12-14-16 Halcyon Days

Holidays you may want to celebrate this week include Thursday is International Tea Day, Cat herders Day, and Regifting Day. It’s also Wear your Pearls Day if you have any. Friday the 16th is Kitty’s birthday, and Chocolate Covered Anything Day, as well as Free Shipping Day for a lot of on-line firms. It’s also Ugly Christmas Sweater day and Stupid Toy Day. Saturday is Maple Syrup Day, so you may want to think pancakes or waffles. the 18th is the 4th Sunday of Advent, aka Bake Cookies Day and I love Honey Day; you probably don’t want to celebrate Roast Suckling Pig Day or Answer the Phone like Buddy the Elf Day (thank goodness it’s on a weekend!), or wear a plunger on your head Day (who comes up with these?).  Monday is Holly Day, Hard Candy Day and Chocolate Pizza Day which I’d give a miss. Next Tuesday is Go Caroling Day, Games Day and Sangria Day. We celebrate the day before Solstice as Mother Night- the night you honour your female ancestors. Sadly for me, Solstice falls on Wednesday, and I’m doing my podcast, as usual (talking about whether predictions are something you can trust). Tonight I’m talking to Rose about working with the Spirit of the Bear. It’s archived here. The solstice is also National Hamburger Day (& Humbug Day) and Fried Shrimp Day, and because it’s the longest night of the year, it’s Flashlight Day and Look on the Bright Side Day.  So celebrate your little heart out. I basically take these days as reminders to appreciate good things, even Ugly Christmas Sweaters or toilet plungers (but not on your head). Halcyon Days are the weeks flanking the solstice during which the seas were supposed to be calm. The Roman’s celebrated Saturnalia from the 17th to the 25th, it’s where we get a LOT of Christmas customs. I am amused because in the greeting “Io, Saturnalia” Io is pronounced Yo.  In Iceland they have a series of visitors- the Yul lads- who started as trolls and now are sort of cute mascotdsc02698s, one per day leading up to Christmas.

It’s beginning to look a (bit more) like Christmas. We got some snow Sunday night. We didn’t think it was much (four inches) but Milford called a school day and Willow had to clear and dig out her car and dash over to Avi’s to watch her kids. (HOW do single mothers do it‽ There are so many these days.) I didn’t do any of the shoveling- John did it all. So there’s snow cover. Sadly, snow cover on the firewood- we are planning to rent a splitter and just “get it done”, but haven’t tracked one down yet. Parking may be problematic for Solstice this weekend. We’ve ordered a woodsplitter to rent for tomorrow. I just hope that we’ll be able to lift the pieces to wherever you need to put them to split them. Willow finally clipped the last bloom off the rosebush and put it in the cellar for the winter.dsc02685dsc02699

Also, the trees are up- although we’re still in that bit where having put the ornaments on, they’ll be moved around and adjusted as the branches relax, changing their positions. Sadly, something shifted earlier today and we spent an hour picking the tree up again, mopping up spilled water, sweeping up broken glass. It’s always sad to lose ornaments, you can’t replace them. Each is a link to a certain memory- whether the Galleon to when we were doing Renn Faires, or the Egyptian Mask for when we visited  the King Tut exhibit. (We haven’t anything for this year- what would we get, a tick to represent Lyme disease? Just a “2016 sucks”?) I ordered a replacement for the broken wooden soldier, but the other broken ones, I couldn’t find good ones. Also, when ordering on line the shipping is often as much as the ornament. I did get a purple amanita mushroom, the old red spotted one I had broke a few years ago, but when I find them in the woods around here, they are usually purple. I think a poison mushroom is about as good a symbol for this year as we can find in Christmas ornaments. But most of them survived, the woodpecker that reminds me of Dad, the Kangaroo that reminds me of Trish and her trip to Australia, the garlic for Ælfwine, the fox for Willow, the Bat for John, the peacock for me, the Tardis for Kat, the LasVegas wheel for Dan. (I wish he’d get in touch again!) The sheep that reminds me of Honour had its face broken, I’ll have to keep an eye out for another. We lost a Sun- I like suns on my yule tree. The older I get the more the long nights bother me. (On the other hand, even when it was below freezing, I was still cozy in my featherbeds with the window open- although I did tuck my nose in under the furs!) I will close the window one of these days.
Another , the packages are arriving. When John saw today’s stack, he said “Brace yourself, Christmas is coming”. Actually, today’s contained one order from Kat, a couple presents, some real peppermint extract (the McCormicks in the store is “mint” by which they mean spearmint, which is NOT what a candycane cookie is supposed to taste like), and two more silicone molds. I have no idea what happened, I ordered one, (which came yesterday) and there were two more today. AND the other item in the order wasn’t in the box with it, although it said it was. I spent probably an hour being bounced around the Amazon site trying to get help. Willow came down and showed me where to find the chat. I will be refunded for the missing item, but the extras were “ordered by mistake” so I’d have to pay return shipping, which is about 2/3s of what they cost. Don’t be surprised if you get a silicon candy mold in a yankee swap. I am totally sanguine about the occasional mistake at this time of year- it’s probably less than one percent, and they are usually pretty good about fixing mistakes. But it was really frustrating going through their lists, selecting “missing item” and having them send me to another page, where I had to follow several other prompts to get back to the same place again. At least with the chat a human can understand.

dsc02694    As long as I’m talking about today, already, the furnace guy came today and replaced the parts that were rusted up. I’ll be able to have a shower tomorrow. As I mentioned last week, the heating element that heats hot water in the furnace needed replacing.  I REALLY don’t think anyone should use the words “it’s only” in front of any amount of money that someone else is spending, because you don’t know what their budget is. When they got back to me (it took them a while to find out how much the part was going to cost and when it could get here), the guy said “we COULD clean it, but you’d do better to replace it, and it’s only $400 more.” Yeah, only $400. Easy for you to say.   More than the $6-7C that the repair will cost. (I won’t find out until tomorrow what the actual total was.) I am totally good with wanting me to pay for the part up front. If I hadn’t, I might well have tried to get by with heating the water on the stove, after I’d been doing it for several days. (and that’s not counting the 3 months with neither cold nor hot water this fall). The repairman did say he knew lots of people who’d lost water, that it was the worst local drought in 75 years. I’ll believe it. Luckily, this time it was only a week, and the young man who came (he says he was picked because he was short- they give him all the jobs where the ceiling is low) was quick. The first guy who diagnosed the problem, had suggested it would take 4 hours, that they’d have to cut pipes and take out the panel on the side of the furnace. All of this was apparently true, except for the 4 hours. Perhaps it would have been four it they’d cleaned rather than replaced the rusted parts. Given what labor costs, it may have been cheaper. But I went down after about 2 hours, figuring I could get a picture of the furnace innards and he was cleaning up.  You can also see where we wrapped up the water tank. I’m not sure why we do that if the water is heated in the furnace as needed. And we were distracted by the tree coming down while he was fixing it. Well, hot water again. One of the greatest things in the world (along with soft lavatory tissue and good dentistry).

Perhaps the most exciting news of the week is that I gave blood again- both Kat and I. They say if I’ve completed the treatment and it’s been pronounced successful, I’m good to go. I did wait until my energy came back. Apparently it has, I am now moving fast enough to irritate Willow off and on. Sadly, we didn’t realize that they’d changed the system. Now rather than putting on your name take, you leave it at the nurse’s table, (instead of taking a number and having them call it, they call the name on the tag). But eventually we figured it out and donated.  John had come along to drive after dark, since I don’t do that well. Sadly, I also don’t NAVIGATE well. We dropped Kat off at Avi’s place so that I could get home and start dinner, while Willow and Kat could go on errands when Avi got home. I am afraid I missed the street twice, then we called Willow, got the address and used the GPS. When we got there, I called Willow and she came to the door, which was good, because Kat got lost and went to the wrong building in the complex crossing the dark parking lot. Kat has negative sense of direction!

lucia-buns  Yesterday was Santa Lucia Day, so I made saffron buns Monday night. I images of new bun shapes, but couldn’t print it out since the printer doesn’t want to talk to my computer lately. I don’t think it’s because I spilled tea on the top- none seemed to get in, but still, I’m not printing things out easily this month. Who’d have thought that having a printer in your house would be such an expected thing? The other day was Pretend You’re a Time Traveler Day. I think everyone over 50 is a time traveler. The world changes so fast! Other than that we went out- I had my acupuncture appointment, then we went to Walmart for a few things. (We got more of the plastic bins that are especially shaped for keeping ornaments because while bringing down the old cardboard boxes, they ripped. Some boxes are strong enough to last for years- but apparently not the ones that are sold for storing your ornaments. Feh!

dsc02691    Steve had Friday off and came up. He’d looked at my back-up drive last visit and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it, so he brought me one he had at his place. I now feel better because my computer is backed up, and theoretically I won’t lose pictures, music, etc. We had a lovely supper of spicy meatloaf smothered in mushrooms, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole (which he’d not encountered before). Since we needed milk, we went to Fitch’s and as long as we were there, grabbed a tree. It’s nice to just have a meal with friends. On the downside, he didn’t have the energy to come up again on the weekend. Mark came over on Sunday. I guess it’s easiest to attract bachelors who don’t get home cooking easily as guests.
When I’d gone out to the dump, the girls took the laundry to the laundromat, and I wondered what was keeping them. Apparently both girls forgot their phones. I kept messaging and calling Willow, and got no answer. By dark I was getting worried, but of course, they’d simply done more errands as long as they were out. How easily I have fallen into the assumption that I can contact them anytime. I’m not sure it’s good for me.

We spent most of the weekend working on cleaning up the house. (Although Willow worked Saturday. Having taken the kids Christmas shopping on Friday, she took over some wrapping paper and ribbon on Saturday, so they are all set. During this process I discovered that we have about 100 rolls of wrapping paper in the attic. I think this comes from about 20 years of buying 5-6 rolls and not using it all. Clearly I must have gotten more than that some years.)  In order to fit the tree in front of the big window, we moved the couch into the dining room. This will be good for relaxing in there when the stove is going, but we won’t be able to pull the table out to full length.

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I’m posting a cookie recipe a day on my facebook page, and changing my profile picture daily as well, using the old Christmas card collection. I’ve gotten up to I think 1968, but I wish I could tell. I can’t when the cards are scanned and the dates were on the back! I can’t believe I didn’t think I was attractive back then. We also compared notes on which movies are “must see” this time of year. Although it’s clearly part of the plot, I’d never considered Lion in Winter a Christmas movie, but then, I have rewatched the Die Hard movies and the Hogfather. Several people responded to what else you don’t say “it’s only” before (3 flights up, a spider, another mile, a little drink, X pounds, a few hours).  I have been following the news- although I do mostly read articles that were shared on fb, but they are often from the Washington Post, the Atlantic, or the NY Times. (Sadly, this month’s copy of Mother Jones fell on the bathroom floor and one of the cats peed on it!)
I finished Trials of Apollo, only to discover that it is the first of a three parter. Argh! Apparently Riordan is writing both that series and the Gods of Asgard series at the same time. I suppose I read multiple books at a time….
I’m continuing with Daily Life in the United States in the 20s and 30s. This morning I finished the chapter on the impact of automobiles. It hadn’t occurred to me that they didn’t bother paving roads except in the cities for the wagons- you dealt with the mud. The “Great” War convinced them of the utility of using trucks for transport. And the introduction of buses ended the one room local school house, and got school attendance up over 50% of the population. Tractors had a big impact on farming too- the trick was to get the small turning radius pulling a huge piece of machinery (without it tipping over). I finished Wintersmith and started I shall wear Midnight. I love Tiffany Aching and the Feegles. I’ve got one partially sculpted from the blue oven bake clay. I am not as good as I think I am.
Other than rewatching seasonal movies, I finally have seen Snakes on a Plane, which is a fun, if very silly, B movie with Samuel Jackson from ten years ago. How many versions of a Christmas Carol can I watch?

“A representative owes the People not only his industry, but his judgment, and he betrays them if he sacrifices it to their opinion.” Lyman Hall in 1776 quoting Edmund Burke. I looked up Burke’s speech (to the Electors of Bristol in 1774) and it continues: “Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole.” (Wouldn’t it be great if congress would act that way?) Burke was also the one who said:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Burke is also the source of the quotes: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” as well as “You can never plan the future by the past.”  As with so many quotes from interesting people, it’s easy to pick the one you want from somewhere in the vast array of things he said at different times.