Thursday 28 December 2023

All Done, Time to Pack Up

 It's Thursday, December 28 and just like this year was the earliest to get the tree, do the baking, and have shopping done, it will also be the earliest to pack up the merriest of seasons. We had friends over for supper last night, so I wanted all the decor and tree to be in place for their visit. 

This morning, I've gathered all the clean Christmas mugs and got them ready to put away in upper kitchen cupboards and have retrieved the regular coffee cups from the same upper cupboard and put them back where they belong. My goal is to be done with Christmas by this Saturday. Today the village will be torn down and boxed up, and I don't know what else, but I'll set little goals for myself.

Last night, I decided I wanted to make for supper anything that was the anti-Christmas meal. We've had two turkeys (one that I made), and the days of left overs from that, and one ham dinner (and still have the leftovers from that), and so I thought... pizza! I bought the pre-made shells that come with little packages of sauce. I got toppings ready - fried some bacon and cut that up, fried some little bits of italian sausage, pre-cooked some onions, both red and white, peppers, mushrooms... One pizza was the "meat" based one with pepperoni, bacon, sausage, onions, mushrooms and green peppers, and the other was less meat with pepperoni, multi-coloured peppers, red onions, and olives. I served it with a salad based on one I had enjoyed at a restaurant a little while ago. They called it a Christmas Salad because it had red, white, and green in it. Mine consisted of greens (baby spinach and arugula), feta cheese, dried cranberries, red onion, mandarin oranges, and candied pecans. It is served with either balsamic vinaigrette or poppy seed dressing. 

It was such a nice visit and I sent them away with two cartons of eggs (always have too many). We still have no snow and it rained the entire day yesterday, with more to come today. Oh well, the water tables will be high next summer. I didn't go for a walk yesterday because it was a HARD rain every time I thought about it, but I want to get a walk in today, regardless because my body feels it if I don't walk for a few days. That's my post for today, nothing big, just regular life. Perhaps some of you are thinking of packing up as well, or perhaps you leave things in place until New Year's. We haven't done anything exciting for New Years for, well, years, so there's no need to keep things festive in the house. 

Sunday 24 December 2023

Christmas Eve Day

 There will be no "moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow" this year, although we are on the verge of a full moon, there's no reflective snow happening. I don't love a green Christmas, but last year we were dumped on, roads were closed, and daughter and boyfriend got their car stuck on their way to our house. Feast or famine.

Our gathering this past Saturday was lovely. Here are some highlights:

Before some gift opening... Murph in his allocated spot.

I can cook a turkey, but lord I hate carving. I'm more of a rip it apart and hope for the best kind of chef, so I put husband to the task and told him he gets to use a tool, so that made it more appealing. He's getting ready to attack the bird with an electric knife in that picture whilst I am still scooping stuffing from it.

Here we all are during the dishing out of the dinner. Daughter offered to do the selfie - only those under thirty are any good at it, I think. 

After supper, son decided to rate all of his nutcrackers (he's gotten one each year since he was a wee little fellow) in order from best to least favourite. Daughter helped him.

Today, husband will get his mother from the nursing home. We will have an earlier supper (it is a big ham) because she gets a bit antsy if she's not "back home" by a certain time. We will open some gifts with her. Then after she is returned back, son, husband and I are going to open the rest of our presents in the evening with the nice light of the tree and other decor and it will be all cozy and merry. This is a tradition that we did a bit of in my own home when I got a little older. It might be a bit of a German thing, I don't know, but it was always nice at night. 

Tomorrow, Christmas day, we drive to my second oldest brother's house and celebrate again. No storms to navigate through, so easy driving.

And on a decidedly different note, I finally chose to go to emerg. at the little local hospital (that is only open until 5:00 p.m., so plan your emergency...), as I can't get into my own doctor for three weeks and the cough is driving me batty, straining my sternum and I wanted to make sure it wasn't heading in the direction of pneumonia. As I sat in the examination room when the lovely doctor on call was writing me a prescription for an inhaler, I saw this: (I asked if I could take a picture)

Someone with a good sense of humour attached large googly eyes to the poster on the wall. The doctor didn't even know they were there. Perfect. 

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Dec. 19, 2023

 It's one of those contemplative, calm, quiet mornings. 

As you can see from the Santa "calendar", it is December the 19th and if you look beyond, out the kitchen window above the sink, we got a little snow yesterday. 

There is the official measurement of snow. Not much, and will likely be gone in a day or so, according to the forecast, but it helps to keep it feeling "Christmasy".

I'm having my "Melozio" coffee (Nespresso) this morning. Usually I just have instant coffee, but I felt like a little something special, so this is using the coffee maker the kids got us a couple of years ago, with cream. It's sitting beside the old computer screen in the corner of the kitchen.

Murphy is having a drink of water after breakfast.

Scooter is grooming, waiting for Murph to get out of the way. Life is tough when you are fluffy. 

I still have to get dressed out of my pajamas and robe and go out and turn on the light in the chicken coop and add food to their feeder. The sander just came down our road. We are on a dead end road in our little village and every year the snow removal equipment rips the grass apart on the edges of the road and digs great caverns into the road itself. We are on a tiny bit of a rise and I guess it's just too tough to raise the blade a bit. But what do I know, I've never driven a salter, sander, or plough. 

I'm in that odd funk whereby you prepare, prepare, prepare and anticipate and then it's over and you don't know what to do, as we had our gathering two days ago (our immediate family) because daughter and fiance leave this Friday to the Great White North. It was a fantastic day, however, with good food, laughter, two Christmas movies, and a game. So now I wait until our little gathering on Christmas Eve day where we will have my mother-in-law with husband and son and I for a smaller dinner, I'm thinking ham, and we will give her some presents and take her back to her nursing home. Dementia is getting rougher on her. I'm not sure how this will go... Then on Christmas Day, we drive a couple of hours to a city where we are gathering at my brother and sister-in-law's home for my side of the family's get together. 

This is where I get a bit maudlin - last year was SO traumatic with my cancer diagnosis and various treatments and my sister being in ICU and us driving like a bat out of hell to get to her bedside, being told that "this was it". In fact, it was a year ago on the 16th that it happened for her. A very different Christmas. She did recover with all the bumps and delays from being in an induced coma and being hooked up to so many machines. It took way too many weeks to finally discover that she was deathly allergic to ibuprofen and that's why her body went into shock / sepsis. I, of course, recovered and got the all clear from the doctor and go on with my forever changed life, taking drugs which will assist me in not getting cancer again and being reminded to live my life fully whenever I turn down an opportunity, or think I shouldn't splurge on the "good stuff", or feel guilty for spending an afternoon reading instead of doing something productive. 

So, this year we have lots to be thankful for, lots of looking back and being glad that's over with. Ironically, both sister and brother have had leg surgery this month (or very end of November for sister, I believe), so they will be the hobbling siblings at Christmas. I must be very careful in my clumsiness and not bump into either one of them! But they will recover in the weeks to come and will have, eventually, less pain and new mobility and will also have a "new lease on life". I have two older brothers and my older sister and I am glad that we can all get together and that it will be something to look forward to. We've not always seen eye to eye and gotten along perfectly over the years, but time mellows things and relationships change and sometimes hardships bring people closer together (and sometimes not). There will be some cousins, but not all, as some live quite far away now. Everyone has two children in my family, my two brothers, my sister and myself. 

I am rambling on, aren't I? It's time to wrap this up and start reading your blogs and seeing what's happening in your lives... 

Wednesday 13 December 2023

Cookies - December 13, 2023

 This Saturday, we will be having our "Christmas" dinner and some present exchange with just our immediate family, as two of them will be elsewhere in the province on the actual Christmas day. For that reason, I baked early and purchased early. On Monday night, we all gathered round to do what is now our annual decorating of gingerbread and sugar cookies. 

We are a funny, sarcastic, and traditional bunch, so when we do our cookie decorating, we see what we can create out of the traditional shapes of trees, bells, ornaments, holly, stars, candy canes. I am super prepared (ha!) with all of my technical decorating tools, those being little zip lock bags of coloured icing with the tip of the bag cut off, so you can "pipe" the icing, some sprinkles, and toothpicks for precision. I must say that this year's icing was superior to other years, so I have Tiktok and my daughter to thank for that. I also realized I am now out of green food colouring, so we had to make our own.

From the left is son, "soon"-to-be son-in-law, and daughter. They are all looking very dedicated to the task at hand. Christmas village is in the background (I went with three levels this year, and no Lego figures).

Catching husband in the act of eating one of the "allowed" cookies. I made other cookies for eating to preserve the ones we were currently working on. We had rum and eggnog whilst decorating.

Most of the gang. Phones were used for images to copy on the cookies.

As you can see, some cookies are traditional (stars, trees, present, ornament) and others are interpretive (snake, cat, skeleton, whatever that swirly white and green thing is...).

Cookie Monster is featured in the lower left (all the while, son complaining that we should have black icing), the Leg Lamp (minus the benefit of yellow icing) , and others. 

Things got a bit political, as some Canadians might recognize some symbols. I won't reveal which ones were celebrated and which ones were scoffed at. As well, please note the Canadian Tire symbol! The gnome cookie is an ode to daughter who despises all the gnome products out there ("friggin' gnomes"). 

Compliments to daughter who took things seriously at the end and created this beauty (there was another one in white and red). I told her it could be a side hustle if the need ever arose. 

The cookies were laid out to set and dry and are now safely packed away in the freezer for future eating. I really love these family times and am very fortunate to have my adult kids close by, as not everyone has this. I get a bit maudlin at this time of year and hope that in the future such traditions will continue within their own families and they will reminisce fondly. 

Thursday 7 December 2023

Remembering my Mom and Chow Mein Noodle Cookies

 I completed decorating the house early this evening. I let husband know that we can probably stop buying me Christmas decor as I didn't even put out everything that is stored in "the twelve boxes of Christmas". However, there are many treasured, special items that I will always put out, that have some kind of memory or meaning. One item is this silly little music box.

It has a wind up mechanism on the underside and it plays the tune of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". It uses magnets I believe so that the two little mice spin on top of the "ice". One tree along the side has a broken off top. One of the mice, or I think it was a mouse, maybe it was a bunny, no longer has any ears.

My mother went through some years where she would buy all of us "kids" (most of us adults by then) the same item. One year it was wooden Santas, another year it was a lovely resin Santa figure sitting in a chair in his slippers with a list in his hand and a cat on his lap (which always made me think of my father, who often had a cat on his lap), and one year it was this music box. We all got one. I don't know if my siblings still have theirs, but our two kids used to love to wind it up and watch the mice spin around. It was simple and sweet and when I wound it up today, I got a little choked up. Mom's been gone many years now, but she would have liked to know that I still put it out for the family to see.

Another thing I do at Christmas is make some of the goodies and treats that she used to make. One of those is chow mein noodle cookies. Our son called them spider cookies, because they kind of resemble a multi-legged creature, so we have renamed them spider cookies. The hardest thing about making them is finding the chow mein noodle cookies in the store.

Ingredients: 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips

                    2 cups of butterscotch chips

                   1 package of chow mein noodle cookies (mine was 170 grams)

                   aprx. 1 cup of salted peanuts

Melt the chips over a double boiler, or cautiously, in small increments in the microwave.

I like to snap some of the noodles in my hands so they are not all a long length. Once the chocolate and butterscotch chips are melted, add your dry noodles and peanuts. I honestly just dump peanuts in until it looks like there are enough. Maybe it's a cup, maybe it's more or less.

Try to really stir the contents well so that everything gets coated. Don't worry if you snap more noodles while you do it.

Using two spoons, drop clumps onto waxed paper. I ended up with three cookie sheets full. 

Here is a close up of these weird and wonderful treats. Put them in the refrigerator to cool and set up and store in an airtight container until you wish to put them out at a Christmas gathering (I keep mine in the fridge). They will be fine at room temperature later. 

My mom also made short bread that she put through a cookie press, funny little sugar cookies that were wrapped around a red maraschino cherry, rolled in sugar, and baked, and Hello Dollies which were squares with a graham cracker base, chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and coconut. They may be called something else where you are from.

I like keeping some of the traditions alive, and adding new ones, or ones borrowed from my husband's family. Stockings for instance, were not part of my childhood at all, but his family always did stockings, so we started them with ours. Do you make any Christmas treats that you mothers made?