Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Mayhem

Good God Gurdy, as Mom used to say. In less than forty-eight hours, my schedule for the next four days is crammed so full of stuff to do that I'm beginning to wonder if I'll actually have time to sleep. Ah....Christmas.

As I noted in my last post, I'm doing all my gift shopping in one go over the next two days or so. I am doing this not because I'm certifiably insane, or because I procrastinated. I have to do it because with the new job and all, I just haven't had time, or frankly, the money until just now. I've been making lists upon lists of the things I need to have done by Sunday afternoon, and my desk is beginning to look like Broadway after the Macy's parade.

I was only informed of my new job's office party yesterday--"An all-day extravaganza," as our receptionist described it to me. So I have to order up a veggie plate, because I don't have time to make it up myself, and I have to run downtown and pick up something for the Yankee Swap. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this time-honored New England tradition, it's kind of like your regular Secret Santa swap, but with a twist. What happens is, you draw names, that person goes up and gets a gift and unwraps it in front of everyone. Then the next person who goes, unwraps their gift and decides whether they like it or not. If they don't, they can swap it with anyone who has already opened their gift, and the preceding giftee can't refuse or argue about it. That happened to me last year. I opened a beautiful crystal vase for my gift, and don't you just know, the next person down the line didn't want her present, and promptly told me to hand the vase over. I, in turn, was the chagrined swappee of a really cheesy Sno Globe.

Anyway, so I have to find something for the Yankee Swap, and I have to go to the grocery and pick up some provisions and my veggie plate. Then I have to run out and do some actual Christmas shopping. And more of that tomorrow. Then back to the grocery store. Why? Because I need baking stuff.

If I could, I'd give gifts to everyone that I love and care about, but as of yet, I'm not rich enough to do that. Besides, if I did, I'd be shopping until past New Year's. But I want to give friends and colleagues something. So I bake.

I go out and get a bunch of those tins--you know, the kind that are used for fruitcakes. And I take an entire day and bake cookies, pastries, and confectionary until I've filled about fifteen to twenty tins with chocolate chip cookies, macaroons, fudge, wonder bars, and almond drops. It's a lot of effort, and takes time to do, but it's so gratifying. My house always smells so wonderful, and the look on people's faces when they lift the lid off that tin is worth every minute I spend mixing, whipping, and baking.

So tomorrow, in addition to Christmas shopping, I need to take the list labeled "Cookie Tins" and get all the ingredients for three dozen of four kinds of cookie. The checkout girl is going to think I'm some kind of sugar junkie, but whatever. I can think of worse things to be labeled. Then Saturday and Sunday, I'll be making like a Keebler Elf. Hee!

What else? Oh, yeah, wrap presents Sunday afternoon and go to Sis' house for dinner. Then back to her house again Christmas morning to do the deal with the kids. Then (I know, are you tired yet?) it's back to my house to get ready for a Christmas party I'm hosting for those friends of mine who don't have plans or family around and just want to hang out.

Sometime in all this, I gotta clean my house so that my Christmas party guests don't think I'm a total sloth--and I promised to go out with some friends during the weekend, too. By next Tuesday, I'm pretty sure I'll be comatose, but hey, at least I'll have had a good time.

More later. Gotta run out and buy the Yankee Swap thing. I'm thinking a Sno Globe....

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Moon Sand and Monetary Misadventure

Okay, I know...It's been over two weeks, and I just know the three of you who read this blog are wondering just what the bloody hell happened to me. Sorry. I kept meaning to post, but as it happened, by the time I'd come home at the end of the day, all I could seem to muster the energy to do was cobble some kind of edible nourishment in the kitchen and collapse into my bed. Getting up at 5:30 ain't easy when you're not used to it. Especially when it's still dark outside when you get up...(shudder). I be. The job is going very well, thank you, and I'm knee-deep in catching up on the Christmasy goodness. That's the other thing that's been corrupting my blog time. It gets harder and harder to shop for my family each year. I try to be creative with gifts and get something that maybe they had never thought of having, but realized they wanted or needed once they opened it. I get kicks out of that. But jeepers, it's difficult. I have no idea what to get my niece and nephew--I mean yeah, they're kids, and kids should be relatively easy to buy for, right? Well, not these little munchkins. I have the blessing and curse of having two very smart, very creative, and frighteningly discerning young whippersnappers for whom Barbies and Tonka toys just won't cut it.

My niece--I'll call her C--is nine years old. Bubbly, full of laughter, terrifying in her erudition and intelligence, and every inch a budding pre-teen. She's artistic, likes music and good books, loves gymnastics and group activities. Loves her sleepovers with her contemporary Scary Preteens, and still gets a little scared when there's a big thunderstorm in the middle of the night. She likes dressing up and putting the pretty on, but she also has equal enthusiasm for getting down and dirty with Daddy when he's mucking out the yard or gutting this year's deer. She's that heartbreaking combination of delicate flower and unstoppable tomboy. In other words, one day her boyfriends are going to have their hands full, and her parents and I are going to be downing Alka-Seltzer in bulk.

My nephew--I mentally refer to him as Animal, because he reminds me of that wild, uninhibited Muppet drummer--just turned five. He's an Imp. I swear, in the classical sense. He's always got this glint in his eye that lets you know that there's something going on in his brain that will completely flummox you once he lets on what it is. And he gets a real buzz off of confounding those of us who are a few decades older. He likes anything that has to do with dinosaurs. Doesn't matter what. Puzzles, erector sets, card games, action figures, DVDs, whatever. He doesn't care, as long as it has scales and teeth and is, for the most part, representative of an extinct species. Animal also loves the usual boy stuff--cars, trucks, his little motocross bike, baseballs and basketballs--you get the picture. Ironically, he's also a tomboy to an extent, although he's gotten past the stage where he liked to dress up and play Princess with big sister C. But he still retains his sensitive side.

Anyway, my sister called me in triumph this morning, having discovered the Holy Grail of the progeny's desires. "Moon Sand!" she crowed.

Moon Sand? MOON SAND? What the hell is Moon Sand? I hadn't a clue. Unfortunately, Sis didn't either, really--she just knows that's what it's called. Apparently, that's as far as she went in her research--the rest is up to me. Having used the great oracle Google, I've discovered that it's apparently some kind of water-resistant, shape-shifting kind of sand that holds together so well you can build sand castles with it. And even more remarkable, the sand has such fortitude that whatever castle you build could conceivably last longer than Buckingham Palace. Jeez, we've come a long way from Play-Doh and Silly Putty.

So, later this week, after payday, I am braving the wanton insanity of the department stores to do all my shopping in one go, and will gird myself for the relevant battles therein. Toys R Us alone is going to take body armor for the Moon Sand and dinosaurs.

I'll let you know how it goes.