Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Getting silly

For the first time in a couple of months, I can see my way past the pile of projects I've promised to deliver to clients. I worked all weekend, and now, having warned everyone I'm headed off to Macworld, have stopped committing to completing anything else before the trip.

Todd, over at Life 2.0, is also a bit behind schedule. But, like him, I found this just too much fun to pass up:

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate?
Eggnog, very cold, mixed half and half with cold milk (to cut the sweetness). And I like the whole thing chilled in the freezer for half an hour. Lots of fresh-grated nutmeg on top.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Wrapped. Wrapping is what it's all about.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
White. Unblinking. I still have an extra-long string that works perfectly for a 6-foot tree.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No. I confuse it with holly, anyway.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
7-10 days before Christmas. I once had a tree dry out on me, and now I'm paranoid.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Scalloped potatoes (no onions, no cheese, just lots of cream and butter) with a really great Smithfield ham. My Aunt Arv's Swedish meatballs are a close second.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child?
Er...the year my dad gave my mom the two scrub brushes he'd spray-painted silver. Long story. Also: Caroling with my high school friends in a long green velveteen coat my mom had made for me.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I figured it out. No one who looked like that could possibly fit down our chimney.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Yes. That was the tradition in my dad's family.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Lights, tinsel garlands, then one-of-a-kind ornaments. Most of my ornaments are unbreakable, due to the cats. I have a lot of natural looking animals, but am now interested in glittery, beaded decorations.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it?
I love snow, right up to the point that it turns into ice. Then, I hate it.

12. Can you ice skate?
Yes. But it gives my feet cramps.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Not really. I think my favorite gifts have been associated with travel or visits, not with holidays or special occasions.

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you?
It's a time to get in touch with friends and relatives who live far away, and to look back on the year and put events in perspective. I also like having days when I don't work, drive, run errands -- you get the idea. A walk around the neighborhood on Christmas day is wonderful.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
My mom's spritz cookies. This year she absolutely out-did herself.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Singing "Lyssna," a Swedish carol my grandfather's church choir recorded. I found the 78 tucked away in cover for The Messiah in my Dad's LP collection, and had it made into MP3s for my cousins this year!

17. What tops your tree?
Some years, the traditional pointed ornament. If it doesn't fit, I put a Mexican tin mermaid atop the tree.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
Both! I love picking out, wrapping, and delivering presents. Getting them can be a bit weird, but every year there's one item I just love.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song?
"Good King Wenceslas."

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
Purely for decoration.

21. What do you want for Christmas?
Peace on earth, of course!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oy to the world

Along with pretty much everyone else in the Seattle-Portland area, I am not having the holiday season I had expected!

Instead of partying and shopping, I've been at home with three cats, all of us suffering from cabin fever. This morning the little tabby ventured out into the snow on the back stairs, took five steps on the icy crust, broke through, panicked, and tumbled down the steps. She somehow exploded out of the drift at the foot of the stairs and made it back into the house. So I went out and shoveled the front and back porches, connecting them with a path, so the cats can at least go outside and give me some peace.

Since the cold and snow set in, the little tabby has peed in my office several times, and the deaf white cat has shoved a full cup of tea off my desk onto the floor and ripped the metal grating off the heater vent. The big tabby has just been yowling, and that may be because little sister has been attacking her. Every few hours I hear snarling and yowling and they go rolling through the house like something out of a barroom brawl in a bad Western.

I went out briefly Friday to take a package to the package shipping place on Market St., and ventured down 65th (with the car!) yesterday to get a small noble fir. How small? At 6', it fit into the passenger section of my fit, with the far window open. The tree is now lit and decorated and, fortunately, of very little interest to the cats.

This evening a friend who has chains and front-wheel drive is coming by to take me to a small get-together a few miles north. I'm taking no chances:I'm bringing along a change of clothes, just in case I get snowed in, and my sealskin boots in case I have to hike home through the drifts. And I'll be leaving out big bowls of dry food for the cats.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Adventures in snow

A frigid wind is blasting the snow off the trees in Ballard this afternoon.

Before I forget, I want to write about how pretty it all was at 8:30 this morning when I shoved my purse in a backpack, put on a hooded down coat and fleece-lined boots, and tromped down from Sunset Hill into Ballard.

The air was still, and the snowflakes were big and slow and quiet. For several blocks, mine were the only foot prints -- though I did see tracks on my street that were either a galloping cat or a bunny rabbit. (More on cats later.)

Two golden retrievers with red collars came bounding around the corner, very cute until they ran up to me and tried to tug my sheepskin gloves off! The embarrassed owner came around the corner a minute later, and shooed them away.

I went down to Vera's (where I was to have met two friends, who cancelled because of they snow) and ordered breakfast. Only one cook had made it in to work, so they were considering closing up. A fellow with a huge backpack came in and, after the harried waitress dashed by, asked me how the food was. I said "good," and peered at him. He looked familiar.

"San Francisco?" he asked.

"Baggage claim!" I said.

He remembered my name, while all I remembered was that he plays banjo. Two years ago we'd met at baggage claim at the San Francisco airport, and discovered we knew the same folks in Bellingham, where he was then living. I'd planned to take a cab into the city, but he'd offered me a ride in his rental car. Which I gratefully accepted.

This morning he joined me at my table. We chatted about Obama and the news media, and I bought him breakfast in return for the ride two years ago. Turns out he's now living on a sailboat at Shilshole, working in Seattle, and spending weekends in Portland where his wife just got a job.

After breakfast I ran some errands, then hiked back to Sunset Hill. The weather was turning a bit nasty by then: Colder, and windy, and then the snow started in again.

I've put in a fairly good day's work today, and could have done even more except for the cats, who were massively bored. They went out in the snow, briefly, and then came in and demolished the house. Giving them catnip distracted them for a while, but led to a second, wilder, round of demolition. I dread being snowed in with them all weekend.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cold weather, followed by big trouble

The Weather Underground forecast for Seattle says "coldest weather since December 1990 expected during the week ahead."

I remember that December in 1990. I'd gone to Florida to visit family and, unbeknownst to me, the friend driving me to the airport had thoughtfully closed the door between my kitchen and basement, so that the heat couldn't down get to the basement.

Oops. The pipes in the basement then froze.

When a second friend, taking care of the cats, arrived to feed the cats the following day, he noticed that the water was running very, very slowly. So he drove to work on the other side of the lake and then called me in Florida to tell me about the water.

I freaked out. Particularly when he assured me that the kitchen door to the basement had been closed.

I then called a third friend, who rushed over, turned up the heat, opened the door to the basement, got into the basement crawl space, and managed to defrost the pipes before they burst. He then wrapped them with a heating device that turned on when the temperature dropped below 35.

I've only been in the current house for six years. It has a lot of new pipes installed seven years ago, and during the kitchen remodel, that have never been tested in cold weather. Yep, I'm worried.

According to The Straight Dope, letting an interior faucet drip will, in all but the most arctic weather, prevent pipes from freezing. Yes, it wastes water. But it is much cheaper than dealing with the damage from burst pipes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

February's the real party season

This is the time of year when you usually hear people talking about holiday parties. But, oddly, I'm finding people that many people are enthusiastically planning inauguration parties.

"This time, there's really something to celebrate," my friend Ross Taylor said.

In D.C., they're planning several days of celebrating, with January 19 to be a work-service day commemorating the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. The swearing-in is January 20, but a time is not yet set for the ceremony. Need info? You can sign up for updates at the inauguration website/blog.

Ross is having people over to watch the swearing-in and then having a post-inauguration brunch (though, being on Seattle time, it may be more like a late lunch). Signature drink? Pompagne (pictured above). Here's his recipe:

Rub the rim of a martini glass with lemon, and rim the glass with sugar.
Then fill the glass with 2/3 champagne and 1/3 organic pomegranate juice.
Garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds and a twist of lemon.