The entire display is called a Gingerbread Village, I’m not sure what they call the individual entries. But I think of them as sweet sculptures. I showed one of them in yesterday’s Pull up a Seat post. Here is another. This one is a village all on its own.
It’s worth clicking on the photos to make them bigger and zooming in a bit so you can see the details. I am always amazed by the creativity and fun details. It makes me think that the people who make them have fun with the project.
Quick note: These are some of the things I do to stay sane during the holiday season. While this isn’t a “challenge”, feel free to write your own post of safe and sane ideas, and add a link to it or ping back in the comments section. Maybe we can help each other have a happy winter.
I started this post on Thanksgiving. In the hot living room at Dad’s, football playing at a ridiculous volume because Dad is a bit hard of hearing, but he is also trying to drown out the shrill voice of my sister, who never stops talking. I was exhausted from prepping, setting out (we do self-service), then cleaning up the big feast, and my head was starting to throb a bit.
Since Grandma passed away this year (one of six major deaths of people we know since the beginning of April) the holiday ads designed to evoke an emotional response had worked their “magic”: I was emotionally raw and spent most of that tiring day on the edge of tears. Combine that with a slightly throbbing head and I couldn’t think straight.
What better time to try and advise folks about the holidays? “Do as I say… not as I do?”
Really, this Thanksgiving was an aberration. Usually I am not such a mess, and I manage to manage and still enjoy things on the way.
Approaching the holidays, the first question is: How do you stay sane in this crazy world?
“We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.”
Eeyore (A.A. Milne)
My family has never pulled off a Norman Rockwell/Martha Stewart/Rachel Ray sort of holiday season. We are a lot more like National Lampoon Family Christmas. A whole lot more: one year we had a water spout from a broken pipe and a dog die. Grandma was our Chevy Chase: she wanted it traditional with all the knick-knacks and whistles that would fit on her window sill.
At this point we are a motley crew of a family. Kluged together from the bits and pieces that are still alive and care enough to tolerate the quirks and imperfections of each other. Who from this elite group actually shows up varies from year to year. The dogs always show up, and sometimes we have as many canines as humans.
Things changed with time
Before my grandparents moved to California we always spent Christmas Eve with my father’s family, Christmas morning at home then went to Grandma’s for Christmas day dinner.
Of course that changed when they moved to California. I mentioned in a previous post that we took a car trip down to spend Christmas with them the first year that they lived in California. Mostly we didn’t do that. I’m not sure we would have all survived to adulthood if we had. One year they came up but, because we lived down a steep trail, they couldn’t stay with us so that wasn’t repeated.
After my parent’s divorce we rarely spent the holidays together with my grandparents. My mother inherited their love of the holidays, but not so much of the spirit of sharing. So our holidays were centered around her home and my grandparents would send a Christmas in a box with everything from oranges and cookies to gifts.
The next major change for me was when my son was born. After a disastrous Christmas trip to Texas where my poor child wound up wearing a soiled diaper for several hours because of weather related travel problems and turbulence, I declared that I was going to stay home for the holidays and people could come to my house or not. My grandparents started coming up for Christmas. We did go down once when James was eight or so.
With no young children in the family Grandma became the focus of our merry making. As grandma got older I was the one who wound up trying to make the merry happen, often to strict orders.
Fortunately, I had a great deal of catering experience from doing events at church, I have organized elaborate events for a hundred people several times, so the food, always critical to having a good time (or at least good memories), doesn’t feel like a burden. Managing the herd of cats that is our family was tougher.
The burden was the expectation that I could both produce the party and, at the same time, sit patiently and be present. Since I made an effort to be calm and pleasant in the face of a long to-do list, even when I had a headache and wanted to crawl into a hole, she seemed to think I wasn’t busy and asked me to arrange knick-knacks, find batteries for her Santa House, procure eggnog, not forget to pick up the type of tissues she liked… At times I felt like I was being punished for being nice.
I know this is wrong. I know that she really just wanted us to be with her, to have reasons to stop by. But it was how I felt at times, especially when she would ask what I had been doing, as if I was, in addition to putting on the party, running errands and being there, supposed be out doing things and having fun so I had stories to tell as well.
Fortunately, I have a sister, who was able to come and help Grandma decorate and arrange her knick-knacks the weekend after Thanksgiving the last couple of years. I generally “celebrate” Black Friday by hiding.
I do it my way.
I’m actually not the Grinch you might have thought from the rant above. I like the holidays, in my own way. I space things out. I finish with Thanksgiving before I think about Advent and Christmas.
I’m not real big on the whole Christmas morning thing. I call that “consumer-fest”, honestly it has always seemed like nothing could be less Christ-like than the “traditional” Christmas morning scrum under the tree. I used to have a St. Nicholas Day tea party for my son and nieces. My nieces father’s family did Christmas big (I never understood why since they are Buddhists and atheists) and I wasn’t going to compete.
I celebrate Advent, lighting a new candle each Sunday, decorating for Christmas a bit more each week and doing one or two seasonal things that I enjoy each week.
COMING SOON: Aunt Kate’s Safe and Sane Guide to the Holidays.
PHOTO CHALLENGE OF PLACES WE SIT…OR MIGHT SIT…OR ART ABOUT SITTING
Welcome to week 14 of Pull up a Seat. Take a load off and share a favorite perch by linking your post to this one, either with a comment or ping-back. For more detailed directions go to Pull Up a Seat page.
Thank you to everyone who participated this week. It is always fun to see the variety of ideas.
Winter is here. I don’t really care what the calendar says. It happened yesterday. In the morning the sun was shining and it wasn’t very cold, so I took the pups for a long-ish walk. It was still fall then.
By evening it was winter. Not cold snowy winters like the mid-west or east coast. The dark, wet enough to work the chilliness into your bones of a Puget Sound region winter. No doubt we’ll get a few more flashes of sunshine, but this time of year the sun arrives with a cold north wind.
I love it when Thanksgiving and Christmas are over a month apart. Things are less frantic. I’ve taken down the fall decorations and not put up the Christmas ones. I wait until December.
One benefit to the longer time between holidays is that most holiday special attractions are open this week, but not yet crowded. So today (while my spouse wrestled with the clogged drain in the kitchen… they really should saint that man!)I took myself off to visit the “Gingerbread Village”. I put “Gingerbread Village” in quotes because it’s more than gingerbread and more than a village. It is really sculptures. This year the theme is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and the entries were imaginative and filled with fun details (to see any image larger click on it).
I called this one “Mount Crumpet”
The grinch’s lair.
A penguin…who knew?
I called this one “the grinch’s lair”:
This one was Whoville plus Mount Crumpit:
This one was Whoville:
Last, but not least, was “The Feast”:
They have official names somewhere but I was so entranced looking at the details that I didn’t catch them. For more information about the annual Gingerbread Village here is the website: GingerbreadVillage.org.
I wouldn’t say that I am ready for the holiday season to commence, but, after today’s outing I am feeling a good deal less hostile to it.
If you are young and have never walked through the “valley of the shadow of death” with a loved one don’t read this. Live into the simple joys of Christmas. Let your stresses be finagling a smile in the Santa photo and finding a way to teach the next generation about joy. Smile, laugh, bake and eat cookies!!
My chosen title isn’t quite right. Joy isn’t a simple thing, it isn’t always jolly, true joy is hard in some ways. Just as true love isn’t lollipops, rainbows and roses on a sunny summer day: it gets deeper and stronger dealing with the adversities life throws at you.
A few days ago the Daily Prompt was Jolly. I wanted to do a post related to that, perhaps to have the illusion that I have some jolly joy in my life. But I didn’t get around to it. A common theme this year.
How can I describe the emotional turmoil, frustration, and weariness that are dominating this season of joy for me?…yet also convey that there is joy, even if it isn’t jolly.
I am blessed with “all I really need”, as the Raffi song says: a song in my heart, food in my belly, and love in my family. Many blessings, including that my Grandmother is not just alive and kicking, but actively enjoying many things. Even so, her health is deteriorating. Her heart and kidneys are tired and strained, keeping the balance is becoming more and more difficult for her health care providers. Today I got a call from the nurse practitioner about her kidneys, she is getting close to “stage 4” Kidney disease.
Being a “modern girl” (although “girl” hearkens back to the song from my younger days not my age) I looked it up on the internet. It means “not good”.
This late summer to late fall (technically it is fall for almost another week) has had a lot of what I call “whammies”. There have been a couple this past week. It is hard for me to wrap words around them (which is why I haven’t been posting much). Most have been related to my grandmother: her deteriorating physical capabilities caused by worsening of the underlying health conditions, magnified by the often overwhelming amount of paperwork needed to provide her with care.
I am emotionally ambiguous right now, out of sync with “Joy to the world the lord is born”; my refrain doesn’t have the rhythm and rhyme in the right places (story of my life): “Seek joy in this world. But do what you have to do. Hold on to love, but take care of yourself too.”
Never-the-less, it is important to make this time good, for others, including a scared, ornery, old lady that I love very much, and for myself. I have to smile, laugh, bake and eat cookies…because it is the season of joy, and we are together now, no matter what the future holds.
I’ve been thinking about you this week. I came across these pictures from a time more magical. Even though I haven’t visited in quite a while, and the magic just isn’t there for me any more, I really appreciate the joy you brought to me through the years.
This, in case you have forgotten (understandable since you have your picture taken with so many children every year) was taken in 1994, the last time we came to see you with “Grandma” Barb. James was in school all day after that so our little tradition of visiting you and having lunch on the Monday after Thanksgiving came to an end.
James has grown up and lives in China now. Not all traditions are dead: I sent him a package with stockings for him and his co-English teachers and a new girl friend. It is fun to share that tradition. He uses the stocking and a present to teach his students ideas like in, out, under and over.
We don’t do stockings at home anymore…my husband never caught on and there are just the two of us now, I don’t need to fill my own stocking. Maybe someday…he has warmed to having pets. The Empress rules him with an iron paw in a velvet glove and he has really taken to the little dogs.
This has been a good year: filled with love and good memories. As the year closes we are still working toward a stable situation for Grandma, who broke her hip November 19th. However, she is improving, slowly but steadily, and we go over to visit taking the pups, a treat or two, and British humor DVD’s to watch every week. Keeping up the little things is more important to me now than the big gestures of Christmas, and my energy is low enough that I can’t really do both.
So the stockings are in China, the relatives here will get glazed pecans and baked goods. We have a few decorations about the place, but no tree, and we play some of our favorite Christmas music now and again. Christmas has dwindled to a cozy, low-key celebration of family and love, and that feels right for now. In a world full of violence and vitriol it has its own magic.
Thanks for all of the memories…and, who knows, maybe things will again shift toward the magical. I know you’ll always be there for those who believe.