Count Your Blessings (and Presents) Instead of Sheep

Clump #255: Start Christmas list and present wrapping; day thirteen of National Blog Posting Month.

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It’s that time of year when the holiday season is creeping into the picture before all the autumn leaves have fallen.  Though I’ve purchased a number of gifts, I needed to write them down to see where I am.

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One gift I’d gotten that makes me happy is this copy of Anne of Green Gables for a young niece.  I wrote a note to go with it reminding her that when her cousin, our older daughter, was her age, she started reading the book and quickly tossed it aside because the language was too old fashioned.  I don’t know what possessed me, but I told her she couldn’t leave the cabin where we were vacationing until she had read at least two chapters.  (Mean Mother!)  She ended up loving it so much, she read the whole series and kind of turned into Anne.  I had trouble keeping a straight face when we we’d be having a heated discussion and she would assert, “For Pity’s Sake!”

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Here it is, ready to delight another generation … I hope!

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It’s only mid-November, so to get myself into the holly jolly spirit I turned to the reliable old chestnut, the movie White Christmas.  It’s my “ironing movie” for present wrapping: lots of good songs, and visuals I’ve seen so many times I don’t need to keep my eyes on it.  I started wondered how much of an age difference there was in real life between Bing Crosby and “The General,” Dean Jagger (just learned the actor’s name), who was such a source of pity because he was being put out to pasture.  Turns out they were the same age … fifty-one!  In the scene below, the General keeps calling “Bob” son.  And Rosemary Clooney, Bing’s romantic interest in the story, was only twenty-six!

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She, with her deep, mature voice.  Such an elegant dress in the “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” number.

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I challenged myself last year to organize my holiday preparations so that I might enjoy the Christmas season.  So far, though it’s still early, I’m doing pretty well.

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I took a picture of the sign above — in a shop where Christmas decorations were edging out the fall ones — as a helpful reminder.

Fear Not

Clump #125:  Christmas and party cleaning.

I hosted a get together for the ladies of our small neighborhood tonight. As I was making preparations, mostly cleaning, I was conscious of how my mind would ping-pong. Everywhere I looked I saw something else I should be doing.  The finger prints on the refrigerator … the cat hair on the couch … the layer of peanut brittle dust on the floor … (below, my husband, the amazing peanut brittle-maker:)

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I get pre-party anxiety.  It’s more than just having a lot to do in a limited amount of time, not to mention my current cookie and peanut brittle diet.  I was feeling frazzled and frenzied and knew it was really another f-word: fear.  What am I afraid of? These are nice people coming over.  Yes, they are superior housekeepers, but I don’t really think they’d drum me out for my substandard skills.

I tried to repeat to myself that my state of mind is the most important element of the party … the vibe that is either welcoming and fun or frantic and exhausted.  It’s a party … not a test.

Everyone seemed to have a good time, and with help from my daughters, the food and decor were great.  The invitation was for wine and bring-your-favorite hors d’oeuvres.  We had received a bottle of champagne as a gift, so I used it in a recipe I found online, from Williams-Sonoma.  Very easy: one ounce pomegranate juice, a half ounce Grand Marnier; add champagne to fill glass, and garnish with a few pomegranate seeds.  Festive and delicious!

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With all of these Christmas preparations, this line has kept running through my head, speaking to my condition:  “And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

Ribbons in the Sky

Clump #122:  Return book and wrap, wrap, wrap.

Today I returned a friend’s book that I had unearthed during the pantry-clean.  I also gave her the gift of a book I knew she wanted.  Karma righted?

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She had a lovely tree set up.  After putting on the lights, she had found it was so beautiful that she didn’t want to mar it with ornaments.  So that’s how it will stay for the season.

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For me it was on to wrapping, wrapping, wrapping.  (Note: this is an activity usually conducted in the wee hours of Christmas morning.)

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I did take a few moments to look up.  Taking photos for this blog has made me more aware of the sky and its constant changes.  I keep thinking that the people who work at The Sistine Chapel might not look up at the ceiling as much as the visitors after a while; it could become commonplace.

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We have commonplace treasure overhead, too.

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Deliveries and Doorways

Clump 121: Mail cards and packages.

Ah, I can breathe more easily now. Sending a bunch of presents and cards to their intended destinations is cathartic. What a clump!

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I had heard on the radio that traditionally December 19, today, is the post office’s busiest day of the year.  Amazingly, when I finally arrived, there was no line.  A Christmas miracle!  The postman asked if I was sending anything fragile. I said just the peanut brittle … he (good-naturedly) threatened not to send out my packages, since I hadn’t brought him any.

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It’s not really the holiday season in our house until my husband starts making his mother’s peanut brittle.

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Before I got to the post office, on the way home from visiting my mom, I stopped in Strasburg and couldn’t help taking a few photos.

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These were the same type of lovely boughs and berries that had been arranged so beautifully at Meeting on Sunday.

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This was the porch of a shop … not someone’s home. I’ve gotten bold with my prying camera, but not that bold!

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If you ever want creative house decorating ideas, Strasburg is the place to go.

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This was a cute little reminder on the porch of the shop, a fitting holiday sentiment.

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Thank you to you, my kind friends who make life good.

Wooden Sticks and Warriors

Clump #119:  Finish shopping (?) and print Christmas newsletter.

As the bag says below, the printing of Ye Old Christmas Newsletter was, indeed, “easy” … after it was written, reviewed, edited, and returned to me by four other people.  When I was at Staples I remembered to get some Ticonderoga pencils, “The World’s BEST PENCIL.”  And maybe not the worlds BEST stocking stuffer, but certainly up there, in my book. I love giving practical gifts like socks, nice soap, lint removers … what a fun mom!

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Seems like only yesterday that it was Thanksgiving and we were enjoying our friends’ bonfire.  Where did the time go?!  iI haven’t been sharpening too many pencils, but I have been doing a bit of procrastinating.  Below, my younger daughter was throwing some old, decrepit matches, from the avalanching-cabinet-cleaning-clump, into the flames.

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Appropriately, it was the same weekend we saw the movie The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  As an aside, I discovered many similarities between it and the Disney animated movie, Mulan.  Finding this picture made it all the more clear.

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Both are about strong female characters forced into battle, where brains win over brawn.  In both movies the leads get dolled up in fancy dresses (Katniss in The Hunger Games gives new meaning to “a dress to die for”), designed for marriage, not by choice, but by expectation.  The warrior-woman character in each film makes a stunning move at a moment when they turn their gaze upward, as opposed to the expected ground level.

Enough movie and culture analysis … let me just say that I feel like I won the battle of the present list today.  I’m a mall and catalog warrior … hear me roar!  Timely tip for those still in the heat of battle: I read that tomorrow, December 18, is a day when over 1,000 retailers will be offering no-cost shipping, guaranteed to arrive before Christmas day.  More info at FreeShippingDay.com.

I think it’s important to give yourself a reward for clumps conquered.  My recent guilty pleasure of choice is The Voice.  And don’t think I haven’t drawn comparisons to The Hunger Games, a game played to the death, like the Romans feeding the Christians to the lions.  (Coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton make the show.)

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Tonight is the finale of season five.  For anyone interested, here’s my prediction:  1st place: Tessanne Chin (right); 2nd place: Jaquie Lee (left); 3rd place: Will Champlin (center).  Fingers crossed!  Go Tessanne!

This Shelf’s a Wrap

Clump #108:  Clear off fourth shelf in pantry.

“I just want to say one word to you.  One word … plastics.”*  Ah, chapter four in the scintillating story of the pantry purge.

My mom taught me to keep a back-up of certain items on hand, like plastic wrap and aluminum foil, but I guess my plastic collection got a little out of control.

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Look what was hidden in there.  A desiccated hermit crab?  No, a common, oddly non-malodorous, kind-of-beautiful-in-its-shriveled-state onion.

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Also, Christmas napkins bought on sale, ready to go for this holiday season.  And last year’s candy canes Santa used to adorn the tree; I’ll use these again, since no one seems to want to eat them anymore.

This is a lesson I need to highlight for myself, especially in the season of running around and buying more, more, more:  We often have what we need, if only we can find it.

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The happily, wrappily after … with the floor left to go.  Just looking at the floor makes me want to run screaming.  All the more reason to take it clump by clump.

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*If you’re like me, and would enjoy a little trip down memory lane to revisit this line in the movie The Graduate, then  click here. Classic.