Celebrate Saint Nicholas Day

ImageSaint Nicholas Day (December 6) is not a tradition I observed growing up.  In fact, I didn’t even know about it until I was an adult and a man I worked with told me about it.  When I found out it involved shoes and presents, I was all in!  Sinterklaas arrived for several of my Dutch friends this morning, but I guess we Germans prep today.  Must be a geography thing.

One Charming Party describes shining their best Sunday shoes and leaving them out the night of the 5th for St. Nick to fill.  The first time I did this for the boy, we placed a pair of his sneakers on the porch.  When he opened the door the next morning, he gasped in wonder that his shoes were filled with goodies.  His reaction melted my heart, and I was hooked.

Over the years, we’ve left out everything from converse to cowboy boots, but the excitement is always the same.  This year we toyed with the idea of printing and making our own paper shoes, but I’m learning that just because I saw it on the internet, doesn’t mean it will translate well into our tradition.

This year, we’ll learn a bit about the man himself before our boy places his shoes by the fireplace.  We will leave a carrot or two in a napkin inside the shoe for St. Nick’s donkey.

Hopefully, no coal or salt will be found in his shoes in the morning.

Some gifts we hope to see:

anything stocking stufferish (It is so a word!)

cuties or an orange

marzipan (the kid likes it and it’s traditional)

a cookie in the shape of his initial

If you’re totally grossed out by finding food in your shoes, get over it!  It’s not like you’ll be eating spaghetti out of a slipper.

Oddly yours,

Jennifer

Family Advent Celebrations – The 25 Days of Christmas

ImageWell before I was even dating Daddy-O, I purchased the book The 25 Days of Christmas by Rebecca Hayford Bauer (published September 1994).  It has since been updated and re-titled Just 25 Days ‘Til Christmas:  An Advent Celebration for the Entire Family.  Each day has a short devotion, a song, suggested activities, and tips for making your holidays less hectic.  The watercolor artwork is whimsical and fun.  One of our family’s favorite features is the devotions incorporating the tradition of lighting the candles of Advent Wreath.

I cannot imagine celebrating the season without this book.

Oddly yours,

Jennifer

Easy Homemade Hot Chocolate!

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So, the boy wanted hot chocolate from that well-known coffee place this morning. Since we’d already been out in the cold for nearly two hours, the thought of idling behind 15 other vehicles in the drive thru was about as appealing to me as a snowball in the face.  Thankfully, he was agreeable to some homemade hot chocolate instead.

As part of my massive decluttering in my kitchen, I had given away two of the four containers of cocoa powder I owned. Of course, the recipe I usually follow was on said containers.

The recipe on the can pictured was definitely not going to cut it with my sweet tooth, nor would the boy be overjoyed.

After a bit of doctoring, this was the result.

Easy Homemade Hot Chocolate!

2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons sugar
Go-big-or-go-home marshmallows

In a medium saucepan, combine cocoa and sugar. Whisk in the touchiest touch of milk, and continue whisking over medium heat until blended. Add the remaining milk. Heat until the chocolate has reached your desired temperature.

Pour in mugs and top with marshmallows.

Serves 2.

Tip: Drink this with a straw. It’s easier to stab the marshmallows once the chocolate is gone.

A word about the photo background: This is a portion of Daddy-O’s sign costume. He was 56-lbs of butter and I was Paula Deen.

me: Try this. If you like it, I may post the recipe.
the boy: Ooh, like a tasting show! [sips a bit] I love it!

We hope you do, too.

Oddly Yours,

Jennifer

Family Prayer Board

Sometimes I think Pinterest has actually stolen any creativity I have left.  I see all these incredible ideas beautifully executed and I feel like my measure-once-cut-twice mentality doesn’t inspire anyone, including myself.

However, I wanted to make a family prayer board.  I had seen something on which prayer requests, written on sticky notes, could be displayed to remind us of our friends’ and family’s needs.  Today, I bought an 11″ by 14″ frame at the Dollar Store.

I brought it home and tried to find the pin among the 6000 plus pins on hundreds of boards.  Guess what?  I couldn’t find it.  I didn’t even know how to search for it.  I thought, “Hey, I was creative before Pinterest.  I was creative before the Internet.”  So, using the Internet (ha!) I found a wonderful photograph , which I printed.  The picture frame’s back was black, so I flipped it over, affixed the printout, and framed it.  Voila!  It is now ready to be prominently placed in our family room and our prayer requests and scriptures added.  Too bad I don’t have a decent photo of it to share.  I may use my fancy handwriting to add James 5:16 as a border, but for now I really love the clean lines.

Oddly Yours,

Jennifer

Reversal (Revisited)

Originally posted May 2010

Ever since Keith was very small, Philip and I have tried to instill the importance of family.  Whether it was working together to tidy the house  or waiting until daddy came home to watch a video, I took every opportunity to explain what our family is about.  Our home belongs to “the family” so “the family” needs to care for it together.  Those cupcakes belong to “the family” so we’ll wait until daddy comes home to eat them.  I was very pleased when one day I overheard Keith explaining to his friend Andriy that our cat, Foofy Girl, was named that because “our family named her that.”  (Not true because she first belonged to my MIL, but still, he gets it!)

I absolutely love when Keith asks, “Does it belong to the whole family?”  I have to keep myself from strutting around while giving myself a big ole pat on the back.

But then came the maraschino cherries.  They simply appeared one day on my husband’s desk.  Not my favorite brand, but still, maraschino cherries.  (And if you think it’s a totally random thing to have in Philip’s office, then you haven’t seen Philip’s office.)

It had been a couple of days.  The cherries hadn’t been mentioned.  I was home alone.

“I’ll just have a couple.”

“I wish I had some 7up.”  (Back when kids could be in bars*, I walked up to the bartender and said, “Shirley Temple please!”  Hmm.  Why was I in a bar?)

“This brand isn’t that bad.  I’ll have a couple more.”

Surely you’ve figured out what’s coming.

I ate all the cherries.

Leaving the spoon in the nearly empty jar (hey, it was still 1/3 full of grenadine), I rushed off to pick up my son from school.

Upon seeing the cherry-free jar, Keith asked, “Who ate the cherries?”

I melted as I sheepishly replied, “I did.”

“Did you think they belonged to you?”

I didn’t know what to say.  If I say yes, I’m a liar.  If I say no, I’m a thief.  Either way, I’m a pig.

“Who did they belong to?”  Maybe he’ll tell me they were a surprise for me!  I’ll be off the hook!

Keith, looking much older than his 5-1/2 years, matter of factly said, “They belong to the family.”

The cherries in my belly turn to the pits.

He gets it.  I apparently do not.

 

Jennifer

* Apparently I was not in a bar, but a bar/grille.  Please don’t send hate mail to my mother.  😉

Christmas Family Traditions

Growing up, our family had the usual traditions for Christmas like trimming the tree together, leaving cookies for Santa, and opening one gift on Christmas Eve.  Now that I have my own family, it’s been fun continuing these and creating our own.  Some we’ve consciously come up with, and others formed more organically.

We were pretty broke when the boy was a baby, so our Christmas Eve routine was simple (and cheap).  Our trip to IHOP before going to Christmas Tree Lane started because we needed to kill time before the lights came on.  Reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas while drinking hot chocolate (garnished with a candy cane) began in an effort to defrost after looking at the lights.

As Keith grew, we borrowed more traditions.  A magazine article inspired the annual visits from the elf who brings new pjs on Christmas Eve.   The kid looks great for gift-opening pictures in the morn.  After talking to a coworker years ago, we began observing St. Nicholas Day on the 6th.  The boy puts his boots out on the porch before bed on the 5th and finds them filled with treats and small gifts the next morning.  We’ve always taught Keith the history of the real Santa, and he knows now that Santa’s a character who helps us celebrate Christmas.  When gifts are involved, he’s willing to play along.

Here are some fun ideas.

  • stringing popcorn and cranberries to make a tree garland (stale popcorn works best)
  • caroling in your neighborhood or at nursing homes
  • snuggling under a quilt while watching a Christmas special marathon
  • researching your family history to see what special observances you might adopt
  • saving Christmas cards to read aloud on Christmas Eve

What does your family enjoy doing?

Jennifer

Thanks to Urban Debris and Art-E-Cats for pointing me to some great free clip art!

Running Late

I’ve often quipped that my Native American name is “Running Late.”  I recently lived up to this moniker once again.  I herded the man and boy to their respective places of business, stopping to get Keith’s fifth tardy slip in the office.  Rushing across town to the first of many medical appointments that day, I was ten minutes behind.  I got in line behind two other patients, both of whom were told they were in the wrong place.  Oh, the receptionist will be glad to see me, I thought. 

“Your appointment is not until next week.”

Surely, she is mistaken since I just made the appointment yesterday.  Maybe she’s thinking of another appointment I have next week.  The receptionist is not mistaken.  I am a week early.  Great.  I schlep downstairs to the white courtesy phone to make another appointment.  OK, I can move my lunch plans to get in to see the doc.

I leave the building, wondering what I should do next.  I have 45 minutes until my next appointment down the street.  I guess I’ll go get gas since I’m on fumes.  Following the prompts of the gas pump, I use my ATM card to pay and begin to pump.  Nothing.  I walk over to the kiosk to ask for help.  The young man calls me, “ma’am” and informs me that the pump is persnickety.  My word, not his.  After a couple of attempts, the gas finally begins pumping.  We have a good laugh and I thank him.  He again calls me, “ma’am” and thanks me for getting him out of the boring kiosk.

The car is pretty dirty and I’m right next to the car wash.  Upon entering the drive through, there is a garbage can right outside my driver side window for my convenience.  I try to toss a couple of Kleenexes.  The guy tells me to pull forward.  The tissues don’t have enough weight to get them from my overhanded throw into the can.  I tell the guy to hold on while I open my door to pick up the tissues. 

After washing and vacuuming my car, I head over to the hospital for my next appointment.  Or should I say my first appointment.  While I wait I look at the information about this doctor who looks like he’s just gotten his driver’s permit.  This person is supposed to evaluate me for surgery?  Well, the card does say he did earn his M.D., so I attempt to overlook his Doogie-ness.

The assistant takes me back and tries the whole blood pressure thing.  Twice.  My arm is now Elmo red.  I refrain from screaming.  She asks if she can try again.  No.  I figure I have to go to another appointment and they can cut off my circulation there.

Doogie shows up.  OK, he looks a little older in person.  I show him my wrist cyst.  He tells me that it is a common ganglion cyst.  Doogie says they used to be called Bible bumps as beating the cyst with a big Bible was the preferred method of treatment.  My mom had told me they used Webster’s Dictionary.  Heathens.

We go over my options, which thankfully, don’t include tome treatment.  He says I have to have an X-ray and come back right after to discuss further.  Great.  I’m Running Late.  I tell him I have an 11:10 down the street.  Not to worry.  His receptionist can tell them I’m on my way.

Radiology is just a hop, skip, and a jump down the hall.  The receptionist is giving out carnations for customer appreciation week.  I wonder what color I’ll get.  She hands me a red carnation and a signed thank you card.  I’m Running Late.  No worries, she says.  I’m next in line.

How exciting.  I am next.  The x-rays are quick and painless.  But I’m still Running Late.

I head back over to Orthopedics.  Wow, the line is long.  The receptionist asks several elderly patients if they are registered on the Kaiser website.  Each gruffly tells her they don’t use a computer.  I hope it’s my turn soon since it’s time for me to be at my next appointment and the receptionist probably doesn’t know I need her to call.  They’re giving out carnations, too.  Some lady in the waiting room wants to compare carnation smells.  An elderly man thinks she’s trying to take it from her.  The receptionist gives a flower to a teenager; he seems embarrassed.  I tell him it makes him look tough.  He probably wishes I wouldn’t talk to him.

Finally, it is my turn.  The receptionist tells me that the nurse will have to call to alert the other office I’m Running Late.  I sit down not really caring who calls just call already.  I overhear her call the nurse, who is no longer on the premises.  I can tell she’s wondering what to do next.  After talking to the nurse who took over, the receptionist herself makes the call, which I overhear.  It’s still weird when people refer to me as Mrs. Tinney. 

Doogie and I  meet again.  We go over a few of the points of the surgery including the risks of anesthesia (read:  death).  I’ve already decided not to go completely under since it’s only my wrist.  I’m fitted for a splint, which makes the pain worse but looks so stylish.

I head back down the street.  By now I’m more than a half hour late for this appointment and will certainly not meet my lunch date at the newly scheduled time. 

This nurse actually gets a reading on my blood pressure and it’s not good.  I guess that extra pill they prescribed isn’t working.  I see the doc and we make a plan for this possible asthma thing I have.  Oh, good.  Maybe I won’t be too late for my lunch after all. 

“You’re due for your tetanus shot.”  Really?  No wonder people avoid going to the doctor; there’s a good chance you’ll never get out.  I’m now escorted to a holding room with beds and curtains and hacking patients.  I wonder what new and exciting germs are floating in the air.  My lunch date calls.  Yes, I’m Running Late.  I hope to be there within the half hour.  I’m afraid to give any sort of ETA.  I’m finally given the shot and rush out to the car.  I’m FREE!!!  At least until the afternoon when I have to go to the pharmacy and then take my son to his doctor’s appointment.  I make it to my lunch date where for a time I am Wolfing it Down instead of Running Late.