December 2009

Ballerina Mia on December 27th

Mia the Ballerina, ready for her nap

Another Christmas is over… and looking back upon the week-end’s festivities, what do you remember most vividly?
Was it standing in long lines to purchase those last-minute gifts.. or the gift that you purchased online 3 weeks ago that didn’t arrive in time…
or was it the pure, unadulterated hatred you felt for the poor grocery store clerks when you discovered the sauerkraut was GONE! …
It’s amazing to me how much pressure people put upon themselves to create the “perfect holiday”. Call it “commercialization” or whatever catch-phrase you wish, but it is silliness! Sheer silliness.

I grew up in a family that celebrated major holidays, and I always defended our rituals to those who didn’t practice them (JW’s mainly, lol) … and yet strangely, I find myself drawing more distant from the traditions each year. Even with 3 children… and Mia just celebrated her 2nd birthday on Christmas Eve!
Prior to Thanksgiving, my excuse was the lack of close-knit family to share an enormous meal with. Why cook a banquet for 2 adults, and three tiny stomachs?
I joked about serving everyone peanut butter sandwiches, but wound up cooking pasta instead. Part of my aversion towards food-related holidays could be the time I spent as a grocery manager, and having to deal with distraught and hateful people who couldn’t understand how the pumpkin crop disaster earlier in the season affected the pie filling shortage our warehouse was suffering. They wanted their filling! Apparently I didn’t know my brain from my butthole, and I should be fired immediately for incompetence!
However, somewhere deep inside, I simply grew dissatisfied with a culture that seemingly forgot the attitude of the pilgrims whom we idolize. They left the comforts of England
to forge a new country in a foreign hostile land, to gain independence, and hopefully not starve to death or be scalped by their neighbors.
We all know the Thanksgiving Story about the Wampanoag Indians who taught them how to plant native crops, and the banquet held to give thanks to God for providing them with food and friendship with which to survive the coming winter. Perhaps one or two pilgrims sat back and griped about the lack of traditional English cuisine and all the comforts they’d sacrified, but those people aren’t even mentioned in footnotes.
The moral of the story – to be thankful for the things you have – needs to be reminded to those folks who stand in Aisle 6 with their cellphones glued to their faces, cussing at the
small bare hole in front of them:
“G-dd-mn-it, I f–king told you, they’re completely wiped out of cranberry sauce! Not a f–king can on the shelf. What the f–k are these a–holes getting paid to do?”
I was tempted to throw the dried beans and some lettuce into their carts, and say,
“Be thankful! The pilgrims would’ve walked into this grocery store and wept.”

Christmas affects me in much the same way. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or some other variation… most of these inspirational stories center around “making do” with God’s provisions and acknowledging your blessings. I can’t find a single Yuletide tale that gives people the allowance to act like jerks and obsess over sauerkraut. It supposedly brings good luck?!
I recently asked a dozen people whether they were planning to serve it at their meal, with a negative response from each… and yet the shelves are wiped clean and not a can or bag to be found on Christmas Eve. To all you people faithfully eating your sauerkraut: has your luck improved each year? And do you believe that Destiny will poop upon you, should you fail to eat it THIS year? …Seriously, does it really matter?

As far as gift-giving goes, I’m fortunate that my youngest two children are not accustomed to hordes of presents, and most likely won’t be getting hordes in the near future. Bwahaha!

My master plan for creating their gifts from scratch didn’t work out quite as anticipated… a naturally inclined procrastinator should never fill her plate with ideas which include custom paintings, hand-sewn tents, and repurposed furniture.
But the kids seem content with the plain sheet draped over a new folding table…. perhaps I’ll have the door and windows added by Jacob’s birthday. Joe’s Vampire Cat portrait might be finished by the New Year… just in time for my next planned blog regarding Goals and Resolutions. I’ve always shunned making those, but I seriously need to develop a solid business plan for next year and stick to it! I’m hiring Joe to hold me accountable. 🙂

So what did I serve for Christmas this year? Well, I made no specific menu.. but we try to keep a fridge stocked with basic essentials, and I have fruits and spices galore. So I dug
through my recipe book and found one I’d copied from Women’s Day magazine for Apple Stuffed Chicken.
I substituted the reduced-fat cheddar for Feista Blend (because I had half a bag left over from homemade tacos… remind me to post my awesome flour tortilla recipe sometime!)
and I didn’t have any lemon juice or Dijon mustard (for the sauce) on hand either. But otherwise, it turned out fabulously well! We had Mia’s birthday cupcakes for dessert… the Spongebob cake having been slaughtered by hungry savages.

Joe dug the artificial tree out from the basement storage on Christmas afternoon, and Lydia added some construction paper decorations to it. The sugar cookies and popcorn we’d planned to hang on the tree never made it that far. Every year, someone tries to give me commercial ornaments and they wind up getting broken, lost, or confiscated by the kids as toys.

I’m as unlucky with tree decorations as I am with jewelry… perhaps I should add more sauerkraut to my diet, ay?

My latest acrylic painting - "Kimono Cat"

My new "Kimono Cat" painting, one of my Contest prizes

Everywhere we are being reminded that Christmas is 3 weeks away; some people have been putting money aside all year, others are dreading their next paycheck – knowing they must squeeze a few more gifts from it. Children are great about letting you know what they want (and expect)… the one thing guaranteed not to fall prey to procrastination, they’ve been planning and revising their lists for the last 6 months.

If you’re shopping for someone other than greedy children, however, you might not have a clue what to purchase as a gift. Never fear, every retailer on the planet seems to know what your mother-in-law really wants this year.
One of the most irritating things about commercializing Christmas (for me, anyhow) is the amount of stereotyping you find. Everyone is pigeonholed into a nifty little phrase or a couple keywords.
“My Handyman Husband”, “My Computer Geek Father”, “Our Son the Quarterback”, “Spa and Facial Lovin’ Sister-in-law”.
We wives automatically get jewelry, whether we want it or not… and apparently ALL teenagers love Twilight! It’s only a matter of knowing which “team” they’re on. Pul-eeeeze.

The Today show has been doing segments on gift-giving, and some of their recent suggestions included: beaded clutches, glittery earphones, lacy underwear, a $52.00 make-up kit (and she stated that it did NOT include mascara, lol) and a DVD of “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” starring Danny DeVito. I kid you not. Actually, I think I just described a Philadelphia hooker.

Every year, we plan to NOT purchase any gifts for ourselves, and spend those extra dollars on kids’ presents instead. I say “plan” because I usually crack on Dec. 23rd, and buy him something small anyway. I can’t remember when I stopped counting the number of gift tags with my name on them, but at some point in my teen years – quality became more important than quantity. After my daughter was born, you could’ve wrapped her in a recycled bow year after year… just watching her excited face gazing upon the sparkling mass of wrapping paper and ribbon was MY gift.

The real truth is: Being an adult means you have a job, make money, carry a pocketbook, and have the ability to purchase things you want for yourself throughout the year. Fortunately my tastes are quite simple.

However if we lived in a house built from gold bricks, and lined the litter box with $20 and $50 bills, I might be persuaded to create a Christmas wish-list of my own.
My fantasy gift list would include:

1. A Roman bath-house stocked with my favorite handmade soap from awesome etsy sellers.
2. A pantry stocked with every spice known to man.
3. A resident veterinarian
4. Former Navy SEAL bodyguards for my children

…You’ll notice I did not include World Peace on my list; I doubt any amount of money could buy That, although our governments would like us to believe otherwise.

Oh, you wanted a realistic list? Okay, well then…
1. a basket of handmade soap
2. another (larger) basket of ink for my printer… oooh, and some paper too.
Also, a karaoke machine would be great fun!
I must admit though, at the very top of my list (the only gift I really want) would be a nice evening alone with my Dearest.
No, not Dominic!

Joe and I haven’t had a real date – the whole dinner and movie deal – since October of last year, when Mia had a babysitter and Jacob was in utero. That doesn’t count the few random nights where we stayed awake past midnight after getting the kids to bed – and crashed on the couch with oven-baked pizza and Netflix. We usually fall asleep halfway through both movie and pizza.
I’d like an excuse to dress up… dig the earrings out from the bottom of my lingerie drawer and hopefully still find a match (dig out the lacy underwear, too!), fix my hair, and put on some $5.00 make-up. We’d enjoy the nightlife, eat salty popcorn in a semi-dark theatre with a sticky floor.. and watch anything except a Danny DeVito film.
No offense. I prefer short guys of the Michael J. Fox variety. 😉

Will I get my wish this year? hah, probably not. But you can keep the fancy cashmere sweaters, the pashmina shawls, and the bottles of perfume… There is a black hole in the corner of my closet that will suck any frippery into an inescapable abyss.
I’m sure though, in some parallel universe, an old Norwegian fisherman is probably scratching his bald head at the collection of feminine heels and beaded clutches that keep mysteriously appearing from the wormhole in his cabin.

I do plan to surprise Joe with a gift this year, and yes, it will still be a surprise because he doesn’t bother to read my blog, lol His latest Facebook addiction is the Vampire Wars game, and he hinted that he would like me to paint a vampire cat portrait that he could use as his Facebook avatar. Right now, he’s using Admiral Adama-nic from “Battlestar GalCATica” that I gave him for Father’s Day as his avatar, and he’s received quite a few compliments on it from his FB friends. I’m sure a Vampire Cat would be well received, although it may seem as if I’m jumping on the Twilight-Team bandwagon.

Hey, maybe then I’ll wind up on the Today show’s next gift segment. And maybe I’ll paint a cat portrait of Danny DeVito as Dennis Reynolds. …And maybe not. 😉