Saturday, December 31, 2022

The last post of 2022

I decided not to end the year with the post from this morning, complaining. So instead, here's something better I found to think about as we come to the end of this sometimes-challenging year. 

Blog friends: I love you. Thank you.

Happy New Year!

Well, damn.

Some years are better than others. Besides getting our new dog, Poppy, back in April, a whole lot of this year has been utter crap. And here we are on the cusp of 2023, and guess what? My car won't start! I guess 2022 just had to get one more little nasty surprise in before it takes its leave! *

Of course, Gregg had to work today so he wasn't able to stay home to help me deal with it. And tomorrow is a holiday, as well as a Sunday, so the dealership won't be open. Which means that I may end up taking a personal day off on Monday instead of returning to work to deal with it. But my car is our only "good" vehicle so we're going to have to get it repaired ASAP.

Even though we bought the Scion in 2014, I still consider it a "new" car. We've maintained it religiously, it hasn't quite hit 50,000 miles yet, and it still looks new. I was stunned when it refused to crank this morning. We've never had one single problem out of it! I'm hoping it's just a battery issue but afraid something else might be wrong. If I'm not mistaken, we got a new battery not that long ago during one of the scheduled maintenance visits. It may still be under warranty. I hope that's all it is, because anything else will probably be expensive. And beyond all that, I just hate dealing with car trouble. Especially during the holidays!

So, goodbye to you, 2022. Good riddance, and don't let the door hit you in the backside on your way out!

*I couldn't end this post without wishing a Happy New Year to all of you! My very best wishes for a healthy, happy, and lucky year to come. Thank you for being here!

Friday, December 30, 2022

Today's the day...

 .... when it all comes down. 

The Christmas tree (again), the glass poinsettia candleholder, the snowman cookie jar, the lighted greenery on the mantle, the cards displayed on the credenza, the seasonal dish towels and candy dishes. Yes, my friends, I'm making my house a Christmas-free zone today!

Although it's early by a lot of people's standards, in my family (and in the place where I grew up) it was considered bad luck to still have the tree up on New Year's Day. Plus, to be honest, I'm always tired of it all by the end of December. I like going into the new year with a clean and uncluttered house. And I've already started the first of several loads of laundry today, because washing clothes and bedding on January 1st is considered very bad luck. My grandma always said that if you wash clothes on New Year's Day, you'd "wash away" a family member in the new year. Of course it's silly, but there's no need to risk it, is there? :)

The only thing I really hate about taking down the tree this year is that we're going to have a big empty space in our living room, in front of the fireplace. Before the holidays we moved the large sofa in that room over by the windows, and it looked so much better there that we decided it would stay like that. Now we need some new seating to go in that spot, either two comfortable chairs or a single "chair and a half". A loveseat would work, too. Unfortunately, we have champagne tastes on a beer budget; whenever we look online to try to find furniture we like, only the really high-end stuff (that we can't afford) ever seems to appeal to us! Not that we can afford even cheaper furniture at this point. We're still catching up from all the job turmoil and missed paychecks Gregg had recently. I think we'll just have to live with the hole for a while.

When do you remove seasonal decorations? Do you clean and tidy your house before the new year begins, to start on a good note? Do you have plans for New Year's Eve?

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Simple, but lovely

What a nice Christmas it's been!

I decided early on to keep things simple and to keep the work I do to a minimum, and I'm so glad I did. I still have four days left of winter break, my house is clean, my obligations (few as they are) have been met, and I'm thoroughly satisfied with how everything went.

I kept cooking and baking to a minimum. This is normally the most time-consuming part of the holidays for me, and guess what? No one seemed to notice the difference. That should be a lesson to me. We had good food (I roasted a turkey breast, made mashed potatoes with leftover potatoes in the pantry, and opened a jar of gravy) and delicious desserts (one, just one, batch of homemade sugar cookies, store bought pie, and lots of chocolate candy given to us by friends) and plenty of good cheer in liquid form (vodka and cranberry juice, wine, and mimosas). Presents were minimal; I ordered some new clothes for work for me, a warm fleece hoodie for Gregg, and a nice, luxuriously warm new blanket for the house. The dogs got a lot of new toys that we hid in their toy box on Christmas Eve. I can't tell you how much fun it was to wake up on Christmas morning and to the delight of George and Poppy when they discovered all the new stuff they had to play with!

The haul: dad works a pet store, so Christmas means LOTS of new toys from Santa!

The first toy Poppy pulled out from her basket Christmas morning. She ran and jumped onto the bed with it, which is where I took this photo. 

Unfortunately, the two stuffed llamas didn't last 24 hours with two enthusiastic canines playing tug-of-war with them!

We had such a good time, at home with just the dogs for company. It was bitterly cold last week; we had lows as low as 15F and highs only around freezing. It was nice to be all together, with plenty of good food and a gas log fireplace ready to keep us warm as needed. 

Martina came over the night before Christmas Eve, after she got off work, and we had our second annual holiday book exchange. She got me three (!!) new books this year, and I got her two. I'm about halfway through one of them; as usual, she knows my taste in books very well.

On Tuesday, I went to see my parents and we had lunch together. It was nice to see them, and I was glad I got to visit with my dad for a few hours. His health is very poor, and I'll be surprised if he's still here next Christmas. I'm going to try to visit them more often in the new year and to spend more time with dad. 

Last night two of my friends from book club, Paulette and Karen, came over for wine and dessert (apple pie, store-bought) and coffee. Seeing them is always fun and last night was no exception. It was also the last social thing I have planned for the winter break. From now until Sunday I'm going to read, watch movies, catch up with blogging, walk the dogs, and enjoy my remaining time off for winter break. New Year's Eve is coming up, but we don't have any plans. And that's just fine by me!

Saturday, December 24, 2022

All is calm, all is bright

Christmas Eve, 2022. 

To all our blog friends, near and far, we wish a very Merry Christmas Eve! May tonight be filled with love, peace, and joy for each and every one of you. 


Jennifer, Gregg, 
Marco, George & Poppy

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

For the solstice

So the Shortest Day came,

And the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us -- Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!
--Susan Cooper

If you've never read The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper, I highly recommend it at winter solstice and over the Christmas holidays. Although it's a children's book, it's full of midwinter magic.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Starting over

 Sunday afternoon I dug out some strands of white lights and very gingerly stuck them in the branches of the Christmas tree...without taking stuff off the tree first. I'm not happy with the result. It's way too dim, and the ornaments look all disarranged and wonky, and the lights themselves are a cool white when I prefer warmer white lights. Since the tree is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season, I'm going to redo it all.

This morning after I finish my coffee, I'm going to take a shower and head out to buy some new string lights. Then, later this afternoon, I'm going to take all the ornaments off and have the tree stripped bare by the time Gregg gets off work. I'll get him to help me add the new lights and then redecorate the tree. It's going to be a little work, but then it will be fixed, and I'll be happier. I don't want an ugly, dim tree!

So, that's how we're going to resolve the tree issue. Thanks to everyone who left a comment on my last post. I'm just grateful we didn't find out about the issue by having a fire! 

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Yikes! What would you do?

Gregg got home from work late last night. I had the Christmas tree lit up along with all the other lights we've strung around the house for the holiday. We sat at the table after dinner, talking and enjoying the sparkle and shine of it all. 

After a few minutes, Gregg looks at me and says, "Do some of the lights on the tree you?"  

I saw what he meant immediately. A whole section of lights around the upper middle portion of the tree were suddenly a brighter, whiter white than the rest of them. It looked really odd. Then he got up and went over and touched them.

They were burning hot!

The lights that looked normal were warm, but these were almost too hot to touch. We immediately unplugged the tree, let things cool down, and then tried plugging it back in. Same thing. Most of the lights were normal, but in that same area the bulbs were a brighter white again and they immediately got hot to the touch again.

So much for our pre-lit Christmas tree. We can't risk a fire!

Gregg suggested leaving the tree unplugged and covering it with separate strings of lights. The only problem with that idea is that we'll have to take everything off the tree, add the lights, then re-decorate it. That's an awful lot of trouble. But I'm not sure what else to do if we want to have a lit Christmas tree this year. And if it's not lit, what's the point?

Sigh. What a pain in the ass. Part of me doesn't even want to bother, but I'd probably regret it on Christmas Eve.

What would you do?

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Winter break

I've finally made it to the mid-point of this difficult school year. Now it's time for a much-needed break and I plan to try and enjoy every minute of it. Yesterday was a half day for students, and staff got to leave shortly after they were dismissed. We go back on Monday, January 2nd so it's just over two weeks that we get off.

 Last month the principal asked if I'd be willing to change offices, since the one I was in was very large and could be used as an extra conference room (which we need on a regular basis). Of course, I agreed. My new office, while smaller, feels much more comfortable, somehow. The principal mostly leaves me be, and that's just how I like it. I've been more productive and less stressed out, and I hope that continues when I get back. On Thursday the principal brought me a nicely wrapped package of goodies from a local baker as a Christmas gift. She told me that I do a really good job, that she's glad to work with me, and that she "hopes you're happy working here". My husband said that translates to "please don't quit!" and I think he's right! (I'm still planning to look for a better spot this spring).

Christmas is going to be super simple this year at our house. Gregg has only gotten paid for one week's work in over a month now (and that came from the late owner's brother). There's been some problem setting up his paycheck/direct deposit account with the new owners, and he's starting to get a bit upset about it. He's been working a lot of hours, helping to get the store reopened, and we need his paychecks to start coming! It's put a damper on our Christmas spending, as modest as that generally is around here anyway. And to be honest, I'm just tired. I don't feel like cooking and baking up a storm, or of putting up lots of decorations that just have to be taken right back down. I don't want to fight traffic, or crowded stores, or go to a bunch of social events. 

 We do have a Christmas tree, and colored lights on our potted ficus, and candles and greenery on the mantle, though. I love lights and sparkle during these long, cold nights. I'll do a little bit of cooking and baking, just not as much as usual, and Martina and I are exchanging books again this year. I highly recommend having a book exchange with a friend if you're both readers--we tried it last year and liked it so much we decided to make it an annual thing! I plan to have a few other friends over for a glass of wine or mulled cider during the holiday season, nothing fancy. I want to do less work, spend less money, and take time to enjoy simple things over the next couple of weeks. I'm grateful that my little family has made it through another year together, loving each other, and safe and sound and healthy. That's all I need for Christmas!

The elephants on these shelves were from my dear, late mother-in-law's collection. They're very special to us.

What are your holiday plans? How are they shaping up? Is anyone else working on a quieter, simpler holiday this year? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Saturday, December 10, 2022


I strung some colored lights on our ficus tree that's overwintering in our den to give it a little holiday cheer. That's the room where we sit and watch tv (the real Christmas tree is in the living room). I decided to take a picture, and guess who just had to come be a part of it?

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

A couple of brief updates

It was disgustingly warm and damp when I left work this afternoon. So far, this month has been nothing but mild temperatures and drizzly rain. I'd rather have at least slightly chilly weather as we approach Christmas to set the holiday mood. I shouldn't complain, though. We've barely had to use the heat and that's going to save money on this month's power bill. Saving money is top priority this year.

That being said, the pet store reopened today! It's already been sold, believe it or not.  I never imagined things happening this fast--it's been less than a month since the previous owner died unexpectedly. A couple of men (business partners) from Savannah, Georgia bought it. They already own three stores down there and are looking to keep expanding. Gregg's job appears to be safe for the moment, which is a relief to us both. We're still going to be very cautious with spending this Christmas, though, with an eye on saving money instead of spending it. Who knows what these new owners will be like and what kind of changes they may want to make. It seems prudent to shore up our savings over the next couple of months, just in case. You just never know. 

In neighborhood news, the turkey I saw on Thanksgiving is still hanging around! It almost has to have been a pet at some point. She's (it's a female) not too concerned when she sees people and has been spotted in everyone's yard at one point or another. Sometimes you'll see her just walking down the street, minding her own business. Other times, she can be spotted under one of the big old oak trees that grow here, eating acorns. Someone down the street decided to start calling her "Theodora" and so now that's her name. I guess you could say she's become our neighborhood mascot! What a crazy thing, huh?

We have seven school days left until winter break. I'm so anxious for the time off--hopefully there will be a lot more time for blogging activities then. Work sure puts a damper on all the enjoyable things in life!

I hope everyone is well, and I look forward to catching up with you soon.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Holiday hounds

The Christmas decorations are up in my house....and we had a lot of help from these two!