1183 12-13-2017 Ice cream and violins day

Winter seems to have arrived this weekend, somewhat suddenly, but decisively. We got 4 inches on Saturday, and then yesterday another 4, although the forecast had suggested rain, and I expected it to wash away. John has turned to and shoveled, without even being prompted, which is a good thing as Willow and I are both feeling much less able to deal with it than in previous years.
When we heard about the coming snow, Kat and I went out on Saturday morning and picked up a tree- although the living-room wasn’t yet ready for it. Any area in the house that’s not being actively used, tends to accumulate things that are set down there “just until we get back to it”, that can stay for weeks or even months. There are several boxes of stuff going to Share that came from Marks, and while we have located the local Share office, it’s only open mornings, and I haven’t gotten out in time yet, so they’re still in the back of my car. But we got the tree before it got snowed on, so we didn’t have to let it melt and trip somewhere, so we felt clever. As usual, having looked over the lot, we bought the first one that we’d seen that looked good. I’m not sure I’d ever dare just buy one without looking at the others to save time. I did notice that currently the fashion is for trees that are pruned to be not only full, but also roundish. Since many of our ornaments are long and need room to hang in, we need a “field grown” (not pruned) tree with space for the ornaments to hang freely. I’m not sure what tinsel would look like on those trees that look like round box hedges either. Luckily, Fitch’s Corner gets some of the looser trees (they keep them along the back fence if you’re looking for one). 
The tree is up now, we put it up Monday, put the lights on yesterday, and the ornaments on today. We haven’t found the bead garlands yet, and I hope I will, because I consider that a classic look. (There are so many classic looks!) Mother liked the round balls, twinkling lights,  and an intermediate level of tinsel. I like the blinking lights- and the bubble lights (flashback to childhood again), but I like bead garlands and hand blown unique glass ornaments. Since we try to get a new one each year to represent something that’s happened that year, and many of the others also remind us of friends and family, it’s hard to cope with it when one breaks, and even hard to not have room to fit them all on the tree. My problem is that I am avoiding stairs because my knees ache, and that makes it hard for me to dig around in the attic (much less put things away properly)! When Willow went up last week she closed the attic
I have not yet reworked the angel (the wings Willow made back when we had chickens finally gave up), but we have a serpent on the tree skirt and a squirrel. I’m still looking for an eagle ornament for the top.
IMG_3984.jpg I have made the first batch of candy cane cookies, and today the Saffron Buns (for Lucia Day).   Something weird is going on with the jar of yeast I’m using. It proofs fine, does the first rise, then when I form the loaf (or buns) nothing. My Lucia buns this year were more like Lucia crackers. They still tasted good, but were dense and hard. Feh! I started Stollen a couple of days ago and am still waiting for it to do it’s second rise (there are so much nuts, fruit, cream, spices, etc. in there I’m really hesitant to just chuck it.) I’m wondering if the yeast has been messed with to work in bread makers where there is only a single rise. But if they did that, wouldn’t they have said so on the jar?
The Solstice party “50s theme” continues to inspire our imaginations. I thought about getting some of those “Vintage” shaped candles Mom used to have. She never burned them, and by the 70s we had to was them before we’d put them out. I found them on Vermont Country Store site, but the big one was $23, the deer $20, carolers 3/$15. I’m pretty sure they must have been cheaper then. Did 59 cents in 1958 feel like spending $6 these days? Given how other prices have gone up, probably.  I remember seeing them in JJ Newberries, and we had many- or perhaps Grandmother bought them to amuse her grandchildren. There’s something a little creepy about lighting up the top of a choirboy, or even a Santa’s head and watching him melt into a puddle, though, don’t you think?
It may be that I was a little kid during the fifties, so my memory is skewed, but I think sugar cookies are a part of that aesthetic, the problem is, I don’t have a good sugar cookie recipe. I think I should make a batch- although I’m not sure that with many good cookies available at the same time, many people would eat them, but I think we should have some to look at. If you have a good tasting sugar cookie recipe, do share it with me. I’m also trying to remember how we frosted them. I am pretty sure that the frosting got hard, otherwise, they’d always have had to be kept in a single layer- but the only frosting I remember Mother making was butter cream, and that doesn’t really ever get hard, so I’m confused. Maybe it gets hard if it sits out for several days. But if I can’t get a recipe that someone says is actually edible, I’m not going to bother.
The Big Event (aside from the weather) this week was Nor’Geekster Con. Willow found she could still get in when she heard about it, and got a 16×8 space. She went by herself because Kat’s been stressed, and left Friday so she’d be all set (and not have to get up at 5 to drive up, then set up before opening at 9 am. So she was alone in a hotel room- I don’t know if that bothers her as much as it does me.She did pretty well, and got through. She enjoyed one family who have a tradition of giving each other a fuzzy blanket every year for Christmas. How lucky they were to find her. Oddly no one bought any of her fleece capes or flower wreaths!
Saturday was the day of the storm, so she packed up (alone) and headed down (carefully) through the blizzard. She stopped to eat and relax halfway, and counted the spin-outs she passed to keep herself alert.
Kat and I had gone out Friday and finalized her “credit establishing” loan. We saw Avi, she’d had her little man to the doctors for a blood sugar test, (we all met up in McD’s to adjust our blood sugars) and he couldn’t gag it down. Remembering when I’d had one, I’m on his side. That stuff is really nasty! 
Later I mixed up the wishing star cookie dough, but I can’t find the star cookie cutter for it. I know it’s around somewhere. Part of me says just go get another, and get the cookies done, and part of me doesn’t want redundant tools because I’m not sufficiently organized.
I really want to cut back on facebook (but there are such interesting links!) I could use the time, and I dislike the way it works. (although Kat turned me onto a new series Victorian Farm Christmas) I have learned Megan and Dennis are back from Europe, and you can’t trust headlines. (SO much of that!) When the headline says “The pope wants to change the Lord’s Prayer!” The article says that the Pope is suggesting that the translation that says “lead us not into temptation” should be more properly “keep us from temptation”, because God doesn’t do the tempting. I’m sure that’s a theological point that could be argued both ways, but at least his interpretation is kinder.
(I think I’ll change fonts for political comments- that should make them easier to avoid if you like.)
I watched the senatorial race with interest. Now we are only one heart attack away from a balanced Senate. I suppose that’s a horrible way to look at it (slightly better than one conviction away). What many people I talk to didn’t seem to understand is that there are a lot of people who think that Moore having been removed from the bench for not removing the Ten Commandments from the state judiciary building when the law changed, and for refusing to honor the ruling legalizing same sex marriage is a good thing. There are people who feel that the USA can only be the country they want to live in if the laws are based on their religion (their interpretation of the Bible, let’s not even consider Jews, Muslims or -gasp- “godless” polytheists!), and are feeling deserted when they are being told that they can’t have white, christian privilege anymore. They love that someone is siding with them, even if they disapprove of his private behavior. We have to understand that there are a lot of people who really consider whether Christianity is dominant is more important than human rights, justice, safety, or many of the other things we feel are critical. It’s been a long time since Christianity (at least in the European theater) hasn’t been able to convince itself that it was the only “real” religion on earth. Once “all” the powers Europeans had to deal with acknowledged the Catholic (universal) Church, people sort of relaxed into a mindset that allowed them to not have to even contemplate that other religions were valid.  Maybe some benighted and primitive Africans, or Native Americans (once they were discovered) hadn’t gotten the “Good News” yet. Maybe heathen Chinese and Indians had civilizations that weren’t christian- but they didn’t count because they were too far away (not to mention, not white). But some assumptions can get pretty ingrained in a thousand years, and we’re still teaching our kids in school that civilization was created by the Greeks and Romans. It’s not surprising when you have always believed and been taught that women and blacks should be subservient and only (your sort of) Christianity is true, and those who don’t believe that way are going to burn in hell forever, to be told that “sorry, no, your ideas are just one point of view and the law is going to give as much weight to others as yours.” You may well have been brought up thinking that a black or a woman that expects to be treated as an equal is somehow a threat, and it makes you scared. In the modern world its clear that a man can’t support a family any more the way he used to. (Forget that that support didn’t include computers, TV, maybe not a car, etc., and that the woman was working her buns off too, whether paid or not), and that seems to reinforce the idea that something is wrong. Not only do we need to respect the reality of their fear, we need to be able to address those fears if we don’t want them to fight like a cornered rat. Because that’s what they feel like. 
This is cultural, not political, but is also a rant. I have been seeing posts about how kids lack life skills, they can’t cook, sew, shop, clean, etc. I’m not entirely certain that a lot of the waste that we have in this culture isn’t because people throw things away rather than fix or clean them. Parents could teach their kids how if they had the time, but they have to work too much to buy the replacements. We are using gross national production to try to figure out how well we’re doing, but when we are throwing away food because it isn’t esthetically pleasing, but people are hungry, when we have homeless, but houses are falling down because no one’s living in them, when people want to work, but can’t get to the jobs that are looking for workers, something is severely messed up! Quality of life isn’t in how much product is created (then trashed), it’s in how satisfied people are with their lives- do they feel useful? Are they living in fear and stress? We don’t need more stuff, we need more time to be with each other, to be alone, to rest. We don’t need more calories we need more nutrition. We have to stop preferring things we can quantify and learn to choose quality. In my way of thinking waste is the closest thing I can come up with to “evil”. To take a resource away from the natural cycle and then not allow it to be used is heartbreaking. End of rant (or at least pause for breath.)
Having ducked most of the snow Saturday morning, (I did skid on the way home), we hunkered down on Saturday, and then on Sunday shoveled out and Steve came up for Latkes. I did make a significant mistake: I peeled one bag of potatoes- thinking 5 pounds! It was a 10 pound bag. By the time I’d fried up the first half, I was bushed. And while they were delicious, we were incredibly full (fat does that to you)! Once again I encountered the problem of the oil starting to boil up out of the pan at the end. I’m wondering if the potatoes are leaking potato juice into the oil or something. It’s very dramatic (and annoying). I wish I knew what to do about it! 
I tried making a casserole with cheese, onion, sour cream, and ham and some of the leftover shredded potatoes, but it was so bland that no one liked it. I’d have thought with those ingredients it would have been good. Oh well, I guess I can’t win them all!
Speaking of which, I finished the sweater vest and it’s quite awful. So bad that I feel like pulling it out and trying to figure a different project to do with the yarn. I don’t think I will because a really have gotten fond of sweaters. Now I’m free to go back to repairing the sweaters that the cats have chewed on- one of Kat’s favorites has a chewed hem which should be fairly easy. Willow’s green shawl has that “Spanish lace” pattern that seems to have presented a challenge to the cat to make many of the holes bigger. Luckily there was still a bit of the yarn I used to make it, and I think the pattern is forgiving of the slightly clumsy repairs. 
Well that’s about it for this week. Today was gorgeous. Tonight my podcast was on the Tomte, the Nisse, the Yul lads and the other Christmas supernatural creatures  Jane called in, which was wonderful because I totally slaughter the pronunciation of the Scandinavian terms.
What have I been reading and watching this week? (Other than facebook? I did watch several new JPSears funny vids, and a whole series of TED Talks on how traumatic events in childhood  an cause diseases and conditions to develop when they become adults, to the tune of a 20 year difference in life expectancy! Ouch! )
I finished reading Healing Children . It wasn’t as good as many of the doctor written stories about their experiences. I am afraid I was irritated by the authors assumption that you could get the best care just by comparison shopping. Most people don’t have those options. Yes, I’m sure his experience has shown him that children are not just adults at a smaller scale- and I’m sure having a pediatric specialist would be a wonderful thing, but it’s not going to happen and acting as if it’s not beyond most patients abilities is frustrating  Recently Willow’s been watching one of her friends go through the whole insurance appeals process to get the life-saving treatment she needs, and that’s so stressful. On top of needing it in the first place. At the end of the book he had several resources for finding the best hospitals, here’s one: Resources Hospital Safety ratings: Leapfrog- www.leapfroggroup.org.  I’ve started reading a new non-fiction book on Chocolate: Chocolate: a bittersweet Saga of Dark and lightI’ve already discovered several things I hadn’t known (or knew wrong! Blush!) On the other hand, keeping the chronology straight isn’t the author’s strong suit, and it’s the history in which I’m most interested. 
I’ve continued reading with the Earth’s Children series- am not in the fifth book: Shelters of Stone. Auel really got into showing off how much she’d learned about the period in Plains of Passage, and seeing variations of “cave man” culture was fun, but while there’s still good plot, there’s a lot to skim past. When they get home, I’m afraid, it seems to be worse, and a lot of how people relate to each other. If I wasn’t already into the characters, I doubt the book would hold key attention. I may not bother with the last one, or lose steam mid-book. There are always other books waiting.
On the other hand, even though I started reading the Aurora Teagarden books, despite their lack of any supernatural twist, because I liked. Charlaine Harris’ writing. I’m about half way through All the Little Liars, and really anxious to get up to bed and finish it. This one is about kids in school being nasty to each other, and I can’t imagine a more challenging venue for a mystery- as the title says. There’s only one more book in that series and I’ve already got my next thing to read: The Shadows. I love when friends tell me about books and movies they liked. Then the pie shop mysteries. 
I also watched a bunch of Disney films- Fantasia, Frozen. Moana, and started Tangled, but got bored halfway. I am also frustrated because I’ve spent much of the week with songs from Moana going through my head and I don’t know the words yet! I hate not knowing the words! 
But the library finally found a copy of Witness for the Prosecution, and what a great film!  I knew it was going to be a good story when I saw it was written by Agatha Christie. The interplay between Charles Laughton and Elsa Manchester was fantastic! I understand that Tyron Power was a heart throb at the time, but I looked at his eyes and immediately didn’t think much of him. Maybe I should see something else in which he’s acted. Dietrich was great, I now have a much greater respect for Madeline Kahn for her Dietrich character in Blazing Saddles, she had every nuance down. I loved the warning at the end- “ Please keep the ending to yourself to allow your friends to enjoy it later.” How polite!  I also finished up watching the True Blood season I was watching , and started the last season of West Wing. While the candidates characters are nice, I’d rather have more of the last year of the Bartlett presidency. We’ve also started playing the various Christmas videos. It’s lovely to put something on I don’t have to look up, indeed in several I can say the lines along with the characters! (No doubt that would drive anyone who was in the room with me crazy! Luckily, it’s what I do when I don’t have someone to talk to while I work.)
The library had a display of Christmas CDs out, and I’m listening to It’s Winter Again, Christmas in Europe, Andrea Bocelli’s My Christmas. It’s strange hearing him sing some of the more modern things like Santa Claus is coming to Town. 
“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round,…as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.” 
Holidays that might amuse you during the next week:
14 Thursday National Bouillabaisse Day, Monkey Day*, Roast Chestnuts Day, Biscuits and Gravy Day    *I originally typed Money Day, spellcheck missed it, and that is how new holidays are created!
15 Friday Lemon Cupcake Day, Cupcake Day, Cat Herders Day, Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, Gingerbread Latte Day, Tea Day
16 SaturdayNational Chocolate Covered Anything Day, Stupid Toy Day, Day of Reconciliation
17 Sunday National Maple Syrup Day, A Christmas Carol Day (Story),
18 Monday Bake Cookies Day, “I Love Honey” Day, Roast Suckling Pig Day, Flake Appreciation Day, Ham Salad Day
19 Tuesday Hard Candy Day,  Oatmeal Muffin Day, Holly Day, Look for an Evergreen Day
20 WednesdayGo Caroling Day, Games Day, Sangria Day, Sacagawea Day, Mudd Day, Human Solidarity Day