Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas 2007

The stocking are indeed hung by the chimney with care. M and my brother are tucked all snug in their beds, but I can't reliably guess what kind of visions might dance in their heads. I am not in my kerchief, but I am in my Christmas-y red robe. I am fairly certain that M does not own a night cap. I have not heard any clatters arising in the yard, but I will listen carefully. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good rest of December.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Here We Go A-Caroling

One of the best things for getting in the holiday spirit (in my opinion anyway) is Christmas music. No, no, I'm not talking about the horrible muzak versions of "Christmas favorites" that they pump into all the malls. I mean the real thing. This is the one time of year when I set aside my suspicion of things Christian, and give them credit for some really good music. In order to get the complete effect you have to sing the carols yourself.

Yesterday was my book club's annual holiday sing-along, and it was just as much fun as always. Luckily, one of our number plays the piano, so she provides us with a good supply of sing-able music. A few of the ladies (including the pianist) can actually sing. This is a good thing because it gives the rest of us a way to follow along without being too painful. I am, by no means, an accomplished singer, but it is still SUCH fun to go along with the old familiar carols. "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" is one of my favorites along with "Joy to the World" and "It Came upon a Midnight Clear." Many of the carols are too high for my one inch range, but I just drop out of the parts I can't hit.

Singing really is good for the soul, and everyone should get the chance to do it. I think it is a lot like dancing in that you have to get over being self-conscious in order to enjoy yourself. Even if you're not very good, beg the pardon of the person next to you, and sing away. Thanks very much to my book club ladies for putting up with me!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How Not to Get Ready for a Party

1. Have the power go out
2. Try to get ready by candlelight
3. Try to get ready without the aid of irons, washing machines, or clocks
4. Have it snow/slush/ice in your neighborhood
5. Spill cocoa on your dress when the car hits a slippery patch
6. Wipe the spill in the bathroom only to find the color of your dress coming away on the cloth
7. Cover the large wet patch on your dress with a coat for most of the party

This is the absolute truth about M's company Christmas party this year. It was still fun once we got there, but it was more than a little stressful. I was getting quite grumpy by about step #5, but M was very good natured about the whole thing. Still, it would be nice if next year could be a little less thrilling.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Big Niece Goes to the Symphony

We finally did it; we took Big Niece to the symphony. I've been contemplating it for some time now, and I was just not sure if she was old enough (nine), if she would like it, if she could sit still and be quiet. Then, last week, an extra ticket became available at very short notice. We made a phone call, swooped in, and picked her up still wearing her school clothes. When asked if she wanted to go, she was not remotely ambivalent. "Yes, duh!" were her exact words. It seems that she has read a few books about Mozart, and she is fascinated by the idea.

Before we entered the hall, I explained how everyone would listen silently, and how she would have to be able to sit still for TWO WHOLE HOURS. She said she could handle this idea. We made a quick potty visit, and then we headed down to our seats (for future reference, seats up fairly close to the stage are good for kids because they can really watch the performers). She was thrilled with the idea of having her own ticket and her own program, and we spent some time talking about how you can just imagine a story for each performer you see on stage.

As the music began, she was enthralled. She hardly tried to talk to me or wiggle in her seat, but sat there with nearly rapt attention. Only once or twice did I have to remind her to be silent. At the end of one particularly boisterous piece, you could hear her voice say "Wow!" just before the applause cut in. I was thinking we might have to leave at intermission if she seemed bored, but when we actually got there, I was sure we didn't need to go.

Just before intermission ended, I borrowed a pen from a friend. My plan was to avoid any talking at all by letting her write notes about the music. We used the back of a card, and she happily wrote questions and comments and passed them to me. She did not talk (at least I really don't think she did) and she did not wiggle. Her comments about the music where quite interesting too. For example, as she watched the cellist really feeling the music she wrote "It looks like he is smelling a really good smell!" I was very proud of her because she was not the only child there, but she was definitely the best-behaved. Thus you would think this was the perfect evening. However, this was not quite the case.

After the rounds of applause were over, and stood chatting as we waited for the crowds to clear. The woman (the enormously large woman I can't help but add) who had been sitting behind us leaned forward and said "You must not pass notes at the symphony! It is very visually distracting!" I was in complete shock. The only responses that came to mind were not appropriate for children to hear! I just shook my head at her, and watched her ooze her slimy way up the aisle. My poor little niece was silent. I really think her whole experience was tarnished by this awful, unkind person.

People often remark how youth does not appreciate culture. They moan about the lack of manners and respectful behavior. Is it any wonder that kids often behave badly when there are people out there who treat them like this? I am not suggesting that kids be allowed to run wild, but a little kindness and understanding would have been invaluable in this case.

In spite of the ending, it really was a successful visit to the symphony. When my brother heard that she'd gone, he asked her, incredulously, if she enjoyed it. She laughed and said "Duh! Yes!" She gave the same response when he asked if she wanted to go again some time. I guess the experience can't have been tarnished too much (although I still hope the nasty woman gets an unpleasant disease) because she's excited to go again. Next time we need to find a concert with some Mozart.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pranking All the Way

Last night we got M so good (as they say)! In keeping with a long tradition at his company, we went to his office after he'd left and made a significant impact thereon. In fact, we spread Christmas cheer from one end of the office to the other. About 50% of the things in the office got wrapped in festive paper. This included his white board pens, his keyboard and mouse, his computer monitors, and even the paper cup that was left on his desk! We created lovely winter scenes on his bookcases, and we even used a 1/2 life-size deer to add that special outdoor touch. There were garlands, lights, and Christmas tchotchkies all over the place. The best part was the door into the hall that was wrapped like a package ribbon and all.

Our friend, B, also had the brilliant idea to leave a "naughty and nice" list. M's name went in the nice column, and all the rest of us were naughty. It seemed like the perfect way to let him know who'd done the damage. I also left a Christmas card promising to help him clean it all up again. When he got home last night, I snuck the camera into his car where he wouldn't see it by accident. Judging by the email I got from him this morning, I think he was pretty pleased with our little prank! Hopefully pics will come out soon.

Thanks again Naughty People!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sandra Lee Should Go to Mars

There are many horrible things to be found on television lately, but I recently came across something that really turned my stomach. No, I am not talking about some gory slasher thing, or a skeezy gossip program. Nope, I actually found this piece of twaddle on the Food Network! "Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee" is a crime against food in America.

This is a program that ostensibly caters to the new or time-strapped cook by using pre-made ingredients to make dinner preparation easy and convenient. You know this theme; it's the same one Rachel Ray uses on her "30 Minute Meals" program. You too can create Norman Rockwell-worthy meals without any knowledge of food or cooking! Just open a can and a packet of seasoning, mix well, and sprinkle parsley on top to make your guest thing you've slaved all day! Who cares if it tastes like complete crap and makes you fat! Ugh!

Watching a show about Thanksgiving, we were exposed to one horrible fake recipe after another. Open a can of beans, apply mayo, sprinkle parsley. Open a box of mashed potato flakes, apply hot water, sprinkle parsley. Open a can of biscuit dough, cut out shapes, sprinkle sugar. You get the idea. The worst, though, was the turkey.

I am not making this up! Get a prepared, but not cooked, turkey from the store. Next, open a packet of Italian salad dressing mix, mash into A POUND of butter, squish butter under skin, squish butter over entire surface of turkey. Bake. Of course, it isn't very hard to disgust me when it comes to poultry, but I understand that many poultry fans are hugely offended by this recipe.

In addition to her wonderful meals, Ms. Lee always prepares a cocktail (perhaps to kill diners' taste buds before they have her food?). This time it was a version of a hot toddy, and it began with, surprise surprise, a lump of butter. Mix spices into butter, spoon one to two tablespoons of butter into each glass. Next, make a cider packet with boiling water, and pour cider over butter. Add rum, non-dairy whipped topping (hydrogenated oil whipped with sugar and stabilizers) and crushed cookies. Serve and enjoy!

Some argue that these recipes are perfect for a certain portion of the population, and that anyone who dislikes them is just being a food snob. Translation, there are poor and stupid people out there who need these recipes! What a horrible idea. I know for a fact that the least expensive, simplest food to prepare is that which comes from scratch. The problem lies in the fact that people have literally been fed so much garbage that they no longer appreciate or understand the simple good stuff. Sandra Lee should be ashamed of herself for perpetuating the problem instead of trying to address it.

Snow, Rain, and Wind

Whew! What a weekend it's been! For those who do not live in the Seattle area, we've been having some wild weather. Three storms hit our region in about three days, and it has been one extreme to another. First came the snow which was fairly light at first, but then fell heavily enough to coat roads and houses with about three inches in our area (we are up a bit in elevation). The next day, as the snow began to melt (dammit!), we had high winds and temperatures just above freezing. Today we are full "Pineapple Express" mode. All the snow is gone but for a few melting snowmen, the temperature is unusually warm, and it is POURING rain. Roads are beginning to flood, creeks are rising, and there is no firm answer on when it will stop. Please no more power outages! Please no more power outages!