Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wishing You a JOYOUS Christmas!!

I thought I'd share a bit of SME's fabulous artwork. These pictures were scanned from our Christmas gifts from SME and Doug. We always look forward to seeing SME's hand-decorated wrapping paper! The drawing above adorns L's and my Christmas gift. Note the glasses on L's pea.

Z's present bears a bit of twisted humor-quite appropriate for him. Z got quite a chuckle out of this drawing!

I'm off to the kitchen to begin creating our annual Christmas Eve fare. I LOVE holiday cooking!

May the PEACE of Christmas descend upon all of my beloved blog-friends!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Music to Soothe the Soul

This year I've had a hard time maintaining my Christmas spirit. When I flipped the calendar page to December, I vowed to cut myself off from the news for the month. I can't handle hearing about all the home foreclosures, unemployment figures, and bailouts. Now I listen to the weather channel, instead of the news, while I'm getting ready for work. I haven't even been reading our local paper this month, except for the grocery ads. There will be plenty of time to catch up with the bad news after the first of the year.

It's easy to keep the magical glow of Christmas alight in my heart when I'm home. I'm actually grateful for the shorter daylight hours, so I can close the drapes and light our tree, Christmas villages, and candles, and let the warm light bathe me in serenity. Our collection of Christmas videos, together with month-long marathons of Christmas programming on a couple of TV channels have prevented me from sneaking a peak at the news. Peace on Earth reigns in our home.

Work is another story. In the past, my Boss has managed to ruin several Christmases for me. Boss NEVER plans ahead for Christmas and rarely decorates her home. Everything about Christmas is an odious chore for her. Appearance is everything to Boss, and if she can't buy the most extravagant gifts and display new, designer, color-coordinated decorations every year, she won't do anything. From Thanksgiving on, Boss rants daily about how she can't wait for the season to be OVER!

How do I combat the Srooginess of my workplace? With Christmas music, of course! This year I put a Christmas CD in my truck the week before Thanksgiving. Listening to my Christmas music on the short drive to work helps me steel myself for the day. When Boss starts ranting, I go to the back room and start humming Christmas tunes as I work.

Today, I thought I'd share some of my favorite Christmas music. When I was growing up, our home was always filled with books and music. Starting on Thanksgiving Day, my parents would haul out their collection of Christmas albums and fill the house with classic Christmas sounds. Naturally, these albums have become my favorites. With the advent of CDs, many of my parents' albums have been re-released on CD over the years. I'm thrilled that I now have a complete collection of my childhood favorites.

No Christmas season was complete without watching the Andy Williams Christmas special. Weren't those Osmond Brothers just the cutest little tots? One of my favorite songs is It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, and this song MUST be sung by Andy Williams.

I was totally stoked to find this particular Perry Como album on Amazon a couple of years ago. This album includes music surrounding the Nativity story, which was always part of Perry's Christmas special on TV. To me, nobody can sing There's No Place Like Home For the Holidays like Perry Como.

I bought this Burl Ives album when I was a teen. Christmas just isn't right without Burl singing Have a Holly Jolly Christmas. Now, I just need to burn this album to CD, so I can listen to it in the truck.

I'm sure that everyone will agree that no Christmas music collection is complete without Bing Crosby's version of White Christmas, or Nat King Cole's version of The Christmas Song(Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire).

Now we move on to Christmas music that has become a tradition in our household. My kids' favorite Christmas album is John Denver and the Muppets. This is another album that I need to burn to CD. I bought SME the CD version of this album and The Nutcracker when she left home. Those albums became the "oldies" foundation of her Christmas music collection.
What Christmas music is part of your holiday traditions?

Monday, December 15, 2008


Up to this weekend, we only had about 4 inches of snow on the ground. Yesterday we got 14 inches of snow and -9F temps combined with 35 mph winds! I really shouldn't have been bragging about the mild winter we'd been having so far. Tonight the temp is supposed to dip to -30F, but the wind is supposed to let up.

This is the drift that greeted me this morning. Needless to say, I used the big garage door this morning instead of the entrance door. I was soooo thankful for our garage and our 4x4 truck this morning!!

There's been a nasty stomach flu circulating through our town. My Boss got it a week ago, her son got it Wednesday, her grandkids and I got it Friday, and Z and L got it yesterday. We're all feeling much better today, but we didn't have the stamina to do a very good job of snow removal. L managed to blow out the driveway, but it will probably take us the rest of the week to clear roofs, widen the driveway, and blow paths to the sheds.

Yesterday Z managed to find the bright spot to our situation: "At least we all got sick BEFORE Christmas!"

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Front of the Class

Brad Cohen has been an inspiration in our house for the past 3 years! We have all read his book and were so impressed by his philosophy of not letting Tourettes win.

I've been in contact with several adults with TS since I've started this blog. Most of them are on disability. They let TS win. We were quite disheartened by this until we read Mr. Cohen's book. Front of the Class came out at just the right time for us. Z was at the peak of his tics and he often worried about what life held in store for him. After reading the book, Z was more confident that he could lead a normal, productive life in spite of his disabilities.

At the time his book came out, Z and I saw Mr. Cohen on Oprah. Z was a bit horrified that Mr. Cohen still had relatively severe tics. At that point in his life, we were all hoping that Z's tics would slide back into a less noticeable state. After witnessing Mr. Cohen's enthusiasm for life, Z felt better about the prospect of living with severe tics for the rest of his life.

Thankfully, Z's tics have slid back to a more manageable level over the past year. Where he is now is probably how he'll be for life. Z's lucky; his current vocal tics aren't loud enough to disturb others in a movie theater or concert. Mr. Cohen's vocal tics resemble a barking dog, Z's resemble a whining puppy. Z's motor tics have also settled down to where they don't interfere with his functioning.

We are also lucky that Z was correctly diagnosed with TS right from the start. Mr. Cohen's mother had to research and diagnose her son all by herself! This is the biggest thing that Brad and Z have in common...a pitbull of a mother who refused to let her son be marginalized by his disability. I'd love to meet Brad's mother!

Sunday night Hallmark Hall of Fame dramatized Brad Cohen's story. I am extremely grateful to Hallmark for choosing this topic. All the people who watched this show now have a realistic idea of how TS affects children's lives. I'm hoping that national exposure like this will prevent even a few people from glaring, staring, or ridiculing people like my son when they encounter them in public.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Heirloom Cookies

This is what my guys are doing as I post. I bake 'em; they decorate 'em...and eat 'em as they toil. Good thing I always bake a double batch!

I've been baking this same sugar cookie recipe since I was a small child. Family traditions are one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. What's more traditional than a cookie recipe that's been handed down from mother to daughter for three generations?

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies (yields 7 dozen)

1/2 Cup shortening
1/2 Cup butter or margarine
2 Cups sugar
2 eggs
1 Cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
5 Cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt

Cream shortening, butter, and sugar.
Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Beat in sour cream
Add flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Mix until well blended

Roll 1/2 dough at a time to 1/4 inch thickness(We like a chewy cookie. Roll thinner if you want a crispy cookie) on a floured board or pastry cloth. Cut out cookies with your favorite cookie cutters. If you don't want to frost your cookies, sprinkle them with colored sugar before you put them in the oven.
Bake@375 for 8-10 minutes.

Cool cookies, then frost with your favorite icing.

Now it's time for me to freeze the cookies and clean up the mess.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I just finished my Christmas shopping!

The only shopping I had left to do was for L. Z also needed to finalize his decisions on what he was getting his Dad, grandparents, and girlfriend. Mission accomplished. Z and I found all the items we wanted at Amazon. Now we just need to sit back and wait for our final gifts to arrive. Then we can have a marathon wrapping spree. In the meantime, we'll bake some goodies.

Birthday and Christmas gifts for SME's family were shipped off last Monday. I hope they'll get there on time with the partial postal strike in Canada.

Today I thought I'd share some of my favorite gifts to give, along with several of my favorite online shopping places.

For me, little kids are the easiest to shop for. When our kids were little, we always bought educational toys or toys that inspired imagination. Books, games, craft sets, educational software, action figures, legos and other building sets were always a hit at our house.

Senior citizens are the toughest to shop for. They've already got everything they need, and don't need any more useless knick-knacks cluttering up their lives. If you pay attention and listen, you can often come up with creative gifts for parents and grandparents. One year, we bought my Mom a new toilet for her birthday. She hated the way their old toilet sweated, so we got her a sweat-free toilet. With tight budgets, many seniors don't buy frivolous foodstuffs. Several times I've bought my Dad a box of frozen walleye fillets....he was thrilled. Lately, my parents have been into reading, listening to THEIR music, and watching old movies. Amazon is a treasure trove when it comes to these items. Last year I bought my Dad a CD of Teresa Brewer's greatest hits, and my Mom a CD of Al Martino's greatest hits. This year I ordered them a DVD set of James Stewart movies. Classic music and movies are often bargain priced at Amazon.

Games are one of my favorite gifts to give. Playing games together as a family not only sharpens our minds, but it brings us closer together. My favorite spot to buy games is AreYouGame. This store has something for everybody from toddlers to grandparents. I've bought several of these, for the brain-teaser lovers on my list.

My guys are total computer geeks. ThinkGeek has countless clever geeky items for the technology buff on your list.

My entire family loves the products at CafePress. Any sentiment can be expressed on their shirts, bumper stickers, magnets, mugs, and many other products.

Living in a small town, internet shopping has been our salvation. However, I always shop locally when I can.