16 December 2012

A Kringly Weekend

Christmas is a comin'—which means extra mornings for sleeping late!

Hey! When you're my age, that's a gift.

I'd actually expected the lawn guys yesterday morning or this morning. Hmn. Whatever. The lawn hasn't grown an inch anyway. However, I did have to wait for UPS to pick up James' Amazon return; he ordered what was supposed to be a "complete" anime set, but what he got was only the first disk. While I was waiting, I started to dub off the Advent and Christmas episodes of Feasts and Seasons of the Church (and cleaning the bathrooms). This is a show hosted by Joanna Bogle, who is a conservative Catholic from England. This particular series has an episode from before Advent starts, all four Sundays of Advent, and then celebrating after Christmas through Epiphany. She talks about the various saints' days in the interim, practicing faith, and throws in a recipe each show. (There are also six shows for Lent and six shows for summer through Michaelmas in September.)

I had gotten through three of them when UPS arrived. I'd wanted to go up to JoAnn today, so I passed the package on, finished up with that episode, and then grabbed my coupons and went. The Michaels and JoAnn at Town Center are now only separated by a parking lot, so I hit Michaels first and bought some sale ribbon, then went to JoAnn. Had to make two circuits because three things I was going to use coupons on were already on sale. Luckily, I made that second circuit, because I found a perfect gift for two different people. I bought one for each of them. And at half price!

From there I was just headed for home, and it took me ten minutes just to find a way out. When I'd gotten to Town Center, traffic was just like any other Friday. An hour and a half later when I emerged, the crazy Christmas shoppers had come out of the woodwork. No matter which way I went I ran into a long line of cars heading either for another part of the shopping centers complex or turning left toward the mall. Finally, a dedicated right turn opened up where it had not been a few minutes earlier when an inconsiderate idiot getting into the left lane blocked the right lane with his car. I got out of there like a shot, had a nice drive home through the park, and, once there, finished dubbing off Feasts and Seasons.

Ate at home tonight and then headed out to the movies. Since it was opening weekend for The Hobbit, we figured we would have better luck trying to see Lincoln tonight and seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on the earliest show the theatre offered. Well, here we arrived at the movies, on a Friday night, and there were three people in line. We were flabbergasted. The Hobbit started in ten minutes, and we just walked in and found a seat; I don't think there were twenty other people in the theatre.

Anyway, we enjoyed the movie very much, although I thought they could have left out the Three Stooges trolls. Martin Freeman was adorable as always and I finally sorted through the dwarves, but my favorite part was Sylvester McCoy playing Radagast. No matter what role he plays, he never quite gets rid of that lovely Scots burr.

James had to work Saturday, so he left home about seven and I slept in until eight, then had breakfast. I was toying with going to Books-a-Million, but we have coupons there until the end of the year. So instead I went to the Avenue at West Cobb to see if I could find something to use one of two Barnes & Noble coupons on. Couldn't find anything I was looking for. I did drop in to the Yankee Candle for a minute and picked up a packet of their Balsam and Cedar scented icicles for the Christmas tree. Then I stopped by Hair Day for a few hours, just to see everyone. Brought Mel and Phyllis' Hanukkah gifts—Phyllis got a kick out of hers; a plaque that said "I'm still hot! It just comes in flashes"—and talked with Alex a while about finding a Charlie Brown tree and with Mel about Android apps.

I'd toyed with the idea of baking cookies this afternoon, but by the time I left Hair Day it was too late, especially since we had to leave the house posthaste when James got in. So I came home to finish a gift (sadly, it didn't turn out as nice as I wanted) and dub off Castle episodes. I got four of them done, which takes a little of the burden off the DVR. By then James was home, and Willow was walked, and we headed out for my belated birthday dinner, at the Colonnade, of course. It was a nice chilly night for a ride into town, and of course the restaurant was packed when we got there, but because there were only two of us, we had a seat in not too long. We had an excellent waitress and gave her a good tip!

Of course I had the turkey, and so did James! I had applesauce and cucumber salad to go with mine; their applesauce is outstanding and not overly sweetened. Unfortunately the vinegar in the salad dressing made me sick for the rest of the night.

From the Colonnade we went to the performance of An Atlanta Christmas at the Academy Theatre. This year ARTC was presenting all the humorous skits, including two new ones. I still think the pirate skit is dopey, but then I'm not a pirate fan. The Academy Theatre folks did two short plays, the funny A Cthulu Christmas and the touching Rosie the Retired Rockette about an elderly woman living in a rest home being visited by her daughter and two granddaughters at Christmas. I quite loved the latter.

Instead of going home through the freeway, we cut back through town and drove home as we used to so many years ago when the Phoenix Science Fiction Society met at the old Virginia-Highlands branch of the library on Saturday nights, up North Highland Road, and then turning down Morningside and going through "little" Lenox Road (as opposed to the larger end of Lenox Road with the mall and all the condos) back to Cheshire Bridge Road, to see all the pretty light displays in the old houses: mock Tudors and stone-fronted cottages and the occasional small apartment building. The guy on Morningside Drive still has his seven-foot spotlighted Grinch flat! (Sadly, the house next door wasn't lighted up to make it funnier.)

Home finally to the fids' relief.

Today was a bit quieter. It was a mucky day, dissolving into rain and chill, but we had Christmas carols on "Holiday Traditions" to keep us warm. We ran out to Kroger and got home just in time to make a run for the movie theatre one more time to catch Lincoln. There were, even on a rainy, bleak, clammy gray Sunday, even fewer people at the movies. This time there might have been half a dozen people in the theatre when we sat down.

This is a fabulous movie. It was costume drama done right, with homely scenes like Lincoln sitting in his bedroom with his stocking feet propped up talking to "Molly." Daniel Day-Lewis was an uncanny Lincoln and Sally Field captured the emotionally fragile Mary Todd to perfection. The film covers the last four months of Lincoln's life, mainly of his fight to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and the wheeling-dealing that went on behind that. Tommy Lee Jones was quite notable as Thaddeus Stevens as well. I didn't believe that was Joseph Gordon Levitt playing Robert Lincoln; he's come a long way from Third Rock from the Sun! I loved such touches as the rooms being dark to simulate gaslight; only rooms with large windows on sunny days were really bright.

If this movie doesn't get some major Oscar note, I will be very disappointed.

When the movie was finished we headed up to Barnes & Noble to spend the coupons. I hadn't been able to find A Kosher Christmas (Jewish commentary on Christmas) at West Cobb, but I knew the Akers Mill store had it. We weren't here long, since James couldn't find anything, and bought the book and drove up to the Town Center store, where I had seen a book mentioned on "The Splendid Table," Consider the Fork. James ended up getting that one, as well as a new Eat This, Not That and a potluck book, while I bought Paris to the Past, a book of essays about visiting historical sites in France via train from Paris. I wish someone would do a book like this about England!

On the way to the Akers Mill store, we stopped at the RaceTrac gas station to buy a newspaper. There was a big sign outside that said "Free coffee, any size, from December 16 through December 22." This a Christmas customer appreciation promotion. Pity we don't drink coffee! However, they also had hot chocolate, so we treated ourselves—and they treated us, even though it wasn't coffee! That was quite nice.

We had an easy supper: Hormel Beef Tips and gravy over spaetzle, with a cucumber salad and no-sugar-added ice cream bars for dessert, watching Christmas videos on America's Funniest Home Videos, and then recorded versions of Rocket City Rednecks.

Spirits of Christmas, edited by Kathryn Cramer and David Hartwell
This is one of six volumes edited by Hartwell that compiles otherworldly Christmas stories. Some volumes are chiefly science-fiction or fantasy, but this one is definitely a "spirited" volume in which all the stories involve a ghost or hauntings of some kind. Some are by new writers and others are vintage, the lynchpin being Charles Dickens' "The Haunted Man," the last of his Christmas stories. Another vintage story is by Frank Stockton, another sentimental tale of an old couple regretting not having children is by Hildegarde Hawthorne, and yet a third tale involves several college boys, a haunted family estate, and a prank gone wrong. One of my favorites of the newer stories was "Snow Ghosts," about a 90-year-old man whose sojourn to a busy pub turns into a date from the past, and another is "O Come Little Children," in which a boy recognizes a disreputable-looking Santa Claus for who he really is. I found the final two stories rather anticlimactic, but, really, there isn't a bad story in the bunch, and a variety of themes for everyone. Worth checking out!

(Note: if otherworldly Christmases are "your bag," you might try checking out Christmas Stars, which not only contains the story "The Greatest Gift," which is the genesis for the film It's a Wonderful Life, but includes Arthur C. Clarke's famous short story about the origin of the Christmas star.)

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