Friday, December 19, 2014

Bidding for Christmas

The ghost of Christmas present has come and I am channeling my inner Scrooge. When I returned from New York, I immediately started my "To Do" list. It was quite long. Naturally I had added a few items I had already done (or was in the process of completing) so I could quickly strike a few lines off and have some instant gratification. This morning when I could not read my chicken scratch and re-wrote the list it was now two pages long. I thought the idea was for the list to get shorter not longer. Bah Humbug.

I started cleaning last evening with the guest bathroom. Naturally my DH stuck his head in the door and professed, "I hate it when you get like this."

"Like what?"

"With this attitude."

"I don't have an attitude, I am just cleaning the bath - working off my list."

"That is what I am talking about. You start with this every time and it is most unpleasant."

"How can I be unpleasant when I am not even in the same room as you are."

"You just are. It's predictable."

I ignored him, I had things to do. Friday was packed with errands and chores and the kids arrive on Saturday. Oh, he had a list also, but in his MO, he would start, say, Friday afternoon on his list.

When I mentioned something he could help me with. He assured me he would do that Saturday morning. However, by Saturday morning I plan to be calm, collected, and enjoying a clean house, a prepared meal, wrapped gifts, a trimmed tree, and completed list. I had mentioned earlier about getting the rug cleaned in the den, however after a brief discussion about this with him I realized I no longer wanted to go down that path. Chances were, involving him in cleaning the rug would lead to redoing the plumbing - OK, I exaggerate, but not by much.

Were the holidays easier years ago? It seems no one was ever stressed out in the 50's in those wonderful holidays films. Of course things do change. When I was a child we had Christmas morning at home then went to both grandparents' homes in succession. It was a Christmas ritual. Now it is a bit complicated. We start before Thanksgiving bidding for "Christmas" dates. 

I am juggling my DH's family, my brother's family, and my step mother's family. My daughter is trying to balance all of that plush her in-laws. My DH's family had to meet the schedules of  7 couples, their in-laws and families. My step mother's Christmas involved coordinating the schedules of her three married daughters, my brother, and me. After a round robin of phone calls, emails, and spread sheets, we came to rest on dates. So my DH and I have 3 "Christmas's" on the 20th, 23rd, and 26th. Then we had to make room in there some where for Christmas for our immediate family. 

My son-in-law's family finally decided the best they could do was a meal Christmas Eve at IHOP, not his doing. My daughter insisted on staying home for Christmas morning to start their own Christmas tradition since now they have a child. So everyone "worked us in" on Christmas night. So after all the hullabaloo, planning, juggling, and scheduling, my DH and I will actually be alone Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning. 

Meanwhile I work on my list and pine for the ghost of Christmas Past. Maybe IHOP isn't such a bad idea after all.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Headed Back South

On the way back south.

The best quote I heard was a lady who asked me "How close is South Carolina to North Carolina?" Yeah, if you have an answer for that one, please advise.

I was not able to finish my Christmas shopping, the Broadway show we saw was disappointin aND it did not snow. However, I just spent 6 wonderful days with 2 very special friends and over adult beverages in 6 or 7 bars we solved almost all the problems of the world.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Windows in New York

Another set of Christmas windows in New York this season. These are from Saks. Each depicts a Nursery Rhyme. There are reflections in the photos because they were taken at night, with all the lights of 5th Avenue around while I was being jostled by several hundred other folks trying to see each window.


Red Riding Hood


Sleeping Beauty

Snow White

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Santas Everywhere!

Once again it is that magical time of year in New York when streets are merrier than usual. Laughter is heard throughout. Children are standing in amazement. Young teens dreaming of coming of age. And other mortal citizens are heading else where. Santa Con is here. And with it 1000s of Santas, as well as elves, reindeer, and the occasional Christmas tree roam the streets looking for a bar.

Each year this time they chose one Saturday to make Merry in part of New York. This year it was Hells Kitchen.

There were Santas coming:

And Santa's going:

Santas lunching:

And most of all Santas making merry in their natural habitat;  an Irish pub!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Windows of New York

I'm in New York on my annual trip to the big city. One of the big sites is the Christmas windows at Bergdof Goodman which are always great. Here they are:  




Wednesday, December 10, 2014

We Have A Problem

The phone rings and it is "Jack" my computer monitoring service. Seems a hacker has managed to get into my computer. So after ten minutes of looking into the files and running diagnostics I stop and ask, "Wait, how do I know who you are?", after all he could be the hacker! He gives me all the security information I need so I know he is legit.

He says he will work on it for twenty minutes or so and call me back. Sure enough in twenty minutes he calls me back. It is worse than he thought. He shows me on the screen where the issues are (and they are there). Then he says, "We need to remove these files."

No kidding I thought. "So can you do it?"

"That is why I am calling you. We have a program . . ."

"Here it comes," I thought.

Sure enough, "Our program will not only take care of this but make sure it doesn't happen again."

"OK, then do it."

"It will only cost you $199"

"$199? I have already paid you to take care of the computer"

"But this is different. And for $299, we can do this for 2 years."

I very quickly asked for his name and phone number and told him I would call him back if I decided to do that. Of course he launched into his spiel about if I did not use their program my computer would be ruined forever. I thanked him and rang off.

As soon as I could I powered off my computer but not before he put in into "Safe Mode".  First thing I did was go to my mobile phone, search how to get the computer out of safe mode, and handle that. The next thing was to research best anti hacking and clean-up software I could find online. I found an excellent free program that did what I needed and even more for an additional $24.95.

So within 20 minutes I had launched a program to take care of the problem. Yes, I would not have known of the problem without notification from the service, but that is what I pay them for.

Of course, this morning I had to start changing all my passwords just as a cautionary procedure. Changing them is not hard - remembering the new ones will be the problem. That becomes the old dog - new trick issue.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Movie Review - Elsa and Fred

The saddest part about Elsa and Fred is that it will not enjoy wide release. Shirley McClaine (Elsa) and Christopher Plummer (Fred) are not only endearing in their roles as two old folks who discover it is never too late for love, they fit their parts as well as one of Elsa's every present shawl's falls gracefully over her shoulders. Who else could be cast as a septuagenarian who creates her world to fit the day and a stodgy old man who emerges as a very attractive suitor. For most of her life Elsa has dreamed of being Anita Ekberg in Fellini's scene at the Fontana di Trevi in Rome in his movie 'La Dolce Vita'. In fact often it is hard to determine fact from fiction as you follow Elsa.

Fred on the other hand has been moved in next door, much to his consternation, by his daughter and her sleazy (Fred's description) husband just eight months after the death of his wife. Elsa enters his world like a whirlwind determined to bring him out of his bedroom and make him enjoy life again.

In addition to the Oscar winning lead actors the cast is rounded out with George Segal (also an Oscar winner) and James Broland (with several Golden Globes). Erika Alexander plays the care keeper tasked with looking after the curmudgeon Fred and Wendell Pierce is cast as Amande the handy man for the building.

The story takes place in New Orleans. And the 97 minutes moves along quickly. Parts of the story may be predictable but there are many parts that are surprising. The screen play is well written and, obviously, the film well cast. It is a most enjoyable movie for those looking for a good story that is at times humorous, at times uplifting, and many times poignant played by an excellent cast of well seasoned actors.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Foiled into Finches

Early every Friday morning I clean out the Finch cage. I find if I keep to this regime, it will get done. Thinking about doing it makes it seem much more daunting than it is. And each time I start I am reminded this is not really that hard. Also, you receive instant gratification when in 35-40 minutes the birds have a clean cage and fresh food. Even they seem happier. (OK I can project happiness on them if I want to.) 

They get fresh drinking and bath water first thing every morning and additional food, alfalfa, and millet throughout the week, so it is not like they are neglected. Even after seven days the cage is not terribly dirty - but worse than I can stand. You have to remember this is a flight cage (72 inches wide, 24 inches deep and 35 inches tall) so there is quite a bit of avian real estate involved.

Usually while I am cleaning I have an audience of an Airedale who dearly loves bird seed, hoping to catch anything that happens to hit the floor, and my DH drinking his coffee offering advice as to how I could be more efficient and things he thinks I should add to the cage. I have become very good at being able to ignore him and offer the occasional "Well maybe" or "I'll think about that" while I going about my task, keeping him from interfering in my job. Should it involve him, cleaning the bird cage could lead to painting the den. OK I exaggerate but not too much.

Now one must remember the finches were his idea. Yes, I enjoy them very much. I find their constant chatter and unique personalities quite entertaining.  But he suggested them. He wanted me to get them. He bought the cage - just one more thing to add to the menagerie in our den. One morning while I was cleaning the cage and listening to his sage advice, I turned and asked him, "If something happened to me, you know how to clean the cage and care these birds, don't you?"

"Oh I am sure I could do it until I found a home for them."

I just looked him.

"They are way too much work for me."

"Well why were you so enthused about getting them?"

"They were for you. You were going to feed them and keep the cage clean, not me. I'm not crazy."

Friday, December 5, 2014

Plain Ol' Meatloaf

All I wanted was a simple meatloaf recipe. I knew the ingredients - I just needed to know the portions. I did what every cook does these days - I Googled it. The first recipe called for 2 cups of brown sugar. I don't think so. The idea was meatloaf not caramelized beef. The next recipe I found included 1 pound of tofu - not in this house.

There was a recipe that used Campbell Soup, one that suggested you start by dicing 6 types of fresh vegetables, um it's a meatloaf not a veggie platter. It amazed me the number of recipes that called for multiple cups of ketchup then brown sugar on top of that, I did not even want to see the calorie count in that one.

I was brought up with the traditional beef and sausage, crumbled white bread, eggs, spices, several tablespoons of ketchup, yada yada yada - one. Finally I found what I needed, a recipe that reminded me it called for 1 pound each of the meats. The rest I knew.

But what bothered me was how a simple American staple can get ruined by fru fru tweaks and healthy changes. It doesn't need to be sweet or healthy or vegan. If you want something sweet for supper fix crepes. If your thing is healthy eating perhaps spinach lasagna would fit the bill. And if you are a vegan, I have nothing to offer you, sorry I fear you may be on the wrong coast.

Meatloaf is, well, meatloaf. It is that crusty on the outside, moist and tasty on the inside creation that falls in the category of comfort food. And something as sacred as that doesn't need to be messed with.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Spirits and Pear Trees

I haven't reached the Bah Humbug stage yet. I can still tolerate the Laying Geese, Calling Birds, French Hens and Turtle Doves. None of the glass ornaments on the tree have fell victim to the raucous play of the pups. I actually managed to get several pieces of furniture moved OUT of the house to open up more space. And my DH understands that open space does not need to be refilled - or so he says. 

My shopping list is down to those last "What the Hell do you get them's" and I swear I am not going the gift card route - yet. Most of what I have bought is wrapped. Naturally there is that toy we bought for one of our great nephews that is going to have to go into a larger box because the way it it packaged now was never intended to be wrapped - seriously - unless it involved some type of ballistic paper. 

The Christmas cards arrived and naturally they are not exactly what my DH wanted even though he selected them. Why are they so small? Wouldn't the picture look better on glossy paper? And, I think there should be an "a" before "Happy New Year".  Then the best; when I asked how many cards he wanted. "For what?"

"To send to your friends."

"Oh, I only need a few. I'll give you their names."

Folks we have a failure to communicate here. 

I think I best stick to making menu plans for meals when the kids will be home and doing my holiday baking. Many say it is the spirit of the season. I would say it is more like the devil in the details. Whatever. At this moment it is the swimming swans, milking maids, leaping lords, and that damn partridge someone left in a frigging pear tree.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Angels on High

Back to the matter at hand - the Christmas Tree. My DH was helping me put the ornament boxes back in the attic after the tree was decorated. As he handed them to me, he commented,"Why didn't you use all the ornaments? There are dozens left in these boxes?"

"The tree is full, there is no more room."

"There is always room. You have this weird issue that there is a limit of ornaments that can go on a tree."

"No, I just know how many ornaments any branch will hold without it drooping down laden with excess decorations." 

So goes an ongoing annual argument.

Many years ago, as in a dozen or so, my DH decided the Angel we had on top of the tree was lame, worn out, and needed to be replaced. Her blue robe and white wings did not suit him, or rather match his requirements for an angelic tree topper.

Several replacement candidates were brought to him for his approval. He settled on one with lovely blond tresses, a gold gown rimmed with white fir, and wings made of white feathers. She was lovely, but personally I did not see anything wrong with the Blue angel that was sent back to Christmas Tree heaven.

So this year,as I was decorating the tree with the "aide" of his comments as he sat in his chair, he asked, "Where did that angel come that from? She is lame?"

"We have had her for years. What is wrong with her?"

"Well first she is too small for the tree. And I hate that white fir on her gown, what's that all about? Where did you find her? Let me guess, the Dollar Store."

"Actually honey, you picked that angel out."

"I did not. I have never seen that angel before."

"Well you selected her as a replacement over our original blue angel that you said had seen better days and needed to be trashed. You really don't remember that?"

That set off a search on Amazon for the ultimate angel to top our tree. I was shown gold angels and white angels. I did not know (nor care) that the Green Bay Packers had several dozen "official" tree toppers, or that you could get a topper in most any breed of dog you wanted, our two the Airedale and Norwich not included. There were country angels, modern angels, singing angels, and lit up angels. 

Finally I came home this afternoon to find the "new" angel sitting on my coffee table. She is beautiful. She is tall - almost 18 inches tall. She has red hair (imagine that!), a gold robe trimmed with brown fir, and gold wings - no feathers. She does not sing, dance, or light up. Of course adding her to the top of our tree took some doing and trimming. 

I as stepped down from the ladder to see what the tree looked like with her atop, my DH said, "Did you notice the icicles?"

It was only then that I noticed dozens of glass icicles, each carefully wrapped so they would not break. "They come in plastic, but I do not think they would look as real?"

Several years ago it was dancing and prancing lights, then it was the angel, now we have glass icicles, I can only imagine what lies in store next. I best just stop there. And, no, to answer the next question, we do not have room for a larger tree.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Blue Lights

Getting our Christmas tree this year was, let's say, rather painless, which both my DH and I commented that something was amiss. Our MO for selecting a Christmas tree is about an hour of walking about the rows of the Christmas Tree Farm going back and forth on this one or that one? How about this one? But do you see the one over there? Only to finally agree that we want one of the first ones we saw in the field back across the road. Naturally, once we get back to that field we are in complete disagreement as to where the tree was. Well, let me rephrase that, my DH assures me I do not know what I talking about when I recall the tree being on the second row from the front, several trees down from the center road. Whatever.

This year we were intrigued by a new variety of Leyland Cypress called the "Green Giant" or "Thuja".  The first one I saw did not impress me, but the more I saw the more I agreed it was a good choice for this year. That said, there were not that many available therefore there were only so many short rows we could wander up and down.

We got the tree home, in the stand, and up in the den. By seven thirty I had the lights on the tree. This was not without much comment and ado. I was, once again, upset that we have 17 strings of "cool" LEDs lights and 4 of "warm" LED's. As I separated them, my DH asked, "What difference does it make?"

I explained how I did not like a blue Christmas tree which is how I think the cool lights make the tree look and prefer the warm lights which more resemble candlelight.

"That's ridiculous. The 'cool' colored lights as you call them look like icicles. The 'warm' ones just look like yellow lights. I don't understand why you would want the yellow ones anyway. Besides they are all white lights." 

I begged to differ, lost the fight, and started putting the lights on the tree. As I put each string on the tree, I cussed each dab blame blue light. My DH accused me of having an attitude. 

"The lights are perfectly fine."

"The lights are hideously blue and sterile not looking warm like candlelight." It went downhill from there.

As I strung the lights and he continued to comment he added, "The lights on the left side." He pointed. "Yeah, about there. They look yellow compared to the others. They don't match."

I turned on the ladder and looked at him, "Damn it. Well I am not going to take them off." 

"Why are you so upset. What difference does that make? You said you wanted yellow lights."

"I would prefer they all be warm not cool."

"I still say what difference does it make if they are all white?"

That's the problem there are no white lights.