Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sick on Christmas

Christmas is supposed to include candy canes and mistletoe. But, this year, my Christmas included sneezes and coughs. I’ve been dealing with a nasty cold and have been taking DayQuil. Unfortunately, it has taken some time before the relief from symptoms were an actual relief. All the same, I swallowed the pills on Christmas morning and hoped for the best.

The night before Christmas, Jennifer was too excited to sleep. We had to keep sending her back to bed. This had me wondering if she was going to be up bright and early on Christmas Day. Nope! Actually, I was the first one up yesterday. And, believe me, I cherished that “calm before the storm”! So I let the dog out, made coffee and made sure everything was in order. Then Jennifer finally woke up and, after seeing the presents and getting all excited, she ran to wake her brother up. Both kids started getting all excited around the tree and I reminded them we needed to wake up their dad before we opened gifts. I waited until 8, then I told them to go wake him up.

As if on cue, the coughing and sneezing hit me with a fierceness when we sat down to open gifts. Jennifer played Santa. Because Jesse wanted to help pass out gifts, too, he was designated as her elf. It was cute watching her read the labels, handing him a gift and telling him who to give it to.

Jesse got a lot of toys for Christmas this year, but also a good supply of new clothes. Jennifer also got new clothes, as well as a chess game, books, art supplies and a snow globe (which she’d had her eye on for months). She also wanted just one big thing for Christmas, if nothing else on her list: A Nintendo DS. She was disappointed that it was not among her gifts. When she unwrapped an Atari game console she could hook up to the TV, I thought hubby had no luck in finding the DS. (We could only find the DSi and DS Lite, but not the regular DS.) But then he said there was one more gift for Jennifer hidden under the tree. She had to go hunting for it. I thought it was cute he had hidden her special gift, but he didn’t stop there! Not only had he hidden it but … he’d overwrapped it!! Jen opened one gift bag after another and another and another until she got to the box. Which was a box within a box! We kept laughing over her little obstacle in trying to unwrap her secret special present. Finally, after the third unwrapping of a box, she had her REAL present. And she was ecstatic to see it was the Nintendo DS! Hooray! He’d found it! She was walking on air. So excited she FINALLY got a Nintendo DS.

Now I must include a side note here. Up until now, I have banned video games from our home. I did this because I was worried about Jennifer becoming a video game addict. I don’t want to be one of those moms who let their kids play video games all day! But, see, the key word here is “let.” It’s up to the parents to draw the line on that kind of thing and curb the video game addiction. Nip it in the bud before it gets worse! Since I have been doing this with Jennifer and her computer games, I have come to realize I can probably do this with her video games, too. And as if to test this idea, I had to tell her absolutely NO video games at the dinner table when we sat down to dinner that night, and told her to set it down. (Hubby didn’t help my cause much. He picked it up and started playing it, too! I had to remind him that I was trying to set an example here.) So now we have video games. I will just have to make sure it does not become an addiction.

As for me, Santa (hubby) brought me the file cabinet I wanted. My sister, Millie, got me the flannel PJs I wanted. (Thanks, Millie and Allison!) And I also got chocolate covered and flavored sweets! Yay! (Thank you, Bob and Kathy.) I also got the Jovan perfume I wanted (again, from hubby), a Fred Meyer gift card, more chocolates from hubby, and bath salts (thanks, Stephanie!). We also got a beautiful crystal palm tree ornament – again, from Millie and Allison. It is so pretty. The palm tree reminds me of my desert home, so it’s meaningful to me. (I guess the California desert will always be my home no matter where I go!) I was really moved by this gift. It’s beautiful. Another “family gift” from them were, you guessed it, chocolates! (We’re big chocoholics in this house!)

One thing I wanted to get hubby for Christmas was a tool cart on wheels. It also had a locked drawer on it. Even though it was marked down, I could still not afford it. I was really bummed about that. But he was happy with the creeper I got him. I could not wrap it -– the box was too big! Jennifer got him an auto first aid kit. I advised her to get him one that has flares in it, but none of the stores here had any! So I got online and was lucky enough to find one on Amazon.com. (Good thing I shopped early this year!) Jesse got him a waterproof pouch for his cell phone. He also got a movie, as did the children.

After the gift business was taken care of, it was time for breakfast. Every Christmas, we have cinnamon rolls for breakfast. However, because I’m sick this year, I just wasn’t up to baking cinnamon rolls. So I told hubby to get a pack of them from the bakery at the store. He got the kind with cream cheese icing – which are heavenly, actually. I lubs them! But Jennifer … did not. She didn’t care for the cream cheese icing. I felt bad. I felt like I ruined her Christmas breakfast tradition! Was I being selfish on account of being sick? That’s a guilty feeling I really wrestled with. We also had the movie A Christmas Story on during breakfast, which was also part of that Christmas breakfast tradition. At least she still enjoyed the movie.

The medicine seemed to kick in, finally. I had enough strength to do dishes, laundry, make beds and do some other assorted chores around the house. I also managed to go to the grocery store. After I got home, I baked a pizza from the store while Jennifer’s friend, Michael, visited. Then he left and we ate lunch. After that, my strength had left me. I crashed on the couch. I don’t know how long I slept – probably not that long – but after I woke up, I was refreshed and ready to go again. I used this new burst of energy to make Christmas dinner: Ham, mashed potatoes, corn, carrots and dinner rolls. (I made corn AND carrots because one child wanted one veggie and the other child wanted the other veggie.) Jennifer couldn’t get enough of the ham, even though it was not a traditionally baked ham. (Again, me being sick, I wasn’t up to that.) After dinner, we had pumpkin pie, then the kids had their baths then got into their new PJs that was part of their Christmas present from their paternal grandparents.

I didn’t take any pictures for Christmas. I know parents usually do this, but I did not even THINK about taking pictures, because I was so “out of it’ with my darn cold. Even if I had some physical strength here and there, my head was just too congested and foggy.

I keep telling myself that next year will be better. Next year, we’ll have lights on our house for Christmas. Next year, we’ll have an area rug under the tree so that any glass ornaments which fall won’t break on the hardwood floor. Next year, I’ll get hubby the gift I WANT to get him. Next year, I’ll send out the cards early, and start shopping early, too. (I’ve entertained the idea of shopping for Christmas all year.) Next year, we’ll have more Christmas decorations and Christmassy stuff in our home. Next year, I’ll be able to afford buying gifts for EVERYONE in my family. (All 46 people – unless there are more babies!) Next year, we’ll make homemade gingerbread men that taste AWESOME! And homemade sugar cookies that are Christmassy and taste better than the ones we got from the store! Next year, we’ll have a garland on the fireplace mantel. Next year, I will remember to take pictures of the children opening their Christmas presents on Christmas Day. Next year, we’ll have the usual kind of cinnamon rolls for our traditional Christmas breakfast. Next year, we’ll have Christmas music playing in the house!

And, next year, I won’t be sick on Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The gingerbread men mystery

Every Christmas season, Jen and I get together in the kitchen for our annual baking of gingerbread men. That’s exactly what we did last night, but this year, our bonding moment didn’t turn out so well.

All I can say is, I am so glad I did not end up taking this year’s gingerbread men to her school, as we planned to do, because this year’s batch just tasted awful.

But the thing I don’t get is, what had happened? Where did we go wrong?

See, we normally use a boxed mix to make our gingerbread men. This year, however, I came across a recipe and thought, why don’t we make the gingerbread men from scratch this year? I got excited about this prospect, because I’ve never made them from scratch and I always want to learn how to make something or other from scratch. And when I told Jennifer about this idea, she go excited about it, too. Still, hubby ended up buying the box mix all the same. I promptly deposited it into the cupboard, determined to make gingerbread men from scratch that would rival any box mix.

So we got the necessary ingredients, I got out the rolling pin, and we set to work. The recipe says to leave the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but we ended up leaving it in there much longer. Something like 2 hours or so. (Maybe that’s where we went wrong?)

Because Jennifer is an aspiring chef and because she’s so eager to learn this cooking and baking stuff, I let her do the bulk of the work in kneading and rolling out the dough. She also cut out almost all of the cookies. She learned about using flour on the surface, rubbing flour onto the rolling pin and using flour on your hands so the dough won’t stick to them. She had a hard time standing the heat of the oven when she had to put the cookie sheet in, and I reminded her to ONLY touch the pan and NOT the oven or the racks if she is not wearing a mitt when putting the pans inside. After the cookies were done, we let them cool and she decorated them herself. You can see some of her work on here.

One of the cookies broke during handling. I laughed it off and told her that we get to eat the mistakes. Wow, what a mistake it turned out to be! And not just as something that broke or had a decoration goof on it. I broke off a piece of the cookie and tried it. It didn’t taste very good. In fact, it tasted horrible. I gave hubby a piece to try and he agreed it didn’t taste good, either. Well, at least I knew now it wasn’t just me and some kind of mutant taste buds preventing me from enjoying a cookie! Even Jennifer tried it (the chef MUST do a taste test, after all) and she didn’t like it, either. Still, she kept decorating all of them. While I enjoyed her decorations, I kept trying to think of what to do with these yucky cookies. Was it too late to use them for decoration? How does that work, exactly? I wouldn’t donate them; they don’t taste good, so why give them away to people who wouldn’t even be able to enjoy them? Should I trash them? They looked too cute to toss into the garbage.

For the time being, they are stored in the refrigerator. And as I try to figure out what to do with them, I’m also trying to figure out what exactly went wrong. Why don’t they taste good? We used safe food handling. The surface they were rolled out on was clean. I suppose the rolling pin was clean – though not entirely sure there. There hadn’t been anything accidentally added to the dough, and we had followed the instructions. So what had gone wrong?

Maybe it was just a bad day to make things from scratch. If you looked at the picture in the link, you could see the corn muffins that I also made from scratch last night. They didn’t taste good, either. Actually, they were bland. Flavorless.

Maybe it is just the recipe itself. Maybe I should just keep looking and trying until we find one that is perfect.

And, meanwhile, stick to the box mixes.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A day of surprises

Today was Jennifer's last day of school for the year. Hooray! She took a Christmas present to her teacher but I wanted to do something to make the day even more special. So when I dropped her off at school, I said, "I might see you before school is out." Little did she know I was up to something.

I went to the grocery store after I dropped her off and browsed through the bakery department. I checked out all of their goodies. My plan was to take something from that bakery department at the store to Jen's class. Up until today, we had talked about baking gingerbread men and taking the bulk of them to her class. (We bake gingerbread men every Christmas season.) But then I remembered that the school won't allow homemade goodies -- for some reason. (I have never figured out why, or even asked why.) So I decided to get something from the bakery department at the store. I scored a tray of over 3 dozen Christmassy cookies for just $7.

The first thing I did was plan to be at Jen's school in time to join her for lunch. I got there JUST in time! So we enjoyed lunch together and played together at recess. (Well, she played. I just pushed her and her friend on the swings.) Then I brought in the cookies and everybody got happy and excited. I held the tray while Jen passed the cookies out to each child in the class. The teacher got one, too. They were all happy to get a cookie and I thought it was a nice "end of the year" treat to offer to everyone in her class.

There were leftover cookies, so I gave the rest to the office staff. they were happy to receive the cookies, too, and one secretary I've known there ever since Jennifer's first day of kindergarten gave me a hug. I was surprised by the hug. I'm not usually one to give hugs so easily because of bad experiences in the past with people who I thought I could trust. (It takes me time to warm up to people.) But her hug didn't bother me and it was just nice to have that gesture.

It was also a good thing that I went, because Jennifer's teacher needed some papers back from me and also needed me to take care of some other business.

After I got home, I was in a really good mood because it was such a pleasant experience. I was in an even better mood later in the day when my copies of the haunted houses book finally arrived. Hooray! Here is a picture of me holding one:





This is my third book out this year. Very exciting! I keep staring at it because it's still so hard to believe I started writing this book all those years ago, and what it has turned into now. It was a nice surprise to receive the books.

Later, I surprised myself when I hugged another person I barely know; The mother of one of Jen's best friends. I don't know her very well but I thought, heck, she's trusting us with her daughter for one whole night (the girl is having a sleepover here tonight), so, why not?

You know? Why not. It's just a hug. It's not THAT painful.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Weekend warrior

Today, after I gave the dog a bath, I cleaned the bathtub.

Then I realized, I'm already in here with the Comet. Might as well clean the toilet, too.

So I cleaned the toilet.

Then I realized, I cleaned the bathtub and the toilet. Might as well clean the sink, too.

So I cleaned the sink.

Then I realized, I'm already in here with these paper towels. Might as well clean the mirror, too.

So I cleaned the mirror.

Then I realized...I've cleaned the bathtub, the toilet, the sink and the mirror. Might as well clean the floor, too.

So I swept then mopped the bathroom floor.

So now I had a clean bathroom. And just think: All I did was go into that bathroom just to give my dog a bath.

Saturday, December 04, 2010