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Monday, December 29, 2008

My outstanding dinner-- it can be yours, too!

Staying at the family cabin, I originally packed frozen corn dogs for dinner. But after perusing the randomly-stocked freezer and pantry, I came up with this fabulous meal. Really, even the husband liked it... (and it's dairy free!!)

Still thinking of a title:

2 fattie boneless pork loin chops
olive oil
1 medium sliced onion
some dried rosemary and marjoram
1 15oz. can diced tomatoes
1-2 cloves garlic

Sear the snot out of the porkchops in a big skillet in olive oil. Remove once they are mostly cooked and cover with foil. Then saute the onions in the remaining oil for a few minutes to give them a head start before adding the tomatoes, spices, and garlic. Cover and cook a few more minutes and then return the chops to the pan. Cover and heat through until the chops are done, but not over cooked. Pink ain't all bad.
Served it with pasta smothered in olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and dried parsley along with a salad.

If anyone tries it, let me know! Or if you've got a clever name, pass that on as well. :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This is for you, GiGi...

For this year's Wigilia dinner, the kids and I baked challah bread. (Jewish, Polish, tomatoes, toma-tohs...) This shot is for you, Grandma! We did you proud-- it's delicious! And I would have pushed the hair out of my face if the bread wasn't going to slide off the rack. Promise.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The inevitable holiday part 5: The Holiday Fever

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the dwelling,
My poor back was aching
And my ankles were swelling.

Motherly duties are
Never quite done.
At this time of year
We provide all the fun.

Who does all the shopping?
Who does all the baking?
Who wraps the presents
And keeps kiddies from shaking?

Who hangs the stockings?
Who strings all the lights?
Who fills Advent calendars
For twenty-four nights?

Who decks the halls?
Who keeps the tree wet?
Who helps make the presents that
The grandparents get?

In our home, it’s me.
The mother, the wife,
Who runs herself ragged
With holiday strife.

And yet for the sweating
And weariness, I fear
I do the same thing
Again every year.

What keeps me returning
To this disorderly place?
It’s not the gray hairs
Nor wrinkles on face.

It’s not the fruitcake
Or a great love of shopping,
No, instead it’s something
Else that keeps me hopping.

It’s that little feeling
That glows and that gleams.
It’s the reason for Christmas
And what it all means.

It’s hearing the stories
Of angels and kings,
Of candles and babies
And more yuletide things.

It’s stirring and mixing
And licking the beater.
It’s decorating with frosting
That can’t get much sweeter.

It’s teaching my kids
To wrap any shape,
And how to seal packages
Without five rolls of tape.

It’s singing of Bethlehem
And singing of snow,
As off to the church
As a family we go.

It’s leaving cookies and lists
And first morning squints
As we all run outside
To check for hoofprints.

It’s celebrating the day
That Jesus was born,
And waking up super early
On Christmas morn.

It’s watching kids’ faces
As I reach under the tree
And pull out the presents
That they each made for me.

It’s trying out the new bike
No matter the weather.
It’s dinner with family
All coming together.

It’s warm and it’s fuzzy,
And the cliché is just tragic,
But it’s real and wonderful
And honestly magic.

Despite all the hassle
The push and the shove,
The true feeling of Christmas
Is whole-hearted love.

I just can’t deny it.
I am a believer.
I’ve got a very bad case
Of Holiday Fever!

So gladly I prep
For this holiday season,
Remembering to celebrate
The real Christmas reason.

And when it’s all over
And the race has been run,
I’ll turn to my family
And kiss everyone,

“What a fine Christmas
It surely has been.
And only twelve months
‘Til we do it again!”

And as through tired eyes
I turn off the tree lights,
A blessed Christmas to all,
And to all, GOODNIGHT!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why our house looks like this for Christmas

We were fortunate enough to travel for Thanksgiving, but unfortunately didn't have much time to decorate for the holidays. After the neighbors poked fun numerous time (in person and harassing via email) Ryan had enough. He promptly went downstairs and flung two wads of Christmas lights in our puny tree out front.
Half of them twinkle, half of them don't.
And we leave them on 24/7 so our neighbors can see them whenever they look out their windows, day or night.
I've had other friends try to guess what the display is, if it is supposed to be snowflakes or stars hanging in the tree. "Nah, it's just a wad of lights" I tell them.
Eat your heart out, Clark Griswold.

Our Christmas Poems

So I thought I'd put a bit of literature into our annual Christmas program. I had the kids, each separately, help me write a poem. They gave the ideas, I made them rhyme. Look out, Jack Prelutsky!

My Sister Baked the Christmas Cookies
By Mom and Toby, 2008

My sister baked the Christmas cookies
When no one was around.
My mom was downstairs wrapping presents
And didn’t hear a sound.

My sister got creative
With her culinary skills,
And when I think about what she made
It just gives me the chills.

First she took a giant bowl
And filled it with orange juice
And then added from the freezer
Some ground up meaty moose.

Then she found some snack mix
In the pantry, way in back,
The marshmallows were all crusty
And the cereal all cracked.

Then some flour and some sugar,
And eggs that totaled twenty.
I sure hope these tasted good,
Because she was making plenty!

Then she mixed it with a spoon
With lots of song and lovin’
Then scooped it into tiny balls
And put them in the oven.

When they were brown and crusty
It was time to cool and frost.
She thought a tasty icing
Would be tobasco sauce.

When mom came back from wrapping
She said, “what smells like poo?”
Sister said “I baked some cookies,
And make them just for you!”

“Oh how sweet!” my mommy said,
I was surprised she wasn’t mad.
Then mom said “I’m on a diet,
Let’s give them to your dad.”

My Brother Decorated the Tree this Year
By Mom and Ellen, 2008

My brother decorated the tree this year,
It’s the strangest I’ve ever seen.
He hung so many ornaments on
You can barely tell it’s green.

He started with his toothbrush
And then squeezed on some paste.
Then stuck a bagel on a limb!
(But first he took a taste!)

Next he got a bag of chips
And hung them here and there.
Then emptied out his dresser drawer
And hung some underwear.

And masking tape and markers too
And don’t forget the string!
Aluminum foil and cotton balls,
He hung most everything!

Near the top he hung the shoes
That gave him such a blister.
And my mom grabbed him just before
He hung our baby sister.

Then he piled up the chairs
And climbed right up so far,
And placed himself upon the top,
Our crazy Christmas star!

Merry Christmas from the McAllisters!

Instead of spending money on stamps, we thought we'd blow it on fruitcake and send out this neat video instead. Enjoy a look back at our 2008!
Happy Holidays to all!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Inevitable Holiday Part 4: A slice of heaven? (and the results are in!!!)

We’ve all heard the one about the poor fruitcake who, while he had plenty of dates for the Christmas party, nobody loved him. He was just a little too nutty.
Seems like fruitcakes have been getting a bad rap for ages. Literally.
A bit of research shows us that the whole idea of preserving fruit with sugar and then baking it into a so-called “cake” dates back to ancient Eygpt and the Roman Empire. Some historians say that a form of fruitcake was considered an essential food for the afterlife (and many today may agree!) A bit later in history, the Crusaders were said to pack the sturdy little cakes in their saddle bags on their long and arduous journeys. Apparently there weren’t many other foods that could withstand that kind of travel, and beef jerky and Twinkies hadn’t been invented yet.
Keep moving on in the history of this tasty holiday delight, and arrive in Victorian England, where those people just loved their fruitcake. They loved it so much that they started a custom that said if an unmarried wedding guest puts a slice of fruitcake under their pillow at night, he or she will dream of the person they will marry.
So why do we all eat it at Christmas? That remains a bit of a mystery, but it is thought that the carolers of old England were rewarded with a slice. Makes me wonder just how good their singing was…
This rich –and rather dense—history of a simple concoction of candied fruits and nuts brings us to our own country of America, a virtual melting pot of culture and of fruitcake recipes.
All of which I admit I have never really tried.
Sure, I’ve attempted to eat a piece of fruitcake before, and I can honestly say that I never met a fruitcake I liked, and that in Harper’s Index (1991) they are very true in saying that the ratio of the density of the average fruitcake to the density of mahogany is 1:1.
But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on this holiday tradition that has been around for thousands of years. Something somewhere makes me think that there has to be something good about these bricks, er, cakes. C’mon, they are everywhere this time of year. At least one will pass under the turned-up nose of just about everyone between now and January 1.
Therefore, this year as part of Inevitable Holiday, I am going to attempt to introduce my family to the inevitable fruitcake so that we may celebrate in this historical delicacy. But I have lofty goals and want it to actually be enjoyable to eat. I want to teach my children that there is a good side to fruitcake before they reach the age where people make their culinary decisions for them.
So I’m trying something a little different—a fruitcake cookie. A tasty-looking recipe with all of the fruitiness and nuttiness of fruitcake without the two pound loaf of lump that, according to the New York Times, 13% of people use as a doorstop.
My fingers are crossed that these confections that I’ve been building up in my mind actually live up to the hype, and that Santa and I don’t end up eating two dozen a piece, just to clear out room in the cookie jar.
I figure if we’re going to be stuck with this afterlife-appropriate, Crusade-withstanding, marriage-predicting baked good, we might as well make it somewhat delicious. I am just so very determined to make this inevitable tradition something special for my family. Maybe I’m crazy…or maybe just nuttier than a, well, you know.

Wanna know how they turned out? My husband said, and I quote, "what's wrong with chocolate chip? Can't you just ever make a normal cookie?" My neighbor said, "well, they're not bad, but I wouldn't go back for seconds."
All this makes me happy because I ate half of the batch by myself. I love them. Love them love them love them. Especially good with a hot cup of tea.
So for any of you just dying to know the recipe, email me (karriemcallister@aol.com) and I'd be happy to share it...as long as you are willing to share some cookies with me! :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The book...

I've got a handful of my books available if anyone is looking for a last minute Christmas present. Just shoot me an email.

The Inevitable Holiday part 3: Shopping spirit

Somehow, every year, I think I’ve got all of the time in the world to get my Christmas shopping done, and then, once the turkey digests, I find myself running frantic through the stores…with every other person within a three county radius.
Shopping during the holidays, as I see it, can be approached in two very different ways. There are those who have the spirit, and those who smell like it.
Let’s examine the first type, the Holiday Shopper:
The Holiday Shopper lives for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving with all of the fabulous deals, and still sees the month of December as one big shopping extravaganza. She thinks of shopping as a hobby more than a job, and is also the person who wears the Santa hat while gleefully waltzing throughout the stores, wishing everyone a happy holiday season and the occasional outbreak of Jingle Bells.
This person loves to shop. She usually checks many items over before deciding what to buy. She carefully holds up each item and thinks about the person she is buying it for, and how they would cherish it. The Holiday Shopper has a heart of gold and is brimming with holiday spirit.
On the reverse side is the Holiday Buyer. This person is not able to walk in any sort of zig-zag pattern in the stores, but instead makes a beeline for the exact items they have come to purchase and the registers. There is no extraneous singing, and by all means the Holiday Buyer would not wear a Santa hat. (In extreme cases, this person typically makes fun of the hat-wearers.)
The Holiday Buyer does not see the season of giving as a time to be loitering around comparing prices or colors of turtleneck sweaters. The Buyer comes, buys, and leaves, often times stopping off at the gift wrapping booth on her way out because the thought of stopping to buy wrapping paper and tape after what she just went through makes her holly lose its last bit of jolly.
I personally find myself somewhere caught between these two extremes. Every year I start out with the best of intentions, fully thinking that I will be that happy-go-lucky shopper who dons her holiday socks and dresses the kids in red and green before heading out for a day in the retail world. I play the Christmas music in the car. I make a special stop to buy everybody hot chocolate. I even spend the first good 10% of my time smiling at other shoppers and spreading well wishes and holiday cheer.
But then my son shows me his collection of hangers that he’s picked up in the previous department and my daughter is still singing those Christmas carols and the baby is chewing on the cart. And I have to reroute myself and my miniature entourage that is hyped up on hot chocolate through the toy department and explain that while Santa is magic, he can’t give you every single toy you want even though hearing myself say it out loud totally blows the whole magic theory all together…
Now sweating and praying that the baby won’t pick up Malaria from gnawing on the cart, I no longer zig or zag. I head directly to the check-out counter in a straight line, grabbing gifts along the way that I hope that people I know might not hate, only to find that the line stretches to the middle of the store, leaving us stagnant in the toy aisle once again.
We finally pay and limp out the door, only to be stopped by a Holiday Shopper.
“Merry Christmas!” she chirps under her Santa hat.
I quickly flash her my holiday socks to show her I’m not all bad and wish her an exhausted Merry Christmas right back. There’s always next year, right?

Got something to add? Post a comment or email me at karriemcallister(at)aol(dot)com.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jingle Bells...WHO smells?

Shamefully enough, I had to google the lyrics to "Jingle Bells, Batman smells" today, only to find out there are a lot of different versions that I have never heard. Some nicer than not, but it stands to raise a question:
Do we teach our kids these revolting rhymes?
Does Batman really smell?
And what about Deck the halls with gasoline???
(not to mention the ones that are unfit to post on the blog...)

Thoughts, anyone?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Double Whopper

OK, for some reason Ryan is just so impressed that I ate an entire Double Whopper the other day. He told me I need to blog about it. So here it is, the whole greasy story...

We stopped at a filthy and disgusting Burger King/gas station on the way home from Thanksgiving vacation because he had to pee even though the kids were quiet and the baby was sleeping. Between trips to the bathroom (aka. "small room of fecal coliform"), I had to quickly decide what to order. And because I am still the nazi breastfeeder and the babe has a milk allergy, I quickly scanned the photos of the food for something that didn't have cheese.

And for whatever reason, and it could have just been my bad eyesight from playing Webkinz too much, I thought the #2 meal didn't have cheese.

So that's what I told him to order for me.

"Sure?" he said.

"Yeah," I replied and took a deep breath and headed into the bathroom.

When the food came, the kids asked why I ordered such a big sandwich and naturally Ryan had to start making fun of me right there and then. But I put them all in their places and I ate the whole darn thing.

And the fries.

And a diet pop.

And then, even though Ryan totally doubted this, I did not have a belly ache nor did I throw up in the car, and I even ate dinner a few hours later.

Apparently this has been my greatest feat in all of our nine years of marriage, because I've never once heard him tell someone "hey, my wife birthed these three children, isn't that impressive?" but yet he keeps telling people about me eating the entire Double Whopper.

I am woman, see me eat.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Inevitable Holiday, Part 2: Your Leftover Personality

For most people, the one very guaranteed part of the holidays are large family gatherings. And if your family is anything like ours, there is a copious amount of food. I’m sure the first Thanksgiving was a feast, but I’m also pretty sure every aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparent and otherwise had to bring their signature dish in large quantities.
As if one family can eat that much green bean casserole…
So as sure as the turkey starts hiding in early November, there will always be a heaping helping of leftovers after the Thanksgiving dinner. The question is then, what to do with these remaining bits of delicious food. The older I get, the more I realize that people attain their own Leftover Personality, and it subconsciously dictates what to do with the spare sweet potatoes and the surplus stuffing.
Not sure what your Leftover Personality is? Take this handy quiz…
1. Do you bring a bag full of old Cool Whip containers and plastic baggies to the family gathering? If so, give yourself 2 points.
2. Before Thanksgiving arrives, do you clean out your freezer, clearing out space? If so, give yourself 1 point (and a pat on the back for doing the work!)
3. When carving the turkey, do you pick off the little pieces of meat stuck on the bone for a snack? If so, give yourself 3 points. If not, give yourself 4 points.
4. If your mom has a fantastic turkey salad recipe, give yourself 2 points.
5. If you ate thousands of turkey salad sandwiches as a child, give yourself 3 points.
6. If you have ever served leftover turkey for a Christmas dinner, give yourself 1 point.
7. If you think a turkey carcass is worth it’s weight in gold, award yourself 4 points.
Now tally up your score and discover your true Leftover Personality!
2-3 points: The Freezer. You don’t see leftovers as leftovers, you see them as meals-to-come. Your freezer is ready and waiting for carefully marked containers of turkey and gravy, and there is a real possible chance that the dish you brought to the Thanksgiving gathering was once served at a Labor Day picnic, frozen, and reheated.
4-5 points: The Eater. When the family is done eating, you immediately fix another plate or two because you know you will be ready to eat again in just a few hours, when the football games have ended and you are finally getting to hang up your Christmas decorations. You may also make a turkey salad sandwich the next day…if there is any food left by then. You are, of course, an Eater.
6-7 points: The Tosser. This person gets their yearly fill of cranberry sauce and Brussels sprouts and just can’t do it any more, so their leftovers, if any remain, are tossed out with the paper plates. They have other fun things to move on to and don’t want to be bothered with the cleaning and trying to find the correctly fitting lids for the plastic containers. This person also probably ate turkey leftovers for a month after the holiday (and had a Freezer for a mother) and doesn’t want their children to endure the same anguish.
8 points: The Soup-maker. There are no sandwiches or multiple containers in your future. You are a soup maker. You fight other Soup-makers for the turkey carcass and throw it and every other appropriate leftover straight into a giant stockpot, right from the table. You are convinced turkey soup is the best soup on Earth and it’s a good thing, because you usually make 14 gallons of it. And more often than not, some of it ends up in your freezer…
The one, unifying feature of all four Leftover Personality types though, is that everyone will enjoy the gathering of family and friends around the Thanksgiving table. The warm feelings of being together are as inevitable as the leftovers.
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