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Posts Tagged ‘decorating is one of the best parts of any holiday’

HOW is it October already? And am I destined to repeat some form of that query every month, every season, every year, with increasing levels of incredulity until my skeleton is staring vacantly at the sky? Probably asking, “HOW have I decomposed already? Feels like only yesterday I was fully fleshed and today I am nothing but bones!”

I am feeling a surge of randomosity today. 

  • After having felt Very Down for a couple weeks solid, I finally feel like my mood is on the upswing. I attribute this shift partly to the fact that I am on a strict media diet, and have forced myself to stop looking at updates on the Gabby Petito case and to stop reading about the many, many other missing people in this country. But the main source of the improvement is a date night with my husband. We have been on – checks notes – ONE date since 2019, and that date was a quick lunch while our daughter was at a birthday party. Turns out that some time alone with my person – outside our house and away from our normal habits and responsibilities – is a real mood lifter. Last night’s date wasn’t even anything FANCY; we went out for fast food burgers, which we ate on a bench outside the restaurant. Then we got milkshakes and drank them while walking around, looking in shop windows and chatting about nothing. Then we went to our all-time favorite date night destination, Barnes & Noble, where we tried to pin down our next audiobook by handing one another books that we have on our individual To Be Read lists. I lean heavily toward Mystery and Thriller and my husband is more of a contemporary literary fiction kind of guy, and there is a very narrow overlap in our interests. A friend of mine said very bluntly, “Man, you two are boring,” but I really enjoyed our time together! We both love books, so why not spend an evening together among the stacks?
  • Because I can and will talk about books all day, I will tell you our top three audiobook contendersThe Rib King by Ladee Hubbard, Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh, and The Secret History by Donna Tartt. We had a gift subscription to Audible that expires this month, so we are looking for a new book to “buy” with our last credit. Unfortunately, neither of us loved the reading style of the Rib King narrator, the Moshfegh got some reviews that turned my husband off to listening to it, and we somehow already owned the Tartt. So we are back to square one. If you have an audiobook to recommend, please let me know!

  • Every time I think about or talk about The Secret Historya modified version of the little Ted Lasso ditty starts playing in my brain. Donna Tartt, doo do, doo doo dodo, Donna Tartt doo do, doo doo dodoo, Donna Tartt.
  • Speaking of Ted Lasso: I rewatched the entire first season as part of my recent efforts at self-care and it was just as lovely as it was the first time around… but – perhaps because of my mood, perhaps because of what I have seen of the second season – it felt a bit more melancholy this go round. I still love the series with my whole heart, though. 
  • In quick updates about distressing things: 1. My root canal has been set for November. My husband had a light day, and was able to reschedule his patients (sorry patients!!!!) so he could be with me for my appointment. Nitrous oxide does nothing for me, and my husband said he would want to be sedated for a root canal no matter how “not a big deal” it is, so I am doing the conscious sedation and my husband will be there with me. HUGE RELIEF. Except for the part where I have to get a root canal. 2. My mother-in-law got the final results of her pathology back. Her cancer is at stage 1A, which means they caught it very very early and the prognosis is good. But the type of cancer is extremely aggressive. So, even though we initially thought she would only need radiation, she will be undergoing both radiation and chemotherapy to hopefully zap any tiny fragments of the cancer that escaped the surgery. Her doctors are very positive but of course the news is upsetting and stressful. 
  • Her doctor said that only radiation is necessary. He is an expert in her type of cancer, and he has conducted research on post-surgical adjuvant therapies, and has found that doing radiation vs. radiation and chemotherapy makes no difference in the short- and long-term recurrence rate. So his recommendation would be only radiation. However. He presented her case to a Cancer Board at the hospital, and the other experts who were on the board all pushed for chemo as well. AND he said that in his experience, the stress of not feeling like you are doing “all you can” can be worse than the chemo. Hence my mother-in-law’s decision to do both. My husband says, based on the research, he would only do the radiation, if it were him. But I just don’t know. I don’t think you DO know until you are the person in the situation. I kind of think I would do everything, too, just so I wouldn’t sit around thinking, “Dammit, if only…” should there be a recurrence. Which of course is a form of magical thinking. But it’s so hard when it’s your life at stake. 
  • CHANGING SUBJECTS DRAMATICALLY: I have made my first candy corn purchase of the year. Man, I love candy corn. 
  • Usually, I don’t put out fall décor until quite late in October. But this year, I’m getting the Halloween itch a little earlier than usual. If I didn’t have Real Things to do today, I might dedicate some time to putting out the ghosts and maybe buying some mums. 
  • Here is where I call on your plant knowledge. My summer planters did not turn out the way I wanted them to. I wanted them to be full and to have these tiny white flowers and yellow petunia-style flowers spilling down the sides, with these big spiky plants in back for some texture and height. And some little hot pink flowers in there for added color. Perhaps part of my problem is that I have no idea which flowers I planted, nor how they tend to grow; I typically walk through the garden center and grab things that look pretty together and do a quick check to see if they are deer resistant (although our local deer laugh in the face of deer resistant flora) and then stuff them in a planter and hope for the best. Anyway, I am ready, now, to move on from my summer failure into fall florals. Who are we if we cannot draw strength, if not knowledge, from our errors and stride forward with renewed purpose. What remain of the white flowers will have to go. But I don’t know what to do with the tall spiky plants. From an aesthetic standpoint, they are different heights and girths which bothers me; I want symmetry on my front stoop! But they, unlike the white flowers, are thriving. So I don’t necessarily want to euthanize them in their prime. Plus, they might look nice with some bright yellow or orange mums in the foreground? Can I… DO that? Remove some of the things in the planters but not all? And add new plants without disrupting those that are already growing? What do I do here?
  • Don’t even get me started on the planters in the back.
  • Carla has decided to be a witch this year. We ordered her costume – which she picked out; she had a lot of specifications for the ideal costume, including “sparkles” and “big sleeves.” It arrived yesterday and it is amazing. Except that the glitter gets EVERYWHERE. My entire kitchen floor sparkles. My husband washed my face with a wet paper towel – yes, like I was a toddler – before our date because I somehow had glitter all over me.  She told me that she is a witch of glitter and sparkles and I think that summarizes her personality and her effect on people pretty accurately. 
image from amazon.com. Carla not pictured.
  • The Christmas Fret has set in pretty hard, especially since a friend expressed Extreme Shock that I hadn’t yet started my holiday shopping. I know, I know – supply chain issues, postal service delays, etc. etc. This weekend, I plan to badger my husband into picking out some things for Carla, just so we have SOMETHING. But I absolutely cannot think about what to get my husband. His birthday is next week and I had to scrape the darkest corners of my brain to figure out what to get him for THAT, so I am completely tapped out for Christmas. 
  • What are you having for dinner tonight? I am making taco pizza. I have been looking forward to it since Wednesday, when I finally got my act together enough to plan meals for the remainder of the week. Not the weekend, though. So who knows what will happen tomorrow or Sunday, food wise. Not I.

Well, I have run out of randomosity steam. Hoping your day is going well so far, and that your weekend is relaxing and enjoyable.

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Today we have a wind advisory and hail, with snow coming over night. I absolutely HATE wind, but I suppose the swirling leaves and unsettled skies — plus the queasy feeling they give me, as I imagine the tree crashing through our roof — are a good metaphor for how I’m feeling about the impending election.

Fortunately, yesterday was PERFECT for outdoor entertaining. High 40s, and, best of all, SUNSHINE. The big yellow maple which leans over our backyard from our neighbor’s was practically glowing in all the sun. (Its branches, already today, are nearly bare, and the big yellow leaves are scattered all over our yard.) The sky was blue, the air was fresh and only slightly breezy. Our yard was squashy from all the rain we’ve been getting, but the kids all wore rainboots. Their costumes got very muddy indeed, but they had a lot of fun.

I am willing to admit this looks more like a moldy cherry than a jack-o-lantern, but we do our best with the gifts and number of cups we possess.

The Poke a Prize game I created was a big hit. (It would be really fun to do for almost any birthday party or holiday – you’d just adjust the colors and shape you create accordingly.) It was also a LOT of work. First, I bought a bunch of little treats: candy, of course, but also spider rings and pumpkin erasers, and mini notebooks and hair clips and other little things I thought the girls would like. These LOL mini surprise balls were the biggest hit. Filling the cups was easy. Assembling the board, less so. I misunderstood the directions and bought crepe paper instead of orange napkins to disguise the cups and the prizes within, and it took me a million years to wrap each cup in crepe paper. A million. Years. Then our hot glue gun didn’t work, so I had to Gorilla Glue the cups to the poster board. And then a few cups refused to accept the Gorilla Glue, so I had to duct tape those on. It was a lot of work. Fortunately, since I didn’t have a birthday party to stress about this year, I had lots of pent-up craftiness to put toward this project. Carla helped me cut out letters, a stem, and a leaf to glue to the board.

My plan had been to just have the kids take turns poking the cups and extracting the prizes, but my husband suggested that we make the game a little more challenging to make it more FUN. So Carla and I cut up little pieces of paper and wrote on them either “TREAT! Poke a prize!” or “TRICK!” and then a little activity they had to do before they could poke a prize. Things like, “Hop like a bunny!” and “Yell the ABCs!” and “Go down the slide!” The kids drew a slip of paper from a trick-or-treat pumpkin bucket, read the instruction, and collected their prizes. They had a really good time. 

They also enjoyed their “treasure hunt,” which was just running around the yard collecting the 15 little goodie bags I’d filled with candy, barrettes, and Halloween-themed erasers. 

The food was good. Our kitchen table is right next to the sliding doors that lead to the porch, so I just set up the crockpot and other food on the table, and people could just barely enter our house to fill their plates. Usually, I feel like I make way too much food. But there was practically nothing left by the time our friends went home, so I think everything went over well.

This chicken, mushroom, and wild rice soup won a lot of praise from my friends, which was very gratifying. The recipe makes a TON of soup, and it was all gone by the end of the evening. The six of us GOBBLED it up. If you need a warm, hearty fall/winter soup that you can cook in the crockpot, I cannot recommend this enough. The hardest part of this soup is chopping the veggies for the mirepoix and the mushrooms. Also, near the end you make a quick roux and add milk and half and half to thicken the soup, and that’s a teeny bit of a pain. Otherwise, it is super easy. Despite some comments on the recipe saying that the rice gets mushy after eight hours in the crockpot, I use Lundberg wild rice, and just dump it in at the beginning like the recipe says, and it has always come out perfectly. Also, the recipe suggests putting the mushrooms in 30 minutes before the end of cooking, and I do NOT do that — I just put them in with everything else right at the beginning — and it has always turned out beautifully. 

The daughters of our friends BOTH ate the soup, which seems miraculous to me. I think I’ve been able to cajole Carla to try a bite of tomato soup ONCE EVER and certainly she would never, ever even THINK of trying a soup with a bunch of stuff in it. 

The tried-and-true miracle no-knead bread was also a crowd pleaser. If you like bread, and if you like appearing to be a person who makes very fancy gourmet bread, then you MUST try this recipe. It is the easiest thing ever. Seriously, NO KNEADING. The only hard part is that you have to prep the dough twelve to eighteen hours before you want to cook it. And by “prep,” I mean mix flour, salt, yeast, and water together in a bowl, cover it, and let it sit. Aside from having to plan ahead, this bread is impossible to mess up and the result is soft and crusty and delicious.

My favorite fall salad remains a favorite. I buy these sweet and spicy pecans from Trader Joe’s, rather than making my own. The dressing is delicious and easy to prepare in advance, and really the worst part of making the whole thing is chopping the shallot. 

To make things harder on myself, as is my tendency, I searched for fancy fall cocktails to make for our guests. I found an apple and gin autumn cocktail that sounded kind of weird but workable. Weird in the sense that I’ve never once thought that gin and apple cider would go together. However, I love gin, and I love apple cider, and I wanted a fall drink that didn’t require me to buy bourbon or a bunch of other liquors/liqueurs that I don’t normally use. So I tried it. And it was DELCIOUS. It’s lightly apple-y and not too sweet and goes down very easy. 

Why are all these hot dogs rolling their eyes at me?

The kids seemed to find the mummy hot dogs really charming, and making them was a fun project that Carla and I did together. Carla even ate half of her mummy, which was surprising. I am now realizing that I didn’t cut her hot dog for her, which probably made it hard for her to eat. Whoops. (Although it’s equally possible she just ate her weight in candy and had no room for hotdog, a food she is lukewarm on anyway.) (By the way, per the recipe, I did end up “gluing” candy eyes, leftover from the monster cookies, to the mummy dogs with ketchup, despite the whole thing making me very nauseated. I mean, ketchup with hot dogs?!?! Ew. Plus, candy eyeballs with hotdogs?!?!?!?! DOUBLE ew. But the kids did not care.)

My husband describes the flavor of these cookies as “overwhelmingly sweet.”

I think the biggest disappointment of the evening was the monster cookies. Well, and I would rate them only HALF a disappointment, because a) they were very fun to make together with Carla and b) they were really cute. But they were not the most delicious cookies I’ve ever had. They mainly tasted like white cake mix, to me. (Which is because they are made with a box of white cake mix.) But the kids liked them, so I think overall they were worth trying. Plus, now we have a million candy eyeballs.

This was very likely the last entertaining of any sort we will do for the season, so I am really glad it went so well. We only needed to turn on our heater and put on winter coats once the sun went down behind our neighbors’ houses, no one froze to death, everyone had a good time, mud washes off, and the kids did not seem to miss trick-or-treating at all. 

I didn’t look to see whether there were a lot of trick-or-treaters on our street. My husband did remark that he saw a big group of kids and adults, and none of them were wearing masks, but that was it. After our friends left, and we’d washed the dishes and put the covers back on the deck furniture, I watched Interview with the Vampire on Hulu and then went to bed. 

Now I need to get up the energy to put away the Halloween decorations. And start thinking about Christmas, I guess. 

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We are in the middle of Day 5 of nearly solid rain. Rain is great, don’t get me wrong. And I’ve really leaned into it by making soup and spaghetti sauce for dinners and crawling back into bed with my computer instead of working at my desk in my (chilly) office. But even with these accommodations, it’s not the most uplifting of weather patterns. Plus, you know. There’s all the… You know. * Broad gesture toward the rest of the world. *

Let’s focus on some Good Things, shall we?

  • Questions. Carla has been SO inquisitive lately, like all of a sudden she’s achieved Peak Curiosity, and so we have been investigating some of her queries in the car line in the morning. (While parked. Because of the strict way Carla’s school is controlling crowds and monitoring students’ temperatures, parents cannot release their kids until eight o’clock on the dot, so if we get to school a bit early, we are just sitting in line, waiting.) Yesterday we looked up a.m. and p.m., today we learned the difference between tiaras and crowns. It’s delightful, the things that pop up in her brain to wonder about. I hope she always, always shares her questions with me.
The other day, Carla was so full of questions that I started writing them down so we wouldn’t forget any of them. Just in case you wanted a peek inside a typical morning at my house.

  • Décor. We finally put up our Halloween decorations, and I love them so. I don’t really know what I was waiting for? I adore Halloween – it’s such a low-pressure, high-fun holiday – but I was really resisting the act of decorating for some reason. I think the delay helped build up the anticipation for Carla, though. And then! Joy of joys! She HELPED ME put them up! Like, she was actually helpful and very careful and had Strong Opinions about where to put our collection of glittery pumpkins and how to hang the wall bats. It made the whole process both easier and more enjoyable. 
  • Outdoor explorations. Despite the rain, we went on hikes/walks both Saturday and Sunday of last weekend, and I’m still feeling happy about them. If there’s one good thing to come of this pandemic, it’s that my little family has spent a LOT more time exploring our local park system than we ever have before, and it’s been really fun. A good excuse to get outside in the fresh air, a good excuse to move our bodies, a good excuse to be together. Saturday was sunny and we went on a walk that took us up over a river valley, with some really spectacular views of the river and the fall foliage. Sunday was rainy, and yet we trudged through a deliciously creepy forest until we reached a beach and then walked on the sand and skipped rocks in the pounding surf while the rain pelted us. We got absolutely soaked but I think that made it feel more like an adventure. I’m already looking forward to our next excursion. 
A break in the rain.
  • Target drive up. This continues to be one of the best innovations of the pandemic. It is so easy to order something from the Target app in the morning, and then swing by Target after I pick up Carla from school. They have really fine-tuned the system so that the staff member is walking out of Target with my purchases almost immediately once I’ve arrived. And sometimes lately they have been adding little free samples of things to my bags. It’s very convenient and I love that if they don’t, in fact, have your item in stock, they will ship it to you for free. Do I wish that they offered more food items for drive up? Or anything Lysol-related? Or hand sanitizer or bleach spray or sanitizing wipes? Yes, obviously. But I understand why those things aren’t available, or are so quick to fly off the shelves that they don’t even try. It’s still a very good thing. 
  • A full night’s sleep. I’m in the midst of one of those wake-up-every-morning-at-3:30 sleep patterns. And worse, I have been unable to get back to sleep after I wake up. Sometimes I lie awake for hours, going through all my Get Back to Sleep strategies. There’s nothing worse than finally drifting off to sleep at six, only to have your alarm wake you up thirty minutes later. The whole thing is AWFUL, is what it is. It leaves me bleary and teary and crabby. But! Last night! I fell asleep at about ten o’clock and didn’t wake up until six! (Well, okay, I woke up around one to pee, but I don’t count that because I was able to get back to sleep right away.) One night of solid sleep will do wonders for a person’s soul. 
  • Mums. It seems like all of September I kept seeing mums everywhere. Mums for sale! Mums on porches! Mums hanging from hooks! Mums in fluffy rows outside of grocery stores! So many mums! I got serious mum envy. So a couple of weekends ago, I finally decided that I needed some. I’m not so great at keeping flowers alive; my landscaping preferences tend toward easy and low maintenance. But I found some mums – and, so late in the season, they were HALF OFF – and bought four burgundy mums and two yellow ones PLUS two decorative kale? kales? heads of kale and I am just so PLEASED with them. I have two big planters in the backyard where I planted some as-it-turns-out NOT deer resistant flowers during the summer, and I added one burgundy mum each to those, plus a head of kale. And then I put four smaller planters with one mum each on the front porch – burgundy and yellow – and added a couple of pumpkins. If I were to do it again next year (which, why not?!?!?!), I might try to get some fun fallish grasses or something, to fill out the bigger planters. 
Neither my mums nor my kale; mumspiration
  • Fall toasties.  I made these WONDERFUL fall treats this past weekend: a slice of sourdough bread spread with some apple and onion jam, topped with a slice of apple and a slice of brie, baked until the brie has melted all over the top of the bread and apple. SO GOOD.

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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 are on Day 2 of a serious Halloween Hangover. Carla – whose bedtime is a strict 7:30 – didn’t go to sleep until ten on Thursday, yet still woke up at six on Friday. She was off all day – due to tiredness, no doubt – and I managed to cajole her into taking an actual NAP Friday afternoon. It didn’t take much convincing, I just said, “Carla, you are taking a nap.” And she said, “Okay,” and fell asleep pretty much immediately.

Of course, we put her to bed at 7:30… and then, at ELEVEN PEE EM IN THE EVENING, she showed up downstairs saying she had never fallen asleep. First, I find it a little hard to believe that she was awake, by herself, in her room for three hours, entertaining herself. But stranger things have happened. And, after I gave her a melatonin gummy and snuggled with her a bit and then took her back up to her room, I noticed she had a cookbook open face-down on her bed, which she claimed she had read through during her non-sleeping hours. So maybe she WAS awake the whole time. Wait, there was a “first” back there and now I have forgotten why. Presumably there was at least a “second” in mind… Well, it is lost to the sands of time.

She woke up today at a more reasonable time, but she did NOT get the eleven to twelve hours of sleep that she requires. So we are watching Barbie movies on Netflix. Well, she is watching Barbie movies and occasionally directing my attention to something extraordinary (Barbie’s hair turned pink! There’s a mermaid!) and I am typing this blog post. Okay, in the time it took to write this MONSTROSITY of a post — be warned — Carla’s movie ended and I suggested she take a nap. She agreed without argument and went upstairs… only to reappear five minutes later, yawning extravagantly and claiming her nap was very restful and she was ready to play. She is now setting up a make-up salon in her bathroom, and forging her wares out of paper. Age six is a DELIGHT.

Halloween was fun, I think. We had a few friends over – the very lovely families of two of Carla’s school friends – and I continue to find entertaining absolutely exhausting. I enjoy it, though – or, at least, I want to enjoy it  I love planning the food and buying the wine and the actual conversation when people are here. But my little introvert soul gets so completely worn out by all these extra people in my space… I don’t know. Would it get better/easier if I did it more often? Could I possibly do less in preparation, and would that help?

I made soup and bread and a veggie tray, which seems like the bare minimum. Well, I could have bought the bread, but it really is the EASIEST bread recipe in the universe. I did order pizza, as well – that’s what the kids ate, but I ordered enough for every person to have at least three pieces. And then it all slowly burnt into molten, inedible bricks in my oven over the course of the evening, so I had to throw most of it away. Horrified grimace emoji.

I could have JUST gotten pizza, right? We went to a friend’s house last year for Halloween, and they had ordered pizza and a salad. And it was PERFECT. But… well, I guess I just can’t get past trying too hard. Like, people who order pizza and a salad are already In, and I won’t be invited In unless I prove myself through baking??? As though that is a normal or reasonable barrier to entry into a social group??? What is wrong with me?????? Eye-roll emoji.

Aside from feeling exhausted by entertaining, I have come to really enjoy Halloween. It has all the fun of The Big Holidays – decorations, planning, special food – without any of the pressure. I suppose if I handmade all of Carla’s costumes, as my mother did for me, it would be much more pressure-filled. But since I buy Carla’s costumed pre-made and only have to worry about doing an appropriately tiger-y face-painting job (she was a tiger this year, which hopefully makes the previous part of this sentence make more sense than it otherwise might have), it’s very low-pressure for me.

I love all the homes that decorate for Halloween – and there’s such a wide range. We have the people with a cheery pumpkin or two on the front stoop, and then there’s the family with an entire army of zombies or skeletons posed on the lawn. It’s delightful. Carla had a hankering for “something you stick in the lawn” this year, so we found a very nice collection of ghosts – ones you could hang up OR stick in your lawn! – at Target and that was really fun to add to our outdoor décor.

The ghost brownies I made for Carla’s class party turned out well and the kids LOVED them.

Halloween ghost brownies

I also made little bags of popcorn, which Carla and I decorated as monsters, and those were fun as well. (I just wanted the kids to have a non-sugar option.)

Halloween popcorn monsters

My candy-corn veggie arrangement did NOT turn out well; my serving dishes were the wrong size/shape and/or my veggies weren’t putting on their best candy-corn show, so I just did a tray of veggies in Halloween colors: a stripe of orange tomatoes, a stripe of cauliflower, a stripe of yellow peppers, etc. etc. I thought it was festive enough, but it turns out that yellow/orange peppers and tomatoes and cauliflower aren’t particularly popular, at least not with this friend group.

The pounding rain stopped literally minutes before our neighborhood’s designated trick-or-treating time, and Carla and her friends had a great time going door to door, despite the biting wind. Then they had an even better time handing out candy to the other brave trick-or-treaters – a group of mainly older/bigger kids that arrived in swarms. I remember being that weird age between Eager Trick-or-Treater and Too Old/Too Cool for Halloween, and felt very tender toward the Big Kids, especially the ones who tried, by wearing a mask or some other gesture toward a costume… but, well, also the ones who didn’t have a costume at all, but merely gave in, possibly at the last minute, to the overwhelming desire to prolong the youthful fun of Halloweens past/collect free candy.

Now, November is upon us. And Thanksgiving is bearing down – more quickly for me than for you, because we are hosting Thanksgiving a week early (my husband is on call for the real holiday).

I am exhausted just thinking about Thanksgiving. Is this how I feel most years? Let’s see. I have been hosting Thanksgiving since 2010, and my memory of how I normally feel is that I face the holiday with pluck and enthusiasm. I should have it down to a science, what with my multi-page planning document and my detailed Week Of schedule. But this year, I just feel… drained. Not a good way to go into it, is it?

So, for the first time ever, I am considering asking for help. Gasp. Shock. Wide eyes. I know, I know. This DOES NOT sound like me. And perhaps it will not BE me, at the actual time. But the considering is the first step.

Let’s lay out my concerns/aversions to help.

  1. Differences in Technique: My mother-in-law – who has kindly and generously OFFERED to help – does things differently than I do. You may recall that I am Very Particular about things, especially when it comes to my kitchen. And I don’t want to micromanage, but I also feel very viscerally uncomfortable when someone is rummaging around in my cabinets or doing things differently than I would do them in my very own kitchen. You may be thinking, at this point, that I need to seek extensive therapy and should probably scrap the idea of asking for help. And perhaps you would be right.
  2. Space Constraints: Along similar lines: I only have the one kitchen with the one oven and stove and it’s much easier when I am the only person making the meal. It’s very simple to coordinate with myself, right? But if a whole other person is in my kitchen, chopping veggies and jockeying for the stove… well… that seems like a recipe for frustration/despair.
  3. Specificities of Taste: My husband LIKES the way I make things. Therefore, we have a very specific — I am avoiding the word “rigid” here — Thanksgiving menu, from which we rarely deviate. Could I really impose my specific dressing recipe on my mother-in-law, and expect that she make it exactly the way my husband likes it? That seems unreasonable. If she prefers, say, pumpkin pie or something chocolate for dessert… can I really expect her to make the pumpkin bars that are OUR (my husband’s and my) tradition? That seems very dictatorial of me/us.
  4. Some Sort of Mental Issue Related to Pride/Ownership: Again with the need for longterm therapy. I think somewhere along the line, I have absorbed this very strange and very stubborn feeling that I MUST do the entire Thanksgiving meal or… Or what? I lose street cred? I lose my Housewife Credentials? I don’t even KNOW. It’s just this weirdly pervasive buzz inside me that says I am the hostess, I need to provide the Entire Meal and do all the dishes and make it look effortless or else I lose. Lose what, again, I don’t know. Yet it’s THERE, inside me, buzzing away, making me feel like I am less of… something if I don’t do Thanksgiving perfectly and all by myself. This is one of those weird double-standard things that I apply ONLY TO ME, by the way – I fully understand and admire people who split the Thanksgiving duties among many, and I would gladly and gratefully pitch in with the cooking if I were invited to someone else’s Thanksgiving, and never for a single moment think less of the host. It’s some sort of weird Hostess Martyrdom that I’ve internalized somehow and I don’t understand it but nor can I rid myself of it.

Here are things working in my favor – by which I mean, that the following are present in my psyche makes me hopeful that I can get past my deterrents/aversions.

  1. I don’t particularly LIKE Thanksgiving. This is a little sad, because I think Thanksgiving used to be one of my favorite holidays. But that was back when my parents did all the work, I think, and I just had to show up? It got less enjoyable in college, when generous friends and extended family members opened their homes to me for the holiday – and I spent Thanksgiving feeling deeply, guiltily homesick. More enjoyable again when I began to establish my own traditions with my husband. And now less enjoyable again, now that it’s just A Big Day of Work. Also, I don’t really like the food! I eat turkey literally only on this one day a year. Sweet potatoes with marshmallows are fine in very small doses, but I could take ’em or leave ’em. I loathe wet bread, so the dressing is something I make but never even taste. The only things I like about Thanksgiving are the mashed potatoes and gravy. And the gravy is SO MUCH WORK and the potatoes won’t be exactly how I like them because I don’t make them with goat cheese out of respect for one family member who REVILES goat cheese. The pumpkin bars are good, but really BETTER when my husband makes them and I don’t know if he will have time/energy this year. So. If I don’t really care about the food — nay, if I don’t really EAT the food — why am I so resistant to having someone else make it???? A question for the ages.
  2. This year will be weird, so it’s almost like Not Thanksgiving, which makes me… care about perfection less. Like I said, we’re having Thanksgiving a week early. My husband will be at work all day, so he can’t help even if he wants to. My sister and niece will be flying into town at some point, so I’ll want to spend time with them rather than in the kitchen. Someone will have to leave to collect my sister and niece, someone else will have to leave to collect Carla from school, so there will be interruptions during the day. The timing of the meal will be later than normal (because my husband will be at work), so it will feel more like Any Old Dinner than Thanksgiving. All of these variables are making it wholly UNusual, so why stick to the usual plan?
  3. Plus, we have a built-in Do-Over available to us if we want it. I mean, Actual Thanksgiving will still happen. So I could save Doing It My Way for the ACTUAL DAY.
  4. My mother-in-law really wants to help, so why not give her that pleasure? As a relatively new hostess (can I still say “relatively new,” after nearly ten years of hosting this holiday?), I think I revel a bit in being The Provider. I want my guests to sit back and relax, rather than work hard in the kitchen with me. But… I think it causes my mother and my mother-in-law mental stress and even emotional pain, to sit and relax. They want to help. They have MULTIPLE DECADES of prior Thanksgivings behind them, during which THEY were the hostesses, and they have so much experience and expertise to share, and they are so accustomed to being busy that I think they feel… useless and unneeded when I shoo them out of the kitchen. Part of me feels – rather harshly – like they should learn to chill out and accept that this is the next phase in their lives, that their role now is NOT hostess, but guest and grandmother, that they should let the next generation have a turn at planning the menu and taking care of them. But… a growing part of me feels really bad and guilty and selfish about that, and wants desperately to be more generous about sharing the hostessing. God, this is all SO VERY STUPID and yet it causes me GREAT ANGST. (Also, I am feeling VERY CRANKY TOWARD and simultaneously VERY JEALOUS OF The Men, who seem to be completely unencumbered by any of this, and at least ACT totally content to simply sit in the living room watching football. WELL. There will be NO FOOTBALL this year, Men!) (P.S., in case this paragraph confused the issue, only my in-laws will be here for this Thanksgiving. I just brought my mother into it because I realized last year that she feels kind of sad and unwanted/unnecessary/superfluous when I don’t let her help with holiday meal preparation, and that made ME sad and I have been reflecting on it ever since.)

Okay. So I think I have laid it ALL OUT for you. It’s ugly and doesn’t paint me in the best light and it probably doesn’t make much sense outside of my very specific brain, but there it is.

So what should I do? How should I approach this Thanksgiving? Business-as-exhaustingly-usual? Or welcome my mother-in-law’s offer to help? And, if the latter, HOW do I do that, given the constraints above? If you were ME, with all my neuroses and particularities, how would you make THIS Thanksgiving easier and more pleasant and less tiring?

At this very moment, the biggest part of me wants to make a reservation at a fancy restaurant and have our faux Thanksgiving THERE. But I don’t think there are any restaurants that offer faux Thanksgiving. I don’t even know if the grocery stores offer their pre-made Thanksgiving meals for sale a whole week prior to the real holiday. Can I even get a turkey that far in advance???? And, really, I don’t want my Thanksgiving Antipathy to ruin a beloved holiday for the rest of my family. So I am resigning myself to making Thanksgiving dinner at home as usual. But maybe not exactly as usual…?

Help?

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Well, now that the World Series is over, I can refocus all of my Sports Stress on the election. It’s like a stress sandwich, with nothing delicious in the middle. So yay. Here are some random things, from my tired brain:

  • I went to Target the other day, and the cashier totally Kristen Wiiged me during check-out. “What’s ‘Thai sweet chili sauce’? Is it spicy?” and then, “Well, I KNOW sriracha is spicy!” and, “Looks like someone is going to be a princess for Halloween!” and, “Love that color nail polish!” and, “Oooh, what’s this? A top coat? And you have coupons for both!” I don’t have a problem chit chatting with the cashier, and I am sure it is DELIGHTFUL to see the variety of things that strangers buy each day, but it was mildly uncomfortable to have her COMMENT on it.

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-8-39-28-am

Screen shot from nbc.com

  • One thing the Target Lady did NOT comment on? My taco shells. I bought two boxes and all but SEVEN SHELLS were broken.

taco-shells

WTF? Did someone at the store shake the box as hard as possible?

Carla actually EATS tacos, so we have them at least once a week. And I have never — NEVER — seen such a thing. I mean, in the one box, not a SINGLE SHELL was whole.

Well, I can bright-side my way to nachos for lunch, at least.

  • Halloween was SO FUN this year. Carla is at the perfect age, I think. She got really excited about dressing up (so much so that the hours between the end of her school day and six o’clock when trick-or-treating began took forever) and she was really pumped up by the idea of candy. She understood the concept of going up to people’s doors and holding out her little pumpkin. She didn’t really succeed in saying “trick or treat,” but she DID say “thank you,” so there’s that.

One thing I loved was that she would rummage around in people’s candy dishes, searching for the Perfect Candy. And some of them would helpfully choose something for her, and she would shake her head and say, “No, I have that already.” It was kind of adorable. Also a little bit embarrassing, but I’m choosing to believe that people felt more charmed than annoyed.

We made it all the way down one side of our block before she decided that she needed candy NOW. Instead of going up to the door, she sat down smack in the middle of one our neighbors’ driveway and started searching through her pumpkin to find something. To prod her along, I pulled out a bag of M&Ms and fed her one at a time after each house, kind of like training a puppy to heel. So she would dutifully march up to the door, collect her candy, and then turn around and open her mouth like a baby bird eager for a worm. We went through a bag of M&Ms and one roll of Smarties.

Our neighbors were so kind and generous. We have a great block, and most of the homes had full-size candies. And one of our neighbors was HIDING the good candy for the kids she recognized from our block, so when Carla finally made it to her house, she invited us in and gave Carla three full-size items. It was just so sweet. It made me feel giddy with the goodness of human kind.

  • The one negative moment this Halloween was a comment that I got about Carla’s costume, from someone who knows us well. Carla was a princess this year; last year she was a superhero. She chose both costumes, without input from me or my husband. Just, last year she was really into the superhero, so she wanted to dress up like that particular superhero, and this year she really wanted to be the princess.

Anyway, when Carla told this person what she was going as for Halloween, the person turned to me and said, “It’s nice that she’s interested in more feminine things.”

I mean.

First of all, gross. Second of all, what? Thirdly, REALLY?! Fourthly, why is anyone evaluating anything about the costume choices of a three-year-old? Fifthly, it makes me mad because – for a minute – it made me want to rip the princess costume off of Carla and dress her up like a lumberjack complete with beard and muscles (ALTHOUGH A LUMBERJACK COULD BE A PERFECLTY FEMININE PERSON TOO OMG) just for spite, and then THAT makes me mad because why? Why shouldn’t I just be delighted by whatever Carla wants to pretend to be, whether it’s a firefighter or a dragonfly or a ballerina or a freaking bowling ball.  Why should some stupid comment make me want her to be or feel or do anything other than what she wants? WAY TO RUIN HALLOWEEN, PERSON.

I don’t even care to unpack all that upsets me about that comment, or why it’s so gross and demeaning, or how it’s a symptom of a larger, more insidious problem in society, or how sad it makes me feel that Carla is going to have to face crap like this her whole life.

So I’m going to write it down here and be done with it and move on.

DEEP CLEANSING BREATHS.

  • My husband carved a cat pumpkin this year. That was fun. When it was dark outside, and the cat silhouette was back lit by the little flameless candles I put inside, it garnered a lot of compliments from trick or treaters. Carla and I did the messy part, taking the top off and scooping out all the guts and seeds. Then I roasted the seeds. Carla did not care for the seeds. My husband was eating some later in the week, and I overheard Carla say, “WHY do you like those Daddy?”

Pumpkin cat.JPG

  • Now that Halloween is over, I suppose I have to put away my Halloween decorations. I am not particularly good at decorating for holidays, but I really come through for Halloween and Christmas. I have some cats on pumpkins that I love, and a cool ghost, and a little ghost family for the bathroom. And this year I also found (at Target) a bunch of inexpensive multi-colored pumpkins with glitter stripes and polka dots. There are other things, too. I don’t really feel ready to put all the stuff away yet. Maybe this weekend.

  • I love how so many people go All Out with their Halloween decorations: zombies and ghosts and witches hanging out in their yards, pumpkin path lights, spiderwebs overtaking their shrubbery, graveyards sprouting from their lawns. I love it. Carla and I went for a walk a couple of weeks back and found a street where nearly every house had Halloween decorations, and it was so fun to point them out and discuss them together. I think it also went a long way toward making the holiday fun for Carla rather than scary. She seemed delighted by one neighbor’s human-size trio of glow-eyed witches and by another’s mechanized skull hanging from a tree. I’m glad it doesn’t freak her out.
  • I suppose now that I have to get rid of Halloween decorations, I can concentrate on Thanksgiving décor… But I don’t really HAVE any Thanksgiving stuff, aside from a fall-themed runner and maybe a non-jack-o-lantern pumpkin that I can keep using. I’m not sure what I WANT, in terms of Thanksgiving décor. But I really WANT it. Do you have any Thanksgiving or fall-type décor that you just love? Why can’t I stop typing décor?
  • And that makes me feel all giddy about Thanksgiving! I love this holiday! I can’t wait to pull out my Detailed Thanksgiving Timeline and start preparing for the meal. My parents are coming out for Thanksgiving this year, which should be super fun. I wonder if Carla will eat ANYTHING?
  • Of course, thinking about Thanksgiving gets me all excited about Christmas and Hanukkah, which I bet are going to be FANTASTIC, Carla-wise, this year. She is really going to “get” the whole idea of Santa Claus and I know she loved lighting the menorah last year, so it will be even more interesting this year. I think she’ll be able to look forward to things in a way she hasn’t before. SO FUN. I have some tentative gifts picked out for a few people, but now I can start gift-hunting in earnest. I also really want to get a tiny tree and some Christmas window clings for Carla’s room – she loved having her own Halloween decorations, so I think she’ll really enjoy Christmas ones, too. I have already put on the calendar our local Christmas tree lighting and food bank donation day, as well as our local menorah lighting. Maybe we will try to do a Santa Claus visit this year, too, if Carla is up for it. So those are fun things to look forward to.
  • Speaking of gifts (which I was, a while ago), my father-in-law AND father both have Major Birthdays this year. My father-in-law is first. And I am wondering, what the hell do you get to commemorate a major birthday for men who have EVERYTHING? Everything I think of seems either lame or completely out of the realm of possibility. Ideas? Anyone?
  • It’s a little hard to imagine Christmas with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having. I mean, we’ve been sleeping with the windows open and it’s NOVEMBER. On the one hand, this is awesome and I don’t want to waste it. On the other hand, I really want to wear the new vest and boots I bought, and I have a bunch of cute sweaters that aren’t being worn. So get with it, Actual Fall. At least the trees are super beautiful.
  • It’s so hard to believe that this nice weather is actually happening that I haven’t really been taking FULL advantage of the warmth. When it’s not raining, that is. I feel like I should be going for long walks outside with Carla. We have gone to the playground, a LOT, so that’s good. And she’s been playing in the back yard a bit, which is great. Okay, I suppose we also decorated pumpkins outside, and we’ve done chalk drawings on the driveway, and we did our Halloween Decoration Tour. So we’re not completely failing. But I kind of feel like I should go full on It’s Still Summertime, and put the patio cushions back out and fire up the grill more often. My parents got me a meat grinder for last Christmas, and so far I’ve only been using it to make ground beef for tacos and chili.

Freshly ground meat is SO GOOD. But the clean up is a little gross.

When really the BEST use would be for hamburgers. I think what’s holding me back is that it’s usually so dark by the time my husband gets home, that grilling isn’t particularly pleasant. We have a light on the grill, but it’s not particularly useful. Hmmm. Perhaps a really powerful, useful grill light would be a good candidate for a Christmas present??

All right, Internet. That’s all I have for today. What’s going on with you?

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