Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Morning After

I was so tired by the time I finished wrapping presents on Christmas Eve {probably truly early Christmas Morning}, I wasn't sure what exactly would get unwrapped the next morning. I was pretty sure there might even be an empty box or two that I had inadvertantly wrapped thinking I'd put something in it.



Wrapping presents was the highlight of the Christmas season when I was growing up. It was more time consuming and imaginative than buying the presents themselves! I remember thinking very hard about ways to disguise the gifts I had purchased. I seem to recall bottles of fingernail polish stuffed down empty wrapping paper tubes and then newspaper and toilet paper stuffed into both ends until it could hold no more and then wrapping it and taping it up ever so thorough. I remember using colored tapes to make pictures on the outside of the packages. I remember using caulking and cutting out all the separate parts of the pictures on the wrapping paper and making dimensional tags and cards. I remember wrapping 100 {yes 100} separate little metal cars for my nephew Lee when he was little. That might have been a birthday and not Christmas but the same principle applies. Why don't I have that kind of time now?



Oops. Off on another tangent. Back to wrapping presents on Christmas Eve . . . I was forced to scrape the recesses of the storage room looking for empty boxes for the last of the presents. Finally I was done.



And then it was Christmas morning.



Then Christmas night.



And then Christmas was over.



Then it was the morning after. Alan is a very ritualistic person in a lot of ways and his breakfast is no exception - if he has the time.






Alan's festive breakfast place setting. All ready to pour

his cereal and get going.






His cereal didn't come out like he was expecting. Is this

another version of how you can be spiritually fed or

is this truly the Breakfast of Spiritual Champions?






Now this is how breakfast is supposed to look!

Yeah, well, note to self: Don't use Alan's favorite cereal box to wrap his garments in. I guess I need to start saving Froot Loop and Fruity Pebbles boxes so he has a clue to look inside the taped up box.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Manna From Heaven

I was going to post a picture but I ate it. The subject of the picture - not the picture. REWIND



My wonderful visiting teacher brought some soup and homemade bread in for supper on Monday night. I knew she was bringing soup and I was praying it wasn't chicken noodle soup. REWIND



When I was on the outskirts of Sickland last week, looking down on the Jungles of Misery, a big, old pot of chicken noodle soup sounded wonderful. And so I made a pot or a batch or a vat full of it. And it did hit the spot. And it seemed to hit the spot for Amber on Thursday. Then Friday night hit and my nausea worsened every time I opened the fridge. Not just with the smell of the chicken noodle soup but the leftover tatortot casserole and the one or two or three-day-old steak Alan hadn't cooked for himself yet and the bran muffins. Everything that occupied the shelves of my fridge had taken on an odor all it's own and then when outside air whooshed in and forced it all out into the open in one giant ODOR, it was more than I could handle. Hence, I prayed mightily that my visiting teacher would NOT bring chicken noodle soup.  FAST FORWARD



So my wonderful visiting teacher brings some soup and homemade bread in for supper Monday night. Brave soul. The house was pitch black. She came in the basement door, gave a few hasty words of instruction and well wishes, put the food on the stove and left. The aroma of that soup was nose-ticklingly seductive. I hurriedly checked to make sure she hadn't just used some different spice or herb with her chicken noodle soup. But, no, the broth was reddish-brownish and there were a million different things floating around - celery, onions, black beans, peas {okay, maybe not all of the floaties were wonderful}, corn, potatoes, macaroni, beef, carrots. Collectively the sum total of the contents of that pan have become known as my Manna. Supper that night was very satisfying.



So, Alan ate the last of my Manna for his lunch the next day {wasn't there like a law against doing that in the wilderness? Thou shalt not eat the last bit of someone else's Manna?} Ok. I confess. He asked my permission first. And I gave it. After all, I think there was another law that said you weren't supposed to hoard Manna. Anyway, by evening I was in dire need of more of my Manna so I perused the Internet looking for a recipe that looked like it would be somewhat close to the Manna of my memory. Luckily, the first recipe I opened promised results as close as I was going to get given my limited time, ingredients and energy.



Another thing was in my favor. We were planning a feeding frenzy for work on Tuesday (12/21) and I was in charge of making a stew. I'd gotten ambitious Friday morning before I began my journey through the Jungle of Misery, Chasm of Death and the Plates of Woe {yeah I had an Ice Age Marathon one day} and put some meat in the crock pot for like ten (10) hours and then stuck it in the very back of the fridge. At the time the placement was strategic to keep Alan from thinking it was up for grabs before I got a chance to explain its purpose to him. However, I think I was psychic at the time {I often think this about myself - that I'm psychic - no, not psychotic}. Being clear in the back of the fridge with plastic wrap and a lid saved it from falling victim when the Waves of Nausea took a nosedive. Point is . . . my beef was already cooked and tender and all that stuff.



I just thought I would share my recipe for Manna. After all, if you're not interested, you can quit reading anytime. It's a free world.




MY MANNA


by Janis





INGREDIENTS:*


3 cups beef chunks {not that kind - the kind that's cooked and cooled and then cut into cute little square shapes}


4 quarts water or appropriate liquid {it helped that one of my quarts was some of the juice from cooking the beef}


1 quart tomatoes {diced, halved, quartered - however I happened to put them up last season - or whatever year it was I'm using from}


1/3 cup coarsely chopped red onions {more or less depending on if your husband can handle onions or not}


2 tablespoons dried parsley {age doesn't matter here, I hope, as I really had to dig to find some}


1 tablespoon beef bouillon granules


1 tablespoon Italian dressing seasoning mix {the dry, powdery substance in the little packets}


1 tablespoon Ranch dressing mix {the dry, powdery substance not the gooey stuff for dipping}


1 teaspoon celery salt


1 teaspoon garlic powder


1 teaspoon black pepper


1 1/2 cups baby carrots, halved, thirded, quartered - you can choose


4 spears celery, sliced


1 can black beans {more or less depending on whether or not your husband can handle beans and if he really did eat the last of your Manna or not} I actually used about 1/3 of the can


4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed


1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni {I had a canister left over from Grandma Christensen's and they were huge! Kinda reminded me of my elbows with the bat wings hanging down after they [the noodles - not by elbows] were cooked. I think next time I'll maybe try some whole wheat ones - maybe they'll maintain their girlish shape a bit better}





*Everything is approximate. Nothing is exact nor will it be the same again. That's just the way it is.



INSTRUCTIONS:


1. In a large stock pot combine the beef, liquid, tomatoes, onions, dried parsley, beef bouillon, Italian dressing seasoning, Ranch dressing seasoning, celery salt, garlic powder, black pepper, baby carrots, celery, black beans, potatoes and macaroni. Yup, pretty much everything.


2. Stir it all together and bring to a boil.


3. Reduce to simmer and let cook until the vegetables are done the way you like them.


4. VERY IMPORTANT STEP:  Add an additional tablespoon of beef bouillon. Alan will tell you that's the magic ingredient in perfect Manna every time!


5. Even though the original Manna was not supposed to be saved over to the next day, this Manna is an exception. I say it's an exception because it's wet and not dry and if it fell from the sky, well, anyone would be hard pressed to collect it for even one meal once it hit the ground. This is actually - if it's possible - better the next day.


6. A handful of Oyster crackers make it even more amazing!





Now if you're ever in a quiz show and they ask you for the ingredients in Manna - well - all I can say is I would expect a small percentage of your winnings. After all . . .

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wrong Turn Taken Somewhere!

I had high hopes at the start of this Christmas Season. And, believe it or not {'not' would be the smart choice}, Alan was 100% behind me! Ladders were out, measurements measured and re-measured, and the appropriate lengths of extension cords and wiring hooks were purchased. Believe it or not, Wal-Mart was concerned with how many stores they would need to draw from to meet our needs for strings of multi-colored lights {no, we were not going to have only white lights} once I showed them our measurements and Alan's carefully drawn layouts! This was my goal:




I'm sure you can see the logic in my dreams! Totally doable, right? With Alan's help, of course. And anyone who knows him, knows how excited he gets when just the word "Christmas" is mentioned, let alone hanging lights. Kinda right up there with 'moving' and 'painting'!





But as always seems to happens to the best laid plans, mine fell off the wagon, bailed out of the plane without a parachute, jumped ship or just simply missed the boat altogether! I guess the bright side {or not as bright side} is our electricity bill is still within our budget. So instead of sitting back on our laurels and enjoying the absolutely brightest, most festive house in the neighborhood, we are the one with only the bathroom light on! Instead of spreading great joy to all who would pass by {oooh, perhaps we could have even charged a fee to pull into our driveway and enjoy the view for a moment!}, I am more concerned with the spreading of germs. My counters should be covered with confectionery creations but instead they are decorated thus:







Can I just say there should be a law against getting sick during the month of Christmas! If I were only queen!





Two weeks ago I had a touch of a migraine for a couple of days. By the end of the week, I had a frog in my throat that was totally annoying and making it sore off and on. When it got worse, Hunter thought it was hilarious when I told him I had a tickle in my throat, too, because he thought something was tickling the frog who was already in my throat and that was what was making Gramma talk funny. Monday and Tuesday I called in sick but by Wednesday nothing had gotten worse {or better} so I went to work. I had already scheduled the next two days off to get my projects done but I would have been sent home from work if I'd have tried to go in anyway. Still no voice - getting less all the time. Amber wasn't feeling well so I brought Hunter down to spend some time with me so she could get on top. Hey, I was feeling fine - I just had something in my throat tickling the frog and making me talk funny.





Then, Friday evening happened. Don't ask me how or why but that was when! I started coughing. My throat got horribly worse. I was sick in my stomach. All that continued into Saturday - getting worse as time wore on. Everyone I talked to said it was just a highly contagious virus that was going around and everyone was being sent home with Theraflu and honey-lemon tea and Fishermen's Friends throat lozenges. Alan brought it all home from the store and I started doping up. And throwing it up. Alan gave me a blessing Saturday night and I felt comfortable in my choices. By Sunday, I didn't feel comfortable in my choices, my clothes, my skin, my anything! Cutting it almost too close, I finally relented and asked Alan to take me to InstaCare over in Logan. We barely got there in time before they locked the doors. X-rays, swabs, vitals, waiting. The last time the doctor came in his comment was, "You look like you're melting". Then he pronounced, "You have pneumonia and strep throat probably started from a viral infection. You realize you barely made it through the door tonight?" In more ways than one!


He added more 'confectioneries' to my counter decorations and I did get a Bugs Bunny body decoration! I didn't realize it until the next day when I cared a little more, though. I didn't get a sucker, though. Now that I care, I'm a little disappointed.





Instead of making all the things I had cut out in my sewing rooms, I've made lots of lists - Bucket Lists. I've planned my funeral - twice. Oh, wait, I don't want a funeral. Throw that away and cross that task off my Bucket List. I've thought about catching up on my journal. Thought about reading all the books that are on my shelves that I haven't read yet and watching all my favorite movies once more. Thought about doing a marathon scripture-reading event. Thought about finishing all my unfinished projects. I've thought a lot. Didn't do a lot but I've thought a lot. Thought a lot about how I used to lay my head in Mom's lap and she would run her fingers through my hair and soothe me. Okay, so maybe I've thought a little too much.





But, tonight, I do feel more like living than I have the last few days. I still have the tickle but I think the frog is gone. And there's four more days until Christmas. And miracles really do happen! Alan even promised me he'd help me with my magnificent light project next year! {Yeah, well, so maybe I drank a little more of my codeine-laced cough syrup right before I remember him saying that}

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Week Before Christmas


As if there's not enough to worry about and think about and schedule around, Alan and I had to add another day in the mix and get married just a week before Christmas. Thirty-four years later and we still wonder at our choice of dates. Oh, well. We were young. We were in love. We didn't care. And, bottom line, school was out for a couple of weeks. It's been all uphill and downhill since then and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Well, maybe, there are a few things . . . no . . . the butterfly effect . . . I'll keep it just as it is.




Love ya, Alan. Thanks for all you do for me and how well you take care of me.




And PS - it's your own fault you're sick.

Friday, December 10, 2010

WARNING!!! WARNING!! WARNING!



{Red lights flashing} {Siren wailing} {Air raid alarm blaring}











USE OF UPSTAIRS DISPOSAL {like there's one anywhere else} FOR ANYTHING MORE THAN WATER {why have one then, you may say} MAY RESULT IN A TICKET FOR GRINDING WITH AN EXPIRED, STOLEN, MUTILATED, DEFACED AND OTHERWISE PIRATED LICENSE!

BESIDES - YOU'LL PROBABLY HAVE A MELL OF A HESS TO CLEAN UP!










Consider yourselves warned!




Disclaimer:  To all you children out there - I can hear you laughing and snorting {even without my hearing aid}.

Just remember:  the apple doesn't fall far from the tree!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rood Off and Other Signs of Christmas







There were lots of signs of Christmas popping up all over Saturday. The tree was lit up. There were jars of candy and ornaments lined up on the piano for the guessing games. And there were even a lot of reindeer on the loose at our house Saturday evening - all in anticipation of the family Christmas party. There were games and songs and poems and I dare say, more than our share of chocolate and sugar and treats.







Jodi was resourceful and got on the

ball and made name cards for

everyone so we all knew where to sit.









Of course, first off we fed everyone Navajo Tacos. We all function better with full bellies!









We learned about all the places Snowmen can

wear their carrot noses and . . .











. . . Reindeer can sport their red noses.




 


  






Santa Claus' elves had quit working and so he needed some help from his Reindeer to fill treat bags. All nine of our Reindeer were eager to help, too, and worked quickly as they raced to make everything fit in their bags. How Santa and his elves do it year after year is beyond us! There's definitely some magic involved.






Adam & Nellie's family (plus Layne) shared a poem that

taught us all about the true meaning of Christmas -

and we also got a bag of M&Ms!








Mariah, Jodi, Layne and Carter sang Rudolph. I think Tyler

is standing behind them being Santa but the camera didn't

get him in the picture.




Tyler recited a poem about a cold lady who swallowed some

snow and then a bunch of other stuff and finally turned

into a snowman.






And then, of course, our party wouldn't be complete without

the Four Scrooges. Should be Five Scrooges but Scott had to

work so he got out of the picture. Amber did, however, take

his hat home to him. 

 


And, my favorite part, we acted out the Nativity Story.








Carter was concerned about being the Innkeeper. We've never had one in the cast before but with so many kids now, we need all the roles we can get. I was explaining to him that Mary and Joseph were going to come to him while he stood behind his door and he was going to shake his head 'No', because he didn't have any room for them. He thought about that for a minute and then, in a very concerned voice, he asked, "So, am I a bad guy?" I think this was one time he didn't want to be a bad guy; besides there just aren't any bad guys in the Nativity Story! So I explained some more that he was telling them all his rooms were full but he was a good guy because he was sharing his stable with them. He seemed to be okay with that.





By the time the Wisemen were waiting for their cue, they were the only ones in the bedroom and it had quieted down somewhat. That was the point when Layne was finally able to hear that Grampa was reading the story out of the scriptures. His eyes got big as he looked up at me and frantically asked, "I have a speaking part?" "No," I answered. "Just Grampa does." His eyes rolled up as he let out a very relieved, "Whooooo!"





And the evening ended by decorating sugar cookies to eat with ice cream! Start and end a party with food - that's the Christensen Party Formula! And now, with this foundation already in place, I'm certainly ready for the Christmas season!