In Retrospect

EDIT: Dave reminded me that my post "Peace be With You" was nominated for Best Blog Post in the Canadian Blog Awards. I squeaked through into Round Two, so if you'd like to vote for me that would be great. (If, of course, you think the other four posts are not as good as mine. You must vote with your conscience, and you only get one shot at each poll.)
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I have been sitting here for forty-five minutes halfheartedly clicking around the web, and I ended up on my own blog to answer the question (asked by myself - the only interested party) of how many New Year's Eve posts I have written.

One!

I'm surprised: I thought it would be more.

I read the post (from 2006, amazingly), then scrolled down to see a photo of my children from Christmas Day five years ago. A five year old and a two year old - how shocking.

As far as recording history goes, this blog isn't much use, is it? I guess the fact that it's public keeps it from having any kind of archival accuracy - I keep my children off the blog, mostly.

But look at this. Christmas week, 2006:


And Christmas week, 2011:

Can we all just sit and marvel for a moment at the lightning-swift passage of time?

A moment is all we have time for, though.

Happy New Year!

The Nutcracker

As I mentioned in this post, Ducky and I went to see a production of "The Nutcracker" the week before Christmas.
Ducky was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet none other than the Sugar Plum Fairy herself.
She was also very happy to be able to purchase a Nutcracker ornament for the Christmas tree.
As the girls scrutinized the other ornaments on our tree they gradually discovered that we had all the major characters from the Nutcracker cast hanging on the tree, and we hadn't even realized it! Here's Ducky's ballerina ornament, who they decided was Clara.
Another of Ducky's ornaments was decided upon as the Sugar Plum Fairy.
They also looked carefully and found the Mouse King too.
But Teddy thought Mousie's mouse ornament was too cute to be the Mouse King, so she drew one of her own and hung it on the tree.
Kitcat thought Teddy's Mouse King wasn't nasty enough either, so created another one which she deemed mean and scary enough. Here it is placed carefully on a branch.
There followed a brief period of much Mouse King drawing, until I had to declare we had enough mean mice on our tree and, thankfully, one warm evening not long afterwards the ceiling fan managed to blow most of those terrifying paper mice away.

Twas the Day(s) after Christmas....

We had a wonderful, cozy Christmas as a family in our new home.  Brent had a couple days off and we goofed off and even went to a new frozen yogurt place and all splurged on our own concoctions!


I have to say, that this Christmas time, I gave myself permission to indulge a little with some of the sweets and yummy treats that were around.  Last year I was in "weight loss" mode and stayed true to the plan, so this year I decided to allow myself some freedoms.

BUT... I have learned that I am apt to take TOO much freedom and I have the tendency to become like a child left alone in a candy store.

I am now back ON PLAN and it's amazing how I suddenly feel more in control and even more of a sense of security of knowing the path that I'm on.  It really is like hopping onto another path.  I already feel more energy from eating better and even more cheerful.  In the past, I would have ignored those feelings of over-indulgence and rationalized them away and continued to overeat.  I'm so grateful for what I've learned!!

I really like this poem I read and it seems to fit perfectly:

T’was The Day After Christmas
(By Delia McLaughlin)

T’was the day after Christmas, I had put on 10 lbs
By eating the food that was always around.
My stockings were tight, the seams they were busting,
From the constant barrage of food I was lusting.

My husband and children whose clothes were snug too
Pleaded with me to try something new.
The only thing that fit was my stretch stocking cap
And between my shirt and my pants there was a huge gap.

I had endlessly and repeatedly licked every platter
And never before had it really even mattered.
I avoided all mirrors, ran by them in a dash
So I just couldn’t see the tight fitting sash.

Tired of wearing those triple X sizes,
I had to do something as the scale number rises.
When a friend offered to help me, I shouted
“GIVE ME RELIEF from the munchies” resounded.

When relief came, it was so incredibly quick,
And now I no longer feel lethargic and sick.
I began losing the weight without all the strife
Because my health coach introduced me to Take Shape For Life!

Now pancakes and brownies, chili and eggs,
I’m beginning to see the bones in my legs!
Oatmeal, sloppy Joes, nacho cheese puffs
That health coach of mine really knows her stuff!

This eating small meals every 3 hours
Has helped me lose weight and now I encounter
Compliments from everywhere imaginable
It’s so unreal – almost unfathomable!

The fat is melting – it seems to go POOF!
And the energy I’ve gained has gone through the roof!
The sizes get smaller as the scale shows less
And now my health is no longer a mess.

My eating is healthier; I’ve changed the bad habits
And the weight I’ve lost won’t be recounted!
For my lifestyle is changing – my food choices now healthy
And used for refueling, not making me like jelly.

My eyes now twinkle and I’m truly so happy
That I want all my friends to join me real snappy
So we will all reach that healthy goal weight
And enjoy this new feeling I’m having today.

For the first time in decades, I like my new self
And breathing is easier when I put on my belt.
Mirrors are now my next new best friend
Admiring the new shape and curves that extend.

Try as I did for too many years
Without much success and a whole lot of tears
Losing weight has been easy
With a program that teaches.

Now I’m teaching others so they can lose too
And get slim and healthy in Twenty One Two.
Let’s journey together to a thinner new you
So next year you will be happier too.


I'm Excited for 2012!  I'm excited to do NEW things!  Life is good!
Just 3 more days left of 2011.  What kind of year has it been for you?

You're a Mean One.

We went to the city yesterday. We had some gift cards to spend, and since Chapters online can be hard to navigate, we took the kids to the brick and mortar store.

Woodgrove Center Mall a week ago was a happy and bustling place, filled with (mostly) pleasant, excited people who smiled at you when you made eye contact. "Merry Christmas!" was a euphonic chorus on my ears.

And now, Baby Jesus is looking around going "Hey! Where'd everybody go?" Fast forward a few days, to December 27.  ALMIGHTY. Those people are cranky!! I mean, they are MAD cranky! This one guy went past me in the food court (which was like the eighth circle of hell), and he practically flipped me the bird when I happened to glance at him, made eye contact, and gave a half-smile. He nearly snarled. His brow descended and I swear his lip curled. I looked away, kind of scared, and accidentally made eye contact with someone else. Oops! sorry. I'll keep my eyes on the floor from now on.

You should have seen the sad, pitiful tables at Winners, full of 50% off last-ticketed-price "Christmas Decor" items. Packs of six ornaments, one in smithereens, propping up listless, haphazardly-coiled wreaths of red-painted styrofoam balls, with their paint flaking. Every Santa's hat was crooked, every cheerful elf missing the toe of one resin shoe. Drifts of glitter sifted down to the peeling tile, to be kicked around by wet and muddy boots. The last week of December, they should change their name to "Losers".

By the time I got home, I just wanted to throw everything away. Like, everything I own. Take everything (except my new slippers), shove it into a bag, and bin it. Take that tree, ornaments and all, and throw it on the compost. Take all the tins of baking, full, and chuck them in a dumpster. I bought a "Boxing Day Door Crasher" $4.99 Blu Ray of "The English Patient" today -- screw it. Kick it to the curb.

And it's all because of that unholy mall. It's all because of those stupid people, pushing and shoving and frowning and glowering, because they didn't get the iPhone they were hoping for, or their kid threw up on them after too much eggnog or the turkey was dry or the turkey was raw or they forgot the potatoes. Or because they ate too much or drank too much, or because they didn't drink enough. Because three days ago they spent too much money panicking about little Johnny's stocking not being as full as little Janey's, and now they are out at the mall to find some 'deals' and throw good money after bad.

I solemnly swear, by all that is holy and by all that I hold dear...I raise my hand to the heavens, fall on my bended knees and pledge a vow here and now, that I will NOT LEAVE MY HOUSE next year from Boxing Day right through to New Year's Day.

I will keep my Christmas spirit to the last! Right, straight through to Epiphany.

I could still get it back, I think. If I medicate myself carefully with carols, coffee, and rum balls, I think I can recapture that elusive Spirit.

It can't be gone for good, right?

Time for King's College Cambridge, and Captain Morgan. Stat!

What are YOU doing for New Years?

I'm doing the Texas equivalent of the "Goofy Challenge" at the New Years Double.

That's right. I'm running a half marathon on Saturday, New Years Eve. I'm running a full marathon on New Years Day. That means NO alcohol (well, maybe one beer) this year. I'm ok with that. Last year I had a bit too much.

So, if you have plans on being in Allen, TX - feel free to say hi! Depending on the race, I'll either be wearing my Half Fanatic tank or my Marathon Maniac tee.


Eggnog Cookies: HumanLight, the Happy Holidays debate, and a Cup of Cheer

I should preface this by saying that I celebrate Christmas.   Though I am Catholic by birth, my husband's family was Jewish, and we are now both UU by choice, we go to our fellowship's Christmas services, put up a tree, and track Santa via NORAD.

But I've felt particularly shell-shocked this year by the "war on Christmas" on both sides of the fence.  You've got the "keep Christ in Christmas" people who shout back -- in an annoyed tone of voice -- "Merry CHRISTmas" to the waving antlered Girl Scouts who are wishing people "Happy Holidays" from the float in our holiday parade.   And then you've got people who get all offended when random strangers wish them a "Merry Christmas" because, well, it's not their holiday, and one shouldn't assume.

I find the "war on Christmas" especially ironic because, after all, it's a holiday that is supposed to celebrate peace.  And joy.  Now, I know that Hanukkah and Christmas and Yule and Kwanzaa are fundamentally different kinds of holidays, celebrated in very different ways.  I realize that Christmas dominates the store decorations and sale advertisements for months leading up to the day, and the other holidays barely get any billing.  As someone who dated Jewish men serially during college and graduate school, I got first hand exposure to the frustration with the Christmas takeover, and it was useful perspective.

BUT: when most people wish others a "Merry Christmas," I feel like it has much more to do with good will towards other human beings than it does to do with Christ.  It's like someone wishing you a good day, only in a different language.  AND: when someone wishes me Happy Holidays, I appreciate that they understand that everyone has different traditions.  I don't get offended either way.

A friend of mine recently shared with me a link to a page about the celebration of HumanLight on December 23.  It's a movement/holiday founded in 2001 to celebrate the ideals of reason, compassion and hope--to be a positive expression of humanist values.  Though it originated among atheists, skeptics, agnostics, and other people not affiliated with a faith community, there's a lot to be said for the common ground it shares with religious holidays during December.  Isn't it time we put down the word-weapons and stop second-guessing expressions of compassion and hope?

Join me for an egg nog cookie, and tell me: which side of the holiday fence do you come down on, if at all?  How do you feel when people wish you Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas?  How do you wish people joy at this time of year?

Iced Egg Nog Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, slightly softened
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup egg nog

Icing

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons egg nog
ground nutmeg (for garnish)

Directions
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl and set aside. In another mixing bowl, mix sugar and butter together. Add egg yolks and vanilla to the mixture and beat until smooth. Finally, add egg nog and mix on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Slowly add flour mixture into egg nog/sugar mixture until completely combined, but be careful not to over-mix.

Drop spoonfuls of dough onto a prepared cookie sheet and bake for 20-22 minutes. Remove immediately to a cooling rack.

For icing, whisk powdered sugar and egg nog together. Add more sugar or egg nog, depending on the consistency you prefer. (I like a “barely thick” icing for these cookies.)

Theme: What I Knit for Christmas

On October 20, Gwen emailed everybody with her Christmas list. On it was "A great big sweater to swath myself in. Preferably in some shade of green."

I, in turn, emailed everybody (except Gwen) and said "I call the sweater."

The "green" thing didn't happen - Gwen likes cables so I decided on a gansey, which is traditionally blue. So, blue it was.


November was a little busy for me, but I did manage to win NaNoWriMo AND knit my sister's sweater within the month allotted. 


Sadly, I was so stinkin' sick in the first two weeks of December, I didn't manage to take any photos of Gwennie's Gansey before it had to be mailed.

So I had to ask Gwennie to snap some photos for me, which she did with alacrity.

My favourite one is this one below, showing the Gansey nestled among its fellows - garments I have knit for Gwen in the past. Isn't that something! That whole drawer - all handknits. And I don't mean to brag, or anything, but there are lots more that aren't showing.

There are layers in that drawer, baby!


Thanks, Gwen, for the photos. Love you!

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Yarn: Harrisville New England Highland Aran 10-ply in Cobalt - #31.
Pattern: Based on the Robin's Hood Bay gansey from Gladys Thompson's Patterns for Guernseys Jerseys & Arans, with some modifications based on "Fylingdales" (Lisa Lloyd, A Fine Fleece). I increased the length of the stockinette portion at the bottom of Robin's Hood Bay, cut WAY back on the length of the cabled portion so it begins about 4 inches below the armhole (I think it's more flattering this length), took out the knitted initials, added Lisa Lloyd's welt and used her button band, used a plain 2X2 collar, and added a top-down, knitted-in saddle shoulder of the rope cable, flowing down the sleeve to the cuff. The cuff is about 4.5 inches long and knit quite tightly, to enable folding back of sleeves. (This is a house sweater and as such should be able to be shoved up to the elbows while using flour/water/detergent/towels/hair products.)

The Food Hangover

How much did YOU eat over the holiday? I ate ALL THE THINGS. Seriously. Cookies, cake, pie, candy, ham, potatoes, burgers, fries and LOTS of beer... there was NO running on Saturday OR Sunday. There wasn't even getting dressed. So I'll make a confession.

I kinda sorta have a minor eating disorder. Self-diagnosed. I used to be fat. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. Then I stopped eating all the junk and started the exercise. I've been in maintenance mode for about 7.5 years. And for the most part, I have pretty good self-control and I usually don't eat EVERYTHING. I really believe moderation is the key to a balance between eating to live and living to eat. Every once in a while? I totally suck at that. This weekend was a prime example. I kept eating and eating. Even though I wasn't hungry. I gave myself the excuse that it was because once the holiday was over, the temptations would no longer be there and so if I wanted that slice of pecan pie, I better have it while it was still there.

I woke up this morning and felt like shit. I felt like I had been up all night doing shots. The cure was a progressive run on the treadmill. I had 4 scheduled, and ran 5.15. Sweating out all the grease and fat and sugar felt pretty damn good. I really need to remember that it DOES feel better to have a kick ass workout than it does to eat myself into a funk.

That is all.

Mini major relay

I could watch this all day! I had never heard of this event. Go, pony, go!

Happy holidays!

I would love to be able to perform in something like this someday. Such precision!

Our First Christmas in Brisbane

Christmas Eve brought with it the expected high levels of excitement. Teddy and Kitcat sprinkled their Reindeer food on the front lawn in hopes of luring the Six White Boomers quickly.
After putting out bread and a bucket of water for the Boomers in the pergola, a mince pie and milk for Santa, and hanging the special Santa Key on the door, we set about finding a place to hang the Christmas stockings. The older children found their places quickly and Kitcat had to keep hunting for her spot. She soon found an unoccupied hanging place......
.....which everyone thought was pretty funny.This was the final placement of the Half-dozen's stockings.
The girls were so excited I didn't think sleep would come easily, but surprisingly they were all fast asleep within a half-hour. Santa arrived soon after that, and Santa's helper (aka Mum-me) was able to get to bed at a reasonable hour. I thought the early night would mean an early rising but surprisingly, again, we weren't awoken by our girls before 6.30am. (The girls next door, however, woke me up at 5am with their squeals of delight. Santa had left them a new trampoline, which their dogs ripped apart before the end of the day.) When everyone in our house woke up the Half-dozen set about unpacking their now-bulging Christmas stockings.
Everyone had fun discovering the contents of their stockings ..... even Dragon, despite him yawning in this photo.
Dear little dog-crazy Teddy found two puppies in her stocking. The little grey one is a Christmas ornament which yaps "Ho ho ho .... Merry Christmas" when squeezed.
Teddy here is carefully stashing the surprises from her stocking into her Santa sack for safe keeping.
There was a duck wearing a tutu and ballet shoes in the top of Ducky's stocking.
Santa had put a little pink kitten and a Reindeer ornament in Kitcat's stocking.
Mousie discovered the cutest little mouse toy, with a giraffe in a handbag, at the top of her stocking.
Possum found a cute little Panda in her stocking.
When stockings were empty it was time to open gifts from Santa.
A combined gift was this backyard tennis game.
Kitcat had asked for a toy kitten, and she received this very sweet, handmade, one-of-a-kind fabric cat.
Mousie's delighted whoop of surprise could have been heard throughout the neighbourhood when she unwrapped her very own Prince Tad.
All Teddy's wishes came true when she unwrapped a parcel of some of the sweetest little baby born doll clothes ever seen, like this Christmas Fairy outfit, for Baby Molly.
Ducky was ecstatic to find a Littlest Pet Shop set in her present from Santa.There was just enough time to search out the Santa tins each of the Half-dozen had hung on the tree (which contained jewellery and hair accessories for the girls and a mini torch for Dragon) before we had our traditional Christmas breakfast of fresh fruit salad and croissants. Then it was time to get ready for church. The girls still like dressing in their Christmas outfits.Here's my pretty little Mouse wearing her Christmas dress and her new cross pendant (from her Santa tin.)
After church (which was so packed that they had to bring out extra chairs for the aisles and the children had to sit on the floor!) we came back home and Possum wanted to hand out the gifts she had bought for us all. She had carefully shopped and thoughtfully chosen a present for each of her siblings, for HB and for me .....
..... and we were all delighted with her choices. Coffee for HB, clothes and lollies for Dragon, a bikini for Ducky, book for Mousie, jelly beans and a 3-pack of classical guitar CDs for me, and two cute little puppy toys for Teddy and Kitcat.
Teddy also received a toy border collie (which she named Shep) from me and HB, so here she is with her new family of puppies. The tiny brown dog, from Possum, moves its head when patted/stroked.
Here's Teddy cleaning up just some of the ripped wrapping paper.
Of the all her Christmas presents, this is what Possum loved most ...... I hope the Blues can manage to win the State of Origin again one day!
This is as close to a hug as Dragon would concede for his big sister.Possum's other favourite gift was this pretty blue dress.
HB took this photo of the Half-dozen smothering me with Christmas hugs, kisses and presents. I AM in there somewhere.
So I returned the favour and photographed the Half-dozen showering him with Christmas gifts .....
..... and Christmas kisses. Except Dragon. A thumbs-up was as far as he was going to go to show affection for his dad - at least for a photo he knew would be published on the blog.
HB liked his big tin of Darrell-Lea licorice. Mousie was hoping he'd open it right there and then and start sharing!
The rest of our Christmas Day was spent preparing a delicious BBQ lunch with salads and potato bake. I also made our favorite Christmas punch to drink. Possum and Kitcat wanted me to capture the moment of a Christmas cracker popping but I didn't quite get it. I did capture their lovely smiles, though.
During the lazy afternoon Possum and I made a special treat for Nano. We usually make her dark chocolate peanut clusters, but I couldn't find unsalted peanuts in any supermarket. Instead we made up our own version of White Christmas/Rocky Road. I was a bit skeptical as to how this would taste because the pistachios were salted, but WOW! it was so good.
Mum-me and Possum's White Christmas Rocky Road
1 Cup each of shelled pistachios, craisins (dried cranberries), mini green and pink marshmallows, rice bubbles and dessicated coconut.
Mix together well.
Melt a 375g packet of white choc melts in a double boiler and pour over the dry ingredients.
Mix well again, then spread out in a baking-paper lined lamington tin.
Place in fridge and when set hard cut into squares.
We finished our Christmas Day by having pavlova for dinner, because we were all too full from our yummy lunch to eat anything else!

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas Day too.