December 25, 2011

Christmas (Day) Stalking - day 25

I have to admit something. I don't actually remember what we ate for breakfast on Christmas morning when I was little. I'm sure it was good (my parents were known for their breakfasts), but I was a typical kid and, as any kid at Christmas, preoccupied with toys, toys and more toys. Even waffles couldn't hold me for more than 10 minutes or so.

It wasn't until I became acquainted with the woman who was to become my step-mother that I "discovered" the horribly named (but oddly enjoyable) Wifesaver.

To the uninitiated, Wifesaver is a casserole of bread, eggs, milk and cheese that is assembled the night before and then baked, in this case, on Christmas morning. The original Christmas Morning Wifesaver recipe can be found in one of the early "Best of Bridge" books, or here on their website.

This year, while I wrestle with the deceptive* and somewhat misogynist name, we will be enjoying a slightly updated version of the classic dish. Rather than the ham/green pepper/minced onion combo that the Best of Bridge ladies made famous, mine will have multi-grain bread, spinach, gruyere and caramelized onions. I will definitely be skipping the cornflake topping, but the mustard must stay; it just wouldn't be the same without it. (Watch my blog, Relish, in the new year for the recipe!)

*Despite numerous discussions with friends and co-workers on this very subject, I am still confused about exactly what this is "saving" the wife from. Yes, there is not a lot of actual cooking that needs to be done on Christmas morning, but you do have to remember to get up and get it ready to go into a hot oven at least 90 mins before your hungry family arrives at the table...not to mention the fact that while your little angels are nestled all snug in their beds, you are holed up in the kitchen at midnight grating cheese and cracking endless eggs.

December 24, 2011

Christmas (Eve) Stalking - day 24

There are many ways that traditions are started. In my family, the tradition of opening one (and ONLY one) gift on Christmas Eve was a compromise that my parents made when they were first together. My dad, coming from an English background, always opened his gifts on Christmas morning; my Dutch mom, on the other hand, was used to staying up late on Christmas Eve for hers. So, they decided to meet (somewhat) in the middle.

When I was little, the Christmas Eve gift was always something that could be used right away - like new pyjamas, Star Wars sheets (true story), or a book. It would be just cruel to give a kid something awesome, like a bike, and then send then straight to bed, don'tcha think?

Tonight, continuing the tradition, Jake will be getting a new pair of flannel pj pants before heading off to bed. (Don't worry, he won't read this.) As soon as he is asleep and the prep for breakfast is done, I will stuff the stockings, put the big secret-special gifts under the tree, and then kick back with a snack and a glass of wine to watch the roaring yule-log on TV. I hope your evening is as peaceful and relaxing as mine. Merry Christmas!

Incidentally, the best Christmas Eve gift that I ever received was a Holly Hobbie swing-arm lamp for my nightstand, just like the one below. (This one was found in an Ebay auction for...get this...$144. Gah!)

*The awesome catalogue page at the top of this post is from this Flickr stream. If you ever have a little time to kill and you are in the mood for some nostalgia, it is definitely worth a look.

December 23, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 23

They say that when it comes to Christmas, there are four stages in life: you believe in Santa, you don't believe in Santa, you are Santa, and you look like Santa. Although the members of our household fall into the second and third groups, we both make a concerted effort to appear that we're in stage one. (The mascot learned pretty early on that the longer you believe, the more presents you get.)

That's why one of our most firmly-held traditions is putting out a snack (and a letter) for Santa on Christmas Eve. Notice how I didn't say "putting out cookies and milk" on Christmas eve? Santa gets better than that at our place. Sure, some years he gets cookies, but milk? P'shaw!

This year, the *ahem* Man-in-red will be enjoying some of this:

...a little bit of this:

...and one of these:

On second thought, maybe two of those.

December 22, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 22

Let's face it. The holidays make people cranky. Extra-extra-long line-ups, bare shelves (seriously, how can there be NO chocolate "J"s left in the whole world?), seemingly endless holiday concerts, and rapidly diminishing bank balances (along with rapidly expanding waistlines), all set to an ever-present soundtrack of bad to questionable* holiday music. 

As you already know, topping my list of favourite Christmas songs is "All I Want for Christmas is You". Following not-so-closely is U2's "Angel of Harlem" (Ok, not technically a Christmas song, but Bono sings about "a cold and wet December day", so it counts.), "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (Except for the Norah Jones/Willie Nelson version, which skeeves me out, for obvious reasons.), "Fairytale of New York" by the dentally challenged Pogues, and, despite my attempts to hate it, "Last Christmas" by Wham! Honourable mention goes to "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band-aid; not because it is especially good, but because I obsessed over the video when the song came out in 1984 and I still like to name each singer as they do their part.

The songs which deserve a lump of coal and always make me lunge to change the station are "Holly, Jolly Christmas" (especially the Burl Ives version**. Kiss 'er once for me? Good lord, no, sir!), "Dominic the Donkey" (Eee-aw, Eee-aw! No!), ANYTHING by Boney-M and/or Bon Jovi and/or Bruce Cockburn, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" by Bruce Springsteen (What's so funny, Bruce? No, really, what?), and Bruce Cockburn's uber-depressing version of "O, Little Town of Bethlehem". 

So, in an attempt to banish the awful and keep away the crankies, I am going to make myself a festive playlist on my iPod and keep it on constant rotation until the danger of hearing "Mary's Boy-child" has passed. 

*A couple of days ago, I heard an operatic version of "O, Holy Night" playing in a drugstore that was so awful, the employees and shoppers were visibly cringing. Now, I'm no Kathleen Battle, but even I could do better than what they were trying to pass off as singing. In retrospect, perhaps they were trying to increase traffic to their headache relief section, but I suppose we'll never know. I paid for my moisturizer and high-tailed it out of there before any further damage could be done to my eardrums.
**True story - every year my ex-husband sends me a text message when he hears Burl's Holly, Jolly for the first time of the season, because he knows that I loathe it so. 

December 21, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 21

Last night, the mascot and I took part in another of our holiday traditions - watching the SNL Christmas Special. I think we've seen most of the sketches multiple times, but they still make us howl. From Mr Mainway's Bag o' Glass on the Consumer Probe show, to Robert Goulet falling off a roof, to Justin Timberlake dressed up as soup; it just doesn't get tired. And, of course, there was Gilly.

I'll be the first to admit, besides last night's SNL and The Flintstones' Christmas Special* the night before, we are way behind on our holiday tv and movie watching. I did manage to catch most of The Family Stone the other day, but we still haven't watched Miracle on 34th St., Sound of Music**,  and (can you believe it??) Love, Actually. 

*Don't get me started.
**A quick search on Netflix for Sound of Music brought up something called Sound of Mumbai instead. This could be a problem.

December 20, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 20

With an already full plate, I swore up and down and sideways that I was not going to do any crafting this holiday season. And then I went and tossed that out the window with a few little paper towel roll owls that I threw together (ha!) for an ornament exchange.

This bottle brush tree from the Sweet Paul blog might just be my crafty slip-up number two. I mean, c'mon. It meets all of my criteria: quick, clever, cheap, quirky...and did I mention quick? 

I think I have everything I need on hand to make myself a little tree, save for the "tree" itself. (Small detail.) If I happen to, say, find myself in a kitchenware store in the next day or so, one of these charming little trees will be gracing my coffee table just in time for Christmas. All of the instructions (and tons of other lovely projects, recipes and decorating ideas) can be found here.

December 19, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 19

I don't know how long it'll last, but if you go to Google today and type "let it snow" into the search window, it'll snow. Just like that.

And, once your screen is all frosted up, you can hit the defrost button to clear things up.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

December 18, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 18

With very little snow on the ground and unseasonably warm temperatures (for Winnipeg), this year's festive season just hasn't seemed very festive. So, in a team effort to merry-up the joint, the mascot and I dragged the Christmas tree out of storage and set it up tonight.

Decorating the tree is always fun, but, for some reason, this year seemed even more so. Partly because my little elf brought everything up from the basement (and got rid of the empty boxes!), but mostly because we seem to finally have it down to an art. We had that baby assembled, lit and festooned in just under an hour. Now that's teamwork!

As always, it was a blast to look through our baubles and balls and reminisce about how each one came to be. We still have to pick up our "2011" ornaments, but two new additions were added to the collection this year - an adorable walrus from the ever awesome Lisagh, and a felted mushroom from my new friend (by way of the Twitter), Cindy.

Also notable and taking a place of honour at the top of the tree, this tiny framed pic of my dad (and me) circa 1985. This picture always makes me smile.

December 17, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 17

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) is one of my all-time favourite Christmas movies and this scene is most likely the reason why.

In it, a young, orphaned Dutch girl is brought to visit Santa at Macy's. She is warned by her adopted mother that Santa would not be able to speak to her, but then he just goes ahead and does what Santa does; he sings to her. IN DUTCH. 

I know, right?

December 16, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 16

Candlelight is mesmerizing on its own, but when you add twirling angels and gently chiming bells it becomes simply magical.

Despite their subtlety, these charming brass chimes scream "Christmas". When I was little, I could literally spend hours quietly watching them spin and listening to the soft "ding, ding, ding" as the bells were struck. 

Parents of rambunctious children might want to consider a set of these for the upcoming week. I can't guarantee hours of rapt attention, but I'm sure you'll find a little peace.

December 15, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 15

To the rest of the world, this is just the letter "S". To Dutch kids, though, this is the best part of Christmas/Sinterklaas celebrations.

Any kid that gets a chocolate letter in their stocking is lucky, but I always felt just that much luckier. The R is, after all, the tastiest of all the letters.

December 14, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 14

I love surfer boys as much as I love free stuff, which is why I was over the moon to discover that this week's free iTunes download is a song by my second-favourite surfer boy, Jack Johnson.

Assuming that you have an iTunes account, all you have to do is point your longboard toward the iTunes shop and grab "In the Morning" from the second Brushfire Records holiday album.

You are welcome.

*Ok, I have never actually *seen* my fella on a surfboard, but he does have a scar under his chin to prove that he was hit by one and that's proof enough for me.

December 13, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 13

On the thirteenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,  cakettes from Cake-olo-geeeeee!

Ok, full disclosure: my true love did NOT get me Cakettes, but that doesn't mean he loves me any less. Or does it...?

Either way, this is the best way to give the gift of cake this holiday season. Cakettes are way more clever than a box of chocolates (and way, way taster than a poinsettia).

Get yours at Cake-ology, 85 Arthur Street (in the Exchange). Just look for the beautiful sign over the door.

December 12, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 12

Bouche de Noel is traditionally a rolled cake, iced to look like a log. In our house, however, "the Bouche"  is a retro chocolate and whipped cream refrigerator cake that looks a whole lot like this one.

The mascot has already put in his request demand to have one for dessert on the 25th (and, to be completely honest, breakfast on the 26th). If you want to make your own, you can find the directions here.

To make it even prettier, we always add a dusting of cocoa or a pile of chocolate curls to the top, but feel free to decorate it (or not) any which way you choose. Just be sure to tell people that you slaved over it, though; it looks like way more work than it actually is.

December 11, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 11

It wouldn't be Christmas at our house without our annual visit to the Griswald's.

Topping my list of holiday "must-see" flicks is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Written by John Hughes and starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Juliette Lewis and The Big Bang Theory's own Johnny Galecki (as Rusty), it is pee-your-pants funny every single time.

Seriously, the deflating turkey never gets old no matter how many times you see it (unlike my hair-larious moustache gag, apparently).

December 10, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 10

Disclaimer: Yes, handmade is best. Yes, you should buy handmade or make your own.

That said, I have made my own holiday cards for the past 24 or so years and, as part of my self-imposed craft embargo, I am taking a season off. Sue me.

I didn't want to go completely card-less this year, though, so the challenge was going to be finding something to represent us that was just a little bit different from the usual chain-store offerings.

Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised to discover Papaya! Christmas cards at my local stationery store. I have been a fan of Papaya! papergoods for a few years and love their vintage-y style, so I snapped up two boxes faster than you could say "Pass the gluestick!" They may not be handmade, but they're pretty as heck AND they're printed on 100% recycled paper.

To make up for my craftslacking this year, I promise that each and every stamp will be personally licked by a tall red-haired boy; please excuse the smears of advent calendar chocolate.

December 9, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 9

One of my favourite food-blogs is the baking site "With Sprinkles on Top", helmed by my friend Annie. Not only does she share great recipes, she posts beautiful pictures that will make you want to lick your screen.

Right now, Annie is running a "12 Days of Christmas" feature on her blog. So far, she has posted a collection of cookies, cakes and candies that are not to be missed... especially if you are looking for treats that are easy, impressive and a little bit out of the ordinary, like these cute Candy Cane Blossoms.

They're a colourful take on the usual "chocolate kiss in a sugar cookie" (aka nipple cookies) and would instantly brighten up any holiday cookie tray. And, see what I mean about the photography? Dibs on the red one in the middle!

December 8, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 8

Who's on Twitter?

Yeah, he is.

Follow the official NoradSanta feed as the man in red makes his way around the globe on Christmas Eve.

In the weeks leading up to the 24th, however, there are all sorts of games, videos and fun things to get you... I mean, the kids... excited about the big flight. On Dancer, on Dasher...

December 7, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 7

I don't think this requires any introduction. Just enjoy.

December 6, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 6

It just wouldn't be Christmas without a roaring fire...on the television. You would think that we would get tired of watching it, but we haven't yet; it's actually more soothing than boring. (And, to be honest, beats the heck out of most of the stuff on the other channels anyway.)

Here in Winnipeg, we have quite an assortment of free TV fireplaces to gather 'round, from the classic roaring fire to a rather uninspired electric version. There's even one on MTS that includes snacks, however you might find yourself with an unusually strong craving for popcorn and a hot, festive beverage. And, depending on the version that you have on, there's always the chance that "the hand" will make an appearance to stoke the fire, or add a log.

Remember, wood piles are for chumps! To get started, do a search on YouTube or check your local cable provider for a free holiday blaze. Or, if you prefer to take your yule log with you... yes, Virginia, there is an app for that.

December 5, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 5

I have two confessions. No, make that three confessions.

1) I make my gingerbread cookies from a mix.
2) I replace all of the butter that they call for with an equal amount of prune puree*. Seriously.
3) I always eat the legs, not the head, first. That way, they can't escape.

This year, we'll be busting out our new Ninjabread Men cookie cutters and making some rather lethal looking treats. Nothing says "Happy Birthday, Jesus!" quite like a gang of Ninjas.

Festive, no? Now, where am I ever going to find a throwing star cutter...

Bonus: if you love gingerbread as much as I do, but feel that you probably shouldn't eat cookies for breakfast, try my recipe for Gingerbread Oatmeal.

* yes, baby food. Seriously.

December 4, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 4

It seems that holiday decorations hit the stores earlier and earlier every year, but we pretty much ignore all of that nonsense until the big bags of mixed, unshelled nuts hit the shelves. Then, and only then, will we admit that it's Christmas.

(Bonus: manually cracking nuts slows down the snacking process, so you actually eat less than you would if you had pre-shelled nuts.)

December 3, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 3

When I was little (and, yes, it's hard to believe that I was ever "little"), I was completely obsessed with these little guys:

As we would decorate our Christmas tree, my job was to make sure that each and every one had the perfect branch to perch on and that each one was accompanied by its own, matching felt mushroom.

I was convinced that they would un-hug their knees at night and scamper around the tree, returning to their spots by dawn. And, yes, I would check them every morning to see if they had moved.

Vintage "knee-hugging elves" from Ruby Lane.

December 2, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 2

Every year, I make one (ONE!) Christmas music purchase. For the past, oh, I dunno, 8 years, I've taken the easy way out and picked up a Starbucks holiday sampler to go with my venti Christmas Blend. This year, however, I am taking an even easier route to holiday tuney goodness and downloading the new She & Him Christmas album from the iTunes.

If you've seen "Elf", then you already know that Zooey Dechanel's sweet voice goes together with Christmas songs like cookies go with milk (or like Kahlua goes with milk, for that matter.) Like the movie, this new CD, also features one of my most-favourite songs - Baby, It's Cold Outside. This time around, though, Zooey and bandmate M Ward give the song a little Hank Williams flavour (and a fun twist...who says the boy has to be the one doing all the wooing?)

You can pick up or download the CD in all of the usual places, or on the official She & Him website

December 1, 2011

Christmas Stalking - day 1

'tis the season for giving and sharing. To get things moving in a festive direction on the first day of the festive season, I am sharing my most-favourite Christmas song with you.

Even if you don't love Mariah (and I don't), it's hard to resist this catchy little tune.