Wednesday, December 30, 2009

We Have Wandered Many A Weary Mile



video

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

KIDSBOOK

Click here to view this photo book larger

2009: Notes To Self

Last Christmas,
my sister Linda
included a little spiral notebook
in a bag of goodies she presented me.

I immediately titled it:
The New Year- 2009.

(My granddaughter added                
the little footnote there.)

This is a hodgepodge
of my year.

A synopsis of twelve months.

A crazy look
at my life
in simple Notes to Self...
(Click to see larger)





Then I got serious about the diet -
even bringing the exercise bike
in from the garage:

 


Okay- But the next page
has this:


Getting ice cream?
What diet?

Then there's always
the job of finding blog subjects:


And getting ready for
the summer disco party:






Thinking about my diet again-
Composing songs for the beach!


Preparing for Sister Weekend-
And on opposite page: noting a name
for a kids book I plan to write.
Someday.

You can see how totally
busy I am....
Here's Stella!






Then came the Halloween party:



And then there's pretty much nothing after that.

So-
there's my year.
2009.

It would be funny
if it wasn't so sad!

Monday, December 28, 2009

I'll Take A Cup Of Kindness Yet




I'm cookie-logged.

Spongy with sugar
and caffeine-
and tortured with
jeans that don't fit right.

Yet, this week is just
an extension of the madness-
of the:
"    Let's see how much junk
we can eat and drink before
the New Year comes and
takes it all away".

I'm looking forward to replacing
the cookies with carrots,
the liquor with lettuce,
the cheesecake with rice cakes
and the garbage with grapefruit.

But-
I am also looking forward
to going out with a big bang!
-To get all the naughty out
before ringing in'the New Year.

I feel like a bad pimple ready to burst.

I feel like a blackboard
thick with chalk marks.

I feel like a sloppy closet
spilling out in disarray.

I feel like a beach
with a million foot prints.

I feel like a silly song
that never ends.

I feel like a hive
of lazy bees.

I just want to wipe the slate
and start over.

I want fresh paper,
new pencils
and clean hands.

I want softer eyes,
a stronger heart
and a braver soul.

I want an empty stomach,
a full imagination
and an urge for adventure.

I want to step out of this year
and into the next
with no bulging baggage
or nagging regrets
or sad memories.

I want to come out of this tornado
like Dorothy did.
To land softly on January 1st
and walk out in new glittery shoes...
meet new friends...
see new places...
set my sights...
...and not be afraid.

If you've taken a peek at my
newest blog, you'll see I'm serious.
Maybe even a bit over the edge-
but- hey- that is another side of me
and I have to deal with it.
You don't have to tune in
if it's not your cup of tea.

Hopefully, I'll still be here, too-
pondering daily about the
funny things in life
and asking questions about
kids and housework
and sharing odd holidays.

I guess the countdown begins.
Four days left
till that giant door in time opens
and we walk into a new world.

Cheers!

Friday, December 18, 2009

May Your Days Be Merry And Bright



Christmas is a week away
and I still haven't finished
my shopping
or baking
or wrapping.

I still haven't washed the
Christmas tablecloth,
found my extra cookie sheets,
or opened my bag of bows.

I still haven't bought my Bailey's,
watched "  It's a Wonderful Life",
or made out my own Christmas list.

So-
with that said-
I just wanted to let you know
that I will be taking next week off
to be with my family-
eating till it ouches us-
playing board games-
making New Year plans-
and watching Cousin Eddie
appear at the Griswold's for the holidays.

May your Christmas
be everything you dreamed it would be.

Soft with music.

Loud with laughter.

Filled with love.

And thick with memories...

Now...
I will leave you today
with one of my favorite quotes
from Erma Bombeck:

"  There's nothing sadder in this world 
than to awake on Christmas morning 
and not be a child."


Merry Christmas to all.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mini-Moments From A Mighty Mission



Sometimes it's the little things
that you remember most.                                  

Not huge earth-shaking moments-
but small sparks of big smiles...
Tiny brain videos
that fade in and out
for the rest of your life.

Shopping was not on my list yesterday,
but somehow it appeared there-
Right smack-dab at the top.
Realizing suddenly
that Christmas is next week,
I decided that perhaps it was time
to finally strap on some shoes
(and a bra)-
and venture out into the huge
Mall World.

My daughter Erin drove,
which was good for me
because I was in one of those
nappy moods.

She was my eyes and ears for the day.
You know-
for those tiny price tags
and overlooked bargains
and big red fire trucks siren-ing up
behind us in traffic.
(The kids make fun of my eyesight
and my hearing-
why couldn't I have developed
a weakened sense of taste instead?)

Our first stop was Michael's craft store.
(I love this place better than Zale's
or Sephora or Pizza Hut!)
We spent two hours in there,
pouring over craft items
and yarn
and colorful scrap booking embellishments.

I imagined myself sitting down
to create a wonderful painting,
an awesome bracelet,
a seasonal centerpiece
and delicate chocolates.

This is truly the "wanna be" store.

I wonder how much of that crap
gets thrown into the trash
after succumbing to the realization
that there are no creative bones whatsoever
in your disappointed body.

We decided to invite Cindy
(my future daughter-in-law)
to meet us for lunch.
Erin was driving,
so my job was to keep texting Cindy
for arrangements.

For one thing, I can't text.
Secondly, my typing really sucks.
So, right there you have a
huge ball of stupid ready to happen.

It doesn't help that Erin
has one of those new Droids
that weigh a ton
and has the touch screen.

"We. jestleft Targettt." I typed.

" Thisiss Mom." I added, as if she couldn't
figure that one out for herself.

Cindy replied "hahaha"-
which- if you know Cindy-
it makes you laugh just knowing
that she is laughing.

For some reason, the typing screen
disappeared back up into the phone
and Erin told me just to
slide my finger down the screen
and it would come back.

I tried.
Didn't work.
Tried again.

"Mom!" Erin screamed,
finally stopping in traffic and
looking my direction.
"You don't have to rub it like
you're rubbing a genie's lamp!"

I cracked up.
I couldn't stop laughing.

I guess I was trying too hard-
and showing my age.
Heck- why didn't we just call Cindy?
I still know how to speak!

After lunch at Casa,
Cindy joined us for some
coat shopping.
Erin has been on a Mighty Mission
to find the perfect coat.

And I've been dreading it.

Because I remember Erin's
Mighty Mission to find
the perfect prom dress.

And the perfect purse...

And the perfect pair of boots...

A person could starve,
fall asleep,
and totally go insane
during Erin's Mighty Missions!

It didn't help that she chose to wear
a pull-over hoodie that morning.
It was bulky and unattractive
(under the 326 coats she tried on).
And I was getting tired.

One coat was a bit small
and her hoodie-hood was trapped down inside,
making her the most malformed
Igor/Hunchback of Notre Dame
that I ever saw!

I'm still laughing now,
just thinking about it.

Tears rolled down my cheeks.
I held onto the clothes racks for support.
I crossed my legs so I wouldn't pee my pants.
I doubled over in a humor-induced
sicko-triggered,
Funniest Home Video stance,
and the whole time Cindy
was looking at me like
I was losing it.

I know she wanted to laugh.
I know she wanted to join me
and roll on the floor,
guffawing at Erin's camel back.
I could see the giggles
gurgling inside of her
like laughing bumble bees.
But she was too afraid of revenge.

Erin can pack a pretty good punch.
(Even though I knew she would have
laughed at herself
if there had been a better mirror nearby).

Yet-
somehow,
(by the grace of God)-
the Mighty Coat Mission was aborted
and we headed home for the day.

I was tired.
My body cried for coffee.
My feet hated me.

But, falling asleep last night,
I thought of the fun we had.

It had been awhile since I
laughed so hard-
since I had cleansed that "old lady"
attitude out of me-
since I had taken pleasure
in the "little moments".

The down side?

Today the
Mighty Coat Mission continues!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

National Chocolate Covered Anything Day! Yay!




Yummmmmmmmm...
Ummmmmmmmmm...

Sorry.
I've got a mouth full
of chocolate.
Give me a minute
to savor it's crazy goodness.

Oooh-ummmmm...

Okay- well, yes-
I know it's not healthy
or even socially acceptable
to have chocolate for breakfast,
but today is a day for
breaking those rules.

Today is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day!

Next to owning a money tree,
that has got to be the best thing ever!

This day gives us the excuse to
down gallons of chocolate milk,
dipped pretzels,
chocolate raisins,
bon-bons
and shakes.

Today we can have
our normally plain
almonds
and pancakes
and bananas
and strawberries-
bathed in chocolate.

I even discovered a recipe
for chocolate covered bacon!



Does it really sound that gross?
Think about that wonderful
salty-sweet combination-
hand in hand with that
crunchy-soft texture-
and it just might become your
favorite go-to snack
when chocolate cravings start.

Or- take a walk on the wild side
by trying this recipe:


Chocolate Scorpions
You will need:                                       
12 dead scorpions
a big bar of chocolate (good quality, fair-trade)
a big pan of boiling water
a big heatproof bowl-

(Well- you can figure out the rest).

Of course, you may want to wait
until October 14th-
which is Chocolate Covered Insect Day
for that one.

Today we want some yumminess.
That sweet,
semi-sweet,
white,
or deep chocolate fantasy.

Everything tastes good in chocolate!

I will even eat oatmeal
if it includes chocolate.
This is how I fix it:

Cook Quaker Quick Oats as directed.
Sweeten with a few spoons of brown sugar.
Stir well.

Sprinkle on dark chocolate mini-morsels
and chopped pecans.
Top with fresh whipped cream.

Indulge!
And remember...
Somewhere underneath all that,
is some powerful-healthy stuff.

I don't care for the taste of cherries.
I usually give away the cherry
on the top of my sundae,
I avoid cherry-flavored drinks,
and cherry candy is always tossed aside.

But give me a chocolate covered cherry
and I don't know when to stop!
Those bright red boxes shout
from the shelves this time of year.

And good thing is-
they are relatively inexpensive.
For $15.55, I can have 72
chocolate covered cherries.

That would last me a good 48 hours.

Chocolate can be found in so many forms.
I just bought this really cool
chocolate-covered foot!



Gives a whole new meaning to
open mouth-
insert foot,
doesn't it?

Which is exactly what I plan to do.

Yummmmm....
Ummmmmmmmm...
Ahhhhh...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Insomnia




I've been up since 2 a.m.

Lots of coffee
and two hour naps
will do that, you know.

The house is quiet at 2 a.m.
Except for the incessant murmur
of the furnace
trying to keep up with the draft
coming in the back door.
...Because the weather stripping
is worn.

Every few minutes
I hear the ice maker
dropping perfectly formed cubes
into its plastic tray.

And my Regulator clock
ticks away minutes
as the pendulum races
to keep up the rhythm.

I turn on the Christmas tree.
A slightly lopsided triangle
of artificial pine branches,
draped with tangled lights
and rodent-damaged ornaments.

It's beautiful.

It makes me want to
dust off the Christmas CD's
and listen to the old crooners
talk about home.

I love my home.

I'm glad that I'll be
all warm inside on Christmas-
baking a sweet ham.
And disfigured pies
that leak onto the oven
and cause the smoke alarm
to panic prematurely.

This is my nest.
I've feathered it
with hand-me-downs
and yard sale finds
and a bold Sherwin-Williams palette.

I snuggle deeper
into my favorite chair-
the pillow misshapen
from the dog's heavy siestas.

The clock says 2:45.
I'm still not sleepy.

My life flashes before me.
Not quickly like it does
when you're dying.
But slowly,
softly-
like it does when you're living.

I try to remember the months.
Each one up till now.

I can't remember most.

Only a few stand out-
like brighter stars
in a sea of midnight.

Parties,
smiles,
fresh zucchini-
the smell of lilacs...
bare feet on clover...
the scent of burning leaves...
the laughter of too much wine...

All the other memories
that I did not save
fell off the edge of time
and floated softly
into an ocean
too deep to fathom.

I cannot get them back.
I cannot ever remember them.

3:10.
A dog barks outside.
The furnace finally clicks off.
A dozen perfect ice cubes
fall like newborns
into a blanket of clones.

I go back to bed.
Crawl under the covers
and touch my husband's head.

He's snoring.
And he needs a haircut.

I love him.

I stare at his back
for what seems like hours
and then my eyes finally close
and it is morning.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tots, Tears, and Time for Change



I decided to give my new
self-improvement plans
a little test drive
over the weekend.

I attended two very different
Christmas programs.
One at the local grade school-
and one at church.

It's been awhile since
I've set foot in either.
Not because I didn't want
to be there,
but because I've become
lazy and content
in my sweats, slippers,
and my
"What happened to you?" bed head.

My daughter convinced me to
attend the school program.
Two of my grand kids were
performing playing singing
with their class,
and I decided that
in order to follow through
on being a better person,
that my plans should definitely
include being a better NaNa.

We arrived a good half hour early,
only to discover that the
assistant principal was
herding everyone to the cow pasture
about a quarter mile north of the school-
because there was no other room to park.

Apparently every other NaNa,
Aunt, Sister, PaPa, Uncle,
Cousin and neighbor
had decided they would
be better people, too.

(Stupid Awesome people!)

My daughter and I
had to stand in the back of the gym
against the tumbling mats
that smelled like sweaty socks
and basketball rubber.

Luckily I had shed my giant coat
for a lightweight hoodie
because the body heat in that place
was teetering close to 80 degrees-
and then- with my hot flashes
every two minutes or so-
I was baking in the triple digits.

Sweat was pouring in my eyes
the whole time I tried to watch
my grand kids-
as they stood on the stage,
looking like miniature dolls
from so far away.

Originally I thought they were
singing, "Let Us Go",
but later realized it must have been
"Let it Snow."
The Dolby surround sound
was really acting up, I suppose.

So, while we were waiting
for every other class
between Kindergarten and forth grade,
my daughter and I became
fashion police.

Unabashedly, (but silently),
taking on the role of
Stacy and Clinton from TLC-
secretly on a mission to
rid the school of
"  What Not To Wear."

I will be the first to admit
that I am not a fashion diva.
But, come on people!
A calf-length blue jean skirt
with black polka-dot socks
and metallic silver tennis shoes?

A giant cable-knit Christmas sweater
with felt reindeer-
and Rudolph with a light-up nose?

A leopard tank top with a black
push-up bra and white leggings?

Okay- okay-
Here I am- getting way off track!

But I think you get the gist
of my misery...

Yet, in the end-
after an hour of staring into
a sea of heads-
I was hugged for being a good NaNa
and enjoyed hearing my grand kids
full of Christmas joy.
Success!

Then, my sister Linda came
for a weekend visit
and our younger sister Tina
invited us to her church
Christmas program.

Linda and I had already
fell into the coffee and fudge groove,
lounging in fleece pants
and sleep socks-
taking ten minute cat naps
between outbursts of
the XBox 360 game
being played in the background.

"Ugh...well...you know
how we hate to drive after dark",
she told Tina on the phone,
"Besides that, it's raining.
And cold."

But after Tina offered to
come pick us up,
our excuses diminished
into "  this might actually do us
some good"   thoughts.

I kinda liked the way
we all three slipped in the church door
and crept up the balcony
before any heavy hand-shaking
or bible verse recitation could catch us.

But,
once the program began,
my heart began to warm.

That old crusty layer of
cynicism and scrooginess
melted off like snow.

I actually felt
the Christmas spirit
stir within me
and I was happy that
I was there-
in God's house.

I just hope He knew I was there, too.
(Doesn't hurt to have those
extra points, you know).

My brother-in-law-
Brian Fuller-
who happens to be a fabulous
contemporary Christian singer,
sang a solo called,
"  Christmas in Heaven".

Tears rolled down my cheeks
uncontrollably-
one after another-
as the lump in my throat
rose and fell
and threatened
an all out Sob Fest.

I was thinking of my parents
and my sister Barb,
and Bob.
Hoping that they are all
up there somewhere-
no longer sick or weak
or old or lonely.

I knew at that moment
that my pilgrimage
to be a better person
would be the focus
of my new year.

That I would strive to be
a better wife and mother
and sister and friend.

And child of Christ.

That I would do more good,
pray more prayers,
count more blessings,
and have no fears.

And realize that even
people disguised in black polka dot socks
and metallic tennis shoes-
are striving to be good people, too.

And so my journey goes...

http://christianpublicityservices.com/dramatic_rose/dramatic_rose/sarahchristmas.htm

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Of All Things Christmas



My dear blogging friend, Margaret,
posed a question on her Wednesday blog
about favorite Christmas memories.
(Check out her blog at:
http://margarethall.wordpress.com/)

Thanks, Margaret!
I've decided that's what I'll
write about today.

Grab a cup of coffee.
A comfy seat.
And get ready to go back in time with me
(like I've done so much lately).

If you're bored out of your gourd,
chances are you've heard
these tales before-
or the morning news
is a lot more interesting.

But....

One of my favorite memories
is the hubbub of the last day of school
before Christmas vacation.

There was always a pulse in the air-
a mystical throb of excitement-
My heart beat loudly
and my eyes remained wide-
with the anticipation of seeing Santa.

After the school Christmas program,
Santa would always arrive-
handing out little boxes of candy
and oranges.

The cardboard box had a
little string handle
and was full of hard candy,
a few chocolates,
and heaven.

Unlike kids nowadays,
candy was a rare treat-
so we savored-
(and guarded)-
our box we got from Santa.

And then it was home
to stare at the tree for hours-
hoping that there would be
at least one gift for me
on Christmas day.

I love the memory of
my sister Linda and I
singing carols.
We would sit in the darkness
of our bedroom
and pull up the blinds.
Outside, it was a wonderland of snow
and sparkles and glittery icicles.

Then, we would tuck ourselves
up against the window sill
and begin singing.
Oh, Come All Ye Faithful,
Here Comes Santa Claus,
Jingle Bells,
Silver Bells,
and a huge array of memorized tunes
that have yet to leave our hearts.

That went on
for what seemed like hours-
pressing our noses against the cold glass...
arguing about what to sing next...
chasing our stupid brothers from our room...
secretly digging into our little candy boxes
for a quick treat....

I feel Linda beside me now
as though it were yesterday.
My partner in all things Christmas...

Us...
that little blond duo who thought the whole world
was good and gracious.

(We still sing- she and I.
But it's usually liquor induced!)

Then, as years went on,
I got married and
I began spending Christmas
with my husband.

We never had a lot of money back then.
So I didn't expect much.
We probably used our last bit of cash
for a tree.

But one evening around Christmas,
as I just finished my bath,
I walked into the room and
saw presents beneath the tree.

Ten!
Ten presents!
And they were all mine!

I cried.
I didn't even know what they were,
and I cried like a baby.
I had never gotten more than
a couple of gifts when I lived at home.
This was the jackpot-
the lottery-
the best Christmas I ever had!

And I think my husband
was just as excited to give them
as I was to get them!

Although the two pair of socks
and three pair of underwear he bought
were each wrapped
separately,
I was thrilled beyond measure.

I also got a brown striped cowl-neck sweater,
a red knit sweater,
a pair of fuzzy pink slippers,
a red robe,
and a sketch book.

I don't remember
what I got for any Christmas after that.

But that special night has
embedded itself in precious memories.
Forever.

When the kids came along,
Christmas became special again,
There was the heartbeat of magic
surrounding our home again.

Every Christmas morning
we would go to their bedrooms and say,
"Guess who's beeeen here?"

They shot up from their slumber
and ran to the tree in awe,
always surprised and thankful
that they believed in Santa.

Then as teens-
they stayed in bed later,
didn't appreciate the wake up call,
and made large piles
of gift returns and exchanges.

That's just life, I guess...

There are too many memories to mention.
But every year is my favorite Christmas.

Because I thank God that I am alive
and well
and have family and friends.

And sometimes-
a little box of candy...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tasteless Toys For Tots


Years ago, Christmas shoppers
were undulated with rows and rows
of baby dolls                                                                             
and toy guns
and stacks of coloring books.

Back then, a parent never had to set foot
in the electronics department
unless they were purchasing a
transistor radio
for their music loving child.

A typical baby doll has shrunk into
a Botox-induced,
teenage,
anorexic,
goth-child
with more studs and stilettos
than an X rated film.

My barbies went to cool prom dances
and swimming at the country club-
and Ken wore a suit and tie
when he picked her up for a date.

Where do these modern new-age dolls go?
Clubbing?
Wind-surfing?
Booze- cruises?

Maybe it's just me.
But kids just aren't kids anymore.

We've got Mary Kate and Ashley
pushing makeup to third graders-
Miley Cyrus donning short-shorts
and push-up bras-
and every woman on TV that has boobs
is suddenly showing off their cleavage
like a female plumbers crack.

Even my own nine year old grand daughter
has opted for skin-tight skinny jeans
and black lace-up boots
and a Kate Goslin hairstyle.

(She's absolutely adorable).

But, I feel like I've lost that chance
to tell her bedtime stories
and to rock her to sleep
and to do fun crafts
and enjoy things that
little kids used to enjoy.

She doesn't even like the color pink anymore.
That's sad.

Society just pushes these things.
Hollywood is full of promotional crazies.
Advertising is subliminal propaganda.

And here I go with the ranting...
Up on my soap box again...
But-
I can't help but get annoyed-
I can't help but miss the innocence of youth-
The magic of childhood...

The color pink...

Recently, while searching for the perfect gift,
I ran across a couple of disturbing new toys.

How about a i-Tattoo?                                                
Aimed at six years old and up,
this toy is an electronic pen
that transfers tattoo patterns onto skin
with non-permanent ink.

One customer said she got it for her
four year old for his birthday
and everyone in the house was
soon covered in tattoos.

Does this not scream white trash
to anyone but me?

Sure, those little press on tattoos
are lots of fun.
I've even bought those for the kids.

But this "toy" is $249.99.
That's some serious tats!

I mean, what do your kids say?
"Oh, wow, thanks Mom and Dad!
I'm gonna grow up to be just like
Tommy Lee or Kat von D!

And, too,
the poor Barbie
has had her share of makeovers.
The latest "doll from Hell" is
Barbie and Tanner.

This duo comes with a pooper-scooper
and brown pellets that go in one end
as Tanner's food-
and come out the other end
as doo-doo.
Barbie cleans up
with her special magnetic scooper
and trash can.

In my opinion,
that little poop scooper would be lost               
within a week-
(just like Barbie's tiny high heels)-
and there would be Tanner crap
all over the carpet!

I'm staying away from the tasteless
and the dangerous this holiday season.

But my grand daughter wants
a new comforter set.
In black.

So- I'm looking.
I'm giving in.

But it's gonna have the
biggest, pinkest pillow in the world!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gingerbread House 101




Nothing makes a more festive centerpiece
for the Christmas table
than a Gingerbread House.
Imagine the smiles on the children's faces
and the amazement of the adults
as they admire your tasty work of candied art.

Although there are many kits available
that make the Gingerbread House construction
a quick and easy process,
I decided that hand-crafted
was the best way to go
in order to assure that traditional sense
of an old fashioned Christmas.

These are the ingredients you will need:
  • 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup dark molasses
  • 1 Tbsp water
However, I do not like cloves,
allspice,
ginger
or cinnamon,
so I left those out of my recipe.

I was also completely out of salt,
only had baking soda,
and substituted white sugar for the brown.

But- you know-
when that urge to bake hits you-
there's no running to town to get supplies!

It only serves as an excuse to
buy chocolate covered cherries,
a five pound tin of salted cashews,
and a giant bottle of Bailey's.

Then- by the time you get home,
you're ready for a nap
and say the heck with the baking.

So- trust me.
Make do.

Make the Gingerbread Dough

1 Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. 
(My bowl was a bit small and kept flying all over the place, but, hey- that's what paper towels are for!)
Set aside.
2 Using an electric mixer, ( I used a wooden spoon- my beaters are bent),
beat on medium speed the butter and brown sugar until fluffy and well blended.
(Mine was not actually fluffy. It just kinda laid there like cement).
Beat in the eggs, (I always pretend I'm on the Food Network during this process!)
molasses and water until well combined.
3 Beat half of the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until well blended and smooth. 
(Have you ever tried to beat molasses? Doesn't work, people!)
Stir in the remaining flour. 
Knead (or use your mixer's dough hook)  (Oh, yeah- like I've got one of those!)
until well blended. 
If dough is too soft, add a little more flour.
(I was out of flour, so I used pancake mix instead.)
4 Wrap the dough in plastic wrap (If you can ever find the start of the wrap and keep it from sticking to itself! Mercy!)and refrigerate at least two hours, preferably overnight.  (How could I possible wait overnight? I was too excited! I waited till Reno 911 was over, then I continued construction)
You can make it up to 3 days ahead of time. (Yeah- like who plans that far ahead?!) 
Let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before rolling out.(Rolling out? No one said anything about rolling out! Crap! I hate that part!)

Now is the time where creativity takes charge!
Make a paper pattern of the house you would like to build.
Will it be square? Ranch-style? A castle?

I decided on the typical Hansel and Gretel type house.

My dough ended up 1/16 inch thick
on one end
and 3.75 inches thick
on the other,
but I think it gave my house more character.

Bake the pieces at 350 for 11-15 minutes.
While waiting, prepare your Royal Icing.
This is the mortar that will hold the pieces together.
It will also make for stunning decorative icicles
and subtle finishing touches to your
awesome centerpiece.

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 2/3 cup powdered sugar, divided
The following is the construction process
that I found worked best for me:


Pipe the icing along the edges of your cooled pieces,
taking both hands,
duct tape,
and a heavy duty vice to hold them together.

Align two walls and mortar.

Wait five seconds for them
to crack and fall.

Wipe the icing from your brows
and hairline.

Eat all the jelly beans,
peppermints,
licorice sticks
and M&M's
before they go stale.

Try again using 1 part Royal Icing
to 2 parts library paste.

After the chimney falls,
the roof caves in
and the sidewalk crumbles,
proceed to throw the entire monstrosity
into the nearest trash can.

I'm sitting here this morning-
enjoying my beautiful masterpiece.
A Wilton pre-made Gingerbread House!

And I've finished off a half dozen
chocolate covered cherries,
a pound of cashews
and five shots of Bailey's.

Life is good.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Unexpected Joy


Even though we all like to think of
the holidays as fun,
exciting,
carol-filled,
snowy-glittered days of hot chocolate
and glowing fires and children's laughter-
there is also that down time-
that place between celebration
and meditation
where we are truly alone.

Yet, we all need this space-
this stretching of our souls-
these quiet moments to reflect
and recharge.

I took my "alone time" on Saturday morning.

The week had been a scrapbook of
Christmas ornaments and grandchildren
and shopping and cooking and cleaning
and planning and doing and being
the Super Mom.

But, as I sat in the darkness of the
family room,
rolled into a flannel ball
in my favorite comfy chair,
I realized that I am no longer
excited by the season.

I realized that what magic
once had roots here,
now hovers like a kite
that begs for freedom.

I confessed to myself that
pretending it is
the most wonderful time of the year-
doesn't make it so.

Perhaps it was stress,
or weariness
or apprehension of failure.
Or maybe too many sweets,
too little sleep,
and not enough wine.

Whatever the reasons,
I was feeling a bit lost.
Totally consumed
by the days
that I have no control over.

I put on some soft Christmas music
and closed my eyes-
seeing quite clearly
the smiling faces of my children
as they leap-frogged over one another
to rip the wrapping from Santa's gifts-
as they giggled with glee
and played incessantly through
the night.

I still saw them in their "jammer bottoms"
and holiday slippers-
their candy cane sweetness...
their effervescent joy...

And like a film on fast forward,
I recalled Christmas trees of the past,
special gifts,
certain treats,
forgotten snowmen
and lost prayers.

A tear rolled down my cheek
as I sat in the darkness
and mourned times passing.

Then,
all of a sudden,
my husband came into the room-
appearing as a silhouette
against the dim light of the hallway.

He walked over to me
and held out his hand,
helping me up from my chair,
but not saying a word.

Although it was dark,
I saw his smile-
shining like a loving light
that captured my affection.

...And we began to dance.

A slow, sultry movement
in the center of the room-
the Christmas music
like a fading heart beat
around us-
hugging like young lovers
that had no fear of time.

And then just as quickly
as he appeared,
he left the room-
squeezing my hand
as though he understood
the images in my mind-
the quiet sorrow that
surrounded me.

That dance made all the difference.

Unexpected joy came over me.
A piece of magic was recaptured.
A reminder that what happens today
is what we should take time to enjoy.
That dwelling on the past-
or time-
only diminishes today's memories.

And, someday,
when I'm old and gray
and sitting alone in the darkness
at Christmas time-
I'll remember that dance.

And I will smile.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pickles, Poop, and Cookies on A Plate



To make this Christmas season
more interesting,
I decided to do some research on
traditions that have passed the test of time.
Deep, meaningful ideas that
are instilled in children
and that embed themselves in memory.

Like the Christmas Pickle.

Well, some say it's a German tradition.
Others say German's don't have a clue.

But the story goes that parents would
hide a pickle on the Christmas tree
after all the other trimmings were complete.

The most observant child would
find the pickle on Christmas morning
and was awarded an extra gift.

Any adult finding the pickle
was blessed with good luck
for an entire year.

Now, I don't know about you-
but if that were true-
I'd be ripping that dang tree apart
to find that sour sucker!

And no one really says
what kind of pickle it should be.
Gherkin,
Kohsher,
Dill,
Sweet,
Sour,
Bread and Butter,
Zesty, or
Candied?

I suppose the best bet would be
the cute little glass pickles
from Amazon.com
that come packed in their
very own pickle jar.

With my kids and grand kids,                          
that poor pickle would be
in razor-sharp shards
within two seconds
of the word "Go!".

Maybe I will just follow the
tradition of leaving cookies for Santa.

This tradition came about as a way
for children to sweeten Santa's mood.
It also embodies
the spirit of generosity
and unselfish giving.

So, I told my grand kids that
since they weren't quite as good
as they should have been-
that Santa required a little more
bribing than usual.

I figured a dozen chocolate chip,
a half dozen Oreos,
a couple of pecan tarts
and some mocha truffles-
would probably
be a good midnight snack
for me Santa.


Of course, I could also adopt
one of the strangest Christmas traditions
I have ever heard of.

Tio' de Nadal.
Or translated: Christmas Log.

Doesn't that sound cozy?
Like a pine scented treat for the fireplace?

Well, this log poops.

Yes-really!
It all began in Catalonia.

First it starts with a hollow log.
(In modern times they add a few
stick feet and a face).
Starting on December 8,
bits of food are fed to this log.
The log is covered with a blanket at night
and fed regularly until Christmas.



On Christmas day,
the log is placed near the fireplace
and the children start beating it with a stick.
They sing a song, too.

"Poop, log!
Poop, turron,
Hazelnuts and cottage cheese,
If you don't poop well
we'll hit you with a stick.
Poop, log! "

(Seriously-
I'm not making this stuff up!)

So, out comes the "poop"-
which usually consists of
candy, nuts and dried figs.

Or sometimes
it "urinates" an onion.

Hummmm.........

OK...well...
on second thought,
I think I'll just stick with
our old family Christmas traditions.

...Eating like pigs,
playing board games,
watching movies
and napping.

Oh!
And don't forget
those cookies for Santa, kids!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Heart Knows



I guess I'm getting nostalgic.
Or old.

Or both.

But I just keep going back in my mind 
to younger days-
and today is no exception.


I put up my Christmas tree Tuesday-
and the room is now filled with
this glowing triangle of mismatched 
ornaments and crooked stars-
guaranteed to put you right in the mood 
to celebrate the season.


Or eat cookies.


(Guess which one I picked?)


Anyway- that tree made me
think back to the trees we had
when I was a kid.
Real trees.
Pine-smelling, 
bushy, 
barky, 
bundles
of $5 joy.


We always put the tree up in the
same corner of the living room-
lugging out the colored lights
that were as big as hamsters-
hanging plastic Santas
and tarnished balls-
and then covering the whole thing
in a gazillion silver icicles.

(They were always full of
static electricity that grabbed
your sweater or socks each time you passed 
until you eventually looked like
a disco ball.)


But that tree was like a shrine to us.
The magical spot where presents 
would appear on Christmas day.
We would sit for hours and hours
just staring into the lights-
dreaming about pages 1 through 289
in the Sears Wish Book.


For some reason, my sister and I
always wanted dolls.
We both got the same model-
except hers was blonde
and mine was brunette.

I guess that was just in case
one of us broke off a plastic arm
while playing Swing the Statue-
or decided to leave dolly
naked in the closet or
drowning in the bath tub.
No trading dolls when heads were turned.
Yes, Mom Dad  Santa was smart!


My brothers always got cool things like
cars and robots and games and guns.
And when those were torn up, 
lost, 
or abandoned-
they would come and play barber shop
with our dolls.


We had some really ugly babies back then.


But, I especially remember Christmas season
back when I was about nine years old.
For some reason my Mom and I
were alone that night,
sitting in the dark
in front of the lit tree.


We got to talking about some people
at church and the fact came up that
one woman there had lost her baby.


I was horrified.


Babies really die?
Where do they go?
Why does it happen?


Mom tried to explain the best she could.
I know she was totally unprepared
for my reaction.
But she assured me that the baby was in heaven
and that Jesus was taking care of her.


The conversation then focused on Jesus
and I cried and cried and 
we talked and talked
way into the night. 


Later Mom told me
I was saved that night.


Now, everyone is intitled to
their opinion about religion
and their God,
but I know in my heart
that my God was with me that night.

(And all the nights after).


Sure- my Mom wasn't a preacher
or a priest or a pastor.
But we both knew something
spiritual and moving 
had happened that night.


Later, in my adulthood,
I was saved and baptized in a church.
...For ceremonial purposes.
...For the satisfaction of others.

It's easy to understand why
-that even now -
when I gaze at the glowing tree-
I have fond memories of my mother.

And my heart is at peace.

...Because I know
the true meaning 
of Christmas.