Archive for category holidays

Cat Herders Day

Koda waits for George

Koda waits for George

This year my brother gets to come home for Christmas before deploying next month. And he’s bringing with him a new girlfriend! My family is looking forward to it, and everything we’ve heard about her so far sounds great. The only hiccup to her staying with my parents next week is she’s allergic to cats. So what to do with their orange and white tabby, George?

George gets comfortable under my bed

George gets comfortable under my bed

It’s an awesome coincidence that today worked out for my mom to come to Madison (they live about an hour away from me) and drop off George. Koda has stayed with my parents several times when G and I travel, so I was happy to repay the favor. The cats are pretty entertaining together; George takes awhile to come around, but once he does, the two will chase each other and keep very close tabs on one another. And when Koda and I left after spending several days around Thanksgiving with my parents, my mom says George wandered from room to room meowing.

George is an absolute sweetheart, but like I said, he takes awhile to come around. When my mom opened his crate in our living room, he bolted immediately under our bed. He’s been there ever since. We’re thinking he’ll come out by Friday.

Koda’s been circling and when he’s not doing that, he’s sneaking food from George’s bowl. Oh well. It’s promising to be an entertaining week with two kitties, though I’m not sure how effectively I’ll be able to herd them …

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Poinsettia Day ends in National Cocoa Day

Today I finally began Christmas decorating. In honor of today’s holiday, a tribute to a red Mexican flower, I decided to try making some origami poinsettias. I hesitate to purchase real poinsettias since they’re toxic to kitties, and Koda is definitely a plant nibbler, so the origami version seemed like a good idea. I has it all planned out: I’d make a small “bouquet” and tape it to our front door.

Unfortunately, I got a little too ambitious and picked a particularly complicated poinsettia, which involved folding leaves and two layers of red flowers that integrate together. I should have guessed I’d have trouble: The entire set of directions was five pages long. By take number three on the first page of steps, it was clear things were not going to work out. Just as my frustration level was rising, G decided to take a study break so we could go get a Christmas tree. I was thrilled to push my paper jibbles aside.

We bundled up and trundled to my car, which had to be cleared off and shoveled out thanks to last night’s storm. The driver’s side lock also frozen, so G crawled in through the passenger side and kicked open the door.

We were thoroughly chilled by the time we finally got going, so we both wanted to make this trip as quick as possible. We headed to a tree lot by a mini golf range, and I can honestly say I’ve never hunted so intently and so quickly for a tree. It was so cold I was ready to break down and spring for a $50 one, and was about to, when we spotted a small, really reasonable Fraser. About 20 minutes later, our tree was bundled, paid for and in the backseat of my car (the back doors also required kicking). I couldn’t feel my hands, toes or cheeks.

Once home, the tree didn’t take long to put up, but then the great S-versus-Christmas lights battle 0f 2010 commenced. Just as I got our multi-colored strand wrapped around, I discovered it was burnt out. I finally managed to get a strand of all-green lights in place. I then hung up our modest amount of ornaments, which Koda kept attacking. By the time I was done, I was cranky and decidedly un-festive. And I was still cold.

G noticed. “It’s cocoa day, right?” he asked and then slipped into the kitchen. When he came back, he had a mug of Ghirardelli hot chocolate, complete with cinnamon, nutmeg, whipped cream and biscotti. It was so decadent it was ridiculous. And so delish.

He lit pretty much every candle we own, turned down the lights and turned up some Christmas music on Pandora. Now I’m curled up, looking at my decorated tree and decorated living room and feeling back in the holiday spirit.

And right in the center of my tree is a homemade poinsettia ornament.

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National Lager, er, Eggnog Month

Okay, I have to confess: I had no idea what to do for International Day for Disabled Persons. And as I munched on my remaining apple bars, I absolutely couldn’t justify celebrating National Apple Pie Day. So I had to dig into the monthly holidays.

Now, it’s pretty common knowledge among my family and closest friends that my memory isn’t the most reliable. I inherited this from my father, who draws a total blank when my mom references certain events from their 20s.

As for me, G likes to bring up the time I started telling him a story about getting recognized by someone in a restaurant. He stopped me halfway through and reminded me that the story I was telling was actually something he had experienced and told me about months ago. I honestly believed at the time that it was my story. Oh well. What’s mine is G’s …

Anyway, the point to all this is that today, instead of checking my trusty holiday list, I relied on my memory to pick a month-long holiday. I thought, hey, it’s National Lager Month. And hey, I picked up some Capital Dark with just this occasion in mind.

G and I opted to stay in tonight since it’s pretty darn cold and we’re both pretty tired after a long week. He picked up some Thai food, and I cracked open a Capital, confident in my somewhat weak but still successful observance of a holiday.

Eggnog

My last-minute eggnog

My confidence went unchallenged until pretty much just now, when I sat down to type up a charming missive about the lager and my general thoughts on Capital, one of Madison’s local breweries.

And then I saw the holiday list. And double checked The Nibble to make sure my list was right.

National Lager Month is not a thing. And I’m not going to be super lame and say, hey, I declare December to be National Lager Month. No, no, I acknowledge my mistake. National Lager Day is December 10 and Lager Week is the second week of December. There will be plenty of opportunities this month for lager ruminations. But tonight is not one of them.

So what will I do? Well, it is National Eggnog Month. And we do have eggnog in the fridge. G adds chocolate to his, but I’m a traditionalist with cinnamon and nutmeg–and yes, sometimes whipped cream. Truthfully, eggnog actually appeals more right now than the prospect of finishing off my lager. It’s probably the looming snow. Off to the fridge!

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Eat a Red Apple Day

I cannot believe it’s already been a year since I’ve last posted. Holy jeepers.

But yes, it has been a year, and even though many things have changed, some haven’t. I’m still in Wisconsin, I still can’t cook, G still is my daily hero and Koda still eats, well, everything.

And on that note, it’s time to get at it.

McIntosh apple

Eat a Red Apple Day seemed like a straightforward way to jump back into holidaying. An apple a day, a holiday a day–seemed like a nice symmetry. Today the first snow of the season fell here in Madison, and though it was light, it was noticeable, and I remembered how utterly cranky winter makes me. It doesn’t help that I’m surrounded by folks at work who have either recently survived the stomach flu or are on the brink of it. So an excuse to ingest some extra antioxidants wasn’t something I was going to complain about. (Random factoid of the day: In the average apple, there’s only about 8 mg of vitamin C. A medium orange has 70 mg.)

After scheming briefly about whipping up some apple burgers or apple pasta, I decided to keep it simple. Tucked in the back of my cupboard were a couple of packages of Kari Lee’s caramel apple mix. My mom gave them to me forever ago, but I’m generally not a big apple eater, so I just never got around to picking up some fruit and making the bars. Tonight was the perfect occasion, so I braved the ridiculous cold and went to the grocery store for some McIntosh apples. After a careful reading of the five directions and a little help from G with the mixer, I produced some genuinely decent bars! I keep picking at the pan, and after a little Googling, I found out I better savor them: It doesn’t look like Ms. Lee is selling this particular mix anymore.

Even though I made dessert first, I also wanted to incorporate apples into an actual dish tonight. Again, I considered the burgers, but again, I chickened out. I could probably handle making a breadcrumb coating, but a breadcrumb and oatmeal coating? That could get way too tricky for this gal.

Rachael Ray came to the rescue on this one. After searching for “weird apple recipes” for awhile, I just went to the Food Network and found Ray’s recipe for apple hash. Sounded unique enough for a holiday dish, so I went for it.

Perhaps I’m smarter than I was last year. Simple recipes seemed to work out really well tonight. For the hash, I baked some potatoes, cooked some apples and onions in olive oil, threw it all together and there it was. Apple hash. It’s an interesting mix of textures, with crispy apples and soft potatoes. The big surprise to me was how well the apples and onions went together. It’s a combination worth remembering, actually.

So overall, a simple fruit gave me a simple start to my holiday season. Can’t complain, but I’m still cold.

 

Caramel apple bars and apple hash

Caramel apple bars and apple hash

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Thanks NaBloPoMo!

I wanted to say a slightly belated thank you to National Blog Posting Month and Eden Kennedy, who has awarded The Holidaze with a prize for posting every day in November. Soon I’ll be receiving my very own copy of In Style: Secrets of Style: The Complete Guide to Dressing Your Best Every Day. 🙂

NaBloPoMo is an ongoing community that encourages bloggers to post every day. Sponsors offer random, fun prizes only in November, but each month the site has a theme for bloggers to follow if they choose and a host of forums for bloggers to meet and interact. I found this site well into November; otherwise, I would have been really active in the forums during The Holidaze project. For sure, when the project starts up again in the new year, I definitely will be visiting NaBloPoMo all the time.

See? I knew there was a reason I felt the desire to start blogging in November! Now back to Christmas shopping . . .

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Homemade Bread Day

Holiday Lessons from The Holidaze

Lesson 1: Humility–i.e. Don’t Tempt the Universe

Tonight was supposed to be a breeze. G and I planned to make frybread, an American Indian food that is literally pieces of dough, often with a hole in the middle, fried in oil. His mother made frybread frequently while he was growing up, and he and I took a frybread class a couple of years ago. So I expected our attempt at frybread to be so easy it’d almost be cheating.

In fact, I was so confident in our abilities that I decided to tackle two bread projects today. In addition to frybread, I bought a mix for Chebe bread, a gluten-free cheese bread based on the Brazilian pao de queijo.  (It’s Gluten Free Diet Awareness Month, by the way.)

Lesson 2: Time Management

I planned to start the Chebe bread after work while waiting for G to come home. Instead, I took a nap. Then G came home and realized he needed to run a couple of errands. So we went to the mall, where I shopped for awhile. (My god, the prices at Forever 21 are fantastic, who knew?) Then we passed a grocery store and decided to get the fixings for Indian tacos, since we were making frybread anyway.

It was already after 7:00 by the time we got to the store, and rather than a quick grab of hamburger, lettuce and cheese, we went all-out and ended up with an overflowing basket of food. We then selected the self-check out lane. Whoever came up with the idea for that system is insane–we needed frequent help from the attendant, and honestly, it’s pain in the tail to select leeks from the mysterious screen menu options.

We still felt no panic, though, once back home after 8:00. We were ready to start working on the dough G’s mother had prepared and sent back with him after his visit  home last weekend.

Lesson 3: Be Prepared

In fairness, we thought we were prepared. A year or so ago, G’s mom had given us a lump of dough that we did successfully turn into frybread with the kitchen equipment we had on hand. However, we’d forgotten some of the logistical details, such as the need for a cast iron skillet. We filled a standard metal pot believed to be aluminum with Crisco and heated it up. We took the dough (made from flour, salt, baking powder and other mysterious ingredients currently known only by G’s mom) out of the fridge and dumped it into a bowl. With some flour on our hands, we started tearing off pieces and pressing them flat with a hole in the middle. We dropped the pieces into the oil and watched as the bread crisped up fast, then turned a tragically dark shade of brown. G fished them out and poked them with a knife. All four of the pieces oozed out raw dough from the middle. And I do mean oozed.

Frybread

Our frybread was dark on the outside and raw in the middle

Lesson 4: Call Your Mother. Early and Often.

G called his mom, and sure enough, we were doing everything wrong. She told him NOT to heat the oil in an aluminum pot with tall sides. She then had him put me on the phone and repeated this. She also said the dough needed to be at least room temperature before throwing it into the oil, which should be on medium heat rather than high.

She recommended we abandon the stove-top approach for now and put the dough into the oven to make bannock, a large piece of flat bread. This sounded fine to me, but G wanted his bread fried, not baked.

However, we were simply out of time for our Indian tacos. It was 9:00, and by the time we waited for the dough to warm up and rise, shape the pieces and actually fry them, then brown hamburger and pull out all the toppings for the tacos, we were looking at midnight for dinner. Even if we scrapped tacos and just munched on the bread, we were still looking at a lot of effort.

Lesson 5: Perfection is Adaptation

We decided to let the frybread dough sit on the stove overnight, promising ourselves and each other that tomorrow night we’ll return to Indian tacos. I’m not sure how that’ll tie into Occult Day or Mickey Mouse Day, but I’ll come up with something.

Chebe bread

My Chebe bread was a bit more successful

However, I refused to give in and accept total bread defeat, so I pulled out the Chebe mix and followed the package’s instructions. I added two eggs and two tablespoons of oil to the mix, blending with a fork. I then added a cup of shredded cheese and a third of a cup of water. I kneaded it all together, adding just a touch of extra water when it started to dry out. I then formed little balls around an inch to an inch and a half in diameter and put them in an ungreased cake pan. The pan went into the oven for around 35 minutes at 375 degrees.

I’m currently waiting for the little buggers to finish up, since the centers of the balls didn’t cook in 35 minutes. The oven is still warm, though the heat is turned off, and they’re going to sit in there for as long as it takes. This likely means I will not eat bread on Homemade Bread Day. However, nowhere does anyone say you have to successfully make bread on Homemade Bread Day. You just have to try.

Therefore, this holiday is complete. Cheers.

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Button Day

Buttons

State Street is the center of Madison’s college scene. With several bookstores, coffee shops and ethnic restaurants, this mile-long strip stretches from the edge of campus to the capitol building and encompasses some of the best of the city’s culture in between.

I lived in an apartment above a vintage clothing store on State Street last year. Despite the late-night saxophone player and the guy who slept on our stoop, the experience was a great finale to my college years. I live a couple miles from State Street now, and I miss the easy access to all of its entertainment options.

One of my neighbors during my time on State Street was an eclectic art and craft shop called Anthology. Run by a pair of sisters, the store offers various, ever-changing craft kits, handmade goods, specialty papers and much more. In the back of the shop is a table where you can drop in and do some craft, like make holiday tags or stamp something. The staple activity at the back table is to make a one inch button for a buck. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can cover a picture frame in buttons or turn a chain of buttons into a bracelet.

So on Button Day, there was no question where I was headed. I stopped in and perused the early holiday projects before settling in at the button table with a couple of girls who looked to be around seven or eight. The girls were there with their very patient months, who watched as the girls sifted through numerous tins to find the perfect circles of paper to use for their button bracelets. One of the tins was full of words cut from magazines and newspapers, and the girls read almost all of them, asking their mothers to explain what they meant. One finally opted for “nostalgia” written in a sophisticated-looking script. Her mother just shrugged at the other mother.

I watched one of the store owners help the girls as I waited at the craft table with another woman who was cutting printed photos of babies into 1.3 inch circles. The woman found a rhythm and was pounding the cutter regularly, pausing only to separate the photos into piles to turn into multiple bracelets for her female relatives. She had an accent I think was British.

The girls finally finished their bracelets, and I stood up to approach the button maker. The owner walked me through the process, putting a one inch metal ring in the impression in the bottom of the maker, then my selected circle of paper, then a piece of clear plastic over that. I pulled down a level to press the plastic and paper around the ring, then turned the maker 180 degrees to do it again. I thought the whole thing was so slick I made two buttons, one with a butterfly wing and a letter S beside it, and another with a typewriter overlaid with the words “Type A.”

I paid for my buttons and left the shop, walking past my old apartment. I  looked up at the window that used to be my bedroom. I know one of the people who lives there, but I don’t really want to stop by. I’d rather not see how inside of the place looks now.

I thought I’d drop one of my buttons into the saxophone case if the late-night musician was in her usual spot, but she wasn’t, so I simply pocketed the pair and hopped on a bus to go home.

S butterfly button

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