Tag Archives: holiday cheer

Happy Mother’s Day: The Finale of Mother’s Day Posts

“She discovered with great delight that one does not love one’s children just because they are one’s children but because of the friendship formed while raising them.” 
― Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezLove in the Time of Cholera

 

To all the moms out there, this is your day. I hope you get to enjoy it! You do some really hard work and many of you get little or no appreciation for your efforts so GOOD JOB!

Happy Mother’s Day to you.

 

Happy Mother's Day

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What was I doing while I wasn’t here?

I took a blog break between mid-December and mid-February and I had planned to return with this big, ol’ list of exciting things I did while I was not here. I mean, despite there being no proof on the internet, I was still living and breathing during that time. In fact, I did a lot of stuff! I wanted to tell everyone about it and planned to have it all up on February 19th! And then I never did. However, I have pictures I want to share so you’re getting the condensed version of what would have originally been an awesome post but is now really just filler with fun snapshots.

Yeah, you’re welcome.

To pick up where I’d left off last year:

1) I got my Christmas spirit back and just in time. Thanks to the magic of my old friend, Jack Frost, I was swept up in a winter wonderland the Friday before Christmas and as the day wore on, I became infused with festive tidings. It was awesome.

Seriously, I was going nuts running around town after work, taking pictures, squealing. It was just so beautiful!

2) Gabe & I met up with Susan&Elizabeth, our Best Couple Friends who aren’t a couple (they’re best friends and there are two of them so they are like a couple and we make them do couple things with us because they are our favorite couple friends you know what? Just go with it and let’s move on, ok?) to run amok in the cold! We went to see Denver Botanic Gardens’ Trail of Lights and it was phenomenal!  Then we all went out for drinks and fancy pizza, afterward. Man, we are good at being delightful.

So bright, so happy!

This was my favorite tree

Even the barn is participating!

3) I had holidays. It was all fun and games, per usual, until Noelle got our dad reminiscing about a terrible part of his life and he started getting emotional and Noelle LEFT THE ROOM, abandoning the rest of us to Dad’s tales of woe. Chris felt horrible that Dad had to relive all that, Gabe was alarmed because he had never heard any of it, and I’m pretty sure Chris’ wife was wondering why the hell she agreed to be part of this family. Come to think of it, I was wondering that, too. I owe Noelle a punch in the face for that one. Gah!

a) Gabe and I got each other presents this year because guess what? Gabe is employed now! It is an exciting time in our house!

These are my presents from Gabe. They probably seem odd to everyone else, but these are things I had marked in a catalog many months ago and he remembered! Now I have a cricket for my hearth and two apple bakers (plus the apple corer – SO much easier!) and I was really, super, weirdly excited about these gifts. PS – those apple bakers? They make phenomenal baked apples.

b) I also got presents from my GoodReads BFF in a land far away (New York City, folks!) You can see why we’re friends, right? Because she is AWESOME and gives great gifts. Obviously.

No, the bunnies are not playing LeapFrog, but yes, that explanation works well for the under-12 set. This is my official Easter Sweater now, so I’ll be wearing it again, soon!
Thank you, karen. This has brought and will continue to bring great joy to so many!

c) We had an adventure in which we tried the Dryck Julmust we found at IKEA. I’m still not sure what that was all about.

Behold! The festive Dryck Julmust

Gabe drinks more carbonated beverages than do I so he wasn’t quite as weirded out by this.

What the hell is in this??

d) I used the Christmas Ham to make our annual Ham and Beans for dinner on January 1st. It was an excellent batch this year, thank goodness. Not like that tragic swill I made a few years back.

Super close up shot of the beans, which had soaked for 24 hours by this time, onions, carrots, spices, etc. The ham is hidden under this pile of goodness.

4) And on January 2nd, as our Family Christmas Present To Ourselves, we got all the internets installed in our house. That means I now create and post these blog entries AT HOME! We were internet-free (mostly…sometimes we stole it from the neighbors) for two and a half years. It’s been amazing, fabulous, and convenient but also stressful to be back in the connected world as it brings its own kind of worry: I feel like I should check email before bed. I have monsters that sing and I have to gather their money and make sure they’re singing every day. Then there are all the sites we feel compelled to visit at all hours of the day and it gets a bit silly. This pressure to be tuned in everywhere kicked in immediately, the day we went live, and I did not like that. Yes, of course, it’s easy to think, “So just don’t check email, just don’t play games, just don’t…” but you know what? It’s easier to do than not to do. Because I’m re-addicted and stuck to a screen, I don’t read as much as I did before the internet. My house isn’t as clean (ok, that’s actually because Gabe is at work, now, and while I can still leave him threatening messages to mop the floor, I know it’s not going to get done because he won’t be there to read said messages) I’m not doing all the simple, pleasant things I did while we were living the off-grid lifestyle and that makes me feel shallow and a bit hollow. Not enough to stop staring at a monitor for hours on end, mind you, just enough to write about it in a blog post.

5) I took the first week of the New Year off again and got a lot done, mostly cleaning. That’s when I took all my pictures for the How To Oil Wood post from last week. Hooray.

I did other things, as well, but so much time has passed. I should have had this story up as soon as I got back to my blog but I didn’t and now it’s sort of a lame duck of a post. However, I wanted to share all my lovely pictures so I am doing just that and none of us will ever know what I was doing between January 2nd and February 5th. It shall hereforth remain a mystery. Or you can just make up some story in the comments below; that works, too.

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Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, My Dearly Beloveds, Out & about or abroad

Welcome to February

Well, hi there!

So this isn’t one of the posts I’ve got simmering in the hopper, it’s a freshly-written bit that I didn’t know I was going to write until just now.

It’s February! I hate this month! I always have. It’s dreary, cold, and the holiday I most resent pops up on the 14th; it’s just a bad month for me.

This year, February started out snowy for much of the nation.

This is a mostly-common sight right now except for maybe the blue sky. But it’s all snow, all the time, all over the nation right now. Yay.

I started the month with the flu. Not a stomach bug, but the flu that kills old people and children and is mentioned alongside the term “epidemic” in history books. Yeah, that flu. Because February can always get worse.

But you know what? It hasn’t been that bad. The snow kept me inside and we had a fire going so I could huddle near it when I had chills. We have a dog visiting for the month, perhaps one who will come stay with us for good come spring. It’s nice to have a dog in the house again; I still miss Daisy something fierce but this new guy is funny and keeps me active…even though active is the very last thing I need right now.

Gabe’s been taking fantastic care of me. The first night I was sick, he went out to get me food and whiskey (he got me Fireball for the extra burn)(if you’re wondering why I needed whiskey, it’s because I don’t like Nyquil so I made hot toddies – whiskey, fresh-squeezed lemon, honey all mixed together in hot water – to help with the cough and sore throat and the luxury of sleep) In a flash of brilliance, he also got me a video game. He came home and told me it was like I had a penis. I was all, “What? Where’d I get a penis?” He answered, “This is typically the kind of stuff you get a guy, not your sick wife.”

Good husband. Gooood husband!

The video game – Final Fantasy XIV – turned out to be more help than all the whiskey and cold/flu pills combined (don’t combine those, actually) See, my aches and pains and issues with breathing made it so I couldn’t lie in my bed for hours on end, asleep, like I normally do when I’m ill. I was uncomfortable in bed, on the couch, out in the snow with the dog, I was uncomfortable anywhere but in a chair that made me sit upright. I was still uncomfortable there but at least my ribs didn’t hurt when I breathed. But this video game, it made all the difference because it was a huge distraction. During my waking hours, I could sit there and steer a little person around, doing things, seeing things, hearing things, not noticing that my ears were so full of pressure that I got a stabbing pain when I swallowed.

Gabe already had the game and he rolled up a new character so we could play together; it’s like we went back to our origins. Anyhow, there’s a cat-like race and we made a couple of those, naming them Toki and Evie. Yes. We made our cats so we could play them in an online video game. This is how we roll.

This is what Evie and Toki would like like if they were cat + people. No, really, they totally would.

But thank goodness we do because I’m not sure how I’d have survived the past week without Gabe’s care-taking abilities, but, more importantly, his forethought.

I went to the doctor yesterday. My flu was on its way out but had decided to leave me with a sinus infection and upper respiratory infection. I’m on antibiotics and am taking decongestants and expectorants and things are getting better. I’m even going to go back to work (unless I get snowed in) which is good news.

So it’s February, my least-loved month. It started out with snow and the flu but you know what? It’s been a better February than most so … welcome to the second month of 2014!

Coming up later: stories about nose hair, what I’ve been doing since I’ve last posted, and more! Stay tuned!

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To find holiday joy

Gabe and I are having a really hard time feeling festive this December. Typically, starting in September, I’m all geared up for the last  quarter of the year, jumping from my birthday to Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas and then tying it all up with New Year celebrations but this year, I lost steam somewhere along the way and now that December is here, I hardly care.

We’re not a religious family so Christmas is not about baby Jesus for us. Instead, it’s about finishing the year, celebrating the snow and cold and nature’s slumber. It’s about spending time with friends we don’t see often enough and with family whom we see all the time but with the added bonus of watching the kids open presents. It’s about spreading joy throughout a dark month. It’s a wonderful time, one we usually enjoy to the fullest.

But this year, we do not care.

It’s not just us; we’re hearing similar sentiments from all corners, Christian and non-Christian alike. Old and young, families and singletons. It seems there are large pockets of the seasonally disaffected everywhere we look.

Where did our holiday spirit go?

In an effort to bring it back, we’ve been watching our favorite holiday movies. So far, we’ve consumed “Elf“, “A Christmas Story“, Rankin & Bass’ “Jack Frost” (ok, my favorite, not Gabe’s; I love the box of dreams they pass around on Christmas day), and “Christmas Vacation.” And yet…nothing.

There are Christmas carols playing, it’s been snowy and cold, the cider is in its final, carmelized stages, but something is missing.

I made ice lights, lumin-ice-ias, if you will, the other night. They’re lovely, all glowing and twinkerly, casting brightness through slightly- melting ice.

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Step One: Fill your desired plastic containers with water. Put water-filled containers in the freezing outdoors. Let sit until frozen.

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Step Two: Bring frozen water containers inside. Place in sink. Upend container, run warm water over it, watch ice block fall out. If there’s not a bubble in the ice that you can break through, down where the container bottom was, drill a hole big enough in the bottom of the ice block using hot water from the sink. The bottom of the block is now the top and the former top is now the base.
Insert tea light. If it doesn’t fit like you want it to, do some more drilling with the hot water. If it all goes to hell, just refill the tub and put it back outside and try again tomorrow.

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Step Three: After testing all your ice lights, put them outside in the snow. Or on the driveway. Or in trees if you can figure that out. Or on parked cars. Just put them somewhere that is easy to reach so you can light them again after they blow out.

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Step Four: Light the candles. It’s best to do this when it is dark, as candlelight is more visible in the night, but really, it’s up to you. Light these puppies whenever you want. I’d imagine the fire danger is fairly low unless you’ve got these sitting precariously near open tanks of gasoline. The candle holder is made of ice which is really frozen water and we all know that water puts out fire. Unless it’s a grease fire in which case water doesn’t help at all.

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Step Five: Admire your work and take pictures and then check the candles obsessively throughout the evening because you know the breeze keeps sneaking up and blowing them out. Relight as needed. Also, pay attention when taking pictures and don’t get distracted talking to the neighbor or else you’ll end up with images like this one.

I put lights up on the house the first weekend in December in an attempt to bring magic to the yard but the lights are the LED kind and they’re just so empty-looking, so dark, so uncolorful. Hollow. They make me sad with their lack of brightness and warmth. We put up the tree, too, and it’s got cute lights, but that’s as far as we got until the other night when we threw some ornaments on – only about half of them –  and called it good.

I was grateful, though, for the actual ornaments. I’ve got baubles that have come with me from childhood. Gabe has some from his last life, the one before the two of us. We have trinkets we’ve found together on our adventures – we try to buy an ornament every time we go somewhere. We have one from Thanksgiving in Estes Park in 2008, a happy and sad year. We have one from our Disney Cruise honeymoon in 2009 and one from our trip to the La Brea tar pits last year. There are many more; it’s fun to take them out and remember the places we’ve been and things we’ve done.

I have ornaments that have been given to me as gifts and even though I can’t remember anything else in my life, I remember who gave those little decorations to me. I have ornaments from my BFF’s sister who died; T gave friends and family her sister’s Christmas tree decorations so we could continue share the holidays with her. I have such good memories of Christmas Eves with T and her twin so I cherish those ornaments and look forward to seeing them every year. I inherited the handmade ribbon-and-bead ornaments one of my mom’s friends made for her back before I was born. As the 70’s passed, those gaudy, flashy, homemade things became ugly to everyone but me and my siblings. I still think they’re beautiful though I understand why my mom finds them hideous. It doesn’t help that they’ve lost their tassels and a lot of the pins and beads that held them together.

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Ok, so the Snoopy ornament? It’s a Hallmark ornament, called Joe Coolest. I got it in an ornament exchange in 2006, I believe. It’s from Calina. I know all this because I remember it.
The Rolling Hills ornament is from our trip to Kansas to visit Noelle and her family for Thanksgiving in 2010. I know this because I have a whole album full of pictures of our trip there over on Facebook.
The popsicle stick Santa was a Christmas present from the Younger Niece. She made it in 2007. I know this because I wrote it on the back.
See how meaningful these are? They all have stories! It’s so wonderful!

Unpacking and hanging the ornaments was like being able to look into a festive, jolly house. I saw, smelled, remembered holiday joy. But I still don’t feel it. The magic is missing and I dont know why.

I’m going to go find it.

And when I do, I’ll love it more than usual because I have missed it. Off I go, on my quest to find my holiday bliss.

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I’ll be back next year, folks, with new stories and crazy tales and, hopefully, we will have found the Spirit of Christmas!

Be well, Happy Holidays, and I wish you all a safe and perfect New Year.

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Stuffing Kills Family of Five. More at eleven.

It’s funny how the family dynamic can shift and change like sands in the wind. A delightful friend of mine, matron of her family, is experiencing just such a shift this year. We’re going to call this friend Maithair Mhor because…I said so. I asked her to write this post and she gave me the gift of the story, instead.

Mrs. Mohr has been cooking Thanksgiving turkey since she was 18-years-old. Her family is robust and though people have come and gone over the years, those seats around the Thanksgiving table are always filled and then some.

But this year is different. This year, she will have five, maybe six, people in her home for the upcoming holiday, herself included. She’s not sure how to cook a feast for just a handful of heads. Well, and their bodies, too, I assume.

I told her I never have to make the turkey because I was smart enough to ruin it three years running. She bemoaned the fact she  never thought of roasting that bird to a beautiful golden-brown only to leave it raw inside. She probably would not have had to cook 50+ turkeys over the years had she been a little more devious in her youth.
I told her such mischief pays off: I only make my grandmother’s cranberry relish and whatever other side dishes are needed, usually a veggie casserole of some sort. Mrs. Mohr mentioned that her kids and their kids and their kids love Love LOVE the canned cranberries, though she’s never been a fan. Because they’re gross. But this year…this year, she thinks maybe it is high time to make a real, uncanned cranberry dish. Because, after all, there are only 4 people to disappoint and that’s totally easy to live down.

This is where she started getting excited. If she can push the boundaries with cranberries, what about other forbidden foods? Like, say…stuffing?

I know, I know. You’re thinking what I thought, “What? Stuffing? How can that be forbidden? Gluten allergies? But there are alternatives. How can stuffing not be on the table?” Well, you see, years and years ago, there was a warning issued, one that said not to stuff the cavity of the turkeybird with dressing because it would not get thoroughly cooked thus enabling foodborne pathogens to invade the dinner table and next thing you know, everyone dies. Mrs. Mohr eliminated traditional stuffing from the menu and went with the Stove Top Stuffing instead.
I have never been a fan of Stove Top, myself. I think it’s horrifically salty and unstuffingy. But I also think it’s wonderful for anyone who has been told bird-stuffing is dangerous OR who doesn’t know how/doesn’t have time/doesn’t want to go through the effort to make the real thing because, let’s face it, that’s a lot of work. And if you’re like me, it’s also alot of sore and sliced fingers (from crunching up the dried bread manually. Yes, for those who don’t know, traditional bread stuffing has dried bread – no, not toast – as an ingredient)

Peligro! Achtung! Beware of stuffing!

Peligro! Achtung! Beware of stuffing!

This year, Mrs. Mohr is going to make stuffing the old-fashioned way.

Her logic: If she winds up killing everyone with turkey-borne illness, it’s just four people. Who is going to notice? Now is the time to try out new things because IT’S JUST FOUR PEOPLE! I’m beginning to wonder if Mrs. Mohr wasn’t a mad scientist in a past life. Then again, I can’t argue with her. This truly is the perfect time to try new dishes, to experiment, to bring back the traditions of Thanksgiving! Because, really, if you have to have a massacre, it should be small and easy to clean.
However, it’s still a win-win situation. If all goes well, Mrs. Mohr will bring her successes to the next Thanksgiving meal; they’ll become the new traditions. If it’s a disaster, we only have to attend one funeral and the survived-bys will get a family discount. There really is no downside, here.

You may think this sounds morbid, especially on the eve of one of our few actual Made-in-America, For America, By America holidays, but really, it’s joyful. It shows that there are many ways to be grateful and that if you can put a positive spin on everything you do, you’ll be much more open to trying new things. Like cranberry relish and traditional in-the-bird stuffing.

To the family of Mrs. Mohr: I wish you a happy and successful Thanksgiving. Should it go awry, I’ve been asked to sit down and explain the whole thing to the investigating officer. To everyone else who will be celebrating the day of food, the day of football, the first actual day of the Christmas season, the day of thankfulness tomorrow, may it be fruitful, enjoyable, delicious and relatively death-free.

Edit, December 2, 2013

This just in, straight from Mrs. Mohr, herself:

Everyone survived the ordeal. The homemade stuffing was ok but I added too much seasoning.  Stove Top would have been better.

The HIT of the entire day was [your] Grandma’s cranberry sauce.  Everyone loved it!!!!!!! However my children were not in attendance so who know what will happen when they do come for dinner. Will they be rummaging through the pantry looking for a  CAN of cranberry sauce, will they crawl into a corner and cry or will a food fight break out in the dining room????????????????????? 

Stay tuned for another installment of Thanksgiving Drama. See you same time, same place, next year!

You can totally see why I adore this woman, right? She’s awesome.

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