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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?

Unsuitable

I received a very funny email from Talbots, the clothing company earlier this week.  I don’t buy new clothes very often.  I need to look somewhat professional (this is western ND, after all, so nothing too fancy)  but I need to be comfortable.  Working with small children makes heels and power suits impractical.  I have settled on sweaters and corduroy pants.  I also really don’t like clothes shopping, and the nearest  fairly nice stores are 300 miles away in Fargo, This means I catalogue shop.

Talbots  has always been a favorite of mine, and their clothes fit me. They also last, so I only have to get new clothes every couple of years.  I bought a few things from Talbots  this fall, and the email this week asked  if I would be on an advisory board to help them stay current with the needs of their customers.  I declined.  I don’t think I am the most suitable person for this, since I have no interest in fashion, and I  don’t  have time, but I was enormously amused.

I imagine there are very few people in my State west of the Missouri River who buy clothes from Talbots. I can imagine  a marketing person desperate to increase sales looking at the data and saying “What’s up with her? Let’s see why she buys our product line. Maybe we have a new market to focus on.”

When have you been unsuitable for a task or out of your league? What is your sense of fashion?

Mutual Support

I am sad to report that on Monday, Husband and I had to take Millie, our Tortie,  to the vet to be put down.  She had been doing quite well with her steroid treatment for lymphoma for the past two months. She took a sudden turn for the worse on the weekend, and we knew it was the end, so we loaded her up and went together to the vet. It was sad, but we are relieved her suffering is over.

Husband said he was really glad we went to the vet together, and that neither of us had to do it alone. Then, he suggested a question for the Trail:

What do you think are essential qualities for a spouse or partner?

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?

Battle of the Lights

Apparently it’s not just about how I like the lights nestled into the tree.

After I put the lights on, I set them to slow fade on/slow fade off.  Not sure why I love that particular setting, but it’s very restful for me.  YA informed me that just plain lights on is better.  When I came down the next morning, the settings (on all three strands) were set to on.  No fading.  I set them back to fade.

Later that morning, I put on al the ornaments, including the crochet snowflakes and my favorite – the red wood bead strands.  I love them lopped on.  When YA came down, she informed me that they are “crooked” and proceeded to straighten them.  After she went back upstairs, I put them back the way I like them.

I bet you can tell where this is going.  Yep, a passive-aggressive battle over how the tree is decorated.  It’s been five days and it looks likes she has given up on the snowflakes and red bead garlands.  However when I came down this morning, the lights were changed to full on.  I might have given in on the flakes and garlands, but I’m not sure I can give in on the light settings.  Sigh.

Have you ever given in on something for the greater good?

More Than I Bargained For

I have often been accused of “biting off more than I can chew”.   I have always liked a challenge.  I suppose the most memorable experience with this is getting  purebred Welsh Terriers,  who proved, despite their smaller size, to be far more dog than I had ever anticipated.

My latest experience with this occurred last week. I treated myself to a new Springerle rolling pin for Christmas.  That is a rolling pin with intricate carvings used to make Springerle or Speculaas cookies.  I had been eyeing one in the King Arthur Baking Company for several years. The pin arrived last week. It is much bigger than it looked in the catalogue,  and it weighs 5 lbs. It is the classic blunt instrument.  Husband says it should be in an Agatha Christie mystery.  You can get an idea of its size  in the header photo with the 12 inch ruler in comparison.   It has really lovely, deep, carvings.  It is too big to store in the drawer with the other rolling pins, so we keep it in the entryway closet wrapped in bubble wrap in its box so that the carvings don’t chip. I never imagined I would have a rolling pin that requires such special care.  I guess should have been prepared for this since it is called The Showstopper Springerle Pin. I sort of overlooked that hint.

When have you got more than you bargained for? When have you bitten off more than you could chew?

Problematic Hymns

Our church choir, usually at about eighteen voices, is now down to five, (two altos, one mezzo soprano, and two tenor/baritones). The director is an operatic type of soprano who can sing and direct at the same time, and the accompanist is a very fine bass/baritone who can’t sing and play at the same time.  He just accompanies, and does it very well.  We sing masked and socially distanced, which is interesting in terms of listening to one another and blending.  We sing once a month.

I love to sing in the church  choir.  I have mixed feelings about sitting in the congregation and singing hymns.  I grew up in a Norwegian Lutheran congregation in South West Minnesota, and we had to sing every blessed verse in every hymn on Sunday.  To this day I just cringe when I have have to sing  four or more verses in the hymns.  I like the sentiment in the early verses, but I am more drawn to the melody and harmonies.

The folks we sing with in choir are an opinionated bunch when it comes to hymns. The accompanist, a retired high school choir director,  blanches when Amazing Grace is in the bulletin.  He can’t stand it for some reason.  The mezzo soprano, an elementary music teacher, refuses to sing Blessed Assurance  because she finds it so smarmy, and my fellow alto, a college librarian, cringes at Holy, Holy, Holy  because she had to sing it so often as a child.  I am drawn to mournful Scandinavian, German, and English tunes, but please don’t make me sing more than two verses of anything.

When I attended Concordia College in the 1970’s, the Concert Choir sang what I thought was a very odd song written by Paul J. Christiansen,  the choir director at the time,  based on Carl Sandburg’s  Prayers of Steel:

Lay me on an anvil; O God.
Beat me and hammer me into a crowbar.
Let me pry loose old walls.
Let me lift and loosen old foundations.
Lay me on an anvil, God.

Beat me and hammer me into a steel spike.
Drive me into the girders that hold a
skyscraper together.
Take red-hot rivets and fasten me into the
central girders.
Let me be the great nail holding a skyscraper
through blue nights
into white stars.

I don’t know If I would have chosen this as the text for a sacred song, but hey, it only has two verses.

What are your favorite songs?  What songs can’t you stand?  What do you like to sing?