Avoiding the Christmas Crazy

Well, here we are–five days from Christmas 2014 and I am no where near ready! As I do every year, I’ve somehow managed to let the time get away with me. Here’s what I planned to have done by now:

  • Finished and wrapped my granddaughter’s quilt (it’s half-sewn because my one-and-only sewing machine needle broke. Did I have backup needles? Nooooooooo. I bought some new ones but still haven’t finished the quilt.)
  • Made a half dozen blueberry cakes for our neighbors (nope–haven’t even bought the little tin loaf pans yet!)
  • Made eight catnip mice for all the kitties in my life (our three, Mom and Dad’s cat, my best friends’ cats–one and two respectively, and my granddaughter’s cat); I have the fleece, batting and everything; just not the TIME!)
  • Finished the two necklace and earring sets I’d planned to make and wrap by Christmas Eve
  • Made and sent out earrings to two old friends
  • Dropped off the gift I made for a dear friend from work who is recovering at home from surgery
  • Bought something for the Yankee Swap at work
  • Sent out Christmas cards (HA! This is something I always think about, but never get around to do–each year)
  • Started collecting the ingredients for our traditional Christmas Chowder for Christmas Eve

So–what now? Do I lose the whole focus and reason for the holiday by making myself and everyone around me crazy? Or do I calm down, relax and realize that the world will not stop spinning just because I didn’t accomplish all the Herculean tasks I set for myself?

Here’s what I’ve decided–I will do the best I can. If I get those blueberry cakes made and delivered a few days after Christmas, so what? Will my granddaughter be mad at me for not finishing her quilt on time? I doubt it. Is a gift delivered late but still heartfelt any less a gift? Nope. Does the Yankee Swap really need one more silly gift? Um–no. So, here’s my plan for the next five days:

I’LL DO WHAT I CAN AS WELL AS I CAN AND NOT BEAT MYSELF UP FOR NOT BEING MRS. PERFECT MCPERFECTSTEIN.

Yup, that works for me. Here’s a newsflash in three parts that we all need to remember:

  • We are not perfect.
  • We always plan to do much more than we can actually do over the holidays.
  • No one (including ourselves) will love us any less if we fail to accomplish it all.

The whole reason for this season, no matter what your beliefs are, is to be with and enjoy family and friends. Whether we are all physically together or we just call each other on the day, whether we sit down to a celebratory meal with everyone or simply enjoy a hot chocolate while sitting in a comfy chair–it’s a time to remember and celebrate who we are and all those who have come before us, and will go on after us.

Take a deep breath and relax. It’s going to be a fabulous Christmas.

God help us, every one!

If You’re Finished and You Know It, Clean Your Dish!

(To be sung to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands.”)

If you’re finished and you know it, clean your dish!

If you’re finished and you know it, clean your dish!

If you’re finished and you know it, clean your dish and then just stow it–

If you’re finished and you know it, clean your dish!

 

If you’ve made a great big mess, clean it up!

If you’ve made a great big mess, clean it up!

If you’ve made a great big mess, come to me and just confess–

If you’ve made a great big mess, clean it up!

 

If you take the scissors from the drawer, put them back!

If you take the scissors from the drawer, put them back!

If you take the scissors from the drawer, put ‘em back or I’ll get sore–

If you take the scissors from the drawer, put them back!

 

If you spill water on the floor, wipe it up!

If you spill water on the floor, wipe it up!

If you spill water on the floor, wipe it up, we’ll say no more–

If you spill water on the floor, wipe it up!

 

If you’re done with your tissue, throw it out!

If you’re done with your tissue, throw it out!

If you’re done with your tissue, throw it out (or we’ll have issues)–

If you’re done with your tissue, throw it out!

 

(Now feel free to join right in and make your own  verses!)

 

The REAL American Horror Story – Right in My Kitchen

It’s time to come clean about what happens in our kitchen. Personally, I feel that there are basically two types of kitchens: Orderly and Not. Ours, sadly, is one of the Not category. But I’ll admit it isn’t just me who made it that way….

Scenario 1: The Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I decide to have sandwiches and soup. While I enjoy making soup from scratch, the same can’t be said for making sandwiches. I can watch another person make a sandwich and then make it myself the very same way. At this point you can blindfold me, and I can tell with one bite which sandwich is which. How? The sandwich I made NEVER tastes as good as the one someone else made.

So while I ladle out soup, the Crankee Yankee makes the sandwiches; say, BLTs. (He makes the most delicious BLTs I’ve ever had.) Once we’ve finished our meal, I collect the bowls and plates and bring them back to the kitchen. And there the horror story begins….the mayonnaise jar is open, and the mayonnaise-y knife is on the counter, leaving a big smear. Ripe tomato blood and guts are dripping off the cutting board onto the floor, and bits of romaine are scattered throughout. Cooling bacon grease lies in the bottom of the frying pan, congealing into that white, waxy mess that makes us feel that our hearts are screaming (hoarsely of course because their arteries are clogged). The greasy spatula and splatters of grease festoon the stove top. Yuck.

Scenario 2: Each morning, the Crankee Yankee makes a pot of nice, strong coffee, puts out the blue pottery cup I like, and feeds our three cats; Nala, Pookie and Plumpy-Nut. Mind you, the night before I will have washed and dried the cat bowls, cleaned off the plastic mats on which their food is served, and refreshed the two bowls of water.

By the time I get up and get my cup of coffee, there are bits of food all around the cat bowls, fluffs of fur (or often, a toy mouse) in the water bowls, and the plastic mats are tracked with paw prints. Sighing, I clean up the areas, clean and refill the water bowls–all the time knowing that the next meal will bring more mayhem.

Scenario 3: Often when I come home from work, the kitchen counters are cluttered with random miscellanea, such as half-sorted mail, a box of model train parts (the Crankee Yankee is a trainiac), a fork with cement-like bits of cat food in its tines, wads of paper towels, a dried-out marker missing its top, and a plate with crumbs and greasy bits in it (another BLT?).

When I ask the Crankee Yankee why all that stuff is on the counter, he replies, ‘oh, I was going to get to that.’ (Really? Like, when??)

And last, but certainly not least, Scenario 4: Our house is circa 1953; all the rooms are small, the bathroom is miniscule, and the kitchen cupboards are not only high, but deep. For example, if I’m looking for something in the middle shelf above the counter top, I have to stick my arm in all the way to the armpit to get it.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking: ‘why doesn’t she just move things to the front of the cupboards? Problem solved!’ Yeahhh—no. That never works in our kitchen. Since the middle and top cupboards are so hard to reach, we tend to take the easy way out and use the “grabasis” (the grabber device with the grabby/pinchy things on the ends, allowing you to have an extension of your arm) to get what we need. Once used, we just shove stuff back, and so it goes.

About once every month or so, I decide to become a model of efficiency and organize the cupboards. Well, by the time I put on my work clothes, tie on my pink bandana (keeps the sweat out of my eyes and means I don’t have to draw on my eyebrows), get out the stepladder and clean it (because, after all, it hasn’t been used for two months), get the cleaning fluid and paper towels ready, plus align the wastebasket so I can easily throw stuff in it without getting off the stepladder–I have to get another cup of coffee and read for a half hour and rest up for the task. So, the cupboards may or may not get cleaned for another month or so.

And then there are the bottlenecks in the kitchen: there’s one between the refrigerator and the sink, one between the hallway leading to the bathroom and the kitchen table, and one  right in front of the kitchen door that leads to the breezeway–you cannot open the door into the kitchen when the oven door is open. So the Crankee Yankee and I constantly have to do do-si-do whenever we’re in the kitchen together.

So, there you have it: the real unvarnished American Horror story. Read it and weep. If we ever do upgrade our kitchen (the Crankee Yankee has mentioned many times about ‘stripping the kitchen to the studs’), I really don’t think I can live through it. If we do it, I’m going to have to live somewhere else for the duration, say, like Maui.

Aloha!

 

 

Surviving the Schlump

What’s the “schlump,” you may ask? The schlump is comprised of many elements, the main ones being the following:

  • Feeling that you are teetering on the edge of the abyss
  • Extreme grouchiness
  • Declaratory statements (made to anyone foolish enough to listen) such as “I am NEVER going to trust anyone EVER AGAIN,” “I hate everyone,” “my entire life has turned to poo,” “why bother to do anything?” and so on
  • Overall feeling of ‘what’s the use?’
  • Feeling as if you will never smile or laugh again
  • All past hurts revisited big time
  • Weeping over nothing
  • Anger at everything (including the roll of plastic wrap that just won’t stick to anything but your fingers)
  • Assuming that the worst will happen (and probably soon)
  • Feeling as though no one cares about you (despite all the obvious love around you)
  • Punishing yourself for real or imagined crimes (yelling at the cat for clawing up the one good sofa, snapping at the husband who wants to take you out to dinner (but since you don’t feel worthy of that, you snap and say you are not hungry)
  • Feeling unloved and unappreciated
  • Looking only at the dark side
  • Being obtuse just for the hell of it
  • Feeling you don’t deserve any happiness
  • Self-punishment (take your pick)

That, my friends is the essence of the deadly schlump. Be warned–the schlump likes to show up just before holidays. I speak from very recent experience (last night).

My poor, dear, loving, kind and absolutely wonderful Crankee Yankee (my husband) tried his best to cheer me (and you fellow sufferers of the deadly schlump know that this only adds fuel to the fire) and I wouldn’t let him. All his attempts met with stony silence from me (how mature is that?).

The good news? For me personally, I got to the point where I could begin to forgive myself ( a little) and ask forgiveness from the Crankee Yankee who, bless his heart, just said, “Huh? What do you mean?”

The other good news is how to fight the schlump. Here’s what works for me:

  • Whatever it is that’s up your butt at the moment, LET IT GO. You can deal with it later.
  • Eat something. In fact, eat *something that you usually forbid yourself to eat (but you love).
  • Watch some good TV.
  • Read a good book.
  • Don’t force yourself to feel better. You’ll get there on your own at your own pace.
  • Take a hot bath (and DON’T criticize your body parts!)
  • If you have pets, apologize out loud. Same with people. Same with YOU.
  • Don’t even try to talk yourself down; your mind will do that for you (and without a self-righteous tone, either)
  • As Julian of Norwich once said so wisely, “All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”

..and very soon, all will be well. Don’t let that bad old schlump get you down!

*Bacon, chocolate, macaroni and cheese, a bagel with cream cheese and red pepper jelly, a really good cupcake, sweet potato fries, and so on. You get the idea.

Merry Damn Christmas

I for one am sick to death of the HPC (Holiday Politically Correct) police who want us to say “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Look, I’m all for not stepping on toes or hurting peoples feelings, but puh-leeze people–lighten up, could ya?

If folks do not celebrate Christmas and I, not knowing this, wish them a Merry Christmas, I don’t do it to aggravate or offend. Unless someone is wearing a badge announcing that they are a card-carrying Rastafarian, Wiccan, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, Druid, Jew, voodoo priest, Satanist, etc.–I wouldn’t know this (my mind-reading skills are just that bad) and therefore mean no harm or insult. I realize that our country is made up of hundreds of thousands of people with different beliefs than my own, and that’s fine with me. Live and let live.

My wishing others a Merry Christmas (and by the way, I don’t care for the abbreviated ‘Xmas’) does not mean I am trying to shove my beliefs down anyone’s throat. I only mean that I hope they enjoy a celebration with families and friends. When I used to live in Texas and couldn’t get home to New Hampshire to be with my family, I invited anyone I knew at work who was on their own or, like me, couldn’t get home. That way we could all be with each other and celebrate the season as if we were all family.

To those who are alone during the holidays for whatever reason,  I also wish a Merry Christmas. You are not alone if you have memories and/or if you celebrate in your own way. If all you do is to sit in a comfortable chair with a hot chocolate and count your blessings, that’s an excellent way to celebrate Christmas.

The simple truth is, we can’t please everyone all the time. I can’t read your mind or know your heart, and vice-versa. If my wishing you a Merry Christmas is offensive to you, I apologize. You are certainly free to answer with a “I don’t celebrate Christmas, thanks,” or “I’m not Christian,” or “WE only celebrate <insert your holiday of choice here> in our house!” But I do wish you would understand that I wish you well, this time of year and all times of year. Personally, I think we are pushing the “PC” button way too often these days.

Merry Christmas.

Let the Annoying Callers Beware

I would say that about seven times out of ten when I get one of *those phone calls, the caller calls me “Sir.” My voice is naturally pitched low, so I guess they have never spoken with a low-voiced female (like, say, Jessica Rabbit) before. If I’m in a good mood, I laugh and tell them that I am actually female and we both have a good chuckle over it. If I’m not in a good mood (and FYI to all possible annoying callers, I WON’T be if you call me between 6pm and 7pm when we are having supper), then I will tell them in a chilly (and mannish) tone that I would appreciate them calling me “M’aam,” “Miss,” or simply, “Your Royal Highness.” Some caller actually have my name, and insist on calling me “James” and not “Jane.” Really, how seriously can I take a call when they can’t even read?

Each time the elections roll around, the survey and political opinion poll calls are rampant. My favorites are the survey callers who ask if I can spare 45 minutes of my day to answer “a few questions.” Seriously? 45 minutes??? I wouldn’t stay on the phone that long if they were transferring a million dollars into my checking account!

As for the ubiquitous scammer calls, the Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I now have a new strategy for them, called “Annoying Them as Much as They Annoy Us.” I know, I know–totally childish, but FUN. Here are some:

  1. We pretend to be old and deaf and keep asking them to speak up.
  2. We answer the phone in crazy dialects, like the Swedish Chef of Muppet fame.
  3. We tell the caller to hold on while we get Grandma, Uncle Clarence, the Avon lady, or one of the cats to listen in on the call.
  4. We pretend to be utterly stupid and keep asking them to clarify what they just said.

If any of the folks on the other end catch on (and surprisingly, very few do) and angrily tell us that they are serious and that we are wasting their time, we just say, “And now you know how *I* feel.”

Recently I read a Dear Abby entry from “Happy To Be Employed” which pleaded for respect for survey takers, saying that they are tired of being hung up on, barked at, sworn at and so on, as ‘we are only trying to do our jobs.’

To this, Dear Abby replied, “DEAR HAPPY TO BE EMPLOYED: I am not excusing poor manners, and I do sympathize with your position. But when companies make these incessant calls, they are entering people’s homes without being invited, and it can make some of them very angry, particularly if they have been interrupted while eating, working, napping or caregiving.

The people you call might be less hostile if they hadn’t been called repeatedly and asked to participate in these surveys after they had refused four, five or six times and had asked not to be called again.”

Years ago when it wasn’t possible to see a caller ID or be able to trace a phone call, obscene phone calls were a big problem. About the only thing you could do back then to stop the calls was to get a new and unlisted phone number. I had several of these calls off and on during that time, and learned quickly not to respond or engage the caller. What I did do to was buy myself a metal wastebasket. When I got an obscene phone call, I would politely ask them to repeat themselves, then take the phone and go WHAM-WHAM-WHAM against the metal wastebasket. Worked every time. Oh yes, and air horns and whistles worked well, too. (Hee, hee, hee!)

So, all that said, annoying callers BEWARE. We are armed with smartass retorts, and are not afraid to use them.

*Phone surveys

*Telemarketers

*Scammers who insist that my computer “told them” it was being hacked

*Scammers who want me to know that my government wants to give me an 8K grant

Vegged-Up Corn Chowder

Now that winter’s here, we love comfort food like soups and chowders. This is my favorite recipe for corn chowder, which over the years I’ve turned into a corn+vegetable chowder. It’s easy to make and delicious to enjoy on a cold winter’s day.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of corn
  • 4 cans of evaporated milk
  • 1 cup each of chopped onions, red peppers, carrots, potatoes, celery
  • 1 T. olive oil, bacon fat or butter
  • 1 t. each thyme, garlic salt and sage
  • S&P
  • a few shots of hot sauce
  • a few slices of cooked bacon

Directions:

In a large saucepan, saute the vegetables in the oil, bacon fat or butter until fairly soft. Add the seasonings, corn, hot sauce and evaporated milk. Let the chowder simmer until the vegetables are tender. Before serving, crumble up some bacon on top of each cup of chowder.

This is great with sandwiches like BLTs, plus some sweet pickles. Serves 8-10.

Note: I find that the chowder tastes better when you let it cool completely for a few hours, then heat it up. But that’s just me. You certainly can eat it right away.