Sunday, December 30, 2007

More home improvements

After Christmas we got a little energy boost to continue our home improvements in our condo. The dining room is our next project, so Friday night was spent sanding all the wood trim and putting primer on it. Albie painted two coats of pure white semi-gloss on top of that on Saturday, and today I added another two coats.

Perhaps the most important thing is that we got to cover up the ugly stenciled flowers with some white primer. The yellow paint (perhaps the one shown as a dot on the wall between the door and the window) will cover it up nicely, we hope.

Ugly brown spindles separating the dining room from the living room were removed one by one today, much to the liking of our kittens. Pip, our black panther, decided it was best he checked out what was going on and climbed up in our tree to be on level with the spindles.

The first three times, I dragged him out of the tree and plopped him back onto the floor. The fourth time I let him sit there on the branches while I ran upstairs to get my camera.
To be continued...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lucia at IKEA

As usual, our singing groups (Apollo and the Scandinavian Women's Chorus of Connecticut) held two annual Lucia celebrations this year. One was held at IKEA in New Haven and the other at Christ Lutheran Church in Hamden - our home base.

Little children from the area, with some connection to Scandinavians or those of Scandinavian descent, gathered to dress up in white gowns, star boy suits and glitter to celebrate this typical Swedish holiday. The girl selected to be Lucia never showed up, which meant that the only real Swede on the team - ME! - had to put on the crown of battery-operated lights and take on the role of a 4th century saint.

Let me tell you, it doesn't give you the same warm, fuzzy feeling as when you are 12 years old and get the honor of being Lucia - but it is still pretty cool!

Below, for those of you unfamiliar with this tradition, is the description of this holiday and its history, i.e., my speech from the church celebration two weeks ago:

"Lucia is a Swedish holiday celebrated every year on Dec. 13 to spread joy and light in the dark winter night.

In every community, every city and every school, people select a girl to be the Lucia of the year. Other girls become attendants of the Lucia. Male participants are star boys, little elves or gingerbread men.

All dress up in white gowns. Lucia wears a crown of lights on her head, and the attendants wear glitter in their hair and carry candles. Star boys carry a star on a stick and wear a cone-like hat.

Together, the Lucia party visits schools, hospitals or homes for the elderly to mark the beginning of the Christmas season. The group sings songs about overcoming darkness and hands out ginger snaps and saffron buns to all around them.

This tradition to celebrate Lucia goes back to the 4th Century. An Italian saint – St. Lucia, or as American’s know her, St. Lucy of Syracuse – was killed because of her faith on Dec. 13 in 304 AD.

St. Lucy was known to be brave, generous and radiant. She was also a Christian, and the Roman emperor was not.

The emperor sentenced her to death by burning. But miraculously, St. Lucy could not be burned. The guards of Syracuse finally had to stab her in the chest to kill her.

The Swedish Lucia today wears a red ribbon around her waist. This ribbon represents the blood from when St. Lucy was killed so many years ago.

The candles symbolize the fire that refused to take St. Lucy’s life.
The Lucia events held today come from a 16th century German tradition. As you can see, the spirit of St. Lucy is alive – in Scandinavia, and right here in this church."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Kittens and Christmas trees don't match

Every day I find Christmas ornaments in different places throughout our house. The red ones end up in corners in our living room; the blue ones end up in our basement.

Albie and I patiently put them back on the tree and tell our kitties "Don't touch!"

We've even learned to recognize the sound of the ornament makes against the tree so we know when an attempted theft is in progress.

Yesterday I was cooking and heard the ornaments shake against the fake tree branches. I stormed into the living room yelling "GET OFF THE TREE!!!" A quick stop by the table and I had the spray bottle in hand, looking eagerly at the base of the tree to see whom I should direct it at.

Pip is sitting a foot or two away from the tree looking up, not close enough to touch anything. I look in the back corner, I look under the tree. "Where's Sophie?" I ask Pip and he just keeps looking up.

I finally look up. There, on the top branches, is a little kitten - neatly tucked in behind a string of lights. She was rescued immediately, but didn't seem too thrilled about it. This morning, I found her perched up on the same branch - purring, and almost asleep.

The whole incident reminded me of a few years ago at the farm. Some of you may have seen this:

Albie had to rescue Sprout from the tree after she climbed too high - behind lights and strings of popcorn - to reach the candy canes. I thought it mean we must avoid candy canes. Apparently, it means we must avoid Christmas altogether when we have cats.

Snowed in

Today I had an ambitious plan. I was going to the gym early - well, at 2 p.m. Wal-Mart was next, then home for a shower and later Bed, Bath & Beyond and Old Navy in Hamden. If I had time, I also intended to stop by the local DP Mart to pick up lottery tickets and tobacco for my dad.

It has been snowing a lot in this area. Thursday afternoon and night we got about a foot of snow in Torrington, and about 6-8 inches here in our town. Roads were cleared off Thursday night, and I only encountered some minor problems with our condo parking lot, where it took me 15 minutes to shovel out a spot before I could settle in for the night.

Saturday night into Sunday we got another 2 inches or so, the rest was sleet and freezing rain. I was out Sunday night, and the roads were OK. I came home and pulled into a parking spot that had been sort of cleared off.

All ready to go in sweat pants, sneakers and my ski coat, I assess the snow around my car this morning. Doesn't look too bad. A couple of inches around the tires and behind my car from what the snow plow pushed off the road. I grab the shovel - just in case.

I crawl into my front seat and start the car. I put it in reverse. It doesn't move. I try to go forward, the tires are just spinning and making whooshing sounds.

When I stick the shovel in the ground, I am met by solid ice. I try to kick it, hit it, scrape it and push it. I then try to move my car again. Nothing. Well, that's not entirely true. My car managed to slip about an inch to the left - sideways - and into more ice. Then nothing.

Since it was freezing out with a windchill that made it feel like -15 degrees Celsius and I had no hat on, I gave up. I picked up the last of the Christmas cards I had to mail and walked them over to the mailbox at the end of our road, then I went back inside and turned up the heat.

The rest of the day was spent under a warm blanket on the couch reading "Nobels testamente." I was snowed in - rather, iced in - and enjoying every minute of it.