Fun holidays coming up this week
12th Ambrosia Day or Gingerbread House Day (also St. Lucia’s Eve- get the Lucia buns made! recipe below)
13th St. Lucy’s Day, Ice Cream & Violin’s Day, National Cocoa Day
14th National Bouillabaisse Day and Oz Christmas
15th Bill of Rights Day, Cat-herder’s Day, and Natl. Lemon Cupcake Day
16th Barbie & Barney Backlash Day, Chocolate-covered Anything Day, and Eat what you Want Day
17th Clean Air Day, Saturnalia begins, Nat. Maple Syrup Day
18th International Migrant’s Day, Natl. Roast Suckling Pig Day, and Wear a Plunger on your Head Today Day (I am NOT making this up- but someone must have! No, really, were these “holidays” made up by the people who do e-greetings?)
Here’s a recipe for Lucia buns so you can make some up for tomorrow. I haven’t made mine yet, so I don’t have a picture.
proof: 2 tbsp. yeast in 1/2 cup warm water
scald: 1 1/2 cups milk
soak 1 tsp. saffron in the milk as it cools
mix: 1/2 cups sugar 2 eggs 1/2 cup butter
add: 7 cups flour half at a time- use the second half to adjust the texture so you get a soft dough.
Knead, let rise, punch down, knead, shape into lussekatter, Julgalt, Gulluagn, Praestens Har, Luciakroona, Pojkar and Lilja. These are traditional shapes. Break off pieces of dough about as big as a walnut, roll into a snake and form in spirals, Ss, or twists, combining them. You can garnish with raisins, but I find these become rather hard when they are baked. Glaze with milk or egg yolk glaze before baking.
total time: 2.5 hrs baking time: 10 min. temp.: 400º yield: 2-4 dz.
So- this week. What have we done this week?
The weather is as I remembered it as a child in December- cold, snowy. I let Star leave the snow on the driveway when I heard it was going to sleet so that we can remove the snow with a crust rather than just have a ice coated driveway. We haven’t generated sufficient ashes to cover it yet. We don’t use salt because the herb garden is “downstream” from the parking. The last few days it’s been a bit warmer- I actually didn’t open the window at night for a while there. I feel less guilty about it since the whole wing isn’t heated, but I do look forward to getting the attic on the other side insulated- I think that will make the studio more useable.
When last we left our merry crew we were getting ready for St. Nicholas Eve. When the kids were young this was a really useful way to start the season and give the kids anything aimed at being used during the season. On the other hand, these days we don’t have much occasion for giving the kids red and green accessories to wear to school, or junk food, or music, so after the kids had put their shoes out, I realized that I didn’t have gifts to put into the girls. While doing their shopping they’d picked me up CDs- Josh Groban’s and the Rat Pack’s Christmas albums, and we’d gotten Star the little claymation TV classics- Rudolph and Frosty. He still likes watching them once a year, and they’ve put them in a set. We still had an unopened box of candy canes from last year, but I went to bed feeling very guilty, stewed for a while then got up and made a red flannel slip and pair a red flannel bloomers (with lace) for the girls. They’d picked up the material to make them- flannel under-things are wonderfully comfy when you keep the house cool in the winter. Willow actually gave Kat the slip, (I’m still looking for some black lace to trim it with), but it was nice to have something in/with their shoes. Next year we’ll try to give that custom up as it has stopped being useful.
Actually some years ago we decided that it was silly for pagans to celebrate a saints day, and re-made it into The Feast of Brothers and Sisters (a wonderful holiday from the Jean Auel book Mammoth Hunters), with all the wonderful holidays, I don’t think there’s enough celebration of sibling feelings. With Dan away it was useful to have an opportunity for the kids to get together before the main holiday- this has solidified as Dan and Darth spend their holidays in Vegas. These days, of course, when we can get together is so very much defined by when we’re off work. Weekends are hard for us, weekdays for Dan. This year Tuesday’s were good for Dan, so we met them midway at the Texas steakhouse in Nashua. (Good thing- it was icy and the roads were horrible. We really appreciated Willows 4 wheel drive.) The food was great, although the modern world being what it is, there was a warning sign on the door because they have peanuts everywhere with the shells just thrown on the floor. Every so often the wait staff did line dancing between the tables. Willow and Star joined them. By chance Linda and Dennis came there to eat too (she says people in the Northeast can’t dance. While they were in the southwest they saw people line dancing well.) We forgot our camera, so I guess we won’t have a holiday picture of the family this year. We don’t tend to look too different year to year these days though. Of course, Dan is currently sporting a goatee (which, as a mother, I’m allowed to dislike) which looks very much like the amount of beard Ælfwine could manage when I first met him. I’d probably like it better if Dan’s hair was more like Ælfwines, but current styles dictate a kind of short spikey look which I don’t like. Oh, and another warning about the Texas steakhouse. We ordered two onion blossoms for the six of us, but one would have been plenty. I think they were each more than a foot across!
Most of last week was Hannukka, and we had Steve up so we could have an excuse for latkes (potato pancakes). I also had the great joy of introducing Steve to the folk singer Jonathan Coulton. Usually he finds the cool folk singers and tells us about them. It was Coulton who wrote “Regarding your brains” that we so enjoyed at the Clam Chowder concert, and “Code Monkey” (both of which can be found on you tube with visuals from World of Warcraft). On line role playing games have really entered our families world view, if not everyone else’s. We use the Sims term of having one’s “social” score being low to describe when we have the normal human need to be with other people. Somehow before the game came up with the idea of measuring it, it wasn’t so easy to get a handle on.
I came into the kitchen the other day to discover the girls playing battleship. And sometime during the week we went out New Art shop that had opened on the Milford oval. Since the Color Shop will be closing (cancer is catching up with Carl although we don’t mention it, do we?) it’s good that there will be somewhere to get art supplies.
Star and I went down to where Caroline Otto is selling trees and got one. They are up to $30 this year which she apologized for, and offered to give me a deal on, but since I know they’re as bad off as we are, I wouldn’t let her. When I buy from her, her taxes pay for keeping my roads plowed, and her trees are local NH grown. Taxes are fierce this year, and will probably be worse next year because of the extra costs from the flooding this spring that required so much road repairs. The kids have it up, but the living room isn’t as clear as I’d prefer to have had it before (but there was sleet coming, so getting it inside made sense.)
I got a chance to play with Willow’s jewelry making stuff, and restrung some of my festoons (the beads that hang between the double brooches heathen women wore), and made a new one. What fun! She got a chance to try carving the jet that we bought at Darkover, and that came out well too.
Star helped me put up another shelf in the back hall where we’re putting the jars of cookies we are making ahead for the Solstice party. (We haven’t heard from many people, but do hope some will come.) Sadly, we had a “mini-disaster” with the mead. There was a crack in the bottom of the carboy, which worried me, but when we tested it, it didn’t leak, so we had three gallons of Stormbrew bubbling away (wrapped in a woolen shawl to keep it warm), but Sunday morning Willow bumped it and the crack separated. Basically, the bottom came off the carboy, and 3 meads of honey and water flowed out over the kitchen floor. Yuck! And that was our last carboy! So we checked the internet for where we could find another. There’s only one brewing supply shop in Southern NH, and they aren’t open on Sundays or Mondays. Luckily, I thought to call Kythe, and it turns out that the kingdom Brewers Guild think that it’s a good idea to keep brewing tools on hand to loan to new brewers so they can find out if they like brewing without laying out the money for the equipment up front. I’m sure that would encourage people to try brewing when they otherwise might not- and luckily there was a carboy available. So we drove up to Deerfield to get it. It was SO nice to chat with Kythe and Sine (when we left I could practically feel the spinning polyhedron over my head going from red to green)! And we made another batch of mead- which won’t be quite as good. We do make mead in 10 days in the summer, but usually it takes three weeks for Yule. Kythe also gave us a bottle of his new dandelion wine which
I’d never tasted before. To my surprise, it tastes like a white wine.
What else? Willow is knitting a scarf in the Hufflepuff colors for a friend she met at a con. (Not everyone is from Griffindore.) She has to switch back and forth from knitting to drawing and other crafts to keep her hands from cramping up. She’s spending a lot of time on the phone with Jenny- who’d hoped to come out to visit, but had to spend the money she’d saved for plane tickets on car repairs. Willow’s also doing Christmas themed stuff in Stupidity in Magic. (It’s kind of neat that when the most annoying things happen, she can say “well, at least I have an idea for tomorrow’s comic!”.)
Kat’s made a fun mix of holiday songs- which motivates me to talk about music for a bit. While the traditional ones make you feel good in one way, we like mixing in new ones as well. Some like Vince Guaraldi’s Jazz riffs from the background of the Charlie Brown Christmas specials feel like classics now. Smashmouth has made a version of “Snoopy’s Christmas” which is odd, but neat. I’m fond of “Green Christmas” by Bare Naked Ladies. Also “Christmas in the Trenches” always gets to me, as “I wonder as I wander” (Joan Baez) does. And I probably have a half dozen different artists doing “O Holy Night”- and they are all my favorite. The Trans-Syberian Railroad and Manneheim Steamroller collections are wonderful. Many Christmas movies have added to our favorites list: “All I want for Christmas is you” (and “Christmas is all around”) from Love Actually, “the Closing of the Year” from Toys, and the children’s chorus from Home Alone, also “Put a little love in your heart” from Scrooged; some of them have very little to do with Christmas, but are associated with it now because of movies. I enjoy the ones that are a bit different; and you can’t get odder than
“Christmas in the Drunk Tank”. Well, maybe you can. Kat, of course, includes filks like the ones from the Scary Solstice album, and Tom Smith’s “Hey Frikkin Nonny (I guess it’s Christmas)” or Coulton’s “Chiron Beta Prime” are pretty odd. Modern songs tend to focus on the wistful way the holidays always make us feel that somehow we’ve failed if we aren’t happy. I’ve always liked Sinatra’s “Whatever happened to Christmas?” which it seems that no one else has ever heard. Oddly, I do like “I won’t be home for Christmas” by Blink 182, even though I still like “I’ll be home for Christmas” and it still sometimes makes me cry. Well, that’s enough of that. It’s more fun to talk songs when the other person is bouncing their favorites off of you.
Another thing we’ve been spending time with this week is buying Kat a computer. The problem is money of course. She needs one with lots of memory and speed to do animation, and our family tradition of used computers when friends move on to better ones doesn’t allow for that. I’d gotten to the point of saying- if a prom dress costs $400 we can spend that on a computer, and the girls had even found one, and we’d ordered it. But I had Steve look at it, and he pointed out the stuff about the memory and speed, so we had to cancel the order, and are trying to figure out what’s the least we need to spend to get one that will do what she needs it to do. I keep thinking she’ll need one for college anyway, but somehow separated from the whole inconceivably huge college expense, it seems like so much. Also, computers change so much year to year it always makes putting it off seem reasonable.
Rob sent me this link to a short film called the story of stuff. It takes 20 minutes to watch, but I liked it. It’s kind of hard to deal with the idea that we are causing our own problems, but really, we have to be aware of hidden costs- whether it’s from how much of your paycheck goes into supporting getting to to work and maintaining the job (child care. transportation, special clothes, etc.) to the balance of which is more important, maintaining a healthy economy or a clean environment. Those are only a matter of scale. I tend to think that if we all deal with our personal environments well (or even better) that will take care of the greater problems. The congress is debating heating assistance bills for us in the northeast. But is the question better served by buying more fuel with money raised by taxes, or by figuring out how to keep people warm enough to live while consuming less fuel? The size of houses has nearly doubled in recent years, and we “must” use enough fuel to keep all that space warm because the stuff in it will be damaged by the cold. How about we scale back on how much space we use and how warm we need to keep it? I think it was only last week that I went on about the prescription drugs benefits which is the same thing. Rather than having our tax dollars pay for the excessive amounts that are being prescribed, we’d be able to afford the necessary ones if we eliminated the ones that are more harmful than helpful. It’s hard- especially at this time of year when we all feel guilty if we don’t give as much “stuff” as others do- to cut back. But I think our economy would be healthier if people were producing less unnecessary goods and services, and put our energy into better lives. If, for example, every family with kids had one person at home committed to caring for the kids, maintaining good nutrition and a supportive environment for family and community our GNP would be cut maybe in half- but think about how much less demand there would be for a lot of the services all those extra bodies in the workplace demand.
Anyway, watch this if you can find the twenty minutes. You don’t have to agree with all the conclusions, but maybe it will give you something to think about.
This is another film clip someone sent me. It’s about supporting the troops and I cried. If you want some heavy schmaltz, this one’s for you. If not, don’t bother.
I got more response from sharing the Aspi quiz than to almost anything I’ve said lately. Most of us come out with a certain amount of “symptoms of Aspergers”. Yes, I agree that this indicates that the test may be poorly constructed. As far as I can tell, it is mostly asking if you are often socially awkward. Well, most of the people I hang around with are to some extent- I think most people are, or movies and books wouldn’t have people who don’t fit in well as their main characters so often. Humans are animals who have evolved in groups (packs/herds/communities), and the health of the community is based on maintaining a norm, therefore it’s totally unsurprising that pressure is brought to bear on members of the group to “fit in”, whether by dressing, speaking, or otherwise acting the same as others.
One thing that has a hidden impact on this, I think, is the modern pervasiveness of the entertainment industry. TV, movies, comics, role playing games, all these things provide us with the role models that we used to get by looking at the other people in our communities. (If you read old kids books from a hundred years ago, you discover young girls getting more excited by poetry, or a Shakespeare play than modern people can imagine. That was all they had to inspire them that was outside their experience.) The problem is that entertainment- whether it’s the folk tales told around the fire, or sit-coms (or, god forbid, “reality” TV) is designed to be interesting. Yes, it must strike a chord or we won’t get involved. But at the same time- it’s “more”. The kids are more smart aleck, the quirks are quirkier, the chaos more extreme- the people better looking. But because we are so totally surrounded by it, we come to think of it as the norm that our animal instincts tell us we should be trying to conform to. When a kid heard the stories of Cinderella, or Jack marrying a princess, they got the good messages about “happily ever after”, but they didn’t start thinking that they should all live in palaces. But somehow, we do end up thinking that we “should” all be living the lifestyles of the people we see on TV and in movies. (Every so often I notice that they never have fingerprints around doorknobs or light-switches unless they are trying to make the point that the family is dysfunctional. Without full time home-makers, I think most houses don’t get their fingerprints wiped that often.)
I don’t think we can escape the demands of our DNA to conform, but I wonder if we are trying to conform to the wrong things.
I think that segues into what I’ve been watching lately. I actually haven’t been reading as much. Most of my reading is done just before I sleep, and I’ve been so tired I haven’t read more than a page before turning off the light lately. The book I am reading is about Vedic palmistry. But I can put a movie on while I make cookies or work in the kitchen. I prefer not watching something new unless I expect it to be fluff because I’m mostly listening, and miss the visuals when I’m working to the movie. Guess what- movies are meant to be watched, and the writers and directors put in visual plot points (and humorous bits). Not to mention, that watching old Christmas favorites when making cookies works really well emotionally.
This week Star took out it’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963- boy were all those actors young!) and I watched it. It had about 20 comedians (Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Johnathan Winters, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, Terry Thomas, and cameos by dozens of others some of which I may have missed by not looking up- the three stooges went by not doing anything in one scene). It was a blast from the past- very silly, but enjoyable. I also watched Flyboys, a very nice movie about some young pilots in the Lafayette Escadrille in WWI. I was incredibly impressed with the special effects- it really conveyed the feeling of being in a dog fight in those early bi-planes and triplanes. As if one needed more drama than the life or death being portrayed. I would love to have seen that on the big screen! Willow had mentioned when Ocean’s 13 came out that she hadn’t seen Oceans 12, so we took those out- and they are cute, clever films, no romance in 13. Again, one should actually WATCH them- far to many plot points conveyed without words. I watched The Pacifier (Recently I’ve been trying to catch up on recent releases as opposed to the classics I think Netflix is great for, of course, some releases like Pirates 3 and Harry Potter 5 we just bought, and shelved as gifts.) There are movies like that that one is happy to have watched once, but would never bother watching again. It was fun and sweet. Every movie doesn’t have to be great.
The war against the mice has been (temporarily) won. No more mice in the traps, no more sounds of skittering. Of course, I should blush to mention that we did forget to take the traps out of the oven once when preheating. oops. Luckily, that was after we’d run out of mice and they were empty. The mouse-free-zone will not last of course, but I’ll be pleased while it does.
Well that’s it for this week. A little ranting, a little news, a recipe, not much by way of pictures. I suppose we should take one of us. Elinore had a great one of Ekke in her live journal. Even when we pine for our lost youthful looks, our friends like pictures of us. I’d share it, but I haven’t asked permission yet.
History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats. B. C. Forbes