This post is dedicated to the point-and-shoot camera.
We have been squeezing holiday celebrations in and around regular life whenever we can.
On St. Nicholas Day (last Tuesday) we each found an ornament in our shoe--four charming vintage pinecone gnomes for the boys and a tiny putz house for the mama.
The evening before I had told them this St. Nicholas story from Miri's blog (which I much prefer to the dowry version), and then C opened his big mouth and said "If you're good St. Nicholas will put gold coins in your shoes." So naturally, no one was very impressed with the gnome ornaments. There was also supposed to be a special chocolate which I had bought when I was in Connecticut, but that same big mouth had already helped himself to all of them.
I had also spent the last month or so threatening them that if they don't behave, The Krampus would come and take them away in his iron basket, and read them a poem I wrote for the speech club I belong to (yeah, I'm that geeky) in which Krampus makes all the bad children into soup. They must have been good enough; they escaped Krampus's basket this year. (I was pleased to hear, coincidentally, this story on NPR over the weekend which indicates that Krampus is finally getting some attention this side of the Atlantic)
E and Z had their holiday concert at school last week (it was the first time in seven years that M didn't have a concert), which was the usual combination of adorable and horrifying. Those are my boys there, the one in red with his hands in his pockets and the one in white and black trying to hide behind everyone else. I especially like how my camera gave everyone glowy white eyes, like they're little Krampuses themselves.
Saturday morning, before basketball practice (oh, yes, another sporting season for me to grouse about. Aren't you happy?), I strung up the "garling" E fingerknitted over Thanksgiving weekend. It wound all the way down the long wall that spans living room and kitchen, the side wall of the living room, the front wall, around the stairway and chimney, and back again. I estimate it is about 130+ feet of fingerknitting.
I had a hard time getting a picture to show the magnitude of it.
Saturday afternoon, we went into full-on sweat-shop mode, making holiday gifts (and Z taking arty photographs of it all). At one point Z, while doodling out ideas for decorating his gifts drew something that was almost exactly a swastika (with one leg pointing the wrong way) and said something like, "How about this?" and I said something like, "Absolutely NOT!!!!" and the whole thing ended up eerily and almost exactly like this incident, with Z crying and burrowing into the couch. Oh my.
Saturday evening we held our very, very early Hanukkah observed celebration, with our usual half-sweet-potato latkes, and a yule log menorah like the one we made last year. I was so happy to refer back to that post and remember that I made homemade applesauce (which I did again) and bought grape kid wine (they didn't have it so I bought blueberry). The health food store didn't have sour cream this year either, so we used yogurt instead, but I did buy some ruby red sauerkraut, which though it's made of cabbage, looks kinda like beets. I also served fried eggs, because now that the kids actually eat the latkes, so C and I can't have about eight each, they're not that filling (C's hoping I'll make a brisket next year, whatever that is). I couldn't find any fair trade/organic chocolate gelt, so we went without dessert (I think cheese blintzes should be on the menu next year...that sounds much better than brisket).
I had meant to get a CD of Jewish music, but I forgot when I was at the bookstore earlier in the week, so instead we marched around the kitchen with tambourines and castanets singing "Hanukkah is Here" and pretending to dance the hora, and M played the dreidel song on his trumpet.
Afterward, instead of playing dreidel, we went out for a moon walk.
(I wasn't going to post this photo until I saw Rachel's post about the lunar eclipse, and the photo she included, and thought, why not? Why not embrace the humble point-and-shoot in all its beautiful limitations?)
On Sunday, I ventured more deeply into our swamp to find more winterberry to add to some evergreen boughs I stuffed arranged in a planter on the front step. They're harder to find without the background of snow setting off the red, but they looked so beautiful against the setting sun and deep black water of the wetland.
By the time I got home and got them arranged (by porch light), it was too dark to see the effect, and I haven't been home in daylight since (these days of leaving home and returning home in darkness are so hard to take--last week I had to put the kids on the bus a couple of times so C could leave early, and it was so nice to be home, alone, in the morning light that I lingered a bit too long over my tea).
Which finally brings us to our giveaway, and this picture taken by lamplight because that's all there is.
I had promised another giveaway for last week, but never go to it, and this isn't even the giveaway I had planned (that one will come out sometime in the New Year), but I thought this one more seasonally apt: Christmas in Scandinavia, a collection of folk tales and stories from the North. I somehow ended up with two copies of this book and would like to share one with a blog reader who would enjoy it. Now, as a disclaimer, I must say I have not read it myself, so I can't vouch for the stories (but one is by Hans Christian Anderson, so they must be alright). I can't say if they're heavy-handed in the religious angle, or anything else (I can say I adore the outfit on the little boy on the cover--hmm, I bet E would be game to wear legwarmers, shoes turned up at the toes and a Tomten hat...).
So, if you're interested in Christmas folklore and Scandinavia, please do leave a comment, telling me what your favorite Christmas story is. Also, please, please, please leave your email address so I can contact you if you win. I'll draw a winner Saturday night (December 17) and send the book out Monday if I can get in touch with the winner to get her address before then (if not, it will have to wait until January--we leave for Colorado on Tuesday!). Good luck!