Better Than Fruitcake

One of my favorite stores to waste some time is Big Lots, a place that sells some discontinued and overstock items. Bunch of junk really, but I like going there.

Last spring I found a case of Illy cappuccino drinks (cans, for the fridge) for about 75 cents each. Amazing drinks, way better than the Starbucks brand. After we ran out, I looked at every grocery store for them, even looked on the internet to see where I could buy more.

No luck.

A couple of months later we were in Italy and they were everywhere for about $3 a can. Totally got hooked on those damn things.

Since then I peek in every one of those glass fridges by the checkout of every store I shop looking for Illy.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Illy (I buy their whole beans), they are selling these drinks on their website now. The price is excellent, 12 cans for $20, so I stocked up. The shipping isn’t as bad as you’d think.

They make great gifts, I think, especially for those out of town people on our list. I hope they like coffee. Ho ho hooooooooooooo.

Done

I’ve figured out yet another reason why I don’t like putting up a tree. It’s because I put it in the front of the house where no one in the house actually sees the thing. I put it there because there is a perfect little spot where the stairs coil up and around this nook and it just seems to be begging for the tree to go there.

See, it looks just right in that spot.

Last night I was talking to my son about putting up the tree and he said, “You never put up a tree.”

His dad and I just looked at each other and laughed, we put one up almost every year. See? No one even realizes it’s there.

This year I’ve decided to put it in the family room. I know, I still haven’t put it up yet. The gingerbread house too, it is still in the box waiting to be assembled. I’ll get to that too.

I do finally have all of my Christmas shopping DONE with a couple of days to spare. Yesterday was a wonderful 68 whopping degrees, no sunshine, but I didn’t even have to wear as much as a long sleeve shirt out there. I wish I’d waited to do ALL of my shopping yesterday because the weather was so nice.

Now I know it’s wimpy to complain about temps in the 30s and 40s as “freezing,” but I’m not used to that down here in Texas and never have a thick enough coat for those days. I don’t own a single hat. I can’t remember the last time I’ve used a scarf, either. That’s how it is. When summer comes around we have to deal with thirty straight days of triple digit temps, so we do our time down here with extremes. It’s only fair, right?

Gifts that leave me speechless

Back when we were in school, I used to make almost all of my gifts. I’d paint, sew, cross stitch, bake, you name it, do whatever I had to do to ghetto a gift. Seems as if things were simpler then, people didn’t expect much and they ended up way pleased with whatever I had to give.

I wish I still had that creative spirit in me, handmade gifts are my favorite things to give and receive. Money complicates and uglifies gift giving. So I’m going to shut up about that.

Here’s something Kara’s boyfriend made for her birthday. Brilliant, isn’t it? He bought a pair of white canvas sneakers and drew her favorite Alice in Wonderland characters on them.

Click on photo to enlarge for detail

They are not identical, each is half of a continuous scene.

Spanky is working like a mad dog on her Christmas presents. See this necklace? She did not buy that chain, she made it, link by link with some little metal O’s.

It took her four hours to create this one. She knows it is easier to just go out and buy a chain, but this is a special pattern Spanky created especially for this person.

I don’t even know how to end this post because I’m overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of these gifts. Oh, wait, Rassles is making a quilt out of her late grandfather’s old suits to give to her dad.

I have no more words. Just watery eyes.

Cookies!

On Sunday I went to a cookie exchange party and got to be one of the judges since I don’t compete in the cookie contest.

See all of these cookies?

I had to taste every single one of them. Okay, one of each recipe which means I got to sink my teeth into about sixteen different cookies. The categories I can recall were prettiest, best tasting, most professional looking, best non-cookie… All that sugar must have messed with my memory, I don’t remember the rest of the categories.

I loved this little scene, mice on a candy mountain:


(click on photos to enlarge, you must, especially this one)

Each candy is made with a cherry dipped in white chocolate and a Hershey’s kiss smacked on the front to make it look like a mouse. I think the mountains are made of white chocolate.

It seems as if half of the cookies had some sort of peppermint in them and while I don’t like peppermint (not even in my toothpaste), the one I chose for best tasting had peppermint in it. I find that hilarious, overriding my own big-shot judge self. It made me almost like peppermint and if a cook can do that to my taste buds, they have magical skills.

The cookie I liked the most, the one I thought the prettiest, was a simple old-fashioned gingerbread man.

They were so perfect. I would like to have rearranged them for a better photo, but I didn’t want to upset the baker or seem like a freak, moving cookies around on a plate.

I know how difficult these are to make and have never been able to pull off gingerbread anything. Mine come out dry, cracked and broken. Or too fat, or too skinny. Now I feel like decorating a gingerbread house just so I could get the smell in here. Maybe I’ll buy a kit with the pre-fab walls and get the girls to help me.

I feel a tingle in my cold, dark heart. I think I might be getting the Christmas spirit.

Reindeer Car

I saw a VW Beetle today with cute antlers and a red nose driving behind me. It would have made a perfect picture, where is a red light when you need one? Had I been in a hurry… Actually I was late for a party because I couldn’t peel myself away from the Saints game to get ready.

A little later I saw the same decoration on another car parked at a shopping mall.

Awwww.

I bet they have their Christmas tree up. And most of their shopping done.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I hope you are all having a wonderful day with friends and family.

I’d like to share two of my favorite family photos with you.

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That was Baby Oh Oh.

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Nothing like having a super strong big brother.

I have a winner for the Ice Road Trucker Season Two DVD set.

Drumroll…

Ginny had the closest guess of August 7th. Scrappy’s whelping date (DOB) is August 5th.

Congratulations Ginny!

Feels Like Christmas Today

Kara had this iPod that went bad about a day after the 90 day store return policy ended. A couple of months ago I called Apple and went through mailing it to them only to get it returned to me “as is” with two different reasons they didn’t do the repair.

By email they said nothing was wrong with it. When I opened the returned iPod, there was a note in there saying it had been damaged by the consumer. Something like that.

I know this is her problem, but I get her to do things for me that I don’t have the patience for and in return, she does the same for me. 

Today I went to the Apple Store to talk to a Genius about the thing. I was willing to pay for the repairs, anything to get the thing working again. The guy looked at it and gave me a brand new one. He said he did notice a little dent on the back, winked, and said the hard drive is on the other side of the dent and not to drop the thing again in the future.

While I was there I asked him to take a look at my iPhone. I’d noticed the photos weren’t coming out as good as when the camera was new. He couldn’t figure out why it was like that so he went to the back and got me a brand spanking new one.

I love Apple.

Blane, an Apple hater was with me and almost said it too.

Because all that took only ten minutes.

Many months of nagging problems solved, just like that.

Also, in the mall, just outside the Apple Store, Snoglobes!

This one was almost two stories tall and you could walk around in it.

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Inside the snoglobe it’s snowing and there are these little Christmas scenes. Magical.

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It feels like Christmas today.

The Only Curse That Ever Worked on Me

I was the only person my paternal grandmother seemed to like. About my father, she used to say, “I should have pinched his head off when he was born.”

We didn’t see her too often due to the miles between us. Once every couple of years or so. But when she’d see me, she’d always look me over real hard, smile, and say, “All my friends say you look just like me.”

I always knew this was why she liked me. She’d parade me in front of all her friends at the beauty shop, the ladies circles, the this, the that, anywhere, just so she could have them tell her again, “Oh yes, Lottie, she looks just like you.”

Maybe she was like that because she never had a daughter. She was a refined lady. She knitted, quilted, embroidered, and knew all the rules of etiquette. We were all pretty much barbarians according to her. I was always asking my mom, “Why do you keep lighting those matches?”

So when I was about nineteen years old, my mom and I went to visit her. Mom told her about the quilt I started making after picking up a magazine with a pattern in it.

I thought for sure she would say “Oh, you’re just like me,” or “That’s wonderful, you’re my favorite person in the world,” or something like that.

What she said shocked me. “You’ll never finish it.”

I, not too experienced in sewing and having never seen a person actually work on a quilt thought she must know something I didn’t know. She was an experienced quilter, had an infamous silk embroidered quilt in a box under her bed which we got to see progress every single time we went to visit.

My quilt, to this very day, looks exactly as it did on the day she cursed me.

quilt

I never put another stitch into the thing. I don’t blame her really, I shouldn’t have been so stupid to allow what she said affect me. As time went by, the curse wore off, I did believe I could finish it, but along with the changes in me came changes in my tastes. I stopped liking the colors in it.

Still, I always wondered why she would say such a thing to me. Why did she doubt my abilities? Was it because I wasn’t a refined lady?

I figured it out yesterday by chance.

I was pulling out all the Christmas decorations, going through boxes I haven’t been through in years. I should’ve figured it out right here with these reindeer my grandmother made.

reindeer2

It wasn’t until I got all the family heirloom stockings together, those from Blane’s and my sides of the family.

stockings

The blue one was made by one of Blane’s great aunts. The other two by my grandmother. All three are of the same fabric handmade by two people of roughly the same age around the same time.

My grandmother never finished hers. Look at those cross hatch stampings on the stocking at far right. Those are supposed to be beaded. It’s supposed to have sequins all over it.

And that explains why there are only three reindeer. 

And most likely why she said I’d never finish my quilt. Not only did she believe I looked just like her, she believed I was just like her.

Coming Down

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone stayed as sweet and cheerful as they were around Christmastime? Isn’t it funny how people open doors for you, smile for free, and help random strangers during the Holidays, then go back to being their same old nasty selves as soon as December 25th is crossed off the calendar?

Just a thought.

So here is my turkey deboning ordeal. It wasn’t that difficult, I used that link in my Cajun Christmas post and pretty much just shaved meat from bone.

I stuffed it with garlic and cornbread dressing, sewed it up with some unflavored dental floss, and put it in the oven. It turned out to be the best turkey we’ve ever had. It’s nice not to have to fight the bones when carving it.

The girls and I made a strawberry cake in the Christmas tree Bundt pan:

We exchanged gifts:

That was Sweetpea’s gift to Spanky. It cracked me up that she didn’t wrap the present. She says it’s what’s inside that counts. I agree. I know she spent four hours looking for the right gift and used her own money. Her thoughtfulness on that end is what’s special about it. That she didn’t waste any money making it look pretty and was bold enough to hand her sister something in a bag, well I just love that. It also reminds of the broke days when we used to wrap presents with the comic section of the newspaper.

Blane and Angela came over with their new puppy, Loo-B, and we all played Catch Phrase. It’s a fun game if you have a lot of people. Some of Sweetpea’s friends came over, so we had a crowd. In fact we had a hard time shutting it down.

Loo-B passed out on Spanky’s lap.

I hope you all had a great Christmas.

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My Sorry-Ass Cajun Christmas

Around Thanksgiving my nephew Capone told me he was deboning a turkey. Thinking he must have learned from the experts in Cajun Country, I asked him who taught him how to do that. He said he just looked it up on the internet, found out how to debone a chicken and applied that to the turkey.

He reminds me so much of his dad, not afraid to try anything, especially when it comes to cooking.

So I got me a turkey yesterday and searched YouTube to see if anyone had a video of how to make a turducken. I do have a little clip of what a Turducken is if you want to watch it. I wanted one with a Cajun in there to show you the character of the people down there, to kill two birds with one stone, but I didn’t find it. These people are from Houston and may be from Louisiana (last name is Hebert, that’s gotta be from home), but they don’t sound like it.

No, no. If you want to see a Cajun, a real one. Check out this guy, Poo Poo Broussard. He’s a local comedian and has the Cajun thing down to a “T.”

You HAVE to see this, the viral video that made Poo Poo famous. It is EXACTLY how the most Cajun of Cajuns talk. (just takes 30 seconds of your life)

And that coonass is funny. Here is what would have happened if ET landed in Cajun Country. (sucks one minute of your time)

If you want to see more of him, you can find all of his YouTube videos and homepage here. My favorite line on his “about me” description, “MA MOMMA NEVER WUD BRESS FEED ME, SHE SAID SHE JUS LIKE ME AS A FRIN.”

Cajuns are infamous for making fun of themselves, and this is a little exaggerated, but fun.

So that is what I did last night, seached up YouTube just to hear some voices like mine because I am lonesome for my own.

Cheap Bastard

My husband is so well known for being a tightwad that a co-worker framed a dollar he won from him in a bet. Spanky and Blane II inherited this “illness.” I’ve always had to force those two to buy new clothes, with my money.

Sweetpea is quite the opposite, she could easily blow $40 on t-shirt. Funny thing about her, though, if she can haggle over the price, watch out vendor. This is a skill she got from her dad and her older brother. Last year she brought a dude to his knees over a lamp at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. It’s a game, a challenge. It has nothing to do with how much money she actually has. It’s about how far back she she can get someone to bend. She’s also all about making money too.

A couple of weeks ago she came home, slammed her keys on the counter and scurried out the back door mumbling, “I’m going get that stuff.”

Cue the Sanford and Son theme song…

She bustled back in with an armload of someone else’s junk she found in the neighbor’s trash. Claimed she would either take it to the consignment shop or sell it on EBay during the holiday break.

Now back to the Cheap Bastard. He refuses to go Christmas shopping with me because he can’t stand to see me spend money. See, I don’t listen to his “Don’t spend any money,” and I continue to buy “As Seen On TV” trash (can’t help it, it’s a disease).

Spanky agrees to come. So we’re looking around in Target and she hauls off somewhere with my shopping cart. I finally find her, place the goods I’d been forced to hand-carry into the cart and scold her for running off like that. When we get home, I notice some things aren’t in my shopping bags.

Then I see Cheap Bastard high-five Spanky. Getting to the bottom of things, I find out Spanky has been working for her dad. She gets 10 cents for everything she sneaks out of my shopping cart. Things she decides I don’t need. I also discover this has been going on for a long time. Finally I know why the kid takes off with the cart while I’m shopping. It is to limit what I buy to what I can carry by hand.

This is good enough reason to give out some Christmas coal. Thing is, that’s exactly what they want. Ain’t gonna happen, and if I have to steal Sweetpea’s junk and sell it to buy presents, that’s what I’ll do. The way I see it, people’s jobs depend on mass spending this time of year. I’m not encouraging you to go into debt, don’t spend money you don’t have. If you do have it? Spend some, get those dollars circulating. It is, after all, how it got into your pocket. Right?

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The Search Term That Broke My Heart

About once a week I get bored and look into my WordPress admin panel to see what search terms people are using to find my blog. Some of them can be hilarious, others a little sickening, and then some I get frustrated about because I actually want to answer this someone out there.

Around this time last year, someone found my blog by typing into Google, “Is Santa Ture [true]?” I imagined some little kid with the power of the world wide web at his fingertips. A kid maybe afraid of not getting presents if he dared ask in “real life.” A kid who thinks he knows where to go to find the answer to everything.

So I just did a Google search on that question with the word spelled correctly and it looks like everything on that first page is going to leave that kid right where he started.

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Cookie Baking Mammas and Pappas

Yesterday I said Holidailies was not all about cookie-baking moms. Today I’m singing a different tune because I am part hypocrite and I have no shame. Besides, this is also about cookie baking dads and cookie baking people who have no children yet.

Today was Michelle B’s infamous Christmas Cookie Extravaganza. This is her fourth or fifth year and it is crazy competitive. The word is contestants practice and perfect their recipes for months before the actual party.

Blane and I and the girls were not in the competition, so we got to be judges along with a few other lucky cookie tasters.

The tasting part was easy. Scoring the cookies was excruciating. They were all beautiful and delicious. It looked like they all belonged in a fancy glassed in bakery case.

The “Singing Snowmen” cookies, by husband and wife team (Cindy and Mark) scored best in three categories: prettiest; most Christmasy, and most non-cookie-looking cookie.

Did you notice the little snowdog? img_0945_2.jpg Or was that a snowcat?

Since one cookie was not allowed to win more than one category, the snowmen got the prize for the prettiest.

Other winners (click on link for recipe): Ginga’s “Rolo Surprise” for most non-cookie-looking cookie; Julie and Rick’s “sugar cookie candy canes” for most Christmasy; Katie’s “S’mores” for most professional looking; Mel’s “Soft and Chewy Molasses Cookies” for best tasting; This is Mel’s second year in a row as a winner at Michele’s annual cookie shindig. Cindy’s Singing Snowmen recipe is here.

So what are all the kids doing with a belly full of cookies?

BOUNCE HOUSE!

This little dude is learning to breakdance.

This Dudette is practicing to become an astronaut.

No one leaves Michelle’s empty handed. Everyone got to bring home some goodies.

This is one of the best Christmas parties I’ve ever attended. I really loved it that my teenage daughters thought it was cool and wanted to go.

Peace Out.

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The Nightmare Song on Rock Band

So we get the game, Rock Band for XBox 360 on the very first day it comes out. We were going to get the one for the PS3 because those instruments are wireless, but Capone (my nephew) said he was getting it for his XBox 360. We go with that system so we can play him online. Blane II gets a setup at his house also.

Day one, the girls challenge Blane II to an online drum battle. They are certain he is cheating, that he has Angela working the pedal for him. He wasn’t that good and suddenly he was beating them. More battles later, Angela and Blane II accuse Blane I of cheating in a guitar battle. They are certain it is really Spanky playing.

On Thanksgiving, we all go to Blane II’s and have a “jam session” on this game. There’s lead guitar, bass guitar, drums, and singing. The way it works is there are multiple levels of difficulty, easy to expert. Your band starts out with a beat up piece of shit van and if you get really good, your band gets a jet plane. The more points you score, the more fans you get, and more songs you can unlock.

That’s where we were, the band had just gotten a jet plane. We call ourselves “The Lucky Charms” and our name is in lights. We unlock this new song and swear it is the last one, we’ll call it a night after we beat this song.

Everyone’s playing on the “hard” or difficult level. Sweetpea’s on lead guitar, Spanky on bass, Blane I on drums, and Angela on vocals. The song is by Deep Purple. Now you’d think the song would be “Smoke on the Water,” right, that is THE song EVERY kid plays when they get their first electric guitar.

But it’s not. It’s “Highway Star.”

And talk about a bitch to play. To sing. To beat.

Everyone switches instruments, different people try vocals, even me, to try to beat this damn thing. Every time we fail, we lose fans. We are losing fans by the thousands. We HAVE to beat this song.

And this song, the lyrics, they are hilarious.

Nobody gonna take my car
Im gonna race it to the ground

I love it and I need it
I bleed it yeah its a wild hurricane

Finally after a looong night of crazy laughter and singing (I never knew my hubby could sing like that!), we beat the thing. As we’re shutting things down, we make up our own lyrics to that Deep Purple tune stuck in our head.

Nobody gonna sing my song, I’m gonna run you to the gro-hound.
Nobody gonna beat my game, gonna run you outta to-hound.

Since that day, we’ve been joking around about that nightmare jam session, singing that song to each other when we least expect it. And then I just saw the commercial for Rock Band. I almost hit the floor.

THAT SONG!

Check it out.

If you are thinking about getting a game for Christmas, for yourself or for a family member, I’d definitely recommend this one. It’s a ton of fun, especially if you have a crowd.

I’d say this counts as a post towards Pooks musical meme. It has a video, some lyrics, and it inspires me to write (blogging is writing, shullup).

But first, tagging: Anita Marie, Jen, Daily, Michele, and AJ.

Here’s the plan:

So here is your assignment for today, dear readers. Find a song that inspires you to write something, whether it gives you an idea for a script or just puts you into a better frame of mind. AND/OR (don’t you love choices) peek into the lyrics and find a stanza that sums up the theme of whatever script you’re working on. It’s quite uncanny how the two circumstances go together.

If possible, post a video of the song to really get people into the mood. (Yep, I’m aware of the irony of using Internet clips during the pissing contest. I like irony as much as bitchiness.)Then, send the assignment (by e-mail or posting to one of their blog entries) to 5 other writers to do.

Cookies!

The Christmas party invitations are beginning to roll in faster than I can say “Ho ho ho.” Here’s an interesting one my friend is having. It’s in it’s fourth year and is so popular, people invite themselves to it. It’s a cookie contest and exchange and I’ll be one of the judges this year. Here are the details:

Please bring at LEAST 4 dozen cookies (1.5 dozen for eating during the party, the other 2.5 for others to take home). Please only make ONE kind of cookie, so you can claim it as yours.

OH YES, there will be cookie contest again this year. Here are the rules:

1) NO store bought or slice and bake cookies.

2) Bring 15 copies of the recipe you used to make your cookies to share with others.

3) Bring them all in a container (or two) that will allow you to bring home 20 or more cookies that others have made.

4) You can not repeat a cookie from last year’s contest (but Year 1 or 2 cookies may return).

5) No TEAMING UP unless you submit only one cookie to the competition.

6) Give your cookie a name (but it cannot be yours). This is so the judging is fair.

7) If your cookie contains nuts or peanut butter, please mark it as so because of those with food allergies.

This year’s voting categories are: Best Tasting, Most Christmas Looking, Prettiest, Most Professional Looking, Most Non-Cookie Looking Cookie.

We will serve finger foods, sodas and COOKIES! Kids can play outside in the Bounce House if the weather permits.

My friend also sent out an email with a link to a mountain of cookie recipes.