Sunday, 18 December 2011

12 Blogs of Christmas – Decorations That Have ‘Kangaroos In Their Top Paddocks’

In case you’re wondering ‘kangaroos in the top paddock’ is an Australian expression for someone who is a little nuts. So… this is a blog about Christmas decorations that are a little bit nuts… or at least a little left of centre, in a weird, hideous, or cute kind of way, featuring decorations contributed by other participants in the 12 Blogs of Christmas. 

We start with the wackiest decorations and work our way down to some unique and poignant family traditions.

Chucky the Snowman by Ciara Ballintyne - This thing is hideous. OK, it doesn’t look hideous. It looks kind of cute – in a mad, axe-wielding scarecrow fashion. It’s also huge. I mean, at least three feet high. Once it starts singing, though, it’s hideous. It sings ‘Let It Snow’. In this awful high-pitched voice which should not be permitted to exist. Mum loves it. Because everyone else hates it she says. What does that say about Mum’s sense of humour? Dad says she doesn’t have a wicked sense of humour, she just likes to laugh at other people’s misfortune. I suggested that he reconsider that statement in the context of the definition of the word ‘wicked’ and then get back to me. 

What’s worst about this decoration, though, is kids really love it. They don’t want it to stop. After this thing has sung its song a half dozen times even Mum is ready to put an axe through its music box. But the kids want it to keep going. In the words of Bill Cosby… ‘Do it again!’ I would have liked to provided a video but it just wasn't happening.  

6 White Boomers by Ciara Ballintyne - I also can’t miss this opportunity to mention ‘Six White Boomers’. This originates from a Rolf Harris song (of 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down' fame – if you don’t know him, be sure to look up Rolf and his wobbleboard). 

Santa’s sleigh is pulled by eight reindeer, right? Everywhere else in the world, maybe. But not Down Under. Here, in Australia, the sleigh is pulled by… six white kangaroos. Of course… No I have never seen a white kangaroo, but just go with it... OK?

This does make an awesome yard decoration though.
Christmas is Cactus by Kelly Gamble - When you live in a desert, you make do with what you have, right? Instead of a Christmas tree, how about a Christmas cactus.  Ethel M's Chocolate Factory has a huge cactus garden that they light up every year, and it is so strange, but unique.  And after looking at the various cacti, you can eat chocolate! 

Visit Kelly here for book recommendations from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Creepy Christmas by Karen Delabar
- A couple of years ago we were at my husband's grandparents and we did the annual search for the pickle ornament on the tree (I have no idea how this tradition started but it’s fairly popular around here). I was so excited when I found it because it meant I won a prize. :) 

Then I opened my "prize" and found what I thought looked like two figurines screaming to be put out of their misery. Trying to be of the Norman Rockwell variation, these two Christmas carolers look... well, creepy. However, since I technically got them from his grandparents I can't throw them away. Each year I bring them down from the attic and put them in a drawer. When his grandparents stop by they come out for the hour or so and then back in the drawer they go until Christmas is over and they join the rest of our Christmas decorations back up in the attic.

Visit Karen here for some favourite Christmas movies from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.


Fallen Angel by Erica Lucke Dean - Several years ago my mother gave me the vintage 1960's tree topper from our childhood Christmas trees.  It's just about the ugliest angel I've ever seen but it brings back wonderful memories.  My kids won't let me put her anywhere but the back of our tree but I don't feel it's Christmas unless she's tucked in there somewhere.

Visit Erica here for some childhood nostalgia with the 12 Blogs of Christmas.


Football Santa by Marie Patchen - We might be living in the milder climes of southern Arizona these days, but my family is Pennsylvania born and bred.  And if it's one thing we take pride in, it is our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.  

Now, we don't go to heck with the joke, but the truth of the matter is, if Santa Claus came out of the closet as any other football fan but a Steelers fan, we'd have to take issue with him.  This is why we make sure that when he visits us, he's always dressed in his finest black and gold, and has a prime spot underneath the Christmas tree.  Because honestly, what other football team is there?

Visit Marie here for Christmas cartoons with the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

More Power! by Natalie Kenney – My mother likes lights on the tree. Lots of lights. It's a crime not to have lights on your tree in my family, punishable by coal in the stocking. (All of the house lights are off in the first picture. I swear). Last Christmas, one of the cats spent all her time trying to blend in with the decorations… After all, she lit up too!

Visit Natalie here for some delicious Christmas Cookie recipes from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Good Things Come In Small Packages by Amberr Meadows – I used to envy my ex-boyfriend's mother for her Christmas decorations until we went to visit her at Christmastime. She had two Christmas trees, one of them devoted entirely to Santa ornaments and the other devoted to expensive Disney ornaments. She had more Nativity scenes and Disney displays in the yard and around her home than I'd think could fit comfortably in one storage shed, and I resented her magnificent collection of outdoor and indoor twinkly lights. Her family Christmas stockings were of the finest material, and she even had a damn snow machine. I could never have hoped to have decor even half as lovely with my then-salary.

In spite of it all, it took only the one visit to determine I was the luckier one. She was batshit crazy and constantly going through bouts of mania and depression and bringing us along for the miserable, unwanted ride. After jumping through hoops and dealing with the issues associated with that matriarchal drama queen, I realized something important. It didn't matter that her home was more lovely and her decorations were of the finest quality – she was miserable and destined to continue in this vein, because she thrived on it. The atmosphere in her home was dark and dreary, and not even five storage sheds full of fancy ornaments would have remedied the problem. I hated every minute of my time there.

When I returned home, I looked around my tiny one-bedroom apartment with the 18" Christmas tree decorated with mini-Santas and didn't feel the usual sad Holiday feeling. I felt grateful and humbled. The scant decorations didn't matter in the slightest; genuine joy lived within these walls, and I never took it foolishly for granted again. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Visit Amberr here for traditional Christmas food from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Wreathed In Christmas by Justin Bogdanovitch - I love the bubble lights and other vintage ornaments of the fifties and sixties and I'm partial to multi-colored lights for a tree... an all-white lighted tree is static to me, same with the all-gold theme some really stylish people can't seem to do without. Give me the green, red, blue, yellow, and orange lights powered up to the nines with only a few of them blinking away in syncopation. 

Having said all this about color, my favorite Christmas decoration is a large house wreath hung on the side of the house. It only has the tiny twinkling white lights because when our last wreath grew too weathered with so many winter seasons, the current model was the only one readily available. Just seeing the view as I drive home or walk the dogs around the pond adds to the peace of the season. 

Visit Justin here to read the 12 Faux Pas of Christmas -- part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

It’s Raining Christmas Trees by D.C. McMillen - My favourite tradition during the holidays is to walk around downtown – mostly the financial and the shopping districts – to look at all of the amazingly decorated Christmas trees. 

Many of the trees are the same every year so my excitement builds to an excruciating level before I’ve even left the apartment. Will Dundas Square feature trees made from stacked balls of light again this year? Will the snowflake tree in The Esplanades Park be set up in the fountain?  

Of course, my absolute favourite is the Swarovski tree in the Eaton Centre. This rotating, 35 ft high tree is covered in ten thousand sparkling Swarovski crystal ornaments. Every year I snap a picture and then complain that the picture simply does not do it justice. On that note, here is the picture:

Visit D.C. here for favourite festive drinks from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Personalised Christmas Ornaments by Raine Thomas - Our Christmas tree this year is the "pretty and stylish" design that I like.  We also have a "kid-friendly" version with lots of brightly colored lights and ornaments, but this "more traditional" one is my favorite.  So that my husband and daughter can more enjoy the tree, though, they hung a number of ornaments that reflect them... including Chewbacca and the Disney princesses. And I'll admit it... the Atlanta Braves ornament is all mine!

Visit Raine here for favourite Christmas music from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

The Yule Log by Maureen Hovermale - In any home at this time of year, there has to be a Yule log. In Neo-Aramaic (the Chaldean language - think Iraq) yule meant child. It took a while for the tradition of the log to be in a hearth, but when it finally did, it was sprinkled with salt, oil, and mulled wine then prayed over to protect the home.  

Nowadays, it’s a cake rolled like a log and decorated with icing holly and roses. Sounds better than salted and oiled wine to me!

Visit Maureen here for a look at the Christmas Clauset in the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Winter Wonderland by Melody Kauffman - My favorite Christmas decorations are outdoor lighted ones.  My parents didn’t do yard decorations when I was growing up.  I always loved the houses where the yard was lit up with reindeer, snowmen, and other colorful figures.  They were so magical.  As a kid I always wanted to have a house with a yard like that.  I had no idea the time, expense, and work that went in to them.  The first year we owned our house we didn’t decorate the outside.  I told my husband how much I wanted to decorate the yard and we looked at a lot of decorations.  I suffered a bad case of sticker shock and decided not to even try to decorate that first year.  After Christmas that year my husband bought me my first yard decoration - a lighted, beaded snowman.  I was so thrilled.  The year we put it up he bought me a set of the lighted beaded presents to go with it.  The beaded design allows the figure to reflect the light better at night. During the day the beading prevents the figure from looking skeletal.  We’ve added a lot of decorations since then but the snowman and his presents are still out there.  They give me a ridiculously happy feeling when I get in from work at night. They sparkle like some magic winter wonderland dropped right on to my lawn.  Childhood dream decoration realized thanks to my awesome hubby.

Visit Melody here for some fun Christmas toys from the 12 Blogs of Christmas!

Thanks for stopping by. This is one installment in the 12 Blogs of Christmas series – do be sure to check out the others!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, 9 December 2011

If You Can’t Say Something Nice, Don’t Say Anything At All

That’s what my mother taught me and for the most part I stick to it. 

Unless you cross me. If you piss me off, I’m like a bear with a sore tooth. And maybe a hangover to boot. Who is nevertheless extremely articulate. In this frame of mind, my husband describes me as ‘dangerous’. I’m relentless. I cannot be stopped. At least, it hasn’t happened yet. 

When my husband is the unfortunate object of such ire, he says he’s left with the feeling that he definitely lost the battle, but in a dazed and bewildered way, he’s not precisely sure how. I don’t swear when I’m angry. I use a lot of big words. That, he says, is the scariest thing about it. He knows I’m angry but he doesn’t understand a damn word I’ve just said. 

If you have read my Twitter profile, you already know this a little bit. If you haven’t read my Twitter profile, you probably should…

I’m not currently that pissed off. I’m just a little…irked, if you will. 

I had a blog post all planned for today. And this isn’t it. Because someone…irked me. 

Two days ago I posted Worldbuilding 101 as Taught by Robert Jordan. One of my Triberr tribemates tweeted it out and one of his followers sent this tweet. 


Well. That was articulate. 

I wasn’t entirely sure how to take that tweet. Was he saying my entire post was ‘Duh’? If so, clearly I didn’t agree or I wouldn’t have posted it. Was he saying a particular part of my post was ‘Duh’, in which case, more information please. Or was there something else I had completely missed? 

So I asked. 

The response I got was something along the lines of ‘The details will vary depending on the impression you are trying to convey’. 

Well I would have thought that went without saying. For those of you who read the post on worldbuilding, you’ll know that I did not dictate what details should be used in worldbuilding, only what details you might consider determining in order to fully realise the world. I gave examples. I suggested sources of inspiration. But how you build your world is ultimately up to you. I don’t want to build it for you. Frankly, you couldn’t pay me to build it for you. I have enough of my own that need building. 

I said something to the effect that I had not purported to tell people what details to use in their worlds.
Before even receiving that response, this person then tweeted some actions which were clearly recognisable as the angry habits of Nynaeve from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. If you’re a fan, you’ll know them; the smoothing of skirts, the yanking of the braid. I was even more confused. This seemed to be an example of characterisation and I didn’t see the connection with worldbuilding. I said as much. 

To which the reply was ‘Believe me, I sincerely regret ever saying anything. It was a good post but it’s sad that it needs to be said’. 

It is? Really? So… writers should spring from the womb fully cognisant of the finer points of worldbuilding? I really must make my 18-month old daughter do all the worldbuilding in future so I can get on with the actual writing. 

I, politely I thought, said that it would have been helpful had he given that response in the first instance instead of ‘Duh’ (as obviously it is far more informative) and that I didn’t consider it to be sad that it had to be said. New writers don’t know everything. In fact, now that I think of it, no one knows everything. 

Recently I took a workshop on worldbuilding which covered the finer points of slang, profanity and other invented words. This despite twenty years of writing. It taught me things that perhaps I subconsciously knew but consciously studying it helped me to use it more effectively.

Before receiving my polite response, this person then tweeted to me ‘I understand you’re boring, you’re a lawyer, but why bother writing?’

Whoa. You’ve spoken to me for maybe 5 minutes or a total of 1400 characters (assuming you used all your allotted 140 characters per tweet, which you didn’t) and out of that you:
  • Presume to know me well enough to make a judgement call about who I am;
  • Presume that this entitles you to insult me to my face; and
  • Stereotype lawyers (and possibly I’m the only one you’ve ever met socially).
Just wow. 

To be honest, I was more offended by the fact this person felt they had a right to insult me than by the actual insult. I’ve been called boring plenty of times before, usually by people who didn’t know me very well and whom, once they got to know me, fervently wished they still thought I was boring. These are the people who describe me as ‘Interesting’. There’s a pregnant pause before that word and a certain inflection when spoken. Visually I can best represent it like this ‘She’s….in-ter-resting.’ This broadly translates as ‘stark raving mad’ or ‘totally crackers’. So yeah, I’m not really insulted by boring. It’s probably safer for his sanity to think that. 

If you think all this is bad enough – but wait, there’s more!

Not only did I discover that this person attacked another Twitter friend of mine last week (for unacceptable religious and racial reasons, notwithstanding his assumption was completely erroneous) but when several of my loyal Twitter friends leaped to my defence, he insulted one of them too. My Tweep declared ‘You may have been gifted with the knowledge at birth, but others have not. These blogs are for them.’ To which this person replied ‘No, it’s called having a functioning brain cell, you freak.’

Really? At this point in time I’m inclined to believe this person doesn’t have any functioning brain cells. 

My husband suggested it was penis envy. You know, where guys behave like dicks to compensate for *ahem*. Except it’s not that his penis is smaller than mine (obviously, I don’t have one) but his following. He has 26 followers. I have, as of this week, around 5000 (and I am grateful to every single one of you! *mwah!*). My husband might be right. Or, you know, the guy might not have any functioning brain cells. 
What is even more hilarious is his Twitter profile, which reads ‘Enlightened Being’ and his website which reads 'profoundly insightful, infinitely wise and painfully humble'. Really? Did I blink cause I seem to have missed that.

I am embarrassed that this person touts themselves as an epic fantasy writer. Mortified that I share any kind of category with such an intolerant, bigoted, entitled, patronising, egotistical maniac. I'm not sure if this behaviour technically meets the online slang definition of 'troll', but the behaviour was about as uncivilised as that of trolls who populate fantasy worlds.

I don’t understand why people feel the need to behave like this. If you don’t like the post, don’t read it. If you don’t like me, don’t talk to me. You can avoid so much angst by just ignoring the things that bug you. It’s not like he thought I was misleading writers or distributing false information! There is no reason to start a pointless, baseless argument and insult someone over something so minor. This kind of behaviour probably accounts for why he only has 26 followers instead of, say, 500 (based on his ratio of tweets to mine – 2000 tweets, he’s not new to Twitter by any means).

As my mother said, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. It’s called manners, people. Courtesy. It exists for a reason. It’s the grease in the gears of society. 

I terminated the conversation after I was insulted. I had a lot of things I wanted to say, but I am here to market myself and my books and it’s very easy for a 140 character tweet to be taken out of context or misunderstood and damage one’s reputation. Really he just wasn’t worth it. 

So I’m saying it here, where I have plenty of room to say it how it is. 
Cause, you know – somebody has to say it! 
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