Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Part 2, Christmas Week

The Christmas tale continues. Here's the first installment.

TUESDAY: Christmas, of course! We woke up at 9 and moseyed downstairs once my mom had passed us. We don't do Santa much anymore, as the Brother is going to be eighteen in a few weeks. My mom does fill the stockings with little gifts, though, like wind-up toys and Christmas candy (Daddy fills her stocking with Lindt chocolates and scented soaps). Inexpensive fun things. This year was kind of lame because Daddy was down watching TV when we woke up, and then we sat around waiting while my mom put breakfast in the oven and they watched MORE TV- and not even something Christmasy, they were watching a robot movie. Grr. But they stopped when Mummy and I finished making breakfast and we opened the stocking gifts, all wrapped in tissue paper. Then, as breakfast cooked, we started the other family presents-- I gave my sister a scarf, my brother a book about numbers, my dad a bottle of special olive oil and my mom a little cosmetic bag for her purse (she needed one, her old one broke) and an organic candy bar.

My parents gave me lots of stuff-- this is what they do instead of buying me stuff I need or want at other times. So I got a Leatherman tool, and plush microbes from ThinkGeek (syphilis, malaria and mono), and Age of Mythology for my computer because I am a myth geek and have wanted it for years but couldn't afford it. And I finally got a new hair dryer to replace the one that broke. Shrewd's making me a scarf but she's been sick and couldn't finish it in time. I don't mind, though. The Brother gave Daddy a collection of Agatha Christie movies, including The Man in the Brown Suit, which is a movie that Daddy taped off the TV years ago, but which was then accidentally taped over by Shrewd. Daddy loved it and was disappointed as hell. He was thrilled, as was Shrewd, who is FINALLY out of the doghouse.

Soon breakfast was done. Christmas breakfast for us is almost as big as dinner. The traditional family Christmas breakfast is an egg casserole (part veggie and sausage, part sausage only, part veggie only), cinnamon rolls hot from the oven, homemade tea breads and fresh-squeezed orange juice. We finished presents after breakfast, then cleaned up the wrapping paper so that the house would be ready when Ryter arrived.

Ryter came soon after, and we talked and helped with dinner until it was time to eat. Dinner was tenderloin with peppercorn sauce and stuffed scrod with Newburg sauce; sweet potatoes, my mother's famous cloverleaf rolls, peas, broccoli, shrimp cocktail, sweet baby carrots and probably something else I forgot. It was wonderful, as my mom's cooking always is, even without the traditional popovers Shrewd usually makes (she was too sick to handle food safely).

Ryter opened my gift and I opened his; I gave him a T-shirt of Emperor Constantine Paleologos and he gave me a collection of Phillip K. Dick novels. My parents also gave him some maps of the White Mountains for hiking in the spring, and he gave Daddy a bottle of rum, for general over-21 consumption. The Brother and Daddy played with their new mini RC helicopters.

After we cleaned up from dinner we played Trivial Pursuit (Daddy and Mummy against the Brother, myself, and Ryter) and my team lost miserably. They got lots of easy questions. We had pie and cheesecake for desert and split up, Shrewd playing with her brand new laptop (boy did she need it), the Brother and Daddy playing Scrabble and Mummy setting up her new vacuum cleaner from my grandmother, while Ryter and I hung out, watched some Bones, and then said our good nights.

It was a marvelous Christmas all around.

Part 1, Christmas Week

So there is a good reason why I didn't write a blog entry the past couple days. My dad "fixed" the wireless connection, so it went from working fine to not working at all for a few days.

So Christmas has come and gone. Well, almost. Christmas is being spread out over six days for me this year. This will take a couple posts.

SUNDAY: Ryter's family party. It was cool. We went down to his grandmother's house and exchanged gifts and sat around and talked. I met his favorite cousin, who is very cool, and stood around feeling awkward most of the time. By the end I was exhausted and ready to go well before Ryter was, but I waited until he was ready to go anyway, because he doesn't get to see his cousin very much.

I also almost got into a politics fight at dinner before I remembered The Rules of Discussion at Social Events: No politics, no sex, no religion. Oops. But I backed out. It's just hard not to get riled when someone's talking about Huckabee taking over the US government. I'm pretty sure I would arrange to do med school in Canada, if degree transfers would work.

MONDAY: Christmas Eve. We cleaned the house and cooked what we could of Christmas dinner, then got a massive quantity of Chinese food, as is tradition. See, my great-uncle was an insurance salesman, and he believed that a good salesman buys from his customers. So on Christmas Eve he would visit every Chinese restaurant he insured and buy food from each. Thus, mountains of food. My dad's carrying on the tradition, with only one restaurant as the others in this town suck.

To be continued...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I return.

*Enormous sigh*

Well, it's over. I had my last exam yesterday and I am now at home, helping my mother clean the house. Supposedly it was to be a family affair but Shrewd spent the morning knitting and watching TV with Daddy while the Brother helped by cleaning up his own Legos and robot stuff, which was everywhere. Daddy started the kitchen, went and sat back down to watch TV, Mummy went out and I cleaned a good portion of the downstairs all by myself before Daddy and Shrewd wandered in and asked what they should do... bah.

So yeah, "Welcome home! Now clean the house." And it was pretty bad, too. Mummy and the Brother have been busy and Daddy won't clean unless we make him; Shrewd just recently got home as well. We're talking like mail stacked in every corner of the kitchen and all on the dining room table, robot stuff everywhere, school projects and college applications scattered about... Not to mention the piles of laundry, mostly Shrewd's and dish towels but my small basket as well. It wasn't like, pick up a few things and vacuum.

Plus when I got back my mother had not yet assembled the Christmas village. When I asked why not she said "Well, I had to paint the living room the first two weekends and then it didn't seem worth it for only a few weeks, and your dad didn't want it there because he's been talking about getting a flat screen TV..."

My dad already spends pretty much every hour of the evening parked in front of the TV doing nothing. He only reads if there's nothing on. Now he wants a flat screen despite the fact he has a perfectly good, LARGE TV he only got a few years ago? Bah.

Anyway, she agreed to put it up with my help, so after the house was cleaned we assembled the village. Then after dinner we watched The Nun's Story and then I went and wrapped presents for my dad, who claims he is incapable of doing so properly.

Tomorrow I go to Ryter's family Christmas party; I'll also hopefully get a chance to talk about the Hanukkah festivities as well...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Cultural Survival

Today is the feast of Bona Dea, the goddess of fertility, healing, virginity, and women. She's also known as Fauna, for her father, the goat-legged Faunus (Greek name Pan). She was especially popular with lower-class citizens, slaves, and women, who would pray to her for healing or fertility. She was also the patron of freedom from slavery, hence the popularity with slaves.

Her festival was celebrated with secret rites held in the home of a prominent Roman magistrate. Only women were allowed, so I guess the magistrate himself was kicked out, and his wife ran the show (with the Vestal Virgins' assistance). You couldn't even have a male animal or a picture of a man with you. The words "wine" and "myrtle were forbidden, as there was a myth of Faunus beating Bona Dea with a myrtle stick when she got drunk, and it seems she didn't want to be reminded (this may be one of the few Roman festivals and/or ceremonies with no use of alcohol in copious amounts).

She was frequently depicted on Roman coins, often with her symbols, the cornucopia and the snake (a symbol of healing). Snakes were also kept in her temple in Rome.


Last night my dad picked me up late and took me back home for the night; we ate Chinese food, watched a Christmas movie and had a nice fire, and I got to bed waaaaaay late, which is a bad habit I need to break...

The reason for this was this morning, when we drove down to Boston for the Cultural Survival Bazaar (after a stopover in. If you live in the Boston area, you should check this out; it's very cool. Merchants who do fair trade practices with indigenous/impoverished peoples will come to sell the crafts and foods (coffee, chocolate, and olive oil mostly) at the bazaar, and 40% of the profits go to help preserve indigenous culture. Whatever you think of the politics/idea, though, it's a great place to poke around, and the timing (first three weekends in December) make it good for Christmas shopping for the people who don't actually need anything, or who might find it interesting.

There's a lot of sub-Saharan African stuff, especially wooden decorated bowls and utensils; toys; and instruments. There are woven rugs from Peru and woolen hats from Nepal; Ojibwa dreamcatchers and singing bowls from Tibet. And lots and lots of jewelry, from pretty much everywhere. I actually got almost all my shopping done there; I had only three presents left (for my mom, my brother, and a little gift to give Ryter on Christmas Eve). We also ate lunch from the Indian food stand that was there; it was really good (mmm, chicken masala).

Then we went to the BU bookstore, because Shrewd has an employee discount (she works for BU Hillel) and we wanted to kill time before we checked out her place of employment (which wasn't open yet). There, I got my present for my brother, who asked for math books for Christmas (weirdo).

We then went to Hillel, where Shrewd works. She serves kosher food in a little cafe overlooking the Charles River. It's a very pretty place. We got the 20-second tour and ran into my cousin's boyfriend, who helped Shrewd get the job there (yay nepotism).

Then they took me back to campus, as there's supposed to be a blizzard tonight and none of us wanted to be caught in that...