25 December 2017

A Christmas Post

You may recall that "Christmas survey" that was going around on Facebook some years ago. You know, the one that asked if you prefer white lights or colored lights or hot cocoa or eggnog. Well, I thought that was pretty clever back then. (It was a long time ago.) I'm loathe to numb you with such trivia here, however, so I decided to extract only the meaningful parts and use those to share some memories. If you're bored enough to be reading here today, you will have to listen to stories about my Christmases past. If you're very bored, comment and tell me some of yours!

Favorite family Christmas tradition? I have to have more than one! Decorating with paper snowflakes and evergreen branches and pine cones, a home-grown Christmas tree and antique Christmas lights, the storybooks and comic books and the model train set that only came out at Christmastime, baking Christmas bread for all the neighbors and of course enough pie, cookies, pastries, candied nuts and homemade fudge to sink a ship! I miss those days.

We also had one tradition that I don't miss quite as much: recording Christmas carols off the radio onto cassette tapes. Later, one of us would have to play through all of those many tapes, sifting through the commercials and the crappy songs and the songs we already had and transfer "just the good ones" to another tape. Which naturally took a ton of time (and many miles of cassette ribbon). It was all a matter of luck to catch "the right songs", and then most of them would be slightly cut off at the end when the radio announcer would start talking. And that was how we made our holiday playlists. Thank goodness we have Pandora and Spotify now! (Although I think my mom is still listening to Christmas 1993 on cassette.)

Most memorable gift you've ever given someone? You know, I'm not sure... if I have, I guess I've forgotten about it, which means it couldn't have been very memorable. Gotta do something about that!

We did gift my in-laws with an extremely rambunctious dog a few years ago. But that wasn't for Christmas; it was for Father's Day, and it was only because someone had given him to us first and he turned out to be too much for us and our tiny house. I know, we are so bad! Also, I blame Wesley, because it was his idea. There, I feel better now.

Least favorite Christmas tradition? Probably war cake. Apparently, it gets its name for being a holiday staple during the rations of World War II. Sounds like a winner already, right? Imagine a brick-sized lump of wet modeling clay filled with raisins, and you'll have a pretty good idea of how it looks and tastes. (I have no idea why we keep making this year after year.)

Best gift you've ever received? When I was in first grade, my parents gave me the Super MarbleWorks Raceway Set from Discovery Toys, and that made me really happy. That was the toy everybody wanted back then. As my mom and dad weren't in the habit of giving us trendy toys for Christmas, it was completely unexpected. It was my very favorite thing for a long time and I'm sure I got their money's worth out of it many times over. Also, I'm pretty sure it's still lurking around their house somewhere, and I may or may not be digging it out to play with when I visit 😁

Favorite Christmas memory: I have two: the first is the Christmas Eve my siblings and I spent at the cabin, oh, about ten years ago. The weather was perfect; it was crisp and cold and the moon was full and everything was covered with snow. You have never seen Christmas in a more beautiful place! But it was hard work getting the cabin warm enough to be comfortable, and when it was time to eat, we made the unhappy discovery that between the four of us no one had thought to pack any food for dinner. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) there were a couple of (long expired) cans of baked beans and squash in the back of the cupboard. It's funny now, but it wasn't then! I have said that I would never eat beans and squash for Christmas Eve dinner again, and so far I have kept my word.

The second memory is my first Christmas in California, which was also my first Christmas away from home. I couldn't make it home for the holidays that year because airfare from L.A. to Hartford, Connecticut over Christmas week cost more money than I had in the world -- only slightly less than going to China, I discovered to my chagrin. I wasn't keen on staying in the house alone over the holidays, but it turned out one of my roommates was also staying, so then it wasn't so bad. Her family is from Korea, so we decided to have an American/Korean Christmas, and make and share whatever kind of food we would be eating if we were at home with our families. I made scalloped potatoes with ham (a big splurge since I had to shop at the much pricier American grocery for the ham and cheese and milk!), and Sarah made japchae, a meat and vegetable stirfry with glass noodles. Although we spent almost all day making a big mess in the kitchen and had so many leftovers we were eating them until we were sick of it, it's still one of my fondest Christmas memories.

Most sensational seasonal snack: Shortbread Stars from Trader Joe's in either mint or dark chocolate. They're to die for (and many times I've thought I would die from eating so many!) I'm not sure if they're actually chocolate covered cookies, or chocolates with cookie in the middle. I'm also not sure why they make me throw caution and self-restraint to the wind, because normally I'm a pretty conscientious eater. (It must be drugs.)

Last minute shopper or plan ahead? Plan ahead, definitely -- last-minute doesn't work too well when you do all your shopping online. (Even if you have Amazon Prime:).


I hope your Christmas is wonderful and filled with your favorite things!

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