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"Safe," by James Walker

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Excerpt from "Snow-Bound" (1865), by James Greenleaf Whittier

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This easy to prepare drink is guaranteed to warm you and your guests from head-to-toe on a cold winter’s night.

Ingredients:

Preparation:

Heat cider, cinammon candies and allspice to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Remove allspice; stir in honey.  Serve in mugs & garnish with cinnamon stick if desired. Makes 24 1/2 cup servings.

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"Good Hours" by Robert Frost ("North of Boston," 1915)
I had for my winter evening walk—
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.

And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sound of a violin;
I had a glimpse through curtain laces
Of youthful forms and youthful faces.

I had such company outward bound.
I went till there were no cottages found.
I turned and repented, but coming back
I saw no window but that was black.

Over the snow my creaking feet
Disturbed the slumbering village street
Like profanation, by your leave,
At ten o’clock of a winter eve.

Robert Frost (1874–1963).  North of Boston, 1915.

Robert Frost, American National Poet

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Over the next couple of months visitors to Simplify Christmas (yes, visits have remained consistently high, even through the spring and summer months of 2008) will notice some fairly dramatic changes in the organization and appearance of the site as I prepare for the official start-up date of November 1st. The first big change is this new theme – which will be modified as needed before the official start-up. Update: 09/27/2208: I’ve decided to stick with last year’s theme – better features, overall.

Do not be alarmed by the changes – Christmas 2007 is past, and Simplify Xmas 2008 is going to be even bigger and better than last year!

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I’m an outspoken person, so by all means, take the following with a grain of salt…

It will officially be winter in a few hours. I had to go out on this near-winter’s day, because I needed a few groceries and a pair of pants. I expected it would be bad out there, and my expectations were, in fact, exceeded. It was horrible out there. The traffic was horrible, the stores were packed, and there seemed to be an inordinate number of cranky people around. My brother (who went with me) said, “I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those days….”

Stressed out SantaPeople blowing through the roundabouts and cutting others off like the bold “yield” warning on the pavement had been erased. Others punching the accelerator to make it through the yellow light at intersections. Cutting others off, when perhaps on another day, they might have taken their foot off the gas and given someone an opening. A line of cars, stretching from Bakerview all the way to Bennett Road. Parking lots packed and the stores crowded with masses of complete strangers, shoulder to shoulder, each “safe” inside his/her insulated little world. Frowning. Yessir, I took an inventory. A lot of frowning and furrowed brows out there.

But maybe it’s always that way. I’ll have to do a post-Xmas comparison.

I’m glad I’ve backed off from this sort of thing, this”surfing the fray,” for the most part. Because anyone who’s out in that on a daily basis…well, I can understand why y’all feel like crap at Christmastime.

Not that I endorse simulated cheer*. But there’s an old Vietnamese saying: “Ornament is for joy.” Why are you doing it, if there’s no joy in it? But more importantly, what is life for, if not to enjoy?

One thing is certain: I’ll not go near a retail establishment, save maybe Starbucks for a cup of coffee, from now until Christmas is over. It’s a jungle out there.

P.S. – You erratic drivers – take a chill pill. You’re a danger to yourself and others.

*Actually, I do endorse simulated cheer, for its therapeutic value, but not when it’s employed simply as a “veneer.”

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