Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Final Post of 2008

I can't believe how little I posted in December. It was a whirlwind of activity and preparations for Christmas. I got so sick of the phrase "before Christmas". It seemed like it was part of everything I did, as in, "I've got to get these cards out before Christmas," "I need to remember to drop off my car payment before Christmas," and "I hope I don't have a nervous breakdown before Christmas."

Everything worked out... the house looked beautiful, the silver sparkled, the food was sumptuous, the children were happy, and I survived. Were there any problems? You betcha. The @#*! air mattresses wouldn't stay inflated fully. On one, I didn't have the cap threaded properly, so that was easily remedied. The other one, I was using a makeshift cap (an artist's gum eraser jammed in the hole) because someone threw out the cap thinking it was a soda bottle cap. I'm also thinking I won't make lamb shanks again. The flavor of lamb chops is better, and you don't have this huge chunk of meat on the bone sitting on your plate reminding you of something King Henry VII might have eaten.

Usually, I feel sad when Christmas is over, but this year, not so much. I feel relief and peace. Next year, I need to do less or start earlier. I've been enjoying the past week, spending time with Sweetie and Pipsqueak, playing with our new toys, cooking, and sleeping a little later. Maybe the melancholy will set in as I pack away all the decorations.

I'll be back next week/next year with lots more cooking, thrifting, crafting, parenting and Vermont life. For now, Happy New Year to all of you and your families. Thanks for visiting and reading these past few months. I've enjoyed getting to know you through your comments and your blogs.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Unusual Chocolate

We received this chocolate as a gift. The first thing I noticed were the warnings to "refrigerate promptly" and "best if consumed within 7 days". Those are unusual warnings for chocolate, but then I realized that this was unusual chocolate.
You read it right! It's chocolate covered bacon, and it's surprisingly good... crispy and a delightful combination of salty and sweet. You can enjoy it, too, by ordering it from Marini's in Santa Cruz, CA.
Thanks, Mike, for the wonderful gift and introducing us to something new.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Weight Loss Plan

So far, I've lost three pounds. You can, too, using my not-so-easy plan.

First, invite more holiday overnight guests to your home than you have beds and work out where everyone will sleep and whether or not you have enough sheets, pillows and towels. Invite them to stay multiple nights. Once that is worked out, start thinking about what you will feed them. (We'll have eight guests.)

Offer to wrap all Christmas gifts for another family. Choose one that really needs it so you can at least feel a bit of pride about your "charitable work". (I offered this to my sister-in-law who just had her third round of chemo.)

Set an unrealistic, lofty goal of having a the best Christmas EVER, and don't eliminate any part of the holiday preparations just because you don't think you have time. (This is where I failed. If I hadn't eliminated constructing a gingerbread house, I probably would have been down five pounds by now.)

If you have children, volunteer your time to help at all holiday events.

If you follow these simple rules, you will have little time for eating and will have so much calorie-burning nervous energy that having a rum, brandy and whisky laced eggnog before bed every night won't matter in the least.

(I will not lose the joy!)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

New England Ice Storm

I'm back after 36+ hours of no power after the New England ice storm. (Oh, sweet internet, how I have missed you.) I see the news made Yahoo! News "Most Popular" section, so many of you may have heard of our plight. Frankly, we had it made compared to those who are dependant on power for heat as the temperatures dipped into the single digits last night.

For those of you that have experienced a natural disaster (hurricane, tornado, earthquake, flood) an ice storm is unlike those for a couple of reasons: it is insidious as it can sneak up on you while you're sleeping and you have no idea anything is wrong until you wake up in the morning, and when you do wake up and look outside, you can't help but think how beautiful it looks with everything looking crystalline as it's covered in ice.
We could couldn't shower or flush (electric water pumps), but we had our pond to get buckets of water for manual flushing and heated water from our ten gallon stores for sponge baths. Our furnace didn't work, but we have two wood stoves and a parlor stove to keep us warm. We could cook on our gas cook top after lighting it with match, and candles provided our light. When the refrigerator/freezer started to feel not so cold, mother nature provide food storage on the deck. We might have felt the the Ingalls family in "Little House in the Big Wood", but we had only hours to endure what they coped with for a lifetime.
Yes, it put a temporary cramp in my holiday preparations, but it was fun last night as we sat around the parlor stove, roasting marshmallows, reading, knitting and talking. Pipsqueak fell asleep by the fire, and I carried her to bed. I'm glad the power is back on, but living the "simple" life for a day and a half wasn't so bad either. I did not lose the joy!

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's a restroom, not a phone booth.

I have been so freak-out busy that I haven't had time to read blogs let alone write them, and I had such hopes of sharing a daily dose of Christmas joy each and every day with you. Since that plan is already shot to h***, I thought that I instead I would share a dose of rudeness in the extreme...

We were on our way home from a weekend in Boston (more on that soon) and made a stop at Burlington Mall. When travelling anywhere with a six year old, every stop becomes an attempt to pee. Otherwise, you'll be back on the road, and fifteen minutes later the urge to pee will hit which will require a pull-off the highway and the possibility of less than sanitary surroundings. So Pipsqueak and I found a restroom at the mall and walked in to find a line of four women and two working stalls. The third has an "out of order" sign on it. We waited and waited, and nothing seemed to be happening. I asked Pipsqueak, "Do you really think you can go?" I was hoping to abandon the line that didn't move, but she assured me that there would be results, so we continued to queue.

Finally, a stall dweller departed, but the #2 stall dweller (no pun intended) had yet to make an appearance. The women in front of me started grumbling and comparing how long they've been standing there. Suddenly there was a voice from within #2, "Hi, it's me. I'm sorry to bother you, but I just really miss you so much." We queuers looked at each other in disbelief; she was talking on her cell phone. At this point, a women left stall #1 and said, "Is she talking on her cell phone?" Unable to speak from the shock, we all nodded our heads. #1 banged on the door of #2 stall and said, "Excuse me; there are people waiting out here." The response was a non-concerned, "okay." She continued to talk for a minute of two while the grumbling in the line escalated. I was waiting for some sort of uprising or coup. Finally, she came out with her pants undone and the phone up to her ear. She talked for another couple of minutes by the door before hanging up and leaving the restroom (without washing her hands, I must add).

I've seen some major cell phone rudeness, but that one takes the cake.

I will not lose the joy. I will not lose the joy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Making My List and Checking It Twice

Usually my Christmas shopping is done by now, but it isn't. I could blame it on various viruses, the economy, or our busy schedule, but the fact of the matter is I just haven't been motivated. A page turn of the calendar has amazing motivational capability.

Yesterday, I got organized with what I have purchased, ordered a few things online that I knew I couldn't get around here, and did a little wrapping. Today, I've been making a list for tomorrow... the Final Assault.

Our shopping metropolis is about a half hour away, and has grown beyond the capacity of the roads, intersections and traffic signals. It's bad enough going there on a weekday in the middle of the day. A weekend during holiday season requires medication before and a stiff drink after. I won't do it! Tomorrow, I'm going in with a battle plan including stores and what will be purchased there. The plan will not require crossing traffic at any time. I will travel up one side of the miasma and down the other, after which I will exit, hopefully never to return during 2008. (I'm probably not going to be able to fulfill that hope since I'll need something... batteries, medicine, light bulbs... something innocuous.)

Tomorrow night, I hope to be crossing "shopping" off the task list and breathing a sigh of relief. In the meantime, I will keep chanting my mantra for the month, " I will not lose the joy. I will not lose the joy. I will not lose the joy." Thanks for that, Sandy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tree Cutting Tradition

Each year, almost before Thanksgiving dinner has fully digested, we swing into Christmas gear with the annual Christmas tree cutting and picnic. Some formally local friends now living in Connecticut join us.

We convene at Christmas Trees of Vermont, a farm in Springfield, Vermont, where we get to choose from over 40,000 frasier firs, each one full and shaped to perfection. They also have pre-cut trees, wreaths, visits with Santa Claus, and free hot chocolate.

Before going out on the hunt, we sustain ourselves with a sumptuous picnic, complete with freshly polished silver, lace tablecloth and real china and glassware. We start with Old-Fashioneds served in stirrup cups (cider for the Pipsqueak). Then it's on to turkey sandwiches wrapped in parchment paper and tied with string, Cape Cod potato chips and freshly baked Toll House cookies. Pipsqueak carried hers in the family heirloom provisions kit which her grandmother carried on fox hunts. You can see it attached to her belt. The leather case has a silver sandwich box and a glass and silver flask.
It was a beautiful day (not too cold, not too windy) so we dawdled over our picnic and tree choice, just enjoying the outdoors and taking a walk. We're not always that lucky; there have been bitterly cold days and once when it was so windy, we had to hold things down on the table.
Pipsqueak helped with the sawing, the tractors pick up our tree so we don't have to carry it the half mile back to the car, and then they bail it up nice and tidy, which makes it easy to load and unload from the top of the car and get in the house.

In case your wondering how to make our cocktails, here's the recipe...


In a rocks glass, muddle 3 dashes of bitters, 1 t water, and 1 sugar cube, using a muddler or the back of a teaspoon. Add 1 orange slice and 2 maraschino cherries and muddle with other ingredients. Almost fill glass with ice cubes and add 3 oz. bourbon (we use Wild Turkey).


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