sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

December 27, 2007

reviving a tradition, feeling along, and shopping in a small town
posted by soe 7:35 pm

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all had lovely, restful holidays. Rudi and I came north for Christmas. I’m hanging with the family and sleeping a lot. (Apparently two hours of sleep a night before Christmas leaves you with a deficit to make up for.) Rudi headed even further north to ski for a few days.

We head back south this weekend so we can celebrate New Year’s Eve with our annual movie-theater-athon. Any recommendations for things currently out in the theaters you think we’d enjoy? (I don’t like bloody, scary, or warlike, which lets out an awful lot. Juno is on the current list, as is The Golden Compass. Maybe Charlie Wilson’s War or National Treasure or P.S. I Love You.)

Here are three beautiful things from my Christmas week:

1. Growing up, Josh and I always used to go down to my grandparents’ basement after holiday meals and watch the men play pool (as the company started to trickle in after their own holiday meals). Naturally, we rooted for Dad to win. When the grownups had tired of playing, Dad would play a game or two with us. As everyone got older, fewer people would come to Gramma’s Christmas night, and Josh and I were welcome to play with Dad, Uncle David and Grampa. In recent years, though, the pool table was covered over and used as storage. Then Grampa died and we started celebrating holidays at Mum and Dad’s when they bought this house. Last March, we emptied Gramma’s house and the pool table moved in pieces up here. In the last month, Dad got the pool table put together, refelted, and ready to go. Christmas after dinner, my cousins, Rudi, and I got to play down in the basement. And tonight Dad and I spent a couple of hours playing (badly). This was a tradition that deserved to be resurrected.

2. To say I was a little behind in Christmas knitting this year was an understatement. I planned to knit all day on Saturday while Rudi drove to Connecticut. (It was easier for him to drive than to learn to knit at the last minute…) Ultimately, we got a later start than we’d intended and I only had an hour or two of daylight before the sun set. Luckily, I’ve now knit long enough that I’m able to feel my way along on patterns that aren’t too complicated. I moved slower on Dad’s scarf than I’d hoped to, but got about 15 inches knit in the car. (And, no, before you ask, I didn’t finish any of the Christmas knitting this year. The scarf is nearing completion and Gramma’s hat is next on my list. Mum’s second sock will probably have to be mailed…)

3. I headed to Massachusetts on Sunday to see what Northampton could offer me for my money. It was a remarkably productive trip, allowing me to shop independently at an organic food store, a music shop, two different bookstores, a gift shop, a chocolatier, a kitchen goods store, and a dry good department store. I like knowing where my money goes and Northampton has been remarkably diligent about keeping its downtown filled with small businesses as opposed to selling out to big franchises and national chains.

What was beautiful in your life this week?

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December 20, 2007

bottom, dinners, and new music
posted by soe 11:53 pm

Ack! Thursday is practically gone already! The single-digit days leading up to Christmas are generally fraught, but there is still beauty tucked amidst the panic. Here are three from the past week:

1. Sweetpea, Rudi, and I meet up for dinner Tuesday night at a local diner that serves particularly good grilled cheese and tomato soup. At the bottom of my cherry coke sit two festive cherries just waiting to surprise me. (Luna also merits mention because they dangle Christmas ornaments from the dining room ceiling to really give the restaurant a festive spirit.)

2. In addition to Tuesday’s soiree, Rudi and I have had a lot of dinners out in the last week. Saturday night, a large group of us followed up a party with a midnight trip to a bar. Sunday, we partook of Sweetpea and Megan’s generosity and combined food, merrimaking, and holiday cartoons for a terrifically fun evening. And last night, Amani and I met up for dinner at Teaism so I could learn how her first week at the new job is going and so she could get instructions for caring for our cats next week.

3. Every Christmas Dad makes a mix cd or two. This week his latest compilation arrived in the mail and it really merits mention. One of my favorite tunes may be “Jingle Bell Rock” as performed by Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker. It sounded good on the computer speakers, but it particularly stands out when listening on headphones where you can hear the exchange between the two singers. They’re clearly having fun singing it together and it’s just impossible to listen without smiling. The rest of the music runs the genre gamut — from ’80s bands Heart and Survivor to the casts of the musicals Little Shop of Horrors and Hairspray and from Rebs’ favorite Grey Eye Glances to Sam’s fave KT Tunstall — and I’ve already listened to it through a number of times. Great job, Dad!

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December 18, 2007

more merry meming
posted by soe 6:21 pm

1. Wrapping paper or gift bag?

Yes! I prefer wrapping paper and ribbon but my procrastination has made gift bags the de facto adornment the last few years.

2. Real tree or artificial?

Real! And we like to cut it down ourselves.

3. When do you put up your tree?

The first Sunday in December.

4. When do you take down your tree?

The night before trash day after MLK Day.

5. Do you like eggnog?

Yes, but only the alcohol-free variety.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

The dollhouse my grandfather made for me would probably top the list. He got fancier as he gained expertise, but mine was the first and remains beloved.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?

Ummm… I have a tiny ornament one on the tree that we used to hang up when we were kids…

8. Hardest person to buy for?

My brother.

9. Easiest person to buy for?

Rudi. My dad. My book-loving friends.

10. Worst Christmas gift you’ve ever received?

I received a plastic ant-farm once from my secret santa at work.

11. Mail or email Christmas cards?

Mail. Although sometimes on Christmas eve…

12. Favorite Christmas movie?

Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?

I’ve been getting better about picking things up as I see them starting in the late summer. That still doesn’t stop my being one of those people still shopping on Christmas Eve.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?

Yes, although nothing particular comes to mind at the moment except bottles of wine.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

Stuffing! Apple pie! Trifle! Christmas cookies! Christmas candy!

16. White or colored lights?

Colored, of course!

17. Favorite Christmas song?

“Silent Night”

18. Traveling for Christmas or stay home?

Travelling up to my folks’ — for a week this year!

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?

Yes. Are there really people who can’t?

20. Angel or Star on top of tree?

Used to be an angel, but she kept endangering herself. Now it’s a snowflake.

21. Open presents Christmas Eve or morning?

Christmas morning. On Christmas Eve, I’m still wrapping!

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?

Managing my own expectations and stress about what I’d like to get done. I’m working hard to remind myself that I will be sad after Christmas if I decline fun activities in favor of shopping or knitting alone at home.

23. What I love most about Christmas?

Time with family and loved ones. The communal joy. A night of peace.

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shopping, knitting, mailing, baking … meme writing!
posted by soe 1:58 am

Things are a little stressful right now chez nous as I am behind on most everything, although perhaps less so than I was earlier today.

So, to distract you from the shoulder-tensing anxiety here, I’m offering you a meme started by Sweetpea:

  • Favorite Christmas cartoon: Hmmm… This is hard. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” would definitely be up there. But if you really mean “favorite kids’ Christmas show,” then I’d probably go with “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.” I still watch it every year on Christmas Eve. I still wonder: are those Santa’s bells that awaken Big Bird? The lesson? Your friends are going to come through for you, even if you don’t realize that you need them to.
  • Favorite Christmas movie: Miracle on 34th Street. It’s a Wonderful Life. Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life. Really it’s all about believing that one person (be he Santa or the little guy toiling away underappreciated day after day) really can make a big difference.
  • Favorite Christmas song (traditional): “Silent Night” has to win out. Particularly when it closes out the Christmas Eve service lit only by the parishioners’ candles. Makes me shivery just thinking about it.
  • Favorite Christmas song (pop/modern): Dar Williams’ “The Christians and the Pagans” is my favorite of the last fifteen years. It’s all about how you can cross the boundaries between traditions to find the commonalities if you want to enough.
  • I’m going to give an honorable mention to Hugh Blumenfeld for “Kosher for Christmas.” It’s references are too dated to win outright, but who can’t help feeling a little kinship for lyrics that include “Let’s all sing out praises to/A long-haired, radical, socialist Jew.”

  • Favorite Christmas cookie: Eskimo cookies. They’re uncooked cookies — oatmeal, butter, and sugar rolled into balls and dunked in powdered sugar. Yum! You really can’t eat just one.
  • Favorite family tradition: Until I was ten, Josh and I shared a bedroom, the door of which opened right onto the Christmas tree. When we were quite little, we’d be allowed to let Mum and Dad know we were awake and they would go and fetch the stockings Santa had left for us to open in our bedroom alone. I think this was so we’d let Mum and Dad sleep in until 7 — an excruciatingly early hour for them, particularly since they’d had to stay up so late to keep an insomniac sprite from interrupting Santa’s arrival. When we were older and had separate bedrooms, our stockings would appear on the hamper between our rooms s o that we didn’t have to waken our parents at all.

Please feel free to share your answers/memories in the comments or on your own blog.

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December 15, 2007

holiday a cappella beauty
posted by soe 12:02 am

Deb linked to this video on her blog and I have to repost it here so my fellow Conn readers don’t miss out on some a cappella love.

Category: arts. There is/are 2 Comments.

December 13, 2007

clique, comfort listening, and new vocabulary
posted by soe 11:59 pm

Sorry for the tardiness; I dozed off there. But better late than never, right? Here are my three beautiful things from the last week:

1. I meet Rudi’s cycling friends for the first time en masse Sunday evening at a party. They all seem like really nice people who genuinely like Rudi. They share his crazy “let’s cheerily ride 100 miles in a day” mentality, which I fail to understand. But I’m glad that he has people who do.

2. A few weeks ago, one of the classic radio podcasts I subscribe to on iTunes posted Miracle of the Bells, a mostly-forgotten movie starring Fred McMurray, Valli, and Frank Sinatra in a non-singing role. The radio show, presented by Lux Radio Theater, is a personal classic, though, because every year Dad used to take the taped copy out of the library for us to listen to. I listen to it late at night as I knit curled up on the couch. (As a side note, I realize that this show may have defined Western Pennsylvania for me growing up and probably is responsible for my misgiving that Pittsburgh would be a dirty coal mining city.)

3. Anxiolytic: anxiety-relieving. It means the exact opposite of what I guessed it would and, as such, is so much more useful. It’s my favorite word of the week.

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