Author Archives: Swistle

Continuous Stream of Dirty and Broken Things

I have been grim and morose and feeling as if the whole world is a bad place full of broken appliances and corrupt insurance companies and stupid/mean strangers leaving horrible callous comments on news articles, but I am trying to remember (leaving aside for the moment how this next thought reflects on me) that I am always a little messed up when the kids have a lot of days home from school, and the kids have had a lot of days home from school. Plus it’s January, and January is always kind of crummy.

Also, we had a small kitchen project done, and it meant having workers in the house all day, and there are few things that make me quite so staticky. I was in a total tizz all day, unable to settle anywhere, worried that if I went to the bathroom that would be the exact minute a worker would call out to ask me something, worried that they would think badly of me for sitting there with a book while they were doing hard physical labor, worried that they would ask me something I didn’t know the answer to, regretting things I said in previous interactions with them, and overall nervous to find that I will do and say almost anything as long as they will be nice and finish the work and get out of my house. And also I didn’t have access to the kitchen for a whole day, and I STILL have only partial access, and a quarter of our kitchen is in the dining room, and I hate things being out of place, which you would find very funny if you saw how very cluttered and messy my house is, but each thing is WHERE I EXPECT IT TO BE, which is what I mean by “in place.”

And then I start thinking about how extremely poor I am at coping with even minor upheavals, and how this bodes poorly for retirement years spent traveling or doing really anything, let alone for dealing with anything like a true upheaval, and how very spoiled it is to “not like change” when that change is A GOOD THING like a KITCHEN IMPROVEMENT (I don’t know why I’m acting as if it’s a secret: it’s a new window, really big, like the kind you can start seedlings in, to replace the original 1950s window that got thick ice on the inside of it during the winters) and not, say, GETTING FORCED OUT OF OUR COUNTRY or something, and then I have a little spiral about the news of the world and how terrible it is and how many people are suffering, but before long I’m back to the subject of how for a homemaker I sure don’t keep the house very clean. Or do much cooking. Or enjoy spending much time with the children.

Also I don’t have any good books to read right now. I keep starting new ones and not liking them.

Meanwhile I am annoyed with Paul, and it’s so unfair because he has been a PEACH PIE about the window replacement upheaval, and dealt patiently with a discouraging setback, and was up on the counter taping off the window glass so he can stain the frames, but instead I am focusing on how he broke the handle on the minivan because he “couldn’t tell if the door was locked or frozen shut” SO HE YANKED HARDER, using force instead of investigating to see why something isn’t working as expected. And this is after I finally, finally, FINALLY got around to getting the front passenger door handle replaced after ROB broke it by yanking too hard when the door was locked. And as I watch the paint gradually peel off the bathroom walls because Paul didn’t remember he needed to use primer, I am not too excited about him doing the staining. You may wonder why I am not doing it myself, if I’m so critical of his work. It’s a fair question, and the answer is that I really really don’t want to. I so admire people who just plow through things that need to be done, rather than melting with despair at the slightest thing. I would like to hire one of those people to manage my life. “I want you to be kind and gentle with me, and the cold noble unyielding prow of a ship with everything/everyone else,” I’d say, and they would nod and pat my shoulder and then matter-of-factly make all the phone calls that need to be made, and let me hide in the bedroom while the workers were here.

And also Paul keeps trying to cheer me up by doing nice things like washing the pans after dinner, but then when I’m putting the pans away later there are patches of VISIBLE FOOD AND GREASE on the insides and the outsides so then I have to do them over because I really can’t talk to him about this again, I really can’t, it seriously must be well over a hundred times I’ve explained it by this point, I am done explaining to a grown-ass adult that to wash a dish you have to apply soap and water in a way that removes the food from it—and yet I could have another FIFTY YEARS of this. His grandparents were married for over seventy years. OVER SEVENTY YEARS. Though by the end they were in a nursing home so I assume they were able to stop dealing with the dishes.

And now that we’ve replaced the window it seems like maybe we should paint the kitchen, especially since we already took everything off a wall and two counters so the window guys had space, but you know how it is when you start painting walls and then the cupboards look dingy and then the living room looks dingy by comparison and I don’t think I want to start that. And speaking of painting, the outside of the house is overdue for it. And the lamppost: it’s from the 1950s but we’d finally got it working and attached to an automatic switch, and it made me so happy to see it glowing out there in a neighborly way, and then last winter one of the kids accidentally hit it with a rock in a fluke snow-shoveling incident and broke the top right off of it so we’re just going to replace the whole thing including the very old and probably not very good wiring, and I haven’t called anyone about it for more than a year because I don’t know if I should call an electrician or a landscaper or both or what, and anyway now the ground is frozen again so it has to wait. And doesn’t it seem like all we do is fix a continuous stream of broken things and clean a continuous stream of dirty things until we die, and all that changes is that we get gradually less physically able to handle it?

Medicinal Brandy: Monthly Edition

Naturally I do not want to recommend alcohol to solve all of life’s problems, but have you tried brandy for cramps? I was more miserable than usual this month, and I think of brandy as pioneer medicine useful for treating everything from emotional shock to limb amputation, so I gave it a shot, as it were, figuring that even if it didn’t help with the cramps it would make me feel better overall (this is also my philosophy about sipping Drambuie for a cough), and it was near-miraculous. The cramps just WENT AWAY. I don’t know if it was the brandy in particular or if any alcohol would do, but I went from “too unhappy to have any dinner” ( <---- EXCEEDINGLY RARE) to "singing along with a Ke$ha song while scrambling eggs.” I didn’t even feel the alcohol per se; it was as if it went straight to the medical issue and dealt only with that. So I had a second serving, but if you don’t WANT the buzz you could stick to one and might not even feel it.

Honking

I am still stewing pointlessly about a dumb incident from yesterday, where YET AGAIN someone honked at me when I was right and they were wrong. This happens so often, I am concluding that people who honk are (1) overconfident and (2) REALLY OFTEN WRONG ABOUT HONKING and (3) NOT LEARNING THAT THIS IS THE CASE.

In yesterday’s example, I was at a T-shaped intersection where I was on the stem of the T and had the only stop sign. There was someone behind me. First we had to stay stopped because three cars were coming from the right. When the third car passed, the guy behind me HONKED and then revved and tried to DRIVE AROUND ME—that is, he started pulling into the lane going the opposite direction. And it’s lucky for him he wasn’t faster, because otherwise he would have CRASHED INTO THE PERSON COMING FROM THE LEFT. He couldn’t see that car, because of a snowbank—but I COULD see that car, WHICH IS WHY I DID NOT GO. But did the driver of the car behind me think to himself, “She’s still stopped, so there must be a good reason, perhaps something I can’t see, oh I wonder if that snowbank is obstructing my vision”? NO. He thought, “This IDIOT must be stopped for NO REASON, so I will HONK MY DISPLEASURE and then BREAK A LAW BY DRIVING FIRST ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD AND THEN DIRECTLY INTO AN INTERSECTION WITHOUT STOPPING, LIKE A NON-IDIOT WOULD.” I was RIGHT and he was SO EXTREMELY AND EXTENSIVELY WRONG, but I was the one who got honked at.

On another occasion that could have had even more severe consequences, I stopped for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The person behind me came up fast, then HONKED, then swerved around me—then had to slam on the brakes hard to avoid hitting the pedestrian. AGAIN: I was RIGHT and the honker was WRONG. I am sure there are cases in the history of time when a driver has stopped in the middle of the road for literally no reason other than being an idiot, but it is EXCEEDINGLY RARE. (If you are considering arguing with me about this, I think you might benefit from having a Honk Assessment Specialist ride along with you for a few weeks to help scan these situations for reasons. There are a LOT of Wrong Honkers out there, and you may be one without realizing it. There is no shame in reaching out for the help you need.)

There’s an intersection near our town where there is a right-turn lane and also a large sign on the traffic light saying “NO RIGHT TURN ON RED.” I cannot count how many times I have been honked at for stopping in that right-turn lane on red. The person behind me will honk, then throw their hands up in the air like “Who is this idiot?” I AM THE IDIOT WHO CAN READ SIGNS. But that person behind me goes on with their day thinking some idiot was stopped for no reason. NO LEARNING OCCURS, AND THE HONKING SYSTEM ENDURES.

OH! Here’s another one, now that I’m on a roll. There is an intersection that has a tendency to get clogged, so that the light turns green but the intersection is full of people who got partway through and can’t get the rest of the way through. It finally clears just in time for the light to be yellow, and then those people are so frustrated they scoot into the intersection anyway, clogging it in the other direction. It’s such a problem, the town has put up a big sign: “DO NOT BLOCK INTERSECTION.” Even WITHOUT a sign like that, the law is that you don’t start going through an intersection unless you can get all the way through, but the sign lets drivers know that this particular intersection has a particular problem with that. I have to go through this intersection twice on days I have pottery class, and so many times I’ve “stopped at a green light” (i.e., stopped before going into the intersection even though the light is green, because there isn’t room to get through and in fact there is already a car halfway in the intersection) and the person behind me has LEANED ON THE HORN. Listen, I DO SEE that it appears I am stopped at a green light; I DO UNDERSTAND how that might lead to temporary confusion, or even an accidental honk. But look a little AHEAD! Think, “I wonder WHY she is stopped at a green light. Is there a large obstruction in the road? A sinkhole? A cute dog? Is the intersection in some other way unsafe? Is there ROOM TO GET THROUGH THE INTERSECTION, AS REQUIRED BY LAW?” It is at times like this I wish I could get out of the car and explain the situation, instead of having the person behind me go on with their day thinking that so many other drivers are idiots and that only frequent honking keeps things running at all.

Two Tips: Still-Usable School Supplies, and Figuring Out Servings of Leftover Holiday Treats

I have two ideas that I keep meaning to tell you and I keep forgetting, and I’m not going to try to segue them naturally into another post, I’m just going to put them here.

First idea! You know how at the end of a school year, some of the school supplies are still usable (notebooks only 1/4th used, binders a little worn/bent but still holding together, crayons blunted but not even peeled yet), but also a bit rumpled and disappointing to use for the fresh new school year; and also if you DO try to reuse them they tend to wear out around January when it’s hard to find new ones in the stores? These are great to put aside for MID-YEAR replacements. Like, go ahead and buy the new binder/notebooks if that’s fun (I think it’s fun), but if they wear out two months before the end of the school year you won’t have to buy brand new ones, because you’ll have a few of last year’s still-good things sitting in the school-supply bin, ready to do in a pinch. And by then no one is feeling attached to the idea of brand-new school supplies, they just need something they can bring to school the next day.

Second idea! I don’t know if you run into this, but we regularly run into the problem of trying to figure out Sweets Values. Like, if we have a bunch of leftover Christmas (or Easter, or Halloween, or whatever) candy/cookies of various types, and I want the kids to be able to have a measured amount, we then get into exhausting conversations about how many M&Ms are the same as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Tree, and how many Hershey Kisses are the same as a frosted sugar cookie. I enjoy that kind of talk for about four minutes and then I am DONE. So here is what I do now: I have them use the kitchen scale (I have the Weighmax and I would recommend it) and I tell them a WEIGHT of sweets they can have. Then they can dither with the endless combinations themselves, and leave me out of it. A typical full-size candy bar is in the 1.5-ounce range, if that helps. I usually weigh a few sample batches and that helps me figure out what amount I have in mind, whether it’s .5 ounces (“Have a wee treat”) or 2 ounces (“Leave me alone for a little while”).

Christmas Lights Down, Cardigan On, Cheese Dips on Deck

Taking the Christmas lights down is one of the primary reasons, I think, for January Grimness. I’ve tried leaving them up way after Christmas, but Christmas lights too long after Christmas are a depressing reminder that there’s no reason for them to be up, and that all of life is a sad sham. And I’ve tried buying other kinds of string-lights intended for non-Christmas use, such as pretty little lantern shapes, but pretty little lantern shapes don’t give me the Christmas light feeling. It is just not time to have the Christmas lights up right now, and I am just going to have to learn how to carry on anyway.

I am feeling especially grim because I’ve been so CHILLY. I am not used to being so chilly. But I’m not ONLY chilly, so I can’t just put on a sweater or I’d be yanking it off again half an hour later and then pulling it on fifteen minutes after that, and you know how staticky that makes your hair. My mom says the same thing happened to her at Around This Age: her temperature-regulator went on the fritz and never really worked again. So I need things that are easy to put on and take off as needed.

The happy thing about being CHILLY for a change is that I LIKE to ADD layers! It is delightful! Until recently my problem has been that I run warm, but I do not like to show a lot of skin, so I am more accustomed to the misery that is (1) wanting to remove layers and (2) absolutely not wanting to remove layers. I hate my summer clothes, which are insufficiently skimpy for coolness yet still too skimpy for emotional comfort.

Anyway, I have been shopping left and right. Right now I am wearing a snuggy sherpa cardigan that is like wearing a teddy-bear pelt. And I bought a micro-fleece cardigan that has thumb-holes in the sleeves—like built-in fingerless gloves. I would like to link to these things because I highly, highly recommend both of them, but unfortunately I bought them on clearance at Old Navy and now they are gone.

I also bought a circle scarf because it was on a pre-Christmas sale for $2, but it makes Paul nervous because he thinks I will somehow accidentally get it caught on something and be strangled, so I have not been wearing it. Besides, scarves don’t seem quite right: they are warm as long as they stay snug, but they gradually loosen until they are brushing annoyingly against my chilly neck. And I feel as if scarves LOOK as if I’m trying to conceal my middle-aged neck, but that they actually highlight it. So.

Listen, do you have any ideas for filling the sad joyless void left by the removal of the Christmas lights? Right now I am trying cheese dips, but it’s not enough.

Photos of the Pottery

Listen, where would you go to purchase a shawl? Or would you order one online and hope the material felt nice? I have been unusually chilly this winter and I feel the need of another easy-on/off cozy layer.

I finally have pictures of the results of my pottery class. First, two group shots [edit for clarity: that is, group shots of all the pieces I made during the class]:

 

In the second photo you may have noticed a little…er, issue with one of the pots.

When you take a partly-dry item and put it back on the wheel and use a series of graters/scrapers to smooth and shape it, that is called “trimming.” One potential issue with trimming is that you can trim too much, and cut through the item or make it too thin. I was trimming this item when I noticed what looked like a crack near the base. I picked it up—and the entire bottom fell off. I sent it off to be fired anyway, figuring I could still use it as glazing practice, which I did. Now I’m throwing it out.

Another item bound for the trash:

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the glaze was too thick and it clumped up. Another issue is that the underside of the pot is lower than the bottom of the pot, which I discovered when I took it off the glazing table and a large swipe of glaze stayed behind. I sent it off to be fired anyway, because I wanted to see what clumpy glaze would look like. (Answer: “clumpy.”) A third issue, as my dad pointed out, is that it’s “kind of an ugly color.” I’d layered two glazes, hoping for a nice spring-leaf green, but no, not quite.

These are my favorites, especially the one on the right and the one on the left (the one in the middle is fine, but it’s earlier than the other two and I didn’t have the lip the way I wanted it; also, I like the color less):

My teacher did not approve of my little rounded bowls, as they are in all ways opposite from the Tall Straight-Sided Cylinder I was supposed to be working on—but making them is what made me happy and excited about the class, instead of discouraged and floppy. I like them, and I liked making them.

This is like a little set:

All three of those, believe it or not, began their lives as attempts to make a Tall Straight-Sided Cylinder. The little flattish bowl was, as you might imagine, a spectacular failure of a cylinder, but that made it an equally spectacular save. My teacher showed me how to stick a needle tool (basically a needle on a handle) into the item while it was spinning, to carve off the collapsed upper half, and then I salvaged the flared bottom half.

These next five are in order, and all were attempts to make a tall straight-sided cylinder. So you can see I am making SOME progress as we go down the line. The first three, when they failed to be cylinders, I trimmed the bottoms to be rounded, and added a foot, so you should look only at the shape/angle/lumpiness of their sides. Those are, left to right: Week 5, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, and Week 8.

 

Nothing I have shown you so far was made before my fourth 3-hour class session. That is, the WORST item in the bunch was still made after at LEAST twelve hours of practice on the wheel. In the next picture, the three blue items in the foreground are the things Paul made in his very first class:

But I’m not bitter. No. I’m pleased for him. For him and HIS NEW WIFE THE POTTERY WHEEL, SINCE APPARENTLY THEY GET ALONG SO WELL

Busy Week; The Crown; Prince Consort

Next year, I wonder if one of you could remind me not to schedule any appointments or lunch dates for the week before Christmas? I have one or two appointments/dates every single day this week and I am losing my mind. I realize this is not a sympathetic topic for those of you who work full-time and also handle all this stuff. Let’s talk about TV instead!

On the recommendation of my wine-and-appetizers group, I am watching The Crown. And I pass that recommendation on to you, especially if you liked Downton Abbey, and were excited about Will and Kate getting married, and would like to see the 11th Doctor’s bare derriere.

well I mean okay

well I mean okay
(image from bbc.co.uk)

History is one of my weakest subjects, but historical fiction really helps: I was watching King George VI in The Crown, and suddenly realized he was the same guy as Colin Firth from The King’s Speech! Now I just need to fill in the little 400-or-so-year gap between The King’s Speech and the Philippa Gregory books about Henry VIII.

Watching The Crown reminded me to tell you that I didn’t realize Prince Philip was Prince Charles’s father until I was a full-grown adult—and not, like, just out of college or whatever, but more like…30s? And it’s because he was called the Prince Consort, and I was raised Christian so I thought that was the same as a concubine: all the biblical kings had HEAPS AND HEAPS of concubines, and this was a queen so it made sense that she would have the male version of that, and “consort” sounded male. Concubine, escort, consort. I don’t know who I thought was the father of Queen Elizabeth’s children, but I assumed Prince Philip came into the picture later, when she was all done with her royal heir-producing duties. Prince Philip was independent and difficult and clearly just for fun. It was startling to realize that no, he was the legitimate dad of those kids and married to Queen Elizabeth for SEVENTY YEARS. I hear he still feels resentful about giving up his surname and career just because his spouse’s name and career was considered more important. Huh, yeah, must be really weird to have that expected of you.

Stocking Stuffers

Alyson asked me on Twitter about stocking stuffers for kids and husbands, and I was answering right along when I realized I was having a lot of fun, which made me think I should bring it over here. I’m going to basically cut-and-paste, which will be a little dull for those of you who already read it in Twitter format.

When the kids were littler, I kept an eye out all year for clearances in the party-favor aisle: kazoos, little plastic cars, rubber balls, those curled-up blower things, stickers, punch balloons, temporary tattoos, silly glasses/headbands, mini slinkies, mini flashlights, toy tops—really it didn’t matter what the things were, the point was to find lots of trinkets.

I’ve also had good luck with clearances in the toy section, though not as many because toys tend to be bigger. But Rubik’s cubes or similar handheld puzzles, card games, little stuffed animals, and those overpriced packets where you get one surprise tiny Nintendo figure or whatever.

And just kind of clearances all over the store. When the summer stuff cleared out, I’d get them new swim goggles, sidewalk chalk, water balloons. When the fall/Halloween stuff cleared out, I’d get them glow bracelets, new water bottles, new crayons. And so on.

One year there was a good deal on inexpensive electric toothbrushes (like, $5 each), so I bought everyone one of those.

I also put in tons of candy, and some novelty candy like Pop Rocks, Nerd ropes, chocolate in the shape of a dollar bill, chocolate coins, tubes of mini M&Ms, weird flavors of Hershey Kisses. And granola bars, and those cute little single-serve packets of Pringles. I go to the snack aisle and buy those dipper snacks: there are bread sticks or crackers or pretzels to dip in cheese dip, or Oreo sticks to dip in frosting. I get the snack-packs of things like Teddy Grahams and mini Chips Ahoy. Oh, and Pez dispensers, with refills. Lots of the kinds of things that caught their eyes when they were shopping with me.

I get them stuff that I would have just bought them anyway, like new socks or new gloves. Basically if they need something in November or December, and it’s not an immediate need, I get it for the stocking. Or I’ll get them things that are mostly practical but cost a little more because they’re fancy: character underwear, cute socks, fun bandaids.

For Paul, I get candy and snacks. We have a beer store near us, so I get him one single fun expensive beer. Sometimes I get a few of those little tiny bottles of liquor. Last year after Christmas there was a 70%-off clearance on an ice scraper with a built-in mitt, so I got him that and put it aside for this year. I get him an inexpensive kitchen gadget, like a dough docker or a squash scraper. If during the year I hear him cursing because he can’t find his duct tape or tiny screwdrivers or utility knife or hex keys or other inexpensive tool, I’ll get a new one and put it in his stocking. I usually give him a Google Play gift card for his phone.

One year a toothpaste company came out with three weird new flavors, and they had sample sizes available, so I got him those. Sometimes I put in a new toothbrush, even though he could just reach into the bathroom closet and get one out of the box. He mentioned needing a portable toothbrush for work, so I got him a folding one from the travel section. One year I gave him a silly contact lens case.

I generally get him a new Big Ass Brick of Soap, and this year I also got him bar shampoo and an old-fashioned deck of cards, because I needed a few things to get up to the free-shipping deal. And on Black Friday, the ACLU had a $10 t-shirt deal so he’s getting one of those in his stocking, and so am I.

Annual Calendar Post, 2018 Calendar Edition!

I told Paul this morning that TODAY WAS THE DAY for the calendar post. I went on at some length about how fun it was to do, and why. I wonder if he’s coming down with something, because his eyes had an odd glazed quality.

My only Really Very Important Requirements for a wall calendar is that it have squares to write things in, and good pictures. There are many gorgeous wall calendars that have no room to write appointments (like these—oh I love them), and there are many calendars with tons of writing room that have mediocre pictures (or NO pictures); neither of those will do. Squares to write things. Good pictures.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years we’ve been doing this is that there are many, MANY calendars I love but don’t want for a whole year. I’ll see one of, say, alpacas, and think, “Oh, ALPACAS! I like alpacas!” But—twelve whole months of alpacas? Hm. What I would probably love best of all would be a calendar that was completely different all twelve pages: one French artwork, one ballerina pig, one cool treehouse, one weird chicken, one pop-art, one serene landscape, one modern art, one songbird, and so on. Anyway! We must at least narrow it down!

(image from Amazon.com)

Succulents calendar. I have been seeing this theme everywhere, including for CUPCAKES, and I am all in.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Secret Garden calendar. Peaceful. Pretty. Nicer than the view outside my own window, where we took out a bunch of old shrubs and haven’t put anything else in yet.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

National Parks calendar. This is put out by the National Park Foundation, so I would like to support this concept. (Here’s another gorgeous one, if you don’t need room to write.) I’m afraid, though, that it would make me angry every month, to see these amazing parks that have been preserved so long and are now in jeopardy.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Every Day’s a Holiday calendar. This breaks the rules I JUST FINISHED mentioning: some of the squares have stuff in them, and there’s no main picture. But this is the kind the kids sometimes want.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Unlikely Friendships calendar. This is the kind of pure I have been CRAVING this whole past year. Sometimes after another day of baffling news alerts, I just need to see a dog hanging out with a pygmy owl.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Berkley Bestiary Animal Portrait calendar. Or a guinea pig dressed for a barbershop quartet.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Cow Yoga calendar. Or cows doing yoga.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

For the Love of Color calendar. No good pictures, but I do love this whole concept of colored squares, and there’s extra room to write. This won’t make my finalist list, but I could see it being perfect for someone else.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Farmer’s Market calendar. I had this one a few years ago, and I highly recommend it. Wholesome, soothing, pretty. I liked it so much, Paul tracked down the artist and bought me two large prints, which I have in the kitchen and still like year after year.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Chihuly calendar. Blown glass sculptures. Art persists.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Posters for Peace and Justice calendar. I like the concept, but I don’t like enough of the pages.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Marijuana calendar. Whatever it takes to get through the year. And it comes with a free marijuana-themed key ring, which could double as a festive Christmas ornament.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Kilty Pleasures calendar. Like I said: whatever it takes to get through the year.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

William Morris calendar. This reminds me pleasantly of the wallpaper-themed calendars I’ve had in the past. (The children feel there is nothing blander than appreciating wallpaper, but just wait until they are old enough to care about choosing a shade of white paint.)

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Stitch the Stars calendar. This is so cool: it comes with glow-in-the-dark thread, and you stitch along each constellation. But it does not have squares for writing down appointments.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Daily Dress calendar. Breaks both requirements but I love it anyway; it reminds me of the Love of Color calendar, in that there is no main picture but it is still beautiful to look at. I wonder if I could have something like this by my desk. I hardly ever write anything on that one. Hardly ever. And I could use post-its or something.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Shoebox Faux-spirational calendar. I vastly prefer fauxpirational messages to inspirational ones, but I don’t think I’d find each joke funny for a whole month. Like, I smiled at “You Can’t Run From Your Problems — Unless Your Problem Is Slugs,” but would I smile for 30 days in a row?

 

(image from Amazon.com)

It’s Just Not Your Day calendar. I like this one better. Prettier, for one thing. Sample page: “Swearing Might Help” in fancy writing.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Oh, and those remind me of the Mary Engeldark calendar brought to my attention by Doing My Best. You are familiar with Mary Engelbreit, she of the “Life is but a chair of bowlies” and similar cheerful colorful sentiments? This is instead: “When life shuts a door, open it again. It’s a door. That’s how it works” and “People hate the truth. Luckily, the truth doesn’t care.” Nice. This one is a strong candidate this year.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Space Cats calendar. This calendar isn’t even trying to make sense, and I think my kids would love it.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Sloths calendar. Another candidate for the kids.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Fat Cats calendar. Elizabeth had this one last year and loved it. I thought it looked kind of low-budget, but she liked it enough to mention maybe getting it again this year.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Cats in Sweaters calendar. Another popular choice here.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Paper Source Art Calendar. Ooh. Ooh ooh ooh. This has the LOOK of the calendars I often pine for, the kind that don’t have squares to write in—but it DOES HAVE SQUARES. This is a very strong candidate.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

William S. Rice Arts and Crafts calendar. I liked this one a whole lot better than I thought I would after seeing only the cover. Peaceful and pretty. Another strong candidate.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Passport to the World calendar. Beautiful World Photos calendars never get to first place with me, but I always want to consider them.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Simple Landscapes calendar. Beautiful. I love it.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Trees calendar. Peaceful, pretty, soothing in a “The world existed before humans, and will probably continue on after they’re gone, as long as they don’t blow the place up on their way out” kind of way.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Pusheen the Cat calendar. Highly, highly recommend. This is the calendar that was most enjoyed by the entire family. If I were trying to please them, I would get it every year. But I am not.

 

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Banksy calendar. This seems like a nice edgy choice. I can picture the college student liking it.

 

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A Primitive Past calendar. Not quite my own style, but I can see the appeal. Style-adjacent.

 

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Art Deco fairytales calendar. Style-adjacent.

 

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Sea Food calendar. I don’t know if it’s the same artist, but we had some books that looked like this long ago, and a matching calendar for one of the kids’ rooms. Cute and fun. Maybe just a little creepy in a cute/fun way.

 

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Pizza calendar. I appreciate the concept, without wanting to try to write on the top half of a calendar. Also, I already think about pizza too much.

 

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Hello Kitty calendar. Elizabeth has, sadly for me, outgrown Hello Kitty, which makes it less tempting to buy; it was more fun when she and I BOTH liked Hello Kitty.

 

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Pokémon calendar. The fad is finally dying down at my house, but it still has appeal.

 

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Masha D’yans calendar. I consider this one seriously every year; this year it looks particularly pretty to me.

 

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This Is Us calendar. Oh my gosh! I have recently started watching this! I will say four things about it. (1) I really like this show and all the characters. (2) There is WAY too much “grabbing people and swinging them around and tickling them.” (3) Also too much dramatic monologuing. (4) But I still really, really like it. I don’t want a calendar of it, though.

 

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Hamilton calendar. I hear this was a pretty good show too.

 

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DK Ultimate Train calendar. This made me feel a little sentimental: we had a set of DK books that I read about a million times to Rob (to the other kids, too, but Rob was the one who was obsessed with them).

 

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Bob Ross calendar. Oh, wow, speaking of sentimental. We’ve watched some of his shows with the kids, who always groan when we put an episode on, and then soon after are quiet and mesmerized. I sit there with tears seeping slowly at how kind and gentle he is. And look at the additional images for the calendar: there’s a Bob Ross face at the top of each page, and a Bob Ross quote at the bottom of each one! “You have to have dark in order to show light, just like in life.” *throat clenches*

 

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Art of the Heart calendar. I am more willing than during previous administrations to lean toward even somewhat-trite images representing love and acceptance, but I don’t like enough of the pages in this one this year. TWO are of, like, real hearts.

 

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Guinea Pigs calendar. I had one of these guinea pig calendars a couple of years ago and it was one of my most successful. Twelve whole months of guinea pigs might not have been sufficient guinea pigs.

 

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BTS calendar. All I know is that this group keeps coming up in my Twitter feed.

 

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Paint-by-Sticker calendar. I don’t THINK I want to do this in calendar form, even though I’ve really enjoyed the books. But maybe.

 

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Cats in Color calendar. I had this one next to my desk this year, and can recommend it. Nice bold appealing pictures.

 

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Women in Science calendar. I found this when searching to see if there was a calendar for art by women. There was not, but there was the calendar version of a book that’s on my wish list.

 

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As always, I would love to hear about your calendar choices, if you still use paper calendars. I am pretty sure I’m going for Masha D’yans for the kitchen, and Bob Ross for next to my desk.

More Christmas Gift Ideas

I have two kids home sick from school, but they only had one barfing session each (one kid last night, the other kid this morning), and since then they have been absolutely well enough to play video games, so I am hoping hoping hoping that they just had too much dinner last night or something.

Every year at Christmas I re-read This Year It Will Be Different. This time I’m deliberately reading one story each night, after it’s dark enough outside for the Christmas lights to look peak beautiful. This has been a very pleasant way to do it, as it turns out.

Certain Christmas carols bug me; I won’t list them all, because one person’s teeth-clenching irritant is another’s sentimental favorite, but I did want to mention a little issue with Do You Hear What I Hear. That’s the one where the night wind tells the lamb about a special star, and then the lamb tells the shepherd boy about a special song, and then the shepherd boy tells the king about a special baby, and then the king tells his people about the special baby too. But in the actual Bible story, what the king actually does upon hearing the news of a special baby is order the execution of all boys two years and younger. I can see how that wasn’t as nice a verse for the song, but what if the shepherd boy had instead continued the game of Telephone with a grown-up shepherd or a magi or something? Then we could have had another good verse without the story veering.

We are right at that point where “There is PLENTY of time to prepare for Christmas” has the potential to turn into wild panic about how little time there is left. Rather than trying to make idea lists around a certain type of person, I am going to just show you what I’ve been buying and trust you to figure out which person on your list it might work for, if any.

 

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Pokémon wallet for my six-year-old nephew who just started getting an allowance. I had Paul and the three youngest kids all weigh on the decision, because there were several pretty good ones; this one was the winner, but not by a lot. The runner up was this one. Arguments for the one we got: it’s cuter; it’s a more attractive design overall; you can act like you’re putting your money into a Pokéball. Argument for the runner-up: more Pokémons is better.

 

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Pokémon Throw ‘N’ Pop Charmander and Great Ball, also for the six-year-old nephew. I thought this looked really cute and fun. The hardest part was picking which Pokémon/ball combination.

 

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Pusheen 12″ plush for my eight-year-old niece. I hope I made the right call on this. Elizabeth thinks the ones eating things (cookie, cupcake, sushi, doughnut, pizza, ice cream, chips) are cuter, but I thought a more basic edition would have more long-term cuteness/appeal. (By the way, there is a 41″ version too if you are of the go-big-or-go-home temperament.)

I also bought the Pusheen stamp set, which by the way is TINY—tinier than I was imagining, because I failed to read the perfectly clear description. It’s a nice stocking item, though. And if you’re thinking of buying some Pusheen stuff, I definitely recommend the Pusheen book. All my kids love it.

 

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Nerf Dart refill, for ten-year-old Henry. When we are old and moving into a nursing home, they will clean out our house and, one assumes, find thousands of Nerf darts, because where do they all go?

 

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OPI in Madame President. For me. I had a bottle already, but Elizabeth uses up a lot of nail polish and so when the price dipped I bought another bottle to set aside and not let her use. I’ll have Paul put it in my stocking.

 

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Pizzacraft dough docker, for Paul. He likes trying new kitchen toys, even if they don’t end up being useful.

 

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LEGO Space Shuttle Explorer / Moon Station / Space Rover. For Paul, who recently said he was in the mood to build with LEGOs again. I like that you can make three different projects with the same set.

 

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Portal the board game, for either Edward or Henry, depending on who has fewer presents. The video games Portal and Portal 2 have been extremely and persistently popular at our house, so even if the board game ends up being terrible it’ll be fun to open. I’m also buying this little LEGO Portal set; probably I’ll give it to Paul because he can be relied on to share graciously.

 

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Dixit, for 16-year-old William. I am picky about games, and I do like this one. I like that it’s low-pressure, and everyone plays for themselves so you don’t have to worry about letting teammates down, and it’s relaxed and creative, and it allows time to pause and chat for awhile mid-game-play. I was explaining the game to William (I played it at someone else’s house) and he really liked the sound of it so I’m getting it for him.

 

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Chicago Cutlery Fusion II 5-inch utility knife and 7-3/4-inch chef knife. We have the 3-inch paring knife and Paul commented recently that it’s one of his top favorites and he wishes he had a second one so he didn’t have to keep washing it. So I’m buying him a second one, and also these two different knives from the same line so he can see if he likes those too. I see they say hand-wash only, but we have been putting the paring knife through the dishwasher daily.

 

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Hedgehog journal, for niece who loves hedgehogs. Also hedgehog stickers.

 

Melissa and Doug Giant Deer. For me, and as a friend for my giraffe. I can’t fully explain myself, except that I saw him in a store and his nose was perfectly off-center and he was looking at me like this:

 

You should have seen all the adoring looks he got as I wheeled him around in the cart. Everyone who saw him wished they’d seen him first! Everyone! I have him standing next to the Christmas tree with Christmas lights draped over his antlers, and I have no regrets.

NO REGRETS.