Saturday, December 29, 2012

Joyeux Noёl

I know technically winter just started but I've been waiting and finally we have snow fall. It's coming down quite hard right now, and I think we can expect a couple inches over night!

It seemed like a fitting time to recap 
Christmas 2012. 

This year, it was decided that I would host Christmas Eve 2012 for my mother and younger siblings (my older sister was with her husbands family). My brother arrived Friday night after his finals; he attends school not far from Boston. My mom and sister arrived on Sunday bearing a car full of goodies! I've been planning and scheming since before Thanksgiving for my first year hosting Christmas. My tiny apartment was bursting at the gills but it was so fun to have my family around! We decorated gingerbread cookies, played scrabble (I obviously won, heh heh), watched movies, and even made it downtown for a church service and to see the new light show in Faneuil Hall called BLINK. The lights blink to the sound of the Boston Pops!

Christmas Day saw my siblings and I heading to southern Connecticut to visit my Dad and his family as well as visiting with family friends, who are more like family themselves, that evening for some treats and chatting. 

. . .and now, I can't believe it's all over! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Countdown to Christmas: Day Four

A few years back, when TVs were still giant boxes, my older sister Mary-Rose had one single wish for Christmas. A TV of her very own. 

As my family didn't even have cable until she was 16 years old this was, really, the first request of it's kind and it had caused quite a stir among all us siblings. 

As luck would have it, though, my parents were able to fulfill her wish that year, and purchased her a TV. While she was out one day, my mother worried aloud to me that she didn't know what to do with the box. After, all she had to wrap it so my sister wouldn't find it tucked away somewhere, but the box was so big that she'd have to bring it upstairs, wrap just the top and sides and let the bottom be. And once that happened, Mary-Rose would surely know what it was. 

One of my mother's favorite lines while I was growing up was "Necessity is the mother of invention" and it was with that imaginative mindset that I took to solving this problem for my mother. 

Finally, I had concocted the perfect plan and presented it to her. My mom could wrap the present and place it under the baby grand piano out of the way as planned with one minor change. 

My name would be on the tag.

With a glee that only cooking up a good Christmas surprise can bring,  we set about the task. When Mary-Rose saw the box under the piano she was thrilled for about 3 seconds: until she my name on it.

A few hushed conversations with me confirmed for her that by some terrible error her greatest wish had been ignored this Christmas. She new that box was a TV, and couldn't conceive of how our parents could be so cruel as to pass her over for me. The actress in me emerged as I assured her that I wanted a TV too and they must have known that. Or maybe that box wasn't a TV at all. She was fooled! 

That year, Christmas morning dawned as exuberantly as always and while we all sat in the living room opening our gifts, drinking cocoa and enjoying family time, Mary-Rose huddled rather sullenly in the family rocking chair. She opened her gifts and gave "thank yous", but clearly her heart was not all the way in it.

Secret glance were cast around the room all morning. The air crackling with excitement. Finally, the moment had come.

My father pushed the box to the center of the room and stood. Mom, Dad, and I all grinning from ear to ear. 

"Katy" my sister ejected hostilely from the rocking chair, "get up and open it already!"

My mother stood, "Mary-Rose," her voice thick with surprise, "this is for you."

For the first time that morning, a smile leapt to my sister's face. She pushed herself out of the chair. "What?"

and made her way over to the box. By now we were all standing or leaning forward in excitement. 

With just a little more coaxing, she was convinced it was, in fact, her gift to open, and grabbed at the paper. It gave with a satisfying r-i-i-i-p, revealing a shiny picture of a Sony television ready for action.

We laughed. Mary-Rose joined in the merriment tearing more paper aside, Christmas wish fulfilled. And then we all talked at once, giving up the ruse, sitting in the wrapping paper mess and grinning madly at her enjoyment. That's the best part of Christmas, really. 
The surprising.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Countdown to Christmas: Day Three

Panicked shrieks fill the air, followed by a babble of incoherent shouts. Pounding steps sound on the stairs as Emily rounds into the kitchen nearly in tears. Terror thuds through my chest as I ask her what's happened, sure some terrible thing has befallen one of my other two siblings upstairs.

Emily is barely able to get the words out but, finally, it all starts to make sense. Our baby brother Tim, all sweet chubby cheeks, pouty lips and three year old impishness has apparently found the presents Mary-Rose, Emily, and I had wrapped oh-so-carefully in preparation for Christmas.

And he tore open every. single. one.

The earrings Emily purchased for Mary-Rose seemed to be missing. And-the most horrible of horrible things.

The perfect surprise I found for my brother: Indeed, the one I'd been giddy with excitement over him opening had been exposed amid all the other gifts. 

 In the all the chaos, the large Mr. Potato Head pillow inspired by Toy Story, one of my little brother's current obsessions was lying willy-nilly in the wrapping paper, looking rather forlorn and shamed.

We yelled, we scolded. There were tears and a panicked search for the missing earrings. My mother was inundated with tattling, wailing, and cries for justice the moment we could make her aware of this most egregious act.

Yet, despite it all, the truth remained. We could not take back time. Those presents, no matter how beautifully re-wrapped, had already been opened. 

The Christmas bloom rubbed off.

Mom assured us Christmas morning would still be just as special. That Tim had only ruined Christmas for himself, and would realize his mistake and, likely, never make it again.

On Christmas morning, amid all the excitement,  my brother unwrapped Mr. Potato Head and, with barely a glance, tossed it over his shoulder and scootched closer to the tree for his next present. 

And to this day, I still feel a pinch of disappointment at the memory. 
(Though not as strongly now that a few years have passed. ahemsixteenahem)

Thanks a lot baby bro. . .you're lucky you still get any presents, at all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Countdown to Christmas: Day Two

My eyes pop open into the dark night. I lay flat on my back, then flip to my side, my stomach, my back again.

"Fall asleep!" I tell my ten year old brain.

"The faster you do, the faster you wake up and it will be Christmas!"

Tossing around once more, I know I can't take it anymore. Stealthily, I creep out of my bed and through my sister's side of the room. I tiptoe down our cranky stairs. Each creak and moan seems to reverberate through the whole house; a scream in the silence. Sweating, I make it to the bottom of the stairs and walk through the living room. This is the only night of the year I don't mind coming downstairs to the bathroom. Lights from the street shine eerily into the windows, and for a moment even the giant hulk of our tree frightens me. But then, I feel safe; the kind of safe only Christmas Eve can bring.

I make my way slowly through the room, my eyes always on the tree. Mom had warned us that this had been a rough year, we shouldn't be disappointed if we didn't get a ton of "stuff" on Christmas morning. The mound of presents under the tree sends a thrill of excitement up my body, though. She must have been tricking us!
After going to the bathroom, I open the door, and hear the stairs start to creaking again. Too light to be my parents. I hold my breath and my younger sister, Emily, comes into view.
I take an imperious tone and ask her what she's doing up in the night. She has to go to the bathroom too. . .

When she returns to the living room, we huddle together, giggling quietly as we gaze down at the presents. Carefully nudging a few, to see whose name is on the tag. We get the brilliant idea that we will spend the rest of the night snuggled together under the tree. Gathering blankets and throw pillows from the couch we bed down as close to the presents as we dare. The prickly tree branches reach out toward us, but we are completely safe.  I'm cold and a little uncomfortable but I ignore my discomfort and close my eyes, careful not to squish any gifts. 
We are not there long when the stairs shout that a third set of feet are making their way downstairs. I huddle against Emily, hoping it's not Mom.
But it is and, as she rounds the corner, I imagine her start of fright at two large lumps clustered next to the tree. She approaches and asks us what we're doing.

"We're sleeping under the tree" we tell her innocently. Duh.

"No," she tells us, "you need to go back upstairs and sleep in your beds. It'll be Christmas morning soon enough."

Looking back now I wonder what my mother must have been thinking in that moment. Was she laughing inside at her silly little girls, squeezed by the tree on the cold living room floor? She must have fought to keep a smile off of her face as she ordered us back upstairs. Our shoulders drooping slightly in defeat as we hoofed it back up the grumpy steps and to our warm beds.
Once we are back in our room, I get in bed and lay flat on my back.

"Fall asleep!" I  chant to myself again. 

"The faster you do, the faster you wake up and it will be Christmas!"

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Countdown to Christmas: Day One

In honor of Christmas in just ONE WEEK, I'm going to be sharing my favorite Christmas memories these next few days! And I don't want to be the only one talking. Comment with one of your favorite stories, or email me at You know you want to!

Some are funny, some are sweet, (I don't think any are sad), and as a preface to these stories: They are all the way I remember them now. I'm sure my family would love to argue with me on the details. . .

~~Christmas music is crooning out of the speakers of the CD player: Now fast sleigh bells, now slow falling snow. The Christmas tree lights are glowing cheerfully on my sister and I as we dance to the music. The silver beads my mother loves to drape around the tree are wrapped around us. Glistening silver gowns, intricately beaded. I am spinning, making the ends of my strand whirl in the colored lights. Sparkles of red, green, and yellow are bursting from the beads as they clink and clatter.

My mom cautions us not to break them as we fight and laugh, wrap and rewrap our little bodies in those gown beads. We are beautiful, grown up ladies, waiting for a Christmas ball.

Finally, mom extricates the beads from our grasp and strings them on the tree. For a moment, I am sad not to feel their coolness on my skin, but they are not the only delight sprung free of their boxes for a few weeks. Ornaments, Christmas bags and holiday baubles litter the house, waiting to be displayed. A red, wire candy dish shaped like a bell balances on the stairs, still seeming to hold the sweet smell of Christmas candy from last year. Our old wooden nativity waits in a tattered Pampers box to be set out. The angel held on to the roof by a loose, bent nail. My hands love the feel of the rough-hewn wood. Of the old pieces of hay glued onto the top, barely any remaining after the wear and tear of little fingers playing. Mom cautions us not to lose the Baby Jesus.

I am safe as if wrapped up tight in a cozy blanket. I feel I could hold my whole cozy home in my hands, and also as if  it  is new and unexplored, holding surprises in every corner. I am fresh and young, only a few Christmases to remember, yet ancient with the knowledge of all the Christmases past. Back to a hut of rough hewn wood. Back to a night that is redolent with the presence of angels and stars singing of the Christ child come.

I am careful not to lose Baby Jesus. ~~

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Eat,Papa, Eat"

A few weeks ago, the fitness company that runs classes for my office began hyping up a biggest loser challenge they'd be hosting in office. I didn't join, but it seemed like a pretty great idea. Get people motivated about losing weight and staying fit during the holiday season-the most dangerous time of year. The contest has all kinds of incentive prizes and a final cash prize.

Now, let me juxtapose that with the list of treats that were made available to us through various vendors in our office today:
Godiva chocolates
Sugar cookies
Chocolate covered potato chips
chocolate covered nuts
chocolate peanut butter morsels
. . .and let's not forget the gingerbread house.

This is all in addition to our usual plate full of GIANT cookies we always get with lunch (our lunch is catered each day).

If this is the biggest loser, today is the episode where they shamelessly exploit all the contestants by shoving them in a room with mountains of all their favorite food and pretend to want them to abstain but secretly hope they'll gorge their obese selves into oblivion because, hey, this is reality TV and that's what we all tuned it to see, right?

Trust: it's disgusting.

Now excuse me while I go find that recipe for the chocolate/peanut butter/pretzel bars I plan to make for a party this weekend. If there are leftovers, I'll probably bring them into work. . .

Monday, December 10, 2012

Trim That Tree {Hank}

The Sunday after Thanksgiving, I cajoled my roommate out into the freezing cold night to pick out our Christmas tree.  I like to get as much holiday cheer crammed into the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years as possible! We made our way to my first ever city tree lot, which turned out to be a surprisingly painless experience. In about 3 minutes we'd parked, climbed through the tiny fir forest and found a suitably chubby tree that was nicely shaped. And, OK  we also made the men open up a tree from Nova Scotia just because our friend Sarah is from there and we thought it might be fun (our tree is from Quebec!). Before we knew it, he was loaded into the trunk of our giant zipcar and we were home and struggling to manhandle our tree into our tiny apartment.

No sooner had we moved our table into my bedroom to make room for the tree did we realized our "smallish" tree was actually quite a bit larger than we'd first thought.  As he settled into his stand Hank (as I've come to think of him) began to get bulkier and bulkier, spreading our over the whole nook we'd given over to him.

The next day when I came home, Hank had expanded to even greater size, his chunky branches pushing their way farther into the living room. His rotund middle reminding me of my grandpa's round belly. With some whimsical colored light on though, he's shining away robustly as I type this and I'm loving it. 

Some months ago,  I got the idea in my head that I'd really love to have a tree trimming party! You know, good friends, yuletide themed treats, and a bunch of people to help dress our tree! There appeared to be some confusion about what a tree trimming actually was ( a few people were expecting some branch thinning to go on!), but after that was cleared up, I like to think it went rather smashingly   Hank is looking resplendent with all his new baubles placed just so, and it feels even more like  Christmas in our little apartment.

I forgot to snap pictures most of the night, but here are a few !

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas time is here,

 happiness and cheer!

Oh my, friends, I sure am in my glory. Since about 12:00 AM Thanksgiving morning I have morphed into a holiday animal. I erupt into random song at various hours of the day (well. . .I might do that all the time. . .), I OD on carols every day on the way to and from work, and  today I started hopping around in excitement after arriving home to a pile of web ordered presents delivered and sitting in my lobby. 

This year, for the first time in my grown life, I'll be hosting some of my family at my place for a Christmas Eve celebration. And I and For weeks now, thoughts have been running through my head. Eggnog pancakes or ginger bread? Lasagna or roast? 

And I'm also excited, as we'll get to head downtown and see the Christmas lights and I'm hoping hoping hoping there'll be some carolers tra-la-la-ing, as well!

My weeks are replete with plans for upcoming holidays parties, including one of my own on Sunday (a tree trimming!) and I'm wishing I had enough glittery attire to wear every day until new year!

And the best part, everywhere I walk in the city, there are beautiful reminders of the season !