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Our holiday decorations are really pretty easy to deal with – assuming we have enough batteries: it always takes more than we think, and more than we have, no matter how much we plan. And again this year, we ran out of batteries before getting all the lights done – the swags for the fence are still in their boxes. Our new nutcrackers are quite dashing. But every year, I do wish that the contemporary light strings had the same colors as the “classic” light strings. Purple, no matter how much I love it elsewhere, doesn’t belong in my Christmas lights.
What’s your holiday flavor: Peppermint or Gingerbread? I prefer Gingerbread, particularly the real thing. I tried a new recipe today – an authentic Scottish recipe from a fellow Raveler, and this gingerbread recipe was incredibly easy to pull together, and smells and tastes delicious. It is a very cake-like loaf, not a dense brick. Which of course means that I love it, and himself is deeply disappointed by it – he prefers a doorstop loaf. I think next time I’ll candied ginger to it, and use coffee instead of water, but it came out of the pans so easily!
My winter holiday tableau at the office was installed today. The deep windowsill at my desk stands in for the top of the huge, console TV that my grandparents had. I arrange the various tree decorations – mostly from the 1960’s, many from Germany – that had been Grandma B’s, alongside the snowman with the little red wagon (a gift from the HFA days), and the three Italian glass trees I bought a few years ago. It is a small but steady reminder of the season, a tradition with one foot in the past, and one foot in the present.
I cannot explain to anyone not already on Rav in less than one hundred words who FHM is, so I’m not even going to try. But for four years I’ve been following along in the festival of light centered around the spirit of giving – and doing a few elf gifts / donations myself, and being an Angel Investor to several others the last few years, I finally got the call today. One of my fellow Fredders thought of me! Meeeeeeeeeeeeee! I couldn’t choose between a pattern or a donation so I left it up to my elfing Fredder.
Will this retrograde never end? I end up feeling this way every time, but I do think this has been one of the tougher stints, judging by the number of blow ups we’ve had. And negotiations on the Agreement from Hell at work seem to have ground to a halt - perhaps permanently? Just one more day to get through now and then perhaps the holiday mood will begin to descend, at least upon me? We’ll get a tree this weekend, and finish decorating outside. It will be festive. More festive. That is what I keep telling myself, anyway.
Long ago, far away, in a different age, I painted my nails in soft, pale pinks. I had forgotten how much I liked the look of polished nails. Nails simply look longer and better when wearing polish. But no natural look for me this time – I’ve gone for the glitter nails. And to start, in a very rosy tone that reminds me astonishingly of Rae’s nails, although truly with much more sparkle. It is a very girly look, and I’m loving it. Next up has to be that startlingly purple metallic chrome color, so very goth girl.
A small group for knit nite tonight. Joan has declared she won’t be around for a few weeks yet. We’re not having the anniversary party this year either. I know groups come and go, but I need this knit night, even if I hardly say anything on some nights. It has been a month and we have not really happily settled back into Fridays. Everyone is still out the door at 8 pm. I don’t know if we’ll ever really coalesce again into that groove where everyone is so comfortable that no one wants to leave.
I hoped that a day spent in busy holiday preparations would help me find some of the holiday spirit. The buttermilk bread yesterday was a raging success, I know I'll be doing that again. We found a lovely tree, one that has space between the branches, and the pine scent in the living room gives me twinges of holiday cheer. I swapped out the lights on the tuteur. Spiked cocoa with marshmallows while writing out dozens of cards (for the swap). And a cheesy holiday movie on Netflix. All of this, and I still don’t really feel the spirit.
Today’s adventure in buttermilk bread turned out better than my first attempt with this recipe. I only made two loaves, not three as the recipe specifies - I don’t like tiny loaves. I got the bread to rise a bit more, but it is still dense and stiff, not a soft and luscious crumb, like the rolls were – inside, they were much softer than any of the loaves I’ve made. Perhaps my yeast is too old? It is at least a year old, maybe more? I will replenish my yeast and continue to play around with this recipe.
After committing to doing the thread starts during the holiday week, I find myself stymied by what my theme will be. I thought of the obvious – but the Egyptian collection on the Met’s website is nearly impossible to navigate – you cannot search by dynasty, or type (relief, sculpture) or anything useful, so I cannot find the pieces I am thinking of. If I had more time, I’d haul out one of need to take over a desk – oh, wait, I don’t have one of those anymore: himself has declared my desk, our only desk, his personal workspace.
Nothing. I’ve got nothing for today – literally: a nearly empty calendar at work. I do have a case of knitting start-itis, as I am looking beyond the pullover, which is nearing an end, I think (I hope!). I really do want to knit a pink cashmere bed jacket, it is so cold in bed when I read at night; I have the yarn in stash. I’m also itching to bake holiday cookies. I know I won’t be able to bake everything on Sunday, but I need to deliver any gifts to the office by next Wednesday.
Acknowledging that things are changing is difficult, I get it. Particularly when it is admitting that you and your spouse are aging, perhaps not equally fast. Mom has more difficulty getting around, particularly stairs. Dad has issues tracking “current state” – recent events and newer people. If there’s any hope of him learning the basics of a smart phone, we have to start now. After three weeks of pushing, mom finally got two iPhones. Same model as I have, so hopefully I can really help them both learn the ins and outs. And they can call for help anytime, anywhere.
It snowed this morning, unexpectedly. Big fat flakes were drifting slowly down from the sky – just the kind of snow that typically gets me in the holiday mood. I watched the snowfall as much as I dared from within my 3 hour meeting, and it gave me hope that the holiday mood would arrive, but when the snow stopped – nothing. I wrote out the personal cards tonight, and acknowledged the fallacy of each year saying that next year I’ll take more time and have better penmenship. It won’t change, my writing is a scrawl and so be it.
In the last few years, I thought I was moving past the migraine headaches that have been with me since puberty. Now, I’m not so sure. I had one year with very few headaches, but they seem to be making a return this year. I was taken by surprise by one today, it must have been lurking all morning because it arrived full blown early this afternoon and decimated my day. I have meds that will break the headache, but they kind of break me in other ways. I need to be ready for a very long day tomorrow.
The annual Christmas in the City visit is always challenging for both of us, for different reasons. Next year I will insist that we stay overnight in a hotel. And do the Christmas markets. It was lovely to see MIL, she is doing well. Lunch in the Patron’s room at the Met was disappointing, as always, but I want more time in the city before turning around and driving home. Particularly when that drive will take several hours just because of the volume of traffic. Next year I plan to insist on a proper visit and spend the night.
With a brand new, big kitchen, I have to do holiday baking this year. I had a difficult time deciding what to bake. Ina’s Outrageous Nut Brownies for sure (I haven’t made those in 6 years, can it be?), FeeFi’s gingerbread, brown sugar shortbread and some vanilla sables, with red and green sparkling sugar on the edges. I should have skipped the shortbread and done the cranberry sparkling gems and the jam blossoms for more color. Nestled in cupcake papers and wrapped up in a Christmas tree pan –with jam as the star- they make lovely gifts.
Today, I managed to have the conversation with the parents – that they both need cognitive assessments, so that there’s a baseline established - for both of them. If their doctors aren’t bringing this up, they need to. If I hadn’t spent quite so much time with him this year, I wouldn’t have a clue how many memory assists dad is using, and I now have a different take on many of his verbal responses. A non-committal response means he has no idea what the answer is – he doesn’t remember. And that scares me, and mom.
After a full day at work, I came home and finished baking the last of the holiday cookies. I also figured out too late what they should have been – for more color and flavor variation. Will I remember this for next year? What about the links I’ve got for listening to Christmas readings – which I have already forgotten to do two years running? How will I remember this for next year? I need to track monthly things to do – a year in advance. Maybe a monthly list of annual and semi-annual chores? Do I really want another list?
Looking at the holiday cookie packages, I’m surprised at what I’ve done. Never mind the almost monotone cookies – these look pretty damn good. I used a gift baking pan from KAF in a tree form, put the little gingerbread loaf in the center, and then used a colorful cupcake liner filled with cookies at the end of each branch. With a mini-jam jar “star” at the top. The snow printed baked goods gift bag just fits around the filled tree, tied with a pretty red & white bow. I really should have taken a picture – they looked professional.
Again this month I have struggled to write on a daily basis. But I did pencil in outlines on several days. And I didn’t wait until the end of the month to play catch up – I did some each weekend. There’s no reason why I am not writing each day, other than I let myself get swept away in the office, and mornings at home I no longer have a quiet window to myself. Getting up early has been unusually difficult for me this year, particularly this fall. I’m too tired – I think my soul is tired.
Solstice. The longest night of the year. My traditional celebration begins with lighting candles at sunset, then a good dinner at home, and a night of watching holiday movies. This year, I mixed it up a bit – massage, knit night and then home. I started the beeswax candles, I love their deliciously light honey scent and long, clean burn. I knit a bit while watching bad TV with husband. After he went up, I had a cup of tea and some gingerbread as I played. I also did my bit to help light return to those who are in need.
The list of things I want to accomplish over the next five days is rather long, as I realized when I managed to make up the list today. But I just didn’t have the energy to start it in any significant way. Instead, I spent the day being quiet – knitting, watching more holiday movies, and no serious chores. I didn’t take a nap today. I wanted to feel the tiredness in my bones, acknowledging all my effort last night, even if I didn’t meet all my goals. Perhaps particularly because I didn’t meet my fundraising goal.
It took some doing, and several bits are not in permanent locations but the table in the knitty room was freed today. I had been thinking about this for weeks – I need a space for ME to work at, one with a table. It immediately became a repository for knitting – holding the yarn that I pulled out of the closet: the various shades of pink cashmere for my bed jacket; one of the Portland skeins for a cowl; the multicolored mohair from Rheinbeck for a vest. Not that need to cast on anything right now. . . but I can start swatching.
After the snowfall in early November, I was prepared for an early winter. But aside from some flakes ten days ago, there’s been no sign of snow. There is no snow forecast for today or tomorrow, or the whole week. Once again, it's a green Christmas. It isn’t even cold – in the 40’s, the house is comfortable without a sweater. Six weeks from now I will despise the now, but for now, I want the snow. The Bishop’s Wife is a small help to creating that holiday atmosphere, right down to the impossible ice skating scene.
The best Christmas present this year is the fact the dad is using the maps on his new smartphone. I knew he was really interested in the sat-nav on my car, but I never dreamed it would really carry over to his own device. He’s so into it, he’s making a custom mount for his car so that he can clearly see the map and the road. That’s my dad. Anything that gets him learning new things is a boon at this point, but this opens up the door to other assistive apps in the future.
There is something very calming about winding yarn for projects. Even when I have no idea when you will start the project. Yes, it is a bit boring, and sometimes my hand hurts if I wind many skeins, but there’s also the moment of discovery when combining multiple plies of different colors, or a handpainted yarn – to see what it looks like when wound, how the colors play out against each other. If I could knit as fast as I wind, I wouldn’t be SABLE. But combining fine yarns means the yardage of a project becomes quite significant.
Having discovered both the right idea and the rhythm to posting the Fred daily thread starts, I’m beginning to enjoy the process of detailing the exhibits I’ve so enjoyed the last few years at the Metropolitan Museum. There are a lot of pictures in my starts, but they seem to be going over well. And creating the starts refreshes my memory of the art I saw – even if the specific object is not in the Met’s online synopsis. I thought of more exhibits than there are days in the week, so I have plenty to choose from.
Organization has always been my groove. My discipline not my ability, has declined in the last few years. I don’t quite know why. I hrecently acknowledged that it is a real struggle to get or keep anything organized in this house. There’s just too much stuff, and most of it isn’t mine. But the lack of discipline is spilling over to other aspects of my life and I hate it. It makes my physically ill. So in 2019 I am going to try something new: I’m a list maker, so I will play to that strength.
The idea G had to give the massive holiday gift basket of goodies to Bideawee was inspired, and we both immediately agreed it was the right use of the basket. We have given annual cash donations to the organization since we first got BooBoo, but that goes to the overhead of running such a massive place. The basket is a way to give back to the staff, who take such good care of the animals while they are there. We shared pictures and stories with the staffer who was at the front desk, who happened to remember him. Mission accomplished.
The carnage of the last day is overwhelming. I knew there was damage from last year’s moth invasion, but had no idea it would be this bad. My favorite peacock shawl, and the periwinkle cashmere shawl, and three sweaters: Winter Sunshine cashmere, green alpaca, and the jalapeno merino yoke. Last night, from the knitty room it was two sweaters in progress, a shawl in progress, three project bag and one large storage bag. In addition to all these handknits, two commercial sweaters were damaged. I am so afraid of re-infestation that I’m throwing it all out. Heartbreak.
If I’m going on an organization kick in an effort to help reclaim my discipline habits, then it is go big or go home. My closet got an internal face lift: old shoes were tossed, sandals put away for the winter, and I bought more of the configurable lovely hangers that really hang on to my clothes. The knitty room and my closet have been cleared of moth-eaten bits, with new lavender and cedar storage additions, and new project bags are on their way. And lo, the journal arrived, so tonight I will set up the first pages.
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