Christmas

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NOTE: This post is from Christmas, the anniversary of the car accident.  The weather is warming up around here, and I look forward to getting back on the bike.

It’s Christmas morning…

Instead of gathering around a sparkling tree and tearing away at presents, I’m on my bike riding the North Central Rail Trail. While I’ll be headed to see family soon, I need this time in the morning for me. The universe was stingy with its gifts this year, so it’s important to observe this one: time on the trail with the bike. A gift from my youth rediscovered, what a lifeline it would become this year.

The trail is cold and–past the first mile of the trailhead–mostly empty. A few hardy types like myself and few locals walking their dogs. The green and gold have given way to gray and brown. It would be easy to call it ugly, but as the trees stand naked, one can seen the hills beyond them. Crags of schist and gneiss stone, breaking through skyward, as the Gunpowder River winds bayward below. The occasional quartzite boulder face stands strong, indifferent to the oncoming winter.

This trail, where a century ago industry lurched from Baltimore to Sunbury and back, has become a refuge. A year ago on this day I was lying in an emergency room, having just survived a head on car collision. And this on the heals (days after) of one of the bigger relationships in my life ending. The breakup at the time had seemed a relief, but I had yet to dive into the well of misgivings lurking behind me… and the mental health problems that would follow the closed head injury would only make all of that worse. I tried to do a lot of forgetting, but what I did instead was a lot of letting go. The accident took me close to the brink, and the major change in life would have me gazing deep over the edge… into life, into myself. It was a journey. I wish I could say it was fun, but the most transformative seldom are.

I’m at the point where I’m mostly recovered and am finally starting to talk about it. “Hey do you remember how I suddenly ran out on your birthday that night? Panic attack.” “Hey do you remember that concert I inexplicably bailed on? Depression’s a bitch.” “Hey do you remember that crazy letter I sent you? I was on the verge of a breakdown. Still not sure who I was even trying to help.”

I’d been talking to some close friends about it the whole while, but not many. I learned a LOT about my support network–a process that involved some painful trial and error at times. I saw a whole bunch of doctors and professionals for therapy both physical and mental. It’s interesting: the one who was with me and remains with me after the whole ordeal? My acupuncturist. Big advocate. If you’re thinking about going, go.

It’s hard to talk about these things, though. It’s hard to write this. But a lot of recovery is talking about things. Hell, a lot of just being better and a little more alive every day is talking about things. And the truth is that I started seeing a therapist and working on improving myself a year or two beforehand. But you learn a lot in the crash and rebuild. If people were like computers, every day crashing and rebuilding, we’d each be amazing in our own lifetimes. As such, we build and rebuild simply what we can.

In either case, it is Christmas morning, and here I ride: on trails resurrected from the bones of industry, bicyclists and dog walkers trekking the hills of the Piedmont Plateau as it leans towards the great Blue Ridge. After each ride, I feel a little more alive than when I started it. I’m glad I started doing this. For me, this motion, this vitality is both the build and the rebuild.

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Alright, so back to posting on here…. I spent yesterday entertaining a funk.  I usually hit some kind of funk sometime around New Year’s.  This year, though, it came earlier and left quicker.  It was almost as if Funk was one last holiday guest that I had to entertain.  “Oh, come in, Funk.  Let me get you a drink.  Oh, I see you’ve already made yourself at home…”

Anyway.

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a movie theater style hot oil popcorn popper.  So today I put it to the test, and in the process learned a lot about popcorn popping.

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One of the first things that I had to figure out was what kind of oil to use.  The preferred oil is coconut oil, but I couldn’t find any.  Alternatively, one can use any high burn point oil.  Canola oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil, etc.  A lot of people probably use peanut oil, but I wasn’t in the mood for that.  Decided instead to try out the Orville Redenbacher brand.  It promises to add movie theater quality butteriness.

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It was okay.  There was a hint of butter to it, but not very strong or even noticeable.  It certainly didn’t make the corn come out all splotched in yellow, like the popcorn at the theater.

I did find that the Redenbacher oil was pretty useful as a topping.  I didn’t pour it out straight.  Instead I cut it about half and half with melted butter.  One thing I hate about using real, straight melted butter on popcorn is that it kills the texture of the popcorn.  Popcorn just wilts with butter all over it, and the texture is half the point when it comes to popcorn.  Oil, however, is able to make peace with popcorn.  The end result was a buttery coating that’s not unlike the synthetic (or semi-synthetic) butter oil that they have in those hot dispensers at the theater.  It’s a technique I’ll use again.

The other thing I was missing was the industry grade butter salt.  The good stuff.  I found most popcorn suppliers online selling this stuff:  Flavacol.  I’ve seen it before, at the theater, so this is what I want to try.  I only found one place online that sells it individually.  All other places sell it by the case, and that is enough to salt all of an individual’s popcorn for the rest of their life (at least I hope!).  One quart of this stuff will be enough.

In lieu of the Flavacol, I was forced to use regular salt.  Regular salt just does not cut it.  Popcorn salt has to be super refined, or it will just not stick.

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The end result was still pretty delicious.

I’ve got some other stuff I’ve been meaning to post.  Maybe I’ll do that now, or maybe I’ll sit around and munch popcorn while watching movies all night!  We’ll see…

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Oh man!  So that holiday kind of kicked my ass.  I’m just coming to, digging out and returning to normal life.  I spent the whole day today cleaning and organizing things.  All kinds of things.

That throat infection that I had reared its head again, and this time it came in swinging.  That combined with the normal fuss of the holidays, along with losing the overtime hours that were going to pay for the bulk of my Christmas gifts, made for some hectic stress.

But at last my life is returning to normal.  I dwell in a clean apartment today.  My sheets are freshly laundered.  I whipped up a very delicious pasta sauce tonight.  I lifted weights for the first time in weeks (tomorrow:  the treadmill!!).

I made a giant list this morning, and I crossed off all the things on the list and did a few things more.  Feels good.

I’ve got a few end of the year blog posts coming.  Might do one of those right now.  Might do it tomorrow.  Haven’t really decided if I’m going to work tomorrow or not, actually…

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I’m finishing up all of my Christmas preparations, and I feel like I’ve been a total slouch this year.  This probably isn’t true, but anything short of amazing always feels like too little when it comes to the holidays.  A number of my gifts were last minute, which always makes me feel like a slacker.

The good news is that the Christmas mix CD came out amazing.  It has been receiving love from all who hear it.  This is good.  Love is the objective.  Holiday Christmasy love to be specific.

The one thing about it that’s kinda thrown me is how unheard of some of these songs are.  For example, the Run D.M.C. track that starts it off–this is one of my favorite Christmas songs ever.  I just assumed that people knew it.  But few do.  In fact, songs like these are the quickest way to find out who the music snobs are among your friends.  My music snob friends all pegged it right away.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the tracklist.  It’s a mix of tasteful classics, with a few gems in there for fun.

01. Run-D.M.C. – Christmas In Hollis (3:00)
02. Stevie Wonder – What Christmas Means to Me (2:31)
03. Weezer – O Come All Ye Faithful (2:05)
04. Twisted Sister – Heavy Metal Christmas (The Twelve Days of Christmas) (5:15)
05. Peggy Lee with Jud Conlon’s Rhythmaires – Its Christmas Time Again (3:00)
06. Cast of Sesame Street – I Hate Christmas (1:54)
07. Hall & Oates – No Child Should Ever Cry on Christmas (4:04)
08. U2 – Christmas Baby Please Come Home (2:21)
09. The Rat Pack – The Christmas Song (Sammy Davis, Jr.) (3:23)
10. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow (3:45)
11. The Jackson 5 – Up On The Housetop (3:13)
12. Alton Ellis – Christmas Coming (2:23)
13. Louis Armstrong & The Commanders – Zat You Santa Claus (2:40)
14. Frank Sinatra – Mistletoe and Holly (2:20)
15. James Brown – Merry Christmas Baby (3:56)
16. Pink Martini – Do You Hear What I Hear? (3:57)
17. Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby (3:26)
18. Squirrel Nut Zippers – I’m Coming Home For Christmas (3:46)
19. Julia Lee & Her Boy Friends – Christmas Spirit (2:48)
20. Wham – Last Christmas (4:28)
21. Vince Guaraldi Trio – Christmas Time Is Here [Vocal (2:47)
22. Various Artists – Christmas In the Hood (feat. Deacon) (3:54)
23. Cash, Johnny – Christmas As I Knew It [#] (3:02)
24. Aqua Teen Hunger Force – I Sure Hope I Don’t Have to Beat Your Ass
This Christmas (5:08)

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