Monday, December 31, 2007

First Night

At the risk of needing to rename “Pink Granite” to “The Snow Blog”, I will report that last night we were lucky to get only four or five more inches of heavy snow. Tomorrow we will likely get double that. Our cycle of a snowstorm every few days seems to be tightening to one every two. I don’t mind a “BOGO” at the grocery store, but I haven’t been buying a snowstorm, so I don’t need the second one for free, thankyouverymuch!

Wishing you all a very happy New Year’s Eve and all good things in 2008!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Oh My Goodness!

Between Christmas and New Year’s Day is an excellent time to go visit "Tacky Christmas". They were recently spotlighted as a “Blog of Note” by Blogger. Blogger was right! Make sure you scroll down to the very bottom of the page and click on “older posts” to view even more outrageous yards decorated to the hilt. I found it particularly interesting that some families submitted photos of their own electrically charged houses!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Leaping Leopards!

This head cold grounded me tonight. It seemed unkind to spread any wayward rhinovirus marauders with our friends, so our dinner will have to be rescheduled. Sigh...

So what’s a gal to do whose head is thick and heavy with a cold? Very Good! Yes, I’m cleaning my computer’s hard drive. What started this industriousness was a recent significant upgrade of RAM, to speed up my nearly three year “old”(!) Apple. Then we made the leap from Panther, right over Tiger to Leopard. Ahhhh, Leopard. Lots of very cool whiz-bang stuff came with the newest operating system from Apple. My favorites are Cover Flow and Quick Look. I mention this not to bore the pants off you, but to let you know it is an excellent way to view files, especially digi-scrap files. My Adobe PhotoShop Elements 4.0 for Mac wouldn’t allow me to effectively use Adobe Bridge. So as a last resort, I dragged my digi-scrap supplies into iPhoto. But I effectively doubled the size of the files as they were duplicated into iPhoto. I could sort and view them easily, but goodbye hard disk storage space!

Now I just go to a file called Digi-Scrap Paper click Cover Flow and a parade of lovely digital papers glides by! It also works with any other text documents, spreadsheets, photographs, PDFs, Album Covers, etc. Slowly, but surely I’m gaining back the previously elusive space on my hard drive. Because of the increased speed, I’m also finding it much easier and more pleasant to do everything on the computer. The added bonus is, that while Apples are incredibly intuitive, it’s still very nice to feel comfortable wandering around behind the scenes inside my laptop. And now “behind the scenes” is less like a sterile computer room in a basement and more like going to a snazzy fashion show.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

'Ere He Drove Out Of Sight...

Christmas, which we did celebrate on Christmas Day, was great! Our niece Carrie and her fiance Al hosted the festivities down in Rhode Island. They actually had two different dinners, which we soon came to call the first and second dinner seatings on their Christmas Cruise Ship! Multiple branches of the families came together and overlapped between meals (including two sets of twins!). The food was delicious and plentiful, the laughter nearly constant and just to gild the lily, presents were exchanged. I have no idea how Al and Carrie managed to pull it all off, but it was a great success!

Yesterday was a day for us to recharge our batteries. Unfortunately, I’m now fighting a cold and not really winning. I guess I didn’t recharge quite long or well enough! We did have a “White Christmas” up here and there was just enough snow left on the ground in Rhode Island, albeit mostly in piles, to qualify as well. The rains, which came over the weekend, still left us with a good eight to ten inches of snow on our lawn and virtually nothing on the walks, driveway or roads. I can’t ask for better than that!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Thank You Santa!


Monday, December 24, 2007

Santa Baby II

Dear Santa,

Here’s what I would love you to slip under some special people’s trees:

D. would like all her kids and grandkids and great grandkids to be happy and healthy (and she wants it now!) Feel free to throw in a winning Power Ball ticket as well.

G. would like just the right amount of rain in GA and easy, low cost, on time air travel for every trip back to RI.

K. & J. would like good health and happiness for themselves and all the branches on their family tree (and for their DVD player to work).

T. & G. would like good health and happiness for themselves and their family and to celebrate a lovely Christmas ALL together.

K., M., A. & C. would like lots of time together to enjoy their family.

C. & A. would like more time together in their new home and to have a lovely wedding day and fabulous marriage.

K. & P. would like more time together, to be successful in their graduate studies and to have that honeymoon feeling never fade away.

J. & L. would like more time together and to have their nearly, fully remodeled kitchen completed.

A. & P. would like time to enjoy their new kitchen with family and friends and a happy and successful new year.

D. M. & T. would like another successful year on the farm and for the food bank larders to always be full.

R. & S. would like a smooth and uneventful pregnancy and a healthy baby at the end of the nine months.

D.M.M. would like her Tiffany Bean on the proper length chain and for February and March to be unusually pleasant.

M. would like her kids and grandkids and great grandkid(!) to be happy and healthy and she wants a Democrat in the White House - now!

Actually, Santa, we would all like World Peace, good health, increased sanity and common sense in D.C., and just a little bit more of a cushion in our retirement accounts.

As for C. & me, thanks for everything!



P.S. Yes, everyone really has been almost entirely nice this year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Take A Deep Breath

As an adult, I’ve come to feel two ways about Christmas. On the one hand, I get caught up in all the excitement: the planning, the cooking and making and wrapping the presents. On the other hand, a part of me holds back. I don’t like feeling manipulated by the retail juggernaut to buy, buy, buy! The closer we get to Christmas Day, the greater the tug of war between the two becomes. At some point, I have to mentally hold my hands up and tell both sides to shut up. What’s done is good enough. It’s time to take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the holiday with Chuck and the rest of my family. At the end of the day, at the end of the holiday, they’re all that really matters.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Shortest Day

Early this morning at 1:08 a.m., we passed “officially” into winter here in the Northern Hemisphere. While it was still “officially” autumn, here in New England, we were already deep in the thick of winter. We have been in a cycle where we get a snow storm every few days and now seem to have more snow accumulated by the first day of winter than we had all of last year. Unfortunately that means we are also into a very messy and challenging phase of winter. Today we have been clearing our roofs of the snow load and knocking down icicles. Then we’ve shoveled some of the relocated roof snow farther away from the house. Why do all this work? Rain is coming tomorrow - a lot of rain. That rainwater is going to go somewhere. The first stop is to sink into the roof snow like a sponge, adding tremendous weight to the roofs. Then the rest of the rainwater needs to go somewhere and with the ground well frozen, after the snow on the ground soaks up what it can, the water will keep being drawn by gravity to a lower place. For us, in a worst case scenario, that can mean our cellar. So the more we do to ready the house, the better off we’ll be.

The up side? The aquifers will continue to be recharged and we shouldn’t have any water shortage problems come spring. Right now that seems like a somewhat distant up side. In the meantime, we’ve got a cellar drain, a crazy long roof rake, shovels, an ice spade and our backs are holding up fine - thank heavens for acetaminophen and arnica montana! Perhaps most importantly, this isn’t our first rodeo. When we moved into this house in September, fourteen years ago, we had a ferocious first winter. Tons of snow and no snow blower, heavy rain on top of snow and we didn’t initially understand the elegance of the cellar drain and then the furnace died. Welcome to life in an old house in the country. It was a baptism by fire - well - water, lots and lots of water; ice to rain and everything in between. That old saying: “a pint’s a pound, the world around” means that one gallon weighs eight pounds. And moving that much water, in any form, is a challenge. “Let the tool do the work” and “Let gravity be your friend” are words to live by right now in our neck of the woods. My rest break over, I’m off to do a little more of each before dinner. I believe I see a bottle of Prosecco in our future...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thinking About Santa

I’m pretty sure that nowadays, Santa’s Workshop must be loaded with computers. And since it’s Santa’s Workshop, I figure he’s got nothing but Apples! My little workshop involves an Apple and this year I couldn’t get by without it. So how could The Big Guy do all he does without some Macs?

There’s the naughty or nice lists, the route mapping, the inventory spreadsheets, the toy design (which these days must be more like high tech design) and the elf payroll. Hey! I’ll betcha Santa and Mrs. Claus do all their personal and professional banking online!

Now that I think about it, I’ll bet the entire North Pole Operation is green. No, not global warming and ice caps melting green (although that is a serious worry!). I mean they’re probably environmentally responsible green. They have such an enormous customer base, it just makes good business sense to reduce, reuse and recycle. Maybe they use wind power or tap into those geothermal resources like Iceland is doing.

Perhaps after the holidays are over, one of the big news outlets could do an in depth interview with Santa and get a behind the scenes look at the whole operation. I know I’d watch. Wouldn’t you?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Armed With A Smile

Chuck and I ventured out into the retail world the other night. Eight days before Christmas is no time to be in and out of local shops, big box retailers and most certainly not a mall. But we needed a quick chat with a Genius at the Apple store, so we headed out to the Pioneer Valley. Which, if you’re going to do something as silly as shopping a week and a day before Christmas, isn’t a bad place to be so silly. I must say it all went rather smoothly. The individual stores in Hadley weren’t too crowded. We crossed a lot of little errands off our list. Feeling giddy with success we headed down to the Ingleside Mall in Holyoke.

First off, we actually found a parking space in sight of an entrance. Chuck slung the laptop over his shoulder and off we went through the slush and into the strangely electric, oddly artificial and perfectly normal world that is “The Mall”. The Apple Genius was accurately named and our minor confusion quickly resolved. Then we decided to venture out again into the main mall. It was crowded, but not bump-into-people-every-two-steps kind of crowded. We traveled from one end to the other (maybe 50 or 60 miles?) and found most folks very easy to deal with - even the guys manning the little kiosks who jump out in front of you to pitch their products. They’re good, but they were also tired and anxious as they watched the holiday profit making clock winding down. But our slightly exaggerated response, begging off because of exhaustion and hunger as we wished them better luck with their next customer, left most of them smiling.

I’m not a curmudgeonly person to begin with, but during the holiday season I am determinedly cheerful. I find that if you’re standing in a long line at a register and folks are sighing, moaning and muttering, that can really permeate the space. So I slap a smile on my face and start looking other people in the eye at the same time (I do avoid tipping over into a crazed appearance!). It’s very disarming. I also try for a polite and upbeat social exchange with the clerk. It is both heartening and sad to see their surprise and watch them visibly brighten when you ask after them.

If you still have shopping to do before Christmas, bring your best smile and be prepared to trot it out at the oddest moments. If nothing else, it will be an interesting social experiment and should help you pass the time in line!

“One kind word can warm three winter months.”
- Japanese Proverb

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Hula Hoop & Memories

It started with that song. I don’t mean the new Hollywood CGI movie version, but the real song, the original: “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)”. It came out in time for Christmas 1958; my first Christmas. I liked it as a kid. But there are many more songs that I would classify as holiday favorites from my childhood. Because of the new film “Alvin and The Chipmunks” that song and all things Chipmunk are getting a lot of play here in the states. That led to my singing the line: “Me, I want a hula hoop” in that incredibly high pitched, potentially deeply annoying Alvin voice. Whenever I did, I felt transported back in time. I also felt simultaneously happy and sad. I don’t want a hula hoop. I don’t want to actually go back in time and be a little kid again. But I also don’t want the memories of all those childhood Christmastimes to fade. Yet after nearly five decades, bits and pieces must be falling away.

I can still see the green artificial Christmas tree. I can still feel the imitation branches and smell it as it emerged from storage every year. I remember the year we told my young nephew that he couldn’t open his presents until his great-grandparents Gagee and Gramps arrived. And when we all returned to the living room after ushering them in through the kitchen, J.R. had already begun tearing off the wrapping paper on his gifts! I can remember the annual banter between my Dad and his mother-in-law Gagee. He would hold the present which Gagee had carefully wrapped and placed a bow on top. It was a multi-sided tin of Yardley powder, which looked exactly like what it was. Dad wouldn’t even unwrap it. He’d just thank Gagee and they’d both laugh! I remember when we three kids would open a gift and rush over to thank our Mom and then our Dad. Dad would inevitably say: “You’re welcome. What’d I give you?” And he wouldn’t really be kidding, as Mom did nearly all the shopping. I remember Dad’s special gifts. Every year he would shop for one gift for my sisters Karen and Gail and me and one for our Mom. Mom would shop till she (and we) dropped. She would bake and cook and clean and wrap. Dad would buy us each one gift and in the instant that we opened them, it was as if the world stopped spinning ever so briefly. I remember that as I grew older, Mom would let me wrap many of the presents. She would even tape up the department store gift boxes and write my name on them so I could wrap and ribbon my own! I remember Mom’s cookies. But I am so lucky that it is no stretch for me to conjure up the tastes, textures and smells of the delicate butter spritz cookies, because nearly every year, my Mom still bakes them for us.

These little snippets from Christmas past run like a grainy, badly edited film in my head. I already treasure them. I want to preserve them. Thank you for indulging me. Thank you for helping me to do just that.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Love Your Letter Carrier

Well, at least be extra nice to them today! It’s time for my annual post on the amazing job the United States Postal Service does. Today is expected to be the busiest mail day of the year - maybe a gazillion pieces, give or take a gabillion! I’m afraid we contributed to the crush with a couple of last minute cards and a few special packages, all processed through our local post office.

I remain amazed that six days out of seven; cards, letters, packages (and unfortunately bills and third class mail too!) are delivered to our home. It wasn’t all that long ago that a note from a relative living far away, was a cause for celebration. In this age of e-mail, cell phones and well, blogs, a card or letter sent through the mail can still bring a smile to the recipients face. So grab a pen, put it to paper, stamp and post it. But you might want to wait until tomorrow!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"Wicked" Storm

We were lucky. The ice and freezing rain line held just to our south. Several more inches of snow fell overnight and through the morning. As the snow eased and the temperature rose into the upper 20s (@ -2 C), we only had a few bursts of sleet, not the dangerous ice storm so many others have had to suffer through. With the moon and stars beginning to emerge through the breaking clouds, we started to clear the dooryard and driveway. This photo captured the white plume from the snow blower and the last few flurries of the evening.

By the way, I know Chanukah has barely ended and Christmas is little more than a week away. Despite the nearness of both of these festive occasions, the original Broadway cast recording of "Wicked" has become my default playlist on the iPod! Can’t help it and I’m not really trying. Even if I cue up the The Roches’ Christmas album "We Three Kings" or the The Chieftains’ “The Bells of Dublin” or Barenaked Ladies’ “Barenaked For The Holidays” or even George Winston’s “December”, I pop around to my favorite cuts and then back I go to Wicked!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Distant Revels & A Rare Bird

After digging out from Thursday’s snow storm, we attended Friday’s opening night of The Christmas Revels at Memorial Hall in Cambridge. An annual tradition for us, this was one of the least accessible, yet aurally and, to a lesser extent, visually interesting Christmas Revels we’ve attended. This year’s Revels revolves around the peoples and winter solstice traditions of the Balkans. The music was both haunting and stirring as it soared through mostly minor keys, in close harmonies. But both Chuck and I felt as if it was an unusually distant experience, partly due to the language barrier and partly because of the somewhat closed staging. The performers seemed to be facing in toward one another, rather than out toward the audience. Despite a few shortcomings, we enjoyed the whole of the experience, including Lord of the Dance.

At the end of Revels we headed out onto the icy, slushy sidewalks of Cambridge and rushed over to Asmara for a late dinner of Ethiopian and Eritrean dishes. As always, everything was delicious. Stepping back out onto Mass Ave not long before midnight, unlike our little town, Cambridge was still bustling. We left Central Square and headed towards Harvard Square, enjoying all the city lights and holiday lights along the way. On our way out of town, we cut through some of the residential streets near Porter Square. We spotted the scene above and had to turn around and drive back. I quickly jumped out of the car and snapped a few photos of the animated pink flamingo! Not to slight the reindeer which was also animated, but he and his relatives are fairly easy to find in this area around the holidays. But a pink flamingo is a rare bird indeed in the winter months! Actually the plastic pink flamingo lawn ornaments were first created in 1957 in Leominster, Massachusetts. But this lighted, animated cousin appears to be a striking example of rapid evolution of the species!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

So Close...

Chuck took this photograph while I was at the wheel. We were less than five miles from our house. We had hoped to beat the snow home, but obviously, we were unsuccessful! The snow is falling at an inch or two an hour. Before the storm is over, we’re expected to get between six and twelve inches of fluffy snow here in the hills of Worcester County. NECN Meteorologist Matt Noyes (truly the best weather guy in all of New England) is promising sun for us to shovel by tomorrow. Then another storm, more of a typical nor’easter, will arrive over the weekend. Yup. It’s definitely winter in New England!

I hope wherever you are reading this, you are safe and sound and happy...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

We Just Said “No”

A few years ago, Chuck and I stopped exchanging Chanukah/Holiday/Christmas gifts with each other. We’ve known each other more than two decades and been celebrating holidays together nearly that long. We’ve navigated the challenges of our different religious upbringings and family traditions quite well. But it was the gift giving that never failed to give us fits.

We tried quantity - crazy. We tried just one gift each - Oy the pressure! We tried lists of suggestions - too much like grocery lists. We tried practical, frivolous and everything in between. At one point we realized that if we needed something during the year, we talked about it and we bought it. We liked the lack of pressure, the collaboration, the bargain hunting, the whole thing. Shopping for gifts for each other at the holidays seemed artificial and externally imposed. So we stopped.

I have to tell you it has been a relief. Neither of us has felt deprived. We still do whatever holiday traditions we want and enjoy. Like lighting the Chanukah candles all eight nights and singing songs together afterwards. Having our indoor/outdoor (now) LED tree on the porch. Going to Christmas Revels in Cambridge. And of course, celebrating Christmas Day with my family in Rhode Island - on whatever day we all agree to celebrate the holiday that year!

I hope your holiday season has just the right amount of peace and quiet; celebration and delight - however you choose to define it for you and yours!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Eighth Night!

Designing is an odd process. There’s a certain amount of inspiration coupled with repetition and experimentation. There also seems to be a recurring theme of frustration! But I learned long ago (probably in my days as an auditor) that the best thing to do is to walk away, change what I’m doing or, if I can, sleep on it. That’s what happened a couple of weeks ago. I worked for a few hours on an idea for our Chanukah cards. I had a good feeling about it right off the bat. It was based around a hand drawn, hand colored Star of David I had made previously. But as I neared the end, I began to get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Something was wrong. Everything looked flat and unexciting. I printed one out and it confirmed that my stomach should be thudding.

Big sigh, actually several big sighs. I had to fight the impulse to keep plowing forward. If I do that I end up in a worse place, like adding color, after color, after color of paint in a blob on a palette. Pretty soon all you have is a big, muddy blob. But I had a deadline. Chanukah was just a few days away. I headed to bed. Just before I dozed off, that defeated feeling pressing in heavier than any quilt, two different designs flashed through my mind. The weight lifted. It felt so clear and strong I didn’t even reach for my glasses and a pen and paper. I knew they would be there in the morning. There might even be more. I fell asleep immediately.

The next morning I woke up with the previous night’s ideas front and center. Sure enough, there were a few more tagging along as well. I headed for the laptop and was able to translate what I had in my mind into the computer. Not too terribly long later, (with Chuck’s assistance) our Chanukah cards began to glide out of the printer.

On this
the eighth night
Chuck and I
wish you all...

Original drawing, design and manipulations by LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Apple iPhoto 5 & Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0 for Mac. Font: Papyrus.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Empty Nest

: : If there was any doubt left that it is most decidedly winter, the photo above will put that to rest. This nest was a snug little home tucked into our mock orange bush, all spring and summer. Now its small cup is filled with snow and covered in ice. Its former inhabitants, are most likely very far away. The only way I could snap this was to open up our bedroom window and shoot down from the second floor!

: : Last night’s sleet-snow mix, turned to mostly ice, which needed to be chipped off the back walk. We have an ice spade which gets a fair amount of use each winter. The first time I deploy it each season, I have to remember not to pound it too fiercely into the ice, sending shock waves up my arm! I need to let the tool do the work.

: : We read a tip many years ago about using kitty litter on ice to get traction. It does give pretty darn good traction right away, but don’t use it too close to the doors or you’ll track it in the house too easily. To clarify, that’s fresh, nothing-but-clay litter and perhaps most importantly, NON-clumping. Yes. But I only made that mistake once!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Of Holidays And Days

Friday we found the LED icicle lights. Saturday found Chuck up on the ladder stringing them along the porch. Today he tackled the edge of the barn. Now there are icy blue-white lights glowing and bobbing in the sleet-snow mix. We are safe and warm inside a house that smells of potatoes and olive oil transformed into latkes. Our stomachs are full of crispy outside, creamy inside potato pancakes and sour cream and apple sauce. Seven candles have burned and sputtered to tiny wax puddles in the chanukiah, on this, the sixth night. The Christmas cards are designed and ready to print. But that can wait until tomorrow.

I believe my Thanksgiving hangover is beginning to yield.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Much More Than Hay

Hay has been the main crop to come out of this field for the last several years. In the winter, when there’s a lot more snow on the ground than today, we enjoy cross country skiing here. We glide around the field, elevated above the earth on a cushion of snow. Then we used to cut through an opening in one of the stone walls and circle an adjacent field as if it were a track. When I saw the sky this evening, I decided to come over and snap a few photos. I’m not sure how long it will look like this. A “For Sale” sign has gone up and the hay field has become a potential building lot - just like the adjacent field did a couple of years ago. Now it has a very large, very handsome home on it and we no longer ski there.

One autumn, several years ago, a neighboring farmer and his family were keeping cows farther up the road. Their fences were neither strong, nor in good repair. So from time to time, we would look out to see a small, straggling herd of cows out for an exploratory stroll through, what was then, mostly corn fields. We would hurry over, pick up a stray cornstalk and slowly guide the gentle beauties back toward home. Inevitably, one of the farmer’s kids would come racing toward us to bring them the rest of the way back. We’ve had a lot of fun in these fields.

I don’t begrudge the owners the right to divide their land up and sell it as they see fit. They’re following all the zoning and building bylaws. It’s hard though, to watch a piece of land, through all four seasons, for fourteen years and not feel some sadness, as it now lies on the verge of a significant change. In fact, I know the owners are in conflict over their decision. But it involves family and finances and fairness and I do not envy their difficult choices.

Tonight, as I watched the cotton candy clouds scudding over the pond without a name, I hoped for heaps of snow this winter. Enough snow for us to glide around this field, sun glinting off the crystal flecks, wind buffeting our bodies and reddening our cheeks. Enough snow for us to fill our store of memories, before a “Sold” sign goes up and the big equipment begins to rumble and reshape this land.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Love, Loss & A Pink Flamingo

There has been a long gap in my writing about genealogy. What happened was that we began working with death records and I found it profoundly sad. It was frustrating to read that a relative had passed from some disease or injury, which today might easily be cured with an operation or medication. My vivid imagination led me to wonder about what might have been, for them, for their loved ones, for us. I was glad to have the information so as to fit more pieces into the giant puzzle. But it was difficult, especially the day we found that an elderly ancestor, despondent and in ill health, had committed suicide.

We moved on from the end of life’s journey to other voyages: namely, passenger lists. Within’s immigration sources, we found the record of when Leah and her boys sailed to America to join Jacob! The name of the ship was “The Flamingo”. Trust me, I had an almost uncontrollable urge to find one of those kitschy plastic pink flamingo lawn ornaments and plant it proudly in our front yard!

Now, we have found another resource. has just added U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925. For most of the branches of our family tree, once our folks managed to get safely to the U.S., they stayed put. Whether it was because they couldn’t afford to travel back home (or anywhere else) or because it simply wasn’t safe to return to their countries of birth. But we did find one relative who filled out a passport application in the late 1800s! The JPEG of the scanned record provided a wealth of information including their address, birthplace and birth dates, date they arrived in the U.S., from which port they had originally sailed and a written physical description.

According to, many of these passport records include photographs. We weren’t that lucky. And I admit, part of me wishes that more of our ancestors had been world travelers. But that would rewrite history and I’ve already learned clocks run only in one direction...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

All In Together Now...

Lilacs in winter

I think I still have a bit of a Thanksgiving hangover - or something. It’s the third night of Chanukah and I haven’t made latkes yet. (I did get the Chanukah cards out in a timely fashion tho’, thanks to Wonder Hubby!) We’re less than three weeks away from Christmas and I’m so not ready - internally, externally or any other -ally. I think I’d rather do Thanksgiving all over again. It was an awful lot of fun being with my fun and funny family! But while my family moves holidays around rather liberally, multiples are just not done. We did celebrate Christmas in August once. It must have been 1978. My grandmother, Gagee, was hospitalized just before Christmas of 1977. She made a fiercely fought, miraculous recovery and we celebrated Christmas with her the following August.

We do have our LED tree on the porch and we’re on the hunt for some LED icicle lights tomorrow. Maybe Saturday, I’ll make latkes - lots of latkes, with applesauce and sour cream. Maybe Sunday, I’ll get to finishing the Christmas cards. And perhaps I need to translate my desire for a Thanksgiving redux into thankfulness for the entire holiday season - while letting the season be whatever it will be.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Paper or Electrons?

We still write checks. We still keep a record of the checks, deposits, withdrawals and debit transactions in a little check register. Once a month we balance the checkbook. Once a month the cancelled checks are returned to us. Well, they used to be. Our bank finally went over to the dreaded scanned image of the check. I know I should want to embrace this new technology. I know I should be happy about the energy savings and cost savings my bank claims to be achieving on my behalf. (It would be nice if those savings showed up as interest in my account, though!) And I know I should have already headed over to on-line bill paying. Think of the paper that would be saved.

I guess I am old fashioned. Or perhaps I am merely old. Gulp. But I like the pen to paper process of noting the items in my budget and writing out the checks. It feels very official, very real. I’m not a complete Luddite. I use our bank’s automated phone line to do some stuff. See? That’s very, ummm, late 20th century. Maybe it’s crazy, but it seems so much safer to seal and stamp an envelope; drop it into a metal box on the street corner; let people in uniforms pass it through high speed automated machines; load it into plastic crates in little trucks; deliver it to a mail room; have another automated machine slit open the envelope; then another person will type my payment into a computer, somewhere in the basement of a very tall building, in a far away city.

Isn’t that better than entering a few numerals into a little box on a web page and clicking pay? No? Oh dear.

Hey Chuck? Sweetie, I think we need to talk...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Season of Light

Christmas lights are going up all over the place. Chanukah begins tonight. The Winter Solstice, the shortest day, will be here on the 21st. It’s a very ancient instinct to push against the darkness, whether by huddling around a fire or lighting candles or turning on a lamp.

After I mentioned our new energy efficient LED tree in my post the other day, my niece Kate pointed out some important facts and figures about energy consumption. She wrote:

Did you know: If every American replaced just one light bulb in their home with a Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb (CFL), the country would save enough energy to light more than three million homes for a year. That is $600 million in annual energy costs and the equivalent of taking 800,000 cars off the road.
Not bad!

It’s great how such a simple step can make such a big difference!

We've been using CFLs in lots of places throughout the house for many years. We started getting them back in the days when they cost an arm and a leg and we had to file for rebates from the electric company in order to afford them! But the CFLs of today are not only more affordable, they put out a much nicer quality of light than those older ones ever did. Plus, now they truly live up to the "C" for compact in their name. The old ones were oversized and difficult to fit into some lamps. Also, these new and improved models seem to "warm up" faster, reaching their full brightness quite quickly.

So as you push back the darkness of a winter night, try doing it in a contemporary way that’s good for the planet.

Happy Chanukah!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Flake By Flake, Drip By Drip

The storm began yesterday with snow flurries that turned into squalls. Then came sleet and more snow. By this morning a layer of ice had been added, followed by more flurries...

It may still be autumn on the calendar, but it is winter by feel and experience. During one of the lulls early this afternoon, I went out into the yard and captured this tiny icicle on the tip of a rhododendron leaf. That’s the same rhododendron whose flowers I almost missed this past spring. The contrast between the two seasons is sharp, but they each have their own stunning beauty.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Chaos Theory

Today, in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez might have won the national vote he wanted, which would end presidential term limits.

Today, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s party may have won the national vote which could lead to increased power for the president and more rollbacks of democratic reforms.

Which makes me wonder if these occurrences in Venezuela and Russia will give George W. Bush any ideas of what he might like to have happen here in the U.S.?
Or did the actions of George W. Bush and his administration over the last seven years inspire these other leaders to be so bold?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Are The Stars Out Tonight?

This isn’t news, but Chuck is a really good sport. Several years ago we purchased a white twig Christmas tree, covered in tiny white lights. We placed it on our front porch, right in front of a living room window and it served as an outdoor/indoor tree for us. Unfortunately it only lasted a few seasons before it refused to light. Chuck spent lots of time trying to get it to light again by methodically swapping bulbs in and out of itty-bitty sockets. Despite his efforts, last year we were treeless.

Last week we found a new white tree. This one has LED lights which are supposed to last longer and be much more energy efficient. Chuck did the Tinker Toy thing; assembling the tree and setting it up on the front porch. The LEDs put out any icy white light with a bluish cast, which is actually quite lovely.

But that doesn’t fully explain why I characterized Chuck as a really good sport. Last night I got it into my mind that I would like to take some photos of the tree. But not where it was happily settled on the front porch. No, I pictured it in the center of our front lawn, where no light spills from the house and the woods would serve as the backdrop. Did I mention I wanted to do this at night and that it was hovering around 20 (-6 C)? And windy? No? Well it was all of that and none of it gave Chuck a moment's hesitation. Before I could reconsider, he had an extension cord at the ready and was hustling the tree off the porch onto the lawn. (”A little to the left. That’s good. Now can you straighten it a bit? That’s it. Oh. Back to the right. O.K. Thanks Hon...”)

No grumbling, no mumbling, nothing but his enthusiastic participation. Chuck was my Grip. Actually, he was my Best Boy, Grip and Key Grip all rolled into one! When you’re only one man, the hierarchy snowballs into one big job description. I shot 53 pictures. I love the freedom of our digital camera. I love the freedom to make as many attempts and as many mistakes as I want - as I happen to make. I love the freedom of being married to a man who loves me. Whether I’m channeling a moth or snapping pictures in the dark, he’s by my side.

Yes. I’m counting my lucky stars...