Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year's Toast to All!

Well here we are ... the night of the big Countdown, and there's no Keith Olbermann to help us through it! I hope he's having a great time, wherever he is ....

And here's a big virtual champagne fountain for all of you (you know who you are!) who grace the pages of this humble blog!

It's a quiet, cold and as usual, snowy night here at Casa IVG, as we count down not only to the New Year, but also the infamous Iowa Caucuses in a mere three days! Look for a couple of posts on that subject soon, and I'll be sure to post Caucus night experiences on Thursday, so stop back.

Hope everyone has a delightful evening! We're about to start our noshing here and will be firing up the movies a bit later (see previous post for details on those).

So ... have at the champagne ... it won't give you a hangover and the best thing about this stuff is, it never runs out!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ornament Blogging: Sparkling Starflake

Well here we are, at year's end once again ... the hectic pre-Christmas frenzy has given way to the exhausted, quiet times before New Year's, when we start it all over again. It was a peaceful holiday for us mostly, after the trauma of the furnace failure, it was downright joyous to actually have reliable heat ... so all in all, I guess we did pretty well!

This ornament, my most recently received, was a gift from Fernymoss' great aunt, who always finds us unique little treasures each year, and this year was no exception! I love how this one catches the light (unfortunately we had to do these with flash to get the focus) and positively sparkles among the other ornaments we have on this pine garland swag we have in the dining room ... it's a very welcome addition to our ever growing collection of heirloom ornaments.

We both got each other a variety of fun and practical gifts that will keep us both warm and well entertained for the early part of the New Year. I'm now the proud owner of an eight disc boxed set of The Woody Allen Collection, as well as John Waters' one man show This Filthy World, both of which are sheer delights for afficionados of two of my favourite cinematic heroes. Fernymoss also raked in the DVDs as well, including Day Watch, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and This Is Spinal Tap. As you can see, we have plenty of prime viewing ahead for the post-caucus cold season ... and we won't have to leave the house! (Though we've already sampled several ... Harry Potter was quite entertaining, This Filthy World was hilarious, as was our old favourite This Is Spinal Tap). Oh yeah, we also got the usual underwear, socks and sweaters, much needed items I never sneeze at!

But, a really big standout for me came a couple of days later ... my hero of the airwaves Keith Olbermann's newest book, Truth and Consequences: Special Comments on the Bush Administration's War on American Values. For those of you who may still be unacquainted with this plain spoken MSNBC newsman (in the best, most classic sense of the term ... think Murrow!), this looks to be an excellent introduction to his wildly popular (well, except among certain circles, hehe) series of "Special Comments" he broadcasts periodically as circumstances demand. I've just read a little so far (and I've heard them all before) but I'm so looking forward to having them all down in print, for this man not only knows how to rant eloquently, but he does so with a prose so incisive and well researched that he leaves the viewer/reader breathless. I can give this one a big thumbs up without having read more than the introduction. If you've already seen any of his Special Comments, you'll know just how Special they really are! I'm really thrilled to add this important book to my collection ... now, more than ever.

We have a very low key (as usual) New Year's Eve planned for Casa IVG ... some good food to eat (meatballs, shrimp, fine cheeses, etc.) to eat, a couple of bottles of champagne (yummy Spanish stuff, no French this year, alas ... ) and a couple of favourite movies on tap: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Stardust Memories. That's the way we like to celebrate the Eve ... some relaxing food and cinematic fare, with a pause at midnight for champagne toasts and some noise makers ... maybe even some fireworks in the snow! (There's plenty of that to be had around here and more on the way, supposedly!)

More later ... even my musings on the imminent Iowa Caucuses you may have heard about in the news lately ....

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Not a Creature Was Stirring ...

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Feliz navidad a todos y a todos buenas noches!

Joyeux Noël et A tous une bonne nuit!

Merry Whatever You're Having!

With visions of meaty bones dancing in their heads ... On Snausage! on Marrobone, on Puperoni and Canine Carry Outs. On snacky bits, on Milk Bone! On pig ears, and Scooby Snacks ... After all these damn good smells coming from around here lately, it's about time we cashed in! Please visit us, Santa Dog, we've been pretty good this year!

P.S. Could we please have some of the turkey bits when you guys are done with that? That taste of gravy I got tonight was pretty damn good! Oh, and those butter cookies smell real yummy too ....

Oddly Enough, That's What My Clock Says Right Now ...

But then, I still haven't changed my shelf clock back, so weird how serendipity sometimes comes into play ... well, now that i think about it, that's kind of the nature of serendipitous events ... Chalk it up to too many late hours and some Christmas cheer I had earlier. But as Emily Litella would say (rest her soul), Never mind!

This ornament definitely has a story behind it ... I got this (and a few others, namely the Jack Russell Terrier, Peacock, Pickle, etc.) during a verrryyy long delay at the Denver airport several years ago. At the time, I was traveling pretty frequently and it was close to Christmas, of course ... there was a snow event either in Denver or east (I do not recall) and it looked dicey that I'd even get out of there in time, and it was right about December 22. Well, if you've ever had to kill time during a delay or layover in Denver, you'll know there's not a lot to do there unless you like shops you'd likely never enter under normal circumstances, endless overpriced food and drink, and no smoking areas allowed. Except! There are these signs to a 'Smoker's Lounge' that must have tantalized many frazzled, deprived smokers ... until you get there! It turns out that one bar in the entire airport will allow limited smoking ... that sounds nice until realize there's like a 3 drink minimum to enter and it appears you have to keep drinking if you want to hang out there for very long. (Think about that if you want a cig before an early morning flight sometime, hehe.)

Now, of course virtuous me never took advantage of it, even this time. And I really wanted a cig bad, but the principle of the whole thing just ticked me off. So ... I wandered off to find some sort of mildly interesting shopping to try to make the time pass until I was supposed to leave on a flight that might maybe get out and back to Des Moines that night.

Finally I discovered and wandered into the Discovery Store, and that was a sight for my surely sore eyes! All things Discovery Channels and more were to be had ... talking Steve Irwin dolls (I wish I had gotten one of those! They were on clearance.) DVDs ... calendars ... toys ... you name it. But I gravitated instantly to the (mostly Polish and Czech blown glass) ornaments that were temptingly marked 50% off! Now we were talking! Something i was actually interested in buying! I ended up buying five or six ornaments (most of which have appeared here or will appear here soon), one of which was this Cuckoo Clock. (And yes, this one was made in Poland ... yay!)

In retrospect, besides finding it really original and pretty, I suspect it appealed subconsciously to me because I was preoccupied with time at the moment. I have to admit, every year I put it on the tree, I don't fail to think of the circumstances in which I purchased it. It's all Proustian, I know, but he was on to something there. It just took him a hell of a long time to prove it!

Ornamental Perspective ...

Last night, Fernymoss was having fun playing with reflections and perspective, and, I think came up with a dandy one in this shot. I think it speaks for itself to the diversity and eclectic collection you find on our tree ...

Monday, December 24, 2007

More World Ornament Blogging: the Critters

Before I fade any further, here are two more of our animal themed ornaments, respectively the camel and the elephant. We keep these toward the bottom of the tree (thus the exposed presents!) to warn us when the dogs are too close for comfort (notice the bells).

These shots show almost all of the presents under the tree, minus those I have for Fernamoss (which I have still to wrap!), so they show we're almost all the way there for this year....

I love the camel in the first shot, and the great sparkle Fernymoss got in this shot, as the view below doggie eye level. The elephant is also one of my favourite shots we got tonight, with its colourful background with warning bell ...

There's still more to cram under the tree, though necessarily, we'll have to put the pups' treats up high tomorrow night, so that Santa Dog can keep them safe before they can dig into them on Christmas. They're getting lots of yummy stuff, including Pig Ears, Ham Bones and assorted treats for being (pretty) good dogs this year... we doubt they're going to complain! And it's really fun to watch them unwrap the bones on Christmas morning ... pics to follow!

Ornament Blogging: Dragons Love Holiday Trees Too!

This is just a little fun one that I found at World Market last weekend, and was going to be a Christmas Eve gift to Fernymoss, but he'd had such a bad day at work, I gave it to him early to cheer him up. Every year I seem to find a neat, very different ornament there, so I can't resist ... I was looking at the animal ornaments and was thinking, I wish there were a Dragon one, that would be cool for the tree! Then I looked up and spotted this little guy and he was back on his way to our tree! (I also got an Iguana for Fernymoss, but don't tell him yet!) Just one more step to adding more animals to the tree, as we do every year ... as you'll see in the next post!

Ornament Blogging Around the World

Tonight I decided to get in some of the world themed ornaments we have, so here's the take on France (and with apologies to Martin Mull: ah France, I love you so, I love French Toast and escargot ...). Admittedly, I have soft spot for this ornament I got a few years ago, as France looks better and better to us the past year or so. If only we could just uproot and move there to stay, in some sunny clime in Provence ... ahhhhhhhhh.

Sucks being a member of the reality based American community here, eh? I called the precinct captain of the Edwards campaign here today and I think I'll be attending one of his big speeches here next Saturday night. I haven't seen him yet (due to most events being scheduled while I'm working) but this one I don't want to miss, right before New Year's and the Caucus as well. She told me the Edwards folks would also be having food provided at the Caucus, which is definitely a new one for me. Today, for example, I got calls from the HRC campaign (desperate much?) and Dodd, who in a fit of pique while caught candy making, I rudely hung up to the recording. But I digress!

The first shot is an ensemble shot, complete with bird butt. I hope you like that touch, hehe. The second is obviously up closer, and with what Fernymoss referred to as the Death Star approaching (he took that one). Either way you look at it, I'm glad to have this one on the tree again in its third year ... More to come!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas to Our House!

I guess it was probably past time that the furnace puffed its last gasp (it was installed in 1974), and we knew it was coming, but not so soon! We just didn't expect it the week before the holidays ... and the sudden expense resulted in initial severe sticker shock. But having had it working for about a day now, we're convinced more that in the long run, it was a good thing after all. The old unit was horribly inefficient and never quite got the whole house warmed ... and at phenomenal expense usually. So ... despite our four chilly nights without real heat, the weekend turned out quite well, thanks to our erstwhile and wonderful folks at the heating/cooling service company we've always used. They did their best to work us in this week so we wouldn't have to wait until 31 December, which was their next scheduled installation date. As it turned out, the guy who installed the new furnace had finished a big job early this week and was available to do our house.

This Goodman unit is a 95% efficient furnace that I had installed with a programmable thermostat, so we should start seeing some savings very soon, I would hope! If you'd like to see the nitty gritty specs on it, then head on over here. So far, we're just tickled to have heat again and are enjoying the difference it's already made! It may have socked a hole in our pockets right now, but it's definitely a good investment for the future of the house ... so we're grateful to have this all done now, especially before Christmas.

With regard to the holiday doings around here today, it's been really busy, thus the late hour of this posting. We had the last of gift and grocery shopping today, just before the most recent snow storm blew in (literally!) with its 3-4" of snow. If it's the weekend in Iowa, must be another storm ... as has been the pattern for the last month.

Once warmly ensconced back in the house, I worked up to making cookies ... 3 batches of Snowball cookies, 24 gingerbread men (I wimped out and bought frozen pre-cut dough, but it's good), and also mixed up two batches of Spritz cookies (cookie press stuff). Along with the big batch of Chex Mix I made last night, that put a dent into my holiday kitchen duties. Today's goodie tasks are a few batches of peanut brittle and my English Almond Crunch Toffee (basically butter, sugar, almonds and chocolate coating). Fernymoss will be decorating the house and the gingerbread people and I'll be making the candy ... and probably another big batch of Chex Mix since I've already bagged up a lot to give as part of our gift plates.

Arrgghhh .... I love making the cookies and candy, but it always means that I'm insanely behind in getting things wrapped! Somehow that's on the agenda today as well ... Packages are starting to appear under the tree, and as soon as we get most of them done we hope to do a pups and presents picture to feature here.

So from our house to yours, flying by the seats of our pants, scrambling to finish the decorating and the wrapping ... hope you're staying warm and cozy, especially those of us in the snowy zones! Sounds like Ottawa, North Dakota and Colorado are all snow covered ... so wherever you are, we hope you are making the best of the season in your own way!

More soon ... ornament blogging, dog blogging and other stuff!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ornament Blogging: Sometimes Life Just Gives You the Bird!

Last night I talked about our propensity to include birds on our tree, so here's another example of a bird-themed ornament we always make sure to place in a prominent spot on the tree. This cardinal and nest is a hand-me-down from my sister, who probably got it sometime back in the 70's and decided she didn't want it anymore a few years ago (when the box of cast off ornaments arrived mysteriously on our front porch). This is one of those pieces that, no matter how tacky it may appear to contemporary sensibilities, is one of our favorites. It attaches to the tree with a clothespin and even has two tiny eggs in the nest ... what more could you ask for? And it has one of our favorite native birds, the Cardinal, as its focus .... I guess it's one of those 'must have' ornaments we have in the repertoire, without which the holiday just wouldn't seem complete. Kind of like my Santa in a Rickshaw coming soon ....

Update on the heating situation: our repair guy came by today and managed to coax the furnace into working for a few hours, but warning that it could crap out at any time. Well, that happened this evening. It now looks like we're buying the house a new furnace for the holiday. I'm getting on top of this first thing in the morning, but I'm not optimistic that we can get it replaced within the next week, given the holidays. So at this point it looks like we'll be having a chilly holiday with just the radiator space heaters and the oven to keep us warm. As Fernymoss put it tonight, this is going to be a candle lit holiday! At least we have lots of blankets and comforters to wrap up in until we can get the new unit installed. And with more snow on the way predicted for Friday and Saturday, I'll be doing plenty of baking!

So it goes ... we'll muddle through. (Apologies to Kurt Vonnegut, jr. Bless him!)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ornament Blogging: Flying By the Moon

I guess it's past time to get the ornament blogging going here, since we're still snow covered, icy, and as of today when I got home, heat free. The furnace is acting up again and hopefully it can be fixed again this time though we know a new one is on the horizon sometime in the next year or so ....

Anyway, this is Fernymoss' tree topper extravaganza, complete with the witch and the blue moon ... our usual toppers who cede the way to more traditional things to come below ... such as the following. You know, things like architecture from countries like such as.*
Actually there's a lot going on in this shot, but the highlights are obviously the infamous Tour Effel, and if you look closely, you'll the see the wine bottle not too far off. Birds of some sort have always been a constant on our trees, and you'll see some more soon as we get more individual shots taken of them. Fernymoss has been trying to get a lot of shots in ambient light, but with varying degrees of success, and frankly, though the flash gives better definition it does zap the colour of the lights. We're going to keep experimenting though and if anything good comes out you'll be seeing it here soon!

Oh yeah! I was at World Market yesterday and found a lovely little red dragon I just had to get for Fernymoss (after all they were 50% off!) He'll definitely be appearing here sooner or later!

*(And if you get that reference, you've been paying attention to Countdown and other YouTube type places for your teen airhead updates on vacuousness. I'm sure she's just a delightful girl in person, LOL. Like totally!)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tired Pups and Humans ...

And when the humans were done adorning the tree (well, at least temporarily), the dogs rested. Too much activity and getting shooed out of the way in the process, I suppose. It's going to be harder now that we're going to start to put things under it ... including a trip to Petco this week to get their holiday treats. Wait for the Christmas morning pics of their unwrapping of the goodies!

I went shopping for a few hours today and it damn near did me in ... I'm glad I'm almost done with this for this year! We're scaling back (like many, it seems) this year, so I think that's a relief of some sorts. Hedging against the economic storm that seems poised to hit in 2008 ... We're planning on going low key this year. Turkey breast and good food on Christmas Eve, some good champagne and a muted whoop ti doo on the big day.

I think the times call for it, with the Caucuses barely 2 days after New Year's! On January 4, we can start answering the phone again ...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Holiday Tree Blogging Begins ...

We got the tree last Friday night, just before another round of snow came through, a nearly weekly occurrence of late (if it's the weekend, a storm must be on tap!). In fact, this Scotch Pine we got from our usual tree purveyors from Wisconsin came complete with free snow on it! Amazingly, it went into the stand quickly and without issue and was ready on Saturday when we began to work on it ... Pepa and Rolly are less fascinated by the tree than they are something Fernymoss was doing in the dining room ... The tree, au naturel, before the lights went on.
Now most of the lights are on ... all 750 of them ... shimmering white, multicolour and faceted colours ... just waiting for the bead garland and ornaments.And one final shot for now, with a good number of the ornaments on the tree, with even more to come (details to come in later posts). Fernymoss has been adding more all during the past week, so it's pretty packed at this point! I just need to get down to some serious wrapping this weekend! Thank the almighty FSM for online shopping ... I've got maybe one or two more quick shopping trips to make before I'm officially done. And then the baking and candy making frenzy begins in earnest ...

* * * E N C A S E D * * *

Yep, this is still pretty much what it looks like out in front. At least the satellite dish melted off yesterday, so Countdown is finally back! In for another couple of inches of snow Saturday ... and, maybe if we're lucky we'll have a couple of days actually above freezing next week. It's definitely going to be a white Holiday here this year the way things have been going. I hope all the politicians and reporters in town are enjoying the weather! Last year we were unseasonbly warm and hadn't had much (if any) snow yet. Must be Iowa Caucus Karma ... barely three weeks away ... More on that later.Photos taken by Fernymoss on 13, December, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

. . . I C Y . . .

That's about the state of things here the past few days!
Photo by Fernymoss, taken 13, December 2007