A message for my family:
I have no source for Christmas Eve tamales this year.
FedEx is your friend.
Thank you for your prompt consideration of this matter.
My favorite Christmas carol is “O Holy Night” and I’m particularly fond of the way Robert Goulet sang it. My parents had a great Christmas album with it on it, but sadly, Bob Goulet’s version is not to be had on iTunes. Josh Groban does a nice job, too, but nothing beats Robert Goulet’s deep, soothing voice. If I had any idea how to go about doing it, I’d get my parents to rip the whole album on to a CD for me.
My next favorite would be “Do You Hear What I Hear.” I love the story.
I like Bob Seger doing The Little Drummer Boy. Something about his gruff voice singing that tender song with a great drum in the background just gets to me.
And of course, Bruce Springsteen singing “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town in concert”…my favorite part is when Clarence Clemons starts “ho ho ho”ing and Bruce starts cracking up.
And it just wouldn’t be Christmas without Elvis singing “Here Comes Santa Claus.” ( Ha! You thought I was going for “Blue Christmas”, didn’t you? No, those “we-oo-we-oo-wees” are just too much. ) Elvis sings all of the verses but the best parts are the lines “Santa knows that we’re God’s children, that makes everything right” and “Let’s give thanks to the Lord above that Santa Claus Comes tonight.” Sing it, Elvis!
However, you have not lived until you’ve seen our family break into Feliz Navidad. We heard it a couple of times during our cruise (you didn’t think I’d go a whole post without mentioning it, did you?). I want to apologize to anyone on Deck 6 who was trying to nap while we went singing and dancing down the hall. I’m afraid we got a little loud. Let’s blame Philip.
So what are you favorite Christmas carols?
When do you make Christmas cookies? Do you bake early and often during December or wait until Christmas is upon us?
Unless I am called upon to produce Christmas cookies for an exchange or potluck, I prefer to save my baking until right before Christmas. We start eating them on Christmas Eve and continue enjoy them throughout the rest of the week. If I baked cookies too early then they’d be gone before Christmas.
It’s also part of my plan to have a low-stress Christmas. I have my shopping done around Halloween and my cards mailed by the 17th. Cookies are baked around the 21st. The rest of the month we just enjoy the sights and sounds of the season. Too many rushed and hectic Christmases past have taught me to plan ahead, slow down and relax.
We do our decorating during the weekend after Thanksgiving. Except this year, where we were busily packing for our cruise. Did I mention we went on a cruise? The ship was beautifully decorated for Christmas and the Disney characters were dressed for winter. Wait, where was I? Oh yes – the decorating. I held off on decorating during Thanksgiving weekend for years. It was still November, after all! But then days and sometimes weeks would pass with nary an evergreen on our mantle and I would get frustrated. I finally realized that the crucial step in decorating, without which there would be neither holly or ivy, was Philip retrieving the Christmas boxes from the garage/shed/under the stairs. If I tried to wait until December, then I also needed to wait until he was home from work and probably even after dinner. The boxes would then sit in the house until he had time to climb the roof for the lights and help me assemble the tree. Manly work, that Christmas decorating. So one year I gave in and used Thanksgiving weekend for decorating. And what do you know, just like that, my December to-do list was shortened. I’ve never looked back.
Now growing up, one set of my cousins didn’t even put up their tree until Christmas Eve. I thought that was sad and a bit extreme. I know that the Christmas season technically and liturgically doesn’t start until Christmas Day, this being the Advent Season afterall, but that’s a bit much.
I just refuse to let Christmas stress me out. I want to sit back and listen to Christmas carols and look out our tree. I want to go to Christmas parties knowing that I don’t need to rush off to do some last minute shopping. And you know what I do if the Christmas cards don’t get out in time? I send New Year’s cards! Vista Print and Kodak even have some nice New Year’s photo cards. Order them right before Christmas when you realize your Christmas cards aren’t going out and they’ll arrived just in time to mail around the 28th. Actually, go ahead and order them now and let yourself off the hook for the Christmas cards.
So what do you do to relieve the load during Christmas time? (and have you noticed that when I ask a question at the end of a blog post, hardly anyone answers?)
I’m having a hard time to adjusting to real life. In spite of getting up early every day of our cruise and turning in at night with the children, we were living quite the life of leisure. I particularly liked eating breakfast on Deck 9, out near the Mickey pool, watching the ocean float by. Followed by an outrageous game of what I can only describe as gorilla ping-pong with Philip, then dropping the big ‘uns off at their club or taking pictures with princesses…yes, it’s a life I could easily become accustomed to. Actually, I think I already did.
We’ve started back to school with less than our usual enthusiasm.
And in spite of my best of intentions, we’re not even having enchiladas for dinner on this feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. sigh.
But in honor of the day, let me share with you one of my souvenirs from Cozumel, Mexico
How cool is this? It’s a puzzle, of all things! She weighed too much to travel in the suitcase on the way home, so I had to hand carry her. Well worth it, I think.
I’m back from vacation. Did you miss me?
We were on a week long Disney Cruise. It was wonderful. Not too relaxing, but wonderful all the same. Did you enjoy all the snow that I caused? Remember how much I dislike the heat of summer? Remember how where ever I have lived in the last 15 years has had record warm winters? And when I move, those same places break snowfall records in the very next winter? Well, the day before we left, that big storm that was coming across the US was still predicted to go north of DC. Then as I boarded a plane to Florida, the storm grew and headed south. I hear Washington got 2-3 inches snow while I was sunning it up in the Caribbean. Of course the cruise director said that the week we were there was the best weather they’d had in 2 months. He thanked “who ever brought the great weather with them.” That would be me.
So now we’re back. The bags are mostly unpacked. We are all sporting a lovely tan. We’ve added several Disney related items to our collection. We’ve booked another cruise for 2009. We even joined the Disney Vacation Club.
Sadly, now it’s back to cooking our own food and making our own beds. No more Charlie and Ivan bringing Mickey ice cream bars or cheese cake or baked Alaska after dinner. No more towel animals on our bed after dinner. I just printed out this week’s school schedule (we took an extra day off to recooperate) and planned out our dinner menu. I’ve got Brownie meeting plans to make and a stack of mail to answer. Sigh.
Is it too early to start a 2009 Cruise Countdown?
I know this may be too late for some of you (sorry, I’ve been gone), but tonight is the Worldwide Candle Lighting in honor of children that have died.
Please light a candle at 7 pm tonight and keep it lit for one hour as a wave of light covers the globe. But most importantly, whether you participate or forget or read this too late, please say a prayer for those families who have been left behind to carry on.
Q: Can you share a neat Advent activity or craft with us?
For a Advent activity or craft – well, I like these stars from Dawn. We’ll be making those this year. Another quick and easy one is this little angel I made for the Jesse Tree Swap. They look cute tied to packages or hanging from a garland on your mantle.
You need 30 mm jingle bells, a spool of gold cord, a spool of thin gold ribbon, a spool of wide, white organdy ribbon, a spool of gold beads, a spool of lace and some wood balls with or without a hole through them. I found it all at Michael’s, but ran out of lace and went to a closer fabric store for more. I like the lace I got at the fabric store MUCH better. It had a finished edge, which caused the lace the form a circle almost by itself. Make the extra trip and get that kind of lace. You’ll also need regular and mini glue dots.
Start with the body. Cut a piece of lace that will go around the bell for a dress. If you’re making more than one, get some paper and mark your measurements. Don’t bother with a ruler, just mark the length and label it. Use a glue dots to stick on the lace.
Cut a length of gold cord for a hanger. Record your measurement. Thread the cord through the tab on top of the bell and tie. Try to stick the knot and end into the bell if you can. If not, don’t worry. Don’t go nuts with it. If your wooden ball has a hole through it, thread the non-knot end of the cord through the hole, make another knot right on top of the ball. Make sure you make an extra long cord to do this. If your ball doesn’t have a hole, just use a glue dot to stick it to the top of the bell.
Cut a small piece of gold ribbon and tie it in a bow. Use a glue dot to stick it on the front of the angel’s dress. You remembered to mark your measurement, right?
Cut a piece of organdy ribbon and tie into a bow. Use a glue dot to stick it to the back of the angel. Cut a piece of the gold beads to make a halo. A mini glue dot will stick it on just fine. I like to put it back on the head a bit so it’s just sticking up.
That’s it, you’re done. You can use colored pencils or paint to put a face on if you want, but they are cute as is. If you’re making a lot of these, use the measurements you recorded to cut all the ribbons at once and make them in an assembly line.
You can actually buy kits for these through Oriental Trading Company, but their shipping takes forever, unless you’re willing to pay a whole lot more. Might as well just get the supplies yourself. I made 29 angels from the supplies I had and I could have made more.
Q:What is your favorite recipe?
I don’t know that I have one favorite recipe. I’m fond of what our family calls “The Halloween Dinner” as well as Albondigas (meatball) Soup. Both come from my grandma. But here is a recipe for the best sweet cornbread you’ve ever had. It’s probably our family’s hands-down favorite thing to eat. Or close to it. I could eat it for breakfast. I’ll give you that recipe, too.
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup shortening, plus more for greasing
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and dash salt in large bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Beat egg in small bowl. Stir in milk and vanilla. Add to corn meal mixture, stirring just enough to moisten. Do not over-beat.
Fill each of 12 muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake muffins at 350 degrees until golden, 20-25 minutes. Note from me: I bake the entire batter in one cast iron skillet for 40 minutes.
Let cool thoroughly in muffin cups before loosening from pan or they will fall apart. Carefully remove from pan.
I had so much to say in answer to the following question that I thought I’d tackle it in two separate posts. Today I’m answering the part in bold.
Q:How in the world do you actually find time to educate your children,take care of your household duties, and find the energy necessary to do all those cool crafty projects you always show us? All of that, and still manage to keep your sunny personality and your faith so strong! I wish I just had an ounce of that!
Sunny personality? Well, I don’t know about that. I’m actually quite the pessimist. I’m the quintessential Eeyore. But a long time ago I learned a good lesson. Philip was off fighting in Desert Storm and we weren’t married yet. I was living alone in San Francisco, going to school and working part time. It was one of the most difficult times of my life. I realized then that I had two choices everyday – sit home, watch the news and cry or get up, go to school, go to work and survive. I had to make that choice every day. Oh, I allowed myself to cry when I needed to, and be scared and angry and all that. But every day I just put one foot forward and started moving. Sometimes life is like that. You either let it kill you or you survive. You can’t control what happens to you but you can control how you react to it.
As for faith – it’s simple really. I must have faith or I won’t survive. I would just quit right now, crawl into a hole and die. I MUST believe that Rebecca is waiting for us in heaven or I couldn’t get up in the morning. I MUST believe that God loves her more than I ever could and that he will use her life and death for good. I know absolutely the reason she had to die. I don’t know why she left so young, but I know who to blame that we are all mortal. I know what I must do to see our family reunited. I know it’s going to be better than I could ever imagine. I’m glad she “brought her baptismal gown unstained into the next life.” I have faith and so I have hope. I don’t know how people without faith can survive the death of a loved one, I really don’t. I have no explanations for matters of faith, I leave that for others. I found this quotation by Albert Camus be so appropriate:
“I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is.”
Q: How in the world do you actually find time to educate your children,take care of your household duties, and find the energy necessary to do all those cool crafty projects you always show us? All of that, and still manage to keep your sunny personality and your faith so strong! I wish I just had an ounce of that!
(I’m answering the part in bold today)
Well, I’m Wonder Mom.
Yeah right! Actually, I don’t find time to do it all. When I focus on any one given area too much, then another area gets neglected. I used to be really on top of things, keeping up with the house, getting some great rubber stamping and scrapbooking done, making dinner. But when we had the house flood and moved so quickly, we never recovered like we wanted to. The first priority when moving into the new house on Thanksgiving Day was to get enough of the house unpacked to be able to pull off Christmas. All the pictures of Christmas look great because what you can’t see is the chaos of boxes just out of the picture. We spent the next year just trying to get into the groove. We’re still working on it.
Really though, educating the children isn’t that hard. I use a great curriculum (Sonlight) which has everything laid out for me. If I wanted to, I could pick up the instructor’s guide every day, read the day’s assignments and off we go. I do a little more customizing than that, but it gives me such a great foundation that all I’m doing is adjusting the schedule faster or slower as needed and adding in a few extras. With a 1st and 3rd grader, our school day is over by noon. That leaves the afternoon free for everybody.
As for the crafts, most of those I tackle in the evenings when the children are asleep. I watch tv or movies with Phil and work on the craft du jour. The children get a nightly video, too and depending on the craft, I can work during that time, too. I’m in the room with them which makes them happy, and I can knit at the same time, which makes me happy.
As far as the house, well, you’ve seen the before shots of the corners of my home. It’s not pretty. We’ve got far too many corners like that which still need work.
One thing I do for meals is to limit myself to making only dinners that take 30 minutes or less of prep time. They can cook for longer, but any direct input by me needs to be minimal. That means I don’t cook many of our favorites anymore, but at this stage of our lives, that is what is needed. Someday I’ll have more time to cook and I’ll make those meals again. For now, we let my mom make them when she’s here visiting. She likes to cook and we love it when she makes the old favorites!
In all things, you’ve got to make choices and have priorities. Some days it’s ok to play more than work. Other days you’ve really got to get some work done. Most of the time, though, I try to strike a balance -a little work and a little play every day. I’m a huge list maker and that helps, too.