Holiday wishes


Camped out waiting for Santa

To all my readers:

May you sleep in heavenly peace.

Much love,

Huffygirl

© 2013

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I still don’t bake Christmas cookies


Not my cookies

Not my cookies

Okay, I’m THAT person. The one who does not bake Christmas cookies. It’s not that I don’t bake, because I do. It’s just that I’m not any good at baking cute, decorative cookies. My cookies are all gobs of dough flopped down on a cookie sheet. They taste great (if the rate at which they disappear is any indicator,) but they don’t look like anything special.

I used to at least make an attempt to bake Christmas cookies, by taking the ordinary cookies I usually make and adding red and green to them. You know – sprinkle red and green sugar on top of the Snickerdoodles and they instantly become  Christmas Snickerdoodles. Or put red and green M & Ms in the chocolate chip cookies instead of chocolate

Mine are more like this.

Mine are more like this.

chips, and voilà – Christmas cookies.  I figure red and green sugar and M & Ms were invented just for people like me – the Christmas baking impaired. But they never really looked all that great and nobody was fooled – they technically were not Christmas cookies.

So then I created a better plan to make people think that I baked Christmas cookies, which involves large quantities of  red jam and powdered sugar. You know, red for Christmas, and powdered sugar for snow of course. What’s not Christmasy about that?

Mine are NEVER like this.

Mine are NEVER like this.

Here was my plan. Two days before Christmas when I started to feel inadequate because there were no actual Christmas cookies in my house, my cookie plan escalates to Defcon 2. I’d make almond sandies, which of course are rolled in powdered snow, er sugar. Then a batch of jam thumbprints, with red jam, natch. Then the pièce de résistance – I would arrange this assortment on a CHRISTMAS PLATE, add some fudge, which everyone knows is a Christmas food, and there I’d have it – Christmas cookies. The white, the red, the festive plate, everyone was fooled into thinking I was a Christmas cookie baker after all.

What about your Christmas baking experiences? Are you one of those people who starts at Thanksgiving, baking ten different kinds of Christmas cookies, each one more complex than the previous? Or do you buy the big bag of red and green sprinkled cookies at Costco? Or are you THAT person – the one who makes the elaborate ginger bread village with mansions, shopping malls and Santa’s workshop?

Merry Christmas everyone!

© Huffygirl 2012

(Originally posted 12-23-2010)

Christmas shopping = bah humbug


Shopping mall

I’m slogging through the mall, dragging a shopping bag on the ground, and wondering when I turned into a one-hundred-year-old fuddy-duddy. I haven’t been to the mall in months, and I’m surprised to see that the mall has changed, and not for the better.

In my absence, my mall has been transformed into a theme park shopping palace, designed to delight any thirteen to twenty-two-year-old. And I’m clearly not one of them. The delighted ones. Stores I used to know and love I no longer recognize. Victoria’s Secret was once a store I could stroll into and buy an ordinary bra. No longer. Since my last trip to VS, the store has been enlarged into a superstore filled with scraps of lace formerly known as women’s undergarments. A stripper’s paradise. The Home Depot of lingerie. As I wander deeper and deeper into the stripper’s lair, a clearly bored, eighteen-year-old  clerk whips by saying, “Hi, how are you?” without even making eye contact, clearly not wanting to wait on someone as ancient as… her own mother.

Leaving that nightmare behind, I head to J.C. Penney, a store that formerly had clothes for people like me. But J.C. Penney has been transformed into JCP, a stylized combination of The Gap and Banana Republic, or in other words, any store that appeals to the thirteen to twenty-two-year-old demographic. But hope springs eternal, so I head to the men’s  jeans department, hoping to find jeans for Best Husband for Christmas. But this is not my momma’s jeans department, nor is it my husband’s either. The wall shelves of cubbies of sensible jeans has been replaced by an array of counters with every imaginable version of jeans spread out upon them, all of them with mysterious names, and most labeled “sits below waist.” A veritable cornucopia of jeans for skinny twenty-year-old guys. So  where were the jeans for ordinary men? What I wanted was something between the mom jeans that Obama wore in his first term, and the pre-worn-out, acid-washed, pre-wrinkled skinny low waists that populated the jeans counters. And what’s with the bar stools and counters anyway? “I’ll have a venti mom jean with a side of acid-washed boot cut please.”

I leave the jeans department shaken, but not stirred, and stop at the makeup counter on my way out. I just need a simple mascara, and maybe some eye

Bobbi Brown

shadow. I’m pretty sure they can’t have changed makeup enough that it no longer fits middle-aged women. But a rabid Christmas shopper with a fistful of coupons wriggles into my place in line. Turns out she wants to pay for a sweater, and circumvent the line in the clothing department. She makes the makeup counter clerk try each coupon until she finds the one with the best discount. By the time this transaction is completed, the makeup clerk and I have both clearly run out of patience.

Now, it’s back into the mall and back to my Sisyphean task of dragging my bag along the shiny tile floor. Word to the wise: if you’re short, don’t ever buy anything at a mall that requires a big bag, or you too will be forced to endure my fate, of dragging a bag along the floor while wondering when you became an anachronism.

© Huffygirl 2012

Welcome to Christmas Card Lane


Christmas card lane, https://huffygirl.wordpress.com, © Huffygirl 2012

While out running this morning, I noticed one of my neighbors had placed a quaint reminder of Christmas long ago in his front yard: a handmade, painted Christmas card sign, propped up in the front yard, with a spot light to illuminate it at night. “Seasons greetings from the _______” it proclaimed, it’s elf and reindeer resplendent upon the four by four sheet of genuine plywood. Seeing this immediately brought me back to  a simpler time, when folks in my city lined up in their cars to see  “Christmas Card Lane” each Christmas season.

There was a certain street in my city which  each year, proclaimed itself “Christmas Card Lane.” Residents erected a huge sign at the entrance to the street, which said “Welcome to Christmas Card Lane” painted  across a Currier and Ives  back ground. Then, for about the next three weeks, cars would line up nightly to drive down Christmas Card Lane and see the handmade Christmas cards that the majority of the homeowners displayed in their front yards. More than once we joined this queue, kids in the back seat, slowly creeping down the street among the bumper to bumper cars, to look at the homemade painted Christmas card signs propped up in the snowy yards of nearly every home.This was more than just a custom of a neighborhood putting out plywood Christmas cards.  No doubt the neighbors had a meeting each year to decide on the details for the Christmas card display, and helped each other put up and take down their signs. This simple event built community and fostered neighborly togetherness. No matter what your faith, how could you not like a neighbor who put a large message of peace and love in their front yard each year?

Today, this all sounds terribly quaint. I don’t think I’ve seen the big Christmas Card Lane sign for some time now. I expect that as the original homeowners died or moved away, new residents moving in probably said “What? Once a year we have to make a giant Christmas card, and set it up in our yard, so we can be held hostage in our own driveway while strangers clog up our street with traffic?” Today, folks are probably much too occupied to spend an hour or two on a snowy night driving slowly up and down a street to look at homemade Christmas yard signs. The kids in the back seat would no doubt be texting instead of peering out the windows with their noses pushed up against the cool glass. They might glance up from time to time, if only to film the spectacle to put on YouTube – with a title like “My parents are holding me hostage on Christmas Card Lane.”

But, it wasn’t just about driving down a street to see Christmas yard signs. It was about a family doing something traditional together, in a relaxing, unscheduled way. It usually involved hot chocolate and cookies after, with all of us gathered around the table, and nothing else distracting us or calling us away. No TV, smart phones or texts. What could be more important than a relaxing evening with your kids, doing nothing better than just being together?

Maybe my neighbor, with his plywood seasons greeting, will start a new tradition for my community. I think it would be a good thing.

© Huffygirl 2012

Related link: Waiting for Santa (huffygirl.wordpress.com)

No Christmas tree? No problem


One Christmas three years ago, our house was in a disarray. We were in the midst of a kitchen-family room remodeling project. We had moved our entire kitchen and dining room into the living room because of the construction. There was no room for a Christmas tree. We had been miserable for a month with no heat in the construction part of the house, no kitchen, and no room. But I was determined that amidst this mess we would somehow save Christmas and have at least a little Christmas tree. I had a little Norfolk pine tree. On a trip to Ireland a few years earlier, I had bought a bottle labeled “Magic Christmas Spray.” Could my magic spray save Christmas? I read the directions:”Magic Christmas spray is very powerful. Use sparring.” I decided to give it a try.

 I took the little tree, sprayed a little bit of Magic Christmas Spray, stood back, and voila’ – a Christmas tree just the right size to fit in the middle of our construction mess.

Merry Christmas to all and peace to you wherever you are this time of year.

© Huffygirl 2011

Remembering Mom one year later


I feel like I have graduated. I just wrote the last check, licked the last envelope, finished the last meeting, and packed up all my mom’s papers. I will not look at theses things again, at least not for a long while. My mom died just about one year ago, on Christmas Day, 2010. I have finally finished settling her estate. It was a lot of work, but a labor of love. My husband toiled alongside of me for much of it, whether it was meeting with the lawyer, cleaning her house or tending her yard. We finished our last day at Mom’s home by burying a time capsule, and taking a nostalgic walk though her woods, now overgrown and almost unrecognizable from the woods I played in as a girl.

Today I’d like to share again the tribute I wrote to my mom which my husband read for me at her funeral, and also appeared on my blog on December 30, 2010. I know many of you have already read it, but today I post it again not for us, but for her.♥

My 85-year-old mother died this week. She had a long life, most of it healthy despite a robust smoking  habit, some of it good, some not, but overall a life

Mom and her friend Rose

that was varied and interesting.  She was born of immigrant parents and grew up in a working class neighborhood of mostly Polish, Slovenian and others of eastern European descent. Her father worked in a factory, her mother stayed home raising kids, making chicken soup with homemade noodles, and poticca (poppy-seed bread) on special occasions, hanging her laundry on the line to dry while chatting over the fence to neighbors, and shopping at a neighborhood market, where you handed your list to the clerk behind the counter and they filled your order for you. My mother said they were “lucky” during the depression, because her father had a part-time job as a night watchman in a factory, while many other dads had nothing. Her growing up years are portrayed in pictures of her with her friends, sledding down a neighborhood hill, standing sweetly next to boyfriends, almost all dressed in army uniforms, and arm in arm with  girlfriends, walking  down the streets of Chicago or posing with the stone lions in front of the Art Institute. She quit high school in 11th grade to help support her family and worked in a factory making Karo syrup.  Maybe that’s why her hearing became so bad in later years, as there was no OSHA to protect workers then. Later, as an adult, she proudly completed her GED, not because she had to, but because she felt incomplete without that diploma, even though she grew up in a time when many people, especially women, did not complete school past the eight grade.

Mom and her daughters. That's me on the left.

She left her family in Chicago to move with her new husband to a farm in Michigan. Although she grew up a city girl, she traded it all for love, to pick pickles,  gather eggs, and sell tomato seedlings from our little greenhouse. She raised three children without the benefit of disposable diapers, ready-made formula or an automatic clothes washer.  She canned jam, hung clothes outside to dry and spent an entire day each week ironing. Her only phone was a black desk model on a party line. Her TV received  two channels. She styled her hair with pin curls and gave her daughters hideous home perms.

 She was the only mom who taught her daughters how to play hopscotch AND poker. She carried cigarettes in her purse next to pictures of her grandchildren. She could curse like a sailor and sweet-talk the priest, all on the very same day.  One of her fondest memories was the day her grandchildren took her to…the casino.

People describe her as sometimes funny, sometimes fun, but always feisty.  She was not afraid to speak her mind. I always heard about it if she didn’t like my clothes or hair or what I was doing, and not just as a teenager, but as an adult too. Her motto was “don’t go to any trouble,” yet she made sure you went to all kinds of trouble when she wanted you to.  She was too impatient to ever wait in a line, but patient enough to comfort us through our childhood illnesses and boyfriend dramas. She deferred decision-making to her husband, but later as a widow, gained confidence to hire a roofer and plumber, get her car serviced  and learn how to drive through the car wash.

Mom at her 85th birthday party.

She was determined to stay in her own home until she died and made sure we all felt miserable and abused  when we “made her” move to our local hospice. But in the short time she was there, she was blessed and touched and basked under the loving care of the folks there, who were able to see past her sometime cantankerous exterior to the needs  of a dying woman.

As we all whispered our goodbyes to her this Christmas day night, I think my youngest son said it best. He leaned into her ear and said “You had a good run Grandma, you had a good run.”

 © Huffygirl 2011

Related posts:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Waiting


When you’re three years old, waiting for anything is hard, but waiting for Santa is probably the hardest.

Camped out waiting for Santa
Guest photographer Chris Barry snapped this photo and titled it “Camped out waiting for Santa,” after three-year-old Maddie snuggled in to join baby brother Zach under the Christmas tree. What fun to be three years old again, waiting for Christmas and all the magic it brings.
 
© Huffygirl/Chris Barry  2011
 

Tradition


A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...

Traditional Christmas tree

Everyone has their own Christmas and other holiday traditions. Some of ours have lasted a lifetime. We’re sticking with a “real” Christmas tree, and turkey on Thanksgiving. Others have come and gone with changes as our family grew up. We no longer have a big crowd of relatives on Christmas day, but the freedom from cooking for a  big crowd gave way to the new tradition of having a relaxing day that ends with going to a movie. And if we can’t have the family with us, Skype is the next best thing for making us feel like we’re together. This year we’re trying a couple new ones. We thought having chili and corn bread as a new tradition for Christmas eve dinner was a keeper. Still undecided about the new one of cooking a standing rib roast for Christmas day dinner. Maybe if we can find a way to do it without messing up the entire oven. Otherwise, that one may have to go.

What are your family holiday traditions? What works, what has had to change with time? What new traditions are you trying out this year?

Photo credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Malene

© The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



It wouldn’t be Christmas without kling


Photo credit: Forest Products LLC

It’s a Christmas tradition. For the last 36 years my family and I have gotten a “real” Christmas tree. Some years we bought one precut from the tree lot. Lately we’ve gone out to cut our own. We’ve had Scotch Pine, Blue Spruce, Concolor, and this year for the first time, Frasier Fir. No matter what the tree, no matter where we’ve gotten it, one thing remains constant: we always drop the 3 x 5 slip of kling into the tree stand water. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without kling.

So what is kling anyway? All these years the Christmas tree seller folks convinced us we need kling in order to have a safe, beautiful Christmas tree. Every year the clerk at the tree farm solemnly hands me the kling paper and says “Be sure to put this in the water for your tree. It keeps the tree fresh.” So how does kling work anyway? Or does kling work? For all we know, kling might just be a slip of red and green paper with no special properties whatsoever. It could be the equivalent of elephant repellent. A well-orchestrated ruse fabricated by the tailor of  the emperor’s new clothes. The folks at the kling factory may sit around every December 26th, drinking Budweiser and laughing about how they pulled off another year of selling tree farmers batches of useless paper. It’s time to find out. kling – genuine tree preservative, or genuine Christmas hoax? 

So how does one go about finding out what really is in kling? It’s a well-guarded secret. I started with the slip of kling paper itself. No help here. It’s a simple red and green paper picturing a Christmas tree and Santa. On one side Santa proclaims “kling makes your Christmas tree last longer!” Underneath are the simple instructions – select a fresh tree, keep the water stand full, drop kling in the water. The other side shows Santa proclaiming “Use kling at Christmas. It preserves your tree,” followed by general instructions for recycling your Christmas tree back to nature. And at the bottom, the requisite disclaimer “Not for consumption.” for those who were thinking about eating their slip of kling. Not much help here. No ingredients listed. No explanation or folksy story. But it is endorsed by Santa. Next,  I went where everyone goes for answers – the internet.

 The web site for Forrest Products LLC, the makers of kling, is strangely uninformative regarding kling’s mechanism of action. It gives pricing information, ($85.00 for 1,000 kling sheets), testimonials (“My customers swear by these”) and other general information to encourage people to use kling. (“Millions of kling cards have been used in the past 50 seasons.”) 

So darn it, is anybody going to tell me what kling is and how it works? Must I conduct my own experiment by having two Christmas trees, one with kling and one without, in order to find the answer? Well, it turns out the answer is there after all. Straight from the makers of kling under the tab labeled “kling” of course, is the explanation of kling’s success. 

kling cards are impregnated with a product, that when absorbed by the tree with water from the tree stand, greatly reduces needle drop. Briefly, kling delays the formation of the abscission layer that forms between the parent twig and each needle. Once formed, the abscission layer cuts off the supply of water to the needle. Thus, kling prolongs the water supply and improves needle retention.” http://www.forestproductsllc.com/kling.html

Makes sense. kling is impregnated with a “product.” What is the freaking product? No clue.  Guess we’ll never know. And kling delays the formation of the abscission layer. Abscission layer? Really? Sounds plausible, scientific, yet somewhat nebulous and mysterious. But hey, endorsed by Santa, a 50-year tradition, why wouldn’t everyone want to use kling? I wonder if it keeps the elephants away too?

(To the makers of kling: I’m sure your product is great but I couldn’t resist a little Christmas satire.  Thanks for 50 years of keeping our trees fresh!)

Photo credit: http://www.forestproductsllc.com/kling.html

 © The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.