Monday, December 29, 2008

Post-Christmas Chaos

We have just returned from two "away" Christmases. We are tired. The house I lovingly decorated for Christmas has turned into chaos. I'm attempting to sort things into piles. Then I will further sort the piles. Some piles are garbage. Some piles are soon to be garbage. Some piles are new toys. Some piles are broken things. Some piles are old cookies. Some piles are soon to be old cookies. Some (most) piles seem to be laundry. Some piles are things the cat threw up on while we were gone. My mother-in-law gave us a pile of items she no longer wanted.

The dog has consumed many things he shouldn't and we are awaiting the results. The chocolate things didn't seem to kill him. I'm curious about what the red crayon is going to do. I need to locate the items the cat has removed from the tree and possibly stored in his hidey-hole. There is probably a pile there.

The Christmas vacation days are piled up ahead of us. There are seven more days until school begins again. I have a pile of errands to do. A pile of playdates to set up.

I should have entitled this post "piles." I thought that would sound too nasty, though.

Anybody out there working on a pile of New Year's resolutions? That is one pile I'm not going to work on.

p.s. Happy Birthday Wiggy

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wishing You an Old Spice Christmas

I was hoping to find a Christmas photo set back in those ancient times pictured at left, but it seems we have not scanned any. So this is what you get. Me, probably at 4, and my sister, probably at 8. It appears that we may be wearing matching Christmas nightgowns, however.

I loved getting those Christmas nightgowns. Every Christmas Eve, we received something flannel to sleep in from my Great Aunt. Every time I smell fresh flannel, I think of Christmas. Forget the smell of gingerbread, bring on the flannel!!!!

Christmas in these modern times just isn't the same as it was 40 years ago. Back then, stockings were not full of iTunes gift cards, jewelry for various body piercings, and pregnant Barbie dolls. No, there were oranges, chocolate coins, and troll dolls.

If someone approached me and told me they had a time machine and I could go anywhere in the past or the future, I would go to Christmas Eve, 1968, 1969, thereabouts. Back to an Old Spice Christmas.

Four o'clock on Christmas Eve, we would be pulling up in front of my Mother's parents' house. Those tacky, yet stunning, red plastic bells would be blinking on the front door. Upon entering, the smells of ham, scalloped potatoes, and other southern dishes would rush over me like a wave. Uncle Jimmy would greet us and take our coats (the racist tirades would come later, probably with the blessing). The parlor would be full of gifts and my sister and I would quickly determine which ones were ours. The vast majority of the remaining gifts would say to "mother" or "daddy", since almost everyone else was someone's mother or daddy, the gift distribution would prove to be tricky later.

After an inspection of the dining table, I would head for the kitchen. My grandfather would immediately put a slice of warm ham in my hands, and the ladies, except for my great aunt, would be clustered around the appliances in the kitchen. My great aunt would have created a throne for herself somewhere and would be awaiting her subjects. Soon dinner would begin, after a questionable blessing by Uncle Jimmy. There was rarely a children's table, we all crowed together at one table. My sister and I, being by far the youngest, felt special using the "good" crystal, silver and damask napkins.

Next, the present frenzy began. It took quite a while to find out which "daddy" on the tag matched the actual daddy in the room. One of these "daddy" packages always contained a fruitcake. Once someone's daddy opened the fruitcake and suddered and grimaced, the package was passed on to my grandfather for whom it was intended. He actually ate the things. He claimed it would not be Christmas without one. Another "daddy" package contained an assortment of Old Spice products. I'm not sure if this was intended for my daddy, my mother's daddy, or my cousin's daddy, but there was always a sound of great appreciation. The Old Spice assortment contained what appeared to be 10 products. I did not know of any daddy at that time who used more than 2 or three grooming products, so I cannot imagine what all of those products were for. My sister and I received something flannel, and usually something quite bizarre from my great aunt. The "mother" packages often contained stockings (NOT pantyhose, heaven forbid), or a 3-month supply of AquaNet hairspray. At some point during the evening, we would walk around the corner to my "daddy's daddy's" house. My father's parents divorced when he was a child. We never called this man our grandfather, but we had to visit him and his wife for a few minutes every Christmas Eve. The house always smelled like vegetable soup and seemed to be littered with things that elderly people needed but should not display. If we were lucky, we could sample some of the soupy smelling substance and afterwards see any new additions to the gun cabinet.

After a 15-minute ride home (unlike the 6-hour one I endure now), my sister and I would crawl happily into bed in our new flannel. I would sniff my new flannel deeply until I fell asleep.

The next frenzy would begin about 6:00 am. Puzzles! Games! Socks. Underwear. Tinkertoys! Then my mother's blueberry coffee cake. I endured it then, I was so anxious to consume my chocolate Santas and coins. I love it now. Then the phone would start ringing because my father's mother and stepfather were anxious for us to come to their house. A 5-minute drive would land us at their house amid another group of great uncles, aunts and somewhat strange cousins. I can never remember what we ate, because I was always thinking about dessert. Boiled custard. MMMMMMMMMMMM. My husband cringes when I try to explain it. Recipe lost to history. I can only eat it in my memory. Damn, it was good. More presents. More older people exchanging gifts of undergarments. Candy candy candy. My grandmother made candy. Lots of it. All colors. All kinds. The only requirement was the candy had to have enough sugar to make you wince.

Pleasant. No drama. Little chaos (at least where us kids were concerned). Every now and then a bit of a surprise. One year, a drunk (my mother's people lived near the "bad" side of downtown) in a Santa suit paid the family a visit on Christmas Eve (this might be the last year I believed in Santa). Uncle Jimmy's blessings could make a politically-correct diner's eyes bulge. Another year, a Christmas card house caught fire & the house would have burned down on Christmas Eve if my Dad hadn't run the flaming thing out the back door. Other than that . . .

So no matter what holiday you celebrate, I hope it is a good one. Full of family, friends. And if not that, full of something good, something meaningful.

We are going for a six hour drive to visit my family for 2 days, then a 4 hour drive to visit my hubby's family. Hectic, yes. Pleasant, quite possibly. Perhaps my daughter will write about her wonderful holiday experiences one day.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Those 100 Things I've Done

Well, since it is Christmastime, the time for lists, I will list my 100 things I've done that my readers MUST know about me. I normally don't do these things, but I'm baking Christmas cookies and if I travel too far away from the oven to do other things, I will forget the cookies and set the house on fire. So, here I go. . .

1. Start your own blog
2. Slept under the stars -- if so, not intentionally
3. Played in a band band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity - maybe, maybe not. Did not declare bankruptcy as a result.
7. Been to Disneyland - went to Disneyworld for the first time when I was 35. It was awesome!!
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo - at least, I think. I opened my mouth to sing a solo when I was in the childs' choir at church. I can't remember if any sound came out.
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch - quilting
15. Adopted a child - best thing I have ever done on this list!
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables - I grew peas this year. Got two peas. Grew a carrot. It was 1 inch long.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France - over the heads of 200 Japanese men taking photos
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked - my hubby and I had to when our car broke down on the highway 10 miles from my parent's house. We didn't know what we were getting into until the car started off and dozens of beer cans rolled out from under the seats.
23. Taken a sick day when you're not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping - most likely
27. Run a marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse - lunar, from a mountain top in Colorado. I did not hike that mountain.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a homerun
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community - just over yonder mountain, we have to start buggy dodging.
36. Taught yourself a new language. - working on French from Rosetta Stone
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied - I think so anyway
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michaelangelo's David - had to view him from the back. There were too many people viewing from the front.
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted - it is now in my basement
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been go the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in-theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at at soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma - used to not weight enough to donate blood. Not true anymore, should do it.
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi concentration camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy - many! In basement with portrait.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the changing of the guards in London - saw them, but they weren't changing
77. Broken a bone - well, only a toe
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Brought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Red the entire bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating - only the accidental gnat
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone's life - quite possible, perhaps they would have lived anyway, at least I didn't hurt them.
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a lawsuit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

Well, there you have it. Anything else you want to know?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Waiting for the Mail Man

It is the time of day when the mailman usually swings by. I am ready. The dog is certainly ready (you know how dogs feel about the mailman). I am waiting for some Christmas cards.

Yes, I did do some complaining about the ones I usually receive in a previous post. It must have worked because the trickle of cards has slowed down to NOTHING. Earlier in the month we received a lovely card from our realtor (who we purchased our home from 11 years ago), our cabinet maker, and Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter. No, they didn't actually sign it. I'm sure it is a result of our contributing to Habitat for Humanity after hurricane Katrina. Still. Better than nothing.

So, I'll stop complaining about the Christmas cards I do get. I'll take anything.

Did anyone out there see Mr. Bean's Christmas show a few years back. He actually sent cards to himself then displayed them in his apartment.

That's my last resort and I think I seen the sign for the resort up ahead.

Monday, December 15, 2008

This Year's Last Bird

This is Sweet Songs of Birds II. It is for sale on Etsy. The piece shown in my last post, Sweet Songs of Birds I, is on auction on Ebay. This will be the last bird of the year. The last piece of the year. It seems that I am now on vacation.

I was going to do away with some traditions, but I have had a change of heart. My daughter wants to bake some cookies with me, so I'll make some dough and get out the cookie cutters. I was going to do with far less ornaments, but I'm going to dig through some more boxes in the basement and pull out some more childhood ornaments.

I'm going to cultivate some cobwebs in my studio.

Today I have to make a list and check it twice. I've got to figure out what needs to be done for our annual holiday party. We only throw one party a year, so I figure I might just stress a bit on this one. It also involves out-of-town guests so I must prepare the house for them.

What does a work at home person do when they are on vacation but not vacating the premises? Hmmmm. Relax? I dunno. Watch TV and eat bonbons? Work on other things!!!!! Of course!!!!!! I think that I will sneak a bit of iTunes surfing in. What can it hurt? I shall also have some Zen time wrapping presents. I think that is my favorite holiday activity. I love poring over my rolls of paper (remember, attractive ones are hard to find), then selecting a ribbon, and choosing from the tags that I have made. Oh, I'm so Martha at this time of year! I will unleash my creativity on my gifts & turn that studio light off for a while.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

This Year's New Bird

This is going to be "Sweet Songs of Birds I". There are going to be 12 pieces in this series. There could be more, but . . . . I know I mentioned doing a quilt a week in a series for a year. It just doesn't seem to be the way I work, however. There are already new ideas in my head and I am ready to clean up the scraps from this project and get onto the next project. Eleven tops have been completed and are waiting to be quilted. I still have to decide whether to apply any beads. I will make the decision tomorrow, and put any beads on then. It should appear on Etsy this weekend.

No work shall be done today. It has been decreed by the local school board. We are supposed to have ice today. I don't think I see any yet. The students walking to campus seem to be moving at a brisk pace. My daughter has a morning long play date and I am on the computer. The quilts are sitting up in the attic, alone and in the dark.

I did get a bit of my "Ho" back yesterday. I was walking my dog in our lovely central Pennsylvania weather (bleak, yet not freezing yesterday). While rounding the corner next to my neighborhood home, a beautiful stone cottage, I smelled gingerbread wafting from this house. Suddenly the oppressive clouds became cozy and my coat became warmer. I'm definitely feeling more festive than I was when I wrote my last post.

Aside from the purchase of a boring man gift (not the man, just the gift), I will be done with my Christmas shopping. I have managed to purchase several hand-made items, including two from Etsy. One was from a local Etsy artist & I was able to pick that item up in person. It gave me the warm fuzzies. But, yes, I also purchased a couple of items online from Pottery Barn & they were wrapped in paper and cardboard and required the consumption of many resources. Perhaps I will do better next year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Let's Put Up the Christmas Pole -- It's Festivus!!!

Well, there is no photo here. Why? I don't have time. Why not? It's Christmastime.

I was feeling very festive last week. Now, not so much. I feel more like the Tasmanian Devil. Where did my ho go? That really shouldn't be funny. The word "ho" has gone downhill. But I digress.

What the devil happened to "all is calm, all is bright?" We're not calm here. And why not?

I'm putting up and decorating lots of trees. I've got cookie dough to make. I have a Christmas party to plan and cook for. I have to clean the house for that. We're gonna have overnight guests. I'll have to clean the bedrooms and wash all the sheets. We'll be donating our room to guests, so I'll have to clean that one too. I've got to buy presents and wrap presents. I've got to do my Christmas cards. Hey, just did the invitations -- now I've got to start over???

Most of the trees are up & the garland has been hung. I've hung balls from the garland, because that is what my family likes. I've thrown out Christmas lights and have purchased new ones. I have dug through the basement for extension cords.

There will be cookie baking and fudge making (my dad's favorite gift). There will be the usual homemaking activities, then we have to pack up just about everything and visit two sets of family.

I've got a long way to go. Somebody is not going to get everything they want this year. Not all of those damn ornaments are going to be hung. There are several years of "collectible" ornaments and snowglobes given to my daughter from other family members. I found a few today. Many more are still hiding in boxes. They are staying there until next year at least. None of my trees (yes, I love Christmas trees) have toppers. They used to. They are somewhere. They will stay somewhere until next year.

Some people will come to our Christmas party expecting certain cookies to be baked just for them. There gonna have to wait until next year, or the next.

I'm going to come up with a long list of things I'm not going to do.

Let Santa bring me some coal.

Don't care.

Gotta get my "ho" back.

Next year things will be different. I plan on doing even less. I'll still put up those trees, because I love them. I will still buy presents for my family, because I love them. I'll still pack up and visit my family & you know why. Something has got to give. Next year, I will be calm (if not bright).

Or I could just the George Costanza way & put up the Festivus pole, have the feats of strength event, and air our grievances.

Soon, I promise (on top of everything else I have promised), I will finish a couple of pieces and actually show you photos.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas Recycling

I bet you thought you would read this post and discover all kinds of ways to be earth-friendly this holiday season. Not really.

This here is pretty much a recycling of a post from last year. I had a post-Christmas rant and I'm going to rehash it here. It will probably upset some people. Not too many I hope. More than anything, it is meant to be humorous, not hurtful.

Christmas cards. Or for many people, Holiday cards. Winter cards. Whatever. Is anyone offended yet?

I like to get them. I'm always excited when the first one arrives, even though that is usually from our realtor (who sold us our house 11 years ago), and comes with a small calendar. Regardless, this card is usually attractive.

Here's the thing about Christmas cards . . . . .

they are supposed to be beautiful. They should have glitter, elves, candy canes, santas, stars, engraving, three French hens, bells, stripes, swirls, ornaments (or be an ornament themselves), reindeer, flocking, dribbles and drips (if the kids have made them), silver and gold, wise men, sparkles, etc., although not all at once. I want to admire it. I want to say, "ooohhhhh". I want to put it in the front of my Christmas card basket until another beautiful card comes along.

Tomorrow my husband and I are taking the day off and are going out for lunch and boutique shopping in downtown State College. It's gonna be cold. We're gonna freeze parts off. And we're gonna have a darn good time. We are going to buy Christmas cards. I do believe they are going to be just lovely and the recipients will say "ooohhhh." And just to make the card a little bit better, we will tuck a photograph of our daughter inside. INSIDE.

Here's the hurtful part. For those who are going to send us a card, we most definitely want a photo of your children, dog, or the whole gang. If we know you well enough, we will probably take this photo and stick it to our fridge until next Christmas. If we really like you and the photo is exceptional, we will frame it. But if you could make this easy for us by slipping the photo INSIDE the card, we would appreciate it.

I know your family is beautiful. That's why your lovely faces will gaze at us from the fridge.

Just don't make the photo the card itself. If you like us as much as we like you, we really want you to send us a lovely Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc. card. With a handful of the lovely items mentioned above on the front. It's the gift that keeps on giving. A card of great beauty AND a separate photo of your smiling cherubs.

And if that card is lovely enough, I will do my earth-friendly part and recycle it, perhaps make a beautiful gift tag from it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Google that Stole Christmas

Here's my daughter playing in her forest. Each year we bring all of the trees up from storage and let her play among them before they go off to their respective rooms to be decorated. This is a tradition. Along with opening the Advent calendar and visiting Santa Claus. I have a feeling the last tradition is soon to be a thing of the past.

How long can a overly logical child believe in Santa?

She has been asking questions about Santa since she could speak. Perhaps before that, but we just couldn't understand her. She knows that magicians are playing tricks. She knows that trolls don't hide under bridges or monsters do not squeeze themselves under beds at night (well, she believes that during the daylight hours). She does still believe in Santa. I'm surprised. Her questions keep tripping up me and my husband. She's going to put 2 and 2 together and realize they don't add up to 29.

Does Santa ride around with a bag of coal also?
Can he really see everything I do?
If reindeer can fly, why can't I?
Why do we give toys to tots if Santa is going to bring them toys too?
If Santa does so much work, how can he be so fat?
Elves aren't children are they, 'cause children aren't supposed to be working?
Do reindeer die?
If reindeer die, do they name the new reindeer the same as the old ones?
Is Rudolph real?
Is Rudolph old and dead?
Mama, can we Google Rudolph?

Oh no! Google! The truth will definitely be discovered then! My daughter is learning to read and is doing very well with that. She didn't understand that we could Google Abraham Lincoln and get his biography, but we couldn't Google Rudolph and find out about him. Yes, we found all kinds of information about the television special, but that's it.

Why is there no photo of the real Rudolph?

I know that her belief cannot last longer than the 1st grade.

Oh, well. I will enjoy this year as much as I can. And if she has any more questions, I think I will direct her to Santa himself. Of course, she does understand that those Santas in the stores and the street corners are not the real Santa. Probably. I have told her that every now and then she might just see the real one.

I'm such a bad liar.

Mama, why have you been lying to me for years?
Isn't lying naughty?