’t have rather than celebrating what you do have is surely the way to unhappiness, so I’ve mostly chosen the happy path.

I’d never be one to romanticize financial struggles—it’s a hard business, especially these days.  But if you look for them, there are almost always gifts hidden in in even the most difficult of circumstances.  I do think that having less has helped me appreciate far more even the smallest pleasures.

I think, too, that hard times have a way of bringing into sharper focus what’s important and what’s not.  It turns out that some of the simplest, most humble things are the very things that make my life rich.  And if I Iost them, I would be impoverished indeed.

So maybe you can add “simple-minded” to my dork optimist moniker.  The older I get, the more I value simple-mindedness.  The older I get, the more I see the simple as deep.  And the older I get, the more I turn away from the clamor of the world trying to make me believe otherwise.

Simple-minded dork optimist.  Yep…that’s me.  And I like it.

Hiking With Boogerman

April 18, 2012

Yes, it’s yet another post in the series “Remembrance of Hikes Past.”  It’s been a pleasant distraction of late to browse through the photos of the little home vacation (popularly known as “stay-cation) that we took back in November, 2010.  This time, we went to Cataloochee Valley which is now a part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  A century ago, however, Cataloochee was a thriving community (which you can read about here.)

One of the main attractions of Cataloochee now are the elk, which were reintroduced to the park in 2001.  We enjoyed watching the young bucks playfight in the fields–I loved the clacking sound their antlers made as they played. I also loved the endearing furry butts of a mother and child elk we saw.  Another attraction there are the historic structures that remain from the settlement, including barns, houses, and two churches.  We found Palmer Chapel to be especially striking in the slanted light of late afternoon.

But my favorite part of our trip was, without a doubt, our seven-and-a-half mile hike on Boogerman Trail (including a bit of the lovely, if muddy, Caldwell Fork trail).  And, yes, it really was called the Boogerman Trail after Mr. Robert Palmer, who previously lived partway up the trail and owned the gorgeous forest there.  He was a shy and quiet man who acquired the moniker “Boogerman” as a child when on his first day of school , the teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.  “A boogerman!” he answered.  And he was known as Boogerman for the rest of his life.  As an adult, his long, rough beard and brusque manner often frightened children and made his nickname seem even more appropriate.

When I heard that story, I felt a deep kinship with Boogerman.  I was also a very shy and quiet child in a family who was quite the opposite.  In fact, I felt so unlike the rest of my family that I used to wonder if my parents had actually adopted me  rather than my oldest brother and sister (who actually were adopted).  And let’s face it–people who are outgoing are always viewed more positively than those that aren’t. Especially here in the U.S., I think.  When’s the last time you heard someone say, “I just love her—she’s so quiet and contemplative!”  Nope. It’s “I just love her—she’s never met a stranger!”

Anyway, maybe I was just projecting, but somehow I felt like I understood Boogerman.  So I was eager to hike the Boogerman Trail and to see where he lived in happy seclusion amongst the huge poplars that he never allowed anyone to cut.  I was hoping for (and got) a quiet and peaceful walk in that gorgeous old-growth forest, but I never expected to actually feel Boogerman’s presence.

But I did.  As we walked in the same forest he once walked, dwarfed by the towering poplars, I felt Boogerman’s presence so strongly that I was a little unnerved.  After all, I’d heard that people, in general, were not welcome on his property—-he loved animals and trees, but humans…not so much.  But, as crazy as it sounds, I really did feel as though he somehow knew who I was—someone not so different from him except for the fact that I still think people are worth the effort. Mostly.  But I still feel most comfortable with trees and birds and wildflowers that bloom in quiet, hidden forest glades.

I’ve taken hundreds of hikes in my life, but this is one that will always stand out for me.  For many reasons.  For one, because it was one of the last long hikes we took before Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man’s knee injury.  We’ve both missed our long hikes keenly.  For another, as I look at the pictures of that day, I see how much the troubles of the past year and a half have aged me.  I had hair back then!  And it was brown!  Much of what’s left of my once-thick but now sparse hair has turned gray.  But that, of course, is not what I’ll remember most.  No, I’ll remember the hike on Boogerman trail for the presence of Boogerman himself—how he walked with us a little ways under the towering poplar trees.  No, I never saw him, but I know he was there.

We were quiet that day at the end of the hike.  I think we both were contemplating what we’d seen and felt.  As I walked across Caldwell Fork creek, I paused to listen to the sound of the water flowing over the moss-covered boulders shaded by great thickets of rhododendron as the creek made its way through the lovely green forest.  I took a moment to thank Mr. Palmer (who no longer seemed like much of a boogerman to me) for protecting those grand old trees from the loggers ax so that we could enjoy them all these years later.  So that we could look up at them and know just how small we really are in this big, beautiful, wonderful world.

Spring Comes to the Doublewide Ranch

March 28, 2012

“So Spring must dawn again with warmth and bloom,

In this world, or in the world to come:    

Sing, voice of Spring,

Till I too blossom and rejoice and sing.”

From “The First Spring Day” by Christina Rossetti

Well, I was going to make this a sort of Wordless Wednesday post, but I think I really need to tell the story behind the photo above.  Benjamin and I were walking up the driveway when he started laughing.  He then said, “Thank you, Mommy.”

“For what?” I said, puzzled.

I noticed then that he was looking down.  Following his gaze, I saw it: a smiley-face anthill!

Now, I can well understand why he might have thought I did it, as I have certainly been a party in the past to a number of, shall we say…whimsical alterations.  I love nothing better than to make people laugh and will go to great lengths to amuse those I love, especially my children.  But I love my ant friends and would never stoop to defacing their lovely and careful construction for a laugh.

Benjamin and I were both amused and amazed, as neither of us has seen anything like it.  I, in fact, spent hours as a child watching ants—I have always been fascinated by them—-and I can say that a smiley-face anthill is a definite anomaly (or should I say ant-nomaly?). The funniest thing is that, to me, the little smiley face looks like he’s winking.

We’ll probably never know how it happened, but we like to think that it was Divine Humor at work again.  No one knows better than God how much we need a laugh these days and just how much we need to know HE is aware of our need.  Indeed, God does work in mysterious ways His wonders to perform, and He can certainly use anyone and anything to carry out those daily miracles—-even tiny and seemingly insignificant ants.

Abiding Joy

August 24, 2011

It’s been a hot, dry summer at the Doublewide Ranch, but, as always, there are delights aplenty to be found.  The Queen Anne’s Lace has been abundant this year, and I’ve seen entire fields of it and chicory awash in a bright haze of blue and white. 

When I’m feeling a bit low, it’s sights like this that are a sort of barometer of Beth.  If I see one of these simple wonders and my heart doesn’t quicken with joy and pleasure, then it’s time to seek professional help.

My heart certainly quickened at the sight of this gladiolus.  Made me glad for glads.

We’ve especially enjoyed the honeybees this year.  Thankfully, there were lots of them.  After we saw how much the bees loved oregano, we joked about what our beekeeper neighbor’s honey might taste like.  Spicy and sweet might not be a bad combination. 🙂

Not as many butterflies, but we’ve treasured the ones we’ve had.  And we’ve treasured all those Crayola-colored zinnias that grew from fallen seeds. Not to mention the self-sowing cosmos, cleome, and petunias.  As a slightly lazy gardener, I love flowers that self-sow.

You can have your fancy, lavish store-bought bouquets—–I’ll take the humble, homegrown ones.  They utterly delight me.

And speaking of self-sowing flowers, I love my porch petunias.  I planted them the first year we came, and I’ve never had to do a thing since but water and fertilize.  Seems miraculous to me. 

This is a morning glory, believe it or not.  It split like this after a rain.  I thought I’d discovered a new flower!  And, by the way, morning glories self-sow, too. Endlessly.  Over and over and over again. 

We took a roadtrip for Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man’s birthday.  This is Benjamin climbing The Lump, in Ashe County, NC.  Definitely an ungainly name for such a lovely place. 

A spider web illuminated by the glow of the morning sun.  I’d never seen one shimmer like this—it looked like the work of fairies.

It’s hard to put into words just how much I am sustained by the natural world.  When I am brought down by that other world—the world of the fake, false, and phony—-I cling to the riches that surround me here.  They are real, they are true, and they bring me a sense of peace and contentment.  Not the fleeting happiness of the false world, but a deep, abiding, and everlasting joy. 

Indeed, I am rich beyond measure.

Cheep Therapy

February 10, 2011

“I realized that if I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.”

Charles Lindbergh

When I recently expressed regret at my paucity of posts, Benjamin asked why I couldn’t just post pictures. “Don’t you think your readers would like that?” he said.

Good question. After all, when I resumed writing on my blog after my recent hiatus, I promised to write shorter posts. A quick scroll down the page reveals just how well I’ve lived up to that promise. Yep, I’m as long-winded as ever.

It seems I still struggle with believing that my more modest writing efforts are worth posting. Sure, I’ve written stuff, but I couldn’t bring myself to post it. Same thing with posting just pictures. I do okay with my point-and-shoot, I reckon, but anyone that reads blogs regularly knows just how many blog photographers out there are professional level. I am often in awe of the photos I see on blogs, so I start feeling shy about posting nothing but my sometimes comparatively blurry pictures.

Why is it so hard not to compare yourself with others?

Last week, something happened that knocked us all for a loop. I don’t want to get into it here, but suffice to say, it brought back memories that we thought were long buried. Heartbreaking, hurtful memories.

I did what I always do when I’m sad—I went outside. When I stepped out on the porch, our yard was full of robins. Probably at least a hundred or more. I love robins. Sure, maybe they’re not the brightest birds in the biosphere, but I love the way they hop. Hop. Hophophophop. Peck ground for worm. Hop.

So I sat on the porch and watched them hop for a while. Hop. Hop. Peck. Hophophop. Peck. Hop. Hophophop. Pretty soon, my fists unclenched, my breathing slowed, and I wasn’t thinking of a thing but the hophophop of the robins in my yard. And I realized just how therapeutic birds are for me. They calm me—whether I’m watching them hop, admiring the grace of their flight, or laughing at the way they splash with abandon in our birdbath.

So, thank you, my avian friends. Thank you, hophophopping robins. Thank you, little sparrows splashing so happily in puddles on the porch. Thank you, bluebird, who left me that pretty feather by the back fence. Thank you, goldfinches, for the way you perch on my coneflowers to eat seeds, steady even after the coneflower bends with your weight. I promise to plant even more flowers and shrubs next year, so all of you will have seeds and berries to eat in the leaner months.

It’s the least I can do for friends like you.

“Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”

Henry Van Dyke

Miss Beth’s Incredible Shrinking Two-Inch Tall Curiously Leathery Trail Cake

January 25, 2011

(Doesn’t my little carrot look a bit like a manatee?)

A big thanks to y’all for your bevy of bounteous birthday wishes—you’re very kind. They meant a lot to me.

It was a pretty swell birthday, all in all. Actually, it was my second celebration since we’d partied earlier when the kids were home. This time was more subdued, though I was delighted at good wishes from friends, my birthday poem from Benjamin, and a Happy Birthday song from Ariel. Here’s the last verse of Benjamin’s poem:

While her two young’uns are busy,
they still would want to know,
that this is a blessed, happy birthday,
hopefully not drowning in snow.

How could I not have a great day with odes like that? 🙂

I did get a hankering for some birthday cake, though. And since it so happened that Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man had some freshly-dug carrots from our otherwise lifeless garden, I decided that what I was really craving was a carrot cake—my favorite.

So I set about chopping, shredding, measuring, mixing, pouring, and my favorite part (besides eating the cake)—watching it rise through the oven window. I really, really love to watch cake (or bread) rise in the oven because it seems like magic. (As I’ve mentioned before, we are easily amused).

So, as usual, I eagerly peered through the oven window about 20 minutes in. “Hmm…that’s weird.” I said to Tom. “It seems to be about the same size as when I put it in there.”

“Oh, it’s probably just slow rising,” Tom said helpfully.

“Thanks, honey,” I said. “You’re very likely right.” By now it had been 30 minutes. I checked again. “Hmm…that’s weird. Still the same size…no sign of rising.”

“A watched cake never rises,” Tom said, with a sage nod and a knowing look.

“I’m grateful for your insight, O Enlightened One,” I said, laughing. “How did I ever manage without you?”

“I have no idea,” said Tom. “It must have been a struggle.”

40 minutes in: this time I opened the oven door. The rush of warm fragrant air was heavenly. At least it smelled good. In fact, it appeared to be done. But it was still the same size as when I put it in. In fact, it almost seemed smaller, like it was shrinking. I touched the top. Strange—the cake seemed quite firm. Not firm as in “nice crust with moist center” but firm as in “well-cured beef jerky.”

I took both pans out and we stared at them. “They look like they’re about an inch tall,” said Tom.

“Yep,” I said. “About an inch, I’d say.” I pressed the top again. Still very, very firm. “Well, at least there are TWO of them. I’ll just put lots of icing on it.”

So I did. Only I was in such a hurry to get the icing on that the layers weren’t fully cooled, resulting in the icing melting and the top layer of the cake sliding off the bottom one to tilt precariously near the edge of the table. The icing was flowing off, too, dripping off the top and sides of the cake and plate like molten lava. I didn’t realize this, of course, until much later when I came back from an outdoor task.

“Oh no!” I hollered. “My cake!  It’s…melting!”

Tom came in from the other room and we stared at the cake. “That is one pitiful cake,” Tom said.

“Yeah,” I said. “It is indeed a wretched sight.” I spooned up all the icing I could and stuck the two layers back together. We both scooped up what remaining icing could be salvaged, doing our best to repair the wreckage.

“I’m afraid it’s not much use,” said Tom. He wrinkled his brow and frowned. “You know, I think your cake is about two inches tall.”

I got a ruler. It was almost exactly two inches tall. We looked at each other and started to laugh. I got a knife from the drawer and cut a small slice. I took a bite, then handed it to Tom. We both chewed thoughtfully.

“Hmm,” said Tom. “Curiously leathery.” He chewed some more. “Robust.” We started laughing again as we gnawed and gnawed.  “Sort of like…hardtack.”

For anyone that doesn’t know, hardtack was the name of the rock-hard bread that soldiers ate in the Civil War.  It was also called “sheet-iron biscuit.”  To break it into smaller pieces, troops would bash it with their musket butts. 

Then Tom picked the cake plate up with a flourish and held it aloft in his right hand. With his left, he pointed at the cake and looked into an imaginary television camera.

“Hi there, friends,” he said in a Texas drawl, to his imaginary television audience. “I’m Cowboy Tom!  You know, when I’m out on the range with the other cowpokes, we can’t be bothered with a big, bulky old birthday cake. No ma’am. So what do we eat on the trail?” Tom looked over at the cake and smiled.

“Well, we cowhands like to eat Miss Beth’s Trail Cake! Only two inches high, so it fits neatly into your saddlebags! And it has that manly consistency—it’s REAL cake that a buckeroo can sink his teeth into.” He looked back into the imaginary camera and winked.

“So, buckaroos and buckerettes, don’t weigh your horse down with unwieldy cakes! Yes, if you want that long-lasting chewing satisfaction, reach for…” He thrust the cake towards the imaginary camera. “…Miss Beth’s Trail Cake!”

I was laughing so hard at that point that I almost choked on the cake. Tom put the cake back on the table. I got a couple of plates and cut two pieces. Despite its curiously leathery texture, it tasted pretty darn good.

And there we sat on my 53rd birthday and chewed and laughed and laughed and chewed some more. I thought about how blessed I am to have a man who makes me laugh. Who saves me yet another goofy animal-shaped carrot from the garden. Who thinks I’m funny, too, and always laughs at my jokes. And I thought about what a gift our sense of humor is. How it has so often saved us through all these hard and sometimes lean years. And how often that sense of silliness and the absurd has helped us to see what’s worth getting upset about and what’s not. A fallen birthday cake is nothing in the Grand Scheme of Things. Well, nothing but an occasion to laugh. And chew. And to be thankful that it’s at least edible.

But even more, I’m thankful for someone to share it all with. Not only to share Miss Beth’s Incredible Shrinking Two-Inch Tall Curiously Leathery Trail Cake, but to share the joy and pleasure of a big, ol’ deep-down, belly-shakin’, knee-slappin’ guffaw.

What a gift it is. And I am so grateful.

We Dig This Carrot!

November 23, 2010

 

(A happy little carrot)

Gather ‘round, folks. It’s time for the semi-annual posting of googly-eyed produce on Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl. Yes, it true—with all the lofty talk in my last post about the importance of writing about “truth” and other high-minded things, I’m posting a picture of an anthropomorphized root vegetable.

I just couldn’t resist when Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man dug up this rabbit-shaped carrot in our garden. “The potatoes have eyes,” the carrot said. “Why can’t I?”

So I gave him some. As you know, we are easily amused here at the Doublewide Ranch. Hope you are, too. Because, in my humble opinion, the world needs more pictures of googly-eyed vegetables. If for no other reason—that it makes us laugh. Well, at least it makes ME laugh.

And while my little carrot may not speak of truth, there is a certain beauty and purity, I think, in finding yourself unabashedly giggling like a silly, gleeful six-year-old.

I hope your Thanksgiving table is surrounded by those you love and plenty of hearty laughs, if not silly giggles. Ours will be, for sure, as we eat all the usual Thanksgiving fare—turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and…well…maybe some good ol’ root vegetables. Carrots, sautéed in butter, to be exact. Without the googly eyes, of course.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

(One of these things is not like the other…)

Unsung Heroes #2: Ode to Peanut Butter

March 18, 2010

(This is the only picture of peanut butter I’ve ever taken, amazing as that might seem.  Only longtime readers (with really good memories) might possibly recall the utterly silly, madcap story  it came from.)

I was looking over my blog categories the other day and noticed that I’ve only written one post for “Unsung Heroes.” I started that category with the intention of recognizing and honoring common accoutrements of everyday life that we might take for granted. It was certainly no surprise to my family that my first post was an “Ode to My Recliner”.  I love that thing.  In fact, I sit in it so much that it bears the permanent indentation of my body. It’s sort of like a custom-made recliner now!

Anyway, I was in the grocery store the other day, horrified, as usual, at how the size of food items just keeps getting smaller, yet the price just keeps getting larger. Pretty soon, I thought to myself,  I’m going to have to give up eating. Eating—a silly habit I’ve developed over the years. But it’s just too expensive now.

But then, in the fluorescent glow of the grocery store light, I saw it. The food of the Gods, the Holy Grail of all Foodom, and, apparently, the Last Culinary Refuge of the Poor—peanut butter. Amazing, really, with so much inflation in food prices, how peanut butter has stayed relatively cheap. We buy it by the case, and we eat it by the spoon—we love the stuff.  Especially Benjamin and me.

So, naturally, when I heard that March is National Peanut Month, I knew what I had to do. Here is my “Ode to Peanut Butter.” Yes, I know it’s a silly poem and probably quite an awful one, but I’ll bet it makes you laugh. At least, I sure hope so:

Ode to Peanut Butter

Oh, sweet legume that grows beneath the earth!
Let me now proclaim your worth!
May my lips your great praise utter
Crunchy, munchy peanut butter
Creamy, dreamy peanut butter. 

Food of the rich and poor alike
Food for grownups, food for tykes.
Food that sets my heart aflutter
Crunchy, munchy peanut butter
Creamy, dreamy peanut butter.

On a sandwich, from a spoon,
Eat it morning, night, and noon.
When I run out, I cry and sputter,
“Crunchy, munchy peanut butter!”
“Creamy, dreamy peanut butter!”

By the jar or by the case,
You can buy it any place!
How I do adore its taste!
Crunchy, munchy peanut paste!
Creamy, dreamy peanut paste!

To clean out jars is not a chore,
‘Cause when it’s gone, I’ll eat some more!
I’ll never let it go to waste—
Crunchy, munchy peanut paste
Creamy, dreamy peanut paste.

Luscious goodness that I love
For it, I thank the Lord above.
It puts a smile upon my face.
Crunchy, munchy peanut paste
Creamy, dreamy peanut paste.

So I bow before thee, Jar of Jif,
My sagging spirits thou dost lift.
To do without would make me shudder.
Crunchy, munchy peanut butter.
Creamy, dreamy peanut butter.

Hank and Homer Have a Snow Day

March 11, 2010

(For those that are new to my blog (and are thinking “Why is a 52-year-old-woman playing with stuffed animals?”), you can find the story of Hank and Homer here.)

It’s been a while since you heard from your old friends Hank and Homer, so perhaps you’ve wondered what they were up to. As you know, they love the outdoors, but it’s been a bit cold out for a couple of little fellas like them, so they’ve spent a lot of time snuggled up in the house with their other invertebrate friends (known to the unenlightened as “stuffed” animals).

Although we vertebrates have grown a bit weary of endless snow, there’s nothing Hank and Homer love more than a good ole Snow Day. As soon as the first flakes start falling, Hank and Homer are ready to go!

And so it was last week, when we had several inches of the white stuff. At first, it was falling so hard that they just watched happily from the window. But after it finally stopped, Homer put on his cap and the new matching sweater he got for Christmas. As you know, he’s a bit sensitive about his unfortunate resemblance to Homer Simpson, so he wears his cap and new sweater a lot since they make him look less like that other Homer. He especially loves the fact that his cap and sweater were made from a sock, just like he was!

So after Homer put on his new made-from-a-sock clothes, Hank decided that since he was made from a glove that he should wear a glove hat! So he found a glove in the drawer and put it on. Homer thought Hank looked very much like a chicken with his glove hat and began to make clucking noises. Hank began to cluck, too and to flap his arms about like wings. They got sillier and sillier and louder and louder, but then realized that the snow was melting!

Hank didn’t want to look like a chicken so he took off his glove hat and out they both went. But Hank still felt sad and a little jealous that Homer had such handsome warm clothes and he didn’t.

First up—sledding. They found a shiny bowl in the kitchen cabinet that made a very fine sled. Wheeee…down they slid lickety split! Hank felt a little bit scared but he just held on to his friend Homer and whooped and hollered just like Homer did.

Pretty soon, Big Mama needed the shiny bowl to mix cookies in, so Hank and Homer decided to make snow angels instead. Poor Hank found it hard to make snow angels with his short little legs, so Homer made all his angels for him and pretty soon the yard was full of snow angels. Hank sighed with pleasure, imagining all those snow angels suddenly taking flight. How beautiful that would be! He stood there for a while dreamily pondering that, but was snapped out of his reverie when Homer threw a snowball at him. Thwack! Hank laughed but he really didn’t like playing Snowball Fight. It stung and he was wet and cold and still feeling a little scared from the sledding.

So Hank took the snowball he’d made and started making a snowman. Homer came over to help. Big Mama had given Hank a carrot to use for the snowman’s nose, but Hank put it in the snowman’s hand instead.

“Umm…Hank?” said Homer. “Isn’t the carrot for his nose?”

Hank looked at Homer and rolled his eyes. (Or at least, he rolled them as well as one can roll button eyes).

“Golly, Homer…who would want a carrot for a nose?? This way,” said Hank, “the snowman can feed the carrot to the animals who might be hungry in all this snow!” Then he put a hat on the snowman and wrapped a red scarf around him.

Homer smiled. Sometimes Hank was a little silly, but that was one of the things Homer loved most about him. It was then that Homer realized that Hank was shivering and his black fur was all wet. Homer looked down at his own brand new Christmas sweater, and suddenly knew what he had to do.  It made him sad to see his best friend cold.

So he took off his new sweater and the matching knit cap and put them on his friend Hank.  Hank was thrilled with his warm new clothes.

But then, Hank looked at Homer standing beside the snowman and saw that Homer looked…well… a little naked. And a little cold. And it hit him: That snowman doesn’t need a scarf and hat! Snowmen like being cold so it seems pretty silly, really, to put warm clothes on them!

So Hank unwound the scarf from the snowman’s neck and wrapped it tenderly around his friend Homer. Then he took the hat from the snowman’s head and put it on Homer’s. It gave Homer a jaunty look, and he didn’t look quite so much like Homer Simpson.  Of course, now the snowman looked naked, but at least he wouldn’t melt so fast with those warm clothes off!

Then they heard Big Mama calling from the porch that the cookies were ready. Cookies! Hank and Homer thought that those (and hot chocolate) were the best part of Snow Days. So they went in and ate cookies and drank hot chocolate until they were…well…stuffed. Then it was time for a nap. Hank was warm and cozy in his new sweater and as he snuggled up to Homer, he decided that the best thing about Snow Days wasn’t the sledding or the snow angels or the snowman or even the cookies. No.  The best part was snuggling up with your best friend and knowing that you are safe and cherished and warm and loved. Nothing (not even cookies) was better than that.