Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quick Pix and Then I'm Gone

Oh, if only I could take pictures like Heather or Ali. But I can't. Still, I hope you will squint and think, "Nice job for a lefthander."

I didn't take pictures of the socks. Maybe later.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! See you next week.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Notes from Your Busy Little Bee

Sorry to have been so quiet lately. About a month ago it occurred to me that if I took my family's Christmas presents to my parents' house this Thanksgiving--presents for my parents and brothers and my brother's wives and children--then life would be a dream.

By delivering the presents in person instead of mailing them, I wouldn't have to find the right size box to pack them in and then have to write out two address labels for each box, one for the outside of the box and one for the inside of the box, in case the one on the outside of the box didn't stick for the whole trip (somehow the postal clerks would know to open the box to look for my inside of the box label; they're smart that way--this is my mom's theory, in any event).

I wouldn't have to mess around with the big packing tape dispenser, which I inevitably wound myself with sooner or later each Christmas season. And I wouldn't have to spend half of the Christmas holiday in line to mail the boxes. I wouldn't have to feel totally ripped off when I was told that in order to afford this mailing, I would not be able to send my children to college.

Taking the gifts is, you have to give it to me, a brilliant idea. And it's a once in a blue moon opportunity, since normally my family doesn't gather together at Thanksgiving. My parents live about ten hours from me, which is a long drive for a short visit. No, most Thanksgivings find us at my husband's Cousin Jane's, where we dine with his one thousand other cousins, paper plates in our laps, cutting our turkey with plastic utensils.

But this year, my brothers and I decided we needed to all meet up. It's been a couple of years since the whole family reunited, and some of us haven't met my youngest nephew, and that's not good. So off to Kentucky we all go, and I for one will be dragging my Christmas presents behind me.

Tomorrow, before I get the presents wrapped, I'm going to post pictures of the handbags I made my nieces (from Bend the Rules Sewing) and the sweater I knitted my mother. No, no ... let me rephrase that. The Sweater I Knit My Mother Where the Sleeves Actually Work. Hallelujah, I finally got some damn sleeves in a sweater without making them look like poofy princessy things. The sweater looks very nice and normal. It came out a bit on the small side, but that's neither here nor there, nor even my problem. It's my mom's problem. My problem was making the sleeves fit and I did and now I am off the hook.

So, in any event, as you might guess, the last couple of weeks have been a little intense, arts and crafts and Christmas shopping-wise, but now all that's left is the wrapping. Or, to put a finer point on it, shoving presents in those cute little gift bags and artfully crumpling up some tissue paper so no one can peek inside of the little bags. A gift tag here, a gift tag there, and honey, I'm done.

If I don't get a chance to post my pictures before we hit the road, then I'll be back next week, and with any luck I'll have lots of good stories about Thanksgiving and how everyone drove each other crazy and how I revert to being eleven when I'm with my Family of Origin. Something to look forward to!

Monday, November 17, 2008

An Underground Christmas

Let it be said that on this Monday, the 17th of November, 2008, I formally concede to the merchandisers and marketers and corporate execs. I now accept that they rule Christmas. It has been a long, hard battle, and I have fought the good fight, but it's over.

Those of us who love Christmas and don't want it ruined have ranted and raved every year about Christmas carols piped into the mall beginning in mid-October (remember how shocking it once was to see a Christmas commercial before Thanksgiving?), but to no avail. We've griped about Christmas commercials during the World Series, Christmas parades and parties the first weekend of December, before anyone's really in the spirit, we've moaned and groaned, but no one has listened to us.

The Big Christmas War is over, and we lost.

We all know it's only a matter of time before Target and Wal-Mart and all the Big Boxes have Christmas carols wailing out of the loudspeakers in July, and then ultimately it will be Christmas all year round. And a lot of people will love this. The clerk at the toy store told me today that she decorated for the holidays this weekend. I tried to act as though I didn't think she was insane.

(Rule one for us Christmas losers: Try to act like the Christmas in July people aren't insane. They have the power, and probably the guns. If you roll your eyes at them, they will never, every take their Christmas lights down--whoops! Too late on that one!)

I think it's time to take Christmas underground. I don't know what that means exactly, but the thought occurred to me as I was driving home this afternoon from downtown, where the Christmas lights are twinkling merrily away. To some extent it means resisting the lure of Christmas for as long as possible. At the very least, wait until December to put up your lights and tree.

Conversely, do your Christmas shopping as early as possible and then put a lid on it. My goal this year is to have presents bought, wrapped and mailed by December 19th, and then staying out of the marketplace for the week leading up to Christmas. The week before Christmas should be about baking and reading and observing Advent (if you're an observer) and lighting candles and making your house smell good.

I dream about taking Christmas back some day. It's a foolish dream, I know. But just imagine it: We all say no to the greed heads who have taken hostage things we hold special and even sacred, just to make a buck off of us.

You know there's only one way to stop them: Stop buying their stuff.

And then Christmas will be ours once again.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Keeping Up

I'm not doing a very good job of keeping up.

Keeping up with this blog. Keeping up with other blogs. Keeping up with the laundry. Keeping up with the Christmas knitting. Keeping up with the Christmas cards I swore I would have made and addressed in July.

I'm not doing a good job keeping up with the bathrooms, which I now enter with eyes shut. Keeping up with the copy I'm supposed to be writing for the Winter Auction fundraiser at school. Keeping up with my reading. Keeping up with the stuff I'm supposed to be sorting to take to Good Will. Keeping up with the attic. The pantry. The closets.

I'm not doing a good job of keeping up with the fridge, which needs a good scrub, or the floor, which needs a good mop, or the yard, which needs a good raking.

I'm not doing a good job of keeping up with my letter writing and package mailing. I'm not doing a good job of keeping up with my Christmas sewing.

So what am I keeping up with? Well, this weekend I went to a conference in Nashville and spent time with old friends, many of whose children have grown up or don't have children at all. It is an amazing thing to hang out with people who don't have kids. Their homes are filled with interesting pottery in low places. They use the good plates for brunch. They have brunch. They have lots and lots of hardback books, because their paychecks aren't going for private school or orthodontia. They look ten years younger than they actually are.

Oh, it was wonderful. But weird. And now that I'm home, I don't want to do housework. I want to read poetry and go look at art.

But instead, I'm cleaning Jack's room and contemplating braving the bathrooms to get that horrible mildew off the bathtub. Tonight I'm driving to Charlotte so I can get up early the next morning to watch Jack's choral performance, then rushing the two hours home to pick up Will. I need to get in a quick trip to the grocery store so there will be stuff for the boys' lunches tomorrow and Friday.

So mostly I'm keeping up with my dream of that day when I actually get caught up on everything and then will be able to keep up with it all and still make room for art and poetry.

I think this will require a paid staff, don't you?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

So We Held an Election and Everybody Came

This is not a space for political ramblings, and frankly, I'm too beat to ramble. I did a lot of baking this afternoon--cakes for the church bazaar, Snickerdoodle cookies shaped like S's for Will's kindergarten class tomorrow--and was on my feet for hours.

I won't even say who I voted for or how I felt about the outcome, just that when the election was called at 11 p.m. I wept and laughed and pulled Jack out of bed to make him come see. Whether you like Obama or not, voted for Obama or not, I think we can all agree it was an historical moment. A heart-lifting, hopeful moment--maybe even for folks who didn't vote for him. I heard people today say things to that effect--"I didn't vote for Obama, but I'm glad our country has gotten to the place where an African American can be elected president."

Anyway, they kept interviewing all these Civil Rights warhorses on the radio this afternoon while I was baking, people in their seventies and eighties talking about what Martin would have thought of this election and how they never dreamed they'd see a black man in the White House in their lifetime, and I kept having these three-second sobbing fits. I can't explain it.

How many people cried when George Bush beat John Kerry? Or when Bill Clinton beat the first George Bush? Nobody did. But last night on TV they kept showing pictures of people--black, white, Asian, Hispanic, old, young, male, female, the whole kit and kaboodle of humanity--everybody letting loose with the tears. It was beautiful. It made me proud to be an American. Now we know: Change is possible. I'd given up hope. Somebody gave it back.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Menu Plan Monday (etc.)

All right, then: Here's the week--

Monday: Shrimp and Chorizo sausage with brown rice
Tuesday: Chicken Marsala and mashed taters
Wednesday: Black beans and rice
Thursday: Lasagne
Friday: Leftover lasagne


Yesterday I made cheese crackers. It is part of my renewed commitment to the homemade life. I went grocery shopping the other day and was appalled by how much packaged junk I had in my cart. Really, when you get too lazy to make chocolate chip cookies, you're in a bad way. I can make chocolate chip cookies in my sleep. I am the queen of chocolate chip cookies. So what are those dang Keebler's Fudge Stripes doing in my grocery bag?

I decided the very least I could do was scrap the Goldfish and make some cheddar crackers myself. Not a huge savings money-wise, butter and cheese costing what they do, but a severe reduction of chemicals and additives. Plus, little homemade cheddar biscuits taste better.

I've also recently dried big bunches of basil, thyme and oregano from the garden, and done some seed-saving. I'm feeling very much the thrifty farmer's wife. Somebody probably oughta give me an award.


Trick or treating Friday night: We went to a friend's neighborhood (our neighborhood consists of 122 retirees who all go to bed at 5:45) , and the boys made quite the haul. We have found the Good Candy Neighborhood of Little Children's Dreams. Snickers bars galore!

I had to dump out last year's candy to make room for this year's. There was plenty of old candy left, but it was mostly loose Skittles and blueberry Tootsie Rolls, candy that no self-respecting child would eat. Interestingly, despite the amazing lode of quality chocolate Will brought in Friday night, he seems to have forgotten it. Good news for the dentist (or the person paying the dental bills), bad news for moi, candy fiend who is trying very hard not to eat candy.

At what point can Will's candy mysteriously disappear by half? What is the etiquette of throwing away perfectly good candy that your kid's not going to eat but wants to possess nonetheless? Please advise.


Saturday, I went to the yarn store to buy yarn for two pairs of socks and two pairs of fingerless mittens. I will not tell you what I spent. Enormous amounts. For Christmas presents, mind you, but still. Small countries have operating budgets that are less than what I spent on yarn. But such yarn! Beautiful colorways, amazing to behold and hold. If I don't actually finish my knitting projects by Christmas, however, I'm toast.


I just did an e-mail interview for somebody's book blog. The interviewer's final question was, if I had unlimted funds, what would I buy? My answer: Art, books, quilts, yarn and a house built by Frank Lloyd Wright. Oh, yeah, and world peace. That, too.