Holy cow! It's Christmas Eve and you know what that means? JUNK FOOD TONIGHT!!!
For years the Bend clan (small as we are) has gotten together on Christmas Eve and indulged in stuff that's just plain fattening, definitely not good for us, and De-Lish! This year will be no different.
The top thing on the menu is Pink Dip. For as long as I can remember, we've had Pink Dip at every get together. It's easy. Eight ounces of cream cheese, ketchup, a little drop of milk, a little minced onion, and mayo. We don't measure anything. Just toss the stuff in until it looks and tastes right. Sometimes I use "horsey" sauce instead of mayo -- sometimes cocktail sauce instead of ketchup. It's never the same and it's always good. (With either potato chips or veggies.)
Pizza. We usually buy it from Sam's Club just because we can heat and serve it when we want, instead of waiting for the pizza delivery guy to show. It's the one with everything on it -- but we pick off the (icky) canned olive slices. Sorry, Terri--but you're the only one who likes them. (Maybe I'll put them in a little Rubbermaid container for her.)
About five years ago, I got an antipasto recipe from Taste of Home magazine. It's all mixed up together like a salad, instead of the traditional way of serving it. My family really likes it so I make it every year.
Shrimp with hot (horseradish) cocktail sauce. The truth is, I'm shrimp intolerant--can't eat the stuff without barfing--but the rest of the family loves it, so it's always on the menu.
We'll also have nuts, holiday peanut M&Ms, and Christmas cookies. Yum.
I've been meaning to do my holiday baking for weeks now.
Oops! Suddenly Christmas is only two days away and I haven't even started!
Today my agenda calls for finding a recipe online and collecting three others from the files. Hitting the grocery store for missing ingredients is next on the list. I WILL make the dough for the cookies I promised my brother back in December 2009. (In fact, Dec. 25th, 2009.)
Tomorrow I will bake two cakes and the cookies.
Sunday I will bake a pie before the turkey goes into the oven. (And I have to prepare the veggies, too.)
Why, oh why, didn't I do my baking before this?
Well, Christmas, which seemed so far in the future, suddenly snuck up on me.
Still, we will have cake. We will have cookies. We will have pie.
I've got that computer-generated calendar going now, so next year I'm scheduling baking a LOT earlier. Please hold me to it.
What last minute prep is on your list of things to do for the next couple of days?
Our Christmas tree is up. So are the stockings (well, three of them). Our Christmas cards are hanging in the entryway on the cork wall. (Yeah, 1960s retro, but then that's when our house was built. I painted it a neutral brown so it kind of disappears, and it's great for hanging the Mariner's Compass quilt wallhanging my Mom made and oh yes! The Christmas Cards every year.)
The one thing I haven't done is hang the wreath on the front door.
It's a grapevine wreath with a garland of little gold stars and a big red bow. And I'm sick of it.
I put it together about 12 years ago and like it well enough, but it's the same every year. I was thinking I should remove the star garland and put something else shiny on it, as well as change the bow, but It's been snowy and I didn't think about it until yesterday and I'm about shopped out. The idea of going out in the cold and snow one more time is just too much. And anyway, I was in Micheals the other day and just about everything is GONE. I waited too long.
Is there some Christmas decoration around your home that's well worn and could use a face lift?
Next to the music, and the lights, and the decorations, I love wrapping Christmas presents best. Some years I have a major wrapathon (while watching It's A Wonderful Life). This year I've been drawing the process out. The other day, I wrapped just the stocking stuffers. Then I wrapped the baby's toys. (Yes, we have a baby in the family this year. Actually, I should say the world's cutest most mellow baby. Even when she's crabby, she doesn't cry. How her mom lucked out, I just don't know.)
Yesterday I wrapped a bunch of presents, and I'm not finished yet.
I find it difficult to choose the wrapping paper. I always reserve the prettiest for my Mom. Mr. I and I always wrap all our gifts with the same paper. (That is, all my presents will be wrapped the same, and I'll wrap his with a different paper but they'll all be the same. Then we number them with Post-It notes.)
I'll have to sneak in some more time and do more wrapping later today.
Are you a wrapper? Do you like it and how elaborate do you get with wrapping paper, bows, and ribbons?
Before the turkey had time to cool on our Thanksgiving table, we were already discussing what to have for Christmas dinner.
Holiday meals are pretty much the same in my family. We start out with snacks and drinks. For family affairs, this ritual cannot begin without pink dip and potato chips. (The dip is very easy: 8 ounces of cream cheese, ketchup, mayo, two tablespoons fresh grated onion, and two tablespoons of milk or cream. I can't give you the exact amount of ketchup and mayo -- the actual recipe has been lost to time. I just keep adding unti it feels right. Mix. Chill. Enjoy!) We also have cheese and crackers. This year I'm contemplating a hot dip to go along with the goodies . . . then again, if we fill up on junk, will we have room for what will be a far too big dinner?
For dinner, we seem to have the same veggies year after year: Brussels sprouts, rutabaga, roasted potatoes, creamed onions, and a recent addition, butternut squash. (My brother makes it and it's fantastic. Odd fact: he will not eat it. Go figure!)
Here's what was discussed for the entree.
Usually ham is our Easter staple, and I've never really been a fan of it -- until last year. We had a spiral ham that was absolutely delicious. We got the leftovers and ate a ton of sandwiches and at least every couple of days ate the easy-peasy Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe. Oh, I feel like Pavlov's dog just at the thought of that wonderful spiral sliced ham dinner.
Prime Rib Roast
When I was growing up, we had a prime rib roast most weeks for our Sunday dinner, so I always wondered why so many people think it's such a big deal. Of course in those days, you could get a prime rib roast every week of the year. These days, it's been made the favorite of the restaurant trade and the only time we ever see them is at the holidays.
Of course, not prime rib is worth eating if you haven't made Yorkshire pudding. Oh, I love it, especially if the oven and fat is hot enough ant it puffs up all golden and crispy. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. I'll eat it both ways.
Why were we even CONSIDERING another turkey when we had barely begun to eat the one that had been nicely sliced on the table? But, there we were debating the merits. My Dad, Bless his Heart, and my Uncle were not fans of turkey, so in years past we would always have a pork roast and a turkey. Dad's gone and my Aunt and Uncle now have dinner with their immediate family so here we were discussing the possibilities.
I voted for the ham. Mr. I wanted to save the prime rib for my Mother's birthday dinner (in the week after Christmas), and the rest of the table voted for roasted turkey--again. The logic being that we only really eat the bird twice a year--even if it's a month apart. Let's go for turkey again.
Okay, this is not a hardship on my part because I get the leftovers (again) and I love to make turkey pie, turkey soup, turkey salad, sliced turkey sandwiches, and even turkey curry.
So, what will be on YOUR Christmas dinner plate next Sunday?
We are not snowed in, thank goodness, but we're sick of it already. And it isn't even officially winter yet.
Read on the news yesterday that our town will probably be above average for snow for December.
My plans for the day are to rake the roof, shovel the driveway (that Mr. Plowman doesn't get) and STAY INSIDE.
Yesterday I went out five times in the yard for various chores (it was garbage day, took out the mail, raked the roof, shoveled, retrieved the mail) and I couldn't get warm again for anything. Not even with longjohns, sweats, polar fleece and a granny square afghan.
I'm not the only one who's feeling the Christmas crunch. The tree is up, so are the lights, most of the shopping is done. So why don't I feel in a particularly Christmasy mood? It isn't the economy. (Goodness knows, when I get my 401K report any minute now, I may regret that statement.)
The weather? (Sort of.)
So, what's with this feeling of melancholy?
I've come to the conclusion that my problem is cookies.
I keep threatening hubby that I'm going to make some Christmas cookies. I keep looking at recipes (the newspaper has a new recipe every night for twelve days) and pawing through magazines, but the truth is that cookies just aren't going to happen. When I recently visited Syracuse, I walked past the bakery department in Wegmans and stared at the cut-out cookies, the macaroons, and the almond paste cookies. (They're ten bucks a pound, so were I inclined to bite, the cost keeps me in line.)
Mind you, we're not the kind of people to sit down and eat a bag of chips or a package of cookies. In fact, I rarely have them in the house. Our problem is portion size. And the worst? We both work on computers. That means sitting for most of the day.
Come January 1st, we're on a diet.
Still, if I'm depressed about the IDEA of starting a diet, imagine how crabby I'll be when I'm actually on it. How about you?
Inevitably, about this time of year someone will lament "no White Christmas?"
I always think that person is either a recluse or has been brainwashed by one too many a chorus of the Irving Berlin song.
I live in upstate New York--in a snow belt. The words "lake-effect snow" petrify me.
My ideal Christmas is sunny, the grass is green, and the forecast says clear skies for the foreseeable future. It's happened more than once--and those are the Christmases I love the best. No skidding down icy roads doing those last-minute errands or visiting friends and relatives. No shoveling and heart attacks.
While today's forecast is NOT for mega inches of the stuff, I know it's on the way. It's just waiting to catch me/us offguard. And then . . .
So shut up Bing, Rosemary, Danny and Vera! Stop! Go away!!
I confess: I'm a big-time lover of Christmas. I love everything about it. The lights, the trees, the food, the music. And I love to read just about everything about this wonderful holiday season.
I have another confession: I cannot part with old Christmastime magazines. I have Christmas issues of Country Living and Country Home (this one is from December 1999) that go back to the 1980s, and every year I haul them out and reread them (or at least look at the pictures).
I have issues of old (English) Country Living magazine from years gone by that my mother gave to me. Old December issues of Better Homes and Gardens, Cottage Living, Martha Stewart Living, Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion and much, much more. I remember the articles and still manage to enjoy them. (I like and always reread one in the December 2000 issue of ME's Home Companion called "Have A Merry Mitzvah" (by Rachel Kornblum) about how Jewish people do good deeds at Christmastime like take their Christian colleague's shifts in hospitals, go caroling in Nursing Homes, etc. It includes pictures of the two cutest little girls--who are probably in college by now.
Then there are all my favorite Christmas "annuals." Christmas with Victoria. Christmas with Southern Living. Country Woman Christmas.
Last week I mentioned a few of the books I love to reread at Christmastime. I have a bunch of Christmas children's books. Naturally, The Polar Express; but then I have some that you've probably never heard. "Emma's Christmas Wish" by Sallyann J. Murphy (and illustrated by Cary Phillips), Christmas Tree Sam by Helen D. Olds (copyright 1952--before I was even born; got it at a garage sale for a quarter); A Pussycat's Christmas by Margaret Wise Brown (illustrated by Anne Mortimer); The Christmas Robin (an English "Ladybird" book), adapted by David Hately from the Wise Robin by Noel Barr; and the extremely tacky (photographic) Merry Christmas America: A Front Yard View of the Holidays.
At some time during the holiday season I will listen to Patrick Stewart read (an abridged version of) Dickens' A Christmas Carol (and look at the wonderful illustrated version of the book by Italian artist Roberto Innocenti.
Come the day after Christmas I'll put all these books and magazines away until next year. But they'll be waiting for me to take out and enjoy again, and again, and again . . . .
A lot of people think that sending Christmas cards is a PITA. I disagree. I love to send Christmas cards and I love to receive them, too.
I bought a bunch of new-to-me vintage cards this summer -- put them somewhere safe, and now I can't find them. It's not that I want to actually send them out to people because truthfully, not many people seem to like the old-fashioned (or should I say vintage) artwork on my wonderful, beautiful, terrific, cards. : (
The days of me buying expensive cards (or anything else--except books and music) are over, so I usually buy my cards after Christmas during the 50-75% off sales, and if you hit the stores early, you can get some nice ones.
I'm looking forward to pulling my list together and doing my cards. Sometimes I include a Christmas letter to a few old friends, but mostly I just scribble (and if you saw my handwriting, you'd agree) a few lines. I like to hear from my pals, and I must be one of the few people who actually enjoys receiving those holiday letters filled with news.
Last year I participated in a "card exchange" with strangers from one of the cozy mystery lists I read (we compare notes on the mysteries we read). I got a couple of letters from people I didn't know--filled with news about even more people I didn't know. One was written by the family's adorable little dog--and included a picture.
I loved it! (I wear bangs so that people can't see the words SUCKER that's written on my forehead.)
I keep a lot of the cards I receive, too. One of my favorite cards came from my Grandfather. He died back in the 1980s. Every year I pull out that card and hang it. I look at the words he wrote and lament the fact I barely knew him. But he wrote "love Grandpa" and I have no doubt he did love me. It never fails to move me to tears.
Christmas cards are one of my favorite things about the holiday season. How about you?
On a recent visit to my local bookstore, I wandered through the mystery section to see what was new. On all the cap ends were holiday mysteries. Lots of them. Whoa!
A quick look at the copyright dates proved that these were NOT new books getting preferential treatement, but that the bookstore was trotting out seasonal backlists to satisfy readers' desire to get in the holiday spirit with a little touch of murder.
Some bigger-name authors get their holiday books re-released every year with "new-improved" editions, with extras. (Can you think of a better thing? New editions--something every collector will want and NEED!) Ka-ching, ka-ching!
I told another writer friend that we needed to write holiday books that could be trotted out every year. Unfortunately, it's usually the publisher--not the author--who decides these things.
Every year I trot out my favorite holiday books, too. Here are just a few:
Bopping around the Internet, I've read a lot of Thanksgiving posts from friends and virtual friends. Like them, I'm grateful for a lot of things: my husband and best friend, my mother, my brother, my cats, my friends....
I'm grateful for turkey. (I LOVE turkey--especially the dark meat.) I love stuffing. I love Indian food. I love Mexican food. Green beans. Potatoes. (Gee, I'd better stop talking about food, or next thing you know my head will be in the fridge and I'll be scarfing leftovers.)
I'm grateful for MUSIC! I'm grateful for a non-leaky roof over my head. (And it's rained so hard for the past couple of days I was thinking about building an ark!) I could just go on and on and bore you...so why don't I just say
Thanksgiving: Two days and counting. Once again, I've started my holiday housecleaning late.
But that was Monday of a holiday week. Added to that, I've caught a cold. The last thing I want to do is tackle the months of cleaning I didn't take seriously while working on some project or other. Oh, my house isn't a the kind of hovel you see on "Hoarders." There might be clutter in the way of books and magazines (I like to read), but underneath it's fairly clean and usually not too untidy.
I have never been a Martha Stewart wannabe. Okay, maybe 10% of me might aspire to that level of domestic divadom, but the rest of the time I handle household tasks when they need to get handled and not before. (Like, why do laundry until you run out of underwear and socks?)
And then the holidays arrive. Madison Avenue not only wants us to buy beyond our means, but ancillary industries (women's magazines and TV shows--in fact, entire TV networks (Food Network, HGTV, etc.)) want us to have perfect homes. Perfect, antiseptically clean homes, with the perfect decor, perfectly laid tables with a feast worthy of a millionaire.
What makes us buy into this stuff? I think it's guilt. These days, everyone is pulled in so many directions, and we're bombarded with images that have little to do with our real lives. And then the nostalgia factor kicks in. We MUST do it as we've done it before. We MUST have a perfect family, that looks like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
The reality is that our lives aren't perfect. Our families often disappoint us (and you know who you are). The house isn't perfect. The one place you didn't dust is the place where your brother writes the date. The cat barfs on the rug five minutes before the company arrives--and sometimes waits until they sit down to dinner.
Can't we just have a nice, peaceful holiday? Enjoy each other's company and not worry about the dust or the cat hair on the couch?
Nope. I'll be cleaning like a fiend for the next two days. Gotta bake those pies--and roast that turkey. After all, it's gotta be perfect.