One more full day of school (Tuesday) and two more half days (Wednesday and Thursday). That’s it. Then “Mayhem” is officially OVER for us!
So here, at the BEGINNING of summer are the:
No more crack of dawn alarm clocks!
No more struggle from bed to shower to breakfast to car every morning!
No more car line!
No more packing lunches the night before!
No more laying out clothes the night before!
No more packing backpacks the night before!
No more permission slips!
No more fundraisers!
No more check writing for this and that, and this and that.
(FirstHusband calls it the death of a thousand paper cuts.)
No more multiple trips to school in one day.
No more HOMEWORK!
Every summer, I like the kids to tackle LEARNING something. Because – if left to their own devices – they would completely VEG in front of video games and television while constantly complaining about how BORED they were. So here are:
Minimum of 1/2 hour of LEARNING every day
PinkGirl has decided to continue learning computer keyboarding and math everyday. We like online typing games. We also got our own copy of her 2nd Grade math book last summer and we are ordering our own copy of her 3rd Grade math book this summer.
FavoriteSon has decided to continue learning to play the guitar. I think he should learn something else too. Poor guy. He doesn’t know yet.
Minimum of 1/2 hour of READING every day.
PinkGirl has decided to start with her BoxCar Children books.
FavoriteSon has no preference so FirstHusband and I have picked some out for him to start:
The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel and Slaying the Dragon: How to Turn Your Small Steps to Great Feats by Michael Johnson.
Minimum of 1/2 hour of physical activity every day:
PinkGirl has the redneck pool (photo HERE), so that’s not usually an issue, except for rain.
FavoriteSon has some sports camps, but on the days he doesn’t, he has committed to strength training and basketball. I’m committed to getting back to a two minute plank before he can do one. He knows I can’t do any strength training until after June 16th, so he’s slacking.
So, learning, physical activity and reading. What else? Any ideas?
I’m thinking I might “strongly encourage” each of them to plan and cook a meal or two, or four per month. It rains every afternoon in the summer anyway, it’s not like we’ll be in the pool at that time of day.
Let’s finish up with a preview of a few GOOD things about summer being OVER:
I will be able to complete a thought.
I will be able to hear clocks tick in the solitude I will have been deprived of for nearly 3 months.
Works for Me Wednesday posts prior to February 2009 are archived at Rocks In My Dryer
There are certain songs . . .
The great Satchmo, singing “What a Wonderful World” on Thanksgiving Day.
The Walt Disney Candlelight Processional Choir singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” at Christmastime.
And Sandi Patty, singing “We Shall Behold Him” at Easter.
Growing up, my mom often made an Easter Bunny cake like this one for Easter. (page down for more photos)
Easy, not too crafty (thank goodness), I think I’m making one this year. Judging from the number of available photos on Google Images, I’m not the only one. Check it out:
Bake a cake, any cake, in two round cake pans. Mine will be chocolate. There is no reason for me to eat cake unless it is chocolate. Let it cool and then cut it like this:
On the serving plate (my mom always used a piece of cardboard covered in aluminum foil), CAREFULLY arrange it like this:
Then, frost and decorate! My mom always frosted it white and covered it with coconut shavings as a base. Dark chocolate cake with coconut – mmmm – just like a Mounds bar. But CAKE!
That does it. We’re making this cake.
Here’s a video and some more samples:
Works for Me Wednesday posts prior to February 2009 are archived at Rocks In My Dryer
If you’ve got a few minutes, check out my previous chocolate posts.
For years decades, we’ve made something special for my dad for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s his sister’s recipe for Cranberry Salad. I remember making it as a kid, as do my sisters, but since we grew up and moved out, my mother – who fondly calls this dish “cranberry crap” – took over the job again.
This year, since my mother is in Arkansas, my father asked me if I would make it. Actually, my mother also asked me if I would make it for him and offered to give me the recipe. My father thought it would be nice if I called his sister, my Aunt Margie and ask her for it. I hadn’t spoken or seen my Aunt Margie in over ten years – not because of any problems, just logistics and lack of effort. It was a great impetus for renewing my relationship with my Aunt.
We easily fell into a very nice conversation and as she gave the me ingredients and instructions, I realized. My mother had a different version of this recipe. We had not been making my Aunt Margie’s Cranberry Salad all these years. I’ll explain and show photos as I go through the recipe.
2 bags of cranberries
2 apples (peeled and cored)
1 can of pineapple chunks (drained)
1 cup of sugar
walnuts to garnish
Wash the cranberries and discard stems and rotten berries.
Now here’s the pragmatic twist. My father delivered a hand grinder to me when he asked me to make this recipe. A hand. grinder. Serious flashback. I remember hand grinding the fruit and cranberries. Every. Year. What a mess. Cranberry juice everywhere. Seriously. A MESS. As soon as my sisters got old enough to use the grinder without losing a finger, I gladly passed the job to them. In their young naiveté, they thought it would be fun. By the time they realized it was a sticky and disgusting job, the cranberry crushing baton was completely out of my hands. When my mother took over again, I think she switched from hand grinder to blender. So over the years, the whole thing went from cranberry goo (in the grinder) to cranberry soup (in the blender).
Although resistant, I tested the grinder and my memory on the apples first. Yep. Just like old times. Applesauce anyone?
So I pulled out my handy dandy Oster chopper attachment.
And I tried again. MUCH better.
The red pieces in the applies are from the cranberries.
I chopped the cranberries, the apples and the pineapple using the “pulse” button on my chopper. Filling the container multiple times allowed me to chop in different . . . textures? Sizes? Basically, there are three different textures of cranberries and apples, ranging from finely chopped, medium chopped and barely chopped. I didn’t have to chop the pineapple very much since it started out in small chunks anyway.
That leaves the oranges. I made two changes which were a HUGE difference from how I made this as a kid. First, I zested the orange. We NEVER did that. NEVER. Didn’t even have a zester in the house growing up. I don’t own one now. I had to use a small grater. I got the sweetness and the taste, but not the texture. I’m buying a zester for next year.
The second difference with regard to the oranges? My Aunt Margie strongly emphasized removing the “white stuff” from the orange. It’s called the “pith” and while it is actually good for you, it tastes a little bitter. There are a few ways to remove the pith, but I just rolled the orange on the counter, peeled it and then cut away the white layer that remained. I also removed the inner white stuff – I’ve been calling it the “cartilage” of the orange. It’s hard and crunchy and bitter and it is THE reason I would never eat this cranberry salad. I hate that stuff. yuck.
Here’s the finished product sans the walnut garnish. I wasn’t serving any at the time of the photo and I didn’t want to waste the walnuts. I actually prefer pecans, myself. This can be made ahead and I’ve been told it freezes well too. Panara’s got nothing on my Aunt Margie.
My dad said he could tell the difference before he even tasted it, just from the way it looked. So could I. I tasted it, my younger sister tasted it, our dinner guests tried it – all with positive reactions. None of the kids would touch it. Big chickens. My dad took most of it home. I understand it’s great with vanilla ice cream.
I’m wondering, if I retain some of the fruit juice, heat it up and thicken it with cornstarch and stir it into the fruit mixture – would it make a good pie? I may test it next year in a Pillsbury pastry.
As always, I’m providing a print friendly version – CLICK HERE.
When I was in high school and college, I sang at a few madrigal dinners. If you’re unfamiliar with madrigal dinners, here’s a sampling. (and no, I’m not in this video).
One thing was a constant in every madrigal dinner – wassail. It’s a kind of warm cider drink my choral director would make every year. I’ve made it on Christmas Eve for years. It’s a family favorite and a longstanding tradition. And it only takes about 5 minutes to prepare!!!
1/2 gallon apple juice
2 cups pinapple juice
2 cups orange juice
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons whole cloves
Pour all juices in a pot or crockpot.
Float Cinnamon sticks.
Place cloves in a coffee filter and tie with a twist tie. CLICK HERE for an UPDATE to this recipe.
Simmer for AT LEAST 30 minutes or more
(when it the smell starts to waft, you know it’s gonna be GOOD)
I know some would cover an entire orange with cloves and float it in the wassail. My hat is off to you, but I can’t find my thimble. Actually, I haven’t looked. But you go ahead. More power to ya.
The bonus is the way the house smells while it’s simmering.
For a print friendly version CLICK HERE.
Shannon at Works for Me Wednesday is on a blogging break, but check out her past issues for more great tips, tricks and recipes.
FirstHusband is the head chef in this house on Christmas Day. He genuinely enjoys it! And he has a plan. It’s a serious plan. We all follow it. Wanna see last year’s plan? Click the link.
Did I mention he’s an engineer? We all just follow directions and the meal is always WONDERFUL and NOTHING is cold when it’s supposed to be warm or warm when it’s supposed to be cold. HE says the spreadsheet was necessitated after the year everything needed to be “plated” at the exact same time and we couldn’t pull it off. (I know he just wanted to build a spreadsheet.)
He literally FILLS the smoker with meat on Wednesday and gets up every 4 hours to tend to it Wednesday night. He comes back to bed smelling like mesquite and I could care less. It is SO worth it. He always smokes a turkey, but in past years he has also smoked pork loin, ribs, beef, lobster, prawns and brisket. This year, there’s a ham and a lamb shank in the freezer waiting their turn. It is going to be very, very good. He refers to it as “A Feast.” And he is correct.
So my contribution to Kitchen Tip Tuesday and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday? FirstHusband’s plan. And my contribution for Works for me Wednesday? Being married to a man who enjoys cooking. yep. That DEFINITELY works for me.
We went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to see the Osborne Family Light show Saturday night. These 2007 videos are good, and they give you some idea of the number of lights and the work that goes into the light “choreography” alone, but there’s just NOTHING like standing in the middle of all those lights, surrounded by the music. It always gives me goose bumps.
Some find it too loud, but to them I say, plug your ears and complain somewhere else.
This is a video from this year, but the camera man tends to move around a little too much, so if you get motion sickness, be forewarned.
I read, therefore I quote.
Today’s quotes come from Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season (I’m quoting the 1982 edition.)
“At first, some people have a hard time explaining exactly what’s wrong with Christmas because on the surface everything looks fine. But when they take a closer look, many of them realize that their celebrations lack depth and meaning. It’s not enough that Christmas be a family birthday party or the biggest social even of the year. They want to be moved by the celebration.
When they decorate, they want the result to be more than a beautiful house. They want to look around them and be filled with an air of expectancy . . .
. . . At Christmas, people want to reach down inside themselves and come up with feelings that are better, bigger, more joyful, more loving and more lasting than their everyday ones . . .
. . . But for most people, the real problem with Christmas isn’t that they’re spiritually bankrupt or that Christmas is devoid of meaning. It’s simply that they haven’t taken the time to define for themselves what’s most important about Christmas . . .
. . . While they have planned the details of their celebrations right down to the kind of cranberry sauce to serve at Christmas dinner, they haven’t stopped to ask themselves the all-important question: Why am I celebrating Christmas? They rely on habit, other people’s priorities, commercial pressures, or random events to determine the quality of their celebrations. But this is rarely successful. People need to make conscious choices, because Christmas offers them so many possibilities. It’s a time to celebrate the birth of Christ, the pleasures of family life, the importance of friendship, the delight of creating a beautiful home environment, the need for world peace, the desire to be charitable, and a host of other important values. When people don’t sort out which of these ideas are most important to them, the celebration can seem fractured and superficial . . .
. . . When people haven’t resolved these larger issues, they find it hard to make the dozens of small decisions that confront them every day of the holiday season . . .
. . . we’ve been encouraged by how quickly and easily people can decide what’s most important to them. All they need to do is to become more aware of the need to make choices, have some sense of what those choices are, and set aside a little time to reflect on them. With just a few minutes of prayer, meditation or conscious decision-making, most people gain a much better sense of how Christmas should be.”
The authors included an exercise at the end of this chapter to help readers take a look at all the values competing for our attention at Christmas. For a print friendly version of this exercise in PDF, CLICK HERE.
“To complete the exercise, read through the following ten value statements . . . cross off those that have no importance to you and add any equally important ones that we have not included. Then decide which of the remaining values is most important to you. Put a 1 beside that sentence. Then find the one that is next important to you and put a 2 beside it. Continue in this manner until each statement has been assigned a different number. Even a value that has a low priority to you can still be important. Remember: 1 is the highest and 10 is the lowest.
Christmas is a time to be a peacemaker, within my family and the world at large.
Christmas is a time to enjoy being with my immediate family.
Christmas is a time to create a beautiful home environment.
Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Christmas is a time to exchange gifts with my family and friends.
Christmas is a time for parties, entertaining and visits with friends.
Christmas is a time to help those who are less fortunate.
Christmas is a time to strengthen bonds with my relatives.
Christmas is a time to strengthen my church community.
Christmas is a time to take a few days off from work and have a good time. “
I’m going to get FirstHusband to work this exercise with me. I’m also going to ask FavoriteSon and PinkGirl to do it too. I think it will be an interesting and helpful process. Hope it helps you too!
“. . . therefore I quote” Thursday: If you have a quote to share from something you’ve read recently, feel free to comment and/or include a link to your own “quote” post.
Need help making your link look pretty in the comment? Copy and use this code.
It’s just not Thanksgiving without this song. It’s tradition for me.
And it HAS to be Louie Armstrong.
FavoriteSon has been begging/nagging for days and Sunday night, FirstHusband finally made the long awaited jack-o-bread. It’s pumpkin bread made from our jack-o-lanterns.
First, PinkGirl scooped pumpkin guts on Halloween. (If you carve your jack-o-lanterns too early, you may want to use canned pumpkin.)
Then, the pumpkin gut fairy cleaned up.
FirstHusband/BestDaddy cut up the jack-o-lanterns the next day. (You’ve got to move fast on this, the inside of the second pumpkin started to rot the next day.)
Poor “Jack” was boiled like potatoes.
My copy of “The Tightwad Gazette” was opened to the wrinkliest page – the one with the highlighted pumpkin bread recipe.
FirstHusband did the honors.
And it appears I’m too slow with the camera.
A number of years ago, I insanely – and I do mean INSANELY – made four batches of pumpkin bread – from FOUR different recipes. It took me ALL day and I forgot to wear shoes, so my back and legs and feet were KILLING me when the last oven timer went off. But at the end of the day, the taste tests revealed the winner was a recipe from “The Tightwad Gazette” by Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced “decision”). The recipe is in the original book, page 127. There’s a The Tightwad Gazette II and a The Tightwad Gazette III. Now there’s even The Complete Tightwad Gazette
For a print friendly version in PDF, CLICK HERE.
4 cups sugar (we use half brown sugar/half white sugar)*
1 cup oil
1 16oz can pumpkin (we use 16 oz of “Jack”)
5 cups flour (we use half wheat/half white flour)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 Tbsp cloves or nutmeg
1 cup applesauce (we use sugar-free)
You can add:
1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup dates or raisins
Mix in sugar.
Mix in oil and pumpkin.
Combine dry ingredients and add to moist batter.
Mix in applesauce, nuts and raisins.
Grease and flour five 1 lb coffee cans. Fill with batter over 1/2 full.
(We use regular loaf pans.)
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
It’s Super Bubble Bubble Gum Season. It falls between Halloween and Thanksgiving every year.
What? You don’t observe it? Then . . . can I have your Super Bubble?
I can stop any time I want.
“Dear God, please help Mamaw understand that real freedom is about caring and sharing with your family and who you love. Please help Pappy not be sad and help him be okay that Mamaw is going away . . .
Then the sweet talking that only happens at bedtime. She is snuggled up under the covers with the stuffed animal chosen tonight, petting a cat who somehow knows she needs him right now, in a dimly lit pink room, with soft music playing. Her night light is a 2 foot Christmas angel, dressed in white, holding a candle lit by a small bulb.
“I love Mamaw, but is it okay if I like Pappy more?”
“Yes, sweetie. I know you love Mamaw, but you do more stuff with Pappy, so it makes sense that you like to spend time with him more. He does lots of fun things with you.”
“I know you’re supposed to love everyone in your family, and I really do, it’s just that Pappy really understands my imagination and he’s the best drawer ever! He can draw anything! He even helps me draw hard stuff.”
“I know. I love Pappy’s drawings too.”
“Even though some of my family lives in Georgia, I still love them too. They live far away and I love them, so now Mamaw will live far away and I can still love her. But some people in my family are more fun to play with than other people. Like TeenageGirlCousin is lots of fun and CollegeBoyCousins are lots of fun to play with but that doesn’t mean that I love them more, it just means I like to play with them more, right?”
“That’s exactly true. I know you love your family and that you love Mamaw too. But I understand that some people are more fun to play with. That doesn’t mean you don’t love the people you don’t play with. I know you love your Mamaw, but I also see how much fun you have with Pappy, and he really does understand your imagination. You’re right.”
Thinking. Petting the cat.
I kiss her soft, sweet smelling cheek , say goodnight and go into the office right next to her room to wait on her to fall asleep. Minutes pass.
“Okay. Goodnight honey. Love you.” (yes, sweetie, I’m still here)
“Love you too.”
This week’s giveaway is for the book Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, by Sarah Ban Breathnach.
So how do you enter to win this book? Make a suggestion in a comment!
Don’t have a suggestion? Just leave any comment and you’ll be entered to win!
Don’t want this week’s book(s) but still have a suggestion? Add “no thanks” to your comment.
My request today? Suggest a name for our “new” boat!
Since I have two copies of this week’s book, I’m actually going to expand this drawing a little bit – everyone can ENTER TWICE.
If you want to make sure you get in the drawing for the book, just enter ANY comment now. I will award Simple Abundance to a random winner.
If you want to think about a boat name and leave your comment later, do that too. That way, you won’t miss the drawing if you forget to come back before Sunday night. If we actually pick YOUR suggestion, you will win both Simple Abundance AND the audio tape edition of Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self, also by Sarah Ban Breathnach.
The Details: We bought a boat on Saturday! We used to own a boat (pre-kiddos) and since the kids are older now, we think it’s time we introduced them to our love of saltwater fishing. We’ve actually wanted to buy another boat for while now, but we waited until we could afford it and we’re so glad we did. It wouldn’t be very relaxing to go out for a little stress relief on a boat that owns US, instead of the other way around.
We named our first boat “The Briar Patch.” For this boat, we’re leaning toward the name “The Briar Patch II,” but we want to consider other options first. FirstHusband says a 22 foot boat is too small to have a name, but that mindset has been overruled by the rest of the family. He also has the idea that we may even head on out on a Friday night and spend the night on the boat so we will wake up on Saturday morning and not face the hour long drive to the coast. hmmm. we’ll see. (It does have a porta potty.)
Only the comments on THIS post will be eligible to win.
If your comment “signature” doesn’t link to any contact info:
please include your email in the comment or check back to see if you won!
The books I give away here are usually “treasures” in “very good ” to “like new” condition.
I’m trying to give away a book a week, so I can only afford to ship within the U.S. So sorry!
Check out the list of previous winners and the books they won!
I’ll close comments Sunday evening, April 13th and use a random number generator to pick a winner!
It’s Palm Sunday and find myself singing – as I do every year on this day – the song “Hosanna” from Jesus Christ Superstar. The CD recordings are much better, but here’s the youtube link to the 1973 movie clip of the song: Hosanna. I know some people may not be comfortable with the movie, so I didn’t embed it.
I love Disney. I am a Disney freak. My dad worked at Disney World before it opened in 1971. I walked through the Haunted Mansion when there was still plastic on the cars. My dad was part of the team responsible for painting the original underwater fantasy in the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride (he brought me LOTS of “treasure!”) I once punched one of the three little pigs in the nose to see if it would bounce back like a spring (it didn’t – and I got a spanking.) I danced in a yellow gingham dress in front of Big Thunder Railroad during it’s grand opening! I walked the Candelight Procession every Christmas for 4 years. I learned to sing the alto part of the Hallelujah chorus in warehouse rehearsals behind the fire station in Magic Kingdom. I know how to sneak into Space Mountain (no. I’m not telling. That would be wrong.) I used to LOVE the Mickey Mouse Review (they moved it to Japan, I think.) I went to Grad Night and took a nap in the Hall of Presidents at 3:00 a.m.. I went to Night of Joy for years. I remember “E” tickets. I am a Disney freak.
Now WE are Disney freaks. Our family loves Disney World. We’ve gone to Disney on vacation every summer for as long as I can remember. Even though we only live 45 minutes away, we still stay at the hotels. We figure that people travel from all over the WORLD to stay there, why shouldn’t we? We don’t have travel expenses and we can bring our own car. We love the Disney experience, the Disney fun, the Disney food . . . the Disney MAGIC.
We’ve been annual pass holders since my daughter turned 3. Before that, we were able to rely on friends and family to get us into the parks for free and get us the “friends and family” discount at the hotels. Once PinkGirl turned 3, she became a paying customer and since cast members can only let in 3 people and themselves, we had to pay for her ticket. After years of imposing on said friends and family, we finally made the move to annual pass holder. All four theme parks – Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly known as MGM Studios), no block out dates. Then we upgraded to premium annual pass holders to include the two water parks – Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, and the 5 story arcade – DisneyQuest.
Every year we go to multiple Star Wars weekends at Hollywood Studios and the Christmas Candelight Procession at EPCOT. We go to the Flower and Garden Show and the Food and Wine Festival. We go to the parks multiple days in the year (for no special reason) . . . in addition to spending a week there in the summer. We know the tricks, the out of the way places and which bathrooms don’t have automatic flushing toilets (this was very important to PinkGirl).
PinkGirl and I are going to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT today, as a matter of fact. FirstHusband and FavoriteSon have been on a field trip to Georgia for the last three days and they will arrive back in Orlando around 4:30 p.m. and drive out to meet us for dinner somewhere “on property.” (Disney property, that is.)
EPCOT closes earlier than Magic Kingdom today, so PinkGirl and I will start there. The boys will join us for dinner (dinner at EPCOT!) and then we will probably go over to Magic Kingdom and stay till closing (11:00 p.m.) .
So, with that kind of background, you can bet I know some stuff about visiting Disney World. I should share. And I will – beginning today. PinkGirl wants to go to Crystal Palace for dinner (at Magic Kingdom). That’s a character dinner where Pooh, Tigger, Eyeore and Piglet visit you at the table. If we eat there, we will call 407-WDW-DINE and arrange “priority seating” (not reservations), for one of last available times of the evening, usually around 9:00 p.m. Why so late? Because the restaurant crowd is thinning out. Big time. And when there aren’t that many people left in the restaurant, do you know what you get? Pooh, Tigger, Eyeore and Piglet ALL at your table AT THE SAME TIME. You get your picture taken with ALL the guys. Together!
peace. love. mickey.
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper for kids! There’s nothing like watching a kid tear into a present.
For grownups, I save a few trees and use gift bags, some of which I get back the next year. I admit, sometimes I wrap a gift in tissue paper before putting into a gift bag so there’s a little bit of a surprise left after looking or reaching into the bag.
2. Real tree or artificial?
Artificial. I LOVE the smell of a real tree, but I hate the kids on a nebulizer twice a day and I REALLY hate cleaning up cat vomit laced with chewed up pine needles. ewwww. Each kid has a small tree in their room. We had to get my son a new one last year and the cheapest one was 6 feet tall (skinny), so he has a full height tree in his bedroom now. I would have LOVED that when I was a kid.
3. When do you put up your tree?
The day after Thanksgiving.
4. When do you take the tree down?
Take the tree down? The first week of January.
When did the tree boxes get put back in the attic? Last year . . . I cannot tell a lie . . . sometime between Valentine’s day and St. Patrick’s day. It takes three very large boxes. I may buy smaller boxes this year. Boxes I can handle all by myself. There may be 12 boxes of Christmas tree parts, but if I can lift each one into the attic by myself, that’s fine with me.
5. Do you like eggnog?
yuk. My husband makes REAL eggnog and loves it.
6. Favorite gift received as a child?
I can’t remember. I’ve thought about it for days and I can’t remember. Here’s the thing that came to me, time and time again. Christmas at my house, Santa brought everything. Everything was from Santa. Christmas afternoon at my house, I laid all my gifts out on my bed, so that my neighborhood friends could come see. Couldn’t see the bedspread, so much stuff!! I remember visiting my friend Cindy down the street. Santa brought her a cross necklace, a Bible and a doll. One doll. She had four brothers. Her mom didn’t work. Her dad owned a gas station. I remember asking my mom why Santa left me so much and didn’t give her hardly anything. I don’t remember the answer.
In my house, Santa leaves a few gifts, but mom and dad bring most everything. Santa is fair. Mom and dad are the source of stuff.
7. Do you have a Nativity scene?
We have two:
One is white bisque and sits on the middle of our dining table (the ONLY place the cats have learned NOT to jump on in the formal living areas).
The other is a tiny wood set I bought for my daughter to play with. She performs elaborate dramas which include everyone in the Bible Christmas story, all the Rudolph characters and all the characters from Santa Claus is coming to town. It’s quite interesting. Did you know that Rudolph gave baby Jesus a ride? This year, Hannah Montana is actually an angel.
8. Hardest person to buy for?
It’s funny. The people I find it the most difficult to buy for are the people who tell me exactly what to buy (and where to find it, how much it costs, etc). Sucks the Christmas spirit right out of me. I actually enjoy thinking about a person and finding a gift they might like. Sometimes I ask their close family ideas. I never ask them directly. Sometimes I’m wrong. But I think the real gift isn’t the thing in the wrapping paper, it’s the sentiment behind it. I’m teaching my children to be gracious gift receivers.
The same goes when people request that I tell them exactly what to buy for me (and where to find it, etc.). I just try to pick something easy and fast. If someone doesn’t know me well enough to pick out a thoughtful gift, I shouldn’t be on their
to do Christmas list in the first place. Or at the very least I should be on a “gag gift” list. Now that’s fun.
9. Easiest person to buy for?
Anyone who understands that buying a gift is not a functional, irritating, time sucking task. A gift is just as much for the giver as the receiver. Remember that saying, “It’s the thought that counts?” I get it.
10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
hmmmm. I left this empty for a few days and still can’t come up with anything. Probably because I don’t just see the item by itself. I see the giver, not just the gift.
11. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail. With a Christmas letter in which we completely make fun of ourselves. No bragging here. We try to be as authentic as possible. Sometimes the letter goes out in January. Sometimes we send two years at a time because we wrote, but didn’t actually mail the previous year’s letter. Last year we didn’t even write a letter. Life is too busy.
12. Favorite Christmas movie?
Has to be “A Christmas Story.” “You’ll shoot your eye out!” “I can’t put my arms down!” “Daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie.” “Thtuck? Thtuck? Thtuck!!!!”
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Usually I buy a few gifts all year long, but we really buy the majority of the stuff on the annual shopping day my husband and I usually take. He takes off work on a weekday, we shop together when most people are at work and we knock out a significant percentage of it that one day. We make time to have a nice lunch together, and depending on the child care situation, maybe a nice dinner too. This year, our son, is 12 and (we hope) is old enough to babysit his sister for $2 per hour. If they call us, fighting, we’ve already decided our response: “Well, okay. We’re at Best Buy, but if you really need us to come home, I guess we will . . .” heh heh heh.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Recycled? nah. I either return stuff to Walmart, sell it on ebay or give it to charity. But I’ve often given used items as gifts. Especially books! Everyone who knows me, knows I think used books are a treasure! If it doesn’t stink like cigarettes or mildew, and hasn’t been completely highlighted by someone else, bring it on!
15. Favorite things to eat at Christmas?
Oh, and Crown Royal with Diet Sprite. We only buy it in December. Soooo smooth. The buttah of whisky.
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
Both. A base of white programable twinkle lights and some retro looking colored LED lights. We program the twinkle lights to “dance” to the Christmas music. We tried C7s for the colored lights, but the heat they generate could roast a marshmallow. These LEDs look the same as C7s, but with no heat. (NOT cheap to buy, but easy on the electric bill.)
17. Favorite Christmas song?
One? Pick one? Not going to happen.
Christian: So many, but one of my favorites is O Come O Come Emmanuel
Kids: The 8 Polish Foods of Christmas (“What’s a kielbasa? Pretty much just meat”)
Traditional: The Christmas Song (but only by Nat King Cole).
I also like “Bleak Mid Winter” by Pierce Pettis.
All played to twinkling Christmas tree lights.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Stay home. Always Christmas morning at home. Used to do Christmas dinner at my parents, but a few years ago, we wanted to start making our own family traditions and memories, so we stay home for dinner now too. Everyone’s invited, sometimes they come, sometimes not. We always have a wonderful time. The kids each pick out a new recipe, we let them eat off china and drink out of crystal. My daughter decorates the table. It’s really wonderful. We’re making memories, not just dinner.
19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
Well. Yes. I think. But is it Donner or Donder? I can’t ever figure it out! I’ve heard both. I bought some Christmas coffee mugs with a reindeer on each and it reads: Donner. I have no idea. I just sing it softly and hope my daughter doesn’t call me out.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
Star. I don’t get the Angel thing at all. Looks uncomfortable if you ask me. Definitely rude.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Well, we actually have a tradition we call “Twelve Day” at our house. It started out as a way to give gifts that get ignored on Christmas morning, due to the overwhelming amount of stuff. We give a single gift to our kids each of the 12 days before Christmas. We gave a globe to my son one year and he and my husband sat on the couch and rolled it around, looking at the world for 20 minutes. Never would have happened on Christmas morning. Also a great way to turn a seasonal purchase into a gift – like a Christmas CD or DVD, Christmas clothes or jammies, ornaments, etc.. This way we enjoy them all Christmas season.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
People who buy the hottest items and then resell them for a huge markup. What goes around, comes around. Big greedy scrooges.
23. What is the “corniest” family tradition you do, or miss doing?
Gotta be the Mickey Wreath. Still do it. Can’t imagine Christmas without it.
24. Ugliest Christmas Decoration ever invented?
Plastic nose gays. Okay, maybe it’s just the ugliest NAME of a Christmas Decoration ever invented. The word “nose” should not be in the name of anything Christmasy.
25. Which looks the best, theme trees or homey trees?
Homey trees. Family trees. Memory trees. Unconditional trees.
26. What does Christmas mean to you?
When I was younger? Stuff. Lots and lots of stuff.
“Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.”
“It’s still a mystery to me
that the hands of God could be so small
How tiny fingers reaching in the night
were the very hands that measure the sky.
to save the world.
Son of God,
Here with us.
You’re here with us.”
This simple tradition is so easy (and inexpensive) and it makes my kids feel very special.
In our house, when a kid has a birthday, they wake up to a room which has been lovingly “T.P.’d” in colored paper streamers. The night before, after the kiddo falls asleep, my husband and I sneak in and run paper streamers all over the bedroom – from one corner to another, all over the ceiling fan, from the curtains, the bed and any protruding toy on a shelf. We stumble in the dark, say “shhhhhh” way too loudly and make confusing gestures at each other in the dark, trying to convey directions. You would not believe how loud tissue paper is when you unroll it in a quiet room! Despite all that, we’ve never had a kid wake up in the middle of the sneaky decorating and catch us!
The next morning, the kid wakes up to a maze of bright, colorful streamers. In the beginning, there would be a balloon or two as well. Not anymore. We can’t seem remember that part until we’re actually streaming the room and we will NOT drive to a 24 hour store in the middle of the night to buy balloons. We love our kids. But not enough to go out and buy balloons at midnight.
We usually leave the streamers up for a week – sometimes two. Lately, we take down all the streamers on the ceiling fan except for the ones draped over the blades. Then we can turn the fan on low and the streamers will twirl and drive the cats nuts.
Last night, putting my 6 (soon to be 7) year old daughter to bed, I said, “hmmmm. We’re going to have a hard time putting streamers in this room tonight. It’s so messy we can barely walk in here.
“Oh my goodness! I need to get out of this bed and get my hiney cleaning up this room!”
(If I knew that’s all it took to get her to clean her room without nagging, I would definitely have been T.P.ing the room more than once a year!)