Archive for December, 2015

The Gifts

When I was a kid, I really, really, REALLY wanted an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas. Everybody had one. That is, everybody but me. Mom thought they were silly and extravagant, and said, “You can bake all the cakes you want, right here in our REAL oven, and NOT from a mix!”. It just wasn’t the same as watching that little cake rise magically, just from the heat of a light bulb. Yum! Well, to be honest, the cakes weren’t all that yum, but they were magical, anyway. A year or two later, my parents did get me the much-wanted Thingmaker Creepy Crawlers toy, in which we mixed up oozy and brightly colored Plastigoop, poured it in molds, and placed it on an electric hot plate where it baked and hardened into rubbery bugs. My sister and I had a set called Fun Flowers that made…you guessed it….very groovy flowers, and one called Fright Factory that made scary stuff like fake scars and skeletons. To this day, I can think back and almost smell the hot chemical plastic odor. It was totally fun, and I only got a few burns and blisters on my hands from trying to remove the bugs from the molds too early. These days, nothing like that would ever be approved for children to use, but we really did have hours of fun, just like it said on the Creepy Crawlers box. I dressed my wounds with another of my usual stocking stuffers: A box of Band Aids. To this day, I think the only reason I got Creepy Crawlers was because my dad was a Biology teacher and thought it might be en educational toy. A year or two later, Mattel came up with another great idea called Incredible Edibles, which were like Creepy Crawlers, except instead of plain old rubbery plastic, an edible rubbery plastic called Gobbletygoop was squirted into the mold and baked to yummy perfection. I really, really, REALLY wanted an Incredible Edibles set. Mom thought it was silly and extravagant, and said. “Who wants to eat that junk anyway? It can’t possibly be good for you!” She was right. Incredible Edibles tasted like a sweetened rubber eraser and stuck to my teeth. I know this because many of my friends got Incredible Edibles that year, and they shared. I wouldn’t doubt it one bit if we glowed in the in the dark after eating it, too. Mom was right. A generation later, which happened more quickly than I ever thought it would, my daughter asked for an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas. She really, really, REALLY wanted one. Yes, they still made them, and in fact, the Easy Bake Oven has been one of the #1 selling toys of all time, no thanks to my family. You are probably thinking that I ran out and got her one right away to make up for the one I didn’t get. It’s kind of strange, but somehow, no matter how you mix our genetic Gobbletygook and no matter how long it takes us to get done, we turn into our parents. I told her that she could make all the cakes she wanted, right in our kitchen in a REAL oven. I could almost bet that her kids won’t find one under the Christmas tree, either.

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My Christmas decorating is minimal, at best. Our tree is filled with lights and ornaments that were gifted to us through the years as well as three generations worth of handmade beauties. Beauty being in the eye of the beholder, of course. My favorite ornament is not one that hangs on the tree, though. Many years ago, my daughter’s school project was a Santa Claus made out of a bleach bottle, cut in half with a glued-on felt hat, glued-on felt smile, and googly eyes. He has had a place of honor in my home each and every year, much to the consternation of my daughter. I don’t know if it was accidentally or on purpose, but my little artist created Santa’s yarn hair longer on one side than the other, which makes him look like he either has a mullet or was once kicked out of a 90’s hair band. Sometimes I hang Bleach Bottle Santa on the front door, sometimes I hang him in a window, and sometimes my daughter hides him where he can’t be found. This year, I took a picture of Bleach Bottle Santa and posted it on Facebook for all the world to see. I think her response was a very Grinch-like “Ugh!”. I have been hoping in 20+ Christmases, he would begin to grow on her, because really, around here, it’s not Christmas until Bleach Bottle Santa comes out of the box. He was there the year that HE and SHE picked out a Christmas tree so huge that there wasn’t room around the dining room table and a few of us were stabbed in the back by pine branches all during Christmas dinner. He was there when I turned on the air conditioning so I could have a fire in the fireplace in our Florida home. He was there the year my mother died just before Christmas when nobody felt much holiday spirit, but Christmas came anyway, and along with it, the joy and the celebration of a life well-lived. In what seems like the blink of an eye, he has presided over middle-school crushes, boyfriends, fiance, husband, and baby. Just another quick blink of an eye, and that baby has turned into a very busy little boy, who came over to help us decorate our tree yesterday. Bleach Bottle Santa was safely out of his reach, this year hung on a nail in my kitchen. I checked right after they left, just to make sure SHE hadn’t taken Santa and dumped him in the recycle bin. Thankfully, he was right where he was supposed to be. Maybe, just maybe, she is finally starting to appreciate him. It could be that the house was once again a little too quiet, or maybe it was the blinking Christmas lights reflecting on his googly eyes, but I swear that as I looked up, Bleach Bottle Santa gave me a wink. He thinks so, too, and we all know that Santa knows everything. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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Mystery in the Coop

There have been strange goings-on in the coop this winter. I had to move two hens into a separate fenced area to protect them from the others. Luckily, I have a large coop, or that would be next to impossible. Chickens follow a pecking order, and these two were definitely at the bottom. I don’t usually like to mess with Mother Nature’s grand plan, but the murderous ladies were beating them up and keeping them from water and nourishment. I even fussed at my rooster, (appropriately named A Boy Named Sue because he was supposed to be a girl), because it is his job to protect ALL of his women, not just the young and fluffy ones. He was the only roo in a coop full of hens, and let’s just say he was a busy, busy boy. He was friendly and not at all aggressive, unless you count the one time he killed Big Boy, who was his father. I was pretty sad over that, because I really liked Big Boy. That loss is why I now separate the chickens when I need to. The pen has been working well, containing one black and white speckled hen who is about six years old and somewhat senile and her companion, a skinny yellow little hen who is two. She’s skinny because nobody would let her eat. The two seem to get along well and love the extra food I give them plus have plenty of room to move around. One evening, I let myself into the isolation area only to find one black and white speckled senile hen and one RED hen. Pecking at my ankles outside the pen as if to say “Here I am!” was the skinny yellow chicken. I have no earthly idea how they managed to switch, but I moved everyone back to where they were supposed to be and told them to stay put. Yes, I talk to my chickens. No, you needn’t call the mental health hotline. This is normal behavior for a chicken owner, especially one who is probably on the short side of normal to begin with. A day later, I found A Boy Named Sue dead on the dirt floor, right under the roost. Besides starvation and murder, winter can be hard on chickens, too, and it seems that I lose a couple each year if for no other reason than they just give up and die. In Sue’s case, though, the scenario was different. I don’t know how I could have missed him at first, because he was very tall and weighed at least 12 pounds. What I did notice was a rather large pile of straw under the roost, which hadn’t been there before. I approached the area with caution, because you just never know. Prodding the straw pile with my foot, I realized it had feathers and knew right away it was Sue. Apparently, the hens had attempted to hide the body by covering it with straw. You may think that I read too many murder mysteries and/or watch too many true crime shows on TV, and perhaps that is true because the winters can get pretty long around here. I bagged the corpse in a leftover feed sack after I examined him for injuries and found none. There will be no autopsy, and he will receive a proper burial later. He didn’t appear to be sick, but one never knows when it comes to chickens. I suspect, having watched A Boy Named Sue chase the ladies all over the yard last summer and fall, that they just got tired of his unwanted advances and did away with him. It has been done before in a made-for-TV-movie that I saw once, only with humans and not chickens. Even though the hens seem a little happier, I won’t cast any more suspicion on them. For now, the mystery will remain unsolved.

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