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December 2006

2006 in review, part one

Here are some rediscoveries and a couple new loves of this past year.

  • Simply Irresistible by Robert Palmer. Here's the video.
  • The Onion: I started reading The Onion about ten years ago, and then I got a great book of theirs called Our Dumb Century, but then sort of forgot about the website after this one remodel they did which annoyed me. I started reading it again this year, and got another enjoyable book, called Dispatches from the Tenth Circle.
  • Pente: We've had this game for years, but just started playing it again recently. We also have Go, but that is more complicated, and we haven't gotten into it yet. You can play Pente online here.
  • Bloody Marys: This recipe has the right ingredients, but you have to adjust the proportions to your own liking. I use lime, and Goya hot sauce instead of Tabasco. And I wouldn't let the drink sit in ice to cool, because that would water it down. Just strain it over fresh ice in a glass.
  • Mixtapes (but with mp3 cds, of course) I've made 4 or 5 for some online friends this year, and some for my kids, and I'd forgotten how cool it is to get really involved in the process of creating the perfect playlist.
  • Dear Prudence by Siouxsie and the Banshees and here's another by them, just as a bonus. It's a better video, as those go.
  • Straight Leg Jeans: The tag on the ones I got says slouch skinny 504, but when I looked that up, I only saw plus sizes. They look just like this pair, though. I really like the slouch thing, because you get low rise without all the low rise problems. I would like another pair.
  • Stand-up Comedy: we were so so into stand-up at the beginning of the 90s, I think we overdosed on it, watching it practically every night on A&E. But now I love it again, and have learned to appreciate all the old comics I never really understood when I was a child. And yeah, it's good clean fun, but not impossibly good and clean. It's just not specifically vulgar, and most of it's not very negative. XM has an adult comedy channel, but I don't find it as funny. That one tends to be specifically vulgar and kind of negative.

QotD: My Favorite Holiday Movie

What's your favorite holiday movie?

Here are several, besides It's A Wonderful Life:

The Bishop's Wife
The Shop Around the Corner
The Man Who Came to Dinner

And for contemporary choices, it would have to be a tie between A Christmas Romance and Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus.

Going to link them up and add details later, if I have time.

It's mutton

I hate this picture. My family likes it. I hate the bangs. My family likes them. I think they look fine on people who are not me. This happens every time I cut my hair, which is why I rarely do. Because, hate. In this photo, I look like all the boring, tedious, uncreative women I cannot stand to be around. Plus, kind of old. But, there you go. It's really me.

Vox Hunt: Mistletoe Kisses

Show us who you'd like to kiss under the mistletoe.


Sally Field told Rita Braver on CBS News Sunday Morning that James Garner gave her "the best kiss I ever had in my life, which was on camera, believe it or not" (in a scene from "Murphy's Romance").

Presented with this information in a separate interview with Braver, Garner said, "She’s such a dear. Poor thing. She must not get out very much. But that's nice for her to say. I've had a couple of them say that. I might not be a bad kisser after all."

QotD: Top 5 in '06 - Movies & DVDs

What are your top 5 movies/DVDs of 2006?

Okay, I'm changing this. I saw fewer movies this year than in an age. So I'm just listing them all, and my grades. And then I'm going to make a list of all the ones I meant to see, but did not yet.

My grades? Are based about 70% on how much they entertained me, and 30% on whether I thought there was quality. I'm a snob in one way, but not in another. :-) You are, of course, quite free to disagree entirely.

Nanny McPhee B- 
I, without shame, still love Colin Firth. And I love Emma Thompson.

The Pink Panther C+
Also without shame, I love Steve Martin. I would have his babies, were I still desirous of having those. It's a better movie than the credit it received. Peter Sellers was funny, but he did not invent the wheel.

Benchwarmers (for my son) C
This movie made me not hate, uh, what's his name, Rob Schneider.

The Promise B
Pure fairy tale, beautiful and strong.

Superman Returns A-
Great reinvention, good casting, would love a sequel.

Cars B+
Very well made, and better dialogue than I anticipated.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest B
So much story; too much, really, but very fun experience.

Casino Royale A
Wow. Great story, and that Craig guy utterly sold me, against my expectations. The story was very similar to the book, but with good updates.

Memecry Becomes Me

Found this at Laura's Vox page. She often turns me into a mimic. I was going to make links for it all, but, you know, whatever. It's there, and here, to find.

1) Harken back to your archives.
2) Collect the first sentence you wrote every month for the whole year.
3) Entertain us.

January: There's this whole world of TV that I'm not normally privvy to; just dip my toes in the water 2 or 3 times a year.

February:  Life just got chaotic. It may, well, will certainly continue that way for the next month. I am heartbroken.

March: (nothing in March, was still busy dealing with heartbreak.)

April: I am now going to share with you some thoughts and ideas and puzzlements of the past two days.

May: This was written for a fan fiction challenge, and the ending came from a kickstarter exercise at an LJ community called The Clinic.

June: I just kind of have been hating life.

July: Here are "American" things I intend to get done today.

August: Yesterday, we had fried tofu for lunch, with a dipping sauce that was made of Japanese soup broth, ginger, and soy sauce.

September: This is part of an ongoing conversation I've been having with my best online mate.

October: I've been putting in archives all day of this blog.

November: I'm only up to Tuesday's NaNoWriMo quota, but I'm happy with the direction I've suddenly found, and uploaded an excerpt, which you can read here.

December: Here's my van Christmas tape.

In response

Someone read what I wrote earlier, and replied,"thanks for remembering us non-believers."

Man, this time of year is wonderful and awful. Why can't it just be wonderful without narrowing it down to one single element that is really only a shallow symbol of its own truth?

Here's my response, though.

For me it's like this: I'm finding it easier lately to reconcile belief with knowledge, because of how much I don't know. I know the world is ancient. I know it's all formed on patterns. I know that when its left to its own devices, all the biodomes within it create balance for themselves and with each other. I know that we are just on the tip of the iceberg of understanding how time operates. I don't need a faith to find all that knowledge gorgeously huggable. At the same time, who am I to say what comes or came before?

One thing I found I could no longer do was reconcile the life and words of Jesus and his apostles with the history, background, and teaching of Paul and Christianity. It took me eight years to make peace with that realization, after a lifetime of frustration.

There's a Christian expression, "All we like sheep, have gone astray." I think it's from a song. Anyway. it angers me. If people only really knew what their religion is truly based on, what it really means to say we're born with the stain of original sin, and the fact that Jesus, if he was who is written, never said practically anything Christianity is based on, well,

I suppose they'd make up something else. And yet the truth of what we really do know and can nail down with our senses is so wonderful all on its own: wonderful enough that we should just be happy to be good stewards of it without threat of eternal damnation.

Discussing Santa

Wow, people sure get worked up at the idea of parents still letting their kids believe in Santa. Saying it's more for the parents than for the children completely misses the mark, at least for me. But I can only speak as the parent I am, with the children I have. So here is my response, which leads me to believe what I really need to be writing about is something closer to the life I've lived, rather than one I've made up for a novel.

I think Christmas at our house might be a lot different than it is in other peoples' houses. They all started out believing in Santa, went through a gradual period where they concluded it was just another story, and then the older ones found their way back to the magic again. Well, maybe not B. He's sort of not quite like the rest of us. I have no need to try to make him so; he is who he is.

There's no crushing here, no being made to feel you were duped, or that we don't really get to experience magic during the season that is about light championing darkness--all the stories told at this time of year are about that, from every culture.

And we neither play Santa up or down. He's simply a part of the picture. When the older girls were at school, and these discussions would come up, I simply told them that some people have different ways of looking at things, just as they do with their religious or political beliefs, etc. When kids are allowed to be themselves, and are surrounded by supportive, communicative people, they grow naturally in and out of their understandings about how life works.

For my part, overall, what I teach about life has more to do with the cyclical nature of it all, than the railroad tracks of knowledge that were imparted to me early on, which is why the solstice plays the most important part in my celebration. And lately I've been working to synthesize that with the bits of truth that exist in the other paths of understanding that have been handed down through time. Look at it this way; if you are one of the people who believes that the Divine brought all this together and put it in place for humanity, then surely you can believe that the patterns that exist in it are beautiful to behold and celebrate. And if you do not believe it is Divine, well, nevertheless, those patterns do exist, and can be viewed and measured. There's certainly beauty in that.

Well, there is room for the real Santa Claus in all of that; he's part of the synthesis, and part of what completes the picture; he's not anti-any of it. He's--a figure of understanding of what it all means. I am realizing that more and more as I grow older. And besides, there is never anything wrong with finding positive, joyful ways to celebrate life.

I want to plan my solstice celebration with an eye toward the broader circle of life this year.

She did wish me a Merry Christmas.

When I thanked her as I left.

Today I mailed stuff. I mailed 5 cd packages to my online group friends, a package with 6 cds to my dad, and also some Christmas cards. I'm mailing more of those on Friday. I was concentrating on international stuff first.

I merrily drove downtown to the pretty old post office (not that pretty inside, but could be,) and looked for a place to park. For 20 minutes. Determined to stay in a good mood, I just drove and looked and drove and looked. I was honestly about to give up, when a spot opened up exactly in front of the building. You can only park there for 15 minutes, but that was okay.

There was a gigundo line inside, but I did not despair. I found some customs forms, and filled them out in line, borrowing a pen from the lady behind me. There were only two postal workers there, and one was super cranky. I knew she'd be the one I'd get, so I just prepared myself for that. When I got to her, I was friendly and bubbly, and disarmed her easily enough, though she was kind of rude to the woman she'd been helping before me, who was still there filling something out. And she kept saying "whatever," to another woman who kept asking if she could leave her postage-paid envelopes on the counter. The woman was persistant, and finally the worker said, "Look, whatever, I'm working on this customer's business right now."

Now that I think about it, she may have been annoyed because they were Jewish. I do not mean specifically anti-semitic. I mean easily frustrated with Lakewood Jews. I have noticed that from time to time since moving here. I could tell you why I believe that's so, though of course I wouldn't say it's justified. People should just be nice to everyone. But in this town, well, it's unique. And because of that, there are little tensions, though they don't add up to much. That's not my story to tell, though.

I told her about finding the parking spot, and that I believe little nice things could pop up in her day, too. She may be a crank, who annoyed some of us in line by turning up the radio too loud (the post office is so different from when I was a child!) but I wouldn't want to be behind that counter right now either. Of course she pointed out I could get a parking ticket because of standing in line for so long, but I just said, in my best East coast, "so what am I gonna do, get out of line to go move my car?" And she sort of smiled.

Now I'd like you to read something I didn't write

It perfectly explains some things about how I learned I was not a Christian, namely, that I'd been trying to follow the teachings of Jesus since I was a very young child, and had to wake up to the fact that the religion based on him just really wasn't, at all. I'd spent so many years trying to reconcile the two, and finally had to give up, literally exhausted at the effort. The author seems to have had a similar journey, only he knows more than me about the details. I am not asking you to get interested in him, specifically, just read the essay I linked to below, because, except for some syntactical errors and so forth, it's something I might have written myself. The story is what matters, not the teller.

In short, the whole system I was attempting to follow was illogical. Add to that my studies of history and the natural sciences in order to teach my homeschooled children, and wowie, it hit me; I was on a comfortable path all along, but this particular religion wasn't on the same one. Why did I ever think it was? That's all indoctrination, I suppose. I'm so happy to be free from that.

Read it, really. It's basic stuff, it'll do your heart some good, and when Christmas rolls around, you may feel more like you can honestly celebrate that birthday part of it.

Yeah, well, I know we don't know when he was born, if he was only one guy or several, if the red-letter words are all his own, etc. It's that whole light out of darkness thing, though. My theme this year is synthesis. Celebrate whatever brings light out of darkness, and celebrate the darkness that helps us appreciate light.

QotD: Books From My Childhood

What books did you love as a child? 
Submitted by hearts

I read thousands of books as a child. Here are a few I loved/love because of their gentle tone and illustrations. I didn't know that was the reason at the time, but now I do. :-) I still love them.

Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present

The Sugar-Mouse Cake

Bread and Jam for Frances

At this point, about a hundred more books come to mind, that I read after the period of time in which I enjoyed these most. It's impossible to begin to narrow them down at the moment. I am still working on the "must read" list, and many of my selections are children's books.

I just learned something interesting. One of my favorite "contemporary" children's books is called Half a Moon and One Whole Star, by Crescent Dragonwagon. Turns out she is the daughter of Charlotte Zolotow, who wrote the Mr. Rabbit book, and several of my other childhood favorites. That's pretty cool, I think.

A few words about fruitcake

Do you know why it's usually yucky? Two main reasons. First, it has that "candied" fruit in it. That stuff is shiny yuck in a plastic tub. When it's soft enough to chew, it sticks to your teeth. But usually you can't chew it. Second, one loaf has a zillion eggs in it. That makes it super dense, but really, just too dense.

Here is a recipe for fruitcake that has neither problem. Make it two weeks before Christmas if you want to booze it up. But you can eat it as is. It should be wrapped very well and refrigerated between servings. I know, you don't normally refrigerate bread or cake. But this you should. Just make sure it's well-sealed.

Applesauce Fruitcake

I adapted this recipe from "Gram's Lighter Applesauce Fruitcake," which is found in a nice book called The Frugal Gourmet Celebrates Christmas. That recipe uses candied fruit and raisins, neither of which are nice in cake. And it uses no alcohol, but I did. I also altered the order of adding ingredients. He could be a little sloppy at times, bless his probably-repentant-before-death heart.

1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla

3 cups applesauce
4 cups flour
1 tbs baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (you can just use cinnamon and cloves)

2 cups chopped walnuts
2 cups chopped dates*
2 cups chopped mixed "dried" fruit* (I used apples, apricots, and pears)
2 cups currants* (you could add a cup more dates and a cup more mixed fruit if you don't like currants, or I suppose you could just add raisins instead.)

Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla. Next add the applesauce, and the dry ingredients, combined. Stir to incorporate, then add the fruit and nuts, and mix it all in. Divide the batter among 3 greased 8x4 loaf pans--I don't have three, so I used small casserole dishes. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for a few minutes, remove loaves from pans and cool completely on the rack. Wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator.

I poured 1/4 cup of apple brandy over two of the loaves, and let them rest, then I'm going to do that again in a week, and let them rest until Christmas Eve.

*I marinated the fruit in some apple brandy before I added it to the batter. I added just enough to make sure it all got moist, and then stirred it now and then over about 4 hours' time.

One final note. It came out lovely at 350. But I felt it may have been too hot, at least with my oven. So I plan to do one another time at a lower temperature. If your oven runs hot, you may wish to try it at 325.

First things first

Here's my van Christmas tape. I still can't listen to cds in there, and of course, my precious, precious iPod is gone. So I made a tape. Remember those?

Jingle Bells--Frank Sinatra
Sleigh Ride--Ella Fitzgerald
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings--Barenaked Ladies Feat. Sarah McLachlan
A Marshmallow World--Dean Martin
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer--Sharon, Lois & Bram
Deck The Halls--Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea
Here Comes Santa Claus--The Mills Brothers
Winter Wonderland--Bing Crosby
All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)--Nat King Cole Trio
Mrs. Fogarty's Christmas Cake--Sharon, Lois & Bram
The Merriest--June Christy
Silent Night--Dean Martin
A Winter Sweet (The Nutcracker)--Sharon, Lois & Bram
Cool Yule--Louis Armstrong & The Commanders
It Came Upon A Midnight Clear--Ella Fitzgerald
Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town--Peggy Lee
I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm--Dean Martin
Jingle Bell Rock--Wayne Newton
Christmas Island--Bob Atcher, Dinning Sisters
Winter Weather--Benny Goodman, Peggy Lee, Art London
Blue Xmas--Miles Davis
Shake Hands With Santa Claus--Louis Prima
Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!--Dean Martin
The Christmas Song--Mel Tormé
The Twelve Days of Christmas--Sharon, Lois & Bram
Green Christmas--Barenaked Ladies
Baby, It's Cold Outside--Dean Martin
'twas The Night Before Christmas--Art Carney

Lots more to share later.