The Ghost of Christmas Past

Looking back, Christmas 2007 was a little strange, but in mostly good ways.

Even though I started decorating earlier than usual, I shopped later than usual. Sadly, I didn't get my family's gifts out in time for them to open them for Christmas. But since we're going to New Orleans in 3 weeks, we'll get to open gifts together, since 2 of the 3 families who live in New Orleans didn't get their gifts out either (ADD runs in the family).

We hosted Christmas dinner for Mr. C's family. A good time was had by all, with way too much eating and enjoyment of adult beverages. Now that Mr. C's nephews are morphing into adults, they are much more fun to hang with. His nephew, a DJ for a popular rock station here in town, is especially becoming an interesting guy, and decided to surprise us with his contribution to our feast....

Nasty on the half-shell

Yes, those are what you think they are. One of my least favorite "food" items ever - snot on a stick - escargots. I about died. He and his girlfriend learned how to make them just for this occasion and they had gone all out, even bringing their own itty-bitty snail forks. So what's a polite hostess to do? I am proud to say I stepped up to the challenge, and for the second (and please God, please the last?) time in my life, choked down 2 of the little snotballs WITH A SMILE ON MY FACE! And promptly washed them down with a huge glass of Pinot Grigio because a sip or two just wasn't enough to eradicate the memory.

I have to say that those slimy pieces of gristle were a huge party pleaser, as everyone, like it or not, was put to the challenge to eat at least one. Even Mr. C's other nephew, the one who literally ate only 5 foods during his entire childhood and adolescence, ate some. Good thing we all had such a great time with this, since the DJ announced this would now be an annual family tradition. You know, I have a real-life allergy to shellfish...snails live in shells...darn it, I think I'm highly allergic! I can't risk eating even one more, because I could go into anaphalactic shock! so I guess I'll have to forego the appetizers next year.

Snail Boy

The rest of the dinner involved real food, I am happy to say, with very few leftovers. everyone stayed and hung out by the fire for a long time afterwards, laughing, telling favorite childhood stories, listening to good music. It was great.

Weather-wise, we still had some residue from the ice storms, giving us a green/brown/white Christmas. One of my nieces arrived for a visit Christmas night and was delighted to see white stuff on the ground. In her honor, we had snow showers the day after Christmas and then more overnight, so she had a really nice 3" of snow to romp in. We did a lot of shopping, eating, and hanging out. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures because we were so busy. She also had the unique experience of going snow-skiing across the state line in Missouri, with a friend of hers. You read that right - I said snow-skiing in Missouri! Don't believe me? Check this out. I would have gone, except for the fact that I had a ruptured disk 3 years ago and don't care to repeat the experience.

Finally, I received some really fun and creative gifts this year. I got some GC's, including one for some stash enhancement and some of the usual suspects (gloves, candles, DVD's). The best gifts I received, however, were handmade by some talented family members:

My brother made this beautiful fleur-de-lis cross and his 2007 limited edition ornament (the New Orleans lighthouse).

This was the year for the fleur-de-lis, as I also received some wine charms, a plaque made by his wife, and this adorable little tote - the perfect size for small knitting projects! (Not handmade, but I love it and wanted to show it off!).

And then my other sister-in-law, who is a talented potter, sent me not just one, but 2!!!! of her fantastic creations - a planter and a unique 3-tiered vase. She can be found selling her FrogPond creations at various art fairs in the Charlotte, NC area. I knitted her some pretty facecloths this year and hope she enjoys using them.

My niece went back to sunshine and warmth, while we're here in our winter wonderland, cleaning up, getting re-organized and starting to get ready to go to New Orleans! We're spending a quiet evening at home tonight, as the wind chill is plunging and there may be some ice glazing the roads. So we're cocooning, with lots of cooking, wine, movies, the fur-kids and my knitting. Can't think of a better way to greet the new year!


On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

... Criquette, Mr. C, Chloe, Abbie, Bitsy BonTon and the original Miss Criquette wish you all a joyful, peaceful, and love-filled Christmas! Take care.


On the Elevenfth Day of Christmas

... I am taking a moment from all of the last minute rush and chaos to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, which was first pronounced by the Angel: "Peace on Earth, good will to all." In the spirit of that first Christmas promise, I have shared this poem, first written during World War II, every year with my friends and family.

Kid Stuff

The wise guys
tell me
that Christmas
is Kid Stuff...
Maybe they've got
something there --

Two thousand years ago
three wise guys
chased a star
across a continent
to bring
frankincense and myrrh
to a Kid
born in a manger
with an idea in his head...

And as the bombs
all over the world
the real wise guys
that we've all
got to go chasing stars
in the hope
that we can get back
some of that
Kid Stuff
born two thousand years ago --

Frank Horne
December, 1942

Most of us are just regular people, but each one of us can do something, however small, to spread the promise of peace on earth. We can do something kind for our loved ones when they are having a bad day. We can practice random acts of kindness to total strangers. We can pay it forward. We can volunteer. We can vote. We can pray.

Sometimes I know I have an opportunity to do something but a little voice inside tells me it's so small it won't make a difference so isn't worth the effort. I read somewhere that even though these acts seem minuscule in the grand scheme of things, they are like grains of sand. When enough grains of sand get together, massive beaches are formed.

I am so grateful to be part of the knitting community. So many, many wonderful individuals who find ways to be grains of sand on a regular basis. So many people reaching out to others, spreading peace and goodwill with 2 sticks and some yarn. I love you all!


On the Tenth Day of Christmas

... I googled "Rovaniemi, Finland". AKA "the North Pole".

Enquiring minds are asking: why? Because it is where Santa Claus' workshop can be found. Or, as he is known by his homies, Santa Clausen. Located right on top of the Arctic Circle, it is promoted as a popular vacation destination. Surely, most people would want to go. Except for Dianne, who is allergic to snow. And Nichole, who seems to be developing a sudden allergy to snow as well.

These are the world headquarters where all of the Christmas toys are made by REAL ELVES.

Okay, so they don't look like what I imagined, either. In fact, they look like they've spent way too many hours in the tanning booth. But these are real elves. How do I know? Because they live at Santa's empire at the North Pole.

There are also REAL REINDEER. Unfortunately, Rudolph is only an urban myth.

This is Mrs. Clausen. Quite the little vixen, isn't she? Now we know why Santa is so jolly all the time. (I am refraining from the HOHOHO joke I am dying to make right now. Because that would be so wrong 2 nights before Christmas.)

Santa really keeps huge volumes of Naughty and Nice lists. (Can you guess which list Mrs. Claus ends up on each year?)

Here are some other little known Santa facts:

Santa doesn't actually live at the North Pole. He lives in the mountains in a town called Korvatunteri and commutes to his office at the NP every day.

Santa likes to do his part for the environment. Note he drives an energy-conserving subcompact for his daily commute.

Santa concludes his Christmas Eve ride with a sauna (prepared by the Sauna Elf (I'm not making this up)) and a feast that includes prune soup, ham, a casserole made of carrots, turnips and potaotes, and gingerbread. All washed down with reindeer milk and brewskis. I know I'd ride around the world all night through the frigid cold delivering millions of gifts if I had that kind of meal to look forward to. Yummo.

Santa is quite an entrepreneur. He has his own post office and amusement park. You can actually visit Santa at his office and watch him work. And for a small fortune, you can have a picture taken too.

You can also buy lots and lots of souvenirs.

But who can blame the big guy? You didn't think Christmas is free did you?

What do you mean you still don't believe in Santa Claus? Then go and read about him for yourself at his official website.

What's more, you can be an Official Santa Stalker! You can spy on him 24/7. In fact, if you are watching the live webcam at midnight Finnish time, you'll probably be able to watch liftoff.

And you can even watch throughout the night as he flies around the world and track Santa by radar. This is much more comfortable and convenient than sitting by the window, watching the sky for hours on end. I wonder if kids appreciate how good they have it these days.

PS - in case you're wondering where the knitting content went to, the truth is there hasn't been much knitting going on around here. I'd have to guess that about, ummmm, 100% of the gifts I was planning to knit in time for Christmas are UFO's. That means I'm really counting on Mr. Clausen to help me out this year.


On the Ninth Day of Christmas

... we're getting a premature white Christmas. We're supposed to get a couple of inches today and another inch or 2 the day after, but it's supposed to be a brown Christmas here this year, since today's snow is supposed to be melted by Tuesday. Maybe this snowfall will make its way Northeast so some of my friends out that way will be making snow angels to burn off the Christmas feast. Except at Dianne's house. I'm wishing her a brown Christmas!

This is the 3rd weekend IN A ROW that there's some kind of frozen stuff coming out of the sky! First we had ice and frozen rain. Last weekend was sleet and snow. Today is frozen rain, sleet and snow. The past 2 weekends, I mostly stayed put inside, letting other idiots have the slippery roads to themselves. Today, I had no choice. If Christmas is going to happen, I had to become one of the idiots. But except for 3 more gifts (which technically can be bought after Christmas because I missed the mailing deadline so some of my family will be opening New Year's gifts), I am done - gifts, wrappings, food, wine - done!


On the Eighth Day of Christmas

... the kitties get a turn.

Trying to decorate kitties is a challenging thing

Some of them just don't get the point

Others will surprise you, though

They like getting into the Christmas spirit



On the Seventh Day of Christmas/Dogs On Thursday

... Abbie and Chloe, donned in gay apparel.

"Wanna make a run for it?"

Fact: Dogs can roll their eyes if given enough provocation

"Will tolerate stupid gay apparel for treats"

"Will you take this off if I promise I will never run away again?"


On the Sixth Day of Christmas

... I start digging through some favorite holiday recipes. We're going to a couple of parties where we've been asked to bring a dish, so I thought I'd share what I'm bringing.

Cream Cheese Pizza

1 16oz. package of low fat cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, room temperature
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper

1 small can pitted black olives
6 large white mushrooms

Spread the cream cheese in an even layer on a 12" round platter, leaving 2" bare around the edge. Chop the vegetables into tiny pieces, approximately 1/8" - 1/4" size. Sprinkle vegetables evenly over top of the cream cheese and press lightly into the cream cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6-8 hours before serving. Serve with whole grain crackers or pita chips.

Cajun Crunch Cake

Preheat oven to 350.

2 c flour
1&1/2 c sugar
1&1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs, lightly beaten
pinch of salt
1 large can crushed pineapple, DO NOT DRAIN

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the 2 eggs and mix in. Add the pineapple and juice. Stir well. Pour into an ungreased 13"x9" baking pan. Bake in oven for 40 minutes. Leave in pan.


1 c sugar
1 stick butter
1 small can evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 c chopped pecans

Put sugar, butter, evaporated milk and vanilla in saucepan. Boil 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add pecans. Stir well and pour over cake. No cooling necessary.

These are both pretty simple and very, very good. Bon appetit et Bonne Noel!


On the Fifth Day of Christmas

....my @#^@&#%@## builder gave to us, MORE PLUMBING PROBLEMS!!!

Fortunately, it wasn't the commode this time, it was the dirty, soapy water from the washing machine and Mr. C's shower that caused the drain in the unfinished part of the basement to back up. Some of it did seep under the wall and got the carpet wet, though. So this means that until this latest problem is fixed, we can't run any water in the sinks or tubs, can't flush, and can't run the dishwasher or washing machine. "Bathing" out of a smallish container is no fun and ask me how I know.

I'm trying not to dwell on this today, because in the big scheme of things it isn't the worst thing in the world. It's fixable and will be okay. But it does put me in a surly, Grinch-ish mood today. So to keep my perspective, I will divert my attention with some empty amusement calories and share 5 funny things (did you notice this rhymes with "5 golden rings"?):


On the Fourth Day of Christmas

... please take a moment to send out some love and healing thoughts to The Sweetness (aka Bossy's daughter). The Sweetness had a horrible mauling from a vicious dog last week while helping a younger child. You can read more here.

Would you please take a few minutes from your very busy holiday schedules to send The Sweetness and her very stressed-out mom a supportive comment or even an ecard? Even though she's not a knitter (yet), Bossy's daily blog is one of the best forms of free therapy out there. Let them know that knitters are THE BEST when it comes to sharing the positive thoughts and good wishes for The Sweetness' smile to come back for Christmas!


On the Second Day of Christmas...

we got 2" of snow...

...to cover the ice we got in the winter storm last weekend. At least there's enough traction to drive slowly. I still have over 1/2 of my Christmas shopping to do, and the majority needs to happen tomorrow so I can mail out family gifts later this week.

To those readers who are being pummelled with the frozen stuff this weekend, be safe and careful and stay warm!


On the First Day of Christmas,

the furkids gave to me....

...a bumper sticker

...a ton of bunnies

...a refrigerator magnet

...and a year's worth of Yarn Wrangling

(Proof of knitting - the 5 current UFO's)


On the Thrird Day of Christmas

...we pay homage to one of my favorite childhood icons, Mr. Bingle.

He was a goofy snowman who had an ice cream cone hat, carried a candy cane and had the most annoying, high-pitched nasal voice. But it wasn't Christmas until we made the pilgrimage downtown to the Maison Blanche department store on Canal Street. There, a giant Santa and his snowy little friend smiled down upon us as we marched through the front doors and up the escalator to the North Pole, where we stood in line with hundreds of other kids to see Santa and his helper, Mr. Bingle.

Mr. Bingle rocked. There were Mr. Bingle ornaments and stuffed toys. He had his very own theme song and even has his own video on You Tube. He made guest appearances on the local kiddie TV shows on Sunday mornings - even in black & white Mr. Bingle still managed to look very festive.

He had his own cookbook.

He was quite the celebrity. Every season, right after Thanksgiving, the commercials would start airing. That first "Jingle, jangle jingle, here comes Mr. Bingle, with another message from Kris Kringle..." was the signal for us to start begging Mom and Dad to take us downtown, to see the elaborately decorated windows, Santa, and, of course, the B-man himself.

It was a Very Big Deal to make the trek downtown to see Mr. Bingle and Santa. But, one of the most humiliating experiences of my life happened during a trip to see Mr. Bingle. Little did we know that it would be the last time my poor parents would ever take us downtown to see Santa. Maybe it was one of their most humiliating moments also.

I was either 8 or 9 years old when this happened. My brothers (it was all their fault) were about 5 and 7. We were dressed in our new Christmas outfits because we were going to have our pictures taken with Santa and Mr. Bingle. My grandmother, who was a seamstress, had made me a little navy blue skirt and jacket suit. I loved it because I thought it made me look very chic. Like Barbie, only shorter. And not blonde. And much more flat-chested.

The fatal mistake that my parents made was the decision to go look at furniture before taking us to see Santa. Which left my brothers and me to our own devices. (Have I ever mentioned that I have ADHD? And so do my brothers (who were responsible for this whole debacle)).

So what did we find to occupy ourselves with? Rugs, lovely thick stacks of soft, bouncy rugs. Perfect for jumping, tumbling and rolling about. Over and over. Until our father grabbed us, lined us up by the escalator and proceeded to give us each a good swat on the butt and a rather loud scolding (that was back in the day when the rod was not spared, even in public). Oh the humiliation! Because as we stood there in our whimpering misery, it seemed like hundreds and hundreds of well-behaved children, perfectly groomed for their visit to see Mr. Bingle, were getting off the escalator, shooting us looks of contempt and pity.

Perfectly groomed, lint-free children who would never, ever roll all over carpets and
embarrass their poor parents like that

But the worst of my misery was not from the public swatting, or even from being told that we were NOT going to get to visit Santa and Mr. Bingle. No, I was groveling in the humiliation and embarrassment of being covered in carpet lint. Literally, my perky little suit was no longer navy, but was a fuzzy mess of colored fibers. I was actually somewhat relieved not to have to stand in line and bear the scrutiny of the well-behaved children waiting to tell Santa how good they had been. I cried all the way home, sad at not visiting Mr. Bingle and Santa, worried that my suit was ruined and I would have to wear it this way when we went to Christmas mass.

I have only experienced this depth of humiliation 2 or 3 times since then. I survived the incident without too many obvious scars - I have bought rugs for my home, have worn other chic navy blue suits, and still have a deep fondness for Mr. Bingle.

And I am still quite positive that it was definitely my brothers' fault.