Friday, December 31, 2010

No Sidewalks, Still Celebrating

We're ending the year with a push..trying to get as much family and friends together as we can...Christmas one more time with family who couldn't make it down earlier; they're driving in from all over the state.

Then a nice dinner tonight with friends who live nearby...no,  not close enough for us to walk to their houses, but we'll manage anyway!  We'll drive...I think there's a sidewalk outside the restaurant.

Finished the rest of the Christmas wrapping this a.m., I think we're done!  Now, just getting the house ready for company...cleaning a bit...Aunt Bea used to say, as she walked by the dust on her furniture and the dishes in the sink, "Are they coming to see me or see the house?  If they're coming to see me, I'm here.  If they're coming to see the house they needn't bother!"

Our family and friends come to see us!  Besides, dust is important, it's a fine protective covering for our furniture!

Not much more today.  I'm sure I'll have a bit to post after today's festivities. 

In the meantime, just Happy New Year.

Got the count down on the side here, in case you lose track of the day!

Hope 2010 was kind to you; hope 2011 is better!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday Review

Some folks wrote and told me that they missed getting my Christmas newsletter this year; I sent them out to those who wrote, but am guessing that the mid-west snowstorms slowed down the planes that would carry my greetings to out of state areas so, before the year ends, I include the highlights here!  Hope everyone had a great holiday....here it is:

We're waiting for our bailout!  Should the government debt program float some funds our way, I can assure you they'd have it back faster than you can say, “What do you want for Christmas?”  All monies would be spent back into circulation in no time flat.  Nothing would change, we’d still be broke!!!  But, what a Christmas it would be!

My wife only wants all expense paid trips to Hawaii, Italy and Ireland, and would be happy to spend about three months getting it all in.  I told her that a trip like that would be very expensive and most likely we couldn't afford for both of us to go.  She said, without a blink of her eye, “Okay.  I can send you postcards!”   She came up with that too fast!

She'd also like a home in the country.  You see, she doesn't think that we live far enough from civilization.  For those of you who know where we live, I'll wait a minute until you stop laughing.  For those of you who don’t, all you have to know is that I need a GPS to find my way back from the store.  Any time I mention my desire to live near a sidewalk, to get to places, like walking to the store for a quart of milk, instead of driving an hour for it, she takes me on “know your county” drives, that lead further into the woods each time.  I'm waiting for the day when, in the midst of uncharted territory, she makes up an excuse for me to get out of the car and drives off leaving me there until I come to “her senses.”  She loves the wildlife that frequents our front and back yards...I've pointed out similar things in the city, like the guy in New York City who was riding his roller board down the escalator at Barnes and Noble, “Look at that turkey!”  See, nature!  Or, that cute woman I spied in the Metropolitan Museum, “That's some fox, huh?”  (Should have kept that bit of nature to myself).  In the city, we've seen people who are bears and loons.  Near the Playboy Club (no, we didn't go in), we saw bunnies.  South Street Seaport…someone with a rod and reel...a fisher!  Lots of nature.  She also expounds that she wants “tranquility.”  I told her that she could buy it in any fragrance store in the city and that it comes in a yellow bottle, her favorite color.  No comment.

As long as we’re in a spending mood, the boys each want a brand new car, clothes and musical instruments (the youngest-guitar, the eldest-guitar, the middle child,-guitar, keyboard, drums, whistles, bells, pieces of iron that you can bang together to make noise...yikes).  They would also take a private apartment each and a weekly cash allowance to support their efforts on their own and, on some days I think, “new parents.”  We know it's hard on them having to eat our food, use our laundry equipment, and turn up our heat.  While we're still not empty nesters, I do know some day when they are all moved out and on their own they will look back at these days and fondly state, “What were we thinking...we should have stayed!” 

I should also take a moment to review some of the highlights of the past year, that would be of great interest to you.  We had the septic tank pumped.  It's a good thing, as we've found out in not such a good way in the past, so I try to keep ahead of it.  My wife reached her first anniversary in the dialysis unit and continues to provide great health care…there.  At home, should I cut off a finger or fall on the floor writhing in pain, she‘ll barely throw a glance and say, “You might want to have that looked at!”  I took a break from work to become a student.  Nothing like reliving your youth and basking in the glow of many long-forgotten educational processes (skipping classes, dropping courses before the four week cutoff so you can get 50% back, paying someone else to write your paper, and attending the freshman beer bash...and, with everyone in my class older than 50, we can actually buy kegs with our own IDs).

I still get up every morning and wave to the school bus as it goes by.  I truly love not making those lunches.  And we took a few trips this year.  We were in Maine, New Hampshire (over a mile higher than sea level at Mt. Washington), Massachusetts (below sea level if you count my falling out of the boat and going underwater), Vermont, and Virginia.  Spent a full week at the lake in Richfield Springs, and we've been through New Jersey on several trips to New York City.  Going through a state counts, right...but, then, the fact that it's New Jersey, well....

Last year for Christmas, we got clothes and goodies, games, fragrant things of all sorts, and I actually got a crate full of coal... not because I was bad (I think), but it's useful.  My wife got it for me as, she explained, it burns cleaner and longer than oil and it helps the stove fire burn hotter.  I like to burn things.  That bothers her, but she supports that habit when it’s contained to the woodstove; it was a nice gift; kept us warm!

Then my wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year and I told her, lightly, “Peace on Earth, Size Large, Color Blue.”  She immediately wrote it down on the “What I Want For Christmas” list that appears on the refrigerator each year around Thanksgiving, that we’re supposed to fill out so we buy gifts that people actually want.  I thought the idea would touch her soul.  I was a little bothered by the fact that I saw her pull out her “other” list and cross off Scotch, Vodka, Xbox Kinect, and Chocolate Covered Cherries!  Not sure if she all-of-a-sudden remembered that she had bought those things for me or if my idea sparked another thought.  You see, these days she 'forgets' things...which works for me as I'm wrapping up all of last year's gifts that I gave her to put under the tree for her again this year...the ultimate re-gifting!  Then, when I looked again, I realized she wrote, “Piece of Earth!”

Knowing how her mind works (or doesn't), I started to put it together...she probably forgot the coal gift last year, but an ember of that memory relit in her brain and the bill we had recently received, for “Large, Blue Anthracite,” is now for me the ghost of Christmas future. 

Did she forget what she bought me last year, or is she thinking that she won't have to think about a gift for me as she knows I think she forgets, but she didn't, and now she can get away without thinking about a gift for me by getting me the gift for which she can state, “I forgot I got you that,” when she didn't forget...do you think? 

Okay, I won’t think about that for very long.  Coal or scotch, I hope your holiday is warm, too!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sidewalks are Christmas!

Christmas was very nice this year!

We spent less on gifts and more time and effort on the time and meals we were going to share.  We enjoyed it all.

As we get older, I find that the emphasis is more on family time and less on material things.  And face it, at this point in my life if you're not getting me a Maserati GranTurismo or an all expense paid cruise to several European ports, there's only so many socks I can wear at one time and, since I left the job this summer, I really don't need any more ties!

I always have a need for chocolate covered cherries (scored those) and I like a new flannel shirt each year...they're warmer when they're fresh!

What I have come to understand is that I find Christmas in the little things that surround the holiday; the ones that make it easy.

There's the fact that the tree hasn't fallen over (yet).  Less cursing, no water damage to the floor, and we look forward to having most of the same ornaments on our tree next year.  It costs less if they don't break and, while we'll still find pine needles in strange places in June, there's no picking of colored pieces of glass out of feet.  (I didn't get new slippers).

The outdoor lights stayed lit, without a single bulb replacement, and the electrical burning smell we experienced last year has not returned.  Maybe those new light strings did the trick.

We have experienced a minor masking tape issue.  We stick cards that we receive to various spots on our walls, as decoration, but the masking tape I got this year is less sticky than usual.  At times, we'll hear a sharp crack.  I'm thinking it's a mouse trap securing a victim, but so far it's been about a dozen cards falling off the wall, making that noise as they strike the hardwood floor.

Not too much to complain about.  I did get new tape, I'm still indoors when I'm rehanging them, and I can do it in my pjs.  Not like last year, when the wreaths kept flying off the porch posts and shed doors and I had to track them out in the cold like a truancy officer.  I was ready to superglue them to their spots, after about a dozen trips outdoors to rescue them, but knew that would come back to haunt me (as in, my wife would find out).

Even without sidewalks, a few family members made it to the house.  Due to the fact that it's been more like Spring than Winter, the driveway hasn't turned into a skating rink and cars and people can come and go safely.  

I had amazingly low cookie breakage this year (that's a big thing for a cookie maker...if you remember I made ninety dozen sugar cookies and they can be fragile and break during frosting) and we've had five nights worth of meals out of a ham we bought for Christmas!

Okay, that wasn't planned.  We thought we were having company on the day after Christmas, but the famed nor'easter of that day put the kibosh on those plans.  I kept cutting ham, and cutting ham, and cutting ham, and it turned out to be the proverbial cornucopia of meat...tomorrow I'm turning the rest of it into soup.  From the looks of it, maybe ten gallons.

I know that's a lot of soup, but nowhere near as much snow as some places around us saw.  We got a dusting...maybe three inches...here's our deck after the snowstorm.

I did take out the snowblower to deal with the driveway, but more as, "Why not, it'll only take ten minutes," as opposed to having to do it by hand...I could have shoveled what was there.


If I had a sidewalk, I'd shovel that for sure.  Did I mention that I didn't get a sidewalk for Christmas?  Wanted one.

A city friend of mine who knows of my desire to be living adjacent to a sidewalk sent me a Christmas card, below, with the note that she hoped she hadn't invoked city sidewalk envy.  She did.  



To poke me in the face, on the front of that one card, there are representations of just a few of the people she sees in just a day, yet more than I see in a year in my neighborhood.

True, I could drive all over the place to find most, but she can walk out the front of her place, greet the doorman, get almost run over by a bicycle, jump out of the way of a guy walking thirteen dogs, as she passes the neighbor (mumbling to himself) who works on Wall Street, check out all of the shoppers in the stores lining her sidewalk, wave to cabbies if she wants a ride (or just to confuse them), order food to be walked to her place, catch a bagel on almost any corner, shake her head at the kid skateboarding in the middle of the street, point out any number of famous people hiding behind sun glasses, have a Broadway star or starlet wait on her at her favorite restaurant (that she can walk to because her sidewalks connects to the one by that place), and bask in the glory of nature as she views the pigeons in Central Park (or on any building anywhere).  Okay, pigeons aren't high on the list of nature's "must sees," I admit, but they beat running into a bear or cougar.

You see, I did have a bear run towards me in my driveway one day, and I can state they are much more intimidating than a pigeon.  Although, now that I say that I have to tell you that I've never had a pigeon come after me, so I should hold back on further thoughts about that.

Anyway, I don't know what all of this means.  Except, I think that people connections are really important, and the holidays prove that as people make the time and put out the effort to get together.  Sidewalks connect people to people, and make it easier for them to get together, so sidewalks help to make Christmas!

Wouldn't it be nice to have Christmas all year long (I'll find that sidewalk, yet!)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Redux

It's hard enough shopping for Christmas, but as soon as the holiday is over we are bombarded with lists of things we should have waited to buy.

Evidently, there are items that are traditionally cheaper after that special day!

Then, there's a sea of sales flyers and discount promotions that come our way!

Here's one list that showed up today...nine things that are touted as a better deal after the 25th:

http://www.walletpop.com/2010/12/14/nine-things-to-buy-after-christmas/

I'm not sure how to handle this information.  We all like to save money, but the idea of giving is tied to the day of the holiday, I think.  I was brought up believing that you delivered gifts before the holiday or on the holiday, so the recipient would have them for their holiday.

But with all of this "deals" information, why would we want to buy anything before Christmas when we know that, each year, the better deals come after the celebration?

In this new recessive economy, should I have given "certificates" to my gift recipients stating that I'd be buying them something after Christmas or should I have stalled seeing them until I bought it?

These questions add another dimension to the holiday...one of shopping before and after the holiday, for the holiday!  I feel you have to buy Christmas presents in time for Christmas.  However, now that I can save some money, I may have to think about next year and put some people off.  I could schedule several "after-holiday" holiday get-togethers.

It's tough enough to get to, or plan and host, before-holiday parties and meals, then there's Christmas Eve, and then Christmas Day.  Now, post-Christmas gatherings for scheduled cost-reduced gift giving?

And what's the chance of getting those several persons you've delayed giving give gifts to together on the same day?  Some people have time off between Christmas and New Years, others don't.  Some have plans, some have to travel, and some are just plain hard to schedule.

Add the weather to all of that and we could be having Christmas every day for a month!  The extra added burden is to try to get this all done before New Years.  Did I mention trying to figure out what to do on New Years while still shopping and wrapping for Christmas, after Christmas?

This is getting too complicated!

Friends of our family, many years ago, held their large family and friends holiday on the weekend after the Feast of the Epiphany.

They celebrated what we knew as "Russian Christmas," and it was their annual holiday celebration for family and friends...a one-time, all-at-once, tradition.

Now, I think I know why this would be a good thing for me!

This celebration comes twelve days after Christmas, next on January 6, 2011.

By waiting until after the first of the year, I would have time to take in the after-Christmas sales and the beginning of the January white sales!  I could discount my holiday purchases by 70%!!!  If I could hold off decorating, I could probably even get a break on that $45.00 tree!

And, by then, no one I know has anywhere they have to be.  It's January, it's cold and dull and people are almost ready for another party!

The greatest thing?  If my guests don't come to this party, they have to wait until the next Christmas before thinking about the present thing again.  No pressure to shop for the holiday after that!  It's January...what do you expect?  Christmas presents on Valentine's Day...no way!  It's over!

I'd have another month to get to Christmas cards, I could actually relax at any and all December parties, and when asked that perennial question my answer would be, "Oh no, I don't start any shopping for Christmas until after Christmas...could I have another Hot Rum and Brandy, a double please?"

That would be swell.  Imagine, a stress reduced, one-shot holiday.

Nice thought, but I shouldn't be rambling...we're having Christmas again this week and I have some shopping, wrapping and baking to get to!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sidewalk-less Walks

We don't live near sidewalks, yet my wife likes to go for long walks.  So, we walk on the sides of our rural roads or we end up driving out to the hinterlands and we trek the sides of mountains.

It doesn't matter the season, when she gets the urge to "go for a walk," she'll most times want some scenery (other than houses on the side of our road) so we try to dress appropriately, pack up some snacks, jump in the car and head to a nearby park or preserve.

A favorite place is the Mohonk Preserve.  We're only fifteen minutes from several of their entry ways and there are plenty hiking trails.  Some are very easy, others necessitate legs and lungs of steel.  You can check them out here:

http://www.mohonkpreserve.org/

Another spot we frequent is Minnewaska State Park.  Formerly a private resort area, it became a State Park a number of years ago and my wife is the very proud owner of an Empire State Park Pass.  Paying an annual fee for that pass, she gets entry into state parks, and we've been to a few.  Here's some information about Minnewaksa:

http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/127/details.aspx

There are other parks we've visited, and hiked, and the important thing to remember is that you have to get out of the car and walk once you get there.  And, you're pretty much walking into the park so that you can walk out of the park.  There aren't any shops or cafes in the plan.

Today, we arrived at Minnewaska and decided we would visit the falls.

To get there, one parks in the lower lot.  Then, you walk back to the entry way, across the road, to get to the trail head.

I thought, as it was cold and it's a hike in and of itself from the parking lot to the trail head, that we should ask if there were valet service.
 
My wife enjoyed asking the question for me, as much as the gatehouse attendant enjoyed hearing it.  They both had a good laugh and then made me walk from and to the parking lot anyway, on top of the hike!

Here's another issue.  There are no sidewalks, just paths.  To boot, what's left of the path after winter starts is worn and packed areas...snow if you're lucky, ice if it's cold without snow.

I expressed the idea that the addition of heat tapes to the paths would be a great thing.

It would keep the paths from narrowing during the winter and reduce the issue of walking on icy spots.

Now, I don't want you to think that it's just me.  I think the wildlife would benefit from this, as well.  I didn't see a single animal on the trails today and I'm sure it's because they are aware of the conditions and don't want to fall.  A porcupine with its quills might be able to catch onto something to slow their slide, but furry and feathery fauna are in for a ride.

We did about an hour and a half out there and headed back to the car in pretty good shape.

I did have one other thought, when we were out there in the woods today,that I didn't share with my wife.  Right out there, by the water falls, in the middle of nature, how about a hot chocolate shop?  If we lived in a town with sidewalks, and went for a walk, we'd most likely end up at a cafe and be able to sit for a few and savor a hot cocoa with marshmallows. I think it's a natural. 

And, until we find our sidewalk paradise, I think I could be persuaded to go for more sidewalk-less walks, and put in the trek to and from the parking lot without complaint, and hazard the trails, if I knew that I could take a break at the hot chocolate cafe in the woods.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas is Coming!

Thought I'd let you know that there are only 364 days until Christmas!  We could keep this recession in check, if we write more checks!

And, I'm sure there are some who didn't get what they wanted for Christmas.  Now is the time to start letting people know.  They could probably get a real good buy on it, in the coming days, and can store it away until next year.

However, if they're anything like me, they'll forget they bought it or put it somewhere where they'll "remember where it is," and then forget that, too!

Just yesterday, I was lugging stuff out of the closet to put under the tree.   I came across a shirt I bought for one of the boys last year and had forgotten that I'd hidden it there.  One on hand, it's not good that I put things away that show up a year later; on the other hand, one of the boys scored another gift!

I have put things away several times to deliver as future gifts, in a place "where I know I will find them" and then can't.  I'm thinking I could put the words "forget" and "gift" together and come up with a new word for this repetitive activity of mine, and what I believe many others do, "Forgifted."  As in, I'm buying this and putting it away "forgifted."  When you run the words together, it means that you will put it away to give to someone as a gift, forget about it, and then it will show up at the wrong future date for the same reason, a gift to give later than intended!  And, pressure's off...no late deliveries, just "forgifted."

Maybe that's what Santa did with my sidewalk!  He didn't bring me one this year, but I did get some Scotch to hold me over until I find it.

Got a few other things I needed and wanted, so it's all good.

I'll put the sidewalk back on my list for next year.  Better yet, with the New Year coming up, maybe I need to put an action word with it, make it a resolution, and "find a sidewalk!"

There's a thought!

But then, if I work on it and Santa all ready has it, but  he "forgifted" it, then I may end with two sidewalks at some point!  I can't think about that right now.

Christmas is coming and I have to start getting ready!

In the meantime, until next Christmas and the possibility of a bailout for each and every one of from this economy, my song from our Christmas newsletter this year:



We Need A Little Bailout Now!*
*Sung to the tune of We Need a Little Christmas Now

Spend all the money, put up the tree before my stocks fall again.
Fill up the gas tank.  We may be rushing things but
Gonna get our bailout dough.
For we can have a little Christmas, each and every minute,
Brand new thermal windows, expensive restaurant dinners.
Yes, we’ll have a little Christmas, each and every minute.
The Feds say cash is coming, don’t worry,
But Santa, dear, we‘re in a hurry.

So, we’ll reline the chimney, pick up the brightest string
Of pearls we’ve every seen.
Spread out the windfall, it’s time we bought some land
On the other side of the state.
For we’ve grown a little smarter, seen our credit smolder,
Ready now to barter, and find that as we’re older.
And  have a bailout angel, we’ll heft cash on our shoulder
And have a little Christmas now,

And we’ll take our bailout money, and buy a little laughter,
And we’ll be shouting and singing, up and through the rafter,
And we’ll get a little crazy
Happy for a soon to come
No-payback-bailout Christmas now!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Mulling Sidewalks

From our house to yours, Merry Christmas!

Don't forget to check out the Norad link on the right side of this blog to track Santa's progress.  I'm writing this about 3:45 p.m., Eastern Standard Time.  That means Santa has all ready started his trip on the other side of the world!!!

Hopefully, you've all been good enough for a quick stopover.  If not, perhaps those of you who live near sidewalks could make your own cheer by going door to door caroling...'tis better to give than receive, you know.

I hear that strain, "I'm dreaming of a white sidewalk...."

To go along with caroling, as you'll want to stay warm while you're hitting the pavement, be sure to take a look at this recipe from Daily Candy for spiced wine and pack some for the trip!  Oh, be sure to drink moderately and responsibly!  Or, just keep it warm at home and have it when you return:

Cup of Cheer

Mulled wine is a must for going door to door:
Pour a bottle of Chianti into a medium saucepan, add two cinnamon sticks, two star anise, one tablespoon of cloves, three tablespoons of brown sugar, and the peel of one orange (or cut to the chase with mulled wine syrup); simmer for twenty minutes.


We have a bottle of spiced wine to enjoy this evening (it does come pre-packaged these days) and we'll be toasting you all...if we get toasted ourselves, then I'll have more to write about for the holidays!

Oh, and I did ask Santa for a sidewalk this year...I know he doesn't use them himself, but it's big on my list.  I'm not sure how he'll get in down the chimney, and I did forget to specify color and size, but due to the recession there's lots of room for it under the tree, no matter what he brings.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sidewalks, Cookies and Beers, Oh My!

Many will ask me why I want to give up the quiet and seclusion of the country and replace it with the busy-ness of a town or city.

I relate that it has to do with sidewalks and the ability to walk out my front door and propel myself to coffee shops, news stands (they still have some of those, right?), stores, or any other place the town offers that interests me.

Now this! Proof that sidewalks lead you where you want to go...check out what you can do in London for the holiday:

 
STROLL
Christmas Eve Pub Walk
What: View historic sites and festive lights by foot, and stop into The Sherlock Holmes Pub for a frosty glass.
Why: You’re avoiding midnight mass.
When: Fri., 6-8:30 p.m.
Where: Meet at Embankment Tube Station, Villiers St., WC2 6NL. Info at 020 7624 3978.


That's not all...along with this posting from Daily Candy, check out their other strolling offerings for the holidays in London, where there are lots of sidewalks, where sidewalks can take you to all sort of events this season:

http://www.walks.com/London_Walks_Home/Christmas_Weekend_in_London/default.aspx

See, I told you sidewalks had merit.  Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz walked a long, yellow, brick one and it lead her to the greatest understanding of her life.  Who knows what I would find on my sidewalk?  Not sure, but stopping at a pub or two along the way couldn't hurt.

On top of this, today I received an email with information that you'll want to save.  Having baked my ninety dozen cookies, I think the sender was inspired to send me over ninety recipes...check these out from NorthPole.com.  Click on a cookie name and get the recipe:

Amish Sugar Cookies Andies Candies Cookies Angel Crisps Angenets Applesauce Cookies Aunt Edy's Molasses Crinkles Auntie Linda's Ginger Gems Bakeless Dream Cookies Banana Drop Cookies Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World Biscotti Boiled Chocolate Oatmeal Drop Cookies Brown Sugar Shortbread Brownie Cookies Brownie Delight Brownies Buried Cherry Cookies Butter Cookies Butter Nut Balls Butterballs Butterscotch Haystacks C.O.P.. Cookies Candy Cane Cookies Candy Cookies Caramel Shortbread Cheesecake Brownies Cherry Buns Cherry Crowns Cherry Winks Chewies Chewy Noels Chinese Chews/Haystacks Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars Chocolate Chip Cookies Chocolate Chip Meltaways Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies Chocolate Christmas Trees Chocolate Cream Cheese Squares Chocolate Crinkles Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies (no bake) Chocolate Snowball Cookies Chocolate Streusel Bars Chocolate Sundae Cookies Chocolate Walnut Crumb Bars Choco-Scotch Crunchies Choose A Cookie Dough Recipe Christmas Crackers Christmas Crunch Bars Christmas Ginger Snaps Christmas Macaroons Christmas Mice Cookies Christmas Shaped Cookies Church Window Cookies Coconut Cookies Congo Squares Cookie in a Jar Corn Flakes Cookies Cornflake Christmas Wreaths Cowboy Cookies (oatmeal) Cream Cheese Cookies with Apricot Filling Crème De Menthe Chocolate Squares Crème Wafers Crescent Cookies Crispy Crunchies Date Nut Balls Date-nut Pinwheel Cookies Diabetic Peanut Butter Cookies Disgustingly Rich Brownies Doodles Double chocolate chip cookies Double-Chocolate Crinkles Eatmore Cookies Eggnog Cookies Elizabeth's Sugar Cookies Elves Quick Fudge Brownies Emily Dickinson's Gingerbread Cookie Recipe Emily's Best Brownies Famous Oatmeal Cookies Firemen Cookies Fluffy Shortbread Cookies Forgotten Cookies Frosted Peanut Butter Brownies Fruit Cake Cookies Fruitcake Squares Fry Pan Cookies Gems Ginger Cookies Ginger Crinkles Gingerbread Baby Gingerbread Cookies with Butter Cream Icing Gingerbread Men Gingerbread Men Ginny's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies Glory's Golden Graham Squares Glory's Sugar Cookies Gramma Chapman's chocolate coconut drops Grandma Elsie's Zimt (cinnamon) Cookies Grandma J's Butter Cookies Grandma Olson's Parkay Cookies Great Grandmothers Sugar Cookies Gum Drop Cookies Gumdrop Gems Haystack Cookies Ho-Ho Bars Holiday Cereal Snaps Holiday Chocolate Butter Cookies Holiday Raisin Walnut Bars Holly Cookies Hungarian Cookies (Little Nut Rolls) Ice Box Cookies Irresistible Peanut Butter Cookies Italian Cookies Jacob's Peppermint Snowballs Jam Bars Jessica's Famous Brownies Jessie's Chocolate Chip Cookies Jubilee Jumbles Juliet's Peanut Butter Blossoms Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies Kentucky Colonels Kiefle (cream cheese cookies with jam filling) Kifflings Kiss Cookies Lacy Swedish Almond Wafers Lemon Angel Bar Cookies Lemon Bars Lemon Cake Cookies Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies Lemon Squares Linzer Tarts Log Cabin Cookies Luscious Lemon Squares M&M Cookies Magic Cookie Bars Melt in Your Mouth Cutout Sugar Cookies Melting Shortbread Meme's Cream Cheese Cookies Milk Chocolate Florentine Cookies Mincemeat Cookies Mincemeat Goodies Molasses Cookies Molasses Forest Cookies Molasses Sugar Cookies Mom Mom's Crescent Cookies Mom-Mom's Ginger Cookies Mom's Nutmeg Sugar Cookies Mom's Old Fashion "Puffy" Sugar Cookies Monster Cookies Moravian Christmas Cookies Nana's Famous Soft Southern Cookies Nitey Nite Cookies No Bake Chocolate Cookies No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies No Bake Cookies No Bake Cookies No Bake Peanut Butter Cookies No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies No-Bake Cookies Norwegian Sugar Cookies Nut Balls Oatmeal Bars Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Nut Cookies Oatmeal Coconut Crisps Oatmeal Cookies Oatmeal Scotchies Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies Ooey Gooey Caramel Chocolate Dunk Ooey Gooey Squares Orange Slice Cookies Parking Lot Cookies Peanut Blossoms Peanut Butter Bars Peanut Butter Blossoms Peanut Butter Cereal Cookies Peanut Butter Chewies Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars Peanut Butter Cookies Peanut Butter Cookies Peanut butter fingers Peanut Butter Reindeer Peanut Butter Surprises Peanut Marshmallow Cookies Pecan Puff Cookies Peppermint Snowballs Peppernuts Persimmon Cookies Persimmon Cookies Petey's Yummy Spicy Almond Thins Pfeffernuesse Pffefferneuse Cookies Pineapple Filled Cookies Pizzelles Potato Chip Cookies Potato Flake Cookies Praline Cookies Praline Strips Pterodactyl Nests Pumpkin Bars Pumpkin Bars Pumpkin Chip Cookies Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies Pumpkin Cookies Queen Biscuits Quick Cookies Raised Sugar Cookies Raisin Filled Oatmeal Bars Raspberry Meringue Bars Really Peanutty Butter Cookies Reese`s Brownies Reese's Peanut Butter Bars Rich Flavor Christmas Cookies Rich Lemon Bars Ricotta Cheese Cookies Royal Almond Christmas Bars Rudolph Cinnamon Cookies Russian Tea Cookies Russian Teacakes Samantha & Kelsey's Chocolate Chip Cookies Sand Art Brownies Santa Claus Cookie Pops Santa Claus Cookies Santa's Butterscotch Melts Santa's Shorts Santa's Special Squares Scotch Cakes Scotch Shortbread Scotcharoos Scotcheroos Seven Layer Cookies Short Bread Cookies Shortbread Skor Squares Snicker Doodle Cookies Snickerdoodles Snickerdoodles Snow Balls Sour Cream Apple Squares Sour Cream Christmas Cookies Special K Cookies Spice Cookies Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Spritz Cookies Stained Glass Window Cookies Stir & Drop Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Swedish Pepparkakor (Pepper Cake) Cookies Swedish Sugar Cookies Sweet Marie's Swiss Treats Taralle (Italian Cookies) Tea Time Tassies Texas Brownies The Best Shortbread in The World Thumbprint Cookies Thumbprint Cookies Toffee Squares Traditional Christmas Sugar Cookies Traditional Gingerbread Men Cookies Triple-Chocolate Chip Cookies Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies Vanilla Waffer Balls Walnut Butter Cookies Walnut Crumb Bars White Chip Chocolate Cookies Wild Oatmeal Cookies Will's Famous Apple Jack Cookies Yummy Yummy Peanut Butter Blossoms


So, here's what I'm thinking.  I can walk to the store, buy the ingredients for all of the cookies, bake some up, and then tote them off to the pub to share with all of the holiday imbibers!  In fact, if my sidewalk was connected to your sidewalk, I could even bring some to you!!!

Comments, anyone?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas...and Then Some!

I was looking around the internet looking for Christmas Trivia that I promised you, when I came across a web site entitled Christmas Facts.

More trivia there than you would need in one sitting.

So, I picked some out...if you want to see it all, go to this link:

http://www.corsinet.com/braincandy/xmastrivia.html

It's a lot of reading, but it's a big holiday, it's been around for a few years, and you probably need something to do after all of the gifts are wrapped.
 
So, if you're up for the full read, grab an Egg Nog, sit back, and enjoy.  In the meantime, here are some highlights:
"White Christmas" (1954), starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, was the first movie to be made in Vista Vision, a deep-focus process.
"Wassail" comes from the Old Norse "ves heill"--to be of good health. This evolved into the tradition of visiting neighbors on Christmas Eve and drinking to their health.
A Christmas club, a savings account in which a person deposits a fixed amount of money regularly to be used at Christmas for shopping, came about around 1905.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, Americans buy 37.1 million real Christmas trees each year; 25 percent of them are from the nation's 5,000 choose-and-cut farms.
After "A Christmas Carol," Charles Dickens wrote several other Christmas stories, one each year, but none was as successful as the original.
Although many believe the Friday after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year, it is not. It is the fifth to tenth busiest day. The Friday and Saturday before Christmas are the two busiest shopping days of the year.
An artificial spider and web are often included in the decorations on Ukrainian Christmas trees. A spider web found on Christmas morning is believed to bring good luck.
An average household in America will mail out 28 Christmas cards each year and see 28 eight cards return in their place.
Animal Crackers are not really crackers, but cookies that were imported to the United States from England in the late 1800s. Barnum's circus-like boxes were designed with a string handle so that they could be hung on a Christmas tree.
As early as 1822, the postmaster in Washington, D.C. was worried by the amount of extra mail at Christmas time. His preferred solution to the problem was to limit by law the number of cards a person could send. Even though commercial cards were not available at that time, people were already sending so many home-made cards that sixteen extra postmen had to be hired in the city.
Before settling on the name of Tiny Tim for his character in "A Christmas Carol," three other alliterative names were considered by Charles Dickens. They were Little Larry, Puny Pete, and Small Sam.
California, Oregon, Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina are the top Christmas tree producing states. Oregon is the leading producer of Christmas trees - 8.6 million in 1998.


Candy canes began as straight white sticks of sugar candy used to decorated the Christmas trees. A choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral decided have the ends bent to depict a shepherd's crook and he would pass them out to the children to keep them quiet during the services. It wasn't until about the 20th century that candy canes acquired their red stripes.
Charles Dickens' initial choice for Scrooge's statement "Bah Humbug" was "Bah Christmas."
Christmas presents were known in antiquity among kings and chieftains, especially on the European continent. However, they have been common among ordinary people in Iceland only during the past 100 or so years.

Christmas trees are known to have been popular in Germany as far back as the sixteenth century. In England, they became popular after Queen Victoria's husband Albert, who came from Germany, made a tree part of the celebrations at Windsor Castle. In the United States, the earliest known mention of a Christmas tree is in the diary of a German who settled in Pennsylvania.
Cultured Christmas trees must be shaped as they grow to produce fuller foliage. To slow the upward growth and to encourage branching, they are hand-clipped in each spring. Trees grown in the wild have sparser branches, and are known in the industry as "Charlie Brown" trees.
During the ancient 12-day Christmas celebration, the log burned was called the "Yule log." Sometimes a piece of the Yule log would be kept to kindle the fire the following winter, to ensure that the good luck carried on from year to year. The Yule log custom was handed down from the Druids.
During World War II it was necessary for Americans to mail Christmas gifts early for the troops in Europe to receive them in time. Merchants joined in the effort to remind the public to shop and mail early and the protracted shopping season was born.
Electric Christmas tree lights were first used in 1895. The idea for using electric Christmas lights came from an American, Ralph E. Morris. The new lights proved safer than the traditional candles.
Frankincense comes from certain Boswellia trees which, at the time of Christ, grew in Arabia, India, and Ethiopia. Tradition says that it was presented to the Christ Child by Balthasar, the black king from Ethiopia or Saba. The frankincense trade was at its height during the days of the Roman Empire. At that time this resin was considered as valuable as gems or precious metals. The Romans burned frankincense on their altars and at cremations.
Franklin Pierce was the first United States' president to decorate an official White House Christmas tree .
Frustrated at the lack of interest in his new toy invention, Charles Pajeau hired several midgets, dressed them in elf costumes, and had them play with "Tinker Toys" in a display window at a Chicago department store during the Christmas season in 1914. This publicity stunt made the construction toy an instant hit. A year later, over a million sets of Tinker Toys had been sold.
George Washington spent Christmas night 1776 crossing the Delaware River in dreadful conditions. Christmas 1777 fared little better - at Valley Forge, Washington and his men had a miserable Christmas dinner of Fowl cooked in a broth of Turnips, cabbage and potatoes.
Hallmark introduced its first Christmas cards in 1915, five years after the founding of the company.
Historians have traced some of the current traditions surrounding Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, back to ancient Celtic roots. Father Christmas's elves are the modernization of the "Nature folk" of the Pagan religions; his reindeer are associated with the "Horned God," which was one of the Pagan deities.
In 1647, the English parliament passed a law that made Christmas illegal. Festivities were banned by Puritan leader, Oliver Cromwell, who considered feasting and revelry, on what was supposed to be a holy day, to be immoral.

The ban was lifted only when the Puritans lost power in 1660.
In Britain, eating mince pies at Christmas dates back to the 16th century. It is still believed that to eat a mince pie on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas will bring 12 happy months in the year to follow.
In France, Christmas is called Noel. This is derived from the French phrase "les bonnes nouvelles," which means literally "the good news" and refers to the gospel.
In North America, children put stockings out at Christmas time. Their Dutch counterparts, however, use shoes. Dutch children set out shoes to receive gifts any time between mid-November and December 5, St. Nicholas' birthday.
In Norway on Christmas Eve, visitors should know that after the family's big dinner and the opening of presents, all the brooms in the house are hidden. The Norwegians long ago believed that witches and mischievous spirits came out on Christmas Eve and would steal their brooms for riding.
In the Netherlands, Christmas centers on the arrival of Saint Nicholas, who is believed to come on horseback bearing gifts. Before going to bed, children leave out their shoes, hoping to find them filled with sweets when they awaken.

In the Thomas Nast cartoon that first depicted Santa Claus with a sleigh and reindeer, he was delivering Christmas gifts to soldiers fighting in the U.S. Civil War. The cartoon, entitled "Santa Claus in Camp," appeared in Harper's Weekly on January 3, 1863.
Jesus Christ, son of Mary, was born in a cave, not in a wooden stable. Caves were used to keep animals in because of the intense heat. A large church is now built over the cave, and people can go down inside the cave. The carpenters of Jesus' day were really stone cutters. Wood was not used as widely as it is today. So whenever you see a Christmas nativity scene with a wooden stable -- that's the "American" version, not the Biblical one.
Long before it was used as a "kiss encourager" during the Christmas season, mistletoe had long been considered to have magic powers by Celtic and Teutonic peoples. It was said to have the ability to heal wounds and increase fertility. Celts hung mistletoe in their homes in order to bring themselves good luck and ward off evil spirits.
Mistletoe, a traditional Christmas symbol, was once revered by the early Britons. It was so sacred that it had to be cut with a golden sickle.
More diamonds are purchased at Christmas-time (31 percent) than during any other holiday or occasion during the year.
Myrrh is an aromatic gum resin which oozes from gashes cut in the bark of a small desert tree known as Commifera Myrrha or the dindin tree. The myrrh hardens into tear-dropped shaped chunks and is then powdered or made into ointments or perfumes. This tree is about 5-15 feet tall and 1 foot in diameter. Legend says Caspar brought the gift of myrrh from Europe or Tarsus and placed it before the Christ Child. Myrrh was an extremely valuable commodity during biblical times and ws imported from India and Arabia.
Originally, Christmas decorations were home-made paper flowers, or apples, biscuits, and sweets. The earliest decorations to be bought came from Nuremburg in Germany, a city famous for the manufacture of toys. Lauscha in Germany is famous for its glass ornaments. In 1880, America discovered Lauscha and F.W. Woolworth went there and bought a few glass Christmas tree ornaments. Within a day he had sold out so next year he bought more and within a week they, too, had sold. The year after that be bought 200,000 Lauscha ornaments. During the First World War supplies of ornaments from Lauscha ceased, so American manufacturers began to make their own ornaments, developing new techniques that allowed them to turn out as many ornaments in a minute as could be made in a whole day at Lauscha.
Right behind Christmas and Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday ranks as the third-largest occasion for Americans to consume food, according to the National Football League.
Santa's Reindeers are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.
Silent Night was written in 1818, by an Austrian priest Joseph Mohr. He was told the day before Christmas that the church organ was broken and would not be prepared in time for Christmas Eve. He was saddened by this and could not think of Christmas without music, so he wanted to write a carol that could be sung by choir to guitar music. He sat down and wrote three stanzas. Later that night the people in the little Austrian Church sang "Stille Nacht" for the first time.
St. Nicholas was bishop of the Turkish town of Myra in the early fourth century. It was the Dutch who first made him into a Christmas gift-giver, and Dutch settlers brought him to America where his name eventually became the familiar Santa Claus.
The "Twelve Days of Christmas" was originally written to help Catholic children, in England, remember different articles of faith during the persecution by Protestant Monarchs. The "true love" represented God, and the gifts all different ideas:

The "Partridge in a pear tree" was Christ.
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity-- the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which relays the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of Creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed
The abbreviation of Xmas for Christmas is not irreligious. The first letter of the word Christ in Greek is chi, which is identical to our X. Xmas was originally an ecclesiastical abbreviation that was used in tables and charts.
The actual gift givers are different in various countries:
England: Father Christmas
France: Pere Noel (Father Christmas)
Germany: Christkind (angelic messenger from Jesus) She is a beautiful fair haired girl with a shining crown of candles.
Holland: St Nicholas.
Italy: La Befana (a kindly old witch)
Spain and South America: The Three Kings
Russia: In some parts - Babouschka (a grandmotherly figure) in other parts it is Grandfather Frost.
Scandinavia: a variety of Christmas gnomes. One is called Julenisse.
The best selling Christmas trees are Scotch pine, Douglas fir, Noble fir, Fraser fir, Virginia pine, Balsam fir and white pine.
The Christmas season begins at sundown on 24th December and lasts through sundown on 5th January. For that reason, this season is also known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The day after Christmas, December 26, is known as Boxing Day. It is also the holy day called The Feast of St. Stephen. Some believe the feast was named for St. Stephen, a 9th century Swedish missionary, the patron saint of horses. Neither Boxing Day or St. Stephen have anything to do with Sweden or with horses.
The first Christmas card was created in England on December 9, 1842.
The first commercial Christmas card sold was designed by London artist John Calcott Horsley. He was hired by a wealthy British man to design a card that showed people feeding and clothing the poor with another picture of a Christmas party. The first Christmas card said, "Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you." Of the original one thousand cards he printed for Henry Cole, only twelve exist today.
The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531.
The four ghosts in Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" were the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, Christmas Yet to Come, and the ghost of Jacob Marley.
The movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (2000) features more than 52,000 Christmas lights, about 8,200 Christmas ornaments, and nearly 2,000 candy canes.
The modern Christmas custom of displaying a wreath on the front door of one's house, is borrowed from ancient Rome's New Year's celebrations. Romans wished each other "good health" by exchanging branches of evergreens. They called these gifts strenae after Strenia, the goddess of health. It became the custom to bend these branches into a ring and display them on doorways.
The poem commonly referred to as "The Night Before Christmas" was originally titled "A Visit From Saint Nicholas." This poem was written by Clement Moore for his children and some guests, one of whom anonymously sent the poem to a New York newspaper for publication.
The poinsettia, traditionally an American Christmas flower, originally grew in Mexico; where it was known as the "Flower of the Holy Night". It was first brought to America by Joel Poinsett in 1829.
The popular Christmas song "Jingle Bells" was composed in 1857 by James Pierpont, and was originally called "One-Horse Open Sleigh."
The traditional flaming Christmas pudding dates back to 1670 in England, and was derived from an earlier form of stiffened plum porridge.
The world's first singing commercial aired on the radio on Christmas Eve, 1926 for Wheaties cereal. The four male singers, eventually known as the Wheaties Quartet, sang the jingle. The Wheaties Quartet, comprised of an undertaker, a bailiff, a printer, and a businessman, performed the song for the next six years, at $6 per singer per week. The commercials were a resounding success.
Theodore Roosevelt, a staunch conservationist, banned Christmas trees in his home, even when he lived in the White House. His children, however, smuggled them into their bedrooms.
When Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, died on December 4, 1894, he willed his November 13 birthday to a friend who disliked her own Christmas birthday.
Yuletide-named towns in the United States include Santa Claus, located in Arizona and Indiana, Noel in Missouri, and Christmas in both Arizona and Florida.