Category Archives: holidays

Tree Trouble

For my entire life, I have put away the holiday decorations on New Year’s Day.  This season I felt like I wanted to jump the gun and it took me a bit to realize that New Year’s has always been a day off.  This year with pandemic and furlough, every day is a day off.  So we decided to put everything away a couple of days earlier than usual. 

We both like a live tree.  But even with constant watering, six weeks (plus whatever amount of time between cutting and the Bachman’s lot) is just too long for a tree to stay supple and resilient.  Taking the lights off always means a mess, especially since I like to “bury” the lights, but as should have been expected for 2020, it was much messier than usual this year.  In addition to the little sprigs of greenery all over the floor, after I took the tree to the curb, the front porch, front steps and front sidewalk were covered with the tree detritus.

Broom, dust bin, trash bag and vacuum just to get started.  Then, of course, dusting is needed on all the horizontal surfaces that have been covered with assorted holiday décor.  Everything is now all put away and cleaned up; the living room and dining room seem empty, sort of naked. 

I wish that cleaning up the holiday was a great metaphor for the coming new year.  While I’m hoping for the 2020 dumpster fire will be extinguished, I think it will take longer than we would all wish for.  In the meantime, at least the house is clean.

Live tree or artificial?  When do you like to put the holiday decorations away? 

New Year

Our day and evening will be spent with our busy 2 year old grandson and his parents. We typically don’t whoop it up much for New Year’s. We will cook a nice dinner and probably go to bed early.

My mother spent New Year’s Eve of 1944 in New York City with cousins who grew up in Manhattan.  They took her to the Stork Club. We have a photo somewhere of her in a fancy hat holding a glass of champagne. The only thing she ever said about it was that she didn’t like it when everyone started kissing each other at midnight. I wish I had asked her more about the club and her experiences in New York.

What will today and this evening be like for you? Any memorable New Year’s Eves for you or your family?

Mules

Last summer (not this past summer), YA and I had dinner with friends at their apartment in Uptown; they served us Moscow Mules.  I enjoyed them quite a bit, in fact YA drove home! 

YA must have remembered that night as she gave me a set of copper cups for Solstice.  It’s a pretty set and includes a shot glass (which is good, since I didn’t have one) and little copper straws and even some coasters.  I made a stop at the liquor store the next morning for ginger beer and vodka.  Turns out I needed some vodka lessons.  I ended up choosing a local brand – chosen mostly because I liked the label – but the gal at the store said it was a good brand, and good value for the price!  Then I stopped at Kowalskis for limes. 

I haven’t actually made a Moscow Mule yet – I have one more day of my wine advent calendar.  The idea of wine and then vodka on the same day doesn’t seem like the best idea.  Although the more I think about it, 2020 has been a year that cries out for all kinds of alcoholic consumption!

Do you have a favorite cocktail?  Beverage?  Have you been indulging more this year?

The Christmas Haul

Yesterday,  Daughter napped wearing a very soft and fleecy hoodie we got her for Christmas.  She received three pieces of clothing from us, and a nice bubble bath/soap/skin cream set  from her brother and sister in law. We always give her candy in her stocking, along with annoying things like parsnips and other root vegetables. She is supremely happy.

I never really need anything, but I was delighted with the biography of Bela Bartok from Husband. Daughter gave me two Halloween tomten (one with vampire fangs) , and  set of tomten salt and pepper shakers. Husband got a book about Malcom X and Martin Luther King from Daughter. He got a fancy grill and a sausage stuffer and grinder earlier this year that he said were his Christmas presents. We are all happy.  A friend of Daughter gave us a wood burned portrait of Millie, our deceased tortie. It was beautiful.

Next week we go to Brookings with presents for our family there. Grandson is getting floor puzzles and new shoes. Son is getting therapy books,  a James Bond DVD set,  and a baking steel. DIL is getting clothes. They give out specific lists so they are easy to shop for.  No surprises, but no dismay, either.

What was your favorite present this year? What were your best and worst presents in the past?  Do you give out Christmas  lists?

Comfort Ye

Husband announced the other day that he considers Gjetost to be a comfort food. I have never considered it to be so, but he was really happy when he found some at the store earlier this month.  It is too sweet and chalky for my tastes.

This is a year that has screamed a need for comfort. It has been hard to find at times over the past ten months.  I think the worst day in memory was yesterday, as we anxiously waited to see if Daughter’s plane left Denver with her on it.  We hadn’t seen her for a year.  Her flight into Bismarck on Tuesday was cancelled, and she couldn’t get a flight home until Christmas Eve. She had an excellent  time with her grandmother. though, which was a comfort to both of them.

I was so worried all day yesterday.  I tried to distract myself with music. The King’s College Lessons and Carols service was a good start, but it was a really long day. I made some soup, cleaned the kitchen, played solitaire, did laundry, and wrapped some presents, all with a horrid sense of dread and apprehension.  Our cat must have sensed my distress, as she stayed unusually close by me all day.

The only thing that would provide comfort for me was to hear that she was boarding her plane, and then to give her a big hug (but not, she insisted, until she showered to get the Covid germs off her). She was texting us  in caps as she waited for the plane to take off.

What foods, books, music, people, places, activities, or  other things give you comfort these days?

Not Even The Queen

A grad school friend of mine from Montreal told the story of her father at meal time. They were a working class family, but at every meal her father would  proclaim “Not even the Queen is eating a meal as good as this!”

I think that was a charming thing for him to say, and may have set the stage for gratitude from his family for what they had.

What do you imagine are the pros and cons of being the Queen?  In what way  is your life better than hers?  What will you eat this holiday season that the Queen might be envious of?

Playing Naked

Husband and I played bells and sang in the choir in three church services yesterday, the last one our annual Lessons and Carols service with musicians from the local LDS Church. After each reading there is a hymn sung by the congregation and an ensemble performance.

Bell ringers wear gloves so that the oils from their hands don’t tarnish the bells. I inadvertently left my gloves in the pew in which I was sitting when I went up to play one of our pieces, and I didn’t want to hold up the service to run back to the pew, so I played naked, (without gloves,  in bell ringer vernacular). Everyone else wore black gloves.  I play in the back row, so I didn’t think anyone would notice. I  hate forgetting things.

How is your memory these days? When have you forgotten something important? How do you keep track of important things?

Lighting the Night

I’ve always loved lights at this time of year.  When I was a kid, my family always drove around during this time of year and admired other folks holidays lights.  (We used to leave little notes of thanks in people’s mailboxes if we really enjoyed their lights.)

For a few years Child and I always visited the Minnesota Zoo in December for their “Bright Lights Winter Nights” festivities.  All around the zoo lake and paths close to the zoo buildings, there were lots of lights, mostly in shapes of various zoo animals.  Walking around seeing the lights on crisp winter nights was almost magical.  Inside there were usually crafts and hot chocolate.  You didn’t actually see any real animals, but it was still a great holiday treat.  After four years, they quit doing it – when I called the zoo they said that it cost more to put on the show than they brought in.  Sigh.

When I got the email in November about a light show at the zoo, I knew not to get my hopes up… there was no way they were going to replicate Bright Lights during pandemic.  The light show is called “Nature Illuminated” and is a drive-through event running through mid-January. 

YA and I are zoo members, so we were able to sign up for the first week of members-only viewing.  There was a per-car charge that I might normally balk at, but since there weren’t any other holidays festivities on the horizon, I coughed it up.  We got to the zoo at the appointed time and got our car in line.  There was an audio tour available online – luckily I had YA to get that going.  The tour took about 25 minutes with lots of over-sized inflatables, fabulously lit up.  The audio was pretty good too, although there were a couple of “commercials” that I could have done without – especially since we’re already members.  I thought it was interesting that not all the illuminated animals are represented at the Minnesota Zoo – but I’m not complaining about seeing polar bears!

It was nice – not nearly as much fun as I remember the old light show, but without any other concerts, parties or gatherings this 2020 holidays season, it will probably be the most fun activity we do outside the house!!

What have you adapted for the holidays this year?

What Kind of Cookie aRE yOU

YA and I had decided that we didn’t need to make as many cookie varieties this year; although we are still putting together cookie trays (vet, library, hardware guys, milkman, boss), we don’t have all the parties/functions to which we normally take cookies.  We made our list and then the next day, YA said “what about speculaas?”.  Then I found the recipe that Edith had given me for lemon lavender shortbread.  Before we knew it, we were up to 13 on the list and we couldn’t compromise on what to take off, so 13 is it! (Anna’s M&M, White Chocolate Macadamia, Lemon Lavender Shortbread, PB/Chocolate Fudge w/ Heath Bar, Frosted Sugar, PB Blossoms, Speculaas, Gingerbread Raspberry Thumbprints, Mint Surprise, Cream Cheese Snickerdoodle, Milk Chocolate Fudge, Pecan Meltaways, Ting-a-Lings)

I always do the frosted sugar cookies last because it’s quite a production – double recipe, lots of cookie cutter options, frosting, sprinkles….  The last few years I’ve had to do these all by myself but this YA volunteered to help with the decorating.  The photo above is the disaster area we created!

As I was relaxing afterwards, I found a Christmas Cookie quiz online – one of those things that I normally ignore, but since I could still smell all the sugar on myself, I threw caution to the wind.  Turns out that based on just 5 questions, I am Gingerbread – fond of my traditions and a little old-fashioned.  I didn’t make straigh-up gingerbread this year, and it’s not even my favorite, but I guess I can live with this categorization.

You have to pick a cookie to represent yourself.  What will it be? 

The Reason For Foot Stools

We inadvertently left a foot stool near the Christmas  tree after we trimmed it on Saturday,  and our Tortie took full advantage  of it. Why else do you have a foot stool but for cats to have a better opportunity to get to the Christmas ornaments that interest them?   We have repositioned the foot stool to prevent wholesale ravaging of the lower ornaments.

How do you accommodate the animals in your life? Got any good pet and Christmas decoration stories?