Thursday, December 20, 2012

Making A List, Checking It At Least Twice!

I forgot to mention, in my last post, that I'm also managing the Advent calendar by myself this year.  Usually, we take turns adding ornaments, but it's just too much hassle each day trying to get everyone to appreciate the holiday spirit and be part of the festivities for 25 days straight.  Works better when I can offer holiday "spirits," to get chores done, and that just doesn't seem right at 8:00 a.m.

We have an advent calendar that my mother made for the boys when they were little.  It's sort of like the one pictured here, but a little worn and some of the ornaments have broken a bit.  And, each ornament has a safety pin that holds it to the tree.  In an attempt to make it look "clean," I pin from the back.  A nicer look, but as of day 20, today, I have pricked my finger at least 20 times trying to get the darned things attached to the calendar.  "Sigh," it's tradition. I would have taken a picture of ours, but the camera batteries died after it was left on all night.  I went to use the battery charger.  That had burnt out, due to whatever short has taken place in the outside lights.

Speaking of the outside lights, I did manage to take the whole light unit apart only to find that it's just fine...must be something with one of the strings.  I was able to put a red light bulb in the unit, so at least we have some light at the entrance and left the strings unplugged, until I can get time to check them out.  I had forgotten the reference of a red light at the entrance to some.  I find that a number of cars slow down as they go by the house; several police vehicles included, who seem to peer diligently as they pass.

Anyway, here's what the house looks like now, on the left (sort of).  Festive, right?  Hopefully, we'll have some bright, multi-colored, lights going again soon.

The Christmas cards, you ask!

Yes, we did a marathon writing and signing, trying to personalize each card, and then addressed, stuffed with our annual newsletter, licked shut, stamped, and sticking a seasonal seal on the back.  Several cards had to be reopened, as by the time we got around to doing some of the "extra" work with each card, we forgot who to address them to.

But here they are, ready to be mailed.  The wife loves mail!

Hmmmm...guess I forgot that step...oh well, there's always tomorrow.  Does anyone know if the Post Office is guaranteeing next day delivery for regular mail?

Tomorrow is an important day.  First day of winter, Mayan collapse day, shortest day of the year, and the day I take cookies to work.  That marathon "wrapping of the cookies" took place last night.  Last Sunday, I made the cookie dough.  Monday, I rolled it all out and using my Christmas cookie cutters, I cut and baked 97 dozen cookies.  Yep, 1164 cookies that made it to the oven...probably lost another dozen in process, but it is a family Christmas record.  Took a breather for a couple of days to go to work (to pay for all of this and more) and then last night started the decorating process.

All of the cookies get laid out on tables, I mix the icing, bag it, squeeze it, try to make some sort of lines on each that looks like something.  Using red and green frosting helps...solves about 90% of the holiday guessing.  Is that a Christmas cookie?  It's red and green...must be.  I work off the abstract method of icing; sort of follow the lines, squiggle here and there...makes for a quick them all done inside of four hours.

Here are some pictures of that event.

Tonight, I wrapped cookies by the dozen in baggies and tied with string to take to work as gifts.  I will sit in front of each recipient and make sure they eat them.

After all of the hard work I put into them, I want to be sure they enjoy them, as I stare at them intently and keep asking them if they like them!

It's really not a holiday without some pressure, you know.

Four days before the eve and I'm trying to think what else needs to be done.  If I get those cards out and fix those lights...oh yeah, the tree!  We got it up off the street and into the house and it's standing up!!!  I have an hour or so before bedtime tonight, maybe I can get some lights on it (if I can find them and they still work!).

We are actually planning on decorating it by week's end.  We have to plan to do it, or come Tuesday why bother?  I could just drag it out on the deck, at that point, and hang bird seed bells from it and let nature take it's course...there's a thought.

Still, something missing.

Shopping!!!  I guess there are folks here who are expecting gifts.  Bummer.

You see, that's one thing that's wrong with Christmas.  People expect me to buy them gifts.  Isn't it better to give than receive?  I am ready, willing and able to receive to make the holiday more meaningful for others who want to give and who will benefit from that process.

Okay, guess the stores will be open 24/7, for the next few days, and I do have one day off between now and the holiday.  I'm sure I can find that one perfect gift for each person inside of eight hours.  Haven't failed yet (or at least I haven't been told that I have) over all the years.

Guess I should go attend to something on what is now a long list of need to do!  Might have two of those checked off???

 I'll let you know how things work out in a few days.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

How Many Days 'till Christmas?

We always thought, once the boys grew up, that we'd nail this holiday thing and have Christmas wrapped and ready by Thanksgiving and spend the month of December checking out holiday offerings at wineries and touring historic homes, all decked out for the season!

As of yesterday, here's our tree!

As you can see, we cut it down ourselves.  As you can also see, it fell of the car on the way home from the tree farm.  Somehow, the seventeen feet of rope I used, and the knots I learned in Boy Scouts, didn't make one bit of difference regarding the delivery.

You'll also notice that we don't have any snow.  The hopes of a white Christmas are in the hands of the weatherman.  At least it wasn't muddy curb-side, so I could just drag the holiday icon up the drive to the house.  Maybe tomorrow I'll get to that.

Homemade Christmas cookies are a tradition at our house and, as I usually make scores of them, I did think to buy the ingredients.  I put together about two dozen eggs, five pounds of butter, a couple of bottles of vanilla, and a nice bottle of Shiraz to get the project going...the Shiraz is to fortify me.

Of course, with work and chores around the house, including the now-flickering lights I strung on the front of the house which means a trip to the hardware store to replace the fixture so we can enjoy the aforementioned lights, I didn't get to far with the cookies.

Here's a picture of where they are now:

Last year, I made 72 dozen cookies and my son helped decorate them.

As you can see, I've only mixed a bit of what I intended to and just now am remembering that I didn't buy anything for decorations.

I'll get around to it soon, but first we have to get those Christmas cards going, as many have to be mailed to get to out of state addresses and with today being the busiest day of the United States Postal Service, if I don't hurry, I may get them there just as the postal clerks decide that it's time for their coffee break.

We did buy the cards and the stamps.  And, we have all sorts of address labels that we collect from about thirty different charities during the year.  Some have my name, some my wife's.  Once, a relative got a card from us with the wife label. Her first thought was that we divorced, as only her name appeared on the return address section.  My wife says it will take a lot more than the price of a postage stamp for me to get single again!

I'm guessing you want to see how far along I am with the they are:

As I look at them, I'm guessing I should try to find the envelopes..I know that they came with them. Of course, I also need our address book...we work very hard to keep that in shape so that we have every one's address right at our fingertips.  It's in this pile somewhere....

Right after I get all of that done, I'll start some shopping and then get down to the task of wrapping everything.  Note to self: hope wrapping paper isn't with the address book.

Maybe when the kids were small we had to get things done in a more timely fashion, as there were school concerts, and holiday parties for the Scouts, and church and family visits, and kids getting sick just before you head out the door.  These days we don't have all of that stuff and we probably think we got all that time back and can wait until closer to the holiday to start.  Strange thing...doesn't work.

Well, one more week to go and I'm sure we'll pull off a Christmas actually having Christmas ready for Christmas.  I'll keep you posted over the next six days on how this goes...just checked, I did manage to remember to lay in some refreshments for the holiday and to provide me support as I gear up for the fest....

Now, where did I put that corkscrew???