31 January 2004

Well, cool. James isn't working Valentine's Day, he's working the day after.

26 January 2004

The World in Shades of Pink

Valentine's Day is coming, did you know? :-)

One of the things that depresses me about the day after Christmas is that the holidays aren't even allowed to "settle." Even though there are twelve days left to the holiday and New Year's Eve and Day yet to come, the stores have already torn down everything Yuletide related, shoved it into a corner for quick sale, and by afternoon, the Valentine candy, boxes, cards, and bears are up and running. It's disconcerting.

It doesn't help that I don't like teddy bears or pink, the latter which is my bete noire. I'm the child of first-generation Italo-Americans, both born before 1920. My grandparents were not only Victorian, but ethnic Victorian, and one of the things handed down from this upbringing, almost incomprehensible in this age of primary-color children's clothing, was that small children should only wear pastel colors.

As a small child, my favorite color was red. So guess what color clothing well-meaning older relatives always stuck me with (additionally of course because the "color for girls" was pink). It began a lifelong loathing of pink, especially those salmon/brownish pinks like "dusty rose."

So there are times that Valentine's Day exploding early sets my teeth on edge. I think the worst experience was a couple of weeks ago in Target. Of course Target's colors are already red and white. They had the small girls' clothing in the front of the store and the combination of Target red and white and the feminine shades of pink with accents of lilac and lavender were enough to put my system on overload.

In any case, I was looking forward to Valentine's Day, until I found out James has to work that Saturday. Sigh. Last year I did something cute: I didn't feel like facing the restaurant crowds, desiring something more intimate. So I ordered two T-bone steaks from Ryan's, brought them home along with one of those decorated chocolate-chip cookies from the mall, and served dinner on a small table in front of the fireplace in our living room. Our own private little bistro!

12 January 2004

Farewell to Christmas

I had most of the decorations down and piled up in the living room by Wednesday, except for the kitchen bouquet, garland around the living room door, the door wreaths, and the tree. I took the first three down Saturday while James was at the hobby shop, and he helped me take the tree down. (It still took over an hour with the two of us.)

So everything is back in place again, the winter bouquets up, and the tree is back in the closet. Whether it comes out again next year depends on the selection of trees next year. I never did see a 6-foot tree I liked last year. The present "needles" are short, like a spruce or fir, which I like. The only 6-foot trees I saw had longer needles. Those are good garland trees, but I use silver icicles--plus I don't like Scotch-piney looking trees anyway.

Plus so many of the trees already had lights with them. I'd love to leave our lights on, but there's no basement here like we had in Rhode Island to stand the tree up in, in a corner covered with plastic wrap, until next year.

Hopefully next year will take care of next year.

The living room looks rather bleak again, even with its bright autumn leaf motif. It always does for a few weeks, anyway, until I get used to it again.

09 January 2004

More Christmas Books

For several years now I've seen Joe Webber's small holiday books, Christmas in My Heart, on bookshelves in December; these paperback-size hardbacks each have about a dozen Christmas short stories in them. I tried not to look at them--the going price for the darn things is $16.95 each!--so I wasn't acquainted with their content: were these modern inspirational essays or stories?

Well, Borders had the second and third books on the bargain table, $3.99 each, plus 50 percent off all Christmas books, so I bought them. I'm still not going to pay full price, but if I see books one and four at a reasonable price, I certainly will purchase them: Wheeler has gone searching through old journals, magazines, and other publications, some as early as 1910, and picked out stories, some of which he remembers hearing as a child, for these volumes. Some are from Christian publications, some from non-US sources, all of them emphasize, although Santa Claus may make a brief appearance occasionally, the joy of giving to someone rather than getting gifts and gluts of presents and little elves and reindeer.

One of the stories in the third volume, in fact, is an old-fashioned favorite of mine, "The Fir Tree Cousins," which I believe I first read in the 1921 Christmas issue of St. Nicholas. It's about a woman who could care less about giving holiday gifts and entrusts the wrapping and addressing of family presents to a friend. The friend confuses the costly trinkets she buys for her parents and siblings with the sensible gifts (thinking that people who live on a farm would only like useful gifts) she sends to her husband's "fir tree cousins" in Maine.

If you like heartwarming Christmas stories and can find these books at a reasonable price, I heartily recommend them.

06 January 2004


I always find it hard to wind down Christmas. It's such a joyous, bright time in a season of increasing cold that it's hard to let go from. The lights are always the best part. Even staid houses that had icy looks even in July look welcoming at Christmas with a wreath upon the door and a candle in the window. As if at one point in time we are all neighbors and all welcome.

There's not even snow to keep things pretty for a while, to carpet the world with a blanket of silence and the minty breath of cold, just endless days to look forward to of rising in the dark and fighting your way to a place too brightly lit with harsh reality. The candles and the trappings of Christmas manage to soften even that, but it doesn't last long. Back to the same old music, the same old rules, the same old dreary days.

05 January 2004

As the Yule Log Burns Down

"The yule log smouldering in the hearth is like a wild beast in a cage. It comes from another world, that of wilderness and the elements. Its conflagration is a giant hourglass for the rhythms of the Christmas feast, slow-burning with the same patient unhurried sense of time that is evident in its rings of annual growth. The tree's enormous pent-up energy, released into the Christmas parlour by slow degrees, is full of the remembered warmth of spring and summer and the promise of warmer days to come. The essense of the yule log is that its pleasures should be long and slow: it must consume itself gradually, with no sudden bursts of too-passionately flame to spirit away its substance up the chimney into the cold night."

"The Everlasting Flame" by Roger Deakin
in the December 2003 issue of "Country Living."

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...

The December issue of the British edition of "Country Living" has an article on the "12 Days of Christmas" song. The origins of the song are obscure. Ace Collins' Traditions of Christmas, as well as some others, claim that it was a secret teaching tool when Catholicism was suppressed at the time of Henry VIII and later Oliver Cromwell. The most probably origin was as a forfeit in a parlour game: the Victorians were fond of parlour games, and if you lost, you had to pay a forfeit: recite a tongue-twister correctly, for instance, or, in this case, remember all twelve items in the song.

It did have an interesting fact I'd never heard before, that the words "a partridge in a pear tree" is a possible misinterpretation of "a part of a juniper tree."

The other thing I noticed was that they mention the alternative descriptive of the "four calling birds." When I first learned the song, I also recall the line as being "four colley birds. Colley, or "coally," is a synonym for black, so those calling birds may have just been ordinary blackbirds.

"Colley," incidentally, is where the collie dog gets its name. It was renown for herding the "colley" (black-faced) Scottish sheep.

"On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
"12 drummers drumming,
"11 pipers piping,
"10 lords a leaping,
"9 ladies dancing,
"8 maids a milking,
"7 swans a swimming,
'6 geese a laying,
"5 golden rings,
"4 colley birds,
"3 French hens,
"2 turtledoves,
"and a partridge in a pear tree."

Home to Clear River

Found this great story about Gail Rock, the creator of the Addie Mills' stories.

03 January 2004

Calm Before the Storm

But it's a good storm, our annual Twelfth Night party. It's actually being held this year on Tenth Night, but who cares? "On the Tenth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me...one party with baked chips, sugar-free candy, and diet dri3nks" [the "3" is courtesy Bandit the budgie, who leaped off the keyboard at that point]--hey, most of us are over 40 and can recite our illnesses in unison. :-)

It's been quiet here because this cold has me exhausted. I wish I would just get a fever and burn whatever it is off; my temp has wavered from 96.8 to normal, and back, mostly about 97.something, which used to indicate I was having an allergy attack. Well, if it's an allergy attack, I've had it for a week! Is there a cat hiding in the house I don't know about?

01 January 2004

Tournament of Roses Parade 2004

It strikes me that one of my dreams is to see the Rose Parade in person...and I couldn't. Someone online says the one thing the television coverage doesn't give you is the wonderful scent of the flowers.

The wonderful scent of the flowers would give me an allergy attack!

This year's theme is "Music, Music." We watched bits of the pre-show and there's a Bob Hope tribute and a dragon.

Woohoo! Talk about openers: we had the theme winner, a calliope, followed by the Air Force Academy band, during which three aircraft, a F-117 Nighthawk, a B-2 Spirit, and a FA-22 Raptor, flew right over the HGTV booth (we always watch on HGTV--no damn commercials!).

The Bob Hope float was great: a giant figure of Bob surrounded by radio, film reels, television, microphones--and a suitcase, of course, stamped USO. (The Bob Hope Humor Trophy went to the float with the singing cactus...singing "Cool Water.")

The Grand Marshall this year is John Williams, who was blithely wearing his Boston Red Sox cap. He was followed by a combined school band 500+ strong, and a float called "Music of the Spheres," a lovely representation of Pythagorian theory, which was playing a John Williams theme.

The tallest float was a recreation of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride, which could actually telescope (not on the route, but to get through the infamous bridge all the floats have to make it through). The competing team floats--USC and Michigan--were much cheered.

The aforementioned dragon float was awesome...the detailing alone was spectacular, plus the float was animated. Some of the organic material had to be cut and dried 36 hours before it could be glued onto the float. There were old-fashioned floats with gazebos and bridges, animal floats (Willow sniffed suspiciously at the cat float, but knew it wasn't real), wildlife floats, kid floats, toy floats, Cinderella in her coach and burst plumbing (Rot-Rooter sponsored, of course)--and even the little old lady from Pasadena, who got to really zoom down Colorado Boulevard.

And of course, horses, horses, horses--curly horses, palomino horses, horses led by Monty Roberts, horses ridden by the children of old cowboy stars, buffalo soldiers on horses, quarter horses, Andalusians, Appaloosas--all appropriate since the Tournament of Roses Parade was founded by the Valley Hunt Club.

Happy New Year!