Saturday, December 29, 2007

Journal Your Christmas, Day 29

This Christmas was marked by periods of togetherness, episodes of silliness, moments of tenderness, and times of wonder. I count myself lucky to have experienced all of them.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Journal Your Christmas, Day 28

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

Journal Your Christmas, Day 27

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!

Journal Your Christmas, Day 26

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

Journal Your Christmas, Day 25

Christmas Day this year was just totally awesome! A bit tiring, but awesome, nonetheless! Ken got up before I did & made the cinnamon crumbcake & got started on the vinaigrette we were taking to Kaye & Dave’s. This makes it the first Christmas in my memory that I was not the first person out of bed! We sipped tea & unearthed the goodies in our stockings, then leisurely moved on to opening presents. We both got some really memorable items : a book on Welsh castles & a guide to Hadrian’s Wall, a mini-crockpot and a santoku knife, dance lessons and a scented heating pad were just some of our treasures! We spent several hours continuing to work on Kaye & Dave’s calendar and on the creamy mushroom phyllo triangles, then Barbara and Larry came over. While they were here, Chris stopped by (she gave me some luscious body cream!), and gifts were opened (again, more fun stuff : gardening treats for me and BBQ goodies for Ken). Around 5 pm, we realized we had to get a move-on, so we said our farewells & got ready to head up to Itasca. We enjoyed everyone’s company, had a leisurely meal (and got amazing compliments on our appetizer), and had to bow out of dessert in order to return home to finish up November and December pages. We got to bed around midnight! Uh oh! We’re going to be pretty tired tomorrow!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Journal Your Christmas, Day 24

Well, it’s Christmas Eve, and we’ve just finished watching Love Actually. In about a half an hour, Kim will swing by to drop off a couple of gifts, and by 4 pm, Jason & Elizabeth will be here for a few hours of games & snacks & whatnot. Tomorrow morning, Christmas will be here. For me, the best aspect of the whole Christmas season is connecting with the people I care about. So, it seems most appropriate that I’ll be able to have mini-Christmases with so many loved ones: my parents on Cookie Day weekend, some friends today, some friends tomorrow, and Ken’s side of the family tomorrow and the 26th. I am just surrounded by love!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Journal Your Christmas, Day 23

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

Journal Your Christmas, Day 22

Today, we were prompted to make quick work of our page by combining a to-do list for the remainder of holiday preparations. We are THRILLED to have only 5 things on our list. Yes, I've crossed them out in this representation of my page, just in case some prying eyes see my blog!

One more place for my to put on my travel wish list...

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.

Journal Your Christmas, Day 21

Today, we were prompted to take a picture of our current environment, in whatever state it might be in, and record it for posterity. Lucky for us, most of our clutter & chaos occurs prior to Cookie Day, which is reflected in our relaxing, homey space!

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

Journal Your Christmas, Day 20

Since the prompt for the 20th was about "the unexpected," I broke out some especially funky (I think!) holiday themed paper ... not all what you'd expect from my album, which has got some pretty traditional colors! Today's colors: Lime, Teal, Pink, Orange, and Red!

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*

Journal Your Christmas, Day 19

It never hurts to write a letter to Santa, does it?

Dear Santa,

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

Journal Your Christmas, Day 18

I'm on a roll tonight! :) I think this does it for me, at least for a while. I'll probably catch up over the weekend. :)

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!"

Journal Your Christmas, Day 17

I know it looks crooked, but it's really not. The sequined light bulb embellishment strip (something I got as part of a swap about 5 years ago ... and loved ... and NEVER managed to find a use for!) is a bit on the bulky side, so it raises up one half of the page with the scan. I went a little nuts with dots on this one, but I was just having so darn much fun!

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."

Journal Your Christmas, Day 16

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

a la Monty Python ... I'm not dead, yet!

Just been busy with work ... and none of the recent Journal Your Christmas prompts have really gelled with me, yet. So, I am alive & doing fine, just busy with other things, right now. Content, happy, busy, that's me!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cookies Galore!!

Well, we started off the day with the 14 kinds of cookies we had made ... plus the 2 my parents brought up ... plus the 3 my aunt sent from Minneapolis. The table was really quite full. See?
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.

The party is OVER!

The last guest has departed. We have a lot of cookies left. We're going to order a pizza & start packing the leftover cookies up. And load the dishwasher. And take out recycling. And other clean-up related tasks. I was on my feet most of the party, and I'm looking forward to sitting for a while. It was awesome fun. We had a lot of great people come to hang out & to celebrate! I love Cookie Day! I'll post pictures later. *smile*

The party's in full swing!

Taking a quick break for my back ... and to cool off a tetch. The party's in full swing -- we've got the table FULL of cookies, no room to spare, and not many spots for people to sit. The eggnog is flowing, our friend-neighbors helped out with supplying some more coffee (I bought enough for a pot and half, not being a coffee drinker) , and I've sampled my friend's chocolate bon-bons. YUMOLA! Back I go, earrings in hand for my mom-in-law, who lost one of her trees. I'll see if she wants to borrow my green jingle bells or my red stockings. *smile*

Preparations continue

Well, sadly, my brother & his family cannot make it -- the roads are too dicey for them to attempt the travel. Major bummer ... but we cannot let it keep us from continuing forth. I keep pulling out decorative plate after decorative plate ... and batch of cookies after batch of cookies. I don't know how we're going to fit them all! I was planning on making my sister-in-law's "Breton Brittle," but since it's now Tminus one hour and 29 minutes, and my sweetie has now announced he will not go to the store until noon ... I just can't see me pulling it off. Not on top of ... *checking list* ... putting out all the cookies, clearing off 2 more surfaces, putting out plates and napkins, setting up the drink station, and clearing the porch. Yeah. And I still have to get dressed. EEK. But, it feels good to get off my feet for 2 minutes and post this. And my mom totally rocks. She's a huge help, getting things out on the table, getting stuff washed. She just ROCKS!

Cookie Day Has Arrived!

Snow has stopped falling ... the sun is coming out. The last batch of cookies is almost done & my parents are making us a large breakfast, to hold us throughout the day. People arrive at 1 pm. We still need to shovel the front porch, put down rock salt, clear off all surfaces, put down clothes, get out tins, get out plates/platters & put cookies on them, make coffee/tea/apple cider ... oh, and I think there was an outcry for a gallon of milk, so a run to the store may be in order. Tminus 3 hours 22 minutes and counting. :D

(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

Journal Your Christmas, Day 15

The timing of Shimelle's prompt, about holiday visitors, is just perfect! My parents arrive in a matter of a few hours, to celebrate Cookie Day with us, for the 6th year in a row! We usually do not see them on Christmas, so this is kind of "our" holiday get together. It works out great - they come up the day before & we have plenty of time to hang out, plus they are just magnificent at pitching in to help with the set up for our massive party. Depending on the weather they head out the following day, or they stay over another night. We've got snow in the forecast, so we'll have to see what makes the most sense. I appreciate their trekking up here to see us, so very much! My parents ROCK!Today's text reads: "2007 marks the 6th year that we’ve hosted Cookie Day, and it’s also the 6th year my parents have driven up, 3 hours, from Springfield, to celebrate it with us. We just love having them come to visit, because spending time with them is a complete joy. They are laid-back, fun, and helpful, and they’re deipnosophists to boot! They consistently leave a lasting, positive impression on all our friends and relations!"

Friday, December 14, 2007

Journal Your Christmas, Day 14

I LOVE Christmas carols! :) When I am in the car by myself, I sing out loud and off key!

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

Journal Your Christmas, Day 13

I hope you don't think me elitist or snobbish or flat-out crazy, but when it comes to the distribution process of Christmas morning, I have a very strong opinion of a right way to do it ... and a wrong way. *grin*

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

Journal Your Christmas, Day 12

Boy, all I have to do is say "Gosh, I really don't think I can get a page done tonight," and suddenly I'm struck with inspiration and just about enough energy to pull it off. *grin* So, before I whisk myself off to bed, here it is:The text reads: "I remember the excitement of Christmas morning, chomping at the bit to open our presents, tempered by the option to open our stockings before anyone else was awake. I remember prowling around the base of the Christmas tree, looking at all of the beautifully wrapped gifts, wondering what they contained. I remember the thrill of watching someone open a gift I made just for them, holding my breath to see if they liked it or not. I remember all of these things from the Christmas of my earliest memories, continuing on through the present day. Some things do change, but I will always be a wide-eyed child at heart."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Journal Your Christmas, Day 11

Today's page ... with a little help from the cats. I figured I owed them something for locking them up from 8:45 am to 6:00 pm today. Hey -- don't get that look in your eye. We were having our carpets cleaned, and they needed to be separated from the wet carpet...and the open doors...and Scotchgard(tm)! They made their displeasure well known, though, with lots of crying. So, I figured I'd give them a little tribute in my journal & tell about the Christmas tree from their perspective. Here's the text: "Every year we get a giant, pine- scented cat toy. First, it starts off just being a fun place to explore and climb in, and then it starts getting covered with warm lights & shiny little toys. Sometimes, if you knock toys off the tree, they turn into a bazillion little toys. Our humans are the best."

Journal Your Christmas, Day 10

I wasn't entirely thrilled with this page. I'd journaled directly onto the wrapping paper & the tag wasn't offset by anything ... nor was there a border. It just looked wildly chaotic. So, I let it sit overnight & then made the changes & am much happier with it. The strips of paper look orange in this scan ... but they are a bright red, I assure you! The text simply reads: "As of today, I’ve wrapped 51 gifts have and only 6 more to wrap!" For a seemingly simple page, this one has become my most difficult & frustrating of all!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Journal Your Christmas, Day 9

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

What Christmas Tree Are You?

You Are a Traditional Christmas Tree

For a good Christmas, you don't have to re-invent the wheel.
You already have traditions, foods, and special things you bring out every year.

Journal Your Christmas, Day 8

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??

It's been years since I've talked with Santa Claus

but, there he was. Just sitting in his little house, with a mailbox out front and everything. And, well, I just could NOT resist the temptation to stop in and say hello.

Suddenly I was panicked. I didn't know what I should ask for, for Christmas. Is it proper etiquette to direct Santa to my 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

Journal Your Christmas, Day 7

Today's prompt was about holiday shopping, and we were encouraged to work on a list of holiday gifts or what is left to do ... since I've got that all on a utilitarian Excel spreadsheet & didn't much feel like transferring it over to a list, I decided I'd focus more on my shopping process & how our new "limit" is affecting the two of us!The text reads: "I love Christmas shopping! I cherish the process of carefully selecting gifts for those nearest and dearest to me. It is no surprise that the ones I know best are the ones who are the easiest to buy for. I spot things for them starting way back in July, and I carefully hoard those gifts for wrapping as we get closer to December. The ones I do not know as well, but to whom I feel a desire to give a gift, well, they’re more of a challenge, but I find if I ask some good questions & do a little digging, it usually yields good results. Nothing tops the look on someone’s face when they peel away wrappings to find something they genuinely appreciate!

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

Journal Your Christmas, Day 6

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.

A day of catching up ... and soaking up the fun!

Today was a wonderful day for catching up, because yesterday was just jam-packed. I didn't even get a chance to do my Christmas page!! So, today, I did that page, then I also did FOUR pages for My Wellness Journey book ... made ginger cookies (see above!) ... got a bunch of errands run ... finished another Christmas gift ... went out to dinner with friends ... AND I'm in the process of scanning my Christmas Journal page for today, too! Yay! I love crossing things off my to-do list! :D

Journal Your Christmas, Day 5

Yesterday was a very long day for me, so rather than press myself, I decided to just curl up with a book & go to bed early. It was a good choice -- I woke up nice & early & after watching the season finale of Heroes, I did my page for December 5th!We were "prompted" by Shimelle to consider how we count down to Christmas ... and about advent calendars. We don't have an advent calendar, but I am constantly aware of "due dates" for various parts of our celebration ... so I wrote my dates down & checked off the stuff that's done!

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

Journal Your Christmas, Day 4

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

Journal Your Christmas, Day 3

Here's the text for today's page:"This year’s selection of Christmas cards was a real hodgepodge. Almost all of them were made or acquired last year - I found some beautiful square embossed snowflake cards & a set of whimsical pop-up cards, and then I also made cards in the wake of finishing Christ-mas layouts. This year, I took advantage of trying out 5 free photocards from Kodak Gallery & had tremendous fun creating mini-montages of our adventures! I also handmade 4 extra-special cards this year, at a 2 hour Archiver’s class (yes, that’s 30 minutes spent on each card!), and I sent them to the people I knew would appreciate them the most!

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 DO know what I'm doing!

I've been baking since I was ... oh, gosh ... maybe 5. When I was in middle school, I aspired to be a baker & even apprenticed at a local bakery, making bears claws, sticky buns, and various kinds of cookies. I made a decent amount of money by decorating cakes & selling them to friends & family, when I was only 13 years old. I do know what I'm doing, here. So, I am at a complete loss as to why the Toblerone Brownie recipe keeps coming out wrong. Baking is a science. Add these things in this order and bake at this temperature in this pan ... it should work. But it doesn't. It's becoming quite comical. I got the recipe from Nat last year ... and it turned out there was a tiny conversion error, resulting in not the required 1 1/3 cups of sugar, but 3 whole cups. Oh well. We fixed the error, and I looked forward to making it this year. They've just cooled down enough to cut, and guess what? They crumble into tiny pieces, about half an inch big. *slapping forehead* I cannot for the life of me figure out what is going wrong. Ah, well. Live and learn. And they'll be good on top of ice cream. :D

Journal Your Christmas, Day 2

Here's the text for today's page: "The only acceptable weather at Christmas time is snow, preferably pristine white snowflakes falling softly on Christmas morning. To look out the window and see the individual flakes drifting down as we listen to Christ-mas music and open gifts - that’s just perfection. If there’s no snow on the ground on Christmas Day, I feel incredibly disappointed & somehow cheated. To me, snow is so peaceful & serene; it just accents the holiday season so very well for me. "

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

Journal Your Christmas, Day 1

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!

Cranberry Pecan Tassies

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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.