It's Getting Hot In Here...

I love lists. I love thinking things up and writing them down in a list. I love reading other people’s lists. If I find one in the supermarket, I love playing the voyeur and reading what other people need out of life. I love making shopping lists, to-do lists, Christmas lists, meal planning lists, even “100 things I love/hate” lists. Many, many years ago, my friend and I even wrote a “Pro/Con” list why I should get married to my future ex-husband. The “cons” totally outweighed the “pros” and yet I married him anyway. Yeah, young and stupid. That’s me.

Anyway, I came across a list today that I DON’T FREAKIN’ LIKE MUCH. This list scares the crap out of me! Like, HOLY SHIT, why did I even click on this? Damn you, Google, for even putting this out on the Interwebs

Try and guess what these are symptoms of:

1. Hot flashes, flushes, night sweats and/or cold flashes, clammy feeling
2. Irregular heart beat
3. Irritability
4. Mood swings, sudden tears
5. Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats)
6. Irregular periods; shorter, lighter periods; heavier periods, flooding; phantom periods, shorter cycles, longer cycles
7. Loss of libido
8. Dry vagina
9. Crashing fatigue
10. Anxiety, feeling ill at ease
11. Feelings of dread, apprehension, doom
12. Difficulty concentrating, disorientation, mental confusion
13. Disturbing memory lapses
14. Incontinence, especially upon sneezing, laughing; urge incontinence
15. Itchy, crawly skin (feeling of ants crawling under the skin, not just dry itchy skin)
16. Aching, sore joints, muscles and tendons
17. Increased tension in muscles
18. Breast tenderness
19. Headache change: increase or decrease
20. Gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, flatulence, gas pain, nausea
21. Sudden bouts of bloat
22. Depression
23. Exacerbation of existing conditions
24. Increase in allergies
25. Weight gain
26. Hair loss or thinning, head, pubic, or whole body; increase in facial hair
27. Dizziness, light-headedness, episodes of loss of balance
28. Changes in body odor
29. Electric shock sensation under the skin and in the head
30. Tingling in the extremities
31. Gum problems, increased bleeding
32. Burning tongue, burning roof of mouth, bad taste in mouth, change in breath odor
33. Osteoporosis (after several years)
34. Changes in fingernails: softer, crack or break easier
35. Tinnitus: ringing in ears, bells, 'whooshing,' buzzing etc.

Yes, it’s a list of symptoms of menopause. Lovely.

So…not to go too deeply into the realm of TMI, but DAMN, my armpits have been itching for weeks now! A really deep itch. Like the itch I had in my boobs about a year ago. Related? Probably. I’ve changed deodorant and detergent and I’m still walking around scratching like a monkey looking for a banana. And when I go to bed, I get all snuggly in my pajamas and comforters and put my feet on MR to warm them up. By morning? Fuck that! Too hot! I want to strip down naked and stand in front of the open refrigerator. I would, too, if my kitchen had curtains. I wake up in a puddle of sweat every damn morning lately. Thirteen of the 35 symptoms listed here have now made themselves known to me.


Is this what I have to look forward to for the next 10 years- my body playing some hideously ridiculous tricks on me? Why can’t my eggs dry up nice and quiet like? Why do they feel like they have to have some huge going away party at my expense?

Yeah, so this is one list I’m not looking forward to completing. In fact, I’m planning on adding to this list. I’m going to blame EVERYTHING on menopause! Fever sore smack dab in the middle of my lip on Christmas? Menopause! Grotesquely calloused feet? Not because I live in my Uggs- it’s Menopause! Third degree burn on my index finger from molten caramel? Menopause caused it! Major heartburn the day after Christmas- it wasn’t the gravy- it was Menopause!

(Hey- I’ll be like that annoying mommyblogger when she got Shingles! Capitalize and exclamation the hell out of it!)

Now to continue showering you with the cookie recipes from the cookie party (those extra pounds were NOT from eating cookies- they were from Menopause!) here are Mia’s version of Uncle Anthony’s Sesame Cookies- a definite winner in my household. And Mia is now a cookie making monster!

2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter (left out of refrigerator for an hour to soften. Do Not microwave!)
2 tbsp water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
1 beaten egg
1 cup of sesame seeds

Mix all ingredients so smooth. Add wet ingredients (egg/water/vanilla). Mix/roll until uniform. Roll into logs. Cut into 2 inch pieces. Roll in seeds. Bake 16-20 minutes at 350 degrees. Poke with toothpick. Remove when slightly moist. Cookies will cook a little more on cooling rack.
Makes 2 dozen.

Happy Boxing Day!

Today's Boxing Day. The day after Christmas when you get rid of all the boxes of all the presents you received the day before.

Okay, not really. Boxing Day (in Great Britain and Canada) is the day you honor all the servants and work people in your life. So since I forgot my mailman, John and the paperboy and the bus drivers, I'll get their cards together and give them tokens of our appreciation. How much do you give your mailman?

Our Christmas was very low-key and simple this year. We went up to Paula and Ray's Christmas Eve for a HUGE fish dinner. Gak, I ate so much. Ray is an awesome cook (Paula is NO slouch, either.) The scallops were the best I've ever eaten. Yesterday, we had Dad over for dinner and some Wii games. A casual time, with no fuss. The food was good, the gifts were great and the French Creams tasted like Pepto Bismol. At least the pink ones did!

I hate when people post what they got for Christmas. I always feel like they're showing off. But I have to post what I got for Christmas- it's too funny. Besides the zoom lens for my Rebel (thanks MR), the silver and turquoise cross by C. Iule (thanks Z-girl), Stephen King's latest novel Under the Dome (thanks Beena), my Secret Santa got me an awesome gift off my gift list on the right. Instead of buying all the sister-in-laws and brother-in-laws gifts, the six of us pick our Secret Santa out of a hat. I got Ray this year and Laura (MR's sister) got me. Paula picked up a knife for Ray the Hunter and Laura got me a Doggie Dooley.

Yes, a septic system for dog shit.

And how awesome is that? It gets buried in my backyard and all the poop gets shovelled into it. A digestive powder is added and it breaks down the crap and it liquifies into the ground. My only concern is that it'll seep into the water table. Long Island gets their freshwater from the underground aquifers. Will the massive pooping systems I call Lola and Spencer contaminate the aquifers? Will I be harming the ecosystem by putting doody into the ground? Probably not. We can't break ground until the spring. And I can't wait. How pathetic is that that I am anxious to shovel shit?!

I'm going to continue with the Cookie Exchange recipes, then when that's all done, I HAVe to blog about the Croque-en-bouche disaster.

So here's another cookie recipe featured at the party... Rosalie's Tri Color Cookies. These were absolutely lucious! And Roe is great- she's Beena's "Mother-in-law"- her boyfriend John's mom.

Tri Color Cookies

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sifted flour
3 teaspoons pure almond extract
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
food coloring, green, yellow and pink

FILLING:1 jar seedless raspberry spread

TOPPING: 1 (12-ounce) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

This recipe is cooked in three separate layers and then assembled. The bottom layer is green, the middle layer is yellow, and the top layer is pink.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Use air-foam pan approximately 15x10x1 lined with parchment paper.
Cream together butter and sugar. Blend in eggs one at a time. Add flour gradually, blending well. Add extract, orange zest, and several drops of green food coloring. Blend.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes. Let cool on rack and carefully flip cake out of pan onto flat tray or into larger pan. Carefully remove the parchment paper and spread jam across entire surface, not too thick.

Repeat cooking directions for next layer using yellow food coloring. After cooling, flip this layer on top of first layer, press, and spread with jam. Repeat last layer using pink food coloring.
In a double boiler, melt chocolate chips with oil. Spread evenly over top layer with a spatula. Let cool.

Refrigerate until read to cut. Before cutting, bring back to room temperature and using a sharp knife cut into 2-inch by 1-inch cookies, discarding edges that are uneven.

TIP: Cookies also freeze well. Freeze uncut and bring to room temperature before slicing.
Yield: Approximately 70 - 75 cookies

What was your favorite gift YOU got for Christmas?

Countdown to Christmas #11- Puppet Master

Finally! I'm done with my nieces and nephew's puppet theater. I had pretty much finished yesterday but I still had to make the case. It was inspired by Amy Carol's book "Bend the Rules Sewing" which I purchased last year. I started the puppet theater last year, but I never finished it for Christmas. I put a little bit of history into this thing...the curtains (which look a little scrunchy) are made from material my mom made for me and my brother when we shared a room at my old house. The room was done in a circus theme. We shared until I was around 5, and they put an extension on top of the house and added two bedrooms- one for me, one for my brother, Robbie. The black and white material is from an old sheet I kept over my dollhouse in my old home.
I picked up two sets of new puppets on eBay for them and when we go up when the new baby is born, I'll bring three more puppets I plan on making from recycled dish detergent bottles. Now all they need is their imagination!

Continuing with my awesomeness (hah!) I'm posting pictures of one of my nativity sets. I have three out. I made this one around 15 years ago at ceramics. I started going to ceramics (hi Judy!) in 1984 to start making my first wedding favors. Aunt Anne, Mom, Diane and I would carpool to Merrick and go to classes in Judy's basement. Some of my best memories are from ceramics. So getting back to the nativity (not creche, MR!) I cleaned and painted each piece (baby Jesus isn't there yet) and Mom and Dad bought the stable for me. I still have two or three pieces I have to paint, and for some reason my shepherd is missing. Maybe he went for coffee. I'm planning on doing an artsy pictorial with this nativity set because there is so much detail.

We went to Walmart tonight. We had to pass the mall entrance and I said a silent prayer of thanks that we didn't have to go to the mall. Walmart was all kinds of crazy- with the best of humanity shopping for last minute presents. I got a headache just trying to maneuver between the massive masses. But I almost finished. A few more odds and ends and I'm done!

Cookie recipe tonight- Beena's no-bake Chocolate Coffee balls. These are really good when they're stale!
2 tsps. Instant coffee powder
½ cup hot water
1 cup (6 oz.)semisweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp. light corn syrup
3 cups powdered sugar
1 3.4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup walnuts, chopped fine
Powdered sugar for rolling
Dissolve the coffee in the hot water. In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate over low heat, stirring until smooth. Stir in the corn syrup. Stir in the coffee. Remove from he heat and beat in the powdered sugar. Gradually blend in the graham crackers and walnuts. Pinch off 1-inch pieces of dough and roll into balls. Roll each ball in powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container for at least 2 days before serving.

For cookies with more of a kick, use 1.2 cup of coffee liqueur in place of the
water and coffee.

Four more days!

Countdown to Christmas #10- Like an Elf

Being snowed in today with the first blizzard of the season, I actually got alot done. I was like Santa's elves. Did laundry, made butter cookies (using my new cookie gun- thanks Kathy and Patty,) cleaned the kitchen, made peppermint bark with Z-girl and finally got my nieces and nephew's puppet theater done. I need to make the case, but the gift is done. I'll post pictures when it's ironed and ready to be wrapped.

I didn't take pictures of the snow! We got around 14 inches overnight. Zombiegirl was at Kendal's birthday sleepover and I had to walk a few blocks to drop winter clothes off so she could play with her friends. It took me less time to walk than to clean off my car. MR shovelled us and the ladies next door out while I shovelled their walk and stoop. And I'm paying for it now. What the heck am I going to the gym for if a little physical labor knocks me out?

I still have several gifts to make by Christmas eve- hooded towels and a set of felt mustaches for

the nephew. I got a reprieve on the soccer kids gifts- we're having a Christmas dinner on January 2, so I have until then to finish that sewing. I'll finish everything, though. I'm pacing myself and I took Christmas Eve off. That day is going to be taken up making a croque en bouche and chocolate monkey bread for Paula and Ray's.

Today's cookie is my co-host's and my favorite from the cookie exchange. It's almost like a gingerbread cookie- and works great when dipped in tea!

Ronnie's Molasses Sugar Cookie
1 1/2 cups shortening
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cloves
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Melt shortening and cool. Add sugar, eggs and molasses; beat well.
Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ground cloves and ginger. Add to the molasses mixture and stir until well combined. Chill dough for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet. Remove dough from the refrigerator and form into walnut sized balls. Roll balls in white sugar. Place balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 8 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies and 10 to 12 minutes for crisper cookies. Store cookies in an airtight container. Yields 6 dozen.

Countdown to Christmas #9- Cookie Exchange 2009

Okay, enough with the stupid crap that's going on at the Dreamscape post. It's been taken to Facebook. I'm keeping the comments up for one more day, then they're being archived.

Soulspeak, baby. I love you. Thanks for saying everything I've been thinking.

So enough. Christmas is almost here!

Last Saturday we had our annual Cookie Party Exchange. I was smart this year and tried my cookies out in October because my cookies never come out like the picture of the recipe I use. The consensus was good so I stuck with that one. What's not to like about Caramel Apple Cookies?

We moved the party to Ronnie's house last year because it's apparent that my house is way too small. We ditched the kids this year since all our guests had kids and it would have been too crowded.

What do we do at a Cookie Party, you may ask? To start, each guest is asked to bring six dozen cookies and a $5.00 gift beautifully wrapped. They have to email me the recipe beforehand because each guest goes home with a tray of cookies (tray provided by us) a stack of recipe cards, a gift and a favor (provided by us) usually something baking related.
We play Steal the Gift, that's why the $5.00 gift has to be beautifully wrapped, to entice everyone to steal it. It's hard to find a $5.00 gift, so next year we're going to do Steal the Gift with ornaments or up the price of the gift.
Some of the games we play are;
  • Forbidden Words- each guest is given a necklace with a small cookie cutter attached. A group of five or six words are posted around the house. If you catch someone saying the forbidden words, then you get to take their necklace. The person with the most necklaces at the end of the night wins a prize.
  • Sit On Your Friends Lap- a list of questions is asked. If you answer "yes" to any of the questions, you move one seat to the right. If someone is sitting there, tough- sit on their lap. The person who ends up in their original seat wins.
  • Draw On Your Head- paper is placed on your head, and your given instructions on what to draw. The person who comes closest to the directions wins.
  • Left/Right Game- A modified version of "Night Before Christmas" is read and every time the word "right" or "left" is said, a stuffed Rudolph is passed around the circle in that direction. No hands allowed, though! Last one with Rudolph is the winner.
  • Guess What's in the Stocking- items are placed in two stockings and without looking, guests have to feel and write what's in them. The person with the most right answers wins.
Each day up until Christmas, I'll be posting the recipes of all the cookies that made an appearance at the party. I'll start with was originally found here.

Caramel Apple Cookies
1 cup butter
½ tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
12 oz caramel baking bits
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups granny smith apples, peeled and finely chopped
2 cups flour
2¾ cup old fashioned oats, pulsed in food processor until finely ground (not quick-cooking oatmeal)
In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar with an electric mixer until the mixture is fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and eggs. Beat until combined. In a medium-sized bowl, stir the oatmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda until combined. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until combined. Stir in the caramel bits and apples. Save a few of each (the apple and the caramel) for dotting on top of the rolled cookie dough balls. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour. Roll the cookie dough into golf ball-sized balls.

Bake on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F, for 10-12 minutes. The sheet should be placed on the upper middle rack. Cool on the pan for 4 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Note: Dough is best the day of. In time, the apples add extra moisture to the dough, causing a wider spread on the baked cookies. Alternatively, you can pre-roll the dough into balls and freeze if you aren't using it all the first day. Place the dough balls on a cookie sheet until solid, and then transfer to a labeled sealable freezer bag. Use within one month. Simply add an extra couple minutes to the baking time since the dough is frozen.
Yields 3 dozen

My Soccer Moms. Thanks Ronnie, for hosting the 6th (or it 7th?) Annual Cookie Exchange!

Countdown to Christmas #8- Sleep in Heavenly Peace

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,

There must be peace in the heart.
~ Lao-Tzu

I was going to finish my weekend post about the Cookie Exchange we had last Saturday night, but a recent anonymous comment left on this blog prompted me to preempt the weekend post with one I've been carrying around with me for awhile.

Guess what?

I realized the other day that I'm content.

I realized the other day that I'm at peace.

As the world swirls around me, as the economy crashes at my feet, as my family is torn asunder...I can honestly say I'm serene in my heart.

Yes, I may be cranky at times. Or cruel. Or snarky. Or bitchy.

Yes, I want the pieces of my family put back together.

Yes, I want my dog to stop drooling. And my underpits to stop itching. And my belly to be less flabby.

Yes, I still complain about work, tourists, Naomi, and the people who've "done me wrong."

But it doesn't matter. It's all crap.

As I sat on the bus the other day holding a stroller upright for a young mother juggling an arm full of baby and groceries I was like the Grinch, who's heart swelled 10 sizes that day. My heart swelled and I knew that I am blessed. Blessed with a wonderful family, awesome friends, a job, no bills, good health, minimal stress and I want for nothing.

Dare I say it?

I'm happy.

Is it the effect of the season that's making me happy? Is it this gorgeous Christmas tree sitting in front of me that not only lights up the room, but also my heart?

I don't think so. I think the Holiday Spirit inside me has been magnified by my new-found inner happiness. My contentedness. My calm.

Do I have peace in my heart, in my mind, in my soul? Do I feel that I'm a good person, a good wife, a good friend and a good mother to those around me?

Yes, I think I do, and I think I am.

I'm sleeping very well these days...

Countdown to Christmas #7- The Laying of the Wreaths (or What I Did This Weekend, Part 1)

Part 1

Here it is, Monday the 14th. It’s a sad day for me, but I’m not ready to blog about it just yet. I’ve been in remembrance mode all weekend and I just need to get into the spirit of the season. And I’m happy to say I’m there. I’m not ready to sink down into sadness just right yet.

I want to blog about my weekend, but you might want to wait for the "Saturday Night" installment of this blog. I’m documenting my Saturday morning with Dad not only so I can remember what we did and where we went, but throwing out the names of my relatives on the Interwebs might bring interesting results. If you want to read about my dead family members then have at it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Saturday Morning:
After losing Zombiegirl and MR to Putnam Valley (him hunting, her shopping with Aunt Laura) I was free to spend five hours traveling the length of Long Island and Queens with Dad. He had asked me a month ago if I would come with him to place wreaths on our family’s graves. I knew he and Mom did this every year after taking it over from my Aunt and Nana Frances, and I knew it was important to him- he already had the wreaths in the car when he asked. So we made a date for early Saturday morning.

After breakfast at the Venus, we headed out to Pinelawn, where my brother and mother are interred. Okay, here goes- I’m acknowledging my brother’s death today, 20 years ago. But I’m not going to dwell. Don’t want to sink…not yet.

Out in Pinelawn, Dad placed a miniature Christmas tree in front of their stones. I hadn’t seen Mom’s engraving since the last time we were out there to place her ashes in the niche, so it came as a little bit of a shock and I got a little bit choked up. That’s okay, though, perfectly normal response, right? Not going to let this day get me down. Dad and I were having a great conversation about practically everything. I didn’t want to get all emotional and bring him down, too. A few tears, a kiss on each stone and we’re off to the next cemetery. I don’t remember my Uncle Ed very well. I remember his girlfriend at the time, Doree, though. (She was one strange peacock- always decked out in jewelry and makeup- even though she was in her 60’s. Dad claims she was a hooker. I always thought she was glamorous. I was five. What did I know?) Uncle Edward Ellsworth Hewlett is buried in the U.S. National Cemetery. I was truly amazed at the amount of all the soldiers buried here and the military precision in which the headstones are placed. Straight lines in EVERY direction, as far as you can see. Truly amazing. We placed the wreath, Dad told me a few stories of my Uncle, (one of Nana Ethel’s nine siblings) I snapped a few pictures and we got back into the car.
Why does it feel 20 degrees colder at cemeteries?

On the way out of the cemetery, I see a man about my age bend down to kiss the headstone of his loved one. A father? A son? A daughter? Tears sprang back into my eyes as I witnessed this very tender act. Crap. Don’t let Dad see me cry…

My beloved Nana Ethel is buried in Trinity Cemetery in Hewlett. My family founded Hewlett, Long Island- but unfortunately none of the money trickled down into our hands. We hit this cemetery next because it’s close to the Lawrence Costco, and I needed to pick up an art desk for the nieces and nephew. Dad recently had Nana’s name added to the Pfeiff headstone. One of my Mom’s last requests (of me, actually- I totally dropped the ball on this one) was to have Nana’s name engraved on the headstone. This was the first time I saw the new engraving. Her husband William is next to her and her mother and father (my Great-Grandparents on my Mom’s side) are buried on the left side of them. Don’t tell anyone- Nana and her husband are really lying reversed of their names on the headstone. Nana was supposedly slightly pissed when they engraved her husband’s name on the wrong side, but who’s going to know? Besides us…

Costco had the art set at HALF the price it was last week at the Old Westbury Costco. I like instant Manufacturers coupons! Yay for Christmas!

We drove back into Queens to visit Dad’s relatives. First stop, Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens. Seems Dad’s father, Grandpa-formerly-known-as-Pop-Pop, didn’t want to be buried in the family cemetery- he wanted something more peaceful and shady. Well, Maple Grove is pretty, but Grandpa is buried within sight of the Van Wyck Expressway overlooking the Good Samaritan Village. The nearest tree is around 30 feet away. Good planning, Grandpa! Lol! We had a little problem finding him- thank goodness Mom had written down the plot number. Howard Arfmann is the only Arfmann in our family buried in this cemetery. On the plaque in the ground (no headstone) there’s a spot for my Nana. According to my Dad, his father was ready to die- maybe to get away from my Nana? Now he’s going to spend all eternity with her, whenever my Aunt decides to place her ashes in the ground. Stop talking to your dead mother, Aunt Jean and get her buried. Or something. It’s really not healthy to have her keep you company! [snort] We placed a wreath on the cool metal vase that pops out of the metal ground plate and geared up for the next cemetery.

My Great-Grandma, Ida, and her spinster daughter, my Great-Aunt Marion are buried at Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Ridgewood.. This cemetery is so old, a bush that was planted around where my relatives are buried was probably three feet in diameter 60 years ago. The damned bush is over 25 feet wide now! If they ever cut this bush down, I won’t be able to find my folks. And in 15 years, it just might overtake my ancestor’s headstones. A family of five could live comfortably within it’s evergreen branches, it’s so big.

Anyway, Great-Grandma Ida Arfmann, Marion Arfmann and my Great-Grandpa, George Arfmann, whom I never met, are buried here. Great-Grandpa died 50 years before his wife! She never re-married, preferring to keep her daughter by her side as company. Aunt Marion was never allowed to marry. Seems weird now that I’m an adult, but as a child I loved these two women. Future blog post.

Cousin Mildred Arfmann (Dad’s father’s cousin) is buried with her parents right next door. Mildred was another spinster who preferred the company of her married boyfriend to actually finding someone available and settling down. She had a good life with him, though. He doted on her and she was able to maintain her independence. She loved MR so much more than my ex. She was the only one happy to hear I was getting a divorce. Mildred told it like it was- direct and overbearing- and I loved her very much, too.

I got some great pictures of some of the soaring angels at Trinity Lutheran. It got really cold and windy so we didn’t linger. Dad and I talked some more about our crazy relatives (another blog post) and then he dropped me off so I could start on my cookie baking. All around, it was good we did this together. Another tradition born out of necessity! Is it morbid that I took pictures of my family’s tombstones? I’m just afraid I’ll never find them again when it’s my turn to go cemetery hopping at Christmas.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of What I Did This Weekend.

Countdown to Christmas #6- Hansel and Gretel, Eat Your Heart Out

The tradition of decorating gingerbread houses at Christmastime began the year our dear dog, Lola, ate the house Zombiegirl decorated at Riesterer's Bakery on a Girl Scout trip. It was left on the dining room table for everyone to look at, then, when our backs were turned, Lola jumped up on the table and finished it off. Licked the plate clean- not a crumb left.

Zombiegirl was so upset my Mom bought a gingerbread house kit and invited Z-girl over to decorate it. They had such a good time, they made it an annual event. Just the two of them. It was the only thing they ever did together.

Last year was bittersweet. Mom asked me to help them, since her tumor had grown so much and was, well, leaking. Her lips were also numb and swollen so she couldn't talk much at that point. She didn't want Z-girl to see her like that, so she wrapped a towel around her neck, made the frosting then let us decorate the little houses- there were three in that kit. We brought them home as usual and put them on top of the wall unit. Hey, we learn quickly.

I didn't even think about the gingerbread decorating thing this year. It was Beena's idea. She said she and Zombiegirl would decorate the house this year if I picked up a kit.

My eldest is turning out so thoughtful.

So we were in Costco the other night and the first thing we see when we walked in were pallets upon pallets of gingerbread house kits. I didn't care how much it was, I was getting it. (It was only $19.95!) Last night, in the middle of my migraine, we started putting together the house.

After a few minutes, it was apparent I wasn't needed.

Beena and Z-girl put the house and tree together and decorated it with icing, gumdrops, jellybeans and jaw breakers. This sweet tradition has been passed down from grandmother to granddaughter, skipping me altogether. But I am SO alright with that- I love when my daughters do things together. I love listening from the oher room their banter and minor arguments. These two have a new tradition together- like it or not. I can picture 10 to 15 years from now those two getting together with their kids at a big kitchen table (maybe grandma's?) putting together a bunch of gingerbread houses. Remembering the joy and the tears of past house decorating. And wondering if there's enough candy to finish the job this year.

Thanks, dear Lola. Your insatiable appetite started a sweet, sweet tradition for our family.

Now stop drinking from the toilet.

Countdown to Christmas #5- City Sidewalks

I have the MOTHER of all migraines right now. I woke up with a headache this morning when I got up for the gym so I took Excedrin right away. Didn't make it to the gym, obviously, so I vegetated on the couch for a bit. Where my headache developed into a migraine AFTER I took my medication. Fast and furious and totally debilitating. Sobbing, moaning and wincing at every sound. Throwing up with no relief. I couldn't even lay down to sleep- I put a bag of ice on the back of the couch, wrapped myself in a blanket, laid my head on the ice, pulled the blanket over my head and slept sitting up. Well, "slept" isn't really what my head allowed- more like hallucinated. Maybe it was the illegal codeine I took when the Excedrin didn't work. Whatever. I think I may have invented a machine that reverses barometric pressure in homes and solved the nation's financial crisis. Maybe. If I can remember. I know it seemed to work when I was dozing under the blanket...

I can't muster any Christmas spirit right now. I can't even muster getting out of bed. So I'll just recap what I saw and heard walking through Rockefeller Center last week.

I saw the taping of the NBC Christmas commercial- you know, all the employees and newscasters singing We Wish you a Merry Christmas in front of the tree. And I didn't recognize any of them. I need to watch more TV news, I guess. The funny thing about the whole thing were the giant lyrics plastered on the opposite end of the skating rink. Really? What, can't remember the words to We Wish you a Merry Christmas? Pathetic.

Weaving my way through the hordes of tourists (stay home, people! Or come in on the weekends!) I heard a little girl around five years old arguing with her mother about the Rock Center Christmas tree. She insisted that was NOT the tree they saw on TV. It's too big! The tree on TV was only "THIS TALL!" holding her hands out around 8 inches apart. I caught the Dad's eye and we laughed. Cute and clueless.

We have to decorate a Gingerbread house now. I've been useless and unproductive all day. Let me show a little love to the girls then it's back to bed.

My barometer. When it goes up the pipe I need to go to sleep.

Countdown to Christmas #4- Homemade Christmas Cards

As I said in Countdown to Christmas #1, I’m making most of our Christmas Cards. A few years back while surfing the ‘net, I found this interesting method of making cards or decorating scrapbooks- Iris Folding. The “iris” in the Iris Folding refers to the eye of a camera- the aperture. The iris of a camera is a series of movable blades that open and close to increase or decrease the aperture. The pattern in Iris Folding looks similar to the blades of the camera. I found a few different patterns for the cutouts and then went crazy for the pretty papers. You usually need three or four different color schemes for this to really come out nice. So I surfed again to see where I could buy papers.

What was I thinking?

Sitting at my desk that year, I flipped over my Avon calendar- the one calendar I keep on my wall at work. I’ve been getting an Avon calendar for 10 years from my consultant (and friend) Sharon Love. Isn’t that a great name? Great name, great lady- she always took care of my Avon needs, when I had them, and then for Christmas gave me a calendar. Then she got laid off. We’re still in touch, but in the meantime, another consultant (and friend) started giving me the calendar. Thanks Nanette! It’s such a pretty calendar- close ups of flowers…

Hey, I thought to myself. What if I used the calendar for my papers? I ripped January through October off and started cutting. The card came out beautiful!

Okay, I think I’m onto something. To practice, I used a Lia Sophia jewelry catalog to make a heart card for Soulspeak’s beautiful wife, since she was the one who sold Lia Sophia. Look at me! I’m recycling! Once you cut the piece and fold it, you lose what it actually is, and it gets all abstract. Perfect. I’ll use my old catalogs.

The only problem now is I’m saving way too many catalogs.

This year, I picked the bell pattern to send to everyone. I’ve been doing the Iris Folding at work (I run a lot of very LONG routines) and I assemble and decorate the cards at home. I’ve only used the Plow and Hearth, LL Bean and The Smithsonian catalogs for the cards so far. Can you tell? Getting there...
Before assembly
Finished product

I was thinking about holding crafting classes as a way to make a little extra money. What do you think? Would you take a class in Iris Folding even though there are tons of tutorials out there on the Web? I’ll see what kind of response I get from the cards. Maybe the soccer girls could make them for next year’s craft sale fundraiser.

So if you get a one of my cards this year…act surprised!

Christmas Countdown #3- Am I Crazy?

I think I’m getting nostalgic in my old age. I crave the memories of my childhood- the toys I used to play with, the foods I used to eat, the kids I used to hang around with. I think what plays a big part in this wistfulness is the fact that all my childhood playmates, including my brother are gone. I’ve lost touch with almost everyone except David, my one-armed friend. I know where to find him but I can’t talk to him. He’s still wrapped up with my ex and besides, his wife hates me. Meh.

I have no one to rekindle my memories with. And this scares the crap out of me.

So, over the years, I’ve spent a few bucks on eBay buying toys from my past…

My Crissy Doll

My Fisher Price Circus
My Gumby and Pokey My Velvet Doll- Crissy’s friend.
My most recent purchase for Christmas this year is not a toy. I went online to find pieces of my past Christmases. I found, at the Vermont Country Store, my grandfather’s favorite candy- French Creams. I remember Christmas at my parent’s house helping Mom put out all the cakes and pies and brownies and candy. One of her crystal dishes held Grandpa (formerly-known-as-Pop-pop)’s favorite Christmas candy. French Creams were really pretty, and of course, pure sugar. They had a crunchy exterior that tasted of mint and the inside was slightly gooey and sugary. They came in the prettiest pastel colors and the flavor was so sublime- not overpowering at all. Am I crazy to spend $24.95 for a little taste of my past?

Wait- I’m not done. Mom sometimes put out the sweetest mints- so subtle in flavor that I’ve tried to make these mints several times only to have a glob of bright pink goo stuck to the bottom of my double-boiler. Pastel mints (VERY similar to French Creams, without the hard exterior) showed up often on the dessert table at Christmas. Again, the Vermont Country Store pulled through and I was able to order a sleeve of these melt-in-your-mouth goodies.

One more candy brings it all home for me. Ribbon candy. Mom would put out the whole box and my brother and cousins and I would break pieces off and yell out what flavors we had. Ribbon candy was so much better than regular hard candies. There was just something about the shape- that folded over shape that made this candy so much fun to eat. . I didn’t order this from the Vermont Country Store- it was more readily available on the Internet, so I ordered it from Old time Candy. Browsing through their website I also found a few more of my favorites…Flying Saucers, Nik-A-Lips and Wax Lips. I’m not ready to shell out a my hard earned cash for them just yet… maybe for Z-girl’s birthday party…

Okay, so you tell me. Am I crazy for spending money on candy that brings back good memories? I know the candy won’t keep, and NO ONE will think twice about why I have French Creams on the table. But it’s special to me. I think this year I need it, though, you know? I lost my main memory keeper- Mom. This blog is becoming my memory keeper in a way, kind of like a diary I’m throwing out there. Keeping the memories alive for as long as Google deems it so, I guess.

Okay, anyhow. Tell me your favorite memories of Christmases past, please? Let me know I’m not alone in wanting to recreate the good times.? Thanks.

Countdown to Christmas #2- Is Santa Next?

Thanksgiving day, Zombiegirl and I were sitting on the couch. She was absorbed in an iCarly episode and I was cursing out my computer, fighting virus number elevety million. She turned to me and said, very nonchalantly, that she just pulled her tooth out. Finally. This tooth had been hanging on way too long, not ready to come out even though the tooth below it was fully in. After using four paper towels to soak up the blood, she wrapped it up and wrote a little message to the Tooth Fairy.

We celebrated Thanksgiving at my sister-in-law’s house and everything went great, since Dad came too. He seemed genuinely happy to be there. It worked out well- there were no memories of Mom connected to Thanksgiving up at Paula and Ray’s so there was no sadness on that day.

When we got home, Zombiegirl made sure the tooth was securely under the pillow when we kissed her goodnight. MR went up about a half hour later to make the switch of tooth for cash. When he entered her room, Lola (who’s been taking to sleeping with Z-girl) stirred and woke the kid. She saw her dad standing there and asked what he was doing? He told her he was checking on the dog and to go back to sleep. Him stomping down the stairs told me he was unsuccessful in his mission.

No worries- I’ll do it when I get back from the gym in the morning. She’s a heavy sleeper in the a.m. She won’t feel a thing.

I took the $5 bill Friday morning and snuck up to her room. I was feeling around gently under her pillow when her eyes flew open and she sat straight up in bed. “What are you doing?” she asked me. I told her I was checking to see if her sister got home yer. (Beena did an overnight stint waiting at the WalMart for hot deals on TV’s for her boyfriend.) I told her I was also checking o see if the Tooth Fairy had left anything and Wow! Look! She did! Five bucks!

I was holding the tooth in the other hand.

Go back to sleep, kiddo. It’s too early. I’ll see you in a little bit.

I slunk downstairs feeling busted.

When MR got up, I told him I got caught. Maybe I talked my way out of it? Maybe she was still sleepy? He’s usually the Tooth Fairy- I’m obviously not good at this.

I am REALLY not good at this.

Zombiegirl called down to me asking me to come upstairs. I went up reluctantly. She patted the bed next to her, inviting me to sit. “If I ask you a question, will you answer it?” she asked?

“Depends on the question.” I said, biding my time.

(You know what’s coming, don’t you.)

“Are you the Tooth Fairy?” my little innocent 10-year old asked?

Since I can’t lie to my kids (they always know) I broke out into a grin, then tried to hide it. She looked up at me and I swear I saw a little flash of regret pass through her eyes before she laughed and said “I knew it! I was wondering what Daddy was doing up here last night. And why you were up here this morning!”

I asked her if she was okay with all that. She claimed she was. But she did get teary for a split second. As did I. This is the last time I’ll ever play the Tooth Fairy game with one of my own.

When she went downstairs, she greeted her dad with a “Hi, Tooth Fairy!” He looked at me with that same look of regret and sadness. Our little girl is growing up.

I’ve already prepped her for Christmas. Everyone knows if you don’t believe in Santa, you get less gifts…

Countdown to Christmas #1- Christmas Cards

So here it is, December 1st. Twenty-four days until Christmas. What the hell happened? Last I checked there were 100 days left until Christmas! Crap. I am not ready for this.

Last night, I decided to try to post everyday on the blog something to do with Christmastime. Sorry Soulspeak…I know how much you’re going to hate this. Most of it will be ranting at the stupidity that usually overtakes people around this time. Meh! So what else is new- I’m ranting on my blog. But hey, that’s how I roll. I like to complain. Hopefully I won’t be a raving lunatic all the time. I want to get into the holiday spirit. I really do. I’m going to need it.

I started filling out our Christmas cards Sunday night. On my 101 in 1001 list I stated that I would make all our cards. I did an inventory of the box that’s been sitting under my cutting table in my sewing room all year and I found a pile of loose cards, as well as three boxes of cards I got half price last year after the holidays. I’m going to use the boxed cards up first before I make the rest. They’re too pretty to waste. The loose cards will go to Zombiegirl for her teachers and friends. (Thanks Rob and Mrs. Schiffman, for all the extra cards!)

I made my Christmas card list about a month ago as part of the 100 Days of Christmas countdown. I had to- my previous years list was lost in the third re-image of my computer, thank you little Facebook virus. As I typed in the names, I thought good and hard about how I felt about each person, or family, on my list then played like I was Freddie Kruger in Friday the 13th- SLASH, SLASH, SLASH.

The list was cut. Drastically.

I was the type of person who had over 100 people/families on my list. Just looking at that many people on that list left me tired and depressed. Not to mention the cost of mailing them! (By the way- St. Andrew’s does a nice thing. You can bring in your cards for families in the church and the ladies group will sort them out. You can pick up your bundle when you go to church on Christmas Eve!) I realized that I didn’t talk to more than half these people in the last few years- our only correspondence were cards at Christmas and more recently, Facebook. I’ve watched kids grow up over the years by pictures sent to us in cards.

SLASH, SLASH, SLASH. It’s getting bloody over here.

If I haven’t physically seen you or spoken to you in the last two years- you’re slashed.

If I’ve sent you a Christmas card in the past and I’ve never received one from you- you’re slashed.

If I haven’t seen your CHILD except in pictures you’ve sent at Christmas- you’re slashed.

If you didn’t come to my mom’s funeral- you’re slashed. (You know who you are…)

If any of my aunts or cousins have not called me or emailed me or written to me since Mom passed away…I get the hint (if that’s what’s up)- you’re slashed too.

(If that’s not the case, and you really “don’t do crowds”- I feel sorry for you, but you’re still slashed.)

Am I being harsh? Probably. Shallow and petty? Maybe. But honestly, if we can’t get together during the year, why should we have to catch up in a card? Isn’t sending me your kid’s picture or mailing a family newsletter MORE shallow and petty than actually picking up the phone or emailing to make a date? Lord knows- I’ve thrown out suggestions to MANY people over the years to get together. I love a party! I DO “do lunch!” I would love to meet your kids! Let’s get together and rekindle our friendship rather than send out phony “picture” cards and “family updates.” (Or worse- that blurry picture of your dog.) Remember the reason for the season. Reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Keep the Christmas spirit going all year long.

And I apologize if you got hit with the blood spatter.

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