Books, Movies, and the Christmas Spirit!

December 13, 2008 at 5:15 am (Authors, Beekeeper Dan, Books, Brother John, Christmas tree, decorations, Espresso Yourself, Eydie Wight, Family, holiday, hot chocolate, movies, poetry, Recipes, Terry Pratchett, The Hogfather) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!

By Eydie Wight

Lot's of Ornaments!

Well, Brother John has been wonderfully patient with my absentee blog-ism. The last week has been filled with social events, Sammy’s tooth extraction, un-successful hunting, decorating mayhem, and the advent not of a calendar filled with little doorways and goodies but of our busy season at work. ‘Tis the season to be wheezin’ as we respiratory therapists like to say.

Last Saturday I had the “coming out” party for my poetry book at the open house for our county’s Arts Council. I was pretty nervous that no one would show up and I would sit there at the table with an ever increasing mountain of books and a stack of brand new Sarasa black gel pens listening to the clock tick, tick, tick as I tried not to fidget too much in my black velvet skirt, glittery velvet top, and knee high black polished boots. I figured it would have been stretching the eccentric writer persona a bit far to show up in my everyday apparel. Do they make book signing pajamas? Hmmm. They should.

But, not to worry. When Sammy and I arrived Mom and my “earth sister” Joanne were already there and had broken the ice for me. Mom had brought a big batch of my dad’s chocolate dipped peanut butter candy balls and had introduced herself to everyone. My dad’s name is John Richard (he’s called “Dick”) and I tried not to cringe as Mom asked people if they wanted to try Dick’s chocolate balls. It was sort of like a South Park episode. (Brother John here… OMG! It’s as bad as when Granny used to compliment Dad on his cooking… “This is GOOD DICK”). The Arts Council has a gallery of rooms dedicated to the work of local artists. There were artworks on the walls, framed photography, note cards and pictures, music CD’s, jewelry, knitted scarves, purses, and hats, woven textile clothing, and sculptures done in all sorts of media. They had set up two tables for us “Authors” to sit with our books. They had even made a sign. The sign had my name on it. Spelled right and everything. My friend and mentor Tony arrived, our friend Dave was there to provide some acoustic guitar background, fellow poet Siggy set up at the next table and Jonas was there with his book about a half hour later. Suddenly the gallery was filled with people. They were shopping. laughing, eating cookies, pate, and Dick’s chocolate balls. Sammy and I uncorked bottles of our homemade elderberry and blackberry wine and things had the making of a holiday party.

I signed and sold my first seven books! They were all to Mom! But that was okay! It was exciting!

The afternoon flew by. So many of my friends came out to show their support. Some of them hadn’t even been begged beforehand to casually “stop in.” I signed and sold a few more books, one to a perfect stranger, and then during a lull in the crowd we decided to play the part of “starving artists” and all go across the street to the local coffeehouse, “Espresso Yourself.” There were ten of us including Mom and Joanne, Tony, Siggy, Jonas, Dave, Gary, Beekeeper Dan, Rog, Sammy, and me. Mom and Tony were in rare ribald humor and Dad’s chocolate balls were the source of much raucous hilarity. I smiled so much my face hurt. Of course I hugged everyone and the glitter on my velvet blouse left it’s mark everywhere I went. Tony had glitter in his beard, Mom had a little glitter speck on her cheek, Beekeeper Dan had glitter on his shirt sleeve, Sammy had glitter on one eyebrow, Dave had glitter on his guitar.

That evening Sammy and I “found” our favorite Christmas movie for this holiday season. My friend Carole had said her son had told her she “must see” the movie “The Hogfather,” a TV movie from 2006 based on the Terry Pratchett novel. We sat down to watch it, not knowing what to expect, and it was great. Wonderful music score, twisted characters, fantastic sets, dark humor and witty asides. I had gotten together all my paraphernalia to wrap presents and ended up sitting with the same unwrapped present in my lap for over an hour until I just gave up and moved to the couch. As good as the movie was, it was in two parts and nearly four hours long. A combination of the excitement of the day, the couch, the couch blankey, my pajamas, and elderberry wine soon had me romping in dreamland.

That was Saturday, a good day indeed. Sunday I got up early, did the house chores, and started in on my unfinished wrapping. It was a gray, dismal day and as I rewatched the first part of “WolfieThe Hogfather” I wrapped, and wrapped, and wrapped. The stuff was multiplying, I swear. Now, somewhere in the murky ghosts of Christmas past my mom started the tradition of labeling the packages in cute or sometimes just strange ways. Instead of, “To Eydie, from Mom” a package might read, “To Good Girl Eydie Lynne from Barbie Santa.” Or, “To Johnny from the Wolfie Santa.” (What!!! Mom didn’t call me “Brother John” back then???!!! And I miss my Wolfie!!!) Thanks to me, this year we have, “To little Mary from The King” and “To handsome Sammy from the fashion Santa.”

Sunday evening I decided to put up the tree and decorate the house a little while Sammy put up some outside lights. The plan was, this year, since no one will actually be at home for Christmas, to decorate minimally. Sammy helped me bring down the Christmas storage bins from the attic. There were eleven of them and the 30 gallon tree container. All stuffed full of treasures from my nearly five decades of Christmas. I have one lone surviving angel hair (long since banned) ornament from when our Pop-paw was alive. I have a few pieces of Granny’s holly and ivy dishware. I have an ornament I gave big Roger the first year we were married and a half dozen frog ornaments that Greg had collected. I have Rog’s “Baby’s first Christmas” ornament. I have a ballerina, unicorns, a banana, a Boeing plane, Sherlock Holmes, a Scottish bagpiper, Mr. Potato head, and the Mystery Machine from Scooby Do. My life chronicled in ornaments.

Of course I ended up putting out far more stuff than I’d planned because I like my Christmas stuff and I want to look at it for a few weeks. It’s glittery and shiny and full of memories. Better than a bag of gingersnaps and a half gallon of vanilla ice cream to dip them in. Although I wouldn’t say no to eating the aforementioned while I admired my Christmas decorations while sitting on the couch watching part two of “The Hogfather.”

Sammy did manage to get a little deer hunting in during last week. Our work schedule wasn’t too conducive to prime hunting times so we gave our Amish neighbors permission to hunt up in our deer stand. They got an eight point buck and two doe so far from up on our ridge. Two were from our stand, one from theirs. I hoped Sammy would have some luck, but I didn’t relish the butchering process that follows. The year after my second husband died our unidentified neighbor, knowing we counted on venison as a major meat source, offered to share his deer meat with me if I would process it. I jumped at that idea, and sure enough, he arrived one morning with a gutted, skinned, and quartered deer. The first bit of processing is to cut out the tenderloins, the most tasty and tender back strap of the deer. Around here it’s jokingly called “poison meat” as in “You don’t want that old poison meat, you’d better give it to me.” Then the steaks are cut out, chunks are cut for stew meat, and the bits and pieces are ground for burger or made into jerky. I have my Granddad’s jerky recipe. I may include it on the recipe list, but then again, maybe it will remain a family secret passed down through the generations. But (as usual) I digress. The year my unidentified neighbor brought me the deer three of his brothers showed up through the season with deer for me to process and share in the meat. I suspect their mom, knowing I wouldn’t have time to hunt that year, made sure I was taken care of. One reason why I love living in the country.

Sledding Disaster

The unidentified neighbor has nine brothers and sisters. Their mom lives on the “home place” and throughout the year the whole clan shows up for summer picnics and swimming in their big farm pond, the men all come and bring their sons (and a daughter or two) to hunt deer in the fall, and or course, everyone shows up for Christmas. One Christmas when Rog was young there was a big snowfall just before Christmas vacation started. Then there was a freeze so the snow stayed around. The farm has a perfect sledding hill and that year it had a perfect crust for tobogganing. Some of the teenage boys built a big ramp about halfway down the hill and would ski or snowboard off it. All the neighbors, including me, my second husband, and Rog, showed up for the sledding. There was a bonfire to stand around and thaw out in front of, and some of the dad’s were engaged in building competitive snow forts for later snowball battles. We all took turns going down the hill. Mostly toboggans, but some runner sleds, snow tubes, a big tractor inner tube, and some sheets of paraffin coated cardboard. The hill was fast enough that the runner sleds and toboggans were too fast for me. I like my sledding sedate. So I took one of the snow tubes and happily slid down in lazy spirals and curves along with the toddlers. Unfortunately one of those lazy spirals brought me, now sliding backwards and all unknowing, onto the path of the big ski jump ramp. Next thing I know I had an excellent view of the downward slope of the hill. Unfortunately it was an upside down view as the tube performed complete 360 in the air (with me still hanging on out of desperation and shock.) The tube and I landed to applause from all and sundry and calls of “Do it again, Mrs. Hall. That was soo cool!” I gathered my wits and waved as my heart slowed from it’s trip hammer pace and I (hopefully) nonchalantly ambled off in search of home, pajamas, and hot chocolate.

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It’s A Dirty Job And I Feel Like Soot!

December 3, 2008 at 5:09 pm (house cleaning, music) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

By Eydie Wight

It's a Dirty Job and I feel like soot!

Even though our wood stove is very efficient and relatively trouble free it does require some regular maintenance. (Uhhh…As I write this I’m simultaneously watching “The Elf” which I’ve somehow missed in my Christmas movie junkie-ism, so forgive me if my attention wanders. I’m an absolute Christmas movie junkie. I don’t care how bad it is, how lame, how sappy, if it has a few glitzy lights, some holiday music and a bunch of sentimental overdo, I’m gonna watch it. I’m also simultaneously knitting a scarf for my Scottish friend George, in the colors of his favorite football team (soccer) and simultaneously making some microwave popcorn during the commercials. And drinking a beer. Multi-task. How I live my life).

Back to my wood stove story before I derail again (oh, that makes me think of “The Polar Express,” another very well done cinema graphic masterpiece that I’ll watch a few times in the coming weeks.) Well, sometimes, especially if the wood stove is frequently damped down or allowed to go out so that the chimney cools, or green or wet wood is used, an amount of creosote builds up in the stove pipe. Usually we have very little build up and and I merely shovel the fine gray ash from the stove body when it gets too full. This ash I place in a large metal trash can and then use it on the driveway when there is ice or snow. The ash provides a rough surface to the ice and absorbs more sunlight than the snow so things melt quicker. Creosote, on the other hand, is a resinous, black, flaky material that builds up on the inside of the stove pipe that has to be scraped off or burned off with a hot fire.

Our stove had started smoking into the house. Now this will often happen if a new fire is started and the chimney is cold. The stove draft will be reversed until the chimney heats and blow smoke backwards into the house. The trick to that is to start a very hot “paper” or kindling fire and keep it flaming hot until the chimney warms up. No problem. But, this year a lot of our stored firewood was “green.” We had gotten it when a neighbor cut his fence rows along his fields. And, with our work schedules, the fire has been constantly fired up and dampened down. So, when it seemed to be smoking and not drafting well despite my best efforts I thunked the pipe and heard a dull, thick sound. I also saw where sticky trails of black had dripped down the side of the pipe. I knew what I had to do.

First I cleaned out the stove of accumulated ash. This was interesting because there were still several very hot coals in the stove. I put on stout work gloves, grabbed the bent piece of rebar that serves as our poker, and got my brass container (it used to be a decorative flower pot holder.) My “shovel” is a clay flower pot saucer. I scooped out the ash, transferring it to the large metal trash can outside when the brass pot was full. In the process I dropped hot coals on the rag rug beside the stove, adding another hole to it. “@$#%,” I said. Then I dropped a hot coal inside my slipper (I was, as ever, in my pajamas for this endeavor.) “*&^%#$@&*$%,” I said as I danced around the basement on one foot trying to shake the coal out instead of just taking the slipper off. (Brother John here: Family site Sis… family site… 🙂 )

Once the stove was empty of ash I took the pipe off. Actually I loosened the bottom section of pipe, neglecting to wear gloves, which resulted in stove black getting all over my hands. The pipe decided to fall apart into its sections instead of coming off smoothly in one large L-shaped piece. I tried to catch one section. It bounced on the floor causing black creosote to scatter everywhere. As I tried to catch it my arms became covered with black soot. My pajamas (a lovely red and black plaid) became covered with soot. Another section of pipe separated and bounced off the coal burned foot, filling my slipper with crunchy creosote flakes and gouging a small painful crescent into the top of my foot. “@%*#^*$&#^$$*^!!!,” I said, imitating the ancient Indian War Dance of the Shaking Foot.

I hobbled outside with my load of stove pipe, taking the rebar with me. In the driveway I proceeded to scrape out the creosote from the inside of the pipe. As I suspected, there was a lot. I finished and gathered up my sections of pipe. As I turned to carry them back inside the house I slipped in a pile of ash I had dropped when cleaning out the stove. Pipes, and me, went down. I rolled around for a moment like a ghost buster character who had just been slimed, then got to my knees and stood up. One pajama leg had hiked up to reveal a varicosed white leg now thoroughly blackened by soot. One slipper had fallen off, the other slipper was, again, full of crunchy creosote.

I have a sailor’s vocabulary of expletives. I also have a few of my own that were coined when Rog was little. So, outside, in the relatively warm sunshine, covered with soot, partially disrobed, hopping on one foot over to my slipper, I was dementedly shouting, “booger snot, holy tomatoes, fudgyfudgesickle!!!” (Brother John here: Add my famous raw egg dropping… ‘Eee GADS!’). Then, the UPS truck came up the driveway with a delivery of a Christmas item I’d ordered. I scooted inside, then realized that since Sammy was sleeping and Rog was at school I’d have to answer the door. The UPS guy didn’t say a word. He just handed me the package, which immediately became covered in black soot as I touched it, walked past Felon, who was engaged in peeing on his tire, hopped in the truck, and sped off. When I finally got upstairs the visage that met me in the bathroom mirror looked like a painted blackface in a minstrel show. I sang a few bars of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and got in the shower. I spent the rest of the morning cleaning the basement of ash and creosote, wiping off every surface I’d touched in the house, doctoring my twice abused foot, and restarting the fire.

Finally, clean and dressed in fresh pajamas (a nice teal plaid) I stepped outside to feed the dogs and the shed cats (as in cats who live in the shed). As I came out the door a flock of birds took off from the feeders in a flurry of wings and chirps. I heard a hawk’s scree as I carried a bucket of fresh water to the shed. Life was again, good.

I finished the rest of the house chores (laundry, cooking mostaciolIi, paying bills, and vacuuming upstairs) while I listened to “Holiday Pops” on the TV. Madrigals and Gregorian chants. During a particularly profound multi-harmonic choral rendition of “Angels We Have Heard On High, ‘ I accidentally vacuumed up “brown mousie,” Ophelia’s favorite toy. I had to take the vacuum cleaner apart (a mild #*%^#&) and rescued all of mousie but his tail. Then, I spent the rest of the afternoon wrapping Christmas presents and watching “The Santa Clause” on TV. Tomorrow we must take advantage of a trip into the “city” (car repair) to do a little Christmas shopping. I do love most things that have to do with Christmas, but I do not love shopping. Internet orders good. Crowded stores with impatient shoppers and lackluster clerks, overly tired and cranky children, and hours on my feet on hard tiled floors, bad.

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