12-27-2017 Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day

Hi again,                                                December 27, 2017

I figured I’d put the date on this because today I got distracted by finding some old letters and posting them to my website, and that led me to realize how convenient it is to have the date the letter was written in the text. A lot of the letters are all marked as being from the same day- the day they were retrieved from a mail file, which makes them hard to put in order. Oh, well. So I’m getting started on this late, and my head is full of stories from ten to 15 years ago, like Star being angry because school was cancelled.

One interesting note from the 2001 holidays, I was trying to remember Christmas Presents I got when I was a kid, I really can’t remember many, so that means something anyway. I remember the Jon Gnagy art set. I was SO proud to get grown up art supplies! And there was the wooden USA puzzle- we never found Tennessee after Christmas, and always figured it must have gotten burned with the wrapping paper.  When you think about the amount of emotional weight that kids put into what they are hoping for each year, and the amount of effort parents put in to get them what they want- I know MY parents did- it seems like a pity NOT to remember them. I remember decorations, and lots of activities, but not the presents themselves. Let THAT be a lesson to us all.

I also remember the Shirley Temple doll I got the year the Shirley Temple Fairy Tale Theater was on. Mother also got me a Shirley Temple (as a little girl) doll (which I didn’t care for at all), as well as the adult Shirley Temple, which was the one we all wanted.

I hope your holidays were happy. We are in the snowy part of winter now- it was down to 0º F last night- and up to 20º as I write. (It says it was 50º today on the hi-lo thermometer, but it’s been going up to the 70s there during the day. No wonder the cats like sitting there. I expect it was a lot closer to 0º C.)

I have to admit that the weather has had a large effect on our activity this week. There was a decent storm on Friday, and the reports for Monday were dire, although they didn’t quite come out as impressive as the websites had suggested they would do. We got about four or five inches on Friday, and a few more since then. John has been keeping the driveway clear. But Friday morning the power company called up to warn us that outages were likely and to be ready to deal with them. They pointed out that even if you medically need power, the group shelters get priority for having power returned, so go there if you have to. I think that’s totally fair. We chose to live out here on the twig of the branch of the limb of the power tree, and luckily we don’t need to have power to survive. In fact, we did have a power outage on Saturday- for an hour and a half. We lit candles and hung up the propane lamps, and tried to figure out what cooks on the stove top, if the power didn’t come back, which it did. Really, the websites were talking 9 to 18 inches in Nashua, so that would have been pretty inconvenient, but I think it went out to sea, because while we got a few inches, it wasn’t a big deal. There was a thick layer of ice coating the trees (downing lines) and cars. Freezing rain is SO not good to drive in, and had to be chipped off before we went out Sunday. Luckily there was still a layer of 3 inches of powder under it, so it came off easily.

Thursday was the actual Solstice- Willow was out, but John, Kat and I lit the Solstice candle. But we went to bed, and didn’t stay up until dawn on the longest night of the year, which we’ve generally tried to do (it helps when there are a lot of fascinating people there talking and eating etc.). During the day John and I fixed the new “Christmas Pyramid” that wouldn’t turn because one part was put in crookedly. We used a half dozen tools, and finally fixed it. I was proud of us. Sadly, having decided that sabbath candles (short tapers) would work better than Hanukkah candles (pretentious birthday candles), I set them up, and kept doing odd jobs, wandering around several rooms. Then at one point we came back into the kitchen and it had burned down to the table. Actually, it had caught a bit of packaging on the table, and melted the foam liner, and that caught and was burning. We had to put it out, and it could have been much worse, but it was a reminder not to leave the room when you’ve got a candle burning. oops. we went to bed. We were able to sand off the surface damage, but it’s embarassing. I’m supposed to be smarter than that. The big candle went out a few times- it’s time to melt what’s left down and recast it with a new wick. Because of the accident, it didn’t bother us as much as it otherwise might have done.

Friday was the first night of the open house. We know people are busy, so encourage them to come at their convenience, on their way to another visit sometimes. Better to have people a few at a time than to try to talk to everyone at once- or not at all! Sadly, with the snow coming down, the folks who’d hoped to come on Friday all cancelled except Ekke (Chris) and Julia (Sarah), who were coming all the way down from Maine. We had them call when they were “an hour out” so we could make sure the driveway would be clear. They called when they crossed into Portsmouth- usually about 80ish minutes away. But most of the way down they could only drive 35 mph, so it took them a great deal longer! Even trusting that they knew how to drive on snow, we were a bit nervous by the time they got here. But then we ate, and played Bards Dispense Profanity (a take-off on Cards Against Humanity), and they crashed on our couch, and headed off in the morning.

The theme of the “party” this year was 50s Christmas. The girls made 50s outfits, put their hair up in 50s style with 50s make-up, and I made that silly toothpick tree. It looked just as I remembered them. I also got more bubble lights for the Christmas tree, and planned was to have 50s (looking) food. I was set to make a green and red jello ring on a bed of coconut, but Sarah brought a jello mold in red and white, so I didn’t bother. It was made with made almond flummery and the red was sour cherry. It was “roll your eyes” good! OMG! I must learn to make flummery! It was gorgeous and delicious, which I’d never have expected. I did try to make the saffron buns again with some new yeast- since the Lucia buns didn’t rise. Sadly, the same thing happened again- it proofed beautifully, rose once, then after I’d formed it, didn’t rise the second time. I have no idea what’s going on! It was really good to see them again. I was impressed that John (whose memory for names is worse than mine) actually recognized Ekkehart! Earlier this fall we’d tripped over a huge tarp his brother, Wolf, left behind years ago, and were happy to send it up with them to help until they get the roof solidly on their new house.

Saturday morning Ekke and Sarah dug out and left, just as Joanie and Raye and their mothers arrived. As the road conditions were only going to get worse, Joanie and Willow went out for milk and a couple other things, mostly missing when the power out for an hour and a half. After it came back on, we were able to make the roast (and “stodged” potatoes- with both butter and sour cream). Raye brought her deviled eggs, but looked up fifties recipes and garnishes- this time she used relish and banana peppers! We played Bards again, and had a great time. After Joanie and Barbara left, Lee, Raye’s mother, came back (she’d taken the opportunity to visit other NH relatives), and shared scary stories about the driving back from there while she stopped for a cup of tea and a few cookies before braving the roads again.

Sunday was Christmas Eve. The sun was shining brightly despite the dire weather predictions. I prepped posting the holidays early, and having been reminded of the Icelandic Custom BookFlood (they exchange books on Christmas Eve and the “whole country” spends the evening reading and drinking cocoa. Of course, the day before they traditionally spend having skate parties, and I’m not sure if that means they’re skating, or eating the fish skates), and I realized I neither had the calendars I usually have, nor any books, and Kat and I ran out to the bookstore. Sadly, we arrived a couple minutes after 2 when they closed. oops. On the way home we stopped at Nelson’s candy shop for a hand made candy cane, (they posted a video on their facebook page of them rolling the candy canes which I thought was pretty cool!) and candies for our stockings. They also had rib roasts at Shaws for $5.99 a pound. I’d always intended to have that for Christmas ever since finding that it was a traditional alternative- other than turkey, goose or ham, although we rarely have, since frankly, I can’t bring myself to spend nearly $100 for a roast. But it was on sale, so we picked one up. (In theory, you get one rib or about a pound for every two people. In a restaurant $6 for a serving of roast beef would be cheap, so I figured “WTH?”. Sadly, Willow had also bought me an expensive prime roast (although luckily not a rib roast), and so we had two. Now we’re waiting for someone who’d cancelled last weekend to come so we can share it with them. Steve came up for dinner, as long as the driving was good. We exchanged Tarot Cards (I had picked him up a deck that had just been released at CTCW in November!), and we had a lovely low-key time.

To my surprise, Monday, Christmas morning, I did NOT wake to the sound of snowplows. The dreaded blizzard never manifested. Since we have no children, we got up late and gradually. We made the traditional Taylor breakfast- bacon and scrambled eggs, Fattigman (Rabbit ears), OJ and cocoa. After that we went in to open our stockings and presents. I didn’t do a good job filling stockings this year, since I don’t get out. Willow got stuff for everyone else’s stockings, but hers leaned heavily toward patches for her jeans jacket.

I think we got the presents right this year- not too many. We resisted the guilty “did I get enough?” Feeling. Mine were mostly art supplies- the HUGE eagle, a similarly huge plastic palette storage case, a new set of pastels and a paintbrush case. Kat got me a really classy knitting bowl, and John got me a pattern knitting book. I found a silver porringer to replace the one Mother got Willow but was lost before or in the fire. It’s always been sad that we all have one but her. She also got a case to keep her Copec pens in, and a monster high doll, but Kat also found her a vintage Starlight- Rainbow Bright’s horse in great shape (I didn’t realize that she still has her original- although not so gently used). She also got her a stuffed rainbow- I think it’s a neck pillow, and she got a goose down comforter and duvet cover, so she was sort of wrapped in softness and dosing off. (Actually, she figured out later that she’d mistakenly taken her evening meds when she got up- so clearly they work.)  John’s gifts tended toward video games and videos, and Kat got a new drawing tablet (electronic), but mostly clothing: a vintage Gunny Sacks dress, a ruffled shirt, and a flannel nightgown. (Also some strange makeup supplies and the new Sims extension- Cats and Dogs).

After opening the gifts, we all just zoned out for a few hours until it was time for dinner. Mark joined us, but Steve wasn’t up to two days driving in a row- even though the blizzard didn’t happen. It was still supposed to be snowing that night, and I think there was some.

Tuesday we did pretty much nothing, I think I finished cooking up the last of the cookie dough I’d pre-made. We still have plenty of cookies if you are thinking of dropping by. But while the kids have school vacation, Willow’s still going over to help Avi. After all, she works from home, and usually that’s while Willow comes when they aren’t in school, to give her the ability to work. She’s looking pretty “shell shocked” and I hope she can get some rest. She spent most of November and December making blankets and fleece capes, and then she painted individual cards to send her friends.

Kat had a bit of trouble coming up with a Billy and Zoe story this year. It’s a Christmas Carol type haunting, but very meta. And I know she was sewing a blouse for Willow, and is probably still finishing it.

Now that the holidays are over, I need to get my butt in gear and get some art done- I’ve got Lynn’s book cover, a portrait (looks like Santa), and a gaming character sketch on deck, as well as beta reading Cathy’s next book! So time to stop goofing off and get to work.

I also really have to get my act together and figure out how to find a ew venue for the New Normal. It’s just one of those things I haven’t ever done, and don’t even know how to start. I fear so much in my life has just fallen into my lap (like this venue), I have missed important life lessons (I didn’t want to learn). Tonight, as so often in the past, my mic went dead about 15 minutes in. At least I had a guest on who could keep talking until I called in (like a guest) on my phone. The producer doesn’t see any reason I shouldn’t just plan to call in on my phone, but I don’t see that I should be dealing with technology that doesn’t work. This may have been my last show with LiveParanormal. Or I may keep putting up with it until I find a replacement venue. Tonight’s show was about the ethics of using magick- mostly because of Breitbart claiming that “feminist witches are casting evil spells on the White House”. Are we? Should we? I figure magick is just a technique, and anything that’s ethical to do by non-magical means is ethical to do with magick. I also feel that we can’t “do nothing” if we have the ability to improve the situation.

This is drifting into politics, so I’ll chance font. I read that Prince Harry wants to invite the Obamas, with whom he has a relationship, to his wedding, but neither he nor the Parliament want to invite Trump. Well I say good. The spoiled brat seems to think he can do anything and get away with it because he’s so rich and powerful. I think it would be great for someone to hold him responsible for his bad behavior!

I also understand that President’s intelligence briefings are structured so things that might upset him are only put in the written version (which he doesn’t read), not the verbal part of the briefing. We don’t need a toddler having Nuclear Codes.

I also have learned about an idea called The Overton Window. This is the idea that discourse is framed by a “window” of what’s acceptable to talk about. If you  push the edges of that frame to include the “unthinkable”, then suddenly what’s “radical” seems more acceptable, and what was barely “ cceptable” may begin to seem “sensible”. So by talking about (for example) gay marriage, you get to make civil unions seem less outrageous, and when people are used to that, you can move the edges out further. This reminds me of people who “negotiate” by asking for far more than they think is reasonable, so that after the other person compromises, they will get what they wanted in the first place. This may work when the culture is uniform and everyone accepts that the original suggestions are not serious, but when one person is negotiating in good faith, in order to fall into the category of “reasonable compromise”, they have to give up what is really reasonable and they get nothing like what they wanted, while the outrageous person gets exactly what he wanted- and the ability to push it even further into what he only dreamed about before. It encourages them to go for more than is reasonable. (Like the Republican tax plan.)

OK, back to not stress inducing stuff. Someone pointed out an interesting fact: at midnight on New Years Day this year, all minors will have been born in this century, and all adults will have been born in the last century. Very temporary, but also cool.

I have watched some Christmas movies this week- nothing new, but I did watch one new movie: Absolutely Anything, a Simon Pegg comedy. It’s his usual “everyman” character, in this case a feckless high school teacher. Some aliens (voiced by the Monty Python crew) are going by and decide to test to see if Earth is worthy of joining the Galactic Federation- or being destroyed. So they give a random earthling, Pegg, the power to do absolutely anything, to see whether he’ll use it for good or evil. Mostly what he discovers is wishing for things is often not as simple as one would want it to be, and having to deal with the effects of getting exactly what he asks for- not what he wanted or intended. It’s charming.

I finished Spells and Scones the anti-penultimate book (so far) in the Magical Bakery series (the library doesn’t have the last one), and started the Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery series with Pies and Prejudice. By the end of the book Ella Mae LaFaye (who apparently had never heard of Morgan LaFaye before), discovers that like her mother who grows roses of unusual characteristics, and her aunts who makes sculptures that seem “almost alive”, and can tell if someone is lying or not, or some other darned magical thing. Ella herself takes the entire book to realize that the emotion she’s putting into her pies transfers to the people who eat them. Wouldn’t you think that either one of her relatives would have mentioned it, or she’d have noticed earlier? Moreover the heroines of the two series both have moved down to Georgia after bad break-ups, both open bakeries with other women, both solve murder mysteries, both have small dogs, both have firemen boyfriends, both live in freaking carriage houses! The only question is if they were both inspired by the same thing, why didn’t someone point out the too close similarities to them before it got this far? That said, it wasn’t bad. It may be that I don’t ask much of a fluffy romantic mystery with magick, just as one doesn’t ask much of a fluffernutter or lollipop. It is what it is, and you only go for it when you want something sweet, and aren’t worried about nourishing.

I also read Sleep like a Baby (wow, a week ago, seems like so long), the last book in the Aurora Teagarden series. I saw some reviews from people who didn’t care for it, but I liked it. Harris’ writing is good, and didn’t get worse in the time she wrote other books before returning to this series, and I loved the idea of her heroine having to collect clues in the two-three hour gaps between nursing her infant! Chaos is the name of the game for young mothers!

The other thing I’m reading is Dad’s V Mail. I’ve gotten up to December 14, 1943 when he wrote his younger brother to tell him not to leave the farm and join the air corps. He asked several times about Horace (I’m thinking a hired man). It was probably hard to hire young men at that point. I am struck by his requests for underwear- as he pointed out, sometimes it took a week to get the laundry back. I noticed that early on, he was told that passes would be available, but as months passed, he seems to have accepted that they were not, and mentioned the many things like library and recreation rooms on base. He wrote about gas mask drills, and their getting good at spotting them quickly, and getting chewed out for anticipating them too quickly. He was apparently quite impressed by his rifle, and wrote about it at length. He mentions that half the camp was negroes, but they ignore them if they see them. He mentioned how he was pressured to get insurance, and war bonds deducted from his pay (sent straight to his parents), and wondered if there would be anything left for him after all the deductions. (Apparently about $14 a week.) The war bonds could be cashed in by his family after 90 days. They were $12.50 a week, so a $50 bond each month. It must have been challenging to come up with topics that would be of interest to his mother, but acceptable to mention. I wish he’d saved the letters they sent to him, but that’s unlikely. (This pile is preserved in a special V Mail folder. Clearly mothers would keep letters from their sons.) He did get a NY paper which had a story about Ted Hodgkins of the Forster Manufacturing Company which he did rip out and save, as it was a reminder of home. He wouldn’t know that he would one day work at Foresters and be Hodgkins son-in-law, although he may have known Mother (she would have been 15, so I doubt they dated at that point), and would have known that he was her step-father.   I keep remembering that he was only 19, and that’s not very old. I would love to be able to ask him more about these people he mentions.

Well, it’s very late, and I need to go to bed. I would love to hear from you, and if you’re in range, would love to share some cookies and cocoa- or something more substantial, if you can come by.


“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke