Three tips for holiday success

Yes, that panic you feel actually IS panic this time — pure unadulterated panic, not the kind you’ve been manufacturing because your year-end reports are due & has anybody seen your green sparkly sweater with the reindeer plus global warming, y’all. Nope, this is officially Panic Time because Dec. 25 is a week from today. One week,  people. One. Week.

But there are some things you can do to lessen your panic. Not completely get rid of it, you understand. That’s impossible because you ALWAYS will suddenly wake up at 3:31 a.m. on Dec. 23 with the certainty that although you did mail your sister’s family’s Christmas gifts in time, you definitely forgot to include your brother-in-law’s traditional bottle of Scotch, which your sister will take as subtle criticism & not call you for two weeks. That’s going to happen and you can’t do anything about it.

However, you can be prepared for/aware of other minor crises. Here are some suggestions, based on just a small sampling of my many holiday screw-ups years of expert research:

  • Family gatherings equal Game Nights, correct? Be the cool one with aIMG_2677 game that nobody’s played before. Family-friendly Qwirkle and its grown-up sibling Qwirkle Cubes are sort of dominoes, Scrabble and Hearts all rolled (sorry/not sorry for pun) into one. It truly is a game that’s easy to learn but then the more you play it, the more you realize how complex it can be. And, of course, because you are The Smart One, you downloaded the app on your phone and practiced beforehand so you can wipe up the competition with your brilliant moves share helpful advice & encouragement with those lesser players.
  • Pinterest is your friend during the holidays. Your best friend, IMG_2673actually, and she doesn’t even call you ONCE AGAIN at midnight to go over ONCE AGAIN the reasons she left her job/boyfriend/overflowing grocery cart in the middle of the frozen-food aisle ONCE AGAIN. (But you love her. You know you do.) Just browse through and you’ll find answers to any kind of holiday idea for decorating, gifting, baking, dressing for the office party — anything, really. Such as this wonderful gift idea my co-worker discovered: Add a cut-out handprint to a pair of gloves, embellish with ribbon and tuck a gift card inside one of the gloves. She did this for the student workers in our office and we added gift cards for a local restaurant because students always are 1) hungry and 2) cash-deficient. They loved it.
  • IMG_2671And, finally, as my Christmas gift to you, I’m sharing a tip to use when you’re getting dressed for those elegant and sophisticated cocktail gatherings and dinner parties and formal affairs at the embassy  the preschool Christmas program. And that tip is to pay attention to your earrings. For instance, from the back & from a distance & before you’ve put your contacts in/glasses on, these two earrings look pretty much the same, correct? I mean, they both have little sticky things poking out of the sides. Careful examination, however, reveals that one is a cute festival silver bow and the other is a manically grinning skull & crossbones. Do not wear manically grinning skull-and-crossbones earrings to the preschool Christmas program. You’re welcome.

Responsible Concern for the Environment v. Grandparenting


Hmmm ... “Toy Story,” “Cars” and Angry Birds. Must have been 4-year-old grandson Nolan’s birthday — with presents from Kacky and John wrapped in all his favorite things. And even though I believe in minimizing consumerism (except for shoes, of course, and the eternal quest for the Perfect Pair of Jeans), ignoring commercialism (but I really want to try the Cover Girl makeup that both Ellen and Sofia Vergara like), reducing waste and refusing to buy into the must-buy mentality (although I’m on the lookout for a simple yet flattering khaki skirt so please let me know if you stumble across one), none of that matters when my grandson wants the latest Cars play set. Grandparenthood triumphs — trumps green living. On the other hand ... it did feel pretty good when Older Daughter and I decorated a plain and basic bakery cake with Angry Bird toys Nolan ALREADY HAD to create his asked-for Angry Birds birthday cake. Recycling does have its place.

More Random Thoughts, or This Is What Happens When I Break My Computer

Well, okay, I haven’t actually broken my computer. The universe broke my computer — that’s my story, anyway. What happened is that a week or so ago, I noticed it was ssssllllloooowwwwiiinnnggg down to an excruciatingly painful crawl and with my computer savvy born of years of unwittingly inviting viruses to take up residence I correctly deduced that I had acquired a bug. Took it to a computer place, they cleaned it up in a few days and gave it back. And in my eternal quest to save money, I vetoed the security package upgrade the computer guy offered me and simply said — and I quote — “Oh, just go with the basic free one and I’ll buy the upgrade later.” Yes, I actually said those words. Learn from my mistake, friends: NEVER do that.  Because, in the karmic way of the universe, three days after I got my computer back and before I could hand over extra money for extra protection, I got hit with an even more vicious bug that effectively blocked me out of everything but endless games of Spider Solitaire. So my long-suffering beloved laptop is at another computer place for thorough cleaning — and I’ve already told the guy to load it up with every piece of security he can.  And although I believe in the mantra of “never explain, never complain” — – No, really, I do — I wanted you all to know what I haven’t posted lately. My equally long-suffering husband is graciously sharing his laptop with me, but it’s just not the same. So, what’s been happening around here the past few days?

  • Younger Daughter turned 25. This seems extremely unbelievable to me –that my baby girl is 25. I’m beginning to understand why my parents look at me and say, “We cannot believe you are 54.”
  • As a result of being too enthusiastic and optimistic stupid, I agreed to write press releases for several non-profit events within the span of one week. Luckily, none of them got shorted — I procrastinated equally on each of them.
  • Husband and I were scheduled for health screenings at his workplace, and as we were getting ready that morning and he caught me weighing my clothes, I had to explain to him the fine art of dressing for the scales. He was impressed horrified.
  • Here in Mississippi, we’re watching the disintegration of our two SEC football seasons while in neighboring Alabama the Tide rolls on. I am not happy.
  • With the arrival of our second grandson — 3 1/2-year-old Capt. Adorable’s younger brother — a mere month away, I keep a packed ready-to-go bag in my car at all times and am in constant Grandma Alert mode. Every time Older Daughter calls, she says, “It’s not time yet” before she even says “hello.”
I’ve taken some awesome photos with my new camera that actually works and doesn’t eat batteries, so as soon as I get my laptop back, I’ll share. Thank you all for your patience. I now am going back to playing Spider Solitaire and sending disruptive mental messages to N. Saban.

The Pirates of the Captain’s Backyard

It’s after Memorial Day. It’s the first day of June. College students are home. Teachers are done. So it doesn’t matter that the calendar insists on a June 21 starting date  — around here we know that summer already is underway. Luckily, I’ve got the best thing for summer: A 3-year-old grandson with a knows-no-limits imagination. And a big backyard. Here we’re playing pirates. His ship is the slide/treehouse on the left and mine is the slide I’m (uncomfortably) sitting on, on the right. First we had to run around the yard looking for treasure, with a lot of “arrrr, matey” and other piratey phrases. Then we got on our ships to sail toward Treasure Island, since the whole running-around-the-yard thing didn’t yield much, gold-wise. We did find a silver and red pinwheel, which pleased me much more than it did Capt. (Hook) Adorable. Since I was having trouble finding Treasure Island — didn’t pirates have GPS? — the good Captain literally jumped ship and came over to help me. Good thing, too. No telling where I might have ended up. But perhaps Treasure Island is there over that fence? Naw — it’s just the neighbors’ driveway.

And in more “welcome, summer” news, click here for some great Southern recipes for the best of hot-weather eating, from the blender to the grill to the dip bowl. No oven required.

Spring

I am not a fan of Spring-Forward Sunday. For one thing, I’m pretty much a lazy person and when we’re off Daylight Saving Time and it starts to get dark at 5 or 6 at night, it’s quite easy to put the ol’ pajamas on and call it a day — literally — by 8 p.m. But in Daylight Saving Time, you’re sort of compelled to keep going until 10 p.m. or so. I mean, isn’t that why Daylight Saving Time was invented — so we’d have more time to do work? Whose bright idea was that???!!! And when I was a young mom, I dreaded the spring-forward time change that wreaked havoc with those lovely early bedtimes. However, now that I’m Grandma Ka-kee and treasure every moment I can spend with my almost-2-year-old grandson, Capt. Adorable, I say the more daylight, the better. That just gives me more playtime to hang out with the Captain in his backyard and his ultra-cool new playground equipment his mom and dad got him for an early birthday present. It’s got slides and a climbing wall and a fun underneath space for hiding. Plus, it offers the chance for scientific exploration, such as “Why has rainwater gathered in this little hole and I wonder what would happen if I put my finger in it?” And when it’s spring and nice weather, you can also have your  snack of yogurt-covered blueberries outside — definitely worth giving up an hour or two of sleep!

Family

Here in northwest Alabama, we seem to really be getting winter this year. Usually we can count on mild and sunny with only a couple of freezing wet and dreary days here and there to remind us what winter is. But this year I’m starting to understand terms such as “winter blues” and “cabin fever” — we’ve had several runs of bitterly cold temps and wintery mix precipitation and looks as if that’s continuing. Ugh. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to amuse us — when my ugly winter raincoat is the most-worn item in my closet, I’m up for any bit of fun that comes my way. Luckily, Younger Daughter is hanging out at home before grad school starts. She’s taught me to play two-person Nertz (I even win every once in awhile), convinced me to take a tap-dance class with her (and has the grace not to laugh) and joined me in unhealthy addictions to “reality” TV (we think Jake the Jerk Bachelor deserves to end up with Vienna the Car-Wrecking Daddy’s Girl). Plus, she’s always up for a batch of chocolate-chip cookie dough — the perfect antidote for too much winter. And go here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nertz to find out about Nertz. I think it goes by many other names and many variations, but we play fast and simply: Get rid of your stack first and you’re the winner. Because we need more time to eat that cookie dough.

Friends

You think you can trust your girl friends, right? You think that the people who are with you through thick and thin — literally — wouldn’t turn on you. You think that the only people — besides maybe your husband – who know what you look like without makeup would not set up a trap for you. But that’s exactly what happened to me: Three friends turned on me … and forced me to learn how to play bridge, a game I had long declared to be on my list of things-I-hate-more-than-lima-beans. Go to my weekly TimesDaily newspaper column at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20091127/ARTICLES/911275000 to find out how I was the victim of a (friendly) bridge-napping.