Breaking news holiday garland

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Here’s a way to decorate, recycle, and remember.

Like every reporter, I have stacks of ink-filled notebooks — those long, skinny pads designed for stashing in a pocket or purse while out on assignment. I try to make a habit of regularly tearing out and recycling/ destroying the pages of notebooks I won’t need to reference again. It’s good for journalistic, legal, and privacy reasons (and to avoid being overtaken by piles of paper).

But this time, I tossed the pages and kept the cardboard covers. I created this festive holiday garland by gluing old Christmas wrapping paper to the back of each cover. (It’s a great way to reuse nearly pristine wrapping-paper instead of trashing it after opening up gifts). I punched a couple holes at the top of each pennant and strung craft twine through each small flag. Then, I hung up the three strands on the living room wall behind my Christmas tree.

It was fun to look back at my hastily jotted down description of what the notebook had contained. Each cover represents a deadline and a byline and a dateline from somewhere and some point in my career. As another year draws to a close, it’s a good reminder of the stories I’ve gotten to tell and the people I’ve met.

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On baking and newspapering

My Ohio-born and raised grandmother loved the Akron Beacon-Journal, her hometown paper. She lived in the same house on a tidy corner lot in Akron for more than 60 years. The daily delivery of the Beacon-Journal outlasted the milkman, the trolleys, the rubber factory.

But she complained when the Beacon-Journal began to shrink, when its once-robust business section nearly disappeared, and when the bundle landed with a soft pat instead of a thud on her porch steps.

Still, she read the paper cover-to-cover every day, even if that habit took a little less time.

In the last 15 years, I’ve worked in a couple of newsrooms where the features department or food editor asked fellow staff members to submit a favorite cookie recipe for a holiday-themed story or festive food page. I always thought about submitting my grandma’s anise cookie recipe. I knew she would get a huge kick out of seeing her recipe in print, getting a little credit, a tad-bit of newspaper fame. But whenever the opportunity presented itself, I never got around to sending in the recipe.

Our baking roles reversed as she got older. She couldn’t drive as easily to the grocery store to pick up the sugar, flour, and anise extract. She lived alone. She couldn’t bake, frost, and eat a six-dozen batch of cookies. More recently, I baked her anise cookies. I frosted them, and I carefully shipped a few of the most beautifully decorated ones to her each year.

My grandma died last October. This year, The Blade’s features department asked staffers to submit their favorite cookie recipes. The full page recipe collection ran in Sunday’s very-thick Toledo Blade.

Grandma, this one’s for you.

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