Signs of the Season?

For me, the holidays begin when Starbucks starts using their special festive cups, which come in both red and white this year.

Well, not really.
I mean, they do use festive cups, and they do come in two colors (I think the red ones are only for Venti though), but that's not truly the harbinger of the holidays.

Still, there are some holiday traditions that make it or break it for me, and they are far more crucial than not having turkey using my grandfather's recipe.

The first is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Because we've been at other people's houses for so many Thanksgivings recently, I've missed it, and stupid as it may be, the day just isn't right without those silly ballons, and canned singing. The San Jose Christmas Parade just isn't the same thing.

The second is the appearance of Pfefferneusse in the stores. They're not my favorite cookie, but those little half-spheres coated in powdered sugar bring back all my best childhood memories.

And then, there are craft shows. Every year, my mother and I would find a craft show to attend on the weekend of Thanksgiving. Here in SJ, that's easy, because Harvest Festival comes to the convention center. It's cheesy, but it's cozy at the same time. And there's always the hope that my favorite hatmaker will be there.

Reading Journal – November 2002

Nova from Open Diary got me hooked on keeping track of what I read. I haven't posted a list since, well, the first time I posted a list, which was months ago, and thought, well, it's Thanksgiving (ok, technically it's not any more, but the sun hasn't come up yet, so, it's still fiscally Thanksgiving), and I'm thankful for books, and literacy, why not use this as the day for posting my list. And then I did my whole BookCrossing thing, earlier, and forgot. And then I remembered. So.

Animal Husbandry, by Laura Zigman: There's an Ashely Judd movie based on this that I've never seen. The book was both funny and sad, sometimes at the same moment.

The Boy Next Door, by Meggin Cabot: Yes, this is the same woman who wrote The Princess Diaries. Yes, I've read them, as well. No, this isn't in journal form. It's about actual adults, and it's all in email. Perfect for people who have to do their reading in fits and starts.

A Highland Christmas, by M.C. Beaton: Hamish MacBeth does Christmas. At a mere 70 pages, this barely qualifies as a whole book.

Colony, by Anne Rivers Siddons: I read this eons ago when it first came out, and re-read it in the last few days before my mother came because it was in a box with another of ARS's novels and a bunch of shoes. All the other books that we'd brought from storage at that point were already shelved, so I picked this up. I like her books, because she does nice characters, but it gets hard to read so many novels where EVERYONE is dysfunctional.

A Deep Blue Farewell, by Sharon Duncan: I love mysteries, and I love books about sailing and stories where weather is an issue. This had all three. Total mindcandy. Yum!

Farm Fatale, by Wendy Holden: This book could easily be a BBC sitcom, except that then it would go on forever, and become closer. Actually, it's rather like a combination of To the Manor Born and that other BritCom about the cityfolk who move to the country and go organic (Good Neighbours?). This entry in my list made me nostalgic for KTEH's British Comedy Night, which I never remember to watch any more. Yeah, it's true, I'm a PBS kid.

Low Country, by Anne Rivers Siddons: See the entry for Colony above. The only real difference is the accent and the temperature of the water.

Dance Upon the Air, by Nora Roberts: I don't generally read romances. I also don't generally read parts of trilogies out of sequence, but in this case, I'd picked up the first book in the Three Sisters Island series over the summer, and, because I wasn't familiar with the author, didn't go hunt down the other two. Then in October I found this, and took it home with me, but couldn't read it until I'd finished something else. It reminded me of how much I've dreamed of owning my own cafe.

Confessions of a Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella: Anyone who's seen the millions of pieces of clothing that hang in my closet, never worn but still bearing tags, can understand why I picked this up. I'm told there's a sequel, too…

Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce, by Stanly Weintraub: I registered this at, so you can read the review I posted there. Username is Ymedath.

A Dog's Ransom, by Patricia Highsmith: Another book I reviewed at Another mystery. I have been in a mystery mood, I guess.

Face the Fire, by Nora Roberts: Book three in the Three Sisters Island trilogy. I bought two copies, intending to pass one along to my mother, who has instructions to leave it at the La Paz Cruisers Club, for some yachtie to grab. The thing I hate about the last book in a series is that they always end too soon.

Scarlet Feather, by Maeve Binchy: When I was ten, my mother and I would fight over who got to read Ms. and Redbook first. Now I win every time, although both subscriptions are still hers (because her mail comes to me, and it's stupid to have two subscriptions to the same magazine). But I digress. When I was ten, an excerpt from Ms. Binchy's first novel, Light A Penny Candle, was in Redbook, and just as we fought over the magazine, we fought over the book when we finally read it a few years later. I've drifted in and out of love with Binchy's books ever since, but then on my last trip to Barnes and Noble, this book was sitting on the $3.99 rack. Since I firmly believe that it's nearly impossible to go wrong with a book under $4.00, I bought it. Then I read it. Does it mean something that I keep picking up books about women running cafes, bakeries, bookstores, and catering companies? *sigh* Anyway, it was a nice read.

Feeling Bookish.

I started reading before I really even knew what reading was. Or something like that. Some of my favorite books – ones that won't be released – are classic children's books from when I was three and four. By the time I was seven, I'd finished the entire Little House… series, and the unabridged version of Little Women.

By the time I was nine, it was normal for me to have stacks of books near my bed, near my seat at the table, and, of course, in the bathroom. (Actually, bathroom reading was prescribed to me by a doctor, once, but that's far too personal a tale). My mother says that she used to find me asleep with the light on and a book folded open on my chest at three in the morning, when I was a kid (my husband says this still happens) and I know I've broken the straps on my backpacks and bookbags more than once from overstuffing them.

These days, with work and a house and all, I usually finish 10-20 books a month. Not bad, for someone who does most of her reading in the bathroom – still. (And everyone wondered why I inisted the toilets in our new house have poofy seats).

So…this is my story…

I've become addicted to the Trio presentations of The Moth, urban storytelling evenings filmed at various clubs, and bundled loosely by theme. I've always loved monologues, really, and this is just another version of an old exercise.

I think I actually like the one-minute stories told by random participants more than the twelve-minute featured presentations.

I also think that the problem with becoming addicted to such a thing is that it's using time I could be spending writing my own stories, except I'm much too boring. Or at least I feel much too boring these days.

In other news, , of all people, introduced me to BookCrossing, which is something like Where's George with books. You really can't beat free entertainment.

November is for Nesting

There are two business days left in November, and I've survived. This is a big deal for me, because this month is the anniversary of no fewer than eight deaths in my family, and so I tend to get melancholy and reclusive. Um, well, more reclusive than is usual even for me.

This weekend, we were in 'feathering the nest' mode: Fuzzy climbed up on the big ladder and hung the blue icicle lights for me, and then helped me secure the top part of the multicolor lights we put on our big window. We made a trip to Target, and bought more 'things we could have sworn we had, but seem to need again' – like suction-cup bath mats for inside the tubs, so we can avoid slipping without resorting to ugly stickers. They're even machine washable. The dogs got new beds, and we brought Cleo an orange stuffed dragon that has five eggs filled with squeakers for her to kill.

We spent scads at OSH as well, on pointsettias, which, I've been informed by my mother, are called Nochebuenas in Mexico. I kind of like that name for them, and I bought containers to force some paperwhite bulbs.

While we didn't go poke around Santana Row as I'd wanted, we did manage to see Harry Potter on one of the digital projection screens at the Century theaters. I love those theaters. They're not exactly new, but they've been remodelled and they're so comfortable, with alternating rows of loveseats and rocking chairs, and I love the way the dome of the roof soars over your head when you're sitting there in the darkness. (I hate the new AMC's, but I won't go into that here.)

We had a gazillion invitations to Thanksgiving foo, but after talking about it, we decided we're going to be insular and just be us. Maybe we'll take to the dogs to the beach, but work's been so stressful, I just want to quietly enjoy my house, and work on Christmas cards, and such.

Oy, I'm feeling all boring and mundane today.
But the month's nearly over.

Weather Request

I want rain and fog.
A lot of rain and fog.


Because I'm selfish.

I'm putting Christmas lights on my house tomorrow, and they look so much better in wet misty weather.

Of course, it's all grey today, but rain isn't in the plans.

Also, I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I succumbed to advertising pressure and bought icicle lights for the house, which, conveniently, has little hooks all along the eaves just for suspending such things.

But at least they're blue lights, and not yellowish-clear.

Mad Hatter?

There's a play, the name of which I can't remember, in which the characters include Mommy, Daddy, and their son, who is a grown man clad in diapers. There is a line in that play – an entire scene really – in which Mommy describes a new hat she bought, and Daddy does typical male fake-listening lines like, “Yes, dear,” or “Wheat colored.” I'm not a particular fan of this particular play, I merely remember that we did the scene for an acting class my junior year of high school. And it's at the front of my brain just now because:

I bought a new hat last week.
I didn't particularly need it, as I already own a black fedora, a black flat-top hat with an attached scarf (not unlike the one worn by Fr. Guido Sarducci in classic SNL), and another black felt hat, the name of which I am not sure. Not a bowler. Not a fedora. This one isn't a bowler or fedora either. I suppose it's a sort of feminine derby. Black wool felt with a nice stiff brim, a flat top, and a short crown decorated with a black beadwork flower. It's pretty basic, really, as hats go, but it was on sale, and it had been a long time since I'd added to my hat collection.

Yes, I collect hats.
I was going to take pictures of them, but I put the camera somewhere safe, and now can't find it. So I'll talk about some of them instead.

The felt hats include the afore mentioned trio of black hats, as well as a brown bowler, a red roundish hat with a feather that my grandmother gave to me a few years before she died, and a hunter green fedora.

Then there are the velvet hats. One of them, a sort of dressed up Fez, was made for me by my mother. She also made me a crushable velvet hat with iridescent satin flowers – that was the year we /all/ got hats for Christmas. A third “made by mom” creation is a black velvet baseball cap with purple and gold flowers. I have a 2nd black velvet baseball cap with no permanent decorations. Depending on my mood I'll put different pins on it when I wear it. The same goes for the purple and white painters hats that are part of my collection.

The rest of my velvet hats are all from craft fairs. They include a forest green and eggplant purple plaid golf cap, and an embossed black crushable tophat with a midnight blue iridescent velvet brim, as well as a more conventional flapper hat in brown velvet and faux leopard, and the hat I'm wearing today, a canvas crushable hat with a velvet paisley crown in autumn colors.

I had a cowboy hat once, with a rattlesnake hat band, but it got lost between moves at some point. And I still have an old NY Yankees cap, just because. The rest of my baseball-style caps include the a Gateway hat (no, it's not cow-spotted), a J. Crew hat, and one from MBARI.

I have a velvet hat that looks sort of like a beret with a bill, but is decorated with African colors and shapes that I picked up at a craft fair here in San Jose, and a leather musketeer's hat with actual peacock feathers that I bought at a scifi convention in LA, as well (it came with a rapier).

And, for those days when I just want a color accent, I also have berets in several colors – red, indigo, black, blue, and cream. I need one in mustard to match my favorite turtleneck, and have never been able to find the right color.

And now that I've highlighted my collection, I've realized that I've been a hat-person for my entire life. When I was thirteen, I had an extensive collection of sun-visors. At eight, when I lived in the mountains of Colorado, and we owned a craft store, I wore home-made sunbonnets, just like the ones on “Little House on the Prairie.”

Before that though, so far back that it's accompanied by my grandmother's voice shouting “Suzie, put a hat on that baby!” I remember my first hat: It was red, it was calico, it had ruffles.

It was the Sun-Maid Raisin Girl's hat.

Just Trash

Could someone please explain to me this apparent fascination that men have with garbage?

No, really, I mean it.

To me, trash is, well, trash. You either toss it, or recycle it, and you keep the bins which are used for such activities in a convenient place that is easily accessible, yet relatively hidden.

Not so with most of the men I know.

My stepfather, for example, spent innumerable hours diddling with disposables. It wasn't enough to to basic sorting; instead, he had to separate out any paper that could be shredded for the earthworm farm and turned into fertilizer, a noble plan from an ecological standpoint, I suppose, but not very efficient. Then there were the things he refused to throw away or recycle – glass jars and empty plastic vitamin bottles. I always knew when his allotted storage space had been exceeded and my mother had been yelling at him, because we'd get a package of miscellaneous stuff – kitchen gadgets, a favorite piece of household decor – with those empty plastic containers wedged in as packing material.

My husband also goes through trash-related theatrics. To anyone else, emptying the garbage once a week is no big deal, and takes a grand total of perhaps ten minutes (including controlling wayward dogs). To him, it's a lavish production, and involves clomping through the house, warning me that he's collecting stuff, grumbling that leaving a note on the extra bags saying “please take extra bag” will do nothing, despite my repeated assurances that the garbage collector's brochure specifically instructs you to do just that, and then muttering about how much more convenient this would be if I let him keep the cans at the front of the house. Then, of course, he refuses to participate in any other household projects for the rest of the evening, because “I did the Garbage.”

He'll claim, of course, that he isn't obsessed with garbage, but he's already proven that he is. How? Well, yesterday, as we were getting into the car to get our morning coffee, he informed me, “Someone took all the cans out of our recycling.”

I ask you: would anyone who wasn't obsessed even take the time to LOOK?

Hu’s on First ?

(We take you now to the Oval Office.)

George: Condi! Nice to see you. What's happening?

Condi: Sir, I have the report here about the new leader of China.

George: Great. Lay it on me.

Condi: Hu is the new leader of China.

George: That's what I want to know.

Condi: That's what I'm telling you.

George: That's what I'm asking you. Who is the new leader of China?

Condi: Yes.

George: I mean the fellow's name.

Condi: Hu.

George: The guy in China.

Condi: Hu.

George: The new leader of China.

Condi: Hu.

George: The Chinaman!

Condi: Hu is leading China.

George: Now whaddya' asking me for?

Condi: I'm telling you Hu is leading China.

George: Well, I'm asking you. Who is leading China?

Condi: That's the man's name.

George: That's who's name?

Condi: Yes.

George: Will you or will you not tell me the name of the new leader of

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir? Yassir Arafat is in China? I thought he was in the

Condi: That's correct.

George: Then who is in China?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir is in China?

Condi: No, sir.

George: Then who is?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir?

Condi: No, sir.

George: Look, Condi. I need to know the name of the new leader of China.
Get me the Secretary General of the U.N. on the phone.

Condi: Kofi?

George: No, thanks.

Condi: You want Kofi?

George: No.

Condi: You don't want Kofi.

George: No. But now that you mention it, I could use a glass of milk.
then get me the U.N.

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Not Yassir! The guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi?

George: Milk! Will you please make the call?

Condi: And call who?

George: Who is the guy at the U.N?

Condi: Hu is the guy in China.

George: Will you stay out of China?!

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: And stay out of the Middle East! Just get me the guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi.

George: All right! With cream and two sugars. Now get on the phone.

(Condi picks up the phone.)

Condi: Rice, here.

George: Rice? Good idea. And a couple of egg rolls, too. Maybe we should
send some to the guy in China. And the Middle East. Can you get Chinese
food in the Middle East?