Friday, December 15, 2006

If You Bake It, They Will Come

I have taken today off of work for some of the obligatory holiday preparations – first, I’m taking Little Sister to see Santa at the mall. Then Mom and I are going to introduce her to the annual family baking day. Each year, my mother and I spend an afternoon baking. Typically, we make an assortment that includes: chocolate chip cookies with and without nuts, oatmeal raisin cookies, peanut butter cookies with chocolate kisses, sugar cookies, biscochos, fudge, macaroons, turtles, buckeyes and almond bark. This is LS’s first go at helping us. She’s three and a half, so who knows how well this will go over, but as long as my mother doesn’t mind scraping frosting off every surface of the kitchen and sweeping up sprinkles for days, we should be okay.

This is one of the traditions we have that is usually more heartache than its worth, but we just have to do it. I must bake. My butt insists that I must NOT eat (although I will) but I must bake. I’m not anticipating giving this stuff as gifts, maybe to an unappreciative neighbor or two, but otherwise, it’s for our family and co-workers. I’ll take a tray of goodies in Monday. As with most offices, all of it will be gone in approximately an hour. I wonder sometimes if they even taste it before they swallow and grab another cookie.

I’m also hoping to take a swing at gingerbread this year. I might make a couple gingerbread men to test out the dough, but really, one day (most likely not this year) I’d like to make a gingerbread house. Now, I’m not talking about the little kits they have at the craft store. I’m talking a Martha Stewart, two-story, Victorian mansion with all the neurotic details I live for. I can do it, of that I’m sure. I even have a post card with a picture of the house I’d like to try.

I wonder why I even bother with all this, sometimes. I was talking to someone the other day and said that all the baking and the decorating and the gift giving and wrapping and planning...all an attempt to make Christmas whatever it’s supposed to be. The romantic in me wants to build up my holiday expectations to the point that no matter what happens, I’ll be disappointed because my life is not a Norman Rockwell painting.

I, for example, know that DB will wait until the last minute to buy my gifts. I will not go caroling (unless you count singing with the radio on my commute). I will probably decorate the tree alone while DB falls asleep watching football on the couch. Christmas morning will not be magical. The stuff in my stocking will most likely be the leftovers I put in there after doing other people’s stockings. My gifts will be anticlimactic because they gave me exactly what I asked for and my family will not be half as appreciative of the time and effort I put into their gifts as I’d hoped they would be.

This makes my family sound horrible, but they aren’t. They’re normal. I’m the one with these insane expectations. I’m the one that makes a list of things I want for Christmas, then gets upset because they got me what was on my list...sigh. Is it too much to ask that they actually listen to me and know me well enough to come up with something I would like without having to come out and say it? Almost nothing I got my family is off their list. I think and plot and plan and...waste my time, apparently.

Anyway, I guess I shop, bake, decorate and fuss over the holidays in an attempt to make it as special as I want it to be. If I don't grasp onto the holiday spirit now, it will be a year before it comes around again. So...it’s ten days until Christmas. What special rituals or traditions do you have to make the holiday seem more special? Baking cookies? Decorating the tree? What was the best gift you've ever gotten that you didn't ask for?

SP

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13 comments:

Problem Child said...

WHAT IS WITH ALL THE BAKING?!?!

Playground Monitor said...

Hey... I'll take some of those peanut butter cookies off your hands. *g*

Remember that fudge Kelley brought to the retreat? I'm planning to make a batch of that next week. AND I found out if you substitute Reese's peanut butter chips for chocolate chips, you have peanut butter fudge. I'm making this for my boys, mind you. For my boys.

Best present I didn't ask for? When I was about 10 or so I loved to roller skate. Now back in my day, we had those metal skates that clamped to your shoes and you had a skate key to tighten or loosen the clamps. Anyhoo, my skates were getting too small so my mom suggested to my sister and me that we donate our skates to the Salvation Army. We protested but Mom explained that we had so many other toys and some children didn't have any. If we donated our skates, some little girl would be so happy on Christmas morning. So off they went into the Salvation Army box.

Then on Christmas morning we both found brand new roller skates under the tree from Santa. I'm not sure I've ever been as excited about anything as those skates.

PM -- who likes chocolate chip cookies with or without nuts and sugar cookies too

Kathy said...

We do the same thing here at our house, SP. I've got an excellent gingerbread cookie recipe, if you want to try it. Oh, there's nothing like the smell of gingerbread cooking. I usually look through cook books and try to find interesting recipes. Then make the cookies, place assorted varieties in tins and pass them out to our neighbors and friends on Christmas Eve.

Fudge, peanut butter chocolate Kiss cookies, Coconut Macaroons, Sugar cookies, Gingerbread cookies, Pressed cookies dipped in chocolate, chocolate covered pretzels, Oatmeal Scotchies and so forth. When it's all said and done, we end up with quite an assortment of our own to enjoy.

Best gift ever? Always DIAMONDS!!!! (The DH asked me to marry him on Christmas Eve) :-)
Best gift as a child would have to include an electronic keyboard, Princess phone, record player and bike.

Kathy

readingissomuchfun said...

I love to bake holiday shape cookies during this time :)

The best gift :-)

On December 24th 2002 my man had purposed to me. Me and my man had went to visit my sisters and grandma. We were all talking and just chilling having christmas eve dinner. Then they all went into the kitchen and told me to stay in the living everyone just started to laugh and I looked at them and my man and they all just smiled at me. I was nervous thinking I did something wrong. They all came back to the living room and we all had talked some more about what we all want for christmas and sharing some family stories.

Out of nowhere I had looked over at my man and he got on one knee and pulled out a nice jewelry box and opened it. He asked me to marry him. At first I couldn't speak I started to cry and a few minutes later I hugged him and said Yes. Of course I will.It was the best Christmas Eve ever for me. My man is now my fiance :-)

I was wondering why everyone kept smiling at me and laughing *G* It was so worth it all. We are together and planning our wedding for June 12th eather 2007 or 2008. June 12th is my mom's b-day she had passed away and won't be with us in person so I thought her b-day would be the best time.

Happy Holidays.

Hugssss
Linda.H

Rhonda said...

SP, I feel your pain on the unreasonable expectations. I know my dh will wait til the last minute as well. I will say that I can count on my mom to get me things I like and dad is always good for cash, which I happen to enjoy spending. :-)

As for Christmas traditions, we don't do a lot of the baking of the cookies. A few here and there. But we always have breakfast casserole on Christmas morning, which the kids love and look forward to all year.

Once the kids got older and Santa had been outed, I did away with the rush-into-the-living-room-and-open-as-many-presents-as-you-can approach. I got tired of my hours and hours of shopping and wrapping being reduced to a three minute frenzy.

Now, the presents stay wrapped and under the tree...until Christmas Eve, at which point I hide them from the kids. (The first Christmas I did this, they thought we'd been robbed.) Anyway, I make up clues for where I've hidden their presents and they each take turns finding their gifts. It makes it a lot of fun and it slows it down so that we can enjoy it a little longer. :-)

Best Christmas present I ever got? Maternity panties. I was huge pregnant and I needed them. :-)

Linda Winstead Jones said...

SP, I have a great gingerbread cookie recipe. E-mail me if you want it. The grandkids love them. I used to decorate them with raisins, but when they were not quite 3 the grandkids sat me down and told me, very solemnly, that I needed to quit putting raisins on the gingerbread men. Haven't done it since.

Best Christmas present I didn't ask for: When I was newly published, my mother gave me a charm bracelet with the titles and release dates for my first three books. It was just so unexpected.

I'm not doing as much baking this year, but I have to do the gingerbred men. The rest I'll play by ear. My youngest son will be home for a week, so if he asks for a particular cookie or candy I'll probably have to oblige.

When I lived in Louisiana, just outside New Orleans, I took a 6 week candy making course. That was a long time ago, and I've gradually gotten out of the candymaking game. For years, though, I made these fancy candies for Christmas. I just don't have that kind of time anymore. These days I'm lucky to get the required pigs-in-a-blanket made. :-)

LJ

Angel said...

I spent a lot of years feeling disappointed about Christmas, but then I decided that if I wanted it to be magical, I'd just have to make it magical. Not that it wouldn't be nice to have someone else go out of their way, but I've learned not to count on it.

So I do the baking, decorating, and taking the kids to different holiday events. That's why I do it... to make it the kind of Chistmas I want it to be.

I try to bake with the kids, and we always spend either Christmas Eve or the day before cooking with my husband's grandmother. I've made my own version of Christmas morning traditions, what I enjoy, and just try to enjoy spending time with my family.

I'm lucky in that, whether he gets it early or late, my husband invariably picks something I'll love. Only one year was he way off. He got me a telescope, but he had good reasons. I'm not much of a jewelry person, so he's gotten me a camera, clothes (he always gets the size right!), and gift certificates to places I love to go. He even fills my stocking every year (I would have insisted if he hadn't stepped up to the plate. I spent my entire teenage years filling my mother's stocking because my dad couldn't be bothered. Not for me, buddy!!!)

Anyway, I guess I'm saying that I try to fulfill my own expectations in a way, rather than hoping other people will. Some Christmas's are better than others, but I hope I've always fit in what makes me happy.

Rhonda said...

I'm a stocking slacker. I stopped filling stockings when the kids' no longer believed in Santa Claus.

Playground Monitor said...

I LOVE doing the stockings. I spend as much time and effort on the stuff in them as the gifts. And this year I get to do one for the grandbaby too! There's all sorts of neat-o stocking stuffers for a baby -- cute bibs, a sippy cup, a little rubber ducky for the tub, a boo-boo bunny for when she bumps her noggin, some teething beads. Oops! Hope she isn't reading this blog. *g*

PM

Instigator said...

I hope you enjoyed baking more than I have :-)

Instigator

Maven Linda Howard said...

Ah, the joy of low expectations. I have no expectations of even having fun on Christmas, so I'm often pleasantly surprised and never disappointed. I just don't get into holidays -- any of them. Thanksgiving? It's to get together and eat, so it's a lot of bother for nothing much. I eat every day. It isn't special. Likewise, I'm very low maintenance on my birthday, wedding anniversary, Valentine's Day, etc. Wouldn't bother me at all if no one remembered. (My sister and I are exact opposites. She always has these great expectations for how the holidays will go, how much she'll enjoy a movie -- and she's almost always disappointed. The movies she's enjoyed the most are the ones she didn't want to see and I dragged her to them anyway. See? Low expectations are the way to go!)

We used to cook with our mother, fruit cake, candy, cakes, the whole bit. Her fruit cake was actually delicious, and people asked for it. Her secret was using a spice cake mix, only the sweet fruits and lots of it, and lots of nuts. No rum at all. It was so rich a very thin slice would fill you up. Yum.

I always make a shrimp ball; the family demands it. Once, at LJ's house, we spread peanut butter between two Ritz crackers and dipped them in melted white chocolate, but that was the one and only time I've done that. They were great, but when it comes down to it I can do that any time.

The one family food tradition that MUST NOT be interrupted is . . . a large tray of chicken nuggets from Chick Fil A. My nephews start checking around the first of November to make sure I haven't forgotten. Says something, doesn't it? But the nuggets are always devoured first, and of course the little kids love them.

The best present I ever received? When I was ten, I got a set of the Black Stallion books. Still have them.

I always tell people what to get me. Otherwise, I might get a fondue set. For instance, I have a multitide of photographs that need frames, so I said I want a bunch of frames, all sizes. There will be a great variety of frames, which will be fun to unwrap because there are a lot of different frames. I also love getting notebooks from Levengers or from Kate's Paperie in NY -- the sheets of paper are so smooth, I have to touch them. I can never have too many notebooks.

PS: the word verification code is DJWRJSH.

catslady said...

My favorite gift was a cat when I was a child and a new diamond after I lost the stone raking leaves after 25 yrs. of marriage.

I do a tree trimming/dinner party that is now a tradition in our family.

Joan said...

I love making homemade candy with my family that is one of our traditions. The best gift that I got was my first mircowave because it was hide and I never except it.
It last for over 15 years before dieing.