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A Little More Christmas

Friday my Mom called up and asked did we want some company. She and Dad had mentioned driving out to Herkimer to see our decorations, but I didn’t think they’d actually make it. So the house was kind of a mess. What a surprise.

It was Steven’s day off, and he was in the midst of washing Thursday’s dishes (I usually let them sit, in case the Dish Fairies want to do them in the night. It could happen). I was comfortably lounged on the couch reading a biography by A. Scott Berg: Max Perkins, Editor of Genius. Excellent book. Highly recommend it.

I jumped up, of course, and began what a friend of mine refers to as Wonder Woman Hour. She used to have Wonder Woman Hour just before her husband came home, when she was a stay at home mom. She has full time a job now (plus a couple of part time), but I like to believe she still indulges in Wonder Woman Hour when the situation calls for it. Come to think of it, with a full time and a couple of part time jobs, Wonder Woman Hour is probably the only way to clean the house. But I digress.

We worked wonders with our house, the downstairs anyways. I am a great advocate of the stuff and cram method of cleaning. I stuffed many things in our second bedroom upstairs and closed the door. Oh, wait, I’m still digressing. Back to our post Christmas visit.

My Mom, Dad and sister Cheryl came over and admired all our decorations: our tree, the Santa Clauses on the buffet and dining room table, the tea pots and toys on the mantle, the Santas and mugs on the window sill in the kitchen. For being a Not As Decorated year, we have a lot of decorations out. Cheryl had brought us a lovely Santa that lights up and moves. We gave Mom and Dad the presents we had for the sisters, nieces and nephew we have not seen this holiday.

We had a nice visit over coffee. During the course of the visit I mentioned the Hallmark singing snowman I had seen for half price at Hummel’s. Perhaps you are familiar with the singing snowmen Hallmark has offered in the last few years. In 2010 Hallmark did a Snoopy, which we found less inspiring, but for a number of years before that, Steven and I had acquired every one. For 2011, Hallmark is back to snowmen, and I liked the one I saw.

When they got ready to go, Cheryl said, “And we’ll go by Hummel’s and buy the snowman.” I had also mentioned the Ilion Farmer’s Market, which I love sharing with others. We knew Tabby was welcome at both places, so we snapped on her leash, jumped in our cars and off we went.

The singing snowmen were on a table right next to the downstairs cash register, so we grabbed them quickly. Then Steven and I led the way to Clapsaddle Farm on Otsego Street in Ilion. It was a fun interlude. My family headed back home, and Steven and I headed back to Herkimer. I felt we had extended our Christmas just a little bit and am wondering what else I can do to continue the holiday spirit.


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.

Sunday Run

Today I’m going to do what I have previously done on some Saturdays: I ran this morning and now I’m going to blog about it.

It was actually afternoon by the time I finished my run and cool down, because it was 11:33 when I started (that’s my time obsession; I can’t say 11:30 when I looked at my watch and it was 11:33). I didn’t feel too much like running. However, I ran yesterday with a sinus headache and it turned out pretty good, so I thought, “Hey, can’t hurt, might help.”

Yesterday I was totally going to let myself off the hook because of the headache. For one thing it was cold and the cold always exacerbates these things. However, I actually felt like running. I ended up feeling pretty terrific. The headache even left me while I ran. It came back later, but whatever.

Today I did not have a headache, but I was lightheaded, which can be worse. I didn’t feel like doing anything but lie in bed and stare at the ceiling. Steven, on the other hand, was dreadfully ambitious. He cleaned the kitchen and was preparing to hang Christmas lights on the front porch. I told him, “I’m going in and I’m either going to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling or put on sports bras and go running.”

I tried the first and it was kind of boring and guilt inducing, so I sought out some running clothes. It had been quite chilly when we went to the grocery store this morning, so I left on my long johns and searched till I found my army long sleeved PT tee shirt. My long johns are a thin silky feeling polyester, not the heavy long johnny looking ones I also wear on occasion. I thought they’d be OK.

It was a bright, sunny day. The sun had gotten brighter, the wind had died down, and it seemed to be quite a bit warmer. Of course I did not realize this till I was actually on the sidewalk running. Damn! I prefer to run in bicycle shorts and short sleeves when possible. Well, my outfit was not too warm for the occasion. I tried to stay on the shady side of the street.

Still, it was not a particularly fun run. Every step was an effort. I’ve had these runs before; I know how to persevere. I persevered, confident I would eventually get to the “I can rock this” stage of the run. And I persevered some more. Finally I thought, “Well, so what? It isn’t going to be that long of a run; if the whole thing’s no fun, so be it. I’m still burning calories and building up my run time.”

I passed a group of young people, maybe college age. I saw them coming a block and a half away and hoped they would go somewhere else. Then again, I thought, why should I worry. They probably weren’t even noticing me. If they did, they were probably thinking, “Look at that old lady jogging. She should be home knitting.” I agreed. I wondered if they thought I should also have a glass of wine and watch Snapped. By now my run was getting to be a little more fun, because I was distracting myself with silly thoughts.

I made note of Christmas decorations, as I hope to take a walk after dark with Steven and Tabby and look at lights. Christmas decorations are not as charming in the bright sunlight with no snow, I thought. But still pretty charming. I was glad Steven was getting our decorations up.

As I approached the house, I hoped Steven would still be on the porch to say, “Go past the house.” You see, Steven told me the story of when he was a boy, riding with his nieces and nephews in the back of his dad’s pick up truck (this was the olden days, when kids rode in the backs of pick up trucks and nobody said anything). When they would get close to the house, they would chant, “Go past the house! Go past the house!” When I run, I sometimes have to go past the house a ways in order to run for the length of time I intend to. I say “Go past the house!” to myself, but I think it would be nice if Steven was on the porch to say it. I thought if he was on the porch today, I would yell, “Say it!” and hope he knew what I meant. Alas, he was not there. I went past the house anyways.

I felt pretty terrific after my run, when Tabby and I were walking around the block for my usual cool down. And I see I have gotten a rather lengthy blog post out of it. Rock on, me!