For the love of…seafood

Vacation. A time (and different place) when you remove yourself from the daily routines of life. A time to relax and maybe try new things. Wiseguy and I are in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. There is no snow (me doing BIG celebration dance). We are baking our pale skin in the sun so we become a nice golden brown. We swim in the salty ocean. We do things that we don’t normally do at home. Our routine is pretty consistent. There are no big adventures or escapades for us. It’s sleep, eat, swim, eat, nap, eat. Yes there is much eating on this, our winter escape vacation. For me it’s even more exciting as the abundance of seafood has me in awe. I LOVE seafood.

I am unsure of when my tastebuds first discovered the delectable pleasure of digesting water creatures. My parents grew up in a village in Croatia. Sure it was a 15 minute drive to the sea, but they weren’t seafood lovers. My father is a true carnivore with a hefty sprinkling of vegetarian. If he MUST have floater food then he might crack open a can of anchovies (weird but true). I joyously recall the first time I ate crunchy fried smelts. Sure, some of you call this fish bait, but to me they are similar to French fries. Yummy! My mother was delightfully surprised to see that one of her four children shared her seaworthy palate.

The next Friday (official “eat fish” day at our house) there were these caramel-coloured rings sitting on the table. Sure there was also battered cod fish (for those with the blander taste buds in our family), but my mother’s eyes fixated on mine as she winked over at me to try this ring of fried goodness. As I slowly moved fork to mouth, my lips curled around the deep fried treat and my teeth crunched into this new culinary delight. My tastebuds sang with joy! What was this? My mama read my mind. With a twinkle in her eyes she said “calamari” aloud. One of my siblings said “yuck that’s squid!” Huh…squid. I didn’t care. I loaded up my plate with this exquisite new food discovery. So it began.

My seafood journey was and is a long and slow one. My dear husband prefers the boring cod. I got him to try shark once. He has been brave enough to take a bite of grilled salmon. Yes he tried. No good. “Rubber” rings of calamari are just as bad to him. Tuna stinks. Shrimp are the wrong colour and definitely a horrible texture. Clams are white blobs that slither down your throat. Lobster! Ah the Creme de la Creme of the seafood world…are unpalatable and indigestible to Wiseguy. As Jim Gaffigan prefers to call them: sea bugs. Crabs make my hubby crabby. Smell and flavour, or as my spouse prefers to refer to it as stench and slime, will never win over my main man.

So here we are abroad, surrounded by water, and my seafood dreams have come true. Every appetizer menu section is a dancing list of seafood. Main courses consist of former water dwellers. I am in seafood heaven! Lobster and shrimp and crab cakes… Oh my! I have devoured crab cakes 4 days in a row now. Their crunchy outside yields to a soft, velvety centre. Even when we arrived at the resort they had wee little appetizer scoops of ceviche in the lobby. Actually hubby and I walk through the lobby every afternoon at the same time so I can devour at least three helpings. Fresh seafood is incredible!

In some ways I feel a little sad for those who cannot experience what my tastebuds are experiencing. Oh sure they can shove shellfish in their gullet, but the joy is not there. I compare my seafood feasts to having a large rich morsel of decadent chocolate cake. Don’t understand? How about tearing into prime rib or rib eye steak…juicy and succulent. Still nothing? How about a cheesy and creamy big bite of lasagna? Well whatever makes your tongue sing hymns of food praises THAT is what bite after bite of seafood is like for me. It may sound strange and perhaps slightly obsessive, but after all it is for the love of…seafood. Bon appetit!

Young…at heart

As days roll by and weeks turn into years I do like to reminisce about bygone days. The tales used to begin with the obligatory “remember a few years ago”. Suddenly the recollections of 10 years ago have now become the musings of life 20 and even…dare I say it aloud… 30 years ago. Today I am NOT going to chat about old age, but rather my preference to stay young…at heart.

Wiseguy and I are enjoying a lovely vacation in a country with lots of sunshine and palm trees. We are at a resort where we kind of just hang out with each other and babble about mundane non-serious things. For dinner we made reservations at a Japanese restaurant. I wasn’t sure how my hubby would handle this change from the regular meat and potato of his dinnertime dreams, but he was up for a change…to please me. So sweet. Well that impromptu change led to quite an adventurous evening.

Besides enjoying the knife juggling, the food was hot and fresh and delicious! Sitting in a group with other resort folk, we had a blast conversing and joking with people from other countries. We laughed out loud and had, not only an incredible meal, but fantastic company. It didn’t matter that we were midlifers. We goofed around and had a jolly good time! That was an excellent evening. Actually it was an excellent start to the evening. Our unplanned outing was about to get even more unconventional.

We went walk about down to a hangout called the “Sports Bar”. I was itching to play pool. Rack ’em up! The balls were all chipped as they would hop out of the table once you sank a ball and would roll randomly somewhere across the room. It didn’t matter. It was all in the name of fun. After an hour of chasing after pool balls we decided it was time to end our pool tournament and let others have a go. It was at this time that our planned early evening to bed took a drastic and memorable turn.

Two young couples had taken our place at the pool table and were having a jolly good time competing for the win. Wiseguy and I cheered from the sidelines. As their game drew to a close they sauntered off to a table to continue the party. And then they invited us middle agers to join them! Wonderful! Absolutely fantastic turn of events! We joked and laughed until our bellies ached from convulsive laughter! Our cheeks needed massaging from the incessant liberating smiles. The hilarious tales told, some with visual effects, will be etched in our minds forever. We laughed. We drank. We ended up at the disco next door and danced away. We were of one mind…have fun!

I am sure we made the strangest looking group, but it didn’t matter what others saw or assumed about us. We, as a group, shared a wonderful liked mindedness. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Memories and friendships can enter your life at any time and any place. When you are lucky enough to stumble upon a random unplanned adventure go with your heart. Your common sense mind might rebel, but by properly ignoring it your life will become a more full and memorable one.

With age comes wisdom…and creaking joints. You can choose to let your mind age your joie de vivre, or you can listen closely to your inner child and stay young…at heart.

(Shout out to our new friends: Amy, Ellie, Charles, and Sam. “Stuart” and I wish you all the best!)

Nature can Nurture

Wiseguy and I are planning a trip (escape) from this harsh winter weather to a destination of tropical warmth and subsequent bliss. To make myself appear as an even bigger tourist I decided to go for a mani/pedi. As I parked myself in the leather massage chair, I leaned back and heard wonderful relaxation music in the background. I looked up and saw the tv was on. Oh…it was like a meditation channel. Pictures of butterflies, green fields, snow capped mountains. The plethora of pictures faded in and out with a lovely variety of relaxing themes. There were the awe inspiring waterfalls, the colourful birds, the majestic horses. I noticed a common theme. Basically, if you want to relax, cut yourself off from manmade things and focus on nature.

Growing up in a metropolis…ok the burb of a metropolis, I was accustomed to loud noises. Imagine having your house on an airplane flight path. Every evening when you were just about to fall asleep you would hear the rumbling airplane engines flying overheard. Grrrr…after a couple of weeks it didn’t matter. I had grown accustomed to that particular noise and no longer noticed it. It’s funny how the mind can adjust to strange sounds.

When Wiseguy and I moved into our apartment we were so excited about the beautiful view we had from the balcony. There were no other buildings around us. There was a forest nearby. The main street was far away so we could barely hear the traffic. So peaceful. We were also close to the lake so it was nice being able to see the CN Tower in Toronto. Ahhh..peace and quiet. As we sat on the balcony drinking our wine, I opened my mouth to say, “What a beautiful view” when my words were overridden by the Toot Toot sound of a TRAIN! Holy smokes our building was near train tracks. These tracks were not just for freight trains, but for passenger trains as well. It was a consistent chugga chugga sound in the background. The 2 a.m. freight (a.k.a. “fright”) train was especially invigorating the first few weeks. Again, my mind got accustomed to the sound and I slept soundly through all the comings and goings on those rails.

I had become acclimated to planes and trains. No biggie. Then we moved into our present-day house. Lovely neighbourhood. No planes, no trains, but automobiles did abound and then the one quirky modern-day mode of transportation entered our lives; buses. Yup…hadn’t heard that sound before. There is the whooshing sound it makes when it stops to let passengers on and off. Then there is the gearing up as it leaves. The brakes…now THAT’S a sound that irritated me to no end. Yes, past tense as I have adjusted to that sound as well.

Imagine my surprise when I went up to the cottage. It was quiet. I could hear leaves rustling in the gentle breeze. I could hear the water lapping up on the sandy beach. By evening we were exhausted from breathing in the fresh air. My nose had never smelled anything so unpolluted. As I lay back on my pillow I found I couldn’t sleep. There was that awful noise. It kept me up all night. Crickets. Like, what the hell? There no planes or buses or trains. How could I possibly resign myself to peaceful slumber without the city racket?

The city girl finally learned to relax and breathe and enjoy the new sounds. The crickets dutifully chirped me to sleep for the rest of the week. The birds sang me to wakefulness early every morning. I would sit outside with my morning coffee and listen to the wind blow through the trees. I would hear a far off loon make its morning greeting. By the end of the week I had decompressed. My ears had forgotten the roar of street traffic. My nose had been purged of exhaust fumes and smelly smog. Nature and the natural life was all I wanted to experience.

The week away ended and it was time to return to city life. I do love my modern conveniences …my car to get me everywhere, the stores with all the joys of shopping, and all the spiffy gadgets that make life quick and easy. But that week away reminded me that when the daily grind gets me polluted and worn out, look up to the sky and clouds and the birds and escape momentarily. Nature can nurture.

Home Renovations…OR…The Sprite That Could

Home renovations.  People LOVE to watch home improvement shows or just scope out Pinterest and see how others are transforming their humble abodes.  Wiseguy and I have lived in our house for almost 15 years.  Our initial subtle changes were:  new roof, new furnace, new air conditioning, new windows, and new driveway.  Pricey?  Yes.  Good?  Yes.  Necessary?  You bet your butt it was!  When we finally had saved enough to start renovating the INSIDE of the house, my heart fluttered with joy and happy anticipation.  Isn’t that what renovations are all about?  Taking the old and used, molding it and remodelling it to make it your personalized living space?  The dream becomes a reality…and a nightmare!

We are in the process of renovating our entranceway.  Something so simple.  It won’t take any time at all, maybe a weekend.  Remove old ceramic tiles, install flooring, paint.  Simple.  Soooooo simple.  NOT!  For those who have never lived (a.k.a. survived) through a home renovation it is never what you expect it will be.  NEVER!  I believe that every home has a Spiteful Sprite that lives there.  It is ticked off that you are changing things so the delightful sprite will always find ways to foul up your most simple plans.  MY House Sprite has a gangsta team of n’er-do-wellers.  Let me walk you through a trip down memory lane of how things work in MY home improvement world.

Our first renovated room was our main floor bathroom.  It was blue; deep, drowning ocean-type blue.  The walls were blue.  The tub was blue.  The toilet was blue.  The sink was blue.  The vanity lighting was blue (they had smeared BLUE paint on the WHITE light fixtures.  This room made me FEEL blue.  One of the previous owners really took that ocean theme to heart and decided to put up a fish border.  THESE fish were perched on their tails.  Well, one set of fish border on the one wall.  On another wall, the fish were not standing proudly.  They were suicidal.  They were standing on their heads.  Drowning?  (Yes, I know fish can’t drown, but such a sad sight to see everyday).  So, when it came time to modernize (destroy) this room, our plans were set in motion.  It wouldn’t take long.  Out with the blue and in with the new!  Pop out blue tub and install new white tub.  Same idea for the sink. Timeline for said project?  Tub would take a couple of hours right?  Ya-NO!  This 8 x 6 foot weekend project was now being taken over by the House Sprite and its hilariously (dripping with sarcasm) new timeline.  Boy did it LOVE foiling our plan!

HOUSE SPRITE TIMELINE FOR RENOVATIONS:
Owner time = 5 seconds / Sprite time = 5 hours

Owner time = 5 hours / Sprite time = 5 days

Owner time = 5 days / Sprite time = 5 weeks

Owner time = 5 weeks / Sprite time = 5 months

Owner time = 5 months / Sprite time = might as well wait for new owners ’cause you ain’t gettin’ it done in your lifetime

Based on THAT timeline, you can understand how long it took to renovate this one little room.  After many an alcoholic beverage and trips to the hardware store, the new transmogrified room looked fantastic!  Then we took a couple of years hiatus from the drama and trauma to get our nerves back to unjangledness (part of my homegrown dictionary so, yes, it’s a word).

When we finally did a kitchen revelation…ahem…renovation, my heart soared!  My favourite room in the house and I could get my dream appliances and live happily ever after.  “GET ME A COT AND I’LL SLEEP HERE!” was my new life motto.   Timeline was two weeks.  I think the Sprites tagged along with some cottagers because this project was actually completed in two weeks.  It was a miracle!  Actually, our contractor was a miracle worker.  (I think he hailed from somewhere heaven bound).  Were there challenges?  You  betcha!  I recall hearing that there was a “live wire” hidden in one of the walls we had opened up.  Live wire?  Like uncorked electricity just ready to spark and flambé us?  That was intriguing and jolting news.  There were electrical issues and there were flooring issues.  Even now, there is one spot under the hardwood that is atop a heating vent.  Chung-bong it says when you step there.  Other than that…no lives were lost and it’s almost perfect.

Feeling pretty confident with our room rebirths we took a break.  As months went by we pondered and debated the next big renovation “How about the hideous hardwood floor with the inexpertly waxed top that peels off and sticks to our feet?  Why not get rid of that?”  That was the plan.  Oh, it would be soooo nice to finally have a floor that Waldo (our dog) couldn’t munch on.  It would be nice for the crawling grandchildren to NOT carry parts of flooring with them everywhere.  It would be wonderful!  It would be beautiful!  It would take a long time.  The Sprite was back!

It was in the month of February that we met with the contractor.  We picked the flooring.  Pretty easy when our stipulation was “durable”.   Acacia wood.  How lovely and sturdy!  As the contractor left our humble abode, hubby and I smiled at each and breathed a sigh of relief.  No more peeling floors in the summer…or so we thought.  Summer came and went.  No floors.  Even worse…we couldn’t get a hold of the contractor.  When we finally did, he replied that there was a hostage…I mean…shortage.  We joked that it was coming on the “slow boat [from] to China“.  “Yes,” he calmly replied, “it is coming from China.”

“Teee heee heee,” laughed the Sprite.

After 6 looooooong months, the flooring arrived.  The flooring was installed.  The nightmare ended as we awakened to our beautiful new main floor.  We lived happily ever after….until Wiseguy stubbed his toe on a corner of one piece of flooring that had curled up.

“Teee heeee heeee,” giggled the Sprite that Could.

Join me next time when we revisit our Happy Homeowners and their entranceway debacle…ahem…renovation.

Sweaters…and World Peace

Welcome to the new year!  So far it has been wonderfully joyful.  Snow or no snow (the shovelling saga continues), my sister and I had booked last Saturday for a trek to the mall and a day of shopping.  For those of you who do not enjoy this kind of expedition let me explain why women love going to a mall and can spend hours (oh yes, literally hours), wandering from store to store and carrying a smorgasbord of bags with treasures home.

First, I do sympathize with those of you who find clothes shopping a mundane task.  This chore is even more cumbersome during the winter months when you need to slough off boots (perhaps even long underwear) while you try on pants or dresses.  Even when taking shirts on and off over your head, there is that wondrous crackle of electricity from static in the air.  Ah…the trials and tribulations of winter shopping.  Besides having to deal with those health hazards, there is also the desire to own new things while keeping your bank account from weeping with loss.  And finally, with all the winter sales in full force there is the challenge of finding clothes in your size and/or finding the desired colour.  Stores themselves become a grandiose mess and it’s almost impossible to find what you like.  If you do, there are the lineups for the fitting rooms and then the subsequent queues at the checkout.  All this wasted time!  For what?  Ah…this is where those of you who dislike to shop misunderstand the seek and hunt of this magnanimous adventure.

Shopping is comparable to a hunting expedition.  You hunt for a convenient parking spot.  You hunt for the great end of season deals.  You hunt for that unique item that others will envy you for.  Sure you might have to peek through racks of unkempt clothing, but it’s like being a hungry cat in the jungle, peering through foliage in order to seek out your prey.  Once you pounce on that coveted piece, your insatiable appetite will wane exponentially.  Even better, you will hear cherubs singing songs of praise as you not only discover that one-of-a-kind item, but happily realize it’s your size.  Now add to that eureka moment the final trifecta:  that article of clothing is now 70% off the regular retail price!  Oh yes, shopping CAN make you this deliriously happy!

Back to Saturday.  Whilst perusing in one boutique (a place I dare not venture into unless it is the January-end-of-winter sale or the September-end-of-summer sale), I nonchalantly bumped into a rack that hollered (figuratively speaking) “up to 70% off“.  Wha-what?  I had just spent 15 minutes scouring through an impossibly tight rack of slacks with not a pair of pants to my liking or my fitting.  Here it was, this rack of glory, like a beacon in the night, and it held upon it’s metal arms shirts and sweaters of MY unique colour preference; orange.  Then I spied it.  A fluffy orange sweater.  Not only was there only ONE left, but it was my size!  Not only did it FIT perfectly upon my being, but it would meld nicely with its relatives in my closet.  Not only did I have all that going for me, but it  was 70% off!  HUZZAH!  I bagged one!  At least I almost had.

The lineup at the checkout was quite long and appeared steadfastly immovable.  My sister, intrigued with my unique shopping whims, waited patiently with me.  We didn’t move for a couple of minutes.  I remarked that if we did not move at least halfway closer toward the front within 15 minutes then my purchase was not meant to be.  Golden Rules of Shopping; rule #5.  We stood.  We waited.  Time ran out.  I put my “winning” sweater on a nearby rack and we walked away.  It was not meant to be.  My sister was shocked.  She had been willing to wait, but I explained to her my policy and would not be swayed.  Onward and upward.  To the second floor!

As we finished our sale-shopping spree, our stomachs began speaking (grumbling really) and we turned around and headed back from whence we came.  We passed the boutique…almost.  I nonchalantly glanced inside.  The queue was much shorter now.  A cashier had been added into the foray.  I wondered aloud if my prized sweater was where I had abandoned it.  GASP!  It was!  A sign from the shopping gods!  I snatched MY fuzzy, bright, orange sweater and we proceeded to the back of the line.  After several minutes I proceeded triumphantly to the cashier and purchased MY new sweater.  I paid…wait for it…$7.00 (+ taxes) for a sweater!  BOOYAH!

My shopping expeditions are contagious!  Even my sister, one who does not usually enjoy such treks, had a wonderful time!  The hunt leading to the actual purchasing of items can make us so happy and make us feel good.  It’s what good shopping trips are all about.  It is a trip!  Some people use drugs and alcohol!  I have retail therapy!

Men can brag about bagging a deer.   I can counter that with bagging a sweater (wrapped neatly in tissue paper and placed in a chic paper bag.  A lovely,  bright, orange, fuzzy sweater.  A sweater that is functionally warm and yet coquettishly comfortable, not to mention its exuberantly cheerful colour.  Those around me will naturally brighten and lead happier lives.  Children will flock to me due to my fuzzy teddy-bearness.  Yes, my latest $7.00 purchase might even lead to world peace!

….and the angels could be heard, not far off in the distance, singing their praises…

Grand to bland…’tis the season – Epilogue

Christmas has come and gone…for some. For others they will be starting their panic. What a wonderful time of the year. Now my previous post mentioned my survival plans. Did you use them? Did they work? I hope so. Let me share how I faired.

I was lucky to get a couple of days vacation time prior to my scheduled Christmas Eve festivities. Knowing that all would be well, I decided to book a doctor’s appointment and some other health related errands, like ultrasounds and X-rays. Multitasking momma! The plan was good. The execution? Not as I had planned. Being out of the house and out and about made it harder to focus on tasks that needed to be completed. So day 1 ended with doing other things not on my to do list. Well…it was my first day on vacation after all. I had to enjoy the freedom. No problem. I had three more days.

Day 2. So nice to sleep in!  Then another ultrasound. Downtown. No biggie.  It so happened that they were on time and I left on time.  I decided I needed a bit of holiday umph decorations. Hmmm, newly revised plan, not in the schedule.  Meh.  That’s life.  So I drove around and popped into several different places. Mission accomplished!  Our home would look lovely with my new Christmassy candle holders.  Lovely red, white, and green candle holders in silver trays.  So pretty and 70% off on clearance.  SCORE!  I was in the Christmas spending spirit haha!  Morning became afternoon and afternoon became…oops…evening.  Ah…another non-cross-stuff-off-my-list day, but that was fine.  There were still two more FULL days.

Day 3. No health stuff. It was time to get down to business. Wiseguy was home. He could help out.  Hmmm, he had some errands to run. Well why not go with him? We don’t get enough time together anyway.  How did day 3 end?  Pretty much the same as days 1 and 2.  Are you laughing yet?  Has this happened with your foolproof plan?

Day 4. The day before the magical event.  I accomplished a lot that day. I emphatically looked at my list of things to take care of and used my incredible pen to whittle away at many of the words on it.  The TO DO list was suddenly becoming a poster board for Zorro…items slashed in defeat as they were not completed.  True, they might not have been accomplished, but they were my dream list and so were just that…dreams.  The reality is oftentimes unachievable.  As usual, my initial lists are the A-list plans of groups of highly specialized teams of people like, let’s say Hollywood planners for the Academy Awards  My actual final lists are true to humankind; one-woman type shows.

So, in true list-cutting form, here is how my list went from grand to bland:

BAKE COOKIES – GRAND PLAN:  Bake the following cookies and make cookie plates for each family of guests.  Includes shortbread, pizzelle, linzer, chocolate chip mint, macaroons, chocolate dipped pretzels with sprinkles, and cranberry bars.

BAKE COOKIES – BLAND PLAN:  Hmmm. I had managed to bake up a tray of shortbread. No one really eats cookies after the feast. (Hear sound of sword leaving sheathe…a.k.a. pen cap being removed.  SLASH!  Off the list!)

SEAFOOD DINNER:  GRAND PLAN:  maple glazed salmon, calamari fritti (that means fried, but sounds waaaaay fancier this way), shrimp in white wine sauce, pub style haddock, and gloriously crunchy Crab cakes.

SEAFOOD DINNER:  BLAND PLAN: Never made crab cakes before.  I haven’t opened the can of crab yet.  Meh.  Maybe next year.  (FLICK!  Off the list!)

I sat at my kitchen counter, sipping my hazelnut cappuccino (uh yeah…might as well do things in style) and brandished my pen with marksmanship-like finesse.  I attacked that unicorn of a list.  From mystifyingly delusional to tangibly accomplishable.  Booyah!

SET TABLE.  I can do it tomorrow morning.  SWIPE!  Off the list.

VACUUM AND MOP.  I vacuumed up the dust bunny families who resided in the corners of each room (so technically done). Mopping can wait. It will be evening and no one will notice the dried paw marks.  WHIP!  Off the list.

WRAP PRESENTS.  LUNGE!  Nope, make that a feint.  That definitely had to be done. And it was!  By 2 o’clock in the morning.  I listened to Christmas music and I watched Christmas movies. I was full of holiday spirit (no, not spirits).  I was all happy inside.  I was excited and gleeful and most of all, grateful.  I really do have a wonderful life.  With a smile on my face, I crawled into bed.

THE DAY OF. Got in 5 hours sleep. Woo hoo!  Prepped food. Set table. Listened to Christmas music. Took deep breaths and reminded myself that tonight is gonna be loud and fun! As always, things will turn out great.  Just believe.

It WAS wonderful! The banter abounded nice and loud from every corner.  There was lots of hearty laughter.  The main meal turned out fantastic, naturally.  The chef de jour (me) was extremely happy with how everything turned out.  The younger generation assisted in carrying the loaded up plates to the table and then cleared the dishes after the meal.  Fruit platters went out.  See? No need for cookies.  Opening of presents by the young ones and their excited ooohs and aaahs.  It even snowed (a lot) to make it a wonderfully white Christmas.  A magical Christmas Eve.

I do live by my suggested life recommendations. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes you realize that crossing things off your list makes you a much happier hostess. Sometimes doing things that weren’t on your list makes you a much happier hostess. Sometimes not expecting anything is when the most wonderfully unexpected will occur.

I hope you had a marvellous Christmas and I wish you all the best in the New Year!  2018 here we come!

’tis the season for…less and less stress

Yes, it’s that time of year again when humankind goes berserk.  It’s the season of gift giving and life stressing.  What used to be simple days of praise has now become the merchandise mecca of the year.  It’s all about the gifts and the gift giving and the gift receiving.  Or is it?  Besides the present factor, there is the presentation factor.  Oh yes, the hosting of the feasts or the attending of the feasts.  Are you one of those who finds this time of year especially stressful?  Even better, don’t you enjoy all the tv shows and the radio talk shows and expert magazine articles telling you how to survive the holiday season?  Yeah, I can’t stand them either.  So I have decided that I am going to share with you MY way of surviving this wonderful time of the year.

PLAN A:

LEAVE TOWN!  If you can, go and hop on a plane, a train, or leave in an automobile.   GO! GO FAR FAR FAR AWAY!  Why?  You don’t have to deal with any of the visiting drama or the hosting drama.  There is NO drama, except for crowds at the airport, but who cares?  You aren’t related to anyone.  Oh…leaving is not an option?  Ok, plan B

YOU ARE THE HOST

KEEP IT SIMPLE:  

The invite:  If you are the chosen one hosting the get together, send out your invitation in July.  That way everyone has time to book their trip abroad!  Or, sadly,  they can decide to spend time with you.  I feel bad for them.  Well, if you are the hostess with the mostest (like me!), here is your holiday survival plan.

Menu plan:  it’s all about the list … ahem … lists.  Your menu is one list.  This will include the items you are planning on making.  Sub-divide your list into the following categories:  Appetizers / Main / Dessert.  Further sub-divide that list into when to prep each item and what you have to buy at the grocery store.  Example:  vegetable tray: grape tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, carrots, cauliflower.  This list will become your cheat sheet for the next list – GROCERY LIST.  Oh, then there is the list of what platters / bowls utensils will be needed for each dish.  See!  Super easy!  Oh, as the days progress you might find that you cross things off your list because they are either going to take too long or you’re too tired to attempt making them.  Your 5 page list will suddenly wither away to one sheet.  There…NOW it’s easy and manageable.  So, if you started off with apple pie, pumpkin pie, cherry pie, chocolate cake, you might find that by December 24th your pie kingdom has morphed into “I’ve got ice cream in the freezer.”  Yup, who doesn’t like ice cream?  Someone will bring you chocolates or cookies and voila!  Your dessert is taken care of.

Seating:  Don’t worry about getting too fancy with your seating arrangement.  As long as everyone can sit and eat it doesn’t matter what they have to sit on.  Plastic stools, lawn chairs…who cares?  It’s about family and being together right?

Gifts:  Buying gifts has become a true tragedy.  If you watch every commercial and try to buy the kids what they want, you will find (especially if there are divorced and/or remarried parents involved) that there will be quadruplicate same gifts!  Avoid this catastrophe.  Go for the stuff they aren’t expecting.  Nothing trademarked.  Nothing Disney.  Nothing Star Wars.  Nothing that anyone else can buy.  Surprises are way more fun and they MIGHT even like it.  Huzzah!

Decorating:  No need to go over the top with decorations.  Yes, it’s nice to make your home feel Christmasy, and a visit to the dollar store or your Goodwill store will have enough to make it ho ho hopefully good enough.  A green garland, some red bows.  Ta-da!

Drinks:  Sure it would be nice to have every variety of booze available to your guests, but even restaurants draw the line.  “Can I get a Pepsi?” you might ask only to hear, “Sorry, we have Coke is the ok?”  Well, it’s not really ok but you take what you can get.  Keep in mind that you are actually paying for getting what you didn’t really want.  So, when guests come over (and they are not paying for anything), they can sip on whatever you have on hand.  Newfie Screech?  By golly why not?!  It’s Christmas!

Clean up:  Wow…look at those mounds of dishes that piled up because it was more important to be with your guests than hanging out washing dishes in the kitchen.  In the old days the women would congregate there and gossip while washing and drying dishes.  Gone are those days.  There are now dishwashers.  Sure it might take you 4 days to cycle all those dishes through the magic washing machine, but who cares?  No one else is coming over so you’ve got lots of time.

Now, if you are…

THE GUEST:

KEEP IT SIMPLE:  

Driving:  Give yourself time to get to your destination.  Parking is what it is.  Don’t wear your nicest shoes as you might have to park in knee deep snow.  Just saying.

Host(ess) Gift:  I find two gifts work out best.  Booze or sweets.  Wine or hard liquor is a win!  If you aren’t sure then chocolates or baked goods work (as they double for dessert at your destination).  Note:  Buy what you like to eat/drink since the hosts usually share whatever they have received.

Don’t overstay:  You may be having a good time, but keep in mind that your host(s) have probably been losing lots of sleep planning the perfect soiree.  If they keep mentioning how late it’s getting, that is a definite subtle clue that it’s time for you to pack up your sorry drunk ass and get on home.

There!  That’s all there is to it!  Sure, you may think this a bunch a hogwash and some are saying, “Well, you don’t know MY family.”  Maybe not, but think about it, the less effort you put in the less people expect of you.  Keep the bar low so no one can limbo under it. Low expectations will keep you off the high expectations list.  Each year will bring less and less stress as you continue to regress.

YOU’RE WELCOME!