29 November 2011

Operation Christmas, Part 2

I slept a bit later (8 a.m.), then had a busy day, taking about 20 minutes to have some goat cheese with crackers for lunch, and another half hour break doing some hotel reviews for TripAdvisor. During the day I listened to Christmas CDs: Leroy Anderson, the King's College Choir, Perry Como, and finally the Partridge Family.

I swept and then decorated the porch, including one string of lights so that I could hang the little greetings on the railings, and also put the mailbox cover on.

Then I decorated the foyer, most of the time which was taken up by putting up the miniatures tree, and placed the decorations on the landing. (And got rid of one more timer with pins in it.) I also finished packing up the Thanksgiving decorations, but I need James to help me put the box up. (I brought the Rudolph tree box—which also has some other decorations in it—upstairs and I wish I hadn't. Shoulder. Ouch.)

I also cleaned off the mantel, and packed up the rest of the "ordinary" fall decorations (the ones that stay up all year round) for storage in the laundry room—it gets crowded in there in December and early January!—along with the two tall vases and the "leaf basket" from the hearth. The mantel is now ready for the board to be laid upon it, so I can set up the 1940s Christmas village. I love blank pallets, but everything now looks very bare!

I had a surprise today! Yesterday I ordered the book Harry Potter: Page to Screen, which I have been coveting for weeks and which I found on Amazon for half off.

It was delivered today! What a distraction while trying to decorate!

It was as gloomy outside as it was sunny inside: chill, rainy (up north in Blue Ridge in the north Georgia mountains, they had snow), and grey. A perfect day to decorate, actually, with no temptations to go outside.

Sort of like summer. :-)

28 November 2011

Operation Christmas, Part 1

In the past I have taken Thanksgiving week off, which has been nice. However, this year I thought I would get a leg up on the Christmas decorating by taking off Wednesday through Friday of Thanksgiving week and then today and tomorrow.

It was a busy, busy day. I was up at 7:30, had breakfast, and was listening to BBC Radio 4X for the remainder of the day. I put away all the Thanksgiving items from inside; unfortunately I couldn't put the box away because it has been raining all evening and several of the items on the porch were still wet. I went out during a break in the harder rain to take in the banner, the mailbox cover, and the wet things from the porch and put them into the garage to dry. Then I cleaned off all the surfaces in the dining room in prep for decoration; got the table in the hall as well, and cleaned out the foyer until it was a blank slate, down to polishing Mom's tier table and the horse lamp.

I did put up the wreath on the door and the Christmas banner, put up all the window candles and the wreaths on the interior doors, placed the bird wreath on the door out to the deck, and, because I already had the rocker and the Laz-Y-Boy pulled out to clean the divider, put up the decorations on that portion of the room.

The weather has been interesting today. It was warm enough this weekend to wear short sleeves, and was 61°F this morning when I woke up, but a cold front was coming our way. Around noon I had a sandwich and got dressed and went out to Lowes to buy more blue bulbs for the candles. I keep all the Christmas lights on timers, and have been frustrated in the past few years by the older timers I have that are worked with removable pins that tend to get lost. Lowes, I remembered, had smaller timers with pull out clips instead of pins. So I bought three to replace the pin timers.

On the way home, I decided to stop at Home Depot to see what type of Christmas items they had this year. As I walked in the door, I was surprised to see two packs of timers. Not only were these two-packs less expensive than one timer at Lowes, the timers themselves were even smaller. I bought two two-packs and put them on the window candles; they appear to work fine. I have put all the pin-operated timers into the donation bin.

Anyway, in the little over an hour I was out the temperature dropped ten degrees, from 60 to 50, and just as I got in the door, it ticked down to 49. With the wind having picked up, it was a bit "airish" out—I loved it! The house was still so warm from yesterday's weather that I didn't have to change out of sleeveless working clothes until after supper.

James took some chicken strips we had left over (there weren't enough for salad) and combined them with some Classico pasta sauce and sausage tortellini from Costa's Pasta. It was quite good if it did come up on me all night.

My gosh, now they are talking about snow flurries tomorrow morning!

27 November 2011

The First Sunday of Advent

Here's a good primer on the Season of Advent in the Western church: The Season of Advent: Anticipation and Hope. There are links at the right for devotionals, including an Advent calendar in the shape of a Christmas tree with daily readings. Check out the essay about the word "Xmas," which infuriates some people.

Advent is also the beginning of the Liturgical Year.

If you have an Advent wreath it is customary to light the first candle tonight. Traditionally that is a purple candle, although some churches now use blue.

Incidentally, I was so busy I forgot to note Martinmas this year. Here's a nice Wikipedia primer on St. Martin's Day.

Here's a nice piece on the First Sunday of Advent from the Archdiocese of Washington.

Word on Fire's Sermon for November 27.

The Original Christmas Villages

Christmas Village Houses, History of Putzing and Toy Train Layouts

26 November 2011

25 November 2011

Black Friday Fun

Well, there's one good thing about Black Friday being almost half over: we won't have to listen to that loathsome earworm of a jingle that goes to the Kohl's commercial. Barf-o-matic.

I was awakened this morning by my favorite alarm, "Miss Gladys Stevens, age 67, who lives in Omaha, and who makes her living recording voice reminder systems." (It's a sound clip from The Andromeda Strain.) I had all my clothes laid out in the bathroom, so washed my face and dressed quickly, grabbed my phone and Nook out of their chargers, took my coupons from the back of the sofa, tiptoed downstairs to grab my jacket (even though it was 38°F when I left the house, I never used it; too busy going in and out of buildings), and Twilight and I set out on our journey.

It was still like black velvet outside, few cars on the road, mall reports (at 6:45 a.m. they were 70 percent full) instead of traffic reports. I had a little chocolate wafer to munch on, then was eating yogurt at stop lights thereafter—the one at South Cobb Drive is so long you can pretty much consume half a container. Since I had departed home a bit late, I arrived at Office Max about 6:05, but there was nothing to worry about: there were only about seven cars there. I was in and out in less than fifteen minutes, having bought several USB thumb drives in various capacities, including one for James.

If I had any pause this morning, it was feeling as if I was going to be mugged in the Office Depot parking lot. This was my next destination, straight down Cobb Parkway from Office Max, and the lot was in almost Stygian darkness. Heck, they didn't even have the store sign on. However inside the store it was quite lively (about twenty cars outside). I bought what I came there for...sorry! [in my best River Song voice] spoilers!...plus a little flashlight for my car and—hurrah!—2012 desk blotters for only $6. I like to have them for work and they aren't supplied anymore; when I tried to buy one at Christmas last year they were $13.99! Aieeeee! Luckily, by the end of January they were down to $5, so I got one then.

And thus ended my "must have" purchases.

I was in a hurry, because it was 6:30 by then and Cost Plus World Market opened at seven. I expected a line, but there was nobody there yet. A bit surprised—well, maybe not surprised, since the "crowd" at Heritage Pointe was almost non-existent and not even Ross had a lot of cars parked in front—I dashed into Anna's Linen, only to find out with all that bedding they don't carry flannel sheets, and then went into Michaels with my 25 percent off total purchase coupon. I got some trees and a snowman for the Christmas village and a couple of things from the dollar bins.

This barely got me to 6:50, when I crossed the parking lot back to World Market, intending to read my Nook, but people were going in. The employees were looking at each other, puzzled, because neither of them had unlocked the door! But I got what I came there for, the free Tintin and Snowy ornament that was accompanied by a free movie ticket!

Then shopped about a bit, buying some stocking stuffers and baking supplies, and actually finding some baker's twine.

Now up to Town Center via I-75 and US 41. I was headed for Bed, Bath & Beyond to spend a couple of coupons, but by then the one container of yogurt and the one wafer of chocolate and one gulp of milk had worn quite off and I wandered around the store feeling a bit light-headed. So I left—the coupons are good through Monday—and went on to JoAnn, eating a bag of Planters trail mix on the way. This revived me for a walk around the store, where I had one 50 percent off coupon and a lovely 25 percent off everything (including sale items!) to spend. So mostly what I bought were sale items: some bushes for the village, a light for the bookstore village piece I bought last week, some replacement bulbs, a piece of material to cover the "pantry bookcase" I set up downstairs (it's the same red gingham as the shirt Timmy used to wear on Lassie), some cording, some charms, and three magazines. Got some evenweave cloth for cross-stitching with the 50 percenter.

My best buy was a Cropper Hopper Rolling Organizer. This is regularly $90 and they had it on sale for $35...plus I had the 25 percent off coupon! It will help me clear up the clutter in my craft room although it will take up space; at least I can move it when I need to.

I stopped at Michaels next door before I realized the coupon I have started at noon and by then I intended to be home. However, I did buy a couple of berried picks to act as "antlers" for one of the wooden deer that we have in the front yard at Christmas. It originally had fresh holly for antlers, but that has faded, and I don't know where to get more of it. Hence the berries and pine to act as antlers for "Holly."

Then I came home, stopping only briefly for gasoline (it was 3.099).

And now instead of napping I have had some oatmeal, assembled my rolling organizer, and am listening to a three-hour BBC radio special on Sherlock Holmes.

I really, really need more sleep. LOL...

How You Know It's Christmas

The television commercials change!

A classic: Hershey's Kisses "Bells"

Kraft "Different Snack for Santa"

Coca-Cola "Snow Globes" 2010 (warning: this is a bit loud)

Coca-Cola Christmas "Trucks"

(How did Coca-Cola get hooked to Santa Claus? No, it wasn't because Coke red and Santa suit red were the same color. Coca-Cola was once considered only a refreshing cold summer drink. They wanted folks to drink it all year round. What better way than to show Santa Claus having a refreshing drink of Coca-Cola after his run?)

A true Christmas commercial classic: Coca-Cola "Hilltop"

Folgers Coffee: "Peter" (the original!)

Publix "Working on Christmas"

Check out the face of the baby! Publix "Conspiracy"

24 November 2011

A Happy Thanksgiving Day

I skinned out of bed at quarter to nine to get a paper. While it struck me as slightly silly, as I could look through all the Black Friday ads online, I always like to get physical reference.

As I looked through the paper I watched the Macy's Thanksgiving parade. Much fun as always, and a great bit from the Broadway musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying starring Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette. The parade had a good variety of acts, including Neil Diamond singing "Coming to America." Didn't think much of the Tim Burton balloon, but then I'm not a Burton fan.

Following was the National Dog Show—a wire-haired fox terrier won; a mostly white one. Is it the year of Snowy? :-)

Then we gathered up the trash to put it out before taking our contributions—a sweet potato pie and corn casserole—to the Lucyshyns for Thanksgiving dinner. There was a full house of people, and we ate, chatted, watched football and skating, looked at Daniel's new Nook Tablet, and finally had dessert. We left a little after seven and wandered our long dark way home while listening to a Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me from a few weeks ago. When we went in the bedroom to change, I could hear music playing because I had left NPR on. It was Beethoven's Sixth...and just hearing that made me want to play The White Seal, which uses that lovely piece to such good effect. So I did...and A Cricket in Times Square, too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thought I'd try something a bit different in "Thanksgiving" poetry with a little Gerard Manley Hopkins:

"Hurrahing in Harvest"

SUMMER ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise
   Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
   Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?

I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
   Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
   And, éyes, heárt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
   Majestic—as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet!—
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
   Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
   And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.

"Pied Beauty"

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and lough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, im;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                              Praise him.

22 November 2011

An Autumn Sojourn

It wasn't a willing one, but at least part of it was pleasant!

I took my Thanksgiving leave a little bit differently this year, so that I was at work today. In hindsight, this may have been a mistake, as many people take Wednesday off and leave early on Tuesday. The roads were already a wreck by two o'clock and by quitting time the traffic map online was turning colors not seen in nature. (Who knew there was a redder red for hopelessly snarled traffic? I didn't want to see it turn purple!) So naturally I had to come home via surface streets.

The weather had been unpleasantly warm and still at lunchtime when I emerged from the building (thankfully the sun was mostly obscured by clouds or it would have been much warmer than the mid 70s), but a breeze was building up by the time lunch was over, tossing pine straw and the odd acorn from the trees. The breeze was still playing about the fading leaves as I left work.

This surface-street route takes a while, but is generally rewarding. The first part of the route takes me through Dresden Drive, which is now a mix of older homes and new development. The streets were already outlined with rows of brittle, brown leaves, with a broken line of crushed leaves in the center of the road.

Once having crossed Peachtree Road, I am in my favorite portion of the ride, driving through the Brookhaven neighborhood. Again, this is an old neighborhood where older homes are gradually being remodeled or struck down for newer homes. The designs are varied, from low ranch homes to one French plantation reproduction, to saltbox or Georgian-fronted edifices. My favorite are the stone and brick houses that look to me like English hunting lodges. I have one in particular I'm very fond of, in a warm, dark brown stone, and it looks like it's finally been purchased. Oh, how I would love to decorate it, especially at Christmas, imagining it in holly swags and wreaths with bright red ribbons! I love my home, but I've never gotten over my "English hunting lodge" envy (or my Craftsman home envy, either). Here again, the gutters were overflowing with thick ribbons of browning leaves, as I left Brookhaven and drove along Windsor Road and finally into Chastain Park.

By now the sky was grey and lowering. The autumn color has definitely faded everywhere, and Chastain Park was merely an obstacle course of speed bumps and cars jockeying for parking spaces for an after-work walk. The final pleasant part of the ride was down Mount Paran Road, where a few more "English hunting lodges" were passed—including the one with the waterfall out front! "Mr. Inflatable," our name for the guy on the corner of the pretentious neighborhood near the end of Mount Paran, appeared not to have his decorations out yet, and had nothing for Thanksgiving! However, one big white house was already decked out with thousands of white lights and snowflake-shaped light ornaments, which shone out brightly as it became darker.

Then it started to rain and the rest of the sojourn was more like a miserable trudge for the car, while I roasted inside (since I had to close the windows) until I finally surrendered and put the air conditioner on.

15 November 2011

Old Advent

Did you know that at one time the season of Advent was as long as Lent?

Where Lent was a preparation period for Easter, so Advent was for Christmas. For forty days, starting on November 15, you were to meditate on the idea of the son of God coming to earth as an ordinary baby, to grow as all men did. Not an omnipotent God from on high, but a regular man who needed physical sustenance to survive, a mother's love, a father's guidance, friends to play with, as well as the awareness of his own purpose. The long days of Advent are there for us to ponder that miracle and that of our own existence.

More than likely many have been preparing for Christmas already, from the first time the hint of a Christmas commercial—the Glade Christmas candle ads began in mid-October!—started a frantic routine of buying gifts, getting a jump on holiday menus, decorating the home. But is that what Christmas is really all about? I for one love buying or making gifts for those I love. I have friends whose very delight is to deck every house corner with Chritmas color and glow and glitter. Others I know take pleasure in baking days to provide a lovely spread on their dining table. And there it is all well and good, have you the funds and the energy to do so.

But so much of Christmas appears to be an obligatory one if one is to believe not only the advertising rammed at you from every corner but the yearly complaints from every quarter...you MUST buy this gift to show love, you MUST make this cake and those cookies decorated just so to be the perfect hostess, your decorations must be of a certain caliber.

Whether or not you also celebrate Christmas as the birth of a Savior or just as a secular feast, Christmas is about LOVE. Not the quantity of the gifts or the food, but about the love shown by sharing, whether food, gifts, or yourself. Let Advent be your time to prepare for a Christmas that you love, then enjoy Christmastide itself, not just December 25, but the rest of the holiday as well. Think, plan, consider, read, meditate, pray if you so choose...but enjoy!

07 November 2011

You Know That Old Myth About Suicides and the Holidays?

It's just that, a myth.

From Health.com: "Most people think the winter holidays are a risky time, but suicides are lowest in December and peak in the spring."