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December 2019

Auld Lang Syne

Well, friends.  Here we are.  At the end of 2019!

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I love hearing Auld Lang Syne each New Year's Eve . . . even though I don't exactly know what the words mean.  (Does anybody?  Click here for a tutorial.)  I have always understood it to be about friendship, though.  Celebrating the turn of the new year by remembering old friends.  And reminiscing about old times.  And sharing a cup o' kindness.  Together.

So, cheers, my friends!

Thanks for being here.  
For becoming my "old friends."  
For sharing this cup o' kindness.
Together.

Happy New Year!



 


The Christmas Way-Back Machine: Day 3

As I explained last week, I'm letting my Christmas Memories journal inspire my blog posts during this busy time of year.

Today, let's go way, way back.  All the way to . . .

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In 1993, Erin was 4 1/2 and Brian was a couple months short of 2.  They were happy kids, bouncing off the walls with excitement about Santa and magic and all the Christmas-y things.  According to my Christmas journal, all Brian could talk about that season was "tack and tains."  (He couldn't say his Rs properly yet.  He had asked Santa to bring "track and trains.")  (Santa did.  Big hit.)  And Erin?  Well, she had recently given herself a haircut with my gift-wrapping scissors while hiding under the kitchen table.  

Here we are - on that Christmas Eve in 1993:

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(We are at my parents' house, sitting against the "fish throw" -- a gift that year from my parents for Tom . . . that still hangs over the back of our couch up at our cabin!)

1993 . . . was also the year we got a dog!  Before Jenny and JoJo, there was Jake.

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Jake was a wonderful dog, and he was with us for 14 years.  He was the smartest, most loving and loyal dog you could ever have.  At Christmas in 1993, he was 10 months old.  Crate trained.  Eager to please.  Well-behaved.  But . . . still a puppy.

On Christmas Eve, we packed everything in our minivan - kids, gifts, food, and Jake -- and drove through heavy snow to my parents' house for the evening.  We decided not to bring Jake's crate, though . . . even though we'd all be heading to church for awhile (where Erin would be a shepherd in the nativity pageant and Tom would sing in the choir and Brian would clap and yell "yayyyyyyy" every time he saw one or the other of them).  (It's all there in the Christmas journal.)  We decided that it was just too much hassle to deal with Jake's giant crate that night.  He was so good.  And we'd only be gone for an hour or so.  And we could just shut him in my mom's guest room . . . which would be kind of like a big ole crate anyway, right?

And that's what we did.

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When we returned from church -- tired, ready to pack it all back up and head home so Santa could visit -- Jake was still in the guest bedroom.  My mom went to let him out so he could greet us all.

I'll never forget the look on her face when she opened that bedroom door.

Because, well.  
It turns out that a guest bedroom is NOT like a crate at all.  
Apparently, Jake had tried to get out through the bedroom door -- and ended up tearing up the carpet (and all the padding) throughout the room.  It was a total Christmas Puppy Disaster!

So.
1993 went down in history as the year we got my mom new guest bedroom carpet for Christmas.

(This year, Brian and Lauren will be bringing their brand new puppy with them for Christmas at our house.  I'm thinking hard about which bedroom to stick her in.  You know . . . just in case. . . )

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I'll be back to wish you a happy holiday at some point later this week, but I'm be taking a holiday blog break other than that.  Enjoy your holidays!

 

 


The Christmas Way-Back Machine: Day 2

As I explained on Tuesday, I'm letting my Christmas Memories journal inspire my blog posts during this busy time of year.

Today, let's head back to . . . 

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Back in 2002, Erin was 13 and in 8th grade; Brian was 10 and in 5th grade.  And they were busy, busy kiddos!  These were the days . . . when I felt like all I did was drive!  (Because, actually . . . all I did was drive.)  Erin was deep into her musical activities -- singing in several choirs (both in and outside of school), taking voice lessons and piano lessons, and had recently added both forensics and theater.  And Brian? Well . . . Brian played travel hockey.

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My Christmas journal entry in 2002 . . . was written by a mom exhausted by the season -- and ready for a long winter's nap!  If you've ever had a musician-kid, you know that December is just going to be filled-to-bursting with performances. And hockey . . . well, hockey is a winter sport in full-throttle by the time December comes around, with no breaks for the holidays.  

It was a busy time -- but it was also a time filled with beautiful music and exciting hockey action.  These December activities -- the music and the hockey -- only intensified through the years, as the kids grew and moved on to high school.  It was just . . . our normal, family life at that time, and we fit Christmas in with the rest of it.

Back in 2002, my journal tells me that sandwiched between all the various music programs and Christmas parties and the shopping-wrapping-baking, Brian's hockey team played in two tournaments that December!

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And they WON one of those tournaments!

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(Brian is in the back row; 3rd from the right.)

Winning games happens often enough in hockey, but winning tournaments?  Not so often.  So this was a Big Deal!  During a busy December back in 2002 . . . this was definitely a highlight moment.

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On a day like today - when I'm busy putting the final touches on our solstice party this evening, it's important for me to remember that my Decembers now - with my kids way, WAY out of the nest - are so much more . . . well . . . uneventful!  Reading those Christmas journal entries from my kids' "busy-years" are fun reminders of a crazy time in our lives, but I wonder how I had the energy!  I marvel at how I managed.  No wonder I was so tired.

So.  Solstice party tonight?  Bring it!  After bringing two busy kids through many happy Christmases, this is NOTHIN'!


The Christmas Way-Back Machine: Day 1

As I explained yesterday, I'm letting my Christmas Memories journal inspire my blog posts during this busy time of year.

So.  Join me as we journey back to . . . 

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But first, a bit of backstory.  In our household, Santa brought one special, requested gift for under the tree (not wrapped; just set up and ready-to-play) AND he filled the Christmas stockings.  We encouraged the Santa-magic part of Christmas by helping the kids leave milk and cookies for Santa - and carrots for his reindeer - each Christmas Eve.  And then by leaving the crumbs (of both cookies and carrots) for the kids to find in the morning.  But we had decided that once the magic was wearing thin . . . and the kids were questioning the feasibility of the Santa-magic . . . well.  We just wouldn't force the matter and try to get them to KEEP believing.  We decided to just let things run their natural course.  (Although we would not allow the first non-believing child to ruin things for the still-believing child.)

So.  Back to 1996.

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Erin was 7 and in second grade; Brian was 4 and in preschool.  (I used to make them matching Christmas-themed pajamas each year.  I'd actually forgotten that.  But it's written right there in the journal.  And, of course, there are photos to remind me.)

That year, Erin had asked Santa to bring her the dining set for her beloved American Girl doll, Kirsten.  And Brian had asked for a battery-operated construction crane.  (Big fun that Christmas!)  

Once the "Santa-asks" had been made, the die was cast!  I convinced the kids that orders with Santa were irrevocable.  (This was so I could get my shopping done early . . . without worry about being able to fulfil the Santa-asks.)  I ordered the requested items right away, and breathed a sigh of relief when they were hidden away, safely, in my house.

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Now . . . second grade was the time Erin - always a big Santa fan - started developing a bigger worldview, which led to those tough Christmas questions:

How does Santa get all over the world in one night?  
How can all those toys fit in that little sleigh?  
We don't have a fireplace, so how does he get in our house?
Santa brings ALL the gifts to Jenna's house.  Why does he only bring us one toy? 
How does he KNOW we're sleeping?
Reindeer can't really fly . . . can they?

We provided . . . appropriate, vague, magical answers (especially if Brian was around), but didn't work overly hard to convince her.  She was a smart girl -- we knew she'd figure things out when the time was right.

Let's move on . . . to Christmas Eve night 1996.  The kids hung their stockings.  They left out the cookies and the carrots.  And we finally (finally) got them to sleep.  It was time for Santa to arrive!

Tom and I dragged "Christmas" out from the various hiding spots in the house - arranging the wrapped gifts under the tree, filling the stockings, and setting up the Santa-asks under the tree . . . all while keeping a lookout for curious and over-excited children.  Tom was struggling to assemble the construction crane (which ended up being about 5 feet tall. . . and way more involved than we expected) (of course) when I pulled Kirsten's dining set out of the box to set up under the tree.  And discovered . . .

One of the chairs was broken!

We just sat there.  
Looking at the broken Santa gift.  
NOW WHAT????

Tom, always a talented teller of tales, sat down and wrote a letter to Erin . . . FROM Santa.  Although we didn't save it, it said something like this:

My dear Erin,
While I was hopping out of my sleigh up on your roof, I slipped in the snow.  It was just a little slip, and I am not hurt.  But I'm afraid I crushed one of the chairs in your dining set.  I am so very sorry.  I will take the chair back to my workshop at the North Pole and fix it right up tomorrow.  I'll send it back to you by mail.

Ho! Ho! Ho!
Merry Christmas!
Love, Santa

And we left the note propped up on her little table.

In the morning . . . was Erin upset or disappointed at only having one little chair at her little table?  Nope!  Not at all!  

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Said Erin:  
"I sort of thought Santa couldn't be real, but now I KNOW he is!"
She even told us she was pretty sure she heard Santa on the roof; that she thought she heard him fall.

She hung on to the Santa story for one more Christmas after that.

There's nothing like some Christmastime magic!

 


Journaling Christmases Long, Long Ago

When Erin was 6 months old, I went to a Christmas market with some friends.  Along with some sparkly ornaments and a few Christmas presents, I picked up a Christmas journal . . . 

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It's a structured journal, with spaces to write out the details of each of your Christmases . . . activities, meals, favorite gifts, special memories.  There are spaces to glue in a photo and your favorite Christmas card.  And it was designed to cover a 20 year span of your "Christmas memories."

I remember 30-year-old Me (a diehard journaler even then) . . . thinking how perfect and cool it would be to start this journal that year (1989) . . . just in time for Erin's first Christmas!  (I also remember freaking out quite a bit to think about her being nearly 20 by the time I filled up the journal in 2009!)  (I also freaked out to think about it being 2009, period.)

But.  Fill it up I did!

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Here we are now, in 2019 . . . 30 years since I started my little Christmas journal.  I kept it up for those 20 Christmases -- not only filling out the what-we-did and what-we-ate, but also including every annual Christmas letter I ever wrote.  It's a treasure trove of Mulhern Christmas trivia and general life-happenings for those 20 years.

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I don't keep up the journal anymore, of course.  It only had space for 20 Christmases, after all!  And, really . . . by 2009, I was ready to be done with all that chronicle-ing.  But I get out the book each year with my Christmas decorations.  I like to look through it -- some years I just give it a quick glance, but other years I'll read the whole thing.  It's pretty amusing, actually.  And loaded with lovely memories.

This week, I'm busy getting ready for our winter solstice party on Thursday.  And Tom's birthday on Friday.  And Erin and Keith's arrival on Sunday.  And Christmas next week.  There's a lot going on.  It's all under control (pretty much), but I don't have a lot of creative ideas when it comes to blogging right now.  So . . . I think I'll do this . . . 

I'll pick a few Christmas memories from my Christmas journal and share them with you.  It'll be like . . . telling you things I would have blogged back in the day. . . if I had blogged back in the day.

So join me tomorrow . . . when I share the story that re-ignited Erin's belief in Santa when said belief was beginning to fade.

 

 

 


Start Your Engines

It's Monday again.  
Time is just racing, non?
Preparations.  
Celebrations.
Contemplations.

Time to . . . 

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(On Monday mornings, I share a few things I found over the weekend.)

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A Quote

"In a way Winter is the real Spring -- the time when the inner things happen, the resurgence of nature."
    --- Edna O'Brien

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In case you missed the announcement earlier this month, the next Read With Us book is Fever by Mary Beth Keane.  We won't be discussing the book until February, so you have plenty of time to find the book and read with us after the holidays!

In other reading news . . . here's an interesting article from The BBC about how reading has changed over the past decade.  Have you noticed any of the trends noted in the article???  Or maybe . . . some trends that aren't listed at all???

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This is the best time of year to go to the movies.  Most of the year's top movies have release dates from October through December, so there's something good playing at the theater all the time.  Last week, Tom and I went so see Dark Waters and Parasite.  Both are excellent movies. . . but Parasite?  Oh, my!  If you have a chance to see that one . . . GO!  I'll just say . . . wow.  (And don't let the Korean subtitles intimidate you.  After a couple of minutes, you don't even notice the whole movie is in Korean.)

I know I know.  A lot of you don't like going to the theater.  Lucky for you . . . there are all kinds of Oscar-buzzy movies you can watch right in the comfort of your own home!  Like . . . Hustlers.  (You can rent this one on Prime.) (Jennifer Lopez is awesome -- and expected to be a major Oscar contender for her role.)  Or Rocketman.  (You can rent this one on Prime.)  (Oscar buzz for Taryn Egerton, who plays Elton John.) (If you liked Bohemian Rhapsody last year, you'll probably like Rocketman, too.)  Or Marriage Story.  (Streaming on Netflix.) (Probably the most Oscar-buzziest of the bunch, and totally worth the hype.)  

How about you?  Have you seen any movies to recommend lately?

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Although I don't have a word for you this week, I do have a poem to share.  

White Lie
Austin Smith

Christmas Eves our dad would bring
Home from the farm real hay
For the reindeer that didn't exist
And after we were finally asleep
Would get out and take the slabs
Up in his arms and carry them
Back to the bed of his pickup,
Making sure to litter the snow
With chaff so he could show us
In the morning the place where
They'd stood eating, their harness
Bells dulled by the cold, their breath
Steam, all while we were dreaming.

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That's it for me on this Monday morning.
I hope your week is off to a good start!

 


Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading

With the solstice and the (official) change of seasons coming around next week, it's time for me to share my fall reading Top Five list.  While my reading has certainly slowed down lately (I attribute this to all my movie-watching at this time of year) (and that gift-knitting I said I wasn't going to do), I have read some really excellent books this fall.  Really . . . I think I saved the best for last when it comes to reading in 2019!  

So.  Here we go!  My list . . . Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading

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I was reading The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead just as the summer was turning to fall -- and it's still haunting me.  It is powerful, heart-wrenching, compelling and spare. Colson Whitehead provides just enough detail to take you right to the edge . . . and then he lets you fill in the rest of the narrative all on your own. It's just masterful!  If you haven't read this one yet, I recommend putting it on your to-read list in 2020.  (And his description of watching the New York Marathon?  Just WOW.)

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I love Ann Patchett novels, so I grabbed The Dutch House from Audible as soon as it came out this fall.  This one is just a great story beautifully told -- about childhood memories and unbreakable sibling bonds, the strength of family and the ties of place and home. It’s about jealousy and grudges and the price of devotion. It is simply marvelous!  I read the audiobook version of this book, which is narrated by Tom Hanks. What a treat! His narration added so much to the story. I recommend this book all the time now -- and especially the audiobook version.

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I have a hit-or-miss relationship with Alice Hoffman novels. I loved The Dovekeepers, for example, but have been lukewarm about many of her others. (I think it’s the magical realism. It just doesn’t always work for me.)  But in her latest novel, The World That We Knew, it DOES work! In fact, the entire novel . . . just works, magical realism and all. Hoffman weaves together a beautiful tale of love, sacrifice, family, and faith against the backdrop of the Holocaust and Nazi horrors. The characters are beautifully and lovingly drawn, the language is lovely, the story compelling. The pace never bogs down, the historical facts are well-placed and meaningful, and the magic is . . . well . . . pretty magical. I was captivated!  I highly recommend this one, and especially for readers who enjoy historical fiction . . . with a touch of magic. (And for those who loved The Dovekeepers, for sure.)

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Now, we've got what turns out to be my favorite book of 2019 . . . The Topeka School by Ben Lerner.  I loved this book -- but it's just not going to be for everyone.  It's a dense and challenging read -- with a great payoff  (if you can get there). It’s a brilliant book – one I can’t stop thinking about AND one I can’t seem to describe either (yet I keep trying). The writing is amazing. The characters have depth. There are shifting timelines and voices – that work. But when I try to tell people about the book, I . . . can’t. It’s a story about a family in late 90s Kansas. It’s a coming of age story. It’s about parallels in time and space. It’s about language. It’s about raising children (boys, in particular) in a culture of toxic masculinity. It’s about debate and forensics. It’s about mental health. It’s about Kansas and what WAS the matter there . . . and how that led us to where we are now. And. It’s just freaking brilliant. That’s all.  (I recommend this for those who enjoyed Lerner's previous novels Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04, as Adam Gordon is, once again, the main character.)

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This brilliant (but flawed*) book - The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates' first novel - took me a very long time to read. Not because it is a slog of a book. (Not really.) And not because it is overly academic in scope, either. (Because it isn’t; not at all.) It simply took me a very long to read because there is so much . . . weight . . . to it. I needed to take my time. I needed to let things simmer.  (I'd say it also took a long time to read because it is . . . too long.  *Characters tend to talk in "essays" - and especially in the middle portion of the book.)  In the end, The Water Dancer is a story of memory as a power to transport. It tells the gut-wrenching truth of family separation and shares the humanity of enslaved people.  I highly recommend this one -- but prepare to spend some time with it.

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How about you?
What books would make it to your Top Five list of fall reading?

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If you want to see what I'm reading now, or check out my recent reviews on Goodreads, just check out the sidebar here on my blog.  You can find me here on Goodreads.  And you can read my Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading list here.

 


It's That Time of Year

. . . when we start saying things like: 

Yeah, I'm slacking off right now but . . .
. . . I'll get myself back on track after the holidays.
. . . I'll have more time to work out after the holidays.
. . . I'll start a new fitness program after the holidays.
. . . I'll look into joining a gym after the holidays.

About that last one?

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Let's talk!

Now I know that joining a gym or fitness center isn't for everyone.  But for a lot of us . . . gyms are instrumental in helping us achieve and maintain our fitness goals. If it weren't for my gym, I'd never work out as hard or as long or as often as I do!  

Gyms are actually a great fitness option.  And maybe you're thinking about it right now.  (You know.  For after the holidays.)  So I thought . . . NOW. . .  might be a good time for a blog post full of tips for finding the RIGHT gym for YOU. 

First, let's talk about the benefits of gyms as a fitness option.

  • There's the accountability factor.  You pay for it, so you might as well use it!  Yep.  Once you go through the trouble and hassle and financial outlay to join a gym, there's some motivation there . . . to get your money's worth.
  • There's the energy factor.  Energy . . . is contagious.  You see other people working hard, YOU can work hard.  Seriously - you can "catch" other people's energy when you're working out at the gym.  (I work out much harder - and do things I don't think I can even do - when I'm at the gym.)
  • There's the equipment factor.  Sure.  You can work out at home.  But you probably don't have the equipment options that you have at a gym.  Treadmills and ellipticals and rowing machines and stair climbers (which are the work of the devil, I swear) and pools and free weights and TRX and spinning bikes and weight racks and racquetball courts (etc).
  • There's the class factor.  Kickboxing and spinning and yoga and Pilates and barre and Zumba and water aerobics and . . . well, yeah.  All those class options.  A fun way to get your workout in, for sure.
  • There's the personal trainer option.  Maybe you don't want one.  But if you do . . . the gym is the place to find them!

Next, let's talk about some of the things to consider when you're looking for a gym.

First and foremost, be clear about what YOU are looking for in a gym.  Because this is a very individual thing!  Are you wanting a place with lots of options so you're never bored?  Are you looking for community and support in your fitness efforts?  Do you want someone to help you tailor a workout just for you?  Do you need a kick in the pants?  Variety?  A pool?  Heavier weights?  Spin bikes?  Figure out what YOU want for yourself before you even start looking at gyms.

Next . . . proximity and convenience.  You want to find a gym that is conveniently located -- either to your home or to your work.  Because if it's too far out of the way, you won't go.  So try to find a gym that's . . . on your way.  Home from work.  Or on your way to work.  Or within a distance from home that you'll get there.  Regularly.  

Now . . . do they have what you want?  Hours that work with your schedule.  Equipment you're interested in using (on the regular).  Classes you want to take at times that work for you.  A nice locker room with a shower.  Options to hire a personal trainer.  Make sure the gym will meet your needs.

Then . . . visit the gym during the time you'll most likely be using it.  Check out the vibe.  What's the culture there?  Is there plenty of room to work out?  Are people waiting to use the equipment you're most interested in?  Are there too many grunting meatheads?  Make sure you can see yourself fitting in - comfortably - at the gym.

Other things to check out . . . Hours. Rules. Cleanliness. Amenities. Class schedules. Class cancellation policies. 

And, of course, there's cost . . . A gym membership is an investment in your fitness, and paying to use a gym is a powerful incentive for lots of people.  Just make sure you understand the fee structure and any contract requirements.  Find out exactly what's included in the fee.  Read the fine print.  And know that a cheaper gym that doesn't have exactly what you want OR is not conveniently located for your life is probably not really cheaper.

Final tips . . . Try it out before you decide.  Most gyms offer test-drive deals (my gym, for example, has a 5-day trial membership for potential members).  There are often membership/sign-up deals in September and January.  On the flip side, gyms are most crowded in the fall and early winter.  The numbers drop significantly by mid-February.  (So if you join in January, keep in mind that the gym will be at peak-crowd just then.  It won't last long.)

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I hope this information is helpful for you if you're considering joining a gym in 2020.  

  • If you already belong to a gym, what benefits or tips might you add to my list?  
  • And if you haven't had a good experience at a gym, what barriers did you encounter?

As for me?  Well . . . I'm off to the gym!

 


Start Your Engines

I woke up to rain this Monday morning.  
I think rain in December is just plain dreary.  
(No worries, though.  It looks like it will turn to snow later today.)  
No matter the precipitation, it's definitely time to . . . 

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(Each Monday morning, I share a few things I found over the weekend.)

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A Quote

"It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness."
     --- Eleanor Roosevelt

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A Word

This week, I offer you another word from Tom.  Not a science-related term this time, though.  Just a word . . . that means, well, just what you'd think it means.

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This just seems like a good word to have in our vocabularly during the holiday season!

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(Well.  Not so much "cook" as "bake" this week . . . )

If you're looking to add some new cookies to your tasty holiday treats repertoire, the New York Times has just published 12 Stunning Cookie recipes for all of us.  The link will take you to tempting quick videos of 12 new and gorgeous cookies, complete with recipes.  

I'm thinking some Abstract Art Cookies and maybe some Dirty Chai Earthquake Cookies might make it into my rotation this year.  

Which ones look best to you????

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If you read Just Mercy with us (and even if you didn't), this article might be interesting for you.  It's about a Florida county prosecutor who is . . . well . . . just saying NO to the death penalty.  An interesting read!

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A Factoid

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Tom and I haven't had a traditional Christmas tree in our house for several years now.  We do have a lovely, white lighted birch that stays in our living room through the winter, though.  (At the holidays I throw a few glittery ornaments on it for added sparkle.)  When we did have a traditional tree, it was (almost) always a real tree.  With real needles.  All over my floor.

So I was intrigued by this little Christmas tree factoid from Mental Floss:

Researchers Are Building a Better Tree:  All those pine needles that accumulate below the tree each day may soon be a thing of the past. Washington State University plant pathologist Gary Chastagner, also known as “Mr. Christmas Tree,” is currently leading a five-year, $1.3 million research project partly aimed at helping Christmas trees retain their needles for longer. Chastagner and a team of researchersare collecting tree samples from farms throughout the country, testing which are the most resistant to root rot and have the strongest needle retention, then sourcing those for seeds to plant the next crop of Christmas trees. If the team succeeds, your tree may last into the spring.

(Click here for more facts about Christmas trees.)

How about YOU?  If you celebrate Christmas . . . real tree? artificial tree? no tree?

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And that's it for this (wet) (and dreary) Monday morning.  I hope your week is off to a great start!

 


Inspired to Bring It Back

Many (many) years ago, I wrote a blog post about my nativity set . . . and how I loved to put it up for the holidays.  

Well.

A few years ago, I decided to . . . just leave it in its box and not set it up.  (Sometimes you just want to shake things up, y'know?)   And it has stayed in its box ever since.

Until this year.

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What happened?  
Why did I bring it back, you ask?

Well.  I was inspired!

When I was in at the Chicago Art Institute earlier this week, we stopped in to see the Neapolitan Crèche currently on display there.  (You can see it for a limited time there each holiday season.)  It is just incredible!

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Historically, Naples, Italy is famous for creating unique and intricate crèche scenes -- depicting not only the traditional nativity scenes representing the moment when Mary and Joseph receive the Three Wise Men, the shepherds, and the angels but also the more secular world surrounding the nativity (and suggesting the general depravity of the world, apparently).

This particular Neapolitan Crèche was crafted in the mid-18th century, and features over 200 figures.  Each one is amazingly detailed with intricately detailed features and/or clothing.

There is a tavern scene off to one side (totally reminded me of the "Master of the House" scene in Les Mis . . .) which is just wonderful.

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We were transfixed by the crèche, and ended up spending over a half hour just trying to take it all in.  Everywhere you looked, there was something new to discover!  The detail is just remarkable.

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There are people doing all kinds of everyday things (there is a mother breastfeeding her infant right up front -- and a drunk sleeping it off in a dark corner, for example).  There are animals of all types and heavenly beings and all manner of food items and . . . well . . . it's just amazing.

As for scale . . . the figures are a bit bigger than Barbie-doll size, I'd say.  Probably in the 15-18 inch range?  The entire display is housed in a Baroque style cabinet.  Here's a photo - including onlookers - for scale.

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If you happen to be in Chicago this holiday season, do take the time to seek it out!  It's really worth the time and effort.  (And I know there's an even bigger Neapolitan Crèche at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, so there's another option for you.)

So.

Now you can see why I was inspired to come home and set up my own (much smaller!) crèche.

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And . . . in case you're wondering if Erin still sets up her own nativity scene each year (you'll have to click in to my post from 2011 - link above - for details) . . . she is!  

Here is Erin's version for this holiday season -- a most inclusive, nerd-friendly crèche.

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Have a great weekend everyone!