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The Christmas Present – A Gudknecht Love Story

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The Christmas Present –

A Gudknecht Love Story

Written by Louise Gudknect

      On a blustery day about a week before Christmas in the mid-1970s, I stopped by to visit my parents in their 55-and-over mobile home park.  I wanted to drop off some presents for them.  After explaining that my mother had gone out shopping, my father asked me to wrap a present for him.

“It’s for your mother,“ he whispered—as if she were still there.

With that, he pulled a large box out of a shopping bag and handed it to me.

“What do you think?” he asked.

I looked at it, stunned.  I couldn’t even answer him.

There, on the side of the box, was the picture of an enormous, circular mirror that was mounted on a stand with hideous light bulbs completely surrounding it.  According to what was written on the box, the mirror tilted, with the reverse side offering ten times magnification. It reminded me of a performer’s dressing room mirror.

I stared at it, speechless, trying to remember if I had ever seen such an impractical gift.  In fact, I considered the possibility that this was the worst gift—bar none–that my father had ever chosen for my mother.  And some of them had been memorable, to say the least.

“I think she’ll get a big kick out of it,“ he said.

Somebody will get a kick all right, I thought, but it probably won’t be my mother.

Why would my poor father think that my mother would want to see–close up and magnified tenfold–lines and imperfections that she might not have seen in a regular mirror for more than twenty years.

And then I nearly fainted when I thought that those same lines and imperfections would be emphasized even more blatantly by the dozen or more light bulbs surrounding the mirror!

“Did you get her anything else, Dad?” I asked weakly, pitifully—hoping that if he had bought something else, it might mitigate the effect of this monstrosity.

“Nope, that’s it,” he answered, “I’m sure she’ll really like it.”

I gulped hard, but said nothing.  I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

After wrapping the gift in silence, I placed it on the floor under their tree with the other gifts.

I left a little while later–before my mother returned–and promised my father that I would return Christmas afternoon.  All the way home,  I could only wonder what my mother would say when she opened that package.

When I arrived Christmas afternoon—apprehensive about what I might encounter—I found my mother sitting on her recliner, taking a break from cooking the small chicken she was preparing for the two of them.  Her days of roasting twenty-plus pound turkeys for her large brood had ended long ago.  Her eight sons and daughter, most of whom lived out of state, usually visited during the days leading up to Christmas Day and then spent the holiday with their own families.

A quick glance at my mother assured me that she wasn’t upset, but I refrained from asking her about “the present.”   I hoped she wouldn’t bring the subject up.

“Did you see what your father got me?” she asked suddenly.

I didn’t answer her at first.  Instead, I looked over at my father, who was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, smiling.

“Actually, I did,” I answered, “I wrapped it for him.”

“I knew your father didn’t wrap it,” she said.

Uh oh, I thought, I’m going to hear about this.  She’s probably going to ask me why I didn’t tell him to return it and get something else.

“What did you think of it?” she asked.

“Well, it certainly was an interesting choice,” I said, trying to gauge her mood.

But when I looked back at my mother, she was smiling.

      What?  Smiling?  Why?   I looked again at my mother, then back at my father, and then back to her.

What had I missed?

She was definitely not angry or annoyed. If she had been, I would have detected it.  She was not a woman who hid her feelings well.  But at that moment, the only emotion visible on her face was amusement.

Suddenly, I caught them smiling at each other.

It was only then that something finally dawned on me.

I rose and walked over to look out the window at the cold, dark day.  I could feel tears forming in the corners of my eyes.

     How could I have been so clueless?

I knew in that moment how wrong I had been.  My father had never even considered his gift as something that would glaringly show all my mother’s imperfections.  Instead, it was a gift that would reflect what he saw– her beauty, the beauty he still saw after all those years.

And my mother must have known that.

It seemed suddenly obvious to me that if he thought the gift was perfect for her—then that was all that really mattered to my mother.  And so she had accepted it happily and graciously–even if she would never use it.

As I stood looking out the window, I had to remind myself that love sees through different eyes.  I had no doubt that my father still saw my mother as the girl he had fallen in love with fifty years earlier.  To him, she was still his 1920’s flapper, his Clara Bow, the one he had met in the stairwell of the old church, the one whose picture he had taken as she stood at the corner of 13th and Race with a garland in her hair.

She would never change in his eyes—and she knew that.   No wonder they were both smiling.

Time to Decorate Your Refrigerator for Fall

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Leaf 4

Leaf Refrigerator Magnet

   Summer is ending and I’m sure you are ready for Fall and it’s colors, smells, and crisp air.

   Here’s a little project to get you started bringing Fall into your home.  Since we all love refrigerator magnets and have many of them decorating our refrigerators, I am sharing this quick and easy one for Fall.

   I got all the supplies at my local craft store.

Supplies: Felt leaves (assorted colors), felt acorns (mine came in packages of two colors), 1/4 inch decorative ribbon cut into 3-inch lengths, small magnets, glue (any will do-hot glue, white, tacky, fabric).

Leaf 1

For each magnet, you need one leaf, two acorns, one 3-inch length of ribbon:

Leaf 2

Tie the ribbon into a simple knot.  Put glue on the back of the acorns and ribbon.

Leaf 3

Place them onto the front of the leaf as desired:

Leaf 4

Place glue on the magnet and stick to the back of the leaf:

Leaf 5

Leaf 6

Finished!  I told you it was quick and easy!

Now, hang your magnet on your refrigerator and make a couple more in different colors for a colorful layout.

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Leaf 8

Hurray for the Red, White, and Blue

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Bracelet 7

In a previous post about memory wire bracelets, I said I would to one about cutting the memory wire to make a cuff bracelet.  Well, here it is!  I needed a bracelet for the 4th of July and these are quick and easy.  It can be worn for any patriotic event, but you can use any stones and colors you’d like to make these.

You will need memory wire, beads of your choice, 4 spacer bars, wire cutters, and round nose pliers.  You may need several eye pins if you decide to add beads to the ends.  Make sure you get spacer bars with the same number of holes as rows you are going to string.  This bracelet has 3 rows, so I used spacer bars with 3 holes.

Bracelet 1

Cut 3 loops of the memory wire.  I cut mine about an inch longer than a perfect circle.  This gave me some extra for forming the ends into loops, but there isn’t a gap when I put it on.

Bracelet 2


With the round nose pliers, form a loop on one end of each ring.

Bracelet 3

Bracelet 4



Place a spacer bar onto one wire ring using the top hole on the spacer bar.  Then, thread the beads onto the same ring.  Divide the ring into thirds for placement of the next 2 spacer bars.  Thread them through the top hole.  Continue threading the beads on until you near the end.  Try to add the same amount of beads in each section between the spacer bars.  When you get near the end of the wire, add the 4th spacer bar and form a loop at the end.

Bracelet 5


Thread the second wire ring through the middle hole in the first spacer bar.  Thread on the beads and continue as above, spacing them evenly and threading the end through the middle row of each spacer bar as you get to it.  Do this again with the third wire ring.

Bracelet 6


Once you have formed the loop at the end of the third ring, you are finished.  You may want to add a bead with an eye pin to dangle on the loops at the ends.  I didn’t do that with this bracelet, but I did with the blue/green one.

Bracelet 7

Bracelets 6


Bracelet 7

The previous memory wire post can be found here:


Cool in the Pool

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Mack and Maggie in the pool 1

In celebration of Summer, my dogs, Maggie and Mack, went for a swim.  I bought a cheap blow up pool (or get a hard plastic one).  Throw in a couple toys.  Don’t forget to take off their collars!  And unless you want to cool off, too, stay away from the shake zone!  ;)

Here is a short video:

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Let’s Get This Party Started!

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My family got together at my house to celebrate my parents 60th wedding anniversary recently.  Of course, I would be taking lots of pictures.  Since we are all together a lot, I just keep taking the same standard pictures of the group.  This time, I wanted to do something different and add some fun.


I searched the internet for ideas and saw this idea quite often – Hang an empty frame (or several frames) from a tree branch and have the people stand behind it for their portraits.  Well, unfortunately, it rained that day and the only tree I had to hang a frame from blew down in a tornado a couple years ago.  So, the party moved indoors and we improvised.  I simply had each guest hold the frame and pose.  This worked out great because they would tilt the frame without realizing it, so the pictures all came out a little different and interesting.  Everybody kept coming up with different suggestions of who should be with who.  And I heard a lot of  “take a picture of…”.

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60th Ann 2

Then, we took it to another level!  I pulled out “Groucho Marx” glasses!  The group had so much fun with the frame that they wanted to use the frame for the silly pictures, too.  It was so much fun!  And nobody shied away from having their picture taken.  I made the silly pictures black and white to make them more “vintage” and different from the other frame pictures.

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60th Ann 20

60th Ann 16

Now, I have to come up with an idea for the next party since they won’t want the standard anymore!


Kitchen Sink Meatloaf

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If you’ve read my bio, you know that my family has a race car.  During racing season, we live in our motorhome at whatever track we’re at.  Here’s the crew having dinner in our pit:



I have to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a crew of between 5 and 10 people on a race weekend (which is 3 to 5 days).  One of the last trips we were on, I took ground beef to make hamburgers.  For some unknown reason, I took too much ground beef.  I didn’t want to waste it, so this is the recipe I came up with.  I had cooked some caramelized onions and sautéed some mushrooms to go on the hamburgers the night before and had some left over.  I also had some barbecue sauce that some of us put on the hamburgers.  So, I just started grabbing leftovers and throwing them in the meatloaf – everything, but the kitchen sink!  My motorhome has a convection oven, so baking is easy.

I have to tell you, I don’t like cold meatloaf or mushrooms, and I ate this like there was no tomorrow!  The only thing I would do differently is chop the mushrooms.  They were just a little too big left whole.  Otherwise, it was a hit with the crew for lunch sandwiches and had a great flavor.

Kitchen Sink Meatloaf

1 lb. ground beef

1/4 cup caramelized onions

1/4 cup sautéed mushrooms

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons ketchup, plus extra for the top

2 tablespoons barbecue sauce

salt and pepper to taste

1 slice of bread, crust removed

1/4 cup milk

Put all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix with your hands until all the ingredients are well mixed together.  Form a meatloaf shape.  Place in pan and spread some ketchup on top.  You can use barbecue sauce in place of the ketchup.  Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  Serve hot or cold in sandwiches.

meatloaf 1

meatloaf 2

meatloaf 3

meatloaf 4

meatloaf 5

meatloaf 6


Be My Guest

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I had the good fortune of being a “Guest Blogger” on The Ranting Chef’s blog.  It’s one of my favorites.  I submitted a family recipe that my mother used to make and I still make now.  Please visit The Ranting Chef to see my guest “appearance” and get the recipe.



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