December 29th, 2017
It's almost here, my friends. Another year, nearly done. Hard to believe that 52 weeks have passed since the last time we talked about this. Does it feel like 365 days to you? That means that we each had eight thousand, seven hundred and sixty hours to do all the things that we said that we would do. Did you get it all done? I sure didn't.
Funny how despite how long it seems that a year stretches before me, I never seem to have all the time that I feel that I need. And as I get older (and we all do!) the less time I seem to have. I do not have a "bucket list" per se. Nothing so formal as that which is odd because I do love lists! But there are things that I would like to do. Like finish the reno on this house, for example. It will happen, I'm sure of that. It's just a matter of when. On the other hand, I am not certain that any house is ever really done. There is always something we would like to do: a new colour to put on the walls, a replacement of a broken window, new toss pillows to freshen up a room, different curtains, a change up in the garden perhaps.
It's all in how you look at it. A difference in attitude, in perspective I suppose, is what changes a future from gloomy to hopeful. Attitude is what changes a situation from obstacle to opportunity. Not to put too Pollyanna of a spin on things but let's say, my car battery dies. Is that 'Oh no! What a disaster?" or is it "Ok I can walk to most everything I need to do and frankly, I could use the exercise". I saw my broken pastry board as "oh bummer. No cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning", Tim saw it as, "Aha! I know what to wow her with for Christmas this year", Perspective.
This is something that our media takes huge advantage of, by the way. Depending on the perspective each media source chooses to use, the exact same situation can be reported as a good thing, a mediocre things, a bad thing or a disastrous thing. Which of those choices do you think "sells more papers?" as they used to say. Back when news media was primarily print there was a saying, "If it bleeds, it leads". They wanted drama. They needed it to sell their papers to be a major player. And you had to be a major player to sell enough expensive advertising space to make enough money to get ahead. And it is only in getting ahead that their board of directors is happy. Which means giving the public what they want. And what they seem to want is Drama with a capitol D. In our humdrum little lives, people seem to crave it. The general public seems to thrive on controversy, Why do you think Soap Operas have thrived, first on radio and then on television? Drama!
When I was young and foolish, I thought media reporting was all predicated on fact. Simply reporting facts. Presenting situations exactly as they happened with no editorializing or shading or leaning in one direction or another. How naïve. I know better now. Which is why, when I read the papers or the online news or hear it on television or radio. Or even word of mouth, I nothing at face value. I ask questions instead. Lots of questions. If I'm interested enough, I will even do some research on my own. I have completely ignored all of the 2017 retrospectives that have been in the paper the past few days. Because when I read it, I feel sad and a little angry and the part that annoys me the most, I feel hopeless.
The future looks bleak if you whole heartedly believe everything we are told. And I refuse to live that way. So I don't blindly agree with any of them. I doubt and I question and I use the grey matter in my head to think things through and come up with conclusions of my own. I refuse to be spoon fed by anyone. And ultimately, I have great hope for my own future, the future of our country, the world, this planet and the universe. I am very optimistic, in fact. And I hope you are too. I believe if we were all a little more positive, a little more hopeful, it could change things.
So on that note I wish you all a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous and Optimistic New Year!~
However you choose to ring the New Year in, have fun and be safe.
December 28th, 2017
We had a small fatality over the Christmas holiday. My pastry board. So very sad. And the worst of it is that it was entirely my fault. Butterfingers!! Nobody to blame but myself.
On Friday of last week and in plenty of time for Christmas Eve, I thought it would be a perfectly splendid idea to make a centerpiece for our holiday dinner. And knowing me as we all do, of course I wanted to make the centerpiece out of cookies!!! You see, middle son and his lovely bride gave me these 3-D cookie cutters that I had been dying to try out. Honestly, it was just an excuse. But a great one.
So I made my favorite sugar cookie recipe, rolled out the dough, and duly cut all the various pieces and baked them. While all these adorable little bits and pieces were cooking on the racks I began cleaning up so that I could move on to part two of the mess making which would be making the icing and decorating said bits and pieces. I fussed and I tidied and I cleaned and the last thing I did was clean my pastry board. I'm very particular about how I clean my pastry board but finally it was done and ready to be put away.
I tend to move quickly. Especially in a multi-step process (which most cooking and baking is). While doing one thing, my brain is always several steps ahead and that is the only thing I can think of that made it happen. Somehow while lifting the pastry board from the counter and turning and beginning to walk back to the pantry where the pastry board lives between projects, I dropped it. It was in my hands and then it was on the floor in 3, fairly neatly broken pieces.
The noise it made reverberated through the house and through my head. I just stood their stupidly starring at the pieces on the floor as if it was a puzzle of unfathomable solution. The sound was alarming enough that it brought Tim rushing out of his office to be sure I was all right. He starred at me and then the broken pieces on the floor and then at me again. "Are you okay?" he asked. "I'm fine," I croaked, "And it looks like a clean break. Do you think it will heal?" We both cracked up and I picked the pieces up and stacked them by the utility room door in a practical fashion but I was actually very sad.
First of all, I had more Christmas baking plans. I was going to make cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning for one thing. What's Christmas morning without home made cinnamon buns?? It's a long standing tradition in our family. It's sad, that's what it is. And I thought about all the many things that board had helped me make.
Countless dozens of cookies of course. Sugar cookies, molasses cookies, butter cookies and gingerbread men among others. But also pie crusts of every stripe; fruit pies, chocolate pies and chicken pot pies my dears. We won't even try to count the batches of various sorts of biscuits and rolls. And the sheer volume of loaves of bread. Oatmeal bread, whole wheat bread, white bread and pepperoni bread me oh my the list goes on and on. It's like losing a faithful servant or your most worthy assistant. I felt worse about the end of my pastry board than I ever did about a vacuum cleaner dying (which also happened last week).
I went ahead and finished the cookies. The centerpiece was darling by the way. I am not a great cookie decorator but it was still adorable.
So, no matter how sad I was about the loss of my beloved pastry board life moves forward and we move with it. Especially during a busy busy time of year like Christmas. So much to do, so much to do.
Well, Christmas morning finally came. We slept late, had muffins for breakfast. It's not cinnamon rolls, but not bad. Finally we sat under the tree like little kids and opened our gifts to each other. As I've said here before, we only do stocking gifts for each other. Although, we do play a little fast and loose with the rules on that and generally speaking, there is always something that doesn't fit in the stocking. So we finished opening everything and I started cleaning up when Tim says that there is one more gift for me. "Oh?" I said, my interest piqued. I looked around under the tree. and see nothing but bits of wrapping paper and ribbon. "It's in this room" Tim said with a grin, "And it's actually been in this room since Saturday afternoon" I looked around the room and see, well the things that always are in the room. I looked at Tim with confusion. "I guess I'm a terrible housekeeper" I laughed, "Because I cleaned yesterday and I didn't see anything different than usual". I looked more intently around the room with narrowed eyes.
Finally Tim took pity on me and from behind an end table he pulls out an enormous box. With great excitement I opened the box and, well, let me introduce you to my new favorite inhabitant of my pantry:
It is ENORMOUS! Thick, heavy and with this terribly clever lip that fits over the edge of the countertop to hold it in place. I LOVE my new pastry board. I can't wait to take it on it's maiden voyage. What a wonderful surprise. It turns out that when Tim walked back into his office after seeing that I was fine and only the old pastry board took a header, he immediately ordered me a new one. My hero!
I am still a little sad about my old pastry board but I am so excited about my new one. Does that mean I'm fickle? Or just practical? Regardless, I'm happyhappy. And I bet that I will be making those cinnamon rolls after all but for New Years breakfast instead. New Traditions!
December 26th, 2017
So now Christmas is over for another year. I hope yours was memorable and a whole lot of fun. Ours was certainly was. This was our festive Christmas Eve celebration group. Joy & her beau, Bob and Tim & I got together again in what is turning out to be a new Christmas Tradition.
I'm going to take a tiny moment here for a quick question. How many times does it take of doing essentially the same thing on the same day before it becomes tradition? Anybody know?
Anyway, Christmas Eve we had a good, though slightly non-traditional meal, saw a movie, walked in the arboretum to enjoy the lights and then returned home to have dessert and then opened our stocking presents. And we all had a really good time. What was the best part? Hmmmm.
I was going to say that opening presents is the best part but that's honestly not true. Maybe every part is the best part. It was a good meal. I love to cook and I especially love to cook for a group of people. I dearly love to bake and would love to bake every day. But my waistline cannot afford that so having people here to enjoy it with us is a great excuse for me to do something I already adore doing. Baking. So that maybe is the best part. Oh wait, the movie was really good. And the Christmas lights at the arboretum is wonderful. It's at least a little different every time and walking around the entire park marveling at the lights transports me back to being a little girl and driving around whatever town we lived in at the time oogling at the magic that the Christmas lights create is a wonderful thing. Maybe that's the best part.
There is no getting around the fact that we save the stockings for last. It is the grand finale and the entire "save the best for last" concept rings true here. But even that isn't the best part. The best part is what we did the most. And mostly what we did that night was laugh. We laughed so hard, our faces hurt. You know you are laughing a lot when it involves nose blowing and mascara smears. This did.
But the stockings were pretty awesome. We fill stockings for each other. Joy and Bob create stockings for Tim and I and vice versa. And the guys get really involved in this process too. It isn't one of those situations where the ladies do it all and the guys share half credit. Nope. We all take this very semi-seriously. I can only get so serious filling a Christmas stocking. It's meant to be fun. In the photo, Bob is wearing some of what was in his stocking. Bob gets the whole Christmas stocking idea! You have to embrace it whole heartedly. He absolutely did.
You see, a perfect Christmas stocking has a kind of balance to it. Some the ingredients should be silly, some should be practical, some should be edible and some should be Wow. The items should come from a variety of different sources. We found things at craft shows, at the dollar store, at the Brighton store, at the grocery store, a donut shop, a stationary store, a gift shop and lord knows where else. We started accumulated our Christmas Stocking stash over the summer. Not every day, not even every week, just here and there as some item struck us as a great idea.
Our new Christmas tradition kind of evolved on it's own. It wasn't something we set out to do, it just kind of happened last year. And we had such a good time, we decided to do it again this year. I'm not a betting fool, but in this case, I think there is a pretty good chance that we will do it again next year.
If you enjoyed your Christmas even a fraction as much as we did, you had a pretty darned good holiday!~
Happy Day after Christmas to you!
December 22nd, 2017
'Twas just a few little days before Christmas and all through the entire world, those folks who celebrate Christmas are scurrying around trying to finish up everything that needs to be done before December 25th.
I know everyone is just crazybusy right now. So I won't take up too much of your time today. Just wanted to take a moment to wish you all a wonderful Christmas, however you celebrate it. I hope that Santa brings you whatever you most hoped for and that your Christmas is memorable and wonderful and filled with happy laughter, good food, great fun and a few quiet, reflective moments of peace.
I like to get up a little earlier than anyone else who is in my house Christmas morning, turn the lights on the tree and just sit there in the quiet. It is a magical few moments somehow that makes me happy in a calm sort of way.
I hope in the midst of the chaos and the mess and the noise, you find at least a couple of minutes that are just yours to spend in whatever way bring you back to center.
Sending Happy Wishes to you all and lots of love
I'll be back next week!
December 21st, 2017
There is a long standing rule in our family that is Christmas related: You don't buy anything for yourself from October through Christmas Day unless it is absolutely necessary. It's a good rule. It prevents all those duplication issues. Y'know, if someone is paying attention and a person idly and innocently says something while getting ready for the day, like, "All my socks are either holey or the elastic is stretched out" Aha! It'll be a new sock Christmas! Or perhaps it's more while listening to the radio in the car like, "Y'know, I really like Lady Gaga" and then it's CD's in the Christmas stocking for sure! Picking up on those sorts of hints dropped (consciously or subconsciously) is key for a happy surprise Christmas morning. And all that is kind of spoiled when a person says, "my pot holders are crappy I should buy new ones" and then goes out and buys them and then also finds them wrapped in glossy paper and ribbons under the tree. See what I mean?
Hence, the rule. I have always adhered to the rule. I gently chastise those who to not adhere to the rule. So what is the deal with this brand new little tree in the house? It's adorable, sure. I never actually said that I wanted one, true but I didn't know that it existed before. And it was on the clearance table in the back of the store, okay, valid point. BUT, still I broke the sacred don't buy anything for yourself Christmas rule. I hang my head in shame.
I actually first saw this little tree about a month ago when I began to start thinking about Christmas shopping. I meandered around town, popping in and out of all the little shops, making mental notes and buying a few things here and there to tuck away for later. It really caught my eye. You know how that happens. A shop filled with wonderful things but there is just one thing that really draws you in. I loved it immediately and tried to think of who else might feel the same way. I knew of someone who might like it (besides me I mean) but I was very concerned about shipping it successfully unbroken. I know how to package cookies for shipping. I mean what's the worst that's going to happen if cookie gets broken? A gingerbread man tastes the same with or without an arm afterall. But this little tree broken would just not be the same. So I sadly walked away. But it stayed in the back of my mind as I shopped on.
Two days ago I did the last of my shopping. The final bits of this'n'that for Tim's stocking. And as I passed the storefront where this little tree was first seen, I couldn't stop myself from going in to visit it. It was just as appealing it was the first time I saw it and I knew it belonged in our house. That is kind of different for me. Generally speaking stuff is just y'know, "stuff". It's nice but not essential to my existence unless it is a gift from someone else. Then it has real value because it represents that person to me. And THAT is a treasure beyond measure. (which I guess explains why I rarely ever buy anything for myself)
So I tried to convince myself that Tim needed it. Sure, I'd put it in his stocking and ....... no that didn't work. I knew better. While he would be gracious if I gave it to him, I knew he would wonder what the heck I was thinking (secretly of course). Because the truth of the matter is, it wasn't a gift for Tim, it was a gift for me. I read somewhere once that a gift should reflect the giver. I initially thought that I liked that idea, but it's not always great for the recipient. I mean, if the giver is a huge Elvis fan and gives everyone Elvis stuff but the recipients can't stand Elvis...what is the point?
Well, I bought the little tree. I brought it home, still unsure what I was going to do with it. Should I give it to my sister? I'm sure she would love it. But deep in my heart of hearts, I wanted it. And I don't even know why. I just know that for some reason, this silly little tree speaks to me. I even acknowledge that giving it to someone else would be a bigger and more important gesture specifically because it's something that I want for myself. And still, there it is, sitting on a table in the family room, looking so damned cute I can hardly stand it.
I broke the rule. The very important Christmas rule. I bought a gift for myself. And you know what? I'm not even going to apologize. I love that silly little tree and I will continue to love it all the years down the road. And when I unpack all the decorations that have been gifts to me over the years, as I do every year, saying to myself as I go, " Joy gave me that one, The kids gave me this one, That one was from Marsha, that one from Jamie, that one from April..." Now I will also say, "And I gave me this one" as I unwrap my tree. And I will be happy about it all over again.
Oh and I found it that it lights up too!
December 20th, 2017
The A very long time ago now, there was a song, "Tie a yellow ribbon 'round the old oak tree". I don't remember who popularized it but everyone knew it and there were a lot of "plays" on the idea of tying a particular colour of ribbon around a tree. This is not that.
The second time we saw this house, before buying it, I noticed a couple of things that I brought to the realtor's attention. One was that there was no mail box. The other was this particular tree and it's two brothers behind it. Generally speaking I like trees. I love the green, I love that it's a living thing, I love that it provides home and perch for birds and bugs and lizards and squirrels, I love the shade it provides on a hot day and well. yes I am a fan. But I was not a huge fan of these trees.
For one thing, that peelie looking bark didn't look healthy. "The poor thing looks like it's molting. Is that normal?" I believe I asked. And further there were hardly any leaves. Just a few paltry ones here and there. There were many branches that had no leaves at all and this just doesn't speak to me of a healthy, hearty foliage. I pointed that out to him as well. Then, too, was the fact that these enormously tall trees' branches had grown up into the power lines. That is never a good thing. I absolutely did not want to be responsible for us or anyone else to lose power.
I mentioned my concerns, as I said, to the realtor guy. He assured me that yes the peelie looking bark was normal for this particular tree, that the amount of leaves was also normal (not true by the way) and if we chose this house, I could call the power company to come out and trim the tree from around the powerlines. " They do it all the time", he assured me. "They are happy to do it." He had no opinion about the lack of mailbox.
It turned out that we did buy this house of course and those two piddly items were not deal-breakers. In fact we didn't even bring it up during price negotiations. Tim put up a mailbox right away (and then when an out of control car knocked it two a few months later put up a second one) and the tree just went on the back burner.
After the hurricane this past September though we thought about the tree again. Fortunately it did not knock down any power lines. There was tree debris for days from all the trees on our property and around us of course, but especially from those trees. (our post-hurricane power outage turned out to be from power lines down on the road behind us. Ironically also from trees that hadn't been trimmed). Interestingly, losing so many branches made it all the more apparent how entwined the tree was with the power lines. We fretted awhile and then I went online to try to contact the power company to "have them trim the tree" as I was told they would be happy to do.
I could not find a contact link or any information regarding power lines and tree trimming anywhere on their website. I called the general number (which was hard to find by the way) and their phone message was long, confusing, maddening and sadly unhelpful. I gave up. Tim tried. He gave up. Shortly thereafter, as it so happened, a gentleman came by asking if we were interested in having his company take down any trees. Seems he had been working next door and spied our problem trees. He and Tim talked and the decision was made. Trees were to come down.
It was fascinating to watch the process. And the trees came down surprisingly fast. They had all the safety equipment which always makes me feel better. Cherry pickers to go up high and trim carefully around the powerlines and then they followed up by cutting off some of the larger outlier branches. Then another fellow with picks on his books and a strap around his body shinnied up the tree with a chain saw and with a lot of noise and sawdust in the air made short work of the trees one by one leaving only the merest of stumps behind.
Our heros! They did a great job, they did it quickly and they tidied up nicely afterward. We were suitably impressed.
Yes, I like trees as much or perhaps even more than the average person, but these trees had to go. From this point forward if there is a power outage anywhere near us, don't look at us. Not Our Fault!
December 19th, 2017
So obviously I did a wee bit of outside decorating for Christmas finally. As we long ago established, I'm not actually very good at it. But my heart is in the right place even if my talent is not. And I have to keep reminding myself that "less is more" when it comes to some things. Not Christmas Trees however. When it comes to trees, More is More. In fact, as far as Christmas Tree decorating goes, as I've said before, Too Much Is Just Enough! But with other decorating, even Christmas decorating, easy does it. I think I have met the criteria. It's just enough to make me smile when I look at it.
However. we recently did a Christmas lights drive around and in the next town, about 10 minutes away, we found a house that clearly did not get that memo. There were cars lining both sides of the road the entire length of the street. Adults and small children walking down the road, which is very hazardous on a narrow road lined with parked cars and moving traffic as well, trying to get closer to this Griswoldian sight. I'm told that the intent is for visitors to do a walk-through, not merely a drive-by but we declined. We merely goggled as we drove by (in both directions - it required a repeat) and marveled at it. This photo is only a teensy portion of what we saw as we drove by. There was a lot more to see:
There were layers to this spectacle! It just went on and on and on and ON! And it was awesome in its over-the-topness! All I could say was, "Oh my" as we passed it, turned around and passed it again. "Mercy!". I very sincerely promise you, this sort of decorating will never ever be done by me.
And for a number of reasons 1) I'm way too cheap. Can you even begin to imagine how much it costs first to buy all these decorations and then to power them through the season? No, no and no. 2) Not really a fan of being the center of attention. Not even by extension. 3) I don't have the technical know-how. The music and lights are all controlled by computers and special this and that gadgets and do-dads that I nothing of and most importantly 4) way too much work. I can't imagine how much time and effort goes into putting together a set up like this and I am tired just thinking about it. And then after the holiday it has to come back down! Not going to happen. I am far too lazy. And it just occurred to me 5) where on earth do they store all this stuff the rest of the year?
Anyway, it was fun to see but I'm happy with my little white twinkle lights, the teensy faux wreath on the gate and the tiny gathering of Christmassy stuff amassed in the planters. I'm calling my decorating done.
However, while I'm absolutely never going to be the person with the huge Christmas show in their yard and honestly I feel a little bit sorry for their neighbors, I am so glad that someone else celebrates and decorates in a BIG sort of way.
This is just a guess here, but I suspect that people who decorate this big also have big hearts. Thank you Big Decoration people! And wishes for a very Merry Christmas. I'm pretty sure that is already on their list.
December 18th, 2017
Yesterday Tim and I celebrated our 24th Anniversary! Today is the actual day that, nearly a quarter of a century ago, we vowed to love and cherish 'til death do we part. But yesterday was a weekend and a better choice for celebrating. We are flexible if nothing else.
Anyway, Tim likes to surprise me. He is the King of all surprisers. I already knew that something was going to happen because he wrote on my calendar, "Stuff All Day". Which is vague but enough to know that I shouldn't plan anything else because that day was bespoken. I asked for hints. No hints. I asked what should I wear? He strongly suggested clothes but if I was more comfortable in pajamas, that was okay with him. Even Sunday morning as we were sitting over breakfast at our favourite Breakfast restaurant, Flapjacks, asking for any teensy tiny little bitty glimmer of an idea, I got.....nothin'. He can be stubborn. He smiles just a tiny bit and proclaims that he has no idea what I could possibly be talking about.
But of course eventually, I always find out. And as always, his surprises are totally worth waiting for. You saw the tickets. Trans Siberian Orchestra, people! Awesomely Awesome. The best show ever! I was so excited!!!!!
Of course the performance was in Tampa so it's a little bit of a drive, but worth it. We don't really know our way around Tampa except the airport but thank goodness for GPS. Found the arena, found nearby parking, found our way in and our excellent seats. Oddly enough, the lady sitting next to us also lives in Venice (though not on the island) and arrived here by way of Connecticut! That was "small world" serendipity for sure. We passed the time until the show started talking about both Connecticut and Florida.
And then.......the show.....began.........
I cannot even describe Trans Siberian Orchestra to anyone who hasn't experienced it. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. See if this helps at all:
It's music, kind of a mashup of classical and rock and blues and jazz, and it's a light show and a laser show. It's pyrotechnics and it's a story and it's constant controlled chaos. The performers are everywhere on the stage and then they are on a catwalk above the stage and then they are running up and down the aisles and then they are on platforms that move around. It's crazy but it's wonderful.
They do a long show, about two and a half straight hours! But the time flies by and then suddenly it's over and we had to leave. So with the music still in our heads, we stopped on the way home and had a lovely Anniversary Dinner (the desert for which is still in the 'fridge - just too full to eat it last night!). And then, because it just wasn't enough, we listened to TSO CD's the rest of the way home. Awesome.
If you haven't yet had the opportunity to go to a show, I strongly suggest that you at least consider it the next time they play anywhere near where you live. You will, like me, be surprised in a wonderful way.
Happy Anniversary to us! 24 fabulous years together and plenty more to come.
December 15th, 2017
Despite photographic evidence to the contrary (teehee) I am no angel. I mean, I try to be good. I really sincerely to try. I just don't always succeed.
Since I was a little girl, each night before I fall asleep I kind of mentally review my day. I feel grateful for everything positive and I make note of the things I could do better. And every night, I vow that tomorrow, I will try harder. And I mean it sincerely when I say it.
And still, after all these years, I am not yet the person I would like to be. I need to be more patient. I need to be more disciplined. I need to listen more than speak. I need to be more thoughtful, more considerate, more generous. And I will continue to work on this massive Sam-project as my life moves forward.
But I still will not make any New Year's resolutions. As we near the end of 2017, I know that I'm supposed to start thinking about that list. But I refuse to do it. While I am quite aware of my failings, thank you, and I know that I am an eternal work in progress, I stubbornly will not obey an arbitrarily chosen date to deadline myself to a certain behavior. That smacks of futility. I do not want to start a brand new year listing my numerous flaws, promising to once and for all be done with all of them and then immediately lose that battle. Too Depressing for words.
Rather, I would like to focus on positives.
I try very hard to be kind. And I will try even harder in this new year. I try very hard to eat goodies in moderation. And I will work on that even more in 2018. I exercise at least a little bit every day. Next year, I will try to increase that bit a little more.
Kind of like that.
Realistic expectations is the secret to happiness. I think being happy should be at the top of everyone's goal list for every year.
I am no angel. But I'm trying very hard to be the best human I can be. Next year, I will try a little bit harder.
December 14th, 2017
So I started decorating the tree yesterday. Wow, that's a job eh?
First I have to remember where all the stuff is. I mean, I know it's all in the utility room.....somewhere. Some of it is in clearly marked bins but other stuff is in random boxes of all shapes and sizes. Apparently I utilized whatever was at hand, shoeboxes, previously used UPS boxes that still have the carriers label on it and even a box that once held furnace filters. I ought to re-label that one I suppose. Then it's a matter of getting step ladders, moving stuff around in the utility room to reach things, and as is often the case with the bins, first hauling down all the bins that were stacked on top of the one on the bottom which is always the one I need. Quite a work out.
Then I drag it all into the living room and family room, open it all up and sort through. What is in where? For a person who compliments themselves as often as I do on my tidy habits, my Christmas Decorations are an absolute mess. Shame on me. I'll bet it's one of those things that I swear I'm going to do "next year' and then I don't. Either too busy, too tired or too not in the mood. I won't even say that this year I will sort through it all and tidy it up and properly label it. But it sure would be nice if I did.
Then I need to bring in the step ladder because as we all know, Christmas tree decorating is not a job for short people. That was the first thing I needed because I found the top decoration first thing and unlike most people, I put it on immediately. First decoration is on, the decoration has officially begun and I'm already tired.
But I do love unwrapping each decoration because each one is a treasure. Handcrafted or store bought, inherited or gifted, each ornament brings to mind the person who gave us the decoration. I decorate a tree with memories :) That's kind of nice isn't it? But the mess I'm making all over the place isn't so nice. It looks like a hoarder lives here. There is literally a path through the boxes and tissue and bags and bubble wrap that will guide you to the tree. And frankly, knowing that once I'm through decorating and worn out from that, I still have to clean that mess up and put everything back makes me even more tired.
I'm philosophical about it though. Most of the best things in life require a big mess first. Think about it. One of the biggest messes ever is renovating. When we had the kitchen reno'd the entire house was a wreck. We hadn't yet unpacked, had almost no furniture and what we did have was just shoved into empty rooms because the kitchen and living room were a disaster area. So was the utility room and what is now the pantry. Just by it's proximity the front hall, guest room and family room fared little better. The only safe places were Tim's office and our bedroom (with the doors closed) and the bathrooms (also with doors closed at all times) and even then every single night I had to clean just to stay ahead of it a bit. This went on for almost three months. But at the end, just when I thought it would never end, that we would live like squatters in a construction zone forever, it was finally done and it was a thing of beauty. It was worth the stress and the mess.
On a smaller scale, cleaning out a closet is the same. First you have to make a big mess. Drag everything out of the closet and strew it around. Clean like a fiend, sort through the piles, throwing away what is no good, giving away what you don't need and tidying up what you chose to keep. When it's all done and the brooms and mops are put away, the donations delivered and the garbage taken to the curb and the things you keep put away properly, you gaze upon the gorgeousness that is now a closet you can be proud of and know that it was worth the effort.
Now that I think about it, the same thing can be applied to my actual life. The worst times in my life, the messiest, ugliest, most horrible moments eventually led to the best. Once I waded into the thick of it and put in the work to throw away what was no good, give away what I don't need and tidy up what I'm going to keep things got better. It is always a lot of work and it takes a lot of time. I get dirty, and tired and bumped and bruised a bit too. And lordy, I always get tired. Sorting out a life mess is the kind of job that just wear you down to your bones. And sometimes I get discouraged and think that the tough times will never end. But I persevere, I keep working and sorting and cleaning and tidying and at the end, my life is always improved immeasurably. And quite honestly, this happens every single time. Awesome.
Isn't it good to know that in the end, it's all worth while. And that goes for Christmas tree decorating too.
December 13th, 2017
I am a fiddler, I confess. I mean that figuratively of course. Well also literally, I can play violin but I digress. What I meant was that I cannot seem to leave well enough alone. I have to make it a point to stop myself before I become obsessed with messing about with things. By way of example. I referenced yesterday a table decoration that my sister kindly gifted to me years ago. I warn you, while unmistakably a Christmas decoration, it is also unconventional. Here:
Yes that's right a shiny aluminum Christmas tree and two hot pink reindeer with fur collars. And I don't want to hear a word about how weird they are because I absolutely adore them both. Originally the little tree came with hot pink ornaments to match the reindeer. It was perfect just as it was. Absolutely perfect. And so very me.
Initially I set them up on the coffee table exactly as they were given to me. Well I may or may not have added some glittery fake snow for them to stand around on but that was it.
Then the next year I found a sleigh. The proportions were perfect for the reindeer to perhaps have been pulling it. AND it was sparkley. Awesome. So I added that to the vignette. But, hmmm, something seemed to be missing. Stuff in the sleigh! I couldn't find anymore hot pink Christmas balls that were the correct size but I did find some in orange, teal, silver and olive green. Awesome! They weren't all shiny round globes though. Some were stars, some matte finish and two that looked like Christmas presents. Woohoo! Even better! So those were added to the story here and there.
This year I had to mess with it a little bit more and I broke up the set. Gasp! Yes indeed, I did it. The reindeer are still pulling the sleigh filled with oddly coloured but very pretty ornaments but it is on the kitchen table. The tree is on the coffee table opposite a couple of jolly snowmen. Yeah, this is working for me. And who knows what will happen too these poor innocent decorations next?
So you see, it's like a sickness. I just cannot seem to help myself. I come by this trait honestly. My mother was the same way. She just could not stop messing with stuff.
I do not believe that she ever once in her entire life played a song the say it was written. That's right. A classically trained, Juliard schooled pianist who could not stop "improving" upon the masters. No remorse, no guilt, no shame. Mozart, Beethoven, Hayden, what did they know? She "fixed" their work all the time. In fact, come to think of it, I'm not sure she ever played any piece the same way twice. She even "fixed" her own improvements! HAHAHA! I just realized that.
A very long time ago, when we both still lived in Connecticut, my Mother started giving me a Christmas wreath each year. Live wreaths that smelled so very Christmassy and so very good! My dad would take her to the tree nursery where she would buy one that was already decorated and then she would "fix" it. She would have so many decorations on each one that you could barely see the greenery. They were glorious! No two wreaths were the same. Any time she came to visit during the Christmas Season, she would fiddle around with the wreath a little bit more. Just "fix" it a tiny bit. "It won't take a minute" she would say and add this or that or move things around.
Shortly after my first son was born, she would come to visit us occasionally for the afternoon to "help". At the time we lived in a tiny apartment that had an unnaturally large kitchen. The kitchen was the size of all of the rest of the apartment combined. It was weird, but there was loads of storage and I'll never complain about that. While she was there "helping' she would fix the items in the cabinet. Alphabetize canned goods (no joke) re-arrange the items in drawers or put things where they are "supposed" to be. It was her way of helping. I understood. I never got upset. She was simply compelled to fiddle around and "fix" things. After she left, I would giggle as I re-rearranged things back to where I originally had them.
I saw this same trait in my own children when they were small. Because I felt strongly that the Christmas tree was for all of us, I bought and made some unbreakable ornaments and that was ALL that went on the tree back then. Absolutely nothing breakable. Once the tree was decorated, they would spend hours each day re-decorating it. Nothing was more than 4 feet off the ground and sometimes all of the ornaments were on one branch. I didn't mind one bit. Because like me, like their grandmother, they just couldn't help themselves.
Where would the world be without the people who are compelled to fix things, people who aren't satisfied with the status quo? It would be boring indeed and nothing in the world would ever have moved forward or changed in anyway.
I come from a family of fiddlers and am proud of it!
December 12th, 2017
I had a few spare minutes yesterday afternoon before I needed to start dinner and decided be productive with my time. I began to haul out a few Christmas decorations and try to Holiday-up the house a bit. I've been preoccupied with other things lately and only just realized that Christmas, which seems so far away, is actually arriving in two weeks. Yikes!
One of the things I did was to set up a table decoration. It's one that I put out every year since I received it. It was a gift from my sister and I really love it. In all the years I've used this decoration, I have never once broken any part of it. Until yesterday. Turns out traditional fragile Christmas balls and tile floors is not a great mix when being handled by someone as accident prone as I am. Oh dear.
I was sad that I broke it but I recovered, cleaned it up and I moved on. It was only one tiny little ornament after all, no big deal. The rest of the decoration is fine and probably nobody will notice that absence of one small Christmas ball but me, right? Ok since that went so well, I decided to at least put up the tree. I won't get around to decorating it for a few days but at least I can get the thing set up right?
It's one of those pre-lit trees. I can build it, clearly, that's not hard. The biggest part on the bottom, smallest part on the top, the remainder in between. No problem. But apparently getting the entire tree to light up is beyond my meager capabilities. I tried everything I could think of and in fact spent so much frustrating time trying to make more than the bottom third of the tree light up that well, needless to say, dinner was a little late last night. Once I am determined to solve a problem it becomes a mission. I never did figure this one out.
But at this point, I'm not surprised that things are not going smoothly. The very first Christmassy thing I did was to buy a wreath. It was a very specific choice which I was kind of tickled about because of it's capability to light up. But, s it turns out, I cannot plug it in because the exterior plug is on the left side of the front door. The side of the door that opens. I'm sure there is a way around that but so far, I haven't figured it out. In the photo, perhaps you can see that the plug is to the left of the light fixture and the door opens from the left. If I plug in the wreath, we won't be able to open the door! Dang!
None of these issues is life-altering. And seriously, I'm not angry or upset at all. In fact, it got me thinking about seasonal problems. How hectic the season is, the decisions we have to make about which party or gathering or event we can reasonably attend with a calendar already overflowing with invitations and obligations. Menus and baking and standing in line at the post office. Weather surprises and gift wrapping and Christmas card writing. Decorating and stocking stuffing and purchasing presents. There is so much going on and so many ways things can go wrong.
And then there is the biggest problem of the holiday season. The one that has plagued me (and I'm sure others) for as long as I've lived. The scariest part, the worst bit, the part that can go the most wrong, my arch nemesis:
The bathroom scale. Eeeeeek!
I'll get back on track after the holidays. Ultimately the tree will be properly lit and decorated, I'm sure other ornaments will break, the wreath will be lit or not and it really doesn't matter either way. And whatever pounds find me during this season of indulgence and overflowing generosity I will make go away, eventually, afterwards. And I will not beat myself up over any of it.
After all, this is the season of forgiveness. I can even forgive myself.
December 11th, 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you, the beautiful city of Savannah, Georgia as seen from our hotel window.
Tim and I are just back from a quick trip to Charleston, South Carolina actually but we overnighted in Savannah on the road trip (Road Trip!). Tim had a meeting and suggested that I come along for the ride. Always a good time road tripping with my sweetie. Originally we thought that by leaving a day early, we could explore Savannah's historic district a bit but the weather suggested that we explore it only as far as the hotel and the restaurant just across the street. Dang. We saw only enough to whet our appetite for a future visit. It was cold and wet and gloomy and utterly too unpleasant to enjoy the sort of meandering we would normally do. The hotel however was lovely. And the restaurant was in a long row of very old buildings along the river filled with shops and other restaurants and bars and accessible by equally old stone and brick steps that were very steep and due to the weather, very slippery. Thank goodness for hand rails! We ate at a place called The Cotton Exchange Grill. The people were very friendly, the atmosphere, charming and the food was good. Can't complain about that. Just down the row was a candy shop, whose name I've unfortunately forgotten, where they make their own candy in house. We walked through, breathing in that wonderful fragrance and nibbling on samples that they offered. We then slipped and slid across the cobblestones and went back up the historically dangerous staircase and wisely returned back to our warm and well lit and non-slippery hotel room.
In the morning we resumed our journey. It turns out that Savannah is a very short distance from South Carolina so it was only a few hours to Charleston where Tim's meeting was. There we stayed in a hotel that was so brand new it had only opened its doors a few days earlier. In fact, we were the very first people to stay in the room we were assigned! One of the staff suggested that from now on Room 439 will be known as The Humphreys Room. Very cool. That was a brand new experience.
We actually know folks in South Carolina and while Tim was at his various meetings, I hung around with Christina who has only lived in SC for a few months herself. She and her hubby were perfect hosts for those two days. Together, Christina and I toured one historic plantation (all prettied up with Christmas decorations), three museums, an historic home (also decked out with Christmas froufrou) and poked around some charming shops all things that were new to us both. Because of the unpleasant weather, the tour groups were very small. And in fact, at two of the museums we were a tour group of two. Awesome! There is a lot to be said for being an off season tourist! We got to see a little bit of the area, visit old friends, learn some history, do some shopping and just be somewhere else for a few days before heading back home, again through the rain.
Both Georgia and South Carolina are beautiful states. Lots of trees and water of all sorts. It was different seeing all the different kind of water that they offer: the lowlands, kind of marshy as well as ponds, lakes, rivers and ocean. Take your pick! I loved the old buildings, charming little towns and of course, as I've already indicated at least a dozen times here today, the history. I just dig that stuff.
Here's a sample of what we saw:
So long, Georgia and Adieu South Carolina. We will be back in nicer weather to visit you again!
December 06th, 2017
There will be none of this here. I mean it's a cute photo and all but no thank you.
I'm ambivalent about snow. On the one hand it's pretty. There is no getting around it. When I've lived in cold and snowy places, winter looks like, well, winter. Christmas looks just like all of the posters and movies say it should. Snow is silent when it falls and it's a special kind of quiet. I could always tell, even without looking out the window when it was snowing. And I loved seeing the animal tracks in the snow. All the creatures that I never knew (but always suspected) were lurking about our yard were suddenly evident. Moonlight on a snow is mysterious and deep, sunlight on snow sparkles like glitter. Sunset is beautiful on everything but sunrise is the time that snow is the most magical.
As a kid snow meant frolic! Sledding, snowman building, fort constructing, igloo making, snowball creating fun. The cold pinked our cheeks and made our noses run but kids don't care. We were bundled into so many layers that we could barely move but our knitted mittens, once wet with snow melted from the heat of our bodies contributed to numb fingers. Who could forget struggling to get rubber galoshes on over our shoes while dressing to go out to play and working equally hard to remove them later. I can still remember the smell of the air as I breathed in that cold through the scarf wound 'round my neck a zillion or so times. It is unlike any other fragrance. To say nothing of the scent of wet mittens drying on a radiator.
On the other hand, it's cold. Snow is cold. Damned cold. And wet. Really wet. And heavy. So heavy. I do not miss shoveling. I suppose if I were pressed to say something positive about it I could say that shoveling is good exercise and it is. But no thank you. There are other warmer and drier ways to exercise.
And snow slippery. That is the absolute worst part for me. Slippery to walk on, slippery to drive on. Especially when the snow melted a wee bit during the day and then froze again over night so now instead of driving on snow, which is bad enough, now the driving is on ice. Not fun. Or the sneaky ice which forms under the snow so you don't even know it's there. Or the even sneakier non-shiny ice that they call black ice so the road appears to be perfectly normal and dry but is in fact an ice slick just waiting to slide you off into the nearest tree. No I do not miss that one bit.
So I confess that a nostalgic part of me does miss the idea of a white Christmas. But then I watch the news and see the traffic cams and I get over it.
The weather guys this morning were talking about a cold front that is moving south so we should finally see some cooler temperatures here. It's been in the high 70's. I think the highs over the next week should be low 60's and maybe even the high 50's! For here that is nippy. I know it will be even colder for anyone North of us and if there is any precipitation included with their dip in temps, it could mean cold rain, sleet, snow or the dreaded ice. My condolences.
December 05th, 2017
December 04th, 2017
A person never stops learning throughout their lives and the smart ones are happy about. I hope to include myself in the smarty britches category because I have learned so very much since we have moved here. See that's what happens when you embrace change. You learn new stuff.
Point in case: This weekend, for the 2nd year in a row, we attended the Venice Boat Parade. Yes, I know, I wrote about it last year. But this time it's more about what I learned than the parade so please bear with me. This year was the twenty-ninth annual boat parade in our little town as a matter of fact which is pretty awesome just all by itself.
Last year, we didn't really do any research at all, didn't realize it was necessary. We read about the upcoming parade in our local newspaper and having never seen a Boat Parade before thought it might be fun to check it out read about the parade route and just before it started mosey'd on foot over to the general vicinity. Oh my Gracious! People for days. Mobs of people, scads of people, hordes of people! This being a small town, we certainly did not anticipate the number of people attending. Eventually we kind of insinuated ourselves into a teensy corner that had a diagonal view. Once the parade started it was fine, we could certainly see everything and enjoyed the view but it would have been nice to occasionally have a seat.
We also didn't guess that the wait would be so long. Also the people around us clearly had been there for a long time. They brought food and drink and music. They came in groups, very few solo viewers and while we had a good time, they seemed to have a holly jollier time than we did. Hmmmm. Next year, we vowed, next year we would do things differently.
And we did. This year, my sister and her beau came with us. A small group but nonetheless, a group. We found a good spot ahead of time and set up chairs marked clearly with our name in permanent marker. It felt odd abandoning our chairs on the side of the Intercoastal waterway like that and just driving away. "Bye bye chairs" I sniffed, waving from the side window of the care, "Be good, Take care". But it was the smart thing to do. People had already set up tables and chairs, roped off huge sections, wound caution tape around pegs hammered into the ground all along the viewing area. As it was, even though we went early on, we were a second row. All of the first row was taken.
Next, I made cookie snack bags and brought bottles of water. Hurrah, nothing enhances the boat parade experience like Christmas Cookie snack bags and water unless perhaps it was a picnic dinner and a thermos of hot Cocoa which we saw other people doing. There were boxes of pizza, pot lucks, boom boxes of music and kids playing games nearby. Dang! I did better this time but I could step it up more I see.
Wisely, this time we also drove over. Tim found a place to stash the car that was a short walk from our viewing so carrying the chairs (and whatever else we think to bring along next time) was not such a big deal and we were home before other people even had their chairs folded up. We have learned that if you are walking at night on a street with a sidewalk it's no big deal but if you street has no sidewalks (our street does not) even carrying a waving a flashlight as if you were directing planes to land does not guarantee that cars will see you. Very dangerous. Car...check!
Still have more improvements to make for next year. Bigger group...maybe if possible. Clearly, the more the merrier is true for boat parades. Get there earlier and stake out our section in the first row! Arrive even earlier but bring more food...dinner of some sort perhaps! Music would be nice. Blankets would be even better. It's chilly at night this time of year, especially all along the water.
Otherwise, I'm proud of fact that we learned form our experience last year and learned even more this year. Also, Boat Parade...Awesome! I love it all, the pageantry, the lights, the creativity, the energy of a very enthusiastic crowd..... If you ever get the chance, first Saturday of December would be a great time to visit here. Just sayin'. I'll bring the cookies.
December 01st, 2017
How exciting is this? No, I'm serious. This really did make my day, possibly my week. In our constant push to improve upon our little island home, yesterday we had an electrician (actually there were three of them working) here to install first an exhaust fan in our bathroom (yay!) and secondly, the outlet and line for a generator (yay!)
Initially these were items on our "someday" list. They felt like luxuries. After all we have a window in the bathroom, open it and you have an exhaust vent right? And as far as generators go, the first hurricane season we were here was anticlimactic to say the least. The second year however....Irma. No more needs to be said.
Shortly after we moved here I realized that the worst weekly chore on my list changed from washing windows (really not my favourite thing) to bleaching the abathroom. Seriously. The only way to stay ahead of the mildew issue was to bleach the bathroom on a weekly basis. The walls, the tile and the ceiling especially. The walls and the tile are not that big of a deal I suppose but bleaching the ceiling became my weekly challenge. Bleaching the ceiling without ruining any more shirts became an issue. You see, working above your head means gravity is your enemy. No matter how careful I was some of it dripped onto me and therefore onto my shirt. After completely ruining a perfectly good orange tee-shirt which has now been regulated to yard work and painting I got a little smarter and changed into that shirt specifically for that task.
It is NO longer an issue. Ceiling bleaching is now OFF my gotta-do list. Hurrah! Not only is the exhaust fan amazingly effective it is very nearly silent. After my nice hot shower this morning the mirror wasn't even steamed up. It was perfectly completely and totally clear. Ain't technology wonderful? Love it.
As far as the line for a generator, at some point we will actually need to buy a generator. It's on the list. And there is no guarantee that another hurricane will even come here, ever! It had, after all been 17 years with no activity here at all before Irma came to visit. But if it does happen, this time we will be prepared and there is a certain comfort in that.
These sort of home improvements aren't the pretty things. As the DIY guy said, "it's not sexy". True words. These aren't the things that visitors see when they come to our home. It's like when we had the house replumbed or the new HVAC system installed. But it's awesome nonetheless. We are very slowly bringing our old circa 1962 home into the 21st century, one non-pretty improvement at a time. One more thing OFF the list!
Happy Weekend ya'all!!
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.