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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas cheer’

It is the Friday before Christmas, alert! alert! If you have small children who happen to be attending their FINAL DAY of school before the New Year, perhaps you are using part of your day to frantically wrap presents without excited and curious interruptions. Not that I would know from experience or anything.  Let’s do some holiday randomisity, shall we?

UPDATED TO ADD: I wrote this and posted it and then RAN out the door to take Carla to the doctor (ear infection – woohoo!) and didn’t get a chance to read through and edit it. So now that it is Very Late at night, I am trying to edit it and of course I have some changes. So the below is now Edited, although possibly more half-assedly than it should be, and also there is a new bullet with a link to my new (-to-me) favorite Christmas song.

  • It is FINALLY looking like Christmas around here. We actually have SNOW, which helps in Making Things Christmassy more than it probably should; good thing I don’t live in Florida, I guess. I have decorated everything. And even the tree finally has some ornaments on it. We plan to do a pizza night (why yes I HAVE deviated from my meal plan already, what of it?) and finish adding ornaments tonight. I love decorating for Christmas. I think it has to do with memories of Christmasses as a kid – my mom always decorated our house for the holidays and so it doesn’t feel REAL until there are stockings hung up on the mantel and Christmas books stacked on the bookshelf.

Xmas 2

  • Speaking of books, we got Carla a copy of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which is a book I remember with great fondness from my childhood. My husband read about it with deep suspicion. “Is this a religious book?” he asked. Well, I don’t really consider it to be religious. Although it does center around a church Christmas pageant. And is about, you know, the Christmas story, which is the story of the birth of Jesus… who is kind of a religious guy. So maybe it is religious? I don’t know. My clearest memory is of the antagonist in the story – oh don’t make me look up her name; Something-Jean maybe? – holding a doll that was supposed to represent baby Jesus and there being this moment of grace and wonder and awe when the protagonist connects Something-Jean’s experience to that of Mary. It’s a great moment, and I am really excited about reading the whole thing to Carla and enjoying the book from the perspective of an adult. (I do have that little half-fear that it won’t live up to my memory of it. Like how I have such fond memories of reading and loving The Poky Little Puppy as a child, but realize, as an adult, that it is repetitive nonsense.)
  • We can’t start the book until tomorrow or Sunday – and I hope we can finish it by Christmas; probably; it’s short – because TONIGHT we are reading the very last half of the very last chapter of the first Harry Potter book. UPDATED TO ADD: Nope. Still haven’t finished it. We all fell asleep mid-read. Carla has been LOVING IT, as my husband and I knew she would. We are all loving it. All three of us cuddle up in bed at night and my husband reads the book to all of us. He’s really great at doing accents, and I love how he differentiates the characters. His Hagrid is my favorite, but he does a spot-on Scottish brogue (or is that term just for Irish?) for Professor McGonagall. He’s been enjoying this so much that he went rogue and bought Carla the illustrated editions of the first three books for Hanukkah. He’d brought up the idea weeks ago, and I told him I thought it was silly to do so because we have all the paperbacks and we don’t need TWO versions of the books. But he felt so strongly about it that he used his own money to buy the illustrated set which I think is so cute and it’s true that Carla is going to love them. (Updated to say: It feels weird to mention Harry Potter without acknowledging that there is some current conversation about comments made by J. K. Rowling. I am exhausted by – gestures broadly – everything, and I have done exactly zero research into what’s going on. I keep typing and re-typing things to round out my thoughts, but they aren’t coming out the way I want so I am giving up.)
  • And there are so many other books we need to read! I really should have gotten out the stack of holiday books MANY weeks ago so that we’d be on top of things rather than so far behind in our holiday reading. So, we’ll do Harry Potter tonight, and then I really want to read Carla some of her many Hanukkah books tomorrow night – since Sunday — and not tomorrow as I have thought As Fact for many weeks now — is the first night of Hanukkah – and then we can read some more Hanukkah books and some Christmas books in the coming days. So far we have only read Bear Stays Up for Christmas and Latke the Lucky Dog, but there are many! more! to get too.
  • I am finding that it is a little tricky to balance out the Jewish traditions I want to ensure remain a part of Carla’s life with the Christian traditions that I also love and want to uphold. I want to be fair to both sides of her heritage. But the truth is that I am not Jewish and my husband, who is Jewish, doesn’t really have the time/energy/desire to push the Jewish traditions. So I am left muddling my way through them. I think we’re mostly fine when it comes to explaining/celebrating Hanukkah – there are lots of good books and I have a pretty good handle on the Maccabees etc. and my husband says the blessings while we light the menorah each night. But when it comes to the bigger holidays I tend to feel a little lost. That is a topic for another day, though.
  • Speaking of Hanukkah, I wanted to tell you about the MOST AMAZING video “hack” I have ever tried. Year after year I watched as our menorah grew caked in candle wax. Year after year, I chipped wax off the menorah any way I could think to: knife, toothpick, fingernails. And then I googled it last year and watched this excellent video about three different wax-removal options. I tried the option of putting your menorah in the oven, on a pile of damp paper towels, at 200 degrees for 15 minutes. And it looks like a BRAND NEW menorah!!!!! This trick also works with candlesticks, which I tried as well.
Menorah 1

So shiny! Nary a fleck of wax anywhere!

Menorah 2

Even the candle holes are TOTALLY CLEAN!

  • I have another life hack for ya — and this one’s on the house. Trader Joe’s makes really decent frozen, oven-bakable latkes. Making latkes from scratch is a true labor of love; all that potato shredding and all the frying. It is so nice to simply heat a few Trader Joe’s latkes in the oven — they bake up nice and crispy and are really quite delicious. Easy peasy.
  • The menorah is literally the only Hanukkah décor I own, which is a little sad. But I am really pleased with the Christmas decorations this year. If you asked me, I would say that I have a loose Tree Theme, although as I look around at the assorted decorations, I see that really there are only six trees, well, seven if you count the actual live Christmas tree – and seven trees do not a theme make. Oh well.

    Xmas 1

    Carla’s magnatile creation really adds that certain extra something, doesn’t it. Can’t you just picture Santa sliding out of the chimney, trying not to make any noise, and accidentally stepping on it and it collapsing in a noisy heap all over the hearth? Poor Santa. I will have Carla move it before Christmas Eve.

  • I am really delighted by my new stocking holders this year. We have had the old ones since 2003, which is the first Christmas my husband and I spent together in our own apartment. They were FINE, but there were only two of them, so when Carla was born, we had to find a third that sort of went with them, and I could never find anything except a flat silver rectangle. So I have been looking for new stocking holders for six years and I FINALLY found them. At Pier 1 Imports, of all places. They are heavy, so hopefully Santa can fill up the stockings to the brim without them crashing to the hearth. And they are wood, which goes with my Mantel Trees. And they are cute. Also, they were 50% off, which is good because stocking holders are PRICEY. I think they were something like $20 apiece, so I’m really glad I got them on sale.

Xmas 3

  • As part of my Christmas décor, I bought a little poinsettia at the grocery store for $5.99. I bought it on Monday. And it is dead. Already. What the what?????? Since I go to the grocery store approximately eight million times a week during the holidays, I went back today and got a different poinsettia – this one for $3.99. We’ll see how long it lasts.
  • Does Santa wrap presents for your family members? I don’t remember what he did when I was a kid. But he does wrap gifts for my family now – and uses different wrapping paper than what we use to wrap our own family gifts. I’ve heard rumblings that he chose HORRIBLE paper from Target this year that was super shiny and cute but that refuses to fold or remain taped. Poor Santa.
  • Wrapping is my least favorite part of the holidays. And I have to say, one of the big disadvantages to a) having family who live all over the country and b) having ready access to fast and often-free shipping from so many retailers is that we get a lot of presents that are not wrapped when they arrive. An increasing number, over the years. And listen — I get it! Sometimes you need to send something last minute! Or sometimes a much-wanted thing comes from a place that doesn’t wrap gifts! And it DOES NOT MAKE SENSE to order something that someone specifically asked for to come to YOUR HOUSE and then wrap it and SEND IT AWAY to the gift recipient. That is madness! A person should only have to pay for shipping once. So I am happy to help in a wrapping pinch, truly, when someone is in a bind. But it just seems like… so many binds. And so much wrapping that needs to be done. On TOP of all my own wrapping. Well, since I took care of all the wrapping except for my own gifts, perhaps I will pawn the rest of it off on my husband.
  • My FAVORITE part of the holidays is still the cards. We ordered our cards – for the second year in a row – from Mixbook, which is my new boyfriend. I used Mixbook to make a photo book for my mother when she turned 70 – collecting photos and memories from various family members and friends into an actual leather-bound book. And it was so easy to use and work with and the end product was GREAT. Creating and ordering cards is just as user-friendly and the product is just as excellent. And this year, we paid for express shipping with the promise that the cards would arrive by December 18. (We were late this year.) And the cards arrived A WHOLE WEEK EARLY. So Mixbook is my favorite favorite favorite. So very far superior to Shutterfly, which we used for several years because it was the best combination of cute template options and low cost, but which resulted in really ridiculous issues. One year, I think, the image on the screen didn’t match what the actual card looked like and there was a graphic covering someone’s head. And another year there was an issue printing our addresses on the envelopes, so the order was delayed AND we didn’t get the pre-addressed envelopes. And I think there may have been another year with another issue too, but those are the two that stand out most clearly. Now that I have found such a MUCH better option in Mixbook, I will never again be wooed by Shutterfly’s low prices.
  • As you probably know by now, as much as I love SENDING cards, I really really REALLY love receiving them. I love the store-bought cards and the photo cards alike. Of course, the photo cards are extra fun: It’s so great to see all the cute children growing up and the new babies and the expanding numbers of grandchildren and the families growing and changing.  I love the letters most of all – sappy and braggy and punny and religious – I love them all so dearly. I may have cried last night while reading the two we got – there is something so pure and lovely about typing up, in a letter, a year’s worth of big events and everyday mundanities and then adding in a handwritten note about how we haven’t see each other in so long and we really need to catch up. It all makes me so very happy.
  • Another thing that is making me happy in a Christmassy sort of way is Gwen Stefani’s “You Make It Feel Like Christmas.” Technically, it’s a duet with Blake Shelton, if that’s the kind of thing you need to know before listening. I fell asleep on the couch the other night and woke up to a Gwen Stefani Christmas special playing on TV. This song was included among many others and I thought it was quite a bop. According to Wikipedia, it came out in 2017??? How have I never heard it before? I asked the Amazon Echo to play her whole album earlier and the whole thing was a lot of good fun. I wish the Christmas radio station would include some Gwen instead of playing “Do They Know It’s Christmas” multiple times a day.

Well, that’s all I have for you today, Internet! Happy Hanukkah slash final weekend before Christmas!

 

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We have not yet decorated our tree and this – plus a massive FAIL on an attempt to make matcha truffles– is making me hyperventilate a little bit. Of course there is also a MOUNTAIN of laundry to climb fold and there is cleaning to do in preparation for my parents’ arrival and I have not wrapped a single gift to go under the tree (I HAVE wrapped and sent gifts to all family members and wrapped gifts for various instructors and mail carriers etc. so I am justified in feeling that I have ALREADY done quite a lot of wrapping, with nothing to show for it!) and the chocolates are not made and there are cookies to bake. Pant! Pant!

At least I have finalized ALL of my present and stocking-stuffer purchases!

I am CHEERFUL, please understand that. I love this time of year, and our house (aside from the poor naked tree) is decorated and I have been playing Christmas music nonstop and I am really excited to see my parents and spend two weeks with Carla. But I am still hyperventilating. You understand.

And let us not forget that my family still requires food. Daily. So let’s talk about what I shall feed them.

Dinners for the Week of December 17 – December 25

What are you eating this week? Are your holiday plans under control?

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