Friday, December 31, 2010

Poem for Friday, MD Zoo, Garden of Lights

By David St. John

Vivian St. John (1981-1974)

There is a train inside this iris:

You think I'm crazy, & like to say boyish
& outrageous things. No, there is

A train inside this iris.

It's a child's finger bearded in black banners.
A single window like a child's nail,

A darkened porthole lit by the white, angular face

Of an old woman, or perhaps the boy beside her in the stuffy,
Hot compartment. Her hair is silver, & sweeps

Back off her forehead, onto her cold and bruised shoulders.

The prairies fail along Chicago. Past the five
Lakes. Into the black woods of her New York; & as I bend

Close above the iris, I see the train

Drive deep into the damp heart of its stem, & the gravel
Of the garden path

Cracks under my feet as I walk this long corridor

Of elms, arched
Like the ceiling of a French railway pier where a boy

With pale curls holding

A fresh iris is waving goodbye to a grandmother, gazing
A long time

Into the flower, as if he were looking some great

Distance, or down an empty garden path & he believes a man
Is walking toward him, working

Dull shears in one hand; & now believe me: The train

Is gone. The old woman is dead, & the boy. The iris curls,
On its stalk, in the shade

Of those elms: Where something like the icy & bitter fragrance

In the wake of a woman who's just swept past you on her way

& you remain.


We have been out from morning till late in the evening -- first at the Maryland Zoo, where most of the animals are still in their outdoor exhibits despite the chilly weather, then at the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory & Botanic Gardens in Druid Hill Park next to the zoo, then for a quick food stop, then at Wheaton Regional Park's Garden of Lights, and finally at dinner at the mall with Gblvr who was unexpectedly in my area replacing a computer battery so I got the unexpected pleasure of seeing her! The zoo is not at all crowded at this time of year, so although not all the animals are in their outdoor enclosures, anyone visiting gets to see the ones that are practically as private visitors. We went through the African and Arctic regions, where the leopards, rhinos, foxes, and snowy owls were all awake and active, as well as the playful elephants and chimpanzees (plus we saw deer in the woods on the tram getting to the animals, though no prairie dogs waiting for the tram). The conservatory is right near the zoo, so we went to see the poinsettia display, which is arranged around historic Baltimore storefronts. The camera lens fogged up very badly there and in the indoor monkey enclosure at the zoo, but it was nice and warm for a few minutes.

There was a lot of traffic on I-95, and we realized that our timing might be good to arrive at Brookside Gardens right when the light show was opening for the evening (we've missed it the past two years because there were hour-long waits just to get into the parking lots). We were a bit early, so we stopped in a grocery store to grab some things we needed and arrived at the park just as the main parking lot was opening for the evening, at which point it was very easy to park and walk through the gardens unimpeded by crowds. We visited the model train exhibit in the conservatory there and went on the winter garden walk, which was chilly but beautiful with all the mini-light creatures in the otherwise empty fountains and mini-light geese and turtles in the pond. Then we headed toward home and dinner, at which point I had talked to Gblvr, and once the kids heard I might be going to the mall, they wanted to come have Subway and Sbarro instead of leftovers. So we all had dinner together, Gblvr and I did a bit of girly shopping, then I came home with my family and watched the very fun Tennessee-North Carolina double-overtime in the Music City Bowl.

While his mate looks on, the Maryland Zoo's lion produces a huge...yawn.

The snowy owl demonstrates that owls really can turn their heads all the way around.

The arctic fox may look lazy, but this is about as awake as we've ever seen him!

The African penguins contemplate swimming in very cold water. When we arrived, every single penguin waddled inside because a zookeeper was breaking up the ice in the water for them. Eventually they reemerged, though they didn't look enthusiastic about the weather.

The poinsettia exhibit at the Baltimore Conservatory celebrates the hub of Baltimore's old shopping district at Lexington and Howard Streets, where Hutzler Brothers department store used to be.

This giraffe at the Garden of Lights (which I called the Rainbow Giraffe, causing much snickering by Adam) has 9000 lights.

Here are some of the light roses in the outdoor garden walk.

And here is the Brookside Gardens Conservatory model train display, including a miniature of Brookside Gardens in the foreground beneath the train going over the bridge.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Poem for Thursday, Winter Lights, 'The King's Speech'

By Helen Fiske Jackson

At the king's gate the subtle noon
  Wove filmy yellow nets of sun;
Into the drowsy snare too soon
    The guards fell one by one.

Through the king's gate, unquestioned then,
  A beggar went, and laughed, "This brings
Me chance at last, to see if men
    Fare better, being kings."

The king sat bowed beneath his crown,
  Propping his face with listless hand,
Watching the hour-glass sifting down
    Too slow its shining sand.

"Poor man, what wouldst thou have of me?"
  The beggar turned, and, pitying,
Replied like one in dream, "Of thee,
    Nothing. I want the king."

Uprose the king, and from his head
  Shook off the crown and threw it by.
"O man, thou must have known," he said,
    "A greater king than I."

Through all the gates, unquestioned then,
  Went king and beggar hand in hand.
Whispered the king, "Shall I know when
    Before His throne I stand?"

The beggar laughed. Free winds in haste
  Were wiping from the king's hot brow
The crimson lines the crown had traced.
    "This is his presence now."

At the king's gate, the crafty noon
  Unwove its yellow nets of sun;
Out of their sleep in terror soon
    The guards waked one by one.

"Ho here! Ho there! Has no man seen
  The king?" The cry ran to and fro;
Beggar and king, they laughed, I ween,
    The laugh that free men know.

On the king's gate the moss grew gray;
  The king came not. They called him dead;
And made his eldest son one day
    Slave in his father's stead.


We had a quiet morning with people getting up at different times and doing various chores -- Daniel has finished college applications, Adam was editing photos, I had laundry to fold, Paul was organizing in the kitchen -- then we all had lunch together and went to see The King's Speech. I am going to run out of superlatives talking about how much I enjoyed it. The cast is phenomenal -- Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Jennifer Ehle, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall, Claire Bloom, all playing historical characters, some whose appearances and mannerisms are very familiar (Edward VIII, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Winston Churchill). I knew little of the story -- I knew about the abdication crisis, of course, but not about George VI's personal background, and I found it a surprisingly moving story considering that I've never felt very sorry for the current Queen's poor little rich children. Firth is terrific as the reluctant king, though Pearce's turn as his pathetic older brother is memorable -- I've generally noticed a higher degree of sympathy for Edward and Wallis, not such contempt -- and the movie really belongs to Rush, whose moment in King Edward's Chair is one of my favorites in film history. (And if you've not been planning to let your tweens see it because of the R rating, please note that that rating reflects two uses of the F word and nothing else objectionable.)

After the movie (at which I ended up sitting next to someone I've known since elementary school and her family, though I'd mostly seen her on Facebook in the past decade), we stopped in several stores near the theater to take advantage of post-holiday sales, then drove to Seneca Creek State Park for the Gaithersburg Winter Lights Festival which we've seen every year for the past many. There aren't a lot of new displays, but it's always fun to see the penguins sliding off igloos, the squirrels and fish diving over the road on arches, the ice skating rink made of white bulbs, the large North Pole mansion with a reindeer ski jump, and the swans and boats set up on the water (which this December is frozen over). After a late dinner we watched what I imagine will be the final episode of Undercovers, which started to open up some of the larger mysteries surrounding the Blooms that we will never see resolved. Sigh. Then we watched a bit of the Alamo Bowl and a mediocre Star Trek episode that I need to review by the end of the week. We missed Maryland playing East Carolina in the Military Bowl, but considering that the Terrapins won 51-20 in Ralph Friedgen's last game, it doesn't sound like it was a nail-biter. Here are some photos of the winter lights and one of the sunset that we saw from the roof of the parking lot after the movie:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Poem for Wednesday, Winterthur, LDS Lights

The Garden Year
By Sara Coleridge

January brings the snow,
Makes our feet and fingers glow.

February brings the rain,
Thaws the frozen lake again.

March brings breezes, loud and shrill,
To stir the dancing daffodil.

April brings the primrose sweet,
Scatters daisies at our feet.

May brings flocks of pretty lambs
Skipping by their fleecy dams.

June brings tulips, lilies, roses,
Fills the children's hands with posies.

Hot July brings cooling showers,
Apricots, and gillyflowers.

August brings the sheaves of corn,
Then the harvest home is borne.

Warm September brings the fruit;
Sportsmen then begin to shoot.

Fresh October brings the pheasant;
Then to gather nuts is pleasant.

Dull November brings the blast;
Then the leaves are whirling fast.

Chill December brings the sleet,
Blazing fire, and Christmas treat.


I spent a fabulous day at Winterthur with my family and Dementordelta enjoying the Yuletide decorations and the grounds in the snow. We went up in the morning, driving past fields of geese hunting for food, and had an indoor picnic in the cafe before our tour of the house, which currently has both themed Christmas trees and some of the decorations from the wedding of Henry Francis du Pont's elder daughter Pauline on display amidst the decorative arts and architecture. We also visited the museum galleries, which have a big exhibit on Betsy Ross -- her background as a seamstress, her three marriages, the likelihood that she actually knew George Washington, her Revolutionary and abolitionist leanings. It was chilly but not too cold to walk a bit in the gardens afterward; currently the only azaleas blooming at Winterthur are on one of the Christmas trees, rather than the path through the woods, but the grounds were paved enough to walk past the stone circle and wooden huts in the children's garden, and we got to see a beautiful sunset and sheep grazing in the snowy fields.

We stopped for dinner at a Subway in Delaware, then drove down I-95 to the Mormon Temple in Kensington, which has a free holiday lights show every winter with hundreds of light-covered trees, plus a life-sized Nativity scene in the gardens and indoor displays of mangers and Christmas trees adorned with dolls from around the world. Then we came home, had ice cream sundaes, said goodnight to Dementordelta who had to drive home, and watched the Kennedy Center Honors show, which had many lovely moments -- of course I loved all the Paul McCartney song performances and I even enjoyed hearing how Oprah became the most powerful woman in media, but my favorite part was seeing 90-year-old Carol Channing on stage singing with the not-much-younger Angela Lansbury and Chita Rivera during the Jerry Herman tribute. Between the La Cage Aux Folles songs and Bill T. Jones' choreography, it was also a very gay-celebratory show. And the Vikings beat the Eagles, which delights me.

Christmas trees decorate many of the rooms at Winterthur in December.

The dining room is set for the holidays...

...and many of the living rooms, like the Port Royal Parlor, have examples of the flowers and food the du Ponts would have enjoyed.

The Marlboro Room and Montmorenci Stair are decorated as they appeared for one of du Pont's daughter's wedding... is the conservatory, which overlooks the snowy gardens.

This tree is decorated with dried flowers which were grown at Winterthur in warmer weather.

Here is the stone circle in the snowy woods.

The Mormon Temple at right overlooks the LDS visitor center and some of the colorfully lit trees surrounding it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Poem for Tuesday and Congressional Aquarium

A Calculus of Readiness
By Liz Waldner

I, too, come from the city of dolls.
A small palm is my umbrella.
This takes care of above
but below, the blind river of sadness rolls
on and in it, a hand is always reaching up
to pick fish from the night-time sky.

The lines on the palm of the hand lure a trout
with a strand of hair from the head of a doll.
The bait is the hope for a hand on your brow.
Shadows play on the wall. Or the face of a doll.
The plants eyeing each other
is all.

I would not call the stars generous.
They don't cry enough for dolls to play Drink Me.
They don't cast a covenant's fishy rainbow
yet leaf faces watch the open window
where they hang far and hard.
The rein of starlight a second hand

with which to play Go Fish.
Now give me a hand, plants. Now give me
good-night, stars.


That poem made me think of Doctor Who's "A Christmas Carol." Also, it has fish, and our major activity for the day was a stop at Congressional Aquarium, given that it was cold and windy and we have plans to be out for much of Tuesday so wanted older son to finish up his college essays, plus I had a lingering headache from too much sodium on Christmas, so we postponed going to the cryptologic museum at Fort Meade. Even so, I actually had a very successful Monday, starting with UPS delivering a Vera Bradley coin purse I won in an online contest that I'd forgotten about entering. When we went out, I got a new big Vera Bradley bag as well -- I wanted one large enough to carry my camera and Kindle together, and Tiara Galleries had them at 50% off -- plus we stopped at Old Navy, which still had fleece tops in lots of colors on sale for $4 and penguin pyjama pants on sale for $5. Here are a few photos from the aquarium, which also has an open koi tank, lots of underwater plants, and a reptile room:

When we came home, I looked over son's college essays, where I made the mistake of suggesting that he list for one school things he liked about a specific program, such as "great labs, excellent robotics professors, and hot chicks," and son left those precise examples in his final draft when he sent it back to me. One of us obviously fails. After dinner we had intended to watch some Monty Python but got distracted working on the essays and ended up leaving on the entire Falcons-Saints game, about which I had a dilemma because I like the Saints but I want to Falcons to dominate the NFC in the playoffs so a certain other team with a bird mascot doesn't. The Saints just scored but I need to post this so I can get to bed, and the last three minutes of football time can take 20 minutes of TV time!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Poem for Monday, Boyds Bear Country & Aslan's Country

By Audre Lorde

Is the total black, being spoken
From the earth's inside.
There are many kinds of open.
How a diamond comes into a knot of flame
How a sound comes into a word, coloured
By who pays what for speaking.

Some words are open
Like a diamond on glass windows
Singing out within the crash of passing sun
Then there are words like stapled wagers
In a perforated book—buy and sign and tear apart—
And come whatever wills all chances
The stub remains
An ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge.
Some words live in my throat
Breeding like adders. Others know sun
Seeking like gypsies over my tongue
To explode through my lips
Like young sparrows bursting from shell.
Some words
Bedevil me.

Love is a word another kind of open—
As a diamond comes into a knot of flame
I am black because I come from the earth's inside
Take my word for jewel in your open light.


Happy Kwanzaa! We had a fairly low-key day because of the weather forecast, which dropped from potentially ten inches of snow to five inches of snow to three inches of snow to less than two inches of snow...ultimately we ended up with less by nightfall than we got a couple of weeks ago, though considering what fell both south and north of us, we got lucky. When it was obvious by lunchtime that we were in no danger of a blizzard, we decided to go see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in 3D, since the rest of the family hadn't seen the film at all and I'd only seen the standard print. This is definitely my favorite of the Chronicles of Narnia thus far -- I can't resist sea voyages or dragons, and I really think the young actors playing Edmund and Lucy are stronger in those roles than Peter and Susan ever were, even though Aslan is more explicitly Jesus in this installment. Younger son, who never read the book, had many criticisms of the story, but I think it holds together a lot better than Prince Caspian.

Our lucky unwatched football streak continued, as the Redskins beat the Jaguars and the Ravens beat Cleveland -- the latter clinching a playoff berth, woohoo! -- while we were ignoring their games at the movies. My parents invited us over for dinner, a combination of leftovers and other things since so many of us have different dietary demands, plus I ate way too many chocolate covered least I'd managed to exercise earlier, and we watched part of the comedy of the Packers slaying the Giants. In the evening, older son was finishing up college essays and younger son was working on photos, so we watched the second Night at the Museum movie since they'd seen it before -- the one with Amelia Earhart, who is the saving grace for the sillier parts. It's supposed to be very, very cold tomorrow, though without additional snow, so I'm still not sure what we'll be doing on Monday other than the kids have requested no museums. Here are the last photos I'll ever post from Boyds Bear Country, which is closing early in the new year:

This barn housed Boyds Bear Country outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

For many years the shop was filled on four levels from floor to ceiling with "bears and hares you can trust," plus hundreds of other animals.

In our family, the various penguin displays have always been most popular...

...but a great many creatures (including some imaginary ones) have always been available for purchase.

In addition to stuffed animals, there were resin, porcelain, and wooden critters, plus these locally decorated gourds.

Decorations were changed seasonally on the main level of the shop.

In recent years, other collectibles were given their own galleries, including Jim Shore sculptures, Yankee Candles, and Thomas Kinkade paintings and prints.

The slopes of Ski Roundtop are visible from the parking lot.

Belated Fannish5: Name five fictional families that you would like to spend time with.
I couldn't decide between the Weasleys and the Malfoys -- it depends on whether Harry took Snape out for the holidays or vice versa -- so I left out Harry Potter entirely.
1. The Murry-O'Keefes, A Wrinkle In Time etc.
2. Viviane, Igraine, Morgause, The Mists of Avalon
3. Sarah Jane and Luke Smith, Doctor Who/The Sarah Jane Adventures
4. The Kents, Smallville
5. The Bluths, Arrested Development

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Poem for Sunday and Christmas Celebration

By William Wordsworth

The minstrels played their Christmas tune
To-night beneath my cottage-eaves;
While, smitten by a lofty moon,
The encircling laurels, thick with leaves,
Gave back a rich and dazzling sheen,
That overpowered their natural green.

Through hill and valley every breeze
Had sunk to rest with folded wings:
Keen was the air, but could not freeze,
Nor check, the music of the strings;
So stout and hardy were the band
That scraped the chords with strenuous hand.

And who but listened?--till was paid
Respect to every inmate's claim,
The greeting given, the music played
In honour of each household name,
Duly pronounced with lusty call,
And "Merry Christmas" wished to all.


We spent a very nice, fairly low-key Christmas at Paul's parents' house with my parents, who came up in the late morning once it had been determined that the blizzard wouldn't hit the east coast till early Sunday morning. We spent pretty much the entire day eating with a few breaks to play Uno (both Harry Potter and Red Sox), plus younger son and I took a walk between courses to look at neighborhood decorations and take a few photos. I got to have both veggie Swedish meatballs and tofurkey and potatoes with gravy, plus cheese, lingonberries, bread, chocolate covered pretzels, cookies, and I don't even want to think about what else since Christmas calories don't count. My in-laws gave me a Bonnie Rideout CD and some money, the kids got t-shirts, we all got caramel popcorn, and a good time was had by all! A few photos:

Santa and his helpers take the long way up onto a neighbor's roof in Hanover, Pennsylvania.

The Holy Family was gathered on a nearby lawn.

This very old house is on the grounds of the YMCA, practically across the street from my in-laws' home.

We went looking for the groundhog, but he was somewhere far down in his winter hole.

At this time of year, this was practically the only outdoor color that wasn't wrapped around a tree and plugged in.

Here are my father and father-in-law waiting for dinner.

The latter decided that we had to have a golden spike ceremony to celebrate the completion of the second level of his model train display.

At first he insisted that it should be men only, but the women objected, so here we are too.

One photo from Christmas Eve, when we made a huge mess and had a fabulous time eating cheese fondue.

We had flurries in the air for most of the day, but nothing stuck, and the big snow isn't supposed to hit till early morning -- the predictions have been anywhere from three to ten inches depending on how far east the storm moves. We came home and unpacked before 8 p.m., in part in case of icy roads and in part so we'd be here for the Doctor Who Christmas special, which BBC America was smart enough to air here the same day as Britain. We all enjoyed it, though we could not resist remarking that the franchise has finally jumped the shark -- spoilers! -- not that I object to a giant shark pulling a sleigh through the air, it's no sillier than a flying reindeer. Plus it's hard not to enjoy a holiday special that begins with, "The ship is going down. Christmas is canceled" (of course I thought of the Sheriff of Nottingham), and all the references from Dickens and earlier Doctor adventures. I generally dislike very Christmas-y Christmas specials, so the fact that this is a Christmas Carol with minimal bite doesn't distress me. Fine for fans of all ages.

I still can't take Amy seriously at all, and I don't take Eleven much more seriously. I thought the dialogue in "A Christmas Carol" was much sharper than in a lot of the previous season -- some specifically Whovian, "In 900 years of time and space I've never met anyone who wasn't important before," some just fun, "Santa Claus...or as I've always known him, Geoff" -- and casting Michael Gambon was a stroke of genius, though the whole engaged-to-Marilyn business was a pathetic shadow of married-to-Gloriana, and I'm refusing to think about how come Kazran could hug himself without causing the sort of temporal paradox that resulted from Rose holding Baby Rose. Plus I won't get started about women dying of Luminescent Gorgeous Glowing Disease because that's certainly not just science fiction -- it's Love Story and a whole host of supposedly-based-on-real-events TV movies -- but really, after all this time, can't this Doctor even face death looking like death? Having watched several Nine episodes recently, I must admit that even at his best, Matt Smith feels like Doctor Lite to me on every level -- acting, character interaction, depth of story -- fun while it lasts, but no more special than Merlin or Smallville or anything else I've watched.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Poem for Christmas and Boyds Bear Exodus

By Terence Winch

In our world, nothing compared
with Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
God's power surging through the congregation,
from altarboys in our stiff collars and big red bows,
to the solid men of the parish in their finest array:
Blue suits, gold wrist watches, crisp white shirts.
The women perfumed and girdled, lipsticked
and bejeweled. Enough incense
in the air to do the Wise Men proud.

The procession wound through the church,
organ honking, voices lifted in the special
Christmas sense of the slate wiped clean
and the universe beginning anew.
The tree in the house lit with fat colored bulbs
that looked good enough to eat. The old suitcase
full of fragile decorations, buried treasure found
every year on Christmas Eve and set free again.
The baby Jesus alive and well! Herod thwarted!

This called for presents. Toys, games, maybe
a watch or a knife. Along with Jesus came the whole
cast of Yuletide characters—Santa, Rudolph,
the Chipmunks, Bing Crosby, Frosty, Scrooge.
I'm surprised the Easter Bunny didn't crash
the event. My father put out apple pie
and a glass of milk for Sanny, the remaining traces
of which on Christmas morning were proof enough
for me and my brother Jimmy of the entire
supernatural infrastructure of Bronx Irish culture.

But it was the party after Midnight Mass
that I remember most. Relatives and neighbors
would pour into our apartment for an all-nighter.
My mother would get the percolator going,
and start making breakfast for half the parish.
Bacon, eggs, blood pudding, plates of fresh rolls
with poppy seeds bought that day
in the Treat Bakery on Tremont Avenue.

Eating breakfast at two in the morning!
This was a miracle for a ten-year-old boy.
Bottles of Seagram's and Canadian Club
stood at attention on the kitchen table,
silver ice bucket ringed with penguins
awaiting duty beside them. Ladies smoking
and gossiping. Glasses clinking. Laughter
throughout the house. The smell of pine,
the delicious aroma of sizzling bacon,
all welcoming Jesus back for another year.

Then the music and singing would start up,
my father on the banjo, P. J. Conway on the box.
The Stack of Barley, The Lakes of Sligo,
medleys of marches, waltzes, and polkas.
Theresa McNally, from my mother's own town
in Galway, would sing "Galway Bay." Steps would
be danced, jokes told, more drinks mixed and gulped.

I would go to bed so filled with the spirit
it seemed impossible to believe that life could
ever return to normal. Lying there exhausted,
but anxious to sneak down the hall at the earliest
opportunity and tear open the tantalizing packages,
I believed in everything: Jesus our Lord, Santa
our magic benefactor, my parents the immortal source
of the ongoing celebration that could never end.


From Boy Drinkers, published by Hanging Loose Press in 2007.

After a somewhat hectic morning trying to get packed -- we had to remember presents, fondue pots, power strips, and assorted clothing, and were visited by a neighbor to whom we'd brought a gift, plus my mother who wanted us to bring some things to my Paul's parents, all the while being stalked by suspicious cats who suspected they were being abandoned -- we headed in the late morning to Hanover, Pennsylvania. We stopped on the way at Boyds Bear Country, which is in the midst of its going-out-of-business sale, meaning that this was the last time we could visit -- a sad occasion, as we've visited at least annually for as long as my in-laws have lived in Pennsylvania. In addition to stuffed bears and hares, the store carries other collectible lines -- Thomas Kinkade paintings, Jim Shore sculptures, all at 50% or more off -- and we explored the first and second floors pretty thoroughly, but the place was closing at 2 p.m. for Christmas, meaning that we missed the liquidation sale on the top floor. It was fun and nostalgic for me -- here are some photos from the final days of Boyds Bear Country.

We drove into Hanover intending to stop at the discount shoe store where we've often gotten great buys on sneakers and dress shoes for the guys, which we did, though only after a stop at the Utz factory store for such necessities as chocolate covered pretzels, whole wheat honey sticks, and caramel popcorn. Then we arrived at Paul's parents, where instead of our usual Red Lobster now that some of us are vegetarians, we had cheese fondue for dinner and chocolate fondue for dessert (the former messier than expected because the cheese didn't want to stick to the potatoes or peppers, though it was lots of fun trying to wind it around the skewers, and the latter just awesome). My father-in-law has a bad cold and decided to skip church, so I did not get my annual dose of pipe organ-accompanied Christmas carols, but we had a nice evening and tomorrow if it doesn't snow, my parents are coming over for dinner before we all head home. Merry Christmas if you celebrate and have a lovely weekend if you don't!