Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

A Few of My Favorite Things

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I was blown away by the gifts I got from work this Christmas.  As a teacher who has worked with students who eat free and reduced lunch, I have been accustomed to not getting much.  And as someone who doesn’t go crazy for the holiday myself, I’ve figured it’s just as well.  As I’ve mentioned before, I hate getting things I can’t use, to the point that I’d rather get nothing at all.

But this past Christmas was amazing.  The school where I work gave me gift cards, cash, and checks, besides lots of yummy Christmas chocolates and other goodies.  And practical stuff, too!  Gas gift cards, gift cards for on-line shopping, and gift cards for all-purpose stores.  And the generosity was amazing!  I couldn’t believe it — I’m only the specials Spanish teacher!

But my absolute favorite gifts so far this school year are the two in the picture above.  The simple ornament makes my heart sing.  (I’m pretty sure my tutee’s parents are the ones who picked it out for me, but it still makes me feel awesome!)  And I just got the homemade poinsetta-looking flower from some of the girls in my sister’s class where I do writing worskhop twice a week.  They are a reminder that even the simplest things can be worth a million bucks to a person.

So, as I sit reflecting, I wonder: how can I make someone else feel like a million bucks today?

It’s Not Easy Being Clean

"Blue Plastic Bucket And Left Yellow Cloth Clean On White Background"  courtesy of Keerati FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Blue Plastic Bucket And Left Yellow Cloth Clean On White Background” courtesy of Keerati FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The worst part of having people over: having to clean the house.  The best part of having people over: having a clean house.

It’s sad being lonely and not letting people come over because the house isn’t clean.   Such delightful things as having people over, enjoying the company of good friends, playing games, and catching up is associated with such unpleasant things as de-furring the couch, vacuuming all the dust and fur you just spread everywhere, spraying down counters, and getting on your hands and knees and scrubbing (because, yes, I still do that).

And amusingly, you should see me in the last few minutes of a party.  Then, and only then, I am Susie Homemaker: clearing the bottles, putting plates and cups in the dishwasher, wrapping and putting away food, etc, desperately trying to preserve the clean-ness as long as long as possible, i.e., a few more hours.

Side question: Have you ever had this happen?  Your visitors cancel on you last minute, and you feel like you have to find someone to come over NOW — or at least within the next day or so – because, Wow!  The house is clean, and someone has to be around to see it, so it’s not like you spent a whole day of your life cleaning the house for nothing? (As in: “Wow!  The house is clean; people should come over.”)

Or maybe I’m just crazy.

Anyway, I sit here typing this and enjoy my surroundings.  It’s nice that the house is clean.  Dishes are creeping up again.  But otherwise things are clear.  Of course, the dirt will begin to accumulate.  The dirt and the dust and the gunk.  And the FUR — but for now, the house is still pleasant.  We’ve managed to keep down the clutter.  The kitchen and wood floors are still shiny.  The coffee table, kitchen table, and kitchen counter are relatively clear of papers/junk mail/old batteries/stray screws/misplaced pens/half-full water glasses (all mine, of course) /food scraps for compost/Christmas chocolates and cookies (most were sent away with our last guest, and the rest were eaten by the person writing this blog)/library books (stacked neatly on the end table)/school papers (shoved far out of my sight), etc.  So, right now, comparatively, this house is practically a Zen garden.

Sigh.  Why, oh why can’t it stay that way?

Christmas: Life Is What Happens . . .

"Christmas Background" courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Christmas Background” courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here I sit again, wrapped in a blanket on the loveseat, now on Christmas Day, staring across at Brian, lying sprawled across the adjoining couch, who, since early this morning, has apparently contrived the same sickness that I’m still suffering from.  Headache, coughs, etc.  The scientist in me wants to compare the progression and symptoms of our similar illnesses.  The child in me wants to cry.

We’ve scared off my parents, as I suppose they rightfully should be scared – my hacking attack over the phone sealed our fate — so we are alone this Christmas.  Alone and quiet, as we attempt not to disturb the demons within, hoping for healing to come soon.

For a time I was angry; angry with Brian, angry with sickness, angry that I’d already started cleaning and preparing the house, angry that things weren’t going according to plan.  And then I figured the universe was either having a good laugh at my expense or trying to teach me a lesson. So, I settled on the more positive of the two, and attempted to just let go.

Come what may, right? There’s a reason we’re alone today.  It could be that I badly needed the rest.  Maybe we’re preventing my family’s getting sick (I hope we didn’t get anyone on Brian’s side sick last night!).  Maybe this will even lead to a more low-key New Year’s, though I would be sad not to see my friends this New Year’s.

And anyway, we’re not really alone.  Even in sickness, we have each other.  Bowser’s at Brian’s feet.  Link is at mine, and Zelda is curled up right next to me.  . . .  And now Love Actually is on.  I’ve got my various flavored teas to warm my insides, and my romantic Christmas movie to warm my heart and loosen my happy tears.  All is right in the world.

Merry Christmas!

Temptation

 "Cookies" by Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Cookies” by Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well, I was doing fairly awesome on being healthy, and then temptation hit.   Not with the vegetarian part.  Up until today, I’d been ok with that.  It’s not like people leave cheeseburgers or chili cheese dogs lying around at work to tempt you — though, the party today had some smoked salmon that almost broke me, and the jalapeno cheese dip may have had some bacon . . .

But, no, the tricky part was the sweets because those can sit out there on the teacher’s lounge table day-after-day-after-day, hour-after-hour-after-hour.  And that, I could not resist.  My recent pristine healthy eating went right out the window this past week.   Every time I’d go down the stairs to check my mailbox, I’d pick something up: a dark chocolate Frango Mint here, a Hershey Kiss cookie there . . .  little pick-me-ups before I faced my next class.  Couldn’t really hurt, right?

And then there were the gifts from the kids.  It started with a double-decker box of assorted chocolates from one of my tutoring students.  When I bit into the first chocolate, my eyes lit up like matching fireplaces.  I was a sugar-aholic getting the first taste of what I’d been missing, and as my tongue swept across my bottom lip, I quivered with excitement.  Frightening.  Then, when I’d gotten close to finishing off that first box, the barrage hit.  My Spanish students bombarded me: boxes of chocolate of various sizes and assortments, little chocolate Santas, fruit cake, homemade candy, etc.   Thankfully, I’ve managed thus far to convince myself to stick to one box at a time, but heaven help me if anyone breaks the seal on any of the other boxes . . .

But I had a sense of impending doom when the cookies came home from Brian’s cookie exchange.  There they were — easily accessible sugary goodness of all types, just sitting there on my kitchen counter – unwrapped, uneaten, and oh, so inviting.   I knew I was in trouble when Brian suggested we bring them to the party the next day, and I shrieked in a very Gollum-like fashion: “What?  Those cookies??  They’re MINE! MINE”  I ran to the exchange box and immediately began sorting through them: “We can bring these, but these are for me. . . . hmmm, and these. .  .  and these. . .  and these. . . (pause). . .  these too.” Mind you, this is the same person who less than a week ago insisted the whole cookie exchange idea was ridiculous and didn’t want any of the cookies in the house.  Because I knew better.

The only thing that saved me was my sudden turn in health this morning.  As I’ve said earlier, I don’t get sick.  So, today, when I woke up with a hacking cough and a congested chest I was a mix of dumbfoundedness, humbleness, and unconcealed frustration.  How could I feel sick?  I’ve been doing so well, right?  Right?  Oh wait.  The cookies.  Oh yeah.  The chocolate.  Oh no.  I knew the cookies had to go.  At first I decided I would still keep some for myself, but when I struggled to choose any, I knew I had to give them all up.  I piled them all up on our translucent red flower-shaped tray and lovingly tucked them all away in plastic wrap.

Of course, I knew it wasn’t goodbye forever.  I had 2 or 3 of the best kinds while at the party.  And I didn’t miss them much when I tried the mini dark chocolate and mini chocolate peanut butter ice cream bars that were sitting there staring up at me ever-so sweetly.  (Hack, hack.  Paid for that one immediately.)  I desperately tried to minimize the damage, drinking Echinacea tea through one side of my mouth while stuffin’ sweets into the other.  Believe it or not, that didn’t balance out quite as well as I’d hoped. . .

But anyway, I fear the worst is yet to come: Christmas Eve Dinner with Brian’s family.  I can sidestep the ham and turkey, but I doubt all the scrumptious casseroles and dips will be meat-free.  And it doesn’t help that the hostess is a fan-tas-tic baker who fills an entire side of the kitchen with her sweet concoctions.   This hearty once-carnivore may be sorely tempted to satisfy her need for fat by diving into that sweet side of the kitchen.

But I’ll just continue to take one moment at a time, one sweet at a time.  At least I know I’m not invincible.  I say this, as I rub some Shaklee Mentholated Multi-Purpose Cream across my chest and nurse cup-after-cup of my Chamomile Tea. [Microwave: beep  (pause) Microwave: beep  (pause)  Microwave: beep (pause) Brian: “Uh, Teri, Your tea is done.”(pause) Microwave: beep  (pause) Microwave: beep  (pause) Brian: “Tea is done.” Me: “Oh, mmm, yeah, uh huh, honey.” Microwave: beep . . . (pause). . . ]

So, if I falter, I will face the consequences.   I just hope that knowledge will be enough . . .

Wee One’s Holiday Entertainment

"Christmas Tree Decorate By Colorful Beads On White Background" by Anusorn P nachol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Christmas Tree Decorate By Colorful Beads On White Background” by Anusorn P nachol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I had two holiday parties this evening, and they had quite different feels. One was all faculty from my Spanish teaching position.  And one was mostly children from one of my tutoring companies.  In the first I engaged in some interesting conversation and got to know my coworkers a little better.  In the other I played some kiddie games and poured cocoa.

Though the second party was not quite as entertaining as the first, I thought my fellow tutor did a fantastic job with the whole thing, and I liked her ideas, so much so, that I thought I’d share them with you.

She started the evening with some activity stations.

  • The first was a Christmas stocking station, with a few ready stocking to choose from, decorative glitter glue, and various decorative baubles.
  • The second was an ornament station, consisting of large popsicle sticks, googly eyes, buttons, large lacy ribbon, felt, and other decorative baubles.
  • The third station was a coupon-book-making station, including felt rectangles for a cover and spongy pieces to make gingerbread and candycane decorations, glitter glue, and clever coupons like “I will clean up the pet,” “I will take out the garbage,” “I will put the dishes away etc.”  I almost made one for myself.
  • The final two stations were guessing stations.  One was your typical guess the number of items in a jar station, and the other was an “I Spy” station with beads in a jar and at least 50 other objects hidden among them that you had to name.  Each of those last two stations had a prize connected to them: a DVD and a small blanket.  (I really wanted the Wizard of Oz one because we’d just been talking about it.  I might have been able to get it if I’d spent even more time on it, but I was feeling guilty participating in the activity, as it was. . .)

Then there was a break for snacks: hot chocolate with marshmallows, green frosted cupcakes, oreos, and “mistletoe” — corn flakes mixed with marshmallow and green food coloring.

The rest of the evening was spent in games, in which the winner got to choose from the prize desk.

  • The most popular was Christmas Bingo because of the rapidity of the games and variety of winners.
  • The kids also enjoyed the around-the-room game in which students had to choose a place to stand (under the frosty, Rudolph, Christmas tree, or Santa picture), the caller picked one of those places from a hat, and whoever was standing under that pick would be out (and then they could rotate if they wished, for the next round, until there was only one winner).
  • And the first game of the evening was a Memory game, in which Christmas-related names like “Dasher”, “Dancer”, “Suzy Snowflake”, “The Grinch”, etc were written on the back of wrapping paper strips taped to the cupboard, and the kids had to make as many matching pairs as possible.

I am not a craftsy person by nature, and so I was triply impressed by the planning and presentation.  I enjoyed playing with the kids and felt like I got to be my regular, goofy self a little bit.  So, even though the kids’ party wasn’t quite the same enlightening and time-flying experience that my first party was, it was worth the drive home in the crazy winds and billowy snow.

 

Makin’ Cookies

"Gingerbread Christmas Tree" by nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Gingerbread Christmas Tree” by nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I haven’t baked in quite a while.  And I am certainly no expert.   But if anything, I am more suited to baking than Brian.  He is the cook.  I am the baker.  I insist on following the quantities, ingredients, and directions exactly.  Brian likes to experiment.

Last night we made 7 dozen cookies for Brian’s cookie exchange at work.  “Are you crazy?” I asked him. And:  “What do I get out of this?”  “Cookies!” he exclaimed. “Many different types!”  “And this is a good thing?” I asked him, arching my eyebrow (or if I could actually arch one eyebrow, because that would be so awesome).  “You KNOW I will eat them all in a day or two!” I cried.  “All my work for nothing!”

But he had agreed to make the cookies, and he wanted to make a good impression in his new job.  And I, not having baked in a while and having a bit of an itch to do so, and also knowing that this was one area where I had more expertise than Brian in the kitchen and could show off a bit, AND also having absolutely no desire to start grading and planning for the week at that moment — which perhaps was the most important incentive of all — thus eagerly dug into the task.

First we had to figure out what in the heck we were doing.  I spent minutes upon minutes slowly pouring the dry sugar cookie mix into the egg and butter combo: pour, mix, pour, mix, pour, mix . . .  Then I took the ball and set it on the cutting board.  (A little pat here, a little pat there.)  Then it was time to roll the dough with a rolling pin.  Except . . . we have no rolling pin.  We considered the possibilities.  A beer bottle?  An unopened deodorant?  We settled on a nearly empty spray can of whipped cream, but the dough was fairly unwieldy.  Plus we realized we didn’t feel like cookie-cuttering 84 cookie shapes, no matter what kind of dough we were dealing with.  So we started with cookie balls.  Then we started to flatten them a bit.   And we turned on the oven to 25 degrees below suggested (since my oven has burnt many a chocolate chip cookie in the past).

Then we became a machine.  One of us melting the butter and mixing it with the egg, while the other began to mix the previous batch.  Later, breaking the dough into balls and getting them on the parchment-papered-pan and popping them in the oven, just after removing the previous cookies from their pans.   I remember having starting in horror as Brian tossed cookies upon cookies on top of each other in a greater and greater pile.

Last, but not least, we had to ice and sugar-sprinkle the cookies.  Thanks to Trader Joe’s, we had everything we needed in the one box (outside of the egg and butter): mix, frosting, and variously colored sprinkles.   I carefully partitioned the frosting across the cookies, and it seemed there was barely enough.  So, I assumed the sugar sprinkles would be just as exact.  I’m still not sure what the sprinkle plan was supposed to be.  I thought I was dealing with just red and green, but then I started opening new colors: blue and pink. Did each mix box include 4 different-colored sugar sprinkles?  I quite equally, exactly portioned out the sprinkles onto each cookie of the set of a dozen – until there unfortunately were more sprinkles than cookie. . . .  I hope nobody chokes on all that sugar!

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I’m still waiting to find out the result of the cookie swap.  As soon as Brian came home, I pumped him for information; it turns out that some of his co-workers FORGOT about the whole thing, so they are postponing the swap until tomorrow.  I guess I’ll have to wait to find out if our cookies were any good (we didn’t have any spares to taste!), and I’m interested to find out what crazy cookie concoctions his coworkers created!

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