Chocolate Stash

imageFor Christmas I asked for chocolate. I like really good chocolate. Not your Hershey’s sour milk chocolate (although I will not turn that down mind you) but well-crafted dark chocolate. My stocking was full of the stuff and I got some other bars and treats aside from that. I have a stash that will last me a while. If I am careful.

A bunch of years ago I had surgery and I had to lie on the couch for a couple weeks. I watched a lot of movies during that time. My beautiful spouse, always one to make my life better, got me a couple of dark chocolate bars. Maybe it was because I was in slow mode, maybe it was because I was in a mood to appreciate things more than usual, or maybe it was the drugs I was on, but those chocolate bars satisfied in a big way. And I wanted more.

These days I try to have a bit of chocolate on hand at all times. When I want a sweet treat I can break off a bit and find some satisfaction. It keeps me from eating too much ice cream, if you know what I’m saying. At the moment I have a supply to last me well into the winter. I hope. That hazelnut bar went down, let me tell you. And those Lake Champlain Chocolates are pretty much to die for, if you’ll allow me the expression. If I have to get surgery any time soon, I will be set for a few days, but pacing myself could be a challenge.

I hear global warming might mean chocolate shortages. Plus other factors such as witch’s broom fungus mean less cocoa production. And then there’s the new strain of cocoa that tastes like crap. So the days of accessible and affordable delicious chocolate could be waning. I hope that is not the case. And demand often means problems get solved because prices go up. Worst case scenario would be too much to bear. At the moment, however, I am going to enjoy what I’ve got. The stuff is just so damn good.

Christmas at Home

We celebrate Christmas in our house. And boy do we gear up for it. The weekend after Thanksgiving we get a tree (a fir, cut from the tree farm down the road) shove into the van and set it up. By December 1st we have a trimmed tree, lights up, holiday themed dishware out on the table and more to come.

By Christmas Eve, we are ready to go–gifts wrapped, holiday music playing, a full refrigerator, stockings hung, festive as can be. So by Christmas morning the anticipation is pretty high. We spent the tail end of Christmas Eve at my sister-in-law’s place and so did not get home until later than the usual bedtime. Not that it mattered. Our kids were so excited that they had a hard time falling asleep. My son did not fall asleep until at least 11:00. He woke up around 4:00. He had the crazy idea that 4:00 was the time to get up and head downstairs. We had to put him off until 5:00. It was an early morning.

We had stockings stuffed with small gifts and opened those gifts first. We took a break for a waffle breakfast. We had a fire in the woodstove that heated things up fast–temperatures were in the forties. Some snow stayed on the ground at least. We had a lot of snow but then had two days of rain to wash most of it away. It was patchy Christmas morning but it was there at least. We opened gifts throughout the morning and early afternoon, trying to make it last. It is a pretty special day.

I took a short walk after our afternoon dinner. The breeze felt warm and clouds drifted across the gray sky. The water in the river was high with all the melted snow. Fields were flooded. A crescent moon dangled behind the clouds. The road was muddy. It was quiet. I thought about how this day is about giving and love and it made me want to simplify my life, get to what matters most more often.

The kids were asleep early. My daughter resisted the idea of going to bed earlier than usual, but she conked out pretty much immediately. My wife and I stayed up for a while, enjoying the quiet and the lights. We felt like successful parents, fostering the joy of the day, creating memories and all that. It turned out to be magical for all of us. After we turned out the lights and said goodnight to the tree, we headed to bed. It didn’t take long for us to conk out ourselves.

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Your Typical July 4th Parade

Went to the parade on Friday. 11:00. It passed through town and ended down by the post office. It had your usual ingredients:

Floats

Floats (plus fun hats)

Firetrucks

Firetrucks

Tractors

Tractors (the pink tractor that usually appeared did not appear–bummer)

Horses

Horses

Plus a 1952 Citroen--now that's patriotic!

Plus a 1952 Citroen–now that’s patriotic! Maybe we should have a parade on July 14th with this puppy in the lead.

We stuck around town for some free ice cream offered by a local church (You’ll love our other Sundays too!) and watched some kids get wet in the dunk tank. It wasn’t hot. I could have used a sweatshirt. The dunk tank did look fun, however.

At days end we watched the fireworks from our porch. A few of them of them were a little hidden by the hill, but behind the screen we had no mosquitoes. The highlight was one burst that spread out into a huge smiley face. We ended the day happy, all independent and stuff. Hope you had a happy Fourth yourself.

 

 

Giant Independence Day Cakes

Hinesburg celebrates 250 years as a town this year, so our July 4th parade theme was Hinesburg’s birthday. Several people who made floats for the parade had the same idea–to create a giant cake. Here they are, with some bonus pics.

Getting Things Started, 1762 Style

The Most Genuine Float–No Vehicle Visible

Lorax Motif

Cake and Cupcakes

This One Won Best Float

Plus Firetrucks. What’s a Parade Without Firetrucks?

Holiday Cards

The holiday cards are starting to trickle. We get lots of them and, to tell you the truth, I love them. Whether they say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or Happy New Year or some other greeting, they offer a good window into the lives of friends and family. It is an annual catch-up of sorts.

We get mail in our white mailbox at the end of the driveway six days a week. Every day it is a gift to get something that is not unsolicited, not a bill, not asking for money, not addressed to “resident.” I love getting the mail in general. Could be something fun on any day. I love surprises. When the end of the year nears it means getting fun mail.

Most of the cards we get these days are photo cards–they have some greeting, tailored to the likes or tastes or whims of the sender, along with one to a whole lot of photos. The photos do make it fun. They give me a sense of what matters to the sender, and I love to ponder just why our friends chose those particular photos.

Here is the thing: I think it is a holiday card faux pas to include only photos of one’s children. I mean, why sign it from four people and then have photos of only two people? At least half the cards we get are from friends who do not include pictures of themselves but do include photos of their children. I do want to see pics of your offspring. I really do. But I also want to see pics of you.

My theories why people do not include photos of themselves, only of their children:

1. They mistakenly think that more people in the photo will cost more. Let’s lay that to rest right now–photos cost the same regardless of the subject.

2. They are old enough that they think they look “bad” and so use this as an excuse to omit themselves. To that I say c’mon, you look fine, and once you are a parent do you really care that much what other people think of how you look?

3. They think receivers want to see photos only of their children. Um, no.

4. They never take photos of themselves, only their children. In this age of digital photography, this isn’t really an excuse anymore. Someone has pictures of you.

5. They forget. OK maybe this has some merit. I can’t remember crap these days. But still, you look at the thing before mailing it out don’t you?

6. They are blinded by love for their children to the extent that they cannot think of themselves. They are selfless, caring parents and have devoted their short lives to maximizing their contribution to the next generation who happens to be their own flesh and blood

I’m not sure about that last one. In any case, none of these are really good excuses. I would love to hear a good one. Maybe that will reduce my curmudgeonness.

Any way, keep sending the cards, friends. Just give me some pics of you. I love your kids, but I love you, too.

Hinesburg July 4th Parade 2010

Went to the parade. Sweated. My son and I waited in the sun while the girls in the family scooted off to ride a float. They handed 0ut candy while we watched the procession. We ate a slice of pizza afterwards at Good Times Cafe. Skipped the festivities. Too hot. Watched the fireworks in the swarm of mosquitoes from the home of friends in town. A good show, especially with the neighbors starting things off. It is hot again today. And tomorrow. Heat wave, baby.

On the Way to the Start

Girl Scout Float

Lots and Lots of Firetrucks...

And Classic Cars...

And My Favorite Tractor...

And of Course Llamas

Even the founding fathers would approve of llamas. I have not doubt.

Parade Day

The smoke drifting down from Canada had not cleared by the time we headed to Vergennes, but we managed to breathe fine anyway. Vergennes has the don’t-miss Memorial Day parade. The governor was there, and Senator Bernie Sanders, and a slew of governor-hopefuls. It may not be the best use of time for someone running for office, but it makes sense to be there–one would not want to be the one who did not show up.

There were lots of other highlights as well, including firetrucks from a dozen different towns and a “bomb diffusion” float that was a little disturbing with its rifles and blindfolds. I thought Memorial Day was supposed to commemorate those who died in war, not war itself.  Maybe I just missed the point.

Some pics from the event:

Veterans Were There

Summer Santa Was There

There Were Floats

And of Course Lots of Fire Trucks

Veterans for Peace

Bernie

How Long IS This Thing?

This Guy--from Middlebury Union High School Band--Was Into It

Shriners Zooming About

The Drumming Clowns Were a Hit

The Civil War Reenactors Scared the Pants off Small Children

And by Afternoon, the Smoke Had Mostly Cleared