Thursday, December 1, 2016

Let's Get Seasonal


On Monday I was sitting here rewriting my Thanksgiving rant and what it was that got me all worked up.  My sister was being a bitch about Thanksgiving and I wasn’t in the mood to grant emotional latitude.  We were wrestling with the same emotion.  She would have preferred to handle it at a sunset yoga class on the beach and, of course, I take such matters head-on.  No one is avoiding emotions and skipping Thanksgiving on my watch.  With our ages, our parents’ ages, the loss of our grandmother, and age taking its bitter toll on my grandfather, we’re both feeling a bit confronted by biology and as though we’re bringing our family’s train to a screeching halt.  I love children, I always have.  I don’t think I’d be a good parent for millions of reasons, most of which being my crippling paranoia of harm befalling those under my care.  It’s a whoooooooole thing for me that dates back to childhood when my brother had an allergic reaction to candy we bought in the store together.  They were chocolates with no mention of peanuts but I didn’t read the ingredients, something anyone in proximity to life-threatening allergies knows you must always do.  He had a horrible reaction, epinephrine, 911, hospital, the whole extent of it.  The next morning he was back home playing with Power Rangers.  The candy did not have nuts but had less than 1% peanut flour.  It was written in a font smaller than the rest of the ingredients under them.  Which is how my mom missed it when she read the ingredients as she used to do constantly.  This was long before peanut allergies were ubiquitous and it simply was a foreign concept to many people. Thankfully, such an irresponsible label would be unlikely today.  It’s funny because I have an almost photographic memory--it is very, very accurate.  Everyone in my family swears I remember this incorrectly and that I was not involved in the buying of the candy at all, that I stayed home with my dad.  It’s really the gleaming example to me as to why memory is not a reliable narrator.  Who knows what tricks and edits are played in the face of trauma. 
Anyway, my compulsion to protect serves me well in most relationships because the other party ultimately has free will, even if I prefer they didn’t.  Where it would turn disastrous is with children.  My poor children would live in a fabulous, beautifully decorated, but padlocked cage.  It would be like Martha Stewart’s year of house arrest.  I also have a highly emotionally manipulative side and when the poor things did try to run to freedom and go to school or ride their bikes outside the fences I would probably be like “I guess it’s okay.  IF YOU WANT TO KILL ME--I WILL DIE” and then dramatically faint onto an Eastlake chaise.  That’s assuming the surrogate that would bear these children didn’t already run for the hills and become a Lifetime movie after I kept her comfortably imprisoned. And then the babies would need to nurse and I’m pretty sure Amazon doesn’t sell breast milk.  I’ve always thought I should start a company where gay men trade sperm with lesbians for breast milk.  The working title is Cock n Trade or Breast and Butter but I’m still working on it. 
So anyway, this holiday brought up those feelings and I think both my sister and I wish the other would have children so we didn’t have to.  She thinks I should because I’m domestic, nurturing, love children, and everyone has always said, in future tense, with no thought of using subjunctive you’ll be such a good dad.  The consensus for my sister was always more like yeah you would work it out. Most people don’t know my sister well enough to know that she would in fact be a ferociously wonderful mother. Of course there is still our brother but he will probably have a non-legal commitment ceremony with a woman named Wind or Leaf and they will live in a van going from National Park to National Park and donate all their money to reforestation on Mars to escape ~corporate shackles, man~ and they’ll only bring the children home every other Summer Solstice.  Also he’s enough younger than us that there’s no pressure on him for a while.  My plan is just to wait a while longer and then adopt a couple 35 year olds and skip parenthood to grandparenthood.  That’s what I’m suited for, I think.  I’m basically one brooch away from being a grandma anyway. 
You can understand how the subject at hand had us both thinking and acting irrationally. By Saturday evening, we had made peace (and she made some fabulous White Russians) and by Monday I was writing about it in kind of a tongue in cheek but I was right way.  And then I got a text from my best friend with a screenshot of the Buckeye Alert about an active shooter on campus.  I think she might have been driving or at work but the text above the screenshot was “where JMJ?”, my brother.   I had just called him to wake him up ten minutes before, so mercifully I knew he was not on campus.  But no one else knew.  He is preparing to graduate and working on his thesis.  At this point, his remaining classes are all neck deep in science, so with the only information that morning being that there were multiple shooters in Watts Hall, a math and science building, concern for his whereabouts was on many minds.  The 911 call was at 9:52 AM at 19th and College on OSU’s Campus.  His class was at 10:45AM at 18th and College that morning. 

Yes, my rant was suddenly embarrassingly trivial to me.  And though the morning felt unbearably dark, as afternoon came the news got better.  What everyone feared and expected to be a mass casualty was not.  There are 11 victims who sustained horrific injuries ranging from severe to minor, but all are expected to live.  The fact that there was a police officer on the scene within one minute of the 911 call and he had the ability and wherewithal to kill the attacker in such a short period is miraculous.  And such a testament to the Ohio State University and the City of Columbus Police.  The officer is an Ohio State University police officer, however OSU police have access to City of Columbus training, so this highlights their successful and important relationship.  His name and face are now well-known here, but in case you haven’t seen, this is Alan Horujko, the absolute pride and joy of every Ohioan. 

It is common here for outdoor Christmas decorating to be done before Thanksgiving.  Predicting our weather is much more art than science, so December can be absolutely wintry with snow and ice—warm and more akin to October—or usually, a giant weather orgy containing a little bit of everything.  In the week before Thanksgiving, I noticed people out in droves putting up their Christmas lights and garlands as usual.  But following the collective sense of horror, relief, and pride on Monday, I’m noticing a lot more people out in a second or third round of decorating.  I think many are truly ready to rejoice and to celebrate. 










So forgive my unusual and far reaching introduction to my series of Christmas posts here, but it was all pogo-ing around in my head and needed to come out somewhere.  How we always kicked off Christmas in my family was to drive around and look at Christmas lights.  As is customary for many other families. Of course this was before unlimited options in music, so we only listened to one album: Christmas with Johnny Mathis the updated version of the original, Merry Christmas by Johnny Mathis.  The update includes my sister’s favorite, Marshmallow World.  My favorite was always We Need a Little Christmas.  And the only Christmas song my brother likes is Holly Jolly Christmas.  That tradition isn’t exactly the same anymore, but I uphold it in some way.  How do you kick off your holiday season?  Christmas in my family has evolved and evolved and now it’s a big cocktail party where the emphasis is less on dinner like Thanksgiving and more of a big, messy cocktail party.  There are no gifts anymore, too much alcohol, and always at least one truly horrifying dance between my aunt and me to Last Christmas.  Last year it happened around 2:30AM and I am so glad I don’t remember it very well.  Tell me about your family’s Christmas!  In Australia, it seems Christmas is more of a lunch on the 25th?  In Europe it seems to be more of a dinner on the 24th?  In America, it is all over the place. 


My favorite style of OSU flag

How big? What do you make?  Do strays have to be cleared with the host before they’re invited?  Gifts?  100% Christmas music or a mix?  I also want to know all about Hanukkah.  When is your favorite time for it to fall?  Having it start on December 24 and end on January 1 this year seems fabulous to me, but maybe not?  Tell me!

83 comments:

  1. You must feel such a huge relief knowing that your brother is safe and that he was out of harms way when the events unfolded on campus...
    and good to hear that all those injured people will survive. I was listening to the CBC when they were interviewing a journalist who worked on the Ohio University paper and he had interviewed the fellow just a few months ago and got a completely different impression of hime...he is just as perplexed as the rest of us as to how someone can appear and sound calm and collected one month and then go ballistic in a few months.
    As far as parenting skills I think that some of us doubt our abilities to parent...sounds to me though that you would indeed be a good candidate as you have so much compassion and you value and embrace family.
    Good luck with your venture...the trading idea sounds quite unique!

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    1. haha I think I'm much better suited to be an uncle or a grandfather! Thank you regardless! Yes there has been a lot of talk about that interview in the Lantern. It's a bit confusing because there is the Ohio State University and Ohio University and they're actually not the same! That's why OSU insists on *the* Ohio State University. It's a bit of a joke to emphasize the "the". :)
      Don't worry, the breast milk and sperm trade business is a joke haha although I'm sure it would have users! I think the liability on that would be too steep for it to ever come to fruition!

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  2. Another wonderful tale of highs and lows and highs again.
    I checked Amazon and they do not, in fact, sell breast milk.
    When my kid was about 2, my grandma died (age 100), and we flew back for the funeral. It was just before Christmas, and was the first time in about 20 years that I was home for the holidays. Our kid went absolutely gaga at all the "Noël lights!" Very few people in France decorate the exterior of their houses; there are a few, though nothing like in the U.S. Your photos remind me of that special toddler's Christmas of magical lights.
    I vote for Andy Williams' Christmas album as the best. He's my heart throb.
    BTW, my in-laws celebrate on the 24th. It's exactly like the 31st, but with presents, and family instead of friends. They get completely drunk, crank up really awful '60s and '70s French pop songs and dance and break things. I guess they aren't alone because at midnight, instead of going to mass, people all over the (white trash) neighborhood are out shooting off guns. On the 25th, they sleep until 3 p.m. Then they do it all again a week later. Pure misery. Worst week of the year.

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    1. Thank you! Haha I know it is really all over the place. Your in laws sound very much like my kind of people and please provide a list of the tacky French pop songs!! Last year I made a huge fuss that Christmas Day brunch was going to be at 12 and no one could be late! Oh my god I couldn't even move until like 1PM and brunch wasn't until 3! I will not be celebrating quite so hard next year! I love Andy Williams so much! My grandma went and saw him in Branson like 50 times! Haha love that your son had one American Christmas!

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  3. Stephen, I hope that you will accept my true apologies. While I thought of you immediately after the attack, I had no reason to think that you would be connected to it, which is ridiculous and I apologize with all of my heart. Because I should have written, no matter what. I am sorry, friend. And I am grateful that the situation wasn't "worse" - also ridiculous as it changed those who were involved irrevocably.

    As I am facing an "unknown" holiday season, I will not - or try not to be - too nostalgic about the holiday seasons of past, this year. But in general, my family went for the more is more aesthetic to the point that if you could not even enter the family room on Christmas morning because it was too filled with gifts, then that was a good year.

    Much Love to you,
    H

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    1. Oh Heather! It's totally okay and you do not need to apologize! Especially because most people don't even know I have a brother! Poor kid never had a chance in the spotlight between my sister and me! I totally understand about having an in the present (no pun intended) Christmas this year. You'll certainly have beauty at your disposal to inspire you!

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  4. "I’ve always thought I should start a company where gay men trade sperm with lesbians for breast milk. The working title is Cock n Trade or Breast and Butter but I’m still working on it. ".....I just wet my pants! You MUST start giving Depends Alerts for us old folks before you crack a funny!!! Anyway, I am so glad you and your sister ironed things out....for the time being...and were able to enjoy some White Russians ( why aren't there Black Russians? Racist??!!! ) Anyway, I'm not sure if anyone really knows what they are getting into when becoming a parent. I think we all do the best we can....messy as it can get.....and pray to God to keep them alive! I was so horrified to hear about the OSU attacks, and I'm so glad it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I can NOT wait to read all about your Christmas prep....I am laid up with a new knee replacement so my decorations will totally suck!! Not that there is anything wrong with that....

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    1. There are Black Russians. Vodka and Kailua I think.

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    2. Haha thank you so much, Nan! I'm so sorry I'm not sure there is a Depends plug in here on Blogger. Maybe I should try Wordpress. I am not familiar with any Black Russians actually. I think White Russians always have Kahlua which is basically coffee+vodka. I will post my sister's recipe along with a spice cookie recipe! Soooo good!

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    3. Oops! Kahlua is rum and coffee. I had to make a White Russian for research.

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    4. Yes, I could use a Depends Alert too!

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  5. Oh my goodness Stephen Andrew! You are as funny as you are gorgeous. Your kindness and love sing from this post and I wish I was a local so I could give you a hug (not in a scary, stalkerish kind of way). I hear you about the whole helicopter parent thing, but of course you are not mentioning the obvious fact that your desire for any child of yours to be functional would try to balance the crazy. I used to surreptitiously drive behind my children as they walked home from primary school to ensure their safety. See? They had the illusion of independence and I kept myself somewhat sane. LOL! On a Yuletide note Christmas here in Queensland is HOT, so it's all about aircon, swimming, cold,roasted meats, interesting salads, and Pavlova with lots of cream and the best mangoes in the World, unless of course, ones family sticks to the traditional stuff. On a traditional meets Freddy Kruger note, supermarket chain ALDI seem to do a roaring trade in TERDUCKEN, which is far too medieval for me, not to mention its disgusting name, so although my family members tease each other about slipping one of the poor, mutilated things amongst the pork and pavlovas, TERDUCKEN will NEVER be a part of my Christmas! On a "Stuff the planet, let's keep the electricity companies rich' kind of note, not a lot of people decorate the outside of their homes but those that do seem to like reindeer with moving parts. Hmmm, I find them slightly nightmare inducing but I am no humbug and if my fear of heights didn't stop me, I'd be festooning my place with the best of them, roof reindeer (in white only) and all!

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    1. Haha thank you so much!! Ohhh the turducken! Paula Deen popularized them here! I've never understood the point! The best part of duck is the skin! Oh I love you driving behind the children to give them supervised independence! That is so funny. The moving reindeer are so popular here too! I never liked them! In the day they look bad tacky (not good tacky like a big blow up santa) and at night they look like blobs!

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  6. I hear you about family and continuing the family name (especially when your family's national treasures pass away) and being scared for any child in your care. So much fear, love and hope all tangled into one.
    As it is stinking hot here at Christmas, people that put up Christmas lights sometimes reflect that fact. My fav is the house that puts a vintage sports car in the driveway with a surfboard in the back seat accessorized with tinsel, bottle of sunscreen on the dashboard and they put a Santa mannequin in the driver seat. Santa is always wearing a Hawaiian shirt & Santa hat. All highlighted with fairy lights. Den xxx

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    1. Thank you, Den! Oh I would so love to see that house!! I always love the Christmas decorations on Hilton Head Island, coastal Christmas is so fun!

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    2. I'll take a photo if I can & email it to you. Xxx

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  7. Your posts are like gifts in my inbox! I love the business idea-- I think you could definitely have a market for that. I was also very relieved this week (my daughter is a Freshman at The Ohio State University) and I was so glad that he didn't have a gun. I hope you get to be an uncle some day-- the lives of small and big children would definitely be enhanced by your presence.

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    1. Thank you so much, Beth! Oh I am sure this has been so distressing! Awful for the poor freshman to just be getting used to college, come back from break, and then have this! And for their parents!

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  8. You have no idea how tickled I am to see a post by you. I get the sense that you are plugged into the future generation and concerned. Me too. Well done Ohio's pride (and by that I mean you!) for showcasing a brave young man with lightning reflexes and an impulse to rescue! Christmas is an evolving affair. The last of the older generation died this year and the younger generation is balancing competing demands so my mantra is Adapt with Grace as long as I can use my Limoges China at least once.

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    1. Thank you so much! I love your mantra and so agree! It's hard for me to let go of things sometimes especially with holidays but I am (usually) able to remind myself that the more comfortable and pleasant I make things and adapt to how people want to celebrate, the stronger the overall tradition of simply gathering is. What pattern is your Limoges?

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  9. Funny how things snap into perspective when a tragedy hits close to home....not a direct hit, but something that sort of whizzes by your head without actually striking you, like this OSU attack did in your family's case....I'm so glad your brother is OK! I think, over time, holidays do change and yours may be headed that way. And it's true, when you have kids it IS very stabilizing for traditions, but eventually kids grow up and find partners, and then holidays are a hit and miss affair once again. I think if you can get a good decade or two of holiday stability in your life, you've done well and much better than many! And of course for everyone, there may be three or more sets of "traditions" which happen in the phases of your life, so you just have to be ready for them when they change and morph into something else. And for the record, I think you'd make an awesome dad. Too protective is definitely going in the better direction!

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    1. haha that is probably why my sister and I are single! I'm totally willing to adapt traditions for children because I agree that holidays must center around children, with emphasis on keeping them in their own homes for Santa purposes. Luckily our Christmases are in a really good phase right now, though very different from where we started. It is nice to not have to watch the bar for sneaky minors.

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  10. I'm so glad the news about the attack didn't turn out any worse than it was. I completely understand and respect your (and anybody's) choice to not have children. It's a personal one, even though the worry thing usually indicates a healthy dose of care - even in the extreme. I used to joke with friends how we thought we were injected with guilt serum just after birth because of the ensuing sense of inadequacy. So, you may have dodged two bullets. :) (Let me just say that from what I know about you, you'd be a splendid parent if you chose to be one, and you'd have plenty of commiserating company.) Growing up, I remember naps on Christmas Eve so I could stay awake during Midnight Mass with my family. Presents after we got home. I love it looking back, as I did not do that with my children. I think my mother may have done it to have some extra time to sleep in the morning and good for her with five kids. Smart move. There weren't a lot of overly-decorated houses back then either, and I still love just seeing a glimpse of a lit tree in a window, preferably a cloudy view from behind sheer curtains. I also love how white lights make anything look so festive. I put lights on our outdoor greenery one year when we had unseasonably warm days in NH. I kept running back to the hardware store for one more strand (buying them one at a time I guess because I was expecting the cold front to descend any minute!). I only did that once. No fun with cold fingers and I guess I just couldn't bring myself to string them up in September - too busy leaf peeping. ~Nicole in CA

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    1. Thank you so much, Nicole! Oh your mom is a genius. If all the kids are up after midnight anyway, why not open gifts and let everyone get some sleep?! That's one thing I'd certainly be good at-as early as little kids wake up I doubt they would beat me. I always end up going back for 1-2 strands! I get a little idea and then can't resist to decorate just a little more! I hate taking it all down!

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  11. Hi Stephen,

    Here at our church there are only Christmas Eve services. (that's unique to our church and not a cultural thing but it is a riot to go to the children's service and watch the kids and toddlers at the creche!). Historically my late mother and I would go to midnight service then come home and wrap presents (yes a little last minute) while we each had a glass of wine. One eve, I sampled a little too much wine and bounced on my bed thereby breaking it. My brother helped me nail a support board under it so no parental confessions had to be disclosed. So it remained until just recently. Often, earlier in the evening, we would go across the street to a beloved now departed neighbor's house where we were treated to sumptuous goodies. Now instead of a Christmas Day service, there is a Christmas Day potluck at noon at the Church for those who are alone or too old to cook dinner or those who are new to the city or those who just don't want to cook dinner. I miss our historic celebrations but the humble but delicious potluck has a lot going for it!

    I still have shopping to do for far-away great nieces, nephews and nieces.
    I am thinking of sending 2 giant stuffed bears in mint condition to the 2 great nieces, along with a Teddy Bears' Picnic book, cd and tea set.
    I know no-one else will do that! Friends and I were once invited in Quebec to a Reveillon, at Christmas Eve. The tarte au sucre (maple syrup sugar pie) was divine, the tortiere was superb, there was something with pork hooves which was more problematic. We were so stuffed afterwards that we could barely walk out the door. It was a snowy evening, with a typical Quebecoise atmosphere. But the best Christmas was when my mother and father gave me a pair of beaten-up skis with no camber that were a miracle for me! They cost $10 from a neighbor –– $10 was a fortune! But they remain, beaten up as they were, my most treasured Christmas gift. Season's greetings!

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    1. Oh how funny about the bed! My brother and I kept a secret like that for decades! We blamed it on our poor cat! The potluck sounds wonderful! What will you make? Quebec is just stunning. I'd love to visit in the winter! We've had such mild winters lately I am craving a good one! Marry Christmas!

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  12. Oh Stephen Andrew. I didn't know your brother was on campus, thank the gods he is fine and also that he is late for things, he's such the baby of the family isn't he? My younger brother is the same. He's my bestie I love that kid, and now that he's a father he's ready to DIE of anxiety. He keeps saying to me "I don't know how you've done this with THREE of them". Yeah well. It has been very difficult and I've nearly lost my mind and also I've had to deaden my brain. And my youngest as you know has a life-threatening illness which is very very difficult, similar to a peanut allergy. Life normal then NOT, then survival. Prepare for the worst but expect the best: that is my motto as a parent. I actually think you would be a really amazing father and would probably raise a line of presidents, but it would be hard on you. I'll help you work on your breast milk plan, I'm a bit of an expert in that department
    Christmas for us is dinner on the 24th, that's my husband's family (Austrian-Czech). But this year we're on our own so it's all up to me lord help them all.
    I've been going mad for Christmas I've got it all on the go here, you would love it. xx Big hug too , tough week.

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    1. WOW- Austrian-Czech!! My husband is Austrian, I have lived many years in Austria, and find their traditions so fascinating. Here in Italy, we celebrate in a similar way. Merry Christmas, Robin

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    2. Thank you, Dani! I would definitely take your expert advice on matters of breast milk! haha oh your Christmas will be absolutely fabulous. Too funny about your brother! The babies really do struggle with mornings, don't they? In his defense my brother is working late into the night on his thesis but still I don't think I could sleep past 8:30 if I went to bed at 6:30!

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  13. SAJ... you are so helping me deal with the loss of Ellie! Your wit and sarcasm are Ellie all over!!
    Holiday traditions are what it's all about . . . even if they are new and traditions in the making. It has to start somewhere.
    You would be a wonderful "daddy". Just do it!! No one knows what they will be as a parent nor will they know what their kids will be!! Nothing is a given. You will do/be what you can and that's all any of us can do. Sort of like getting a new pet from a shelter or rescue group . . . ya just don't know and ya just do the best you can. Maybe hovering is not a bad thing.
    I have to say...for years my sister and I traded family Christmases back and forth. And then for several years both of our kids were in Colorado and my husband and I went to the Rockies for Christmas and left my sister to host our parents. I have to say . . . to me, those were our best Christmases. Uncomplicated, no family crises, just the 4 of us, skiing on Christmas day and having a great Rocky Mt. Christmas. Ala John Denver!!!!
    We do what we can SAJ!! You're a good man, Charlie Brown . . .
    Hate that Ohio has had to face such a horrific act but am so glad that one good, heroic man was seconds away to divert an even worse tragedy.

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    1. Thank you Vicky! Haha that unknown is too much! Can you imagine the poor things when their birthdays came around? They'd want a party of cartoon characters and I'd be like "what about an Edwardian hunting picnic?!!" Also what if they played sports?! The horror! Haha I see the case for the uncomplicated Christmas. It's not for me, but I see the case. I love the fuss. Also luckily my family is very easy when it comes to the holidays, they pretty much just go along with what I want. My tiff with my sister was very unusual regarding Thanksgiving. She did wait until after Thanksgiving to complain though :) I could see us all meeting in Hilton Head too. Christmas is beautiful in the Rockies!

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  15. loving this post. as always! the leaf and the wind and the van just blew me away.
    I wrote a comment that was disguised as a post! good grief. long winded is not even the word for it.
    so I deleted it. all I really had to say was...
    you make me laugh. that is a GIFT.
    keep on keepin' on Stephan Andrew Jones! xoxo♥

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    1. I loved your first comment and agreed so heartily with it! Thank you so much! I love all those movies too! I'm going to post about my
      favorite Christmas movies. I love hearing about everyone's favorites.

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    2. Stephen, I loved tammy's first comment, too and I came back to read it again! It's ok, I'm sure we absorbed what we needed from it that rang so true. :) Thanks, tammy! ~Nicole

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  16. HI Stephen love your blog! Another one from Brisbane in Queensland here to tell you that our family omg has a traditional hot lunch with all the trimmings ah la England in the snow while we all perspire although this year its at my place so with air con it should be more pleasant! My sister wont join us as her husband is weird and they dont "do" christmas at the moment! What eva! I am having drinks on 17th with the family at my place also so that should be fun in an interesting sort of way! Am gong to do the lists tonight. So busy as i am sure you are. Glad to hear that your brother is safe. Being catholic we must fit in Mass so have to work out when yet. Cathyxx

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    1. Thank you so much, Cathy! How annoying that they won't "do Christmas"! Haha those weird husbands can be such a problem. I was asking one of my cousins' kids about Santa and she goes "NO NO NO WE ARE NOT LYING TO OUR CHILD ABOUT A MAN THAT PROMOTES CONSUMERISM". As if you can keep Santa away from a kid at school. I'm going to get him a Santa book for his grandma's house :) lunch sounds wonderful and thank goodness for air conditioning! Heidi asked me if we do plum pudding here and we don't but I might do a very English theme next year and make one. I never have!

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  17. I don't live in Quebec –– just went to university in Montreal! Sadly, and I hate to admit it, I never made it to Quebec City but it is magic and a winter's festival Carnaval there is superb! There is an ice hotel, too! I think you should go to Quebec City but also go to Montreal! It would be fun to go to a sugar shack (of course if you live in maple syrup country you wouldn't need to go!). I may just take a birch smoked, maple flavoured ham to the Christmas potluck. I have 2 potlucks so to one I'll take the ham but to the church potluck I'm taking a spinach and fresh strawberry salad (fingers crossed that I can get fresh strawberries, if not mandarin oranges will be substituted). I need ideas on how to make the spinach salad different and scrumptious). I might throw some sugar-coated almonds in it but I have nut allergies). If strawberries and spinach aren't available, I might make a Carbonnade Flamandes for the party and use the ham at Christmas. Or, I have a spiced beef recipe. But beef has become really pricey here. Someone for the party phoned me today and asked if I were really going to take a ham so I said yes but you could hear the disappointment that she couldn't so I said there was room for 2 hams! I have a severe peanut allergy acquired in my adult years as well as eggs and a bunch of other things. I sympathize with your brother's allergy and reaction. How terrifying for you! I meant to say how glad I am that he was ok during the recent attack. Merry Christmas! PS. you'd make a great father! the kids would survive but you...?

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    1. Haha exactly! I don't think I'd make it. One of my favorite radio shows ever was Frank DeCaro, it was his show with his longtime best friend who kind of hated him. They were hilarious because she tried to run it like a real radio show and he was so unprofessional and unprepared. He would interview people and rather than talk about their upcoming project he would go on and on about the buttons on his microwave or something. Anyway, he always said his emotions were like potato salad, they just don't keep. Haha that's about what I think of myself. I don't have the fortitude for children! The ham sounds so good! So does the salad. I have struggled with how to get crunchy elements in salads with my siblings' allergies too. So often sunflower seeds are roasted in places that also roast nuts and it's too risky. I often roast pumpkin or squash seeds instead. It's nice to have non crouton crunch and that toasty flavor. So you could try that! I'd love to visit Quebec City in the winter! My grandpa is quite the traveler and swears Quebec City is the most beautiful place in North America. We have some syruping around here but not much. I'd like to visit during that!

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  18. Do you have Eastern Bluebirds? Are they the ones in the photo? How lovely1

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    1. Yes they are! We have lots of them, they are beautiful!

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    2. Oh, I envy you your bluebirds! We have Mountain Bluebirds that are beautiful, too! I think you and your grandfather should go to Quebec. Just make sure you have health insurance for travelling, that covers even pre-existing conditions and medical evacuation (you never know!). The good thing about going during maple sugaring is that you know the temperature is decent, even if snow is still on the ground. I noticed that the local farmers' market here is demonstrating maple syrup by putting it on ice to make "Taffy on Snow". I never thought about sunflower seeds being roasted in places that also roast nuts, etc. Thanks for that tip!

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  19. Yep Christmas is all over the place. Frankly, I like it to last as long as possible. Went to a Christmas cookie class at Jungle Jim's with friends last night and had a terrific time. Love the recipe for the ginger biscotti, but 7 cookies were made and the wine flowed. Great fun to be with friends during the holidays. As fas as the OSU event, I was at work and colleagues were watching the TV and my heart sunk when I stopped to view the news. My brother is a professor at the Medical College there. I can just imagine anyone whose relative or child worked or was on campus as a student had that flash of a reaction and then headed to text them.

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    1. So do I! How fun to do a cookie class. I don't like biscotti but think gingerbread biscotti sounds so cute! Perfect for coffee on Christmas morning. Even if I just looked at it since I hate sweet coffee! It was a surreal moment having people ask if I knew where he was. As I'm sure it was for you too

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  20. oh i'm so glad your brother was not involved. these are scary times and they seem to be getting worse. it's all feeding into my desire to hunker down and not leave my house. like ever. i think you'd make such a good daddy but it is a nerve wracking job. happy december to you my friend. xo

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    1. Haha thank you! I know I hated being in crowds before the world went to shit. It only gets harder!

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  21. So much to comment on!

    But first of all - so good to know your brother is safe. I am sure that if you are not from Ohio that now when I think of Ohio, I think of 4 people of which you are one. It did cross my mind to see if your family and friends weren't there but then I thought nah. But something like that is going to wake people up and make you reassess.

    I love American home decor from the outside. Not many other countries do this. I like them more gauche the better. I am starting to go off tasteful stuff pretty bad. Must be overload so I am now rebelling.

    Kids? Well I share your views except I treat them like proper people which they are of course so some are great and some are just undergrown ratbags. But I like being the "auntie" figure and the kids tell me everything bc they know I can't ground them but then they get so surprised bc they think I am super liberal but then I tell them they should study and avoid superfluous relationships etc and I am in fact a boring old fart like their parents!

    But you still manage to make me laugh even whatever you write about.

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    1. Thank you! I know I love the big obnoxious decor too! I used to insist to religiously on only white lights outside but now I do color. More fun! So funny that the kids are disappointed to find you're just as boring as their parents!

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  22. Thank goodness your brother was OK and that no one actually died. But these gun crimes are insane. There was a dreadful incident in Australia at a historic tourist location and many people were killed by a lone crazy gunman. After that our PM of the time tightened up the gun laws so very few people now have access to automatic weapons. Australia is now a much safer place as a result. There are still some killings among criminals and their gangs but they almost never turn their guns on the public and we haven't had repeats of that dreadful day. Our schools and universities are much safer places than American ones seem to be.

    You're so funny and clever, Stephen Andrew! Loved this post - and your last one with the heavenly decorations for Thanksgiving. Had never seen bittersweet before and now I understand why you risked being trapped in thorns and brambles forever. It's so beautiful.

    In response to some of your questions - in Oz lots of people (but not all) do celebrate at lunch time on 25th. It usually seems to go on all day though. Before our son grew up and moved to Sydney for work I used to do prawn cocktails, turkey and all the trimmings, a lemon sorbet and then homemade Christmas pudding with brandy butter and egg custard. Finally coffee or tea and chocs. Of course there are always bowls of fresh cherries, nuts, crystallised fruit, panforte or whatever. Most people sleep it off for a while and then go for a walk. It used to be totally excessive - and often in heatwave conditions (luckily we have air conditioning). The seafood lunch and salads is much lighter and healthier.

    On strays, it always seemed a good time for us to include someone who might be without family or people to share Christmas with. One year our son rang at the last minute and asked if it would be OK to bring along an Afghan refugee. He was a teenager about 16 or 17. I told him there was pork in the turkey stuffing and also that we served ham at table. He said that was OK just not to give him ham or stuffing. He was such a sweet boy and joined in happily. We enjoyed his company. He later wrote a thank you letter telling us that it had been the happiest day in his entire life. How sad, that a day with strangers was his happiest day. Our son had learned that he'd gone through horrific experiences in his homeland and that many of his family had been killed. Another year when he was a Uni student and working part time in a supermarket our son brought home a young woman he worked with who'd just separated from her boyfriend and had nowhere to go. The boyfriend had been beating her badly. She didn't just come for Christmas day - she stayed for a couple of weeks until our son was able to help her find accommodation. So yes, we sometimes have strays, and at the last minute. But there's always so much food that it's not a problem.
    PS What is turducken? Pammie xx

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    1. Thank you so much, Pammie! Bittersweet is so beautiful! And much better in other people's gardens. If I had room for it to spread I would grow it myself but it's too hard to control. Both your old and new Christmases sound wonderful! The English Christmas among the sweltering Australian heat is such a juxtaposition! How incredibly touching that he sent you that letter. I'm totally with you on welcoming people in especially because there is always so much food anyway. I just ask that I know before they arrive because I hate to make someone feel awkward as I add their place to the table.
      Don't want anyone to feel as though they're a bother when they might already be a little uncomfortable coming into a family Christmas.
      Turducken is a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey. I cannot begin to explain why anyone would want this but some do. I think the novelty attracts people as I can't imagine it tastes that good.

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  23. My Christmas tree decorating, coincidentally, always starts with Johnny Mathis' Merry Christmas album. It has been my tradition for decades.

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  24. I am so glad your brother is safe!! It is truly scary these days especially when we have loved ones in college as it seems our college campuses are targets all over the country. My oldest started his second year of college this year, and I am thankful every day that he is at a small, local school, and that he lives at home because he wants to graduate with no debt.

    I cannot think about Christmas right now. I just started decorating last night, but I hope to have it completed this weekend. If I had my way, I would decorate, attend church, and school programs, and that would be it for Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I love the sights and smells of the season, but I have to work at getting into the spirit. Christmas gets harder as an adult...when you find out just how much work it is, and when you feel the lose of those who have passed on more keenly.

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    1. I understand that, especially after last Christmas (not to be confused with my beloved Last Christmas). The nice thing about Christmas is that there is so so much involved that you really can pick your favorite things and just focus on that. This year I've gone insane with lights. Some years it's been way more about the baking. Hope you find those little things that say Christmas to you and are able to enjoy them. Screw the stuff you don't want to do! There's no IRS for Christmas :)

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  25. Parenthood, not for the faint hearted. My darling husband never wanted kids, but we are raising a grand daughter together.His amazing attitude makes it work. I love that you are figuring out a sperm/breast milk scheme. I wish everyone thought as much about whether or not to become parents as gay couples do. If all kids were brought into families who were prepared it would make such a difference!

    I love everyone's Christmas traditions. I want to make Pavlova this year, my son loves meringue, and we have been getting lots of kiwi in our farm box.Christmas eve we go out for Chinese with the extended family. On Christmas day brunch with ham and baked french toast, lots of coffee, some prosecco or champagne and a movie in the afternoon. Then come home and nosh on ham sandwiches. My favorite day is the 26th!
    And last, thank god for that officer, and that people are recovering from injuries instead of dead. I have a total lack of comprehension of what makes people want to hurt others like that. I am too busy taking care of my life to plan attacks! Isn't everyone else? Can't these idiots find something productive to do instead? That is all being said in my best mom voice, along with some creative cussing.
    Anyhow, love your blog and your outlook on life. Merry Christmas!

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    1. Thank you so much, Stacey! It boggles my mind the same way it does yours. So many paths and interesting things in life I'm not sure how one can end up so fixated on darkness. So awful.
      Oh your Christmas sounds sooo perfect! I like an all day festival multi meal holiday!

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  26. You had me laughing out loud, not just smiling, not chuckling, belly laughs!

    I am glad to hear that your brother is well. Time suspends when we are waiting for important news. With all the horrible stuff emerging about some police officers, it is good to hear about officers who are dedicated to their work and true to their oath.

    I was a crazy parent from the time my kids could walk. I didn't let them go into the general store alone until they were in middle school, even if I was parked right in front of the door. I don't think I hit REM sleep until they graduated from college. But I did let my son do a mission trip to Haiti (another story there) and my daughter traveled through Canada with a singing group, including busking on the streets of Toronto; heard about that when she got home. But I guess it was worth it-they are both self-sufficient and gainfully employed. My son will make a great dad (unsure of the husband part), and my daughter, well, let's just say she'll make a great auntie. I love her dearly, but so far the jury is out on the selflessness...

    Remember the snarky sister-in-law from the Thanksgiving story? I think I'm about to make her really, really angry. I've been composing an email in my head all day to send her suggesting that we host Christmas this year. I really don't think it is a good idea to have my frail 92 year old mother in law ride to and fro for four hours on a car trip and spend another four hours in a house so cold we might as well be celebrating Christmas on the porch. I think I'll be a little less snarky in my email, however.

    My favorite Christmas song is "In the Bleak Midwinter" and oh, "The Huron Carol." I also love all of the Ceremony of Carols by Britten. I've performed it many times since college and I still remember every word. I also love to hear the Christmas Eve service from King's College in England on NPR while I'm cooking. Today the 5th & 6th graders were singing "Last Christmas" by Wham! while they were painting the set for their concert. I was cross eyed by lunch.

    Carol

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    1. Carol, I cannot wait to hear how Christmas will be with your family. Yes, kill her with kindness in the email so that one cannot resist your invitation. Nice of you to consider a 92-year old's ability to enjoy a day (and probably not with so much time in the car). Good luck, God Bless and please share all the details. ;) ~Nicole

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    2. Thank you so much, Carol! I love this comment! And I don't know either of those Christmas songs! Can't wait to look into them. Thank you! We are so lucky that people will do the dangerous and often thankless work of being a police officer. If there is one positive from this it's that we have a shining example of the heroism police wield.
      Did you send the email? How did it go? I will never understand why people get hostile about wanting to host when they have no fucking sense of hospitality! Also of course the comfort and ease for oldest family members must take priority! It'll be so much better at your house. Get out allllll those good old pieces of silver and pewter and make it fab!

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  27. So glad your brother was fine! I can't imagine how ill people feel when they hear of a shooter on the loose in the US and know loved ones may be involved.
    Christmas at our house is traditional English style. A lot of Australians now celebrate with seafood buffets on Christmas day and cold desserts like Pavolva, or Summer Pudding, but my family still stick with the hot lunch. All that stuff on the television about people eating on the beach in Australia are backpackers generally... I personally can't think of anything worse than trying to eat Christmas lunch at the beach. At our place we usually have smoked salmon on blinis to start passed around with champagne while opening presents. Then it's just the actual main event for us - turkey with stuffing, gravy, roast potatoes, carrots, beans, roast onion, pumpkin etc. Then we finish off with a plum pudding which is set on fire with brandy, and have it with custard, brandy butter or icecream (the kids). We used to have coins hidden in the pudding, which were supposed to be good luck, but which I think were to bribe the kids to eat the pudding. It's definitely a more adult taste as its so full of booze. One year we ran out of Brandy, so my Dad got this ancient bottle of vodka out (given to him by a patient, but my parents hated vodka so it sat for years on the drinks table in the dining room). Dad poured it liberally over the pudding, lit a match and the whole think sizzled out wetly. He tried again, and again with more vodka and was so puzzled about why it wouldn't light. My sisters and I were looking at each other, as it seemed we'd all snuck vodka out of the bottle over the years and topped it back up with water. So Dad poured vodka scented water over the pudding, and there wasn't a lot of alcohol left to make a good flame!
    When I was younger, we used to go to Church in the morning. My husband's family always did Midnight mass on Christmas Eve. After lunch we play croquet on the lawn, or swim in the pool. We eat lots of cherries too as they're in season. Boxing Day is a day of eating left overs, and watching the annual Boxing Day Test Match (Cricket) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. And sleeping. For the children, we don't have stockings- that seems to be a more recent thing here in Australia. Everyone used to leave out a pillowcase or a sack for their gifts from Santa (who is called Father Christmas in South Australia, there are regional differences here). He fills them during the night of the 24th, so the morning of Christmas is spent opening gifts, and getting ready for the big lunch. I like to play all sorts of music, but as I wrote on Dani's blog that my favourite is Baroque Duet with Kathleen Battle singing and Wynton Marseilles on trumpet. ... phew - what an essay! What was interesting to me was that when I combined my Christmases with my husband's family, they did pretty much the exact same thing and food. The only thing they had different was that they would have to listen to the Queens Christmas message on TV, which my family didn't do. Both of us had fairly formal affairs in that they were in the dining room with all the good stuff out, and we'd dress up for the event. But I do know a lot of families where they're all having Christmas in flip flops and shorts etc, and I remember the first time I realised other people had Christmas dressed like that I was shocked! They were probably shocked I was dressed up for a family lunch maybe in return! I guess how you grow up is normal, and you assume everyone else does it like you until you're older...

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    1. Loooooove this comment! You know I love the details! Thank you so much! It is shocking and scary when these things unfold. Perhaps saddest was that there was an overwhelming sense of "this was bound to happen". So sad.
      I tried one beach picnic in my day and oh my god what a terrible mistake.
      I wish the Queen's Address were televised here! All the food sounds absolutely delicious and what a fab day. What goes in your stuffing? Is it a bread stuffing like ours with celery, onion, and herbs?
      That is sooo funny about the vodka! Did you all fess up? I want to make a pudding and do the whole flambé drama! Do you have to have it on a special type of platter? I'm imagining scorched porcelain! I like a bit of formality on holidays too. I've upped mine a little bit every year for the 15 or so I've been in charge!

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    2. The stuffing has apple, celery and raisins and breadcrumbs and sage in it. You might be able to Youtube the Queens address now? I'm sure the palace would have it broadcast in other methods now? Here it's put on the National broadcaster (the ABC network) and was usually shown around 5pm.
      The vodka was pretty funny - fortunately we were all old enough that we kind of laughed a lot and confessed - about a year later, after we'd got our stories straight. The china doesn't seem affected by the Brandy flaming though. We usually just have the pudding on a plate, and have a jug that we fill with brandy and light up and then as it's going up in flames we just keep pouring until it's all gone (you don't do it all at once or you'll have a bonfire). We usually close the curtains for the pudding flaming. It's every pyromaniacs dream I think!

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  28. Oh, I so share your love for "In the Bleak Midwinter" and the Huron Carol. In addition to the music, (both versions), I adore Christina Rossetti's lyrics in "In the Bleak Midwinter". Merry Christmas!

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    1. I have just become familiar with "In The Bleak Midwinter" and think it's beautiful. It's on a Christmas CD by Coig that I bought in October after seeing the group perform at Celtic Colours on Cape Breton Island. Now I need to familiarize myself with the Huron Carol.

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    2. OK, I googled the Huron Carol. It's absolutely beautiful. Sung by the Canadian Tenors!

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  29. Stephen Andrew- if you need a parenting fix, stop by our house any time from Dec.24 - Dec. 26. Four grandkids and four grand nieces and nephews will be popping in and out. By the 27th, I am ready for a trip to Nepal and silence. Our Christmas celebration is fluid and changes year to year to accommodate the wives and husbands who have joined our group. I try to remember that the in-laws need equal time and would like to see their children, too. So this year it will be: Christmas Eve cocktail party for those staying at my house and whoever pops in. Christmas Day-continental breakfast and Mr. K's wonderful scrambled eggs. Kids start to arrive around 2 and come from a distance. Treats, dips, chips, cheese and crackers all available to tide them over until dinner around 6pm. Rather traditional ham for dinner, but a special pot of mac and cheese for the kids (I will not argue with them or the parents about nutrition on Christmas Day and I know they will eat this.) On the 26th, the entire Kahler clan will get together for a party. This year all the sons and daughters are home, so the party will be raucous. On the 27th, everyone goes home and I check into detox. Happy Holidays!

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    1. Sounds fantastic!! You are lovely to work with the in laws and not be rigid with your celebrations...like I struggle with being! Haha! Tell me shot your mac and cheese-what is the cheese mixture? What kind of noodles? I love a Christmas Day breakfast. That's what I do too and it is nice to get it all done early and then have ham sandwiches throughout the day when someone is hungry. With my celebration being Christmas Eve and then Christmas morning on a smaller scale, I love driving around on Christmas and peeking at other celebrations! I know that sounds creepy but creeping with good intentions isn't that bad is it?

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    2. The little ones like a mild mixture of smoked gouda and mild cheddar or Monterey jack with large elbows. I top it with a cubed bread mixture and butter which I put under the broiler for a minute or two. They love to fight over the bread cubes, but everybody eats! Another addition to our meal is crab legs because No. One son doesn't eat meat. My only requirement is that I don't have to cook them. The boys (men) have to take care of that and everyone is happy. Very hedonistic-everyone gets what they want. More Bacchanalia than traditional.

      And, no, peeking at other celebrations is a timeless tradition. There is something very soothing about seeing other families enjoying the holiday.

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  30. Oh shut up, you'd be a fabulous father. We all worry ridiculously, some more than others, that's true. Have you considered adopting? Your child would be so very lucky to have an honest, loving, creative, inspired and inspiring Dad who can cook AND clean up the messes. I, for one, hope you take the leap some day, because indeed you would be fabulous and oh, how enriching and rewarding and life altering in a good way and even heartbreaking because we're being honest.. parenting is. Once you've fallen into it or planned it or whatever, you can't ever imagine why you baulked in the first place.

    Our Christmas is all over the place, as you said. We have the family for Christmas Eve and again Christmas Day, but sometimes someone else hosts one of those so we all shift to the other location. We often invite friends, and whoever in their family wants to come too... sometimes some of the work crew, sometimes a few of the neighbors. The Food is a buffet, not a sit down let me serve you thing because there are too many, and people spread out all over the house - upstairs is the pool table loft with bar, the guys hang out up there, and there's always a game on the flatscreen in the mancave. The foods are varied - a roast beef, a ham, lasagna or ziti, many sides like twice baked potatoes, asparagus, green bean casserole, scalloped potatoes, maybe a tossed salad but not always, - appetizers are usually shrimp with cocktail sauce, various cheese and cracker trays, olive trays, etc... and desserts are many. I like too much food all over the place - you might find it a bit chaotic but no one goes home hungry and usually with some tupperware. I, like you, load up on the cheap disposable kind at holidays.

    I have the Christmas Spode China - I am using it as regular dishware all through December. AND.. I just discovered a very easy new cheese crackers thing - get your favorite cracker - place around outside of cracker dish - but cream cheese in the center... and top the creamcheese with red pepper Jelly and of course a spreading knife to apply the cheese/jelly to the cracker - WOW. Delicious... and festive looking.

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    1. Oh I see the Midwest has finally sent one of its trends to New England! Haha pepper jelly cream cheese is a standby here! It is wonderfully easy.
      Oh I have definitely considered adoption and would love to. I always had my heart set on adopting but adoption internationally is almost not an option for gays anymore (terms from some international conference) and I truly don't think I could handle the roller coaster of American adoption with the last minute changes and heartbreaks. Not that it should be easy to adopt a child but it's becoming an ever more twisted procedure.
      Your Christmas sounds like so much fun! I love your attitude and am sure holidays at your house are so special.

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  31. Stephen, I'm so glad the college incident was not worse, what a hero, indeed.


    Parenthood: oh, don't get me started. My 'boys' are 30 and 26 and I'm still amazed they survived my parenting. I don't know how old you are, but when we were privileged to babysit our granddaughter for the first time a few weeks ago, I was petrified. I love her, she is gorgeous and precious and adorable, but I'm terrified of her coming to harm while in my care. I'm sure her mother has her doubts too...I mean I'm the mother who apparently decided against reading warm and fuzzy bedtime stories and went straight for true crime, even though I don't remember doing it. (My son told his wife he didn't know any fairy tales, but he did know all about Ed Gein and Dahmer thanks to Mom reading aloud to him and his brother every night.) Ok, yeah, I did that, but they were in high school at the time, for cryin' out loud. I was simply educating them on life's dangers. And really, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White (and what about the woodsman dumping his kids in the woods because the evil ol' stepmom isn't into the whole stepkid thing and a witch with a candy house fattening them up for dinner?) Now THAT is pretty darn scary. Am I right? Plus, I sat through a few episodes of 'Once Upon a Time' um, yeah, that's warm and fuzzy. Ha.

    Christmas is going to be an adventure here. I don't know what to expect, and I hope my relatives don't expect much because that's what they're going to get. I have toyed with the idea of writing an anonymous blog so I could say what I really want without fear of completely alienating what little family I have left. That sounds really awful, doesn't it? But tensions are running high here with elderly parents failing left and right. I am glad I can still care for my own 96 yr old mom, but I have an eerie sense that my in-laws are about to be foisted into my lap also, and though I'm a big ol' girl, my lap cannot accommodate two more. My husband's sister and husband are not interested in stepping up to help with their parents 'because they have to guard their own health' so go ahead and make any decisions you want, hire who you want, put them wherever you want. Um. Yeah. Ok...gee thanks. Right after I figure out what's ailing my failing reproductive parts, I'll get on that. Damn. Bitter much? I know. I'm sorry. How un-fa-la-la-ish of me.

    Anyway, we had to cut down several spruce trees for the septic tank installation. One of the tree tops ended up in a stand in the dining room where it's sitting forlornly waiting for the move to the living room and inevitable decorations. I took the rest of the branches and crammed them haphazardly into the fifteen urns (fifteen? really? Time for a reality check here). And yes, I'm one of 'those' people with the light up deer AND horses that look like blobs when lit. But the worst part of the Christmas lights is the yearly, 'we have to go through each damn light on each individual string to replace the burnt out one' that my dear husband subjects himself to. It drives me stark-raving mad, let's just go buy new ones, please, but nope, 'I can fix them' until I get the lights on the tree in a snowbank and they go out one more time. One year I disobeyed and bought all new lights without consulting him. Let's say I was a disappointment as a wife but that was the least amount of stress I've had outdoor decorating. I think this year I'll skip the lights and live large, whaddya think?

    Thank you so much for writing and sharing your delightful life with us all, Stephen. You'll never know what joy you bring.

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    1. Thank you so much, Karen!! I am so sorry I'm just now responding. You fail to mention your spotlights on the deer in the quarry! I remember your deer and thought they were lovely! The spots help them look like deer and not blobs! I am awful about buying new lights but they are becoming ever more inexpensive and I just don't have the patience!
      Well you can always write anon comments here! I have family like that too and trust me in the long run, they suffer so much more for not doing the work and sharing the love than if they had. I mean it wrecks them to the point I actually feel more sorry for them for having such little foresight and being such asses. There was a conversation not long ago in my family where an uncle said he didn't want to help much and it was okay because he "didn't want anything" out of his parents either. As if one helps elder relatives only when they want something--not because, you know, it's the decent, dignified thing to do! It was the wrong button to push with my poor mother nearby who was still very much grieving the loss of her mother. He got some Aries fire for that one. I'm so sorry for the ailing health in your older relatives. It's so hard. But being able to look back and know you did the right thing will be worth its weight in gold.
      I'm sure your granddaughter brings sonnych joy. And forces a break from the garden! So funny about the true crime! And you're exactly right, most German fairytales originally end with dead kids so you were just keeping it real! I remember in German class our teacher read us one where a boy doesn't cut his fingernails so he accidentally beheads himself in his sleep!

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  32. I am over the moon that for the first time in close to 10 years we have this Christmas Eve to ourselves. When we lived in NJ we spent it at my brother's house with his little family and my dad and stepmom and my sister in law's entire family. They are nice and all but I always wished it was a more intimate family celebration and this year it will just be the 4 of us.
    We are going to go to church on Christmas Eve followed by a big dinner back home. Christmas morning is always presents first, big fancy breakfast with a traditional Christmas dinner later. And Funny Farm. I must always watch Funny Farm on Christmas. One of my all time favorite movies and I would chop off my left arm to have that house. 80's decor and all.
    xoxo

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    1. I've never heard of Funny Farm! I must investigate. That's a lot of cooking!! You're making up for lost time, aren't you?! Sounds like fun! I wonder if it'll be warm enough to eat outside? Would you? Maybe at very least cocktails.

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    2. Yes you must watch Funny Farm. Classic Chevy Chase. Then let me know if you are dying over that house too. :)

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  33. For the three or four years, the un-Husband and I have gratefully found ourselves without Christmas Day obligations. So, we have dined (usually alfresco, because it is likely 70+ degrees, very un-Christmas-y) at one of our favorite restaurants. They have a limited holiday menu that always includes fresh oysters and shrimp, also beef tenderloin or filet, and all the delicacies I love, but seldom prepare for a crowd, only for the two of us. We go late in the afternoon, and plan to go again this year. It has always been a stress-free and delicious outing.
    We will probably see friends and some of my family Christmas Eve or before. The UH will probably make the 100 mile trip south to deliver presents to his daughter and grandchildren a few days before (I skip this always, but that's another novella for a different holiday, perhaps Father's Day!).
    There is much to be grateful for this holiday, but I keep having to remind myself of that fact. The truth is that I have struggled with impending, then actual, melancholia for the past couple of months. I know that 'this too will pass', but at what cost. There have been incidents in our local schools and public vandalism that have to be attributed to the tone of the recent election. It just breaks my heart, but I lived through Reagan and the Bushes (tho, I kinda of came to like HW), so I have to have faith that our country can survive this.
    Sorry, I got off topic. Much of my joy this year comes with the recent birth of my twin grand-nieces, who join her delightful 3 year old big sister (I have a wonderful photo of her sitting on a patriotically painted donkey in front of the National Women's Democratic Center in DC, if you'd ever like to see a hopeful image). I now have four beautiful grand-nieces who I will spoil, albeit mostly long-distance, and hopefully they will blossom more than I ever aspired.

    My holiday cooking will be limited to my three tried and true treats: white sharp cheddar cheese straws with rosemary; savory spiced southern pecans; Martha Stewart's pecan shortbread cookies dipped half-way in Ghiardelli's dark chocolate. I have worked on these recipes for several years, and I think I finally got them right. The best thing is that the dough for the straws and cookies can be made ahead and frozen, and I can also do the pecans ahead and store in air-tight containers. I will probably do all of that this weekend.
    That's an optimistic projection on my part. I first have to overcome the fact that my beloved rescue dog, Charlie, was diagnosed today with diabetes. (I had never heard of canine diabetes!) He goes back for the day tomorrow for extensive glucose testing, etc., but we will probably have to inject him with insulin twice a day for the foreseeable future, if not for his lifetime. The vet is going to train us in how to do this when we pick him up tomorrow afternoon. I've been swilling wine since we got home, as you can probably tell from my ramble.
    Have a peaceful and memorable holiday, Stephen. I love you and your writing and will check back on your holiday labors. So glad I don't have to do much!
    Have a White Russian for me!

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    1. Thank you so much! I know, this year has been so very full of acrimony that I'm of course hopeful the holidays can pull people together a bit. Though with the Electoral Vote on the 19th and Inauguration a month later I'm afraid it'll still be a topic at Christmas. I know many people tried to keep it out of Thanksgiving and couldn't. I'm so sorry there's been ugliness in your area. Seems none of us are safe from it.
      I'm also so very sorry to hear that your dog is diabetic and will need insulin! I knew cats could be diabetic but have never known of a diabetic dog. Poor thing. Thank goodness he has an owner who will rise to the occasion for him.
      I also know what you mean about the looming sense of sadness. I suppose it's always there after the age of 15 or so but it's more pronounced this year with everything that's happened. Your dinner sounds so delicious and I can't tell you how I envy your proximity to seafood. It's funny how that didn't used to bother me all that much here in Ohio but now it really, really does. Hope you have a merry Christmas--and yes--totally enjoy spoiling those girls and Charlie too!

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  34. So glad your brother is OK. It's a scary world some days. I love your rants. You express what so many of us are thinking. Quite fabulous. You need to write a book! Have you read Plum Johnson's They Left Us Everything? It's about a woman sorting through her parents' estate and what that raises about the validity of memory (there is a typo on her mum's headstone as an example). I think her larger-than-life Virginia-born mum could fit nicely into your family and I think you'd love the book.

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    1. Thank you so much! No I haven't! I must look into that. I've been in a terrible book drought. Probably why I won't shut the fuck up in my writing! I love Virginia, I think it has the best of the US because you can claim Southern and New England culture. It's just close enough to New England that you can get away with it.

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    2. I agree. I know a couple of Virginians and perhaps the split personality is why they are fabulous. Please don't shut the fuck up in your writing. It's the best thing I'm reading right now.

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  35. Hi Stephen - I'm so glad your brother is fine. I know this is not good thing, but I can't watch the news anymore. And how beautiful are your nighttime photos! So festive!! I actually don't mind that the holiday lights are going up earlier each year. Yes to more beauty! Yes to more bling :)

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    1. Thank you so much! Oh I'm right there wth you. I avoid it at all costs. It's all too upsetting. Plus so much of it is framed for entertainment and reaction more than information.

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