Tuesday, December 8, 2009

marching to the holidays

People keep asking me if I'm done with my Christmas shopping. Considering I seldom give it much thought until after Thanksgiving, I'm not doing too badly. However, I'm still organizing and the actual shopping has barely begun.

We don't give Stuff to very many people anymore. We've tried to switch over to consumable goods, with great success. There are magazine subscriptions, concert tickets, and drinkable/edible items all of which have been given before and proved to be appreciated. The year I was pregnant with Bug when Pook was a toddler, (have I ever mentioned that I was not good at being pregnant?) CD and I realized we had no need to go to a mall. The mall and all the other stores were at our fingertips. The serving piece to match SIL's china? Not a problem. Shipped directly to her? Not a problem. Getting up off the sofa, that was a problem solved. So, I think there'll be very little physical shopping taking place. Hopefully one big-arse Amazon order. Probably a bunch of affiliates with shipping charges.

I emailed CD (yes, my husband and I sometimes communicate best online when we aren't distracted and have a copy of the note to refer to later) with a short To Do list. He's made it clear to the kids that too much holiday madness too soon would cause his head to explode, but now it is time to deal with it. (The piano teacher gave Bug his holiday music in October. Quite common and necessary, but in risk of causing Daddy's head to explode.) He has already responded that it seems quite manageable.

I am debating, and this is a big decision for me, whether to send out a Christmas card this year. Time, money (dang those stamps add up!) and lack of a good family photo... all excuses really. But I'm trying to talk myself into this. I'll be sad if I do; I've always sent Christmas letters. In college I wrote each person a long letter. I'd fill the card and pull out stationery. I sometimes added a note at the bottom (Happy Groundhog Day or even Happy Easter) but eventually everyone got a letter.  This continued for years.  And then I had kids.  We struggled with the decision, but decided that a group letter was better than no letter.  A photo of the baby Pook was included and a two page long letter was composed.  It saved a little time.  The letter length has decreased, the number of children in the photo increased, but it still takes a lot of time.  Now that I'm writing here, a letter feels redundant.  So,we'll see.

But one thing I'm not cutting out this year is the gingerbread house.  I'll put the recipe below, but I'm not sure how best to share the pattern.  If you want it I may need to snail mail it to you.  The dough is easy to make and it tastes great.  I use store bought icing in a tube because it sets up so fast.  The pick-a-mix candies vary, and the items made in the "yard" vary depending on what candies we have.  (Tootsie rolls make good woodpiles.)  Here is our masterpiece:

1c. butter
1c. sugar
1/2c. molasses
2 eggs
1/4t nutmeg
1/2t salt
1/2t baking soda
1/2t cloves
2t ginger
2t cinnamon
5c. flour
Cream butter and sugar, add egg and molasses, mix in dry ingredients.  I chill it overnight but I'm not convinced it is necessary.  I roll it thin 1/8"? onto parchment paper, cut the shapes and remove the excess so I don't have to lift the house pieces.  It makes one house plus 24 large gingerbread cookies.  I lowered the oven temp to 300 this year and baked them about 10  minutes.  Keep a close eye on them b/c you don't want them to get dark but if the pieces are still soft they'll be more fragile. We use two tubes of white frosting to assemble and decorate.

The recipe (in text) and patterns (PDF) are at www.merlab.com/gingerbread thanks Alpha!


  1. I've been having the same debate with myself about sending out Christmas cards this year. No good photo. Not much new. Everyone I'd send it to either keeps up on our lives via my blogs, Face Book, emails, or real life. Yes, it all seems a bit redundant. Still not sure what I'll do. I did happen to buy some cards at work, but I was thinking of including them with the gifts I ship.

    Speaking of online shopping, if you do order through Amazon, I'm an associate and get a little kickback when folks click through from the widgets on my book blog (any Amazon widget in my sidebar will work). Feel free. :)

  2. Received your family Christmas letter and picture yesterday. It brought back memories of our "Maid of the Mist" tour in 2006. Enjoyed hearing from you and wishing you many more happy road trips in 2010.

    the Tysons