All American Christmas / Festive Winters Solstice

My father announced that he was going down to New York to help his parents out for the holiday through to the New Year. I’d been meaning to visit my Grandparents on my previous trips up and down however I kept missing or skipping the opportunity. So it felt high time to go see them and help my father out some too.

So in my father’s truck we hurried down on the weekend before Christmas, I took with me my laptop, a new MIDI controller keyboard that I had ordered a week previous and some hard-drives full of music-making related material.

It was nice to be back in the little house of Merrick, NY. Mmm Suburbia. Much of the neighbourhood had attempted to out-do each other by filling their front lawn with assortments of kitschy inflatable snowmen, plastic raindeer and grotesque santas, their homes were lined with industrial-sized fairy lights and had transformed front yards into shining beacons of cheesy festiveness. It all seemed embarrassing to me in regard to the mild weather. Not a snow-flake in-sight.

I haven’t been outside of the house since I arrived last week which feels a bit weird however that is the norm for my house-bound Grandparents, they feel too frail to risk venturing outside even for walks. That said, I plan to make some trips into the city and snoop around, most likely in the next day or two. I have some more people I would like to visit, and I’m on the outlook for a cheap but functional electric guitar to plug into my laptop for recording purposes.

It has been a year of questioning all things religious and spiritual for me and so although Christmas (and Hanukkah) is very much the atmosphere of the culture here, for me I was quietly searching and skirting round much of it on the outside. It’s quite difficult to just ignore the traditions that I am used to though and so there’s a part of me celebrating at this time of year as well.

Christmas Day was just yesterday and although there wasn’t much festive cheer in the house-hold for most of the day, it turned out quite amiable when my aunt Cindi and her husband and daughter came for dinner that evening.

Until they arrived, I was left to my own devices to finish my gift idea of the previous night for my Grandparents and relatives. My father had rushed me down to NY and so there wasn’t any opportunity to do last minute shopping. In situations like these, hand-crafted gifts are the best solution.

I puzzled a wee bit in the first about what to actually make, often I do drawings and illustrations for family members however today I lacked inspiration. I asked my father what he had in the way of materials to craft with and he produced some interesting foil covered card. I decided that maybe I could make something with it.. mmm.. origami perhaps?

Some nifty online research later revealed quite the wealth of diagrams and instructions on how to make a variety of folded paper creations. I settled on trying out some basic animals and also found a way to make boxes out of a single square card. Excellent, it was all coming together.

At first I tried to make a frog but the diagrams aren’t the easiest thing to work out especially as a novice origami(st?) what with confusing variety of arrows and dotted lines for creases with a confusing one liner description under the picture. I gave up on the frog and noticed it was one of the ‘intermediate’ level of difficulty on the site so I chose a simpler looking one. The bird with flapping wings. That was more successfully although for some reason it didn’t flap it’s wings. Looked like a bird at least.

Feeling a bit more confident I tried the frog again and got through it that time. I liked the frog so made a bigger version using the foil card however that stuff didn’t fold so well as the practice card I was using so although I got there in the end. The frog was rather battered and limp looking. Poor thing.

origami presents, close up

“Origami presents close up, note the keen brown frog.”

Onto the boxes which were really successful. Very cool to be able to do things like this out of a single sheet of card, then realized that the cartoons that Chinese takeaways often come in are formed with pretty much the same principle. My already large admiration for the Eastern Cultures rose a few more notches.

Made one more flapping bird (flapped slightly more than the first attempt) out of the largest square sheet yet but for some reason bigger doesn’t equate to better in this medium, probably because of the weight of the paper and card becomes too heavy for the form it is taking thus making for rather flimsy models I guess?

My origami presents for Christmas

“My origami presents”

Finished up in time to help my father finish off cooking for dinner, I prepped and threw together a salad. Then my relatives arrived in gusto.

I had my aunts family before 3 years ago when I last visited the States on pre-University break, the atmosphere was a little bit tense though which I couldn’t quite place. Cindi launched into a discussion about the new Richie Blackmore (of Deep Purple fame) Winter Carol CD in which he plays baroque and medieval themed carols on the lute with his wife singing. I knew most of this already being the music affectiondo that I am and offered the occasional comment whilst I finished putting avocado slices in my salad.

I tried to relax a little more with some small talk with my cousin and Uncle-in law but the atmosphere was still odd. We then had dinner which was very nice, excellent mushroom and basil stew of sorts, I was quiet for most of this time. I was learning more about the family that way as the topic mostly jumped around other relatives that I did and didn’t know and what they were up to. I was surprised that I could hear a little more of the conversation than usual.

After dinner we gave out some presents and I showed everyone my new found origami skills. They all liked the little frog since it was the most realistic looking of the bunch. I got some woollen sweaters which were quite nice but obviously a last minute after-thought. However I wasn’t expecting any presents this year and so it was a welcome surprise, I appreciated the effort.

My Grandfather, Howie and my Father

“Grandfather, Howie and Father.”

We took some photos and I got some slightly better results than in the past with my Fuji as I finally getting to grips with what settings were best to use. Remember you can click on any of these thumbnail pictures in my blog for the bigger version.


“Cousin Shana and Grandmother.”

My cousin and I chatted a bit and she wanted me to show her how to get on “” so she could put up her music. I vaguely remembered that she was into recording her singing whilst her boyfriend back then would play guitar. I was happy to find out that she was still into doing this and had even progressed to using music software on her computer to make electronic backing tracks for herself. I could have barraged her with rapid-fire questions on the subject matter that I am so deeply into myself but decided to hold back till another time.

My Aunts family

“My Aunt and her husband and daughter.”

It was time for them to get going, I promised that I would show her how to get her music online, perhaps making a visit over there if my father would drive me (they live an hour and half away if I recall correctly) and we swapped email addresses for the time being.

With that, I tidied up the kitchen with my father and retired to my sleeping quarters in the basement to fiddle with music related things on my laptop.

So, a lot of mixed emotions but am feeling privileged to be having the experience. New Years Eve is rolling closer and I feel like doing something fun in the city, so will find out what’s going down and make plans accordingly. Stay tuned.

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