Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas according to the Christmas Carols

I realize Thanksgiving was late this year, but I'm still not ready for Christmas carols 24/7.  I like Christmas carols now and then, but what I don't like is that feeling that society is going to MAKE you get in the Christmas spirit even if it's the LAST THING YOU DO!! 
I prefer to have my carols mixed in with the regular music the way Adam Sandler's "Thanksgiving Song" used to be mixed in with regular music before Thanksgiving.  I prefer the more religious songs now, since they don't remind me of all the Christmas Traditions I'm failing to fulfill.  
As a kid I used to love the Johnny Mathis version of this song that my mom used to play.  I think there was a picture of Johnny sporting a fifties winter outfit and some skis on the album cover. 
You go on the sleigh ride - I'll stay right here by the wood stove...
"Sleigh Ride"
Just hear those sleigh bells jingle-ing
Ring ting tingle-ing too
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you

This sounds enchanting, doesn’t it?  Years ago I bought some authentic sleigh bells, thinking I’d ring them on Christmas Eve to convince the kids that Santa was on the roof getting ready to deliver the presents.  I had a vision in my head of the kids saying groggily from their beds (while still remaining in them - what was I thinking??) “Is that Santa?  Did I just hear the reindeer bells?”  The reality was that I would spend from 1-2 am reminding my husband not to talk so loud (SHHHHHH!!!! You’ll wake up the kids!) and then he pass out from exhaustion while I ate the cookies, the carrot, and cleaned up the Santa signs around the house.  By the time I got around to ringing the bells, everyone, including dad, was sleeping so soundly a train wouldn’t wake them up.

Outside the snow is falling
And friends are calling "Yoo Hoo"
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you

I wished I had a horse drawn sleigh when we had our last big snowfall.  Instead of friends calling “yoo hoo” neighbors were calling other neighbors yelling, “HELP!  You have a snowmobile and I’m stuck in a snow-river of deserted bumper cars!”  I know this because I was one of those neighbors.   

Giddy-yap giddy-yap giddy-yap
let's go
Let's look at the snow
We're riding in a wonderland of snow

Giddy-yap giddy-yap giddy-yap it's grand
Just holding your hand
We're gliding along with the song
Of a wintry fairy land

Our cheeks are nice and rosy
And comfy cozy are we
We're snuggled up together like two
Birds of a feather would be

We’re nice and cozy and then we get wet and cold and cranky and I have to put everyone’s crap in the dryer or the house will be decorated with wet socks.  

Let's take the road before us
And sing a chorus or two
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you

There's a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray
It'll be the perfect ending of a perfect day
We'll be singing the songs we love to sing without a single stop
At the fireplace while we watch the chestnuts pop
Pop! Pop! Pop!

Did we take our sleigh to Farmer Grey’s house? Is there enough sleigh parking for everyone?  And who besides my mother eats chestnuts? And if you put them in the fire, when you fish them out, won’t they taste like ashes? And if they pop, will we all have to wear goggles so no one gets an eye shot out?  I went to a Christmas caroling party last year, and it was nice, but I think it was mostly the ladies who enjoyed it.  I would have had to drag my husband there by the ear for him to attend something where the goal was to sing Christmas carols in public.

There's a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy
When they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie
It'll nearly be like a picture print by Currier and Ives
These wonderful things are the things
We remember all through our lives

When I was a teenager, I was warned by countless people not to read so many romance novels, since they would give me unrealistic expectations about love and marriage, however, no one warned me not to listen to Christmas music.  Currier and Ives!  Did the song writer realize Currier and Ives was famous for prints and paintings, not parties?  

                                         "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Everywhere you go
Take a look in the Five and Ten
Glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow

I loved Bing Crosby’s version of this song.  I liked his “buh, buh, buh, bah” and the way he made everything sound so casual, like he just happened to be walking down the street, and the Christmas stuff is there happening all around him and it’s just so easy that you don’t even have to plan it, you just look around and participate.

Jealous that my tree is up and festooned with presents?  Don't worry, this is a picture from last year. 
Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but let’s be truthful here - it was looking a lot like Christmas as soon as Halloween was over, let alone before I came out of my turkey induced tryptophan slumber on the recliner.  And by the way, do you know ANYTHING that actually costs five or ten cents nowadays?  How about five or ten dollars?    

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in every store
But the prettiest sight to see
Is the holly that will be
On your own front door

The other day I went to Costco and I was debating between holly for my front door and a nice beautiful wreath of faux greens and ornaments... but then I decided that food was more important, so I got neither.

A pair of Hop-a-long boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Bonny and Ben
Dolls that will talk and go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jenn
And mom and dad can hardly wait
For school to start again

I really do like when the kids are home for vacation, but I wish my kids wanted Hop-a-long boots and a pistol that shoots.  Most kids want things like X-Box One and/or the lastest iphones, laptops and assorted other staggeringly priced technology.  We could probably keep Janice AND Jenn and all their descendants for the next 3 generations stocked with walking talking dolls for the rest of their lives for the cost of one X-Box One.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Everywhere you go
There's a tree in the Grand Hotel
One in the park as well
The sturdy kind that doesn't mind the snow

Decorations... yes they are nice, but it takes days to haul them out, set them up, break assorted pieces, cry with frustration because you can’t find the such and such that goes along with the whatchamacallit, and then just a few days after Christmas, you have to pack all that crap up again and put it away.  If you get a “real” tree, you have to worry about it drying out and becoming a fire hazard that could torch your house in a split second, especially if you’re the type who forgets to water it, or you have a dog that likes to drink balsam-fir-needle-sap-flavored water. 

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Soon the bells will start
And the thing that will make them ring
Is the Carol that you sing
Right within your heart

This brings me to one of my biggest complaints.  I like Christmas music, but I don’t want to hear it NON-STOP from the second the Thanksgiving turkey comes out of the oven until Christmas day... And then between Christmas and New Year’s - no Christmas music! What’s with that? Just when I can FINALLY relax and enjoy Christmas, Christmas is over.  Go figure.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thanksgiving is better than Christmas

Over the River and Through the Woods

     No offense to Christmas... It is a wonderful holiday at its core but ever since I became an adult I've secretly held the  belief that Thanksgiving is actually better than Christmas.  Here are my reasons why:

1.  Reasonable expectations.  Christmas is lovely but for Christians, it's the pinnacle of holidays. Until you become jaded like me, you tell yourself that you "can't wait until Christmas," and that this will be the "best Christmas ever." You make insane plans that will take you weeks to execute, forgetting that you will also have to live a normal life (which usually in- cludes things like working and doing chores) in the weeks preceding Christmas. You spend weeks scouting out the perfect location for your Christmas card shoot only to find that it's now too late to actually send out the Christmas cards.  There are no such high expectations for Thanksgiving.  The biggest obstacle will be living out the song "Over the River  and Through the Woods,"  which is not very likely.  Then again, judging from what I've been learning on Discovery Channel reality shows, if you live in the Yukon or some where similar, you might be able to take a sleigh through white and drifted snow to grandmas house for Thanksgiving but you'll probably be having smoked salmon for dinner.

Carrots, Cauliflower, Lettuce and Potatoes

2.  Minimal advance preparations.  In theory, Christmas requires just an open, thankful heart and an appreciation for the miracle of Christ's birth.  In reality, Christmas requires all sorts of supplies: fake greenery, lights, sparkley decorations,   Christmas cards, hot chocolate, baked goods, children in cute outfits, snow, a guy with a snow white beard (I know lots of guys with salt and pepper colored goatees, but no snow white beards. This right here is a problem) and most of all,   an ability to see into hearts and minds of our loved ones so that we can purchase their Perfect Present. 
Thanksgiving, on the other hand, requires food and other people.   Even if you don't have any friends, if you offer food, you're quite likely to find some friends willing to eat it with you.If you're a horrible cook, you still have the option of being the guest.  For dinner, turkey is, of course, traditional, but if you are a vegetarian, you could call yourself a humanitarian  (or a turkeytarian?) watch the President pardon a turkey for Thanksgiving and then say you're following his example.   I  was thinking the only advance preparation you had to do was purchase your food the day before, but even THAT is not necessary - the grocery store a few miles from my house is open on Thanksgiving day from 7-3 p.m.  You can even for get the cranberries like the girl in the song by The Waitresses, as long as you remember them before 3:00 p.m. 

Colorful peppers - waiting for Thanksgiving Dinner!

3.  Food and conversation. Christmas traditions are varied but can be so complex, is it any wonder so many of them are bound to not live up to your expectations?  For example, when I was in second grade, I feel asleep watching the  moon through my bedroom window, just KNOWING that if I watched that exact spot and stayed awake long enough, I would  surely see Santa's sled fly by, since in all the pictures I saw, it was always flying in front of the moon.  Unfortunately, I fell asleep too early. When you get a bit older your "perfect tradition" might involve spending a little time with your significant other who probably has vastly differing ideas of what is the perfect tradition - any compromise would mean slightly mar  ring the perfect vision in your head.  When you have kids of your own, your tradition probably involves multiple families  AND running home in time ensure that Santa slides his fat self noiselessly down your too-thin-for-a-person chimney      and deposits his presents, eats the cookies, drinks the milk, takes the carrot for the reindeer, cleans up his mess and    does it all before the kiddies awaken at 4 am and decide that they want something they never put on their list, but it's  ok because "Santa will KNOW cause he knows everything."  In contrast, my friend, dear Thanksgiving involves eating, often to the point of feeling like a ball with a head, arms and legs poking out the sides, and then lingering around the table or family room, talking about inconsequential things while you digest your food and wait for the next round of stuffing yourself.  Can you handle it?  I can!

4.  Less shopping and no wrapping!  I don't know about you, but I hate shopping.  I hate it for two reasons:  I'm not sure what to buy, and I wish I had more money to buy it.  Christmas requires multiple trips to countless stores.  If you shop online, there is always the worry that the thing you ordered will arrive and not fit, or be broken and require a trip to the post office and more waiting for a return.  Also, I applaud anyone who can do all of their shopping this way.   Thanksgiving may involve more than one store, but that's pretty much at your discretion.  You can chose to run your Thanksgiving from one supermarket and no one would think you were a Thanksgiving Slacker, especially if you have a beautiful grocery store like Wegmans near your house, as my sister does.  If I had a Wegmans near MY house, I'd probably spend my holidays right there in the store.  As for the wrapping...  I usually kill my Christmas Eve wrapping instead of enjoying the day with my family.  I spend hours wrapping presents only to see them unwrapped barely 12 -24 hours later, and turned into a mess on the floor that invariably involves something important getting thrown out by accident.  The only wrapping I experience on Thanksgiving is me wrapping myself in a nice fluffy sweater when I become cold due to diverting all my body's energy to my stomach to take on the task of digestion.  

5.  On a more serious note, Thanksgiving makes you find something to be thankful for.  If you think to what we learned about how Thanksgiving began (even if it's embellished and not completely true), you realize there are things you can be thankful for.  The food on your table, the people you're sharing it with, the fact that you're alive.  If you're stuffing food in your mouth on Thanksgiving and sitting with people who are doing the same, you have something to be thankful for.  And that's enough to give you a reason to hope for the future.   

Friday, November 15, 2013

Motivating a Lazy Ass

I have a formidable goal ahead of me...  I have to run 2.5 miles.  Now, some of you out there are runners, so you're probably scoffing at me right now, but to ME, this is a formidable task.  I hate running... always have.  Even in high school I hated it.  I'd pace myself. "Don't start too fast,"  I'd tell myself, "Pace yourself."  I'd start slow, and on the last half a lap, I'd give it all I had, knowing the end was near.  Then I'd cross the finish line feeling like I could have gone faster earlier in the race, in spite of my runny nose.   Damn, I never DID get the timing right.  Now, I don't have to worry so much about over conserving my energy.  If I make it to the end of 2.5 miles without dying, that means I've succeeded.  If I make it to the end without FEELING like I'm going to die any second, that will be even better.  

Exercise in general kind of bores me unless there is a purpose to it.  Running for the sake of running feels pointless.  Now, if zombies chased me on a regular basis, I would have a much easier time training.  Raking the leaves in the yard makes sense.  Push ups - not so much although, I hate the blisters I get from raking and I love the defined arms you get from push ups...  just not enough to remember to do push ups every day.  Can't I just sleep late and dream about running and doing push ups?  I don't hate exercise all the time, I just hate it often enough to get really fit.  I admire my husband, who goes to the gym year after year and pumps iron and he looks better than a lot of guys 20 years younger.  So what if he quits every fall and reemerges at the gym every spring like a groundhog?  Me,  I'm like a smoker trying to quit smoking, but instead of quitting cigarettes, I'm quitting lazy.  I attempt to change my ways at least once a week, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.  By the way, I'm not doing dumbell curls with one hand as I type this, I'm eating ice cream. And I've got the ass to prove it!

In an attempt to conquer my lazy ways, in September I decided that I was going to walk every day during my lunch hour.  The short and long term plans were and still are as follows:  short term - walk often, building up speed and endurance, so that: Long term - I can actually run for 2.5 miles.  There were a few problems almost immediately, though.  The phrase "every day" was quickly amended to "three times a week," which seemed so much more realistic since there were bound to be times when it was raining or I had errands to run during that time.  I found a walking partner at work, who was equally enthusiastic and was willing to join me.  "Yeah, I'm THERE," she said, in September when I proposed this idea to her.   We planned a time to walk on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  She is a social worker, however, and as you may have guessed, student issues take precedence over a walk in the great outdoors.   It's now mid November and we've walked together twice so far.

Most of the times I've walked, I've walked by myself, which was not bad... at first.  The first few times I appreciated the stretching of my limbs, my muscles in motion, the views of the surrounding neighborhood, the warm fall breezes, the smells of the plants and the nearby bay.  I felt like Walt Whitman in "Song of Myself."  Ah, it was wonderful!  And then, very quickly, it was boring.  I brought my camera.  I took pictures, which was fun, bbuuuttttt... it slowed down my walk considerably.  So I walked and thought about how every walk through that town reminds me of William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County...  But I'm no William Faulker, so that didn't stay interesting for too long, either.

Maybe if I got new sneakers...?  I imagined that new sneakers might make me want to walk.  When I first got my current pair of Adidas sneakers I remember thinking they actually felt springy, and maybe if  I got a NEW pair of Adidas, those would feel springy and they'd spring me right into that 2.5 mile run.  In theory, this was another good plan, but after several trips to the store, I couldn't decide which pair I wanted.

Then a friend of mine told me about the iphone app, MapMyWalk.  She showed me all the walks she had taken, all logged neatly and accurately in her phone.  Awesome!  I downloaded MapMyWalk... and proceeded to be unable to take a walk for the next week.  It was last week on Friday when I finally got a chance to go out for a walk with my new app.  I stepped outside, phone in hand, and loaded my app...  it was cold and windy as hell.  I didn't have a hat, and my ears were cold immediately.  Walking slowly so I could see what I was doing, I attempted to turn on the feature that would log where I was going and how fast...  I poked around some more, looking for that command...  Hummm...  Why does this stuff have to be so damn difficult?  My nose started running and I didn't have any tissues.  I walked down the street very slowly, still searching...  And then I got really pissed off and turned around and went back inside.  Dammit, if I couldn't get credit on my app for walking I was NOT GONNA WALK!  Why take a wasted walk when I could go inside where it wasn't windy?  This is the kind of exerciser I am.

I finally figured out how to use my app.  I just press the BIG yellow button marked RECORD and then the even BIGGER button marked START.  I must have been intimidated and distracted by the buttons marked distance, duration, calories, heart rate, pace, speed, laps, etc. under the LOG button.  Leave it to me to make a simple thing complicated.

So tomorrow morning I'm going to attempt to quit lazy again.  I have my app at the ready and my OLD pair of Adidas.  And I friend is joining me for the walk.  The Dunkin Donuts coffee after the walk is over is the real draw for both of us.  Ah, Saturdays!  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Making Ursula's Trident (a Little Mermaid Jr. Stage Prop)

Ursula's Trident for The Little Mermaid Jr.

     If you've looked around only briefly, you know there are not too many pictures online of Ursula's trident.  Last year when I was an official scenery design person for the Little Mermaid Jr., I didn't even realize Ursula had her own trident.  If you want to find a picture of it online, search for the Little Mermaid on Broadway - it's a theater prop. The best picture I've seen is in the souvenir booklet you can buy when you see the professional theater production.  Now, as a parent helping out with props and scenery in a different school, when the director showed me a picture of this little known item, I said, 'Sure I think I can make that.'  

     She gave me a very nice, weathered-looking stick to use for the staff portion of the trident.  I took it home, and as soon as Crazy Dog saw it, she chewed a hearty portion off one end...

     I should have known she wasn't just photo-bombing my shot, here.  

     Luckily, I found a couple of alternative sticks in the yard. 

Here's a photo of some of what you'll need...

Subtract the duct tape (I didn't use it) and add: scissors, paper towels, a sewing machine and a drill with a drill bit slightly bigger than the wire of the hangers.   

     Since these tines are supposed to be in a flattened shape at the bottom, I took this stick over to my dad's house and had him drill a hole through the center of the stick at one end so I could thread a clothes hanger wire through the stick to make a nice, sturdy base.  

     I then added two more coat hangers - one on each side of the stick, carefully bending it in a U shape so they would stay stable, and look nice and neat.

I twisted all the wire hangers together using pliers.

     Unfortunately, I only asked Dad to drill one hole in the stick for me, having completely forgotten about the tine in the middle.    It would have been better to have a drilled hole, but since I couldn't find OUR drill anywhere, (we won't go into that topic now) and I didn't want to make another trip to Dad's house... in desperation, I made a hole in the end of the stick with an awl I found in the garage, and then I glued it in place with my friend, the glue gun.  

I also glued the other wires, just for good measure, and to prevent them from wobbling back and forth.  

     Next, I wrapped each of the tines with white paper toweling (another reason to love Bounty Paper towels.  They haven't paid me to say that, but Bounty, if you want to throw me a free roll or two that would be LOVELY).  Anyway, I wrapped and glued them down.  Careful!  Don't burn yourself with that killer hot glue gun!

     In the same way, I wrapped each tine with blue fabric and glued that down as well.  In hindsight, I probably should have used a different colored fabric for the tines as for the shells to give it a little contrast.  Or I could have covered the tines with shiny, copper colored duct tape - ooooohhhh - that would have been FANCY!  Oh well.  You might want to give that a try. 

     Next, I cut a shell shape out of both fabric, and interfacing.  My fabric was so thin and transparent, I used four layers of fabric (two on each side) and two layers of very thick interfacing. 

     Above is my initial shell shape.  I left the three middle points as well as most of the bottom open so that when I turned it right side out, the tines could poke through the holes.  I tried it on the stick and discovered that it was too big, so I turned it back and reworked it until I had a workable shell-shape.  

     Then I hand sewed the bottom closed, and added some vertical sewing lines to keep the shell in place and also give it some more definition.  

     If you're undertaking the creation of this prop, I'd go with a smaller shell to really show off the tines, and as I said earlier, I different color for the tines than for the shell.  All in all, I'm pretty happy with this one.  

Good luck, friends!  

As for me, I'm on to the next project!