The Season of Giving is Over

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Another Christmas has come and gone, and I’m left with toys, boxes and random stuff with no home. This has to be the hardest part of getting gifts. Finding a place for everything isn’t so easy when you live in a relatively small place. I’ve been making some good headway over the past 6 days though. Yes six. Our official Christmas gift exchange began on December 23rd and I’ve been putting stuff away ever since.

There were some fantastic gifts and some that, as I mentioned would probably happen, missed the mark.

The Good

My wonderful husband fulfilled my biggest wish, a wish I’ve had for the past seven years. A brand new KitchenAid mixer, in red. *swoon* Today I’m going to put that baby to work and attempt my first homemade bread. Garlic pull-apart bread to be specific.

My mom also got us a printer/scanner/copier along with paper and ink.

The Bad

My stocking stuffers. Honestly, I have no one to blame but myself. I’m in charge of that task, so when my stocking lacks fun stuff, it’s because I didn’t get myself anything fun.

You’re not actually expecting me to mention anything else are  you? Because I’m not going to.

The Ugly

The piles and piles of trash that gets left behind. I like to call it Glee Debris. And there’s the inevitable trip or 5 to the Goodwill to drop off all the old stuff I had to get rid of in order to make room for the new stuff. And the piles of dishes left over from Christmas breakfast and the general cup/utencil/plate/bowl usage and lack of getting to the dishes because I’m too busy trying to put away stacks of other stuff.

Anyhow, it was a lovely Christmas spent with the people that are important to us. I’m pleased with how it all went, and I’m looking forward to the new year with new memories to be made. Keep in mind though, Christmas 2009 will be here before you know it. Don’t believe me? Just think back a year. How quickly did that time fly by? For me, it seems that every year speeds by at an impossible rate. The years are just flying by. It’s like the old addage goes; The days are long, but the years are short. How true that is.

The Friday 5 – The Holiday Edition

jessalyn2005

Christmas Eve 2005

Jessalyn at 4 months

Today I bring you the Friday 5 plus 3.  So I guess that would make this the Friday 8, for 1 week only!

1) What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

There’s no simple answer to this since I have a few. The first tradition begins on the first Saturday in December when I get together with the family to prepare our Christmas Eve tamales. Another is getting together with said family on Christmas Eve, scarfing down a boatload of delicious tamales and then the goofy Christmas carol sing along just before we pass out the Christmas gifts, and then of course the gift opening. Another favorite tradition is watching the move White Christmas from 1954. I just love that movie. And another event that is looking to become a tradition is just before Christmas, my girlfriend Kelly comes over and we make food gifts together. Oh and for the second year running, driving out to a neighborhood that really does up their Christmas lights. So fun!

2) A favorite cookie recipe?

Really you can’t go wrong with the Nestle Toll House cookie recipe. A classic and so yummy!

3) Share a story behind a special ornament on your tree.

At least 3/4 of the ornaments on the tree (and still packed away because they didn’t fit) are special. None of them really have a good story that goes with it. But there are a lot of ornaments I used to get every year as a gift from my grandmother. And now, my tree is full of ornaments I’ve been collecting for my 3 children over the years. They’re all special to me because each ornament for my kids represent that year. Most of them have pictures of them so I get to look at them year after year and see how much they’ve grown. If the ornament doesn’t have a picture, I went out of my way to get something that related to the year. One year Caitlin was really into Hello Kitty, so I got her a Hello Kitty ornament. Chris was into Toy Story so he goot a Woody ornament. Jess loves Tigger and so, well you get it.

4) All you want from Santa is….?

A KitchenAid mixer!

5) What’s your favorite Christmas movie and why?

White Christmas without a doubt. Bing Crosby’s voice is amazing, Danny Kaye is hilarious, The music is beautiful, the choreography is incredible, the sets are quaint, the story is sweet. That movie never fails to make my eyes water. I ALWAYS get a tear in my eye at the end when the General walks in and there they are, his regiment from the Army. Oh man, it’s so great. I just LOVE this movie!!!

6) Are you dong anything special for the holidays this year?

No more special than every other year. But it’s all special to me.

7) What’s the best toy you ever got when you were a kid?

I’d have to say it was the year I asked for Barbie clothes. By the time I was finished unwrapping everything, I think I had every outfit on the market for Barbie at the time.

8 ) Why is Christmas special to you?

I love gifting people. There’s just something wonderful about taking a few moments to think about each person on your list, and thoughtfully pick out something they’ll hopefully enjoy. It’s the perfect time to express gratitude for being your friend, family member, spouse, child… And it’s a time when everyone can sit around and share stories and make memories together.

I know not everyone reading this celebrates Christmas, but in our family we do. So I’m going to wish  you a Merry Christmas as well as Happy Holidays!

O’ Jewelry Tree

When I was growing up, my mother displayed the most embarrassing Christmas decorations. She had this hideous gingerbread man and candy cane fabric garland. She had ugly wooden ornaments, and atrocious golden sequined bell ornaments. There was the Rudolph made out of plastic melty… stuff for lack of a better word. And the cream of the ugly crop, the jewelry tree.

I was always excited to decorate for the season, and yet, I hated almost everything we put up.

Here’s the thing. I’m in my mid 30’s now and every year, I put up almost all of those decorations that I hated so much as a child.

Most of the ornaments and decorations mentioned were handmade. I think as a child, I associated homemade with cheap and being poor. Now that I’m an adult, I can look at the craftsmanship of each item and really appreciate the work that went into each piece.

Take that jewelry tree up there. That’s a picture of it as it hangs on my wall right now. I know detail is lacking, but hey, the shot was taken with my cell phone. What do you want. Looking at it now I see a very impressive work of art. It’s made with plywood, black velvet, Christmas lights and over 100 pieces of costume jewelry. They were laid out in such a manner that everything lines up and it’s an absolutely perfect tree. I have no doubt that it took hours to put together as well as time and money spent collecting all of the costume jewelry. Who know what the cost to make this project was. (BTW, this tree was created by my uncle for his mother, my grandmother, over 35 years ago)

I can tell you that I adore this piece. I think it’s beautiful and a fantastic way to recycle all that jewelry you’ll never wear again and doesn’t hold much monetary value.  I love this tree so much that I’ve started my own collection of costume jewelry, so that in a few years when I have enough, I’ll be making one of my own. I really can’t wait for that day to come.

I’m not sure if I didn’t appreciate it because I didn’t actually see my mother working on the handmade decorations. I never saw her crafting. My kids always see me working on projects. Caitlin, my oldest daughter, has been bitten by the craft bug. She sees AND appreciates all of the work that goes into creating something beautiful.

In fact the jewelry tree is hanging up in our place right now because she specifically requested the jewelry tree.

I think Jessalyn is just as fond of it as the rest of us are.

Jessalyn and Jason circa 2005

December? Seriously?

It’s a penguin, not a snowman.

Our Thanksgiving was like any other Thanksgiving celebrated by families across the country, only not.

This year my son decided to go to his dad’s house for Thaksgiving. The rest of us went to the ex-hsuband’s parent’s house.  That’s not as weird as it may sound. They are, afterall, the grandparents of my kids. And the ex wasn’t there anyway.

How was it not like your typical Thanksgiving? Half of the conversation was in Chinese, and there was rice. No, they aren’t Chinese, but they have a Chinese woman living with them and she brought 3 friends over. There was eating, giving thanks, and then dancing. It was about that time I decided we needed to go home.

My plan was to wake up on Friday at 3:30 a.m. and hit Kohls first thing. Then head over to Target to purchase our “annual” camera. The one we got last Black Friday became ill and was no longer taking decent pictures. I set my alarm, only I set it for 3:30 p.m. I woke up at 4:15 and decided just to get to Target which opened at 6 a.m. I got a much better spot in line this year, and Jason met up with me at 5:45. We were out of there by 7 with camera, and a few other items in hand.

From there it was time to eat breakfast at Panera and then hit up the soon to be completely defunct Mervyn’s. By the time we left there. we had spent nearly $200 and purchased one gift. One. After that we went home, gathered the girls and headed back out. There was more buying, more lines, more more more. After about a 2 hour break in there somewhere, we saddled back up and hit the mall. The great thing about going to the mall around 5:30 p.m. is most of the crowds were gone. Sure there were a lot of people, but it wasn’t as bad as it had been in the morning.

Saturday was supposed to be Decorate! day. What it ended up being was Grocery Shopping! day. It was also Celebrate Kelly’s Birthday! day! With pottery painting! And pastrami sandwiches! And traffic by the Honda center because a gazillion people were trying to get to the Celine Dion concert! day. *Wretch* (My apologies if you’re a Celine Dion fan)

Sunday became Decorate! day, and man was that a long drawn out process. For some stupid reason, we packed up a strand of half working lights last year and then couldn’t remember which strand was the half broken light strand. And then Jason was trying to fix a bulb while it was plugged in and simultaneously broke a bumb, cut his finger and schocked himself. We abandoned hope and I went off to Target to get 2 shiny new strands of LED lights to put on the tree.

Anyhow, after a very long and drawn out process, our abode is sufficiently decorated for Christmas. The advent calendar is filled, the stockings are hung, but not by the chimney with care because we don’t have a chimney. It looks festive and nice, even if the ornaments are hung in clumps because I let my 3 year old help her sister decorate the tree.

So here we are, December 1. I still have a lot of creating/shopping to do, and not enough time/money to do it all. Isn’t that true for everyone? Yet, somehow, it’ll all be done on time.

Try and take a little time every day to savor the season. Don’t let it slip away before you get a chance to enjoy it.

With A Grateful Heart

November 2002 was the last time my grandma was responsible for making the Thanksgiving dinner.

When I was younger, my grandpa was responsible for the daily meals at their home. However, it was up to my grandma to prepare Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners. Most of the time it was only my mom, my uncle, my grandparents and myself at dinner. My grandma insisted we’d eat at 2 p.m. I never really understood why we had our big celebratory meal in the middle of the day.

When my grandpa passed away in 1994, the responsibility to feed herself fell on my grandma. She wasn’t much for cooking outside of holidays. However, she continued to create large meals for us to consume at 2 p.m. SHARP every year.

In 2002, Jason and I went over there for another Thanksgiving meal. Dinner was served, and there was something terrible lurking in the gravy boat. It was an oil slick. Half was gravy, the other half a greasy layer of ick. I’m a big gravy fan and to say I was disappointed is a bit of an understatement. I don’t remember much, but I probably did my best to pull up the gravy from the bottom of the boat to slather my turkey, stuffing and potatoes with.

Fast forward a few hours and my grandma was resting in her room. Mom, my uncle, Jason and I sat around playing a game called Remote Possibilities and decide it was time for pie. I have to say, pumpkin pie is my all-time favorite pie. My grandma came out of her room and my mom headed off to the kitchen to serve it up. Jason and I were each served hearty slices of the good stuff. Jason took a bite and made an odd face. I wondered what his problem was because seriously, pumpkin pie doesn’t warrant that kind of reaction.

I got a nice big forkful, lifted it to my mouth anticipating a delicious bite of pie. Once said bite entered my mouth it only took a fraction of a second to understand why Jason had made that face. My grandma had forgotten to put the sugar in the pie filling.

My mortified grandmother suggested scraping out the pie filling, adding the sugar and pouring it back into the shell. Through our tear filled laughter, Jason and I decided to head down to the grocery store and pick up two pies for $4 and a bottle of wine.

I told my grandmother the pie filling would make a great pumpkin bread base but she just threw it away.

That dinner is still one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories, and I’m so grateful I still have my grandmother in my life. I feel very lucky for that. Even though she doesn’t live in SoCal anymore, and therefore I don’t get to share Thansgiving dinner with her, I make a point to call her and let her know I’m thankful she’s in my life.

So in closing, please accept this wish for you and your loved one as you gather around the Thanksgiving table. May your gravy be greaseless and your pies sweet!

How about you? Do you have any memorable Thanksgiving faux pas you’d like to share with the rest of us? Leave a comment and share with the class.