Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas doin's

I will never be a successful, recognized, known blogger for the simple fact that I don't have the stamina to maintain the expected blogging lifestyle.

To be a good blogger that lots of people flock to, you've got to keep churning out the content, day in and day out, day after day, thought after thought, item after item. It's got to be tiring, don't you think?

Take me for instance.

This is the time of year where I might actually have stuff going on, events and parties to go to, people outside of my immediate circle off wife and children that I could interact with, have a beer with, find out something interest. You know, generate a little dialogue and create some content.

And, in fact, I did do just that last night. The family went over to a friend's house in our old neck of the woods on the west side and we had the annual Christmas meal and Ornament Exchange. It's always a good time, especially when we start stealing ornaments from each other. Lynda and I always think it's a successful evening when we come away with another snowman ornament for our snowman themed tree. (The one illustrated above is not the one we got this year.) Plus, the various participants in this party are our old church friends and godparents for Sarah and Grace, so they are getting presents from all of them (Christmas #1).

But Christmas #1 can only mean one thing . . . the annual invasion of plastic, cardboard, and other detritus that is guaranteed to make Surly Burb irritable and cause his blood pressure to rise. I thought about it during the drive home in the car, the collection of boxes, tissue paper, twisty things, molded plastic, etc. that would clutter up the house and make things look frightful.

I was distracted from these depressing thoughts once when we turned into our neighborhood and I started paying attention to the decorative lights all around. We don't have lots of lights up, even in our most expansive years (which this is not). The last several years, we have had the snowman tree (with white lights) in the front room visible through the front windows of the house. Out front in the yard, we usually put some icicle lights around the porch area and maybe some net lighting in the small bushes around the tree in the front yard. That's it, but I would actually prefer to add some icicle lights to the eves, creating that snow effect. Unfortunately, I'm pretty much not allowed by Lynda to get up on a ladder and attempt to hand stuff like that, for fear of falling and dying (which would tend to put a damper on the holidays). And this year, the nets lights quit working so, we have even less lights than normal--and compared to a few of our neighbors, we've got nothing.

The point is, I wish we had a bit more in the way of decorations, but what do you get without becoming trashy? And what about buying new lights to replace the ones that blinked out since last year? I guess I could look into (for next year) the new-style LED Christmas lights, but those things are kind of freaky. They emit a strange, alien-like glow with a halo around them that just doesn't say Christmas. As other bloggers have said, in ten years, we won't blink an eye when confronted with the LED lights hard glow. But right now we still see the old electric bulb lights with a fondness for the cold warmth that says tradition.

Once we got home from the Party (with a new snowman), we got the kids to bed and I got started wrapping presents. We are leaving for the Christmas trip to Georgia on Friday, so we were going to have Christmas #2 here at the house on Thursday afternoon. But we hadn't wrapped anything up--it was all sitting in the basement. After a few hours of wrapping while listening to podcasts, the gifts were suitably festive and placed under the tree. "Santa's" gifts were also wrapped but were going to stay hidden.

This morning the girls immediately saw the placed gifts and were excited. But they knew that Santa wasn't coming until later. So, no opening of presents occurred this morning. When we all got home from work and had eaten dinner tonight, Lynda and I realized the flaw in our plans. If Santa was coming tonight (Wednesday night once the kids were asleep) how could the girls wake up on Thursday, see the additional Santa presents, and then get ready for school as if nothing had occurred?

So, Christmas #2 became Christmas #2a: The Intimate Family Opening. The girls opened and played with the items that we had purchased for them and Lynda and I opened out gifts from each other. (More on THAT below.)

By allowing this tonight, we of course also allowed that tomorrow morning would be Christmas #2b: The Santa Experience. Tomorrow morning, the girls get to opening a few more gifts and exclaim in wonder at the nibbled carrots, eaten cookies, and drunken (?) milk.

Frankly, that is one of the serious problems with traveling to see family for Christmas. By the time we arrive in Georgia, our kids will have experienced 2.5, almost 3 Christmas events. When they get to Lynda's parents home near Ellijay, they'll have Christmas #3. When we drive to Lynda's brother's place in Waycross for the day, it'll be Christmas #4. When we settle in my hometown for several days we'll have Christmas #5. It's frankly a bit ridiculous and it simultaneously reinforces the notion that Christmas is all about gifts while diluting the specialness of those gifts. One option is to stay here for Christmas Day and travel later, but that would only cut out 0.5 Christmas Events. We could, alternatively, stay here throughout the Christmas season, but that's tantamount to crazy talk and would guarantee that we would see none of my family at all during Christmas, since they simply don't travel here. (But I'm being peevish. Sorry.)

Now, back to Christmas #2a. I got Lynda to items--both sort of practical things. The first was a cookbook and the second was a replacement bag for her use when transporting papers and book from the office to home. (She had completely worn out the last one she had.) But the real story here is the cookbook.

I was meaning to replace the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook that we've had for many, many years and was so well-used that the binding had cracked and pages were falling out. When I went to the bookstore with Sarah to buy the new one, I could not remember the name of the book, so I told the clerk I was looking for the one with the red and white checkerboard cover. They acted as if they immediately knew what I was looking for and pointed me to The Joy of Cooking. It was a classic; that much I knew, but it didn't have the cover that I remembered in my head. Oh well, I thought, it's a new edition after all. Covers are changed. We bought it and I wrapped it up and put it under the tree.

Tonight, Lynda opened it and was very glad to receive a new cookbook. She's ready to get rid of the beaten-up, old one. While the girls were playing with new playdoh, I began flipping through The Joy of Cooking, convinced still that this was, indeed, the same cookbook that I had set out to find. To convince myself, I flipped to the Meat section, to check out the meatloaf recipe that we've used many times before. I was satisfied by what I found and just kept on flipping. Sure, I found some strange stuff here and there was was a bit odd, but I reassured myself that it was simply recipes we'd never wanted/needed to try before.

Cooking brains isn't that unusual. Just the other day I was telling coworkers that I'd actually smelled animal brains heated up with a laboratory probe once, and it smelled surprisingly good. I'm not saying I'd eat the stuff or even know how to procure the items in question but it wasn't too bad.

And then I hit on this page:

Suddenly, this was looking less like a cookbook and more like a survival guide written by Bear Grylls. If I ever find myself in need of knowing how to skin a rabbit, I hope I have this cookbook handy. But, it's not just the rabbit, which is a legitimate source of meat that, while a bit unusual, isn't out of the question. It's the illustration on the recto page (that's right page to you) that made me begin to doubt my original bookstore purchase.

I don't EVER recall the old cookbook showing you the proper way to skin a squirrel (!!), but I do appreciate the handy tip showing how a nice sturdy booted foot on the tail helps shed the tree rat of its skin.

So, yeah, I bought the wrong cookbook, something I have since confirmed by locating the original, dog-eared Better Homes and Gardens version. I guess I can take The Joy of Cooking back, but I sure hate to give up such nice blog fodder. Who knows what I might discover on the next page? And imagine what might happen if I started cooking some of this stuff? THOSE would be interesting posts indeed.

Christmas #2 has been interesting so far.

Bring on Christmases #s 3-5!!

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