Monthly Archives: December 2014

Christmas #5

stag

That’s it, we’re done (insert mental image of me falling into the lazy boy and instantly falling asleep). Christmas #5 is complete, no drama, all good. A humble holiday at my mom’s with her partner, my Hubby and my sister. We exchanged small gifts since we were on a tight budget, and even tried to hand make as much as possible. I made my sister, who loves to crochet and carries her bag of unfinished projects and needles around constantly, a sign that says “if I can’t take my yarn, I’m not going”.  I found my mom some awesome pieces of drift wood for her garden through a used website. I got a great price on them and only one could be wrapped up into a big box, while the others were paraded onto the front lawn by Hubby after the initial reveal. I made a snood for my second mom, that’s a hood that’s also a neck warmer, easily mistaken for a balaclava, but you can actually put it back from your head and it looks like a simple neck warmer after. We received handmade cookies, fudge sauce, a wooden trivet with a pig cut out and a handmade crochet Hobbes doll for Junior, which is literally the same size as him. He immediately started to maul it and goober it, so I assume he loves it. We then played an inappropriate board game that had us in fits of laughter and pigged out on food and sweets until we could do nothing more than sit on the couch, sighing in contentment. That my dear is what Christmas is all about.

The other day Hubby helped me remove all of the ornaments and lights from our tree. We swept up the millions of little pine needles, and dragged the crispy dead conifer out the back door, leaving a trail of even more needles as a path to its exit. We boxed up the Santa’s the fake mini trees and swag. We took down signs and removed the holiday wreath (if only to put up that awesome cast iron door knocker Hubby got me as a gift), and placed our new gifts into their proper places around the house.   Christmas is over, an additional bittersweet memory of 2014.

Christmas #3 and #4

christmas here

Christmas #3 and #4 have been completed. Hubby and I are still exhausted and, frankly, still in shock, and Junior is very much off his sleep schedule.

It all started Christmas morning, 7am, Junior had woken up as usual, so we figured we’d just get up and get the event started. Hubby and I made a big deal out of telling Junior, as we changed his diaper, that Santa had come even though all the snow had melted. I told him that I had seen reindeer tracks on the lawn, so Santa must have done a ground landing with all the high gusty winds that shook the house. Junior looked at me wide eyed, flailed his little limbs around and let out a burp. He had no clue what I was talking about. We paraded down the stairs and into the living room, our Christmas tree twinkling with lights, low music playing in the background. Junior did pretty good, he ripped at paper, usually stuffing it in his mouth, but he seemed curious to the packages and he even let out a giggle when Hubby stuck an Elmo hat on his head (a matching hat to our Bert and Ernie). Junior received some learning interactive toys from us, a few items of clothes and a very large rubber ducky which he immediately clawed at and goobered on. We didn’t see the need to spoil him at his age, where the tissue paper and cardboard boxes held more fun than the expensive items in them. When he started to rub his eyes we put him back to bed for a nap and we continued on with our own gifts. Hubby had done very well this year with purchasing gifts that I enjoyed. A beautiful dragonfly necklace, lots of classic books to add to Junior’s library, a board game, and a new purse. I laughed a little since Hubby had found me an awesome cast iron deer door knocker, and I in turn had purchased a large cast iron pig dinner bell.  It seems we have the same great taste.  Later in the morning, we realized there was a forgotten bag under the tree, that simply had Junior’s name on it, no “from” message. But as soon as I opened it, I knew that only one person could be the sender. My aunt is well-known in our family (and probably the whole county) as a master quilt maker, almost a lost art, and there, in this gift bag was a quilted blanket, little woodland animals and owls on every square inch. A perfect match to his theme, and right up our alley. I have quickly replaced his crib blanket with the quilt and he now curls up each night wrapped in hand made love.

Christmas #4, later in the day, is a bit of a blur. Hubby’s family can be quite chaotic and I expected nothing less than pure unchecked in-law fun. We drove over to the family house and soon it was packed with kids, screaming, running, bouncing, falling. The present opening began and it likened itself to a snatch and grab boxing day sale, paper flying in all directions, presents being thrown, tossed and piled, shouting began, children cried and screamed and Hubby, and myself with Junior on my lap, sat astounded. Since moving to the country, we’ve grown quite accustomed to the quiet, gentle pace of life. Junior’s mouth was agape, staring wide eyed at the frenzy about us. To be fair the family kids are at that busy age, and perhaps it’s the new thing to have the living room turn into a post tornado afflicted location.  But soon enough the chaos subsided and from the mountains of torn paper emerged an immense amount of interactive toys for Junior, along with stuffed toys, a new sled. For Hubby and I, a new power tool, some pillows and some towels.  I might push to have a budget in place for next year as Junior was BEYOND spoiled with many gifts, and we felt horrible to not be able to reciprocate the kind gesture (although I think we would have had to re-mortgage the house to do so). I’d also love to see the kids take more time, enjoying the occasion, thanking the senders and actually looking at their gifts. But maybe I’m just an old lady now, and I’ve forgotten about the excitement of Christmas morning.

Dinner soon followed, the traditional turkey with all the fixings, a delicious, decadent meal. Crackers snapped and soon everyone including Junior was wearing tissue paper crowns and blowing up balloon animals (I’m ridiculously afraid of balloons… their unpredictability grates on my nerves).

By 7pm, we were done, and poor Junior hadn’t slept a wink for all the busy excitement around him, so we packed the car (to the roof) with our prizes, and tucked Junior into his seat. I don’t think we made it out of the driveway before soft snoring could be heard from the back seat (coming from Junior, not Hubby, just to clarify.)

A Country Christmas Message

card4

Twas the night before xmas and all through the house

All the creatures were stirring, even that f#&king mouse.

The stockings were hung, half chewed by the dog

We’d just come from the store with more egg nog.

Junior was restless, and not at all in his bed

With loud exclamations he screamed off his head.

And wife in her pjs and I in the nude

Had just settled down in front of the tube.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter

I sprang from the couch to see whats the matter.

Away up the stairs, out of the mancave

Tore open the door, gave the neighbours a wave

The coyotes were near their tracks on the snow

The moon was up high and the lawn was aglow

When what to my wandering eyes should appear

But the farmer, his tractor and eight giant steer

With him bundled in plaid, and bovine that kick

I knew it at once, it wasn’t saint nick.

More rapid than turtles his courses they came,

And he whistled and shouted and called them by name.

Now! Bessie, now! Daisy now! Now Patty and Clarabell

On! Rosie, on! Doris on! Maggie and Caramel.

To the end of the road! And under pine boughs,

Now dash away! Dash Away! Dash away cows!

The cold nipped my face, and my breath on the night

I returned to the warmth and the twinkling lights

The house was adorned with one tree or two

And presents galore were wrapped in each hue.

Finally my wife and my baby did sleep,

They rested together and counted their sheep.

As I took a long sip of my pepsi and rye

Suddenly there in the room was a guy.

He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot

A bundle of toys was flung on his back,

The dogs awoke and poised for attack

Juno jumped for a kiss, and Fid sneezed up some snot

And the merry old man, did care for it not.

He swung out his bag and sent the dogs rolling

They tumbled in presents as if they were bowling.

With a jolly deep laugh his big belly did jiggle

his nose, half hidden in beard, gave a wiggle

The dogs sculked away and the family still slept.

And I stood frozen, staring, completely inept.

He then spoke not a word, but went straight to work.

And fill’d all the stockings then turned with a jerk.

And laying his finger aside of his nose

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

I ran to the window and looked to the night.

No sleigh, or reindeer, no magic to sight

But away went a tractor, the cows pulled away.

The old guy waved back, and had a message to say

I could just make it out, as he chugged out of sight.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Christmas #1 and #2

christmas dinner

It’s 5am. I can’t sleep. My belly is so full of casserole favorites. It may not help that both Hubby and I got into the leftovers at 8pm last night and gorged ourselves on ham, three bean casserole, carrots and cranberries. Not the smartest move, but it was a delicious move. No my mouth is dry from the salt and I crave juice or water. Thankfully we have left over fruit that will make me feel a bit better. No wonder we gain so much weight over the holidays. It’s not my fault… the food contributions are so wonderfully decadent.

Christmas #1 was great, my dad brought some peameal bacon, a great Canadian favorite to go along with Hubby’s scrambled eggs and my dad seemed quite pleased with his hall mirror (I added in some pictures of the family to get him started as well). Junior received an amazing wagon/sled from my dad, step mom and step sister. This thing is huge, and has wheels that can be exchanged for skis to make a great sled. We had that thing pulled out of the box and they worked hard to tighten bolts and secure skis. Junior fell asleep half way through creation, but I can’t wait for today where we can suit him up in his snowsuit and drag him down the street (also that might help work off a few calories for us).

By noon, family started to trickle in and the house got warmer and warmer with each body that arrived and with each hour the turkey roasted in the oven and soon windows were being opened and fans emerged. (Note to self, next time, no wood stove needed). Soon casseroles were being paraded in along with bottles of wine and three bean casseroles bubbled in slow cookers, the turkey roasted to a beautiful shade of gold and cheese plates, pickles and cranberries filled bowls that seemed to teeter on every bit of my expansive counter. Everyone seemed happy, jolly, and merry, and indeed I think everyone WAS all that. No drama, only happy grateful people. THAT is what Christmas is all about. A house full of family, love and merriment.

Hubby and I busied ourselves in the kitchen and everyone at one time or another helped out to heap food to platters, or run drinks to waiting hands. We moved our kitchen island into another room which left more space for two giant tables end to end plus a card table in order to fit in the 23 people who arrived. Although I could have been 22, I lost count and couldn’t seem to get a head count as people were everywhere. Soon we all gathered around the table, joined hands and my aunt led us in prayer and we gave thanks before grabbing plates and filing around buffet style to that aforementioned kitchen island that held so many goodies. Dinner was followed by a chaotic gift exchange where ornaments emerged and guessing games started as to their creator. Some were very creative, a few hand-made and some very obscure, but it was all in good fun and merriment and didn’t cost us much.  Hubby and I chose gifts that contained a hand made plastic canvas mini basket with little sticks representing logs, which I guessed correctly as my aunt’s, who also burns wood day and night to heat her country home, and a golden music note which I had no clue as to the owner, but soon found it’s origin who sat, squished between several people on my couch.

Junior took the activity in great stride. Being passed to one family member or another, and goobering on a little cousin (second cousin? I have no clue what to call my cousin’s kids) who was the same size as Junior. He crawled from legs to legs, asking to get up. I caught him once nestled into the neck of a cousin who’s bushy beard and plaid shirt were not unlike Hubby’s usual attire. Poor kid had no clue who these folks were but knew that someone wearing plaid with a beard meant safety and comfort. Not a cry or a fuss, till dinner, and even then, a spoonful of my aunt’s carrot casserole, and he was a happy baby again. Unfortunately he fell asleep before the big family picture, but emerged again to say goodbye to a few guests at the end.

Dishes were cleared, spoons were kept and we soon joined together to sing Happy Birthday to a little lady who was celebrating her birthday. Of course her cake was Frozen themed. Desserts of all kinds replaced the dinner on the island and soon we dug into cranberry squares, fudge, cake and my step sisters decadent carrot cake which had a generous amount of awesome cream cheese dressing. It wasn’t long after that dark began to creep into the day and people started to trickle out, giving hugs and expressing their gratitude. I couldn’t keep hands out of my kitchen sink and soon great piles of dirty dishes emerged clean and shiny. Left overs were divied up (a great amount made it into our fridge) and the last people headed out the door around 7pm. The second that door closed, Hubby’s pants came off, the dogs were released and we plunked our exhausted bodies on a couch, both remarking as to the wonderful but crazy day.

That chaos, that merriment, that pure joy and lovely times, that’s what Christmas is. Now… too bad I can’t sleep!

Tomorrow

DSCN7951

Christmas #1 and #2 are tomorrow. First in the morning we’re having my dad, step mom, step sister and sister over for breakfast and to open gifts. We’ll serve farm fresh eggs from the farmers next door, along with some fruit and bagels. I was able to find the perfect gift for my dad, someone who is quite content with socks, a hunting magazine and a few chocolate bars. He’s a particular guy who knows what he likes and will not cut corners to get exactly the best, which makes buying for him hard. He’s been eyeing my hall mirror (which has places for 4 pictures, a small shelf and about 6 key hooks) for years and almost every time he comes or goes from my place, remarks… “if you ever find another one of these…” Well, that statement set off a firestorm of online searches. And for months I came up empty handed and everything “similar” wouldn’t do for my dad. I finally tracked one down almost 6 hours away. I then check social media to see who I knew in the area, contacted a cousin I hadn’t seen in years and months later while visiting Hubby’s family near the area, we stopped in for a visit and a pick up. Of course, after getting home with the darn thing someone in my own town posted one for sale for half the price. Oh well, it was a fun hunt and in the end I hope he likes it.

Christmas #2 is my dad’s side of the family coming up from about an hour away. Everyone is bringing their favorite dish, and a wrapped ornament to represent them. We normally do a small gift exchange, where you take turns picking wrapped gifts and stealing them, but this year I added the twist that they should be a tree ornament. Although pretty much can be hung on a tree (I have a light bulb on mine), I figured it gave the kids something to work on and make. I chose to wrap a Styrofoam ball in jute rope (a media I use in my business) and Hubby filled a clear plastic ball with spices since he’s a chef. We’re in charge of the turkey, ham and the gravy, and we stocked up on wine and pop for the kids. Hubby has been helping me clean and prep and I, like my mother, am not good in crowds and feel quite overwhelmed (chalk that up to a horrible few years in high school, where I would rather shrink into a corner and hide) I’m hoping I can survive the first chaotic hosting event. 24 people are expected and although my eating area is large, that number can push anyone to their limits.

Oh so much to do, so little time… must go and vacuum for the second time today (I vacuumed then made the choice to drag pine boughs inside for decoration, leaving a trail of needles all over my floor).

Fudge Disaster

fudge

Have you ever tasted a bad cookie? No, I didn’t think so.  So, I think we did okay then. The other day I had two of Hubby’s long time gal friends over (they have since became my friends too, and even dual MC’d our wedding and did an amazing job!).  We were each to bring three recipes to try making. So I searched my pinterest account and came up with soft ginger cookies, white snowball cookies and chocolate peppermint cookies. I can’t remember all the recipes the girls brought, some were muffins, there was a good attempt at sugar cookies (never decorate them when you are exhausted), and some shortbread that went terribly wrong. But, I came out with a few ziplock bags full of treats.  Two of my cookie mixes used cake mixes as a base, which might seem like cheating to some, but heck, my cookies turned out the best if I do say so, although, a valiant effort was had by the girls for trying to wrangle the shortbread mix. And out of all the disaster cookies, and the many crumbling bits which were too delicious to waste, came the bright idea to make Disaster Fudge. One of the girls had mentioned a recipe to use up the crumbs but not having any of the ingredients on hand we improvised and poured a fudge mixture over them. Delicious! It’s a great way to salvage all the tasty bits and broken cookies.  It tasted so good that it kind of put the spirit of Christmas back into me (or maybe that was the gallon of milk I had to drink because of all the fudge I ate).

Our first Christmas is less than a week away! We’re having my dad over on Sunday morning to open gifts and then his whole side of the family for an early dinner on the same day. We’re up to 22 people so far, and thankfully everyone has offered to bring their signature dish, which is fantastic, because I can’t get enough of my dad’s three bean casserole, or my aunt’s carrot casserole, oh and that delectable hashbrown casserole….so many casseroles!! There is so much to clean and so much we need to get done but the week is flying by. I still want to find a big table cloth and cut fresh pine boughs. When? I have no clue. Dear Santa, I wish for more time.

Update: My Christmas spirit is still being stomped on by some family drama.  Last year for Christmas I received a guilt trip, looks like this year will be no different.

Waning of the Christmas Spirit

deer head

I was fine up until yesterday. I love Christmas. I’m not religious, and it’s great if some awesome dude has his birthday coming up, but it’s even more awesome to see family getting together, ugly sweater competitions, and secret santas at work. Christmas, to me anyways, has been the magic of love, peace, forgiveness, and entertaining friends and family until you can’t possibly eat anymore peppermint bark. But sometimes we lose our spirit of Christmas. And although sometimes my “spirit” wanes a bit; when I can’t find a parking spot at the mall, or when someone doesn’t hold the door open for me when I’ve got my hands full with Junior, I tend to have a strong enough spirit to keep quite cheerful through the holidays. I decorate to the nines, send Christmas cards, and love wrapping gifts. This year Hubby and I are hosting our first major family function at our “new” house. We’re looking forward to it like you wouldn’t believe. I even sent out invitations (just an excuse for me to make something with photoshop) and the date and time was approved months ago by the matriarch of the family. But… yup, here comes the “but”. It’s on the same day as a birthday of someone in Hubby’s family. And…instantly we have the guilt trip.

I really feel for anyone with a December birthday. It’s a horrible time and everyone is quite busy, but I’m not rescheduling a dinner with close to 20 people. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you, or that we don’t care, or that one family is more important than the other, it means I planned this dinner first and there are too many people involved to reschedule.  There has to be SOME understanding, some common sense. Hubby and I have three Christmas’ not including our own with Junior. Three!  And with Hubby only having Sundays and Mondays off and working evenings, well, you can see how December is rough on us. There are also some birthdays, both friends and family, in December, and we’ve been able to accommodate them as much as possible, but the instant I get guilted, or that someone assumes Hubby and I don’t care, well, that just takes my Christmas spirit and stomps on it.  I’d like to think we are very much into “family” and we do a lot of hosting and attending, often driving over an hour for dinners and parties without too much of a complaint.  In fact, both Hubby and I impressed ourselves by finding and already wrapping the perfect gift for said person, we were so proud of ourselves…until we got scolded for not being able to attend the actual event (and to make matters worse, I notified that person two and a half months ago we had the family dinner to host).

I plea to everyone out there, if someone can’t make it to an event or family function in December, dear lord, it doesn’t make them a horrible person, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Instead of stomping on their holiday spirit and trying to ply them with an unfair guilt trip, my advice to you is to continue with your event, but offer an alternative (ie, hey, can you come Wednesday night for dinner and we can celebrate it then with you?) or be a little more understanding (ie, we will miss you at the family dinner, but we understand how busy the season is. Is there a day we can get together for a visit?).  Hubby and I already have to check the calendar each year to see who “gets us for Christmas”, leaving one family choosing dates all over December in order to accommodate a gathering. In the end, it’s never good to apply the guilt trip. We’re trying the best we can, we’re attending as much as our schedule allows and we wish we could be in two places at once.

Sigh, I’m going to go wrap some more gifts to see if I can get my holiday spirit back and shake these grumpies I seem to have.  Merry Christmas! Happy Birthday! Sigh.

Family at its Finest

I think I have a lovely family. Not just Hubby, Junior, myself and the two crazy dogs, but I’m just going to go right on and extend that loveliness on to a few more people.

When I was little I just didn’t know the meaning of “family”. Sure, I’d be dragged to stuffy church sessions, family dinners where adults would talk and talk and talk until they finally got bored of us kids begging to be excused from the table, and we’d whine and roll our eyes when asked to help around the house, and although we loved the people we were related to, it was still foreign to understand just how connected we were. I went away to college and learned through utter loneliness how important family dinners were, and when I couldn’t afford train tickets home for the holidays, I came to appreciate my parents driving me around as a kid. Those weekends where my father would drive to pick my sister and I up for a visit was time out of his very busy life, but he always made time for us.  We were often lulled to sleep by his guitar playing.  My mother scrimped to make sure we had a roof over our heads and her house rules taught us great discipline and life lessons on caring and being open minded.  I never really appreciated my upbringing until recently. With a house, a husband, a baby and land taxes to boot, life has caught up to me and I’m a full-fledged adult.  I now realize how loving my family is, and how distant I must have seemed to them.

In recent years I’ve tried my best to visit family more often, write letters, and send emails. For some reason I still loathe making phone calls, perhaps it was the years of working in a call center that makes me dread picking up and dialing anyone. But I want to make the effort. I want to be there for my family where I can, and hopefully when they need it. I want to be there when they don’t need it too, a quick surprise visit or a card for no reason. But with each passing day I am made aware just how important family is.

My father, who is the world’s busiest man, has been on vacation. By “vacation” I mean the fact he is not working at his normal day job for the week. Instead he has been tinkering with a snowblower that might eventually make it to our driveway. I never asked for this, but off he went to get it working, taking his precious time to help other people.  My grandfather and my Aunt took time out of their day to pick giant pinecones for me, filling a bucket which they presented to me when I visited. I hardly remember mentioning how beautiful the cones were on my last visit and I’ve been tinkering with cones here at home lately. It was a pleasant surprise. Then, my grandparents and my Aunt surprised me with perhaps the most touching surprise ever, a load of wood. Now, I know, most normal people would gush over a cash laden envelope, or maybe a new watch, but for this country girl, a load of wood is as meaningful as anything, plus it’s pretty darn useful. Our supply of wood was getting lower and lower, and our oil tank gauge has been slinking closer to the big E with each day. With Christmas coming, things are tight. This morning, very early my family got into the old pickup truck and drove nearly 45 minutes to my house where we proceeded to stack wood into my wood room, filling it to the rafters with lovely dry wood.  I wish I did buy lottery tickets as I wish I could repay them, but I think that even if I could give them cash for the wood, it just wouldn’t express how I feel about their touching and thoughtful gift. I thanked them in the only way I could, an overcooked quiche and a few greenery swags made with some of their pine cones. (in my defence the quiche was in the oven while we were stacking wood and I was having too much fun to check it).  I know my grandmother reads my blog (for which I am impressed and honoured) but this next sentence is for you, and for you to pass onto everyone down there. I love you. I love you so much, and appreciate all you have done.  Junior and I are snug as bugs in our warm house tonight (Hubby is still at work at 10pm at night!) and this is thanks to you. This busy holiday season, we should all take the time to sit down with a cup of tea (or hot water) with our family and let them know they are loved.

Behold! One heck of a tree!

ornaments

Christmas has come to the household! I look forward to the shorter winter days since the sooner the sun goes down, the sooner I can plug in the lights of our first real Christmas tree since Hubby and I met. Our beautiful but fake tree is still stuffed under the basement stairs and will be pulled out soon to go to my dad’s on loan for the season. I was so excited to convince Hubby that a real tree was a great tradition for Junior to experience…and who doesn’t love the smell of fresh cut pine. Yeah, we might have had to cut it several times. Even with good intentions of premeasuring the height needed we dragged that thing through our house and heaved it about, up and down it went until finally we tipped it up, tightened the stand and voila! A perfectly slanty tree…oops, down once more, one more cut, and voila! A perfectly straight tree!

Several strands of my white lights have kicked the bucket over the past year, probably jostled in the move, but Hubby dutifully sat removing and replacing light bulbs until the culprit was found. The holiday music played softly, rye and cokes were in hand and Junior was fast asleep while we decorated the tree. I’m so proud of our ornaments and the story our tree tells. I have antique ornaments from my mother’s side, and each year Hubby and I buy an ornament to represent something that happened that year. One year we found a big diamond ring (perfect since we got engaged), another year I ordered a photo ornament with our wedding photo on it, last years was a golden key for the purchase of our house and this year a little giraffe with Juniors real name on it. I also added a light bulb to our tree. When Hubby changed out the light fixture for the back yard, the bulb he found there looks like it’s about 30 years old (which is pretty much impossible since the house was built in ’98) but I added some rope to it and now it hangs on our tree, another story to tell.

It’s been tradition with us to load the gifts under the tree as soon as they are wrapped and I willingly keep up this tradition since Junior is too young to know that Santa is supposed to bring the gifts. Maybe next year the gifts will stay hidden until Christmas night, but for now, our awesome tree is fully laden with colourful packages and big boxes that hold holiday surprises for the whole family.

Junior hasn’t taken too much notice to the tree since his playroom is out of sight of it and I rarely let him crawl around the living room since hard floors and glass coffee tables could attack him at any given moment. The dogs, on the other hand, are WELL AWARE of what a Christmas tree is, in fact it is several things to them… a giant stick, a holder of delicious ornaments, a urination relief station, and a Christmas present unwrapping extravaganza! This morning I will have to put up a wire dog gate to carefully surround our tree and it’s gifts, and protect it from our fur babies.

Christmas has certainly come to the house and I have a month and a bit to bask in all of it’s glory before we drag the pine tree outside and burn it in our bonfire (cause that’s what country folk do).