Pintrest Has Raised The Bar



Don’t panic, but Christmas is less than three months away. Since I needlepoint Christmas ornaments all year you would think that I have all my Christmas stuff done by now. But you see those ornaments are just for me. Yes, I selfishly stitch for myself. No one else would appreciate the time or cost for such small works, so rather than make myself mad by giving away a labored over treasure only to have it put on the back of someone’s tree, or worse yet, sold on e-bay, I just do that work for myself.


Today I worked on some minor gifts that took some computer work to create them. I have not yet come up with my hostess gift of the year. I like to make something small and unique to give to those kind enough to entertain during the holidays. The problem is now with Pintrest the stakes for hand a crafted item has been raised to a crazy level.


I can’t even look at Pintrest because I don’t want to copy what others have invented and I don’t even want see pictures and then later think I made something up. So I am trying to inspire myself, but so far no winners have crossed my mind.


I easily could make some food item, but I feel guilty bringing candy or cakes to someone’s house when I would not be happy if they were brought to mine. Of course no one wants me to bring them kale salad either. Perhaps I am imposing my own feelings on my hostess gift receivers.


I am also anti-more stuff. I don’t want another candle or dishtowel. We have not had enough power outages for me to use up the 34 candles I got in the last two years. So in keeping with my own philosophy I don’t want to give “Stuff” to others. Only usual stuff that I am sure would be consumed is even under consideration. How can I make toilet paper worthy of being a hostess gift?


This is really going to take a creative effort on my part. You would think there is plenty of time, but no. Blink and it will be Halloween then we are rolling right up to turkey day and then the hostess gift season starts. Panic has just set in.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas


“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Mama was stirring, Chocolate Espresso tort mousse;

The table was set with the finest of care,

In hopes that good friends soon would be there;

The puppy sat ready to eat scraps of duck,

But none would go to her; she was just out of luck;

With Russ at his desk, last minute Christmas to do,

Carter wrapped presents, a favor for her mother it’s true;

As I stood at the stove sautéing duck liver,

The thought of the calories gave me a shiver;

But it’s Christmas but once in three sixty five,

So tonight we will eat not to just stay alive;

After pâté and soup, shrimp and grits will consume,

Then on to the ducks where the fat really looms;

The apples and onions sautéed in the port,

Will sweeten the birds of a holiday sort;

Corn pudding and rolls made by the Mama’s hand,

Are a treat that are the best in the whole big land;

Asparagus looms as a dish on the side,

For one guiltless item to help keep our pride;

And after the tort with butter cream thick,

There’s coconut cake if that doesn’t do the trick;

For tonight we will eat like we don’t own a scale,

One meal of celebration will not make a whale;

So to you and yours I send Christmas wishes,

I hope you enjoy all your Holiday dishes.

December Craziness

Something happens to me in December.  I think of it as the month of celebrations and I really push back against doing anything non-fun related.  Of course all the fun things are not non-work related.  In fact I bring way to much work upon myself trying to have more fun.


I usually tr get a bunch of things like decorating the house or buying the Christmas gifts done in advance of December to free up the actual month for merriment and reverie.  This year the house was done in advance, but I have done a terrible job on actual gift purchases.  Perhaps it is because I have not been inspired by any new gift ideas.


My favorite thing to do in December is to entertain, which of course involves a lot of cooking.  I know that this need to spend the month is the kitchen started when I was a kid.  My family used to have a giant, like a 150 people giant, dinner party on Christmas Eve.  My parents invited their close friends with all their kids and any grandparents, aunts or cousins who were visiting.  We had a southern menu to show all our Connecticut friends the best hospitality around.  Country ham from Virginia and Oyster Stew were staples every year.


Our house in Connecticut was built for big parties.  It had three kitchens and multiple big rooms so that the kids and the grown-ups could have their own domains.  Prepping for that party is how I learned to be a caterer since my Dad, the only other cook in the family, depended upon me to make a major amount of food.  The days before Christmas were filled with party prep, which really kept the kid’s minds off the impending arrival of Santa.  So now this need for Christmas parties is part of my DNA.


The other big December event is that it is also Carter’s birthday month.  It is easier now that she is almost 14 and not in the need of a party for her whole class.  When Carter was four we had a snow princess party that precipitated the purchase of a giant twelve-foot tall inflatable snowman, which we put in the front yard.  It became an instant neighborhood landmark.  Young children would beg their parents to drive them by the big Frosty.  It is so tacky and horrible that we really only thought of using it for that one birthday party, but every year people ask us when the snowman is going to arrive so we have succumbed to being that house with the huge white nylon light up man acting as a beacon for potential babysitting customers for Carter.  Every year Russ and Carter have to do some major surgery to the mechanics of Frosty and miraculously it has survived a decade.


So here we are on the cusp of my favorite month.  Don’t ask me to come to a meeting or do any real work.  I have put in double time on doing good the other eleven months.  I reserve December to give parties, go to luncheons, make crafts, shop and wrap presents, cook goodies to give to my friends, decorate gingerbread houses, enjoy libations at friends’ homes, catch up with people I have not seen since last Christmas, listen to the same music I have every December for the last 50 years and hear the same bible stories I have my whole life.  So here’s to the craziness of December.  I’m not going to fight it, but embrace it and pack in as much fun as possible.  Grown up responsibilities can start up again in January.

Christmas Threw Up Today at My House


There are two things I can guarantee about Thanksgiving weekend, one was the Mexican restaurant visit I told you about yesterday and the other is that Christmas throws up at our house on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  With turkey day being so early this year the Christmas stuff will be up almost a whole extra week.


I love Christmas and especially decorating for Christmas.  It started when I was a kid and my mother always got a tree that went to the ceiling of our barn big living room.  It was so tall that it had to be wired to the rafters.  I look back at pictures of my childhood trees and think it is a huge mess with its giant colored lights, gold garland rope the large clumps of Styrofoam ornaments not more than four feet from the ground that my mother let us put on.


When I was in boarding school I was a Christmas cadet.  That meant I was one of five girls who dressed in red and green elf-like clothes and would stand up at dinner and announce various holiday related information.  I was often wrapped in lights and my math teacher Ruth Elmore always let me plug in and blink during class.  I also was the countdown cadet.  I had index cards numbered from 100 to 0 on a ribbon and every hour I would flip a card and at a glance let anyone who was interested know exactly how many hours we had until we were able to go home for Christmas break.  I don’t remember a lot of studying for exams, but I do remember the hour cards.


In college I got a tree for my off campus house and began collecting ornaments, many of which I still have.  Christmas ornaments are my souvenirs of choice whenever I go on a trip.  It is so fun to talk about all the places we have been while we decorate the tree.  Consequently I have to have a very large tree to hold so many memories.


We built a special place in our house just for the tree.  Up until the time Carter was about 8 we had a live 14-foot tree.  That last live tree year as we were decorating it we got a call from a good friend of Russ’ from business school, Sylvia.  She had been diagnosed with late stage lung cancer at the age of 39.  It was devastating to us.  A few hours later after the tree was all decorated it fell over and many of my most beloved ornament we destroyed.  I stood looking at the tree on its side with all the lights hanging off and the shards of broken colored glass strewn across the floor and burst into tears.  Carter had a special ornament that had been signed by Christopher Radko, the maker, especially to her that had been broken.  She came up and saw it and put her little hand on my shoulder as I cried and I was sure was going to be upset.  Instead and said, “Mommy, at least we are not sick like Daddy’s friend.”  Talk about putting it all in perspective.


The next year we got a 14-foot fake tree and have never looked back.  Every year as I put the tree up I think about Sylvia who we lost that year.  The ornaments lost in the fall have been replaced by new ones, this year by the many ones I needle pointed as a new Christmas obsession, but the friends and family who have passed away can never be replaced, just remembered.


I hope that whatever your tradition, you take some time to think about those you love and those you miss.  If you come to my house, and you are welcome to visit anytime, don’t think about how much Christmas has thrown up all over my house, but instead about how many memories all those decorations represent.