CELEBRATING OURSELVES – SHARING MY WORLD, SPECIAL HOLIDAY EDITION 2016

SHARE YOUR WORLD – SPECIAL HOLIDAY EDITION 2016


What is your favorite holiday?

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Our anniversary. I know it’s not a national or religious holiday, but that’s part of why I enjoy it. No pressure. We can do a lot, a little, nothing … or delay it until the time is more convenient. It’s our personal holiday. We can do whatever we like.

What types of food is associated with your holiday?

Sushi in Dunham

If it is just us — and it usually is — Japanese. Sushi, sashimi, and tempura. The last time we went out — and I think it was, indeed our anniversary, we realized the rice we cook at home is better than the stuff they are serving in the restaurants. My green tea is better, too. We have become rice and tea snobs. Now, if I could just master the art of tempura!

Do you travel for your holiday?

Frequently, yes. It’s a good time of year, mid-September. It’s one of the reasons we chose that date to have the wedding.

Good weather, usually. It is past the worst heat of summer, but before the danger of snow. Also, hopefully, it’s not in the middle of hurricane season. We’ve traveled to Cooperstown twice (that’s upstate New York). To Maine several times (Ogunquit, Jackman, Freeport, Kennebunk). Locally to Cape Cod (Hyannis, Barnstable, Martha’s Vineyard, Bourne).

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Us ... Coney Island ... 2007 or thereabouts.

Nathans at Coney Island

Up to New Hampshire (Lincoln and the mountains nearby). Vermont (friends in Peachum). Various places in New York, especially and most memorably to Coney Island — Brooklyn, don’t you know.

And we’ve stayed home and partied. Gotten remarried twice.

We’ve gone to Arizona twice. Last year, we deferred the journey until the following January because we wanted to be there in cooler weather, this time. Our previous visit was late August/early September and you could cook eggs on the sidewalk, depending on how you like eggs.

This year? It’s number 27, a sort of off-year. So maybe we’ll celebrate our birthdays instead. We were born a month apart, me in March, Garry in April. I’ll turn 70 and he turns 75 … which is definitely not an off-year. I feel we ought to do something, but it will depend on money … and the weather … and if I think we can actually gather enough of a crowd to make a party. Everyone lives in a different states these days. Gatherings are difficult. Moreover, you absolutely cannot predict weather in early spring in New England. It might be gorgeous … or blowing a blizzard.

Is it a religious or spiritual holiday?

Define religious. Define spiritual.

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Is there a gift exchange?

Not so much anymore. Tokens. Cards. These days, if we need or want something, we get it. We had been saving for a rainy day, but then we looked up and realized … “Hey, it’s raining!” Usually the trip and travel is the gift. And the cameras we are carrying!

How long does the celebration last?

There’s no rules about this. We start talking about it months ahead. We ponder. I look to see if I can squirrel away a few bucks and I check prices on places i think we might want to go … and which aren’t so far away that the drive would be more stressful than fun. Otherwise, we go out to dinner. And that’s good too.

GRUMPY, GRUMBLY. RAINING, TOO

I was having a weird, unpleasant dream when I woke up. One of those dreams where someone (in this case, not me) is running around desperately trying to get something important done and no one is paying attention or offering to help. I eventually woke up, realized my back hurt and the only solution was to drag my carcass out of bed. Coffee is the drug of choice for surviving mornings like this. I believe the ultimate crisis would be running out of either coffee or half-and-half (half milk-half cream for those of you who don’t live around here).

Gibbs

Gibbs

Anyway, good moods are not much in evidence. Got a call from Rosie my friend and she described the general mood as grumpy, which was the first thing anyone said today that made Garry smile.

The weather isn’t helping. Yesterday it snowed, which wasn’t nearly as heartwarming as I might have wished. It has been bitterly cold for the past few days, but started warming up during the storm. Now it’s quite warm. And raining. The dogs don’t like rain. Snow is okay. Anything is okay. But not rain. They act like whipped curs when required to go outside — which, being dogs, is not optional for them.

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As I write, they are crashed out on the sofa, Bonnie perched on the sofa with her face staring out the picture window. She’s keeping her eyes open. You never know. Santa might show up with more toys. Their basket of toys is reduced to the rabbit, a pretzel, the little dog, and one of the two hedgehogs. I think the other hedgehog went out through the dog flap and won’t be seen until spring. I tossed the second starfish this morning. He (she?) was torn open and the stuff was coming out. I think Gibbs has been eating it. Not doing his stomach any good.

Definitely moody.

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Scrooge McTrump has sucked the joy out of the holidays for us. We have to accept that this is what it is, and for the next bunch of years, is is also what will be. We have to find ways to cope, but we are bummed. Worse, most of our friends are at least as bummed as we are and quite possibly in an even worse head space. I’m dreaming of long space voyages to worlds without politicians or political parties. A simple world where merely surviving keeps you busy.

Mostly, I hate the idea that the last president I will see in my lifetime will be … no, I can’t say the name. I’m not ready. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll be able to spit those sounds out, but not yet. After all, it’s still 2016, so what could possibly go wrong?

MOODY | THE DAILY POST

ECLECTICALLY YOURS – ODDBALLS AT CHRISTMAS

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: 2016 Week 50


The oddest thing about this week is that it is two weeks before the end of the year. I’m still not sure how we got here so fast.

My house is full of religious iconography. Ancient symbols live harmoniously together in display cases and shelves. This one is from the mantle in the living room. It is a very old bronze of Vishnu riding Garuda, a (modern) bronze dancing Ganeesh, a very small Christmas tree, all against a backdrop of Bergman’s “Jerusalem.”

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May your holidays be eclectic!

A cowboy nutcracker guards the fortress

A cowboy nutcracker guards the fortress

Merry whatever you celebrate! It’s all good to me!

AND IT COMES AGAIN …

Thursday photo prompt – Christmas Present – #writephoto


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The little tree sits neatly on our coffee table. Not a big tree. No lights on it, there not being any convenient electrical outlet nearby. Yet it is satisfying. Pretty, festive, neat. Cheerful without taking over the house.

I remember the big trees of years past. Hulking great trees covered with easily shattered glass ornaments. Shivering with lights and tinsel. I recall all the the years of not being able to decorate the bottom of the tree because cats found the shiny, dangling glass balls irresistible. The dogs found tree an overwhelming temptation too, especially the boys. No amount of heart-to-heart conversations about Christmas tree etiquette with them ever convinced a dog to not imbue the tree with his own personal essence.

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People always called Christmas pines real trees, as if there was something intrinsically superior to cutting down a living tree, hauling it indoors, then decorating it. Only to watch it slowly die. Then dragging it outside to be collected as trash, or give it a Viking funeral in a bonfire.

I’ve always hated taking the tree down. It wasn’t unusual for me to leave it up until Valentine’s Day or later. I hated watching it die and refused to admit it was. Like the cut flowers I  never throw away until they are completely crisp and brown.

This little tree is an elegant fake. It will never die because it has never lived. It can return every Christmas and will never become trash on the curb. I prefer it this way.

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The surprise is how much we enjoy our small, quiet Christmas. It doesn’t feel like deprivation. We can watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” again. Maybe add “White Christmas” as a bonus. Cuddle the dogs.

No more maxed out credit cards or guilt over not buying the right gift … or spending weeks decorating, wrapping, and preparing. And ending up exhausted, with an empty bank account and a vague feeling of disappointment. This year, my one big blowout gift is for us: I’m getting a team in to clean the house. I’m neat, so it’s not a disaster area. I do the best I can, but cleaning this place thoroughly is beyond me these days. So happy Christmas to me! We shall go into the New Year clean.

christmas red door wreath

Christmas day will be a dinner with friends. He’s not feeling too well, so we’re going there. I understand. These days, our health and the health of friends is not a given. We keep fingers crossed that it’s going to work out and everyone will be fine — and the weather will coöperate.

Maybe this was the way it was supposed to be. Warm, friendly, quiet. Low key — with not a single shred of disappointment. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah. And a joyous anything else you celebrate. Whether you are having a crowd or just yourself, may it be a time of comfort and joy.

CHRISTMAS PAST

My Top Ten Christmas Songs

Dead Artists Edition, by Rich Paschall


As I listened to holiday songs on the local Christmas songs radio station, one fact became apparent over time.  Almost all of the songs I hear are performed by artists who have gone on to that great holiday party in the sky.  This is, of course, a nice way of saying they are dead.  Nevertheless, we continue to listen to their songs year in and year out.  In fact, some of these have been flying across the airwaves for many decades and there is no sign they will ever stop being played.

It is safe to say that all of these songs have been covered many times over.  Any singer with staying power in the industry has a Christmas album.  It is true that a few of these songs received great success by other artists when released, but there are certain versions of these holiday hits with the ability to live on long after the artist has gone.  It is these well-remembered and honored songs that fill my playlist.

Your 8-track and cassette tape versions of these may have become tangled and broken, your records and CDs may have become scratched and broken, but you can still download and stream these hits because they are not going away.  First I will offer up an honorable mention.

In 1977, David Bowie (1947-2016) was to appear on the Bing Crosby Christmas television special recorded in London.  He was asked to sing Little Drummer Boy, but did not like the song and asked for something else.  As a result a counterpoint to the song called Peace on Earth was written for Bowie and Crosby sang Little Drummer Boy.  We could simply say the rest is duet history, but that would not exactly be true.  The now well-beloved version may have died away if not for the popularity of a bootleg recording.  As a result, RCA released the song as a single in 1982.  Sadly Crosby died after the show was recorded and before it was ever played for the public.

Now if you will put the yule log on the fire, get a glass of eggnog and some Christmas cookies, we will present my top Christmas tunes from artists whose songs continue to echo down your decked halls.

10.  Blue Christmas, Elvis Presley (1935-1977) The song was first recorded in 1948, but the 1957 recording by Elvis remains the most popular.

9.  Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Gene Autrey (1907-1998) The 1949 song hit number 1 on the charts.

8.  A Holly Jolly Christmas, Burl Ives (1909-1995) The song was released in 1965 after being featured the previous year in the animated cartoon classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

7.  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Judy Garland (1922-1969) The tune was written for the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis.

6.  Jingle Bell Rock, Bobby Helms (1933-1997) The 1957 “Rockabilly” sound was an immediate hit and eventually went gold for Helms.

5.  Christmas Time Is Here, Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976) The jazz musician is best known for composing the score to 17 Peanuts animated television specials and a feature-length film.  The first of these was A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965.  Words to this jazz tune were provided by the Charlie Brown television producer, Lee Mendelson (b. 1933). The network, as well as the producers, thought the show was too depressing and predicted a failure with the public.  It won an Emmy, a Peabody and the love of generations of kids.

4.  The Christmas Song, Nat “King” Cole (1919-1965) The tune was written by Bob Wells and another will known singer, Mel Torme, in 1945.  In June 1946 Cole recorded the song, then recorded it again in August with more instruments.  The second version was released.  There was a third recording, then a fourth in stereo in 1961.  It is that last version you here so much today.  Torme also recorded the song some years later, but it is the Nat King Cole version that is best remembered.

3.  (There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays, Perry Como (1912-2001)  The popular crooner recorded the song in 1954 and sang it for the next 40 years.  “Mr. C” recorded it in stereo in 1959 and it is this version you probably hear today.  Like many popular television variety stars of his era, Como continued holiday shows after his weekly TV shows ended.  This video is from his 1969 Christmas special.

2.  It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Andy Williams (1927-2012).  Williams was another popular television crooner.  The song was written in 1963 and recorded by Williams for his first Christmas album.  It was used on his television show the same year and became a Christmas standard over time.  Now it is one of the top 10 Christmas songs of all time.  On this video, Williams appears to be singing along with the popular recording.

1. White Christmas, Bing Crosby (1903-1977) The Irving Berlin hit was apparently written for the movie Holiday Inn (no-telling with the prolific Mr. Berlin). Crosby first sang it on his radio show in 1941 but recorded it in 1942 for the Holiday Inn movie. It was recorded again in 1947 as the original master wore out from frequent use. The song appeared in two other movies and Crosby sang it for the rest of his life. This video is the final performance. He died soon after, doing what he liked best, playing golf.

A SIMPLE GESTURE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Marilyn has been doing battle with UPS for two days about Christmas packages lost in transit. It’s been frustrating and not especially funny Abbott and Costello 48 hours for Marilyn. Her frustration gets transferred to me because I can’t help. It finally got sorted out, but it left us tired and not feeling that holiday spirit.

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Add that we’re under siege from “what’s going around,”and trying to fend off another of the endless colds that leaves us grumbling and grumpy. Now, factor in the latest comic strip news from President-elect Orange Head. Not surprisingly, we are bummed out and wishing the holidays were over before they have entirely begun.

Is there no silver lining?

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Bleak thoughts were racing through my head as I made a deli run to pick up a few items. I flashed a smile to the friendly lady at the counter. Civility is a must even if you’re feeling down. I pulled out my card and started to hand it to her.

“Nope, it’s all paid for”, she said, indicating I wouldn’t need my debit card.

I looked around confused.

The gentleman standing next to me smiled and softly said, “Happy Holidays”.

I left the deli, a bit stunned, but smiling. Sometimes, the world surprises you. In a good way.

WHERE’S MY PACKAGE? RECONSTRUCTING AN EVENT

It’s the season of so many things, but one of the biggest is shopping online. This is when we need packages to arrive on time. So, of course, this is exactly when they are most likely to disappear. I got three emails from UPS yesterday telling me three packages had been delivered to my “front door.” As soon as I saw “front door,” I knew it was trouble.

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Our front door is inside the gate where Bonnie and Gibbs are ever on guard. In order to bring something to the front door, they have to go through the gate with the big “BEWARE OF DOGS” sign … not to mention figuring out how to open the gate, then convincing it to actually open, which isn’t easy. We get lots of deliveries. It all gets delivered to the big red door alongside the driveway. We even have put a big table so if the weather is bad, they can put it up out of the snow or puddles.

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NO ONE delivers anything to the front door. And none of the three packages actually arrived. Since most of this was stuff that was on super clearance or for use during the holidays, it was a depressing loss. UPS is the primary delivery service out here. There’s also the United States Postal Service (cheap, but good luck with that) … and FedEx which is usually good, but during holidays, erratic.

Officially speaking, these packages were delivered to our front door by UPS at 3:25 pm.

Uh uh. Not at the front door, either of the two side doors, or the door upstairs on the deck. Or at either of the gates or by the mailbox. Or alongside the shed. No packages. I looked. Garry looked. I looked again. Garry looked again. Nada. Nothing.

The red door by the driveway

The red door by the driveway

It could be that the delivery guy, being a holiday temporary employee delivered the package to the wrong house. It has happened before. Usually, that’s the end of it. We never see it again. We’ve gotten a lot of other peoples’ packages, but we are good neighbors and deliver them by hand to the proper house. Other folks are less honest or more lazy. Not sure which. Maybe both.

So I called United Parcel Service, alternatively known as UPS or brown because they dress in brown uniforms and drive brown trucks. FedEx is all red, white and blue and the United States Postal Service (USPS) drive white trucks and don’t bother with uniforms here. In the city, they still wear blue, official uniforms, though. In the country, we are grateful to get mail at all and are not picky about apparel.

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UPS had no idea where the packages were. “Maybe some other family member picked them up?”

“It’s just me and my husband.”

“Have you checked …”

“Every door. Every gate. Ever inch of the driveway and up by the mail box. And the back porch. No packages.”

“The driver came back with no packages. He said they were delivered.”

“Well, he didn’t deliver them here.”

“We’ll call you back in less than an hour.”

The deck gate.

The deck gate.

I waited. And waited. So, I called again, this time with the case number. No one knew anything, but they would call me back in less than an hour. Repeat one more time. Still no information, but they would DEFINITELY call me back in less than an hour. No, really, they would call me back.

Meanwhile, I called Lands’ End and they said they’d send me a replacement coat and I called Amazon and they said they’d send me a new oven thermometer. There was another missing Lands’ End package, so I called them, again … only to discover that four of the six items I’d ordered were no longer available. Only one sweater and a pair of dress pants for Garry could be replaces. And he really needs those pants for the party we are going to next week. I agreed to give it one more day in the unlikely hope UPS would “find” the packages. Sometimes, they say packages have been delivered, but they haven’t really delivered them. They are planning to, but to keep their bosses off their backs, so they mark them as delivered early. I’m hoping this is what happened. Otherwise, one of my neighbors got an early Christmas bonus.

The back door


This morning, I woke to the phone ringing. It was the UPS driver. Yes, indeed, he delivered them to the people next door. The unpleasant ones who seem to feel we are not nearly good enough to be their neighbors. That must be why they kept our stuff. The drive thinks he can get it back. I have my doubts, but I appreciate him trying. Isn’t there a law about this or something? It’s really theft, in passive-aggressive mode.

From my point of view, the worst part of the deal is that the three clearance sweaters I ordered from Lands’ End are no longer available in either my size or color. Out of 6 items, they can resend just two. So they will replace two items, refund the other four, and collect the money from UPS’s insurance. It’s the original vendors who deal with the problems, replacing missing packages and then filing the endless paperwork to get their money back. Meanwhile, the neighbors have one lovely wool coat, a pair of men’s dress pants, five lovely sweaters, and a rather classy oven thermometer. Free.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Tis the season indeed, which is why I do all of my holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. It’s only the beginning of December and I won’t be doing anymore ordering until the holidays are over. This is as much holiday angst as I can handle.

CONSTRUCT | THE DAILY POST