Sunday, November 30, 2014

Gingerbread Creativity

Here are just a few of the gingerbread houses we saw on display downtown.  I appreciate the creativity and the tenacity of the people who put together these things.

Santa's Kitchen.  I think this one is my favorite.  I just
love all the details.
Despicable Tree, with Minions

A pretzely log cabin sort of gingerbread house

I have tried to figure out what makes this a "Pittsburgh"
nativity scene.  I mean, the Baby Jesus is not wrapped in a
Terrible Towel.  Is that Wise Man (in blue) carrying a football?

Troop ship coming home.  Very poignant.

Santa's Stable

Santa Spa Day - note that a snowman has gotten into the hot tub.

"Holiday for our Heroes"  

"Created by the Strange Society of Teenage Girls"

"Reindeer Games"
The spectators are all gummy bears.

Dia de los Muertos, in gingerbread.  Wow!

"A Pueblo Christmas" 

The Duck at Point State Park

"Snoopy's Chamber Strings"
Towering above all these gingerbread houses is a giant Christmas tree, with completely creepy disembodied Santa faces glaring out at us.

These Santa Faces belong in a Doctor Who episode.  I am sorry if you find yourself too creeped out to sleep tonight.

Adjectiveless Sunday

Apparently there is no adjective to go with today.  Last Friday was Black Friday, followed by Small Business Saturday.  Tomorrow is Cyber Monday, and in Pennsylvania, more importantly, it will be the first day of deer hunting season.  Tuesday has been named Giving Tuesday.  I’m beginning to understand why people want to go hunting – to get away from the incessant requests to empty their pockets of money.

For some, today is the First Sunday of Advent – Hopeful Sunday.  We had holy sights and sounds at church today.  There were decorations hanging high on the wall, installed by one fearless member of the congregation. There was the lighting of the first candle of the Advent wreath, which reminded me of this passage:

Your sun shall no more go down,
    or your moon withdraw itself;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of mourning shall be ended.
Your people shall all be righteous.
                        - Isaiah 60:20-21 and similarly in Revelation 22:5

Given the behavior of all-us Americans lately, it seems ridiculous to hope that all the people could be righteous, and that days of mourning could be finished with.  I do little to make it happen, except to hope against all odds. 

We also had wonderful music, with some ol’ favorite Advent hymns and a new one called “Almost There”.  Then, without drawing attention to it, the music director snuck in some J.S. Bach, including “Wachet Auf” (pronounced “Whack It Off,” which means either “Sleepers Awake” or “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying”) with its great moving lines of harmony.  I love me some Johann Sebastian.

Here in the Common Household, today should probably also be called Recovery From Past Excess Sunday.  Our guests have gone home, our students have gone back to college.  The dining room table has shrunk back to its original size, inversely proportional to the expansion of us from turkey and pie. The roasting pan has crept back into its box in the basement to wait until next year. The leftovers are all gone (sob!) except for the yams, which I will not make next year, as demand for them is not high enough to merit that space in the fridge. 

What adjective would you attach to today?

I leave you with gobs of photos of our lovely day last Friday.  We took four teenaged girls ice-skating downtown.  I had a lovely time not skating but watching the skaters.  We also got to see the gingerbread house display, but I will put those photos in a separate post.  

The pears did not get eaten, but all the pies did.

Me with the Ketchuposaurus

Skaters at PPG Place

Excellent skating socks

Three teenaged girls would rather watch the horse-drawn
carriages than skate.

Giant Christmas tree outside, plus a rare
spot of blue sky.  It was cold, though!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Words of Thanksgiving

Here some of the words which people would be grateful to hear on Thanksgiving Day.

Appropriate Word Cloud

warm front
185 degrees
Who wants seconds on pie?
Flight is on time.
The operation was successful.
Can I help do anything?
Here's more wine.
I'm glad that you are here.
That was good. I think I'll have another helping!
I'll clean up!
Thank you.
This is delicious.
Best pie ever.
Go take a nap, you've had a hard week.
I love you.
We'll wash the dishes, Mom.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Word Cloud which more accurately depicts what I am thinking about
These are the results from #3 on my Thanksgiving survey.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pre-Thanksgiving PSA

This is a Public Service Announcement.

If it is the day before Thanksgiving, DO NOT text your husband with this message: 

“I’m at the grocery store and I’m planning to get some dish soap, some bread, and some carrots.  If you think of anything else we need, let me know soon.  Bye.”

My husband has a different view of what type and what volume of food should be served before, during, and after Thanksgiving dinner.  Despite the fact that he was at that moment driving home from work, he texted me back (using Siri, I hope) with a Magna-Carta length list:

Husband’s text:
            Nice cheese
            Nice crackers
            Cream cheese, different varieties
            Refried beans
            Little pizza egg rolls
(This is where I began to roll my eyes.)
(By the way, his list was longer, but I have edited it for brevity.)
            Oyster crackers
            Deli roast beef
            Soft drinks
            Two bags of ice
            Pretzels with peanut butter inside
At that, I totally blew my stack.

My text:  Holy smoke.  I am not getting pretzels with pb inside.

He continued, with a bunch of stuff that I already got several days ago.  To his credit they were healthy vegetable and fruits.

Me:  I already have some of those.  But give me a break. We don’t have to consume every item in the store.  Why do we need oyster crackers?

Him:  In case we have lobster bisque.

Other people in the store started wondering why this woman was fuming at her cell phone.  Lobster bisque is not on the menu this month.  By this point I had reached the deli counter, and looked at the nutritional info for braunschweiger.  Braunschweiger does not belong on the Common Household menu, neither at Thanksgiving nor at any other time of year.  About ¾ of it is fat.

Me:  No oyster crackers.  I’m sorry, but you do not qualify for braunschweiger.

By this time I figured he had reached home, and found a full refrigerator of food, all reserved for tomorrow.  Before I left the store I got one last text.

Him:  Are you coming home soon?  I’m hungry.

The thing is, he’s actually right.  Our guests will consume all of it, and probably more.  We really did need some of those things.

P.S.  The real reason I went to the grocery store was to get more Brussels sprouts, because I sensed that 72 of them is not enough for 8 people (we’re having 11 people, but I know 3 of them won’t touch B. sprouts, which is great because it leaves more for the rest of us.)

In conclusion,


I have to go caramelize all these onions.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Hot Time on a Cold Day

On a late November Saturday morning, when it’s below freezing outside, where is the Common Household Mom to be found?  In the warm kitchen, making a birthday pie?  At the mall, shopping for gifts for her loved ones?  Curled up by the proverbial fire, sipping hot chocolate and reading a good book?

No, Dear Reader.  On such a day you can find the Common Household Mom outside, mowing the lawn. 

The Weather Man had promised dry and 45° for today.  That’s a good 20° warmer than the past five days have been.  So I girded myself in the clothing of yard work, including not a winter hat but one of those things that just wraps around your ears.  The actual temperature was only 26°, but at least it was dry.  I heard the sound of a lawn mower out in the neighborhood.  Sure enough, there was my Neighbor with the Heart of Gold mowing his lawn, with the usual cigar hanging out of his mouth. 

I set my face toward the garage, found the gas can, and filled the mower’s gas tank.  I have not yet figured out how to do this without making my hands smell like gasoline for the rest of the day.

The mower instructions say to prime the engine with three squirts of gas using the handy primer button.  However, my husband has told me that our post-menopausal mower needs more than that to get started.  I couldn’t remember how many squirts, so I pressed the primer button nine times, hoping I would not flood the engine.  I yanked the starter cord more times than the House of Representatives has voted to repeal Obamacare.  Nothing.  I decided to go up to a lucky thirteen squirts. More yanking, during which I tried not to imagine what that action was doing to my elbow joint.  Nothing.  The engine did not even turn over. 

I wondered if the engine would cooperate if I smoked a cigar, as Mr Heart of Gold Neighbor does.  He seems to have no trouble starting his mower.  Not having a cigar, I put the mower back in the garage and went inside to think about whether covering the mower with a blanket would be a fire hazard.  Half an hour later, I tried again.  After three yanks, the mower sprang to life and said, “Well, hot damn, I guess I do have to mow the lawn today after all.” 

After mowing a few rows, I noticed that my hair felt weird, as if it was poinging up out of my skull.  That’s what I get for not wearing a real hat, I said to myself.  But no, it was not my hair rebelling, but drops of sleet on my bare head.  I soldiered on, thinking fondly of the days when our son was not at college on lawn-mowing days. 

As the Wintry Mix on the mower started to look like a Jackson Pollock painting (except in black and gray), I decided it wasn’t that bad.  I tried not to overestimate the number of leaves that the mower bag can hold.  I am always fearful that this is a fire hazard, but then I reasoned that only a Boy Scout can start a fire on wet leaves when the weather is 26° and sleeting, and even then the Boy Scout needs dryer lint and a lot of matches. 
Is it a fire hazard when the leaves get backed up in the mower
like this, or just a yucky mess?
When the sleet on the mower began to resemble a Rothko painting, I decided I was done for today.  Besides, the yard bin was almost full.

I did manage to get one section done, but that’s only one third of the lawn. Son, it’s your turn.  I’ll be sitting by the fire, which remains proverbial because we don't have a fireplace.  That would be a fire hazard.

Nearly full yard waste bin