Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Little Ramble on New Year's Eve

M and I have been having a running argument about whether or not this is the last day of the decade. He says it's not - that next year is actually the last year of the 2000s because by rights the new century started in 2001. Of course, this is just a continuation of the argument we had all during 1999, about the beginning of the 21st Century.

Well, as far as I'm concerned, the new decade starts with 2010, but however you slice it up, this century is moving along at an amazingly rapid clip, isn't it? And from a personal standpoint, it's definitely had its ups and downs. My mother and M's father both died in 2001, and M's 85-year-old mother is still recovering from a fall she had a year or so ago. But overall, I think the decade has been a pretty good one for us. The economic crisis that wiped out so many others hasn't been too hard on us. And although we've had a few health scares over the years, we seem to be doing pretty well at the moment.

2009 has been pretty smooth, but 2010 is shaping up to be a little more chaotic in our household. M will be retiring at the end of the year, and when that happens we'll most likely be moving back to the land of our ancestors. No, not England or Wales or France or Germany - just back to Texas, ya'll. Don't really know exactly where in the Lone Star State we'll end up - we've got several spots in mind. But wherever we settle, the move will be pretty momentous.

We've lived here in Virginia for just about twenty-five years now, and in this same apartment for twenty. Getting out of here is going to take a massive amount of planning, packing, and clearing out. It's going to be a year-long task, and not one I'm really looking forward to. I'm hoping that at some point during the year they'll announce that they've perfected the transporter and made it available for public use. Then we can just beam ourselves and all our stuff up and out of Virginia, and set everything down deep in the heart of Texas! Please tell me they're working on that technology right now!

OK, I guess that's enough pointless rambling for now. All I really wanted to say was Happy New Year, everybody.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Random Christmas Musings

M and I must be two of the very few people on earth who didn't get/give a Snuggie this Christmas.

The nicest thing about Christmas and the winter solstice is that after all the celebrating is over, you start to notice each day getting a minute or two longer than the last. Spring can't be far off now, can it? (Pretty please!)

Christmas decorations are lovely and a lot of fun until you have to dust them.

Every Christmas I intend to pull out my grandmother's applesauce cake recipe and bake a couple of the cakes. Every Christmas I put it off until next year.

This year we almost managed to get through M's entire list of Mandatory Christmas Movies. There are still a couple we haven't gotten around to, but the new year is still a day away. So there's still time. This year I watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation something like a dozen times, and I've decided it's definitely my favorite. That and The Bishop's Wife. As a child, I used to like It's a Wonderful Life; but as I got older, it started to feel a little too much like a horror film. Every year I watch it and think how satisfying it would be if this time George Bailey would finally just blow that hick town and go do all the things he wants to do. And every year, he does the right thing and just stays put.

M and I got some very nice gifts this year. Other Christmases, we haven't been so lucky. The worst gifts I can remember? Well, one year M got a can of Right Guard spray deodorant from someone. Think they were trying to tell him something? Actually, it was one of those anonymous gift exchanges where no one knew who they were buying for. But deodorant? And as for me, my worst Christmas memory doesn't really involve a gift - it has to do with the tree we bought, the first Christmas we spent in this apartment. It was a lovely, huge live fir tree - gorgeous and green. For about an hour and a half. Long enough to get the lights and decorations on it. Then it dried up instantly and turned a hideous shade of brown. Crispy to the touch. And we left it up for several weeks. I was afraid turning on its lights might be a fire hazard. I kept watering it even though the branches cut me to shreds whenever I got too close. Even the cat wouldn't go near it. I think we took it down on Christmas Day. So depressing.

Next year I'll get those Christmas cards addressed and in the mail right after Thanksgiving. Just like my sister-in-law. Really - I promise!

Wordless Wednesday: After the Shopping, 23 December 2009

(Click on photo to enlarge.)

For more Wordless Wednesday offerings,
please visit the website here.

Outdoor Wednesday: Bear With Me

Outdoor Wednesday is hosted by Susan at A Southern Daydreamer. To see many, many more outdoor photos or to post some of your own, please visit her blog.

Since we're showing both outdoor and indoor decorations this month, I thought it would be OK to put up a photo of these three. Kringle Bear has been with us for twenty-two Christmases now, so he's quite a mature bear. The two smaller critters were Salvation Army bears, so I'm not sure exactly how old they are, but I've had them for more than ten years now. I love the expression on the face of the tiny brown bear - I just had to bring him home. The little white bear is musical, and tends to come out with a jingle now and then when you're least expecting it. These guys will be the last Christmas decorations I put away - when they're all wrapped up and stashed back at the top of the closet, I'll know the holidays are really over for another year. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Musing on the Twelve Days

The writing prompt for yesterday's edition of Holidailies was "The Twelve Days." And since I have to admit I'm failing pretty miserably at coming up with things to write about, I decided to do a little research on the "Twelve Days of Christmas" song. Found out that, while I had always assumed it was probably written by somebody in Tin Pan Alley back at the turn of the 19th/20th Centuries, it's actually an authentic traditional English carol. And although there are various theories on when it first appeared and what it's supposed to signify, no one really has definitive answers for those questions. Is it just a nonsense rhyme meant to inspire joy and gaiety? Or a good mnemonic device to help keep the senses sharp? Or something more meaningful - are the items in the song religious symbols? For instance, some have suggested that the twelve drummers drumming represent the twelve apostles (beating the drum for Jesus?).

Well, whatever it is, it always reminds me of my own favorite "enumeration" thingie (can't really call it a rhyme or verse) - one that was popular in my speech and drama classes back in high school. It supposedly originated as a radio "announcer's test" back in the 1940s, but I first heard it on TV in the '60s when Jerry Lewis used to recite it on the old Tonight Show. Don't know if it has a real title, but I always think of it as "One Hen, Two Ducks," and the idea is to repeat each item as you add a new item, so that at the end, you're repeating all nine items plus the tenth. Seems easy-peasy, but when you're doing it from memory, it can be really maddening. We thought it was hilarious. Well, it was the '60s and we thought a lot of strange things were hilarious. Here we go:
  • One hen
  • Two ducks ("One hen, two ducks")
  • Three squawking geese ("One hen, two ducks, three squawking geese")
  • Four Limerick oysters ("One hen, two ducks, three squawking geese, four etc.")
  • Five corpulent porpoises
  • Six pairs of Don Alverzo's tweezers
  • Seven thousand Macedonians in full battle array
  • Eight brass monkeys from the ancient sacred crypts of Egypt
  • Nine apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic old men on roller skates with a marked propensity toward procrastination and sloth
  • Ten lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the deep who hall stall around the corner of the quo of the quay of the quivery, all at the same time
Of course, none of us had a clue about those tweezers by Don Alverzo. And for the longest time I thought it said "old men on roller skates . . . with a marked propensity toward procrastination and slaw." Messy stuff when you're on roller skates.

These are also very much like the old children's game "I packed my suitcase and in it I put ---" with each person adding a new something to the original something. Sometimes it's referred to as "I packed my grandmother's suitcase." Sometimes the items have to start with succeeding letters of the alphabet. And, of course, there are the more risque versions, too. Not sure where I'm going with any of this, but definitely not there.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Blue Monday: Winter Blues and Pinks

Blue Monday is hosted weekly by Smiling Sally.
To see more offerings, or to participate yourself,
please head on over to her blog.

After the snow storm a couple of weeks ago, we had some really beautiful skies - not the clear blue I love, but still interesting in short doses. Here are a few shots for Blue Monday. (I'm also wearing my new blue robe that I got for Christmas, but I'll spare you that sight!)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday: Cold, Cold Shadows

After the big snow storm all across the eastern part of the country last week, I suppose it's pretty inevitable that we'll be seeing lots of snow shadows today. Here are mine.
(Click on photos to enlarge.)

Shadow Shot Sunday is a weekly photo meme hosted by Hey Harriet. To see many, many more shadow shots or to contribute some yourself, head on over to her blog.

Friday, December 25, 2009

DC Decorates

Yes, they do. But not as whole-heartedly as in years past. We were out and about in our nation's capital just the other day, looking at the Christmas decorations; and they weren't all that easy to find. Admittedly, we were looking in a very small area (around 16th Street and the Old Post Office), and didn't hit any of the hot tourist areas (we'll try to get there next week). Still, I was a little surprised at how Grinchy the whole place looked.

In the past, when I used to work in Washington, I was always excited to see all the festive touches each business and agency would display every Christmas season. Huge wreaths on all the doors and windows and porticoes; beautifully decorated trees in all the lobbies; garlands, ribbons, bells and Santas everywhere. But this year, it's hard to find even a sprig of holly. I guess the recession really has curbed the decorating urge this Christmas. The Old Post Office building had some nice trees inside, although the outside of the building wasn't decorated with quite the pizazz of years gone by. And besides that, the only noticeable decorations were at the Treasury Department and the Willard Hotel. Well, I guess that's where the money is, right?

One of the two large trees in the Old Post Office. I love their black and white floors.

Another of the Post Office trees, this one made out of shiny gold bows. This is the food court there; they have musical acts entertaining the lunch crowd everyday. It's a popular place with tourists and locals alike.

I've always heard about the magnificent Christmas decorations in the Willard Hotel, but this is the first time I've ever ventured into the place to see them for myself. And they are definitely splendid.

While we were there, several groups of sight-seers stopped by to take family photos in front of the beautiful tree.

The rest of the lobby is nicely decorated, too - with garlands on all the columns and stair railings.

And here's the Treasury Department Building, wrapped up in lots of bows. Had to climb over piles of snow and several tourists to get to the fence and take this shot. It was a popular subject - well, as I said, there's not a lot of holiday adornment to choose from this year.

Just want to say thanks very much to the Holidailies panel of readers for choosing my post A Doll for Christmas as one of the "Best of Holidailies" selections. I've read a lot of the other entries, and I'm not sure I'm really worthy of that company - there's some pretty impressive writing in the bunch. So it's quite a thrill!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Vintage Thingies Thursday: A Doll for Christmas

Vintage Thingies Thursday is hosted by Suzanne at Coloradolady, and as she says, "Thursday is the day to showcase your vintage treasures and to share your special things with everyone." Please visit her blog to find out more about VTT or to participate yourself.

Some little girls are doll lovers and some aren't. I was definitely one. As a child, I always received at least one doll every Christmas. I guess that's where my tendency to collect things (dolls among them) got started. Several eons ago (well, sometime in the 1950s), I received my first Ginny Doll for Christmas one year. Designed by dollmaker Jennie Graves, the Ginnys were made by the Vogue Doll Corporation, and were 8-inches of very sturdy hard plastic. They were also adorable.

Ginnys were all the rage just before Barbie hit, and just like the Pink Princess, they had tons of outfits and accessories - all sold separately, of course. They were very addictive - so much so that I had to have another one the next Christmas. Well, I didn't want Ginny No. 1 to be lonely.

Not long after I received that first Ginny, I took her out into the backyard and took some photos of her and my other dolls, with my mother's old Kodak Brownie camera. The blurriness of the pictures probably reflects my photographic ability at about age seven, more than the quality of the equipment. Here are a couple of those original shots (click on photos to enlarge):

And as a testament to the longevity of those Golden Age toys, here's that same doll in the same outfit, some fifty years later, enjoying yet another Christmas. All I can say is I'm a Vintage Thingie myself, and I wish I'd held up this well. And a Merry Christmas to all!

Added 12/25/2009: Just want to say thanks very much to the Holidailies panel of readers for choosing this post as one of the "Best of Holidailies" selections. I've read a lot of the other entries, and I'm not sure I'm really worthy of that company - there's some pretty impressive writing in the bunch. So it's quite a thrill!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blue Monday: Vintage Cards, Part 2

Blue Monday is hosted weekly by Smiling Sally.
To see more offerings, or to participate yourself,
please head on over to her blog.

I've already posted about vintage Scottie Christmas cards (see Vintage Cards, Part 1), so today I thought I'd put up a few photos of some of the Santa and angel cards in my collection. Those earlier cards were mostly from the 1930s, but today I'm getting more into my era - cards from the early 1950s (with one or two from the late '40s). As you can see, cuteness was a definite factor. And apparently, so was blueness!

The background on the second card is actually a dark, midnight blue, even though it looks black here. "Cheerio" was a popular greeting on these cards. Veddy British, wot? Also, notice the man in the moon on that second card.

Santa going down the chimney is always a popular subject, isn't it? This one looks like he might not make it.

Some of them are a little weird, as you can see. Well, abstract art was all the rage.

And some had interesting shapes and little cut-out areas, like this one. Those bells are cut so that they can be turned up or down - looks a little like they're ringing!

And a few angel cards. This last one is very up-to-date with its mention of Jingle Bells on the radio!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Storm of the Century, Day 2

Digging out.

(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday: Miss B Makes a Call

That should probably be: Miss B and Her Shadow Make a Call. OK, for all you collectors out there, this is the Silkstone Barbie from the Continental Gift Set, wearing a Fashion Avenue outfit called Front Row at the Spring Show (2001; No. 25702-52878). And I'm not sure if this is the cell phone that came with the outfit, or one from a Teen Skipper set. I know for most normal folks, that must sound like gibberish, but real Barbie enthusiasts will be able to decipher it. Doll collectors are a strange lot.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

Shadow Shot Sunday is a weekly photo meme hosted by Hey Harriet. To see many, many more shadow shots or to contribute some yourself, head on over to her blog.

The Storm of the Century, Day 1

So today it's snowing. And snowing. And snowing. I can't tell you how disappointed I am.

Sorry. I know a lot of people really enjoy the snow, and I'm happy for them. But in all the years I've lived up here in the frozen north, I've never learned to love the white stuff. I like looking at it in photos and movies and TV shows, and on Christmas cards, and postcards, and jigsaw puzzles. But I find the real stuff depressing and a little scary. Guess that's the result of growing up in a place where the winters were usually mild, short and un-snowy.

Even so, I have tried to get a few photos today - but it's been snowing so hard all morning and afternoon that it's very difficult to get a good shot. These are a couple I took from the balcony this morning - a few of our neighbors playing in the snow and a postman at the building across the way, digging out his truck while wearing what appears to be a sun hat. While I was taking these, the kids were yelling "Let's play in the SNOW!" the whole time. So I guess the snow is making some folks happy (but probably not that postman).

(Click on photos to enlarge.)