Saturday, December 27, 2008

Market Baskets and iPhone

I have often remarked about my Little House on the Prairie ideal vs. my husband's Star Trek ideal. This year, I relished in giving books and market baskets. His big gift to me and himself were matching iPhones. I am used to getting tech gifts from him. That's fine. Something I wouldn't give myself. I tend to buy Mark more books than he can read. (I was good this year and only got him a subscription to Runner's World.)

Now part of my LHOTP wistfulness is a wish for a simpler time. Self sufficiency, community participation, direct contact with the food chain. I am not a technophobe, but what bothers me about technology is that I constantly have to update my skills--especially after I have managed a degree of proficiency with the old technology so that I can work it with the fluidity of muscle memory instead of brainpower. The other thing that annoys me about gadgetry is that I have to live in a state of dissatisfaction. I can never be happy with what I have; I must be constantly alert for updates, in both software and hardware.

Now I must backtrack a bit. I've been carrying a big purse lately to accommodate my day planner, journal, books, etc. I also tend to carry my market bag with current projects or books. But this past week, I have suffered a bad back. I do long for simplicity, but being confined to a sofa with nothing to do but explore iPhone applications, I am beginning to see that simplicity can come in many forms. If I set myself up right, I could be carrying one tool for use in/as navigation, diet log, calendar, grocery list, wine guide, phone, iTunes, pedometer, knitting patterns, address book, email, flashlight, clock radio, reading books and articles, diary, personal trainer, surfing web, art gallery, meditation timer, and restaurant locator. It's like the Swiss Army knife of life. If it could function as a corkscrew, I could probably be set for life. WOW! Now all of this will take a bit to set up, and a bit longer to be comfortable with it. I am going to be very hard pressed to give up my paper day planner, but I think that bad back will prevail, and I will at least try a paperless version.

For some time, I felt that maybe technology and subsequently my husband were at odds with my values of simplicity, but I think I am beginning to see what gains I can make in my life.

1. Going paperless will save on resources. No more printing maps and directions
2. I won't expend as much energy looking for all my stuff and cursing myself when I forget it.
3. I can further save on space by downloading books--something I am not eager to try, but with dwindling bookshelf space, I must think about.
4. One device to plug in. One power cord to keep track of.
5. In sync with my hubby.

So, I may at times give commentary as to how I am doing, making the iPhone a tool for my life, instead of making my life fit the phone. I've already thought of an application I have yet to see: Produce stand/local food source locator. Can someone get on that? I need to fill my market basket.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gifts I like to give

1. Books. Hands down number one present to give and to receive. Mark is a techno-geek who reads one book a year. I probably buy him two books a year. He buys me things to plug in.
2. Cookbooks. I know this is a sub category. My poor brother-in-law gets the brunt of this gift because he the only person within my gift-giving circle who cooks. I have been known to get people who don't cook some cookbooks. My husband has received books on biscotti and breads and sushi. He has expressed a desire to make those things, but it seems more of a pipe dream despite my overt encouragement. Last year, I gave me mother-in-law a cookbook that came from a restaurant in her hometown of Marshall, Michigan. She knew the family. So that was appropriate.
3. Art and journaling supplies. What can I say? It is who I am.
4. Personalized stationery. Okay, so snail mail is going the way of the dinosaurs, but kids especially still like getting mail. They like seeing their name on things. And hey--I'd like to think that the Thank You note is not dead. (Although I do tell recipients of this gift to save their stationery for fun letters.)
5. Baby rings. I started a practice of giving my neices and nephews rings for their first birthdays. The boy rings are cool--made by a friend of mine, Suzy Arrington. That tradition started because Jonah saw Maren's rings and wanted one for himself. Later they can wear rings on a chain or give them to their kids. This is not my orginal idea. Got it from my sister-in-law.
6. Personalized Back Packs. I like to give these to little kids. They see their older siblings, cousins with these and they love carrying their own. Plus--it is great for parents. No toys to clean up and store.
7. Gift Certificates to movies, plays, museums, cultural events. Again--a gift that doesn't clutter the house.
8. Pajamas. Love to give and love to get them. My favorite are Gilligan and O'Malley from Target and Vera Wang at Kohl's. Love the Vera Wang stuff--especially anything in purple. Don't own any--yet. Cool PJ bottoms for men.
9. Music. I love giving CD's of things I know others will like but may not know about. I like giving Carla Bruni, Chris Botti, Herbie Hancock, and local artists. Maybe I'll have to switch to downloads soon.
10. Puppets. Better than stuff animals, puppets encourage storytelling and playacting and reading. Tell your child to make the puppet read aloud a page of the story and then have the child read in his/her normal voice. If I was ahead of the game, I would make my own. I have a feeling my friend Elena from will be making some puppets this year. Someday I want to own an Elena Nazzaro puppet and have a stand for it. Sculptural art.
11. Clothing. I still love to dress people up. Maybe it isn't the best thing to give. People tend to have their own ideas of what clothes they like, but at least Mark likes the clothing I get for him. And I like to see him wearing the stuff I picked out for him.
12. Something homemade. It has been awhile since I have done this, but I do like to put the effort in and have it received. Past offerings: stories, knit sweaters, salsa or hot pepper jelly, jewelry, framed photos, felted mittens or slippers, poems. If I didn't make it, then it is fun to give something made by local artists.

paper, music, lights


First off, let me say that I cringe at most holiday wrapping papers. I guess it stems from years working in fabric design. I think most wrapping paper is tacky. Where is William Morris when you need him or M.C. Escher for that matter. Or Even Keith Haring--now that would be fun paper. And the red and green combo doesn't work for me. If it was up to me, I would wrap everything in brown paper with satin or velvet ribbons in shades of plum or chocolate with a little jute twine and/or gold cord for contrast. A brown gift tag with plum spirals and gold accents. A muted palate with lots of texture. Mark doesn't like the brown paper look. He thinks it is a step above wrapping in newspaper.

I saw some lovely wrapping paper at Pottery Barn displays this year. It looked like birch bark and had great red velvet ribbons around it. They didn't have it for sale though. Last year, they had graphic black and white paper with some presents wrapped in newspaper. I took pictures of that display to show Mark.

What I end up wrapping presents in is IKEA black and white paper. It seems to represent the dark/light themes of the solstice. This year I have striped, big dots, and checker board. I use one for thewrapping and a contrasting paper for the tag. Then I dress it all up with brightly colored (but not Christmas colored) curly ribbons. It is fun and graphic looking. I have a few presents wrapped in brown paper that I decorate with the black and white stuff.


I do love me some Christmas music though. I have a huge collection of Christmas music. Every year I get a new Christmas Album. There is something about a good carol. And I listen to them when I wrap and when I cook. Basically I listen to nothing else from Thanksgiving until Christmas. If anyone has any good recomendation for albums, I am listening. I think my favorites are The Roches, Sarah McLachlan, Charlie Brown. I also like playing Christmas music on my friend's piano. I took piano lessons for 7 years and can't play a lick, but I can pick out Christmas carols. Maybe I should rent a piano every December. My favorite carols are Oh Holy Night, What Child is This, Santa Baby, So This is Christmas, and Grown-Up Christmas List.


I have a hard time with outdoor lights. I like them, but I am looking for the perfect and doable light display. I like it simple and classic. White. No gymnastics on the roof. Every year we put out colored lights. Mostly purple and teal--leftovers from a themed tree gone wrong. We don't have any lights out this year. Mark has had to work a riduculous amount of hours this month, so it just didn't get done. But it keeps me looking over other people's lawns and wondering what my ideal display would be. No blow-up Santas, no grapevine animals, or creche scenes. I like a lit wreath and a greens and light covered lamppost. Maybe some greenery at our second story windows and some candles. I do like our tree and Moravian star in the front window--that is there. The Moravian star is decoration that is native to our home town of Lititz.

Maybe if they weren't so expensive, I'd just get a bunch of them and hang them from our two trees out front. I like them the best. The warm glow is so pretty on a dark night. And it reminds me of childhood.

Gift Receiving

I had a post about gift giving. Here is my post on receiving (to complete the cycle). I know what gifts I like to recieve. Part of this is that they are things I won't buy myself--or rarely do. In keeping with the songs Favorite Things and Twelve days of Christmas, I've picked out my 12 favorite presents--not in any order.

1. Pajamas
2. A book of Poetry (Mary Oliver this year)
3. A cookbook (Last year my choice was Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. This year it is Jamie at Home)
4. Books or GC to a bookstore. This year I want the new Wally Lamb novel. He is one of my very favorite writers.
5. CD. I still have not gotten used to the whole MP3 download thing. I have an iPod, but my brain still operates in CD mode. I like getting something unusal that I don't already have to round out my rather staid collection. Maybe Dolly Parton or Miles Davis or Nina Simone or a Soundtrack Album I can play while cooking dinner.
6. Cooking gadgets or items. This year I would like mini spatulas. I keep breaking mine. I have looked around for them, but haven't found them--otherwise I would stuff my own stocking. Mark got me a pair kitchen scissors. I have a working pair but the handle is broken and he seems to think I need a new pair.
7. Bath stuff. I am a girl. Gotta have my bath stuff. But I have become more particular over the years. I love Bath and Bodyworks Vanilla Lavendar Bubble bath, but I also love the handmade soaps at Radiance--especially a scent called Moondance.
8. Uncle Ken's Homemade Salsa. This used to be one of the Pollyanna style presents at our extended family gathering, but my sister and I fought over this so much, that Uncle Ken had to start giving it out to everyone.
9. Wine. Cheese is also accepted. This year, Maren asked for her own personal hunk of Parmagiano Reggiano cheese in her stocking instead of chocolate. She and I also came up with an idea for a cheese advent calendar, but we have to figure out a way to actualize that. She and I are big fromage queens. Maybe I could do a wine advent calendar as well. Hee hee! At any rate, I think that leaving wine and cheese for Santa would net bigger gifts.
10. A sweater. There is something about getting a new sweater for Christmas. Especially if the person you are getting it from has a good sense of what is tacky and what isn't.
11. A necklace. My in-laws normally get me a necklace. In recent years I have picked them out for myself, but in the past, they have given me some that I still wear and cherish. I love me some funky (non precious) necklaces. My earrings tend to be staid and non-commital, silver hoops or diamond studs. This year I picked out a necklace of cobalt blue glass leaves. They remind me of the cobalt bottles that line my kitchen windowsill.
12. A copy of the DAC slide show. My brother complies digital photos taken by all four siblings (and parents) over the course of a year and puts it together in a slide show that we all watch together. It has been getting longer and longer each year. But it is so neat to see the path we've all taken. I think we are about in our 5th year.

As you can see, I am not about the big gifts. I really like and appreciate the little things. Last year, Mark did surprise me with a sculpture. That was one of the most awesome gifts I have ever received. (Art over fine jewelry--ANY DAY!) But it is not an expectation--just a thrill.

Jill and Mark plus eight

My daughter and I have been watching some of Jon & Kate Plus Eight. They live in the same county we do, so we get to see some local attractions when we watch. Plus it is fun to see the chaos/discipline dichotomy in action. I have already told my daughter that if she has eight kids, I will never come to visit her. I know my limitations. I love my children, but I also know what I can handle. People who know me, know my saying. "Uno, Dos, Snip."

That said, I love the naming process. So when Maren asked me what I would name eight children, I wanted to play that game. For the sake of our game, we went with even genders--four girls and four boys. It goes without saying that two of these names are already in play. It must also be said here, that I have not sought approval from Mark on these names. (But if you ask him he might say that about the current named children. He had some choices in the matter--but mainly the names he picked out ended up being for the kids of the opposite sex. We didn't know the sex of our children before they were born.)

This game is also fun for me, because I was playing it with my brother and his wife before their son was born in September. Now that the son is named, that game is over.

Without further ado...
The girls:
Maren Alexandra
Alma Julia
Pheobe Amarah
Violet Sabine

The boys:
Jonah Miles
Calvin Isaiah (Had Maren been a boy)
Boaz Nathanial
Reese Mathias

*Jonah would have been Anna Devon had he been a girl. When it came time to pick Maren's name, I felt I didn't want a Jonah and an Anna. Too many na na nas.

**Had Jonah been born in December, his name would have been Jonah December. Billy Dee William's full name is William December Williams. I always thought that was cool. Jonah would have loved to have been named after Lando Calrissian. As it is, Jonah thinks his name means Jedi Knight. Jonah (Dove) + Miles (Soldier) = Peace Soldier (Which is the definition of a Jedi knight).

*** Maren was named after grandmothers Marty and Karen. The old joke is that we were either going to name her Maren or KMart. Maren is also the Swedish form of my middle name, Marie. She has swedish ancestory on Mark's side.

****The name I would have named brother's baby is Ever James. It didn't make my list because Ever Wood sounds like a rehabilitation facility or a golf club.

*****Alma and Mathias are family names. Alma was my paternal grandmother. Mathias was the middle name of Mark's maternal grandfather. Nathanial is a derivitive of my brother Nathan's name.