Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday randomness...

The after-Christmas slump has begun... it always feels a bit depressing when the holiday season ends. All of the shopping, wrapping, baking and socializing seems to come to such an abrupt conclusion. Of course, in the case of baking, this is probably a very good thing. Even though I love baking, I once again feel as if I've been eating nothing but cookies and chocolate for the last four weeks. Salad and vegetables are actually sounding surprisingly good at the moment. Rick bought me some new workout clothes for Christmas (don't worry, I asked for them -- he wasn't trying to hint at anything... I don't think...), so I'll be making use of those. Immediately.

We had a nice, low-key Christmas at mom and dad's place with Eric, Rachel, Connor and Faisal. Faisal took a few nice family pictures for us:

Although as Eric said, "Faisal is really a part of the family... maybe Lisa should take the picture..." Oh, my brother is sooooooo funny... :) (I do agree with the first part of that statement, however -- perhaps a tripod and camera with a timer would be a better option? Eric would probably find a reason why that wouldn't work... :))

One of the things Connor loves to do at mom and dad's place is run up and down the hallway of the condo building... it's good exercise... :) (We should've ALL been running up and down the hallways -- that would've justified our cookie consumption...)

But one of his absolute FAVORITE things to do is to play with phones and iPads -- if you want to get Connor's attention, just pull out an iPad:

So far, he hasn't figured out the code to unlock it, but one of these days, he's going to randomly hit the correct keys and delete everything on Faisal's iPad...

Chicago has FINALLY had some snow (although not nearly enough, in my opinion). It snowed for a few hours yesterday morning, and although most of it melted as soon as it hit the ground, we did end up with a slight "dusting" -- which is more than we've had all year. (Isn't that crazy?? This is Chicago! We're supposed to be buried under snow by now!)

Riff was quite fascinated by the falling flakes -- he was actually trying to capture them through the glass as they fell...

Okay, I'm off to try out some of my new workout clothes... hope everyone has a good last weekend of 2012!

Monday, December 24, 2012

I heard the bells on Christmas Day...

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Be good for goodness' sake...

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook -- an old German Christmas card, I believe. The translation would be "greetings from Krampus and Nicholas" -- Nicholas, of course, referring to St. Nicholas, who, in this country, has morphed into Santa Claus. But Krampus is a bit of a lesser-known figure from German/Alpine folklore -- whereas St. Nick travels from house to house bestowing gifts upon good children, Krampus finds the bad children and punishes them. He's always depicted as some kind of creepy, demonic entity, who rattles chains or smacks kids with branches from his basket of switches. He's like St. Nick's terrifying sidekick...

Growing up in the U.S., the idea of a kindly, rotund, jolly man who somehow broke into my house every Christmas Eve and left me presents was extremely disconcerting to me... if I'd grown up in Germany, I think I would've needed anti-anxiety medication to get through the Christmas season. I mean, sure, we have the whole, "he sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake" thing, but apparently Germany takes their naughty-children-during-the-holidays concept seriously.

In Northern Europe, St. Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6. I think in some places, this is even considered the "big" day for gift-giving, as opposed to Christmas Day. On St. Nicholas Eve, kids put their shoes outside their doors or by the fireplace, and in the morning they're filled with candy or small toys. This is a tradition my high school German teacher tried to show her pupils by asking us to take our shoes off before class one December 5. (Side note: my German "classroom" was actually a little room off the library that was obviously meant to be a storage room or somebody's office... My freshman year of high school, there were only seven of us in the class... by the time I was a senior, there were three of us...) We, being the belligerent teenagers we were, vociferously opposed this order... okay, everyone else vociferously opposed, I silently brooded. But eventually our teacher somehow convinced us to (grudgingly) leave our shoes outside in the library, and while we took a pop quiz or worked on vocabulary lists, she "snuck" outside (in our tiny room this really did not go unnoticed) and filled all of our shoes with candy.

After that, I felt bad that we'd all been protesting the shoe-removal, because obviously our teacher just wanted to surprise us with a fun tradition, and we'd taken a bit of the "fun" out of it by suspiciously demanding to know why our shoes were being confiscated. We probably all should've been hit with Krampus switches, but fortunately, that really IS just a silly story made up to scare children into being extra good...

It IS just a story, right? Right? RIGHT???

Sigh... the Christmas season is SO stressful... :)  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Random Mayan musings...

So here's good news: They seem to be completely finished with the tar work on our building, because I haven't smelled a thing for the last few days. YAY!!!! I didn't even realize how awesome it was to wake up to the smell of NOTHING until after I'd been waking up to the smell of tar for weeks on end. I'm also excited about sitting on my couch and reading without feeling like I've set up a lawn chair in the middle of a highway construction zone. (Seriously, for some reason, the tar smell seemed to be VERY concentrated right on the couch in the living room... which I could never figure out, because it's away from all the windows and air vents in the condo...)

But here's bad news: According to the Mayans, we have barely more than a week before the end of the world. (And I STILL haven't made Christmas cookies??? I'd better get to work on that... I would hate for the last food I eat on this planet to be, you know, healthy... Because what's the point of eating a bunch of healthy food if the world is going to end on the 21st?)

I've been busy with freelance work this week, but I'm thinking I need to get that batch of sugar cookie dough ready so I can do some baking this weekend. Especially on the off chance that the Mayans were totally off their rockers and really had no clue what they were talking about. Or the off chance that we've misinterpreted their calendar. For all WE know, the Mayans only had one guy -- let's call him Tehuixiapu the Calendar Guy (what, you're better at making up Mayan names?? Go right ahead...) -- and Tehuixiapu spent his whole life carving calendars onto stone. 1600s... 1700s... 1800s... 1900s... 2000s... And one day, he started to reevaluate his life. He realized that ALL of his time had been spent on carving calendars. He noticed his wife had been hanging out an awful lot with Ixcuahat the Mexican hot chocolate merchant, and his kids had joined a rather notorious human-sacrifice gang on the south side of the pyramids. And just as he carved "December 21, 2012," his neighbor Ahxiu approached with carvings depicting his recent vacation to Cancun. "That's IT," Tehuixiapu exclaimed, gazing down at the chisel in his callused hand, "I'm done with this calendar nonsense." And just like that, he dropped what he was doing and ran off to Cancun. And of course no one else wanted to take over Tehuixiapu's calendar carving, because they saw how it ate up all of his free time. And THAT is why the Mayan calendar ends at December 21, 2012.

Okay, it's time to make something for dinner, and obviously I don't have anything terribly interesting to say anyway. :) Hope everyone is having a good week...    

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Random stuff...

1. Question: How long does it take a crew to tar the roof of a condo building? Answer: Apparently approximately as long as it would take to walk the entire length of China... wearing only one shoe... carrying a very heavy backpack... dragging a wagon full of cement bricks... and stopping to take pictures along the way. In other words -- a really, really, really long time. WHY is it taking them so long to finish this project? I'm about to go fruitloopsnuttycrazyinsane from breathing in all these tar fumes. I seriously can't stand it much longer. They even worked on Saturday. Although they took Sunday off, and yesterday morning was rainy so they didn't work yesterday, either. Two glorious days of smelling NOTHING (except the pine-scented candles I've placed out for Christmas...).

2. I'm all ready for the Christmas cookie-baking season -- all stocked up on butter, eggs, sugar and colored sprinkles. Although I could probably use a bit more flour. Better to have too much than too little. And Eric would never forgive me if I ran out of flour mid-cookie-bake... that would be inexcusable...

3. I got my tree all set up over the weekend. By the way, do you know how difficult it is to put up a Christmas tree when you share space with (I won't say "own" because he would take exception to that) the world's most curious cat?? I have no fewer than five separate Riff scratches on my arms... he quite enjoyed jumping three feet straight off the floor to lunge at ornaments and garland. I'm just lucky he hasn't attempted to climb the tree yet...

4. A few pictures:

I think I need a few more red bows... next year... :)