Hard Candy Day

This has been a pleasant week – for me. Willow has been sick as a dog in that way where she keeps on slogging. Having gotten it right after Kalen got a cold, she figured she’d picked it up there, and so wouldn’t give it back. I was a little concerned that I might be getting it, but slept in and felt better. It has been cold and we saw rain on the weekend. Yesterday we had that little half inch of snow that isn’t worth shoveling, but since it doesn’t melt when it’s this cold, does turn the driveway into a sheet of ice. I’ve hardly been out at all, and Willow just comes home and collapses.
The lady selling the wood stove hasn’t gotten back to me, and Gretel still won’t come out of Kat’s room. (This makes sense because Zoloft continues to sit by Kat’s door glaring, and if she can slip in, chases Gretel around the room, breaking things. Kat is SO ready to have Gretel out, but can’t seem to catch her to evict her.
Kat did finish the dress she has been working on for most of the month, and sent a photo off to the client, who decided she’d rather wait until after Christmas so Kat can add more lace. Lollis! Now she has inquiries from two other potential customers. She’s working on a Dr. Who fandom image for a gift exchange, and I know she’s thinking about this year’s Billy and Zoe ghost story, but am guessing she hasn’t got it done yet and is stressing about it.
Friday I started making the cookies from the prepared doughs, and Steve came up to keep me company. At this point I’ve made at least a batch or two from each of the prepared doughs: the Candy Cane Cookies, Russian Balls, Finish Butter Cookies, Wishing Stars, Mandlemilanderlie, Gingerbread Men, Mint Trees, Krumkakes, Ganesha’s Treats, Green man nut balls, Lokis, and Lemon slices. I made a batch of Peppermint Brownies Sunday morning, and have made Cinnamon Horns, several times, because they are so good. I made a couple dozen Mince tarts yesterday, with the orange crust, which is amazing, if I do say so myself. Last week I’d made a Black Magic Cake, but it’s gone, so I’m thinking I should make a batch of cupcakes. We’re out of the Madelines, and I’m wondering whether to make more of those- also the Lucia Buns are gone, but I probably won’t make more of those, although I am considering a stollen or some other sort of sweet bread- maybe simple cinnamon buns, and an apple pie wouldn’t be amiss. I found some dead ripe bananas at the store and got two hands, but almost didn’t get to snatching the last three to make banana bread because the kids ate them!  Baking is happening. I think a lot of holiday baking is about nostalgia. Certainly few things bring back memories more than smells, which is why it’s so important to reproduce old recipes exactly- to stimulate the memories.
Saturday we finally got the trees up. I figure that traditionally, Christmas trees didn’t go up until Christmas Eve, so we’re early! We got the lights on on Monday or Tuesday, and the strings of beads on the tree today. John hung lights in the dining room, and Willow hung the garlands on the staircase, and we’ve got the mistletoe up in doorways. This year we have only two trees- the sparkly one with lights and glass ornaments in the living room, and the small one on the kitchen counter decorated with candy and cookies and popcorn. It looked so secure when we put it up, we didn’t bother tying it to the ceiling- until we tried to put the popcorn bowl under it, at which point it fell over. Now it’s tied up. So far the large tree seems secure. We got gifts under it immediately so the cats haven’t gotten used to being under it. I’m not entirely sure that the tradition of cats going after trees isn’t mostly based on cats that can’t go outside and aren’t used to having trees they could climb available any time they choose.
Last week I mentioned (although I’m still insecure about whether it reached people- the mail program is still not working properly), that we’re doing the Solstice Feast as an Open House this year. We have asked people to just come- if you can- whenever it’s convenient for you. So we won’t have a huge party this year, but it seems to be working. I have to say that having people come in two to four at a time when they can works great! Bob and Diane, and Rob and Deb were able to make it on Sunday. I think Bob and Diane came up from the Worcester, Deb and Rob come from the other side of the river. There’s only one bridge over the Merrimack in Nashua before you get up to Manchester, which means that if you are in Derry or Londonderry or anywhere over in Southeast NH, it looks like it’s not far, but you have to go a good way north or south to cross the river to get here. It’s very medieval. Still, they say they may be able to come again. Deb is a teacher and it’s just before vacation, so she has a lot of papers to grade.
Bob brought me a gift- a pretty candle holder, although I almost didn’t open it. It was in a box purporting to be a “butt scrubber”, a Roto Wipe.  (It occurred to me after he left that I should have given it back so he could “get” someone else.) I also didn’t think to get pictures of my friends until after they’d left! Doh! I was much reassured to discover that it’s part of a series of “Prank Pack” gift boxes. (The Bathe and Brew or Bacon scented Drier Sheets would probably sell.) He got me good! He also gave me a copy of one of his favorite books Confessions of an Ex-Secret Service Agent. I think sharing a favorite book is a great present! I’m already four chapters in, and it’s fascinating. (The sig quote below is from the book, although it’s from an older Secret Service guy from the 1963 Dallas period, not the seventies.) It occurred to me as we talked that many of my friends (the ones my age) are hitting retirement now. Younger ones, like Deb and Rob, still have to work, but even they have their kids moving out. There are so many periods to a life!
Tuesday Ed and Carol Huot, and Debby Levitt visited. The Huots are from over toward Peterborough area, although I think Debby’s from Lyndeboro’. Ed and Carol are sibs who live together now that they are both widowed, it’s nice to see family that still like each other enough to choose to live together. They brought me an herbal mug rest from Picketty Place. I hadn’t thought about gifts, and am a bit uncomfortable that I had nothing to give in return but cookies, tea and conversation. I dislike driving enough that being willing to come seems by itself like a gift to me. I show the ladies my pantry, if they’ve never been here before, and they are all appropriately agog.  I do offer to send some cookies home with them. Apparently some people don’t bake, which seems odd to me. Ed is a photographer, and took a lot of pictures, and shared them on Facebook.
I snuck a look at them, although I’m trying to support the boycott of Facebook  hat the NAACP called for from the 18th to the 25th. Most people to whom I mention it haven’t heard about it, and there is the suggestion that Facebook has squelched references to it on Facebook- which totally makes sense. Are you going to put up a sign for a protest about your business’ policies in your front window? I think not. I theory it should keep me from wasting time on the internet, but there are other fun sites. I’ve opted to put the holidays on LiveJournal (as I did years ago), so I am not saving much time on that count.
Today, Wednesday Ellen and Alyssa Pomer dropped in. Alyssa had just gotten off the plane from Samoa where she’s been doing epidemiological studies, fascinating. Yet we chatted, and she strung popcorn, as she hadn’t done since she was a kid, for over an hour. I made wafers today. Apparently while the Pomer have Italian roots, Ellen has Scandinavian, so I decided it was time to do cardamom krumcakes, which they really enjoyed. That IS why I make them. I sent some home for John.  Allyssa was Kat’s friend in school, and Kat came down to join us, using the time to drizzle white chocolate on more mint tree cookies. (This stimulated a talk about tempering chocolate. Apparently Ellen is a good cook.) Sadly, she seems to have mistakenly taken her bed-time meds instead of her morning meds and complained (in a stoned way) about feeling very foggy.
Let me be honest, I am a show-off and I know it. So when recipes came up, I showed them my cookbook, and Ellen bought one! Carol got some of our stockings too- so I have made a contribution to the pin money this month! Very much NOT what I’d intended in inviting people over, but while I’m not a salesman, I do get the thrill of putting people together with a product they want.
Tamar Lindsay told me about a Christmas Holiday I hadn’t heard about before. Apparently the Catalonians have a log that they put a face on, they throw a blanket over it, beat it with sticks, and get presents from under the blanket. Even more amusing IMO is that they have a tradition of including a peasant taking a dump in their Nativity scenes. It’s called El caganer, (the pooper) and these days rather than just representing a peasant who is unimpressed with the whole sacred deal, they make them look like various celebrities from the Pope to Trump (why are we not surprised?). And yes, I googled, and they had Obama and the Dalai Llama, Einstein, and even Sponge Bob Square Pants and Princess Leia. It’s a thing.

I watched Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017). I am glad I watched it, although I’m sure this year’s movie will be more lighthearted and easier to watch. It was a touching story about people living through a depressing period of the British culture after the first world war. There were depictions of many sorts of dysfunctional aspects of the culture at the time, from lack of any treatment or even empathy for the PTSD caused by the war, to excluding the father from helping the woman in labor, to separating parents from their children by using nannies, keeping people ignorant of things that others were ’supposed to do’ for them, like women not being told about money, or children about nearly anything. It brushed over the “Public School” part of the boys life where the other students were abusive little shits (then big shits) to young Milne because he was famous. I am guessing that at some point someone (several someones) went through that hell, and decided that rather than to whine about it they’d decide that adversity was “character building.” So they never stopped the abuse, assuming that the people would be better for having to rise above it, rather than seeing it generating generations of abusers and victims. I can only wonder what we are doing now that will revolt the next generations, if any. I also found it irritating that the actor who played Christopher Robbins as a child looked nothing like the actor who played him as a young man. Other than that it was a wonderful movie.

I also watched Meet Me In Saint Louis, a forties musical in which they introduced the song “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, I don’t remember seeing it before, although I must have done. The costumes were gorgeous, and I couldn’t help thinking that it was being made, the folks making it probably remembered the period from their childhoods- as if someone made a movie this year set in 1978. While the young stars no doubt thought of it as a period piece with costumes (Ouch, thinking about young actors thinking what we wore in the 70s was quaint- or maybe just bizarre.), I expect that research must have been easier. I was most astounded by the Halloween section. Given that they probably remembered how the holiday was celebrated, and that I’d heard from my elders about pranks, it caused culture shock to watch a mob of five to twelve year old children being given license to perform acts of vandalism (and some assault), and build unsupervised bonfires. The costumes were only for disguise and there were no decorations. The elders did express disapproval of trying to get the trolley to derail, but not by much more than misplacing a roller skate. In first person stories the point behind the pranks had always been to prove how subtle and clever you were (as when students assembled cars, or phone booths on top of the MIT dome); it was always “the other guys” who were simply tipping outhouses and cows, or stealing gates. I now wonder how to find out what really went on. (I will admit that I was shocked when the 12 year old Agnes, Joan Carroll, came in from swimming wearing only her sheer wet underthings. I think that as innocent as it was in context, it would not be allowed today.)
I am not reading much this week, and indeed, think I’ll just try to send this off without looking for pictures or checking back to see what I might have missed. I hope you are having as good a holiday as I am, and better than Willow.
Oh, on one of my “word” sites they have this one- essentially the opposite of Shadenfreude- and probably the essence of what love is about. When you experience mudita, you probably love the person. Not yet common, but should be.

mudita: Joy in someone’s happiness, good fortune.
From “So, what’s the Good Word?”

Tchipakkan

“Every generation has an opportunity to have its ass tested somewhere along the line. You can’t transmit experience to another generation. But it’s important to pass the culture on- even knowing that it won’t fit the new age. Certain values need to be passed on.” Jerry Parr (Secret Service)

 

Holidays next week:

Thursday 20  Re-gifting Day, Sangria Day, Go Caroling Day, Games Day, Human Solidarity Day
Friday 21 Solstice, Yule, Peace Day, Global Orgasm Day, Humbug Day, Flashlight Day, Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, Don’t make your bed Day, Short Girl, Short Story (short almost anything) Day, Fried Shrimp Day
Saturday 22  Cookie Exchange Day, Date nut Bread Day, Super Saturday, Abilities Day
Sunday 23 Pfeffernusse Day, Festivus, Humanlight Celebration, Roots Day, National Bake Day
Monday 24  Christmas Eve, Egg Nog Day, Last-Minute Shopper’s Day, Chocolate Day
Tuesday 25  Christmas, Christmas Pudding Day, Pumpkin Pie Day, Kiss the Cook Day
Wednesday 26 Boxing Day, Candy Cane Day, Thank you note Day, Day of Goodwill, Kwanzaa