Sunday, November 29, 2020

We Gather Together to Give Thanks

 What a great weekend we have been having. I'm whispering because I don't want 2020 to get wind of it and smite me for my hubris.

Technically, a weekend doesn't start until Saturday, but, since it was a holiday, we got a jumpstart on the festivities by starting Wednesday at noon, when; I closed the doors at New Job, gathered the last of our essential groceries (alcohol. I bought alcohol), plus a new item for my holiday decorating...

...(he's vintage! And, he was on sale!) and headed home to begin what would become four and a half days of  gluttony, laziness, and sloth.

Wednesday evening, Queen B, the Rodeo Princess, my nephew (historically known on this blog as the Rebel Without a Pause), and his daughter arrived for the holiday. We ordered in from a local Mexican restaurant and then I spent the evening showing my great niece all of the fun things that my Christmas tree ornaments do in between prepping the cranberry sauce, stuffing, and pies for the next day's feast. 

While I was busy, Hugh introduced her to our dancing Santa and she spent a solid hour dragging her father into the foyer to shake his groove thing with The Big Guy (payback for all of the times that the Rebel pushed Hugh and me to the brink of exhaustion when we would babysit him). It was adorable.

Thursday morning, we all slept in a bit before getting up to start a marathon day of cooking, Hallmark movie watching, and visiting. The Rebel and the baby had to leave before noon, to make it back to Mayberry for the custody exchange with the baby's mother (2020 has not been kind to marriages; both the Rodeo Princess and the Rebel went through separations and divorces this year. It's unfortunate, but, I have faith that they will both be better off and that good things are on the horizon for each of them).

Dinner was a culinary feat of determination and luck; the turkey was on the smaller side but roasted better than many of the larger birds that I have cooked. 

And, while there were fewer of us at the table this year (the Man-Cub was feasting on a store-bought Thanksgiving feast; kuddos to Safeway delivery! I purchased everything online and they only forgot to include the dinner rolls), we still consider ourselves blessed beyond measure. Cheers to that!

Friday morning, I had to run into New Job to run payroll. Erin invited me to join her for some Black Friday shopping, but I declined; I detest Black Friday on a good year, nevermind  The Year of the Pandemic. Hard pass.

Instead, I went back home and indulged heavily in the laziness and sloth that I mentioned previously. It was easy enough to do, with Christmas decorations already up and plenty of leftovers to eat for dinner.

Saturday was my birthday and Hugh surprised me with three more reindeer for my blow mold collection. I was thrilled! I have had a lifelong dream of owning Santa's sleigh and all eight reindeer; the dream includes suspending them in the air so they appear to be in flight, and, once I have the last three deer, I have no doubt Hugh will figure out a way to make that happen.

After ooohing and aahhing over my deer, Hugh, Mom, and I joined The Lesbians for breakfast at a diner in Pixler. I had a breakfast burrito that was about the size of my forearm, and it was delicious. Later in the day, Queen B came over to take me shopping, we picked up Chinese takeout, and I finished off the day with a visit from The Lesbians, who had forgotten my present earlier in the day (French white burgundy! They know me so well!).

It was a great day and the perfect way to celebrate another trip around the sun.

Today, I need to go into the hardware store, do laundry, and mentally prepare myself for reentry into the real world. I'm ready. I feel energized following a short workweek and a long, enjoyable weekend. Of course, ask me how I'm doing around Wednesday.

I get a week off for Christmas. I get a week off for Christmas. I get a week off for Christmas...yes, Chelle, just keep telling yourself that.

Anyhoodle! What an amazing, wonderful, fabulous weekend! 

Please don't smite me, 2020.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

What's Up Wednesday: November 2020 Edition


Happy Thanksgiving Eve! I am in serious pre-game mode over here; I've got the turkey thawing, pumpkin pies ready for the oven, and cranberries ready to be doused with orange juice, maple syrup, and wine; tonight, I'll simmer them down into a scrumptious cranberry sauce while prepping my sage stuffing. It's going to be a fantastic day!

But, first, I'm linking up with Sheaffer and Shay for this month's What's Up Wednesday, so, let's get rolling!

What We're Eating

I finally managed to reduce my sugar intake this month. I haven't quite gone cold turkey, but, that's definitely on the agenda for 2021. Because I am trying to eat healthier, I have returned to making a protein smoothie for breakfast each day, followed by a portion-controlled frozen meal for lunch. I have several favorites from back in the day, and have discovered a few new flavors that are enjoyable and don't taste like diet food. This riced cauliflower, kale, and chicken dish isn't too bad at all...

I've also been making this butternut squash and vegetable lasagna that is to die for. The sauce that it calls for is hella pricey, but, at some point I fully intend to duplicate the recipe for it on my own so that I can make it on the cheap.

The other night, I made French onion soup. The aroma of caramelized onion, butter, thyme, garlic, wine, and beef stock that filled the house while it was simmering was enough to make Hugh's mouth water the minute he got home from work; he could barely wait for me to ladle out a bowl, top it with a thick slice of baguette, slather it in Gruyere, and pop it under the broiler until the cheese was melted and the baguette was toasty. But he made it.

What I'm Reminiscing About

When I was a kid, we rotated between my maternal grandparents house, and our house in Mayberry, and my paternal grandparents' house in Texas for the Thanksgiving holiday. I vividly recall the years that we were in Mayberry, whether at our house or with my Grandma Molly and Grandpa Nick, because those were the years that we celebrated with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Coming from a large Catholic family meant that holidays were crowded, loud, chaotic, and predictable; you knew what to expect. 

I don't remember the years that we spent in Texas, with my Dad's parents, quite as well; it seems like they were quiet and a lot less crowded. One year does stand out, however. My grandmother made the traditional Thanksgiving meal, and, being a lover of stuffing, I over-filled my plate. My grandpa bet me a Coke that I wouldn't be able to finish it all, and, I took the bet, confident in my abilities. I failed to realize two very important details, however; one, my grandmother was a terrible cook, and, two, Texans make their stuffing out of cornbread. You know what happens when a bad cook makes cornbread? It turns out dry and tough, and, sadly, there is no amount of gravy in the world that can salvage dry cornbread stuffing. I choked on the first bite, but, I was determined, and, while I can proudly say that I finished that nasty stuffing and won that coke, I also have to admit that I wanted to cry with every bite.

Also, many, many years later, I tried another version of cornbread stuffing and it was amazing. So. There's that.

What I'm Loving

I returned to the gym this month. My gym has never been overly crowded, but, with the Covid restrictions, it is a virtual graveyard; this provides my choice of treadmills as well as a completely empty aerobics studio in which to stretch following my run (yes, I am actually running again; it isn't pretty, so it's a damn good thing I don't have an audience).

What We've Been Up To

We got our Christmas tree decorated, with the help of Queen B and the Rodeo Princess. They came over one Sunday evening and spent several hours with us, sipping spiked hot cocoa, eating lasagna, and going through the many boxes of ornaments that we have collected over the years. Queen B explained the meanings behind the special ornaments, including the glass pickle, which the Rodeo Princess got to hide.

I also got the porch decorated, and, when I asked him to help with the yard decorations; Hugh went all out on the construction of a stable for my blow mold nativity set. He could have half-assed it, but that would not be Hugh. So, we now have a structure that requires wheels in order to be moved, and, that we will need to find a place to store for ten and a half months out of the year, but, I'm not complaining; I mean, how cool is this?!

What I'm Working On

I am currently tearing my hair out over the 2021 budget for New Job (is it still a new job, almost a year in? Discuss among yourselves) as well as priming myself to jump into the year-end bookwork at the hardware store. I hate numbers. That is all.

What I'm Dreading

I can't really think of anything at the moment; it seems like Dread has become my 2020 default setting, which, has almost made me numb to the feeling. Perhaps you can relate.

What I'm Excited About

I truly am getting excited about the Christmas holidays. I'm crossing my fingers for good health, safe travels for the Cub, and for a magical and restorative celebration.

What We're Watching

Hugh and I recently started watching VanHelsing on Netflix. I'm also watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel, so; we are either sleighing or slaying over here, not much in between.

What I'm Reading

I took my Kindle to my appointment at the hair salon this month because that is the only uninterrupted chunk of time that I could find for pleasure reading.

While I was there,  I made it through several chapters of The Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner. I'm liking it so far, and I hope I can remember it well enough to pick up where I left off when I go back to the salon in December. Or, I could try to find some other time for reading...hahahaha! I wish! 

What I'm Listening To

I'm not going to lie; I already have the Hallmark channel playing on Sirius XM in my car. I also started playing holiday albums  on my record player over a week ago. I have no shame.

What I'm Wearing

Workout clothes. Have they always been this tight? Asking for a friend.

What We're Doing This Weekend

I had originally planned to have my sister and nephew with us for the Thanksgiving weekend, but, my nephew's football team is in the semi-finals for the state title, so, they aren't able to make the trip from the Front Range. We will miss them, but, we are really excited for my nephew. So, rather than hosting more family members, I am going to chill, relax, maybe do some online Black Friday shopping, and enjoy the fruits of my Christmas decorating labors. I can live with that. Oh, and it's my birthday on Saturday, so I suppose we'll be low-key celebrating that as well.

What I'm Looking Forward to Next Month

The Man-Cub is scheduled to fly home on the 14th! I have missed him and am really looking forward to having him back home. Now, fingers crossed that nothing changes in his flight schedule and he makes it back to Colorado without a hitch.

What Else is New

This year, I ordered fresh evergreen garlands for the front porch. I haven't ever used fresh greens before, so, the process of securing them to the porch railing was a new experience for me. They look amazing, and, since I ordered them from a pre-school fundraiser; I feel pretty good about my decision to break out of my comfort zone. That being said, when my hands started to burn and itch five minutes into the project, my Mom casually informed me that I had an allergy to evergreen as a child. This came as a surprise to me, since I always blamed my younger sister for her evergreen allergy, which, prevented us from having a live tree. I guess I owe her an apology. Sorry, sis!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Friday Favorites: Good News Edition

 Oh, where to begin? How about, I don't have the 'rona! And, so far, only one of my six employees has tested positive, and she's experienced the very mildest of symptoms. This means that I will not have to shutter my business for fourteen days (fourteen days in the world in which our nonprofit operates would be detrimental in more than just a financial sense; victims of child abuse would not receive the services they desperately need) and that we will not be listed as a breakout site in the local media.

In other good news, while I've been home for the past two days, I have managed to completely deep clean my house. That hadn't happened since I started this job, so, it was long overdue.

Then, just an hour or so ago, I submitted the last FAFSA application that I will ever have to complete. Oh, happy day, happy day!

Oh! And, Mom got here and, now that I don't pose a threat to her physical well-being, I can enjoy her company! Tomorrow, we are going to work on decorating the porch and, if I'm really lucky, Hugh will pull my blow molds out and we will decorate the lawn as well.

Currently, I have a pot of homemade French onion soup bubbling away on the stove top; it smells heavenly and I can't wait to enjoy it with a glass of good wine (white burgundy from France, because, of course!)

It's been a good day after a slew of not very good days, and, for that, I am grateful.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Monthly Musings: Holiday Preview Edition

While I'm waiting for my Covid test results, I am doing whatever I can to keep my mind occupied and away from the rabbit hole of doom. Luckily, today, I have a chance to link up with Holly at Pink Lady  for the Monthly Musings series; that should help for a while. This month's topic is the upcoming holidays, and, I can't think of a more pleasant distraction, so, here we go.

Favorite Holiday Tradition

When my sister and I were kids, we could not wait for the designated December evening that my mom would pop up a huge batch of popcorn and stir up the syrup for homemade popcorn balls.We would butter our hands and work as quickly as we could to form the balls without burning our hands. My dad was the biggest fan of actually eating the popcorn balls, but, man, did my sisters and I love making them. As we had families of our own, Mom carried on the tradition; my kids, my niece, and my nephews all learned to love it as well. Mom and I plan to make a batch this year, and I can't wait. As an aside, I really miss my Dad.

Must Have Holiday Wardrobe Staples

Doesn't everyone need at least one truly awful ugly Christmas sweater? No? Just me then? Oookayyy...

Favorite Holiday Dish

Stuffing. Hands down. I could eat my weight in it.

What Will Your Holiday Plans Look Like This Year

Well, assuming my damn Covid test comes back negative, we will forge ahead with a family gathering. If it is positive, we will still forge ahead, once I recover and can no longer pose a threat to my loved ones.

Favorite Holiday Song

Currently? Mariah Carey, All I Want For Christmas Is You. Ordinarily, I would say Oh Holy Night, but, I'm trying to get pumped for the season, so, Mariah it is.

How Is Covid-19 Affecting You Holiday? More Into It? Less?

I am probably more into creating a traditional, family-focused Christmas than ever, and, since that is always my goal, that's saying a lot. I fully intend to go all out on food, fun, and family this year.

Do You Have Any Charities You Like to Help This Time of Year

My favorite charity is the nonprofit that I run, so, that is currently where my efforts are aimed. When the kids were younger, though, we used to ring bells for The Salvation Army. I always loved seeing how generous people were and it was a great lesson for my kids.

Tree Before or After Thanksgiving

Ordinarily, I would say "Day of". Once the last bit of pumpkin pie was finished following Thanksgiving dinner, we would decorate the tree. This year, I started early so that I can focus completely on enjoying the company of my family. Boomer Dog does not seem to mind the early arrival of the tree.

Favorite Holiday Movie

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, without a doubt.

Egg Nog: Yes or No

Yes, but, only in moderation ;)

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Aaaand 2020 Gives You the Middle Finger Right Back

 Guess where I got to spend my day today?

If you said, in line for a Covid test, you would be right. And, when I say line, I mean line...

Because I am a first responder and therefore considered "essential", I was able to forego the brain-scraping nasal swab and, instead, got to do a mouth swab. My results should be back Friday morning. Mom is supposed to arrive tomorrow, and, despite my concerns, she is determined to stick to her plans.

Her getting the 'rona on my watch would be the cherry on the shit sundae that is this wretched fucking year.

Fingers crossed for a negative test. Prayers, please, if that's your thing.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Holiday To-Do List, AKA: Giving 2020 the Middle Finger

 How do you salvage something positive from a year that has been so incredibly...icky? You host kickass holidays! 

That's my goal, anyway, and, here's how I intend to do it:

1. Host the best Thanksgiving dinner ever. Mom arrives from Mayberry this Wednesday or Thursday and she will be staying throughout the remainder of the year. My sister and nephew will arrive the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and will spend the holiday weekend with us. I fully intend to spoil them all rotten with the traditional feast, board games, and tons of relaxation.

2. Watch alllll the Christmas movies. I'm already fully entrenched in the Hallmark Channel, but I'm talking classic Christmas fare like Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas Story, etc.

3. Bake like it's my job. Back in 2011, I did a 25 Days of Christmas baking series on this blog; I posted 23 recipes. When I gave up sugar three years ago, I slacked off on the holiday baking. This year, while I am determined to return to a sugar-free lifestyle (we all know 2020 pushed me off the wagon, no need to beat myself up), I fully intend to join my mother in the kitchen, baking allll of those same treats.

4. Worry less about presents and focus more on presence. I'm really not comfortable with the thought of shopping in stores. Wearing a mask for extended periods of time gives me anxiety and makes me lightheaded, and, you can only order so much online. Besides, the true meaning of Christmas isn't something that can be purchased, and, if 2020 has taught us anything, it should be that.

5. Tour the Christmas lights in Neighboring City. Several years ago, we loaded up the Tahoe, grabbed Starbucks, and drove around Neighboring City checking out the amazing displays in several neighborhoods. With the emphasis being on staying home this year; I have a feeling that people will be going all out again. I'm especially hopeful that one subdivision, in particular, will be decked out to the degree that it was back in 2016; it was completely magical.

6. Carry on traditions: gingerbread house decorating, popcorn ball making, and new pajamas on Christmas Eve.

7. Send out cards this year. I haven't done that for the past several years, but, if ever there was a year to check in on friends and family afar, this is the year to do it.

8. Deck the halls in a most merry way. My plan for the porch involves a retro theme, complete with vintage colored lights and more tacky blow molds than any one person has a right to display. Speaking of which, guess who scored the pieces necessary to complete her blow mold nativity? This girl! Hugh is now in charge of building a stable out of wood pallets. He's thrilled.

It's going to be the merriest Christmas that I can possibly pull off. I am crossing my fingers that the stupid Covid doesn't ruin it (please, oh please, let the Man-Cub make it home on December 14th, like he is scheduled to, Lord. Amen), and, I have to have faith that 2021 will be a lot kinder to us all.

And, now I have Faith, by the late George Michael playing in my head on repeat. Cause we've got to have faith, a faith, a faith!

You are welcome for the ear worm.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child; I Need a Child to Raise My Village

 I spent most of this past weekend assembling my Dept. 56 Dickens village pieces into something resembling my vision of London as described in A Christmas Carol.

The effort required twelve hours, five extension cords, and approximately ten billion trips up and down a six-foot ladder; the end result was definitely worth the labor, but, I have to wonder how much faster it would have gone had I had a helper. 

Hugh did his part; he helped me get the numerous storage boxes containing the village out of the attic and downstairs to the living room. He then left on a two-day hunting trip, and, I can't blame him; I have a pretty singular focus when I am in village construction mode, so I would have been very poor company, indeed.

I do miss the days when the Man-Cub was home to help, however. He never minded the village chaos, but could manage to simultaneously hand me buildings, accessories, cords, and trees while watching television, texting his friends, and snacking. He's quite talented.

Anyhoodle, I finished the village and still had time (and energy; shocker!) to put up the rest of the indoor Christmas decorations, minus the tree (I'll get to that this coming weekend). It feels a bit strange to have this done so early, but, I am really looking forward to relaxing with family during Thanksgiving and Christmas, so, the more I get checked off my holiday To-Do List, the better (more on that To-Do List in an upcoming post. Probably. Maybe. Who the hell knows these days?)

Up next: Decorating the porch and yard.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Recipes From the Porch: Pumpkin Puree

I have it on good authority that this fabulous year is going to gift us all with a number of shortages on baking staples as we head into the holiday season. Because 2020 is a prick. In case I haven't already said that (multiple times).

Unfortunately, one of the items that will be in short supply is canned pumpkin, which, could jeopardize many a Thanksgiving celebration if pumpkin pie is traditionally on the menu. Of course, that's only a problem if you are a baker who relies on canned pumpkin; happily, I'm not one of those bakers, so, my pies are safe.

As are my pumpkin bread, pumpkin donuts, and any other pumpkin-based treat that I wish to make; all because I learned how to make my own pumpkin puree several years ago. It's not hard, and, in my opinion, pumpkin puree made from fresh pumpkins makes for the best pies possible, so, once you try it, you might skip the canned stuff even in years that it is plentiful.


Pumpkins. Yep, that's it. Small baking pumpkins straight from the pumpkin patch down the road (or, from the produce section of your local Piggly Wiggly, either way works!)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For easy clean-up, line baking sheets with foil, set aside. 

Cut stems off pumpkins, cut pumpkins in half, remove seeds.

Place pumpkins cut-side down on baking sheets. Poke rind several times with a knife or fork. 

Place in oven and bake for one hour. Test for tenderness by poking rind with a fork; return to oven in five-minute increments, until fork tender.

Remove from oven and allow to cool, then, peel the rind off each pumpkin half. Place flesh in bowl and allow to sit for at least fifteen minutes. As it sits, the pumpkin will release quite a bit of liquid; pour this off , as it will affect the consistency of your puree.

After draining excess liquid, blend with an immersion blender until smooth.

You can use the puree immediately, refrigerate for several days before use, or, freeze for up to a year. I freeze my puree in Ziplock freezer bags, in two-cup measurements, since most of my recipes call for a cup of pumpkin and I like to double my recipes. 

And, there you have it. Thanksgiving is saved!

Unless you neglected to stock up on flour and sugar...(oops, forgot to warn you about those shortages. Ummm...hey, you might want to stock up on sugar and flour...just a suggestion).

Thursday, November 05, 2020

It's My Day Off...Not So Fast

 I had intended to take today and tomorrow off from New Job, but, as is the way with this job, we got an emergency that has to be addressed this morning, to work I go.


On the bright side, I will still get to take the afternoon off, and, barring any new emergencies, will take tomorrow off as planned as well.

What do I plan to do with all my "free" time? Take down my Halloween decorations and start working on Christmas decor, of course. As one does on the 5th day of November in the year 2020.

Normally, I would be putting up Thanksgiving decor, but, since my sister and nephew are coming for Thanksgiving weekend, I decided to put up the Christmas decorations early; that way, I can spend time with them while they are here, rather than being distracted either by  putting up the Christmas decorations or by fretting about not putting up the Christmas decorations (in years that we spend Thanksgiving at home, I start decorating for Christmas on Thanksgiving night. On years that we travel to my Mom's, I put it up early, so it is done when we get home). 

I feel the tiniest bit sad about "skipping" Thanksgiving, but, I am doing my best to minimize anxiety in my life, and this is a small thing that I can do in that effort, so; there it is.

We will still be making our traditional Thanksgiving dinner favorites, and, while we won't be watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade like we normally would (seriously, fuck you Covid), we will be thankful for being together while we watch Hallmark Christmas movies.

 As one does on Thanksgiving day in the year 2020.

Anyhoodle, off to work I go.

EDITED: Apparently, there will be a Macy's parade! So, I will be watching it on television on Thanksgiving day, as will the residents of New York City, who, aren't invited to attend the parade in person this year. Now they're saying fuck you, Covid.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

It's Your Right, It's Your Responsibility

 I don't know what this day will bring.

I don't know what the next four years will look like.

I know that we are all in this together, despite our differences.

I know that we won't see improvement if we don't work together.

Whatever tomorrow brings, whomever you vote for, whatever your personal beliefs, values, or opinion; let's all remember that we have to live together.

Vote your conscience.

 But please choose kindness, no matter the outcome of the election.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

But, Where Have All the Trick-or Treaters Gone?

 I didn't really expect to see a lot of little ghosts and gobblins out last night, what with the whole global pandemic and all, but, I was still pretty disappointed in the paltry turnout, regardless.

All was not lost, however! We still threw a fun little get-together for a few friends, which, gave us the opportunity to celebrate, although on a slightly smaller scale than we are used to.

Despite the small guest list, we went all out on the costumes and food. Queen B and I scoured Pinterest for fun ideas, and this skeleton charcuterie board was inspired by our searching.. was this spiked punch, chilled with ice "hands".

The jello "shots" were totally our idea, though (inspired, no doubt, by parties Queen B attended in college, but, still).

As I said, the costumes for the evening were on point! Everyone went above and beyond!

Hugh and I went as a flapper and a gangster. I even broke out Hugh's late grandmother's mink coat to finish off my look (and, to stay warm; it was a little chilly in the garage, where we had everything set up).

The Lesbians came as members of the clergy, which, while some might view as disrespectful, was actually in honor of the Pope, who recently acknowledged same sex marriage.

Queen B and an old college friend came as Batman and Poison Ivy. Queen B made her entire costume herself and it was killer!

The Rodeo Princess trashed a thrift store wedding dress, both in honor of the holiday and as a nod to the recent demise of her young marriage (ex nephew-in-law behaved badly; the Rodeo Princess is actually much better off, sad though the end of any marriage may be. She brought along her best guy, who is actually loyal. "Nuff said).

Mama Jill and Hubby were amazing in their steampunk attire!

And Chris and Jana rocked it as a pirate and a gypsy.

Queen B's friends Mia and Trevor came as Joe Exotic and one of his tigers... Mikey came as the prison version of Joe. It was hilarious.

We spent the evening laughing, playing beer pong (rules certainly have changed since I played back in college. Just sayin'), and visiting.

Every once in a while, we got a group of Trick-or-Treaters, but, as I've said; they were few and far between. So, us old folks called it a night around 11:00 and left the youngsters to finish up the party (and to clean up. And they DID! Hallelujah!).

Meanwhile, in Hawaii, the Man-Cub and his Girlfriend were sporting their best fighting gear for a small party with the Cub's roommates. No word yet on whether or not they had Trick-or-Treaters.

And, now it is November, which, this year, means we skip straight to Christmas carols, tree trimming, and good will toward men.

I sincerely hope.