Thursday, January 20, 2011

Putting Christmas Away

I got most of the decorations off the live (but now quite dead and dry) tree in the living room last night.  As I suspected, I missed some and saw a Batman hanging this morning.  I'll have Len do the last check after he gets one of the Wolverines and the tree topper down.  I was too lazy to get out a step-stool out last night, and I was getting annoyed with being stabbed by needles to take them down myself.  All of the lights are down and I'll have to test them before I put them away.  No use keeping things that no longer work and at least one of the complex strands was not working on the tree.

Added to ornaments that need replacing is the NASA lunar excursion module--that little go-cart with an astronaut.  The dish antenna broke off last night. I have a spare of the Eagle, but not the go-cart.  I'll also be searching E-bay for a new Worf and a new Yoda, thanks to Riley.  The blown-glass Dark Knight I dropped and shattered last night already had a duplicate (hooray.)  Tonight I'll sit at the kitchen table and put things back into their boxes for the next 10 months.  It is a time-consuming process to put Christmas away.

Does anyone know where I might be able to find the things that go into the top of a glass ornament which has a metal loop and collar.  I have no idea what they are called, but we have a number of glass bulbs from Len's days with Disney that have lost those parts over the years.  Not sure how that happens, mind you.  And these are kind of large, so my plan to replace them with pieces from plain ornaments didn't work.

The horse tree has not yet been undressed.  I'm still trying to purchase a Zenyatta ornament, but nobody has them and word is they won't be restocked until the fall.  At least they'll be back in production so I don't have to spend $80 to buy one.  My friends and I are planning to go to Santa Anita Race Track in early February for the ceremony where Penny Chenery, owner of Secretriat, will be giving the Mosses a new award because of the way Zenyatta had a positive effect on thoroughbred racing.  She's been a personality directly out of the Secretariat handbook, so it is appropriate she gets the first one.  Hooray for the Queen.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Last Day of Christmas

I'm coming off a nasty cold which threatened the success of our 12th Night/housewarming party.  The good news is that it did not succeed, but only because some lovely people came into the kitchen and pitched in to get all my food and drink out and keep the wine glasses clean for more guests.

We had just under 100 people, which would have split the seams of the old house.  Fortunately, there was no appreciable wind that night, so people seemed quite happy to go and stand out on the patio to talk.  It was a bit too cool for those of us recovering from colds, but other people were fine with it.

As in past years, I took amusement from watching people react to meeting someone they never in their lives thought they would encounter.  Particularly folks who had a dawning realization that the tiny white-haired woman they were hustling around my kitchen had been a teen-aged folk prodigy.  Or when the TV exec who was a huge Jeopardy! fan discovered that I had been on the show six times and that there were two other Tournament of Champions competitors in the house--and she had never met anyone who had been on the show before.  Yes, we throw those kinds of parties.

The puppies managed to escape from Michael's room a couple of times, but we headed off any attempts to get out the front door.  Dexter did a quick retreat when he stuck his nose out and our friend Ed, veteran of a K-9 detail in the service, let him know this was not acceptable. Dex even shut the door behind himself, which the babies did not do voluntarily.

I can't say I have partied to almost 3 a.m. anytime recently, but that's when the doors shut and Len and I stumbled off to sleep.  If only we didn't get a wrong number ringing at 10 a.m. on Sunday.  I'm almost finished with the pots and pans, but what I don't get, my cleaning lady will handle tomorrow.

I'll be taking down the three trees this weekend, and will try to store the ornaments so next year it will be easier to find those for the "specialty" trees.  I've got lots of boxes, color coded for the holidays.  Putting things away requires nothing but time.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Racing Stripes

Ginger has a love-hate relationship with the dogs next door.  Sometimes, she'll go out and commune with Bella, whose cage is right up against our fence, with no drama.  Other times, it's a bark-fest, with Ginger getting the last word in because poor Bella wears an anti-bark collar.

Unfortunately, the chain-link fence is old and Ginger does try to go through it.  This has resulted in some nasty wounds, and what looks like permanent scarring.  I think I should probably suggest that she do ads for the car company or insurance company with similar logos.
It doesn't appear to have any effect on her abilities to smell.  Last night, as we got ready for bed, she got a whiff of something in the air.  It was one of those times when we really wanted her to be able to tell us what was up.  Her nostrils flaired and she did slow arching searches of the air.  I guess she was trying to figure out vectors.  We have no idea what had her on alert, but she finally curled up without explaining it to us.  Since the house didn't burn down around us, we can rule out fire.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Off to a New Year

We had a wonderful holiday, which did not include emergency visits to doctors for either Len or me this year.  No broken bones, no organ failure.  We plan to keep that the case for the rest of the year, despite the nasty cold Len caught.

I had 12 days off from work, which did not include riding Ace or caroling with the horses or getting much work done on the old house, all due to rain.  Yesterday, we starting having trouble with our driveway gate. When I finally got the thing to close, I kept my car in the driveway so we'd be able to let the dogs out back  It would be most annoying to chase them down the street.
This year, I decorated what I called the Chanukah bush, a white, artificial stick tree, with blue ornaments.  It went up a couple of weeks before we went off and bought our real Christmas tree, aka "Geek Tree" (above.)  That's the tree that's got ornaments related to true fan-boy geekdom: Star Trek, Star Wars, comic books, and various science fiction and fantasy works.  We have the added delight of ornaments of characters created by my husband (Wolverine and Storm) and this year the Hallmark comic book ornament of Hulk #181 even has his name in it. (If you double-click the photo, it should enlarge to give you a better idea of the decorations.) I miss having high ceilings so I could have a 9 or 10 foot tree, but I love having more space. 

In the after-Christmas sales, I purchased several more artificial trees, so now there is a tree with horses in my office (I'm desperately seeking a Zenyatta ornament, but would prefer to not pay a fortune) and a tree with some of our sentimental favorites is decorating our bedroom.  It has many Disney ornaments, particularly from Beauty and the Beast, and things which we received for our wedding and anniversary, which is December 25.  I found a lovely "First Year in Our New Home" ornament to hang on it.  It made Len a little weepy.
That's the horse tree, above. Finding a way to secure the tree-topper was challenging. I like it, but it doesn't really work well.  I picked up a number of the Breyer Thoroughbred ornament series over the past few years, and they survived the fire. I've picked up a few other Breyers, including the porcelain Arabian that looks like Ace, and some of the "Painted Ponies" ornaments.  The stuffie on the bottom with the song book sings "We Three Kings" as "Neigh, neigh, neighayay...." You get the idea. 

On Christmas Day, we celebrated the holiday and our anniversary with our friends Karen Bodner and Michael Olecki, as we have for most of the past 15 years.  Karen and Michael O. (to distinguish him from my son Michael B-V) come over, we make brunch, we eat, and then we open presents.  For the first time ever, we weren't frantically cleaning up to make space for everyone.  And everyone could hang out in the kitchen for excellent conversation while bacon and eggs were made to go with the goodies Karen brought along.
Here's Michael O. making mimosas to go along with the sticky-buns Karen baked.  She also brought the shrimp, lox, and poached salmon on the table.   
Len's favorite part of brunch is bacon, which he probably should not be eating.

Looking at the back yard reminds me of getting letters from my pen-pal in Australia and being amazed at the idea that Christmas could include swimming and a green landscape.  It was too cold for anyone except Ginger to consider getting wet (she did, causing Michael O. to dub her our "mermaid"), but it was shirt-sleeve weather.  The rest of my family was getting snowed in back east.  I think I've grown to like the idea of Santa arriving via surf board.  I certainly do not miss driving in snow.

After our first anniversary, I declared I would never work that hard on my anniversary again and we would be going out for dinner the next year.  For most of the years we've done this, we've had dinner out, usually with a movie before we eat.  Often it has been "Jewish Christmas" which means going out for Chinese food.  As opening presents crept later into the day (this year, brunch wasn't over until almost 2), finding a restaurant operating late got harder.

Last year, I decided if we didn't do a turkey, cooking Christmas dinner wouldn't be that complicated or take that much effort.  Besides, Karen enjoys cooking as much as I do (she's a recovering lawyer who went to baking school in the past couple of years.)  Last year, I did mussels followed by baked salmon.  This year, I suggested lobster, which takes almost no time at all.  It was fabulous, although keep lobster alive for 24 hours--Gelson's was closed on December 25--was interesting.  Especially since the refrigerator in the kitchen died for the FIFTH time since we moved to the new house.

Unfortunately, Len won't let us do lobster again next year.  He doesn't like food that looks like itself, even if he isn't the one wrestling with it.  He thought he could deal with it, but he couldn't.  Sigh.

Since the house was our big present to ourselves this year, we tended to give each other books and DVDs.
Here's my son Michael opening one of his gifts.  The dogs got us a new video game system, replacing the blu-ray player that's not worked well.  I don't know how the dogs got hold of a credit card, but they used it wisely. I'm not sure why they didn't let Ace in on the gift.
Riley, who turned 11 months on Christmas, kept trying to eat the tree. Except for chewing up the Hallmark Yoda, which fell on the floor, he didn't take down any ornaments.  Ginger and Dexter just left things alone.  Good dogs.  (Ginger's on the chair and Riley's sleeping on the floor, probably because he couldn't find a human to curl up with.)

We're a few days away from our big holiday party and we are just ecstatic to have enough room for the folks who've accepted.  One year in the old house, it rained and folks were squeezed in like sardines.  Not this year.  I've got a room for folks who want to play board games and one for those who'd like to play video games.  Plus there will be lots of room for food on the kitchen table and counters and plenty of room for drinks on the patio (covered, in case there is rain.)  The timing has worked out so several friends from other parts of the country will be able to attend, making things extra special.

Since I'm planning on a year that will be better than last year was, I wish the same to you as well.  Have a happy and prosperous new year.