Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Some are Meant to be Broken

Last year, in the final week's of December, I started to be able to smell gas fumes in my car. They were faint at first, but gradually grew stronger, to the point that it was nauseating to drive for long periods of time in slow traffic. (At higher speeds, the air movement thinned out the smell of gas enough that it wasn't too bad - though it still wasn't good.)

On the 27th of December (2013), I took my car in to the shop, and although they couldn't find out the exact cause of the smell, they found there was some issue with one of my oil hoses, which was causing my sparkplugs to misfire. So they fixed that and cleaned it up, in the hopes that that was enough to stop the fumes.

It wasn't.

So, on December 31st of 2013, I took my car back into the shop, where they this time found the gaskets which were causing the leakage - and just happened to mention that the gas fumes, combined with the misfiring spark plugs, could have resulted in a massive car fire.

But that didn't happen. (Phew.)

This year, on the 27th of December, I was in South Dakota, having driven to my home town to see my family after spending Christmas Eve and Day with Christopher's side of the family. I'm happy to say that there were no issues with my car on the drive there on the 26th, and no noticeable issues on the way back on the 29th. The 30th, however, was a whole different matter.

After the massive temperature drop between the 26th and 29th, I started to notice the gasoline smell again while sitting in traffic on the 30th. It was faint at first, though, and I thought it might just be traffic smells caused by the cold temps. Until I was driving home and the car was filled with the smell, which only got worse when I drove to and from a movie last night.

Which, then, resulted in me taking my car in to the shop this morning on the way to work - on December 31st of 2014.

Apparently taking my car to the shop on New Year's Eve is becoming a tradition for me. Though, truth be told, it's one that I'm very much hoping to break away from on December 31st of 2015. In fact, I've decided that it's going to be my primary resolution for the coming year. I really hope that it's one I can keep.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Inter-holiday Slump

The time between Christmas and New Year's is... strange.

There's such a huge build-up to Christmas, and then it's over in a day or two (or three, if - for instance - you have to travel between locations).

And there's also a lot of expectations leading up to New Year's Eve. Everyone tries to figure out how to spend the Eve, and to be sure that it's the best night possible.

The week between the two is kind of a slump, right in the middle of a peak.

I guess you could kind of look at it as New Year's being a way to "taper down" from the excitement of Christmas, but at the same time the week in the middle is kind of just weird.

You have to go back to work, but can't get anything done.

You have to try to eat well, but you're surrounded by bad-for-you leftovers.

You think you can get back to your "normal life," but you have another couple of festive days in front of you.

It's... well... odd.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Holiday Post "Exchange"

Okay, so I'm not so much exchanging blog posts, as I am stealing one that a friend of mine posted. Why? Because I read it a couple of hours ago, and have been thinking about it ever since, and so I thought I'd see if any of you had any thoughts on it.

The bulk of the blog post in question is truly quite simple.

Who would you be today if you had gotten that long-ago asked-for pony then?

How about it you got that pony today?

How would things change?

It was posted by Miz Tiz over at TiZ and AsS (

It's easy, of course, to guess what I might have done if I'd gotten a pony way back when, though in my case it would have been a metaphorical pony. (I never wanted a pony. My closest equivalent was probably wanting a cool car back in high school - instead of having to drive my parents' green 1973 Pontiac Catalina station wagon.)

Even so, I'm thinking of this even more metaphorically. The idea of "what if you got 'the brass ring' way back when?"

What if I'd gotten that perfect job right out of grad school?

What if I'd hit the jackpot the first time (or second time - aka "last" time - even) I was in Las Vegas as an adult?

What if I'd gotten to drive a better car in high school or college?

I really don't know.

I've talked, before, about the fact that there are split points in my life that I really wonder, sometimes, what would have happened if I'd taken a different path. If I'd taken a different job. If I'd move to a different town. If I'd never cut my hair in grad school.

As the old year ends, and the new year begins, this is the kind of thing that I ponder. And I love that I'm apparently not the only one.

So... What about you? What would you have done if you'd gotten that pony way back when? Or two days ago, even?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Whether you've found a Christmas Dragon of your own, or received a bunch of cards, or spent the day watching the Yule Log on TV, I hope that it was a great day.

Heck, even if you didn't do any of those things, I still hope you had a great day.

Here's one of my favorite thematically related videos for you. I hope you enjoy it.

(It's "Present Face" by Garfunkel and Oates.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Christmas . . . Dragon?

I fully admit that I really like seeing the Christmas lights in the neighborhood. (Christopher and I, unfortunately, don't have any outside outlets, so we can't join in the fun.)

The house next door has "icicle" lights and a wreath at the peak of their roofline.

The house kitty-corner from us has their tree in the front window, and a "star" in an upper window.

A house about a block away has wrapped the trunk of a huge maple tree in stripes of white and green lights, and the house across the street from them has a white picket fence lined with white twinkle lights.

We may not have the brightest street in town when it comes to Christmas lights, but it's definitely festive.

A couple of years ago, one of the houses across the street from us had an inflatable snowman that kept partially deflating and tipping over. Another house had an inflatable Santa.

This year, the house across the street has lights along the eaves. And a dragon.

Sure, during the day the lights are simply draped in the front shrubs and along the fence. But, at night, the dragon comes out to play and shoots fire out toward the street. It's both magical and festive, in it's way - definitely better than a deflated snowman.

And did I mention that it's probably only visible from our house, because of the angle you have to be at to see the effect?

The view from our living room - you can see the top of the blinds at the bottom of the photo.
Magical, festive, and ephemeral in its way. If that doesn't make the dragon perfect for Christmas, I don't know what would.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Shortest Day of the Year

The first day of winter, as we all know, is the day with the least daylight of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

I almost started to write that it was the day with either the least sun or the least sunlight of the year. But the way things have been, lately, we haven't really seen much sun for the past couple of weeks.

I'm not really sure what Mother Nature has against Minnesota this year.

Between the freaky cold in November and the past couple of weeks where we've only had about six hours of sun (cumulatively), it's definitely not been the most pleasant late fall. Honestly, this has been one of those seasons where pretty much everyone is talking about moving somewhere warm - myself included.

But now we've got the promise of the lengthening days ahead of us. Yes, January is typically our coldest month of the year, but it's also usually pretty bright and sunny.

Right now, I'm definitely looking forward to that - and I'm very glad that these gloomy days have been during some of the shortest days of the year.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Fragrance Fantasies

We don't watch a lot of commercials.

I mean... most of what we watch is actually recorded, so we fast forward through the commercials and only see them as they fly by. We only really watch full commercials if we're watching something "on demand" and the fast forward isn't an option.

Even so, this year we've noticed a resurgence of men's cologne commercials. Lots of very artistically filmed 30-second spots, most with swimming or horseback riding. 

And most with half-naked men smoldering as they look at the camera, or perhaps quickly romancing a willowy young woman. (Okay. Not gonna lie. Seeing the half-naked, tan, toned guys enjoying exotic locales in the middle of December is not necessarily a bad way to spend 30 seconds...)

We're not really a cologne-wearing couple. But if there were any way that spritzing myself with one of those would suddenly give me a body like one of the guys in the commercial, I might consider it. 

I guess that's all part of the joy of this time of year - the wishes for things that we'll never have. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Getting (Christmas) Carded

I've mentioned in the past that I really like getting "real" mail. I mean... email is nice, and text messages have their purpose, but getting a piece of physical mail is definitely the winner.

I think that's one more reason why I really like the weeks that lead up to Christmas. This period between Thanksgiving and Christmas has been my favorite time of the year for a long time. I like that it's about the anticipation and the hope and the joy of the season, but without the pressure of the actual Christmas day.

Because, let's just admit it, there's a lot of pressure wrapped up in trying to have the perfect holiday every Christmas. Perfect presents. Perfect meals. Perfect set-up for let-down.

On the other hand, this week, I've been thinking about baking cookies, and listening to seasonal music, and - yes - getting really excited when the mail comes and we have Christmas cards.

I love the styles of them. I love the way you can really look at one and see the person who sent it (whether or not it's a photo card). And I love putting them around the living room and being able to kind of be surrounded by the well-wishes of people I may have known for years, or months, or even (since Christopher and I each have friends from before we started dating) people I've never met.

Luckily, Christopher and I both feel pretty strongly about Christmas cards, so we do our best to send out a bunch of them - mostly on time - each year. We add new names each year, and are always hoping to get a card from some new friends, as well.

It's festive. It's fun. And it's a whole lot fewer calories than eating another pan of cookies. (Wait. What? I'm supposed to share them? Says who? Is this one of those "he knows if you've been bad or good" qualifiers?)

And, yes, it's one of only two times of year when I truly don't mind getting carded.*

*(The other - if you're looking to mark your calendar - is my birthday at the end of May. Because even Christmas cards can't beat getting carded on your birthday.)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Follow-ing Up

I am rather behind on blogging, having missed a day a couple of days ago. And I realize that I'm also behind on answering some questions. So I figured this would be a good day to do some of that.

First of all: Toilet paper tubes do not sound as good as wrapping paper tubes or even paper towel tubes when bonking people over the head. I think it's the fact that they're smaller, and, thus, you don't get the resonance of the full-length tube.

Next, I need to point out that - yes - I know that I posted the "One week past Thanksgiving Day" post two weeks after Thanksgiving. But at least I did it on a Thursday, so that should count for something, right?

I did not shop on Thanksgiving, and the only shopping I did on Black Friday were actually small local businesses.

Okay. So... Umm... I think that's all the stuff that I've really missed, lately.

I blame the week of totally grey and depressing weather might have something to do with it. I mean... it's been weirdly warm, but it has also been foggy and drizzly the whole time. Bleh.

But Christopher and I are on "Staycation" this week, so I'm planning to try to get some sleep and get a little caught up on my life. Hopefully before Christmas...

Wish me luck!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

One Week Past Thanksgiving Day

The Holiday season seems to be going by crazy fast this year. I assume that that is because Thanksgiving was so late, and so there is less time than usual between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This means that all of the Festive has to happen in a condensed timeframe - including all the decorating and baking and card-sending and re-connecting. And, often, those are activities that end up being a blend of joy and AAACCCKKKKKK - especially in a short amount of time.

Luckily, it's also the time of year when the smallest of things can make it all worthwhile.

An out-of-the-blue hug from a friend.
A parking space that isn't half a block from the store.
A random memory of joy had in past years - which doesn't detract from the current year, but adds to it.

I had the extreme pleasure of having one of those last kinds of happiness land in my inbox this evening. A reminder from a friend of a shared experience, resulting in a smile and that kind of warm feeling that doesn't mean heartburn (which - let's face it - can be pretty frequent this time of year).

Long story short, the email mentioned "We Need a Little Christmas" from Mame. So I thought I'd continue using videos to wrap up my posts with this song. (There's no actual video - just the album cover.)

Here's to old friends and carols at the spinet and, of course, Angela Lansbury.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The True Holiday Dilemma

Every year about this time people start to talk about what you're supposed to say to each other - whether it's to be "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hanukkah" or "Festive Solstice" or some other greeting.

That's not what this post is about.

Every year people also try to figure out how to ship gifts in time for the holidays, how to manage their weight during the parties, and how to not get sent to jail for murdering their relatives.

That's not what this post is about, either.

This post is about a dilemma which I've never actually faced until tonight, as I sat down in front of the TV and realized - to my dismay - that both Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Comin' to Town were going to be on tonight.

At the same time.

Opposite each other.

Forcing me to choose.

Sure. I could have done one of my standard tricks and flipped back and forth between the two, but it's hard enough to get really engrossed in stop-motion animation when you're watching it from start to finish. Having to jump back and forth between stories just takes all the magic out of it.

Rudolph jumped to the front of the line pretty quickly, for sentimental reasons, since this was apparently the 50th anniversary showing of it.

But Santa Claus has always been a favorite of mine because I really like the songs.

Yes, Rudolph has Burl Ives, and Hermey, and the Misfit Toys, but as much as I like the song "Silver and Gold," I'm not all that psyched by the rest of the soundtrack.

So I chose Santa Claus, with Fred Astaire, Topper the penguin, Burgermeister Meisterburger, the Kringles, and the Winter Warlock. Mainly, I have to admit, because it has "One Foot in Front of the Other," which I'm sure I'll be humming all night.

Even though I did find a solution to my dilemma, I still can't really believe that the networks made us choose tonight. Just for that, I'm offering you my two favorite songs from the two shows, here. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Going Tubeless

I just saw an add for "tubeless" toilet paper rolls. And, yes, they are basically exactly what they sound like: rolls of toilet paper without the cardboard tube in the middle. (Because, really, what purpose do they serve?)

Ironically, earlier today, I saw something on social media that pointed out that no matter how old you get, you always want to bonk someone on the head with the inner tube from a roll of wrapping paper.

It's a strange little coincidence, in its own way, the two different cardboard tube stories both showing up in my life on the same day.

I'm not sure what it means, but it really makes me want to try to bonk someone on the head with the next toilet paper roll tube, just to see if it produces any sound.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Fairydust

Did you see "Peter Pan: Live!" this week on NBC? 

I watched most of it (I was doing some things at the same time that it was on, so I missed some bits), and I have to admit that I really enjoyed it. 

I fully admit that I have a higher "suspension of disbelief" ability than a lot of people I know, though. 

So I was able to sit back and try to enjoy it for what it was - a stage play on TV. And, to me, that was all it needed to be. 

I really enjoyed it. I liked most of the cast (Christopher Walken as Hook? Who thought he was a good casting choice?), and I loved the sets. 

And the flying... I really loved the flying. 

But my favorite scene, I think, was the very end. Perhaps it was because of how sad/happy it is, or perhaps it was because Minnie Driver carried it off so well as Wendy all grown up. Either way, it really tugged at all the right emotional spots for me. 

If you get the chance to see it - or, better yet, if you can find a live production of it somewhere nearby - I highly recommend it. 

There's nothing like a bit of live theater to get you in a festive mood, after all!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hand-me-down Holiday Baking

Pretty much everything I bake this time of year is from a recipe that I had when I was growing up.

Even the things that we didn't have every year are things that have been around for a while (like "Peanut Butter Blossoms" - the cookies with the Hershey's kisses in them - which other people made, but which weren't in Mom's standard repertoire).

So, as I was baking some cookies on Monday, I was reading an old recipe and going right along, minding my own business, because I've made a double batch (or three) of the same recipe every year for as long as I can remember.

In the middle of cracking eggs, though, I came upon a strange realization.

You see, when I was home over Thanksgiving weekend, my mom was telling me a story about how she was taught to "clean out" the last of the egg white inside an eggshell by swiping it with her finger. I was in the middle of making a pumpkin pie when she told me that, so I was very self conscious, kind of watching myself to see what I did - but I knew that the "test sample" would be tainted, because her story was so fresh on my mind.

On Monday, though, I was simply baking along, not really thinking about what I was doing as I cracked open an egg, dumped the contents into the bowl, then - without thinking about it at all - swiped my finger across the inside of the shell to remove the last glops of egg white.

The movement wasn't pre-meditated. It wasn't something that I was doing because I felt that I had to. It was simply an automatic action - something I've obviously been doing for ... well ... let's just say I probably learned to do it when I was learning to bake, so apparently I've been doing it for a very long time.

Every year, I spend literally hours in the kitchen baking at this time of year, and using the recipes to connect to the people and places that are no longer as close at hand as they used to be. I never knew that some of them were more "at hand" than I ever could have imagined.

Monday, December 1, 2014

the case for opposable thumbs

I had planned to write a holiday-themed post this evening, but - as the photo below demonstrates - I currently have lost the use of my right hand.

You see, a Cocker Spaniel, with no opposable thumbs, needs a little help from her friends to be able to lie in front of a laptop and gnaw on her antler**.

(A little hard to figure out, but my right hand is in the lower left of the picture, holding the antler, which she is gnawing on, while facing to the left.)

What you cannot see is her paw currently on the track pad, or that I am typing this all with my left hand, reaching around her as she is stretched out between my torso and the keyboard. Hence, no contractions, and few capital letters... but lots of backspacing and re-typing.

I hope to have my right hand back in time to blog on Wednesday.

**the antlers, we have been assured, were cast off by the deer as part of the annual cycle, and were scavenged for in only the most humane of manners. we buy them from a good company with good ethics, so we believe them.