It Isn’t Christmas Until Someone Throws Up.

First of all, Merry Christmas! That’s a very young me on Santa’s lap circa 1984 and I’m pretty sure that must have been my dentist since we were at his office, sitting in that dreaded chair.

Last night was our big family dinner. By big? I mean my grandfather, his wife, and my Great-Uncle joined my parents, my brother and I. Usually it involves my mom’s entire side of the family (which means DRAMA) but this year people called in sick with excuses like they had to work during the day or their neighbors were having something so they were feeling lazy and just going there.

Fine. Whatever. I’ll hang out with the old folks for a night.

Sounds kind of boring, right? Except that my grandfather, who is very Italian and likes to think he’s Frank Sinatra,  can be quite the character and my Great Uncle…well “character” doesn’t even begin to describe him. The evenings festivities included deciding that my grandpa and I are going to write his memoirs, listening to my Grandpa sing Christmas carols (that he made up. I tell ya, Frank Sinatra wannabe), and trying to keep my Great Uncle from discussing politics.

There they are sitting by the tree that I picked out and that finally got decorated two days before Christmas. Poor thing.

Theres the rest of the crew sitting by the fire on the opposite side of the tree. Isn’t the back of my brother’s head nice? He resisted having his picture taken.

We ate a ton of good food–lasagne and italian sausage, I ate too much possibly bad cheese and got violently ill, revisiting everything I ate that evening. This lead to lying around the rest of the evening moaning to myself about how I was “dying.” I’m kind of dramatic.

Besides my little foray into death, I did learn the secret ingredients in my Italian Great-Grandmom’s pasta sauce, heard some interesting stories about my Great-Grandpa delivering turkeys in his truck during the Depression, and how my grandmother’s maiden name is German for bag and how that last name is plastered all over Women’s bathrooms for the sanitary napkins to be placed into. That’s just…special.

The evening was capped off by a game of Balderdash that I perked up just enough for a game and a half, before everyone took off. If you’re not familiar with that game, you get a word and a definition and the rest have to make up a definition and decipher which is the correct definition.  The first time I played this game we used a dictionary and kept track of the score by points. This game had little figures you moved around a board, but same concept I suppose!

Some definitions that stood out included: “the beginning form of leprosy that is caused by eating a lot of bad cheese.” (That was aimed at me. Thanks, brother.) and “Dhole: The disowned son of Bob Dole who could never spell his last name right.”

Here’s a picture of my uncle unable to contain his laughter trying to read the definition that involved leprosy:

And no my Uncle is not freakishly tiny, my brother is really just that much bigger than my uncle. Than all of us, really. Whenever I see a picture of him with any of us, it always looks like he’s been photoshopped in at the wrong scale.

At around midnight we decided oh what the hey, lets open some presents. Or how about all the presents? Who wants to wait til Christmas morning? Apparently, not us.

Except there was a small problem. I hadn’t wrapped ANY of my presents (I know, I was supremely lazy yesterday.) and two of my presents? Were on my computer, still waiting to be burned onto a CD.  Whoops.

Besides the unwrapped presents and late hour and the fact that I was still not feeling great, we had a good time opening gifts. I got a new pair of snow boots, a nice purse, some sweaters, two books (including Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by my new favorite author, Jonathan Safran Foer. Can’t wait to read it!), a Julia Childs cookbook, the requisite socks (but surprisingly, no pajamas. Every year I usually get a pair of pajamas because my mother never approves of the shirt and yoga pants I always wear. I guess she just gave up this year.) and a gorgeous white leather, huuuuuge jewelry box, which I’ve already filled to almost capacity. I have a lot of jewelry, what can I say?

I hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas and that Santa was as good to you as he was to me! 🙂

Twas the Night Before Christmas…

This was the scene of last Christmas Eve. For some reason we all were wearing silver paper crowns, a silly trinket that you “pop” open for the gift inside that my mother bought for the table that lead to everyone wearing theirs throughout dinner.That’s my Uncle talking to my Mom at the end of the table and my Great-Uncle on the right demonstrating how to properly destroy napkin rings, probably to one of my younger cousins. Christmas Eve is always full of family, alcohol, holiday cheer and my Great-Uncle making fun of everyone and causing more trouble than any of us younger kids could ever get into.

There will be bottles of champagne, tables full of alcoholic beverages and my mother will pull off her magic trick of never running out of wine…

A table set, and decorated by yours truly, for ten people…

There will be gift giving and story telling. A game of balderdash and lots of smiles and laughter. My mother is making a lasagne for the big meal tonight, screw the ham we’re going to our roots–Italian that is. There will be snickerdoodles, gingerbread men, nutballs, sugar cookies and ciabelle cookies. A sherry trifle (that you could get drunk on), homemade eggnog and did I mention booze?

We’ll watch The Christmas Story and It’s a Wonderful Life on repeat, and play Christmas music during dinner. I will, of course, force everyone to listen to my favorite Christmast song at least a dozen times:

and maybe this one once or twice:

Christmas Eve is our big holiday here in my house. We don’t do anything for Christmas Day (unless you count two years ago when we went to my Grandfather’s wife’s family and I ended up with a PICKLE FORK). Christmas Eve is when we all gather around and forget that Ashley never cleaned the upstairs toilet and the fact that my Brother ate all the cookies made especially for that day. Where we forget that Ashley moved home and is unemployed and that my brother works at a recycling center, neither places either of them wants to be. All those can be remembered December 26th, but for now we can enjoy each others company and not think about all the pesky little details.

Now go read Peter’s A Blogger Christmas Carol and enjoy a good laugh. (I’m not promoting this because I make a guest appearance. Or that several of my favorite bloggers make guest appearances. I swear. It IS quite funny.) Merry Christmas, everyone! 🙂

Why moving in with my parents was not the brightest idea I ever had.

I must have been on some pretty strong “I’m going to Europe” drugs over the summer to make me think moving in with my parents was going to be a ton of fun. Sure, it’s gotten better. I’m no longer angry and frustrated and since landing a couple freelance gigs plus some design work, they have been off my back about getting a job. We’re getting along pretty well, surprisingly.

But (and there’s always a but) I’m living with my PARENTS. While trying to have a social life and date. Explaining why you live with your parents to a guy you could potentially date is always fun and I’m sure is very limiting. I certainly wouldn’t date a guy who still lived with his parents.

Nevertheless, I’m giving it my best, even though it isn’t the best situation. So far I’ve learned a lot about my family. Like….

  • My parents bought an intercom system and gave me one half of it so that they can call me without straining their vocal chords for dinner.. So far it has been used by my mom to check if its working properly  (can you hear me now?) and by my dad to tell me the dog barked when he sneezed. When dinner was ready? They screamed up the stairs. Oh, parents.
  • I definitely inherited my father’s ability to start a project (or ten) and not finish them before starting new ones. My father has, count it, THREE bathrooms that are in various stages of unfinished. My mom’s bathtub is still untiled, my bathroom is in the stages of getting fixed but my shower has taken 2 weeks to tile and I don’t think its going to be and somewhere in Ann Arbor is a bathroom he’s fixing for free that still isn’t done. Bravo, Dad.
  • My mom has been hounding me for a week to do laundry. She doesn’t understand how I possibly have anymore underwear left or clothes at all. She must not have gotten the memo about how I constantly would go buy Victoria Secret’s 5 for $25 when I ran out of clean underwear and didn’t want to go to the laundromat. I got skills on making my clothes last.
  • My mother only comes up to the third floor if she hasn’t met her daily quota of yelling. My brother and I live up here and my dad is sometimes working on the bathroom. Usually if my dad is downstairs she’ll get her yelling out of her system. But if my brother’s been at work, I’ve been hiding upstairs and my dad’s been up here working, she’ll come upstairs just so she can yell at someone. I think she got the intercom just so she doesn’t have to climb all those stairs just to yell.
  • I have gotten extremely lazy and rarely get out of my pajamas until past noon (today is no exception!). Sometimes its three or four o’clock by the time I get jeans and an actual sweater on (just so when I reappear downstairs for food, I don’t get yelled at.). Luckily, I’m not alone. Its also rare my mother gets out of her robe before noon so at least we keep each other company.
  • My parents have date nights on Friday nights which is really cute. Except they both forget and when it comes time for dinner my mother will then remember and yell at my dad for forgetting he was supposed to take her out for a date. My mom needs to take the yelling down a notch. Or twenty.
  • The Christmas Tree is like the elephant in the room. It has sat there undecorated and ignored for a week and a half. We all ignore it, hoping someone else will decorate it and put presents underneath it. Christmas spirit is severely missing in this household.
  • I have forgotten how hard it is to eat while my brother is around. It’s like the Amazing Race: Ashley’s Kitchen around here, with each family member trying to get at the food before the giant does and eats it all. I lose. OFTEN.
  • My parents will ask me for help on their computer. A couple months later, when something goes wrong with the computer, they’ll point out the time I helped them then blame me for breaking it. Umm. Yeah cause THAT makes sense.

It’s only a couple more days til Christmas and while I’m feeling more festive, I still haven’t finished my Christmas shopping. And I still haven’t written out christmas cards, much less sent any. This holiday has been one big EPIC FAIL.

The New Year better bring back my motivation, a steady job and my own place.

Getting in the Spirit with Gingerbread Bears and Powdered Balls

This weekend, in an effort to try to bring some much-needed Christmas spirit into my house, I decided to do some holiday baking. That usually does the trick–along with snow, christmas tree decorating and holiday music. Since those three just weren’t cutting it, I decided to go with baking.

Round one was friday night and involved Gingerbread Bears. (Bears being the only stencils I had) I had bought a box of gingerbread mix from Trader Joes (cheating, I know!) and set to work in my mother’s large kitchen. Can I tell you how much easier it is to make things when I have about 5 million countertops?! That little teensy kitchen in my last apartment just doesn’t compare. I’m thinking my next apartment needs a gourmet kitchen. I’d never use it, but it needs one.

Once we got to the part of rolling out the dough we realized we had a problem: my mothers two rolling pins were missing. As in, she took them both to the lakehouse and left them there for the winter. Never fear, my mother had a genius idea. Let’s use a wine bottle! Coming from a family of Italian vinos, it wasn’t hard to find a bottle (or ten.)

My mother demonstrating how we are rolling out the dough:

That’s a Yellowtail Cabernet by the way.

The little bears WERE really ridiculously cute and really fun to make.

Once they were all baked, the fun really began. My mom and I made some frosting ourselves and added some food coloring for some festive colors. Unfortunately the red was more pink but I rolled with it.

My favorite was the hula dancer. The bear spoke to me and told me to put a grass skirt on it and a bikini top, who was I to deny it?

They all came out ridiculously cute, if you ask me.

Saturday night I brought a plate of these to my friend Steph and Joe’s house out near Detroit. I’m pretty poor this holiday season and what better way to spread joy than through gingerbread yumminess?

I hadn’t seen these two since Vegas and it was really nice to catch up with them over tacos and The Hangover.  I shared stories of Europe and we talked about everything that had gone on in our lives since we last saw each other. And Steph and I may have drooled openly about Bradley Cooper in his black suit.

Luckily, the cookies were a success! I was really happy with TJ’s mix, it was spicy and just all around very yummy. Even my frosting came out not so bad! (I was a little wary of my powdered sugar and milk combo)

Sunday I was determined to get some christmas shopping done so I headed out with my dad into town but unfortunately came back empty handed. During another shopping trip I managed to pick up a book for my dad and a raging longing for a cat that I saw at the adoption center at Petco but still nothing for my mom. Sigh. I have five days left right?

My mom and I set about on our second round of cookies after a nice walk in the woods with my dogs and a yummy meatloaf dinner (I could get used to living at home. Mom’s home-cooked meals are SO much better than anything I could make!). We decided on two Martha Stewart mixes: sugar cookies and nutballs.

Once again we pulled out a bottle of wine to roll out the cookie dough (this time it was a Pinot Grigio) and I set to work decorating them once they were baked. Again, we made our own frosting and this time added some Almond extract for added flavor. I’m not a fan of almond but shh don’t tell my mom.

It was a messy process. We got a little lazy and decided not to put the frosting in ziploc bags like we had with the gingerbread bears. I was literally using the whisk and the spoons to create my little masterpieces. VERY sloppy.

But they came out cute and they were oh so yummy!

Next up were the nutballs. My mom was pretty much in charge of those but I got the really fun  job of powdering them with sugar. By the way, I should never be trusted with this job. I got it ALL OVER ME, despite my wearing an apron. By the end of it I looked as if I’d dumped the bowl on myself. I rock at baking.

The balls, pre-powder.

This was like, pre-mess. When the powdered sugar was still IN the bowl. I wish I had a picture of me after the explosion but I didn’t want to risk my mom yelling at me for being incompetent in the kitchen (which she does regularly).

All sugared up.

It was overall a very nice weekend and I definitely found a little bit of christmas spirit, even if it’s not one hundred percent here and I couldn’t bring myself to decorate the tree. There are five more days left to get in the mood.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Missing: One Holiday Spirit

When I was younger, getting a Christmas tree was a whole family event. We would all bundle up, put Shelby, our golden retriever, on a leash and pile in the car. We’d go to the same tree farm every year and tramp through the snow looking for our perfect tree. It took us a while; we could never decide upon one tree, there was always something wrong with the trees that we did find but in the end we would find that perfect tree, cut it down and tie it to the top of our minivan.

It’s been a very long time since we last went out as a family to get a Christmas tree. Usually I don’t arrive home until a few days before Christmas and by then the tree has been up and decorated for at least a week or two. For the past few years my parents have even gone so far as getting a pre-cut tree from the christmas market in Ann Arbor, which my brother and I have proclaimed as sacrilege. This year, however, my dad, brother and I went out to get a tree with our two dogs in tow, just like old times. Kind of.

See the problem with tree shopping with your father and your brother is that they’re trying to get a tree as fast as they possibly can and they do not care what tree they come back with. The other problem? There’s only one of me, so I only get one vote and am ALWAYS outvoted.

The first place was a dud, with barely a tree in sight that could possibly pass as a christmas tree. The second place, a small place called Irish Hills Farm, seemed more promising. It wasn’t set up like your typical tree farm. It lacked the neat rows of trees, instead it was laid out like a forest–very haphazardly.

I ended up off on my own with Casey, the little sheltie (which meant I was carrying him a lot. The dog was not built for forest undergrowth) wandering through all the spruces and proceeding to get really lost. I loved feeling like I was in the middle of the woods looking for my tree. I found my brother next to this tree that wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t great either. Both brother and father wanted to be done with it and they took one look at the tree I happened to be standing next to, and decide THIS is the tree.

I desperately tried getting them to look elsewhere, there were SO many other trees! That were fuller! That didn’t look like it was going bald! But since I’m only one person and Casey didn’t give two shits what the tree looked like, he just wanted to get the hell out of the snow, I was outvoted. 2 to 1.

So we cut down the tree, dragged it through the snow and tied it to the top of the car. We drove it home, set it up in the living room and now we have a Christmas tree that my mother and I have proclaimed is NOT a proper Christmas tree.

Things should be festive, the christmas spirit should be in full bloom but yet…its missing. I’ve tried Christmas music, I’m watching Elf and I saw The Christmas Story the other night. Christmas wreaths are up, I’ve gotten my first Christmas card in the mail, we have a Christmas tree, and I’ve eaten Peppermint Bark. It has even snowed outside. For some reason, I just cannot find the spirit.

I had found the spirit while I was in Paris. There was something about Paris that exuded Christmas–the cold crisp air, the changing leaves, the Christmas lights all around the city, the holiday markets, the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night. Something about Paris screamed holidays, joy and spirit. Yet, three weeks later, and I’ve lost that. (I think the solution? Go back to Paris!)

I’m hoping some holiday baking, egg nog, putting  up ornaments and lights, and this new blog header will help put me in the mood. (Plus, its snowing on my blog! You’re welcome.) Until then, I’m putting Glee’s Last Christmas on repeat hoping that it will kick my ass into Christmas shape.

Curiosity Will Kill This Cat

So my parents had four cats right? They all have different forms of neurosis: one hunts, one thinks she can attack dogs, one ate itself to death (i’m not joking. TO DEATH), and one…well…I hate to say this. But he’s retarded. In the “got sick when he was a kitten” kind of retarded that morphed into Oh don’t mind him, he’s just our cute, adorable, slow cat.

Sad, really.

You know how you have to hold out your hand to a strange cat so they can sniff you to trust you? You have to do this EVERY time with him, he has no idea who any of us are after about 30 seconds.

He has curiosity like none other though and is constantly finding himself in sticky situations. Like the first day we got him home from the shelter and he climbed the beams in the barn. AND I HAD TO RESCUE HIM. Silly little cat has no balance whatsoever and almost plummeted to death. He’s gotten stuck in numerous garages that don’t even belong to us and I have received several calls from the parents telling me that Roger has been missing for days and they think that this time he’s really not coming back.

He emerges every time. Dusty, yes. Confused, you betcha. Alive, somehow.

He can be humorous: he likes to imitate our killer cat, Daisy–in fact I’m pretty sure he has a full blown cat crush on her. He will take animals she’s killed and play with them. While not that humorous, it is when you consider he has NO IDEA what he’s doing. He just thinks its fun. Once, we caught him with a wing sticking out of his mouth.

We all were shocked–HE CAUGHT SOMETHING! We of course yelled at him to drop it and he opened his mouth, and a bird flew away. Sure he caught it, he just….didn’t kill it. Key components to hunting, Roger. KEY. COMPONENTS.

But eventually his curiosity is going to kill him (luckily not in the way Lily, our cat-dog almost got herself killed. She attacked a dog. Not just any dog, but a GIANT SCHNAUZER. Do you know how big those are? Yeah, Lily, not your brightest hour). Or he will outlive all of us. Somehow.

He really is the sweetest cat though, very loving and likes to hold hands (i’m not joking, if he’s lying on the couch with you, he has to put his paw on your hand. Its adorable) and will cuddle with you. Up until the point when he forgets who you are.

And now, I sound like an old, spinster cat lady. Maybe I am?

Can you see the confusion?

Thanksgiving: The Story of the Bloody Turkey

Thanksgiving has been one of my favorite holidays for years; alot of that has to do with food but a close second is because when you bring my family together it means many hours of entertainment. This year I was able to come home for the first time in many years; past years always involved projects that were due the next day or jobs not giving me enough vacation time so I missed the comedy routines that usually centered around getting a rise out of my mother. You see, she’s the only girl out of 5 boys. It becomes a competition amongst her brothers as to who can rile her up the most.

There was the usual amazing food, including my mom’s signature sausage stuffing, sweet potato casserole, apple-cranberry sauce and a juicy turkey and all of this doused in gravy. Throw in the entertainment of 15 relatives, 2 bottles of champagne, 5 bottles of wine and endless beer and you have a party. It started with a fight with my father over the chair arrangement in the dining room at the table most definitely not built for fifteen people but we were making them fit, godddamnit and ended with my mother yelling at me for, after 35 years, outing her and dad to my grandfather.

Outside of the usual spats within my family over who was really left at the rest stop when they were five, I’m reminded of a past thanksgiving (as we all were, since every thanksgiving it is brought up) which stands out on the radar as being one of the best freakouts my mother ever had. Although when my father outed my mother to my grandfather (apparently, he didn’t know they lived together before marriage. And this is a problem NOW after they’ve had two children and have been married 30 years…) and my mother turned around and blamed it on me, THAT might rival this story. (at least the murderous expression on my moms face might).

Many thanksgivings ago, when we still lived in Connecticut and family rarely came out for the big turkey, we had my Uncle John, my mom’s youngest brother, over along with a few other family friends. This was before my mom had gotten her new oven and she was having massive difficulties cooking the turkey. Every time she took it out of the oven, it wasn’t done. Even after the timer thingy had popped up, it was still oozing red juice. After several glasses of wine my mothers mouth turned a little foul, disregarding all her guests and we could tell the state of the turkey by the stream of words coming out of the kitchen. It became a little bit of a joke. To everyone but my mother. (She’s italian, if the cooking isn’t going right, the world isn’t right)

After about 4 hours had gone by, it finally was done and she pulled it out of the oven, placed it on a white platter and was preparing to bring it out to the dining room where everything else was already waiting. In the brief moment she turned away from the turkey, my uncle being the comedian he was, took his glass of red wine and poured alittle onto the platter right next to the turkey. My mom then turns around, sees the “blood” and screams bloody murder.

As if we had just murdered my uncle and he lay twitching on the ground at her feet.

Are you fucking kidding me? ITS BEEN SEVEN HOURS! I hate this oven, I hate this house, I fucking hate this holiday.

We were all in stitches and this made her even more wild with The Crazy. She starts waving the carving knife at all of us while yelling at my father to put the fucking bird back in the goddamn fucking oven and he better be fucking buying her a new oven the next morning at 5 am or else she was getting a divorce. A DIVORCE. AND THIS IS NOT FUNNY, madly pointing the knife in our faces.

That’s when we were forced to tell her, through gasps and tears, that it was red wine. Not blood.

Her face then turned about the color of the red wine and she placed the knife back on the table and walked out in the dining room to compose herself while the rest of the family lay on the floor in hysterics.

I think now she can laugh about it (like…10 years later). But it was a touchy subject for a while there. Especially after how many “fuckings” she used. And how she almost murdered her entire family over a turkey and a little bit of red wine.