Thursday, December 31, 2009

Getting caught up: Sky, night out, roleplaying, and anything else that pops in to my head (LBE & FD)

I figured I'd get caught up properly on things before 2009 actually ends. Just one warning... This is a VERY LONG post. And, I'm not kidding! So, if you have something you need to be doing soon, or if you think you may need to eat soon, or whatever, then you may want to get those things done first. Seriously... Last chance people!

Ready? You sure? OK!

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, we've spent most of December with my parents in a trial run to see how things go with us all living under the same roof. I know a few weeks isn't really enough to get a proper idea, but it's enough to give us a rough idea, and to make us think we're definately right that it's the best option. So after the new year we'll begin moving up there properly. In fact, we'll be up there most of the time. Anyway, back to my point...

I had Sky TV turned on up there, because we're all missing the channels Sky gives us. Freeview might be a lot cheaper, but it just isn't the same. I had considered leaving installing it until after the new year, but they had an offer on that I wanted to take advantage of, and the offer ended on December 28th. It was installation for quarter of the price, and a free Sky+ HD box. So, I had to pay just £15 ($30) for installation, and £49 ($98) for the extra box to have in our bedroom, at a total of £64 ($128). Had I waited and let the offer run out, I would havve had to pay £60 ($120) for installation, and had to pay another £49 ($98) for the downstairs box, as well as the £49 for the box for our room, at a total of £158 ($316). So, I'm sure you can see why I got it early... It was less than half the price it normally would be! Besides, if I hadn't gotten it when I did, I'd have missed out on all the movies I reviewed for you throughout December. Yep, that's how I was watching them... Sky movies! And Mam used the Sky+ box to record another movie I wanted to watch, since it was on over the weekend, and I couldn't be up there to watch it. We stopped the Sky subscription originally - I think it was about two years ago - because we wanted to get Freeview since it was cheaper, but we've since decided it's worth the monthly bill to have all the channels. More to the point, to actually have some sort of choice of programmes to watch. Plus, there's the movies.

No, the Sky wasn't why I wasn't online much while we were up there. The reason for that was a combination of Christmas preporations, not feeling like blogging, and the fact we haven't had a chance to arrange a wire to go in to our bedroom for my laptop to access the internet yet, which means I have to be in the computer room with everyone else. That might not sound like something that would make me not be online as much, but it is. Why? Because when there are up to three other computers making noise, hearing Jaws is next to impossible, which means wearing headphones. And I don't like wearing headphones for long. They make my ears itchy. Seriously! They really do! That's why I'll be having a wire going in to our room for the laptop to go online in there. No, not because headphones make my ears itchy, LOL! I mean because of the fact the other computers making noise makes it difficult to hear Jaws. Dad has cleared me a spot for the laptop in the computer room for now, and I'm happy to use it... For now. But eventually I'd like to have the peace and quiet to hear Jaws properly, and to not have to wear headphones. So, eventually I'll have internet access put in to our bedroom.

We - Mam, Dad, Kelly and I - have a few projects planned for the house next year. But either Mam or I will tell you about those as and when they happen. Who knows? You may even be lucky enough to get to see photos of finished projects. We'll see though.

So, yeah... It's been a funny sort of year, 2009 has. I can't really say it's been a good year, can't really say it's been a bad year. It's definately been an eventful year though, that's for sure! I did consider doing a "highs and lows of 2009" post, but I decided against it. Partly due to not wanting to remember a couple of the lows, and partly just because I couldn't be bothered with it. Besides, you've got enough to read today with just this post. LOL!

Anyway...

Mam and I did most of our Christmas shopping together, which was nice. It was even nicer that this year we had a car. Last year we had to rely on busses and taxis, because Mam hadn't passed her driving test. This meant managing heavy bags all around town, plus having to manage them on the busses most of the time, because taxis to and from Swansea - where most of the big shops are - would cost WAY too much. Of course, then we also had to make more trips in, because we could only carry so much. This year though we had the car, and were very greatful for it.

During one of our trips to Swansea I treated Mam to cocoa, a sandwich and some cake in Starbucks. We don't go there often - it costs too much to go there often - but every so oftten we'll go there for some cocoa and a bit of food. The stuff there is fantastic though. I don't remember what Mam's sandwich was, but I know we both had cocoa, we both had some ginger cake, and my sandwich was a cheese and onion one. I remember because of how good it tasted! I swear that's the best cheese and onion sandwich I've ever eaten! I kinda wish Starbucks was cheaper so we could afford to go there more often. But - on the other hand - I'm glad we don't go there often, because it means we appreciate and enjoy the stuff all the more.

Saying about the fact we had no car last year reminds me of something else I was going to say.

My Mam passed her driving test almost a year ago, so the last time we had snow she was advised not to drive, since she'd literally only just passed her test. That meant that the snow we had recently was the first snow my Mam ever drove in. In fact, she hadn't really had experience with icy roads before even. She did really well for her first time driving in snow. Especially when you consider that our cars don't generally get equipped with snow tires in Winter, because snow falls are so few and far between that nobody really considers it worth bothering with. So, she had those icy and snow covered roads to deal with while using ordinary, every day tires. OK, it was only a tiny bit of snow. But it was a LOT of ice! Besides, for someone not used to it even a sprinkling of snow is going to probably make them a bit nervous. So, yeah, I think she did well. Especially for not being an experienced driver really.

Anyway...

We had hoped to go to the pictures to watch either the new version of "A Christmas Carol" or "Up" or one of the other movies we really want to see. We had that other free ticket and everything. But we didn't end up going. I think partly because the movies we wanted to see were on at times we couldn't really be there to see them. Ah well, never mind. It can't be helped. Besides, I'm sure we'll get another chance to see those movies. Especially now that we have Sky back on again. And - with the Sky+ box and the fact we have multi room - we can technically watch three movies that are on at the same time. How? Well, because you can either tape two things at once, or tape one while watching another on the Sky+ box, and you can watch a different movie or TV show upstairs on the other box. So, we could - if we wanted to - tape two different things on the Sky+ box downstairs, then go upstairs and watch something else. We probably wouldn't need to do that much - if at all - though, since most movies have at least two showings on the Sky movies channels.

OK, moving on...

On my Mam's birthday (December 19th) Mam, Wayne and I went out for a drink. We went to the pub that's literally around the corner from my parents' place. And I do mean literally... The garden of the pub backs on to the side wall of their back garden. Anyway, we went around there and had a couple of drinks. I was only drinking cola though. It works out great, actually. Mam usually has Baccardi and coke, but only usually uses half a can, so, I just have the other half of her can each time. Anyway, we stayed around there for a couple of hours, then went back home. It was lucky really that we didn't have far to go, because it was that Saturday the snow came, and when the sun set it quickly became ice. It was still mostly snow when we went around to the pub, but by the time we were going home the pavements were like skating rinks. We got back safely though, then decided we were hungry - despite it being past 10:00 pm - so Mam ended up cooking food for everyone, since when one person mentioned food everyone else decided they wanted some too.

I was later than normal sending out Christmas cards and presents, so half the stuff only just made it in time, and the rest of the stuff didn't make it on time. So, if I told you something was in the post and you haven't gotten it yet, please just be patient... It shouldn't be too much longer. Also... Sorry!

Let's see, what else...

Boxing day afternoon Faye came to ask if we'd keep hold of the keys for Eleri, because Eleri was going out and didn't want to take them with her. They wondered if - since we're almost never early to bed - we'd keep hold of the keys until she got home so she could let herself in without having to try and get Faye up. Those of you with teenagers - or who have grown-up kids now - will understand why. For the rest of you... Well, let's just say that it's tough getting teenagers to bed a lot of the time, but it's even tougher getting them up! Anyway, we said, "OK," since we're usually up late anyway, and she went off with whatever friends she was going out with. She got home around 1:00 am ish - the time she said she would - and... Well, I think she had a good time. Put it this way, her cab driver had to basically hold her up. LOL! Man did she pay for that the next day! Still, as I said to her, what matters is that she enjoyed herself. Besides, it probably did her some good. No, not so much the consuming large amounts of alcahol part. I mean the going out with friends and having a really good time. Everyone needs to do that from time to time... Whether they come back sober or not is up to them. But everyone needs to go out and have a laugh with their mates for a bit from time to time.

So... Anyway...

All roleplaying sessions are technically cancelled until the new year, but - because Carl is here for a visit, and he doesn't visit often - some special gaming sessions were arranged. The guys had a full day at the new building where the gaming sessions are now held. That happened on Sunday (December 27th) and they had a buffet there and everything, and there have been roleplaying sessions here for the past few evenings. I'm glad, actually, because it gave Carl - and the others - a chance to give me a few hints before roleplaying sessions start back up again, since I'm rather rusty on roleplaying skills. Not the whole getting in to character and reacting to what's going on part. No, I'm talking about the whole "what dice do I role for what? And how do I figure out if it worked?" part of it. I mean, I haven't done much roleplaying for about 15 years, and hadn't had a lot of experience when I did play (I played between the ages of about 8 and about 10). So, yeah, I'm quite rusty on how things work, and quite glad of any tips and such at this point. I'm even more glad of the dice rolling programme Carl uses, which he downloaded on to my laptop for me, because it means I can now read my own dice scores. I have to have my laptop on hand for roleplaying sessions anyway, because my character sheets are on it. It just means skipping between the dice rolling programme (GMA dice, found on www.gmagames.com) and the word processor I use for my character sheets.

There were five of us who were involved in all three sessions... Carl, Dad, Kelly and myself, plus a family friend named Gareth. Another two family friends were meant to be involved, but Ian only made it to Monday's session, and nobody knows what happened to Julian. He said he was coming, but he didn't show up. Luckily we decided to start without him, with plans to brief him when he showed up on what had happened, otherwise we'd have been sat there all night waiting for him and not getting any gaming done.

Anyway...

Monday's session was a sampler of the Star Wars campaigne that Gareth will be running a little in to next year. It didn't go too badly, especially when you consider the fact that it was Gareth's first time being a GM (games master, for those who don't know). There were a few things that needed ironing out, but I think it went really well for a first session with Gareth as GM. Especially when you consider that Gareth hasn't had a whole lot of roleplaying experience, really, and the only person who's had any experience with the rules to any Star Wars roleplaying game is Carl. And, of course, the version Carl has been playing with his mates in Norwich is 3rd edition, and we're using 2nd edition, because that's the one we had a rulebook for, and many of the roleplaying rulebooks are quite expensive, so why buy the 3rd edition rules when we haven't even tried the 2nd edition yet? Anyway - for the benifit of anyone not familiar with roleplaying systems - the different editions sometimes have basically the same rules, but other times the rules are very different. And, guess what? Star Wars is one of the ones where the rules are quite a bit different in 3rd edition to how they are in 2nd edition.

Anyway, I play a Wookie named "Cascca" in Star Wars. A Wookie scoundrel, to be exact. For those who have seen Star Wars... Imagine Hans Solo as a Wookie, make it female, and you basically have my character. Only - since she can't have a bocaster (sp?) yet, she has a gun like Hans Solos, and a vibro axe. Axe wielding Wookie... Now that's dangerous! Mind you, it would have been more dangerous if I didn't keep failing my intimidate checks, because a Wookie ambling towards you growling menacingly and wielding an axe is - I'm sure you'll agree - much more scary than one sort of stumbling in your direction holding an axe. I failed the intimidation check so badly one time that we decided I must have tripped or something, and the person I was meant to be intimidating probably just stood there laughing at me. Yeah, dice rolls were not working in my favour. I hope they do - at least sometimes - when the campaigne starts up properly!

Tuesday's game was a Dark Heracy session, with Carl as GM. Carl is more experienced with GMing than Gareth. Carl has been roleplaying since he was about 8 - actually, it was probably him doing it that got me started - and roleplays about twice a week with his mates up in Norwich. This was my first time sitting in on a session he was GMing though. The session went quite well, though took longer than planned, and Carl wanted to complete the adventure, so we ended up sort of condensing the ending to get it done before it got any later. As it was the session went on until about 1:00 am. Needless to say, everyone was getting rather tired by the end of the session. But it was fun, and by the end I was even managing to remember the dice I needed to roll, and what I needed to get, for myself, so YAY! LOL! ;)

My character for that one was one that was pregenerated. He was cool though. His name was "Mir" and he was an Imperial Guard soldier, with pretty good stats, and an axe that can do some serious damage... If I can get decent dice rolls. I almost ended up dead not far in to the session though, because I failed a strength test when climbing down a rope, then failed to get my balance back, and the character who tried to grab me failed the strength test so couldn't hold on to me. If it hadn't been for the fate points you get in the game, I would have fallen down a VERY big hole, and been just watching for the rest of the session. This character sort of reminds me of Torak from the Chronicles Of Ancient Darkness book series. Dark hair, grey eyes, clan tattoos, reminders of past adventures sewn on to his uniform - OK, for Torak it would be "jerkin" not uniform as such - and an apparent liking for getting in to danger, but somehow scraping through. It's like Torak, only with guns and spaceships! LOL!

On Wednesday we had a Dungeons And Dragons session, and Dad was DM (it's called "dungeon master" instead for Dungeons And Dragons games). Dad's had a lot of experience being a GM or DM, since he's been roleplaying since before Carl and I were born, and Carl - the oldest of the two of us - is now 26. I'd say that gives him a bit of experience, wouldn't you? LOL! I'm not sure what edition it was. I think it may have been 3rd edition, but don't quote me on that. Anyway, the session went well, though ran much later than we planned, so by the end everyone was getting tired and irritable. We really wanted to finish the adventure though, despite the fact it meant not finishing up until about 2:00 am.

My D and D character is a Halfling mage named "Poppy Bramblerose" that I created myself... Well, with a bit of help from Kelly. OK, a lot of help, happy? LOL! Anyway, she doesn't have much armour, but - if I can get decent dice rolls - she can do some pretty good damage. Especially since she has an ability called "Wizard's Fury" that allows her to use one of her spells as a minor action, allowing her to have two attack attempts in each of her turns. Admittedly that ability can only be used during one encounter per gaming day, but it would be rare for more than one encounter - fight, basically - per game day anyway. I mean, I think we played for what worked out as the equivllant of almost a week in game time (the DM or GM tells us what time has passed) and in that time we had two encounters. One of them the huge one at the end, where there were LOADS of monsters - many of them level 2 and up - against 5 level 1 characters. We didn't lose a single player though, and killed every last monster. So, yay us!

Don't worry if you didn't understand most of that roleplaying section of the post. If you do, then great. If you want to, then feel free to ask questions... I'll do my best to answer them (even if I have to ask Kelly what the answers are, lol). If you don't know, and don't care... Well, that's up to you, and that's fine too. Nobody will be knocking on your door with the intention of holding a gun to your head and insisting you learn to understand how roleplaying games work... Honest! And, if someone does do that... They wouldn't have been sent by me, so don't blame me for it! ;)

Let me think, what else...

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I ended up stopping going to the social group I went to in September. Why? Because it wasn't really what I was looking for. I was looking for a group of people who may have some understanding of my sight loss, that I could talk with... Perhaps make friends with... At the very least, swap stories with. But that group seemed more interested in arranging trips out to political meetings, and inviting important sounding people to speak to them. How can you call your group a "social group" when you don't do much socializing? *Shrugs* So, it wasn't what I was looking to be a part of. I mean, I'm all for outings, but to places of interest to me, and I have no interest in politics, so I have no intention of wasting my time going all the way up to London to sit in on less important political meetings. And if I'm going to spend an afternoon listening to someone talking about something, I'd like it to be something I'm interested in... And two hours talking about label readers doesn't appeal to me. Now, if the talks were followed by a bit of proper socializing... Actually sitting and talking to each other about whatever we want to chat about, then perhaps I'd be a bit more interested in going. But since they seem to basically listen to those talks then go home... Nah! I think I'll give it a miss. If I want to listen to things like that for hours, I can do it at home by going to the website and having Jaws read it out to me. Or turrning on one of the local radio stations or TV stations. There's also the option of having the talking newspaper sent to me. Or, of just letting my Nan read the stuff that she considers important to me from the actual newspaper (which is what I generally do, unless I go for the radio station option).

OK, enough on that, I think!

Do you remember me mentioning Pia - a friend from childhood - a couple of months ago? Well, Pia's little sister, Louise (no, not the one who posts on the blogs sometimes, another Louise) is having a baby in March. I'm not going tto tell you more than that it's due in March, and I'm to be an honorary auntie though. Mam may tell you more soon - like the baby's sex, what it's to be called, and exactly when it's due - but if she doesn't then I'll tell you about it when the baby is born. I can't remember the actual due date anyway. Besides, leaving it for her to tell you about might encourage her to do another post, since she hasn't done a update type post in a while. ;)

I think that just about covers everything. So... Enjoy whatever's left of your day, stay safe, stay warm... And enjoy whatever you're doing to see in the new year! :)

Tori

P.S. Did you know it's already 2010 in some parts of the world? For example, New Zealand and Australia.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kero's Korner: Christmas 2009

Hi humans, it's Kero here!

Guess what Mami did to me the night Santa Paws was coming? She bathed me! She knows I hate water, and she bathed me! Well, I got her back... I soaked her big time! That'll teach her!

I have to admit though, I did look handsome after my bath. See...



Well, Santa Paws has come and gone, and he must have thought I was a very good boy, because he brought me loads of things. Here I am opening one of my presents with Mami.



And here I am opening another one.



I had a couple of teddies, including a turkey that goes, "gobble, gobble," if you grab it in the right spot. I also had a tennis ball, a squeaky bone, a couple of Christmasy tuggy toys, a couple of other toys that I don't remember what they were, a big candy cane treat, lots of other treats, including a "doggy chocolate" Santa. And the knitted blanket my Mami made for me, which she showed you in one of her recent craft update posts.


My treats are yummy. Here I am enjoying one of them.




And here I am enjoying another of them.




There was a red bow tied to my rawhide candy cane, and Mami insisted I wear it on my collar. I wasn't too keen on the idea at first, but when she pointed out that she could have got the cute little, "Santa's little helper," puppy sweater she saw, or a santa hat for me to wear... Well, suddenly the bow didn't seem such a bad idea after all. So, I let her put it on me, and didn't once try to take it off all day. I do have to admit that I was kinda glad when it got taken off after we got back from Willow's house though.


Here I am wearing the bow.



Willow had this huge rawhide bone that I liked the look of, so I swiped it off her. She wasn't too happy, but fair play to her, she let me have it for a bit. Then she took it back, so I went for a nap on the arm of the chair Mami was sat on.


Here I am taking that nap.



This Christmas thing is tiring! But it's great... There are so many treats and toys! And there was turkey dinner too! Yep, Willow and I had turkey dinner with the humans Christmas day. I love turkey! Mmm... Turkey! Now that's what I call good eating!

We went back to our place after dinner though. I like Willow's house, it has a bigger garden than ours, and there always seems to be people to give ear scratches and tummy rubs! I have to admit though, I did enjoy getting two car rides in one day!

Hope you had a Christmas as good as mine!


Willow is doing her Christmas post tomorrow... Or, so I heard.

Licks and sniffs,
Kero

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday celebrations for 2009 (LBE & FD)

We didn't really do anything to actually celebrate Yule this year. We have the past couple of years, but this year it seems to have all sort of rolled in to one holiday celebration, with Mam and I singing along to Christmas music, wrapping Christmas presents, etc, then it suddenly being Christmas eve. So, I'll start from Christmas eve.

Christmas eve:

Mam and Carl dropped Nan off in town, then came to get me to take me up town. We went to do some last minute food shopping, which mostly involved getting the drinks for over Christmas and getting more nibbles for the planned buffets happening over the weekend. Then we took Mam and Carl's food shopping back to the house, and went back in to town. We did consider taking mine back too, but since there wasn't much and it was freezing cold out, we figured it would be fine in the car while we were up town (which it was).


I recently managed to seporate the image of the animal from the food I'm eating, so have been able to eat most meats for a couple of weeks now, which is good, because if I hadn't then the smell of the hotdogs cooking at the van in town would have probably changed my eating habbits back anyway. We smelled them as soon as we started up town, and Carl brought one each for himself, Mam and I. Then we met up with Nan again, and Mam gave her the car keys so she could go sit in the car since she was done, but busses are unreliable on Christmas eve (well, actually, they aren't great all year here) and besides, it was icy. So we didn't want her making her own way home.

Carl wanted to grab a little something more for Nan for Christmas, which is why we didn't just take her with us. So, anyway, once Nan went off to sit in the car we went and had a look for a couple of last minute Christmas pressies. We didn't get many, but we got a few little bits. Actually, I only got one thing... An extra little something for Kero... Nothing much, just a ttub of dog treats that cost me something like 75p ($1.50). Actually, they cost me 65p ($1.30) because I only had that much in loose change, so Mam paid the last little bit for me so I wouldn't have to use a £5 note(which would be like breaking a $10 bill for the $1.50) .


As we were heading back to the car, I decided to grab a burger from the van for Kelly, since he loves the burgers that van does, and it's usually only there on market day (Fridays) and even then not always. And, since we were in the queue anyway, I got myself another hotdog, and got Carl a ham roll. He had wanted a turkey and stuffing one, but they ran out of turkey just before we got back there, so they offered him the last of the cooked ham, and he decided that would be nice. He seemed to enjoy it anyway. Mam didn't want anything else, so I gave her the money that would have gone on something for her to use to put a bit of petrol in the car. It was only a couple of quid, but every little helps, right? Especially with fuel prices these days!

Anyway...

After that we came back to my place. Well, Carl and I did. Mam and Nan went off after dropping us and my shopping off. We had planned to go for a nice walk with Kero, but it was so icy that we didn't think it advisable. So, instead, we got right down to baking.

We had planned to make a few different things, but since the buffet arrangements had changed - and we were longer than planned up town - we ended up just making chocolate chip cookies, which we cut in to bell and tree shapes with cookie cutters. We did try some of the other shapes (I think the others were a star, a snowman, and an angel) but we did a test tray of the little bells and trees, and another of the other things - which were bigger - and decided that we prefered the bells and trees. For one thing, they were easier to get off the tray in one piece. For another thing... We got more cookies that way, and more cookies is always good... LOL! ;)

I'm not sure if you can see the shapes - we haven't mastered the art of getting cookies to keep their shapes yet - buut here's one batch of the bell and tree shaped cookies.



Once the baking was done, Carl had to leave, so I bathed Kero, washed out the bath, had a bubble bath, then settled down with some of the mince pies my Nan had made the day before and sent down for me, a mug of cocoa, and a DVD of one of my favourite Christmas movies... Santa Claus - The Movie. Which I'm sure I've mentioned on here before, so I wont bother reviewing.


Here's a photo of the mince pies:



The mince pies with squirty cream on them... Mmm!



I ended up falling asleep half way through the movie, which I was kinda disappointed about since I enjoy the movie, but it was a nice way to fall asleep on Christmas eve... House smelling of cookies, belly full of mince pies and cocoa, and a Christmas movie... Certainly sounds like a nice end to Christmas eve to me! So, I didn't mind really.

Christmas day:

I first woke up around 1:30 am (as Kelly was going to bed) and took the oppertunity to make sure our stockings were filled. Kelly heard me, but I insisted I wasn't doing anything, "just grabbing a cookie," and put the stockings under the tree with the presents instead of on the sofa where they usually go. He came to investigate, and sure enough, all I was doing was sitting on the sofa eating a cookie, with not a stocking in sight. So, he went off to bed. It was only when he got up at about 5:45 am to "see if it was time for presents yet," that he noticed where the stockings were and realised what had happened. LOL!


I had managed to get more sleep while he was sleeping, I think I slept solidly from about 2:30 am to about 4:00 am, then I dozed on and off until just before he got up. That was pretty good since I'd originally fallen asleep at 9:00 pm though. And once Kelly was up there was no going back to bed. Honestly, he's like a kid at Christmas! LOL! Mind you, I'm not much calmer, and probably wouldn't have gotten back to sleep after that anyway. So, we got up and started on the presents we had down here.


Most of what was down here was Kero's stuff, but I'll get to that in his post (which I've decided will be done tomorrow). Other than that it was our stockings and the presents to each other (although, there was one present for me from Kelly up with my parents).


Anyway, in my stocking was a stack of sweets (diet? what diet?) I also had a couple of metal brain teaser type puzzle things, a mini paddle ball, a spinning top, some jax (what? you have to have toys in the stocking), a whistle (there has to be something noisy in the stockings), some darning needles and needle threaders, a spare stylus and notepad for one of my braille writing frames, a little teddy, an audio version of the book "Heidi" and some fluffy socks that are pink and white striped (apparently). And the one thing I actually asked my Mam for (other than a certain teddy that will be mentioned further down)... A harmonica. What? I wanted one! No, I don't know why. I just did! You never know, I may even manage to learn to play it. ;)

As for actual presents: I had the DVD of the new Harry Potter movie from Kero. Clever dog, isn't he? And some braille books from Kelly ("Grim's Fairy Tales" and "The Just So Stories").

After presents, I had a cup of tea in the Santa mug I had for Christmas last year. It's only a little mug, and it got sat on so how it isn't leaking through the small cracks in it I have no idea, but it was Christmasy, so I wanted to use it. Here it is:



I don't normally have breakfast on Christmas morning, but the last couple of mince pies were calling my name. So I ate them! Well, that's what they were for! Besides, they wanted me to! Yep, that's my story, and yep, I am sticking to it! ;)

Anyway...


Dad came to get us a little before 9:00 am to take us up to have presents and Christmas dinner with them. There ended up being 8 humans and 2 dogs, with Elizabeth and Adrian stopping by for a bit to exchange presents. The 2 dogs were, of course, Kero and Willow. As for the people... There was me, Kelly, Mam, Dad, Nan, Wayne, Carl and Rachel. For those who don't know, Wayne and Carl are my brothers, Rachel is Carl's wife, Elizabeth is an honorary sister, and Adrian is Elizabeth's fiance. Grandad was meant to come for Christmas too, but he couldn't make it.

Mam took this photo of me and Kero part way through the present exchanging.




I took some photos while presents were being given out, but most didn't come out, and those that did aren't too great. This was at least partly due to the poor lighting in the room... I keep forgetting to turn the flash on. The thing is, when you have no light perception, lighting isn't really foremost in your mind. Anyway, these are the best of the photos I took, which Iggy kindly did what he could with for me.


Mam and Wayne near the Christmas tree.



Dad usually gives out presents, but Mam did it at first this year to give him a break. He took over about half way through though, because people have to write small on the labels to fit names in, and reading them was a bit of a strain on Mam's eyes.

Anyway... Here's Wayne and Dad.



And here's Nan (Dad's Mother).



The photos I tried to take of Carl, Rachel and Kelly were deleted by Mam before they even got to Iggy, because I didn't do a good job of them, so I'm afraid there aren't photos of them. And the rest of the ones involving Kero will be posted tomorrow.

Anyway, as for the rest of what I had for Christmas... I had: Some clay, a make your own wind chimes kit, more choccies and some biscuits (shortbread... My favourites), some socks with Westies on them, some zebra socks, a pair of slippers that are purple with dogs on them, a teddy of Simba from "The Lion King" (I knew about him... I picked him out myself Christmas eve), a Ronan Keating DVD, Ronan Keating's "Winter Songs" CD, an audiobook, an insense burner type thing that is safer to use (good idea Carl and Rachel, lol), some of my favourite perfume (Charlie), some money, a little bottle of "champaigne" bubble bath, and I think that's it. Yeah, I know, I'm spoiled! LOL!

After presents it was time for dinner. It's always turkey on Christmas day with us. With all the trimmings, of course! Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, carrots, and sprouts. Mmm... It was good! There was also glasses of wine for those who drink, and a non-alcaholic grape drink that's considered non-alcaholic wine, but is basically fizzy grape juice for those who don't drink (or, in Mam's case, couldn't drink at dinner due to needing to drive us home).


And, of course, Christmas crackers! Got to have them! It's not Christmas without silly paper hats, lame cracker jokes, and people trying to get to their cracker presents before the dogs get them! LOL! My cracker present was a plastic puzzle cube on a keyring... Very cool, or, I think so... And that's what matters! :)

There was almost leftovers, but Dad, Carl, Wayne and I ate most of them, and the bit that was left wasn't worth keeping, so it got added to the dogs' Christmas dinners. Yep, they had turkey dinners too! Well, we couldn't leave the dogs out, could we?


Kelly, Kero and I went home soon after dinner, because most people were in need of naps now that the excitement was over and our bellies were full. And after nap time the rest of Christmas was spent as it has been for as long as I can remember... Investigating Christmas presents, seeing how things work, etc, etc.

Boxing day:

Originally I was doing a buffet for everyone, but with everything that's been going on it was decided that it would be done at Mam's place. Kelly and I didn't feel up to going though, so we decided to spend the day just the two of us, and had our own little buffet table here:



We had sausage rolls, mini pizzas, and these potato wedges:



We also had crisps (potato chips), cookies (the ones made by Carl and I Christmas eve), a chocolate log cake, and a Christmas cake (the kind that's basically fruit cake with icing and marzipan on top... Not with the brandy in). And, of course, Cola and Dandelion & Burdock to drink. :)

We ended up spending the afternoon watching the Harry Potter movie while curled up on the sofa.

And that was basically Christmas at our house. Well, houses, technically.

Hope you enjoyed your holiday celebrations!


Tori


P.S. Thanks again Iggy for sorting the photos for me! You're a real star, and I really appreciate it! :)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Changes AKA home

I'll post about my Christmas soon, but first I have another post I want to do... This one!



Home. It's where most of us want to be, but sometimes where you call home isn't where you feel is home. Sometimes no matter what you do to make your house a home, somewhere else still calls out to you. And - when that happens - you return there when you get the oppertunity to do so. Perhaps not for the reasons you thought it might be, but still. You want to go home, so the reasons aren't necessarily important. Even if they are actually important reasonns, if you know what I mean. Do you know what I mean? Or, did I just confuse you with that last bit? Well, it doesn't matter either way. The point is...

Home for me has always been my parents' place. I've lived in a lot of places, but home has always been there. I don't know if it's the house, the area, or a bit of both.


Anyway, for reasons I can't actually disclose on my blog, I'm going home.

No, not just me... Kelly and Kero too!

Like I said, I can't actually give details on here. Not because I've been asked not to, but because I'd prefer not to... It's something I don't want to get in to on my blog. But I will say that it's all of us agreeing it's the best option, and that we did a trrial period living up there for most of December, and everyone still agrees it's for the best.



We're not there at the moment, but as from the new year we'll be up there most of the time. And will be living up there permanently by about Easter (if not before). And on the times we're down here we wont be online, because - since we're not going to be here much, and I have my mobile for when we are, so we can use that if we need a phone - the phone and internet are being turned off as from January 6th.


Just thought I'd let you know.

Enjoy whatever's left of your day, stay safe, and stay warm!

Tori

P.S. Photos are the net curtains at our front windows, and the glass on our back door.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

December 2009 craft update: birds, boats and more (LBE)

It's time for December 2009's craft update.

Here are the items that never made it in to November's craft update...

Two little angels.



The same angels, painted by Mam.



Two sailing boats.



The boats after Mam painted them.



Two little cats.



The cats, painted by Mam.



A cockerel.



The cockerel after Mam painted him.



A little fairy.



The fairy after Mam painted her.



A litttle Robin.



The Robin in a nest.



The Robin in his nest, this time fully painted by Mam.



A tractor.



The tractor, painted by Mam.



All the above items, after they were painted by my Mam.



A single cone.



The cone after being painted by Kelly.



Well, I had to make an orange cone, didn't I? ;)

Anyway...

Two turtles.



Another photo of the turtles.



The turtles - painted (paintwork started by Kelly, and finished off by Mam).




A cat and a Westie.



The cat and Westie after being painted (paint work was a joint effort between Mam and Kelly).




The skull candle holder I showed you in a previous craft update (I think October?) only now Kelly and Mam have painted it (Kelly did the basic painting, Mam added the detail).





And - at long last - the dragon candle holder is painted and ready to be shown! Again, the paint work was a joint effort, only this time I did the actual base coat (well, of the body anyway), because I wanted to help paint this one. Then Kelly did the next stage, and Mam added the finishing touches (like the details on the wings, and the name).



Here's a better picture:



That's it for the items that didn't make it in to last month's craft update post. Sorry for the quality of many of the photos, but getting good shots was quite difficult.

Some - well, actually, most - of the items in this post, and - in fact - most of the craft items I've made this year, were made as Christmas presents. So, I can now tell you that they have been recieved, and the people appear pleased with their gifts. :)

Right, I think that will do for this month's craft update... I have basically finished my next project, but I'll leave details until next time. There's enough in this post already, I think! ;)

Tori

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Day After Christmas

'Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,
Every creature was hurting -- even the mouse.
The toys were all broken, their batteries dead;
Santa passed out, with some ice on his head.
Wrapping and ribbons just covered the floor, while
Upstairs the family continued to snore.
And I in my T-shirt, new Reeboks and jeans,
Went into the kitchen and started to clean.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the sink to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the curtains, and threw up the sash.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a little white truck, with an oversized mirror.
The driver was smiling, so lively and grand;
The patch on his jacket said "U.S. POSTMAN."
With a handful of bills, he grinned like a fox
Then quickly he stuffed them into our mailbox.
Bill after bill, after bill, they still came.
Whistling and shouting he called them by name:
"Now Dillard's, now Broadway's, now Penny's and Sears
Here's Levitz's and Target's and Mervyn's -- all here!!
To the tip or your limit, every store, every mall,
Now chargeaway-chargeaway-chargeaway all!"
He whooped and he whistled as he finished his work.
He filled up the box, and then turned with a jerk.
He sprang to his truck and he drove down the road,
Driving much faster with just half a load.
Then I heard him exclaim with great holiday cheer,
"ENJOY WHAT YOU GOT... YOU'LL BE PAYING ALL YEAR!"

~ Author Unknown~

(Taken from here)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Weeweechu

I got this in an e-mail last Christmas, but it was too late for me to post it then, so I'm posting it this year instead (yep, I kept it in my inbox all this time... LOL!)


______

It's a romantic full moon, when Pedro said, "Hey, mamacita, let's do Weeweechu."

"Oh no, not now, let's look at the moon!" said Rosita.

"Oh, c'mon baby, let's you and I do Weeweechu. I love you and it's the perfect time," Pedro begged.

"But I wanna just hold your hand and watch the moon." replied Rosita.

"Please, corazoncito, just once, do Weeweechu with me."

Rosita looked at Pedro and said, "OK, one time, we'll do Weeweechu."

Pedro grabbed his guitar and they both sang.....

"Weeweechu a Merry Christmas, Weeweechu a Merry Christmas, Weeweechu a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year."

______

Merry Christmas everyone! :)

Tori and Kero

Thursday, December 24, 2009

(LBE & FD) A Candle In The Forest

It may surprise some of you that I'm posting this story - due to the many references to "God" in it - but I think it's a beautiful story, with a wonderful lesson to teach, so wanted to share it.

Sorry for any typing mistakes, but it's quite difficult typing while reading the text from a braille book, which is what I had to do in order to post this story. It may have been available somewhere on the internet, but I had already typed up more than half of it before I thought of that, and figured I might as well finish typing it up... Since I'd already done so much! Anyway... Enjoy!

______

A Candle In The Forest
By Temple Bailey

The small girl's mother was saying, "The onions will be silver, and the carrots will be gold..."
"And the potatoes will be ivory," said the small girl, and they laughed together.
The small girl's mother had a big white bowl in her lap, and she was cutting up vegetables. The onions were the hardest because one cried a little over them. "But our tears will be pearls," said the small girl's mother, and they laughed at that and dried their eyes, and found the carrots much easier. And the potatoes easiest of all.
Then the next-door neighbour came in and said, "what are you doing?"
"We're making a beefsteak pie for our Christmas dinner," said the small girl's mother.
"And the onions are silver, and the carrots gold, and the potatoes ivory," said the small girl.
"I'm sure I don't know what you are talking about," said the next-door neighbour. "We are going to have turkey for Christmas, and oysters, and cranberries, and celery."
The small girl laughed and clapped her hands. "But we are going to have a Christmas pie... And the onions are silver, and the carrots gold..."
"You said that once," said the next-door neighbour, "and I should think you'd know they weren't anything of the kind."
"But they are," said the small girl, all shining eyes and rosy cheeks.
"Run along, darling," said the small girl's mother, "and find poor Pussy-Purr-Up; he's out in the cold. And you can put on your red sweater and red cap."
So the small girl hopped away like a happy robin, and the next-door neighbour said, "she is old enough to know that onions aren't silver."
"But they are," said the small girl's mother, "and the carrots are gold, and the potatoes are..."
The next-door neighbour's face was flushed. "If you say that again, I'll scream. It sounds silly to me."
"But it isn't the least silly," said the small girl's mother, and her eyes were as blue as sapphires, and as clear as the sea; "it is sensible. When people are poor, they have to make the most of little things. And we'll have only a pound of steak in our pie, but the onions will be silber..."
The lips of the next-door neighbour were folded in a thin line. "If you had acted like a sensible creature, I shouldn't have asked you for the rent."
The small girl's mother was silent for a moment; then she said: "I am sorry... But it ought to be sensible to make the best of things."
"Well," said the next-door neighbour, sitting down on a chair with her back held very stiff, "a beefsteak pie is a beefsteak pie. And I wouldn't teach a child to call it anything else."
"I haven't taught her to call it anything else. I was only trying to make her feel that it was something fine and splendid for Christmas day, so I said that the onions were silver..."
"Don't say that again!" snapped the next-door neighbour, "and I want the rent as soon as possible." With that she flung up her head and marched out of the front door, and it slammed behind her and made wild echos in the little house.
And the small girl's mother stood there alone in the middle of the floor, and her eyes were like the sea in a storm. But presently the door opened, and the small girl, looking like a red robin, hopped in. And the small girl said, out of the things she had been thinking, "Mother, why don't we have turkey?"
The clear look came back in to the eyes of the small girl's mother, and she said, "because we are content."
And the small girl said, "what is content?"
And her mother said, "it is making the best of what God gives us. And our best for Christmas day, my darling, is a beefsteak pie." So she kissed the small girl, and they finished peeling the vegetables, and then they put them with the pound of steak to simmer on the back of the stove. After that the small girl had her supper of bread and milk, and Pussy-Purr-Up had milk in a saucer on the hearth, and the small girl climbed up in her mother's lap. "Tell me a story!"
But the small girl's mother said, "wont it be nicer to talk about Christmas presents?"
And the small girl sat up and said, "let's."
And the small girl's mother said, "let's tell each other what we'd rather have in the whole wide world..."
"Oh lets!" said the small girl. "And I'll tell you first that I want a doll... And I want it to have a pink dress... And I want it to have eyes that open and shut... And I want it to have shoes and stockings... And I want it to have curly hair..." she had to stop because she didn't have any breath left in her body, and when she got her breath back, she said, "Now, what do you want, Mother, more than anything else in the whole wide world?"
"Well," said her mother, "I want a chocolate mouse."
"Oh," said the small girl, "I shouldn't think you'd want that."
"Why not?"
"Because a chocolate mouse... Why, a chocolate mouse isn't anything."
"Oh, yes, it is," said the small girl's mother. "A chocolate mouse is "Hickory Dickory Dock;" and "Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, Where Have You been;" and it's "Three Blind Mice;" and it's "A Frog He Would A Wooing Go;" and it's..."
The small girl's eyes were dancing. "Oh, tell me about it!"
And her mother said, "well, the mouse in "Hickory Dickory Dock" ran up the clock, and the mouse in "Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat" was frightened under the chair, and the mice in "Three Blind Mice" ran after the farmer's wife, and the mouse in "A Frog He Would A Wooing Go" went down the throat of the crow..."
And the small girl said, "could a chocolate mouse do all that?"
"Well," said the small girl's mother, "we could put him on the clock, and under a chair, and cut his tail off with a carving knife, and at the very last we could eat him up like a crow."
"And he wouldn't be a real mouse?"
"No, just a chocolate one with cream inside."
"Do you think I'll get one for Christmas?"
"I'm not sure." The small girl's mother hesitated, then then told the truth, "my darling... Mother saved up the money for a doll, but the next-door neighbour wants the rent."
"Hasn't Daddy any more money?"
"Poor Daddy has been sick for so long."
"But he's well now."
"I know. But he has to pay money for doctors and for medicine, and money for your red sweater, and money for milk for Pussy-Purr-Up, and money for our beefsteak pie."
"The boy nextdoor says we're poor, Mother."
"We are rich, my darling. We have love and each other, and Pussy-Purr-Up..."
"His mother wont let him have a cat," said the small girl, with her mind still on the boy next door. "But he's going to have a radio."
"Would you rather have a radio than Pussy-Purr-Up?"
The small girl gave a cry of derision. "I'd rather have Pussy-Purr-Up than anything else in the whole wide world." At that, the great cat, who had been sitting on the hearth with his paws tucked under him and his eyes like moons, stretched out his satin-shining length and jumped upon the arm of the chair beside the small girl and her mother, and began to sing a song that was like a mill-wheel away off. He purred so long and loud that, at least, the small girl grew drowsy. "Tell me some more about the chocolate mouse," she said, and she nodded and slept.
The small girl's mother carried her in to another room, put her to bed, and came back to the kitchen... And it was full of shadows.
But she did not let herself sit among them.
She wrapped herself in a great cape and went out in to the cold dusk.

There was a sweep of wind, heavy clouds overhead, and a band of dull orange showing behind the trees where the sun had burned down. She went straight from her little house to the big house of the next-door neighbour, and she rang the bell at the back entrance.
A maid let her in to the kitchen, and there was the next-door neighbour and the two women who worked for her, and a daughter-in-law who had come to spend Christmas. The great range was glowing, and things were simmering, and things were stewing, and things were steaming, and things were baking, and things were boiling, and things were broiling, and there was a fragrance of a thousand delicious dishes in the air.
And the next-door neighbour said, "We are trying to get as much done as possible tonight. We are having twelve people for Christmas dinner tomorrow."
And the daughter-in-law, who was all dressed up and had an apron tied about her, said in a sharp voice, "I can't see why you don't let your maids work for you!"
And the next-door neighbour said, "I have always worked. There is no excuse for laziness."
And the daughter-in-law said, "I'm not lazy, if that's what you mean. And we'll never have any dinner if I have to cook it," and away she went, out of the kitchen, with tears of rage in her eyes.
And the next-door neighbour said, "if she hadn't gone when she did, I should have told her to go," and there was rage in her eyes, but no tears. She took her hands out of the pan of bread crumbs and sage, which she was mixing for the stuffing, and said to the small girl's mother: "Did you come to pay the rent?"
The small girl's mother handed her the money, and the next-door neighbour went upstairs to write a receipt. Nobody asked the small girl's mother to sit down, so she stood in the middle of the floor, and sniffed the enticing fragrances, and looked at the mountain of food, which would have fed her small family for a month.
While she waited, the boy next door came in and said, "are you the small girl's mother?"
"Yes."
"Are you going to have a tree?"
"Yes."
"Do you want to see mine?"
"It would be wonderful!"
So he led her down a long passage to a great room, and there was a tree which touched the ceiling, and on the very top branches - and on all the other branches - were myriads of little lights, which shone like stars. And there were gold balls and silver ones, and red, and blue and green balls, and under the tree - and on it - were toys for boys, and toys for girls, and one of the toys was a doll in a pink dress! At that the heart of the small girl's mother tightened, and she was glad she was not a thief, or she would have snatched at the pink doll when the boy wasn't looking, and hidden it under her cape and run away with it.
The boy next-door was saying: "It's the finest tree anybody has around here. But Dad and Mother don't know that I've seen it."
"Oh, don't they?" said the small girl's mother. "Now do you know, I should think that the very nicest thing in the whole wide world would be not to have seen the tree."
The boy next door stared and said, "why?"
"Because the nicest thing in the world would be to have somebody tie a handkerchief around your eyes tight as tight, and then to have somebody take your hand and lead you in and out and in and out, until you didn't know where you were, and then to have them untie the hankerchief... And there would be the tree... All shining and splendid." She stopped, but her singing voice seemed to echo and re-echo in the great room.
The boy's staring eyes had a new look in them. "Did anyone ever tie a handkerchief around your eyes?"
"Oh, yes..."
"And lead you in and out, and in and out?"
"Yes."
"Well, nobody does things like that in our house. They think it's silly."
"Do you think it's silly?" asked the small girl's mother.
"No, I don't."
She held out her hand to him. "Will you come and see our tree?"
"Tonight?"
"No, tomorrow morning... Early!"
"Before breakfast?"
She nodded yes.
"Oh, I'd like that!"
So that was a bargain, with a quick squeeze of their hands on it.
Then the small girl's mother went back to the kitchen, and the next-door neighbour came down with the receipt, and the small girl's mother went out of the back door and found that the orange band twhich had burned on the horizon was gone, and there was just the wind and the sighing of trees.

Two men passed her on the brick walk which led to the house, and one of the men said: "If you would only be fair to me, Father."
And the other man said, "all you want of me is money."
"You taught me that, Father."
"Blame it on me...?"
Their angry voices seemed to beat against the noise of the wind and the sighing trees so that the small girl's mother shivered and drew her cape around her, and ran on as fast as she could to her little house.

There were all the shadows to meet her, but she did not sit among them. She made a dish of milk toast, and set the toast in the oven to keep it hot, and then she stood at the window watching.
At last, she saw through the darkness what looked like a star, low down, and she knew that the star was a lantern, and she ran and opened the door wide. And the young husband set the lantern down on the threshold and took her in his arms and said, "the sight of you is more than food and drink!"
When he said that, she knew that he had had a hard day, but her heart leaped because she knew that what he said to her was true. Then they went in to the house together, and she set the food before him. And that he might forget his hard day, she told him of her own. And when she got to the part about the next-door neighbour and the rent, she said, "I'm telling you this because it has a happy ending."
And he put his hand over hers and said, "my dear, everything with you has a happy ending."
"Well, this is a happy ending," said the small girl's mother, with all the sapphire in her eyes emphasizing it. "Because when I went over tto pay the rent, I was feeling how poor we were, and wishing I had a pink doll for baby, and books for you, and... And... And a magic carpet to carry us away from work and worry. And then I went in to the kitchen of the big house, and there was everything delicious, and then I went in to the parlor and saw the tree... With everything hanging on it that was glittering and gorgeous... And then I came home," her breath was quick and her lips smiling, "I came home, and I was glad I lived in my little house."
"What made you glad, dearest?"
"Because love is here; and hate is there. And a boy's deceipt, and a man's injustice. They were saying sharp things to each other... And... And their dinner will be nothing. And in my house is the faith of a child in the goodness of God. And the bravery of a man who fought for his country..." She was in his arms now.
"And the blessing of a woman who has never known defeat." His voice broke on the words. In that moment it seemed as if the wind stopped blowing, and as if the trees stopped sighing, and as if there was the sound of a heavenly host singing.

The small girl's mother and the small girl's father sat up very late that night. They popped a great bowl of crisp, snowy corn, and made it in to balls. They boiled sugar and molasses, and cracked nuts and made candy of them. They cut funny little Christmas fairies out of paper, and painted their jackets bright red, with round silver buttons of the tinfoil that came on a cream cheese. And then put the balls and candy, and the painted fairies, and a long red candle in a big basket, and set it away.
And the small girl's mother brought out the chocolate mouse. "We will put this on the clock," she said, "where here eyes will rest on it the first thing in the morning." And the small girl's mother said, "she was lovely about giving up the doll, and she will love the tree."
"We'll have to get up very early," said the small girl's father, "and you'll have to run ahead and light the candle."

They got up before the dawn next morning, and so did the boy next door. He was there on the step, waiting, blowing his hands and beating them quite like the poor little boys in a Christmas story, who haven't any mittens. But this wasn't a poor little boy, and he had many pairs of fur-trimmed gloves, but he had left the house in such a hurry that he had forgotten to put them on. So there he stood, on the front step of the little house, blowing on his hands and beating them. And it was dark, with a sort of pale shine in the heavens, which didn't seem to come from the stars, or to herald the dawn; it was just a mystical silver glow that set the boy's heart to beating.
Then, suddenly, someone came around the corner... Someone tall and thin, with a cap on his head and an empty basket in his hand. "Hello," he said, "a merry Christmas." It was the small girl's father, and he put the key in the lock and they went in and turned on a light, and there was a table set for four.
And the small girl's father said, "You see we have set a place for you. We must eat something before we go out."
And the boy next door said, "are we going out? I came to see the tree."
"We are going out to see the tree."
Before the boy next door could ask any more questions, the small girrl's mother appeared with her finger on her lips and said: "Shush," and then she began to recite in a hushed voice, "Hickory Dickory Dock..."
There was a little cry and the sound of dancing feet, and the small girl in a red dressing gown came flying in. "Oh Mother, the mous is on the clock. The mouse is on the clock."
Well, it seemed to the boy next door that he had never seen anything so exciting as the things that followed. The chocolate mouse went up the clock and under the chair... And would have had its tail cut off, except the small girl begged to save it. "I want to keep it as it is, Mother." And playing this game as if it were the most important thing in the whole wide world were the small girls mother and the small girls father, all laughing, and chanting the quaint old words to the quaint old music. The small girl absolutely refused to eat the mouse. "He's my darling chocolate mouse, Mother."
So her mother said, "we'll put him on the clock again, where Pussy-Purr-Up can't get him while we are out."
"Oh, are we going out?" said the small girl, round eyesd.
"Yes."
"Where are we going?"
"To find Christmas." That was all the small girl's mother would tell.
So they had breakfast, and everything tasted perfectly delicious to the boy next door. But first they bowed their heads, and the small girl's father said, "dear Christchild, on this Christmas morning, bless these children, and help us all to keep our hearts young and full of love for thee."
The boy next door, when he lifted his head, had a funny feeling as if he wanted to cry, and yet, it was a lovely feeling... All warm and comfortable.
For breakfast they each had a baked apple and great slices of sweet bread and butter, and great glasses of milk, and as soon as they were finished, away they went out the door and down in to the woods at the back of the house. And when they were deep in the woods, the small girl's father took out of his pocket a little flute and beegan to play, and he played thin piping tunes that went fluttering around the trees, and the small girl hummed the tunes until it sounded like singing bees, and their feet fairly danced. And the boy found himself humming and dancing along with them.
Then, suddenly, the piping ceased, and a hush fell over the woods. It was so still that they could almost hear each other breathe... So still that when a light when a light flashed suddenly in the open space, it burned without a flicker.

The light came from a red candle that was set in the top of a living tree. It was the only light on the tree, but it showed the snowy balls and the small red fairies whose coats had silver buttons.

"It's our tree, my darling," he heard the small girl's mother saying.
Suddenly, it seemed to the boy that his heart would burst in his breast. He wanted someone to speak to him like that. The small girl sat on her father's shoulders, and her father held her mother's hand. It was like a chain of gold, their holding hands like that and loving each other. The boy reached out and touched the woman's hand. She looked down at him, and drew him close. He felt warmed and comforted. The red candle burning there in the darkness was like some sacred fire of friendship. He wished that it would never go out, that he might stand there watching it, with his small cold hand in the clasp of the small girl's mother.

It was late when the boy next door got back to his own home. But he had not been missed. Everybody was up, and everybody was angry. The daughter-in-law had declaired the night before that she would not stay another day beneath that roof, and off she had gone with her young husband and her little girl, who was to have had the pink doll on the tree. And the next-door neighbour kept saying, "good riddence... Good riddence," and not once did she say, "a merry Christmas." But the boy next door held something warm and glowing, like the candle in the forest, and so he came to his mother and said, "may I have the pink doll?"
She spoke frowningly, "what does a boy want with a doll?"
"I'd like to give it to the little girl next door."
"Do you think I buy dolls to give away in charity?"
"Well, they gave me a Christmas present."
"What did they give you?"
He opened his hand and showed a little flute, tied with a gay ribbon, he lifted it to his lips and blew on it, a thin piping tune.
"Oh, that," said the mother scornfully, "why, that's nothing but a reed from the pond!"
But the boy knew it was more than that. It was a magic flute that made you dance and made your heart warm and happy. So he said again, "I'd like to give her the doll," and he reached out his hand and touched his mother's... And his eyes were wistful.
His mother's own eyes softened... She had lost one son that day... And she said, "oh, well, do as you please."

The boy next door ran in to the great roomand took the doll from the tree and wrapped her in paper, and flew out of the door, and down the brick walk, and straight to the little house.
When the door was opened, he saw that his friends were just sitting down to dinner... And there was the beefsteak pie all brown and piping hot, with a wreath of holly... And the onions were silver, and the carrots gold...
The boy next door went up to the small girl and said, "I've brought you a present." With his eyes all lighted up, he took off the paper in which it was wrapped, and there was the doll, in rosy frills, with eyes that opened and shut and shoes and stockings, and curly hair that was bobbed and beautiful.
And the small girl, in a whirlwind of happiness, said, "is it really my doll?"
And the boy next door felt very shy and happy and said, "yes."
And the small girl's mother said, "it was a beautiful thing to do," and she bent and kissed him.
Again that bursting feeling came in to the boy's heart, and he lifted his face to hers and said, "may I come sometimes and be your boy?"
And the small girl's mother said, "yes." And when at last he went away, she stood in the door and watched him. Such a little lad, who knew so little of loving. And, because she knew so much of loving, her eyes filled to overflowing. But presently she wiped the tears away and went back to the table. And she smiled at the small girl and the small girl's father. "And the potatoes were ivory," she said. "Oh, who would ask for turkey, when you could have a pie like this!"



The end

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Doctors order Santa to go on a diet

Father Christmas is at risk of serious illness because of his bulging waistline and needs to cut down on the mince pies, doctors warned today.

A survey of shopping centre Santas in Scotland revealed an average waist size of 47 inches - seven inches more than is considered safe.

Dr Miles Fisher, consultant physician at Glasgow Royal Infirmary said: "The image of Santa is of a round, jolly person and it is meant to be one of hilarity but if you have obesity around your tummy, then it is very bad for you."

"Before, we thought it was just not good to be overweight but now we know that having fat around your middle is particularly bad."

"That fat produces hormones, which have been associated with heart disease and other conditions."

According to health guidelines, having a waist circumference of more than 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women is a key indicator of abdominal obesity.

It is associated with a greater risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes. And people who have rounder stomachs, known as "central obesity", are more at risk than people who are merely overweight.

Perhaps Santa should consider cutting back on the sherry as well.

(Taken from here after hearing about the story on a local radio station called The Wave).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wintery weather



OK, so we haven't had as much snow as most people, but it's exciting to me! We don't get much snow around here, and it usually doesn't happen until Christmas is well and truely over. So you can imagine how excited this snow lover was when it started snowing on Saturday, right? So, I took these photos right away, because snow doesn't usually stay very long here, and I didn't want to miss it. They were taken in the garden of my parents' place, since that's where I was at the time. The top photo is the front garden, the bottom one is part of the back garden.



We got about half an inch of snow, then it stopped snowing and the snow ended up becoming ice. It snowed a little more in the night - just a light dusting though - and that froze too. So, by the time we got up on Sunday there was a layer of ice everywhere there had been snow... And probably in places snow hadn't settled properly too. It snowed more on Monday, and with that combined with the thick layer of ice already covering everything, we decided to go home Monday lunchtime instead of Tuesday morning, since we couldn't stay at my parents' place over Christmas, plus we needed to be at our place to keep an eye on the pipes, which we were already a little worried about, since the temperature was sticking below freezing (it's between 4 and -5 today, but it has been sticking between -1 and -6 most of the time). There have been some nasty winds too, and some of the snow has frozen so quickly it's more like minature frozen snowballs than real snow. And, there's still ice everywhere today, and the power was off for a while last night.


I did manage to have a bit of fun in the snow while it was still snow though. There wasn't much of it, but there was enough for me to throw a couple of snowballs for Willow... Which she ate! LOL! Kero wasn't interested in joining in, but Willow thought it was great... And tasty! LOL! I thought it was fun too, but I wasn't willing to eat any. ;)

Some people - in fact, a lot of people - aren't liking this weather. But, I like it! It's just enough bad weather to make it really seem like Winter, but without it being bad enough to causeshops to close, and stop people getting to places. Sure, there are some problems, but that's just because it's so rare that we get weather like this the whole country seems to panic when it happens. Not me though... Nope! I cheer! ;)


OK, I think that'll do for now. If you haven't done so already, why not scroll down and read the story I posted earlier? OK, OK, I scheduled it a couple of weeks ago, so sue me! It still got posted earlier, whichever way you look at it. Anyway...

Enjoy whatever's left of your day, stay safe, and stay warm! :)

Tori

(FD) The Nutcracker

By E. T. A. Hoffman
(As written in "The Treasury Of Christmas Tales")

It was Christmas eve - at last! Every Christmas eve, after dinner, Maria and her brother Fritz opened their presents. Even though Maria and Fritz lived in long-ago Germany, they also celebrated by giving gifts on this special day. This evening, the Christmas tree in the parlor seemed even bigger and more beautiful than ever. And Maria and Fritz had wonderful presents. They had dolls, little toy soldiers, and picture books. But Maria's favorite gift was from her godfather, Dr Drosselmeier. It was a wooden nutcracker carved to look like an old soldier. It did not look like any other nutcracker Maria had ever seen. What Maria did not know, though, was that the nutcracker was enchanted.
After Maria and Fritz finished opening their presents, another celebration began. They were going to have a Christmas party for their young cousins and friends. Everyone played with the dolls and toy soldiers, and there were all kinds of Christmas candies and cookies to eat.
Then Dr Drosselmeier said, "wait right here, children. I have a special Christmas treat for your party."
Before the children could guess what the treat might be, he appeared with two puppets and a small stage for a puppet show.
The two puppets danced and leaped high off the stage, and did somersaults, while the children watched and, and laughed, and clapped. And Maria held her favorite gift, the nutcracker, through the whole puppet show.
After the show was over, fritz began to dance around just as the puppets had done. He grabbed the nutcracker from Maria and leaped up, holding it high. But Fritz could not dance quite as well as the puppets. He stumbled, and the nutcracker went flying across the room, landing near the Christmas tree. When Maria ran to pick up her favorite gift, she saw that his wooden jaw was broken.
"Oh, no!" she cried. "Let me fix you, poor nutcracker." She carefully tied the nutcracker together with her handkerchief, and put him under the Christmas tree.
Then Mother called, "time for bed." All the guests had gone, and it was time to put out the lights and go upstairs.

The house was quiet, but Maria could not sleep. She was thinking about the nutcracker under the Christmas tree.
Maria tiptoed downstairs.
When she opened the doors to the big parlor, she was surprised to see that the Christmas tree was lighted again. She picked up her nutcracker, but he looked larger than when she had left him under the tree. And his jaw wasn't broken anymore!
The nutcracker seemed to be growing. As he grew taller and taller, his carved wooden face slowly changed. Before Maria's very eyes, the nutcracker became a handsome young prince. The prince bowed to Maria and thanked her. Her act of kindness had broken a magic spell that had been cast over him.
Just then, Maria heard a scuffling and scratching sound, with pattering and squeaking noises. She looked up to see a roomful of huge gray mice. "What are mice doing here?" wondered Maria. The mice were led by a Mouse King, who had seven heads and carried a sword.
Just as the prince leaped in front of Maria to protect her, they heard the sounds of a trumpet and a drum. Out of Fritz's gift box, left under the Christmas tree, sprang a whole troop of toy soldiers, that grew to life size as soon as they stepped out of their box. The soldiers, led by the prince, began a great battle with the Mouse King and his army of gray mice.
What a battle it was! Back and forth the two armies fought. Maria began to be afraid that the mice would wihn. The prince and the toy soldiers seemed to be getting tired. But, just then, Maria saw her chance to help. She took off her slipper and threw it with all her might at the Mouse King. Down he went! The battle was over. As quickly as they had come, the army of mice scampered away. The prince was now completely free from the magic spell. He could go home to his own land.
"Would you come with me?" he asked Maria.
"Oh, yes!" answered Maria.

The prince led Maria to the Christmas tree, which seemed to have grown taller. He raised his arms, and suddenly the prince and Maria were no longer in Maria's parlor. Instead, they found themselves in the nutcracker prince's own kingdom. And all around them were beautiful dancing snow fairies.
"Welcome to the Land Of Sweets," said the prince.
Maria saw sights she had never dreamed of. Here, the houses were made of chocolate and peppermint sticks. There was a river of lemonade, and a lake of sugar and almond milk. Maria and the prince travelled down the lemonade river, passing by lollipop tries and candy flowers. They rode in a little boat shaped like a seashell.
Finally, they arrived at a sparkling castle made entirely of spun sugar. This was the palace of the Sugar Plum Fairy, who came forth to greet them.
The prince said, "Maria, with her kindness, has rescued me from an enchanted spell. In the battle of the Mouse King, at just the right moment, she attacked with her slipper and saved me."
When the Sugar Plum Fairy heard this, she invited Maria and the prince to sit on her royal throne. She threw a great party to celebrate. Everyone in the Land Of Sweets came!
As tinkling music filled the hall, the Sugar Plum Fairy did a graceful fairy dance. Next came a parade of dancers - Chinese dancers, whirling Arabian dancers, leaping and twirling Russian dancers.
Maria had never seen such sights!
There were chocolate dancers and pennywhistle candy dancers, and even dancing clowns. Just when Maria could not imagine anything more grand, she was surrounded by enchanted flowers. Everywhere she looked were beautiful flowers - Buttercups and Daffodils, Roses and Tulips. They seemed almost to float as they waltzed round and round the great ballroom. Everyone joined in the dancing.
Maria was a little afraid to dance.
Then the nutcracker prince approached and said, "all this dancing is for you. You must dance too. Come with me."
So Maria and the prince whirled, and whirled, and whirled...
...Until Maria was a little dizzy and could no longer tell exactly where she was.

She rubbed her eyes and sat up. She was beneath her own Christmas tree! In her own house. And here, beside her, was her nutcracker.
Where was the prince? The dancers? The Sugar Plum Fairy? Oh, could it all have been a dream?


The end