Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Normally we don’t watch so much television around our house, but it seems that during December the ratio of screen to mommy time is completely out of whack because mommy has been running frantically and has not sat down since Thanksgiving dinner.
I do it because I love the end of December. Mostly that bit of time right after the holiday when the hoopla is over and I can finally breathe again.
It all starts with Thanksgiving, when we gorge ourselves to the point where we think we don’t want to see another piece of turkey for an entire year. (And we usually don’t.) After that begins the rush of the holiday season when, no matter what you do, you’ve always got a friend who says “I finished all my shopping weeks ago and the freezer’s been full of cookies since October” and as much as you love her you secretly want to jingle her bells and deck her halls.
By mid-December, the parties are in full swing. You think if you see another plate of cookies your head is going to fall off and dunk itself in a glass of milk, but still you don your gay apparel eat cheese and crackers because when it comes down to it, it’s nice to see people you don’t normally see. When we see people on these rare occasions, we hear the good things, the good news, which is what we all need.
Slightly rejuvenated from the gingerbread and eggnog coffee craze, we round into the big week of December. You put on your holster that is equipped with tape, scissors, and ribbon and transform into the Quick Draw McGraw of gift wrap. Pure adrenaline kicks in and suddenly you’re preparing eleven course meals in one single bound.
And Christmas Eve night, no matter how old you are, you can’t deny that feeling that reindeer are headed for your rooftop. The night is as silent as the song and by the glow of the Christmas tree, that whole “peace on Earth” idea seems absolutely tangible…and the polar opposite of the wild fun that in Christmas morning.
Paper flying and someone gets stuck untwisting the wires that hold every toy in its packaging, and just when the batteries have been installed, it’s time to pack up and go. Making the rounds, eating multiple dinners, the holly jolly holiday is finally over and you all hit the pillow knowing that the next day starts the real vacation.
Nothing productive gets done between December 25 and January 1. In any business or in any home. It’s the Friday afternoon of the year and everyone knocks off a little early and all for good reason.
We deserve it.
We deserve to stay in our pajamas until noon and eat those cookies (one last time) for lunch while we play the new games and read new books. Build a fire in the fireplace, snuggle up and settle in, perhaps even pretending that the white Christmas we asked for hit so hard that it’s impossible to even step out our door, so our only option is to convert our family room into a wonderland of toys and forts built completely of blankets. We deserve to capitalize on the magic of the holidays before our kids get too old and only ask for gift cards and text their friends during Christmas dinner.
So don’t expect to see me out and about during this week of respite. I’ll be at home in my PJ’s, still attempting to free toys from their packaging, from the depths of a blanket fort, and savoring every last minute of it.
Don’t Leave the House Potato Soup
A big pot of this and you’ll be happy not to go anywhere. Or share.
6 slices bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp salt
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup frozen corn
parsley and pepper to taste
In stock pot, cook bacon. When browned, remove bacon and sauté onion and celery in bacon fat until translucent. Add garlic, cook for one more minute. Add potatoes to pot and just enough water to cover, and cook until potatoes are soft. Using a potato masher (or just a big fork), mash up the potatoes. Add salt, soup, milk, and corn. Cook thoroughly until hot, but not boiling. Top with fresh chopped parsley, pepper, and reserved bacon.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
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.
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!
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!
Monday, December 21, 2009
It wasn’t very hard in the little house I grew up in. Especially when they would say things like, “don’t go in dad’s workshop or in the blue bedroom.” The blue bedroom was the family catch-all. It contained everything from mom’s dusty sewing table, to the accordion I painfully tried to lift as a child (and have the neck brace to prove it), to dad’s giant salon-style hair dryer that sat near his stack of Popular Mechanics.
In December, though, the blue bedroom was also home to the presents that would grace our tree come Christmas and was strictly off limits.
But just like telling someone “not to think about an elephant” (you just did, didn’t you?) telling an inquisitive kid not to look at her presents and telling her exactly where they were, was practically a waste of breath.
Of course I looked. Every year.
And one year I really wanted a typewriter. Really. Really really. All I wanted to do was sit in an old cardboard box that I had converted into a makeshift forest ranger office and type out tickets for people who cut down trees. That was my dream, and all of December I waited and waited until that fateful day when I would unwrap that beautiful brown and white typewriter that I naturally knew I was getting because I saw it in the blue bedroom closet, behind the accordion.
Come Christmas morning, present after present, I tore them open. No typewriter. Nowhere. Anywhere. I wondered what was happening—had they figured me out? Maybe I had not perfected the silent door maneuver or had slipped up when I thought I had replaced every piece of closet exactly where I had found it. Where was that typewriter?
And then, when it was all over, I sat there sad and disappointed that all of those people would have to go without tree chopping tickets, and my mom says “there’s one left here, behind the dining room table.”
The Red Rider BB Gun had nothing on me and my typewriter. I ran and ripped open the package and I remember that the world seemed like it was going in slow motion and I was sure that somewhere, some inspirational background music should have been playing.
There it was, in all of its glory. With paper. A holiday miracle.
Fast forward about 25 years and find myself trying to think of ways to outwit my children. I have no proof, but I’d bet that present peeking is genetically passed on which means that I’ve got to be smarter than the average kid.
I turned to the only person I know who could help: my own mom.
I ask her, “what did you do when I was little and used to look at all of my Christmas presents? What were your good hiding ideas? What was your plan?”
Baffled look on her face she says, “you used to look at your Christmas presents?!?”
“Um, no?” I awkwardly answered, thinking that my stealth was as elusive as that giant hairdryer and as mysterious as the sewing table I never saw being used.
And with that response, I quickly stashed all of my children’s presents deep in the depths of the basement, and immediately closed the spare bedroom door.
“Do NOT go into that bedroom,” I warned. “All of your presents are in there.”
Break out the Accordion Barley Pilaf
One of my favorite Polish Christmas recipes. Goes well with background polkas.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup pearl barley
2 shallots, minced
one-third pound mushrooms, sliced
2 cups chicken stock
one-half teaspoon salt
In a heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add barley and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until the barley starts to turn brown and smell a bit nutty.Add the shallots and cook for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook another 2 minutes. Add stock and salt and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
Monday, December 14, 2009
It goes without saying, then, as curious minds tend to do, I have recently overloaded my brain with as much knowledge of mistletoe that I could find.
And wow, who knew that such a small little plant that I have thumbtacked into my molding could hold such a myriad of stories…
First of all, the name itself. According to a USGS web page, the name mistletoe (from mistletan) is derived from early Anglo-Saxon words of mistle, meaning “dung,” and tan, meaning “twig” because it was thought that bird droppings were the cause of the growth of this mysterious plant. So literally, well, you can figure that out for yourself.
Scientifically the plant’s name is a little cleaner: Phoradendron, meaning “thief of the tree” in Greek, because mistletoe is actually a parasitic plant. Basically, the seed of the plant is transported to another tree and hooks itself on and sucks the nutrients from its host while it grows. Some scientists now recognize that it is only semi-parasitic, because it has green leaves (and can make its own food), but that just leads to more questions…
Such as, the leaves stay green in the winter, which is kind of neat and apparently people hundreds and hundreds of years ago thought so too, which leads to more questions…
Such as, why in the world would we hang a plant that literally means, well, you know, in our homes with the hopes of kissing under it?
Which brings us to ancient Scandinavia and Viking lore, which I know has nothing to do with Christmas, but hang in there.
Despite numerous conflicting histories online, the best I can figure is that some Goddess, Frigga, had a son who had a run in with a jealous God who did him in with some sort of dart made of mistletoe. I personally think the thumbtack is a better choice of weapon, but in any case, mama Frigga wept tears that turned into white berries, and decreed that the mistletoe should be a symbol of love from here on out.
Combine that with the fact that the plant is also a symbol of fertility in some cultures, and you’ve got a recipe for smooches galore over the holiday season. Some folklore believes that for every kiss, a berry should be plucked. Other traditions think that if a single woman doesn’t receive a kiss under the mistletoe, she will not marry in the next year.
Whatever you believe, the next time someone meets you under the mistletoe and puckers up, instead of closing your eyes, look up and take note of an interesting plant with an interesting history, and an even more interesting name.
MINTY FRESH FOR THE MISTLETOE
OK, so these won’t really improve your breath, but they are still delicious!
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2cups brown sugar
2 Tbl. water
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 1/2cups flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 (4.5 oz.) packages chocolate covered mint candies (such as Andes)
Combine sugar, butter, and water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until melted. Remove from heat and stir n the chocolate chips until melted. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.In a large bowl, beat the chocolate mixture and eggs. Add the baking soda and salt and mix. Then add the flour and mix until the dough forms. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Scoop dough with a tablespoon onto greased cookie sheets and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, careful not to overbake.
When cookies come out of the oven, immediately place a mint candy (or half a candy, depending on the size of your cookies) and let it get soft. Then swirl the candy with a toothpick to make a green and brown pattern pretty and tasty enough to get anyone you want under the mistletoe.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Especially when someone takes her time and drives all the way around.
Especially when that someone is a girl who literally lives on coffee. (I used to be blond...)
Such was the case this evening, when driving around, the couple in the black little car tore in through the exit, nearly hit me, and continued to speed into the drive thru lane.
Being a world traveler and knowing how much the horn is underused in these United States, I gave him a quick few honks to let him know that I was not happy.
And I got nothing.
Not a courtesy wave.
Not a I'm-sorry-I'm-an-idiot/jerk wave.
Not even a measly glance in the rear view mirror.
So I did what any red-blooded girl who really needed a caffeine fix and had her children in the back seat would do-- we called him every name in the book.
These include, but are not limited to:
Doo doo ball
Dummy dumb dumb
And at one point, my daughter even made the biggest threat of all:
"Smell my morning breath, you dummy!" And anyone who has ever smelled the stench that comes out of that sweet girl's mouth in the morning knows that that must have been a serious offense to warrant that kind of torture.
We waved our arms. We pointed. I used that moment as a teaching tool as to why you should be a courteous driver (and not a stupidhead) and that doing the right thing would have not made us nearly crash.
But pretty much, we let that dude have it within the confines of our vehicle.
I stared him down in his rearview mirror as he paid for his coffee and cookie (!) and as he drove away, still thinking about the lack of courtesy wave, I laid on the bright lights and blinded the poopface as he drove out of sight.
And then I pulled up to the window.
"The guy in front of you paid for your coffee. He said 'Merry Christmas'," said the employee.
"Really? Was that because he cut us off and nearly hit us and totally cheated?"
"You mean, you don't know him?" she asked.
"Nope. But Merry Christmas to him, too," I said, and drove away, laughing so hard I almost squirted soy latte out of my nose.
So to that man and his wife, let this be a lesson to you. Holiday or no holiday, a simple wave could have saved you over three bucks.
Merry Christmas, buddy.
Monday, December 7, 2009
There is one thing that rolls around every year that reminds me that being a gal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I may be able to wear cookie-scented lotion and own multitudes of shoes, but never, ever will I be able to be a member of AORBS.
You know, the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas.
I didn’t know that this prestigious group existed until a recent news article caught my attention. The AORBS group was commenting that they should be right up in the front of the line with the given shortage of flu vaccines. Their argument was that part of their holiday cheer is being sneezed and coughed on by millions of children asking for shiny new bicycles and video games, while they themselves were just wishing to spend their Christmas surrounded by reindeer that flew as opposed to the swine variety.
Regardless of the outcome of the issue, it got me thinking about this group and after a little researched I realized just how special this group of bearded men are.
The group started way back in 1994 when a group of 10 real-bearded Santas were working on a project together. In their down time they decided to create an organization, and AORBS was born.
As with most groups, there were ups and downs, changes of power and politics. But just like the magic of Christmas itself, AORBS lives on. Their membership is constantly growing, despite the strict requirements it takes to join. To be a member, you must have played Santa at one point in your life, and (here’s the tough one for me) have a real beard that you grew yourself—“no substitutions or otherwise.”
And so, with that single line, I am crushed that I can never be a part of such an impressive group. Because they are impressive, these men with their big, itchy gray beards, who probably spend 11 months out of the year with people snickering and children pointing and most likely some smarty pants asking where the sleigh is parked. But they probably just smile and nod and go on their merry ways because they know deep down they are doing something really very important.
They’re helping out the main elf, the big guy in red with the jiggling belly.
Not only do they endure crowded malls and mothers with digital cameras, but they give the gift of magic to each and every person that passes their way. While some children may cry (for example, mine) or others may freeze in the sheer terror that someone so mysterious could be there with an open lap, listening to their heart’s desire, they make so many of us think twice about someone, somewhere, checking a list just as many times. And we see that beard and after close examination discover that it’s not the kind that Santa pulls down when he eats his cookies and even for a second, we wonder if maybe, just maybe, this guy’s the real deal.
And I don’t know about you all, but I don’t take any chances when it comes to being naughty or nice. Which is why I’ll follow the rules and sadly, very sadly, never even attempt to apply to be a member of AORBS even though it remains on my Christmas list.
If I did ever get a chance to grow a beard and be a member, I would take my fingers off the side of my nose and cross them in hopes that children everywhere would leave me these sweet and festive treats.
1 stick butter
Melt the butter and marshmallows in a pan over medium heat, stirring constantly. When melted, remove from heat and stir in vanilla and as much green food coloring as you’d like. Quickly stir in the corn flakes and once combined, put spoonfuls of the gooey mess on pieces of foil sprayed with cooking spray. Before the cookies are set, add a cinnamon candy or two in each cookie, giving the holly a few berries. Store these in the refrigerator and if you’re smart, hide them from your children and certain bloggers...
Friday, December 4, 2009
(A lousy photo, but you get the drift. Legs sticking out of the bushes, lights hanging down from the roof, a mysteriously placed ladder. HILARIOUS.)
So very proud of my outdoor artwork, and running late to get the kids from school, I set our house alarm and ran out the door. But, whoopsie, I didn't shut the door all the way, which means as I was driving down the road and chatting with my friend on the phone, and while I was waiting for eons in the pick up line at school, the sirens at my house were blaring and the police men were on their way.
My husband calls me and tells me to hurry home because the alarm had gone off and I needed to check things out. And although we literally live minutes from the school, I was stuck behind every large moving vehicle known to man, including old people, semi's driving through town, and a giant piece of farm equipment that takes up 3/4 of the road.
By the time I arrived home, there were two police cars pulled wildly in my driveway, as if they had screeched in instead of leisurely answering an alarm call. I had to park in the street, and once I was there, I ran out apologizing that I must have left the door ajar and I'm so sorry they came out there and in a frantic frenzy I just kept babbling.
And then I realized, they were standing right next to my front door. And right next to the legs hanging out of the bush.
"Do you like my crazy Christmas decorations?"
And they chuckled.
We've got an awesome police department around here, and if I was a betting woman I'd put $10 down on them pulling wildly into the driveway after a quick glimpse of my top-notch holiday decor.
I'm just glad they didn't call the squad. How embarrassing would that be?
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
- ► 2013 (42)
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- And the cartoon bubble says...
- I’ll be home [after] Christmas
- Holiday Fever! (A 2008 classic)
- The perpetual present peeker
- Read this (and eat this) before you pucker up this...
- To the guy who cut me off and then bought my coffe...
- When personal cakes seem the right thing to do
- All I want for Christmas is a long, white beard
- Try this at home, if you're in good with the cops
- Moms who need wine!
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- Karrie McAllister writes and mothers from Small Town, Ohio, where she is also in the running for having the most unrelated part time jobs. Her column, Dirt Don't Hurt, has appeared on numerous Web sites and newspapers since 2005, and this blog is how she keeps track of them all until she can publish another book. Contact her at KarrieMcAllister [at] aol.com