Friday, December 26, 2008

thank you santa!

I do appreciate that I'm very blessed when it comes to giving and receiving on Christmas. I recognize that this is a year of redepression and a lot of people did not get to celebrate Christmas with the usual commercial gusto. (Although, um, I think Jesus would be down with that, even if the retailers aren't).

That said, I'm excited to finally be able to tell you how I succeeded at keeping local for gifts this year, and how my family, after nearly 30 years, is finally figuring out appropriate presents for me.

My first Portland gift exchange was on Christmas Eve, when I headed over to my friend Lisa's that evening. Lisa and I typically are Midnight Mass buddies, but with Snowmaggedon in the Portland-area, my pops was worried about me being out after the roads had iced over. We had a nice visit earlier instead. I gave her Jeez-Its sticky notes that I found at Beans & Barley the other day. They were a big hit, as I'd suspected. Lisa learned to knit this year (what's with all these people getting married and learning to knit?) and made me a cute little scarf. She also threw in a DVD of Strange Brew, I suspect because my friends here still haven't fully comprehended that the Midwest is not Canada.

Our family Christmas Eve tradition is my dad reading A Visit from St. Nicholas (or 'Twas The Night Before Christmas as our tattered '80s illustrated version is titled), and my mom, brother and I pantomiming along taking full artistic license to bastardize Clement C. Moore's work with references to sex (breast of the new-fallen snow), drugs (pipe, snow) and '60s dance moves (turned with a jerk). We used to also open one gift, but that's been replaced my brother rushing out the door to go hang out with his friends. A new tradition that began last year (when our oven blew out) is getting dinner at Mazatlan Mexican family restaurant. Unfortunately I couldn't eat too much this year (although the tortilla soup I had was amazing) because of a late lunch at McMenamin's Oak Hills Pub earlier in the day (thank you Northwest Airlines for getting me in an hour and a half late, unfed--jerks).

At any rate, Christmas morning we now have one more gift to open. It was a great Christmas morning this year too.

First, what I gave the fam:
Now, some highlights of what I am sooo grateful that the fam gave me:
  • A BEAUTIFUL backpack (all the bells and whistles -- wheels, front straps, detachable day pack) for my impending trip.
  • IOUs for a pressure cooker (I can can!) and a food mill to be shipped to my Milwaukee pad
  • A gift card for the Pabst Theater!
  • A Ped Egg!
  • A super comfy fleece and a biking windbreaker from Columbia Sportswear
  • The most amazing potato peeler I've ever seen-- a regift from my dad's client (to whom I'm ethically opposed after reading Fast Food Nation, but damn, this potato peeler is AMAZING).
  • A nice little stipend for my travels
  • Some iTunes credits from my bro
  • A gift that could only come from my weird-sense-of-humour family: a "build your own boyfriend" magnet set from my Aunt Peggy. This is how we deal with break-ups in my clan.
After the long drive up to Washington, we do another exchange at Grandma's house. I bought her some bracelets from Vieux et Nouveau Boutique in Milwaukee that are elegant, but can be slipped on since toggles and clasps are hard for her.

Grandma got me a Target giftcard, socks (I requested those after she asked me to give her something tangible to wrap for me), and a subscription to Taste of Home magazine which mysteriously started showing up at my house last week. I love that my family is embracing my interest in cooking! My Aunt Cindy gave me lavender sheets from the Puyallup Fair, an Avon (she is an Avon lady) bath salt, and an ornament with my name on it. This was vast improvement over the XXXL Snoopy pajamas I received last year. (Un?)Fortunately the "early birthday present" Avon light-up holiday house she tried to pawn off (I mean, give) me wouldn't exactly fit in my luggage, so I think my brother got stuck with it instead. A perfect complement to the singing anamatronic penguins he ended up with in '07.

Dinner was delicious and I got to overindulge in my favorite dish -- Grandma's Raspberry Jello Pretzel Salad. While I avoided the ham, I narrowly dodged digesting bacon in the broccoli salad. The turkey, mashed potatoes, yam/sweet potatoes and stuffing/dressing were all mighty tasty though!

It was great to visit with my most wonderful Grandma on earth, and not so great to constantly tune out other people -- who despite having laryngitis still managed to attempt to dominate the conversation. It is fabulous to see the coordinated response effort from the rest of us when those folks say things like how LGBT people having kids is "disgusting." I do have to credit this ignorant individual with being the perfect antedote to keep my mother and I from fighting. It's easy to get along when you're fighting hatred and intolerance together.

Because there's nothing like bringing up hatred and intolerance at the Christmas dinner table.

Okay, soapbox done. My time with Grandma is always too short. My parents will see her in a couple of weeks when she comes down for the rescheduled Neil Diamond concert. I don't know if I will get the chance to visit until next Christmas. I'd love to come out for my cousin's high school graduation in June, but with two unscheduled out-of-town (and country) weddings on the horizon, my travel plans after India are all up in the air.

After several hugs goodbye, we were back on the road. I rolled in around 10 p.m. and woke up way too early this morning. I'm off for a little "tourist in your own town" excursion with the parentals and then I forsee a nap in my future. Perhaps I will snuggle down in my Christmas fleece jacket!

I know that the holidays are always a mix of joy and annoyance for everyone, but I really am truly grateful to have a loving family to spend time with on them. I am so thankful for all the wonderful presents I received and glad my mother encourages donating the presents I don't want to the needy instead of regifting or returning. She often just takes things directly to her school and discreetly sends home with the low-income kids.

Someone in an apartment in Cedar Mill is going to have some lovely lavender sheets come 2009!

What did you give/get this year? How do you handle those "colorful" family members?


  1. I guess I didn't realize you were in to cooking. WE CAN TOTALLY TALK COOKING AT TONIGHT'S JHS PARTY!

    I was graced with a fat separator, an instant read electronic meat thermometer, and a salad dressing cruet/mixer. My mom replaced my increasingly ratty North Face fleece. Matt contributed to bike safety and comfort with strobe lights, knee warmers, shoe covers and full-fingered gloves. Of course, there were chocolate oranges! And lots of books. And a sudoku book that includes easy, moderate, difficult and diabolical skill levels.

    can't wait to hear about your india travels--talk about some awesome food!

  2. Glad to hear you had such a great xmas! Aside from the phone debacle, mine was also good. Ooh, and if you really want to learn, I can teach you to knit (sans-engagement, of course). FYI, knitting is best done when intoxicated, so I'll bring the wine....

  3. Lets see I got some nice gifts: a ton of cash, Wii Fit, Itunes gift card.

    Some things I gave were: cash, bought my parents a 19 inch TV for their kitchen, gave my brother a 16 GB ipod touch which he exchanged for the 32 GB, and then smaller token gifts mostly for the rest of the fam.


Thank you for stopping by The Accidental Wisconsinite. Your feedback is welcome, but please be civilized. Remember, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all!

mcarnold's shared items