The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, December 22, 2003  

A Few Not Entirely Random Seasonal Bits
Miniature Sleds Made of Balsa & Other Things That Make You Crazy

According to it is currently 47 degrees in Philadelphia. It’s 47 degrees in Philadelphia today? That must be wrong. Oh . . . outside. If you’re in the neighborhood, drop in at my place and cool off.

I recently found I can raise the ambient temperature in my apartment by running the dryer with the closet door open. (I tried doing it with the dryer door open, but that was kind of a disaster.) Upon hearing of my discovery, a friend suggested baking something, noting it would have the same effect given the kitchen’s proximity to the living room.

Ha, bright idea. Thanks a lot. Like that would work. And I told her so. Well, apparently zapping a three-day-old slice of pizza in the microwave doesn’t constitute baking in her little universe. She wants me to use that other thing, the um . . . stove. I suppose I could, but then I would have take all my files out of there and find a new place for years of old tax returns, bills, receipts, and such. Too much trouble.

I don’t know why everyone thinks the Christmas season is such a hectic, crazy, busy time of year. You might be surprised by how relaxing December can be if you just ignore or sit out the worst of the holiday’s demands.

Parties? Didn’t give one, didn’t go to any.

Shopping? Passing this year.

Baking? See stove, supra.

Eating? Well, there was P.’s excellent gift package from Harry & David. And, hopefully soon, butter cookies from B.

Decorating? Yeah, right.

Endless Christmas music? Allowed within reason. In fact, the headline on this post is a reference, one I pulled from my unconscious subconscious, to “Christmas Wrapping,” performed years ago by The Waitresses, which is around here somewhere. Where doesn’t really matter, though, because it’s on vinyl, making the recording pretty much useless.

Wrapping gifts? No, not this year, and that’s really a shame because nobody wraps gifts like I do.

It may take me several hours to wrap a single gift, even a small, sturdy, nicely proportioned box, but when it’s done, it’s perfect. The patterns of the paper, purchased from the most obscure source imaginable, are perfectly aligned on all sides and affixed so there’s no tape showing. Then I add fabric ribbons and hand-tied bows. Finally, I top the whole obsessive project with an added festive element, something different each year, possibly fresh mistletoe cuttings, sprigs of boxwood, holly berries, or miniature sleds made of balsa.

This is the only area of my life where I will have a Martha Stewart Moment, including one year when I actually used an idea of hers. First wrap the gift box in a brightly colored tissue paper. Then wrap the gift again, over the tissue paper, using celline (available at most craft stores). And then take it from there with your choice of ribbons, bows, or other trimmings. But please, not miniature sleds made of balsa because I’m thinking of trademarking that idea.

By the way, when using celline, hiding the tape can be a neurotic’s nightmare. I suggest using double-sided adhesive tape and hoping for the best. I don’t suggest going to three different stores on or around December 23 trying to find a different, more or less opaque, brand of celline expecting to secure a perfectly concealing match. Not that I know anyone who did that.

Should you decide to take a stab at making miniature sleds from balsa, the runners will prove to be the most challenging part. Soak thin strips of balsa in water for as long as needed until they hold the shape into which you bend them. And trust me, nobody will notice if the surface of the sled is created from a single piece of balsa. Slatting is superfluous. With an exacto knife you can score the single slab of balsa to create the same impression. Even the truly obsessive have to draw the line somewhere.

Christmas cards? Aw, gee whiz, Christmas cards. Better get on that. I’m having a little trouble with my annual letter to friends and family: “Wrote a whole bunch of radio scripts for a big famous guy. Blogged. Lost my job. Started another screenplay. Learned the difference between microwave and conventional ovens.” It’s going to be a thin one this year. If I ever get back to it. And if past is prologue, I probably won’t.

I guess that’s all for now. I’m going outside. My feet are freezing.

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