Saturday, December 29, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
This is the time of year for me to indulge in festive snacks, mostly peppermint flavored. The rest of the year, peppermint holds little appeal for me, but in December, I seek out candy canes, peppermint bark, and mint-enhanced chocolates! By the time January rolls around, I am heartily sick of everything peppermint and avoid it most diligently for the next 11 months. Once I get the itch for peppermint again, you know that Christmas must be right around the corner!
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Most Christmases are pretty low-energy for us. This year, I decided not to plan very much, figuring that would keep things every more low-key. WRONG! It turned out that with an open schedule, we succumbed to the temptation of “just one more quick get-together” and before we knew it, from 4 pm on the 24th to 5 pm on the 26th, pretty much every waking hour (and there were many more waking ones than there were sleeping ones!) was filled with some kind of focused activity. By the end of the day on the 26th, we both had splitting headaches and were thoroughly exhausted. It felt so good to sleep for 10 hours last night! I desperately needed to recharge my batteries, so I also spent most of today just tidying up & clearing off my desk & playing catch up. Tonight, I will dream deep dreams of snowflakes falling from the sky, accumulating in large quantities. Tomorrow morning, I look forward to venturing out into the snow!
| ||The 26th was our opportunity to celebrate with Kaye, Dave, Kim, Seldon, Larry, and Jayne. We arrived at 9 am, partook of bran muffins and fruit soup (a tradition near and dear to Ken’s heart … and stomach!), and opened our gigantic stockings. Everyone really went to the max this year. Our stockings include chocolates, olive oils, books, magazines, trinkets, toys (Ken loved his sparkly green ball!), jewelry, gift cards (Starbucks, Dick Blick Art Supplies, Archivers, KodakGallery, and Qdoba!), candle snuffers, magnets, … well, you get the idea! Lots of cool stuff! We then exchanged gifts. It was so wonderful to see our gifts so well received: the handmade calendar for Kaye & Dave, nostalgic candies for Dave, fuzzy “Life is Good” socks for Kim, a mystery puzzle for Seldon, quilt fabric for Jayne, a donation to Global Giving for Larry, and last (and best) the painting Ken made for Kaye! Some of our bounty included a new giant crockpot, several books & DVDs offerings, a teapot with some “tea-posies,” and a CD set about Albert Einstein. And while we both had a tremendous amount of fun, we also agreed that this has been the most hectic series of Christmas celebrations we’ve ever had … next year, we’ll aim for something a bit more low-key!|
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
When I was a child, stockings were definitely a tactic calculated to give my parents precious time to sleep. The rule was simple: stockings could be opened as soon as we woke up, and we didn’t have to wait for anyone else to be awake. I remember being the only one awake, just itching for Christmas to officially begin. I would carefully pull each item out of the stocking and arrange them all in front of me, frequently entertaining myself with the contents until my parents were awake. Now that I’m an adult, I am still the first one up, just itching for Christmas to officially begin, but although I’m allowed to dig through my stocking, I wait until Ken’s up, we’ve made some coffeecake & brewed some tea. The waiting just about kills me, but I keep reminding myself I’m a grown up and should be able to handle delayed gratification a bit better than a 4 year old.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
|You Belong in Dublin|
Friendly and down to earth, you want to enjoy Europe without snobbery or pretensions.
You're the perfect person to go wild on a pub crawl... or enjoy a quiet bike ride through the old part of town.
The text reads: "Every year, we have all of our decorations up before Cookie Day, so our house is looking pretty festive. The tree is decorated, and all kinds of holiday knickknacks litter every available surface. We’re still in the process of packing away about 20 different platters and trays, from Cookie Day, but otherwise, things are rather tidy, not to mention festive!"
Friday, December 21, 2007
Today's Journaling: "About the only unexpected element of the holiday thus far is scheduling. Typically (and not just at the holidays), I have everything scheduled out to the hour. This year, I’ve been doing something different, which is to leave as many things open to the last minute as possible. I think it may be freaking some people out, but it’s also pretty cool, because it means I can capitalize on last minute plans!"
I guess those people who know me would never expect for me to fly by the seat of my pants ... at any time of year! *grin*
For Christmas this year, I don’t need anything for myself, but I have a few ideas for other people. Could you please bring Jason a Playstation 3 with Guitar Hero? And Ken would very much like monthly massages at Kohler Waters Spa. If you could arrange for Kaye to have flowers delivered every month, that would be just great. And I think Kim would really enjoy an addition on her house, maybe even including her own yoga studio. Chris needs more gourmet foods and wines. Mele needs the guidance of an organizational professional who won’t be too threatening. My parents, I’m sure, would make good use of a rented apartment for a month, in Florida, during the cold winter months. My brother & his family could use an all-expenses paid vacation to the Virgin Islands. I think that’s it. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I figured you’re pretty good at this sort of thing, so it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Thanks for all of your help.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Here's today's text: "Christmas dinner is not a big deal in my family. I don’t have any recollection of sitting down on Christmas Day and doing something big. I remember having pizza most Christmas Eves, and wandering around the neighborhood in Florida, with luminaria lining the sidewalks. Some people, including my in-laws, have a very fancy meal, and so some years, this becomes part of our tradition. This year, we’ll be dining with them on the 25th. The menu includes pork tenderloin and a fennel-potato gratin, as well as pecan pie and mincemeat pie. I offered to bring a starter and a salad. I am thinking about making mushroom turnovers. I’ve never made them before in my life, but they sure look tasty! We’ll see how it goes!"
Here's the journaling: "Last year, I was tripping over things that I thought people would really love to receive as a gift, but this year, very few things are grabbing at me. Maybe it’s our new limit of $20 a person … maybe it’s just market trends … or maybe I’ve just outdone myself in years past & have such a high threshold that it’s hard to meet it! Still, I feel like I’ve gotten (or made) some things for people that I think they will really enjoy, possibly even treasure."
I've gotten a bit behind, partially due to Cookie Day, partially due to a busy work schedule, and partially due to my recognition that I needed some vegetative time more than I needed to scrapbook. *grin*
So, I'm now catching up a bit, in a lull! Here's today's text: "I am grateful for the little things. Things like being healthy. Or having a wonderful family. And a nice home. At the holidays, I’m grateful that I make a decent wage & can buy gifts for people I love, and that I can afford to make whatever meals we want. There are so many people who are sick … or live in an unsafe space … or don’t have any family … or are struggling to make ends meet. At the holidays, I ramp up our charitable giving, and we love to play Santa to some kids in need."
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
So, the question is ... what happens when you add 28 more people, who arrive over the course of the next 2 1/2 hours, and bring their own cookies to share? You take a crowded table & make it even more crowded. Some more cookies arrived after the picture below, too!
The net result is LOTS of cookies ... just about every container we own is full of cookies. Uh, so, basically we have almost the same amount of cookies we had to start with, but a much greater variety! LOL.
(P.S. This is the view out of our front window ... our neighbors across the street afford us with quite a beautiful view, don't you think?)
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
Whee! I'm staying caught up. This weekend, with my parents visiting & our massive annual holiday party, I fully expect to fall behind, but that's fine with me! :D So, if my blog is quiet you know why -- I'm having too much fun!!!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Text for today's page: "I have witnessed a few Christmases where people distributed gifts either by (a) a mad dash-and-grab for everything under the tree or (b) carefully pulling all the gifts out from under the tree, sorting them into piles, then each individual focuses solely on his or her “stash”, ignoring what anyone else is doing. Both of those methods just rock me to my core, because my experience on Christmas morning is to have just a few gifts handed out at a time, with lots of attention paid to each and every gift, by everyone present. Sure, the process takes a while, but it means that all the gifts are treated with care & are considered special and unique. The idea of people focused on only “their loot”, and ripping into papers with mad abandon, with no thought at all to anyone but themselves, well, it just seems completely at odds with how I view Christmas. I think I will always value the careful opening of presents & treasuring those moments of wonder, seeing what’s inside. I just can’t imagine doing it any other way!"
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Sunday, December 9, 2007
The challenge for today was to consider traditions & then to do some "hidden" journaling. So, here's the good stuff, hidden in my handmade envelopes:
Connecting with loved ones in person, on the phone, and by mail (snail or email)
A fresh cut Christmas tree, decorated with colorful lights and heirloom ornaments
Not being able to fall asleep, on account of all the excitement with Santa’s arrival
Lounging around in the comfiest attire possible, for as long as possible
Boston Pops’ Christmas Party and Porter Music Box Christmas (LPs or CDs) playing
Emptying stockings, first thing on Christmas morning, finding trinkets and treats
Taking turns to distribute gifts to recipients a few at a time - no making piles of gifts to open!
Mindfully opening gifts on Christmas morning, one at a time, paying attention to whoever is opening a gift, followed by thanking the person who gave the gift (if that person is in attendance), then writing down the gift and the giver on a notepad
Writing thank you notes, on Christmas afternoon, to any gift-givers who were not present during the gift opening
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Text for today's page: "At Christmastime, everything is festooned and garlanded with loads of holiday cheer. There’s the obvious stuff, like lights on trees … wreaths on doors … decorations on mantles, then there’s the subtle things: streetlights beribboned in red and wrapped with greenery, tiny stockings and sparkling garlands taped to the counter at the post office, and Salvation Army bell ringers belting out Christmas carols in front of the grocery store. It is virtually impossible to escape. I go out to dinner, and the drink coaster is festive. I enjoy a beverage at Starbucks and the protective sleeve has a holiday theme. I bring home a case of soda, and there’s dear old Santa Claus smiling up at me. I am glad that I find these things to be a source of amusement. If I was a Scrooge, I think it’d drive me absolutely batty!"
I am obscenely pleased with how today has gone. We had the chance to have a leisurely breakfast, to wrap up (pun intended) some holiday shopping in a few out-of-the-way spots, to select our tree (AND install it with no swearing!), to create the page above, to make some fun gift card holders, to make a homemade gift for my friend, John, and to bake some Northwest Pecan Treats. Who could ask for more??
Suddenly I was panicked. I didn't know what I should ask for, for Christmas. Is it proper etiquette to direct Santa to my Amazon.com wishlist? What if I ask for something that his elves can't get me, something that's out of stock or out of season? I don't want to put pressure on the old guy - he's already taking care of gifts for how many children this season?!
So, in the end, I didn't ask for anything. I just smiled and asked if I could have my picture taken with him. I said, "I'm really just a big kid." Santa replied, "So am I! Ho ho ho!" What a great guy. I love the man with the snowy beard & big red suit. When I grow up, I want to be just like him (well, maybe not the snowy beard part...that would be a bit disturbing). Hey! Do you think maybe he'll take me on as an elf trainee?
Friday, December 7, 2007
This year is a bit of a challenge. After talking with Ken about how much money we spend annually on Christmas gifts, we decided to set a limit: $20 per friend or family member, and $50 for each other. In the past, as long as we didn’t drain our accounts or blow over a credit card limit, we pretty much got whatever we wanted to get for people, and we weren’t too worried about the cost. I’m finding that I can handle that limit pretty easily, by stretching every dollar with coupons & a keen eye, as well as an awful lot of handmade stuff! Ken isn’t quite so craft-oriented, plus he gets an idea in his head about exactly what he wants to get for someone, and is just horribly frustrated (I’d say sometimes even crushed) that it’s well over the limit we have to spend. We’ll have to see how this works out this year - next year we may change the limit so it’s not quite so painful and irritating, and just shuffle some funds over from other expenses, and cut those back instead."
Oh, and the photo's of my best friend, Jason, opening one of his gifts from us last year, Manga Claus. Those of you who enjoy manga and/or anime will get understand. Those of you who don't, well, I won't even try to 'splain it. *grin*
Thursday, December 6, 2007
The text for today's page is hidden behind the picture on the little pull tab of ribbon that reads "Happy Holidays": This was the year I got my hockey skates and my very own Brownie Girl Scout doll, whom I named Julia. I felt so special when I received these gifts!
We were encouraged to reflect on Christmases past - some good, some not so good. My Christmases, on the whole have just been magnificent (Thanks, Mom & Dad!!), and since I'd just recently spoken to them about some miscellaneous photos, I thought I'd take the opportunity to get one of them recorded, for posterity ... and future giggles.
Here's the text for the page:
Important Dates for 2007
Nov 21: have all “long distance” Christmas gifts shipped
Nov 24 to Dec 14: wrap all other Christmas gifts
Nov 30: have all Christmas cards written, addressed, and stamped
Dec 1: mail Christmas cards, get out holiday decorations
Dec 1 to 15: bake Christmas cookies
Dec 2: see “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Tivoli Theatre!
Dec 8/9: get Christmas tree
Dec 9: see The Nutcracker (House Theatre version) with Chris
Dec 10-14: decorate Christmas tree
Dec 13: mail package for “Letters to Santa”
Dec 15: Mom & Dad arrive midday
Dec 16: Cookie Day!
Dec 16: Distribute gifts to everyone we won’t see before Christmas
Dec 22/23: possibly celebrate Christmas with Mom & Dad!
Dec 24: Christmas Eve dinner!
Dec 25: celebrate Christmas on our own! (Jason may come over in the afternoon)
Dec 26: celebrate Christmas with Kaye, Dave, Kim, Seldon, Jayne & Larry!
Dec 31: celebrate New Year’s with Barbara & Larry!
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Text from today's page: "I feel incredibly blessed to have close-to-perfect Christmases nearly every year. Sure there are elements I’d modify if I could, but for me, it’s all about everyone being happy, and since everyone’s got a different set of wishes & dreams, we all have to bend and flex a bit. So, if I could wave a magic wand and create a perfect holiday season, here’s what I’d do: (1) all citizens of the planet would know security, safety, and love (2) everyone would think about the consequences of their actions, and actively avoid intentionally causing injury and (3) people would have the capacity to reflect on the blessings in their lives and feel a sense of gratitude and appreciation. No more rushing around thoughtlessly, caught up in our own pitiful concerns. No more people fearing for their lives. No more heartache and anguish, even if it’s just suspended for a few days a year. Yeah, if I’m going to envision the perfect Christmas, I’m going to dream big & include the whole planet!"
I do feel unbelievably blessed to have such magnificent Christmases ... and people who know me know that I am the kind of person who "makes things happen," so I believe that if I want something to be better, it's my job to work to improve it...which is why I kind of struggle with these "dream big" kinds of questions. So, I decided to dream REALLY big this time around. Can you blame me for wanting to share my experience of the holidays with the whole wide world?
Monday, December 3, 2007
Because I communicate with most of the people on our Christmas card list throughout the year … and because some of the cards I sent have so little space to write (especially those pop-up cards this year!), I don’t feel bad about writing a brief greeting & signing the card. For people I don’t correspond with much, I will write a bit more information, just some of the highlights & I’ll inquire about what’s going on with them. We don’t do a holiday letter, but instead, we often send out a Christmas Eve email, with a photo of us attached & a few words on how we’re celebrating the holiday, and sometimes a brief year-in-review. Maybe this year I’ll wise up and make a slideshow & just send people a link!
As of December 1st, I’ve got all of my cards in the mail, complete with holiday postage stamps and holiday return address labels. Occasionally, I’ll get a card from someone who fell off the radar … or someone new. I have a couple of the embossed snowflake ones left, just in case, and I’ll get one out right away, if I get a card from someone I’ve missed!"
Yes, I am one of those crazy, hyper-organized people. Don't hate me too much, okay?
Sunday, December 2, 2007
I wanted to make this page was very different from last year's page, which was one of my absolute favorites to do! I think I succeeded! :D
Today was just tremendous fun! We went out to a restored theatre to see It's a Wonderful Life. The place was just packed -- which was awesome, because (a) it benefited a charity and (b) it was just amazing to see the movie with other people who laughed & cried at different spots! I haven't gotten any cookies baked. Yet. It's only 8 pm, so I may get a batch in before bedtime. I also was going to work on a couple of extra holiday cards with my scraps from Days 1 and 2 ... again, the night is fairly young, so it may still happen!
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Here's the text for today's page: "It’s December 1st, and we’ve received three holiday missives so far. All of mine are currently out in the mailbox, waiting to be retrieved by the mail carrier. I just could not bring myself to mail them any earlier than today, just like I couldn’t stand to break out any holiday decorations until now, either. Today we’ll be pulling out all of the decorations & going through them, to see which ones to keep and which to donate elsewhere.
This is the second year I’ve created a journal about how I experience the Christmas season. I hope that it will continue to keep me focused on the aspects of the holiday I love: celebrating loved ones, enjoying wintry weather, and the excitement of gift-giving. So many people become crabby and bitter at this time of year. I want to do what I can to balance that out, and without being too sappy, to spread some love into the universe.
So, with that being said, I am going to also get started on spreading some carbohydrate love, and try out the recipe for cranberry pecan tassies. After we sample them (a necessity, don’t you think?), pop them into the freezer for Cookie Day on the 16th. I’ want to get a good picture of them for my cookie album. . . and with the forecast for snow & ice, I’d better hop to it, before the decent lighting fades altogether! "
The net result for today? (a) no more holiday cards in today's mail (b) all decorations have been unearthed, and will be sorted tomorrow (c) I got out last year's journal & was so happy to see it! (d) the cranberry pecan tassies turned out WONDERFUL (see the post below for the recipe) (e) our pitiful amount of snow has been subsumed under about 1/4" of slushy ice. (f) I've got the first page done in my journal! Whee!!
Oh, and hop over to The Bunny's Bungalow to check out her very generous holiday giveaway. Please do mention that I sent you, if you wander over there!
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup finely chopped cranberries
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
- For pastry, in a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until combined. Stir in flour until just mixed. Chill pastry for 1 hour.
- Shape the pastry dough into 24 balls. Place in an ungreased 1 3/4-inch muffin cups. Press pastry evenly against the bottom and up the side of each muffin cup.
- For filling, in another medium mixing bowl beat together the egg, brown sugar, vanilla and salt until until smooth. Stir in the cranberries and pecans. Spoon the filling into the pastry-lined muffin cups.
- Bake in a 325*F (190*C) oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Cook in muffin cups on wire racks. Remove tassies from muffin cups by running a knife around the edges.
Makes 24 tassies.