11 December 2018

"Dulce Domum"

One of my favorite Christmas stories is the chapter "Dulce Domum" from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. It is excerpted in several Christmas books and can be read (and heard) here:

NPR 2009 Christmas Story: "Dulce Domum"

Here's also an animated adaptation, Mole's Christmas.

And here is a lovely rendition of the song sung by the field mice, "Villagers All."

10 December 2018

Trim Up the Tree!

I threw my schedule to the wind today (it's housecleaning day, which mainly means scrubbing the bathrooms) and first toted all the packages and cards to the post office (when did parcel post get so expensive? there's only a dollar difference between parcel post and priority mail!) for dispatching, then came home, cleaned everything out of the corner (the rocker will sit in the other corner, in front of the phone, awkwardly, until the season is over) and commenced to decorate the tree.

Except I had to fuss over the lights. Again. Last year the Lightkeeper Pro gadget saved my bacon. I had one half of the middle section of the tree lights out and about three pulls on the Pro reconnected the circuits. This year, no dice. I tried the other method, which is something like using a stud finder for the Pro to find where the broken circuit is, but nothing would revive the string. I even tried replacing all the burned out bulbs, until I ran out of replacement bulbs and that didn't work. Almost every bulb in the string must be burned out; no wonder it won't light.

Now I did have extra strings of fifty lights that I bought for the miniatures tree. I had to finagle it, using the extension cord I use for the star at the top of the tree, which is dropped down the trunk. I fastened the string in place and, well, it worked: the middle of the tree doesn't have a dark spot.

In the last few years I've wondered if I have too many ornaments on the tree. I try not to add any more, but occasionally a Hallmark ornament or two catches the eye. This year I put the new ones on the little shelfy things on the television. But which of the older ones would I discard? My tree (actually all the trees) isn't a color or flower or specialty "theme" tree fit for a magazine shoot. Each of the ornaments on the main tree are there because they are loved, from the Carleton Lassie specialties to the glass budgies to my beloved satin balls to the long ornaments that were my mom's that I tried to fix up and failed at miserably, but James talked me into keeping. It would be like giving away a pet or a child.

The last step is the tinseling. Without it the tree looks naked, just a collection of branches with colorful figurals laid on. This is trimmed from bottom to top so the effect is like a waterfall. This year's weather, while damp and depressing for the past three days, was actually fortuitous for using icicles. I have decorated the tree on a day so warm I had to wear gloves because the strands of tinsel stuck to my perspiring fingers. Today, my fingers were cold through most of the process; uncomfortable, but perfect for pinching four to five strands out at a time and draping them over a branch. It takes a while, but all good things take time.

The final touch is Mother and Dad's nativity set, which is arranged under the tree in a board stable with one yellow light bulb through the convenient hole in the rear near the roof. It's never finished without that.

I like to think of it as an annual magnum opus, my Christmas masterpiece, a painting I do once year. Pretty much all the elements are the same, with some new things tossed in occasionally, but every year they are rearranged in a different pattern. Kind of like life if you think about it.

09 December 2018

The Second Sunday of Advent

BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
                                      Book of Common Prayer, collect for the second Sunday of Advent

It was a wet and clammy weekend that managed some semblance of pre-Christmas festivities. The rain literally put a damper on things, though: chill, merciless in the way it crept into your bones, drenching everything and then keeping on, hour after hour, the cold sneaking under your collar and up your sleeves. If it had snowed, it might have at least felt warmer.

We arose just in time Saturday to get dressed and for dog-walking duties before we had to leave the house. James couldn't take the power chair to his club meeting Christmas party due to the rain and because of the usual Saturday and the seasonal Christmas shopping was doubtful of finding a close parking space where he would not have to walk past his strength. So I agreed to drop him off and then do a few errands in the area. If I wanted, I could have gone home, but in the end I didn't. Instead I pulled down my hat, hiked up my hood, and splashed onward.

First I popped off to Costco for gasoline, at a jaw-dropping $1.949, and then went through the store. We needed very prosaic things: trash bags, "plastic cheese" (Kraft slices), toilet paper. Of course ending up grabbing other things, including a new "Cooks Illustrated" as a surprise for James, but nothing else we couldn't use.

I usually buy discount toys throughout the year and save them for Toys for Tots, but everything's been at such sixes and sevenses this year I didn't get a chance. So I went to And That! (a.k.a. the local Christmas Tree Shoppe) to be immersed in warm Christmasy atmosphere. There were lights, decorations, and gifts everywhere, and Christmas music over the speakers, all which I enjoyed. I bought two small toys, all I could afford, and some pistachio nuts since I hadn't had breakfast. I could have gone to Panera, but instead I went to Publix and bought a small container of their chicken soup. Nowhere near as good and I had to eat it in the car, but half the price.

I also almost finished another Christmas gift, but won't mention it here, in case the intended recipients are reading.

Finally I just cut through the back streets and went to Barnes & Noble for a half hour, to check out the books and peruse the magazines until James called.

We spent the rest of Saturday evening at home, just noshing for supper, and had a double-feature on Christmas movies, first the modern Mercy Mission about the rescue of a small plane pilot by an Air New Zealand jet, and then the classic The Bishop's Wife. This is a delightful film as it is—I even love looking at the sets!—and a tribute to Cary Grant's acting chops, since he makes the Dudley character look effortless although he hated doing the film!

Today we tried to sleep late, but sleep was elusive. I washed the towels and some other things, but my main focus was getting the mail items done. I still hadn't written the Christmas letter, which seemed superfluous because only one person is now getting it (the person isn't online and hasn't followed the "adventures" of this year). Considering I have been re-telling James' medical saga for months, it was pretty much a doddle to write. It was harder to print, and I did half the labels upside down. Since they were still legible, I left them. So I finished writing out all the Christmas and Hanukkah cards (yeah, they'll be late) and sorted those that get mailed, and those that get mailed with gifts, and those that will get (hopefully) delivered in person, and since that got done, I hauled all the gift boxes out of the closet and turned the spare room into what looks like a gift shop behind held on a sofa. In this fashion I got the gifts wrapped that are going to be shipped and hopefully I can take them to the post awful tomorrow.

By the time I finished this task, it was suppertime. James warmed up the gravy and pork, cooked some fettucini, and I shoveled my way through supper (considering all I'd had today was a bowl of oatmeal, a cup of yogurt, some skim milk, a grilled cheese sandwich, and a PopTart, I was hungry for some real food).

Later it was time for the news, A Christmas Story, and Alaska: the Last Frontier.

08 December 2018

One of My Favorite Christmas Films Ever: The Bishop's Wife

Back when I was the distaff side of "a little shaver," as the old writers would say, this film about a bishop who is losing his faith in a race to erect a magnificent cathedral, his loving wife who sees, like Scrooge's fiancee, "his noble aspirations falling away" day after day, and the unconventional angel who comes to help them ran every Christmas on one channel or the other, usually one of the hard-to-see UHF channels with all the static that did not dim the movie's quirky humor or message one bit. I remembered the sermon of the empty stocking long after the old UHF channels disposed of black-and-white films.

Thankfully cable, and then DVD, brought this marvelous film back to us. Here are some links about The Bishop's Wife.

Ten Things You Did Not Know About The Bishop's Wife - My Merry Christmas

TCM's Summary of The Bishop's Wife

Classic Movies Review of The Bishop's Wife

25 Days of Christmas: The Bishop's Wife

The Case for Global Film: The Bishop's Wife

Fuse Film Commentary: The Bishop's Wife

Tropes in The Bishop's Wife

Discussion about The Bishop's Wife

"Family Values": 1940s Propaganda in The Bishop's Wife

"Conversation Over Chai": The Bishop's Wife Review

"Once Upon a Screen": The Bishop's Wife Review

03 December 2018

Christmas Reading Has Commenced!

Christmas After All, Kathryn Lasky
(I've done many reviews of this book, which I adore: here's a good one:)
This is my favorite of all the "Dear America" books I have read, because the characters seem so real to me, possibly because Lasky based them on her mother and aunts and uncle, and on the real house her grandparents lived in.

The Swift family is facing a grim Christmas. The Depression deepens weekly and Sam Swift is in danger of losing his job. The book's narrator, eleven-year-old Minnie, who idolizes Amelia Earhart, thinks that instead being of the time of plenty Christmas always is, the Christmas of 1933 will be a season of dwindling, with the family continually needing to close down rooms of their home to save on the coal bill and eating an endless succession of au gratin main courses and aspics to cover the fact that they can barely afford meat for the table.

The book opens with the arrival of a telegram that will change their lives: their orphan cousin Willie Faye Darling is being sent to them via train from a little town in Texas. Even though she is another mouth to feed and body to clothe, Sam and Belle Swift welcome Willie Faye into the family. Minnie finds her extraordinary: she's never seen a movie, doesn't know who Buck Rogers is, and owns only two pairs of underwear and a cat, which she explains to the astounded Swift family, that she had to suck the dust out if its nostrils three times a day to keep it from smothering in the Dust Bowl conditions of her home town. Willie Faye knows so little, Minnie thinks, that she will have a lot to learn from the Swifts. She doesn't realize that the family will learn some precious truths from this undersized refugee as the two girls cope with making Christmas gifts when they have no money, dealing with a tragedy that happens to a classmate, and finally facing a startling event in their own home.

I think this is a magical book. It reminds me of some of the stories my mom told about the Depression, and I love some of the offbeat characters, like Minnie's older sister Lady, a creative rebel who can work magic with fashions, and her nine-year-old genius brother Ozzie, who builds radio sets and helps his older sisters with their science homework. The only thing that mars the book is a bit of a fairy-tale epilogue. A worthy tale to add to any Christmas library.

Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol: The Making of the First Animated Christmas Special, Darrell Van Citters
Remember the first animated Christmas special ever made for television? Nope, it wasn't A Charlie Brown Christmas, or even the stop-motion animation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It was, in fact, the 1962 Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, which was scored by two Broadway veteran songwriters, and adapted directly from Dickens' tale, with a delightful framing sequence that has the nearsighted Magoo as an egotistical actor playing Ebenezer Scrooge in a Broadway play (with a great song about Broadway to boot). This book is all about the making of that special, and it's a delight as well, telling how the idea of the special came about, how it was made almost "in tandem" with UPA's theatrical release Gay Purr-ee, and of the changes that were made to the story to fit it into a 52-minute timeslot. So if you've ever wondered if the scenes with Scrooge's nephew Fred, with Ignorance and Want, and with Belle and her husband were ever included in the original teleplay, you'll find out here. (The one mystery about the story that everyone asks about, why the Spirit of Christmas Present came first, is sadly not solved; in the original script the ghosts were in the proper order—however, as Van Citters notes, it gives you more insight into Scrooge and his relationship with the Cratchits before going into his lonely childhood). There are also nice tidbits about the actors—I didn't know Paul Frees' death was actually a suicide!—and the production (the original sponsor was Timex, and the minute the author mentioned the commercials I could remember them). If you are as big a fan of the story as I am, you will adore this book!

International Christmas: The Apple Fairy

Children in the past often received as special Christmas gifts food which we think of as "everyday" now: oranges, apples, grapes, bananas, nuts, raisins. In these days when foods can be shipped everywhere so that we have strawberries in December and root vegetables in May, it is difficult to imagine a time when food had to be eaten in its season from local sources, but on holidays rare foods—walnuts, cranberries, fresh oranges, figs, lemons, and other "exotic" items were stocked in groceries at great cost and markup. Some foods like oranges and raisins were eaten only at Christmas or other holidays, shipped in from California or Florida and people often saved up for months or weeks to buy an orange for each child and procure a small box of raisins for a plum pudding—and raisins in those days did not come pitted and had to be "stoned" before inclusion in a cake or muffin. Children who wanted raisin cake would have to do the work of pitting them before Mother or Grandmother could bake it. The same children waited all year long to taste their "Christmas orange."

Apples were a bit more common because they could be stored in straw in an attic or root cellar and eaten after the harvest and through the winter if kept in a cool enough place. Some apples might be cored, sliced, and dried, and a treat for a February night might be dried apple slices, or the same apple slices reconstituted in an apple pie. Red apples made perfect Christmas tree ornaments as well; dotted in with the gingerbread boys, popcorn strings, and home-made cornucopias, the red was cheerful and jolly. In Europe, baked apples were a traditional Advent treat.

The apple tradition goes back many years. In medieval times Christmas Eve was know as Adam and Eve's day, and, although apples are not native to the Middle Eastern area where the Garden of Eden was supposed to be, tradition has always held the forbidden fruit to be an apple. Apples were hung on what was called a "Paradise Tree" and the fall of Adam and Eve was acted out on a stage.

Our apple fairy above looks like an early representation of one of the European gift-bringers, the Christkindlein, or Christ Child, who is not portrayed as an infant, but as a young woman with golden hair.

02 December 2018

"A Great Miracle Happened There"

Sunset tonight marked the beginning of the eight-day Jewish feast of Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah). How special that the most well-known of December holidays involve light: the tree lights, candoliers, candles and home decorations of Christmas; the menorah (hanukkiah) of Hanukkah; the candles of Kwanzaa; and the Yule logs of pagan festivals. December nights grow short, and in the past, when there was no electricity, not even gaslight or kerosene, and feral creatures moved in stealth through the night, the dark must have seemed like a sinister fate.

Whether you celebrate the Festival of Lights or not, may a candle of hope always burn brightly in your heart.

The First Sunday of Advent

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.                      Book of Common Prayer, collect for the first Sunday of Advent
It's been a busy Sunday. I did not intend to go out today, but we needed something immediately, so I ran to Kroger for it. By the time I got home, the temperature was almost up to 70℉ (we've had a warm front come in, but thankfully it's supposed to be gone by tomorrow), so I had to quicktime it to get the lights outside before the sun swung around and turned the brick front of the house into a bake oven. The net lights properly fit the trimmed bushes (hurrah!), and I had to rearrange the bead garland on the little lighted porch tree (I'd rather tinsel a tree than drape garland—ugh!), and then program that temperamental timer, but it all finally worked out. I'd already put up the wreath, the greens basket, the mailbox cover, and the banner, so all it took was to decorate the two chairs with garland and holly and perch stuffed Santas on them, then lean the little metal sled against the side window, and I was done. (Realized later I'd forgotten to put out the log deer, but I can do that quickly tomorrow.)

Also put the candoliers in the windows, pulled out at least one box (the dining room one, but the table needs to be polished with mineral oil first), and put all the wreaths on the inside doors. I've even managed a candle in the kitchen window, where we've never had one before.

Of course everything is untidy right now and it makes me crazy. But it will come together the longer I work.

Spent the afternoon listening to Christmas music off TuneIn radio, found a little news between the football games this evening, and then watched some Christmas programs: Mickey's Christmas Carol (James' favorite) and Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (my favorite) before Alaska: the Last Frontier came on. Oh, and have sorted the pills for this week and washed towels.

As always this Advent, I pray for health and happiness.

30 November 2018

Out and About on St. Andrew's Day

Sadly, the workload at James' job is so low that he is on 24-hour weeks until the end of the year. Sure has put a crimp in our budget, but we can still go out and enjoy things.

So this year he got to come to the Apple Annie craft show with me; craft shows really aren't "his thing," but we talked with lots of folks, saw some pretty crafts, and even ran into an old friend. This is held at the Catholic Church of St. Ann out on Roswell Road on the way to (what else?) Roswell, near the Merchant's Walk area which is at the intersection of Roswell and Johnson Ferry Roads. On the way we stopped at Trader Joe's to buy a few treats for Christmas and refill our fruit bar collection. James loves their fruit bars, and they are low sugar, so healthful for him with his diabetes. Well, they had none, which was majorly bizarre. They anticipate getting more in tomorrow; however, they also aren't making the cranberry version in November any longer, although we did get the pumpkin flavor last month. Alas, we will not get any gingerbread sticks this year, either, as the company that made them for Trader Joe's went out of business.

So it was on to Apple Annie. There were plenty of handicapped parking spaces and no policeman out front to tell us the lot was full as I've complained about in previous years. We went from room to room—this covers the whole church complex, including the meeting rooms and the school and the gym—enjoying the crafts and all the "kringly" decorations—once again, a lot of jewelry, but very lovely stuff, made from gemstones or interesting beads, also artwork, ceramics, dog neckerchiefs, essential oil sellers, soaps, pottery, clothing, carved crosses, glassware, suncatchers and other leaded glass things, purses, etc. (not as much cutesy stuff for grandchildren to wear this year)—and we ran into Claudia Barbour and her friend Gloria while coming out of the gym. Claudia is living in Toccoa now.

I noticed the "papyrus lady" did not show up this year and am thankful I had bought all the beautiful things I loved of hers previously. Another vendor who was missing was the Asian lady who paints the little birds so beautifully, and the vendor who made non-electric speakers out of wood—they looked like two trumpet bells fixed back to back—and beautifully carved and polished with African designs. I always wanted one, but even the smallest was beyond my budget. The artist made them of good woods: walnut, mahogany, etc.

We mostly bought little desserts from the bake shop, the sale which supports the school, picking up little bags of molasses crinkles, thumbprint cookies, tiny pumpkin loaves, white chocolate cranberry cookies, and some chocolate treats. I also got myself a small jar of a sugar scrub, since my hands get so dry in the winter. This one is made with coffee grounds, and smells delightful!

I usually stop in the sanctuary to say some prayers, but it was closed today while they did some work on the balcony, so I went into the chapel instead and bared my heart and finished in tears. It's been such a difficult year!

For lunch we stopped at Tin Lizzy's and had soft tacos for lunch. They have a couple of different kinds that I can eat if I get them made-to-order. Otherwise it was an ordinary lunch, and then on the way home we stopped at Publix to finish the shopping, and arrived home just in time, as it was starting to rain. We'll be housebound tomorrow due to the rain, so I can take the Thanksgiving things downstairs and start decanting the Christmas stuff.

Had leftover turkey soup for supper with leftover couscous in it, and oyster crackers, filling and yummy, and of course the usual complement of evening programs like the news, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy. Had the new season of America in Color on, but really wasn't watching because I was reading. I'll have to rewatch "The Wild West" again. Did lay off reading for Hawaii Five-O.

25 November 2018

A Questionnaire for Stir-Up Sunday

I posted these questions when I first began this blog back in October 2003, so perhaps it's time to pose them again. Things to think about...or to answer!

The questionnaire is from Celebrate the Wonder by Kristin M. Tucker and Rebecca Lowe Warren:
  1. What is your earliest Christmas memory?
  2. What are your favorite Advent and Christmas traditions?
  3. Is Advent special to you? Why? Is Christmas special to you? Why?
  4. What do you want yourself and members of your family to remember most and value about Advent and Christmas?
  5. How would you spend Christmas if you had no money to spend on gifts?
  6. How do you think Jesus would want his birthday celebrated?
  7. How will this year's holiday season be different from other years (due to age changes, finances, marriages, deaths, health problems, community and church responsibilities)?
  8. How would you like this year's holiday celebration to differ from last year's?
  9. What are your friends and other relatives going to be doing during the holidays?
  10. Whom would you like to spend time with during this year's holiday season?
How would you answer them?

23 November 2018

On Thanksgiving Day and a Shopping Day

Thanksgiving dawned clear but chilly; wasn't sure I wanted to get up, but Tucker needed to be walked before I could even think of breakfast, so it was up at the usual time. I also picked out the Christmas cards I'm going to use for this year, and signed half of them as I was watching the Macy's parade. I don't usually see about half of the parade because I can't sit long enough to do so; I'm usually doing other things while it runs, but that's okay. Most of the parade ends up being a bunch of singing stars I'm not really interested in, and I see the good stuff like the giant turkey, the balloons, and any clever float. This way I could help James a little, fetch stuff from downstairs, and even get the bed made. By the time the dog show started, we could see a couple of the groups before it was time to get our food together and leave. We'll watch the whole show later, with at least one new dog breed, the Nederlandse Kooikerhondje (it's a bird dog). That's almost as much fun to say as "Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever." 😀

We were having dinner at Leigh Boros/Robbie Hilliard's house this year. Sadly, the crowd was small. Lin Butler was in the hospital with pneumonia, but the rest of the family came for a little while, and Leigh sent a Thanksgiving dinner home with them. We had a nice feast of turkey (which people kept snitching bits of as Mel carved it), pot roast, a lovely roast of beef, and some corned beef, plus veggie sides and rolls. Most of the guys watched whatever football was on, but I had to laugh, because in the other room we all sounded just like the adults I remember so long ago, gathered in Papà's cellar or in Anna's kitchen, talking about medical problems and crap going on at work. How true that we turn into our parents!

Before long it was after seven and we bundled up and headed home under not-quite-a-full moon. I hadn't slept well, so we just mucked about on the computers for a little while before heading to bed. Sadly, I found it hard to get to sleep, which was deadly this morning when I had an alarm set for 6:15. First thing I did was pad downstairs to the garage. Last night there was a light on my car saying one of the tires was underinflated, and I was worried it was going flat (it looked like the right front). It wasn't flat, so it can be taken care of later. I ran upstairs, got dressed, took my pill, and grabbed a BelVita bar. It was so early in the morning it just made me queasy and I couldn't finish. I did see a stunner of a sunrise, though, although by the time I emerged from Staples (all of ten minutes—I do not go to crowded places on Black Friday, and Target didn't even look that busy) the clouds were already piling up in the east.

Yesterday I had ordered three necessities online from Staples, with free shipping: two different wireless mice, one as a spare and a new smaller one, and a second backup drive. But I had to go there in person for the one thing I wanted: a Chromecast.

Back before we had a "smart" TV, we bought a small cheap computer to attach to the TV, about the size of a Roku box. This was because both GPB and WPBA kept pre-empting History Detectives for god-knows-what, and we would go online to watch the episodes by plugging the laptop into the TV. It was a great way to catch up on other PBS stuff, too, but the plugging in business was awkward. This way we just used the browser of the small computer instead. But now it's very cranky (pretty much all we use it for now is playing Region 2 DVDs). So along comes the "smart" TV. Except the browser in the "smart" TV is makes the crowd in Washington, DC, look like Nobel Prize winners, so that we're still going into the browser on the computer (like for the streaming membership we bought from DragonCon), but it jerks and judders and stutters because the processor is so slow. So I wanted the Chromecast for the same reason, as we have access to everything else it offers.

I also went to Kohl's for a small "suitcase" phonograph. This was a replacement thing: over ten years ago we had bought a combination phonograph/CD player/cassette player at Linens'n'Things. I had a stereo system and James had a turntable, but neither would play Mom's 78s. We had to return the first one we bought because it did not play sound. Well, with one thing and the other I did not try all of Mom's records on it until earlier this year and when I did realized it had an auto shut off. This meant half her records didn't finish; it shut off smack in the middle of "Deck of Cards." Also, in the intervening years the CD had quit ejecting; when I finally got it to open, it wouldn't push back in again. So we dumped it at electronics recycling day and I got this inexpensive one with no auto-shutoff.

Then I did what I usually do on Black Friday: come home, eat breakfast, and then fall asleep for a couple of hours. After that I set up the Chromecast (ridiculously easy) and just surfed over to several websites and easily "cast" to the television. Works a treat. Also plugged in the phonograph. The first Christmas music I officially played after Thanksgiving was Mom's World War II-era copy of Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas." It sounds okay. As far as I can tell from audiophile sites to properly play old 78s you need an expensive turntable and special needles made for 78s. Too rich for my blood.

Anyway, last week James got a Very Interesting Phone Call. (That's "interesting" as in "may you live in interesting times.") You know you are in trouble when the first thing your supervisor asks you is "Are you sitting down?" IBM was cutting everyone's hours to 24/week through the end of the year. So we are now on short commons for Christmas, and it explains why he was not working today.

Instead, for lunch we went out to Hiram and had our big meal at Folks. We both brought something home and had that for supper as well. Michael's had all regularly priced items on sale 40 percent off. I didn't get a lot; just some things to make a gift and a container for some beads. James got some spray paint and wooden bases that looked like a shield. We also went up to Five Below to buy some chocolate for dessert, as they are the only ones who sell dark chocolate Reese's peanut butter cups anymore. And I stopped at Best Buy to pick up our annual copy of the newest season of Big Bang Theory on DVD. Next year will be our last.

It was drizzly raining when we got home. When it got to be dinner time we had our Folks leftovers and did our exercises for the evening. The visiting nurse gave James exercises to do back in May. I knew it's easier to do with a buddy, so I've been doing them with him. We do mostly sitting exercises and then about five minutes of all he can stand on his feet. Tonight we started using weights with our arm lifts. James was lifting five-pound weights at night while I walked Tucker, then he got the rotator cuff injury and had to quit. He has gone back to three pounds and I use the two pound ones. Not much but better than nothing.

Later we watched Masterchef Junior: Celebrity Showdown with celebrities (football players and things and Alyson Hannigan with her daughter). Unfortunately it ran late due to stupid football and the DVR stopped recording just as they were about to announce the winners. I had to look it up the results online. Also watched last night's Murphy Brown.

22 November 2018

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

21 November 2018

On Thanksgiving Eve

Just finished watching one of my Thanksgiving delights, the Addie Mills story The Thanksgiving Treasure, and thinking of the sheer breathless motion that has been this autumn. Everything, except perhaps the hours James was in surgery (and those awful few days when the temperature soared back up to 90 degrees, despite the fact the summer had been mostly temperate), has gone by so quickly. I can't believe the Yellow Daisy Festival and the Georgia Apple Festival and the Green Ginger reunion (Louis Robinson's old band) have whisked by so fast; one moment it was hot, and then it went cold and the trees started to turn with fierce abandon, as if eager to get to their winter sleep. All of a sudden geese were hurrying south, and last week I was lucky enough to be outside when the big flock of sandhill cranes I saw winging north in February followed the same flyway and came coo-honking overhead as I was walking the dog, beating their way southward. Fallen leaves carpet the ground, people have been burning them, and everywhere is the nostalgic aroma of leaf mould. I've gone from tank tops to sweatsuits, and Snowy is moulting in a hurry to get some extra down under his feathers. Outside the birds argue over the suet at the feeders. What a change from the life-smothering torture chamber that is summer, moving with the endless speed of a constipated sloth with a mobility impairment.

It's been a long and difficult year. I remember on January 31 dreaming of all the things I wanted to accomplish in my retirement. True, I've done that decluttering I wanted to get to so badly for years. Bags of junk have left the house in the trash, good items have been donated to Goodwill, electronic and electric items have gone to recycling. There are fewer things to trip over or bump into. But the creative aspects had to take a backseat to a crash course in practical nursing, as each month brought some fresh medical challenge for James, no matter how hard he has tried to be healthier. It didn't seem fair. And then through my own carelessness I lost my beautiful Twilight, the best car I have ever owned. If there is any three seconds in this life I wish I could get back, it would be those. I lost a dependable car, ruined my insurance driving record, had to go to court and pay a fine, and spent money out of my savings account I really wanted to preserve. I will never forgive myself for it.

But I am thankful for James, and for Tucker, and for Snowy, for our friends, for Kaiser-Permanente, for cool days and brisk breezes, and for a whole lot of other things currently scribbled on squares of paper and stuffed into the "Thanks Jar," which appears to have a bumper crop this year. I am thankful for every morning, even if it rains, and every evening, even if in midsummer when the dark doesn't start until ten o'clock.

I am thankful for life.
"St. Nicholas," November 1919

20 November 2018

New Thanksgiving Reading

Thanksgiving: The True Story, Penny Colman
This is billed as a children's book, but I think that's in vocabulary only, as the author takes time to mention her own celebrations and memories, and to relate the results of a survey she sent to people ages nine to eighty-nine. It just doesn't strike me as a "children's book," just one written in very simple vocabulary. In any case, I welcome any book about Thanksgiving that isn't about recipes! Sure, we celebrate by eating, but Thanksgiving is about more than that.

I'm watching the History Channel's old special about Thanksgiving and it pretty well parallels this book in that it opens talking about what was "really" the first Thanksgiving: was it celebrated by the Spanish in Texas? Or the English in Virginia? Or the French in Florida? But the story that "stuck" was the traditional one about the Pilgrims (Separatists from the Anglican church of England) who held a great feast (not an actual Thanksgiving; that was a church service) in celebration of a good harvest, known as a "Harvest Home." As Colman mentions, today we're not even sure the Native Americans were invited; the settlers were having a celebration that included target shooting, and the natives may have simply showed up to see what they were up to. However, the account of this celebration wasn't rediscovered until 1841, and the Thanksgiving custom was already well entrenched by then, especially as a family celebration in New England where they didn't celebrate Christmas and in the "Ohio country" and other states made out of the old "Western Reserve" where New Englanders moved. Other Thanksgivings, like one in Boston, and harvest festivals were actually the genesis of our modern holiday. Pilgrims and Indians didn't enter the Thanksgiving mythos until late Victorian times.

Of course Colman talks about Sarah Josepha Hale's successful campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday—Hale led a very unconventional life for a 19th century lady: she was tutored not only in housewifery and the Bible, but also read Milton, Addison, Pope, Johnson, Cowper, Burns, and Shakespeare in an era where girls just learned housekeeping, and her brother also came home from his studies at Harvard and let her study his books, and then later she and her husband, an attorney, studied in the evenings together, including botany, French, and minerology; when her husband died she made her living as a magazine editor—and also about the proliferation of sports, especially football, on Thanksgiving day, and the development of the Thanksgiving parade that led into the Christmas season.

I could wish for clearer prints of the etchings and other printed illustrations included in the book. Otherwise I enjoyed the heck out of it, and learned a lot about Sarah Hale that I didn't know before.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Robert M. Grippo and Christopher Hoskins
This is another of Arcadia Publishing's wonderful "images of America" books with (mostly) black and white illustrations chronicling the history of the Macy's parade, originally the Macy's Christmas Parade in its first ten years, starting in 1924 when Macy's employees asked to put on a parade like they did in the old country. Each chapter presents a dense summary of each year, one decade to a chapter, where you'll discover when the famous balloons first joined the march and how they were dealt with originally at the end of the parade and when it was first televised and how a 1947 film made it famous, and the book is chock-full of photos and vintage Macy's posters advertising the parade. If you're into vintage photographs or the Macy's parade, this should definitely be on your Christmas list, and you can hold it, if you like, as I did with both of these books, until next November to read.

18 November 2018

"The Pumpkin"

verse by John Greenleaf Whittier

Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,
The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,
And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,
With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold,
Like that which o'er Nineveh's prophet once grew,
While he waited to know that his warning was true,
And longed for the storm-cloud, and listened in vain
For the rush of the whirlwind and red fire-rain.

On the banks of the Xenil the dark Spanish maiden
Comes up with the fruit of the tangled vine laden;
And the Creole of Cuba laughs out to behold
Through orange-leaves shining the broad spheres of gold;
Yet with dearer delight from his home in the North,
On the fields of his harvest the Yankee looks forth,
Where crook-necks are coiling and yellow fruit shines,
And the sun of September melts down on his vines.

Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South come the pilgrim and guest,
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored,
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before,
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin,—our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam,
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!

Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better
E'er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,
Brighter eyes never watched o'er its baking, than thine!
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!