Christmas – In Retrospect

I took a lot of pictures this holiday season.  These and the blogs to follow highlight some of my favorites!

CHRISTMAS AT HOME – This actually was 12/18, the day before we left to spend the holidays in Florida – plus one bonus photo of lazy Granuaile being met at the car by her dad with a wagon so she didn’t have to walk up the driveway!

Christmas Party 2010 – The Aftermath Part 2

Food, glorious food!  Here’s what we served at the party – and a breakdown of what people didn’t eat.

Starting with the cheese course.  I’m not a fan of strong cheese – I prefer mild and softer cheese.  The tray included Havarti (my favorite), Stilton with cranberries (which looked pretty but must have tasted terrible, because I ended up tossing nearly the whole thing), Swiss, for Jim, who loves it (blech), and a sharp cheddar (blech again, but my family loves it).  The only thing I tossed off of this plate was the crackers and the Stilton.  That would have made a nice lunch!  Next year – well, it’s easy to do cheese, and it varies from year to year whether it’s a hit or miss.  Maybe I’ll change it up with some Fabulous Beekman Boys goat cheese!

Downstairs snack foods are always tricky.  It’s usually mostly kids playing down there, but this year, it was mostly grown ups.  For the first time EVER, in the 20 plus years we’ve had a holiday party, I threw away potato chips and onion dip.  I almost always have to refill the chips and dip.  The buffalo chicken cheese dip – FLOP.  Thank goodness I can’t take credit for creating this hot mess.  Even the grown ups deemed it too spicy and unpleasant.  Chips and salsa – no one ever eats chips and salsa.  Jim makes me put it there every year, because he prefers it to sour cream based dips.  Next year, he’ll have to sit and eat the whole thing.  If there was going to be a next year.  17,003.

We also had girl scout nuts (they were spicy), and a snack tray from Target with my favorite ever trail mix – the pumpkin one.  Fortunately, no one ate it, so it quickly became all mine.

The thing that looks like a pizza is the seafood surprise dip.  I love how this dip tastes, I really do, but no one ever eats this thing.  I make it for Jim, because he loves it, but even he didn’t find time to get downstairs to eat any of it.  I think, and rightfully so, food with the word “SURPRISE” in the name probably frightens people off.  A heart attack is a surprise – not good.  A car accident is a surprise – not good.  A tax audit from the IRS is a surprise – not good.  Next year, I’m still making this, but instead of calling it seafood surprise, I’m calling it Damn Good Dip.

This was also downstairs, and there is only one snackable item on the table – the dark chocolate covered, metallic almonds that Jim bought.  I don’t think people realized this was not just a decoration.  These were delicious, but I had to go downstairs, open up the candy jar, and pass them out.  The metallic thing also freaked people out.  Next year?  These will be called Damn Good Nuts.

Stay tuned for Damn Good Stuffing.

Christmas Party 2010 – The Aftermath, Part 1

Well, for those of you who have been dedicated blog readers – back in the day when I posted once a year – you know that I always post a Christmas party wrap up.  I do this for two reasons.  The first reason is to remind me next November when I start thinking about hosting the Christmas party that I said 17,000 times the year before “I am NEVER doing this again!”  The second reason is because I have Mommy brain, which, as you know, not only causes you to forget your own name sometimes, but also causes you to forget painful things like childbirth and planning a Christmas party.

Next year, when I’ve forgotten how grueling putting this party together has been, I’d like to be reminded what I did that worked and what I did that flopped.  So here is part one of my party recap.

Invitations – I sent almost all electronic invitations this year, and I loved them.  The feedback I got was almost entirely positive, so it’s not something I’d scratch off the list next year.  I did find out there were a few people who had trouble opening the invitations, so I apologize for that.  I may just post the invitation here on my blog.  You’re all invited next year.  Oh wait, I am NEVER doing this again 17,001.

Clean Up and Preparation – Bless my lazy arsed husband.  When I told him that between the kids, my classes, scouts, cheer leading, drama, dance, and him, there was no way I’d be able to clean the house to get ready for the party without his help.  His answer to that was to bring in a housekeeper the day before the party to help me get things ready.  She was a lifesaver.  While she was scrubbing toilets and wiping down windows, I was roasting a turkey and making deviled eggs.  Everything ran a bit more smoothly without the worry of a last minute, Flight of the Bumble Bee style clean up looming over my head.

Layout – The Florida room, which, ironically, is the coldest room in our house during the winter, is the “bar”.  We set up a table, put out beer, wine, sodas, and pitchers of iced tea, occasionally do a punch or an egg nog (not this year), and sometimes some stuff to mix drinks.  This year, it was brutally cold outside, but because of all the cooking, it was comfortable in the Florida room.  The drinks stayed cold, the ice didn’t melt as quickly, but I did notice not too many people gravitated out there this year.  Maybe because we had a smaller party (50 guests)?  I don’t know, but I’d probably leave the drinks out there next year.  If I was doing this again next year, which, as you know, I am not (17,002).

Downstairs was the table of snack type foods.  There were chips and dips and cheese and things.  I am truly surprised at how much of this I ended up getting rid of at the end of the night.  Not sure this is a good spot for this or not.

We always set up a table in the kitchen with desserts, and it seems to be a good – but not great – spot.  There’s always a gang of people in the kitchen – maybe people who don’t want a plate of dessert, but will stand and nibble on cookies.  I can’t think where else this table might go, but I’m not sure having it in the kitchen is the best place.

The dining room table is always real food, but over the years, it has become a mix of real foods, snacks, side dishes.  I think this needs to be reworked, also 🙁

Stay tuned for part 2, where I tell you how people criticized my cooking in the most polite way – by not eating it!

How To Get a Kid Dressed in Under 3 Minutes for School

It’s all about the proper motivation.  On a normal day in my house, my kids are still being yelled at to get dressed 10 minutes after we should have already left for school.  No one leaps out of bed, gleefully puts on their school uniform, races down to the nutritious breakfast I spend hours creating (okay, so it’s toast or cereal, but still….).  They have to be poked and prodded like cattle to the slaughter.

Not today.  3 minutes, dear readers.  My little one had her uniform on 3 tiny minutes from the time I first poked my head into her bedroom.

How did I do it?  The credit actually goes to Eilis.  Because last night, while Granuaile was at her Daisy Scout meeting, Eilis took down the Playmobil sets that took over the Thomas the Tank Engine train table when Thomas became “for babies”.  In place of the Playmobil, Eilis put out all of our Little People Christmas sets!

Behind Granuaile, you will see a black plastic trash bag.  That bag now contains 92,741 pieces of Playmobil that Eilis wasn’t sure what to do with when she cleared them from the train table.

If you find the 3 minute motivation for putting that all back together after Christmas, let me know!

Thanksgiving – What to Pass and What to Pass On After Gastric Bypass

There it is, stretched out before you like an oasis in the desert.  Spread out on that table is probably a good chunk of the reason you needed gastric bypass surgery in the first place.

I myself have waddled away from the table after having multiple helpings of my mom’s bread stuffing.  And my stepfather always knows where to go to get the best Thanksgiving pies – and he usually gets several, even if there aren’t going to be too many people for dinner.  And God bless my dad – he married into an Italian family.  Who  knew there was a pasta course with Thanksgiving dinner?

But now that you’ve had your surgery, Thanksgiving dinner is like a table full of land mines, waiting to take you out.  Stick with a few simple rules, and together, we’ll get you through so you can be up at the crack of dawn to do your Black Friday shopping.

RULE NUMBER ONE – Protein, baby, protein!  And lucky you!  There’s 20 pounds of it sitting right there, center stage.  If you’re cooking, make sure you’re extra careful to keep the turkey moist.  Baste often, cover with foil for the early stages of cooking, and start checking the temperature at the earliest point in your “done” window.  Dry turkey can be a beast to get down into a gastrically altered tummy, and stuck bird will ruin your whole day.

RULE NUMBER TWO – Vegetables are not covered in cheese, bread crumbs, or marshmallows.  And if they are at your table, move to a different table.  For some of you, vegetables are hard to eat, especially raw.  But plan to have something your pouch can tolerate.

Those candied yams might go down nice and easy, but you dumpers will regret it when you’re laying on the bathroom floor, bargaining with God that if he lets you live through that delicious praline topping on the sweet potatoes, you won’t allow a sugar into the house for Christmas.  And even if you don’t dump, should you really be eating a vegetable with a marshmallow topping after gastric bypass surgery?  Probably not.  And believe me, I’ve got so much sugar on top of my sweet potato casserole, it crunches when you dig the serving spoon into it.  If you want something sweet, bake some sweet potatoes, top them with a little cinnamon and some butter (don’t overdo the butter); or have some steamed baby carrots.  Even some sweet baby peas will add a bit of sugar to your holiday meal.

RULE NUMBER THREE – Starches are your mortal enemy.  Voldemort.  The Joker.  Lex Luther.  Ban them from the table, or at least ban them from your end of the table.  Potatoes are a pariah.  Stuffing is a sin.  Casseroles are criminal.

Load your end of the table with a delicious salad.  Throw in some chopped pecans and a handful of dried cranberries so you’ll have the taste and texture of some of the things you think you’re missing.  Make mock mashed potatoes with cauliflower, or if your family has a pasta course, make your course with spaghetti squash.  You can probably eat way more starches than you should, they aren’t of any real nutritional value to you, and you can’t convince me that throwing sausage or oysters into your dressing qualifies it as a protein.  Skip the starches.

THE CARDINAL RULE – I know it’s the cardinal rule because it’s red 😉

Anyway – the cardinal rule of Thanksgiving is to make yourself a sugar free dessert.  It’s just not going to be Thanksgiving if you don’t have something indulgent.  A beautiful low carb pumpkin cheesecake on the table will give you something to really look forward to that you can enjoy relatively guilt free (don’t eat the whole thing, but have a slice!).  Put a fruit salad on the table – you’ll be surprised at how many people will reach for seconds on fresh fruit, or take a smaller piece of pecan pie, and use the fruit as an accompaniment.  And if you finish your piece of cheesecake, the fruit will be there for you to pick at instead of nibbling your way through a second piece of dessert.

Keep in mind the real meaning of Thanksgiving.  It’s not a holiday meant to celebrate food.  Thanksgiving is a holiday to cherish the meaning of family, friends, and the wonderful blessings you’ve been given.  It’s nice to gather around a bountiful table, but spend at least a little time, when the table is clear, to appreciate the REAL things you have to be thankful for – wonderful family, good friends, and a thinner, healthier you!

The End of Daylight Savings Time 2010

Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend.  Don’t forget to turn your clocks BACK when you go to bed Saturday night.  You don’t want to be late for the sermon on Sunday morning.  When else will Dad get that mid-morning nap in?  He’ll be a bear all day!

And the most important thing about the end of Daylight Savings Time? Remember to change the batteries and test all of your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. You never know when some crazy woman will allow her legally blind husband to try to make a frozen pizza, and he’ll set the oven on fire.  Make sure those smoke detectors are in working order!

Mickey Mouse firefighter daylight savings time 2010

Now is also a good time to go over a family emergency evacuation plan with everyone, especially the kids. Make sure everyone knows how to call 911 or your local emergency number, and don’t forget to have a spot outside where everyone is to meet in case you have to evacuate your home!

And enjoy that extra hour of sleep!  I know I will – if I’m not doing Algebra homework!