Mon. Dec. 21, 2020: Intent for the Week — Winter Solstice

image courtesy of Foundry Co. via pixabay.com

Today is Yule, the Winter Solstice. The longest night and the shortest day of the year, before the return of the light.

My intent is to work for positive change, especially on a very personal level.

The more well-known holidays are later this week, and I intend to take as much pleasure in them as possible.

What is your intent this week?

Published in: on December 21, 2020 at 7:38 am  Comments Off on Mon. Dec. 21, 2020: Intent for the Week — Winter Solstice  
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Wed. Jan 2, 2020: A Long, Catch-Up Natter

Thursday, January 2, 2020
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde
8th Day of Christmas (last night’s dream is August’s Oracle)
Hanukkah Finished (as of Dec. 29)
Kwanzaa Finished (as of Jan. 1)
Sunny and cool

Welcome to 2020!

Hop on over to the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions Site, where I’ve answered the questions posed for 2020, which I consider the year of Transition and Transformation.

Starting Monday, for the next cycle (90 Days or so), I will begin this blog’s Monday with an intent for the week here, and some tools and suggestions for achieving goals over on the GDRsite.

Pull up your favorite beverage; it’s been nearly two weeks since we sat down for a natter. Last daily post was the Friday before Christmas, although the 23rd and the 30th had Upbeat Author posts. I planned to post on the 27th, but I had so much going on that I decided to cut myself a break. So this will be a loooooong post!

The Winter Solstice celebration on the 21st was lovely. We sit without electric lights as the sun sets; then we start by lighting the fire (with greens from last year’s Solstice season). Once the fire catches, we light the candles, put on the trees and the other lights (working clockwise from the North), and then put on the outside lights. Once all the lights are up, a simple ritual welcoming the return of the sun, and a wish for peace, joy, and prosperity in the coming year.

Dinner was Cornish hen with sweet potatoes and spinach. It was yummy.

Sunday night was both the 4th of Advent and the First Night of Hanukkah. We lit the fourth candle on the Advent table. I still haven’t found my lovely silver-plated Menorah (haven’t seen it since we moved, although I know it went onto the truck). But, in honor of the first night of the celebration, and because I miss my Jewish friends from New York who always included me in their celebrations, I made potato latkes. They were pretty damned good.

We watched MISS FISHER’S MODERN MURDER MYSTERIES, where Phryne’s niece takes over in the 1960’s. If it wasn’t connected to the original, I would have liked it better. But that constant referencing kept reminding me that it didn’t quite measure up.

It was difficult to get up early and out early to my client’s. But I was there. I took in a shipment — with one box missing. I had other stuff to do, of course, wrapping up before the holiday, but we’d hoped to get everything in. I promised to come in Christmas Eve, at least for a few hours, to wait for the box.

It was Nameless Day — I’m going to start incorporating that into my celebrations. A day for Potential. I have not lived up to my potential in the last few years, and I intend to change that in the New Year and the New Decade.

After I was finished there, I went to the library, to drop off and pick up. Was tired of computer work, so sat in a corner and read for awhile, just enjoying how lovely it was to be in a building full of books.

Went to meditation group. It was a small group, led by a sub this week. One of the attendees was The Woman Who Tests My Compassion. She shows up now and again, and is an energy vampire. She sucks all the energy we generate as a group into herself. I try to be generous, maybe she needs it, I don’t know what she’s going through, etc. But she is such a black hole of energy that it hurts everyone else’s practice. But I put up my shields and focused on my own work. The teacher taught a new exercise for the lower back that helped me enormously. First time I was pain free in weeks.

Another furnace company came by to look at the work that needs to be done. I respect getting multiple estimates, but the day before Christmas Eve? Really? Not happy about it.

Baked and frosted the Red Velvet Cake. It looks glorious. I rarely make them, because they are such a pain and need to be eaten so quickly. But I wanted to do something different for this holiday.

I wrote steadily through all this, even if it was only a few pages in the morning.

Up early again on Christmas Eve. Went to my client’s, waiting for the Fed Ex shipment. Basically, for most of the day, the tracking had no information, just that it was scheduled “before 4:30.”

Well, honey, I was leaving at noon.

I waited five extra minutes past noon, feeling down about it all. I’d gotten a bunch of work done for the client, and I was the only one in the office, which meant uninterrupted work time, my favorite. I locked up, turned on the alarm, pulled out of the lot — and looked in the rearview mirror to see Fed Ex turning in. I reversed up the road and turned back. (Luckily, there was no traffic).

The driver had done his best to get there by noon, and it was only a few minutes after. I unlocked the door, turned off the alarm, signed for the package, shoved it into the warehouse in back, set the alarm, locked up, and went home – where I fixed myself a nice, big Sidecar.

So it all worked out.

Put in the pork roast, played with the cats, enjoyed the tree and the drink. The dinner turned out perfectly — roast loin of pork, mashed potatoes, red cabbage, green beans with Hollandaise. The lovely red velvet cake for dessert.

We cleaned up and put the leftovers away, and opened presents. The new coffeemaker made me especially happy.

I put the new clothes into the washer, and we settled down with new books to read, Icelandic-style. I read Val McDermid’s updated NORTHANGER ABBEY, set in and around the Edinburgh Festival, which was delightful. Burned down the bayberry candle, and had a lovely, cozy Eve.

I was sad to read, on social media, all the racist drama around the RWA. I’m not surprised, but I’m disappointed. I’m also disappointed in white colleagues I know who are heavily involved in the organization who aren’t saying a word. Or, even worse, defending the racism. Again, in many cases, I’m not surprised. But I am disappointed, and have lost respect for several people. I’ve always been leery of RWA — to me, it always looked like a pay-to-play organization. A group that charges high fees and expects a lot of unpaid time put in. While I’ve had good experiences teaching at NECRWA, I’ve noticed the racial imbalance on the national level, and also a great deal of economic segregation.

It’s so painful for the many people who’ve spent countless hours of their time, unpaid, working to make the organization better. Working FOR the organization, without compensation instead of on their own books. How many tens of thousands of dollars have writers lost through their volunteer work with the organization? How many books will always remain unwritten? And now, they find the trade-off wasn’t worth it. What they worked for didn’t happen, and, in fact, they are being slapped in the face for working toward it.

I’ve been there, with other organizations. I know how much that hurts.

Releasing their statement the day before Christmas Eve was a deliberate strategy on their part, hoping their members would be too busy to notice. Then, trying to walk it back on Christmas Eve, when there was a furor — how could they believe the members who feel so betrayed would ever trust them again? It should never have happened in the first place, the process was skewed, and, without a clean sweep of everyone involved and a fresh start, how could they ever rebuild trust?

Or do they believe that their primarily white membership won’t care or even agrees with them?

How sad and painful.

Anyway, along rolls Christmas Day. Stockings, scrambled eggs, panettone, a quiet day of reading and writing.

For the big dinner, I made a rib roast, with mashed potatoes and peas. I don’t eat red meat often anymore. As good as it tasted while eating, I was uncomfortable for the rest of the day.

I took off Boxing Day from all obligations. Read and wrote and played with the cats. My oracle dream for January was a mishmash that basically boiled down to, “You will find allies in unexpected places.” So I have to remember that in January and be on the lookout.

Watched ON THE TOWN, which I hadn’t seen in years, and was kind of fun, except for the number in the museum, which was a little inappropriate.

I did a lot of running around on Friday, the 27th, especially when it came to grocery shopping. I had an encounter in one of the grocery stores what just depressed me.

When I got to the self-checkout, there was a $20 bill hanging out of it. I called over the store worker supervising the self-checkouts and said it had been left. She thanked me for turning it in, took it out of the machine, and said she would take it to the Customer Service desk in case anyone came back looking for it. I was glad about it — everyone’s overtired and stressed, and that $20 could be important to someone. Plus, I knew this worker, we talk often at the store, exchanging pleasantries and cooking tips.

When she walked away, the woman beside me said, “You’re in idiot. You should have kept the money. She’s just going to put it in her own pocket. You know how those Hispanics are.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. “I’m glad I’m not you,” I said.

“Practical?” she sneered.

“A racist,” I replied.

She started sputtering.

“Don’t you start clutching your pearls at me,” I said. “You’re the one making a racist comment.”

“I’ve never been spoken to like this in my life!”

“Get used to it. Or change your behavior.” I went about my checkout as she huffed off, but the whole thing depressed me.

I went to Michael’s to take advantage of their sale. I found a small, artificial tree, and some white fabric roses I want to use to decorate it. I found a Santa on sale (for my collection) and a pineapple ornament. And candles (one of the few places that still sells tapers) and thank you notes.

Then to another grocery store, home, unloaded, to the library to drop off and pick up, home to read and write, because that’s all I felt up to.

However, in the late afternoon, I saw a vanity table go up on Craigslist just a few miles away. I jumped into the car, raced over, and wrestled the table and its chair into the car. I’ve always wanted one.

Watched CALL ME MADAM, which I’d never seen before. It was a lot of fun. Now I’ve got the song, “You’re Not Sick, You’re Just in Love” stuck in my head. For days.

Woke up Saturday, having lost the dream that was February’s oracle. I know it had something to do with organization and was positive.

Got the vanity table and chair out of the car and up the stairs. The chair is too high for the table, but that’s okay. It was a stage prop and had a fake mirror on it, but the real one came with it, and I swapped them out. It’s a really cool piece. I have to repaint it in spring and touch up the gold edging, but I like it.

Tessa wasn’t sure about it, but within two days, she was sitting on top of it, lording it over Charlotte on the floor.

I didn’t remember March’s dream, but I woke up calm, so I hope that’s a good sign for March.

Put together a platter of baked goods and drove it to the Emergency Vet to thank them for their kindness through tough times. Took 6A back, to enjoy the nice day.

Read and wrote. Made pork banh mi for a late lunch, which meant we really didn’t want much dinner.

I’m reading Lucy Worsley’s biography of Jane Austen, which is quite good. Came across information on Susanna Centlivre, the most famous female playwright of the 18th Century. Jane Austen and her family used to perform her plays as part of their theatricals. Susanna will be my top choice to write about for 365 Women next year.

Woke up late on Sunday. Couldn’t remember my dream, so let’s hope that means a quiet April, too.

Wrote. Did laundry. Finished THE QUALITY OF LIGHT. What a relief to get it done. It’s a one act, and I barely scratched the surface of time and place, but I picked one dramatic incident in their lives and, hopefully, did it justice. I hope I have the chance to do more research, especially on the Bibiana family of theatrical scene painters. I would love to do a piece about them.

We watched THE ROYAL WEDDING. It has two of Fred Astaire’s most famous dances in it — the one with the hatrack, and the one where he dances up the walls and on the ceiling. Great filmmaking there, but the rest of the movie didn’t work for me. I especially hated the character of Ellen. What a whiny, unprofessional little brat. There’s no way she could have achieved success with her brother as a team with an attitude and behavior like hers.

Didn’t remember my dream when I woke up on Monday morning, so I hope that means May will be calm!

Up at 5, morning routine, did a final proofread of THE QUALITY OF LIGHT so I could send it out. Got it off my desk and onto the company’s desk.

Was at my client’s by 8. Worked on Year-End stuff. Got out a mailing for next week’s big trade show.

Followed up with a colleague with whom I want to do an interview for Biblio Paradise. He’d never gotten the materials, so I re-sent them.

The weather was awful. Raining, switching to sleet, switching back.

Meditation was cancelled, sadly. Swung by the library to drop off and pick up. Went home and sat zazen on my own.

Dinner, reading. I read Elinor Lipman’s essays, I CAN’T COMPLAIN. They are lovely.

Up early on the 31st. At my client’s by 8 AM. Got out two more email blasts, worked on some appointments for the trade show. Didn’t remember my dream, so hopefully that means a quiet June.

Got the information on the first shipment of contest entries that is on its way. I’m only doing two categories, not three, this year.

Downloaded a bunch of Susanna Centlivre plays onto my Kindle from Project Gutenberg.

Interacting on Twitter with a fellow author, I decided I wanted to feature her on A BIBLIO PARADISE, too. Plus, I have to ask my friend Arlene if she wants a slot for the book that released a couple of months ago.

Receipt of THE QUALITY OF LIGHT was acknowledged. I’m glad.

Stopped at the grocery store and the liquor store on my way home from the client’s. Made the chocolate/honey/almond/fig bites and a peppermint/chocolate cake. Dinner was salmon with a brown sugar/lemon/mustard/cumin glaze, mashed potatoes, and spinach. Yummy.

Read LISTENING VALLEY by D.E. Stevenson. Love the line, “You need to make friends with your life.” I want to do that in the coming year.

Finished LV and started THE TWO MRS. ABBOTTS, by the same author. I really love her work.

Burned down the bayberry candle. Let the old year out of the back door, welcomed the New Year in by the front door. I wish they did First Footing here.

Raised a glass as we watched the ball go down on Times Square. I’m grateful I used to be able to watch from my living room window, and grateful I no longer live there.

Slept well, up at a decent hour. The day did not start off well. I’d forgotten to make ice, which delayed the Fire and Ice ritual. The bathtub stopper didn’t work properly, so the Abundance bath bomb dissolved before I could soak in it. I fixed the drain and made my own concoction. But by then, we were out of hot water, so I splashed around in lukewarm water. I hope it’s a case of “bad dress rehearsal, good opening” and not “2020 is gonna suck.”

Especially because I came into the year feeling better and more centered than usual. Instead of forced optimism out of desperation, I felt much better at the end of 2019. Glad to see it gone, but able to release the ghosts of past mistakes. I realized, as I fretted over mistakes I made back in the 1980s, for goodness’ sake, that the people involved probably don’t even remember who I am anymore. I am some random chick who was in their lives for a few months, not someone important. They lived their lives, I lived mine. I don’t have to still feel bad about fleeting mistakes from 40 years ago. That gave me a sense of liberation.

So Jan. 1 starting off with things going wrong was upsetting. But, again, none of it was monumental. So I don’t get the bath the way I wanted it. So what? I came up with an alternative and it worked. It’s not important in the scheme of the universe.

The Eggs Benedict was delicious. I love Eggs Benedict.

I sent in my proposal to 365 Women. I had to pick three possible women to write about, so I picked Susanna Centlivre, Isabella Goodwin, and Frances Marion. I can’t write about all three (and said so) this year, with my plans to do the additional Kate Warne plays and the play about the two female authors. So we’ll see what happens.

I wrote 8 pages of a new play called “Trust.” It’s a short play, based on an idea I had last month. I have to do some research on a couple of myths, and then I can finish it. It’s only going to be about 10-12 pages. I have it aimed to at least one market so far.

I took a half hour walk because it was such a nice day and I’m trying to walk more. Wandered around the neighborhood and found a warren of streets and sweet houses I never knew existed. People waved as I walked past and I waved back.

Started reading Lauren Dane’s BLOOD AND BLADE, her latest Goddess of the Blade series, which I thoroughly enjoy.

Dinner was ham glazed with bourbon and molasses, mashed potatoes, and my special carrot-parsnip in mushroom sauce concoction. It was good.

Made bourbon balls that will be given as gifts to the work colleagues I’m having over on Friday. They turned out well.

Watched THE BELLE OF NEW YORK. What a hot mess. Fred Astaire and Vera-Ellen’s dancing was good, but there wasn’t much story. It started as a rip-off of GUYS AND DOLLS and went. . . nowhere. The women’s costumes were lovely, though. The dresses designed for the dances were superb. Helen Rose designed the women’s costumes. There was a different designer for the men’s costumes. More than half the movie is dance numbers, which is a relief, because the rest of it is a mess.

Up early this morning. Didn’t remember my dreams, so here’s hoping for a quiet August!

Wrote a few pages on the Winter Solstice romance. Started weight training again, before my yoga/meditation practice. I’d stopped late last summer when my back started bothering me. But I need to start up again. I definitely felt it by the end of it. I will be sore tomorrow!

I am happy to say that I meditated at least once a day EVERY day in both 2018 & 2019. It’s made a huge difference.

Library this morning, getting out some interview questions to people, posting ahead on some of the blogs, and then I have to track down a few things for tomorrow’s get-together.

I’ll clean the house this afternoon. And make the rum cake for tomorrow. Tomorrow morning, early, I’ll go to the grocery store for the last few things, prepare them, and swing by the library for a bit.

The weekend is about taking down the decorations and packing them away. I’m doing it a few days early this year (I prefer to wait until Jan. 6). But the 6th is a Monday, I’m not throwing a Twelfth Night party this year, and it makes more sense to take everything down over two days of weekend. After all, it took 3 weeks to put up!

Hope all of you had a great holiday season. New Year, New Decade!

So starts The Year of Transformation.

 

Fri. Dec. 20, 2019: Heading into Holidays

Friday, December 20, 2019
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Yesterday was crazy busy and today is the same. Deliveries, finishing client projects, getting out the last few cards. One more present to wrap — all the shopping is done.

We re-watched WHITE CHRISTMAS last night — I could watch Vera-Ellen and Danny Kaye dance for days. There are still some “ouch” moments, but nowhere near the racism of HOLIDAY INN.

Overslept this morning, then made another batch of Tollhouse Cookies. Ran to the store for the last bits I need for Solstice Dinner tomorrow, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.

I have a long day at the client’s on Monday, and then a shorter one on Tuesday, and then I’m off for the rest of the week, as far as clients go. I still have to finish THE QUALITY OF LIGHT, but that’s going to be my focus, other than enjoying the holidays.

Have a great one, and I’ll talk to you on the other side of them!

Published in: on December 20, 2019 at 10:18 am  Comments Off on Fri. Dec. 20, 2019: Heading into Holidays  
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Wed. Dec. 18, 2019:Keep Moving, Or I’ll Decorate You

Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Weather clearing a bit

Hop on over to Ink-Dipped Advice for the final post of the year.

We had a bit of snow overnight Monday into Tuesday, turning into freexing rain for a slushy mix.

I couldn’t make it to meditation Monday afternoon due to errands — cookie deliveries, post office (huge lines with people mailing several dozen packages each), dropping off and picking up books at the library, and so forth and so on.

Next batch of stained glass cupcakes will be baked tonight, along with more tollhouse cookies. First year I’ve ever run low on those!

Monday night, watched MRS. POLLIFAX, SPY starring Rosalind Russell. Odd movie, but she’s great.

A bunch of packages arrived, which is always fun.

Up early on Tuesday, got out my last review of the year and invoiced, went in to my client’s early. I’m trying to get ahead on things before the holiday madness. Attended an impeachment rally. In spite of the weather, a pretty decent turnout for Cape Cod.

I think I’m done decorating, at least inside the house. If it didn’t move, it was decorated, and that included putting bows on lampshades. The cats are sleeping with one eye open, for fear of getting decorated, too.

At my client’s early today, because we’re leaving early, to have our holiday lunch at the Old Yarmouth Inn. I’ve always wanted to go there.

It means missing the Remote chat, but I’ll catch up later.

More deliveries tomorrow and Friday — hoping to have them all done by then. Getting out the rest of the packages this afternoon, I hope; if not, first thing tomorrow. The last of the cards are going out today.

Then comes preparations for Saturday’s Winter Solstice celebration, and enjoying the holidays. I’ll be doing some client work and finishing A QUALITY OF LIGHT, but that’s my list. Planning, of course, for 2020, and maybe getting ahead on a few of those posts.

But mostly, I want to read and rest and eat and have a quiet few days at home.

Published in: on December 18, 2019 at 6:19 am  Comments (2)  
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Tues. Dec. 17, 2019: Trying to Stay On Top of It All

Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Lousy weather

Hop on over to A Biblio Paradise, where I talk about one of my favorite Winter Holiday books.

Busy few days. Sorry I didn’t post at all on Friday. I was up at 5:30 and out of the house by 7. Put gas in the car, then drove up to Plymouth, to my regular mechanic, to give them their holiday treats and get the yearly inspection done.

The car passed. All those things the place that replaced my battery told me I had to pay $1800 to get done or else not pass inspection — NONE of them were true. Which makes me both angry and relieved.

I’ve spent the past nearly three months in agony fearing the car wouldn’t pass, and I couldn’t afford the additional work. Because I was lied to.

Stopped at Market Basket on the way back to pick up a few things. Swung by the library to pick up a book and talk to the librarian who took her first trip to NYC this past week, and I wrote up directions to the stuff she wanted to see. She had a great time.

Then, I just hit a wall. I was so physically and emotionally exhausted that I couldn’t do much more than play with the cats, do some more decorating, and read.

I managed to pull it together in the late afternoon to put together and deliver the cookie platters to the neighbors. It was fun — a chance for us to catch up. We are all friendly in passing and help each other when we need it, but every now and again, it’s nice to spend some time in actual conversation. We are lucky in our neighbors. Most of them, anyway.

It looks like my health insurance might be sorted out for the next year. Wouldn’t that be nice for a change?

On Thursday night, we watched the version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL starring Alistair Sims, which is still my favorite. Friday night, we watched HOLIDAY INN, which I had ordered from the library by accident, thinking it was the Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye version later named WHITE CHRISTMAS.

Well, it wasn’t. It was a Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire film in black & white — also using the song “White Christmas” — and what a horrid movie. The racism — especially against blacks, with an entire musical number in blackface, and the awful way the black characters were written, anti-Semitic comments, the misogyny, and the fact that the characters are all so mean to each other. Awful. On so many levels. Some of the dance numbers are good, but the plot, characters, and viciousness of the movie are hateful. To think that, at any point in our history, that was considered “okay” much less acceptable, is discouraging.

Saturday morning, woke up to a bad storm with pounding rain. Made it through the flooded streets to the store to pick up a few things, and barely made it home. If I’d waited even a half hour more, some of the streets would have been impassable.

Made stollen, the traditional Dresden stollen recipe, from Mimi Sheraton’s German cookbook. Upped the almond extract a bit.

The recipe took me 8 hours to make last year, but only 6 hours this year, with the mixing and the rising. The yeast was fresher, and it rose faster.

This recipe makes 3 loaves of about 3 pounds apiece. When you think that a single pound of it from a store or ordered online costs anywhere from $9.99 to $34 and tastes like cardboard or could be used for a doorstop, this is a much better choice. In addition to being absolutely delicious. It’s an all-day project, but worth it.

Just about finished my cards on Saturday night, except for a few where I need to hunt down addresses.

Worked on the books for review. Started preparations for Winter Solstice, which is next Saturday. Got some writing done.

We put up the reindeer collection and the nutcracker collection, and cleared out my office, so that we can put up the tree in there. I cleaned up the roll-top desk, and I want to clear off my computer desk, so I can start the New Year and the new decade, with a clean desk.

I will have to make the next batch of stained glass cupcakes either today or tomorrow, and another batch of tollhouse cookies. I’m still making deliveries.

Sunday, I was up early and creating a new muffin recipe with orange, cranberry, and chocolate. It turned out well, although I think I will add some cloves next go round.

Got some writing done. Put up the tree in my office, and started decorating the rest of the office.

Watching THE QUEENS OF MYSTERY. There’s a lot of clever, fun stuff in it, but sometimes I feel it tries to hard to do too much and gets a little unfocused.

Monday, it was off to my client’s early (since we’re leaving early for our holiday lunch together). On the way, made some more cookie platter deliveries. Client work was okay, albeit a bit chaotic. Headed to the library after, to get some other work done, and send off one of the reviews.

Early at my client’s today, and then a couple of other appointments after. Decent first writing sessions of the day both days. THE QUALITY OF LIGHT is chugging along, and it will get to where it needs to go on time.

I’m working on my next essay for Medium, which I hope to post this week sometime.
Planning to finish up the reviews, so I can get them out and invoiced, either today or tomorrow.

This year, I’m very much hearth-and-home for the holidays. I’d rather do cards and cookie platters than running around to all the holiday networking events. My focus needs to be on other things right now, focused on the home front and the upcoming changes, not on socializing.

Published in: on December 17, 2019 at 6:21 am  Comments Off on Tues. Dec. 17, 2019: Trying to Stay On Top of It All  
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Mon. Dec. 9, 2019: The Joy of Mixing Holiday Traditions & Creating Your Own #upbeatauthors

bag-21467_1920
image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures via pixabay.com

Monday, December 9, 2019
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde

One of the things I loved about living in NYC and working in theatre was that we had an international community and all shared our holiday traditions.

I often joke that, for me, the holiday season starts on October 31 (Samhain/Halloween) and lasts until January 6 (Twelfth Night).

Only it’s not really a joke.

Today is December 9. Sunday, December 1 was the First of Advent. We have a table with an advent wreath, and one candle for each of the Four Advents, plus the bayberry candle at the center that is lit on Christmas Eve. We burn the candle, adding one each Advent, until we burn down all five on Christmas Eve.

We have red ribbons hanging down the sides of our doors and windows, topped with pinecones and other decorations. We fasten the cards we receive to those ribbons, so we can enjoy them all month, and have fond memories of our friends.

On the night of December 5 going into December 6, we celebrated St. Nicholas Day. We put out a shoe (a clean one, or one with a little bowl tucked in it) and in the morning, it’s filled with candy, and maybe a funny little toy. This is a tradition both my parents celebrated as children in Germany.

This upcoming Friday the 13th, we will celebrate Santa Lucia, with white candles and spicy cookies. There’s a lovely Scandinavian festival at a nearby Lutheran church, and we often attend. Sometimes, during this time, one of the Episcopalian churches in the area has a concert of Celtic harp music, which we also enjoy.

When possible, we pop into Boston to see THE NUTCRACKER. (In NYC, I saw it at NYC Ballet, where one of my friends is a dresser). If we don’t get to go and see it, at the very least, we play the music.

Over the weeks, we watch favorite holiday movies like WHITE CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, MIRACLE ON 34TH ST., ELF — and often try some new ones.

On the 21st, is my biggest celebration of the season, the Winter Solstice. At sunset, we let the entire house go dark. Then, we light the fire in the fireplace. From there, we light the candles. Then, we turn on lamps and the outside lights, to welcome the turn of the wheel and the return of the Sun. It’s on a weekend, so I’ll be able to stay up through the dark night and get some sleep the next day! The following night, at sundown, Hanukkah begins. I miss celebrating it with my NYC friends.

We celebrate, German-style, more on Christmas Eve than on Christmas Day — and open our gifts on the night of Christmas Eve. Then, we settle in, Icelandic-style, and read one of our new books that night. We also burn a bayberry candle for good luck.

Christmas Day is about food and music and reading. And the stockings. We open our stockings Christmas morning — and eat panettone for breakfast.

Then comes Boxing Day. We generally rest and read and work on leftovers. And the beginning of Kwanzaa. When I lived in NYC, I joined my neighbors in their nightly Kwanzaa celebration.

I do a meditation retreat on New Year’s Eve, to start the New Year mindfully. It also means a good meal, another bayberry candle that straddles midnight, and prosecco. At a minute before midnight, we open the back door to let the old year out. At a minute after midnight, we open the front door to let the New Year in!

They don’t do First Footing out here on Cape Cod, which is a shame, because I love that tradition — right after midnight, you let in a dark-haired neighbor in the front door first, and offer a dram of whisky for luck.

New Year’s Day is about pork before noon (usually Eggs Benedict) and then a big meal later in the day. Relaxing.

I usually keep my decorations up until Twelfth Night (January 6). Most years, I have a party on Twelfth Night, no matter what day of the week that is, and then take down the decorations on the 7th. The last few years, we’ve been snowed out. I have a feeling I will take my decorations down this year on the 4th & 5th, because it’s the weekend, and I’ll have the time.

As new friends come into the mix and share their traditions, I add them in, too.

What are your favorite traditions of the season?

Monday, December 24, 2012: Christmas Eve & Plenty of Stirring (Bowls, Pots, etc.)

IMG_0738

Monday, December 24, 2012
Waxing Moon
Christmas Eve
Sunny and cold

Merry Christmas! It’s a frosty morning here, but beautiful.

Billy Root’s got some info on the free Jain Lazarus holiday story now available — for a limited time. Go visit him here.

Busy, busy weekend. Lots of food and fun. Caught up with schoolwork on Saturday, finishing off my World History course. Jeremy Adelman, the professor, truly opened my eyes and got me looking at the world and how and why patterns appear and continue in new ways, and I’m grateful to him for that. This class will stay with me, support, and influence my work for years.

I’m behind in the Astronomy course, but will catch up this week. Since I’m auditing it, rather than going for certification, I’m not under the same kind of deadline pressure.

Decorating is done, food shopping is done, cards are done. There are a few e-cards that have to go out today, but the rest is done. I also have to wrap presents.

MURDER’S INTOLERANCE is coming along well. I have the new manuscript deadline for CRAVE THE HUNT, which means that goes back into the roster as of January 1. I’m prepping the classes and the private student segments for the beginning of the year, and working on the new brochure. I’m working on my questions for Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions — and getting some surprising answers.

The Twelve Days of Christmas stories are coming along — they are pretty funny. Kurt and Daisy, my two protagonists, are pretty wacky. I am, however, glad I didn’t put the pressure on myself to write, revise, and upload them for THIS year — I think that would have taken the fun out of it. As it is, I can WRITE them over this year, then put them away, look at them over the summer, and offer them next year — which should be a ton of fun.

Got an idea for a pseudo-Dickensian steampunk — I’m making notes for it, so I can figure out how and when to add it to the queue.

I’m easing up on hustling work for the next couple of days, but by Thursday, I need to get back into the swing of it. I need substantially more dollars coming in for January than are currently booked. Part of that is extricating myself from some slow-paying and low-paying clients (a recurring theme for this year).

I have some articles to write over the next ten days — looking forward to that.

I’d offered to be the on-call backup for the Marine Life Center these next few days, but haven’t heard, so I’m assuming they’re covered.

The Solstice ceremony itself was lovely. I added in a remembrance for those in Newtown, CT.

I had to cut a whole section out of the post, because it overlapped too much with material from an upcoming article.

In any case, I intend to read a lot, write a lot, and cook a lot over the next few days.

I wish you a lovely, peaceful, and safe holiday!

Devon

Two Nina Bell comic mysteries available for the holidays! Excerpts and buy links here.

A romantic comedy/fantasy twist on Yuletide myths by Ava Dunne here!

Fri. Dec. 21, 2012: Yule

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Friday, December 21, 2012
Waxing Moon
Yule — Winter Solstice
Rainy and cold

Happy Solstice! Longest night, shortest day of the year. I’m looking forward to this evening’s ceremony, but there’s a lot to do before hand.

Yesterday, I took the last two platters over the bridge. First stop — the National Marine Life Center. I got to take a peek at the two seal patients — they’re now in the same tank. Townsend is as curious as ever. And Major Margaret — who was so badly injured that we weren’t sure she was going to make it — is now lively and feisty. Popped right up when we came in, leapt up onto the platform to wiggle over, dived into the tank to get as close as possible, clearly stating, “Where’s my herring?!” When you think how she used to just lie in her dry holding pen for hours and not move, seeing her playful and curious and dancing around is just delightful. It made my week! If you’re interested in learning more about both of them, go over to the NMLC site — they even have a webcam for the duo!

I also met the group of Kemp’s Ridley turtles in the other big tank. They were cold-stunned, and are now recuperating in the hospital.

After that little sojourn, it was off to Plymouth, to get the car inspected, and deliver the cookie platter to them. They were pleased (prepping for their holiday party later that night). They’re always so good to us.

On the way back, it was a quick stop at the bookstore to pick up the last few gifts.

Paula, if I know someone has dietary restrictions (like gluten-free) or allergies, I’ll either make something different for them, or not give them food. I always have a cheat sheet or a tag that lets them know if anything has nuts in it, for instance. This year, nothing did, so no worries, but sometimes a cookie will use almond extract, or, last year, I did the chocolate chip banana walnut cookies, and I made sure people knew there were walnuts in there. However, I have no time or patience for the self-righteous who pretend to be on a regimen, declaring loudly during the holidays they are carb or sugar-free or whatever. They’re doing that to make themselves feel superior and people around them feel badly. On top of it, they’re going to make the choice not to stay strictly on it, or, if they do, they make a lot of noise so everyone knows what a martyr they are. If they’re serious about it, they do it well before the holidays, and people know and can adjust; if, for some reason, someone doesn’t know and hands them something they don’t eat right now, the gracious response is, “Thank you! Have a great holiday!” and then passing it on to someone who enjoys it, or serving it when people who aren’t on a fake diet show up at the house. There’s a way to handle it so no one feels hurt or insulted, and far too many choose not to do that. It’s more of an issue in places like New York and LA, where people do this kind of thing as a way to get attention rather than an actual lifestyle choice; here, even if people adjust their diets, they usually give themselves leeway a bit during the holidays and/or are gracious if someone doesn’t know. I mean, I’m gracious when I go to people’s houses and there’s stuff I can’t eat, like shrimp. I just avoid it. I don’t make big drama out of it so the hostess feels bad. I’m making a couple of gluten-free and/or full vegan things for the party in January, just to make sure there’s something for everyone.

Speaking of which, I started planning the party. The invites are going out on Monday, even though that’s Christmas Eve. Or maybe Sunday. I kept thinking Christmas Eve was Tuesday — obviously, I’m having a problem tracking my days!

Decent writing session this morning. That book is set right before Samhain, and I’m having a bit of trouble switching back and forth between the holidays. Also, this weekend, I want to work on my Twelve Days of Christmas stories — I know what I’m doing for the partridge in the pear tree, and for the ten lords a leaping — it’s the other ten pieces I have to figure out!

And I’m working on my goals, dreams, and resolutions to post on January 1.

Today, I have to get out the companion handbook for Flash 7 and get “First Feet” ready for the free download. I want to finish the cards (I’m up to “s”) and get them out, and tidy up a bit — do things like laundry. Tonight is the Solstice Ceremony, and this weekend, I want to focus on writing and catching up with schoolwork.

Have a lovely weekend!

Devon

Two holiday Nina Bell treats — comic mysteries for the holidays! And a romantic comedy/fantasy twist on Yuletide myths.

Join “When Words Align” from Jan. 2-9 to get your WIP or revision back on track.

“Sensory Perceptions” will give you tools to layer sensory detail into your work, raising it to a more engaging level, as you create six flash fiction pieces and one longer piece. Jan. 2-Feb. 3.

Thurs. Dec. 20: I Impersonate the Cookie Elf and Other Tales

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Advent Table

Thursday, December 20, 2012
Waxing Moon
Sunny and cold

Yesterday was about packing and delivering more cookie platters. Yup, that was pretty much the entire day. Several libraries, the business center, the vet, the fire department, the dump, Country Gardens, The Writers Center, Long Pasture, etc. — all the places I spend a lot of time and where they’re always good to me. Everyone seemed really pleased.

Yes, the platters take time and energy, but it’s also a way of letting these people I deal with all year know that they matter.

Check out this article by Frank Mulligan on the National Marine Life Center — not only is it a good piece to get more attention to the Center, but it’s exceptionally well-written!

I spoke with my friend over at Long Pasture about partnering with the Marine Life Center on a few things in the coming year — he’s open to it. I think it would be tons of fun, and that way, all of us could utilize our membership lists and expand coverage.

Still haven’t finished the holiday cards!

The plan was to get the cards done today and take the last platters Over the Bridge tomorrow — however, the weather today is great, and tomorrow is supposed to be disgusting, so I got up early, baked the last batch of red velvet cupcakes, and will do it this afternoon. I did get some more of the decorating done yesterday, and am starting to clear away the boxes.

Yoga was great this morning. And I stopped at the beach on the way home.

Tomorrow’s Yule — the Winter Solstice. I’m excited — I’m looking forward to the ceremony.

Devon

Enjoy some Delectable Digital Delights for the holidays — two Nina Bell comic mysteries, and an Ava Dunne-penned romantic comedy/fantasy twist on Yuletide Myths. All under $2!

“When Words Align” — get your WIP or revision back on track in this week-long intensive, Jan. 2-9, 2013. Information and registration here.

“Sensory Perceptions” — take your writing to the next level, layering in sensory description, creating six flash fiction and one longer story from Jan. 2-Feb. 3, 2013. Information and Registration here.

Thurs. Dec. 22: Solstice Blessings


spice cake with eggnog icing

Thursday, December 22, 2011
Day before dark moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Winter Solstice
Still dark out

It’s appropriate that the Winter Solstice hits this year when we’re nearly at the dark moon — and yes, the nights are very, very dark around here — holiday displays, but not streetlights! It will be weird, though, to have Christmas Eve on a new moon — we’re so used to the image of Santa’s sleigh and the full moon.

Ran around and did a lot of errands, including looking at new possibilities for a microwave. Still negotiating for that other job. The new publisher of the Jain Lazarus Adventures wants to take a look at Book 2 after the first of the year, so I will give it another quick read (I just recently did so, before I entered it into that beta testing program, but — another look won’t hurt). I’ll get the other book out to Champagne at the same time, and then turn my attention to Book 3 of Jain Lazarus. While, of course, juggling the year-long course, private students, and the 5 in 10 short story class! Good to be busy, right? But it means I should really relish the next ten days or so and not overdo.

I’m doing a bit of writing on the harpy book and then heading to yoga. Yoga on the Solstice — that’ll be fun. And tonight, we’ll celebrate.

Ready for the Wheel to Turn, and excited about next year’s possibilities.

Now, I just have to live up to them.

I’m re-reading Terry Pratchett’s HOGFATHER. It’s one of my favorite books anyway, but absolutely perfect around this time of year.

Devon

Published in: on December 22, 2011 at 6:05 am  Comments (3)  
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Iris stays in bed on cold winter mornings

Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Full Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Full Lunar Eclipse
Winter Solstice
Snow

Happy Solstice, Peaceful Yule!

It’s truly winter here, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

First, hop on over to Biblio Paradise, where Diane Parkin talks about her novel NIGHT CRAWLER. Leave a comment, so she’ll know you were there!

Then, hop over to my new gardening blog, GRATITUDE AND GROWTH, for its launch. Most of the time, I’ll post on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but I thought the Solstice on a Full Moon was a good day to start!

Okay, back now?

Yesterday was a good writing day. Finished, polished, and got off the big article on time, and my editors seem pleased with it. Prepped the two blog posts listed above. Caught up on email. Made some notes for a couple of projects — a play and a book — that have February deadlines.

It snowed all day, which was lovely. Mid-afternoon, I shovelled the walk and the driveway. It wasn’t too bad, but either I have to invest in a snowblower or hire someone if the whole winter is like this. I’m simply not strong enough if the snow gets much heavier.

It kept snowing in the night, and, when I went to turn off the outdoor trees at 10 PM, I couldn’t open the door! Not only had enough snow fallen so it blanketed the step above the doorframe, but more had blown against it. I wrestled the door open to get the trees unplugged, and went to bed.

I was awake on and off, hoping to see the lunar eclipse, but didn’t. Everything was that milky pale bright of moonlight.

This morning, the neighbors were up bright and early, with their snow blowers, and cleaned my driveway and walk for me. Isn’t that kind?

Yep, when we can get out of here tomorrow, I think it’s time for me to invest in a snow blower! It took them maybe 10 minutes to clear the drive and the walkway, so if I had a blower and did it myself, it would take maybe 20. I could hire one of the guys up the street to plow me out, but if we have a severe winter, the blower will earn its keep within a month or so.

And for some reason, the sound of the snow blower is at a different pitch and it doesn’t hurt the way leaf blowers do. (Just a reminder, the sound of a leaf blower causes the physical response in me that could trigger a heart attack, which is one of the MANY reasons I don’t own one. Why would I own a a machine that could kill me simply by turning it on?. The name of this condition is a very long word with lots of consonants).

I stuck my yardstick in a clear part of the yard, and it hit just under 13”. The weather folk keep saying yeah, the Cape got hit harder than expected (they said 2-4”), but we seem to have gotten more than the places they’re measuring.

My mom’s friend is supposed to visit today, but I don’t know if she can get here. After all, they had to close to Bourne Bridge for awhile last night, due to weather. And we’re supposed to get walloped over Christmas weekend with an even more severe storm, so I think we’re not going to make it to Maine for Christmas Day Dinner. Which is fine, I’ll just cook a turkey here (and hope the CO detector doesn’t go off).

I’ve got logs for the Yule ceremony this evening, and a chicken to roast tonight. I may call my favorite hardware store in Osterville and say, “Hey, babe, got a snowblower that fits in a volkswagen?” because why not give him a challenge, right? 🙂 I might as well be his resident eccentric.

I’m going to run the vacuum quickly through the house now (after sprinkling the carpets with lavender and peppermint) just in case my mom’s friend turns up. Then, I’ll get back to the page for awhile. I got very little done on yesterday’s To Do list (yes, I made a list for once), so I want to get a little bit more done today.

Yesterday was productive, and the quality was high, but today I need to add in some more quantity, too!

And I want to come up with something nice to do for the neighbors as a thanks!

Devon