Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Obese Navidad

The song "Feliz Navidad" was playing the other day and I contemporaneously changed the words to "Obese Navidad." Recession or no recession, or maybe because of the recession, we are eating like there is no tomorrow. Because there may not be one for us. My job and hubby's jobs are both vulnerable to extinction. So, bring on the cookies,the drinks, and whatever highly caloric and life limiting food choices are around. 'Tis the season to be Merry and damn it, no matter what, we are going to give it a go.

So, we have been scarfing down homemade cookies and whatever else has been sent from above or from devious types to tempt us. We baked lots of cookies but sadly, they are mostly gone now. Well, they are best eaten while fresh, why wait until Christmas? Speaking of Christmas, why have the stale homemade christmas cookies that by some miracle you did not yet eat, for your dessert? Those should just count as snacks or highly caloric energy "pills." No, by rights we should have a proper dessert.

So, its on with the boots again and off to the crowded store to buy the ingredients for sticky toffee pudding, a favorite English dessert I had the misfortune to fall in love with during our UK years. Oh yes, and the individual fallen chocolate cakes have become a Christmas Eve tradition. Really, it isn't officially the night before Christmas without them.

While flipping through my recipe file I just ran across a recipe for Lemon Almond Polenta cake. Well that sounds yummy too. May as well make it and take it, along with the sticky toffee pudding, to Christmas at hubby's uncle's house. It will be the blessed union of two great sayings: Tis the season to be merry and: The more the merrier. Is that Jose Feliciano I hear singing in the background?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Deck the Balls!

Okay, I admit, if there really were fashion police, I would probably have been arrested a few times. But, I will go ahead and mock some of the obnoxious holiday "styles" I have seen of late.

Saturday night at my husband's work holiday party, there was a man there wearing the most obnoxious "holiday" pants I have ever seen. They were bright red cordouroys with green wreaths adorned with red bows all over them. There was no missing this man in a crowd. When I relayed this to a friend she told me that her significant other does a good volume of business in vintage and high end clothing of just this sort. Just goes to show you that taste and money do not always go hand in hand.

I was thinking that maybe the man had mistaken the words of the song "Deck the Halls" with "Deck the Balls" and therefore sported such pants to show his holiday spirit. He was probably just a victim of fashion amnesia. I myself bought a pair of pants a few years back which I now realize upon reflection, should have been limited to either upholstery or shower curtains. Bright blue and yellow. I must make a mental note to go back and destroy any photos of these in case I decide to run for public office.

A few nights ago we dined with some acquaintances from our Alma Mater. A spouse of one of the alums also decided to get all decked out in the spirit of the season. The fashion police would have picked him up on his three-alarm red blazer complete with christmas holiday buttons as extra adornment, had they been in the vicinity.

In general I don't go in for looking like a Christmas tree just because 'Tis the season. Consistently, I am also not into things like dressing in Disney top to toe. Just the occassional foray into the world of upholstery, that's me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Going Postal

A few weeks ago I went to the main post office in our area to do the first bulk mailing for the nonprofit I am the Executive Director of. I had spoken on the phone to several post office employees and researched on the internet all that had to be done beforehand and thought I was pretty well prepared. I had even sorted the 204 letters by zip code as instructed by one of the employees. So, imagine my surprise when it took 3 1/2 hours and then an additional return trip to get the mailing done.

First you see, I was advised to go to the front retail window and ask them if they had 500 precanceled five cent stamps to purchase. I was told that was the minimum and if they didn't have it, there was no point in opening the permit, etc. So, I waited in line in the front lobby for about five minutes. There was one guy working the counter. Did I mention this was around the middle of December? Finally, another woman came out and prepared to open her desk to serve customers. I jumped the line to ask her, if she could just tell me if the office had at least 500 precanceled 5 cent stamps because John from the Business Entry Unit had told me to inquire.

She said "they don't do 5 cent stamps anymore, just 10 cent ones." "Oh," I said, "John had told me specifically that they should be 5 cents." "No," she insisted, "they are 10 cents." "Okay" I relented, "well, do you have 500 of those?" "I think so, I am not sure and I have to wait on the customers." she said and motioned to the line of customers. So, I took a chance and decided to go ahead and pull the permit for the bulk mail, assuming their would be enough stamps.

Pulling the permit entailed getting into my car, driving out the entrance and driving to the second driveway, essentially driving 1/4 of a mile in a circuituous route to the back of the building. There I was met by John with whom I had spoken several times by phone. He was very nice and helpful and immediately announced that the woman who I dealt with, who he decided was "Cecile," was providing inaccurate information. Anyway, John and I spent twenty minutes of him inputing my organization's information (I thought I was all set when I had applied for permission to mail under nonprofit status, however, that essentially just allows you to open a permit-should have known it was too easy...). Once he was done, he instructed me that I had to go back around to the front and pay the $180 to open the permit and to buy my precanceled stamps. Once I had done that he said, I could come back with my mail to the back and mail it with the properly completed forms and the mail in the proper trays, etc. I figured I would cross that bridge when I got to it and off I went back to the front of the building in my car.

When I got back to the front of course the long line was being served by one person only, the other employee (who I later learned was Bill) was off to lunch. So, twenty minutes waiting in line later, I got served by a different woman who had just come on to join Cecile. The new woman was very pleasant and I am sorry I don't recall her name. I asked her for the 5 cent stamps and she said no problem but the supervisor then came out to tell me that the minimum amount of precanceled stamps which could be purchased was 3000! That will be plenty for over two years of mailings! Yikes, but now I was already down the road of commitment, having just paid the $180 permit fee to mail under nonprofit status!

So, off I went, $330 lighter and a massive coil of precanceled 5 cent stamps in my hand, to get into my car and put the stamps on the 204 letters. Once again, I drove around to the back of the building and headed for the bulk mail office. I had downloaded the form for the bulk mail and John had kindly weighed 10 of the letters to get an accurate weight of one piece for the form. The women at the bulk area were very nice and explained how to fill out the rest of the form and in fact, Hortense even filled out much of the form for me. Then she showed me where the trays were to put the letters in which I had sorted by zip code. She then showed me the cardboard covers that went on the trays. So far so good. Finally, she tallied up the sheet and told me that the difference between the amount paid by using the 5 cent stamps and the rate to be paid for nonprofit postage amounted to $13.81 I still owed them.

You guessed it. I had to drive back around to the front to pay that. So back in front and back in line, I finally reached the counter and was served by Bill who by this time was back from his lunch. While waiting I got to chatting with a woman standing in front of me whose name was Barbara and who noticed that I had just been in the bulk mail area around back like she was. Turns out that she runs a mailing service business. Before this day I would have wondered as to the business need for such a service. Now there was no doubt in my mind. I quickly asked for her card.

When I paid Bill my $13.18 I drove back around to the back and gave them the sheet with the evidence of my having paid the $13.18 and they told me I was all set. Off I went home, happy to have this all behind me.

Twenty minutes later the phone rang. It was another woman from the business entry unit. She said the math on my sheet didn't add up. I quickly blamed Hortense who had so kindly helped me. The math was saying that there were 194 pieces (in the end it was my error, I had given her the various numbers). There is a minimum of 200 pieces for bulk mail. I had a moment of panic thinking I had miscounted, but I knew I had 204. I speculated that the missing 10 had to be in either the 060 or 061 zip codes as this was where the overwhelming bulk of our mail went. She said she would count it all and call me back. Ten minutes later she called to say that indeed they were part of the 061 batch.

Then she told me that since they weren't in the calculation, that I owed an additional $1.18. So, off I went back to the post office twenty minutes away from home, to the front window where I had been instructed to tell them I needed to pay for a meter strip of $1.18 and bring it back around to the back to be affixed on my sheet.

Once again, after waiting 10 minutes (the crowd was thinning out in the late afternoon, a lull before rush hour I guess) I got Bill. I told him what I needed. He asked if I had anything to put it onto. I said no, they told me to just get it and take it to the back. He insisted it had to be put on something. So he took a scrap piece of paper and affixed it to it. Off I drove back to the back of the building where I handed the paid meter strip to the lady whose name I don't recall. She looked at it and said "who put it on this piece of paper?" I told her how Bill insisted. She and another employee commiserated how that was NOT how it was meant to be done and Bill knew that full well. "That Bill, he in the KMA club, he just waiting for his time to be up so he be out of here." She told her fellow employee. I started laughing and said KMA, I think I know what that means (kiss my ass!). With that she told me that I was truly all set and I got in the car, sat on my ass and drove around the building and home.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Land of the Limp Blimp

This morning while catatonically going about my morning routine I heard a story on NPR that made me bust a gut. It was on the local CT news. Apparently, some man in a town nearby had been arrested for stealing all of his neighbors lawn ornaments and other holiday decorations. According to the news source the police required 3 trucks to haul the evidence away. Neighbors were perplexed as to why their reindeer, snowmen and the like kept disappearing. The part that made me laugh was when the story concluded by saying that police had not yet determined a motive. Hello? He probably couldn't stand the tacky ornaments and thus took matters into his own hands.

Lately, I have been thinking about that a lot as I drive around town. There are definitely different ornament styles for different neighborhoods. I would characterize my nieghborhood's style as New England Puritanical-i.e., real traditional. I mocked my husband for putting out his Santa climbing up a rope which he bought in France. I told him it stuck out like a sore thumb in the 'hood. To which he replied that it was European. To which I replied, "you mean Eurotrash."

In the center of town it seems that people really go in for the Christmas blow up figures-santa, frosty, etc. As I drive around during the day, these deflated "limp blimps" as I like to call them, lie in the various front yards like victims of some sort of terrorist attack. They really are quite weird looking by day, forlorn fallen victims of the green energy movement.

I will conclude with something that a friend sent us in an email on this topic:
if you had 250 strands of lights, 100 individual bulbs per strand for a grand total of 25,000 individual miniature imported Italian twinkle lights stapled to the outside of your house you know who you'd be don't you? Click this link to find out: http://www.quizilla.com/user_images/R/riverblue/1059698537_z-griswold.jpg

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rubbing Elbows

Last Friday night was our big chorale concert. We practiced all fall, learning 5 Hebrew songs, 3 Spanish songs, three British songs and three Gospel songs. That was a lot of songs.

I made it to every single rehearsal and spent a good deal of time listening to our practice CD. So much so, in fact, that I knew many of the songs, or a good portion of most of the songs, by heart-even some of the foreign language ones.

Therefore, you would think that I would have done fine in the concert. Well, not quite. I fumbled along with the rest of us altos, through a few bits and pieces of earlier songs where it seemed we weren't keeping up with the sopranos. However, not satisfied with being one struggling voice amongst many, I had to have my own solo screw up. Pretty early on in one of the gospel tunes, "Rise Up Shepherd and Follow," I lost track of the "doot doos,"because I was focusing too closely on the music and missed a line. This is directly in contrast to my husband's assertion that I try to pride myself on not looking at my music and that is why I screwed up. In fact, if I hadn't looked at the music, I probably wouldn't have made that particular mistake. That was one song I had memorized. Anyway, perusing the music, I confidently and boldly launched into the verse "Oh you better rise up..." until I suddenly realized to my horror that I was the only one rising up. Everyone else was diligently "doot dooing."

I know at that moment that my body temperature must have risen to about a million and three degrees being shocked and disgusted with myself. I also know I said a dirty word. This was confirmed later by my daughter, Thing 1: "Mommy you messed up and then I saw you say a dirty word." Screwing up and saying a dirty word should have been a big enough faux pas, but instead I then, inexplicably, elbowed my poor innocent fellow alto 1 Jane, whose only mistake was in choosing to stand next to me.

I can't be certain now, but I am hoping that I said the bad word and elbowed Jane at the same time, sort of like a reflex. I sure hope I didn't say the bad word and then separately decide to elbow Jane for an additional release of frustration. Poor Jane was very good humored about it. She joked that now she understood why her grandfather did something similar to the guy next to him when he played the tuba. I believe she said tuba, I think I was still in shock afterwards (and according to my husband, informing everyone who didn't happen to have noticed the screw up in the concert, of how I screwed up), so I could have had that wrong.

Right before the concert I had confided to Jane that I wasn't going to buy the DVD of the concert if one was available, because I hadn't even watched the last one I purchased. Well, now I must say I am curious to see if my little outburst was caught on film. If it was, then Jane might be interested in purchasing the tape too, in case she wants to file charges against me for assault!

I told Jane that she should probably ask for a seat reassignment so she doesn't have to be assaulted by me. She said she still preferred singing next to me because I have a strong voice. What she hadn't counted on is that strong left jab. I told her I would look foward to seeing her again in January and that she might consider investing in some arm pads.

I guess I know what my New Year's resolution is going to be.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Another Cockamamie Christmas Tree

I know I haven't written in a while what with being busy with work and that whole Christmas thing, but this blog about a bog should make up for it.

This past weekend the family trudged out on the annual ritual of picking out the family Christmas tree. Taking our cue from my husband's family (my family never had a tree, we only celebrated the material aspects of the holiday), with the exception of the three years when we lived in England, we have always had a real Christmas tree and ever since having kids, have always cut our own. So, seeing as Thing 1 is 12 and Thing 2 is 10, you would think that we would have gotten this little exercise perfected by now. Not so.

Instead, once again, we have managed to pick out the most "Charlie Brown" of all Christmas trees available in the fields where we hiked around looking for the elusive (or in fact, nonexistent) perfect Christmas tree. Okay, I admit it, this time I am to blame because I picked out the tree we actually cut and took home. In my defense, I did offer a few disclaimers: 1. "You won't see that bald spot because it will be against the wall when we get it home." 2. "It doesn't matter what it looks like, because it is going to look cockamamie when we get it home like every other year." I think the group finally decided to go for the tree I picked for the same reason I picked it-to get the heck out of Dodge and get home, decorate the tree and check that task off of the list.

As soon as my husband had cut down the tree I started heading back the way we had come. He stopped us and insisted that if we only went to the left and across what looked like a frozen marshy field, we would be shaving lots of time off of the return trip. I wish I had an aerial map to paste here so I could show you how big this place was. Suffice it to say, not big. But, in our desire to get the heck out of Dodge, we followed along blindly. An appropriate analogy really, since only a blind person should have willingly gone into a SEMI-frozen marsh bog to cut a few hundred feet from their return trip to the car. Only a blind person would carry on through the bog, jumping from hillock (is that a word? this is what he kept shouting to spur us on, or lead us to our deaths of cold) to hillock. Once we were 4/5ths our way through this bog without actually having gotten our feet wet, all logic went out the window when the hillocks dissappeared and all we were left with were little patched of hay shooting up through the icy mess. Logically we should have retraced our steps and taken the longer and safer way back. Once again the desire to get the heck out of Dodge trumped all rational thinking. We trudged on and within seconds, Thing 2 and I were ankle deep in icy water. Thing 2 shouting he was going to die, Thing 1 screaming because though her feet were not yet wet, she never misses an opportunity to add an air of drama to a situation and I was shouting something about "don't tell me I am not a good example going over that log..."

You see, this wasn't the family's first forray into potentially icy water that day. As we were trudging between fields earlier, I decided to take a short cut back to the first field. When I climbed a steep hill, I saw that in actuality there was a semi-frozen stream between the two fields making it impossible to get from Point A to Point B, unless one crossed over the long fallen tree traversing the semi-frozen water. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to show off my core strength honed at the gym 4-5 days a week, I eagerly ran down to the log and said I will do it! Hubby started shouting that I was crazy and not a good example, etc. I of course ignored him and beat the kids, who claimed they wanted to do it first, to the log.

Naturally, as soon as I got far enough across the log to make turning back just about as precarious as going forward, I became scared out of my mind and realized the foolishness of my ways. Not wanting to show this to the kids (except the part when I told them all to shut up and stop yelling at me), I decided to run across the log and get it over with. Miraculously, I made it across with just a bit of muddy water on one shoe from where I jumped onto the bank where the bank was pretty boggy. I then had the task of convincing Thing 2 that mine was a foolhardy stunt, not to be repeated.

As I mentioned, that was earlier in the Christmas Tree hunt. Later as Thing 2 and I waited in the car, our feet stripped bare and the heat on full blast. I noticed a funny thing. From my vantage point in the car, it seemed to me that if we had just come back the way we had originally came in when we found "the tree," it sure looked a lot shorter, and drier than the route Hubby took us on.

In keeping with my prediction, once we got the tree home, we realized that it was dwarf like and contrary to my assertions, the bald spot was so big that it could be seen from three quarters of the room, despite it being turned towards the wall. On top of that, it, like every year, this tree mysteriously fell over the next day (they tried to pin it on the dog, but there are no witnesses), breaking 85% of the breakable ornaments, spilling water all over everything and creating a blanket of pine needles all over the floor which I had just finished vacuuming.

An artificial tree is becoming more and more appealing with every passing year.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Page Boy Meets Dutch Boy

I got my haircut a few weeks ago. Lately, I have been getting it cut on a Tuesday. I sing in a chorale group on Tuesday nights. Whenever I get my haircut, hordes of my fellow singers come over and tell me how fabulous my hair looks. I thank them graciously and tell them it will not resemble this beautiful state again until six weeks on when it gets cut again.

You see, I can never replicate what Rick and now Ray do to my hair with just a hair dryer and a brush. I have a hair dryer and a brush at home and I use them. My hair looks nothing like it does when the boys do it. Sure, I don't have the exact brush, nor the exact hair dryer. But, let's face it. The key ingredient is they are operating from a position of height as I sit in their chair, and they have two hands to work on my head below them. I on the otherhand, must be a contortionist to work around to the back of my head, and of course to curl the hair under while blowing it from the top or bottom.

The last problem in even attempting to replicate the hairstyle, is of course, that I don't pay too much attention to what they are doing, as I am too busy gabbing away as usual. For me I sum it up to the fact that my hair looks really straight while it is not normally so.

Now, I mentioned that of late, I have been making an effort, well, an effort for me, with my hair. Thus, the hair dryer which was added to the usual brush. This represents 50% more equipment on my hair. Unfortunately, it has not resulted in a 50% improvement in the hairstyle outcome. Sadly, the end product resembles something more like the hairstyle sported by "The Dutch Boy" on the paint can with the same name. Suddenly I have these bangs that I have no idea what to do with-push them back and I look kojak-esque with a too big foreheard. Pull them forward and I look like a first grader. Never mind, my next hair cut is only four weeks away and it is cold here in CT, so I think I will wear a hat.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Time to Chuck the Pumpkins!

I have just finished putting Thanksgiving back in the box to be put away until next year. Don't worry, I didn't mean the leftovers. Rather, the decorations. I gave myself a one day reprieve on taking out the Christmas decoration boxes. But I did start chucking the pumpkins, literally.

I put sugar pumpkins in my window boxes as part of my fall decorations. But now that the color orange is out and all things Christmas or Hannukah are in, those pumpkins need to be 86ed. Of course I am too lazy to carry the pumpkins in from the second floor window box down through the house and out the front door. I prefer instead to chuck the pumpkins from on high and hope they are not mushy enough to splatter on impact with the lawn (and then imbed into a pumpkin patch in the spring, right smack in the middle of the lawn).

I already chucked the pumpkins from the first floor window box by carrying them out to the woods and rolling them down the little slope. Hanna, our puppy, looked on, baffled at this bizarre ritual.

Once these pumpkins (and the kale and the mums) are history, I will have to figure out where I am getting greens for the window boxes this year. I refuse, of course, to pay for any greens, preferring instead to pilfer from friend's yards, woods, etc. much more of an adventure and you can't beat the price!

So, if you see me prowling around your yard, garden shears in hand, don't be too alarmed. I am after your evergreens, not you!