Monday, December 28, 2009

Memory Monday: It's not Christmas that's changed

Somewhere along life's way, Christmas seemed to change. I'd like to think it's because I matured and finally understood the joy of being the giver and not just the giftee, but that's not it.

My sister and I had fairy-tale childhood Christmases. Mother worked very hard to see that we got everything on our wish list and a few things that weren't. Black and white album photos show two little girls with an overabundance of things under the tree. I think she didn't have many merry Christmases as a child and she lived vicariously through us by making sure we did. After I was grown, and in a moment of melancholy, Daddy told me how she would scrimp and cut corners in order to get us things. I'd like to be sarcastic and say it would have been nice to have had more of her instead, but alas, we had plenty of that also. Mother managed it all.

Christmas changes when you move away from home, whether it be to college or on your own. Then, you come home to a house you didn't help decorate. You've grown beyond having a dozen packages under the tree and a big Santa-surprise on Christmas morning. It's sedate. The excitement is gone. You had to come home because the dorm was closed.

I don't think it revs back up until you have children of your own. Then, you can see Christmas again, but this time through their eyes. Sad to say perhaps, but my sons will probably say they didn't have fairy-tale Christmases, because Mother Scrooge didn't get them half the Sears catalog. I used to tell my younger son to just tear out what he didn't want.

But Mother got excited all over again. Having grown and left her, her daughters had redeemed themselves by presenting her with three grandchildren. She was once again in the giving business. This went on until her death when the youngest was in college.

Once our grandchildren came, our period of once-again sedate Christmases was over. They're still very young and not really into it yet (wait until next year), but there was excitement once the packages were torn open this year.

If you believe in Christmas, it would be sad to be alone on that day. But that's a state of mind, an attitude. You can be sad surrounded by a loving crowd of relatives. Christmas hasn't changed: not the reason for the Season, not the joy in celebrating. If your Christmas has changed, it's time to check the internal sensors and turn on the excitement meter once more.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Getting a leap on the season

Yesterday afternoon, I decide to join the throngs at the local Walmart. I figured most of the line-standing would be over, especially since I hadn't anything to exchange/take back, so it shouldn't be any worse than a regular school's-just-out time of day, and it wasn't. I didn't want to wait until today because I did want to cash in on half-price Christmas ribbon--and anything else which looked appealing.

I was not the only one with the afternoon idea. Buggies, always a tight squeeze to get two through the aisles, crowded and pushed. I was late to the game, as it were, but I still managed to do my share of helping Walmart clear their Christmas stock. It would appear I was just in time because...'s Valentine's already! Did you know that? We are skipping right over New Year's and settling in on heart-day. I know this for a fact because the greeting card displays had nary a 'Season's Greetings'. They had all been replaced with Valentine's Day. A wall of Valentines. And if we, the willing public, don't get on the ball and divest the shelves of all the Christmas, no telling what will happen to all that hapless ribbon and paper and doo-dads as they follow the single-price Christmas greeting cards into oblivion.

Maybe I'd better go back.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Carding Christmas

I grew up decorating for Christmas the first part of December, then removing all traces on the 26th. I mean, it is over. Right? But a favorite part of it remains with me for a few days longer, as I reread all the cards and notes.

When the traditional Christmas greetings come in the mail, often I'm so busy I give them only a cursory glance. If I haven't already sent a card to the greeter, I'll make it a response one and post promptly. I always check the addresses, lest the envelope disappear into the trash. So, after Christmas, I have time to sort through them all, read the letters, and put the photos in our album. I get to watch everyone's family grow up and expand--and I love it!

Then, in my special Christmas diary, there's a place for Favorite Christmas Card Received. Sometimes I have to put in two. I like the clever and quirky, but also the sentimental.

I am so looking forward to going through my cards again. But first, I have to un-decorate. Hmmm... don't guess I can do that until I finish this post.

Duty calls.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Come Christmas Eve, I'm always reminded of a wonderful local custom which is, alas, no more. For many years before I became part of my husband's family and for quite a few afterward, a lady and her grown daughters hosted a Christmas Eve tea. Invitations were sent by phone to this 2-4 pm come-and-go dressy event. Mothers and daughters, daughters-in-law, sisters, visiting female family.

Girls only. Girls dressed in their finest. I'm not sure what became of the man of the house during this subdued madness, but I once heard rumors that he had barricaded himself in the den.

There were cookies and fudge and brownies. They must have cooked for days. We perched on the dining chairs which had been brought into the living room or we sat cheek-to-cheek on the piano bench or balanced on the arm of the couch. We held our delicacies on glass party plates and exchanged Christmas wishes and laughed. We laughed a lot.

Why? Didn't most of us have to return home to husbands and children and family and dinner and then Santa and...? What did we have to laugh about?

The libations. To be sure, there was coffee in a lovely old urn. Right next to it was the liqueurs. Available if one was so inclined. But the drink of choice was the Christmas Punch. I don't know what was in the recipe, but it was a guaranteed giggle-inducer, and one cup was truly enough.

The tradition lasted until our lovely hostess's health failed her. Now, she and her spouse have passed on. The memories linger. And, yes, I do wish I had a copy of that recipe. No one should be giggle-proof.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Presenting the presents

Before we start buying Christmas presents, I make a list of giftees and possible gifts. It then becomes a fill-in-the-blank exercise, adding anything we find on the great shopping weekend, which took place this year in November. All of these gifts, left in their store bags, stack in my sewing room where I can step over them until it's time for the grand wrapping.

Usually, I haul the paper and ribbon into the sewing room, pick a sack and start. I check off the items as they're wrapped.

This year, I decided to do it a bit differently. I moved everything down in to the breakfast room, turned on the TV (not available in the sewing room), and wrote out a new list as I wrapped. Ms. Efficiency. Or so I thought.

I hadn't wrapped anything in a day or two, the Christmas card sack was in use instead, when I happened to go into my sewing room and, klutz that I can be, dropped something. I'm looking for it on the floor--and see, to my consternation--more presents! They were tucked under the cutting table. I'd bought them on a vastly reduced sale back in the summer. I immediately remembered them. It's just that the Christmas list didn't exist then.

They are now wrapped, and I've scoured the place once more for hidden treasure. I haven't found it, but I'm keeping an eye open.

Happy Valentine's, anyone?

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Friday, December 18, 2009

The stop watch

Or, curmudgeon strikes again.

I have a treadmill, a lightweight thing which takes up as little space as it can while still being functional. It's over a year old and so has started misbehaving. (There may not be an app for that, but there's bound to be a time-limit on a chip.) Its misbehavior centers on not showing me how far I've treaded once we get into the 1.5 miles range. Nor will it easily let me see my time. It's stuck on some number at the bottom which I think is supposed to be my heartbeat except I'm not even touching the monitor. Too many gizmos on this lightweight machine.

But that's not the problem. I thought if I bought a stop watch and affixed it with Velcro to the machine, then I could estimate when to speed up (from 4.0 to 4.7 mph over the course of exercise) and be done with it. I would win; the treadmill would not.

Well, the treadmill may not be winning, but the stop watch has a good chance.

All I wanted was a stop watch. That's all it had to do: zero out, click on, give me a readout in minutes and seconds, click off, zero out. Simple really.

Or not. I took myself to Walmart where I found two, one in the watch department, one in the sports. They were both $10. The sports department one seemed to be a simpler operation and therefore more suitable until I took it up to the watch department and found that the latter's choice had a back light button.

My exercise room is dark except for the light from the TV and the stubborn treadmill display. I needed the backlight, which determined my choice.

The instructions never said a word--not one--about how to use the stop watch. Instead it was all about pushing button S3 so many times to bring up the date and button S2 to set it. And it didn't work. Those were not the instructions for the stop watch I had bought! Plus, I didn't want the date! Or the day of the week, or the time. I wanted a stop watch!

Then, through a miracle (or just pushing enough buttons before I took the thing back and held out for a sports equipment store), I managed to push the right combination and there appeared--zeroes! A stop watch at last. I pushed it on, watched the numbers whiz by. Off. Reset. Did it again. Gingerly affixed it to the treadmill and left it in that mode. I don't think I would ever find it again and woe be to the person who pushes S3 unawares.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Beware the hidden underwear

One learns to "layer" in winter and one of my favorite layering pieces is a camisole. It's even recommended in the house since we keep the temps in the below-68 range. That is why one has sweaters. And house shoes.

Layered up, coat, sweater, cami, jeans, socks, other assorted necessaries for public appearances, off I went. At my favorite Chico's, I zeroed in on an item I'd seen in the catalog. That would be the new catalog of spring offerings, but I had a hot coupon in my hand which would reduce its price by half and I was a hunter in search of prey.

There it was on a rack and in my size, something the saleslady was pleased about. I gather it must have been selling like hotcakes. (As an aside, most of the items I gallop in for end up on the sale rack greatly reduced. I was not willing to take the chance with this. And there was the matter of the coupon. Heck--it was sale-priced already!)

But since one can never be absolutely sure of fit, I gathered up another one or two items and found the dressing room. Good-bye coat, off with the sweater, tossed the cami onto the pile. Or so I thought.

The desired item fit beautifully. Of the other two items, one fit, but not beautifully (back to the sale rack with it) and one would make a wonderful addition to my wardrobe. It was even on sale. A coup in less than 10 minutes. Darn, but I'm good! Time to get dressed.

Uh... cami? Not on the coat, under the coat, under the bench, stuck in any of the items I'd tried on, or the sweater I'd hastily pulled off. I had worn one, hadn't I? I just knew I had. I even looked up to the light fixture, hoping to see it dangling there.


About the time I was dressed, the saleslady comes to find me. Was I okay?

Well... I started. She was going to think I was nuts, but I could have sworn I'd worn a camisole. It was black. It was old. It was... as she pointed out when we both stood in the door and studied the dressing room, wedged into the little space on the far side of the bench. She'd spotted it easily. It was obviously a trap for clothing items which wanted to stay at Chico's.

I handed her my ill-gotten gain, clicked the dressing room door closed, and removed my coat, my sweater...

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

One UP-man ship

I just finished watching UP, the Disney/Pixar collaboration about lost adventure. And life. And friendship. I rented it to watch in three segments while exercising on the treadmill. I like movies in the 90 minute range.

I did spread this over three days, but let me tell you, it's hard to walk on a treadmill with a lump in your throat. The first basically silent ten or eleven minutes are very touching and subtle. It quickly dissolves into a typical animated adventure, which is what I was expecting in the first place. Then, in the last little bit, we're back for more lumps in the throat.

My sons are the ones who encouraged me to watch this, even the one without children. "You know, Mother," one said, "it's really for adults."

"Most good cartoons are," I told him. "Watch the classics and be amazed at what they got away with."

I've got till Monday on the rental. I think I'll watch again.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

All wrapped up

I'm wrapping the Christmas presents, actually putting bows on them this year. I pulled down the paper I'd bought over the last several years and determined to use it up before buying any more. I'm sure you know where this is headed.

I decided that I didn't like some it. The scenes weren't right. I think I'd won it at a pre-school raffle. So I set it aside. Plus, some of what I have is thinner than I'd like. And I've had it a long time and not used it...

But I still had enough. If I ran out of paper, I have lots of bags I've saved from previous Christmases.

Then I was at World Market and saw this great paper. Brown with forest animals. Half-price. Bought two. No more, I told myself.

That lasted until I was at Hobby Lobby and their prices are great and there was this red paper with reindeer. And I do love reindeer...

Hopeless. Absolutely hopeless.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Lite(r)

Christmas comes but once a year, but when pulling down the decorations from the attic, it seems it was but last week when we hauled them up there. My husband stands on the rickety pull-down stairs and pushes large box after large box of decorations and wrapping materials up to me the day after Christmas. I'm on a small landing pulling the boxes. Then I push them onto a half-floor, we dust ourselves off, and wait for the next year. In the meantime, he's carrying the bulky box of artificial, pre-lighted Christmas tree down to the garage for its year-long rest.

Therefore, it's no wonder when I asked this year if he'd like to decorate Christmas lite, that the words were barely out of my mouth before he gave an enthusiastic "yes!" We're not giving a large party and we're celebrating the Day at our son's.

No need for a big extravaganza decorating spree. Not really.

Which is why the place looks a little bare. Six years ago, knowing that we'd be flying to London on Dec. 27 for a wedding, I'd bought an artsy-tree. It's made from three tomato cages, painted gold and affixed upside-down in a lightweight pot. Garland winds from bottom to top and there are lights and fancy bird and fruit decorations on it. It's been living in the attic and took a bit of cleaning up to be presentable, but it's hung with our favorite ornaments.

Then, since they have their own homes, the stocking have gone to the sons. We have but three taped to the mantle, the third one belonging to the cats. The reindeer stayed in their boxes, although two Nativities (the reason for the Season, after all) are on the table.

That's it. At least it's more than the absolute no decor of 2005 when we spent the week leading up to Christmas in London. What I miss most, though, is the garland and lights I put on the stair railing.

So next year when we're hauling things down--all things, as it will be biennial party time--I don't want to hear (or think): Didn't we just put these up here?

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The most important piece of paper in my wallet

What a mouthful of a title for such a small item. I got my new one just last week so that's why I'm prompted to write about it.

Once cut free from its postcard confines, it folds in half and neatly slips into a space in my wallet designed for a credit card. I carry it with me, although I don't use it but a couple times a year. Then I proudly whip it out from its spot behind the frequent-shopper cards and lay it down on the table in front of me. My name is copied off, I sign the register, slip the card back into its home, and go vote.

Can there be a more important piece of paper than the one which allows you to be, however miniscule, a part of the governing process of the place you live? You have only to read the international news to realize that citizens of other countries still die trying to do what I hardly give a second thought to and which so many of my fellow citizens don't care to do.

This post might better be reserved for election day, but then... that's not when I received my biennial update to voting place and district. I've slipped that most important piece of paper into my wallet and I'm very proud it's there.

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Monday, December 07, 2009


Found it--my new winter robe that is. I finally went to Soma, the lingerie division of Chico's, and found winter-weight robes which were not over-sized terry. There were some "velour" type offerings, but I shied away from them. Several of their wrap designs had vestiges of a 1940s movie, complete with affixed belt in the back and lots of fabric in the skirt. They were tempting (and I'd feel oh-so-sophisticated in one), but not practical for my purpose.

So, I've bought my first bamboo cotton robe. It's lightweight, but warm, and is a little bit fuzzy on the inside. It has a zipper. It was so long I had to hem it three inches.

And did I mention it was red?

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009


I need a new winter robe. My last one, made of terry and showing serious signs of wear, was cut up last spring and recycled into dust cloths and a blanket and pillow for the granddaughter's baby doll. That left me with several lightweight options and an entire summer and fall to find a replacement.

It is snowing outside (but not sticking) and I have no robe.

I spent yesterday shopping three big department stores. I don't want terry or velour. I don't want white or black or red. I want long. I'd tolerate a zipper-close instead of a tie. I'm not into paying $100 for it. If the weight was right, the length wasn't. And that's the closest I got: right weight, wrong length. To my knees does not a winter robe make.

Sheesh! Who knew it could be so hard? I've made my own from chenille bedspreads in the past and I may have to accomplish the same task again. Just not what I wanted to do. Plus, I don't think I have any on hand.

Perhaps I'll just wear two summer robes instead/until I find what I'm looking for.

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