Happy New Year! Oops, didn’t get the letter done on Wednesday! Luckily we have no big plans today so I can finish today!
Right now the weather is what I call “bitchy cold”. It’s about 20º out (F.), cold enough that I’ve closed the window in the pantry, but it’s still just above freezing in there. It’s essentially a walk-in refrigerator, good for the food, not so good for doing laundry. Also not so good for keeping it organized because the cold increases the temptation to just toss whatever you’re putting away onto the counter to get put away properly “later”, and this makes finding it when you go in to look for it much harder! I expect the problem is that where things go is clear in MY head, but not anyone else’s. Heck, I sometimes still head for the door knowing JUST where something is- but it’s in the pantry as it was two years ago, not the rebuilt pantry. I can probably tell you better where things were kept in Mother’s pantry in Winchester (as that stayed fairly static for forty years) than my own. Some are beginning to set in. But I am thinking seriously about getting more insulation on the west wing of the house. 45º is a perfectly good temperature for sleeping (if you have feather beds), but I’m sure the reason I don’t use the studio is because it’s generally too cold in the winter- then stuff gets “stuck” on the working surfaces, and I never get it cleared up to usability when it warms up.
The snow is gone (except where drifts used to be), but will probably be back any day now. We are waiting to hear from the repair place on the chainsaw, hoping it will be done before the snow comes again.
Last Wednesday was Christmas Eve. As last night, and every show last month, I did the New Normal show by myself (no guest!), last week was ghosts and divination (this week was liminal time). I actually did get one call-in, which surprised me. I was a bit worried whether the house wifi could handle it, Kat has a tradition of her own, live streaming a Dr. Who audio: The Chimes of Midnight, which she’d planned to also start at 8. Luckily she agreed to put it off until nine, and so I got to listen to it too. It’s a charming little “closed loop” time paradox story (you’d think there’d be more of those with Dr. Who), and I enjoyed it.
As I think I mentioned last week, we’d already hung up the stockings so we could fill them gradually. The theory was that we’d be able to tell if one was already full, or another needed a few additions before Christmas Eve arrived. I think it helped, but I still forgot to put on Willow’s Stocking Topper: the mini Caroline doll from the American Girl series. I am amazed at how many there are now. Caroline is from the war of 1812 and we all read the stories last year, but I’d saved the doll for this year at the back of a drawer- and forgot to bring it out until, I think, yesterday.
This is a picture of Willow’s collection: Caroline on the shelf then from the left Kaya (1764), Josefina (1824), Elizabeth & Felicity (1774), Addy (1864), Kirstin (1854), Molly (1944), Kit (1934), and behind them are Cecile and Marie-Grace (1854 in New Orleans), Samantha (1904), and Julie (1974). We’ve always loved these dolls, their great stories, and wonderful accessories. (Willow’s still missing Rebecca from 1914, and I hope they make an Ivy, the only Asian American girl. I also think they should have a modern First Nation American Girl as well.) I have to admit that I was somewhat non-plussed by having an “historical” doll from the period when my mother was growing up! That’s not “history”! That’s just a long time ago! How am I going to act when they create American Girl dolls from the 50s or 60s? Julie is from the 70s and that’s SO not something I can wrap my mind around as historical. Still, I suppose they are aimed at girls 8-13, which would mean kids born between 2002 and 2007. I find that kind of disturbing.
John’s stocking topper was an absolutely adorable stuffed bat, which didn’t seem to impress him. We also had a few token Playmobil figures- which demonstrated that we still can and do play when given the toys. Willow’s was a Kraken (she demures- “a Kraken is a squid, that’s an octopus” (with a baby!) but it’s scaled so that it would attack her pirate ship beautifully. Kat got a pegasas. I got a Roman philosopher and an outlaw with a dog. I think there was a little dragon too.
In the morning I just kept smugly rolling over and going back to sleep, comfortably thinking about all the parents being dragged groggily from their beds first thing. I think we all did that, since we didn’t all get downstairs until 11. After we’d emptied our stockings it was time to dress and make breakfast. We had our usual bacon and scrambled eggs with fresh fattigman, orange juice and cocoa. Now that we had the fattigman done I made a display of this year’s cookies and posted it on facebook. When I’d done that I realized that I hadn’t included the cinnamon horns- mostly because we tend to eat them up immediately. So I made another batch, (I’d say that they’re our favorites, but we have so many “favorites”) but especially because Steve was coming up, and I think they are his favorites.
These are 12 o’clock angeletti (anise), Peppermint trees w/ white chocolate (2), Russian Balls (3), lemon angeletti (4), Wishing Stars (6), candycanes (7), Lebkuchen (9), Snickerdoodles (10), finish butter cookies (11), with the fattigman in the middle flanked by peppermint and walnut brownies. Of course since then I’ve made toffee, fudge, and caramel, and another cookie: Pizzelles, with my new iron, but one has to play with a new toy.
After breakfast we wended our way into the living-room to unwrap presents. We’d made a major effort to not overbuy, but as usual it looked like it was way too much, but I think we did a pretty good job.
My big present was a new pair of Uggs (tall black sheepskin boots) Willow found on ebay for about half price, so I can hope for maybe finding another pair for my birthday. I think the pizelle iron and blue glass mortar and pestle are also e bay finds. What was sitting in the top of my stocking was a beautiful stuffed orangutang. Clearly, it’s the Librarian from the Unseen University, but I will need to make him a robe or hat or something so other people can tell at a glance.
I got Willow a Rocket on ebay from Guardians of the Galaxy. She’s been buying the blind boxes and managed to get every character- except the two she wanted: Rocket and Groot. (She still needs Groot), but at this point they’re looking at $30. The blind boxes are $5-7, depending on where you buy them. She says that they don’t do the thing where they put out a limited number of the ones everyone wants so people will keep buying to try to get it, but I think they do. I filled in one of the holes in the Prince Valient Series (the Battle of Badon Hill). I think there are about six left of the 50 to find. She also got a blouse, a copy of Cards Against Humanity, and three Monster High Dolls. MH dolls are sort of a cross between action figures and fashion dolls. Willow is fond of them because they are all different (unlike, Barbies or American Girls) the faces are different, the molds are different. Some are different heights. (In this case, do not ask me to identify which is which, I don’t know.) Apparently there are also short videos on Youtube and the characters are all teen offspring of the wolfman, Dracula, swamp monsters, the mummy, etc. and apparently they’re fun, but Willow loves the dolls, and presents should be fun.
John mostly got videos- that’s what he likes. Willow also found him a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Coffee mug, and his big present was (I hope I get this right) a Gameboy 3D XL. As you might imagine, Willow did the research and made sure it was the right one for what he wanted. I am totally disinterested in these gaming systems, while at the same fear that I am an addict (given the amount of time I spent on N-hack back when that was on the computer. They look vaguely interesting, so when I find myself getting interested I turn my attention elsewhere rather than getting sucked in. Jon’s a bit hard to buy for since mostly he likes virtual activities. I know he reads and enjoys doing art, but he doesn’t get enthusiastic about anything, so it’s hard to decide what to get him. (He will go on for hours about b movies- so I think that’s an area I can be confident about.) New Years Eve he was watching Killer Klowns from Outer Space and turned on the sound so we could see the climax, it was… unreal. There is an appeal, but weird.
Kat got a Dr. Who action figure, several extension packs of the Gloom game, (Unwelcome Guests, Unquiet Dead, Unpleasant Dreams, Unfortunate Expeditions), and her stocking topper was a really amazing stuffed “Grumpy Cat” we found months ago. I felt a bit conflicted (self serving?) getting her those because I enjoy playing so much it felt like I was getting something for myself. Willow will probably be replacing her laptop, as will Kat when we can find good deals on them. I dislike getting something you’d get yourself anyway and calling it a present, but we did wrap up a new ergonomic keyboard for my computer. We haven’t actually hooked it up yet because the one I’m using now is very small, and I’m going to have to clean up my computer desk a lot to fit the ergonomic one on it!
Dinner was a standing rib roast. The girls went out to pick up milk (Fitch’s Corner is closed for season, on the honor system until spring. I think they sold all their trees this year, so didn’t use the leftovers to have a New Years Eve bonfire), and check
out the roasts on Christmas eve, and found one on sale for “only” $45. My favorite Christmas dinners were rib roasts, so I was psyched and when she called from the store to let me know, I told her to pick it up. I’ll tell you one thing though, it’s a bitch to carve. Perhaps my knife was not sharp enough. When I first cooked them, the butcher told me “one rib per person”, but these days apparently we’ve come to a more reasonable perspective. The butcher told Willow that this three rib roast was going to be plenty for six people, and so it was. I made popovers to go with it. Sadly, while I’d planned out the schedule like a general planning an attack, (roast in X, peel the potatoes Y, start cooking Z etc.) the oven continues to not cooperate. I SO am not looking forward to calling someone in and have them tell me that it’s cheaper to buy a new stove than fix the thermostat. This threw a lot off, but dinner was just a bit late, and everything tasted fine.
After dinner we even suckered Steve (who does NOT play games) into a round of Cards Against Humanity. We added the extra player “Rando Kardassian” which was a bit sad. As the rules say, if Rando (randomly drawn cards) wins, the players are pathetic and should be ashamed of ourselves. It was fun.
The next day, Friday, a lovely couple we met at the war: Dennis de Dijon and Margharita la Tessarice, came by. They are from Maryland, and have commissioned me to do their portraits. Sadly, I lost the original reference pictures I’d taken in the crash last year- along with their contact information, but they have been marvelously good sports about it. They had to spend the holidays up in NH with relatives, and came over on the last day for me to take replacement pictures. They are absolutely marvelous people, and I wish we lived closer so we could “hang out”. Sadly, having tried Pennsic once, Margharita doesn’t care for it, so I will only see him there. There are so many incredible people in the world and not enough time to spend with all the ones I know I’d enjoy!
The next couple of days I gleefully did not a damned thing. I know Kat’s been working on her commission, at least since finishing and posting this year’s Billy and Zoe story, Lucia (a particularly scary one). The last few days I know she was working on her year end video. This is her combining clips of us to a mash-up of the popular songs from this year (2014). New Year’s Eve we watched the collection of the ones she’s made since 2010. As usual, I look at it and think what a fun year it’s been (and I had no idea I was so fat, but heck, anorexics think that!). There was stuff from Pennsic, our cats, lots of them in cos-plays, Cat-Con, Cabin-in-the-woods-Con, Willow as Krampus, the Solstice Feast, all mashed together of course. As with so many other things, like the facebook end of year collections it’s very dependent on where you took the most pictures. Willow figured that it’s been long enough that everyone who she sent a card to would have gotten them by now, so she posted them on her page here, hoping that people would remind her which card she sent to who, since while she did scan them before mailing them out, she didn’t make a list of which one she sent to which friend.
To be honest, while I didn’t accomplish anything, Sunday I set myself on fire. Twice. But not much. I have a lot of little spinning candle holders and Christmas pyramids, I like playing them. The first time I was reaching past one, I thought with impunity, but then noticed flames coming up from the outside of my sweater, and had to pat that out. Oops. Really, that’s why wool sweaters are better. Later I tried to change tablecloths without putting out the candles, and got a fold of the tablecloth in a candle. Oops again. Now we need a new Christmas tablecloth. If I was into shopping, I suppose this would be a good time to find one on sale.
I had to try the new Pizzelle iron. (It’s not making MORE cookies, it’s playing with a new toy, right? I’m not sure you can tell by looking at the picture of the cookie that the edges are corrugated, crenellated (I’m not sure what the right word would be) but you can see on the iron. The biggest problem is that you can really tell where the center is (which you can’t generally do with most of my wafer irons), so when you close the irons on the batter, it presses first from the hinge side, and spreads toward the handle side, so the trick seems to be to place it to anticipate that spreading pattern. But when they are off balance they look a bit like sunbursts, which isn’t bad. I hung some on the kitchen tree, where all the decorations are edible. I also popped more corn and strung it and cranberries so it finally looks the way I wanted it too. It occurs to me that some of these traditional decorations like berries, nuts, cookies, etc. are what was available for people who could gather, or make themselves (or like popcorn or candy canes they were cheap). I watched several more Christmas movies- (including a Smurf Christmas special) and enjoyed goofing off.
Another activity that counts as “doing nothing” is making candy. I made fudge, caramel, and hazelnut toffee. It would have been better had I made it before people visited, so maybe someone else would have eaten it. As right after the Solstice, we are eating a lot of leftovers, especially from last night.
Since it was New Year’s Eve, we had our traditional “Feast of Small Foods”. Steve had to work on Wednesday, but drove straight up from Rhode Island, and joined us for supper, watched me do the show, then we put a series of hot hors d’ouvres into the oven, took them out and ate ourselves into near comas. Oh my. Avi came over too and they looked through old sketch books from a decade ago. She had to open the store this morning at 8, so she had to leave around 10, so she missed most of the “too much”. It was clearly too much, but it’s all about abundance. There’s a tradition that you leave food out on the table for Habondia (abundance). After midnight we talked about it- does it count as being left out if you have clear wrap over it? We had potato chips (and dip), Doritos, corn chips, those cool crisps with purple potatoes and other vegetables, and pretzels. We had mini egg rolls, pizza pillows, pigs in blankets, jalapeno poppers, bits of sausage, swedish meatballs, and hot wings (much hotter than I’d have liked, but I’d picked up the smallest package of each; all the barbecue wings were in two pound bags). After a while we started feeling overwhelmed, and put away the crudites without eating them, although there were still stuffed grape leaves, and shrimp cocktail. I’d taken the potato skins from dinner and turned them into “loaded potato skins”. Willow made a baked brie, with raspberry jam, Kat made bacon puffs, and a bowl of punch. Also there was the cheese tray, the cookie tray, and the home-made candy. When midnight came we toasted the new year, the old year, and each other, then Steve headed home, and we went up to bed. Eagerly. (I decided I could finish the letter today.) Actually, the key act for me was loaning Steve a book. My goal for next year is doing art and getting the house organized, and I was able to go right to the book case where the book he wanted to borrow. I’d like that to be the pattern set for this year.
It’s taken me a lot longer to get the letter done than I expected, I keep getting distracted. I think I mentioned the fb year end round ups last week. If you’re on fb, you might be interested in seeing Willow’s and Kat’s.
Now that the holidays are mostly over (not quite 12th night yet), I’m watching non-holiday movies. I watched Naked City, the movie that inspired the TV show (admittedly before my time, which means it’s probably before most of my friends). It was apparently the movie that pioneered the documentary style movie, and using location shots. I was impressed.
I finally finished reading Hild, (it helps to be doing “nothing”). It’s about the life of Saint Hild (although before she was a saint) who lived in the 7th century. The author caught the feel of the period well, although I disagreed about a few things (I have never found that it needs two people to do card weaving.) but by and large it was pretty good. I’m not sure that people who are not into the Dark Ages as much as I am would be able to get through 560 pages. What’s more daunting is that this covers from the period covering her life from about the age of three to eighteen. I think there’ll be a sequel and part of me wants to read it, but part of me is tired just thinking about it. Given that I am fairly familiar with what few records survive, I could anticipate some of the events- such as the assassination attempt that precipitated Edwin’s conversion. I am a bit ambivalent about the way they present very little of the process of conversion or the people involved as actually having any religious feeling. When Hild is described as a seer, she’s simple a very quiet, intelligent, perceptive person who could draw conclusions from available information. I’d be more comfortable with at least a hint of ESP. I’m also a bit confused about her use of the term Gemaecca which she uses to mean a sort of formalized BFF for a noble woman. Most of what she had seemed well done, so I’m going to have to go back to my other books on early AS women. First I’ve returned to reading Penda, Heathen King of Mercia by Pete Jennings in my kindle. I also immediately read the copy of Clariel that Kiaya loaned me at Yule. That took me about two days, wonderful book, although the ending wasn’t as happy as I’d have liked. Now I’m reading (or re-reading, I’m not sure) Hercules my Shipmate. I may have read it when I was a teenager, or it may be memories of the White Goddess, or Graves Greek Myths. After about ten chapters we are now into the story, but there’s sure a lot of what I’d call history of religion. I keep thinking about how modern neo-pagans often complain that there weren’t any books before Adler and Starhawk. Why didn’t they read Graves, Murray, Frasier, Thompson, Leland, and Gardner? Did they not count anything written by Hans Holzer, Butler, Cavendish or anyone not self identifying as Wiccan? I don’t know.
Well, time to get the tree down and get on with the art and organizing. I hope your holidays have been what you wanted them to be, and that your 2015 will be better than your 2014 was.
Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.’
Alfred Lord Tennyson