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December from top to bottom


Only two weeks?

Seems longer. Life's been a bit of a strain just of late. I guess it's mostly mellowed now, though. I have little to say but miss saying it, so I will mention that I have some new cds. I got Ultra Lounge Bachelor Pad Royale, Tito Puente's Dance Mania Vol. 1, and Stan Getz Bossa Nova (Verve Jazz Masters 53.) And I ordered the Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails Vol. 2, which was shipped from Amazon today. I'm psyched about that one. Tomorrow I will put in links to these cds, but time is short just now.

I finally got some real direction for my book, which is mainly a large but loose collection of dialogues and character vignettes, and hopefully I'll have actual time to work on it now that I've figured out how to tie it all together--sort of. This computer doesn't let me work for more than an hour at a time, and then there's the rest of life to contend with, so it's kind of rough going. But I'm really excited, and hopeful. If the idea is there, it has to come out, right?

Here is my current favorite food. I could eat it every day, but sadly am not able to. Chirashi.

Talk to me babes. I know I've been a neglectful friend, but shall endeavor to repair the damage.


Regarding Christmas trees

I tried to have living ones. My old house killed them, though. So I felt better about buying an artificial one because it seemed nicer than "harvesting" one? Only now I have a sun room so I'm thinking of buying another living one and seeing if it can live out there. Therefore, I may end up ornamenting two trees, though I appear to have no ornaments at the present time. I have this way of setting crazy challenges for myself.

Little black cloud...

I can't find my boxes of Christmas decorations. I'll spare you the drama of what they mean to me, and the various times I've had to replace many of them and the whole thing about my mother before she died and all the babies and household moves and so forth and just mention that I'm quite annoyed. I really don't want to buy new ones. I'd rather have the new sneakers from Aldo, thank you very much. (They look like this only they're high tops, for some reason.) But I don't have time to make ornaments, as I have in the past. If it comes down to it, though, I'd rather make than buy. And if it comes down to that, I guess I'll do a Solstice kind of theme, light and nature and so forth...

Anyway. I found this one little box in the attic that had held a few of my grandmother's ornaments, which now sit in a glass bowl on my coffee table year round. I was hopeful that more little treasures would be hidden among the styrofoam peanuts, but this is what I actually found:

~a ceramic bear in a red dress and apron trimmed in actual "lace," holding a cherry-topped muffin. She used to be a bell.

~An Animal Fact File card about beekeeping.

~2 partially used "safety" candles

~2 decorative drapery rod ends

~2 half-filled bottles of craft paint: yellow and white.

~the arm of an action figure named Gorm

~my brother's keepsake Christmas ornament from childhood: a ceramic drum with his name inscribed on the back.

~an ornament someone gave me of a Victorian mother and son dressed for cold weather and either offering or receiving a basket of Christmas handouts

~a plastic ornament of a teddy bear sitting on a drum that my mother bought for my daughter in 1988.


Material me

Here's my updated Amazon wish list. It would be even longer, but you know, that's just not necessary. Sure, I'd love to have all of Dark Shadows on DVD, and all of STNG and all of the X-Files. And all of Buffy. And an i-Pod, and to have my Powerbook repaired or replaced. And there are things I'd like to see happen, too. But whatever. I like to reach for the reachable, mostly


The season is the reason for the season

I'm no pagan god-and-goddess worshipper but I do love celebrating the seasons. That's why I've been so happy to learn, over the past 7 or so years, the origins of the various Christmas traditions we honor. And as someone who loves sunshine and warmth above almost all else, this time of year is very difficult for me. Celebrating the winter solstice makes it a little easier to endure the cold, and to appreciate the cycle of the year. Mixing in some of the aspects of Christmas just adds to the fun.

Here's a nice bit of info on how Christmas came to be, and I will be including many more over the next couple of weeks. If I were a Christian now I would not celebrate Christmas as part of my religion, though I can't feel it's hypocritical to participate in some of the traditions, and honor them according to individual beliefs. It would be hypocritical to not adjust for the difference between ancient and modern practices, but it's no concern of mine.

Why we celebrate.


It's like whoa

Here's where my daughter wants to go for her 13th birthday, with just her parents. Bit extravagant but I want to swing it if I can. They have a 10 page wine list, which should be lots of fun for LP.

When I was a teenager I got to go out to a lot more different kinds of places than my kids have, because there are so darn many of them, and there was only one of me. But I'd like to make the 13th birthday something memorable. Even though this is a franchise, I think it looks pretty cool.


In case you were thinking about it,

here's some stuff from the 20-page Dollar Tree Code of Ethics:

~We expect our vendors to fairly compensate their associates by paying legal wages and benefits and at the same time meet local manufacturing standards.

~Dollar Tree will not conduct business with vendors who use child labor. Vendors are expected to follow the laws of the country of origin in defining the term "child," but we will not use vendors who hire people under the age of 14, regardless of local laws. We support legitimate apprenticeship programs that benefit the education of youth, as long as they are not being exploited or asked to work in dangerous or unhealthy surroundings.

And there's a lot more, about discrimination, wages, workplace conditions, environmental requirements, on-site inspections and so forth. Let's face it; large companies know they're being watched all the time now, and it's to their financial benefit in the long run to consider these issues. The world is still horrible for women and children in many places, but modern and ethical business practices are what western consumers are beginning to expect, and it may be possible to effect a little change that way. Good for commerce at the same time, of course. It's taking some people a long time to figure this out, but they're going to have to in a fully globalized marketplace.

I was up early this morning and decided to treat myself to a luxurious cup of coffee with cream and chocolate and almond. It smelled great, but when I discovered I'd sweetened it with salt, I spit it out. Not quite the same luxury to have to do it over.

So I managed to visit 2 dollar stores yesterday, which was quite a strange, yet somehow pleasant ordeal. At the strip mall one, I found DVDs of The Betty White Show, which was originally called Life with Elizabeth, and Mr. and Mrs. North. Previously, I'd found The Burns and Allen Show, and The Colgate Comedy Hour with Martin and Lewis. Each one has four episodes and a cartoon. I love the Dollar Tree.

The mall dollar store is new, I don't remember the name of it. Dollar-something. It was a pretty good one, too, though not of the magnificence of Dollar Tree. There was an audio book by Bob Dole, and a clock with Jesus on it, and lots of interesting glassware. Hey, shopping with me? You won't even see the entrance of Macy's or the Body Shop. I go my own way. Well, gee, if I could shop at those places for gifts, I imagine I would. But I probably have just as much or more fun trying to stretch my dollars by hunting around for quality stuff that doesn't cost much. First I get the most important requested toys and media online, then I wander around out there in the "real" world, and see what's a bargain for the rest. So far, the only kid hard to shop for is the one who's into anime/manga, because that's a very specific and strange universe to travel through.

Well, then there's the one who's asked for a turtle three years running. I think that wish will finally be fulfilled in the next couple of months, but not at Christmas. I'd like to find a US group that does it this way.

Stuff that got left out

I really miss my old blog, and Dreamweaver MX, and all the quirky stuff. Having to use different computers and the other problems made that nearly impossible, but I want to find an alternative so I can take what I've learned with this blog and apply it to something like the old one again.

In the meantime, here's a page of stuff I discovered and loved, while working on the previous entry. You'll love it, too.

Zuppa and other matters

Well, my first 1957 Christmas keeps having hitches in it. By 1957 I don't mean there will be a sled and wagon and other things filling the living room on Christmas Day in a huge fit of debt-ridden excess amidst tinsel and cigarette smoke, and also I can't really bring myself to do some of the pre-packaged food preparation that was so exciting in the rocket era, but this is a 1957 house, and the ornaments and wrapping paper are all retro-shiny and I got Tito Puente on cd, and lots of stuff in the box for LP which doesn't get fully disclosed here just yet, and Ft. Monmouth is testing a new alert system on Friday which we're all supposed to hear and ignore. I have a baking list and the pantry is full. And so forth.

In the meantime, our pipes flooded; the new clothes washer pressure having loosened a volume of silt and stuff that had been collecting *since* 1957, some rugs got ruined, and since my decrepit table with the awesome pink marble top that I only paid ten dollars for had to be moved in order to clean up some of the mess, the 12 year-old had to play with it like it was a hoop on a stick and broke it neatly in half, my jade plant got left in the cold area of the sun room and is in serious though stable condition, and I don't have enough money to finish the whole gift medley I had planned for poor trod-upon and slandered LP, who has had a terrible month at work on top of weird calamities at home.

Anyway. Thinking about Christmas Eve, which is the day I do the real cooking, not Christmas Day itself; I want to make a nice hearty soup. Often in the past I've cooked a large chicken or a ham, then made bean or vegetable soup the next day to just simmer until we feel like eating it. I used to make lasagna in honor of my aunts and mom, who took turns doing that every year. But now I do that on New Year's Day. Last year, in honor of this house we were moving to, I baked a ham and poured Coke on it, on Christmas Day itself. Now I'm just deciding what soup to make, something Italianish and countryish.

Sun Goddess

Here's one version of the tale of Amaterasu, the sun goddess of the Shinto religion.

And here's another:

The Japanese Shinto sun goddess, ruler of the Plain of Heaven, whose name means 'shining heaven' or 'she who shines in the heavens'. She is the central figure in the Shinto pantheon and the Japanese Imperial family claims descent from her. She is the eldest daughter of Izanagi. She was so bright and radiant that her parents sent her up the Celestial Ladder to heaven, where she has ruled ever since.

When her brother, the storm-god Susanowo, ravaged the earth she retreated to a cave because he was so noisy. She closed the cave with a large boulder. Her disappearance deprived the world of light and life. Demons ruled the earth. The other gods used everything in their power to lure her out, but to no avail. Finally it was Uzume who succeeded. The laughter of the gods when they watched her comical and obscene dances aroused Amaterasu's curiosity. When she emerged from her cave a streak of light escaped (a streak nowadays people call dawn). The goddess then saw her own brilliant reflection in a mirror which Uzume had hung in a nearby tree. When she drew closer for a better look, the gods grabbed her and pulled her out of the cave. She returned to the sky, and brought light back into the world.

There are other versions and the perspectives are interesting. Depending on who you read, Amaterasu was a rabid feminist, a typical fickle divinity or just someone really put off by how her life was being interfered with.

And so forth

Here's my new fondue set. It was time. The bowl is wider and shallower, plus ceramic, so it will be much easier to clean. And the little Lazy Susan troughs will be fun to fill with things. Only it requires a kind of gel fuel that I've only located on Amazon so far, and I hope to find a local source so I don't have to order it.

There's this interesting religious tolerance website from Canada that has a lot of blah about various winter celebrations, and some of the science, if you want to read about that. Since the solstice occurs early on the 21st this year, we will have our Solstice eve celebration on the 20th. I have not decided just what we'll do to make it unique this year, but we always put out the lights, spending the afternoon and evening by candlelight, I spread around some spruce cones, plus juniper branches, rosemary, and other good-smelling evergreens, and this year we'll have a fire in the wood stove, which will make a nice addition to it all. Only I have to confess to using artificial logs, because believe it or not, they're actually better for the air than burning real wood! They don't give off nearly as much heat, though. Another thing we always do is make bird feeders out of carved-out oranges and other "leftovers." But I still like to add something new and different each year.

For Christmas, we are going to create a Buche de Noel, because the 8 year-old is studying world Christmas traditions, and that seemed to fit in nicely. I haven't made one in several years, so it will be fun. In addition, we'll make lebkuchen (a simplified version to which I'll add ginger and icing) this weekend and bunuelos next week, since the three countries he chose to focus on are France, Germany and Mexico. I tend to make old-fashioned Italian food for Christmas Eve supper, and this year we're thinking of going out for Chinese on Christmas day. So we'll have a whole international festival of food over the next couple of weeks. To me, Christmas is about family and fun and traditions that follow after the more serious spiritual nature of the solstice.


Where was I?

Monday night was the solstice eve. We hung out around the fireplace all evening, talking about history, and what it was like for people before modern home construction, and we sang songs and spelled stuff. It's not much fun for them to try to come up with a word that's challenging for me to spell, especially since the words all had to be holiday or seasonal ones, but they seem to like the game anyway.

Last night was the driving around and looking at Christmas lights evening. The world is, sadly, not as tacky as it used to be in the general sense, but there were plenty of fun sights to see. These big air-filled electric--things--are trey boring, for the most part, like you can just throw money instead of effort into your holiday decorating, but I like the snowman families, and it's always nice to see Tigger and Homer Santa throwing down together on someone's lawn. The best line of the evening probably doesn't repeat well in type, something about "Tarot Readings, 10 dollars," but it was fun at the time.

Today is baking day. Lemon squares, magic cooky bars, and lebkuchen are on tap this year. Magic cooky bars are my version of fruit cake, I guess; I only make them at Christmas, as they're a bit expensive, and contain ingredients I don't keep in the pantry all year round. Except, unlike fruit cake, most people like 'em. I'm old-fashioned in that I like to save special foods for special occasions, and sprinkle them in throughout the year instead of making them a part of my kids' everyday diet.

I just found that the links to holiday drinks are missing, but here's last year's recipe page.



Where's the biopic about this guy? That would be interesting. I'll have to think about who could play him.

Couple of things. First, I've had computer problems and life problems and health problems, didn't get to do anything I wanted online this past week. I'm going to at least make a list or two later, to add here. Also, I do miss my old clunky but sweet blog, and I'm going to try this year to get back to doing it more like that.

Be well, people, start off the new year with pluck and courage and optimism and love.

More later.