12-16-2015 Chocolate Covered Anything Day

DSC02250Just for fun, here are some upcoming holidays:
Dec. 17 Cookie Cutter Day, Maple Syrup Day, Saturnalia begins, Regifting Day
Dec. 18 Bake Cookies Day, Roast Suckling Pig Day, Ham  Salad Day
Dec. 19 Hard Candy Day, Look for an Evergreen Day
Dec. 20 Sangria Day, Go Caroling Day
Dec. 21 Mother Night (Day before Solstice)
Dec. 22  Winter Solstice, Orgasm Day, Humbug Day, Holiday Sock Day
Dec. 23 Festivus, Pfeffernuesse Day, Day of Mistletoe

It’s been warm this week, lots of fog on some of the warm days. A couple of days ago it was helpful because we got really frustrated at how filthy the windows were where we wanted to put the tree. We haven’t been able to open them for a few years, so while the insides were washed, the space between the windows and storms was full of bugs and webs and it was smeary, so we had John carry a ladder around out back and Willow climbed up (he couldn’t deal with the way the soft ground let the ladder wiggle) and got them a lot better. We are not ready for a photo shoot with Better Homes and Gardens, but it looks so much better it makes me feel good!
The job isn’t quite done, we still have to wash off all the candlesticks and things that have accumulated on the windowsill. One thing always leads to another in housekeeping.
I realized on Monday that our Solstice Open House starts on Friday. It doesn’t seem like it should be so soon, as it was only half past December…. It can’t be Solstice yet!  It doesn’t help that the solstice doesn’t happen until next Tuesday, so it feels like I should have more time! DSC02253If I’d thought about it, we could have had the theme this year be Saturnalia (which starts this Thursday) instead of Victorian/Steampunk theme. As it is, I have 5 plum puddings in the pantry where I’m feeding them brandy (“Like you do”), and making the occasional “victorian style ornament”. (I also have read as much as I could find on Victorian Christmas celebrations.

We think that medieval and all “old fashioned” celebrations are the same, but really they weren’t. The Reformation followed up by the Enlightenment gave Christmas a one-two punch that almost did it in, but then the Victorians decided that the past and folklore was really cool and should be preserved and “brought back”. This led to collecting folk tales and ballads, but also to Bowdlerization and the creation of celebrations like Uphellyaa, which feel and look ancient to us, but were apparently the bastard offspring of romantic academics and young hooligans.
DSC02254Still, there are real traditions- I actually got a sheaf (barley, I think) to stick up outside. I’m fairly certain this would be a lot more welcomed by the birds if the ground were already covered with snow. This is a Scandinavian tradition, and they put it up outside on Christmas Eve to share the feast with the animals. Anyway, Ælfwine and I had always intended to do it, and now I have. We’ve got our wreaths up, and the lights around the door strung, and as of yesterday, the tree up. It smells very good.

Last week I took part in an on-line class done by one of the CTCW teachers. It was on the days of the week. I knew, starting in, that I’d miss Wednesday, but I totally spaced Saturday, and another day Sha had a family emergency so she pre-recorded the class. It may have been most useful for me because I’ve often toyed with the idea of doing on-line classes myself.
Life goes on. While I’m not focused on the conference anymore, we are beginning to get ready for next year. The Crown Plaza wants us back, the one in Connecticut (farther away for me), and the Sturbridge Host got back to us- it’s booked that weekend, oh well.
We went to the blood drive on Friday, and all three of us were able to donate.  Sadly, we went to Milford and it was in Peterborough. When I made the appointments, I heard you can go to the VFW on Thursday or the Congregational Church on Friday, and thought “The blood drives at the church always go faster.” and signed up for that one, but I didn’t hear the town! Also, we had to use Willow’s GPS to find the right church since I haven’t given there before. The phlebotomists recognized us (well, not Willow, since she hadn’t donated for several years when they weren’t taking people with Chronic Fatigue). The snacks were lovely, including sandwiches and a nice soup, provided by the local Ladies Guild. Since so few of Willow’s friends give blood, she really likes to do it, to make up for that lack.
We changed out our old microwave for the one Mark gave us from his locker. It had lost it’s light (which we couldn’t get at to replace) and was not heating well, then one morning I touched it and got a shock, so we figured “time for a change!”, especially as we had a replacement to hand, and we were loading the van to go to the dump anyway. I expect I’ll keep reaching for the “wrong” handle for a week or so (the new one’s on the bottom not the edge of the door), and we’re still working out how the buttons work. We also are going to have to find a turntable since this one doesn’t have a built in one.
Aelfwine Christmas PresentSimilarly, we keep heading into the dining room (that used to be the living room) to get movies, because I moved those shelves into the now living-room. To put those in the corner, I had to move the black bookshelves that have been there almost since we moved here. I’ve been sticking my stationary stuff: envelopes, cards, stamps, etc. as well as the music books, and some cook books in them. Since we had to empty the book case to move it (6 feet tall, and a yard wide and full), when I started putting things back I got bogged down sorting stuff. Oh, my do I have an accumulation of stuff! A few days earlier I’d been looking for a copy of the card I made after Ælfwine died, and couldn’t find it anywhere, but of course I found two or three during the sorting process. And old pictures, and lots of nostalgia I don’t have time for just now. I quoted the line from Scrooge: “My time upon this little planet is very brief; I must leave you now. There is never enough time to do or say all the things we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have.”
I decided that while in theory there may never be “too many books”, on a practical level, sometimes I can have “too few bookshelves”, and if I can’t use (read/reread) them all, I might as pass them along to someone who will. It’s hard, because I chose each of them, and I want them to be loved and wanted. I’ve been posting lists of books on facebook and asking people to adopt them. I feel like I’m entering into a new part of my life. One part was accumulating, and I am entering into the divesting myself part. While I feel and think that it’s a good thing to have a reserve of resources to get things done, it’s wasteful to keep more than you can steward properly. Books are meant to be read. Cookbooks meant to be cooked from.
Food is meant to be eaten, but if it spoils before you can eat it, it’s wasted. Or if it is spoiled for you…. We are going to the dump a lot more often, as we still haven’t gotten rid of the rats. Zoloft did catch and kill one, and we found half a rat body on the front porch another day.  Still, I can sometimes hear chewing, and really hate it! They have been making messes in the back hallway and it stinks, and I am quite wroth!

DSC02244Another distraction we tripped into was a glorious coin sorting. I needed a silver coin to go into the plum pudding, and Willow brought down her Road Trip Fund jar, and the kids helped look through the dimes. Since they had to check the dates anyway, they also checked for coins missing from my coin collecting books. I apparently collect a lot of things that are inexpensive, but impressive when you see how many there are: stamps, coins, cookie cutters. While I have over 500 cookie cutters, (that’s an estimation) as I go into the yule baking, I only have 4 out: tree for the mint/chocolate trees, a star for the wishing stars, a gingerbread man, and . I would love to make lots of shapes- but we’re trying to reduce this year. I remember when we were kids we made sugar cookies in lots of shapes- and decorated them with colored icing. I am both attracted and repelled by this memory.
DSC02245I did make Saffron Buns; Santa Lucia day is the 13th, and due to doing other stuff, I didn’t make them until Sunday morning, but the girls don’t put on the “candle crowns” and bring us buns and cocoa in the morning anymore anyway. I think once you get out of your teens it loses its appeal. Luckily the saffron buns don’t. I made a small batch this year. They don’t last long, but are easy to over indulge! Sadly, I used up the last of the 2004 saffron and it was not as fragrant as the 2014 vial- some years I stock up. Some years I remember I still have stock!

DSC02247Yesterday I started making the cookies, have I mentioned my system before? I choose my recipes, print them out, chop the recipe up and tape one recipe to each bowl. Then I run along the bowls and add the butter, the sugar, the eggs, etc. While those are creaming, I add the spices and leavening (if any) to the flour, and then I can mix that in with the wet ingredients. Those get rolled into a ball or log, wrapped in plastic and put in the pantry (40º). The next day or so, I can take the cold do and roll it out or form it and make the cookies. Think “slice and bake” cookie dough. It’s very easy.

DSC02248I suppose it’s funny that I find it difficult to cut down to “only” a dozen cookies, but when I picture a party, what I picture is me cooking and other people eating. Is this image me showing off? Is it me “feeding people”? I tend to think the former. I enjoy it, and enjoy having people complement my cooking, so I think it’s pretty self indulgent. Do other people really only make one or two kinds of cookies a year? We all judge the world by our own standards, and support or deny according to our preferences.

DSC02251This week Kat has been doing a Christmas Carol Movie Marathon. I think she said she watched 14 different versions of a Christmas Carol, from the 1938 one through musicals, suggested bys, authentic ones, and some dreadful cartoon versions beyond Mr. Magoo’s and Mickey’s. She then blogged about her observations- after close comparison: best effects, best Scrooge, best Marley, best by the book, and of course worsts. (Off the top of my head, I’d take the cartoon with Tim Curry, Whoopi Goldberg and Michael York, OMG that was awful! I loved Henry Winkler’s American Christmas Carol, and I’d love to see the A Solstice Carol episode of Xena Warrior Princess!  On a more somber note, while digging through the masses of old papers, we tripped over one of Kat’s IEP (Individual Educational Program) from when she was in school. Looking back it was a lovely bit of theoretical accommodation, but although they came up with lots of good ideas that would have helped her, the teachers pretty much ignored all of them. It’s sort of frustrating to be reminded. She has also been working on my new skirt, and cleaning everything for the Open House.
I too have been blogging, (probably more than I need to) I did one on the Babes in Toyland movies, (mostly, why are all adults shown to be either evil or ineffectual?), The gift dilemma, (I think mostly on how giving the wrong present is worse than not giving a present), and Old days, (mostly ruminating on the passage of time).
I watched some TED talks by Hans Rosling, in which he shows that because of several things from reporting bias to our natural tendencies, we tend to think of the world as being in worse shape than it is, and we should be more optimistic about the future. Another one was basically graphs showing how the world is improving for women, for democracy, for health. I think we really need to see more hopeful and accurate information.
Tonight my podcast was about “the War on Christmas”. I was a bit dubious about it because it seemed to have little to do with the paranormal, but people said they’d call in, and they did. Even people I didn’t know, which is both encouraging and a bit scary. I was pretty sure that the “war on Christmas” was simply a way for some bozos to gripe, but Thor and Deb presented pretty good arguments that it’s important to create real cultural diversity, and these complaints are simply a resistance by people who like to think we are a “Christian Country” because it makes them feel uncomfortable to have their assumption that there are too few of us others to matter challenged. As we were winding up we got to the question- is this resistance going to be dangerous? I have to assume it could be. But why would it not be scary when things are changing so quickly. It’s stressful. I think we simply have to soothe them, like frightened animals, not try to “fight” or do things that will make them more fearful. If there’s one thing history can show, it’s that multiculturalism works, but people have to want it to.

My favorite “news” story from this week was the Word of the Year was actually a suffix: -ism. “This simply seems to be a year of heightened anxiety in many ways. … “Socialism,” “capitalism,” “fascism,” “terrorism,” and “communism” were all among the most-popular searches this year, along with “racism” and “feminism. …  Marriage was #2, and Hypocrite #3.

This week I finished watching Frankenstein: the True Story a mini series made in the 70s that actually had a sort of “Bromance” between Victor Frankenstein and Adam. I loved that he actually did start out good looking, and was annoyed that Frankenstein seemed to reject him when he lost his looks. James Mason was a wonderful villain, and there were other stars from David McCallum, and Tom Baker to Agnes Moorhead.  I also watched an old movie The Fourth Wise Man, with Martin Sheen (although Charlie showed up briefly as a Roman soldier who threatened him until bribed.) It was predictable Christmas pap, but I enjoyed it.
DSC02257I have continued reading books on Christmas- Christmas in Denmark, and …in Switzerland, the Christmas Encyclopedia, and even a few romantic short stories: Victorian Christmas Tea (which turned out not to be how to throw one, which is what I’d hoped). I’ve been trying to get to bed earlier, which isn’t working well, as I try to finish “one more thing”.  So maybe I should not keep adding memories here, and just finish.
I’ve also listened to a lot of carols and Christmas musicals while I putter about, and find myself very merry (which I have discovered originally meant comfortable and pleased with the world) as I clean and cook in preparation for the holidays.  So as Debby says: “Happy Merry Everything!” and I hope you figure out what you want out of the holidays and get it.


“Shall we liken Christmas to the web in a loom?  There are many weavers, who work into the pattern the experience of their lives. When one generation goes, another comes to take up the weft where it has been dropped. The pattern changes as the mind changes, yet never begins quite anew. At first, we are not sure that we discern the pattern, but at last we see that, unknown to the weavers themselves, something has taken shape before our eyes, and that they have made something
very beautiful, something which compels our understanding.”
–   Earl W. Count, 4,000 Years of Christmas