Christmas, the recap

The Tree







The Cookies


The Post-Christmas Hike




N has just now landed in Spain. K is asleep. M is out with friends, and I once again have the house to myself, except now it seems odd.

But it was nice — a good mix of family happiness and time with friends. The best part is watching the kids hang out together. The cabin was the best — three days without the internet is a magical thing.

Two more weeks with M at home. We’ve got to think up some fun things to do. Museums, I think, and trips to the city, and maybe a hike or two. I imagine she’ll have ideas of her own as well.

Can you believe it’s the end of the year?

Turn of the Year

So —

N and M arrived, and in short order we bundled up and drove up to the Sierras, where we stayed in a tiny cabin and read, watched movies, baked cookies. We skied, both cross country and downhill. It was beautiful. The snow was absolutely beautiful.

We came back on Christmas Eve, arriving just in time for some last minute Christmas shopping. We had Christmas, and now it’s nearly over. N leaves in two days for Spain for a week before she goes back to school. M is here for another two weeks.

I’ve had an awful cold, really since before Christmas. It’s the kind of cold where you can’t hear or smell, so you feel sort of all alone on a vast desert.

And the dinner with the picky eaters — it was great! Joe is an old friend from college. Suddenly we are all middle aged with grown children. His children are really nice, actually — our children even liked them, which is never the case. And they were so pleased that we had cooked for them — apparently no one else will. So, I felt virtuous and good, and in addition it was actually fun.

Anyway. I am going to go try to raise the children from their tiny beds and get them to go on a walk with me, although I’m actually not sure I can walk, enfeebled as I am.

Also, those kids have gotten older. They’re nearly grown-ups, actually. It’s nice — M is more independent. N got her to eat Thai food. It’s nice.


There’s a storm coming! It was windy all night, and it’s windy still, and occasionally wet. Apparently it’s going to rain heavily tomorrow and go on to snow in the mountains. It’s actually misting now — I think we’re inside a cloud.

Anyway. I’m feeling slightly more festive. Today is the annual “Holiday Curtailment Party.” I’m about to step out to procure some “Holiday Curtailment” cookies from the bakery.

I’m on call for edits to the paper on the Pardoner’s Tale. What an eery story! Do you remember it? I will give the quick synopsis. In Flanders lives a company of youths who practice folly, riot and hazard in stews and taverns where they dance and play at dice, day and night, in the company of tumblers, harpists, lutists, fruiterers and waferers. (!) After a night of drunkeness, and hearing that a friend of theirs has died of the plague, three of them leave to go to another city where the plague is. The idea is that they want to find Death and kill him. As they walk along . . .

Whan they han goon nat fully half a mile,
Right as they wolde han troden over a stile,
An oold man and a povre with hem mette.
This olde man ful mekely hem grette,
And deyde thus, “Now, lordes, God yow see!”

They rudely accost the old man and one asks how he can possibly be alive when he’s so old. And he says:

This olde man gan looke in his visage,
And seyde thus: “For I ne kan nat fynde
A man, though that I walked into Ynde,
Neither in citee nor in no village,
That wolde chaunge his youthe for myn age;
And therfore mooth I han myn age stille,
As longe tyme that it is Goddes wille.
Ne Deeth, allas, ne wol nat han my lif.
Thus walk I lyk a restelees kaityf,
And on the ground, which is my moodres gate,
I knokke wuth my staf bothe erly and late,
And syey, “Leeve mooder, leet me in!”
. . .
But yet to me she wol nat do that grace,
For which ful pale and welked is my face.

.. .

Feels like the sort of weather in which one might meet such a man, standing by a stile . . .

Happy Holiday Curtailment!

Black thoughts

Last night I dreamed that N did not drive down south to pick up her winter clothes and she arrived home without her ski jacket.

Why am I dreaming about this?

A colleague dreamed that her son was very upset that she is not putting up a tree this year. Her son is 27, and he really doesn’t care, apparently.

That’s about it.

Although I am also worrying about that poor kid who gave the secrets to the wikileaks people and is now in some awful jail. I guess that’s how the rule of law works — you agree to live in a society, and with it comes the risk that you will do something that will cause you to locked up in solitary confinement without sheets or pillows. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been reading that book by Anna Politkovskaya, but it seems like the social contract is on very thin ice. Maybe it always has been. Or maybe it was this article in the local paper which details that we really still do live in a segregated society, with all that that implies.


Maybe I will feel better after lunch.



I bought everything needed for everything that needed to be mailed. I wrapped it. I mailed it. One thing, a rather large thing, was going to cost $100 to box and mail at the package store, so I brought if home and fit it in a box that had come from somewhere else and was full of packing peanuts and I took it to the post office and shipped it for $15. It was heroic. I am in love with that machine at the post office that mails everything. The mail ladies love it, too, because it makes the rest of the lines actually manageable. I can barely contain myself, though, if someone else is using it when I get there. I’m an expert and can get through it in about 3 minutes. It kills me to sit there while people consider, for a long time, whether their box is an official post office box or not. I understand — they think it matters, but in that case, it doesn’t. I already know which answers are likely to slow you down.

Perhaps I could be a consultant.

In addition, I got more of the yarn I need for M’s hat. I bought shortbread for the office party and I got a frozen lasagna from the Italian deli in case of emergency. I bought garland for the stairs and mantel and a wreath and I came home and put them up, plus the mistletoe I found in the woods two weeks ago. Plus, I bought coffee and groceries.

It was totally exhausting, and how would I have gotten through all that had I not taken the day off?

So now — I still have to clean the house, and then I have to bring the Christmas decorations down from the attic. I can put a few lights up, but I realized I need either K or M to help me with the lights on the porch because they’re the tall ones. I have stuff to wrap, but there’s no hurry on that. We’re getting close.

And there’s supposed to be a huge storm on Friday and continuing through the next week, which is going to make getting the kids home a little scary and is going to make it hard for us to get up to the mountains. Maybe we’ll just stay home and go up later. We’ll pretend that our house is a cabin and that the pouring rain is snow and we’ll sit around and drink hot chocolate.

I can totally manage that . . .


I’m taking a personal business day to attend to some personal business. I’m making a list. Do you want to see it? I thought not.

I have to say, though, that just making the list made me feel better. It’s not so awful.

And I put the two remaining cookies from the cookie exchange party we went to on a Christmas plate, so decorating really has commenced.

And I have to write cards — that goes on the list.

It’s dark here, and foggy, and I did not go for a walk last weekend and I can feel my hamstrings tightening and the rest of me growing larger by the second. This is a lesson. I should put “walk” on the list, except it’s reached the bottom of the piece of paper. There, I squished it in.

I’m not going to tell you about the friends who are coming to dinner next week who between them can’t eat anything. Fish is okay. No gluten, soy or egg yolks. I guess that’s not so hard — we’ll have salmon, assuming there is any, potatoes or rice, a vegetable of some sort. It will just all be quite plain, but that’s okay. I guess I could make meringues, but what if a tiny bit of egg yolk slips in? Maybe just fruit. It will be very healthy.

All right. Time to get busy.


It’s that week — the one where you are desperately trying to focus on some work task, but all you can really think about is that you need to leave to go by the game store to get the last thing to put in the package that you should have mailed last week.

I spent the weekend knitting a hat. Its a lovely hat, and it will be very very warm, but I’m now regretting that I didn’t get outside.

Also, I may have eaten a few too many cookies.

Ho hum. I keep getting sporadic messages from the girls. They’re not getting much sleep. And my niece is engaged. Worried about that one, too.

Okay — planning to leave early to worry about wreaths and lighting, so need to get a few things done here . . .

Cotton wool

It feels like the fog that surrounds the house has seeped into my brain as well. I’m so tired, and more than that, sort of groggy.

Let’s see.

I am unable to keep up with the number of catalogs which continue to our into the house every day. I try to take them back out immediately, but it’s not always possible. Now I’m reading one that has me worrying about Christmas dinner. What should we have? Hmmm. There will only be 6 of us, so maybe something delicious and not enormous.

Hmm. I’m thinking either “seared duck breast with cherry port sauce” or takeout from the Thai place down the street.

All right — I’m off.



Can you see how foggy it is?


And also what a mess our yard is?

Anyway, what time I have left over after knitting mittens has been occupied by worrying about M, who’s trying to get through finals — well, the end of classes this week and then finals next week. I check in periodically and it seems like she’s got things under control. I can’t really know, of course, and time management is not exactly one of her most developed attributes.

The funny thing is that she doesn’t seem to mind my periodic checking in. She would not have liked it last year, when she was living at home.

Anyway, I believe I have cracked the question of what to give for Christmas, and the answer is: jigsaw puzzles. They’re inexpensive and easy to send in the mail. They provide hours of fun. This was already my plan, and then I read a post about games in Catherine Newman’s blog in which she said:

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the things I love about board games–and Michael actually read this somewhere–is that they’re totally pointless, and so when you play a board game with your child, you’re saying, “This is time I want to spend with you.”

I would agree with that, actually. So I’m not really sending jigsaw puzzles. I’m sending the opportunity for my siblings, etc, to spend time with their kids. It’s very thoughtful of me, actually.

She has another later post on games for younger kids, too, if you’re interested.

Anyway, I am sending games and puzzles and I am putting games and puzzles and mittens under the tree. We’ll go up to the cabin in the mountains with our games and our mittens and we’ll pretend we’re in the Little House in the Big Woods. Except, and this is a problem, we’re going before Christmas. Maybe we’re going to have to celebrate the solstice this year.

Okay. If I leave now I will almost certainly not be late for work.