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Category Archives: Christmas

Another Christmas Rant

I get a little stressed at Christmas time. There, I’ve said it.

I don’t like to admit it. I love Christmas, and I get a little impatient of the bah humbuggers. Of course, people have a right to like or dislike what they want. But that’s my point. If you don’t like Christmas, don’t celebrate it! I’m talking about all the nasty people crowding the stores. They have made themselves quite miserable and all to no purpose. I say enjoy Christmas! So I feel just a little hypocritical when I start to feel the pain myself.

My problem may be that I take things to an unhealthy extreme. I love Christmas so much, I feel I should be blissfully happy at all times from Thanksgiving through the Epiphany. This is not realistic. Sometimes I worry that I can’t be truly happy when it’s not Christmas. I know in my heart that’s not true, and I do realize it’s a little neurotic.

I feel stressed first because I usually plan my season with an overly optimistic estimation of my talents and capacities. I’ll make this present and this present. I’ll decorate this and attend these events and watch all my Christmas movies and listen to all my Christmas CDs (the last of which I have never done in one season; we have a lot of Christmas music). Then I start to feel down and I feel stressed because I’m not happy.

“Where’s your Christmas spirit?” that voice in my head yells. “This season only lasts a short time and you’ve got to enjoy ALL of it! Get happy NOW!”

Have you ever tried to order yourself to get happy? I can never make it work. Finally, a little common sense kicks in. I tell myself to just relax, feel what I feel and drive on. I look at my list of things to do and decide what I can realistically handle. Actually, sometimes I have to first make an actual list, which is a lot less intimidating than the never ending scroll that runs through my head. And I sing a Christmas carol for good measure.

So today I’m waiting for that common sense to kick in. I sang a few Christmas carols at work, and I may start writing that actual list. First on the list will be Write Wednesday’s Blog Post. Then I can get the ineffable satisfaction of crossing it off. Hope you’re enjoying your December.

I Give a Christmas Gift

I had a few afghans and prayer shawls to donate to the Folts Home, the nursing home in Herkimer where I used to adjust eyeglasses occasionally (I intend to do it again, but have not worked it into my schedule yet).

I almost didn’t have any afghans this year, but for the generosity and Christmas spirit of my sister Cheryl. You see, last year I inadvisedly announced that everybody in my family was getting afghans for Christmas in 2011. I thought it would be easier. Silly me. The afghans did not pile up as fast as they have in the past, but certain nieces and nephews had expressed satisfaction at the idea (I think it was by fist pump and the word “Yes!”), so I felt obligated. I mentioned to Cheryl that her recently married daughter and her husband were getting one to share.

“When they’ve been married ten years, I’ll give them two afghans.” (That was a joke; I know many couples married more than ten years that still cuddle under one afghan, and I’m sure Dana and Dan will be that way). I also mentioned that I had none for the nursing home. A few days later, Cheryl called me back and said I should donate the afghans for her girls to the nursing home.

“It’s not that we don’t love your afghans; I’m under two of them right now,” she assured me. “But we felt bad about the nursing home, and you can give us afghans any time.”

So I had a few afghans. I also had a few prayer shawls. I ended up with one less prayer shawl, though, because the day I took them to church to have the pastor bless them, I found out a church friend had lost her husband. It seems she was having a hard time in many respects, so I suggested to Father Paul we pull out a prayer shawl for this lady. She was very appreciative.

Wow, I thought this was going to be a short post about a drive to the nursing home and I’m over 300 words already. I do go on, don’t I? So anyways, I had the afghans and shawls in my truck and went a different way home from work. Instead of going from Main Street in Mohawk over the bridge to Mohawk Street in Herkimer, I turned right onto Route 5S and took the bridge to Washington. It meant a short drive down a highway I don’t often go on. I just love these little adventures. As we used to say when we were younger, it takes so little to please some people.

The receptionist at the Folts Home had to let me in (for some reason nursing home doors stymie me), and she called someone from the Activities Office down to collect the donation. Both ladies loved the story of my sister’s generosity and why there was one less prayer shawl. They thanked me for the donation, pooh-poohed my apology that it was not larger, and said if they got donations of yarn, they would send it my way.

I drove home with the warm hearted feeling that Christmas can bring.

A Sweet Tableau

When we last left our heroine (um, that’s me), she had gotten to church and found it was the day of the children’s Christmas Pageant (OK, enough with the third person; how pretentious). (You know, I think I started another post in a very similar fashion. Oh well, I like it, so at least one of us is happy)

It is always nice to go to church at Christmas time. There are poinsettias on the altar. People in the congregation wear their Christmas sweaters. We sing Christmas carols for some of the hymns. My church sings every verse of every song. The church I grew up in did not do that. Two verses and done. Sometimes during the six verse songs my throat gets a little sore, but in general I like it.

Actually, the music made me feel sad at first, because the church organist died this year. He was a truly sweet man. He never missed a Sunday if he could help it, and he always had a smile and a kind word. Apparently we don’t have a replacement organist yet, but a couple of strong voiced parishioners led the singing. Also, a young man played violin for two songs, and a young lady played the flute for one. Very talented young people around here.

The Christmas pageant was in place of the homily. Of course I usually enjoy Father Paul’s talks, but there’s just nothing like live theatre.

It was a very traditional pageant. Two girls who read very well narrated. The various characters came forward at the proper times and took their place in the tableau. Then two girls each played a song on the organ. My favorite characters were the littlest angel and the littlest shepherd. The angel couldn’t have been more than two or three (I can never guess ages accurately). A pig tailed red head, she was wearing a one piece pajama with wings attached. I think the littlest shepherd was her brother, maybe a year older. As he came forward, he went into the pew with his father to sit back down. His father directed him back toward the altar with the others.

I really enjoyed our pageant. I’m sure many other churches were enjoying similar spectacles. Isn’t Christmas great?

White Trash

I like doing cooking posts, because I feel like the Barbara Stanwyck character in Christmas in Connecticut, one of my favorite Christmas movies. Only I can cook, and I have a husband. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the movie. It’s cute.

While my tomato sauce cooked yesterday, I made some White Trash for the holidays. I originally put this part in yesterday’s post, when I was handwriting it at work (on break, of course). As the post grew lengthier, I thought why have one over long post when I can have two medium length?

I’m actually not sure if I should put the recipe in my blog, because I don’t know if it is copyrighted or not. It’s written on a sticky note in one of my recipe books. I got it from my mother, who got it from a lady she met at a wedding to which I was not invited (really couldn’t have been that fun a wedding, could it?). Monday I made it from memory, as I usually do.

I melted a 16 oz bag of white chocolate chips, to which I added 2 tablespoons of olive oil (not old Garlic and Herb like I used in the tomato sauce: recently purchased plain). In a big bowl I put 6 cups Crispy Hexagons, 2 c Tasteos (I didn’t spring for name brand cereal), 2 c broken waffle pretzels (I broke them myself into not too small pieces), and 2 c peanuts (roasted, lightly salted). I poured the melted stuff over the other, stirred it as best I could, and spread it on wax paper to cool. To be Christmasy, I sprinkled red and green sugar on it.

It’s pretty simple, but kind of a pain in the butt with the stirring and spreading. The last time I made it I got really irritated and vowed I would never make it again. I would stick to Chex Party Mix, I said (I buy generic Chex cereal, too, but what else are you going to call Chex Party Mix?). That was almost a year ago. The memory of my irritation had faded, and I know some people who LOVE White Trash.

I have enough ingredients to make another batch, although I probably won’t be able to get another blog post out of it. Oh well, I’m no Elizabeth Lane (the Barbara Stanwyck character in Christmas in Connecticut). Ooh, maybe I’ll watch the movie and blog about that.

Taking Charge of the Christmas Tree

After toying with the idea of not doing a Christmas tree this year, I decided to not be a Grinch.

A few years ago I had taken a friend out to The Flower Barn on Barringer Road in Ilion, NY for her tree, because I had a truck and she did not. At that time, I would get together with my sister Cheryl, in Marcy, for our trees. Cheryl does not have a truck either. This year I could not coordinate schedules with Cheryl, and Mom and Dad were able to hook her up with use of a pick up truck (I have never known my Dad to be without a truck).

So there I was, an independent, take charge kind of woman, taking responsibility for my own Christmas cheer. I knew where Barringer Road was. Of course, that was about all I knew. The Flower Barn, it turns out, is a long ways out Barringer Road. I drove and drove, but finally found it.

I commenced to look at Christmas trees. It was then that I realized I did not need to be an independent, take charge kind of woman to get a Christmas tree. I needed family or friend to share the experience. I wanted to debate the merits of the respective trees, discuss proper watering techniques, and debate the best way to hang lights. I was sad all by myself. I tend to get a little emotional this time of year, and I feel that at all times I am a sociable creature.

I found a tree I liked. Not too big, nice and full. By this time nice lady came out and asked did I need help. I had to wait a few minutes for the man who could handle the chain saw (it was a big chain saw) to return to cut the bottom off the trunk. During that time I selected an evergreen ball to hang on my front porch (not to replace the plastic light up snowman I have not found yet; I have a different spot in mind for him).

I drove home by a different route, because I saw a sign for Bill Deyle’s Repair and thought, “I know where that is” — a road that comes out right where I wanted to be. It was a twisty turny road, so I had a little bit of an adventure.

Now was the time to be an independent, take charge kind of woman! I got the tree out of the truck, into my house and up in the stand. I almost tipped it over getting garbage bags underneath the stand, in case I spilled when I watered it (and I almost always spill). I heated water and watered it. I enjoyed the Christmas tree smell. Soon I felt ready to take on the rest of my Saturday adventures.

The Flower Barn Greenhouses are located at 1489 Barringer Road, Ilion, NY. Phone number is 315-895-4313.

Humane Society Santas

The best thing I did yesterday was go to the Open House and Indoor Garage Sale at Herkimer County Humane Society in Mohawk, for a few reasons.

To do the story justice, I must first tell a story of my past. Growing up, I remember having a beautiful stuffed Santa Claus that was always out at Christmas time and only at Christmas time. When I was quite small, I remember playing with him like the rest of our dolls and stuffed toys. As we got older, Mom started putting him on a higher shelf, “Because he’s old.” I believe Mom and Dad had originally purchased him for my oldest sister, Victoria, at her first Christmas (the only one she didn’t have to share), but it soon became a family decoration. And when Vicki moved away, she did not get to take him with her.

When Steven, then boyfriend now husband, began to spend his Christmases with my family, he fell in love with the Santa Clause. It became a recurring joke that Steven was going to hide Santa Claus in his suitcase and leave all his clothes behind. Not a fair trade. We always looked for just such a Santa Claus but never found quite the right one. Eventually Steven bought me a very nice stuffed Santa Claus which I love. But Mom’s Santa is still the best.

Fast forward to December 2011. Steven had to work, but I always want to support the Humane Society as well as feed my addiction to buying other people’s junk (that’s what we call a win-win situation). As I drove out, I was pleased to see that lots of people were supporting the Humane Society. I knew many people were picking up pictures of their pets with Santa, taken at an earlier fundraiser which Steven and I sadly missed. I finally parked in the Parking Area near the canal trail. That way I was facing back into town, and it was only a short walk down the highway to the Humane Society.

A couple of volunteers were dressed as elves, and Santa was present. I made my way through the crowd to where the garage sale was. They were doing a booming business! People were nicely letting each other through. You often run into more politeness at these fundraisers than you do at normal retail establishments.

The first thing I found was a basket of ceramic Santas. We have a few similar Santas. They stand about 5 inches tall and usually have a year printed on the base and sometimes a country. I could see there was more than one layer, and they wanted $10 for the basket. I figured even if I found some duplicates with what we already had, it was a good buy and we could always use the duplicates for presents for others. I picked up the basket, turned around and then I saw him.

An old fashioned stuffed Santa. He was not exactly like my Mom’s, but he was beautiful. Obviously of the same era and in very good condition. $5. I was in love. I picked him up, then I picked up a ceramic church with a place for a tea light. Perfect for my Christmas village which I did not set up this year but intend to set up in 2012. I got in the long, slow line. I checked out some other things as I stood there. Luckily I remembered we do not need any Christmas mugs, because they have a lot of them. A Yul Brenner as the King in The King and I caught my eye, but my arms were full. A volunteer was trying to sell a couple of artificial trees for $10 apiece. If I had not already purchased a tree, I might have been tempted (when I got home and smelled my tree, I was glad).

A fellow ahead of me had $45.50 worth of stuff, but the lady rounded it to $45.

“I’m not so bad,” I mused to the lady behind me.

“No, you’re not,” she said. She had found a tree skirt as she stood in line, which I wish I had seen first. As I often say, you snooze you lose.

When it was my turn I resisted the cookies and cupcakes they also had for sale. For one thing, my arms were full. After I paid and made my way toward the exit, I saw… another stuffed Santa. This one not as big, a similar age, equally beautiful, $2.

“I didn’t see him!” I carefully put down the ceramic Santas and opened my purse. I caught one volunteer’s eye and handed her the $2. “Please don’t make me wait in line again, he’s $2, I didn’t see him before.” She graciously accepted my payment.

A man standing nearby offered to help me carry my stuff to my truck. I thought it was very nice of him, especially as I was not parked close by. He was fine with it.

“If I would have bought cookies, I’d give you one,” I told him. Being a fundraiser, it did not seem appropriate to offer a tip. He told me he had to watch his sugar intake anyways. I’m sure the real Santa was watching and gave him more nice points.

When I got home I found the basket contained 20 ceramic Santas, not one a duplicate of those we already have. Steven was predictably delighted with the stuffed Santas. It was altogether a great experience. I helped the Humane Society to the tune of $18 (OK, not a princely sum; we do what we can), and our Christmas decorations are enhanced for years to come.

The Herkimer County Humane Society facebook page reminds us that every day really open house. Stop in and meet some nice animals. You’ll be glad you did.

Snowman Philosophy

I ended yesterday’s post with a philosophical question to ponder another day. And here we are on Lame Post Friday, the day for random observations and — wait for it — half baked philosophy (I have wanted to use “wait for it” in a sentence ever since the Rob Lowe character used in on West Wing back in the early ’00s; an ambition realized).

So I’ve been wanting this plastic light up snowman for my front lawn. Judging from recent blog posts, it has become something of an obsession, although I prefer the term quest. Before anybody organizes an intervention, let me assure you: I do not spend every waking minute plotting where to look next for my plastic light up snowman. I’m having fun with it. And I am especially amused by the fact that it was Steven who originally wanted to get a plastic light up snowman and I have kind of taken it over (kind of emblematic of our marriage; I usually get the last cup of coffee, too).

A few philosophical question are raised by our search. And I do need to have a literal moment here and ask, wouldn’t even a half baked philosophy melt a snowman? I’ll just have to take that chance.

The first question is: would we have wanted it so badly if it was readily available? When Steven first brought it up and I liked the idea, we thought we could drive down to our local Wal-Mart or K-Mart and be plugging in Mr. Snowman within the hour. As we checked store after store to no avail, an obsession was born. I think this is a dumb philosophical question, because you can’t possibly arrive at an answer. Oh wait, I think that is the definition of a philosophical question. I don’t know from philosophy. That’s why mine are always half baked.

The second question, which I may find out the answer to so I guess that makes it not philosophical, is will I like my plastic light up snowman as much after I get him as I think I will. I’m inclined to say yes. After all, I still love my plastic light up Santa, and he was no trouble at all.

The third question, and this is where things get a little hairy, is do I really even want a plastic light up snowman any more, or do I want to keep searching and blogging about it? I have to admit, it’s kind of fun to have an obsession — uh, I mean a quest. And as I am ever searching for blog topics, it’s kind of a God send (I see by the dictionary the proper spelling is godsend, but my way seems more respectful). Well, I think that’s kind of selling myself short to even ask that. It’s like saying I don’t even know what I want, and sometimes I do.

I suppose I could go into a whole big thing about how the journey is the destination, or the search is more important than the object, or some such, but I’m really not very good at that sort of thing. Actually, as I write this, I’m beginning to suspect I’m not so good at the half baked philosophies, either. Oh well, next Lame Post Friday I’ll confine myself to random observations. In the meantime, I’ve got big plans for a Mohawk Valley weekend, so stay tuned (an anachronistic expression, but I like it). Happy Friday!

The Quest Continues

I had already written Tuesday’s blog post about how I could not find a plastic light up snowman for my front lawn when I remembered another place to look: The Thrift Store. I thought of it shortly after seven in the morning, so I had a full day of work to get through while containing my excitement.

The Salvation Army Thrift Store is located at 164 W Main St. in Ilion. It took some maneuvering from my place of employment to get there — late afternoon traffic in Ilion is incredible — but I found a parking space and in I went, hopes high. No luck. Lots of cool Christmas decorations, but nothing big. I walked studiously by the books. OK, I took a quick glance, but did not let myself stay. You know me and books (and if you don’t know: I love books).

As I had contemplated the Thrift Store during work (still paying attention to my tasks, of course), I had bethought me of Collis Hardware (how’s that for a fancy way of saying “I thought of”?), on North Main Street in Herkimer. An old fashioned store like that, I thought, might be the way to go. As I pondered how to get there from here, I remembered Second Time Around Consignments on Mohawk Street in Herkimer. Two more possibilities!

Second Time Around, it turns out, has mostly clothes. Some very fancy clothes. I did not have time to browse, though. I was on a mission. It’s a nice store. I’ll have to return at a more opportune time.

I found a space on Main Street almost two blocks from Collis, and I remembered the HARC Goodwill Store around the corner. No luck in Collis, and then I had to decide: to walk around the corner and down that street, then all the way back to my truck, possibly carrying a plastic light up Santa (I am ever optimistic) or to drive around the block. I drove around the block. Don’t judge me.

No luck at HARC Goodwill, either. I briefly eyed Dollar General across the street, but decided it was too complicated to get to (one way street, no left turn, etc.) and not that good of a possibility anyways. I went home and contemplated the perverseness of fate.

Last night I found a comment under Snowman Rant. A friend, who is much more adept at the internet than I, had found me a couple more possibilities. The search continues! And if I don’t meet with success in 2011, there will be garage sales to check out in 2012. Now it’s a quest. But will my plastic light up snowman be the thrill I am hoping for when I finally find him? A philosophical question to ponder another day.

Snowman Rant

I suppose one could find a metaphor for life in my problem. One could say, with a philosophical shrug, you snooze, you lose. One could say sententiously that you have to take advantage of the good things in life when they are available, because you never know when they will be taken away from you.

Frankly, I think the last mentioned person is overstating the case, and is a trifle obnoxious to boot. We’re not talking about spending time with my parents or taking my dog for a walk (both of which I ought to do more often, but that’s another rant). It’s just… we want one of those plastic light up snowmen for the front of our house.

These plastic light up decorations have been around for as long as I can remember, which is pretty far back, because I have not lost my entire mind yet. My family never had one when I was growing up. For one thing, the guy that plowed our driveway used to pile all kinds of snow in our front yard. Great for minor sledding, King of the Hill and other fun in the snow. For decorating the front lawn, not so much. And we almost never used our front door, so there was no compelling reason to shovel the front porch and decorate that.

When Steven and I bought our house, we hung lights on the front porch for the holidays almost as a matter of course. I’m pretty sure we didn’t discuss “should we?” Actually, when it comes to Christmas the word “should” rarely arises, unless it’s a the sentence such as, “Of course we should; it’s Christmas!”

We got a plastic lighted Santa when I saw some that looked old fashioned. The one I picked looks similar to a Santa candle my Mom has had as long as I can remember (as I said: a long time). I surprised Steven with it one day when he was at work and I was off. I walked to the store and walked home with Santa under my arm and felt pretty cool doing it. We were content with our Santa for a number of years (probably five; who counts these things?), but this year, Steven suddenly conceived the desire for a snowman to keep Santa company. I liked the idea.

Do you think we can find a plastic light up snowman anywhere? Nobody has them! We’ve checked department stores, hardware stores, consignment stores, thrift stores, every place I could think of. It’s all huge blow up things or wire with little bulbs. Both very nice in their own way, I suppose, but Not What I Want. One place had two plastic light up decorations: Snoopy and a penguin. Neither is right as a companion for our Santa.

As to why we did not buy a snowman when they were readily available, I have no reason. It never occurred to me to want one till Steven suggested it this year. And now I WANT one!!! And it’s not like I want one only because we can’t find one: we got the idea before we started looking.

A voice in my head says, “It’s no fair!” A singularly useless observation. We all know that Christmas is not fair. Look at all the rotten brats that get lots of great presents. And some well behaved angels get crap. OK, I don’t personally know any well behaved angels (I’m certainly not one), but I’ve heard.

I can’t even make a real snowman, because there isn’t any snow. I’ve only made about three snowmen in my life. The most memorable was when I was a little girl. I needed my Mom’s help, because I rolled the snowballs too big. I named him, with no sense of irony, Mr. Snowman. He lasted a long time, especially since my little brother (no angel himself) did not knock him down.

We will not have a completely snowman-less Christmas. We have, in fact, a rather extensive collection of indoor snowmen. And it may snow so I can try my hand again. But for the rest of my life, I’m afraid I will recall 2011 as The Year We Couldn’t Find a Plastic Light Up Snowman.

Oh Christmas Trees

I drive by Weller Library and Weller Park almost every day after work. Weller Library, if you didn’t read about it in one of my previous posts, is a lovely building, the former home of the Weller family. It is surrounded by a park which hosts many community events. I noticed a sign about Christmas in the Park. Eventually information about a tree lighting appeared on the sign, and a couple of Christmas trees showed up.

I drive by the park slowly due to traffic and a four way stop, but also due to traffic and a four way stop, it’s not easy to read signs. So I wasn’t clear on if the event was Dec. 4 at 5 p.m. or from 4 to 5 p.m. Luckily, the OD (that’s the Utica Observer Dispatch) listed it in their Events Calendar in Sunday’s Paper. 5 p.m.

So Steven and I made sure we got all or most of our stuff done by 4:30 or so and headed on over. We brought our dog, Tabby. We figured there could be no possible objection to a dog in a park, and we had faith in our ability to keep her from peeing on the Christmas trees.

A crowd had already gathered, but we found a parking space without too much trouble. There were a lot of trees, all beautifully decorated. Signs told us who had put up each tree. Local businesses, Girl Scout troops, fire departments and other organizations had participated. We walked around and admired. Several young girls admired Tabby, and petted her.

We ran into a gentleman from our church, and he told us this was the third year for trees in the park. He said anybody could put a tree up.

“You could put your tree up here next year,” he suggested.

That sounded like a good idea to me. I have been toying with the idea of not doing a tree this year. One reason is that nobody ever comes over to see our decorations. Of course we’ll still decorate, because we like to look at decorations, but how many decorations do me and Steve need to look at? Now, to put a tree up in Weller Park, everybody would see it. Most of the trees are memorials. I know some people I could make a memorial to. It’s something to think about.

The trees in Weller Park are gorgeous this year, especially with the lights on. Before the actual lighting, a color guard marched and a chaplain said a prayer. Then they played Christmas carols, which I was not the only one to sing along with (I danced a little, too; I love Christmas carols). Hot chocolate and cookies were served in the library. Steven went in and brought us out some (as well behaved as Tabby is, I did not think she’d be welcome in the library). It was yummy cocoa.

People were still enjoying the trees and the music when we left. We drove around a couple of blocks in Mohawk, admiring the lights on people’s houses. We don’t have snow yet, but there is plenty of Christmas spirit in the Mohawk Valley.