Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jodi!

Today is Jodi's 37th birthday. Seems like another lifetime that she lay to rest (in a wheel barrow) under the Christmas tree. She has sometimes not been happy to have a birthday on Christmas Eve. She has often felt overlooked. She never liked having to wait a whole year to get a present. But since she chose to make me wait 3 weeks past my due date, I've not had a whole lot of sympathy for her. I did, however, get a kick out of walking into my mom's house that Christmas Eve..."great with child"... suitcase in hand and contractions becoming regular and announcing that I was going to the hospital because, "there was no room at the inn." But for those of you who get to celebrate a day just for yourselves at another time of year, let me point out a few things. Only if you have a Christmas Eve birthday do you:

...need to remind people to wrap your gifts in birthday paper (instead of the Christmas wrapping paper just because it's handy).

...need to have a birthday party with your friends that's not on your actual birthday, because they won't come otherwise.

...hear people say, "Thanks but I really don't want any birthday cake. I'm full of cookies and fudge."

But now that she's all grown up and realizes all the gifts she has in her life every single day, and has so many people to share the joys and celebrations with, I think she's taking it all in stride.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I Had a Seizure

That's right. Last week -- right in the middle of the great cookie bake -- I had a seizure! I was melting some chocolate morsels for my chocolate covered peanut clusters and then it happened. Instead of a bowl of smooth, creamy chocolate that I could work with, I pulled from the microwave a bowl that had a wad of chalky brown stuff in it. I was very upset. I had bought several bags of different types of morsels for my baking and none of the rest had any problem. I had more, so I could go on with my clusters...but then I wouldn't have enough for the fudge. You've GOT to have the fudge!! So I told the girls I was going to write to Nestle and complain. Jodi ignored me and Jessica just rolled her eyes.

The next day I dropped an e-mail note to Nestle. (Don't you just love the computer? I would never have taken the time to sit down and write them a real letter!) I was very pleased to get a prompt reply. They told me my chocolate had "seized". Hmmm. They also said they would send me by mail a pamphlet that has baking tips and talks about seizing and how to avoid it and how to fix it. They also said they would include a coupon for a free bag of morsels. Now aren't they just the nicest people? They could have just said, "Look, stupid, you got moisture in it somehow and we can't be responsible for that." But they didn't. So I sent a copy of the e-mail and their answer to the girls and said, "See? The squeaky wheel and all that." Jodi's reply was, "Yep, that sounds like you. Seizing the chocolate. And the coupons."

May your holidays be bright and your chocolate always creamy!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Bit of Christmas Bling

Several years ago I was at my friend, Gail's, house and had admired one of her Christmas decorations. Her mother had taken old jewelry and cut it apart and glued it onto a red fabric background in the shape of a Christmas tree and then framed it. It is very cool.

When my mom died this past June, my sister, Karen, was asking if anyone in the family wanted any of mom's jewelry. I told her I would take everything that nobody else wanted. She said she suspected a craft project (she knows me well).

So my plan was to make 3 of these Christmas for me, one for my sister, and one for my brother. I wanted to have them finished to give to my siblings on December 14th because that was my mother's birthday and she would have been 90 years old this year. But I found that although mom had lots of jewelry, she didn't have much of the silvery and shiny pieces that I wanted to use for the trees. By adding some that my mother-in-law had passed down to me many years ago, I was able to make one tree. Since it was from both of them, that tree is mine.

Then I took most of the gold pieces that she had and made an angel for my sister. By now I was down to the plastic pieces...but still some lovely things. Mom had a long necklace -- the kind you loop around twice -- that was made of shiny green beads. For each two round beads there was one sort of pointy bead. That pointy one made me think of a holly leaf. So brother Chuck got a wreath.

And thanks to the gift that is retirement, I actually finished them on time! Even in time to mail my brother's to him in St. Louis.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Terror Strikes Small Town!!!

I have several Christmas village pieces and I usually set some of them up on the mantle and some on top of the piano. The grand kids haven't been that interested in them until this year. Now they play with the ones on top of the piano (because they're the ones they can reach) every time they come over. Sometimes I won't notice what they've done until I plug in the lights for the next evening's ambiance. Then I get a chuckle. Like the time the hedges that usually "grow" on the sides of the house had been transplanted to the front...and a yellow rabbit in a pink hat seemed to be standing guard in front of the door. I can only wonder what was going on in their imaginations.

Then another evening I noticed that pirates had taken over the house and stood watch on the balcony. This one I can understand a little better. One of the things they like to play with when they come to my house now is the pirate ship toys. Besides the big ship which they can build, there are pirates, treasurer chests, canons that really shoot canon balls...and their new favorite -- a crocodile.

But the other day while they were here playing, I saw what Emery was doing. There were canon balls laying on the ground and all the people in the village (the "Village People" as it were) were laying down as well. There were pirates and the ever-popular crock. I said to Emery, "Oh, my! It looks like the pirates are shooting the people with canon balls!" He calmly, and somewhat sadly, said, "Yeah. The crocodile has ruined Christmas."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cookie Bake Day

Yesterday was our annual "Mother-daughter Cookie Bake" day. Before we started I explained to Savannah that even though Emery would be helping and Grandpa and Daddy like to wander through and see how things are going, it's basically up to the women folk of the family to make the Christmas cookies. I also told her that she was old enough now to have her own baking utensils. Then I gave her an early present. Now she has her own rolling pin, wooden spoon, cookie cutters, decorator tube and cookie cook book. She was quite proud...and couldn't wait to put them to use.

One of the candies I always make is potato candy (don't knock it if you haven't tried it!). At the beginning you keep adding powdered sugar to a mashed potato until the dough becomes stiff. Near the end of this process, I need to call in extra muscle -- Grandpa. Emery told me he has muscles and he wanted to do it. Turned out he liked the whole process very much. So here's how you make potato candy:

First you stir the powdered sugar and mashed potato until it's good and stiff.

Then you roll some of the dough out and spread peanut butter on it (sound better now?). Next you roll it up jelly-roll style and "roll it back and forth under your hands like when you make a Play-Doh snake".

Then you cut little slices off so you can see the pinwheel of peanut butter inside and put them on the tray to dry.

Making potato candy is hard work, so then you need to go lie down and watch a movie...maybe even take a

But after a brief rest, they were back at work.

After takes a lot
of hands and hard work to produce a spread like this!!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Strange Tradition

Living the first 43 years of my life in Illinois, I didn't think much about mistletoe. But after coming to Georgia and seeing it growing high up in the tree tops in the winter time, I've wondered many times about the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe at Christmas time. So I did some research. Here's what I found out:

The word mistletoe is derived from the Old English words "mistle" (dung) and "tan" (twig). The plant is thought to be named after bird droppings on a branch. Mistletoe is a parasite that grows attached to a tree or shrub. It is poisonous and causes acute gastrointestinal problems including stomach pains, diarrhea and low pulse. In culture and mythology, the Norse god Boldr was killed with mistletoe. An old Christian tradition said that mistletoe was once a tree and furnished the wood of the cross and that after Crucifixion, the plant shriveled and became dwarfed to a parasitic vine. The sticky juice of mistletoe berries was used as an adhesive to trap small animals and birds.

Then suddenly I read that according to a Scandinavian custom of Christmas cheer, any two people who meet under a hanging of mistletoe are obliged to kiss. (!) The origin of the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is vague. However, the tradition may have stemmed from either the Viking association of the plant with Frigga (the goddess of love) or from the ancient belief that mistletoe was related to fertility. The correct mistletoe etiquette is for the man to remove one berry when he kisses a woman. When all the berries are gone, there's no more kissing permitted underneath that plant.

A confusing tradition to say the least. I further read that the ancient Druids were in awe of this plant and would catch the cuttings in white cloths as it was never to be allowed to touch the ground (thus the hanging of it in homes). But leave it to the rednecks to put their own spin on this rite. Mistletoe shooting has a long tradition in the southeastern United States. A headline in Nation Geographic states, "Harvesting Mistletoe: Gunfire Gets the Job Done." The article goes on to say, "Those cute little wonders of nature, those totems of romanticism that turn Scrooges into smoochers during the holiday season, often find their way to doorways by first getting themselves blasted out of treetops."

So there you have it. Everything you ever needed to know about mistletoe...and then some. So as you go about decking your halls this year, don't forget the lowly, poisonous, cursed "dung twig" and it's proper place in you home. Remember the etiquette of removing a berry for each kiss...but be careful not to ingest it. Don't let it touch the ground...unless you see signs of gunshot residue -- then it probably doesn't matter. And be sure to avoid getting birds or small pets stuck in it's juices.
And have a Merry Christmas.