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Advent calendar

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I didn’t do Advent Calendars when I was a kid, so I was sort of not-on-the-ball about doing them with Mimi. I bought this Playmobil one off of eBay, midway through last December. It wasn’t last year’s calendar. I don’t know what year’s it was… I just knew that I wanted all of those little animals.

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Mimi loves it. Every morning the first thing she thinks about is “today’s Christmas door.” And the animals… oh, the adorable animals. This is one of those parts of parenting where you have to forcibly remind yourself that this is your child’s toy, and not yours.

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Christmas ideas

Christmas is my favorite holiday. It brings all kinds of nostalgic ideas.

For instance, mightn’t it be nice to celebrate the Christmas season as the Twelve Days of Christmas, with Christmas Day being the first day of celebration, instead of the big blowout at the end? School vacations are geared to make this happen (though office schedules seldom are). Of course, there would still be the shopping, baking, wrapping, and decorating to get through before the big day. Maybe Christmas is the end of the celebration because by the time we get there, we’re simply too tired to go on.

Christmas also gets my crafty juices flowing. This morning I bought this pad of paper at Target:

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Nice, isn’t it? Geared toward the woodsy, rustic look that is so in this season, and which I am really liking. But what to do with it? It’s not as if I’m going to make my own Christmas cards (found the perfect ones already). It’s not as if I don’t have more ornaments than my 9′ tree can hold. I guess I could use a few sheets to wrap small gift boxes. That doesn’t inspire me much, though. Meh, you know?

But what if the tree decorations were made fresh, every year…? What if there was a day spent cutting and folding and gluing, making a long paper chain, and whirligigs and fans and folded cranes, cornettes full of sweets and fine-cut snowflakes? What if this pad of paper got completely used up in trimming the tree, for one year only? What if paper decorations were made fresh every Christmas so that there weren’t decorations to store the rest of the year? Would that be cool?

I don’t know. I, for one, like to see the same ornaments come out year after year. Still it’s a nice idea, from the paper’s point of view. Because I honestly don’t know what will happen to it, other than being stuck in my craft room with all my other fancy paper.

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A Mimi Little Christmas

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Oh my gosh, the mall. Mimi and I went to the mall to see Santa… and it is CRAZY there. The hawkers, the decorations, the rides and special features. Who needs a village square? Who needs theme parks? Just go to the mall! You don’t even have to buy anything!

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She did talk to Santa. She threw pennies in the fountain. She rode the merry-go-round. We did not ride the train. I had my hair curled. She had foils put on her fingernails. We sprayed perfume samples. I got a hot gel neck massage. We ate pretzels. She put a penny down the… penny-go-round thing. She played on the playground. I browsed a couple of stores. We were caught in a flurry of soap suds “snow” in the central court. We watched a mechanical bird sing, and remote control helicopters fly. Mimi… in an eerie re-creation of her grandmother circa thirty years ago… dragged me all around J. C. Penney, against my wishes.

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And now I am home and exhausted. I am coming down with my second head cold of the season, darn it. I hope you are enjoying the holiday season, for better or for worse…

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Grandpas’ workshops

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My grandfather had a wood shop. His was in a decommissioned chicken house. He had, I think, thousands of board-feet of nice lumber when they upped stakes and moved to town. A friend of my father’s who is also a woodworker took a lot of it.

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Sparks’ grandfather also had a shop. Grandpa Pete’s shop was in what is called the Honey House, I suppose because at one time there were beehives and a honey extractor on the property. These-a-days his shop tools are still out there, though mostly not used. It is also good for cold storage of pumpkins, squash, nuts, the riding lawnmower, and sundry bits and pieces like vintage porcelain signage (from the general store that used to stand next door) and old children’s sleds.

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There are so many similarities between Sparks’ family and my own, it is uncanny. The farmhouse, with its junk-filled outbuildings. The pie-making grandma. The work-for-himself grandpa. Mine raised chickens, as I’ve said. Sparks’ raised hogs, mostly.

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And the critters. My grandparents still had a few chickens, in my memory. Just enough to keep themselves in eggs. At various times when my mother was growing up they would have a pig or two, and there were always dogs, and always cats. My grandpa’s cats lived in the tool shed, which they accessed via a corner where the walls didn’t quite meet the foundation.

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Sparks’ father’s cats have their own fancy house. It was once a utility shed of some sort; it was explained to me that an insulated closet, now occupied by wire shelves and blankets that serve as cat beds, was where the old water tank sat.

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And yep, it is called the Cat House. Must have a name for every building on the property. The Honey House. The Cat House. The garage. The barn. The house.

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I don’t remember the names of all the buildings on my grandparents’ farm; the buildings were torn down, one by one, during my lifetime. There were two or three chicken houses, only one of which survived as grandpa’s workshop. Then there was the Egg House, where eggs had gone to be cleaned and sorted. There was an outhouse. There was the small chicken house, and the tool shed.

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Sparks and I are still contemplating the move to the Pacific Northwest, next summer. In fact, the only limiting factor is whether our house will sell promptly or not, when we put it on the market. We want to get a parcel with at least half an acre of land. Plenty of space for Sparks to have his own shop, which he badly needs. Maybe room for other buildings, too. We’ll see.

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Mimi and grandpa (and walnuts)

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The Thanksgiving weekend is a busy one, for my husband’s family, with everyone swooping into the tiny no-longer-a-town where someone or other has lived since before the Fin de Siecle.

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People make small side-trips, though, and there were some afternoon hours when almost everyone was away. Mimi and her grandpa and I had an exploratory amble around the homestead, to see what was what.

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They have a pecan tree and an English walnut tree, and both had bonzer years. The best way to crack a nut, he says, is with the dull end of an axe. We did just a few that afternoon (the three-year-old attention span didn’t permit more). The next day, while we were away visiting my grandmother (who is 101 years old…), Mimi’s cousins were set to work cracking big bags of nuts for everyone to take home.

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And so we have lots of nuts, now, to pick over for the holidays. I love to crack nuts at Christmas time. Food, including nuts, is so cheap and readily available that I haven’t bothered to buy bags of them, for several years. Of course, these are fresh, home-grown nuts. A horse of a different color.

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Happy Thanksgiving

… a day early. The day itself will be too hectic for blogging, so I am saying it now. I hope your holiday is full of food, fun, family, and friends. Mine will be…

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This year the big family Thanksgiving has contracted to only 15 people, so everyone is responsible for more dishes than usual. I have been charged with the relish tray, cranberry sauce, my famous mac ‘n cheese (which is actually Martha Stewart’s mac ‘n cheese), and I think I will bake at least one pie, too. Mimi is at school this morning (blessed peace…). She will help me with the cooking when she gets home. She is so excited. She has colored on a lot of scraps of construction paper, and those are our “recipies”.

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With the Thanksgiving holiday commencing, the Big Holiday is right around the corner. I find it hard to believe that in a week, the Christmas tree will be up and all of that mad dash will be on. I do have the Christmas cards nearly finished, and a lot of the shopping, which is a gain. There is also decorating and gift-wrapping to do, the more difficult gift procurement to go through with, the visit to family and the visiting family, and a few obligatory batches of cookies. In addition to those basics I would love to try a big gingerbread house this year. With melted sugar windows, and lights inside. I think that gluing the walls to a cardboard box, for structural support, is the answer.

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Cookie-wise… I think I will do only two of my family’s traditional varieties. I will also do decorated gingerbread cookies with Mimi; gingerbread men, and the IKEA forest animal shapes, and snowflakes and trees. With white icing. And I’ll let her stick some candies on a few of them.

And Christmas dinner…? No. It’s too early to think about that. One thing at a time.

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More folded star trivets

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One magical thing about having been away from my Craft Closet so long is that I have opened it, and found half a dozen really cool projects in the near stages of completion. I give them a spit-shine and they are ready.

I blogged about folded star trivets last winter. I had two more, folded and sewn down, and ready to be backed and bound. Woohoo!

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