Sunday, December 27, 2009

A View of Christmas (Recently) Past

I'm not really a December holiday guy. Generally, the pre-holiday consumerism, greed of untrained children and the long lines to return the bounty the day after Christmas really just sort of suck. On the other hand, we have the return of the sun and, subsequently, longer days on the winter solstice. This is good. I also have the opportunity to spend some time with friends and family that we don't get to see as often as we should. So this is good, too.
Here are some highlights from this year's holidays with family:

1. The weekend before Christmas, Curt and I ventured to my sister's "cabin" (read huge ass house in the woods) near Lansing, IA. Her husband had been complaining about all the "Faith-Family-Friends" signage that my sister has collected and placed about the cabin. He said he wanted a sign of his own with all his favorite things. This is the result:
My sister's friend painted the sign. Take a look at the penis she painted. Curvy.
CENSORSHIP UPDATE: I had previously posted the full version of this picture, in which my brother-in-law is holding the sign and my sister is standing next to him making a bl*w j*b face. I discussed it with my sister, and although we both thought it was funny, we decided to take it down just in case one of her co-workers got a hold of it. She's a nun. Just kidding.

2. This is my sister with her two boys Tweedle-Dustin and Tweedle-Brandon. Their holiday tradition is fighting (literally) over their mother's chex mix- which is really unusually good. I think it is the cheese crackers she puts in there. Anyway, this year, they absconded with all of it on their way out. Bad piggys. Bad piggys.

3. Curt's clan all came over for Christmas day this year. How many people did we squeeze into our dining room? If you guessed 16, you're right. The rest of them sat in the lower level. Curt's clan is a great bunch. They all get along (a real bonus). The nieces and nephews are all reasonably well behaved. And, best of all, they are a lot of fun to hang out with.

4. Curt's clan still exchanges gifts. Lot's of gifts. There also is a fair amount of mischief in the gift giving. Here is niece Ashley with some thongs from her cousin. She made the mistake of telling her cousin she had to go commando one day because she didn't have any clean laundry. Wa la! A thoughtful Christmas present is born.

5. One of the more interesting family traditions are the two lingerie boxes that get passed around to unsuspecting victims. For about 25 years or more, there has been a Frederik's of Hollywood box that usually has a fun gift inside. After Curt's Dad died a few years back, a Victoria's secret box entered the rounds. The first year, it held a bubble pack of his dad's Viagra that the family found while cleaning out his condo. The next year, the bubble pack had one less pill in it. The following year, I got the box, with no Viagra but a pretty normal gift. So, when it came time to pass it on last year, I put some of my own personal lingerie in it and gave it to my sister in law Tammy. This year she passed it on to our niece Rachel with a few added adornments. Swanky. The kids called them granny panties. Nice.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Just In Time For the Holidays

This past weekend, Curt and I went to my sister Linda's "cabin" in the woods near Lansing, Iowa for my family's version of Christmas. At the big event, my sister served up some of the most amazing cheesy potatoes I've ever had. Curt and I made some for our friends when we returned home. Another big hit. The recipe is extremely easy to make. So, here is my (my sister's really, but who's keeping track) holiday gift to all of you:

Sister Linda's Kick Ass Pan of Cheesy Potatoes
(with color commentary by me)
2 lbs of hash browns
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
8 oz of sour cream
(NOTE: don't be a pussy and try to save calories or sodium on the cream of soups and sour cream. This is cheesy potatoes for god's sake. Let them be bad ass.)
1/2 to 3/4 stick of butter softened or even melted
8 oz of finely shredded cheddar cheese
(I used sharp cheddar. Use real cheese or I will call you a name.)
5-6 cups of Corn Flakes crushed
(Not Special K!)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a big bowl, mix the soups, sour cream, butter and cheese. Mix in the hash browns until they are well coated with cheesy, soupy mix. (Feel free to add some pepper or diced onions, too.)
3. Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with Pam. Spread the potato mixture evenly in the pan and place in the pre-heated for 60 minutes.
4. Crush the cornflakes. Not to a dust, but a crumble.
5. At about 50 minutes of baking, pull the pan out and spread the cornflake crumbles on top of the potatoes and return to the oven to finish.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I Am Not a Greasy Fingered Deer Hunter and Other True Stories

1. It has been deer season in Wisconsin for the last several weeks and I am not a deer hunter. For one thing, I am a big screaming girl when it comes to guns. I fear/hate them. For another, I think deer, while tasty as can be, are really stunning creatures. Yes, I know there are occasional periods of overpopulation and times that they attempt to eat all the buds off our yellow magnolia. I don't care. They are pretty and I can't shoot them. Eat them, yes. Shoot them, no.
Yet, I think the primary reason that I am not a deer hunter is male bonding. Getting up early, starting the day with 5 beers before loading the gun and talking about- I don't know what (help me out here straight guys)- with your buddies while walking the ditches just doesn't appeal to me. Even less appetizing is what happens after the hunt. Up at the cabin, we get a local news flyer called the Northwoods Shopper that is about 15 pages of business ads and classifieds. Well, let me tell you that during deer season the size jumps up to about 25 pages and is full of "alternate" activities aimed at the influx of deer hunters to the area. For example, a local resort had a special on rooms, a nice buffet and a beer bar. Nice. Okay.
Then there are the other establishments that offer even more interesting alternatives. There is a bar & grill down the road from our cabin about 3 miles called Gruzy's- with the "z" backwards. I guess that's like Cyndi the cyclops with an "i"- just to stand out, you know. During the summer, this place is like any other bar and grill, only with shit for service from the evil waitresses with push up bras to show off their stretch marked boob tattoos who will look at you like you just asked them to felch you if you request a fuzzy navel. (It's true. Ask Marina.) Anyway, what do you suppose this family friendly establishment offers during deer season? You're right if you guessed women's oil wrestling on Tuesday night and exotic dancers Thursday. C-l-a-s-s-y. And you wonder why I'm not a deer hunter. Ladies, don't let your men tell you that they hang out playing cards and drinking beer. Oh no. They are getting greazy- with a backwards "z"- fingers while tipping scantily clad women dripping with french fry oil. Not for me. Not even a little.

2. This past weekend, Curt had a volleyball tournament. So I figured why not go up to the cabin with the pooches and hang out. So what does a real man do at the cabin by himself? He hooks the iPod up to the TV and re-watches the entire season of Glee thus far. He organizes a cabin scrapbook with pictures of all our guests to date. And, of course, he gives himself a facial. (Not that kind of facial, Dean, but I'm flattered you think I'm that flexible any more.) This weekend I brought up a all purpose anti-aging scrub, various creams and lotions and an activated charcoal mask. While waiting for the charcoal mask to dry, which is pitch black, I wandered around the cabin a bit, worked on the scrapbook a bit, started a little kitchen prep, then suddenly got a little paranoid. The thought crossed my head that if I were to cut myself badly with a kitchen knife or fall down the stairs and break my neck, the EMTs or sheriff would find me injured or dead with what would appear to be blackface on. "Chubby Gay in Blackface Dies In Tragic Scrapbooking Accident" would be the headline. Gads. I carefully approached the sofa, waited for the mask to finish drying, carefully headed to the bathroom and rinsed my potentially offensive face off.

3. Speaking of potentially offensive, what I am about to say in print may piss you off. It may not too. I was not saddened one bit to hear that Oral Roberts died today. This man claimed to glorify God, but all anyone can see are monuments (some failed- law school, medical center, etc.) that he named after HIMSELF, a history of financial scams against his followers and putting his scheister son in charge of a university where he absconded with about $50 million that was spent on his luxurious lifestyle. And still the man is revered. Pull your heads out of your asses people. Recognize a fraud. Lots of lousy shit has been done in the name of God. Know it when you see it. Call a duck a duck. Enough said. Another dinosaur extinct. Good riddance.

4. It was reported this week that drinking coffee may be good for the prostate. If so, I have a really, really healthy prostate. I hope.

5. On the health front, my fabulous hematologist Dr. M. told me that there is a clinical trial going on at Mayo for my genetic mutation that has been having really great results. So great that it appears that the mutant gene becomes inactive and many participants are completely asymptomatic. So, I have a choice. I'm doing pretty well on maintenance blood work and blood lettings and can continue that. This risk is progressive bone marrow scarring, which if it gets far enough could be not very good news at all. Or, I could try to get into the clinical trial. However, I wouldn't know for sure that I wasn't in the control group. And, if I was getting the real stuff, I could grow a second head or a third nipple or something since the side effects aren't well known. Hmmmm. What would you do? Not a nice blog topic, but there you go.

6. It appears that we may miss the deadline again this year for sending out holiday cards. If that happens, I want to say in advance "Happy Holidays!!"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

More Miscellany

If I could stay focused on one topic long enough to compose more than a paragraph or two, I wouldn't have to subject you to these damn lists. But I can't, at least today. So here's another list for you.

1. Why on earth would any human being in 2009 still believe that a mullet is an acceptable form of self expression? I believe even rugby playing lesbians have retired that look in favor of the plain old flat top. I typically wouldn't give a mullet any air time, but here is what Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings has to say about mullets:

Party with two Rs? Extra mayo? Okay. Fine.

2. It took about two weeks before Curt and I both slept through the night after witnessing and assisting with a horrible accident scene at the beginning of the month. We were both a little surprised at how deeply it affected us. I think the thing that has changed the most for me is I've become a little less judgemental. We helped to care for the boy who caused the accident after he was launched from his truck. He was alive but basically dead from the massive head injury. Yes, he was likely distracted. Yes, he was an inexperienced driver. Yes, he killed a father and his only son. But, he was some one's son and brother and only 18 and he didn't mean to do it. It was indeed an accident. In the days that followed, the message boards were filled with hateful messages- glad that the boy was dead, that he should burn in hell, that he deserved to die. Unbelievable. Before the accident, I probably would have had a similar reaction- judging those who cause accidents harshly. Now, I pause, give it some thought, and try to think compassionately about things. Do I still get angry that people drive drunk, drive poorly while doing their makeup or talking on their cell phones? You bet. It is a difficult place for me to find some balance, but I"m trying.

3. I heard today about a winter snow warning for southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. The first thing that came to mind was worry that my dad my slip and hurt himself outside. I still do it 18 months after my died dad and it makes me miss him. I'm not sure sometimes that I was a great son. We didn't see eye to eye on some things or have much to talk about. I was often impatient and frustrated with him. But, I loved him and he knew it. I just wish there had been more time to let him know.

4. Saturday was a marvelous cookie extravaganza at our house with MNMom and me. Though my chocolate crinkles were crap again this year, everything else turned out pretty darned good. For a taste of adventure, I let MNMom's 15 year old twin #2 take the wheel to go pick up our pizza while MNMom finished some baking. Even though I threatened to scream bloody murder all the way there and back, I must say that I am a very cool cucumber when it comes to this sort of thing. I think twin #2 would say so as well. She's also a very good, responsible driver. So that made screaming less important.

5. My seasonal depression is kicking my big jello ass. So, I have been dragging my butt to the gym, taking vitamin D supplements and trying to eat better, which seems to help. In May of 2008, I went off my antidepressants for the first time since 1990 and have been managing to keep myself afloat even through some pretty rough patches. How many days until winter solstice? About 15. That's right. When the days start getting longer, I start getting happier. That's just how I roll.

6. I am on the project from hell at work. 7 vendors, no formally documented requirements and my team is supposed to start testing on the 15th. How am I supposed to pull this off? Well, according to the project manager, I am supposed to just be laid back and go with the flow. WRONG ANSWER, BUCKO! WRONG ANSWER!

7. I pulled off a pair of socks that stunk to high heaven the other day. It reminded me of my college friend Thomas who never had a problem finding creative ways to tell me the truth. It was he who told me that my feet were "foul vinegar hooves". This phrase has stuck with me for 25+ years now and I use it whenever I can.

8. Vikings are on. Better go. Can't miss Jared Allen and that sexy mullet. It is amazing he gets laid.