The Holi-daze

Thursday, December 27, 2012
I think we can all agree that Christmases that fall in the middle of the week should be banned. I mean, what's the big idea here? All party, party, party on Monday and Tuesday and then back to work on Wednesday? I think not!

Both today and yesterday I've half-heartedly attempted to get actual paying work accomplished, but I haven't made much (any?) progress on my projects. Mostly I've just been sitting in the glow of the Christmas tree, gunking up the screen of my new iPad (thank you Andy for introducing technological sophistication into my life) and counting getting iTunes to update on my ancient workhorse of a laptop an accomplishment. I've also been hoping that this pile of afghan edging will knit itself up and attach itself to the actual afghan. (Is it too much to ask for a Christmas miracle?!)

Side note: when/if I get married I am requesting many much hand knitted afghans. This is the fifth wedding afghan I've worked on to date (three of which I knit in their entirety . . . queue smallest violin in the world) and this chick has had it. My apologies to any couples getting engaged this holiday season . . . I'm totally giving you a salad spinner.

Also, it should be noted that I'm trying out the Blogger iPad app for the first time with this post. I have absolutely no idea where the photos I selected for this post are actually being placed.

iPad app suggestions and . . . go! I don't play games (I seem to find *plenty* of other things to vie for my procrastination energy), but would love suggestions for apps related to knitting, cooking, finance, etc. etc. The most obvious apps (Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Etsy) were already installed during a very fun Christmas Day. At least it was fun for Andy and me. My parents, who spent most of the day watching us poke away at said iPad, might have a different take on the day, although we did manage to tear ourselves from the glowing bluescreen long enough for some Trivial Pursuit and dinner.

Hope you've all had a very merry holiday season so far. I'm gearing up for the great annual New Year's Eve crafting "weekend" which starts . . . tomorrow! Excitement!

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When I say "Happy Holidays," I Mean It

Sunday, December 23, 2012
There's one seasonal conflict that I've never understood: when people get all up in other people's grill because they wished them a "Happy Holidays" instead of a "Merry Christmas."

"Well, excuse me," I want to say to these little Ebenezer Scrooges. "Apologies for wishing you well during this season of glad tidings."

Bah humbug.
To me, thinking we ought to wish people a Merry Christmas any more than we should wish people a happy anything else of the season smacks slightly of a superiority complex. You know, the one where you think your religion is superior to everyone else's.

FYI: thinking your religion is the best of all historically has not treated our world very well. *cough, Crusades.* *cough, cough, suicide bombers*

I have no issue wishing you a Merry Christmas, especially when we're within a week of the actual December 25th date. I really do hope you have a merry one. I fully acknowledge that the majority of us who engage in the December holiday season are Christmas celebrators. But I don't think that gives us a free pass to ignore everything else that's part of the holidays.

It just seems downright hypocritical to demand "Merry Christmas" greetings this time of year when one the main reasons why we celebrate Christmas on December 25 is because early Christians couldn't tear our pagan fingers away from our solstice celebrations, no matter how hard they tried.

How to solve that tricky problem?

Just declare December 25th as nine months after the immaculate conception so that we can all celebrate the birth of the son (erm . . . or sun?) four days after the winter solstice. The ancient Roman feast of Saturnalia, held annually from December 17 - 23 long before anyone heard of this J.C. guy, involved feasting and gift giving, which one could argue is really what our modern holiday season rotates around, rather than the birth of Christ. (Sorry good Christian men - consumerism was winning even before you had your savior.)   

The Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum
We all love feasting. We all love gift giving. We all love the return of the sun. So it's really no surprise that other religions (namely Judaism) also have major celebrations this time of year.  

When I say "Happy Holidays," I'm not doing it out of a desire to be politically correct. I'm doing it because I'm lazy. Because in those two little words, I just wished you a Merry Christmas, as well as a Happy Hanukkah, Solstice, Saturnalia, Kwanzaa, St. Lucia Day, Epiphany, Yule, and another other holiday that falls between December 6 - January 6.

Happy Holidays guys! May they all be wonderful and filled with love, warmth and happiness.

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It's The End of the World As We Know It . . .

Friday, December 21, 2012
. . . and I feel fine.

Does anyone know - was the world supposed to be kaput by the time we all woke up this morning or do we all have to awkwardly wait around for the end today ala Seeking A Friend for the End of the World? If the world happens to not ex/implode before midnight, does that mean we'll be living in a post-apocalyptic world for now on?

Since this is the third time (I think) in less than two years that the world was supposed to end, I'm developing a rather flippant attitude towards the impending doom. I'm sure you are too. Admit it. And honestly, I think anyone who survived the Y2K boondoggle is apt to apply a grain of salt to any forecast of doom and gloom. (I'm not sure how we'll be explaining the Y2K hysteria to our grandchildren. "Well kids, lots of people were really worried that the world would end because the computer chips in our coffee makers might not work. Oh humanity!)

I was talking about the apocalypse du jour with my dental hygienist last week (because that's the sort of thing you talk about with dental hygienist . . . am I right?) and she pointed out that she doubted the world would end today because she still had an unpaid credit card bill. Well played! I have a feeling that fate is not so kind that I'm going to escape my current holiday credit card bill. Ah well, better to pay up and face another day than to have both bill and myself obliterated. Besides, if I really thought the world was ending today, I wouldn't have gone to the dentist's! ;)

There is one thing that I know for sure about today: it's the winter solstice and the official start of winter. Hooray for days getting ever so gradually longer!

Not only was yesterday the last official day of autumn, it also marked the end of deer season at the cabin. At long last, all the venison from this year's deer has been processed and/or turned into sausage. Tonight we'll package up the last batch of sausage, squeeze it into the very full chest freezer and then we are done! *excitement!*

Usually we just make bulk sausage (Italian, wild rice, etc.) that can be used in lasagnas, egg bakes, etc. But because we had so much sausage meat this year, not to mention a snazzy new meat grinder, we actually tried our hands at stuffing sausage into casings. The process requires some patience, but really, we made a massive batch of potato sausage (tres Scandinavian, yah) in short order last night.

Here's an approximate breakdown of what our deer turned into this year:

20 pounds potato sausage
21 pounds wild rice sausage
16 pounds Italian sausage
6 pounds Chorizo
8 pounds breakfast sausage
Assorted cuts: roasts, round steak, ribs, sirloin

Hmmm, I wonder what everyone's getting for Christmas . . . .

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Heigh Ho Holidays

Monday, December 17, 2012
Two holiday traditions have come and gone for 2012. A batch of peanut butter balls shitballs has been made and I took part in a wonderful (albeit, very subdued) holiday get-together on Friday evening.

Shitballs 2012: They ended up with little caps this year to use up some of the extra melted chocolate

Friday night's festivities - a wine and cheese party/surprise baby shower/slumber party - turned into a slumber party holiday movie-a-thon, heavy on the slumber, although a glass or two of wine and some delicious cheese (mmmmm cranberry stilton) was consumed by all. (Being an adult can be so cool sometimes.)

Our baby mama didn't make it due to a cruddy weather forecast, but we had a wonderful time playing games and eating cake!
On Saturday, I caught Catch Me If You Can (meh - I wouldn't recommend it) at the Minneapolis Orpheum and I spent yesterday with my brother who was home for the weekend. Oh, and I also slept 11 hours last night. (Back to the whole being a super cool adult thing . . . ;)

So now I'm back at the cabin, attempting to not turn into a holiday stress-bot.

A rather extensive holiday to-do list remains:
  • Wrap presents
  • Make Christmas cookies 
  • Get tree
  • Decorate tree and cabin 
  • Send Christmas cards 
  • Send Christmas packages 
  • Finish buying stocking stuffers
Andy stated last night that some the Christmas stuff probably needs to trump some of our work "to-do" lists this week and I think he's right.

I'm having an interesting holiday season as a retailer for the first time ever. There's not only Etsy orders rolling in, I'm also doing some gift shop sales as part of my day job. Turns out, people really do wait until the last minute to do their shopping. Although I know there's nothing I can do about getting packages to people in time once I hand over the orders to the mail lady, I still worry about gifts making it under the Christmas tree on time! I implore of all you tardy Christmas shops - place those orders now!

On another Christmas-y, gift-y note, check out this amazing bread recipe that I posted as part of Margot's Christmas Cookie Countdown at Newfoundlander at Heart.

 Can you believe it'll be Christmas Eve in just a week? What the heck?!

As we all look forward to the holidays ahead and also work to comprehend Friday's events in CT, I hope we can all keep the true spirit of the holiday season close to heart. Regardless of the season, the most important thing we are charged with each and every day is letting our loved ones know just how much they're loved.

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Holiday Traditions

Thursday, December 13, 2012
I spent a little time this week thinking about holiday traditions that have developed in my life over the years. As I made a mental list, I was surprised by a pretty obvious trend: my holiday traditions center around friendships rather than family.

I suppose it's silly to be shocked by this revelation. My maternal grandparents were snowbirds during almost my entire childhood and as their only grandchildren, we didn't develop any holiday traditions on that side of the family, although we usually did (and do) have one sort of holiday gathering with my aunt and uncle. My father's family all hails from Chicagoland and although Christmas trips to Chi-town dominate my childhood holiday memories, since both my brother and I graduated high school, our trips to Chicago have become increasingly infrequent and less tied to the holiday season.So, for the time being, friends get to dominate my holiday season. It's quite lovely.

Here's a list of some of my favorite holiday traditions:

An annual wine, cheese, and gab fest with the girls from my college's student newspaper. For a bunch of former muckrakers, we clean up rather nicely. ;) This year's get-together is tomorrow. Eeeee! Excitement!

Make a batch of shitballs (peanut butter balls) with my friend Sarah. We've been making these each Christmas (although sometimes not until February, depending on how accommodating our schedules are) since we were sophomores in college, when we made the dreadful mistake of adding water to our melted chocolate. (Oh, the culinary mistakes one makes at age 19.) The chocolate ceased and our peanut balls took on a less than appetizing appearance, although I remember them still tasting pretty good. You say, shitballs. I say, warm Christmas feelings.  
Of course holiday movies factor into my Christmas traditions. Each season I like to watch Love Actually by myself or with my mom, Elf with anyone who happens to be around, and The Holiday . . . because Jude Law in glasses totally makes up Cameron Diaz's less than amazing performance. I got pretty brunt out A Christmas Story during my teenage years, but it's still a classic, I will watch a scene or two if it's on in the background.

The annual craft-o-thon over New Year's with a wonderful group of women bonded by crafts, college, and Ireland is a newer (and wonderful) addition to my holiday festivities. The picture below is the only one I could find in my files where we all look relatively normal. And trust me, any appearance of normalcy is clearly a facade.

Find the perfect Christmas tree with Andy. We have yet to do this. We've been holiday spirit procrastinators this year.

Not quite a holiday tradition yet since I've only done it twice, but I do try to make a batch of potato latkes at some point during Hanukkah each year.

What are some of your holiday traditions?
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Do You Want Cheese with That Wine? Shop Update

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I'd hoped to get a few more wine cozies designed and knit up before I wrote this post, but with the holidays just around the corner (actually, Happy Hanukkah!), a big batch of deadline knitting in my lap (not Christmas present related, thankfully, but courtesy of this blasted truly lovely afghan), actually get any more holiday-themed wine cozies knit between now and December 23 started to seem like a laugh. I have big hopes for a line of Valentine's Day wine cozies though. ;) 

With my annual holiday whine and cheese gathering with college friends scheduled for this weekend, it seemed as good a time as any to debut the two wine cozies I did manage to create for Holiday Season 2013 in my Etsy shop - Yes Sir, Yes Sir!

Christmas Gold with Holly Decoration Wine Cozy
Scandinavian Snowflake Wine Cozy
Cozies are designed to fit a standard 750 mL wine bottle. Pull a wine cozy over your favorite bottle of wine and not only do you have gift wrap taken care of, you also have a lovely hostess gift that will decorate your host's mantle for many holiday seasons to come.

As we move into the "holiday crunch", it's time to get serious about those stranglers on the bottom of your shopping list. Consider any owl cozy for co-workers or your Secret Santa. Knit headbands make great stocking stuffers.

I do my best to ship your order out as quickly as possible. Domestic shipping within the contiguous United States usually takes 3 business days, but please place your holiday orders very soon to allow for any USPS delays during this busy shipping season. Use coupon code: SNOWFLAKE to receive 10% off your entire order.  

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Still, Still, Still

Sunday, December 9, 2012
Oh, I have a blog? After a good solid month+ of blogging, I kind of dropped the ball this past week. Whoops.

I hate to use the same ol' tired excuse over and over again, but things have been busy around here. Like mindblowing-ly busy. I've been working steadily away at freelance projects, trying to stay on top of things with the 9-5 ish  job, and sorting out the holiday season. Throw in the fact that we're still a one-car household (which is making some holiday travel plans tres complicated) and I'm feeling a bit like not enough butter across too much toast.

Andy mentioned this past week that we run to town the most during the months of November and December. (I'd argue that we also do a fair amount of running around in late April and early May.) These are the times when I'm not working full time and the roads are often in decent conditions. Depending on the season, we spend these trips gathering supplies for venison processing or gardening, spending time with family and friends, appointments that have been pushed off during the summer (oh hey there dentist) and doing extensive work on projects that are left simmering over the summer season. Summers are historically hectic in a rather predictable way. Come the shoulder seasons and all bets are off for what any given week (or day) will contain.

It's funny that just when a sense of stillness is descending on the woods, we're really ramping things up. Over the last week, the lake froze over. With steady snowfall at the moment, we won't be ice skating this winter - the snow reacts with the ice and puts a quick end to any "smooth as glass" ice conditions.  

I don't know that I'm doing a very good job of preparing my heart for Advent this year. I've been spending the days since Thanksgiving caught up in the minituia of my weekly to-do lists and the details of travel plans. This week I need to step back and look at the big picture.

Over the last week, most of the snow we received over Thanksgiving melted away in a warm snap. This morning, the snow falls quietly and steadily outside my window, obscuring the far shore with a veil of white. I've been busy sorting out little details that have been niggling at the back of my mind over the last month of so.My TracFone is reactivated, my bus ticket to this coming weekend's festivities booked, the majority of holiday presents bought.

In less than a week I will be spending time with friends I hardly ever see, my brother will be home for a long weekend, I get to enjoy another Broadway show with a very close friend, and many friends and family members are helping these holiday reunions happen. As always, blessings are many when you stop to count them.

It seems oh so appropriate that "Still, Still, Still" is the holiday song that keeps running through my mind this season:  

Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.
For all is hushed,
The world is sleeping,
Holy Star its vigil keeping.
Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.

It's difficult for all of us to find stillness during the holiday season, but if we are to survive the holidays with any shred of good humor left on New Year's Day, then we must learn to take a moment each day to create a stillness in our hearts. I hope the start of the holiday season has been treating you well and that you're all finding moments to catch your breath!

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All I Want For Christmas . . .

Monday, December 3, 2012
For the last week or so, my social media feeds have been bombarded with tales of holiday decorating. Around here, it's been hard to get into the holiday spirit - mostly because it's been feeling more like late March than early December outside.

Today, temps soared into the 40s, which means a lot of the snow we received over Thanksgiving weekend disappeared. I can't say I'm sad about the warmer temps, but it is a little disconcerting. Holiday spirit feels a little sparse at the moment, but it will finds its way to this little cabin in the woods soon enough.

In the meantime, I'm doing my best to come up with a Christmas wishlist, but you guys, it's looking disturbingly and disappointingly adult-ish. Back in my teenage years, I used to love creating my Christmas lists. Now, I find myself struggling each year to come up with a decent list. I really do try to live as simply as possible - partly because of principle, partly because of necessity (the cabin is pretty small) - and I've never been much of a shopper. We are so blessed, that we don't really need new stuff and I hate having stuff that just sits around.

So without further adieu, here's my amazingly awesome Christmas wishlist of 2012:

Item #1 . . . the super sexy, ultra fun two drawer file cabinet!!!

But seriously, I need this. The elastic on the accordion file that I've had since college is just this side of shot. And it's so fun to get all your paperwork in order. Am I right?
Next up?! Paper towels!

Okay, I actually think these reuseable towels from Mamamade on Etsy actually are pretty kick-ass. I'm not sure I can totally divorce paper towels, but I love the idea of have these available to wipe up the vast majority of kitchen messes.

Speaking of messes in the kitchen, we could use a new compost bin.

Turns out that compost bins that have been hijacked (aka bitten) by black bears are actually kind of leaky. After reading that last sentence, I'm kind of embarrassed that I just admitted that we've been using a damaged compost bin for the last year +. How cheap am I? (Answer: very cheap.)  

I've been dying to get my hands on a copy of Marisa McClellan's Food in Jars  since it released this spring.  She's my canning guru.

Ooo, and some more ReCap lids for my Mason jars would be awesome!

One actual shopper-ish item that I've been lusting over for years are the Gussy Sews products. I just think they're adorable.
Posey Market Tote
Dashing Deer Pouch
Other more frivolous favorites:

This print from G is for Grow on Etsy:

Happy London Print

And this Minnesota necklace from Shop Oh So Antsy on Etsy. Except the heart must be moved to the Arrowhead region. Sorry Cities dwellers - the Twin Cities is not where my heart is!
Minnesota Necklace

What are you hoping to find under the Christmas tree this year?

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What December Will Bring

Saturday, December 1, 2012
Oh hey there December and holiday season! While it's been pretty obvious for a while that the year has been wrapping itself up, I'm always surprised when we reach the sunset of another year. It's always like, "Christmas? Again?!"

For whatever reason, this year I've heard a bit about the concept of  passive income. You know, like when you own a rental house. Although I generally give passive income the side-eye since passive income is dependent on having the necessary capital to purchase something that would actually generate money, it's hard to dislike the idea.

Right now, we're in the best financial state we ever been in since reaching adulthood, but that is the result of a lot (a lot) of active income. November and April are normally tied for "blah-est" months in the North woods, but last month was a whirlwind of to-do lists and special projects. While the layout of my days are quite different now that I'm done with the full time, out of the house job for the season, last month I was surprised to find that I don't really have any more free time now that I'm working for home. So if  November was any indicator, this month will not be a gentle and quiet end to 2012.

Here's what's on the docket for December 2012:

  • Write a bunch of freelance articles. Hmmm, may have said "yes" to a few too many assignments this months.  
  • Interviews. So many interviews for my radio documentary project. Followed by transcribing. So much transcribing. 
  • Other contracted work. Oh yeah, that. 
  • Finish making this year's batch of venison sausage. We had a bit of meat grinder drama-drama last month that delayed this process -aka, the first meat grinder we bought was totally and absolutely defective. Now we're the proud owners of a 1/2 horsepower Cabela's meat grinder which runs like a champ. We've made 16 lbs of venison sausage this week and will be making some wild rice sausage and chorizo very soon.

  • Let the Etsy shop simmer for the month and focus my crafty/knitty energy on finishing up some personal knitting projects, including piecing together this lovely Aran knit afghan. I only knit four of these squares (the dark green ones), the rest were made by the crafting group for a recently married crafter.
  • Spend quality time with friends and family who I haven't seen for far too long. While the pounding pavement that accompanies the holiday season can make me weary, I really do look forward to the opportunity to re-connect with some of my favorite people. 
  • Find the perfect Christmas tree. Last year's tree was pretty darn perfect, so we'll see how we do. 
  • Christmas baking, Christmas cards, wrapping presents, White Elephant gifts, oh my! 
 What are your plans this December? What are you looking forward to this holiday season?

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