Thursday, December 31, 2015

One Happy Year



At the end of the year, it's usually customary to look back at how it has treated you.

I always said I am more than happy to kiss 2015 goodbye.  Twas not a great year on the surface.  I found it ironic that was the year I chose to piggyback onto the idea of my 100 Happy Days project that it was one of the worst years for minor health issues and people showing their true colors.  Maybe God knew I'd need to focus on the positive?  Since it didn't seem so hard to do just over 3 months, we thought why not make it a whole year?  I followed the rules by writing about the happy moments, the Mr chose to basically journal.  Whatever floats your boat.  ;-P

I will admit, there were times it was not easy to find the happiness in a day.

3/13- Allergy testing came back positive to mites, ragweed and mold.  Had money to pay for $550 gas leak repair.  Didn't blow up.

7/9- Good cleansing cry about Grandma before workout and 90 minute talk.

7/22- Didn't put the new knife through Mr's paddleboard for telling MIL about Grandma

9/23- Got in 4 bottles of water, woke up

12/6- Didn’t slap stupid people

Some days you just thank God you didn't need to call anyone for bail money and that may be the only good thing that happened in an otherwise crap day.

Then there were things that truly made me smile as I read back on them.

1/26- Fresh snow on tree branches.

3/24- Got my first professional massage!

5/4- Sunrise at Tybee Island, seeing Efron and DeNiro filming Dirty Grandpa, great dinner at Olde Pink House in Savannah.

5/18- Paid for an elderly couple's meal at Sunny's Cafe

8/27- Amazing night paddle with Amy.  Light sticks worked to mark return ramp.  Paddled under big dipper.  So peaceful.

9/3- chipmunk eating fruit on the loveseat outside stuffing his cheeks.  I named him Dale.

10/28- slept in, talked to grandma in dream

12/18- Woodsy got her box and cried over it and sent me a great email thanking me, snowed for 3.4 minutes.

Happy moments can be as big as a special vacation to a new place or as small as doing something for someone else to make them happy or a chipmunk stuffing its cheeks.

I'm glad I did that because I could very easily remember nothing but me not being able to smell or taste for four months or the eye problems the Mr and I both got at the same time that we're still dealing with or other little ailments that all stack up or the fact that Christmas blew this year.  But if you focus on those things, it can consume you and consume a full year of tiny moments you chose to ignore.  Writing down these happy moments in a day when all you can be happy about is the fact that you woke up is still a pretty good day.  Some people don't know how I did it so consistently and all I did was set a task in my mail program to pop up at 8-9pm every night for the Mr and I with a reminder to do it and we both kept it up.

If we lose those small moments when everything else seems to be swallowing the good things, we can mistake a bad day(s) for a bad life.  That's not the case 99% of the time.

Will you consider doing a happy year for 2016?  We are!

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Chicken Rumaki

Many years ago, we went to this Polynesian restaurant and they made a formerly nose wrinkling appetizer in a new way that I loved.  Traditional rumaki is made with chicken livers and well...no.  You can stop at livers.  (Just saying the word makes me retch because I still smell it when my great grandma from the old country would make it.)  But this place made it with chicken thighs.  So I did one better and made it with chicken breasts and a new Christmas Eve tradition was born.

The Mr and mama declare it's not Christmas Eve without them and while after a long week of preparing other things it might be the last thing I want to do, they are truly little effort for the smiles.  The Mr said he wanted to learn how to make them this year so he could take them on for me for next year and I was more than happy to show him.

Now I'll show you in case you need an appetizer idea for New Years Eve.


Here's what you'll need:

8 chicken breast tenderloins (I marinated them in a little huli huli sauce but you can use a spice rub)
Low sodium bacon
Whole water chestnuts
Toothpicks


Take a strip of bacon and one of your tenderloins.


Flatten the chicken to a similar thickness all the way around so it cooks evenly.


Place the chicken over one end of the bacon.


Place the water chestnut at the end on top of the chicken.


Roll chicken, water chestnut and bacon until you're halfway up the strip of bacon.
(Ignore phallic food image)


Flip it so that the next roll of bacon will cover the open ends of the chicken.


When the chicken is totally wrapped in the bacon, put a toothpick through it making sure you hit the water chestnut inside so the whole appetizer is connected or it could fall apart during baking.


Repeat with other ones and if you have a rack insert for a pan it will help let the bacon grease drip off as it bakes.


You can make these ahead by a day and keep them covered in foil until you're ready to bake them.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked all the way through.


I always put them in our food buffet with other appetizers so we can enjoy yummy noshes instead of doing a full blown meal.


A delicious Christmas Eve tradition can now be a part of your New Years or any other party!





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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Note to 2016 Christmas Self

Hey you, it's...you.

I know that you're going to get that little butterfly of excitement for the holiday season when October comes around.  You'll have had a year between holidays to forget how ugly it got this year.  It's kind of like childbirth..."a pain you forget" like they all say.

Well, I'm here to remind you that if you don't take some precautions, you're going to be doing a repeat of this year.  That included lying in your bed on the 22nd, sobbing, unable to breathe through your nose from snot, screaming "I don't want to do Christmas this year.  Cancel EVERYTHING!" and considered vacationing alone for Christmas next year.

Here are some lessons learned and things you can hopefully do to make next year more manageable because you and I both know you're not going to slow down during the holidays unless you're physically unable to do so.

1.  Freeze your doughs at the end of October or November.  Trying to do that in December is a lot to do even though it only took 2 days.  They're going in the FoodSaver so the taste won't be affected.  However, remember anything with brown butter does NOT freeze well and loses the flavor you worked so hard for so make those brown butter chocolate chip cookies within a day or two of baking.  Not only will those lose the brown butter flavor, they flatten out once frozen.  Remember you can also pre-make icing and run them through the FoodSaver so you don't have to do 4 different kinds for different things.

2.  Freeze 2-3 meals that you can have the Mr warm up.  You tapped out on dinner a few times and it resulted in some ugliness.  So to make sure everyone is happy, a few frozen meals could go a long way in not killing each other and not resulting in a fast food run or eating cookies for dinner in a moment of "eff it."

3.  Sleep on it.  There will be times in the middle of the chaos you want to tap out and make extreme decisions about people and what you have planned the next day.  80% of the time your spirit was renewed the following day.  For the other 20%, tread lightly, think ahead and if it still sticks then go with your gut.

4.  When people say and do stupid sh*t, step away from the situation.  Depending on what your stress meter is at when said stupidity rears its head, you will either grin and bear it, give fair warning they need to back off or tear the hell out of someone.  Remember when your heart rate went to about 177/120?  You took a walk and felt better.  Do that even if you have to walk out in the middle of a conversation with an offender.  Your sanity and staying out of jail are more important.

5.  Stop trying to make holiday memories with people who could care less.  It's their loss, spend precious December days with people who appreciate your efforts and time.  If they don't make merry themselves, they don't have time to make idle people merry.  (Sorry, I lapsed into A Christmas Carol ...Patrick Stewart version)  Take a hint and save your money.

6.  Pre-bag cookies for delivery people.  Every time you saw a mail or delivery person, it was too late to throw together a bag for them because they're on a schedule.  Pre-bag, press and seal them and have 'em by the front door in the little reindeer bag.  Then maybe the mail lady won't try to steal your printer next year.

8.  Don't feel guilty for taking Christmas back.  I know you are going to feel weird initially about not being with your family Christmas Day and you're probably going to get a lot of crap for it from family. (Which at that point will be easy to say "see! This is what I'd be missing!  No thanks!")  Try to remember what the last few years have been like that day.  The hosts are visibly tired, stressed and just want the house back to themselves.  The rest of the visit is seeing who gets the "short straw" on tending to Grandma the whole time while her husband ignores her or complains to anyone who will listen about what a task he is choosing to take on.  Top that off with people who may or may not be under the influence of substances and will corner you no matter how far you try to run.  This is not how anyone should spend Christmas.  You will still see them a few days prior, you will still make merry with your mother.  Get back to the reason for the season and enjoy new traditions next year.  You're losing your Christmas spirit...you were not put on this Earth to be a Grinch.  There are too many people already in line for that job.

9.  Stop trying to make cinnamon rolls from scratch for Christmas morning.  Look, I know the bakeries around you suck for cinnamon rolls but what's worse is when you put that pressure on yourself to make them and fail to get the taste you wanted.  You and yeast don't mix.  Get the memo.  Buy them elsewhere and doctor if necessary.

10.  You were so frazzled from this holiday, you forgot to list a #7.  This illustrates why things need to change.

11.  Don't buy EVERY bag of Christmas candy out there, your stocking was ridiculous and you ate it ALL!  You threw away the Crunch bells when you realized the chocolate tasted off but yeah, you went WAY overboard and you both felt like you were going to barf for 5 days between the stockings and cookies.  Remember the Mr's sugar migraine?  Remember doing a workout and you sweat sugar cubes?

12.  Don't EVER be too lazy to change the channel on the Music Choice Sounds of the Season channel.  You actually hated Do They Know It's Christmas by the third week of December.  This especially applies when Justin Bieber or Clay Aiken comes on.  You need to exercise.  Stop what you're doing and change that crap!  It filled you with hate.

13.  Water is CRUCIAL!  For whatever reason, you stop drinking it almost altogether every year and you pay dearly for it.  Remember those gross chapped, dehydrated lips?  Remember your uh...'issues' in the lavatory?  Don't be an dork...hydrate!

14.  Take your probiotics!  Another thing you skip out on is taking these and your immune system takes a hit every time and you spend the holiday or New Years Eve sick and unable to celebrate.  BE SMART!  This and water should help keep you healthy even if your eating schedule is off.

15.  Don't forget to re-read this about October 15th next year.  Seriously, go set the mail reminder and link to this.  You will thank yourself.

What would you tell your 2016 holiday self that you learned from this year?

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Tappin' out

Wow...it's all over.

Funny how you end up feeling like Stitch under an 18 wheeler after the holidays...

(via tmblr) 
Of course the more I paid attention to the way people spoke of this holiday season, it seemed more like...

(via Pinterest)
My mom said they made cookies this year and some didn't turn out right and my aunt wanted to make a different recipe which made the day longer and she said while neither of them said it, they both knew it somehow wasn't the same this year.

We all know I didn't feel the same about it either and on Christmas morning next year, I am pushing to go to somewhere that is forecasted to get snow because I'm tapping out.  I'll still bake for the people that need it but I proposed that we move Christmas Eve with my mom to the weekend before, we leave mid-week to go to Vermont or someplace that is more likely to have snow (I know, they don't have it now,don't care) and give myself the gift of peace next year.  We'll lie and tell mom that we may go to his side that day and trust me when I tell you that is not an option for either of us.  It would be as much if not more hell and I'm tired of dreading Christmas Day.

ME!...Christmas freak!

That's what it's come down to...me waking up Christmas morning, having a great present opening session with my honey and as the hour approaches to get ready for the rest of the day...pit in stomach and/or panic attack.  This used to happen to me with his family...never in a million years did I think it would happen with mine!  When I think of how it was spent, the only people that appeared happy to be there were the little kids and that was only because they were getting presents.   Everyone else looked miserable, tired, actually cried or went to another room and shut the door to get away from everyone.  NOT my idea of a Merry Christmas.

I think the Mr was reluctant to go along with the idea of Christmas anywhere but home, thinking it was the ravings of a lunatic who was just done with Christmas but given several things that transpired, he agreed.  He's not crazy about it but realizes he's not up for the madness either.  I won't go into details but there were far more bad moments than good and it's something I refuse to put myself through anymore.  We have a big family gathering with the exact same people 4 days prior so it's not like I'd be missing out on seeing them.  The only people we wouldn't see would be my grandparents and as you all know, unfortunately grandma doesn't know Christmas Day from a Wednesday anymore.  There were some serious issues with her this time that tells ME it's time to pull the plug on dragging her out especially to large gatherings but no one else will feel that way.  (Her demeanor was fine, it was physical issues out of her control)  As far as my step-grandpa is concerned, we're kind of done with him.  His neglect of her ever growing needs, continuing to strip away her dignity for all to see coupled with my family's head in the sand attitude is more than I can tolerate on a normal day. much less Christmas Day.  I won't do it anymore.  We plan to make the whole traveling out of state for Christmas a one time thing but honestly, we both said we would've been happier skipping the "festivities" and playing with our toys and chillin'.  Given how much I busted my ass baking crap only to walk in on an already full dessert table and half of each dish left at the end.  I will move my spice cake from Christmas day to the Christmas gathering a few days prior.  It's apparent that by Christmas day everyone is tired of the sweets, brings their crap from home and dumps it on the table.  Not busting my hump anymore.

Oh and those noodles we fought so hard for?  They burned them.  I don't mean black noodles but you can't turn noodles on the "nuke" setting to get them done faster because it will burn the gravy!!!  They were completely unpalatable but because we fought so hard for them, we had to load up, smile and choke them down.  When fat people don't go back for seconds, there's a problem.  She asked if I wanted leftovers and of course I said yes and they went straight down the disposal when we got home.  The smell of them when the lid came off actually triggered my gag reflex.  Go ahead and do your dang cheap short cut food from here on out because I'm flexing my new motto..."if you don't care, I don't care."

So yeah.  We're done.  I'm actually more stressed thinking of how I'm going to tell my mom we're not doing Christmas next year so I should probably get that over with soon because not having a panic attack every day sounds like something I can get on board with.

Oh and I need sleep.  Like...big time.  Three days worth sounds about right.

So please, share that you had a better holiday!  It's all I wished for for you guys!

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas all!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

 

Enjoy your families, step away when needed and do something special with your favorite person to round it all out when the day is done!

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Christmas Eve

Well, it's Christmas Eve!  Where did this month go?

The Mr and I celebrated our 24 year "I love you" anniversary last night.  Instead of cooking, we went out to dinner to one of our favorite fancy pants restaurants.  My grandma gave us $50 for Christmas so we put it toward that and then had a $25 off of $75 coupon so it was minimal out of our pocket.  Woot!

Tonight is our spread with my mom and exchanging gifts with her.  This is always my favorite night of the year remembering that magic you think of as a child...


...and it's the last day of anticipation before it's all over.  Sigh.

I know it's been a chaotic one for us this year but it's been sprinkled with good times that help balance out the less than Currier and Ives moments.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite songs of the season and probably one most of you haven't heard so you're not tired of it yet.

We hope everyone has a wonderful holiday!

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Trying to erase the ugly

You don't want to know about yesterday.  Trust me, the Mr doesn't want you to know either.

So I will post links to clips that make me laugh because this is the season for attempted holiday cheer.

Spongebob's "Sailor Mouth" episode clip

Tom and Jerry's "Uncle Pecos" final string snatch

Wile E Coyote anything because...super genius

Daffy Duck as Robin Hood...yikes and away!

I used to recite this verbatim as a child...still can

Obviously I miss Saturday morning cartoons!

If you have any favorite funny (clean!) cartoons to share, post a link in the comments or describe your favorite!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Don't forget to remember them

Yesterday was just what I needed.  When I heard the Mr get up and get in the shower, I hopped back in bed from my couch prison.  (I wasn't able to sleep and the second I did fall asleep, the light timer came on and woke me up)

I slept about two or two and a half hours and wrapped the Mr's "outer boxes."  (Because our gifts are all so tiny for each other and could fit in a small gift bag, we decided to wrap them, save all the big boxes and wrap those for under the tree, that way it still feels like Christmas morning as kids.)  Obviously time was running out so I had to get it done.  When I was finishing up, I heard someone stirring on the front porch so I checked it out.

I saw this box.



I know what that means and I know who it's from!


Our wonderful friend Jeff sent us some Chicago love.  I wanted to send him some of our homemade treats but wasn't sure if he was hanging around the city this year or if he was traveling.  Turns out he's house sitting for a friend so I sent them to that address for him to enjoy.  If you can't be with family, you should at least have some home baked Christmas love, right?

I only had to go a mile to mail it but the traffic was horrendous.  So I popped in some music that makes me dance and sing and did just that.  Everyone around me looked miserable in the rain but I was singing and dancing in my seat because I had a box of Christmas spirit to mail, so outta da way!  I took the back route home and cut my drive in half.  Obviously everyone has taken the week off because it was between 2-3pm.

I made a point to not really talk to anyone including the Mr (well, except Jeff to thank him and coordinate the goodie drop) because this was the only day I had to myself this week.  I cleaned up the kitchen a bit and put away all of the stuff I dragged out to get the box ready.  I want to keep everything tidy so we don't have to do anything Christmas Eve or day.  I'm tired of the constant rushing around.  We have a spread we do for Christmas Eve with my mom and I haven't even given a thought to what we're having.  I have to make rumaki because the mom and Mr demand it.  I think the next time anyone threatens to pull noodles on Christmas Day, I will threaten to pull rumaki on Christmas Eve and spice cake for Christmas Day and apple crumb pie on Thanksgiving.  See, two can play this game.  You guys have your important foods and I have mine.  I did make sure to tell my aunt that it's important to keep up the noodles because it's tradition passed down from generations.  I think she gets it now.  Fingers crossed.

I feel a little more grounded and I'm sure that'll change day to day as we get closer to go time.  But as I look over at our stairs and the Christmas cards lining the banister,  I think of the people who have sent cards or gifts to me/us this holiday to let us know that we're thought of and in the end, that's all you really want is to know you're thought of.  I like letting people know they're special with a card this time of year.  I know it's a waning practice but one I plan to never abandon.  I like to check in with people regardless of the time of year.  It's kind of like that quote from Home Alone 2...

"Maybe they don't forget about you, but they forget to remember you. People don't mean to forget."

So when someone takes a moment from their busy schedules to shoot a text, email, card and such, it means so much.  Think of how you like to be remembered and not just at this time of year but any time of year.  I bet there are a few people who would love to know someone as special as you is thinking of them.

Make someone's day...don't forget to remember them.  ;-)

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Monday, December 21, 2015

White flag raised

Is Christmas over yet?

Yep, I'm at that point after all of the "togetherness" this weekend.  After all of the baking and the very sweet thank yous from the recipients, I was good with the work put into them and it was worth it.

But then I had our own cookie baking to do, house cleaning that needed done and errands to run before company arrived.  I will say it wasn't the Mr's best day and if he wasn't driving, I was tempted to punch him in the throat a time or two which always sets a lovely tone for the rest of the day.  I ended up with a stress headache that lasted most of the afternoon.  I was rushing right up until the minute our company arrived.  Overall it was a good visit but there is some serious humble-bragging problems coming up with every visit now and it's getting hard to bite my tongue.  All I could do was change my demeanor to stop myself from saying something that wouldn't be very nice.  I don't consider bragging about your wealth and the amount of money you drop impressive.  It kind of sucks when you see people change for the worse.  I'm hoping it's a phase because I don't know how much I can be around it if it continues this way.  My filter is far too thin as I age.

When they left, we didn't have time to really talk about anything as the Mr had to be up early to see The Force Awakens with my cousin at 9am across town.  I wanted to spend that time working out but I had to bake everything I needed for our Christmas gathering mid afternoon.  He called me to tell me that my cousin was late and he couldn't get a hold of him.  (He is chronically late)  He said he was probably going to have to end up leaving his ticket at the window because he wasn't missing it.  That really ticked me off and put me in a bad mood.  Then I had time to marinate on some comments from the previous night and that put me in a more foul mood.  I had all kinds of stuff to make from scratch including this bouche de noel...



I was of course rushing around until we had to leave, then a gift bag fell onto it in the car.  I wanted to scream, so I turned off the Christmas music that I'm tired of and flipped on my "anger management" playlist and started singing along with Break Stuff by Limp Bizkit.  It is the only song that will allow me the outlet to get my rage out without totally going off on someone.  A close second is Idiot by Lisa Marie Presley.  It's not quite the soundtrack I envisioned on my way to a Christmas gathering but it was for the safety of all involved.  Well, it didn't matter because others were in a mood and I honestly couldn't muster faking my lack of enthusiasm.  It was only exacerbated by the people who had a main component of the linner being an hour late, so by that time I had another headache.  But I was cordial and talkative with my other grandma who this was with because I think it's only fair to be cheery with a person dumping $150 worth of gifts in every person's lap.  Too bad a few others couldn't get that memo.  Yes, she can be a little abrasive but we see her once a year, get over yourselves and smile for her sake.  For some reason she wanted to be my buddy and I was fine with that because it kept me away from people I was not in the mood to deal with.

We did give my aunt and uncle the Food Saver we bought for them and once I showed them how it could free up their time and save them money and help her with food for both of their parents, they both got super excited about it.  I gave them a little tutorial after everyone left and it was nice.  My food was horrible this weekend and I really feel like I just don't want to make one more damn thing this week.  Of course that's how I feel as I type and today I could feel differently.  I just want a little friggin' peace and I want people to stop being puds.  I need a vacation.

Today I think I'm going to nap for as long as humanly possible.  My white flag is raised and I don't want my immune system to do the same.   I just want next year to be me and the Mr somewhere with snow, I will cook a small feast and we will leave the BS here.  I think I will start looking at cabins in the woods for next year.

Edit:  After a talk last night before bed, the Mr said he wanted me to take a hooky day for myself.  "Sleep in and don't come downstairs, just stay in bed, you deserve it!"  Sounded good to me!  I couldn't wait to catch up on the sleep I missed all weekend!

Here it is, 4am and after 2 hours of bouncing in bed to try to stop him from the hellacious snoring he decided to do only last night, I am on the couch with about 2 hours under my belt and no sleep in sight.

FML.

How was your weekend?

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas is a-comin' and what I'm reading this week

Here...now that I have the song in my head, you should too!

It's been a crazy busy week for me this week.  Between baking and the workouts we've done, my every 3 month hormonal migraine that chose the worst time to hit...my body is throwing up the white flag.  I'm going to give it a little TLC by doing yoga/stretching because I think one more hard workout will put it over the edge.  Sometimes you just need to listen to your body and give it what it needs.  It's something we should all remember, especially this time of year when we all tend to run ourselves ragged.

But enough about my semi-broken bod...let's get to...


15 Ways to Fake a Clean House  (I may have to put a few of these into effect for company tomorrow)

Best Husband Ever Cheers Up His Depressed Wife By Listing 15 Reasons Why He Loves Her  (So sweet!)

The Best Exercises for Your Lower Abs  (Need to do more of these)

Natural Remedies For Anxiety That You Can Start Using Today  (Will come in handy this time of year)

99 Thoughts I Had While Watching the Original Star Wars Trilogy for the First Time in 2015   (For the Mr to roll his eyes at)

4 Bodyweight Moves for a High-Intensity Core Workout  (Can you tell I feel my abs/core are neglected?)

The Crazy Story Of How “Clue” Went From Forgotten Flop To Cult Triumph  (I used to say this movie was my guilty pleasure but no more.  It's just my pleasure.  LOVE THIS MOVIE!  Long but great insight from the cast)

32 Solutions for When You Can't Sleep  (Get some quality zzz's)

The Best Foods to Eat When You're Constipated  (The go to's for when you can't go)

Why I (and Everybody Else) Should Learn to Take a Compliment  (I need to get better about this)

Vermont Couple in Their 80s Lists Christmas Tree Farm for Sale: 'We Really Have It All'  (Seriously...this is my dream.  I'm ready to move.  Selling Christmas magic AND having a river to paddle on?  SOLD!)

Here's How to Avoid All Star Wars Spoilers This Week  (For the Mr...at least until this weekend)

17 holiday Pinterest fails from people who just wanted to be festive  (Awesome!  They don't all have to be winners, as long as it's made with love)

5 Holiday Tips for Dealing With Challenging Family Members  (Not that you have any, of course)

20 Christmas Fails That Really Tries to Be Festive  (One more because it's always good to know you're not alone when your crafts or cookies aren't Pinterest perfect!)

It's a super busy weekend.  We've got company coming tomorrow night.  I'm glad it's something as simple as a roast.  Hopefully they like it and the twice baked potatoes and roasted carrots.  They offered up a restaurant but the thought of being out with people doing holiday get togethers in a loud place just is not my idea of fun right now.  Then Sunday the Mr sees Star Wars with my cousin and then we have a holiday gathering.  Crap, I forgot I need to make stuff for that.  Sigh.

1 week til Christmas!  Enjoy this weekend because next weekend, it's all over!  :-\

What are y'all up to this weekend? 

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

The day I ate cookies for lunch

That title ain't even frontin'...I straight up ate cookies for lunch because I didn't have time to stop.  I had a work function and five people to bake for and a self imposed shipping deadline so stopping to throw together a dainty lunch wasn't in the cards.  Given how horrible my body fely from being on my feet for 8 hours, I'd say I burned a cookie or two in addition to my workout.  (Hats off to the retailers.  I couldn't do it anymore)

But despite the physical pain, I was emotionally happy.  Any time I get to stock up on goodie bags for impending Christmas cookie baking, I'm a happy girl.


I had to do a slight twist on an old favorite and rolled the peanut butter blossoms in turbinado sugar for more texture.


I did a ginger molasses cookie and while they were no Bent Fork, they were still pretty dang good.


I did come away with a nice battle scar...literally...


I bought these new aluminum cookie sheets from Target.  Do NOT buy those things!  Any cookies I baked on those completely flattened out from the immense heat conduction.  That burn came after I touched the sheet 15 minutes AFTER it came out of the oven!!  So those things are going in the trash unless I can find the receipt.

But we took a big batch to one of my best friends who lives for the day I bring him his Christmas cookies and he was so happy.  I gave him some for his stepdad and his friend who had health issues and some treats for her dog.  One of the best Christmas gifts I get is watching him slam his face into the bags and inhale deeply.  It cracks us up but he just loves them and specifically requests my shortbread cookies because they are amazing.  Butter, brown sugar, vanilla and flour = cookie crack.

I still have our own to bake tomorrow but not nearly as many as I just made so I'm okay with that.  The only thing is we're having company Saturday and the house looks...well, like a bakery exploded.
I must say I'm proud of myself for working out and doing my strength session.  I cannot begin to tell you how just the act of sitting killed my back.  I had to have the Mr massage and crack my feet before I could even begin and my arms were weak as hell from the previous night's workout.  The Mr even gave me a pass but I pushed though because I knew I wouldn't feel good about it.  It in no way counters the sugar I took in but I could've just said "screw it" and taken the out.  I'm glad I didn't.

Do you have your holiday baking done?

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Traditions are worth the effort



I am a stickler for tradition, particularly this time of year.  I've always been that way and I suspect, I'll be that way until the ticker gives out.  Some would say I'm not open to change, I say while change is inevitable, traditions help keep you grounded in your personal history.

The core of our family traditions have been challenged to say the least since grandma's dementia diagnosis.  I was so grateful to have thought to capture her making her famous noodles that have been a staple passed down from generations from her grandma to her mom to her.  She took immense pride in seeing us all line up in the kitchen and drooling over her noodles and making sure we all had enough for leftovers.  It wasn't Thanksgiving weekend if Saturday you weren't ankle deep in grandma's noodles mixed with turkey and a carb hangover that would've been a welcome way to go.  It was her way of sharing the women she loved in her life with the people she loved...a connection to the past.

Turkey was the meat of choice for Thanksgiving of course (somehow ham got thrown in there along the way) but for Christmas it was always beef roast and noodles.  We would salivate at the thought of her roast, mashed potatoes and noodles.  It was worth every pound on the scale.  My aunt who now hosts basically every holiday, has taken on the task of preparing the noodles and if you're not a fan of cooking, it can be daunting.  But it's something we all appreciate because especially now, it's our connection to grandma...the past her...the her that knew and loved us enough to take the time to prepare it as her mother and mother's mother did.

It is well known I do not get my cooking prowess from my mom.  She's all about boxes, packages and eating out.  She took it upon herself to tell my aunt that she should nix the beef and noodles this year and make marzetti because it's "less hassle."  When my aunt mentioned it to her kids they vehemently objected and she said I likely would as well.  She was right and I told her no offense but I agreed with her kids.  (Both adults)  She said honestly, she didn't not want to make them but just kind of tested the waters to see how important it was and found out quickly it was very important.

Roasts are easy, chuck 'em in a crockpot...done.  The noodles are time consuming but they are still appreciated and I know she feels self conscious about them sometimes because she'll check with people to see if they're okay or say "I never know when they're done for sure!"  I plan to write her a thank you note letting her know her effort is appreciated, doesn't go unnoticed and it's a way to keep the love grandma put into them over the many holidays alive.  It's truly something that if it was taken away, we'd probably rethink how we spend Christmas Day.  The past few years have just been super depressing due not only to grandma's condition but griping and unsavory situations we have to be bombarded with from others.  It's not like gifts are exchanged anymore and I know this sounds bad but if it was just gathering with the same people after seeing them 4 days prior as we do every year for a pot of marzetti and 'whatever is easy'...it just wouldn't feel like the holidays grandma worked so hard to create for all of us.  It's not like all of the work is piled on my aunt, it's a potluck.  For Thanksgiving I brought 4 pies, a batch of cookies, stuffing and sweet potatoes.  The Mr was like "hell, what are other people bringing??"  Someone made a knock off of my cheeseball but they never put forth the effort I put into it which is why more than half is left when they do it.  When I do it, people fight over it and keep going back for more.  All it takes is cutting scallions and using the right cream cheese.  Very little effort, massively different result.

Sorry, I don't mean to sound like I'm ungrateful or want things my way or I'm taking my toys and going home.  It's just becoming exhausting and to change even more than what has already changed is feeling like the tipping point for my nerves.  Honestly, I feel like we all just need a break from them.  I wouldn't feel bad skipping Christmas day "festivities" altogether this year.  I just feel like people's hearts aren't in it and I really don't feel like forcing something if we're all just putting on fake faces.  While I would miss gathering with my family that day, there are now many more elements I wouldn't miss.  I hate that I feel like this especially since those of you who have followed me for any amount of time know this was always my favorite time of year.

The only thing I can count on anymore is myself.  The tradition of baking I do for others that aren't going to have cookies otherwise because of illness or personal issues that make baking a low priority helps me feel grounded in Christmas spirit and tradition.  I use some of the same recipes grandma used and it reminds me of our Christmas cookie baking when I was a kid.  (It was all fun and games until the inevitable flour fight which she would tolerate unless you got it in her hair and then the smack was put down....after one of us snuck a flour hand print on her back or butt.)  That's what I'm doing today...with Christmas music blasting, tree blazing and a table loaded with cooling racks.  This is a tradition I will do as long as I can.

What traditions are so much a part of your holiday, it wouldn't be the same without them?

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sharing the holiday cheer

I was so happy some of you decided to share your holiday decorations with us this year!  I always love seeing how other people decorate and it can give some great ideas to shake up our own holiday decorating in the future.

Let's take a peek!


Dawn shared her beautiful tree.  Looks like a lot of great Christmas memories in those ornaments!


MaryBeth shared her favorite holiday decorations.  How cool is the galvanized tub tree stand that her dad and hubby made!?


Patricia said she doesn't have a lot up this year but you've gotta love when you share Christmas love with your fish!


Sarah shared not only her own gorgeous decorations but a picture of the local courthouse that goes all out for the season!

Thanks so much to those who participated and I would love to make this a holiday tradition!

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Amazing gift, not him again and we're doing WHAT in December?

Howdy do, all?

Monday already, eh?  Mmm hmm.  I can see this month shant let me rest and relax.  If it's not physically doing something, it's the mental hamster wheel.  Oy.  I was so excited to sleep in Saturday and I ended up waking at 7am, debated getting up, my legs said "you did two Turbo Fire's in a row...walking ain't happening..."  *charles horse*  So I laid in bed for 2 hours until the Mr woke up and I massaged his broken legs in exchange for the same from him so that mobility could continue for us both.

We were lucky enough to get some ginger molasses cookies from our favorite Chicago burb bakery from a dear friend and they are heavenly.  I'm freezing half to enjoy later in the season.  The Mr isn't usually down with that flavor but this place does them so well, he was ready to snarf upon receipt.  Back away, sir.  You will lose.  So a big thank you to SK, you da bomb, yo!

I know I said I'd not focus on busy stuff but I did.  First stop was Sears to see if they had the folding buffet table I ordered on like the 3rd and said it would be shipped to the store by the 9th.  Of course, no dice.  I called customer service and they said it was in transit and would be in the 15th.  Um, it'd better be, it's a gift.  See it's a gift for my aunt because for some reason she got rid of her table in the dining room that used to hold the desserts.  Well, now there's nowhere to keep them with 25 people hanging out and last time it was in a box I brought and on the floor and nothing against Golden Retrievers but you know how their hair gets on everything and the closer to the ground, the more likely of kick up.  (Thankfully my stuff was fully covered)  I figured I'd buy a folding buffet table for her to keep because it's desperately needed but is small enough that it's not a bear to store.  You try to do something nice and they yank yer chain, yo.

World Market was having some good sales and I realized I needed more designs for treat bags so we got some and then that location didn't have the hat I wanted and I noticed they were on sale so we had to go back to our usual location and they had it and the sea salt flakes I thought were gone for my brown butter chocolate chip cookie.  WOOT!  It's the little things that make me happy.  Well until I realize the Mr has gotten in line with the one guy I can't stand there because he insists on having long, drawn out conversations with people as he rings them up and can get condescending.  Imagine being checked out by a lazy talking Johnny Weir and that about covers it.  It was the shortest line initially but of course he was chatting up everyone.  By the time I got to him, my hormones had kicked in.  I had 2 things I needed him to check to see if they were part of a sale and politely asked if he could check.  He looks at me with dead eyes and his hungover draw and says "what do I look like?"  I calmly smiled and said "an employee?"  He scanned, confirmed the sale price and went on his way.  I would not engage him in chit chat. What I wanted to say "f**ker, I could be here for 20 minutes telling you what you look like.  Do you purposely style your hair that way or do you roll out of bed after a three day bender, look in the mirror and give yourself finger pistols before saying "nailed it" and coming into work?"  I refrained.  Never again dude.

But that night, we turned on the tree, turned off the lights, grabbed our Bent Fork cookies and watched The Santa Clause and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!  We barely kept awake for the Grinch so we just kind of laid on each other on the couch and fell asleep by the tree.  I didn't even mind the kink in my neck when I woke up.

Sunday, glorious Sunday we slept in.  We were up around 9:15am and didn't get out of bed until 11am because dammit, I felt lazy!  I got up, made brunch of pancakes and an omelette by noon and then because it's disgustingly unseasonable...we did this...


If you ever told me I'd be pumping up the yak 11 days before Santa came and snow wouldn't be involved, I would've said you were nuts.  Sigh.  Not a fan of this weather but it sounded better than doing a strength session.

As usual, I couldn't leave the gaggle of gulls alone...


I sent them over the Mr's way and he kept yelling "don't poop!"


We had to do a grocery refill afterward and I was smelling Chinese food so I decided to recreate some for dinner for 540 calories.


I think the Mr will be happy to go back to work, he seemed pretty exhausted each day.  Welcome to the holidays sucker!

What did you guys do this weekend?  What is the best surprise gift you've ever gotten?

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Cookie hell and what I'm reading this week

Dough week is coming to an end.  The kitchen looks like a kindergarten cooking class got unleashed on it but I hope to be done by today.  Yesterday I baked brown butter banana bread and baked them in 3 paper baking pans and they're wrapped and in the freezer so if we need a last minute food gift, we have them.  I believe Tuesday or Wednesday is when I'm going to go cookie commando.  Ready yourself, Mr as Aunt Flo and Uncle Red will be visiting soon after so it will be in your best interest to give me a massage.

But enough about my gluten fest, lets get to...





9 Pinterest Cleaning Hacks That Will Totally Ruin Your Stuff  (Yike!)

The 9 Best Foods for Your Brain  (Load up, y'all!)

The Incredible Results You Get From Walking 30 Minutes A Day  (Strap on the walking shoes!)

Who Is Santa, and What Does He Have to Do With Christmas?  (Can you believe Christmas is 2 weeks away?)

Winter Car Care Tricks You Should Know  (Good tips to know)

Dave Grohl And Animal From 'The Muppets' Have A Drum Battle  (Dave, I love you.)

Why You Should Make Fun a Priority in Life  (Let loose, y'all!)

Scott Weiland's Family: 'Don't Glorify This Tragedy'  (Bravo to her.  So sad for his children)

How to Not Gain a Sh*t Ton of Weight This Holiday Season, According to the Pros  (Sh*t ton is an actual unit of measurement, I do believe)

The No. 1 Thing 15 Relationship Experts Have Learned About Love  (Wonderful things to remember to keep the love alive)

Lane Bryant’s Twitter Chat Kind of Backfired  (Had to laugh a bit.  I haven't bought from there in well over a decade because their prices are outrageous)

11 Money-Saving Secrets to Know Before Shopping at Kohl's  (Seriously, I cannot believe the awesome saving tips in this article!  A must read for Kohl's shoppers)

Trader Joe's vs. the Real Deal: Here's Who Makes Your Favorite Foods Best   (You know that white cheddar mac and cheese?  That's really Annie's...and other secrets)

How I Bounced Back from a Binge Eating Episode  (Tis the season)

Mom Finds Solidarity on Facebook After Sharing Son’s Inappropriate, Funny Xmas Drawing  (Almost wee'd myself laughing)

Harrison Ford Sets The Donald Straight on Air Force One  (Courtesy of the Mr.  Don't read the article, watch the video.  So funny)

I'm still wiggin' that Christmas is two weeks from today.  It will be over soon and that makes me sad.  So I am making a commitment to myself to enjoy this weekend and try not to pour myself into a bunch of "to do" and just soak it in.  Perhaps a Christmas movie marathon because we're behind.  Or maybe go look at neighborhood Christmas lights.  It'd be really nice if mother nature would do me a solid and cough up some snow to make it feel like Christmas.

What are you up to this weekend?

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Things I'm Lovin' This Week

It has been a busy week at the homestead and I'd be remiss if I didn't share some stuff that has helped make preparing for baking week much easier.  Some of these would make good gifts too...even if only for yourself.  Let's get to it!

Hamilton Beach Eclectrics All-Metal Stand Mixer

People!  This thing has saved my arms this week!  Since I'm a frugal gal, I did my research on this before buying and saw it got just as good of reviews as it's more expensive counterpart.  I used to kill my shoulder and forearms making mondo batches of cookie and candy doughs but once I got this I was actually mad at myself for waiting so long.  I busted out 8 cookie doughs this week with no strain to my already aching shoulders from strength sessions.  Woot!

FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing System with Starter Kit

I seriously don't know what I'd do without my FoodSaver, especially during the holiday season.  I always do my own turkey and save it for later in the season (or when the holiday turkey others made was a little less moist).  Then when a week like this one comes, I bust out the cookie doughs en masse, wrap them in parchment paper and FoodSave them (totally a verb) and chuck 'em in the freezer until baking day.  (I put them in the fridge the night before)  I was talking about the miracle of this with my uncle who is a hunter and he said he always thought about getting one but they're such an investment.  This time of year you can score great deals and I did when I bought one for him and will include lessons to teach him how to get his leftovers in order when the crowd thins out.


Norpro Stainless Steel Cookie Scoop

This thing is so awesome, I bought two.  It makes the same sized cookies/candy as long as you scrape the dough on the side of the bowl as you scoop.  That makes it easier for portion control and calorie counting...if you're into that kind of thing this time of year.  It's especially nice when making big ol' batches of maple buckeyes so that they're all uniform.  I will still occasionally let a little extra sneak in on those since they're the Mr's favorite but dang it's so much easier than eyeballing!

Now to get out of the baking realm...

Dr. Tungs Tongue Cleaner


I know this may sound weird to people but holy crap, I can't believe I've gone this long without using this thing!  I always brush my tongue (on it, under it, the inside of cheeks and gumline too) because I read a long time ago you should for at least 30 seconds.  I've never had a cavity so I figure it was all good.  Then I saw something that showed all the crap still left on your tongue (especially the back of it) after brushing and that was enough for me.  The link is for the 2 pack with a little bag for each of them.  Not only is it good for dealing with any breath issues people might not want to bring up (coffee drinkers!  Sorry...) but it's good for scraping off that meal that you can still taste and is maybe still making you hungry when you know you're not.  Or scrape off that garlic or onion after a meal so your sweetie isn't repulsed!  HA!


Lindt White Peppermint Truffles

I know, I know...I shouldn't be loving these this or any week but my friend popped a few of these in my gift from her and I literally sank back in my couch and blacked out for a few seconds.  When I came to, I had a dopey grin on my face because it tasted like an amped up version of these rainbow mints I used to get only at Christmas from our local candy shop.  I still want the wee 2 oz baggie of those in my stocking but these were amazing while they lasted.

Better Homes and Garden Heritage 3 Piece Bowls


You guys!  I saw these on Tatertots and Jello, along with her awesome free printable tags and I ran out that night and bought them.  That never happens...especially with Walmart because I have a low tolerance for the place this time of year.  Thankfully it was rather subdued and these were up front and for $8.88 for all three bowls, I'm filling these babies up and giving them as gifts to people who will love me forever...or until I make their chit list again and it'll be "what have you done for me lately, Miss Jackson?"

Oh, two weeks until my favorite day of the year!  I think Christmas Eve is the most magical day of the year.  It's all going too fast!

What are you loving this week? 

This post contains a few affiliate links.  Should you buy through them, I will get a few cents back to keep the blog lights on.

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