THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HOLIDAY

As I drove home from getting my usual curbside groceries, a beautiful Christmas song came on the radio. The Gloucestershire Wassail Carol is a favorite from my childhood. All of a sudden, a wave of sadness so potent washed over me that I almost had to pull over to the side of the road. All the things we would miss swam into my head: my dearest grandchildren, whom I haven’t seen in a year, my daughters, evenings with friends. I thought about the wonderful Christmas Eve service we attend in my daughter’s church in Los Angeles, ending with all holding lit candles and singing a carol together. The kids running in the aisles after their little pageant. The velvet dresses, the holly sprigs, and the wonderful dinner after the service.

I thought of the little dinner I have planned for just the two of us. The tiny tree we have in the living room with just the few gifts under it. I remembered large dinners with five kinds of dessert. Riding in a car with friends to look at the neighborhood lights.  Ladies’ holiday lunches. None of that will happen this year.

If I were 40, this would just be a blip in my radar. There would be so many years ahead to look forward to. But there aren’t that many in front of me; I don’t know if there will be even a dozen holiday seasons. Might there be only a few?

I let the self-pity run its course. I turned my car radio off.

I took a deep breath, adjusted my mask, and drove on.

 

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THE LIST

We haven’t exchanged gifts for years, preferring to spend the money on our kids and grandkids. But this year is different; we will be here just the two of us. So damn it, we want to be festive and happy. I bet many of you feel the same way. So we are exchanging gifts, and I have spent a good portion of my time thinking about what to put on my list.

Here is a list of things that I won’t include.

  • Linen sheets. They cost an arm and a leg. I got them once a long time ago, and the directions said not to bleach them, not to put them in the dryer, and to iron them. I tried that two times, and then proceeded to the bleaching and the drying. I did try the ironing one time, though–keep in mind these were king bed sheets. The dog fell asleep on what pooled on the floor beneath the ironing board, thus ruining the entire enterprise. And yes, all the bleaching and drying caused the arm and the leg (see above) to tear a large hole in the sheets. Linen sheets are just pretentious; who are we kidding, trying to live large?
  • Macarons. They look like puffy pastel Oreos. Again, the pretentiousness. Have an Oreo.
  • In the time of COVID, we are all lonely, but I think monogrammed personal massagers are taking things to a level where I just don’t care to go.
  • All the curated lists I see on my newsfeed list mention wine. Aerators. Fancy carafes to put it in before you drink it. Wine coasters. Let me just state the obvious: during lockdowns, anything that delays the time between opening the wine and drinking the wine is a complete waste of time.
  • Face creams that come in tiny little jars and retail for more than $15. Now? As if any other human besides your spouse will be looking at you closely until 2022? Use Vaseline.
  • Calendars. Who needs a calendar??
  • Light Saber Chopsticks. Look them up on Amazon…
  • Street clothes. Office wear. I know, we worry about the economy and keeping retail going, but anybody who goes out of the house wearing a blazer or a bow tie is absolutely heading for a COVID infection at their destination.

So what will I ask for that is safe, desirable, affordable, and easy to gift wrap?

Chocolate.

 

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HOLIDAY SHOPPING???

Those people who have everything–they don’t need sweaters, books, jewelry, or even socks. So what do you get them this year?

I have the answer to that. I have an online shop full of my designs. Framed prints, mugs, duvets, even shower curtains. Towels! Fanny packs!

I don’t promote my artwork that often, but I am proud of what I do. I make digital art on my phone screen, and yes, I draw it all with one finger. I would love it if this year, you would visit http://www.society6.com/mollydcampbell and browse around. You might find just the perfect gift for someone. Or you might find something you want!

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BIZZARO WORLD

We are in a pandemic, the POTUS is attempting a coup, and next week is Thanksgiving.

We are all swirling around inside our own heads, wondering what to do, how to cope, and when this nightmare will be over.

The CDC has strongly urged all of us to avoid travel, to most certainly not go over to anybody’s house to have the meal, and to wear our masks and stay home, for GOD’S SAKE.

My husband and I are obeying. I think the majority of Americans are. We are desperately trying to keep the virus at bay while at the same time watching the news and tearing our hair out about the political situation. By this point, both Republicans and Democrats (except for the GOP in Congress) are becoming alarmed at what is going on in the highest levels of government. Is it a coup? A crazed, egomaniac pushing this democracy to the limits? And what about all those other things we are supposed to be worrying about as well–climate change, police brutality, racism, separating children at the border, when there will be a vaccine and who will get it, etc.?

Back to next week. We are staying home, just the two of us, and we are having a little dinner. We hope to ZOOM with our family.

It will be okay. We will get through this. Along with just about every other family in America who will be having turkey breast instead of the whole bird.

I have a new torment. I can’t stop thinking about it.  What are they going to do with all the big turkeys? They are dead already, aren’t they? Or if the turkey producers saw all of this coming and didn’t slaughter them, will there be a turkey revolution? Will they be pecking at our doors, demanding to come in and reckon with us? There must be millions of them out there. Thank God I live on the fifth floor. They won’t be able to get at us up here. But we will hear all that gobbling…

If COVID doesn’t get us, the turkeys will be waiting.

 

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TED TALK

It’s official. Charlie Campbell is giving a TEDx talk! I am so proud of him.

It is about facing the final stage of life, but it isn’t about death!

Thursday, November 19, go to this link to watch the talk. It is a “live” stream situation, although the talk was prerecorded. https://www.tedxdayton.com/2020-speakers.

I think you will be a bit inspired.

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SILOS

The simple fact of the election has not erased what is going on here.

Although half of us are relieved and rejoicing, the other half seethes. We are disease-ridden, locked in, angry, exhausted, and we face a very long and dark winter.

What comes after is anyone’s guess. I am hopeful that the new administration can make some inroads in the divided nature of our country, but I would be a fool to think that the election will solve it.

I am not a pundit. I am not an optimist, either. Anything I have to say right now is neither wise nor remarkable. So I will wait, hopeful that before inauguration day we will make some inroads into reconciliation. Many of us, myself included, will find it hard to forget the last four years of disinformation, hatred, and incompetence at the highest level. But I am compelled to try.

There is a long road ahead of us.

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THE MANY LIVES OF LENTILS

It is getting worse. According to a recent article in the New York Times, COVID is so ubiquitous that contract tracing is now impossible. People get it and have no idea where they got it. Even people who don’t even go inside stores get it. We know it floats around in the air, so taking a walk or playing golf is fraught. With winter coming, we are all going to be inside our homes more than ever. We are no better off than last winter.

So what to do? You all know that I have had no luck with acquiring a hobby. I have had numerous suggestions, including car detailing, from a person who obviously does not know me. Anyway, the hobby search is ongoing.

I spend a lot of time scrolling my news feeds, especially since the election is coming up. My Google feed is “customized” for me (as I am sure yours is for you, based upon your search history). Food is a major category for me, since I have to come up with dinner nightly, and it is getting to be a major challenge. Wait. It has always been a major challenge.

I have two entire categories devoted to food. One is for casseroles. The pandemic calls for those. Another is for vegetarian. These categories do cross occasionally.

So today I got two separate notifications for an article, the headline which I featured, above. I always thought of the common lentil as a sort of bean-like entity that one might add to soup or maybe throw in chili as a filler. You know, to make the dish a bit more hefty. I can count on one hand the recipes that I have for lentils. Actually, I can count them on one finger: lentil soup. Period.

So imagine my surprise that lentils have many lives. Without reading the article, which I guessed would contain way more lentil information than I would ever want or need, I just guessed at a few of them.

  • Perhaps you could put some in a sock and heat them in the microwave to put/wrap around your forehead if you have a migraine.
  • If your sidewalk freezes up and you don’t want to go into the hardware store because of the virus, would tossing lentils around make for better traction?
  • Out of birdseed? Maybe birds like lentils. I bet the squirrels would eat them.
  • There is probably an earth mother somewhere who would make lentil stuffing for her Tofurkey.
  • What if you planted one? Would it grow into an interesting house plant?
  • Green lentils could be sort of decorative. I bet there is a designer on HGTV who has used them to fill a clear glass decanter featured on the open shelving in the kitchen with the waterfall island and herringbone marble floor.
  • Lentil would be a cute name for a small dog.

Anyway, it is a testimony to these hard times that somebody wrote an entire column about the many lives of lentils. We are all running out of ideas.

Capers. At least twenty lives, right?

 

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HYGGE

I am sure you have read about this. Pronounced hoog uh. The art of being cozy when things are cold, grim, and bleak out there. Here in the United States, we have never needed hygge, but boy oh boy do we ever now.

Hygge is practiced in the places where people have had to stay inside for months during long, dark winters. In the Scandinavian countries, for instance, where it is dark for long stretches in the wintertime. There may only be an hour or so of daylight. Or Alaska, where it isn’t only dark outside, but those igloos are so dim.

What these people do is get totally cozy. They light fires. I think there are fires even in igloos, but I am not sure about that–you can Google it. They have candles everywhere. Wool throws and blankets draped over all the sofas. Again, not sure about igloos and sofas.

They take part in cozy activities, such as cribbage games, chess, and in more modern hygge homes, probably Fortnite. They drink grogg. I am not sure what that is. So maybe tea. I read about people in small Alaskan villages who go to the community center for dances, chanting, and food. Not so much now, with the pandemic and social distancing, so I guess they stick closer to the igloos. It strikes me that this isn’t politically correct–I am sure that many Alaskans live in houses, not igloos. But the hygge thing still holds.

Other hygge activities are crafts like knitting, candle-making, and simmering huge caldrons of bone broth. This might be a bit tough for vegetarian hyggians, but they must just do more knitting. Other activities for coziness include long, intimate conversations, reading sonnets to one another, and figuring out what to do with all of the bone broth.

As we face what Dr. Fauci has called “a long, dark, winter ahead,” I am eager to embark on a hygge adventure. So I told my husband all about it. This was his reaction: “If you can do all of that stuff by yourself while I am at my studio practicing the accordion, have a blast.”

I was dashed. Because

It takes two to hygge.

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EVERYONE IS COOKING

Winter is coming. Another pandemic winter. We are cooped up. Even Ina Garten can’t cheer some of us, because cooking is what everyone is turning to to keep us healthy, happy, and occupied.

I hate cooking. I have always hated it. Despite the fact that both of my children tell me that they really appreciated the fact that I tried very hard while they were growing up, and they both marvel at the fact that we had salad with dinner every night (I had no idea that this calls for accolades, but I take them wherever I can get them), I never loved meal preparation.

It takes a long time to make a good dinner, and it disappears within minutes, and then, as those wise women throughout the ages have whinged, you have to clean up, scrub the pots and pans, and immediately start planning for tomorrow’s meals.

I have no right to complain, especially since I watched a documentary series about a group of people who actually volunteered to spend one year living as Victorian Farmers. The woman who did all the cooking had to use a coal-burning stove, she had to boil almost all of the food, including mutton, for God’s sake, and she had to kill the turkey before she could cook it. She didn’t want to boil it–who would blame her. So she had to set up an entire rotisserie sort of contraption involving a cast-iron semi-circle thing to hang the turkey from. This involved a wind-up thing to turn the bird, and she had to cycle back (while she was boiling the laundry and using lye soap and a beating stick) every ten minutes to rewind the turkey turner. And by the way, the turkey was indeed free-range from out in the dooryard, but it was scrawny and most likely was the origin of the expression “tough old bird.”

So back to me, the privileged woman in her kitchen full of labor saving devices who only has to open a can of cranberry sauce. I still have to come up with dinner every night. It has to be nutritious and should be delicious. It often isn’t either, because I have cooking fatigue (thank God that woman on the Victorian show doesn’t know me; I hope she doesn’t follow me on Instagram). I like the idea of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. I also like omelets, but as you all know who read this blog, those are verboten over here.

So my husband looks at me wistfully and asks if we might be having fish tonight? He loves fish. I hate it. Salmon looks delicious, but it is so damn fishy. Why is it so popular? I answer, “Yes, if tuna salad sandwiches and chicken noodle soup count.” They don’t.

So here are the things that I have perfected during this god forsaken year of COVID-19:

  • Macaroni and cheese not out of a box. I have become an expert at cream sauce, can you believe it?
  • Spaghetti and Rao’s Famous Sauce. Easy-peasy, although my husband is getting sick of it.
  • Having pizza delivered.
  • Frozen chicken pot pies with baked potatoes.
  • Tater tots.
  • Door Dash.
  • Tater tots.
  • Tacos from the restaurant downstairs.
  • And yes, tuna salad sandwiches.

Don’t interpret this as a cry for help and start emailing me recipes. Really. I mean it.

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