Monday, December 28, 2009

Snow, snow, snow

I worked until around noon on Christmas Eve; it had started to snow very lightly. I left the office and ran a few errands--picked up some prescriptions at Target, got a coffee shop gift card for my father-in-law, bought some gift bags at the drugstore. By the time I got home at around 3:00, it had started snowing harder.

I mixed up a couple of batches of Chex party mix and got those in the oven, then started putting together some spinach dip, which is what I always take to holidays at Bob's parents' house. We had put up the Christmas tree the night before, and I had made about 8 dozen miniature cupcakes; I had left them out to cool, so I started frosting them while the party mix cooked.

Once the cupcakes were frosted, the party mix was out of the oven and cooling, and the spinach dip was in the refrigerator, I started wrapping presents. Bob was working until 7:00, so I figured I needed to get in the shower by about 6:00 to be ready to leave when he got home. By 6:00 I was hearing reports of dangerous driving conditions, but since Bob folks live extremely close to us, I wasn't worried about getting over there.

But my sister called and wondered if we were going to be able to get out to my family's Christmas on Christmas day. We were going to my brother's house, which is quite a ways away, and we needed to swing by and pick up my sister on the day, since she was having car trouble. My parents had already said that they didn't want to get out, even if someone came and picked them up. They were concerned about walking on the ice and snow, and I didn't blame them a bit. But it wouldn't really be Christmas if everyone except them was at my brother's.

We decided we'd talk on Christmas morning and figure out what to do. Then my mother-in-law called and asked when we were going to be there. I told her Bob was working (his dad knew that but hadn't told her), so we wouldn't be there until at least 7:30. She wasn't sure when everyone else would be there, but she said she'd just see us when we got there. When Bob called to say he was on his way home, I told him he might call her; he called me back and said that his dad had cancelled Christmas -- he didn't want everyone out on the roads.

It made sense, and I wasn't exactly surprised, but I had all that food . . . And I had all of my mother-in-law's gifts. I had done the shopping for his dad, wrapped everything, and was going to deliver them that night. When Bob got home, I said I didn't mind going out, but his mother wasn't going to have any gifts on Christmas Day. He said, well, he would just go over there and take them, so I threw a pair of sweatpants on under my robe (I'd taken a bath while I was waiting to see what was going to happen) and put together a bag of food--a plastic bag of crackers, a container of spinach dip, a pie plate full of little cupcakes, and the traditional Christmas Eve boiled shrimp that Bob had fixed the night before.

We drove over -- they live only a couple of miles away from us -- delivered the gifts and snacks, and came home to have our own Christmas. On Christmas morning I got up and called my sister before I started cooking. It looked like we had gotten about a foot of snow, and we agreed that it didn't make sense for everyone to get out on the road and risk having an accident, that we could always get together later. So I called my sister-in-law and asked her if she was okay with that, and she said that was fine, that maybe we could get together later in the weekend.

So we just had a quiet, low-key day at home, watching Christmas movies and snacking. In the middle of the afternoon our neighbor called and said that she had tried to leave, and had gotten her car stuck behind Bob's in the driveway (we share a driveway). So we put our coats on and went out and helped her dig her car out, and got it back in her garage, and Bob decided to go check out the road conditions, and go by Quick Trip for some soda.

About a half hour later instead of showing up at the back door, he rang the doorbell at the front of the house. He said that when he got home, there was a different car parked in the driveway, and he couldn't get to the garage. He said he didn't want to park on the street in case the snowplows came through, and guessed he'd go park in a church parking lot a mile or so away, and walk back. I said hang on, I'll get my coat and follow you over and drive you back, and then realized if he couldn't get in the driveway, I couldn't get out.

While he was gone, I got a call from the other neighbor saying that she had come home and hadn't been able to get up the driveway to her garage. I told her not to worry about it, that surely the lawn care people would show up and clean the driveways the next day. Bob had to be at work at 6:00 the next morning, so he had to get up early and walk to his car before he could drive to work. He was aggravated, but what could he do?

I kept checking throughout the day, but the car stayed there in the driveway. There are four households that share the double driveway, so none of us could get out. There wasn't anywhere I needed to be today, but I didn't want it to go on any longer. When Bob got home and the car was still there, and the snow plows hadn't been through, he said he guessed he was going to have to shovel the drive and get her out.

I came out, too, and we had maybe a third of the long driveway shoveled when the snowplows showed up. When they reached our driveway I ran in the house and called our neighbor and said she needed to get out there and move her car, that we had shoveled a path around it and the snowplows needed to get in and finish the drive.

I'm still not sure what we're going to do about Christmas, but at least I can get out of the driveway now.

The sentiment on the Christmas card yesterday, "Happy Merry Christmas," comes from something my nephew, who has Downs Syndrome, used to say. I think it was the Christmas version of "Happy Birhday."

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas iPhone Apps

I'm a sucker for all kinds of Christmas-themed items. I always buy Christmas print paper towels and paper napkins, and I love putting up Christmas dishtowels in the kitchen and Christmas soap in the bathrooms. So it isn't a surprise that I love Christmas iPhone apps.

I downloaded a lot of free apps that I ended up deleting; these are the best of the ones that I've found. Email me if you've found any other good ones.


In this beautiful free arcade-style game, you lob snowballs at various targets that pop up in the landscape such as snowmen and candy canes. By Federico Musante.


iTunes link (Free)

Winter Snow Globe

Pretty simple. Shake your iphone and snow falls onto the snowman, just like a real snow globe. Music plays, too, with no way to turn it off, so if you don't want the music, be sure to mute your iPhone first. Developed by YetToBeNamed Enterprises.

iTunes link (Free)


In the game Grinchmas, you get to choose whether you're an evil Grinch or a merry Grinch, which determines what kind of ammunition you have. If you choose Evil Grinch, you're throwing snowballs at the little houses, if you're the Merry Grinch, you're throwing gifts. Each time you make a hit, you get a point. From Oceanhouse Media, this game is currently on sale for $.99.

iTunes link ($.99)

Dr. Seuss Camera, the Grinch Edition

I wrote about Dr. Seuss Cam the other day. Basically, you choose from a variety of Dr. Seuss-inspired Christmas themes, then take a picture of someone, fitting their face inside the frame. Right now you can only take a photo, you can't use a photo from your library, but they are adding that in a future release. From Oceanhouse Media.


iTunes link ($2.99)

Elf Command

In Elf Command (free), the little robotic elves (they resemble Lego characters) are working on an assembly line. They have to grab the gifts, Christmas trees and candies that come rolling down the line and throw them into the proper boxes. Developed by RetroDreamer.


iTunes link (Free)

Elf Jumpers

In this free game, Santa's sleigh flies overhead and you are tasked with guiding the elves into the chimneys of the houses below by swiping to make the wind blow, and avoiding obstacles such as thunder clouds and birds. Developed by


iTunes link (Free)

Gaia Xmas

There is a "regular" version of Gaia also, this is the Christmas version. Various Christmas-themed "blocks" fall from the top of the screen to form groups. The larger the group, the more points you get. There is some strategy involved to build large blocks -- you can turn the phone so that the blocks fall in a certain way. One of the interesting things about Gaia is that there is no language involved at all, there are only universally-understood graphics, which is kind of cool. From Quicksand Interactive. Regular Gaia is $2.99 and there is a free lite version. The Christmas version is $1.99 at the app store.


iTunes link ($1.99)

Slacker Holiday Radio

This is the free Christmas version of Slacker Radio from There are 11 different Christmas stations, including Country, Contemporary, R&B, etc.


iTunes link


Implode is a game where you place dynamite and other various types of explosives, and see how well you can destroy a structure. This is the Christmas edition, and there are supposed to be some Christmas items to blow up, but I haven't reached that level yet, apparently. From IUGO Mobile Entertainment.

iTunes link ($.99)

iRelax Melodies - Christmas Edition

This $.99 app is the Christmas version of iRelax Melodies by ILBSoft. You choose from 22 Christmas sounds such as snow falling, children playing, fire crackling, etc., and create your own soundscapes, which you can save to play later. You can also shake the iPhone for a random selection.


iTunes link

Season's Greetings Cards

This $.99 app from Japanese developer Appliya, creates holiday cards from your photos, utilizing various holiday frames and resizable stamps.


iTunes link ($.99)


Christmas Radio is a free app from, with several all-Christmas stations to choose from.

iTunes link (Free)

Christmas Radio

This is another Christmas radio app, this one from BlueMedia Lab. As you can tell, I can't get enough of holiday music!

iTunes link (Free)

Christmas Lifecards

For $.99, Christmas Lifecards from Vivid Apps gives you a large variety of Christmas card templates to choose from. Once you've chosen one and added your own photo, you can further customize your card by adding text, and even applying effects such as grayscale and sepia, and filters such as sharpening, to the photo, then save and email the card to your friends. You can also save a card for editing later if you need to stop.

iTunes link

Christmas Snowman

Christmas Snowman, from , EnsenaSoft, is a game similar to hangman, but with a variety of snowmen. The words are all peripherally relevant to Christmas or winter; each time a wrong letter is selected, the snowman loses a body part.


iTunes link (Free)

The Christmas Tarot

This one isn't really an app, it's a web URL that I created a desktop icon for. I've looked for a Christmas tarot deck for a long time, and someone finally made one, although it's only the Major Arcana. The link goes to a site where you can purchase digital high resolution cards and a PDF guidebook, created by Corrine Kenner, a noted tarot reader and author.

Link ($2.09)

[cross-posted at, and]

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Holiday Links

Here are some fun holiday links:

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Suck it up

I had an appointment to get my hair cut and colored on Saturday at noon. Normally my appointment is at 11:00, but they're busier during the holidays and I can't always get the time I want. I knew it would take an hour and a half, and I figured I'd be starving by the time I got out of there, so I drove through McDonald's and got Chicken McNuggets and fries, and a Diet Coke, and ate in the parking lot.

I got my hair done, went to the library and picked up some books, went to the office supply store and bought printer paper, and did a few other errands, and by about 4:00, felt like I needed to go home and take a nap. So I went home, and it turned out that it wasn't really a nap I needed, I was having (I guess) a gall bladder attack.

We had planned on having a little Thanksgiving dinner of our own Saturday evening; Bob was off, so he cooked a turkey while I was out. I thought maybe if I slept a couple of hours I would feel better, but I didn't. I ended up spending all evening in bed, alternately trying to sleep and reading "Grave Secrets" (Charlaine Harris) on my iPhone. I'd read until I got sleepy, then lay down and try to sleep for a little while, but didn't have much luck.

Bob went ahead and carved up the turkey and made some mashed potatoes for his dinner, but I couldn't eat anything. He called a friend of his who's an internist, and he suggested giving me some Pepto Bismol. I couldn't see how that would help, but I was wiling to try, so I took some, and slept for another couple of hours, and when I woke up I felt a lot better. Maybe it helped, I don't know.

In any event, I felt like I lost a whole day, and I really need to figure it out. The problem is that it isn't consistent, but I guess that doesn't matter since I can't control whether something bothers me or not. I just need to suck it up and stop eating anything fried, for one thing. I've read that carbonated beverages are bad, and I've cut down a lot--I don't have them at work any more at all--but I do occasionally have a soda when I'm out. I need to stop that, too, I guess.

It's just hard, and I guess I have a short memory. I was talking to Barb about it over email, and I said I supposed that the first time I end up in the emergency room will make my decision for me!

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Quiet Night

I've been downloading desktop wallpapers from Vlad Studios for several years, and he always has beautiful ones, but this I think this is the most beautiful thing I've seen in a long time: Quiet Night. It's my current desktop, and probably will be for some time.

I was happy to see that Netflix had the first three seasons of Nash Bridges available. It was one of my favorite shows. I watched the last DVD of the second season tonight, and when I mail it back, Netflix will send me the first DVD of the third season. I originally had the 2-DVD out at a time plan, but this month I scaled back to the one where you only have one at a time. They get them out so quickly that it doesn't really matter, and honestly, the best thing about Netflix is the free movies-on-demand. I can almost always find something worth watching.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Olive. Isn't she just almost too cute?

She spends the entire day sleeping in her bed, but we've discovered that when everyone is gone, like during lunch time, she gets up and runs around. I've come back to my office a couple of times when she didn't expect to see anyone, and she starts, looks guilty, and hightails it back to her bed like she knows she's not supposed to be out of it. It's pretty adorable.

Today Dave came back to his office and said she was out of her bed hanging out with Connor, Dave's big German Shepherd. The minute she saw Dave, though, she scrambled back to her bed and jumped in. So I guess it's not Connor she's intimidated by, but Dave.

Bob's schedule is all over the place. One day he'll go in at 6:30 a.m. and work 'til 3:00, the next day he'll go in at 2:00 p.m. and work until 10:30. Sometimes he goes in at 8:30. And it's never the same from one week to the next. He's had to get up before dawn a few days in a row, and lately it's been hard for me to go back to sleep after he gets up. Plus I've been trying to go to bed earlier, too, so I'm sure that contributes to it.

This morning he got up at 4:30, I think, and I tried to go back to sleep, but just couldn't. I keep my iPhone plugged in on my night table over night, so I grabbed that, laid back in bed, and checked email, Facebook and Twitter, then played a couple of games of Solitaire and read another story in Miracle ("The Inn"). By that time he'd showered and dressed and was ready to leave, so I kissed him goodbye and turned off the light, and was almost immediately asleep.

I guess it was probably only another half hour or so before my alarm went off. I always think it's strange how I can wake up in the middle of the night and have a terrible time getting to sleep, but can fall almost instantly back asleep after hitting the snooze button on my alarm clock. Just one of those mysteries of nature.

I'm sending out Christmas cards again this year, and anyone who wants one, just send me an email. If you've sent me your address before, you're probably already on my list, but it wouldn't hurt to send it to me again just to be sure I have it right.

There's a new iPhone app review up at my iPhone site.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009


I know I mention this book every year around this time, but I love it: Connie Willis' Miracle and Other Christmas Stories. It's a big part of my Christmas season, and actually I could read it any time of year.

The title story, "Miracle," is one of Willis' trademark screwball comedies. Lauren, an office worker, is overwhelmed with Christmas tasks--finding a new dress for the Christmas party, mailing her Christmas cards, thinking of what gifts to get her family, and, in addition, has been roped into doing the corporate gift shopping for the office by a co-worker who she has fallen for. She thinks he's her heart's desire, but the Spirit of Christmas Present (as in "gift") decides it's his mission to convince her otherwise, and in the meantime, teach her the true meaning of Christmas. His tactics include turning her black sequined off the shoulder dress into a fetching concoction of bark and leaves, and decorating her Christmas tree with handmade brown objects made by rainforest indians.

Another favorite story is "Inn," which is set in a suburban church during a choir rehearsal. A young homeless couple turns up at the church, barefoot and dressed in completely inappropriate clothing for a December evening. The outcome is somewhat predictable, but it's a lovely story.

From the introduction:

I love Christmas. All of it--decorating the tree and singing in the choir and baking cookies and wrapping presents. I even like the parts most people hate--shopping in crowded malls and reading Christmas newsletters and seeing relatives and standing in baggage check-in lines at the airport.

Okay, I lied. Nobody likes standing in baggage check-in lines. I love seeing people get off the plane, though, and holly and candles and eggnog and carols.

But most of all, I love Christmas stories and movies. Okay, I lied again. I don't love all Christmas stories and movies. It's a Wonderful Life,for instance. And Hans Christian Andersen's "The Fir Tree."

But I love Miracle on 34th Street and Christopher Morley's "The Christmas Tree That Didn't Get Trimmed" and Christina Rosetti's poem "Midwinter." My family watches The Sure Thing and A Christmas Story each year, and we read George V. Higgins's "The Snowsuit of Christmas Past" out loud every Christmas Eve, and eagerly look for new classics to add to our traditions.

There aren't a lot. This is because Christmas stories are much harder to write than they look, partly because the subject matter is fairly limited, and people have been writing them for nearly two thousand years, so they've just about rung all the changes possible on snowmen, Santas, and shepherds.

Stories have been told from the point of view of the fourth wise man (who got waylaid on the way to Bethlehem), the innkeeper, the innkeeper's wife, the donkey, and the star. There've been stories about department-store Santas, phony Santas, burned-out Santas, substitute Santas, reluctant Santas, and dieting Santas, to say nothing of Santa's wife, his elves, his reindeer, and Rudolph. We've had births at Christmas (natch!), deaths, partings, meetings, mayhem, attempted suicides, and sanity hearings. And Christmas in Hawaii, in China, in the past, the future, and outer space. We've heard from the littlest shepherd, the littlest wise man, the littlest angel, and the mouse who wasn't stirring. There's not a lot out there that hasn't already been done.

In addition, the Christmas-story writer has to walk a narrow tightrope between sentiment and skepticism, and most writers end up falling off into either cynicism or mawkish sappiness.

Last night I went up to bed and thought of the book, but hadn't brought it upstairs with me. Out of curiosity, I checked Amazon to see if it had been made available for the Kindle yet, and it had, just last month. So I purchased it ($6.39), and was able to read it immediately, at least until I got sleepy.

I'm going to try to post every day in December, either here, on my iPhone site, on the P3 site, or on all of them. It will be a miracle if I accomplish it, though . . .

To that end, there's new post at Beautiful iPhone Apps: Homescreen, 12/01/09.

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