Category Archives: December 2012 and 2013 Book of Days

Happy People Dancing

Do you have any idea how many happy people there are in this great big world?  Thank you to my sister for sending this and reminding me.  It’s a video you’ll want to watch more than once or twice. (In Canada apparently our best dancers are from Toronto because they’re the only Canadians who made the cut.)  Don’t worry – the rest of us will keep practicing!

We have one more day of dancing left before the 21st.  Let’s make the best of it everybody!  Put on your dancing shoes.

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Good King Wenceslas

English: "King Wenceslas". Made by H...
English: “King Wenceslas”. Made by Hudson, Scott & Sons for Huntley & Palmers, 1913. Victoria and Albert Museum no. M.367-1983. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was by far one of my absolute favourite Christmas and winter songs when I was growing up. It tells a beautiful story.  Feel free to sing along.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about,
Deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shown the moon that night,
Though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight,
Gathering winter fuel.
Hither, page, and stand by me.
If thou know it telling:
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?
Sire, he lives a good league hence,
Underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes fountain.
Bring me flesh, and bring me wine.
Bring me pine logs hither.
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear them thither.
Page and monarch, forth they went,
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather.
Sire, the night is darker now,
And the wind blows stronger.
Fails my heart, I know not how.
I can go no longer.
Ark my footsteps my good page,
Tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.
In his master’s step he trod,
Where the snow lay dented.
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.

English: hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com Good_ki...
English: hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com Good_king_wenceslas from an 1879 book by Henry Ramsden Bramley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christmas Maladies

Christmas gifts
Christmas gifts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, it is a joyous time of year, filled with celebration and good will.  But it also makes all of us a little crazy in one way or another. If you haven’t suffered from any of these Christmas-specific maladies, ailments or disorders, I’m sure you can think of someone you know who has.  A malady is a state in which you are unable to function normally and without pain.  And there are many different kinds and degrees of pain.

1.  Malady of the Christmas Spirit, or melancholy, discontent.  Let’s get this one out of the way first.  For some people this seems to be a chronic illness for which there is no cure.  Something bad happened in Uncle Harry’s  life, it coincided with the holidays, and forever after, this is what sets the mood for his bah-humbug depressing attitude.  Even if his life is now one of comfort and joy, he choses to dwell on some former disappointment or tragedy as if it robbed him forever of his Christmas spirit.  Get the hell over yourself Uncle Harry.  Nobody wants to deal with your witches brew of emotional explosives, not knowing if this year it will be the egg nog or the stuffing that sets you off.  We’re here for a good time.  Set aside your sad memories and enjoy these moments with the rest of us.  Let this be the happy time you remember.

2.  Decubomania, or The Christmas Collapse.   I love it that there is a word (decubomania) for the urgent desire to lie down.  This malady can be particularly debilitating when it strikes in the middle of a busy shopping mall or halfway through dinner.  It is an abrupt failure of function caused by complete physical exhaustion.  Symptoms include saying things like “my legs won’t move”, or “this fork is too heavy”, followed by glazed over eyeballs and difficulty responding to outside stimuli.  Often the condition is caused by an unreasonable insistence by the individual affected that others submit exactly to his or her way of doing things, or an unreasonable reluctance to allow others to do things for them in his or her own way.  Give up some of the control before it kills you.  Who cares if the tree looks like monkeys decorated it or there’s half a roll of tape holding wrinkled wrapping paper together on Aunt Sally’s gift.  You’re not perfect, and this does not have to be the perfect Christmas.  Sit down and put your feet up.  And don’t apologize for it either.

3.  Obsessive Compulsive Christmas Disorder   This is the compulsion to make lists and schedules while being rigid and inflexible about the things that have to get done and setting written in stone deadlines for their completion.  Why do we insist on setting ourselves up for such massive guilt trips?  We didn’t get all those home-made gifts finished and there wasn’t time to make short bread and the mail order personalized perfect whatsit failed to arrive before the 25th.  Oh well.   Don’t try to fight the list making compulsion because, believe me since I speak from personal experience, it’s one of the hardest habits to kick.  But do add a list of reasons why task completion may not occur.  Then when something goes wrong (and something always goes wrong) you can point to your list of random reasons and say, See?  I KNEW we could  have a fluke monsoon here this month and that there was quite possibly going to be a fresh cranberry militant workers strike in South America.  Talk about your Acts of God.  I am SO not responsible for any of this.

4.  Christmas Hoarder Disorder   This condition strikes those of us who are not capable of disposing of worn out or insignificant things even when they no longer have any sentimental meaning or value.  Perhaps they never did.  Possibly we had parents who saved things for a rainy day, or “just in case”, or simply felt bad about throwing something perfectly good in the garbage and we feel powerless to break with this tradition.  And so we hang on to it, even though it’s the sixth or seventh brightly colored plaid flannel shirt in a size too small from our loving mother who keeps having the same gift idea year after year.  And then there’s that construction paper wreath with the glued on crap that keeps falling off because of all those crazy colored finger paint ridges and bumps and sparkles and sequins and ratty ribbon.  Come on.  Even the child who made that and is now a grown up is embarrassed that it’s still kicking around.  Throw it out.  Or put it on your Christmas Yule Log and enjoy the flames.

5. Doromania   An unusual urge or preoccupation with the giving of gifts.  Thank you Wordnik for putting a label on this epidemic which sweeps across our continent every December.  We ask people what they want.  We force them to make a list!  We end up either giving too many things to one person, or one small  thing to way too many people.  Do you really feel obligated to purchase a box of chocolates for your paper boys grandmother?  Or tuck a little something in an envelope for your favourite clerk at the coffee shop?  STOP THAT!  It only makes people feel bad that they don’t have anything to give back to you or that they didn’t think of it first.  And please try to resist the urge to buy one more little thing to go with the gift that you believe isn’t quite enough.  Because you will end up getting two little extra things.  And in your misguided attempt to make things even for everyone involved, you will eventually need a calculator and a balance sheet and (God help us) maybe even another LIST to keep it all straight.  Most people will not be keeping notes on what you gave to everyone or trying to figure out how much more you love the person on whom you spent that extra five bucks. It is a lovely thing to want to give.  It is a disorder to give too much and not know when to stop.

6.  Gluttonous Holiday Overindulgence.  Everything looks and smells so good.  There are treats and delicacies and goodies that you won’t see again for another whole year.  So you sample and indulge and taste and savor.  You appreciate, you enjoy, you close your eyes and stuff your face with one or two or several helpings of everything you’re offered.  Just remember, there is a fine line between ‘luxuriate’ and ‘wallow’.  All that delicious food and drink can send you staggering off the edge of reason and you could end up suffering for your pleasure, with severe indigestion, intense heartburn,  or a killer Christmas hangover.  Moderation my friend – spread the fun out a little more thinly and make it last longer.  There will be turkey left for many tomorrows.  You all know I’m right about that one.

Nobody wants to be sick for Christmas.  Or sick OF Christmas or sick because of the self-induced stress related to it.  So slow down, have some fun, be grateful for your family and your friends.  Try to avoid the Christmas Maladies if you can.  And if you can’t, don’t worry.   In January they’ll all be miraculously cleared up and gone for another season.

winter_solstice_yulelog
winter_solstice_yulelog (Photo credit: USDAgov)

Snowy Evening

At the edge of the woods, at sunset.
At the edge of the woods, at sunset. (Photo credit: Jasmic)

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (Photo credit: BOBXNC)

Bells Will Be Ringing

Busy day, a lovely surprse visit, time spent with good friends.  Treasure your happy Christmas.

Bells will be ringing the glad glad news.
Oh, what a Christmas to have the blues.
My baby’s gone.  I have no friends
To wish me greetings once again.
Choirs will be singing Silent Night.
Christmas carols by candlelight.
Please come home for Christmas.
Please come home for Christmas.
If not for Christmas, by New Year’s Night.

Friends and relations send salutations
Sure as the stars shine above,
This is Christmas, yeah it’s Christmas my dear.
The time of year to be with the one you love.

Then, won’t you tell me you’ll never more roam
Christmas and New Year’s will find you home.
There’ll be no more sorrow, no grief and pain,
‘Cause I’ll be happy, happy once again.

Mmmmm, no more sorrow, no grief and pain,
‘Cause I’ll be happy Christmas once again.

IMG_1045

Friday the 14th

There is no rest for Our Lady of the Lists
There is no rest for Our Lady of the Lists

In honour of day fourteen in my December 2012 Book of Days, here is my list of 14 random things I want to say.  I’m sorry I can’t be more specific about this particular lists contents until I’m finished writing it.  Before I went out shopping this morning I had to shuffle through that conglomeration of attempts at getting organized that you see above.  The pile of lists is considerably smaller now.  But there’s never any real end to them.  So what the hell, here’s another one.

1.  My favourite wine is on sale at Superstore this weekend so I picked up four bottles of it, and just for good measure, two more of another kind that was recommended to me by a very reliable source, also on sale.  If that isn’t enough Christmas wine to last us through the holiday, we are entirely too fond of it.

2.   W. has agreed to host one of his famous fish fries for our family over the holidays.  Delicious all you can eat fish in batter with a side of not exactly fries, but more like real English chips.  I love a man who can cook.

3.  For the first time in umpteen dozen years, I have my very own Avon lady. She is sweet and she delivers to my door.

4.  The  Bath and Body Works White Barn Sandalwood Vanilla scented candle is lovely.  I have four of them.  Because, (I don’t know), I seem to be doing things in multiples of four.  They’re a little on the pricey side, but they last a long time and the fragrance from one candle goes everywhere in the house.

5.  Apparently I have 202 followers here.  Huh.  I wonder how many of them are real people who did this on purpose?  Ultimately I don’t care.  Just seeing that number makes me smile.

It's a number that starts with 13!  Woot!
It’s a number that starts with 13! Woot!

6.  This Likes badge popped up in my notifications a few days ago and it also made me smile .  Do these things come in multiples of 1337?  If so, hopefully it doesn’t take my blog another six years to make it to 2674.  I love cryptic milestones.

7.  I’m done with stocking stuffers and I’m done with gifts, except for a couple of things that are ordered and have to be delivered and should be here next week.  Expected time of arrival is now the 17th.  I can keep it together for three more days, I’m almost certain.

8.  People who love to wrap gifts are cordially invited to my house for a gift wrapping party.  It’s one of my least favourite things to do on the list of things I whine about having to do.  I was going to start it early this afternoon, but I’m putting it off and complaining about it instead.

9.  Since I’ve misplaced my recipe for a layered dip that I make every other blue moon I looked one up on allrecipes.com and found this Layered Seafood Dip which is very similar except for the addition of crab meat.  I don’t remember using that before.  But I’m going to now, and I’m sure it will be good.

10.  Against the recommendation of a very UNreliable source, I  have purchased Christmas blend Starbucks coffee.  This person told me it wasn’t very good this year.  If I started a list of all the things this lady has told me that turned out to be deluded nonsense, I’d be here all day.  So I won’t start.  And I’m sure the coffee will be fine.

11.  I think I’m down to only two lists now, not counting this one!  But, you know, the day isn’t over.

12.  W is going to come with me to do the final grocery shop (which never ends up being final, no matter how many damn lists you stuff in your handbag).  We’re aiming for Monday to pick up most of the perishables and produce and fresh things that, if they didn’t go bad, we’d stock up on in October just to avoid the crowds.

13.  If he’d come with me today I could have had him carry six clinking bottles of wine in two plastic bags across a slushy slippery parking lot fearing for his life.  Liquor store parking lots are not for the faint of heart.

14.  Fourteen was a rather ambitious number of items to aspire to for a list, even for me, but there it is.  The book of days is nearly halfway done!

The Mysterious Shifts of the Reading Mood

MidnightsChildrenMidnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie

This is the book I’ve been slogging through for days and days and no matter how hard I try to get into it, I end up feeling like I’m going nowhere.  Today I’m giving up.  Maybe temporarily, maybe forever.  This is perhaps not the best choice of a book to be reading right before Christmas when my mind is on a bazillion other things.  Because Midnight’s Children deserves determination and a concentrating mind.

I am appreciating it, but I am not enjoying it. Maybe in January when all the hoopla is over and we’re snowed in up to our eyeballs I’ll be able to give it another go.

Or maybe I’ll just wimp out altogether and go see the movie.

And now I will admit to all the serious readers out there what I’m perusing instead, so everyone will know what kind of warped priorities I have.dulcie o'neil set

The Dulcie O’Neil Set, Books 1, 2 and 3:  To Kill a Warlock, A Tale of Two Goblins, and Great Hexpectations by H.P. Mallory.  Altogether much easier on the brain cells.  Warlocks, shape shifters, law enforcement fairies, demons, vampires – and who knows what else – solving (and committing) crimes and trying to stay out of the dreaded Netherworld.

I don’t pretend to fully understand what’s going on, but in this series I don’t think it really matters.

I just want to put my feet up, read a few pages in a leisurely manner like I’ve got all the time in the world and fall asleep without a headache.  And know that Dulcie will be back tomorrow to fight some other dark magic criminal and win in the end.

Loving what I’m reading seems to depend less on how great the book is and more on my fickle reading moods. Right now I’m not in the mood for deep thoughts. Unless they involve sweet potatoes and poultry seasoning.

Happy 12/12/12 everybody!

Number Eleven in the Book of Days

Why does December always seem to go blasting by us like a rocket ship on crack?  Not that I’ve ever seen one of those, but it’s the eleventh already?  Really?

Gingerbread
Gingerbread (Photo credit: Stuck in Customs)

Today was another very productive day for me at work where I compiled several long lists of things I have to get done in the next 14 days.  The gifts are pretty much finished (YAY!!) and now we’re on to ingredients for things that I just might get around to making, if I have the ingredients.  I try to bake shortbread cookies and butter tarts, and make at least one pan of fudge.  And that’s it, because the adults complain that they shouldn’t be eating any of those things.  (They also complain if they’re missing.)  And it’s best not to have an unlimited supply of sweet stuff and risk having the kids go into a sugar coma.

I even got around to doing some menu planning and thinking about kid activities like building a gingerbread house and making a fruit punch.  (To which the rest of us can add copious amounts of vodka after they go to bed.)  And that reminds me that we have to take a trip to the liquor store and make some kind of educated guess as to how much red wine grandma will need to make it through the holidays.

Here’s some great music to do your Christmas baking by – but I’ll warn you now, it will make you want to add a dash or two of Jamaica Rum to your gingerbread.

A Night at the Races

If you’re going to a work related Christmas Party, how does the build up to that event make you feel?  Giddy with excitement?  Nauseous?  Like shooting yourself in the foot just to get out of it?

And if it’s your spouse or significant other dragging you off to theirs, are you okay with that?  Or is it something you dread?

I’ve been on both sides of the fence when it comes to these things.  Some I’ve enjoyed, others have been ordeals from the bottomless pits of hell.  Ha.  You think that’s an exaggeration?  Ummm….no, it’s not.

And the thing is, you never really know until you’re there and living it how it’s going to turn out.   All you can do is show up with a smile on your face and hope for the best.  Well, last night turned out to be one of the best Christmas Parties EVER.  It was casual, the food was great, I drank a lot of wine, and we all bet on the horses.  I seriously want to make this into a tradition, it was that much fun.

harness racing at Northlands 001We had a small banquet room on the fourth floor with candle lit tables and big windows overlooking the race track.  We were all snug and warm inside and I know some of us were feeling a little guilty about those poor horses and drivers out there in the cold.  It was at least 20 below!  Are they crazy?

I suppose no crazier than the people who show up to watch and place their bets.  This helpful Official Program explained how to play the horses.  I didn’t get much farther than the basic and combination bets of Win, Place and Show.  The rest was (and still is) a lot of racing gobbledygook – Exactor, Triactor, Win-3, Pick-4, Superfecta. I was just happy to say things like “two dollars on 5 in race 8 to place” like I had a clue what I was doing.

There’s all kinds of information on stats and starts, trainers, owners, breeders, handicaps, payouts, purses, and of course the odds.  All a bit mind-boggling for the novice.  So I did what I’m sure most newbies do at these things and picked the names I liked.  Sweet Like Candy, Cinderella Smile, The Sin Bin.  I think Farm Team won me some money!  With two dollar bets it’s not likely I’ll retire on my winnings, but I think I raked in a whopping thirty-four dollars over 12 races. The best I did was having two of my picks place second and third in the same race.   Raging Fingers, I’m a Wildcat and The Missing Sock?  Too good to pass up. A couple of races ended in a photo finish and my “show” bet got bumped to 4th.  Life is full of such great disappointments – I think he would have paid out at a staggering three dollars and change.  Trust The Artist was a big bust, and I should have bet on Sharkalucchi but I didn’t.  And I should NOT have bet on Minettaszoombyyall but I did.  The odds were 15-1 and I don’t know if the horse even showed up for the race, never mind zooming by y’all.

A very popular Champion. Breed:Kaldblodstraver
A very popular Champion. Breed:Kaldblodstraver (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While all this racing hoopla laughter and excitement was going on we were treated to an excellent hot buffet meal, drinks, dessert, and coffee. Meanwhile those poor horses and jockey’s froze their asses off for our entertainment.  We are all suffering from chronic brain freeze tough and hardy Canadians up here, y’all!

I’ve never considered myself much of a gambler, and the VLT’s and slot machines have never been a temptation.  But going back to the races sometime is definitely on my agenda.  Like in the middle of July maybe.  I think I’d rather see a horse sweat than dangle icicles from its nostrils.

As far as Christmas Parties go, I’m rating this one a 10 out of 10.  What are the odds of that happening?  But it has, and even though I’m a little lighter for cash today, I’m happy I got to be a part of it all.

Memory of a Doctor Visit

Daily Prompt:   What is your earliest memory? Describe it in detail, and tell us why you think that experience was the one to stick with you.

I’m afraid my memories are not arranged in chronological order in my head, so earliest is just a label on a big box full of picture slides.  Snuggled on my dads lap playing with his overall fasteners.  Hiding behind the big green chair in the corner, quiet as a mouse, when company came to visit.  Squealing with delight when I got a little brown Topsy doll and wishing my skin could be as smooth and beautiful as chocolate.  Proudly wearing my pirate patch after getting a chemical fertilizer in my eye.  Sliding down a hill behind my brother on his new toboggan with the wind stinging my cheeks.  Falling off face first into the snow.  Being horrified when our dog ate a cupcake without removing the paper first.  Leaping halfway across the room off our parents bed to avoid being grabbed around the ankles by the monsters who lived beneath it.

The still shots of vivid memories out of context eventually progress to little videos.  Here’s the one from the bottom of the box in the Doctor Visit category.  The memory has stayed with me all this time because of the doctor office hospital smell of antiseptic clean, and because it was one of the first times I remember it being hard for me to drum up a lot of drama with such a no-nonsense mother.

***

My mother is wearing her long mustard yellow coat with the vertical black pinstripes and the gigantic black buttons.  The big wide cuff feels warm and fuzzy on my fingers as she pulls me by the hand up the snowy sidewalk covered in people tracks.  We walk right in through the door without knocking, because this is a house with a secret office where the doctor works.  I like how the bell jangles.  If we had one of those at home I’d be opening and closing the door all the time just to hear it.  We sit together on a hard deacons bench.  I know that’s what it’s called because I asked.   We don’t have one of these at home either but it’s kind of dark and shiny and not very friendly looking, so I don’t like it much.

On the wall across from us there is a big framed black and white photo of a tiny baby tucked under the covers at the very top of a gigantic bed.  It’s little head is almost lost between two puffed up pillows.  I want to know why the baby doesn’t have a crib to sleep in.  Mom tells me it’s just a picture, for goodness sakes.  The “tree” where our coats are hanging is made from the same black shiny wood as the bench, and there’s a black shiny chair here too.  I wonder if all doctors prefer dark ugly shiny things, but I don’t ask because I think the answer will be it’s just a chair, for goodness sakes.

I also want to know why it always smells so strange and funny in here, like everything has just been polished up with rubbing alcohol.  Or antiseptic, or gross mouth wash or the most disgusting tooth paste ever invented.  Mom tells me it’s a hospital kind of clean.  So nobody will get sick with anyone elses germs.  I guess it’s okay for families to share their germs, because our house certainly never smells anything like this.

The doctor pokes his head into the waiting room and greets my mother who stands up and smiles and greets him right back.  He talks to me and I stare at my feet.  He wants to know if I’m all ready for my vaccination.  Of course I’m not.  How could anyone ever be ready for THAT.  It doesn’t matter what I say, I’m going to get it anyway.

The doctor is about the same age as Santa Claus I think.  He has snowy white hair and a big white moustache, but no beard.  He wears a long white coat and he always washes his hands for about ten minutes while we watch him and I think it’s his way of showing off.  It can’t possibly take that long to clean his hands when he was just sitting at his desk doing whatever grown ups do sitting at desks.  Which looks like a whole lot of nothing to me.

Then he’s holding the dreaded needle up in the air, checking to make sure the pointy end is super sharp.  He asks me if I want it in the arm or the butt cheek.  I want to know which one hurts the most.  He says they feel about the same, just a little pin prick (what a big fat liar) but this one might leave a scar.  A scar!  Well of course I want it on my arm then.  I won’t be showing off battle wounds on my bum.

(Photo: George Frey/Getty Images)
(Photo: George Frey/Getty Images)

I watch as he rubs my skin with an alcohol soaked cotton ball.  I hope I won’t smell like a doctors office all day.  I turn my head and look the other way and scrunch up my face for the needle and it stings and I say OW in a whiny little voice but I don’t cry.  Because it’s already done.  And my brother will ask me if I cried and with mom as my witness I will say no I did not.  It was just a little pin prick after all.  And I’m going to have a scar!  He will be so envious and  jealous.  This rarely happens.  I will milk it for all it’s worth while I have the chance.

The doctor says to my mom that my arm might get red and there could be some swelling and if there’s any pain she can give me baby aspirin.  I love baby aspirin.  I look hopefully at my arm, but so far it looks like nothing happened.  I will check on it faithfully all day long, waiting for it to swell up and change color and hurt enough to warrant medication, but my mother just rolls her eyes and says it’s only a needle, for goodness sakes.