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!

15 November 2018

How About A Feast Pig?

"The first piggy banks were part of European children's preparations for Christmas. The children were taught to save their coins in earthenware "feast pigs," which were to be opened as part of the Christmas Day celebrations. A modern version of this tradition could encourage the family to save money for Christmas. The collected coins might be used for a special Christmas offering or sharing project. Rinsed-out bleach bottles or papier-mâché layered over an inflated balloon, can be transformed into great "feast pigs." Adding cork legs and decorating with acrylic paints or scraps of felt or calico will give each pig its own personality!"

from Celebrate the Wonder: A Family Christmas Treasury 

Here's a "feast pig" made from a plastic milk jug. Your pig need not be pink; a Christmas pig could be red and green, or blue and covered with snowflakes. Glitter will make him—or her!—shine. The money raised could be donated to Toys for Tots or some other children's charity. 

11 November 2018


Celebrated on November 11, "Martinmas" is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, a Roman shoulder who showed kindness to a barely-clad poor man by giving him half of his voluminous Roman cloak. In a dream, Martin found out the "beggar" he had helped was Jesus Christ in disguise, who had baptized him as a Christian. He later became a bishop.

Martinmas was originally the beginning of a fasting season that lasted from November 11 through the Epiphany (forty days, like Lent, with Saturday and Sunday as free from fasting). This period has been known as "Old Advent." Later, Advent was shortened to the four-week period it holds now, although some Christian churches are calling for a return to the forty-day fasting period as in Lent.

A traditional food for Martinmas is roast goose. It was said Martin, a modest man, did not feel himself worthy to be a bishop, so he hid from the elders sent to inform him of the appointment by secreting himself in a goose pen. However, the honking and chattering of the goose gave him away.

St. Martin is traditionally shown riding a white horse (probably a dapple grey horse that has grown white with age), and the saying "St. Martin is coming on his white horse" is used in some European countries to indicate that it is going to snow. Agriculturally, St. Martin's Day represents the first day of winter, so the saying is very apt.

Martinmas is still celebrated extensively in Europe, especially Germany and eastern European countries. The Germans light bonfires in his honor. Beef can also be a traditional meal on Martinmas since, as the beginning of winter, you would have to dispassionately calculate how many animals you could support during the cold season, so cows, pigs, sheep, and other livestock might be slaughtered and preserved at Martinmas so others would survive and so the humans would have food to eat during a time of year when crops did not grow.

Armistice Day

Today in the United States we call this date Veterans Day as it celebrates the veterans who have served in all the armed forces (Memorial Day is our day for all those who died in performance of their duty). The British celebrate this day as Remembrance Day and have an annual ceremony at the Cenotaph, their memorial to the dead of the first World War.

This year, of course, is special as it is the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended "the Great War." At "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month," the rifles and grenades and artillery went silent. I had the great pleasure of being able to watch the British ceremony at the Cenotaph this morning via Britbox. It was lovely, a beautiful day with no rain, and after all the dignitaries and various service groups and associated service groups marched, 10,000 people who are "just folks," not famous at all, followed marching for an ancestor who was involved with the war, just to commemorate them. So touching.

I walked the dog this morning under a beautiful sky, able to do so because of the people who have served, and continue to serve, their country in military service. Yesterday I bought a poppy from a veteran, who thanked me for buying it. I didn't do anything but sit around on my fanny. THANK YOU.

Armistice Day Definition

"The Day The Guns Fell Silent"

How it might have sounded when the guns went silent.

British Remembrance Day Ceremony in Pictures