The Worst Tradition

I like the look of wrapped presents. I know there are people who eschew it for giftbags – lazybones, they are! My aunt Delphine, who is has a wonderful eye for flower arrangements, created some of the most beautiful wrappings I’ve ever seen. When I was seven or so, she taught me how to curl ribbon. (Like the skill of swirling a stack of cocktail napkins without using a highball glass, it’s been strangely useful.)

Over the years, I developed a good eye for judging how much paper to use. I can create a “box” with heavy paper and sharp folds. Crafting tags and flowers out of scraps of paper and ribbon is my specialty.

Please don’t think I’m bragging.

I HATE wrapping gifts. Although the results are lovely, it’s tedious work. When our family’s Christmas gatherings were bigger, it took HOURS.

Somehow during my college years, my father created a tradition of me being his personal wrapping helper. And by “helper,” I mean that I do it myself. At first he used to quietly lead me to the gift-hiding place for the gifts he bought my mother. He would hold the ribbon down with one finger as I tied it and filled out the tags. Somehow it morphed into him lying in wait until I bring in my bags and take off my coat – at which point he directs me to the basement hidey-hole.

One year, he surprised me with presents already wrapped. A group of teenagers were raising money by gift-wrapping at a popular mall. But malls have gone the way of the dodo and Covid-19 has destroyed any group fund-raisers.

Back to the Old Ways it is!

Thanksgiving

I’m thankful for truck drivers who drive at a steady pace on the interstate highways, so strings of cars can follow in their tracks through the sloppy snow. I am also thankful for road-graders. But most of all, I am thankful that I survived a white-knuckled drive through a snowstorm and arrived safely at my destination.

Morning in my childhood home.

The whitish area at the top of the shot is ice forming. The darker area is slush. You can see trails through the slush where ducks meandered eastward.

Memories like an Action Film

I tend to dislike social media because of their time-wasting, click-baiting aspects. However, they make it a lot easier to share information among widespread family (eight countries!). And sometimes they bring back good memories, like that of January 2014.

I recorded it thus:

I wish there was enough room to tell the Epic Story of My Dad. Here’s the highlight version. Last night I decided to finish grading papers and re-doing lesson plans, but my backpack was missing! Could I have left it at M&D’s? I called Dad; he arranged a drop-off point. Despite weather, Operation Students-Need-Exams was ON. A blizzard descended, my route was blocked, a new drop-off was arranged closer to where I was stuck in traffic (over an hour), a tanker exploded, a bladder nearly exploded, there was a pregnant woman… a rendevous… and coffee… and when I tried to thank him, all he said was “That’s what Dads are for.” Cut. Roll credits. (Dad was played by shaved-head Chuck Norris AND Jason Statham, sometimes simultaneously because Awesome.)

And yes, there really was an explosion following the rollover of a tanker carrying dangerous chemicals!

Eating the Decorations

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I don’t decorate for Thanksgiving* but I add a few autumnal touches close to Halloween. My friend Sissy gave me a silly squirrel tea towel last year, joined this year by her hand-made matching pillowcase for a travel-pillow. My favorite decoration is a bowl or two of squashes and small pumpkins from local farmers.**

Then I cook and eat them.

Last week I enjoyed butternut and acorn squashes. This week it was delicata, which I’d never had before. Verdict: very pretty and delicious. All that remains are a pumpkin and a spaghetti squash.

I highly recommend decorating with regional edibles. It’s a twofer: Nothing goes to waste and it supports local growers.


*Halloween decorations consist of a felt skeleton for the door and a fancy candy bowl for the trick-or-treaters.

**Note: Unlike suburban farm markets, rural markets really are cheaper than grocery stores. And the produce sometimes comes in odd shapes.

My Year of No Buying… April Fools!

Sorry about that. Also, Happy Easter and Felices Pascuas!**

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Last week my favorite puertorriqueño gave me a couple of suggestions, including that I jump on the “Year of No Spending” bandwagon and give details.

“It is going to be very funny if you do,” he wrote.

After considerable thought, I decline. First, I have a tendency to focus on a task to the exclusion of everything else, including sleep and common sense. Second, I foresee having to spend a bundle on certain home replacements in the future.

Case in point: I awoke one night thinking cats were fighting outside my window. No, it was the fan of my furnace screeching. It has subsided, but it’s only a matter of time…

However, I am intrigued by the idea of tracking my expenses. I did that 2013 in order to create a better budget on a “frozen” salary.

I have done a month of low-spending.

And a few years ago I followed a Canadian blogger who challenged herself to live as cheaply as possible. Each month she posted the results as a spreadsheet as well as a tally by category.  As I recall, she ended one year with less than CA$5,000 in expenses. I admired her experiment and wished she’d left her blog up for future reference. She had some oddball tricks that couldn’t be done by just anyone, such as moving across Ontario one summer to an off-season dorm room and being paid in food to babysit a young relative. But she also had great tips on simple one-bowl meals and entertainment.

So maybe I could track my spending and add it to my monthly updates. (And yes, I know the March update is due. But it’s a holiday!)


** Note to anyone thinking of telling me that “Easter” is derived from a pagan goddess called Esther (the nemesis of a god named Fred Sanford):

Everyone knows the English liked to apply their old words to new things; e.g. the North American orange-breasted robin is a delightfully musical thrush named after a shrill, squeaky flycatcher native to Europe and Africa.  (The photo above is of a North American robin’s nest and its distinctive blue eggs. It’s a free-use WordPress photo because the nearest nest appears to be in the upper reaches of my maple.)

Outside the Anglocentric view, the words for today’s holiday are variations on “Passover”,  such as Pascua in Spanish.  Even in English, the Resurrection of Christ is called “The Paschal Mystery.”

If you feel the need to argue, let us focus on food names. We can ramble at length about squashes known as either courgette, zucchini, calabacita, OR zapallito. But do NOT get me started on turnips, Swedes, and rutabagas!

The Factory is closed but the work continues…

I went to the Young Human Factory yesterday. The custodians and technical staff are making repairs and updates while production is down.  I did a few things, like data entry and uploading a letter of recommendation. But the heating system isn’t working properly – I covet those open-tipped gloves of Bob Cratchet – so I left after a few hours.

Today I’ll drop off some paperwork and bring a few things home. I had a dream once of Separation of Work and Casa, but the dreams of innocent girls whither in the chill of reality.

 

Unresolutions for 2018

In keeping with not-ancient tradition, I have a short list of resolutions I reject. In 2018, I won’t…

…hit the gym more. Thursday I withdrew my YMCA membership reluctantly because of the great staff and great facilities, but the 45-minute drive after work is terrible. Let’s see what exercise videos and hand weights can do.

…stay on trend. The public library is full of books I haven’t read, my wardrobe is  professional if not inspired, and everyone is too mesmerized by their phones to notice mine.

…try a new hobby. Until I cross everything off the Big To-Do List, hot yoga and parasailing must wait.

What about you? What are resolutions you just won’t make?

 

 

 

End of Year Threats, erm, Resolution Ideas

It’s that time again when friends forward all sorts of intriguing ideas about how to improve oneself in the New Year. Decluttering, trying a new hobby, building a need-only budget, replacing one meal a day with a colon-cleansing smoothie….

They make me want to revive the practice of The Unresolution: declaring what life improvements will be discontinued. My former co-workers promoted it at their year ending parties. (My favorite was when M’e the Fashionista declared she would no longer attempt to like jazz.) Continue reading

First Day of Spring

I had plans for today: sleep in until 7, be at church by 8, and afterwards head to the Factory for a few extra hours of work.

Instead, the birds woke me about an hour before sunrise. After a quiet winter, the cacophony is atrocious: squawks and chirrups, with only a few warbling notes to add a pleasant sound. The birds grew louder because they flew closer. By the time I crawled out of bed, there were grackles and redwing blackbirds having a party in the backyard. Continue reading