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! 🙂

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.