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In this post, I try to retrace the evolution of Santa's costume by way of saying "Merry Christmas!" to my readers. See it all here.
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 03:44pm on 25/12/2009 under
I'm posting in the limited space of time between our Christmas morning (brunch and presents with [ profile] esrblog's family) and Christmas night (dinner with [ profile] esrblog's family and a visit to our friends).

The selection of presents this year was wonderful. I received a nice warm fleecy blanket, several historical costume and cookery books (including this one, this one, and this one. Granted, I got an IOU for two of the books because Amazon didn't ship soon enough, but it will be great once they arrive.

There are Christmas cookies galore, of course (including gingerbread!) and steak is on the menu for dinner, cooked by my sister-in-law's ex-husband (it's a long story) who was once a chef.

Anyway, I hope everyone who reads this is having a wonderful holiday!
Mood:: 'happy' happy
location: Malvern, PA
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 09:44pm on 20/12/2009 under , ,
I've posted quite a few entries about my neighbor down the street who makes a hobby of decorating his home and yard for each holiday, no matter how minor.

However, I can't make fun of him for decorating his home for Christmas, because Christmas is the one holiday on which nearly everybody decorates here, and many homeowners are even more extravagant than my neighbor is. So tonight, after the season's first big snow has made our town look like a picture postcard even without decoration, I roamed outside with my digital camera, looking for homes to photograph.

I found plenty of homes, but my skill with a digital camera is insufficient to show the blaze of glory some of these homes are when seen by the naked human eye. (Deplorably, the photo I took of my eccentric neighbor's home came out particularly badly, and thus is not featured here.) Still, some of the photos may give you an idea of the spectrum of Malvernian decorating efforts. I'm too cheap to have an account that would allow me to post the pictures here, but you can view them in my Picasa album through the links provided.

First, here is my own pathetic modest effort.

Here is the home of my next-door neighbor (the one who's given up trying to get me to trim my carnivorous bushes). Her son-in-law helped plow my driveway this weekend with his front-end loader after our 18-inches of blizzard, so I can't complain about her anymore, really. I just wish the photo captured the beauty of the colored lights all over her front yard bushes better.

Here, here and here are some more homes on Karen Drive, arrayed in various degrees of complexity and brightness.

And here and here are a few decorations on nearby King Street of which I got passable photos. I wish I could have captured the willow trees hung with multicolored lights better.
Mood:: 'touched' touched
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 01:43pm on 25/12/2008 under ,
Happy holidays, everyone!

We've just gotten home from brunch and Christmas presents at my husband's mother's home (a family tradition!)

This year, we ignored the family Pollyanna and bought at least one gift for everyone we'd expected to show up. Despite that, we seem to have come home with more stuff than we left with. :-)

Best presents of all: A pair of tortoise brooches and a Viking trefoil brooch from Raymond's Quiet Press from my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law! This year, Amazon started plugging a software add-on which lets you browse any Website and add any item to your Amazon Wish List. Apparently, my relatives looked at my Amazon Wish List, where I had added the brooches, and bought them for me. Really, really sweet of them (especially since they know next to nothing about historic costuming in general, let alone my work!)

Other nifty presents: a hand-hooked bit of rug for a throw pillow; a milk steamer and some gourmet hot chocolate; a book on cuisine in the Arab world during the Middle Ages; a book about swordfighting (mostly theatrical, but with useful advice for people, like [ profile] esrblog and me, who are training sporadically in genuine sword combat techniques) and Al Stewart's latest album, "Sparks of Ancient Light."

Pretty cool. I hope everyone who reads this at least has a warm house, a full belly, and reasonable prospects for financial security as we move into an uncertain 2009.
location: home, for a little while
Mood:: 'merry (what else?)' merry (what else?)
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 10:19pm on 26/12/2007 under , ,
A few years ago, I had an epiphany about why we have Christmas. Or, more exactly, why Christmas is about light, and feasting, and presents, and goodwill to our fellow human beings. This isn't a religious explanation of Christmas, or an irreligious one. If anything, it's more like a sociological explanation, or maybe one influenced by evolutionary biology. Bear with me a bit; I've never really tried to put this into words before.

On Christmas Day a few years ago, I went for a walk after Christmas dinner to ward off incipient food coma. There was little or no snow, but it was cold enough to preserve a snowfall, and bleak, with the kind of white sky you sometimes see here in the northern states in the winter. The visible grass was yellow-brown, and the trees splayed their naked branches against the sky like black skeletons. The area in question is solidly suburban, but the houses are far enough apart that you get plenty of hints of what the land would be like if it hadn't mostly been cleared for building.

As I walked, I thought about what it would be like if I were suddenly thrown upon my own resources, with nothing but the clothes on my back, forced to find shelter and food. What a good thing it is, I thought, that I have family and friends, a warm house, and plenty to eat.

Then it occurred to me that Christmas celebrates family for just that reason.

Think about what it must have been like, say, in Northern Europe in the fifth century CE. Or the tenth, for that matter. Your heat was supplied by firewood. Your food was whatever game you could catch and kill and whatever grain or fruit you could store.

And if the winter was long enough, and hard enough, all of your preparations might not *be* enough. You would go hungry, and you might not live to see spring.

Add to that the depression brought on by very long nights and short days, the lack of light as well as warmth, and it's easy to see that people would huddle with family, rationing the scarce necessities as much as possible.

But that's not desirable either. Part of what makes a culture a culture, or a civilization a civilization, is its willingness to reach out and help the less fortunate. If that willingness to share is destroyed, chaos sets in, and the incentives to turn on one's neighbor to survive increase. As do the incentives to lie down and die in despair.

That's one of the reasons winter needs Christmas, or Yule, or some kind of holiday of light. Whether you think in terms of Santa bringing toys for the good children or the Wise Men bringing gifts to the child Jesus, you see the same message--help the stranger, it's good to do! The feasting and present giving are incentives to hang on to humanity when brutal conditions might well bring out the wolf that lurks in human nature. It also explains why Christmas doesn't seem to fit quite right in a warm, sunny climate--the physical pressures that shaped it into The Winter Holiday are lacking in places like Hawaii and New Zealand.

Christmas reminds us that, when things are bleakest, we need to look to each other for support. Because alone, the dark and cold may destroy us.
Mood:: 'thoughtful' thoughtful
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 10:45pm on 25/12/2007 under ,
To everyone who reads my LiveJournal, happy Christmas!

I've spent today visiting and calling relatives and friends, giving presents, getting presents, and feasting on goodies (including more dark chocolate than I normally eat in a year!).

The presents I received included a number of items on my Amazon Wish List, most of which were books, but I also got other interesting and useful items such as a gorgeous teacup with a lid and basket that turn it into an impromptu tea-brewing device for one, knee-high stockings (good because my supply is depleted), a fire extinguisher for the kitchen (every house should have one!) and many other good things. [ profile] esrblog and I got a $50 gift card for Barnes & Noble to share, from our friends [ profile] pmat and [ profile] shakati. Tomorrow, a plumber comes to fix our crotchety toilets. Life is good.

And now I'm tired. I was going to write a post about the meaning of Christmas, but I'm too tired. It shall have to wait.
Mood:: 'tired, but happy' tired, but happy
Music:: the gentle roar of the furnace
location: home
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 12:22pm on 31/12/2006 under ,
This one generates the "Twelve Days of X," where X is your LJ name. Mine produces the following:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, cathyr19355 sent to me...
Twelve cmats drumming
Eleven etains piping
Ten euzieres a-leaping
Nine fuzzface00s dancing
Eight flaviarassens a-milking
Seven mekls a-reading
Six cats a-costuming
Five info-o-o-ocom games
Four video games
Three martial arts
Two strategy games
...and a discworld in a history.
Get your own Twelve Days:

I kind of like the idea of "six cats a-costuming," somehow.
location: here
Mood:: 'silly' silly
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 01:14pm on 25/12/2006 under ,
Be it Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, Chanukah (which I think has just ended), or some other holiday I've never heard of), I hope that everyone reading this is having a happy one! (Kudos to [ profile] treebones for the "Winter Holiday of Choice" label.) We have hit a holiday lull between morning present-opening and evening dinner, so [ profile] esrblog is taking a nap and I am typing this.

I got some really useful things this year. First on the list is the new LCD monitor for my desktop machine from
[ profile] esrblog (which we actually brought home and set up a few weeks ago). From my sister-in-law, I received The Egyptian pack: a lotus-pendant necklace, an Egyptian-style blown glass perfume bottle, and a book about the use of perfumes and scents in Ancient Egypt from my Wish List. Other winners included the DVD of the movie "Elizabeth I" starring Helen Mirren, a Barnes & Noble gift card from my secretary, two historical murder mysteries (also from [ profile] esrblog), some housewares from Portugal and a nifty woven water bottle holder from Peru (courtesy of my widely-traveled mother-in-law, who never sits home alone when she can help it) There will be a few more tonight, but that's the bulk of it.

And then there's the Land Shark, which isn't one of my Christmas presents but sure feels like one.
Mood:: 'content' content
Music:: none (shh, ESR's sleeping!)
location: home
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 08:29pm on 26/12/2005 under ,
I spent the morning/early afternoon of my official "Christmas" holiday from the office taking Eric and [ profile] landley to the Trenton train station so they could get to New York with less trouble. In the afternoon, I visited our deserted offices and spent a non-billable 3 hours sorting and throwing out unneeded papers and generally organizing stuff so that I can be genuinely productive when I return to work tomorrow morning. Now, I am finally back home with our cat.
Mood:: 'satisfied' satisfied
Music:: none, yet.
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 08:16pm on 25/12/2005 under ,
I haven't said it yet, so I'll say it now, Merry Christmas to all my lj friends and everyone else who reads this.

It has been a busy weekend, between having [ profile] landley staying with us over most of the holiday because he and Eric have to travel to New York City for business tomorrow morning, and the usual visits to friends and relatives.

It has been an unusually warm Christmas here, and until this morning (when it started to rain) an exceptionally nice one, weather-wise.

Santa (in the form of the friends and relatives referenced above) has been very good to me also. I feel so pleased that I want to tell everyone what I received. In the interests of not crowing too loudly before those less fortunate, I will put that information under an lj-cut.

List of my Christmas loot here! )
Mood:: 'merry!' merry!