Keep swimming.

You know, even if you have the holidays handled, even if you completed your shopping and so forth well ahead of the deadline, even if you have money in your pocket and a smile on your face, the last days before Christmas are always a grind. Is that toilet scrubbed? No. Scrub it, then. Did you remember to tip the newspaper carriers? Oops, go get some crisp bills at the bank. Is there gas in the car? You never know when there will be a catastrophe and you’ll have to flee the metro area, so you better have at least half a tank, preferably more.

All of these things involve long lines. Except the toilet-scrubbing. You’re always the only one volunteering for that job.

At times like this, to keep the blog from collapsing into a spiral of capital-B Boring, I cast around for material. Here’s the last photo I took with my phone:


Those are Kate’s hands. She’s performing her final-exam project for her digital-music class, a piece she composed and performed for the class. It’s untitled. That glowing board is a controller for a program called Ableton Push; if you’re into techno or EDM, you probably know about it, or at least have heard music created with it. She borrowed the controller from a guy in Windsor, as the single one owned by the University was signed out at the beginning of the semester and kept, well, all semester. But she got an A+, so booyah; it must have had good mojo, as it was last used by some big-deal techno guy for his latest album. Final factoid: The piece contained a sample from “Finding Nemo,” Dory saying, “Just keep swimming.”

That’s good advice in many things, I’ve found, particularly swimming; oftentimes those first few laps just don’t feel great. Keep swimming, and you loosen up. What do we do, we swim.

We also scrub toilets. Can you tell what job I’m putting off right now?

So, a little bit of bloggage:

As this is the season when lots of people who don’t think about religion get themselves into a church for at least a little while, a thoughtful piece about President Obama’s faith. It won’t change anything; the people who think he’s a Muslim will continue to think so, and believe this is another snow job by the liberal media, and those who think highly of him will think, perhaps, a little more highly. But it’s still a good piece, encapsulated in these nut grafs:

Obama did not grow up in a religious household and became a practicing Christian as an adult. He has written more extensively about his spiritual awakening than almost any other modern president, addressing it in two books before he was elected to the White House and in more than a dozen speeches since.

His faith had been central to his identity as a new kind of Democrat who would bring civility to the country’s political debates by appealing to Republicans through the shared language of their Judeo-Christian values.

With just one year left in his second term, Obama now holds a different distinction: No modern president has had his faith more routinely questioned and disparaged. Recent polls show that 29 percent of Americans and nearly 45 percent of Republicans say he is a Muslim.

Everybody’s seen this by now, but it’s so perfect, let’s all watch it again: Meet your second wife! Tina Fey, can we be best friends?

Finally, while this screenshot says much…

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 5.18.37 PM

…including the update on the Bridge story about the homeless EMU student — you can see his financial situation is much improved — I think what we really want to know about is that stabbing, right?

Well, here ya go. The girl was not seriously injured.

Tidings of comfort and joy! Off to buy tamales tomorrow, my last-promise-last errand of the holiday. Now to scrub the damn toilet.

Posted at 5:24 pm in Same ol' same ol' |

91 responses to “Keep swimming.”

  1. beb said on December 22, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    What a weird controller. How does one control anything when so many of the buttons are unlabeled?

    Not hosting parties is one way to make the holidays less stressful…

    170 chars

  2. Jenine said on December 22, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    Looks like a Star Trek control board but a little less recognizable.
    Went downtown with oldest daughter (14) to do some gift shopping this afternoon. We got stopped by a reporter for our small city paper’s fashion feature. Er, that’d be the 14 year old with the blue pixie cut and matching sunglasses who was asked about her fashion influences. No argument here, she’s got style. We’ll be buying a few papers on Friday.

    420 chars

  3. Julie Robinson said on December 22, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    It was ugly in the grocery store parking lot, but not as ugly as the hordes looking for peppermint ice cream. Left it too late this year, dang it.

    The son calls that music tronic.

    182 chars

  4. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 22, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    Scrubbing bubbles.

    18 chars

  5. alex said on December 22, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    Lucky Nance. She only has a toilet to clean. I’ve got a renter with one that has roots in it and is blocked again and blew a brand-new seal. Time to call in the professionals. Just in time for Christmas.

    203 chars

  6. basset said on December 22, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    Time once again to watch all the tv commercials of happy families getting together for the holiday, inviting the lonely old lady next door for dinner, and just generally being normal and secure… and try not to cut my wrists or jump off a bridge or something.

    I make a full English roast beef dinner every Christmas, even did a plum pudding ahead of time a few years ago, kept it in an airtight tin, soaked it in brandy and so forth but nobody’d eat it except me so the hell with it.

    489 chars

  7. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 22, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Do you make the Yorkshire puddings, Basset? Mmmm, popovers.

    59 chars

  8. basset said on December 22, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    I do, one big one in the roasting pan. That and some Bisto gravy will keep me going for quite awhile.

    102 chars

  9. Deborah said on December 22, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    Basset, am I remembering correctly that your mother was British? Or am I getting that mixed up with another commenter?

    My husband and I did a hot soak at a Japanese spa halfway up to the ski basin this evening. One of Little Bird’s friends who works there gave us a few discount cards for a Christmas present. We had a little gift exchange with her and her boyfriend last Saturday since they won’t be able to make it over for Christmas Eve this year. Anyway I feel like a wet noodle after the soak. It was quite beautiful, snowing and quite cold in an outdoor wooden tub, but the water was so hot I had to sit out in the cold air for quite a while. It was a private tub, there were quite a few people there this evening, a popular place for visiting Europeans.

    764 chars

  10. Dexter said on December 23, 2015 at 1:10 am

    A 19 year old Wayne State kid started a GoFundMe for James Robertson, Detroit’s famous “Walking Man”, who rode buses ad walked 21 miles one-way for years until a banker began giving him rides part way. The banker spread the word about the remarkable walker, the fund raised thousands the first day and topped out in the mid-300,000 dollar range, when it was taken down and put under the auspices of a committee of investment bankers, lawyers, accountants, and financial experts deaing strictly with annuities. And Robertson never asked for a penny of it. A dealer just gave him a new Ford Taurus automobile, he left the Detroit rooming house, got a suburban apartment closer to work, and now spends off-hours helping transportation executives rectify gaps in Detroit bus service. The whole thing is my Detroit Story of the Year.

    833 chars

  11. Sherri said on December 23, 2015 at 1:58 am

    The job I’m putting off is wrapping presents. I hate wrapping presents. I have all the gifts, and yes, I know about gift bags, but I hate the entire task of making the gifts presentable. Isn’t it enough that I’ve spent the time shopping?

    I feel you, basset. I don’t really like the holidays, either.

    303 chars

  12. Connie said on December 23, 2015 at 6:09 am

    Sherri, last week I wrapped gifts. This is the first time I can remember wrapping gifts BEFORE 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve since….at least before now grown up kid was born. Three more to do today.

    195 chars

  13. alex said on December 23, 2015 at 7:12 am

    You won’t see this in the cowardly WaPo so I thought I’d bring it here.

    201 chars

  14. basset said on December 23, 2015 at 7:35 am

    Yes, Deborah, she was, from Leyton in northeast London. That spa sounds wonderful.

    83 chars

  15. Connie said on December 23, 2015 at 7:40 am

    Alex, Cruz says that pic is making fun of his daughters. AND IT IS JUST NOT RIGHT to make fun of a candidate’s daughters.

    A president’s daughters must be a different story.

    175 chars

  16. alex said on December 23, 2015 at 7:59 am

    And one certainly must not defile anything as sacred as Dr. Seuss.

    66 chars

  17. Suzanne said on December 23, 2015 at 8:02 am

    I admit I hate buying Christmas gifts. We are not terribly well off and I dislike spending the money to buy gifts for people with incomes that far exceed ours, knowing that it might be something they don’t even want or need. The gifts we give usually look cheap & weenie in comparison to what others give, and then I go home feeling cheap & weeie. I think I’d be perfectly happy to simply get together with family, eat, drink, and be merry. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown?

    503 chars

  18. Julie Robinson said on December 23, 2015 at 9:07 am

    After many, many years we have finally convinced people we don’t want gifting craziness anymore, and it’s been lovely to have a different focus to the season.

    158 chars

  19. Pam (the sister) said on December 23, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Suzanne, We’ve been trying to go gift-less for years and just can’t seem to manage it. I suppose it’s just too ingrained in our memories.

    A friend of mine has a strategy to combat the budget gap in gift giving. She shops consignment shops, auctions, estate sales – wherever she can get items for less. Look for unique things in great condition. Place several or just one, individually wrapped, into a gift bag. With multiple little things to pull out of the bag, the giftee has more fun and delight in opening everything (kids especially love this).

    You would be surprised what $2 – $5 will buy at an auction. You just need a good eye, a little imagination and persistence. It could actually be fun (the buying part). Remember that you can’t return anything so don’t buy clothing or other personal items.

    821 chars

  20. Deborah said on December 23, 2015 at 9:43 am

    I’m with you on the gift wrapping, Sherri and Connie. I’m fairly creative and crafty, but when it comes to gift wrapping I’m all thumbs. Part of it is the ridiculous pointlessness of it, when I put it off until the last minute the paper gets ripped off after a few minutes. We do our gift exchange on Christmas Eve, always have. I’m usually done wrapping gifts 10 mins before that. This year I’m done already, which is a miracle. We have kept our giving to a minimum this time so it was easier.

    Except Little Bird gave 30 gifts this year, she knitted hats for everyone, neighbors, friends, relatives. She uses a loom so each hat goes fairly quickly, about 2 1/2 hrs each. She had a blast picking out the yarn for each person’s hat and she seemed to enjoy the whole process of making them. She used brown paper gift bags for packaging which she punched holes in the top of and tied off with a yarn bow. They’ve been a big hit for the recipients, she has asked them to open immediately so they can be used right away.

    1019 chars

  21. Alice said on December 23, 2015 at 10:38 am

    Three years ago while visiting home (lower South Carolina, close to Prospero’s old haunt), there were plumbing problems at the house, roots in the pipes. Christmas eve, the plumber comes out, spends the entire day, gets it working, & charged a cool $100. Still amazes me.

    275 chars

  22. Sue said on December 23, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Hang in there, basset. The days are getting longer. Spring’s coming. Hang in there, hang in there.

    101 chars

  23. brian stouder said on December 23, 2015 at 11:04 am

    So, this might qualify as an internet over-share, but we’ll risk it anyway.

    Last night, I was losing at chess versus the computer (set at level 2; anything higher, and that thing will hunt me down and dispatch me with alacrity) when – SONOFA%$#@*- I had a sharp, stabbing, and persistent pain in my upper inner thigh. Then, it went away. And then it came back (at level 11, for a few seconds), and then went away again, etc.

    I said to Pam that it was only (and stabbingly) in my left upper, inner thigh, and it would reign for 10 or 15 seconds, and then be gone for 5 or 10 minutes – and then back! This continued until finally I decided to go to bed (after Rachel ended), and everything returned to normal. In discussing it this morning, I pointed out that the new belt she got me 2 weeks ago is, at it’s loosest, a notch too tight* – and my theory was that THAT was the culprit – which got me an eye-roll.

    And then Uncle Google showed me this –

    (an excerpt, with emphasis added) A related form of thigh pain is called Meralgia Paresthetica, which is basically a chronic form of irritation of the same nerve that’s affected in the above condition. It can be more intense, and the discomfort can spread from the outer thigh to the groin, buttocks, even up to the rib cage. In some people this nerve is more prone to being compressed or damaged because of anatomical variations, being overweight, wearing a tight belt or seat belt for a long time, or being diabetic. It’s also often worse with athletic activity or prolonged standing. Most of the time, wearing looser clothing, no belt, and losing weight makes a big difference. Also, some people find that taking a supplement called alpha lipoic acid can help (the dose used in studies was 600 milligrams twice a day, although lower doses often work fine – ask your doctor).

    and although the guy may be a quack, my theory seems to be valid, at least for the moment.

    2000 chars

  24. ROGirl said on December 23, 2015 at 11:17 am

    I have had leg pain and tight muscles and a really good way to relieve it is to lie on the floor in front of a wall with your legs straight up against the wall. Or you can do a shoulder stand, but against the wall is easier. It relieves the lactic acid buildup. And wearing looser clothing might help. No drugs necessary.

    321 chars

  25. brian stouder said on December 23, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Thanks, ROGirl.

    One unsettling thing, as I get older*, is the way physical changes and new things occasionally (and always surprisingly) assert themselves.

    *today marks the 29th anniversary of the day I was hired into my current job

    238 chars

  26. Deborah said on December 23, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    When you hit 30 years Brian, are they going to give you a gold watch?

    I just ordered a last minute gift from Amazon for my husband , It’s supposed to get here tomorrow since I paid for next day shipping. I’ll be surprised if it actually gets here by then but now I’m going to have to wrap one more gift. It’s a DVD to go with a book I bought him earlier. I wish I’d thought of it sooner. Books are big on our gift lists for each other, he has been wanting the classics in hard cover. I found a nice leather bound book by Faulkner a month or so ago at a used bookstore in town. I found out this morning that a Steve McQueen movie was made in the late 60s based on the book so that’s what I ordered. Most of his gifts to us were purchased during his London trip, so I’m pretty curious to see what they are.

    807 chars

  27. brian stouder said on December 23, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Deborah, I’m coming to the end of the Reeves book on Kennedy*, and at one point – I think in late 1962 – the president was returning home from Italy. So before they depart, POTUS has some staffers go and collect odds and ends from various shops, the better to have goodies for Jackie and the young folks, when he gets home.

    So the aids come back, and then dad goes through and culls the collection, so he comes home with just a few odds and ends…and he immediately regrets it, and asks one of his aids “what were we thinking?!”….and at some later point, they had the Italian ambassador bring a bunch of stuff along before he returned to the US

    *it’s a bit unwieldy, but it has kept my interest through 600 pages, so there’s that. Now I’m in early October, 1963, and the end is in sight…and Vietnam has evolved into the shiny object the president cannot put down

    877 chars

  28. Judybusy said on December 23, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Deborah, LB’s gifts sound wonderful.

    We’re looking forward to Christmas being over. We haven’t had a free day in well over a week. Some of that is seeing friends in from out of town and some holiday-related things that are truly fun (my work party was a blast, as a co-worker and I created a custom Taboo-style game to play. We’re all great cooks, so the potluck was yummy, too!)

    My partner and decided not to get gifts for each other this year. We’ve got other things we want to spend money on, so we just wanted to be more careful with the funds. Because of a change in her family’s schedule, we’re moving our traditional Christmas dinner to NYE: a fancy filet mignon dish which name I can’t recall at the moment. As we age, time together and special events such as concerts and plays are more meaningful than stuff.

    Speaking of funds and Christmas emergencies, four years ago our furnace died on Christmas day, while we were having the traditional dinner. Our local gas company responded wonderfully, and we bought a new furnace on a plan. I had thought it would be paid off 12/2016, but actually looked at the bill and it’s done in February! A very welcome surprise.

    1181 chars

  29. Brandon said on December 23, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Ann Telnaes’s Twitter:

    111 chars

  30. Brandon said on December 23, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    189 chars

  31. Sue said on December 23, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    It’s 50 degrees and rainy here; I just looked out my window and saw bugs flying around.
    That’s great, I’m not complaining but I feel for a friend who’s a wildlife rehabilitator. She’s swamped, because nothing is leaving. She got a sandhill crane from the DNR last week. We gave her a Christmas donation and she cashed the check that day – I imagine her expenses are pretty high right now.
    Remember the animals at this time of year if you can, folks.

    456 chars

  32. Deborah said on December 23, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    It’s cold in Santa Fe and they’re predicting a major winter storm to come across New Mexico and Arizona. Great, we’re traveling to Arizona the day after Christmas so hopefully it won’t be too bad. Luckily I won’t have to drive, my husband will do that. Since I grew up and learned to drive in Miami, FL I have never gotten used to driving on ice and snow, even though I have lived in icy, snowy places since then. I avoid driving in those conditions whenever possible. I think it’s time I got over it but maybe I never will?

    524 chars

  33. susan said on December 23, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Gee, Brandon, when I first looked at the article about Franklin Graham bailing from the GOP because of the spending bill, my first thought was, “Well, good! Finally a xtian is offended by a spending bill which has more than 50% going to the damned military industrial complex!”

    What a fool am I to credit xtian values to a xtian.

    332 chars

  34. brian stouder said on December 23, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    Deborah, I dislike driving in the snow, although I’ve always done it. You can do everything right, and still get creamed.

    And then – when your young folks grow up and go driving in that stuff, it becomes even more worrisome!

    275 chars

  35. beb said on December 23, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    Franklin Graham is an embarrassment to Christianity and to anything his father ever stood for. It’s hard to think of a more hate-filled man then him. As for his leaving the Republican party…. It won’t last. Without the GOP he’s just a cranky old man.

    252 chars

  36. Deborah said on December 23, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    We just got back from seeing “the Big Short”, I was hoping it would clear things up for me but I’m afraid it did not. That whole era is so opaque to me and still is, unfortunately.

    180 chars

  37. Sue said on December 23, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    I note the article on Franklin Graham didn’t bother to correct the misinformation he was shoveling out.

    103 chars

  38. Dave said on December 23, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    Deborah, surely you’re talking about “The Reivers”, a movie I remember seeing at the Town and Country Shopping Center in suburban Columbus, Whitehall actually, and Town and Country was supposed to be the first shopping center in the United States. It certainly wasn’t a typical Steve McQueen movie and I believe it was a flop, movie-wise.

    339 chars

  39. Dexter said on December 24, 2015 at 2:21 am

    My wife left for Columbus yesterday to beat the Torcon factors of today as I curtail my days away because we have two dogs and a cat and too many days away stress them out, being away from their routine.
    My plans were to finish the day by watching the 1938 “A Christmas Carol” starring Reginald Owen. But, I was distracted when I saw “Broken Flowers” was on. I am a sucker for any Jim Jarmusch film, plus this one has a stoic character played by Bill Murray, and a great cast.

    Nothing surprises us about The Donald T. Rump anymore, but when he said Obama schlonged Hillary, man…that made my senses stand at attention..he said WHAT?
    For starters, schlong is a noun; you don’t schlong someone, you are a schlong. Linking this up with Hillary’s discomforted run to the toilet the other night was just juvenile and crude, and rather sickening.

    At 2:00 AM, December 24…57F . Say what? Nice sunny drive day and a big Christmas Eve dinner and watching little kids unwrap presents beckons.
    “…Merry Christmas to all, And to all a good night.”

    1060 chars

  40. Deborah said on December 24, 2015 at 4:14 am

    Yes Dave, it’s The Reivers. I never saw it, but I vaguely remember hearing about it when it came out. I have no idea if it’s a good movie or not. My husband will get a kick out of it though, I think.

    199 chars

  41. Jolene said on December 24, 2015 at 9:37 am

    Hi Everybody:

    Just for grins, I’m posting some end-of-the-year lists. Trying to pick a few that are a bit unusual or that might be of interest to people here.

    Here’s a nice chat from the PBS NewsHour in which two writers discuss three of their favorite books from the past year. Hearing people talk about them is a bit more interesting than just reading about them. Gives more of a sense of the roots of their enthusiasm.

    Here’s a second segment of that same conversation. Brian, note that one of the books mentioned in this conversation is by Richard Reeves.

    745 chars

  42. brian stouder said on December 24, 2015 at 9:52 am

    I guess I hadn’t paid attention to the copyright date of Reeves’ JFK book (20+ years ago!); I think it was buried on our shelves, and came to the surface when our house went upside-down this past summer.

    His book is thought-provoking, which is always a good thing.

    I suppose I should cap my 50’s/60’s/70’s American political history binge with a good Nixon book, so as to complete the circle from Rocky through JFK to Tricky Dick…

    439 chars

  43. Jolene said on December 24, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Here is a list of the 20 favorite movies of the arts and entertainment editor at DCist, a website that covers all things DC-related: arts, sports, restaurants, politics, whatever. (There’s a NY analog called Gothamist. Not sure if there are more.) This list is striking because it reaches well beyond the top Hollywood (or even top indie) releases. Some are documentaries; some are foreign films; all look worth, at least, your consideration.

    I’ve been catching up on movies I missed by referring to last year’s Oscar-nominated films and performances. In the past few days, have seen American Sniper, Still Alice, and Whiplash. None is exactly light holiday entertainment, but worth streaming if, like me, you missed them the first time around. Also binge-watched the second season of Fargo, which I’d heard many good things about, all of which I found to be justified. Many good performances in a mini-series that combines shocking violence and absurd dialogue. Available now through OnDemand, assuming you aren’t yet a cord-cutter. Might be streaming somewhere too, if not now, soon.

    1184 chars

  44. alex said on December 24, 2015 at 10:10 am

    The irises are sprouting outside my windows. I hope this doesn’t mean that they’ll be absent in April when they’re supposed to be making their debut.

    Regarding Franklin Graham, he’s probably had his tits tied in the same knot as this guy after letting Rush Limbaugh play with them. Paul Ryan a radical leftist? I guess all this worship of Elizabeth Warren is really misplaced.

    495 chars

  45. Jolene said on December 24, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Brian: Chris Cillizza, a WaPo political reporter, put together this list of presidential bios. Not sure how qualified he is to judge which are best, but it may be looking at reviews of the Nixon alternatives he offers. Evan Thomas recently published a book called Being Nixon. The NYT review of it suggests that the author strains to present a coherent and comprehensive picture of his subject, but that it is, in some ways, insightful.

    710 chars

  46. brian stouder said on December 24, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Alex, wow! I can’t decide if that guy’s writing is genuinely terrible, or if the News-Sentinel cannot edit anything, anymore

    124 chars

  47. brian stouder said on December 24, 2015 at 10:26 am

    Jolene, a great list! I’ve read a number of those, including all the Meacham ones, but I specifically will not buy his newest Bush one.

    I think I’ll cheat and go for Woodward’s Butterfield book; saw him on BookTV a week or two ago, and it sounds like a goodie

    262 chars

  48. beb said on December 24, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Brian (the other Brian as I’m a Brian and am older than you!) I recommend any of Rick Pearlstein’s books, on Goldwater, Nixon Nixon to Reagan. Never read them myself but the liberal bloggers have long praised them as insightful.

    Schlong: most any noun can be made into a verb. Schlong is a euphemism for dick. People can act like a dick and when they act like a dick towards someone that person can be said to have been dicked. Which is another way of saying fucked. So to say that Hillary was “schlonged” by Obama is a dog-whistle for fucked by a black man. So Trump is being outrageously sexist and racist right out in public. This ought to be an automatic disqualification since the last thing the nation needs is to lead by a schmuck who can’t his yap shut.

    764 chars

  49. Jolene said on December 24, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Another list: This one is for holiday binge-watching. Nothing too esoteric here, but some good choices. Helpful in that it specifies which streaming services carry each one.

    276 chars

  50. basset said on December 24, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Never seen any of those and, no offense, don’t care to… too old and out of touch, I guess. One of our local political ad agencies sent out a circular today claiming, among other factoids, that 38% of respondents to a “national survey” had never seen any of the Star Wars movies, part of making a point about reaching “unengaged” voters.

    Just broke out a piece of kitchen equipment I only use once a year, carefully hand washed it and it’s in the drying rack right now… an English measuring cup that I believe is probably from the 60s, conical sheet metal with separate scales for “imperial,” “USA,” and “standard” cups, bread crumbs, shredded suet, corn flour, haricots/lentils/barley/peas, sultanas, so on and so forth. We do a traditional English roast beef dinner at Christmas, measuring with this device just seems appropriate. Roast is defrosted, Brussels sprouts bought, Bird’s and Bisto standing by, 24 hours to launch.

    937 chars

  51. alex said on December 24, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Waiting for the damned plumber to arrive at my rental before I can go out shopping for all of the cooking I plan to be doing. Hope the store isn’t picked clean by the time I get there.

    While killing time I came across a good read about Jean Shepherd. I hadn’t really known anything about him other than his autobiographical Christmas Story.

    467 chars

  52. alex said on December 24, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    Good God, enough tree roots under that toilet to weave a wicker sofa. In a clay tile underneath a slab. And the plumber tells me that putting root killer down the toilet is pointless because it washes through without spending enough time there to do damage. He recommends we leave the toilet off for a while and just dump tons of poison down there and let it sit.

    Off to shop for food. They say you should never shop for food when you have the munchies. Not a problem today.

    478 chars

  53. Sue said on December 24, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Nancy, how did the gingerbread house turn out? Or did I miss it?

    152 chars

  54. basset said on December 24, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    No posts for awhile, looks like everyone’s busy with holiday events, probably postcard scenes of extended families hugging and smiling while the women bake cookies and the men converse on manly topics, crystal on the table and big flakes falling outside. Me, I just poured some bourbon on a grocery-store fruitcake and sealed it back up, shoulda made a plum pudding months ago and soaked it in brandy but it’s been that kind of year. Way too warm here, over 70 today, just doesn’t feel right.

    494 chars

  55. susan said on December 24, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    bassett @54, I’ve been listening to my current fav xmas music album. Actually I have no fav xmas music albums because they all give me the vapors except for this one.

    239 chars

  56. basset said on December 24, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    The only Christmas song I can stand is this one:

    95 chars

  57. alex said on December 24, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    I just made the best lasagne ever despite having to work in a kitchen undergoing renovations. My hubby and neighbors adored it. Otherwise he’s watching a Jimmy Stewart movie while I prepare dishes to take to gatherings tomorrow: Rosemary scalloped potatoes and an Asian-inspired meatloaf made with hoisin sauce instead of ketchup.

    Best Christmas present ever: I’m getting stainless steel countertops instead of butcher block. Even though I’d have been happy with the latter.

    478 chars

  58. Deborah said on December 24, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    Warm wishes to everyone, and Merry Christmas to those who celebrate. I ate too much this evening, am enjoying some new books I received as gifts this evening. Time to call it a day.

    181 chars

  59. Sherri said on December 25, 2015 at 12:04 am

    Finally got the gifts wrapped, or well, bagged, and under the tree. No warm temps here, we’re in the high 30’s right now, and may even get a few snow flakes tomorrow. We’re off to church in a bit, but Merry Christmas, everybody.

    228 chars

  60. Jerry said on December 25, 2015 at 2:28 am

    Merry Christmas from England. Myra and I are up betimes and have opened our Santa Sacks – put together by our two younger sons who are sleeping upstairs. Our traditional Christmas Eve dinner of spicy sausages, red cabbage and mash. Followed by Cranberry Kisel, never made it before and there was enough for eight so that will reappear over the holidays. We had a hilarious hour on Skype last night with our eldest in Australia and expect our sorta daughter and family tomorrow.

    And the weather is unseasonably warm – but better than cold and snow.

    551 chars

  61. Sue said on December 25, 2015 at 11:35 am

    Is lasagna a Christmas Eve tradition that I never knew about? I heard from 4 other people who are making it this year.
    What’s cranberry kisel, Jerry?
    My eggnog wasn’t as good as it should have been last night. Two glasses anyway.
    I’m drowning in chocolate – GOOD chocolate. I have some very nice relatives and friends.

    326 chars

  62. MichaelG said on December 25, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Merry Christmas to everybody!

    29 chars

  63. David C. said on December 25, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Mmmm. Kissel. I haven’t had it since high school. I was friends with an exchange student from Finland and she made it. It’s a kind of thickened fruit thing. We always had it on ice cream and it was delicious.

    208 chars

  64. LAMary said on December 25, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    Merry Christmas, everyone. We spent Christmas eve with the sons and a girlfriend at an excellent Chinese restaurant. Porkbelly and bok choy fried rice, giant soup dumplings filled with pork and crab that you have to first approach with a big straw to suck out the broth. Many steamers full of chicken dumplings, pork and cabbage dumplings, trays of sautéed green beans with red chilies and scallion pancakes.
    All of this was beyond delicious and all of this, for five people with large appetites came to 76 dollars. We left a good tip. A very good time was had by all. If you are ever in San Gabriel, CA, about eight miles east of LA, check out Wang Xing Ji. Also known as Number 1 Soup Dumpling.

    699 chars

  65. alex said on December 25, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Sue, Lasagne’s not a Christmas Eve thing for us particularly. Our tradition, if you could call it that, is to have an old favorite that we haven’t had in a long time, and we were due for a good lasagne.

    Barely stayed awake this afternoon after brunching on eggs Benedict and bloody Mary(s). Getting ready to head out for the last of our festivities as soon as the parmesan melts and browns on my scalloped potatoes.

    419 chars

  66. devtob said on December 25, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    Here’s a fascinating Guardian article about people in the UK who really keep swimming, year-round, outdoors —

    Winter in the UK is more Carolinas than Michigan, but still 50ish-degree water.

    And the stories are inspirational, none more than 58-year-old Dianne Parrish’s:

    “I made the decision on 1 January 2013 to give myself three years to swim the Channel. My friends’ mouths dropped open. They said it was ridiculous – I’m always telling people to turn the heating up – but I wanted a goal to focus on. I started in spring that year with a supervised open-water swim in Manley Mere, and since then I’ve swum through three winters. I swam the Channel this summer as part of a relay team of six, and I’m hoping to do it solo in 2016, or 2017 when I turn 60. My favourite spot is at Eccelston Ferry on the river Dee on the outskirts of Chester. In summer, we swim up and down but in the winter we walk upstream and have a float down with the current. But I also swim in Padarn Lake in Snowdonia, the Liverpool Docks and Delamere forest park in Cheshire. I’ve set up a group called the ChesterFrosties and we’ll be organising a Christmas Day swim, hopefully in the river Dee as it’s my favourite place.”

    1315 chars

  67. Deborah said on December 25, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Christmas Eve dinner consisted of 3 phases. Phase 1 was sliced pears wrapped in prosciutto grilled outside. Phase 2 was polenta patties also grilled, topped with sautéed mushrooms and garlic, sprinkled with Asiago. Phase 3 was pan seared scallops in bacon drippings and butter, dipped in a spicy mayo. Finished off with pumpkin pie with whipped cream. All I did was make the whipped cream.

    This afternoon we saw the movie “Carol”, which was excellent. We had a giant breakfast this morning with bacon, eggs, hash browns and biscuits. On top of that we made cookies yesterday, mostly to take for our trip to Arizona tomorrow. We’re driving down to Socorro first to see the very large array, then on to Tubac, AZ. I don’t need to eat for a while.

    748 chars

  68. Charlotte said on December 26, 2015 at 9:41 am

    It was Croquembouche 2 here at my house this weekend. The year after my brother died, when I was so bereaved and at loose ends and hadn’t yet pulled together a new life for myself, I made an enormous, elaborate croquembouche (the essay is here, which I’ll brag a little and note wound up in Best American Food Writing of 2010: This year, “my” Lily, who was the toddler in fairy wings I carried around Patrick’s wake for comfort — well, she’s 15 now, a big, tall, stroppy teenager who knows SO much better than all of us — we cook together at holidays. It’s our thing and every year we do a project and she wanted to do a croquembouche this year. So we did — we spent Wednesday together making all the cream puffs, and filling them, and then we discovered the hard way (twice) that organic sugar won’t carmelize — the tiny bit of molasses still in it burns. Off to the store for a 10 pound bag of good old-fashioned white commercial sugar, and by 9pm we had a croquembouche. Sadly though, in the 2 days it sat outside in the cool greenhouse porch, the sugar softened, and by Christmas morning it was a Sad Pile of Sticky Cream Puffs. Trouper that she is, Lilly came over, we made a new batch of caramel and by the time we finished it was glorious — glossy and lots of those little stringy bits and so pretty. We got it over to her house without breaking it, and it was just lovely. (However, I’m not so sure everyone shared her love of the taste of rosewater, which she used in the cream filling …). A holiday project, a festive evening with lots of food and people we love, and all our toddlers are now a crowd of big kids …. good fun all around. (Glad it’s over, looking forward to a week off with some xc skiing, lots of reading and writing and knitting.)

    1790 chars

  69. beb said on December 26, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Wow…just wow!

    The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled against a man who lost a hand due to an industrial accident. The Court claims that “there’s no evidence that Michigan Pallet and Smith’s bosses had a “specific intent” to injure him or that they knew an injury was certain to occur in 2009.”

    Geez, no one as “specific intent” to harm someone but every workplace safety course I’ve ever taken emphasizes that accident will happen and workers and management must be diligent at all times to prevent accidents. The MI Supreme Court must never have taken general safety courses. Or are, in their reptilian, Republican hearts advise to taking money from wealthy owners and giving it to workers they’ve disabled. Another reason to pull the Democrat straight ticket lever … oh, wait, the GOP just took that option away from us.

    930 chars

  70. susan said on December 26, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Charlotte, I enjoyed the recounting of your first Croquembouche. That is a huge project! Our Mom had Mastering the Art…, but none of us siblings wanted that volume when it came time to empty the house after she died. We were all realistic about actually using the book for anything other than weighing down a book shelf. Might be one of my nieces wanted it, though. I admire you for making something from it! Here’s your halloween costume for next year…

    595 chars

  71. LAMary said on December 26, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Alex, I was one of those adolescents in NJ listening to Jean Shepherd every night. He even had a press conference just for high school newspaper types which I attended in about 1970.
    That root killer stuff. We dump it in the toilet before everyone leaves for work so it’s got a good nine hours to just sit. It’s worked for us. Isn’t it creepy seeing all those roots coming up through your floor?

    396 chars

  72. Charlotte said on December 26, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Oh Susan! That’s hilarious! Now I want to dress Lily up in that (as if she’d still let any of us dress her!). Forwarding it to her …

    My love of Julia Child is well recorded. One of the first “fancy” things I made was the boeuf bourguignon — my mother liked cooking projects. Well, she liked for me to cook while she sort of helped out and supervised — so it’s really fun to have a kid to share cooking projects with.

    424 chars

  73. Deborah said on December 26, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Charlotte, I thoroughly enjoyed you cooking link. I bought LB the Julia Child cookbook for a gift once and the only thing she’s made from it was the onion soup, and Lordy that was the best onion soup I’ve ever had.

    We are on our road trip to Arizona now. We had to change our route because of a major winter storm in NM. We are spending the night in Las Cruces now at a Hampton Inn. It’s snowing like mad. Hopefully it will be sunnier and warmer tomorrow as we head west.

    474 chars

  74. brian stouder said on December 26, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    Home again, after holiday travels (in a deluge from Logansport all the way to Fort Wayne)

    I did go ahead and cheat, and obtained the Woodward book (The Last of the President’s Men) rather than a full-frontal Nixon book, at least for now. The funny thing is, Pam wanted the Drew Barrymore book (Miss You Already), and Grant and I rolled for Barnes & Noble on Christmas Eve, before departing for Logansport (where Pam and the girls already were).

    They didn’t have it on the shelves, but an industrious young lady went searching in the backroom, and returned with it! Then, I felt entitled to go ahead and snap up the Butterfield book, and THEN – on Christmas day, I learned that Pam had already gotten it for me….so tomorrow, we have the happy chore of exchanging that book for yet another!

    Other books I got for Christmas include Custer’s Trials (subtitled A Life on the Frontier of a New America) by TJ Stiles; Notorious RBG (subtitled The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg) by Irwin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik); The Witches (subtitled Salem, 1692) by Stacy Schiff; and West from Appomattox (subtitled The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War)by Heather Cox Richardson.

    Book TV segments on each of these enthralled me, and in Heather Cox Richardson’s case, I’d buy anything she writes.

    In addition to exchanging my second copy of the Butterfield book (I’m 20 pages in and like it already) for something Pam may want, we have to buy a new washer tomorrow. Can’t complain, though, as the nonfunctional one we have we bought new 23 years ago … so we’ll be sticking with that brandname (Whirlpool)

    1628 chars

  75. Deborah said on December 26, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    I received a couple of books for Christmas, my husband gave me a a book about Shaker furniture which he got in London, it has a forward by Sir Terrence Conran. The furniture is all in New Lebanon, NY. The other book was from my brother in law, he seems to think I like biographies about female celebrities. This year he got me “Boys in the Trees” by Carly Simon. I’m not very far into it, the writing isn’t great but it’s surprisingly interesting.

    447 chars

  76. Minnie said on December 26, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    My husband gave me “Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock’n’Roll” by Peter Guralnick and a small oil by a local artist. I gave him two small pieces by another local artist. Those two paintings needed to stay together.

    219 chars

  77. Dexter said on December 27, 2015 at 3:16 am

    It took a couple hours back home to put all my gifts away where they belong, mundane stuff like hanging a picture and making sure I didn’t file something in the wrong place and lose it for months. I had four paper bags and one garbage bag full of stuff, but really only one that might interest anybody: I received a dvd of “The Last Waltz”. I have wanted it for many years but always put it off. It’s the greatest music production Marty Scorsese ever made.
    As you know, we make a helluva lot of trips to and from Columbus, and of course we don’t need a map and have not for nineteen years of regular trips there. So how in the fuck did I get lost Saturday? Coming out of Van Wert my phone rang and it was my brother. At a red light I went hands free and began talking on the phone while driving. Somehow I missed a bend in the road I needed to take and instead went straight and ended up in Ottoville, way the hell outta the way. To get back on track, I had to go through Mandale and Grover Hill. It was an education…Mandale is a tiny burg, a collection of abandoned 100 year old houses and crappy old house trailer homes all set at different angles in mostly mud lots, and it’s way the hell out in the middle of nowhere. Grover Hill is on ly slightly larger and more well off, also with burned out collapsed old wooden homes and shitty trailers everywhere. But Mandale looked like one of those Texas or California desert “Slab City” communities where I bet most live off the grid. Damn, Sam. Makes Riverhaven and Corunna in Indiana look like Brentwood.

    1569 chars

  78. Deborah said on December 27, 2015 at 6:04 am

    Dexter, I have watched “The Last Waltz” DVD I think a million times. My husband is crazy about it, I always think I’m not going to watch it again when he has it on but I always get sucked in.

    191 chars

  79. Connie said on December 27, 2015 at 6:33 am

    This librarian rarely gets books as gifts. But my niece in law gave me McCullough’s Wright Brothers book, which she tells me was the best book she had read this year. So a nonfiction break from the fiction pile, thanks Lisa.

    I have survived two long days of family get togethers and am looking forward to a quiet day at home doing little. PerhapsI will read the instructions to the air purifier Santa brought us for Christmas.

    429 chars

  80. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 27, 2015 at 7:02 am

    Merry Christmas, y’all; hope it was a lovely day for everyone. Leaving on a trio of tour buses for Atlanta (where I’ve never been) to chaperone a high school marching band through the Peach Bowl. I have my extra socks packed and a roll of painter’s tape for the doors in the boys’ hallway. And I’d tell you to watch for us on New Year’s Eve Day on ESPN, but who am I kidding? They won’t show any marching band shots at halftime…

    And after the game they roll us to Medieval Times for a New Year’s Eve dinner, then at 12:01 am we pack back onto the buses to roll right through the night back to Ohio. So blessings to one and all this week; I may be able to see what’s up but won’t be commenting much depending on wifi in our various holding pens . . .

    754 chars

  81. basset said on December 27, 2015 at 8:28 am

    Too warm to deer hunt, I’m working on a video a couple of us are doing for a counseling program which helps brain-injured veterans… lot of those around with Ft. Campbell so close.

    181 chars

  82. Connie said on December 27, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Oh Jeff, the stories my mother told about chaperoning one of those bus trips. Her version might have been titled “small town girls in the big city.”

    My daughter’s HS band sent two boys home from their Indy hotel at 3a.m. the night before state marching band finals. Never really knew why, except “zero tolerance.” We parents were impressed, and also thankful each and every one that it hadn’t been us receiving the phone call.

    And impressed that “night before state finals” didn’t make a difference.

    So there’s some former band mom advice for what it is worth. A band mom who chose NOT to go on the band trips to NYC and LA.

    Have fun, enjoy the experience of being in the event, and here’s hoping for a great bunch of good kids, both behavior wise and performance wise.

    782 chars

  83. Connie said on December 27, 2015 at 9:12 am

    And Jeff, your mention of Medieval Times reminds me that my daughter’s band had Thanksgiving dinner on the Queen Mary.

    I had been surprised to learn that there were travel agencies specializing in band travel planning and arrangements. The plan for flying some 400 plus students and adults to LA involved assigned groups on multiple commercial flights. Busses were much simpler.

    381 chars

  84. Minnie said on December 27, 2015 at 11:22 am

    Paging down Facebook this morning. Lots of photos of families together for the holidays. Some of the smiles look a little strained.

    131 chars

  85. brian stouder said on December 27, 2015 at 11:53 am

    Jeff, you gotta tell us the name of the school! My niece’s marching band, from Lewis Cass High School in Walton, Indiana, was invited to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade this year.

    We tuned in for NBC’s coverage, thinking maybe we’d catch a glimpse of them (I think the whole high school is less than 400 kids – more than a quarter of whom are in the band)….and they got the Full Treatment! Specific introduction, a little background about where Walton even is, the band director’s name and so on, all as they marched and stopped at the central area and did a show, and then marched on.

    So – tell us!!

    620 chars

  86. Charlotte said on December 27, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Minnie @84 — only family here was family of choice. SUCH an improvement.

    73 chars

  87. Sherri said on December 27, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    Yes, Connie, there are travel agencies that specialize in arranging tours for music groups of all kinds, from high school bands and choirs to adult community choirs. I went along with the tour my husband’s choir did in Italy several years back, which included performances and sight-seeing in Rome, Siena, and Florence. My daughter sang in a choir outside of school that did a tour most summers, with the biggest trip being to England and Wales.

    And then there’s the Disneyland high school band/choir/orchestra program, which my daughter’s high school did every three years. I assume Disneyworld has a similar program.

    622 chars

  88. beb said on December 27, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    Jeff (TMMO) Painter’s tape? Is that to seal up doors or to mark which ones are the bands? Never of a group trip needing tape before.

    When in doubt “Duck-it.”

    160 chars

  89. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 27, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    We are the Granville High School Marching Blue Aces, from Granville, Ohio — and while Brightspark is handling our travel arrangements, the chaperones “tape in” the rooms at lights out, and woe betide the room where the tape hath been broken without proper authorization before morning call. Our band director has told the cohort two things: if people break trip rules, there will be a call home, and that he will have Mr. Gill make the call, not him. (That being the name I’m known by in the band, not to mention more as a juvie court guy than as a parson or pundit.)

    The goal, of course, being that we make no calls at all. And I’m fairly certain we won’t. It’s a good group of kids, but there’s always the hazard of someone (usually a guy) talking two buddies into sneaking out and trying to find out what’s up in the big city. Sending home is, if it happens, more likely to be a result of finding they have booze or drugs in the room more than just sticking their heads out at 2 am. But proactive and pre-emptive chaperones can help keep the temptation to try something to a minimum.

    We load up at 4:30 am — wheeeee! We’re zooming through Cinc’y, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and pausing at Kennesaw to practice before hitting Atlanta tomorrow night.

    1256 chars

  90. Jill said on December 27, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    Connie, that’s the second strong recommendation for the Wright Brothers book I’ve seen in a couple of weeks. My friend who read it said it started out seeming slow but then became engrossing.

    192 chars

  91. Dave said on December 27, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    I’ve seen the bright lights of Mandale and Grover Hill, Dexter. It’s pretty much as you describe, there are large parts of that part of Ohio that looks like, I want to say Appalachia without the hills, so I guess I will.

    I’ll be on I-75 tomorrow, traveling from Knoxville toward Florida, I’m sure chances are slim I’ll see the Blue Aces marching band but I’ll watch for charter buses, anyway. I’d have to skip the Medieval Times, the only one I ever attended stirred up my allergies in short order, all of that fur and dust in the air started up my nose and running eyes in no time at all. It’s a lifetime malady.

    621 chars