Happy Winter Solstice!

Last weekend I was thinking, almost all the snow has melted, I should go out and take a picture for contrast. But I didn’t get to it, and it snowed again. Just a bit this time,  So, the contrast isn’t great. But we will probably have a “white Christmas”, and it wasn’t too much shoveling. Bless John, who has pretty much been doing it himself.

The cats are irritated by the weather. Pyewacket goes in and out, and seems to be wanting us to “fix it” (“What did you do to the door?”)  Zoloft just won’t go out. She still tends to try to get into Kat’s room to terrorize Gretel, but last time she got in, Gretel just stared at her, rather than running and hiding, or fighting, so that’s progress. Under all that fur, Zoloft is a small cat. I think Gretel may be bigger now, and certainly Zoloft is older- I’m guessing 7 or 8.  Since the snow the temperature has dropped and it is now “bitchy cold”. At some point Gretel scratched not just loose litter, but some poop out of her tray, and it stunk up Kat’s room, so that she decided to leave the window open one night, She asked me how I ever get out of bed in the morning. I told her ‘old bladder’.

As you can see, I have Gary’s car again. Last Thursday, I was signed up for the blood drive, gut Willow works in Keene on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I couldn’t find a ride. I finally called Gary to see if I could borrow his car again, and he had some work he wanted to do on it.  The tires needed air, he changed the oil, and he sprayed some protective sealant on the underside, but I couldn’t get it in time. He called me Saturday morning, offering to bring it up, if I’d drive him back. I told him I’d get it Monday. He’s doing me a favor, I saw no reason to take an hour out of his Saturday.
I missed the full moon on the 12th. It was actually “at” full at 12:12 on 12/12 so that’s cool.    I spent a lot of time baking this week. I made the filling for the mince pies, although I haven’t made their crusts yet. Friday I spent a lot of time making the Lucia buns, This year I tried some new shapes, just for fun. You can see at the bottom right a Julbok (goat), and the others are runes. The saffron was a few years old and not as fragrant as I’d hoped for. I made a batch of peppermint brownies I gave Gary because it’s what I have to say thank you. Sunday night Kat and I made 8 batches of cookie dough: Candy Cane Cookies, Finnish Butter Cookies, Russian Balls, Gingerbread Men, Wishing Stars, Lisa’s Cinnamon Horns, Snickerdoodles, and Mint trees.  The dough is waiting in the cold room to make up as I get time, and I’ve done a bit of each. I seem to be slower than I expect, things take longer. I know I used to just generate masses of cookies in a day or so. I console myself that we can’t eat that many cookies. Today Mark came over and read to me while I worked, so I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies- his favorite. Those were in my list of a dozen I intended to make, so they count. I didn’t get to making the Krumkakes I’ve traditionally made on Mother Night tonight, (because there were 27 holidays to post on the Facebook page because so many are attached to the Solstice- and that’s even after I bundled a bunch together), so I may, or may not get to making those.
I realized that while the girls and I’d been thinking and speaking with each other about the solstice open house, we hadn’t actually told anyone else. I put up a fb event, but so far most people are unable to come, no transportation, no time, no energy. I understand that!  So far we are pretty sure that, barring snow or other emergency, Raven will be coming up the day after Christmas, This is an extension of our previous intent that they’d come up sometime during October to help organize the library. I’ll happily graft those two visits together.
 A house rule is “No tree until the house is clean.” So we’ve been cleaning- not as well as we should, probably, but Kat and I buckled down and got the living room “clean enough” Saturday, (my back ached when we were done, so I had some cocoa with schnapps, and felt better). We got the tree Sunday. Got it up and let the branches relax, Monday we put on the lights, Tuesday we brought down and started putting on the ornaments. Tuesday was also the snow, so we brought in and put up the little tree in the kitchen where I hang cookies. Today while Mark was over and I strung some popcorn to hang on it.
We picked the tree because it was the one that smelled best. We’d pretty much agreed that the main reason we wanted a tree was the way it makes the house smell. There was one, we called it “fat boy”; I really thought it was two trees leaned against each other until Willow moved it. It was thick and gorgeous, but it was so wide I don’t think we could have fit it between the chairs in the living room. Besides, it was $45, and we’d budgeted $40.
After getting the tree at Fitch’s we stopped at Marketbasket for a couple things, and Willow was wiped, so she stayed in the car. Sadly right across from her, in front of the liquor store, was a van with a large Teddy Bear on top that played Jingle Bells on an infinite loop the half hour we were in the store. We joke that if they are promoting Margarita’s that way they should be passing out free samples. I really thought that you couldn’t hear it inside the car, but apparently my hearing is going, because Willow could. I feel a bit guilty about leaving her there like that. If they are going to be playing a continuous loop, why wouldn’t they have several songs on it?
I apparently organize my life around food. I thought that was normal for housewives, but apparently it isn’t as normal these days. I’ve been enjoying having a functional wood stove again. It’s even easier since John has integrated that it’s his role to keep it going. The kitchen is mostly warm and cozy (there are occasionally days, especially in the morning, when it’s hard to take the chill off. One day last week we had corned beef dinner, Kat smelled it in her room, so when she came downstairs she was in the mood for corned beef hash for breakfast. I love crispy hash. Sometime last week I made a carrot cake. I was thinking those would make lovely party cakes if made into tiny cakes- like cupcakes only about a quarter or a third in height- about the size of a cookie, and not too much cream cheese. I don’t know that I’ll try it this year. But the kids have commented that I really enjoy my food, and I do. The flavor and texture can send me into rapture, meal after meal. I guess I’m just lucky. They say there are people who have more taste buds than others. I think I must be one of them. How lucky is that‽ I may feel like food the way some seem to feel about sex, it’s mind blowingly wonderful and I can do it several times a day, only I can share it with everyone!
I’ve never gotten why making pancakes or waffles in the morning is supposed to be a big deal. Yes, you do have to stand by the stove to make each individual portion,  but you do that with eggs too. Bacon is a much bigger deal because, as with sautéed onions, you have to cook it on low heat and that takes a king time (and careful supervision). This may be my problem because I like to have several things going at once, and can screw up something that requires careful watching!
Simply adding some corn bread sticks, or biscuits, or popovers to a meal makes it heartier, and more special. Bread you need to think about several hours beforehand, so you can let the yeast rise. Also I have noticed that adding cinnamon to the dough retards the yeast growth, which may be why we use cinnamon sugar as a layer (in a spiral) rather than include it- OR use it in a quick bread that uses chemicals to rise.  I made a plain loaf of bread and worried that it was boring, so added sesame seeds this week. Either those last paragraphs will have fascinated you or bored you to tears depending on whether you are a foodie or not. I’ve heard people complain about folks who post pictures of their meals on Facebook. I love it!
  I expect our lives are no more or less complicated or interesting than everyone elses’ although we may be more quaint or decorative. Kat certainly is! She boiled more white shirts this week. Someone asked what she does- first she boils them in a vinegar solution, rinses that out, then boils them in water with baking soda and a bit of TSP. Whites can get dingy. Upon looking at this picture I think my aprons need boiling.
Mostly Kat’s working on presents, art, writing (I don’t know how she’s killing Billy and Zoe this year).  Do you remember that she started writing a Christmas Ghost story every Christmas, about ten years ago? Too often the protagonists do end up being the ghosts themselves. She made some lavender packets for my garb chest, and I think emery bags. The tomato pin cushions with emery strawberries are no longer easily available, and if you sew, it’s good to be able to sharpen your needles and pins. Maybe people don’t. I still darn my stockings (I don’t know if you could do the with nylons, I suspect not.), and patch skirts and sheets, etc. I sometimes get the feeling that it’s not simply Halloween costumes people wear once and throw away.
Willow goes over to Keene twice a week to provide support troops for Avi, This week she took Kalen Christmas shopping, which IMO deserves combat pay. The most interesting story from that this week is that she’s teaching him the “No body loves me, everybody hates me I’m gonna go eat worms” song. Turns out that, as these things are wont to happen, the version she learned is different from the version I learned. I prefer the “the first one was easy, the second one was squeeze, the third one got caught in my throat” line, and shared it with her. If Avi brings the kids over here, I will have to ask Kalen which he is planning on using.
Holidays are crowding out most of our usual chaos. Some people still send cards, which I do enjoy, although I didn’t send any this year. Kat and I picked up some new wrapping paper at the dollar store (I was checking for more holly pattern glasses, which luckily they had). I am ambivalent about the proliferation of dollar stores. While they are welcome for all of us who can’t afford the “standard” prices (I saw some adorable fur earmuffs with jeweled decoration, the $8 sticker was on an original tag of $49.95. Do they ever expect to sell those at that price?). On the other hand, it allows people like me to have too much stuff- and that’s not in quotes, note. I love having several sets of dishes, Chinese bowls for when we have Chinese food or ramen, Holly pattern dishes at Christmas, etc. I love a nice presentation (re: my loving food, earlier), but I sure don’t NEED them. All mother ever wanted was a full set of matching dishes, and I think she chucked them when they became too few or too chipped. (Not the Sunday Heirloom dishes, of course. God help us if we let one of those get chipped!) But if those things can be sold for a dollar, that means someone out there is making them for some fraction of a dollar, and I fear that it’s perpetuating businesses whoo make shoddy landfill fodder and pay workers less than subsistence wages to make it. This is a feedback loop where the majority of people have to buy cheap stuff because they can’t afford good stuff because they are not being paid much, etc. If we made things to last and had the time to take care of them, I think we’d be better off. We are too prone to toss things out. I fear that may I recently watched a video blog from a woman who hand makes her own garb had a photo of a gown she’d made used to advertise a cheap knockoff on the gorgeous gown she’d made. The Chinese do this a lot, especially the making cheap knockoff and advertising it with a picture of a good product. Once it’s taken months for it to finally get there, and it IS priced so that you couldn’t get the cloth to make it for what you spent, you tend to put up with it. That vlog was  pointing out how they were stealing her design to sell their stuff, but she knows that no one could afford to pay her to do what she does for herself. The dress would be worth thousands of dollars, the knock off is $40. But the other side is the disappointment. Willow bought a really cute coat from China and not only is it crap fabric, it also doesn’t fit right. Well, she does have a big busom, and big shoulders which ALWAYs causes problems in fit for her, but still the shoulders aren’t set properly. It’s important to not just make a small pattern bigger when sizing up, the shape changes too. Willow is ready to stop buying through Wish because it’s such a crapshoot.
I suppose it’s not just China. I spent far too much time, energy (and Rescue Remedy) on dealing with American companies this week. Let’s be honest, I yelled at them. One, Kelly Printing, convinced us to try getting toner from them last spring. We ordered 12 cartridges and it was supposed to be $80. We were billed $120, then they sent us more, which I didn’t order. They told us it was because they’d split it into two orders, but then they insisted we pay them again. Then they sent us more in September. By that point we were so cross there was no freaking way we would have ordered anything from them, ever again. Willow tried to tell them, because they switched to asking for her. Finally I started saying I was Willow. They kept saying “You got it didn’t you?” I told them that when they send something I didn’t order, that’s not on me. Eventually I compared it to rape. Even if a woman has had consensual sex once, that doesn’t give the partner blanket permission to take it again when she says no. Unsurprisingly, they passed me to someone higher up. I tried to keep my temper but they kept insisting they had recorded us making the order. “You got the invoice didn’t you?” I told them to produce the proof we’d ordered, and an invoice wasn’t proof. If they wanted, I could send back their toner- which didn’t work any better than the other anyway, despite their claims, but no freaking way was I going to pay for something just because they sent it to me. (Frankly, I think that I shouldn’t even have to send it back since I didn’t order it.) In a similar (but less protracted and expensive) screw up, I got an email from Amazon saying “item left in mailroom”. What does that mean? I got nothing from their automated help lines, but a human finally explained that it meant that when the package was assembled, the hair conditioner was not put in the box. They’d issue a refund (not automatically, nor did they automatically put the product in a different box and send it off- I don’t get that), and I should order more. Fine. So I went to order it again and the price had gone up $4. I called them back and told them I didn’t think I should have to spend an extra $4 for their mistake. So they issued me a $5 credit. The extra buck barely compensates for the aggravation, but at least they were more reasonable that Kelly Printing (who at one point argued that I was confused, they were Kelly Products, not Kelly Printing, however when they gave me the address to return the toner, it was to Kelly Printing, so they lie. A lot.). I’m sure other people have very similar stories. Not quite the same but my friend Brian who broke his leg last month finally got the “legs” (leg armor) he’d ordered that was supposed to come about the time of his injury. Last he heard it was in Russia! Anyway, it got to him before he could use them, so that’s good.
Sometimes “little” issues take huge hunks of time to resolve. Tuesday the kitchen utensil drawer got stuck. REALLY stuck, Willow had to force a tiny gap (by bending the offending metal funnel) through which she could remove tiny things, to make more room to get bigger things out, until she could get whatever was jammed under the funnel. Eventually the whole drawer ended up dumped in a box, and I had to go through it and decide what to keep and what to chuck (and wash some, and unbend the funnel). Hours later the drawer was finally back in, and organized. That had NOT been scheduled into the holiday preparations! That was the day it snowed- luckily Avi had called and said that Willow should stay home and not come over the mountain that day.
I also got distracted cleaning the ceiling (so many cobwebs!).  I think I’ve also spent a couple hours deleting unwanted email. Once I get behind I discover I’ve missed important messages, yet it’s hard to spend that half hour a day going through weeding them out. I subscribe to several Trump supporting lists. I think it’s important to see what they are saying to themselves. It’s really amazing, they keep showing the same clips that I’m seeing on CNN and PBS, but they then say “see, we totally owned them!” “Look this proves that Trump is innocent!” Really? Is everyone watching the same clips? One thing is sure, each side is going to have faith in the sources they trust, and if things don’t go their way, they will be suspicious about that. I am deeply disturbed at the partisanship shown by those like McConnall who should be going by the evidence, but are saying up front that they are going to clear him. It’s not that they are saying that they are sure the evidence will prove him innocent, but they are going to do it. The gerrymandering and voter purges, not to mention the Russian interference, show that the Republicans don’t think that they can win if they don’t cheat, and they are willing to do so. This hurts my heart. We should be able to trust those we vote to represent us. Instead they are representing those who give them money, and keep them in power, and that’s not how it’s supposed to work. I really want it to be honest and fair. Sometimes I have the emotional strength to read the Trumpian point of view, most days I just delete them unread. I feel weak, but I might as well not make myself sick.
Another thing that I got distracted by was stripping the leaves off some mugwort I dried this summer. We’ve started having a cup of tea every afternoon. It’s supposed to help with digestion, anxiety and depression, so that sounds good for us. I’m not sure how long it will last, but I’ve got about a gallon of the dried leaves.
I’ve been chatting with Liz a lot, and I did a Tarot reading for her. We lay out a card for each month of the upcoming year. It doesn’t really help predict anything, but looking back we can say “I can see how that would suggest what happened.”  I’ve been messaging the Soothsayers Guild. We are going to meet at Birka, and maybe do a presentation in Royal Court. We’d like them to acknowledge that we are and have been active, even though they lost track of us.
The CTCW planning committee is  waiting to hear back from hotels with bids for a site for CTCW next year. Kathy thinks they probably won’t get back to us until January. So I seem to be doing a lot, and yet not getting anything done. I don’t seem to move as fast as I used to, and my ability to focus and multi-task is not what I expect. At the same time, I have a lifetime of habits geared to having those abilities. I am very gradually learning to write myself notes, take things one at a time, and occasionally I remember to leave more time to get stuff done. I’m slowed down? what a surprise, I’m 67! It’s amazing how that still surprises me.
2019 really kicked our butts. I missed signing up to sell at Birka this year (and a couple other events we usually sell at), Kat, John and I all need major dental work, we need to call a plumber, electrician, and there’s a half dozen handyman jobs we need to get done (the wooden sill on the porch needs replacing), and the last oil and gas deliveries are more than I thought they’d be. Wow, that sounds whiny, but I assume that other people are going through the same thing, so I want you to know you aren’t the only one. I was moping because I didn’t get a new Christmas ornament for the tree to represent this year, I console myself that it would have to be a boot (or a butt) because that’s the year we’ve had. Kat suggested there are probably poop emoji ornaments out there. Probably true, but I wouldn’t want it on my tree.  Willow says that she thinks she could find a rainbow one. (Same gay shit?)  I might be willing to put up one of those. Having the gay pride flags has been a good thing in my life this year. I sure hope that next year will be better than this one! We all seem to be on our last nerve. I sleep too much, Kat doesn’t sleep. Willow snaps, John growls, I criticize, Kat jumps. It’s good that we aren’t going to have a large crew up here, I don’t think our nerves could take more than two or three people at a time! I’ve also been having weird and vivid dreams, a recurring dream is finding things I’d lost a long time before. I wonder if that comes from the cleaning an sorting we’ve been doing
I’ve written two blog posts this past week or so, if you’re interested, here’s the links to my website: Gaugin too evil to be shown? and  Defining Ages- coal in your stocking.
I haven’t watched that many holiday movies this season. I did watch Love Actually, and caught Krampas and Lethal Weapon when John was watching them. I finally caught the new superhero movies Shazam!, and Captain Marvel. Both were fun. All through Shazam Billy Batson’s brother kept coming up with dumb Superhero names for him to use, and it occurred to me after we were done watching, that he’d never gotten around to picking a name. Of course, in the comic he was Captain Marvel, but in the modern comics, Captain Marvel is the woman we meet in the other movie. I suppose they are calling him Shazam. I’ve taken out two more of the Disney live action remake of Aladdin, and since I’d heard discussions about who was being cast in the Little Mermaid, I ordered that- I thought. Turns out it’ll be made next year, (I’m sort of wondering how they’re going to do Sebastian and Flounder). But in 2018 they made a different live movie called The Little Mermaid about a girl discovering a live mermaid at some point in the early 20th century in a carnival. It was a nice little B movie. I also got Men in Black. International, which I enjoyed, although it wasn’t as good as the first movies. It was still worth watching (although probably not owning to rewatch repeatedly). Sadly, my takeaway was my surprise that Chris Hemsworth (played Thor) looked taller than Liam Leeson who’s a really tall guy! Apparently “only” 6’4”, and Hemsworth is 6’3”, but when they were acting together, Hemsworth was always an inch or two taller. They must have done that on purpose, and I have no idea why. I rewatched The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and felt, again, a bit betrayed that it didn’t turn into a TV show having established the many appealing and over-the-top characters.
I’ve read the beginning about the book on the , I like a lot of it, but don’t think we’re capable of dealing with the one world religion, one world government, that they seem to think is a good goal to move toward. I think there’s a core of spirituality shared by most religions, but wouldn’t consider them all aspects of the same faith, more like more manifestations of how humans experience the invisible/energetic aspects of the world we share. Still, it’s pretty big, and I think it’s useful to know more about it. I’ve started Eliphas Levi’s The History of Magic; I think modern authors probably won’t cover most of the old sources the way someone educated in the old days where you learned Latin and Greek as a standard part of what you were supposed to know so that you could read the old texts yourself if you wanted to know what the ancients wrote. I have very little interest in Ceremonial Magick, but I expect there’s useful stuff in there. Of course, I do get distracted by tripping over references to other books I’d want to read. I sampled one called Arcane Perfection: An Anthology by Queer, Trans and Intersex Witches, which is, as it said, a book about being GBLT in the modern pagan community- where it’s still not all rainbows and lollypops for queers. On the fictional front, I enjoyed a quick short: My Thanksgiving Faux Paw: In Between, one of those cosy paranormal mystery/romance/humor books, number 10 in a series I follow. I finished The Flowers of Vashnoi: a short story in the Vorkosigan Saga. I love the way they are exploring how to use the new technologies, to integrate them into business and cultural as well as military uses. I don’t remember enough of that sort of thing in Science Fiction when I was younger. I read The Incubus Impasse, another cozy paranormal romance. The frame in that one is a psychic who’s hiding in plain sight in a team that is searching to prove that magickal creatures exist. She often ends up using her abilities to deal with whatever issue they’re investigating, but it’s never what the team leader thinks is going on. There was another short story in the Chronicles of St. Mary’s series: When did you last see your father? A lot of fun, and there’s nothing like reading something by a good writer to remind me how lightweight the paranormal romances are, even if I do enjoy them. It’s the difference between meat and cookies. I have been going back and trying to finish books I’d started and lost track of. Another of those is A Capitol Death, in the Flavia Albia spinoff  from the Falco series. Great writing!. I’m now finishing The Rules of Magic, the prequel to Practical Magic, and I’m starting Raging Seas, another of the cozy romance series, this one a cross-over between two series. Lily Harper Hart likes to do that, I think it’s to suck us into her other series. When in the mood for non-fiction, I return to  Old Style Conjure: Hoodoo, Rootwork, & Folk Magic, and I have those other conjure books waiting too. I’m almost done with  Symbols of Power a collection of papers on folklore edited by H R Davidson, back in the 70s. I think part of my “finish these books” motivation is feeling broke, and wanting to justify money I’ve already spent.

Bopping from one thing to another I let finishing this letter drag out a lot longer than I intended. It’s the Solstice now, but I think I’ll cover all the holiday stuff next time I write. I expect the next week is going to be pretty chaotic.  I hope you all have the sort of holidays you would best enjoy.

People who say money doesn’t matter are like people who say cake doesn’t matter—it’s probably because they’ve already had a few slices. Limony Snicket



Upcoming holidays
Ð 19 National Hard Candy Day, National Re-gifting Day, Look for an Evergreen Day
♀20 National Sangria Day, Go Caroling Day, National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, Games Day
♄  21 Solstice Shortest Day of the year, celebrate all things short: Short Stories, Short Girls,…! Yule/Winter Solstice/Donzhi/Soyal! Fried Shrimp Day, Hamburger Day, Don’t Make your Bed Day!
⨀ 22 Date Nut Bread day, Hanukkah,
☽ 23 Bake Day, Pfeffernusse Day, Festivus
♂ 24  Christmas Eve, Egg Nog Day, Chocolate Day, Last Minute Shopper’s Day, Jolabokaflod
☿ 25 Christmas, Pumpkin Pie Day, Kiss the Cook Day
♃ 26 Boxing Day, Candy Cane Day. Thank You note Day, Whiners Day
♀27 Fruitcake Day, Cut out Snowflakes Day, Visit the Zoo Day,
♄ 28 Box of Chocolates Day/ chocolate Candy Day, Card Playing Day, Call a Friend Day,  The “Unluckiest Day of the year” (In the Middle Ages, all Saturdays would be unlucky for a year)
⨀ 29 Get on the scales Day, Pepperpot Day, “Still need to do Day”
☽30 Bacon Day, Festival of Enormous changes at the last Minute
♂31 Champagne Day, Hoymanay, New Year’s Eve, No Interruptions Day, First Footing
☿ 1 Bloody Mary Day, Black Eyed Peas Day, Apple Gifting Day, Hangover Day, New Years Day, Z day
Ð 2 Buffet Day, Cream Puff Day, Swiss cheese Day, Science Fiction Day, World Introvert Day