Adios, 2006!

With just under 5 hours left until 2007, a turkey roast in the oven (from a frozen box — no need to be impressed by my awesome culinary skills), and Christmas decorations all boxed up and put away, I guess it’s about time I write my last Christmas-related post of the year.

Sometime back in high school, my friends, Jessie and Liz, and I started a traditional gathering called Christmas Eve-Eve. Where did the name come from? Simple. It takes place on December 23rd, which is the eve of Christmas Eve, and thus Christmas Eve-Eve.

With Christmas and Christmas Eve typically being so family-centered, Christmas Eve-Eve is the perfect day to get together with friends to celebrate the holidays. So, Jessie, Liz, and I decided to have a great girls’-night-style evening complete with gift exchange, sparkling cider (we were still in high school, remember), games, and a sleepover. And, since the first Christmas Eve-Eve took place at my parents’ house, my brother was invited to join the festivities as well.

And oh, what a festive time we had! Many traditions were begun on that first Christmas Eve-Eve.

We started the night with dinner, followed by a drive around town to see some of the best Christmas lights. Jessie took us to one house in her parents’ neighborhood that was insanely decorated. These people took their lights and lawn ornaments seriously, let me tell you. They even had a life-sized animatronic Santa that sat in the middle of the lawn and waved to passers-by. We were so amazed by this house that we parked the car and proceeded to walk all around the lawn (ummm…manners? tresspassing? what are those?), counting santas and reindeer and commenting on how hot the homeowners’ son was. We also spent a lot of time discussing whether the animatronic santa was acutally a real person or not. I, for one, was pretty impressed that they had gotten him to be so real-looking. “Look!” I enthusiastically informed Jessie and Liz, “They must have used dry ice or something because it looks like you can actually see his breath!”

(You see where this is going, don’t you? Are you wondering how I ever graduated high school after making genius comments like that one? Because I am.)

We traipsed around the lawn some more, then next thing I knew, Liz was slowly creeping up the candy-cane pathway that led to the life-sized santa — clearly trying to get a closer look and resolve the mystery once and for all. My curiosity got the better of me and so I started up the path a few steps behind her. Suddenly, she was right there in front of Santa, her face centimeters from his.

And that’s when he said, “Boo!”

Liz and I ran screaming out into the middle of the neighborhood street while Jessie, who hadn’t heard Santa speak, stared at us completely baffled.

Long story short, Santa was real. And boy were we ever embarrassed. But we had a great time talking to him and hearing him tell us about all the other crazy people like us that he and his wife laugh at night after night. Occasionally during our conversation, cars would approach and Santa would resume his robotic wave until they had passed.

And thus began the Christmas Eve-Eve tradition of baking cookies and delivering them to the Scary (but secretly really nice and funny) Santa.

It’s also a Christmas Eve-Eve tradition to play charades, preferably while drunk, which makes it that much more fun and entertaining. (What? Do you honestly think sparkling cider was the ONLY thing we drank once we were done driving for the night?)

Over the years, Christmas Eve-Eve has, of course, evolved. Liz moved away, as did my brother. (Although one year not too long ago when we hadn’t heard from Liz in awhile, I was getting ready to go to Jessie’s apartment for the festivities when I pulled up at a stoplight right next to Liz. We rolled down our windows and I asked her, “Are you coming to Christmas Eve-Eve?” And she said, “Sure! I just bought stuff to make martinis, so that’s perfect! I’ll follow you there!” It was a Christmas miracle.)

This year, for the first time, significant others were invited. So it was me and Tim, Jessie and her boyfriend Isaac (whom I met for the first time and was tons of fun and clearly very good for Jessie — don’t you just love seeing your friends in happy relationships?), and my good friend Kat, who happened to be back in town for the holidays, and who I haven’t seen since my wedding. We ordered delicious pizzas, drank loads of champagne, baked and delivered cookies to Santa (we got stuck in the snow on his street and had to get out and push the car; it was a Christmas miracle that we made it out of there!), played drunken charades, and had a truly wonderful time. It was so much fun to see Kat again, especially in a setting where we could actually sit and talk for hours. It’s so wonderful to have friends with whom, even after being in different cities or states for several years, you can just pick up where you left off and the conversation is just as easy and fun as it always was.

Having friends like Jessie and Kat, and a husband like Tim … now that is a true Christmas Miracle.

My Christmas, as told through photos

I still have a few items on my List of Things to Write About from the Christmas Weekend, one of which being all the Christmas Miracles that took place on Christmas Eve-Eve. But apparently snow days (yes! it snowed again! I didn’t go to work today!) make me lazy, so instead of writing much of anything, here’s a bunch of photos. Enjoy!

Christmas morning, Tim and I awoke to discover that we had been visited in the night by the Pajama Santa. Nothing beats a new pair of jammies on a cold winter morning, let me tell you. We immediately donned our new apparrel and headed upstairs for a yummy coffee cake breakfast. We had one coffee cake that my mom made, and one that I made, and they were delicious!

Breakfast

After breakfast, it was out to the living room to open presents. Tasha, my parents’ dog, loves presents. She loves them so much that she went ahead and snuggled right up to a few.

Tasha loves presents

We received all kinds of wonderful stuff. Like drink glasses and mixers.

Drinks

And earmuffs! (Please excuse the bed head.)

Earmuffs

A very cool Dunder Mifflin shirt.

Dunder Mifflin

A few very cozy scarfs, including this one, which was crocheted by my brother’s wife, Meg. (The bed head is much better when covered with a hat.) (Photo taken by my dad.)

scarf!

And … drumroll …

What could it be?

A Dyson!!! Spefically designed for households with dogs that shed a lot!

Dyson!

You know you’re becoming an adult when the new toy you’re most excited to play with the minute you get it home is a vacuum.

test run

We took turns playing with our new toy.

tim's turn

And look at all the ick it picked up. Yuck! And that’s only after doing part of the floor. We really needed a good vacuum!

yuck

Of course, I didn’t take pictures of all of the fabulous gifts we got. Our family and friends were very good to us this year. I was lucky enough to recieve a Grinch Christmas ornament, a beautiful bracelet, and some yummy perfume from my sweet husband. My parents gave us a much-needed electric blanket, which has kept us warm and toasty every night this week. My fantastic grandma gave us the first season of Rome on DVD (LOVE!), and my cousins gave us the second seasons of The Office and Entourage (also love!). I gave Tim a new bathrobe, an engraved snowflake ornament, and a sushi set, among other things.

Sushi!

Ben did his share of giving and receiving, too. He gave Tim a few pairs of socks, which are reported to be very comfortable. And because Ben was such a good puppy this year, Santa brought him a great big rawhide bone.

Giant Bone

Ben loves this bone. He works on it every night.

Hard at work

You can tell he’s thrilled by the challenge of eating something that’s practically as big as he is.

Progress

After the presents were opened and the wrapping gathered up, there was time for a quick nap before we started cooking dinner. The dogs took advantage of the down time to get some good playing in before the house started filling up with cooking smells that would need investigating. (My dad took this picture, too.)

Play Time

We had Christmas dinner with my grandma, aunt, uncle, cousin, and cousin’s girlfriend, which was both fun and delicious.

Dinner

At the end of the night, we had full bellies and very tired dogs.

sleepy dogs

It was a very merry Christmas.

Yes, I’m still talking about Christmas

Saw this over at Mrs. Ca and Sex Ed in Higher Ed and wanted to do it last week, but never got around to it. So here it is now.

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate? Hot Chocolate. Preferably with peppermint schnapps added. My mom makes a delicious low-fat eggnog, but I don’t like it so much with the liquor added. So hot chocolate with booze it is!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just put them under the tree? Of course he wraps them! The whole point of presents is to OPEN them and be surprised — why would you take that away?

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? We have both on the house but the tree is colored lights only. It’s so much more fun and festive that way!

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No. I tried to find some this year, but had no luck. All I want is a little plastic mistletoe that I can hang every year and not worry about it falling down and poisoning the dog. But I can’t seem to find it anywhere.

5. When do you put your decorations up? Sometime during the first couple weeks of December.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Chicken cutlets with a white wine and mushroom sauce. Soooooo goooood.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? One year all of our local relatives were out of town, so it was just my parents, my brother, and me on Christmas. This was also the first year we had chicken cutlets for Christmas dinner. Much as I love seeing all of my relatives over the holidays, this particular Christmas was really relaxed and laid-back because it was just the four of us. I stayed in my pajamas all day long, and a Christmas that includes eating chicken cutlets in your pajamas is hard to beat.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don’t really remember. I think the girl who lived in the house behind us ruined the Easter Bunny for me, but I’m not sure about Santa.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Colored lights and a hodge-podge of ornaments that have been collected over years and years of family Christmasses. I very much prefer trees filled with family memories than formal trees with the same 3 color-coordinated ornaments all over them.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? One year I went to a midnight candlelight service on Christmas Eve with my friends Jessie and Liz, and when the service was over and we came outside, it was snowing. Since it was midnight, the entire town was quiet and the falling snow that coated everything in town made the drive home feel absolutely magical. It was beautiful. I loved it.

12. Can you ice skate? Poorly.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? How about one of my favorite gift memories? My parents have a rule that if you guess what your present is, you have to take it back to the store. I didn’t realize as a kid that this rule is mostly a joke, and one year I happened to see my parents taking Mall Madness (the older version that came in the pink box) out of the trunk of their car before Christmas (I was naughty and peeked after they had expressly told me not to look). I didn’t say anything about it, and as soon as I unwrapped it Christmas morning I tore off the celophane wrapping and started getting the game all set up to play. Usually we waited until after all the presents were open before playing with our new toys, but I was sure that if I opened the game and started using it then there was no way the store would accept it as a return. Later, with tears in my eyes because I just couldn’t live with the guilt, I confessed to my parents and told them the game had to be taken back. I don’t remember how they responded, except I did get to keep the game and now we all look back and laugh about it.

14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you? Spending time with my family.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Pumpkin pie.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Coffee Cakes.

17. What tops your tree? A sliver lighted star that we got at King Soopers for something like $3. It’s really pretty; the only problem is that the plug doesn’t fit in the plugs on the strings of colored lights, so I have to plug it into a seperate extension cord. Why would you make a tree topper that won’t plug into Christmas tree lights?

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? While receiving is awfully fun, I really like finding great gifts to people and seeing their reaction when they open them.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? The Christmas Song.

20. Candy canes? In my hot chocolate.

21. Favorite Christmas movie? How the Grinch Stole Christmas. We watch it every year.

The World’s Best OPC & PJCM

Hey! Remember when I wrote about Baking Day? Well, I recently realized (read: it was brought to my attention) that with all the time I spent praising my mom and the coffee cakes and the whole Chrismas tradition, I unintentionally failed to properly recognize the one person who is the glue that holds Baking Day together. The person without whom Baking Day would never be the same.

The one, the only … Official Pourer of Champagne and Programmer of Jazzy Christmas Music (OPC & PJCM). A.K.A. My Dad.

(Hi Dad!)

As my mom and I baked desserts for Christmas Dinner Saturday morning, I took in my surroundings: Baking with my mom? Check. Jazzy Christmas Music? Check. Champagne expertly poured by my dad? Double Check. Yes, this was what baking at Christmas was all about.

Now, while baking with my mom is a wonderful pasttime, it’s my dad’s contributions to the activities that make it a true Christmas experience. The champagne and music are the extra details that fill the day with Christmas spirit. (And spirits!)

Growing up with my dad has taught me many things: sarcasm, the joy of acronyms, how much better college basketball games are when the pep band is there to play, and the names of all the flowers in the back yard, to name a few. But the lesson I always remember most around this time of year is that the best Christmas music is Jazzy Christmas Music.

While your standard radio station Christmas music is okay, it’s rather cliche and gets old pretty quick. But Jazzy Christmas Music is, well, Jazzy. It’s way more fun and never gets old. And, for me, hearing a jazzy Christmas song always brings to mind all of the wonderful holiday memories from 20-some years of spending Christmas with my family. Nothing gets me into the Christmas spirit quicker than a good Jazzy Christmas song.

And there is no better way to bake than with a variety of expertly-chosen Jazzy Christmas CDs playing in the background, courtesty of the World’s Best Programmer of Jazzy Christmas Music.

Knowing how great my dad’s taste in music is, you can imagine my joy upon receiving a stocking full of Jazzy Christmas CDs this year. My dad is such a good PJCM that after reading about my lack of music on baking day, he quickly remedied the situation. Thanks to my dad, I will never again have to bake coffee cakes without Jazzy Christmas Music.

As for his champagne pouring skills … well, there’s a reason he’s the World’s Best Official Pourer of Champagne. He knows just the right way to pop the cork so it startles the dog (always entertaining). And, in the rare event that the champagne bubbles up out of the bottle, my dad has always got a champagne flute ready to catch any spillage. He can pour a full glass without any fizzy overflow. You can rest assured that not a drop of champagne will be wasted if my dad pours it.

This is a highly important skill when it comes to Baking Day’s OPC. Sure, our coffee cakes tasted the same this year even though we didn’t have the proper fizzy refreshement while baking, but they weren’t nearly as fun to make. And a Baking Day without fizzy fun is hardly a baking day at all.

So, thank you, Dad, for being the World’s Best OPC & PJCM through the years. (And thanks for not beating me too badly at Ping Pong* over the weekend, too.) Baking Day just wouldn’t be as fun without you.

*My dad is also the Undisputed World Champion of Ping Pong.

Feliz Navidad

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I haven’t written or read anything for several days because I’ve been too busy enjoying time with my family. I hope you’ll understand. I plan to get all caught up in the next couple of days.

I hope your holidays are all absolutely wonderful!

Besos!

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