Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Spectacles, NH Style

I've spent a long weekend unpacking.  Every box has been opened and looked at, and I'll estimate that I have 2/3 of things put away.  The remaining 1/3 is primarily paperwork from high school, college, grad school, and beyond that needs to be sorted through.  About 8 totes worth.  This will take me a while, so I am not too worried.  There's also a fair amount of random 'stuff' I need to work with.  But I'm feeling on top of things.  I wish my bookcases were here, though, because my coffee table is now too heavy to move, and the armoire in my foyer has about 300 books on it right now.  I honestly did not intend to ship so many books, including everything from my last two years of college, apparently.  Most of this will go straight back into storage.

So I'd like to take a break from unpacking for another Christmas-related post.  When I was home last month, we took my nephew and niece to do the rounds of Christmas displays.  There are three particularly good ones near where we live.  One is a neighborhood that decorates very well every year, with each house getting into it.  It's pretty, but low key.  And not nearly as interesting as the other ones.

One, which was unfortunately closed when we went, which was very strange, is Santa's house.  A local couple has been decorating their house and land and opening them to visitors for years.  They have hundreds of thousands of lights, every blow-up and lawn display known to man, lots of holiday scenes in display cases, and signs in either direction letting you know you're quickly approaching Santa's house.  Their house is decorated with a huge tree, dozens of noisy toys/displays, and hundreds of Christmas dolls and stuffed animals.  And if that wasn't enough, they dress up as Santa and Mrs. Claus and entertain kids and adults alike every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Other relatives dress up as elves.  They serve hot chocolate and candy canes.  They love to tell stories and make it truly magical for the kids.  And all because they love doing it.  They take donations to go towards the electric bill, which I gladly give.  They start decorating in September for a Thanksgiving-day opening.  Santa and Mrs. Claus dance in the street.  The elves knit.  Kids just gape and stare.  It's great.  Words cannot possibly do justice to the experience, and since it was closed the day we went, I don't have any good pictures.  (My pictures from previous years aren't very good quality.

The other spectacle is my favorite.  A guy spends countless hours programming his hundreds of thousands of lights to music.  And broadcasts it on an empty radio station.  So you can sit in your car in front of the house and watch the show.  Or, since the music plays outside as well, you can wander around the property and experience it in greater detail.  There are three different songs every 15 minutes; I think he must have about 20 songs by now.  He also dresses as Santa occasionally and hands out candy canes.  The kids enjoy it, but I think it's more exciting for adults.  So bear with me; I've posted below a couple of videos and a collage of photos.  You can get a bit of an idea, but know that I only filmed the front of the house.  The display wraps around and goes all the way around the house and on the back lawn.  You can hear the kids in the background making editorial comments.

(Update: the videos are not loading due to slow internet. I'll try again tomorrow.)
(Update #2:  one video loaded!)
(Update #3:  both videos loaded!)




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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree... And Bratwurst!

This has been one mother of a week.  Thank goodness it's Wednesday!  (The Saudi version of Friday.)  Work was very busy this week, including a lot of after-hour events.  Which I love.  Until my alarm clock sounds the next morning.  While I don't blog about my work, I do want to say that I visited two centers for children with disabilities this week, and I was blown away.  One was for children with intellectual disabilities, the other for physical.  Both had state of the art equipment and facilities, world-class staff, and amazing foresight and planning.  Every detail was thought of, and each center includes parents in every aspect so the therapies and adaptations can continue at home.  I can't wait to work with these organizations more.  Having spent some time working in special ed before becoming a diplomat, I almost teared up visiting these centers and seeing their resources.  And while they can't meet the needs of all children in Saudi with disabilities, they provide amazing opportunities for hundreds of children to be independent and eventually be productive members of society.  In a country where the rate for physical disabilities is roughly 7% and intellectual ones only slightly less, there's a huge need.  What an amazing couple of places.  Wow.

I had a very pleasant surprise today when I went to the post office - my Christmas tree arrived!!  I had completely given up hope of receiving it before Christmas, which apparently did the trick.  I set it up tonight, and it's perfect.  It's small, only 4.5 feet tall, but I set it on an underused end table in a corner, and it looks beautiful.  The cats, predictably, love it.  Callaghan has been climbing and biting and marveling all night.  I took some pictures and will post once I get the chance to download and organize the six million pictures from the last month...  I haven't yet put any ornaments on; I'll wait till the novelty wears down a bit.


I also received a commissary shipment today including bratwurst, breakfast sausage, and sliced lunch meat ham.  My freezer is content.

In other ways, today was sad.  I was issued my very first Blackberry, very much against my will.  I hate having a cell phone, and now I have two devices.  What I really hate about these things, though, is the fact that people see nothing wrong with checking them while I'm interacting with them.  I think this is the height of rudeness - BBMing, taking a call, constantly texting - while conversing or dining with someone, I do not want electronic devices to be part of the experience.  So I vow not to become one of these people. 

Anyway, I am going to work on unpacking and decorating and Christmas shopping online.  I got a new china cabinet from GSO today, so I can actually unpack and display my good china!  And table linens!  Yay!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ode to Oneida

After a year and a half of Oakwood furnishings and then the welcome kit at post, I have been dying for good silverware.  Perhaps more than most things, I missed high quality eating utensils.  I am fairly particular.  I like flatware to be relatively heavy, but not overly so.  I hate eating off of forks with bent tines.  I like forks with four tines, never three.  I think soup spoons can run a fine line between large enough and too large for one's mouth.  Butter knives need to have some heft and not be too slim at the spreading end.  And you can never have too many teaspoons. 

When I went home for Thanksgiving, it hit me how much I missed good silverware.  I grew up with Oneida flatware; my parents still have the True Rose set they were given for their wedding by my grandparents, and now we have my Grandmother's slightly fancier Oneida set.  So a few years ago, in anticipation of my own kitchen, I bought a service-for-12 set from Oneida, in Flight pattern.  It's a mid-range line - functional for daily use, good looking, but not top of the line.  It has been in boxes since.  So imagine my complete and utter glee when tonight's box contained the entire Oneida set, including hostess serving items!!  I quickly switched out the flimsy welcome kit stuff for my wonderful Oneida.  And eating off it was a dream.  So wonderful.  The little things, eh?

This box also contained some other goodies, including a beautiful tablecloth I bought in Tahiti and promptly forgot about.  It's now on the table :-).  A lot of Easter decorations, including a kitschy deviled egg platter and salt/pepper shakers.  And, completely surprising, some gorgeous beaded decorative flatware I bought in South Africa eons ago.  I'd forgotten about these pieces entirely.  I have two serving spoons, a salad fork/spoon set, a sugar spoon, and six each of dessert spoons and forks.  They're good quality silverware, and the ends/stems (what are those called?) are covered in wire and beading.  Exquisite.  So exciting!  Plus, each set was tied with tissue paper and 'garnished' with a guinea hen feather!!  (If you read my previous post, you'd know about the guinea hen obsession...  I found that tablecloth as well!)

There was also a set of bamboo cooking tools; I am a sucker for wooden spoons, and the rest of my collection is in HHE#2.  These went perfectly into the pottery utensil holder I unpacked yesterday! 

It's past my bedtime, but I just had to write about my silverware.  I am such a kitchen gadget/utenstil geek...  And I've never had all my stuff in one place before.  Most of it is still new in original packaging.  So I'm giddy over my discoveries - not just seeing them again, but finally getting to use them!!