Holidays

Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving

Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving

The perfect Thanksgiving feast was created by Snoopy and Woodstock. Popcorn, toast, pretzel sticks and ice cream sundaes. Hallelujah! The only thing missing was wine.

In my early twenties, my friend Paige and I were assigned the dressing for the Thanksgiving dinner her boyfriend was hosting. We showed up with a box of Stove Top Stuffing and a bottle of Wild Turkey. That was the sum total of my experience cooking a Thanksgiving dinner. In 2001, my number was up. It was my turn to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I invited sixteen friends and family members. After all, this is a scalable meal by design. My level of confidence was soaring.

T-minus two weeks: I scurried around town acquiring extra chairs, linens, vases, candelabras, and candles. I cobbled together two dining room tables. I envisioned a table worthy of the Architectural Digest Holiday Issue.

T-minus one week: I made lists, created a color-coded Excel spreadsheet, and consulted my friend Annika, a trained chef. I wasn’t going to just cook a 20 lb. turkey; I was going to brine and stuff it.

The Perfect Thanksgiving Table

The Perfect Thanksgiving Table

The day of, I got up early. Every second was devoted to preparations: turkey in the oven, prepping side dishes, assembling appetizers, all the while basting the turkey at set intervals. Wisely I had outsourced the pies to my mother. Guests arrived at 6pm sharp, to the magical sound of champagne corks popping. My holiday music selection set a festive mood.

The turkey was scheduled to come out at 7 pm. I had done my calculations. Perhaps it was my 1979 Jenn-Air oven, perhaps that old bird was messing with me, but that turkey refused to yield. My meat thermometer was indicating something slightly warmer than turkey sushi. Like a baby insisting on an overdue arrival, this bad boy was not ready to come out. Apparently you can’t simply turn up the oven to rush things along. I considered finishing it off in my Amana Touchmatic Radarange, alas, the turkey was too big to fit. The only thing to do was wait it out and drink more champagne.

Appetizers ran low as the cocktail hour stretched for miles. I should have waited to cook the green beans. Luckily mashed potatoes can handle it, but they were getting cold, butter congealing, the gravy lumpy. Drink more wine. Finally the turkey was ready, but getting everything expedited to the table took another half hour. I felt as if I were wading through my own stiffened mashed potatoes to get this dinner off the ground. The “Olds” just sat and stared at me, wondering why we were eating at 10 pm.  This never happened in the forty years they cooked Thanksgiving dinner.

As we lifted our goblets, my toast went something like this, “Welcome to my Thanksgiving table. You have the dubious distinction of eating the very first Thanksgiving Dinner I have ever cooked, and this will be the last.” I didn’t remember saying this glib toast. My sister reminded me years later. Apparently my guests were amused. I think it was foreboding; more Jonestown then Jamestown. Perhaps foreshadowing the disaster to come…

After dinner a few brave and benevolent volunteers helped clear the table. We started the massive cleanup project. Many hands make light work. But what’s this? My sink not draining? The garbage disposal sputtered and gasped. Globs of uneaten mashed potatoes and turkey, trailed by pools of blood red cranberry floating in the sink. The eighty year old pipes simply gave up, like a glutton’s clogged arteries. Disbelief swept over me. Keen instincts told me this was beyond the capabilities of Liquid Plumber. No, this would require a flesh and blood, living and breathing, $200 an hour plumber. I looked up at the heavens, fist shaking, “Of all the days in the year for my kitchen pipes to clog, it has to be Thanksgiving?”

Just before the sink became an infinity pool, clean up came to a screeching halt. Every dish, pan, plate, fork, spoon, glass, knife, and bowl dirty. For a moment I considered moving the entire operation to the bathtub. I could form an assembly line of washing, rinsing, and drying, before any troublemakers could unionize.

My guests disbanded, feeling sheepish about the disaster, but grateful to leave it behind. Dishes were stacked precariously on every inch of counter space. The plumber’s bill was enormous. Clean up took the better part of a week.

I was true to my word. I have not cooked another Thanksgiving dinner since. To ensure that I never do, we leave town every year the week of Thanksgiving.  Now that is something to be thankful for, and a tradition I can truly uphold.

Halloween is a magical time of year when children are allowed to wear polyester jumpsuits derived from petroleum, free base sugary candy, and stay up late harassing neighbors for treats. But let’s be honest, although we indulge our children in this strangest of holidays, Halloween is for grownups.  After you’ve ordered the overpriced polyester onesies for your children, and thrown a few spooky decorations around (the existing cob webs and dust in my home suffice), it’s time to contemplate your own Halloween costume.Here are some easy, inexpensive, and fun ideas, that will help you make the most of Halloween. If you are like me, you can simply dust off the “Costume Box” and cobble together the perfect kit.

My rule of thumb; capture the moment in pop culture. Flamboyant or scandalous pop stars, Hollywood train wrecks, athletes, designers, and politicos are great fodder. Memorable movie or TV characters from within the calendar year are also fun.

For Women:

  1. An uncanny resemblance

    An uncanny resemblance

    V. Stiviano and DonaldV. Stiviano: This is remarkably easy. Grab the long black wig from your costume box, get a giant sun visor, and wear something inappropriate. I found a plastic mask that made me a virtual doppelgänger of this class act. If your husband has an ape mask, he can throw it on and be Donald Sterling.

  2. Amanda Bynes: Because she likes to sport wigs and large sunglasses, Amanda at her bestthis is a particularly easy costume.  I recommend either the blue or disheveled platinum blonde wigs.  Just about any clothes you throw on will do, she doesn’t seem to be particularly discerning. Props include an iPhone for incriminating selfies, and a Super Big Gulp sized Starbucks cup.
  3. Mariah Carey:This will require some prosthetic body parts. Wear the shortest skirt you can find with the lowest neckline possible. Talk with a Jersey accent and act confused.

Men:

  1. Lance Armstrong: Biker gear and syringes pretty much make this one work. The plastic syringes you get at the drugstore to administer oral medication to kids work like a charm. Just scotch tape them to the inside of your elbow. This can easily be turned into a couples costume. Your partner can wear scrubs and carry vials of liquids and pills.

    Bruce Jenner Halloween Costume

    Bruce Jenner Halloween Costume

  2. Bruce Jenner: I found this clear plastic mask and I just couldn’t resist. It turns any face into a dead ringer of Bruce. If you can muster a tiny ponytail, this will be a nice touch. This costume works well for men or women.
  3. Charlie Sheen: His constant kerfuffles on Twitter keep him relevant. This is an easy one for those who want to participate, but can’t see themselves going all out; dark wig, weird sunglasses, imbibe copious amounts of alcohol, have your wife or girlfriend dress as a call-girl. It’s that simple.

 

st valentineIf you haven’t started making homemade Valentines yet, you are way behind the eight-ball.  If you start now, and pull a few all-nighters, you might have a shot at a subpar showing. The kids and I always start right after the new year. This year we are hand-painting grains of rice and building mosaics depicting the martyrdom of St. Valentine. It’s a little gruesome, but really gets back to the true meaning of St. Valentine’s Day.

Valentine was a priest in Rome during the reign of Claudius II.  He was arrested for marrying Christian couples in the church, which was strictly verboten. Unwilling to renounce his faith, he was beaten with clubs, stoned, and to finish the job, beheaded.  His execution took place on February 14, around the year 270. Martyrdom is so romantic!

If you are squeamish, and recreating the gore of an execution on a commemorative mosaic is not your thing, don’t despair.  I have other laborious and impractical ideas for making unique Valentines, that will be cherished for years to come.

1) For the Sports Enthusiasts: Distribute wings, bows, and arrows to the children.  Nothing is cuter than a bunch of cherubic children shooting arrows at one another playing Cupid.

2) Valentines that Pop: Package Coca Cola and pop rocks in hand-painted swag bags. The stomach exploding is just a myth, right?

3) Personalized Sonnets: You and your children will have so much fun writing an “Ode to” each child in the classroom.You might need to brush up on iambic pentameter. If you need an additional challenge, I find calligraphy on parchment makes a beautiful statement. For an A+, I recommend burning the edges and decoupage-ing to make decorative wall hangings that will last forever.

4) Choco-Hype: I think it’s fun to make a seven-layer chocolate ganache cake for every child in the classroom.  Include handmade bibs with retro hearts and cupid motif. Embroidered bibs are charming, and so unexpected!  Hand them over to the kids at school without cutlery and let them have at it.

kitten in box kittens

5) Fluffy Kittens: I love distributing mewing kittens to all the children. This is a really low cost option. If you don’t bother with the vaccinated, de-wormed kittens, you can usually get them for free. Bonus points for kittens with heart-shaped markings.

 

 

 

xmas tree 002I was taking this photo of the skeletal remains of our once beautiful, 15 foot Christmas tree, when I realized I had not taken photos during the four weeks it was up, in full-branched, light-filled regalia. I made the mistake of making a joke about it, as I watched my daughter’s face fall. “You didn’t get a photo of the most beautiful tree we’ve ever had, but you’re taking one now?” Once again I found myself calculating the time and money for future psychiatrist’s visits for my children. “My mom was so psychotic; she preferred photos of the decimated, branchless Christmas tree to any family photos while it was decorated”.

Even more remarkable, this nap-taking, Elf-On-Shelf-despising, Grinch-of-a-mom, goes all out on the Christmas tree every year.  Our main room has very high ceilings. For reasons that I do not entirely understand, I am compelled to put up a very tall tree. Maybe it’s my own sense of Descartes Enlightenment, “I think therefore I am”.  “Tall ceiling, therefore, tall tree”. Okay, a bit of a stretch. It just is. All underachievers have some realm of achievement or we would never get out of bed. For lack of a photo in its full glory, you will just have to trust this truly was the tree of all trees. The Christmas tree that required delivery on a flat-bed truck, three trips to Five Corners Hardware for more and more LED lights to wrap painstakingly around every branch, and several extension cords. Not to mention risking life and limb on the top rung of a twelve-foot ladder for hours on end. So why no photos?  I just never got around to it.  But with lack of photographic evidence, memories have a way of making all things wonderful, sublime. This venerable Noble fir will grow, and grow, to twenty, thirty, perhaps fifty feet in our hearts, and idealized memories.  Sacrebleu! I just talked myself out of doing the giant Christmas tree next year. The indelible memory of Christmas past has already been planted.

620At my annual “Book Club Holiday Mixer”, the conversation inevitably led to holiday traditions, and once again, I was reminded of my failings as a mother. These women are good friends of mine, but suddenly they were speaking a foreign language about some Elf on a Shelf®. Apparently he takes up residence in their homes after Thanksgiving and these devoted mothers get up every night and move him around the house until Christmas. Of course, I had never heard of this demon who watches over the family by day, then speeds off to the North Pole every night to report to Santa the family’s activities, and whether the kids have been naughty or nice. My paranoia immediately had me believing this was yet another conspiracy to underscore my inadequacy as a parent.

Are Santa and eight flying reindeer mundane and outmoded? Surely they do an adequate job of spreading joy, and generating work for parents at Christmas. Remembering to eat or throw away the cookies left for Santa on Christmas Eve, and getting presents assembled and wrapped, provide plenty of challenges for me each year. Many a late night Christmas Eve has been spent scavenging around the house, after cooking dinner for twelve people, trying to find a piece of stale Halloween candy, a hair tie, a paper clip, anything, to put in the Christmas stockings. I think Christmas is already brimming with magical mystery and intrigue. Do we really need to add one more layer of complexity to an already over-engineered holiday?

In my household I would worry he was counting the number of bottles of wine my husband and I consume every night. Suddenly I imagined this Demon-Elf’s conversations with Santa about me, not my children. “Santa, the house is full of clutter and debris. The mom doesn’t even manage to clean the kitchen after dinner every night. And the laundry is piling up. She grabs a dirty sweatshirt off the floor for her son to wear to school. And by the way Santa, that woman is so cranky every morning. You wouldn’t believe the way she barks at her husband and children.”

And what about privacy concerns? This smirking cloven-hooved troll watches over families, taking notes; maybe he even has a hidden camera. Then he scampers off to the “North Pole” each night to report every intimate detail to “The Fat Man”? This is a flagrant miscarriage of privacy and justice. Has Edward Snowden gotten ahold of this? Hey Ed, if you are reading this, time to blow the whistle on “Project Elf”, yet another of the NSA’s insidious spy rings. Good thing you are safe in the loving arms of the Russian Oligarchy, because there are going to be some really angry moms and Pinterest Pinners who will want to tear you to shreds. Please Ed, get on this – before my kids find out about this Elf on a Shelf® business, and accuse me of not loving them.

Our House to Yours12-1From “Our House to Yours” is such a classic.  If you plan to send this one, it’s important to make a big and lasting impression.  In order to achieve this beautiful card, we borrowed the neighbors beat up Ford truck. Our whole family piled in, and we posed as gardeners to gain entrance into this beautiful and exclusive, gated community. Ironically, we asked the gardener to take our family portrait. I admit, it was a little stressful hoping the people who really live here wouldn’t drive up mid photo shoot. We also had to borrow one of our neighbor’s kids, because nothing is more “de rigueur” than three or more kids, especially during the holidays.

 

Greetings Friends and Loved Ones,

It’s been one heck of a year for our family! So many achievements and accomplishments, it’s hard to know where to start, or end.  The twins, Kale and Broc (short for Broccoli Rabe), were so busy translating Harry Potter into Latin, that they almost forgot to prepare for the National Science Fair! Luckily, at the last minute they pulled together a prototype for diffusing a nuclear bomb and won handily. They are currently composing their first concerto.  It’s hard to believe they are only eight! They sure keep Mom on her toes.

ballet vintaSpeaking of toes, our beautiful daughter, Montage, was invited to join the Bolshoi Ballet.  We turned it down because she is so busy with her commercials, modeling, and acting career. Watch out Lindsay Lohan! We joke that our sweet little “Monty” is 15 going on 25!  Luckily she is still a bookworm at heart, maintaining an A+ average.

We are still waiting for baby “Itsy” to decide on a name. We are a little afraid “Itsy” might just stick as we approach our “baby’s” third birthday.  We have done such a great job remaining gender neutral with our youngest, and have put no labels on baby “Itsy” so far.  Not only will this amazing child be allowed to name itself, but it will be given the gift to determine its gender identity in a completely neutral and unbiased atmosphere.  My husband and I congratulate ourselves every day, and hope to set a shining example for others. That’s why we hired a film crew to chronicle every moment of “Itsy’s” life from birth through the present. We’ve been shopping this amazing reality TV show, but just haven’t found the right deal. Let’s just say we are “in talks” and watch for big news in the New Year! By the way, “Itsy” is already our little athlete; soccer, lacrosse, baseball, figure skating, and trapeze!

PicMonkey Collage finalAs for Mom, between working with a “Genius Coach” to help me cope with raising such gifted geniuses, all of my charity work, redecorating our home, which I like to do every other year to keep things gleaming, and honing my gourmet chef skills, I rarely have a moment of respite. Anyone lucky enough to attend our holiday party knows that I go hog wild with my seasonal decorations. Fortunately I only need three hours of sleep a night.  As for “Big Daddy”, he’s busy buying, selling, and starting companies, training for the Iron Man, attending all the kids’ sporting events and performances, and being the biggest Husky Football and Seahawks Fan ever!

We would like to wish you a joyous holiday, and peace in the New Year.  Sorry for the impersonal letter, but I’m sure you’re just dying to know what’s going on with our family, and you couldn’t possibly have kept up with all the press we receive.  Please remember the true meaning of this most joyous of all seasons, and the purest, most resplendent gift of all that God created, and selflessly bestowed upon mankind— gold Rolexes. I know someone who’s been a really good girl this year, and has one waiting under the tree!

Love,

The Achiever Family

Hawaiin PunchHere is the second  installment of “All the Holiday Cards I Wanted to Send, but Never Did”. I debated between “So Glad You’re Not Here” and “Our Family Went To Hawaii, And All You Get Is This Effin’ Christmas card”.

My husband looks particularly strapping.  The wonderful thing about stock photography is we didn’t have to eat healthy, limit alcohol, or set foot in the gym, to be swimsuit and photo ready.  Not to mention the hours of excruciating pain my husband would have to endure waxing unsightly back and shoulder hair.

As we approached our first Christmas together, I suggested sending Christmas cards. My husband said, “Oh no, absolutely not.” At first I was dismayed; had I married the Grinch Who Stole Christmas? But my husband, ever the logical one, provided his well thought out reasoning. “People prominently display the cards they receive, and there is no way we can possibly remember to send a card to everyone we know. Invariably, someone we forgot will be at a mutual friend’s house, see the Christmas card on the mantle, and feel bad that they did not receive one.”

I suddenly felt so liberated. I can honestly claim the reason I don’t send Christmas cards is because I don’t want to risk hurting anyone’s feelings. Brilliant! However; I love receiving holiday greetings, and the idea of sending beautifully crafted cards, with my children looking angelic is so appealing. This year it occurred to me that I could indeed post Christmas cards on my blog. What an opportunity to share my holiday love with all my friends, and even people I don’t know.  While I might offend people with the content, I won’t hurt anyone’s feelings for forgetting them! This December, I am featuring all the holiday cards that I have wanted to send over the years, but never had the motivation, or permission, to do so!

I recently purchased yet another polyester onesy for my son to wear for Halloween.  He assured me that this new ninja costume is way better than the ninja costume he wore last year, and it’s great to add to the already overflowing costume box. Children love wearing fabric made from coal and petroleum, and it makes mothers feel so good. Luckily, I already have next year’s costume figured out.

photoAt the Catholic grade school my children attend,  the third graders dress up as their favorite saint on All Saints Day.  When my daughter was in third grade, I was campaigning for St. Pauli’s Girl, the patron saint of the beer buzz.  Say what you will about  the Catholics, they really do know how to get their party on, and I figured this saint would have “broad” appeal (sorry for the bad joke). My daughter wasn’t all that keen on the idea, so we settled on St. Helene, in honor of her maternal grandmother.

If dressing up like a saint sounds like a boring prospect, think again.  There are over 10,000 Catholic saints, and this motley crew consists of some of the most macabre, strange, and downright crazy characters in history.   These guys are better than Spider Man, Iron Man or any of the Star Wars characters combined.  So who is in the running for my son? Here’s the short list. And the great news is these guys didn’t wear polyester, only natural fibers, for maximum softness and environmental friendliness.

St. Lawrence, Patron Saint of Cooks.  No doubt we will include a jaunty chef’s hat and oven mitts.  St. “Larry” was martyred by being roasted on a gridiron and famous for saying, “it is well done, turn me over”. Who doesn’t love a saint with a sense of humor?

Santa Claus as “Pimp Daddy”, rocking the fur on the collar and cuffs.  St. Nicholas dropped three bags of gold down the chimney of a poor man to provide as dowry for the man’s three daughters, saving them from a life of prostitution.  Apparently career options were limited for unmarried women in the 3rd century A.D.

And finally, my personal favorite, St. Polycarp, the patron St. of Diarrhea.  Typical martyr story, he was burned at the stake but didn’t die, so they had to stab him with daggers.   Why he gets the dubious honor of patron saint of massive colon blowouts,  is a mystery. As we know, the Lord works in mysterious ways, and  Catholicism in out-right weird ways.  But what an easy costume to assemble. A white toga with strategically placed brown stains. Done.

 

pumpkin2When I was a child, my sisters and I carried the same pumpkin candy carriers for the 10 or so years we trick or treated.  I suspect my mother kept them, and I really should have asked her to give them to me after I had my daughter.  I can never remember to buy those darn things, and it seems that every year my kids endure the humiliation of using a Target plastic bag or grocery bag for trick or treating. 

Approaching my daughter’s 3rd Halloween, I finally had the where-with-all to buy her a hard plastic candy receptacle, and boy, I was sure glad I did! Just before Halloween, we were playing at the park, and my daughter declared she had to go “numero dos”.  My daughter was an early potty trainer; signed, sealed, and delivered at 2 years, 2 months.  This was by no means a reflection on my brilliant mothering skills.  My son finally trained at 4-and-a-half.  I was convinced that kid would be wearing diapers to his senior prom. 

At any rate, we were in a desperate situation, and the Parks and Rec folks had already locked down all the bathrooms for the winter.  I thought I could get her to squat in the woods, but she refused.  The nearest bathroom, in my estimation, was a mile away.  I’m sure you can guess where this story is going.. In a moment of inspiration, I ran to the car and grabbed that smiling jack-o-lantern.  Well we really gave him something to smile at, and he made one heck of a potty chair.  Needless to say, my daughter once again trick-or-treated with a paper bag as candy carrier that year. Some things are just not meant to be when you grow up in my family.

© 2017 Napadaisical
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