Monday, December 09, 2019

I'm Blown Away

You all know how much I love to decorate for Christmas, and, especially how much I enjoy vintage Christmas decor. What you may not know is that I have always dreamed of owning vintage blow molds, specifically, Santa's sleigh and eight tiny reindeer; which I have long envisioned suspending in the air, between our house and a large tree.

I have also envisioned owning an entire blow mold choir, which, I see positioned on risers on the front porch, facing the neighborhood, with Christmas carols playing in the background.

Dream big, right?

The past week, Hugh got me closer to at least one of those goals, when he surprised me with this...

...and, these...

...I was simply floored; our neck of the woods is not exactly a hot bed in the blow mold market. so I was further surprised when he followed up a few days later with the Holy Family, an adorable snowman, and a Santa, slightly smaller than the one that I found at Pickin' at the Pea, back in October.

I'm still six reindeer short of my ultimate goal, and, we haven't come across any choir singers yet, but, now that Hugh is on the hunt, I believe it's just a matter of time.

Also, he's totally bucking for Husband of the Year, and, he's got my vote.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Misfit Junquers

Yesterday, I spent a relaxing day with friends, doing what we enjoy most: junkin'!

Our first stop was the bi-annual sale hosted by the same group of vendors who put on the Pickin at the Pea sale that we all love so much. They call this particular event The Land of Misfit Junquers, and, as with Pickin' at the Pea, half the fun of attending the sale is seeing all of the unique displays that the vendors come up with for purely decorative purposes (as an aside, if even half the junk they use in the displays was for sale, they would make a fortune, sadly, 'tis not the case).

I would have offered up a kidney for this antique sleigh...if it were for sale

After getting our fill of crazy Christmas crapscapes (new word, coined by the vendors!), we wandered down the road to a nearby town, where we hit a small antique mall, before doubling back toward Petticoat Junction, stopping at a few additional antique stores and junk shops along the way.

It was in one of the junk shops that I found my first treasures for the day; new pieces for my Dept. 56 Dickens Village (four pieces for $45! Less than a quarter of regular retail price, and, three out of the four are retired!).

Then, at the last antique store we visited, I picked up vintage holiday records, including these adorable 45's, in gift envelopes, dated 1949. They are really unique and they still work!

It was a fun way to spend the day, but, it didn't end there; The Lesbians treated me to a belated birthday dinner at one of Hooterville's nicest restaurants, after which I treated them to a night at the local community theater, where we saw the play A 1940's Radio Play Broadcast of A Christmas Carol.

It was a really good play; a non-traditional telling of a traditional story, and, we all enjoyed it, immensely.

All in all it was a great way to spend one of the last weekends before Christmas. Now, I just need to figure out where the hell I'm going to put my new village pieces; I was so excited by the deal I got; I didn't think about that particular detail...

Friday, December 06, 2019

Because, Some Things Bear Repeating

Recently, some coworkers and I were talking about the upcoming holiday, reminiscing  about favorite Christmas memories, and sharing stories of gifts, given and received. It brought to mind one of my most lasting Christmas memories; I wrote about it in a post ten years ago, and, today seems like a good time to revisit it.

From December 22, 2009...

I am, as I have mentioned before, Catholic. Yes, I’m about as fallen-away as a Catholic can get without actually renouncing the church, the doctrine and the existence of God, himself, but I am still Catholic at heart (According to Spell-Check, I cannot, however, SPELL catholic, go figure). So, if you know anything at all about the religion, it should come as no shock to you to learn that I attended catechism classes as a child.

For the most part, I do not remember much about those classes, but there is one year that stands out.

Mrs. Atencio was my CCD teacher when I was in the sixth grade. Every Wednesday I would walk from the school to her house along with six of my Catholic classmates. We would study our lessons, read scripture and each week Mrs. Atencio would make a Herculean effort to apply bible verse to our real lives, God love her.

One Wednesday, early in December, Mrs. Atencio announced that we would be taking a field trip to the local nursing home. At the nursing home, we would spend time with the residents making holiday decorations and singing carols while Mrs. Atencio played the piano.

Now, to our wee little brains, this sounded like a most excellent way to get out of reading verse and learning about the world according to the Catholic Church. It would be a blast.


Yeah, not so much. In reality, the nursing home, with its garish tinsel garlands, fake Christmas trees and putrid smell of disinfectant and, I don’t know, DEATH, gave us all the creeps.

Mrs. Atencio, however, was unfazed by our lack of enthusiasm. In fact, she viewed our lackluster attitudes as a challenge; she was determined to break through what she viewed as our selfishness. She pointed out that, unlike us, many of the residents were alone in the world without so much as a family member to visit them at Christmas. Most of the residents would receive no gifts nor would they leave the home to be surrounded by loved ones on the holiest of days, the day for love, family and fellowship.

As a remedy, Mrs. Atencio instructed us each to pick out and “adopt” a grandparent that day. We were to visit our “grandparent” each Wednesday before Christmas and on our final Wednesday, we would throw a party for all of the residents of the home.

I was totally squicked out by the plan, and I was not alone. After all, my friends and I all had grandparents already. What did we need a total stranger for? Being obedient little Catholics, however, we did as we were told without much complaint.

Plus, Mrs. Atencio was more than a little bit scary, but that is more of a Halloween story than a Christmas story, and I digress.

Anyway, as we were milling about the rec. room, I noticed a frail old woman in a wheelchair. She had a smile on her face that had not once wavered since we arrived. This made her seem far less scary than some of the other residents of the home and I quickly decided that she would be the beneficiary of my Christmas spirit. Her name was Evie and she had been in the home for only a few months. She had a son, several grown grandchildren and a great-grandchild but they lived in a different state and she rarely saw them. They would, she assured me however, call her on Christmas. How very generous of them.

I came to know Evie fairly well over the next couple of Wednesdays and, as Mrs. Atencio had envisioned all along, I came to like her a great deal (well played, Mrs. Atencio, well played).

On the day of the party, we were to bring our “grandparent” a gift. The gifts must be something from our homes that our parents no longer needed or used and we were not allowed to bring food because most of the residents were on restricted diets of some sort.

I wracked my brain looking for something to take to Evie. My mom offered up anything and everything that she owned but nothing seemed just right to me. Finally, I decided on a wallet that I had bought on a recent vacation to California. It was a cheap vinyl number with Cinderella’s castle and the word Disneyland spelled out in red lettering. My mother was appalled; she could not figure for the life of her why I would choose a blue vinyl wallet over say, a crystal candy dish, but my mind was set. I had purchased that wallet with my own money. It was the ONLY souvenir that I had from that vacation. It meant something to me and I wanted Evie to have it. The end.

In my mind’s eye, I still see Evie as she peeled the wrapping paper away from that damn wallet. Her fingers were gnarled by arthritis, her hands spotted with age. She cried when she opened it and the smile on that woman’s face was so genuine and loving, my heart swelled almost to bursting. Then she told me that it was the best gift that she had ever received.

The best gift, ever.

Evie passed away not long after that day. I am sure it was a matter of moments before she was granted wings in heaven because she sure was an angel on earth.

Christmas is a time for miracles and, I believe in miracles; I experienced one all those years ago when a spoiled rotten, selfish brat learned that a gift, when given from the heart, could affect another’s life. Because, while that wallet did not change Evie’s life, the gift that she gave me in return certainly changed mine; it was the gift of appreciation for my blessings.

In the end, that was the best gift I ever received.

The best gift, ever.

I honestly believe that this memory that will stay with me until the day I meet Miss Evie again, and, when I do; I will thank her for the gift.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Best Laid Plans

I had every intention of writing about our Thanksgiving celebrations, but, sometimes life gets in the way of our plans, and, in this case, life looks a lot like this...

...and I'm not mad about it.

The last crumb of pumpkin pie hadn't even been consumed before I busted out the Christmas decorations, and, before I knew it, Thursday turned into Sunday, turned into Tuesday, and the house was slowly, but steadily, decked to the hilt.

Unfortunately, I have sore muscles and stiff joints to accompany the decor-not sure which box those were hiding in- so, a little downtime on the couch with a fun magazine, a glass of wine, and It's a Wonderful Life on the television is just what Santa ordered.

And, apparently, I'm not the only creature in the house that is taking advantage of the holiday ambiance...

Tis the season, I guess.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Let's Talk Turkey

I suffer from a little-known condition known as Turkey Dysfunction. It presents as a total lack of recall about the steps involved in cooking a turkey, and, there is only one known cure: call Mom, STAT.

I know, I know, I'm a mom, but, that doesn't stop me from calling upon the wealth of knowledge that is my Mom. Case in point: yesterday, I had to text her on two separate occasions, once to ask if the turkey starts at 400 degrees for fifteen minutes, or thirty, and, once again to ask if the oven then gets turned down to 350 or 375.

Thank goodness she was available to reply.

In the event that I find myself unable to recall the specifics of turkey cooking next year, I thought I should go ahead and write myself a little reminder. Hence, this post. So, here is Turkey Cooking 101, according to Mom.

Step one: Make sure turkey is sufficiently thawed. This year, my turkey only weighed thirteen pounds, so, I transferred it from the freezer to the fridge five days before Thanksgiving. That was plenty of time, and, while there was still some crystallization in the cavity of the bird, the giblet packet and neck slid out with just a minor tug.

Step two: Place turkey in roasting pan. At this point, I gently wiggle my hand underneath the skin on the breast, separating the skin just enough to make room for me to follow with a good half stick of butter,  massaged into the breast meat and then another half stick, massaged onto the outside of the skin.*

*Not pictured, because my hands were coated in butter, which make handling a camera rather difficult. It also made my hands soft as a baby's butt. Bonus!

Step three: If you are on Team Stuffing Inside the Bird, now is your chance. Loosely pack prepared stuffing into the cavity. Place remaining stuffing into a casserole dish for baking separately, so that the whiners on Team Stuffing Outside the Bird are also happy (bet you can't guess which team I'm on). Insert meat thermometer into the thickest part of the bird's thigh, tent the roasting dish with aluminum foil, and place in 400 degree oven for fifteen minutes (thank you, Mom).

Step four: After fifteen minutes, turn the oven down to 350 and bake turkey for about 20 minutes per pound of bird, assuming it is stuffed (15 minutes per pound if unstuffed). After the first two hours of cooking, baste turkey with pan juices.

Step five: Uncover the turkey for the final hour of cooking time, basting occasionally, until golden brown. Once thermometer reaches 165 degrees, remove pan from oven, tent with aluminum foil, and allow to set until slightly cooled.

Step six: Remove stuffing and carve the bird; start by removing the legs, followed by the wings. Next, cut the breast, down the center, removing east side in one piece, which, you will cut into slices, the thickness of which is dependent on personal preference. Remove remaining meat from the carcass, arranging neatly on a platter for serving.

Et voila! Perfectly cooked turkey for your holiday meal! And, you won't even have to call your mom!

But, seriously, call your mom, anyway.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

What a fabulous day! Not only did I get to eat my weight in turkey and stuffing (my favorite part!), but, I'm just about to break my self-imposed moratorium on sugar by indulging in pumpkin pie and ice cream. Because it's my birthday and I can!

Tomorrow, I'll write a full post about the day, but, for now, suffice it to say that I am surrounded with love, both in person and of the virtual variety, I've been totally spoiled with gifts, I'm well-fed, and, I could not feel more blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

What's Up Wednesday, November 2019 Edition

Soooo, how is it that tomorrow is already Thanksgiving? Where did November go? I know I say this every month, but, time really is just flying by. And, it wouldn't be the end of the month without What's up Wednesday, so, as always, I am linking up with Sheaffer and Shay to share a peek into what's been going on in these parts.

What We're Eating

Despite my intentions to eat better this month, I have fallen victim to the siren call of carbohydrates; I prefer them in the form of bread, and, this month I've eaten plenty of it.

Staff of life, y'all!

I've also been enjoying the heck out of fresh pomegranates, which have finally hit the grocery store produce section. And, I did enjoy a delicious pasta primavera and an amazing artichoke dip at one of Queen B's favorite local restaurants, recently. The food was good, but the company was better.

I also got a chance to sample the wares from a new pizza place in Hooterville. The pizzeria was recently opened by a friend of mine and it is staffed solely by youth with special needs from within the community. My friend's mission is to give opportunities to kids who don't typically get the kind of support that need in order to be employed, and, I strongly support her efforts. Plus, the pizza is amazing!

What I'm Reminiscing About

Tomorrow is my birthday! I turn 51, I still feel 30. Except for first thing in the morning. And, a few times during the day. And, at night...but, otherwise? Total spring chicken over here...anyhoodle, I'm reminiscing about the awesome surprise 50th birthday party that Hugh and the kids pulled off for me last year. It was an awesome celebration, with so many of the people I love in attendance. If a gal has to grow older, it certainly should be surrounded by the people she loves.

What I'm Loving

I spent last weekend with Queen B! We did some shopping, grabbed pedicures, and took in a play at the community theater. I always love spending time with my girl.

What I've Been Up To

I spent one entire Saturday setting up my Christmas village. That was ten hours, up and down a ladder, bending, twisting, lifting, and cursing (quietly, under my breath). The effort will be worth it once the Man-Cub gets home for Christmas; the village was always kind of our "thing", and, I struggled mightily to contain the cords and to plan the mini-metropolis without him.

What I'm Dreading

Yeahhhhh....already sort of dreading the day that I have to take down the village and Jenga it back into the boxes in which it is stored. Not exaggerating; puzzles are NOT my thing.

What I'm Working On

I'm slowly working my way through a professional online photo editing course. I also have an idea for a set of mini-sessions that I would like to offer, so, I am on the hunt for a location that will meet my needs and vision.

What I'm Excited About

I am one of those odd people who really gets excited about cooking a full Thanksgiving meal, and, tomorrow is my day. Thanksgiving is the second of only two days of the year that I don't mind getting up before dawn (Christmas being #1, I mean, obviously). I get up that early so that I can savor the peace and quiet of the kitchen before the chaos ultimately ensues.

What I'm Watching

Hugh and I finally caught up on our DVR line-up, including the last season of Yellowstone. I enjoyed it almost more than the first season.

I've also started watching Dolly Parton's Netflix series, Heartstrings. I love me some Dolly, not gonna lie.

Of course I'm also watching cheesy Hallmark Christmas, a lot. But, it's ok! I follow up the smaltz with a cleansing dose of Snapped or whatever murder mystery the fine folks at Dateline feel the need to investigate. It's called balance.

What I'm Reading

I finally finished When We Believed in Mermaids.

 It was really good, and, now that I have a little more time on my hands, I might have to read it back through. This is the synopsis from Amazon:

Her sister has been dead for fifteen years when she sees her on the TV news…
Josie Bianci was killed years ago on a train during a terrorist attack. Gone forever. It’s what her sister, Kit, an ER doctor in Santa Cruz, has always believed. Yet all it takes is a few heart-wrenching seconds to upend Kit’s world. Live coverage of a club fire in Auckland has captured the image of a woman stumbling through the smoke and debris. Her resemblance to Josie is unbelievable. And unmistakable. With it comes a flood of emotions—grief, loss, and anger—that Kit finally has a chance to put to rest: by finding the sister who’s been living a lie.
After arriving in New Zealand, Kit begins her journey with the memories of the past: of days spent on the beach with Josie. Of a lost teenage boy who’d become part of their family. And of a trauma that has haunted Kit and Josie their entire lives.
Now, if two sisters are to reunite, it can only be by unearthing long-buried secrets and facing a devastating truth that has kept them apart far too long. To regain their relationship, they may have to lose everything.

I also read The Noel Diary

It was a pretty quick read, but a good one. The synopsis from Amazon:

Bestselling romance author Jacob Churcher hasn't been home for almost twenty years—not since his mentally ill mother kicked him out of the house when he was just sixteen. When a lawyer calls, days before Christmas, to inform him that his estranged mother has passed away and left her house to him, Jacob returns not just to settle the estate but to try and reconcile with the past and the pain and abuse he experienced as a child. Also, maybe cleaning out her house will be slightly less depressing than spending the holidays alone, watching re-runs of Christmas classics.

But as it turns out, the house holds more than just difficult memories, Jacob’s mother had become a hoarder and he must excavate through two decades worth of clutter. As Jacob digs through the detritus, like an archaeologist, he uncovers many puzzling items including a diary left by someone named Noel, a young woman he has no recollection of, who stayed with Jacob’s family during her pregnancy. That’s not the only echo from the past. Jacob has an unexpected visitor, Rachel, a woman looking for the mother who put her up for adoption thirty years before. United by their quest to make sense of the past and rewrite their futures, Jacob and Rachel begin a search for Noel. Along the way they find more than they possibly imagined, including grace, forgiveness and a chance at love.

Currently, I am reading If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisters. 

It's really disturbing. I wonder what it says about me that I can't put it down? Don't answer that. The synopsis from Amazon:

After more than a decade, when sisters Nikki, Sami, and Tori Knotek hear the word mom, it claws like an eagle’s talons, triggering memories that have been their secret since childhood. Until now.
For years, behind the closed doors of their farmhouse in Raymond, Washington, their sadistic mother, Shelly, subjected her girls to unimaginable abuse, degradation, torture, and psychic terrors. Through it all, Nikki, Sami, and Tori developed a defiant bond that made them far less vulnerable than Shelly imagined. Even as others were drawn into their mother’s dark and perverse web, the sisters found the strength and courage to escape an escalating nightmare that culminated in multiple murders.
Harrowing and heartrending, If You Tell is a survivor’s story of absolute evil—and the freedom and justice that Nikki, Sami, and Tori risked their lives to fight for. Sisters forever, victims no more, they found a light in the darkness that made them the resilient women they are today—loving, loved, and moving on.

What I'm Listening To

Sirius XM rolled out the Hallmark Music Channel and I've already heard Baby It's Cold Outside approximately one million times. I'm not complaining; I find Christmas music to be soothing. Thanks to carols, I've cut my road rage by 50%. I reserve my right to the remaining 50% as it is directed at the idiots who fail to utilize the passing lane for its' intended purpose. It's called a passing lane for a reason, people!

What I'm Wearing

I wish I had a better answer, but all I can think of in this moment is the bra that I am wearing, and, not because it's a great bra, but, because it is clearly trying to kill me. Whatever genius came up with the underwire needs to be strung up by his toes. And, yes, I'm confident it was a man.

What We're Doing This Weekend

I'm planning to draft the service of both Hugh and Queen B; there is a tree to decorate, lights and garlands to be strung, and halls to be decked!

What I'm Looking Forward to Next Month

Christmas!!! The Man-Cub will be home on the 19th of December and we travel to Mayberry for Christmas on the 23rd. My side of the family will all be together, which hasn't happened in a few years. I'm really excited about the gingerbread house decorating and ugly sweater competitions that we are planning, as well as to the traditional making of popcorn balls.

And, that's it for this edition!