The banter of Christmas elves Sisters stuff love into free turkey Christmas dinner for community

December 24, 2005

It is 11 p.m. on Wednesday and Santa’s two elves are so tired they are giggling about almost everything while deciding on the Christmas dinner menu.

“Look at me, my fingernails are brown and she’s just scratching away with her feathered pen,” laughs Mona Edwards while “test peeling” a potato.

She has just referred to her sister, Sheila Shearer, as a “benevolent dictator” for not agreeing to use instant potatoes. But, Shearer is determined that the community dinner on Sunday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church will be totally traditional. And that includes piles of fresh mashed spuds to go with the turkey and all the trimmings.

So, on the first evening of winter, Edwards is challenged to “practice” with a few of the mounds of potatoes that will soon await her attention.

“Peel on, my Spuds Sister,” said Shearer while perusing the Joy of Cooking for holiday recipes.

“I fly 9,000 miles and she tells me that I can’t make a turkey rub,” groused Edwards, who arrived on Sunday from Fort Walton, Fla.

“You know that you can’t stay focused that long,” replied Shearer.

She said the expected 200-300 dinner guests on Dec. 25 will not only get a great meal, but entertainment from watching her and Edwards perform in their own version of the “Ethel and Lucy Show.” The sisters are two years and two months apart in age, and good-natured ribbing has been a long-standing means of communication.

When she heard about her sister’s plans, Edwards hopped a plane – and flew into a Northwest winter storm. In fact, her airplane landed at the Portland airport only one hour before icy runways forced its closure. She said the drive through the Gorge was also dicey as frozen rain made travel perilous.

“She is trying to get me to move out here but we’ll see,” Edwards said. “I just hope that we’re still speaking to each other when this thing is done.”

The two sisters have not seen each other for three years and Edwards said preparing the holiday feast seemed like the perfect occasion for a reunion. She decided to make the trip three weeks ago after her sibling decided to feed anyone who did not have other plans for Christmas.

“She came for the holidays and got put to work,” said Shearer.

Not only are the two women — with help from about 10 friends — preparing a meal, they are doing it in style. The red-clothed tables will each have candles and a floral centerpiece donated by Lucy’s Informal Flowers.

“We are going to make it as lovely as possible instead of just serving cafeteria style,” said Shearer.

Their merry mood on the first evening of winter has been brought on, in part, because they finally scored some food donations. Up until several hours ago, Shearer said the servings were looking pretty sparse.

“She’s good at organizing and I’m good at begging,” said Edwards, who helped enlist help from several area businesses.

When Shearer, a member of the Catholic Church, learned that no other free dinner was available, she broached the idea with Father Ron Maag. He enthusiastically endorsed her plan and even made a successful personal appeal to Rosauers for the turkeys.

Then Annz Panz stepped forward to provide pasta salad and City Market to prepare coleslaw. Shari’s Restaurant offered some of the pies and the Red Haired Boys agreed to provide bluegrass musical entertainment. The steam table to keep the food warm is being contributed by Your Rental Center.

“Getting this help really changed the energy at lot. Once we had food we weren’t so discouraged,” said Shearer.

She will spend her birthday on Saturday working in the church kitchen. And she can’t imagine a better way to celebrate another year of life.

“It just feels so wonderful to be doing this; it’s so light. I am getting so much out of it that I feel guilty,” she said.

“Her gift is my presence — and my potato peeling,” said Edwards, who has been somewhat appeased at being placed in charge of running the commercial dishwasher.

She will be in town until Dec. 30 and said Shearer, a licensed massage therapist, had better plan on doing some work on her back, and feet, after the weekend labor.

“I really think it’s wonderful that she’s doing this and I’m so excited. It’s really been fun so far – a lot of work – but fun,” said Edwards.

Shearer would like to make the meal an annual event. She sees it as a way to fill the gap for people who don’t have family with whom to celebrate the holiday.

“I kind of want to work out the bugs and kinks this year and then do it again,” she said.

With the clock hands now standing straight up to mark the midnight hour, Shearer stifles a yawn. It’s too late to continue either past or present plans for the moment.

She and Edwards hang up their aprons and turn out the kitchen light to head home for a well-deserved rest.

The very long day has come to an end.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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