Culminating in: Today’s helpful hints
Writes The Hastings Crazy Quilter: “I was in London the first week of August 2018. It was an unusual time in London: They were in the 10th week of a drought, and it was blistering hot — the hottest stretch of weather they’d had in 41 years. There isn’t a lot of air-conditioning in London, but I was doing OK in the place I was staying (the Captain Bligh House; yep, that Captain Bligh), as I was on the top floor and got a nice cross breeze. Even so, I made note of the pub at the end of the street, because it was air-conditioned.
“One afternoon I decided to cut the sightseeing short, and as I was walking back to the House, I decided I’d stop at that pub to get a burger and cool off for a while.
“As soon as I opened the door, a chorus of ‘Close the door!’ greeted me. It was pretty dim in there. I saw three men seated at one end of the bar (they looked like they’d been there awhile) and another man behind the counter. I went up to him and said I’d like to order a burger. He told me they’d lost their power and were trying to keep the cool air in — but hey, I could have a beer; they had Guinness.
“I am not a beer drinker, but my husband is (and a brewer), so I replied: ‘Oh, I wish my husband was here. He loves Guinness!’
“Suddenly from the other end of the bar, the three guys raised their glasses and said: ‘Here’s to the husband!’ And they all drank. Startled, I glanced at them and continued to the bartender: ‘He loves Guinness so much, he even has stock in the company.’
“Again, ‘Here’s to the husband!’ echoed down the bar.
“‘But I’ve only had Guinness as a dessert,’ I said.
“‘Dessert?’ replied the bartender.
“‘Yes. If you take a tall, cold glass, put in three scoops of a good-quality vanilla ice cream, and pour a Guinness over it, it is the most wonderful float you’ll ever taste!’ I told him.
“Four men with identical, horrified expressions stared at me. I could tell they were thinking: ‘Crazy rich Americans.’
“I quickly left, having learned: Don’t mess with the Guinness.”
‘Tis the season!
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: Traditions.
“Is it still a tradition if you change its name? Twice?
“Our oldest daughter loves to eat. At a very early age, she found her way around the kitchen, and our tummies benefited from it. When she was 20 years old, she surprised us with this Swedish Tea Ring for Christmas morning — although in deference to her ancestry, she simply renamed it and called it a Christmas Tea Ring.
“You see, her dad was raised to believe that he was 100 percent German, and her maternal Grandpa Jake was a Hollander, while her maternal Grandma Bessie was English — better to play it safe and leave the nationality out of it.
“It was tasty, whatever we called it, and a Christmas-morning tradition was born. She got married and moved to the other side of the world, and I dutifully have continued baking one ever since. However, since our DNA tests revealed that I have 10 percent Swedish ancestry and my husband is 8 percent Swedish, this year I baked a SWEDISH TEA RING for our Christmas-morning breakfast. It was delicious.”
‘Tis the season!
Then & Now Division
J.F. “Subject: A long-ago Minnesota Christmas story.
“An annual tradition in our small town of Breckenridge was a free movie for children just before Christmas. Each year, we eagerly awaited it.
“When I was very young, I was sent in the care of my two older brothers, Lowell and Roddy. That wasn’t necessarily a good thing, as they didn’t keep an eye on me very well. Most of the time, I was left to fend for myself. I often wandered out to the lobby to gaze longingly into the candy case or watch the people.
“When I was older, I was given the responsibility to take my two younger sisters and keep an eye on them. I must say, I think I did a better job than my brothers.
“Unlike today, the only adults in the theater were the ones who worked there. A theater full of unsupervised kids is quite rambunctious. As the movie neared the finish, they grew noisier and downright unruly. As part of the tradition, Santa would be waiting by the door to greet each of us as we left. The pushing and shoving to get in line was quite intimidating for a quiet 10-year-old, and keeping my young sisters from being trampled was an undertaking no skinny girl was suited for. I had almost set aside my belief in Santa Claus that year, but in the 1950s, the magic of Christmas was kept alive much longer than now. You believed as long as you could. I held my sisters’ hands as we approached Santa, filled with that belief. They went before me, eyes filled with both fear and excitement. Their expression was of complete awe as he handed each of us a brown bag filled with peanuts and hard ribbon candy. Our parents instructed us not to open them before we got home, as the bags contained staples. I’m certain that didn’t happen.
“That same Christmas, I pored over the Christmas toy catalog from Sears. I circled what I wanted, then later scribbled over my decisions and made new selections. We never got anything from that catalog; I just wished. Maybe that’s why it was called the Wish Book.
“I believed in Santa real hard that year because I wanted one last doll — one that wore high heels, had red lips, and wore earrings. If it had blue eyelids, it would be even better. You see, when I was a young girl, all of the women in films had blue eyelids and were so beautiful. I would often check my eyelids in the mirror to see if they were turning blue yet. If they did, I would be beautiful, too. Or so I thought. A doll with blue eyelids would be an omen for sure.
“Christmas Eve came, and as we returned from our Christmas drive, we had no sooner entered the house when a knock came at the back door. Yes, it was him — dressed from head to toe in red, and jolly as ever. One thing was odd, though: He had shoes just like my dad. He gave us each a package, and with a nod and a laugh was on his way. My package contained that one last doll. High heels, red lips, pearl earrings, but no blue eyelids. She was beautiful anyway.
“A TV program I loved at the time was ‘The Loretta Young Show.’ She would swirl through a living-room doorway at the beginning of each episode in an evening gown. She was as graceful as she was beautiful. At the end of each drama, she would relate its message to a Bible passage or a famous quotation. I named my last doll Loretta.
“Her heels and earrings were long ago lost. Her hair is a bit matted. She could use some clothes. She has weathered 60 years pretty well. Someday she’ll be found among my belongings.
“This year, she got a new blue dress for Christmas.”
‘Tis the season — still!
Plus: The Permanent Neighborly Record
A pair of dispatches from The Astronomer of Nininger: (1) “Subject: Christmas Thanks.
“In our home, Christmas is the grandest, the greatest, the most wonderful time of the year. The Good Wife and I decorate, as we have for more years than I can fully remember. We moved to Minnesota some 39 years ago. I guess that still makes us newcomers, even though we are older than some ‘old timers’ who were born here. Having grown up in Chicago and having lived in Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama and Wyoming has allowed us to see the Christmas customs of people around these united states. No matter what, everyone does, without fail, celebrate the season. Admittedly some make it more secular than religious, but still, even the secular celebrations take place because of the real reasons for Christmas.
“I know Thanksgiving is the time to be thankful, but Christmas gives us even more reasons than any other time of year. With the mounting gifts under the tree (actually, we have eight trees), it looks as if FedEx and UPS have conveyor belts to the tree bases. Sometimes we get busy — even too busy to acknowledge what we have to be thankful for. But this time of year is when we can all take a moment to admire the trees and the decorations. One of our trees is expressly for guests who visit our home. The Good Wife makes ornaments to hang on this tree, and guests who grace us with their presence are welcomed to take an ornament home with them. This tradition, started more than 20 years ago, encourages guests to hang our ornament on their tree. Hopefully, when they see it, they will think of us. And we will be thus blessed.
“Yet, of all the blessings we have, The Good Wife and I are most thankful to have each other, as well as our kids and grandchildren. Oh, I am so lucky to be her spouse. I pray that she loves me a mere fraction of how much I really care about her and the rest of our family. I could not be happier than I am, not with any material presents but with each other.
“All of this makes Christmas so very special.”
(2) “Neighbors will be neighbors. Sometimes they are not the most upstanding people, and sometimes they just are not good neighbors. When we first moved to Minnesota, many years ago, our five acres of heaven was next to a piece of property that was owned and occupied by some young men who were unsavory characters. It was widely known that alcohol and other chemical abuse regularly took place on the premises. Sheriff’s deputies were frequent visitors to quiet down the music and other activities. Our children and other neighboring kids were told this was the ‘bad’ house and to stay away.
“One Friday evening, we hosted a Bridge party and ignored the goings-on at our neighbors’. Our son, then about 5 years old, was more observant than we were. He told The Good Wife that something strange was taking place, not inconsistent with a locale of ill reputation. He saw a pickup truck pull into the back yard. You could see that from our home. It had a tarp over something. He added that this tarp covered a dead body, and he had seen some young men carry this body into the house through the back door. He added that the body was headless. Oh my! The Good Wife was amused at this story and did not tell me until later, after our Bridge party broke up, shortly after midnight. Our children were asleep, and I was already taking a shower. The Good Wife startled me to exclaim that something is really wrong next door. They were starting a fire and were digging a huge hole with some shovels. It was intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that they must be burying the body!
“I told The Good Wife to call the sheriff. And so she did. I got the binoculars out and, with our lights darkened so we could not be seen, looked closely. Yes, there was a fire, and yes, they were digging, and it was starting to sprinkle a bit. It was almost a scene of mystery and macabre from an Edgar Allan Poe story. And then the sheriff called to share the results of his investigation. The neighbors were preparing for a pig roast!”
This ‘n’ that ‘n’ the other
All from Al B of Hartland: (1) “Subject: It tied with every other day as the best day of the year.
“I manned a Salvation Army kettle. I talked to a good number of limping people wearing casts and braces or using canes. Falls had wreaked havoc. Humans of a certain age don’t bounce well.
“A hurried young man dropped $20 into the kettle.
“I thanked him for his generosity.
“He said: ‘If I have enough money to go into a store, I have enough money to put some of it in that kettle.’
“I wished him a merry Christmas. I’ll bet he had one.”
(2) “It was 10 degrees, and an opossum was nibbling on seeds that had fallen from feeders. I was eating an apple. I tossed the apple core outside, nearly hitting the opossum. I didn’t mean to come that close. It didn’t alarm the animal. An opossum’s eyesight isn’t the greatest, but it smelled the apple and grabbed it — with its mouth of 50 teeth — and ambled away. I felt good about my simple gift.”
(3) “The calendar moves at full gallop. Psalm 90:12 says: ‘Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.’ The calendar I got from the bank told me to get cracking on the shopping.
“Inside a store, I listened to ringtones of marimbas and crickets as I shopped for candy. I listened to someone’s cellphone torturing a country song as I purchased candy. I bought candy for gifts because I know how to buy candy. I gave my father chocolate-covered cherry cordials every year.
“No one was tight-lipped on cellphones. The woman ahead of me in line said over her cellphone: ‘I bought some shoes, like I always do.’ I felt a tinge of sadness as I thought of her spending all her days buying shoes.
“I purchased some oyster crackers, as they make great stocking stuffers.”
Our pets, ourselves (responsorial)
Or: Life as we know it (Aging Division)
Lola: “Little Sister‘s post about their rescue dog not passing up an opportunity to eat reminded me of something my niece said when we were on a trip: Never pass up an opportunity to pee. Especially as we get older.
“Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”
A thought for today
Willard B. Shapira of Roseville: “The Big C: When my second wife died of cancer several years ago, the program at the church where her funeral was held included the following: ‘What cancer cannot do: Cancer is so limited. It cannot cripple love. It cannot shatter hope. It cannot corrode faith. It cannot destroy peace. It cannot kill friendships. It cannot suppress memories. It cannot silence courage. It cannot steal eternal life.’ I hope this provides some measure of hope and encouragement for those who need it.”
Frontiers of Litigation Division
Donald: “Subject: A death wish.
“From the ‘SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE’ section in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated: ‘A Packers fan with Bears season tickets is suing the Bears for the right to wear a Green Bay jersey during a pregame sideline event.'”
Everyone’s a copy editor!
20/20 Hindsight Division
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Where do I place a BIG bet?
“This was on the front page of the Sports section in Wednesday’s (December 26) Pioneer Press:
“‘Vikings at Lions >
“‘Noon Sunday, KMSP Ch. 9’”
Everyone’s a copy editor
Or: The vision thing (Headline Division)
Frogman of Grant: “Subject: Well, if that’s what it takes . . .
“Headline in today’s online Star Tribune: ‘Reusse: Nelson Cruz’s slugging, mentoring of Sano both will help Twins.'”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Ordinarily, we’d oppose violence, but in this case . . . well, nothing gentler has worked!
Only a ___________ would notice!
Or: Bulletin Board stands corrected (responsorial)
John in Highland: “Having been a fan of Neil Young and Buffalo Springfield in the ’60s, I wish to add my two cents to the ‘Long Time Gone’ discussion started by Mr. Tulkinghorn and commented on by CullenandRox.
“It seems that Neil had an unfriendly departure from Buffalo Springfield in 1968. With an absence of subtlety, he can be seen looking away from the rest of the group on the cover of their last LP, appropriately titled ‘Last Time Around.’
“He was already gone when the group had a minor hit in the fall of ’68 with ‘On the Way Home,’ a song that Neil had written about Stephen Stills and was sung by Richie Furay, with Neil and Stephen in the background.
“Fast-forward to 1969 and the emergence of Crosby, Stills & Nash. Neil Young at this time was ‘occasionally’ performing with the group, before he officially joined the group on their second album. Isn’t he the mysterious guy looking through the window on their first album cover?
“So it could be that Mr. Tulkinghorn and CullenandRox are both correct. David Crosby wrote the song ‘Long Time Gone’ and clearly sings the lead, but Neil Young could very well be in the background — singing, or playing guitar, or both.”
Out of the mouths of babes
Grandma B of Woodbury: “Our 19-month-old grandbaby, Emmett, was over for a day last week. Just getting over being sick, he really wanted to be held — a lot! Grandpa was holding him, but briefly put him down. Emmett, who is also just learning to talk, started kicking his feet and whining for Grandpa to pick him up again. Grandpa said ‘Emmett, are you having a tantrum?’ while scooping him back up. Without missing a beat, Emmett says loudly: ‘Ya!’
“Honesty is a virtue!”
Band Name of the Day: The Blue Eyelids
Website of the Day: