Category Archives: traditions

Full of thanks (and full of food)

Today we celebrated Thanksgiving, which is a holiday bound in tradition for me. And much of that tradition involves food. Not just the eating of it, but the preparing of it, the serving of it, and the discussing of it. I love that we have this holiday which centers around spending time with family and friends, and about sharing a meal with them.

Thanksgiving always leaves me full of thanks and of food, but also of nostalgia. More than anything, I think of Thanksgivings past at my grandmother’s house. I remember setting the table with the special china, fancy glasses and candlesticks. I remember being shooed out of the kitchen so my grandmother could manage the entire feat of feast-making in her own way. (Also because her kitchen was tiny, and she didn’t want us in the way.) I remember enjoying so much of the feast when it came time to eat, pretty much loving all of it, except for the dreaded liver lumps in the gravy. (My grandmother would cook up and dice up the giblets, and toss them into the otherwise smooth and tasty gravy.) And I remember the extended time in the kitchen after the meal, typically with one or two other family members, hand-washing and hand-drying all of the dishes from the meal. (Because my grandmother’s house did not have a dishwasher. Also, my grandmother was happy to get out of the kitchen at the end of the day.) I usually got the job of drying. I can still remember the feel of the dishtowels in my hand, typically linen and worn rather thin from years of use, and getting more and more damp until finally you had to get out a fresh dry towel.

I spent much of yesterday and most of today preparing food and preparing the space to eat that food. (Our dining room had gotten rather buried over the past 8 months or so, but I was bound and determined to unearth it.)  We had a few guests (my mother-in-law, and a friend and her 2 kids), so there were eight of us. In spite of the moderate numbers, we had an immoderate number of food items on the menu.

IMG_4061

Some of the dishes I prepared: roasted root vegetables, roasted butternut squash with shallots and cranberries, roasted dijon cauliflower, and vegetarian stuffing.

IMG_4058

My plate. The plate itself is from our good set, a pattern that John and picked out when we had our wedding. I love using the good china for special holiday meals, because that is what we always did at my grandmother’s house. As for the food, the plate holds the 4 dishes listed above, plus green beans, mashed potatoes and vegetarian gravy, and cranberry sauce. 

IMG_4072

Pumpkin pie. The dairy-free version that has become a tradition for me. I had delusions that I would have time to also make something like an apple crisp. Ha.

Now that the day is done, and I’ve turned in for the night, I am still feeling full from the feast (which was blissfully free of liver lumps). I am also feeling full of thanks for the bounty of our feast, for our comfort and safety, and for the people in my life who make my life so full.

pulling some strings

Emily of Wheels on the Bus sent out an unusual plea, having recently gone to see Puppetolio, an LA-area puppet theater that is closing its doors this weekend unless they manage to…um…pull a few strings:

If you know anyone who lives in L.A., anyone in the media, anyone who loves puppets, anyone who reads blogs, anyone who cares about the arts, then you know someone who will find this of interest and might be able to help.

I’m not around L.A., but I do care about the arts, and children’s entertainment, and I hate to see such a time-honored tradition dying out. So, if you can, go see what Emily has to say. And if you can, pull a few strings to help out the puppeteer in his plight.

But first, I’m putting on ashow of my own with this ThThTh¹ list o’ puppets.

  • Punch and Judy: traditional English puppet theatre, typically performed in a booth-type stage.
  • Pinocchio: a famous wooden puppet of fiction and film who comes to life.
  • punch-bw-puppet

  • Muppets: a range of mostly cloth and plush puppets, originally created by Jim Henson.
  • puppet: an expression for a person or entity whose actions are covertly dictated by some other person or entity. Political figures are sometimes disparagingly called puppets.
  • the_godfather

  • The Godfather: The poster for the 1972 movie shows a hand holding the string controls for a marionette, alluding to the “puppet master” status of a mafia boss
  • “The Lonely Goatherd”: A scene from The Sound of Music (1965) in which an elaborate puppet show is performed
  • “Puppet Man”: A song performed (separately http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=12771 ) in the early 1970s by The 5th Dimension Tom Jones. Here’s the Tom Jones version:

    Baby, Baby, I’m your sweet pet
    I’m just your personal marionette
    Wind me up and let me go
    Don’t you know I’m a one man show?
    Raise your finger and I’ll perform
    I’ll crack a jack till’ the crack a dawn
    If you wanna see me do my thing, baby pull my string

  • “Puppets”: a song by Depeche Mode from their first album, Speak and Spell. (YouTube vid)

    And I don’t think you understand
    What I’m trying to say
    I’ll be your operator baby
    I’m in control

  • The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre: What can I say? They are sock puppets. Who sing in falsetto voices. With Scottish accents. Watch their latest video, “Back in E.D.I.N. BRAW“:
  • Lamb Chop: a sheep sock puppet operated by comedian Shari Lewis.
  • Bob from the TV show Soap.
    A ventriloquist’s dummy operated by Chuck, but a character in his own right. (Watch a scene with Bob here)
  • Mr. Hat: Mr. Garrison’s puppet from the show South Park
  • The Puppet Show: an episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer involving a ventriloquist’s dummy.
  • Puppetmaster (1989) A horror movie with puppets that come to life.
  • Being John Malkovich (1999) John Cusack plays a puppeteer, and puppeteering features prominently in the plot. The movie also boasts a gigantic Emily Dickinson marionette.

——-

¹ It’s been a while since I put up my last Themed Things Thursday² post. (Has it really not been since April? Craziness. I’ve drafted probably a good dozen or so lists, but haven’t quite gotten any together and ready to post.)

² Yes, I know it’s Friday. Don’t quibble with me. I’m tired.

Image sources: Godfather poster, Punch puppet, Pinnochio from Ginn and Company The Common School Catalogue (Boston: Ginn & Company Publishers, 1906) 40 via etc and puppet show from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (New York: Harper and Brothers Publshers, 1871) XLII:831 via etc.

lie to me

It’s about 1:00 a.m. now. Technically Christmas Day, though still really the night before. I had hoped to find time to post a bit earlier today, but who am I kidding. I didn’t find a chance to take a shower till after 10:00. At night.

I’ve just finished my wrapping and stocking stuffing, and should be heading to bed. But I’ve been wanting to at least jot down a few words about this lying business.

Because, you see, I have now lied to my daughter.

I suppose I have hidden various things from her, such as gobbling up a cookie when she wasn’t paying attention. But this is the first time that I have outright lied to her, and planned out actions solely designed to deceive her. I think you’re probably familiar with the lie. I’m talking about Santa.

I don’t remember when exactly I stopped believing in Santa. I’m quite sure that I did believe in him, but I don’t remember any sort of trauma or dramatic revelation that it was all a sham.

Actually, I remember thinking of it as more of a charade. I knew there was no Santa and I knew that the adults in my family knew there was no Santa. But it was important to me to behave as if there really was a Santa. And more importantly, I wanted the adults to continue the charade. I remember getting really annoyed when they would slip up and say things that would have tipped me off to the nonexistence of Santa had I not already known about it.

There were a couple of years in particular, when I was 9 and 10, when I got angry that I could actually hear the stocking stuffing going on. “Hello? I’m not even asleep yet! I can hear you!” Not that I would have said anything. Because confrontation would have grossly violated the rules of the game, as I saw it.

Okay, I have to go to bed. A little girl is probably going to come dragging me out of bed at some obscenely early time. But I have to say, I’m a little bit looking forward to carrying on the charade with a new generation.

Update: John sent me this related comic this morning, which gives me some additional ideas for deception. (And he hadn’t even read my post!)

——-

If you want another story about Santa-related lies, go see Neil’s post at Citizen of the Month: “I believed in Santa Claus.” Anyone else have a story to share?

(By the way, I don’t expect to have any time to put up a Themed Things list. After our Christmas morning rituals, we’ll be heading down to the in-laws. But you never know.)

change is good

With Tuesday’s election in the US, people all over have been talking about change. Lots of people are saying they want change.

As such, it seemed a good time to offer up some change myself. Some spare change.

I dug out these coin things from deep in the pockets of my brain (and a few from between the couch cushions) just in time for ThThTh.

A Coin Collection¹

  • “Christmas is Coming:” an English Christmas carol

    Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat
    Please put a penny in the old man’s hat
    If you haven’t got a penny a ha’-penny will do
    If you haven’t got a ha’-penny
    then God bless you

  • a penny for your thoughts: an expression spoken as a request to hear about what someone else is thinking. Does not usually actually involve a cash transaction.
  • “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” a treacly song from the faux musical from Waiting for Guffman. (You can hear a version of it performed by Elvis Costello, even. It’s still painfully treacly.)

    So here’s penny for your thoughts, a nickel for a kiss
    A dime if you tell me that you love me

  • lucky penny: Pennies are sometimes kept as good luck charms. Finding a penny is said to bring good luck: “Find a penny, pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck.”
  • There is a wedding custom for the bride to put a penny in her shoe for the ceremony for “good fortune and protection against want”:

    Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a copper penny in your shoe!

  • penny loafers: shoes in which people would stick a penny as an ornament.
  • “Pennies from Heaven,” a song and a movie from 1936. Originally sung by Bing Crosby, then by many others. (Here’s a youtube version by Billie Holiday.)
  • it’s your nickel: an expression meaning “you made the phone call” and also “it’s your turn to talk.” My grandmother used to say this when I’d call her long-distance.
  • nickel and dime: an expression meaning “cheap” or “inconsequential.”
  • Nickel and Dimed: a book by Barbara Ehrenreich about her experiences working at various low-wage jobs.
  • dime store: a somewhat archaic term for a store carrying various and sundry low-price items.
  • dime bag: the quantity of marijuana that can be purchased for 10 dollars.
  • “Dime,” a song by Cake. About a dime. Really.
  • “shave and a haircut two bits:” a very short song. Two bits is a quarter, or 25 cents. (Apparently small change was once cut wedges of a silver dollar, each worth an 8th of a dollar.)
  • Pac-Man Fever, a song from the 80s (duh) beginning with the line:
    “I got a pocket full of quarters and I’m heading to the arcade.” (Oh, the nostalgia triggered by bad 80s music and references to arcade video games. If you want to subject yourself, you can hear the song on YouTube.)
  • 50 Cent: the stage name of rapper Curtis James Jackson III
  • silver-dollar pancakes: very small pancakes, such as might ressemble a large coin.

dime
———
¹ It’s a bit heavy on the pennies, but so are most change piles.²

² I almost forgot the word of the day. I’ve chosen denticles : “Small tooth like raised points on the inside edge of coins.” How could I resist a word that rhymes with tenticles?

having my cake

I got to have me some cake this week.¹ I ate it, too. And this cake-having inspired me to think about cake. So I’ll be serving up a list of cake-oriented things for this week’s ThThTh.

Bon appétit!

A Cake List

  1. Cakes are used for lots of holidays and celebratory events in many cultures. Some examples include birthday cakes, going away cakes at office parties, French bûches de Noël or German stollen at Christmas. Also…
  2. Wedding cakes. Usually elaborately decorated multi-tiered cakes meant to serve all the guests at a wedding. They can be quite tall, and easily knocked over or smashed for comedic effect in movies or sitcoms.
  3. stripper in a cake. A tradition (if it really happens outside of TV and movies) of having an exotic dancer jump out of a large cake-shaped container. (You can make your own, if you like.) (I toyed with making a list of movies/shows where you see a stripper cake, but could only remember “Under Siege,” where the stripper fell asleep in the cake. Anyone have any others?)
  4. sexy cakes. A sketch on Saturday Night Live with Patrick Stewart as a baker of cakes decorated with erotic images. That is, erotic if you have similar ideas to the baker as to what’s “sexy”. (The video seems not to be up on the SNL website, but you can read the transcript. Come on, go read it. It’s funny. Especially if you imagine Patrick Stewart’s dignified stentorian voice for the baker’s lines.)
  5. “Let them eat cake!” A phrase attributed to Marie-Antoinette, reflecting her insensitivity to the hungry masses who could not afford to buy bread. It was likely not really said by her. (And certainly not in English.) Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote of someone using a similar phrase under similar circumstances in 1767, several years before Marie-Antoinette even arrived in Versailles.
  6. the icing on the cake. An expression meaning an additional bonus, benefit, or other desirable thing. As in something good on top of something else that’s good.
  7. cupcake. A small individual serving-sized cake. Also an endearment.
  8. babycakes. Another, even cutesier, endearment. (Want to see something creepy? Check out this YouTube video of someone making a realistic sculpted baby cake. Perhaps not as deeply unsettling as bread made to look like dismembered body parts, but creepy nonentheless.)
  9. Pat-a-cake. (or Patty-cake). An English nursery rhyme. Also used for a clapping game.

    Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man.
    Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
    Pat it and roll it and mark it with “B”
    And put it in the oven for Baby and me.

  10. a piece of cake. An idiomatic expression meaning “easy.” As in “eating up all that chocolate was a piece of cake.”
  11. have your cake and eat it, too. An expression describing a desire to have things 2 different ways that are not compatible. More along the lines of “save your cake and eat it too.”
  12. takes the cake. An expression meaning “the most extreme example,” such as the winner of a contest or other comparison. As in “I thought Martin was a geek, but his brother Andy really takes the cake.”
  13. Cakewalk. A game, set to music, where the winner gets win a cake. I hadn’t realized it had origins as an actual dance:

    Cakewalk is a traditional African American form of music and dance which originated among slaves in the Southern United States. The form was originally known as the chalk line walk; it takes its name from competitions slaveholders sometimes held, in which they offered slices of hoecake as prizes for the best dancers.[1] It has since evolved from a parody of ballroom dancing to a “fun fair” like dance where participants dance in a circle in the hopes of winning a free cake.

  14. Cake. A band. My favorite song of theirs is probably their cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive.”

—–

¹ Actually, what I technically had was a celebratory fresh fruit tart, with a preamble of a couple of donuts holding some candles. But these were symbolically cake:

flower power

Today is the first day of May, or May Day. Since I haven’t found an opportunity to dance around a maypole, I’ll present this flower-themed ThThTh to you as a sort of virtual May basket.

a bunch of flowers

  • “April showers bring May flowers.” An expression that makes reference to the frequency of rain in the month of April (in the Northern hemisphere, at least), and the Spring flowers that benefit from the watering. It has the meaning “Some unpleasant occurrences bring about better things.”
  • Flower children: a term for hippies, based on their tendencies to wear flowers as symbols of peace and love.
  • morning glory

  • Victorian Language of Flowers. A means of sending messages during the Victorian era. Specific flowers or colors of flowers had specific meanings attached for the recipient to decode. For example, a lobelia meant “malevolence” and a morning glory meant “love in vain.”
  • (s)he loves me, (s)he loves me not: a tradition of plucking the petals off a flower to determine whether one is loved. For each petal, the plucker alternates saying, eg. “he loves me” and “he loves me not.” The final petal, and which of the two phrases is slated to be spoken as it is plucked, establishes or refutes the love being questioned.
  • “Roses are Red.” A short poem (with many variants), sometimes used in Valentine’s Day cards. For example:

    Roses are red, violets are blue
    Honey is sweet, and so are you.

    I like this one better:

    Roses are red, violets are blue
    Some poems rhyme
    But this one doesn’t

  • American Beauty (1999) A movie with Kevin Spacey, which features rose gardening. It also has the famous dream scene with Mena Suvari in a pile of rose petals. (Why did I think it was Heather Graham? I guess it’s been a while.) American Beauty is also the name of a variety of roses¹
  • “Edelweiss” A song about the small white Alpine flower that is widely believed to be a traditional folksong, but was actually written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for the musical “The Sound of Music.”

    Edelweiss, Edelweiss
    Every morning you greet me
    Small and white, clean and bright
    You look happy to meet me

  • blue bonnet poppycarnationsunflower

  • El Seed from the animated Tick series. A megavillain who is an anthropomorphic sunflower. (The name is a play on El Cid.)
  • Certain poppies are used to produce opiates (opium and heroine). Poppies also have a drugging effect in the field of poppies from the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy and her companions (at least those that are mammals) are drugged to sleep when they enter a field of poppies. (Here’s the corresponding book chapter.)
  • The Orchid Thief: A non-fiction book by Susan Orlean about a man who illegally collects rare wild orchids. The movie Adaptation (2002) is in part about this story, and in part about the process of adapting a book into a screenplay.
  • Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. Gregory Maguire‘s second novel for adults². This reinterpretation of the Cinderella fairytale is set in 17th century Holland during the peak (and then crash) of the tulip craze.
  • Carnation: In the Avengers series, Steed would typically wear a carnation in his buttonhole. Characters in various fictional stories, especially spy stories, will wear a red carnation in order that they may be identified by someone who doesn’t otherwise know their appearance.
  • “Dennis Moore,” the Monty Python episode where a bumbling Robin Hood-type character steals lupins from the rich to give to the poor. “Your lupins or your life!”

  • ——
    ¹ There are so many rose-related things out there, including several fairy tale rose references, that I could easily do a list just of roses. I probably will at some point down the line. Consider this a token rose for now.)

    ² He had written several young adult/kids’ novels before writing Wicked.)

    flower images: source

    candles at both ends

    As the nights get longer up here in the Northern hemisphere, we look forward to having a bit more light. When you’re not in the mood for a lightbulb, you might consider lighting a candle.

    Candles are used for a wide range of purposes: religious, decorative, symbolic, and as a light source for when the electricity goes out. Here’s a list of a few candle things and candle traditions to light up your evening on this Themed Thing Thursday.

    A list with candles at both ends (and in the middle)

    hanukiyot.jpg

  • Hanukkah
    The 8-day Jewish holiday, also known as the Festival of Lights, is observed in part by the nightly lighting candles in the Hanukkah Menorah, or Hanukiah. Today was the second day of Hanukkah. (Hanukiyot photo by photo by Beth Brewer.)
  • Christmas
    Candles are also featured in many celebrations of the Christian holiday Christmas, such as with advent candles. Other traditions include using candles to decorate, such as using them on trees. Contemporary Christmas tree lights evolved from this tradition, as electricity became available, though in Denmark, people still decorate Christmas trees with real lighted candles. People will also place candles in windows, a practice said to have been popularized in Colonial Williamsburg.
  • Lucia’s Day
    In Sweden, as part of the traditional celebration of this holiday (December 13th), girls will wear a wreath on the head with lit candles to celebrate Saint Lucia.¹ “>Apparently people have also moved to battery-operated candles:

    In Sweden we do not wear candles anymore because before girls caught their hair on fire very often. Today we use modern candles with batteries in them.

  • Birthday cakes are often decorated with miniature candles. The candles often represent the age of the person having the birthday, whether by using number-shaped candles, candles arranged in the shape of a number, or most often, a candle for each year of age.
  • Sixteen Candles (1984) A John Hughes movie starring Molly Ringwald as a girl whose 16th birthday is overlooked.
  • Candle in the Wind A song by Elton John (lyrics by Bernie Taupin) written in honor of Marilyn Monroe in 1973, rededicated it to AIDS victim Ryan White in 1990, and rewritten and remade in honor of Princess Diana in 1997.
  • The Babylon candle: A magic candle appears in the movie Stardust (2007), allowing the user to travel great distances. I found a suggestion that the source of the name for this candle is the nursery rhyme:

    How many miles to Babylon?
    Three score miles and ten.
    Can I get there by candlelight?
    Yes, and back again.

  • hold a candle to: an expression meaning “measure up to.” Usually used with a negative, as in: X can’t hold a candle to Y, A could never hold a candle to B, the word trousers doesn’t hold a candle to pants.
  • light a candle for: People will light a candle to show remembrance of someone (such as Yahrtzeit in Judaism) or in support of some cause, such as “lighting a candle for peace.” The phrase has also been used more generally as an expression, often interpreted as “say a prayer for,” possibly based on the tradition of lighting a candle in a church to accompany a prayer. The expression is also sometimes interpreted in reference to leaving a lit candle in the window as a beacon for a loved one who is away.
  • not worth the candle: an expression meaning worthless, or not worth the expense
  • burn a candle from both ends: an expression meaning get little sleep due to being busy from early in the morning till late at night, or to generally work too hard and spend energy recklessly:

    Our current understanding of this phrase refers to a life that is lived frenetically and unsustainably – working or enjoying oneself late into the night only to begin again early the next day. It didn’t having that meaning when it was first coined in the 18th century. The both ends then weren’t the ends of the day but were a literal reference to both ends of a candle. Candles were useful and valuable (see not worth the candle) and the notion of waste suggested by lighting both ends at once implied reckless waste. This thought may well have been accentuated by the fact that candles may only be lit at both ends when held horizontally, which would cause them to drip and burn out quickly.

  • You can also see a short movie of someone actually burning a candle at both ends. (YouTube)
  • —————–

    ¹ My friend Gregory, who recently moved to Sweden mentioned recently that he would soon be sharing some information on this tradition:

    They put candles everywhere except the roof of their cars (they do wear them on their heads, as I will explain in a couple of weeks)…