Does the thought still count if the gift is a can of baked beans?

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Mornin’ all.

It’s Christmas!

I love Christmas. Beautiful lights shining in defiance of the bleak winterscape outside. Glitter-crusted “Noel” banners turning walls into homages of tackiness in the best possible way. Candy snitched from the dessert buffet eaten in secret under the table with childhood cohorts while tipsy Gram makes a silly bet with even tipsier Grampa beneath the mistletoe. Bemused confusion around the tree when the designated Santa can’t seem to read Mrs. Claus’s handwriting while attempting to pass out gifts. Crumpled paper bombs aimed just right to bounce off an uncle’s bald spot. Shiny bow broaches to match curled ribbon wigs. The thrill and relief of seeing Dad light up with genuine happiness when he holds up what turned out to be the right gift choice. The gentle pat on the head a tired Mum with a filled heart gives her young daughter as she walks past on the way to help the aunts put back to rights the chaos of a successful holiday party. The feeling of love and joy and comfort and content when the day is done.

I *LOVE* Christmas.

This year, our celebration is going to be small. And delayed. Mother Nature decided that for Christmas this year, she would decorate with ice and snow. We just had an ice storm that turned our trees into those blown glass figurines that were so popular in the 80s. ‘Member those? Every upscale (or wannabe upscale) gift shop simply HAD to have a display of little blown glass trees, baskets, kitties with balls of yarn, and dolphins.

So. Many. Dolphins.

Anyway, she waved her magic wand and turned the world into kitschy blown glass. It was extremely beautiful, and utterly terrifying. There was nothing warm or welcoming about the trip into work yesterday. Apparently, my town forgot about the existence of road salt.

I made it to work, and it warmed up nicely during the day. It got warm enough to not only clear the roads, but dry them as well…which must have royally pissed off Mother Nature, because right now, we’re getting 5-8 inches of snow. The teens are all with their other families. The plan was for them to spend the Eve with the others, then come home for a prime rib dinner.

Yep, you heard me right. We are a roast-beef-for-Christmas family. No, I do not want to hear your debate on why smoked pig ass is the “proper” Christmas meal. And don’t even THINK of coming at me with the turkey bullshit. That was last month. Change the calendar page and get with the program.

…er…sorry. Let me pull back the curtain and give you an insider peek into another world: In the grocery biz, the discussion of Christmas meal meat is a topic best left unspoken. You’ll lose friends. You’ll be a pariah in the break room. There is literally no winning. If you like turkey, someone else will stand there at your counter and argue the historical importance of goose. If you like ham, someone will tout the merits of lamb. If you choose rib roast, you totally failed to understand the majesty of a crowned pork roast. Seriously, you can’t win.

Since I’m not at work, I don’t risk offending people on my team. I can say it here as loud as I want. I’m a proud roast-beefer. And this year, our store had prime rib on sale for $4.99/lb. That’s honestly half price. How could I pass that up?

Forget sugar plums. I had visions of rib roast. I planned on stuffing it full of slivered garlic and coating the outside with a thrilling blend of herbs and spices the night before, letting the succulent treat absorb and adopt an explosion of flavor into the velvetty, buttery, juicy meat. *heavy sigh*

And now, I must wait. Until when, we don’t know. If Mother Nature would kindly remove the iced stick from her ass, it might be tomorrow.

We’re here with the Littlest Pup. We’ll let him open his gifts from us today. I honestly don’t think I could stand it if he had to wait. I think I might just be more excited to give it to him than he is to get it. He’ll get his stocking. No, he doesn’t still believe in Santa. But *I* still believe in being “Santa”.

In our house, Santa just brings candy and silly dollar store items. My ex’s family liked to make all the big presents under the tree be from Santa, a tradition I could never get behind. Was Santa the one out there busting his hump to scrape up enough money to buy my kid the one thing he really, really wanted? No? Then why should he get the credit?

“Bethie, when the kids are older, it’ll dawn on them that it was you getting them the presents the entire time.”

And when they’re little, do you want your kids to think Mummy and Daddy only care enough to get them socks and underwear and superficial crap they didn’t even want? Bah. Get out of here with that bullshit. Santa’s cool and all, but right from the get, I wanted my kids to know that Mummy and Daddy understood them, knew them, listened when they said what they liked or hated. It’s more than just a present. It’s telling a child right from the very beginning that Mum gets him. Mum pays attention. It establishes an unspoken trust. Instead of “Santa’s watching”, I wanted my kids to know, “Mum’s listening.”

“I really think you’re reading too much into this.”

Maybe. Maybe not. There was just a very interesting article about the psychology of gift giving and the holidays that…

…you know what? It’s Christmas. I’m not going down the heavy route. I’m just going to say that I never, ever wanted an imaginary figure who was only “involved” in my kids’ lives for one day a year to be more trusted than I am. And I don’t care if that sounds selfish.

ANYWAY, I went a bit overboard with the stockings this year. I had too many dollars in my pocket when I walked into the store. Light up footballs, razors for the hairy teens, foam ball pop guns, retro board games… The very best thing I found was a set of dice.

Remember Yahtzee? Of course you do. It’s only the greatest dice game ever invented. I have no idea how many hours of my life have been spent rolling for that damn large straight, or how many times my older sister yelled, “YAH-TZEEEEEE” in our youth.

She had an absolutely rage-inducing knack for rolling Yahtzees.

“Wow, Bethie! I can’t believe they had Yahtzee at the dollar store!”

They didn’t. They had something a million times better: “Yacht.”

I shit you not, it’s a can of five dice with “Yacht” written on it. Just…Yacht. There was no way in hell I was walking out of there without one for each of my boys.

I am probably more amused by “Yacht” than I should be. It’s just so ridiculous. Bad knock-offs and weird “wtf?” gifts crack me up so much.

My man was feeling cheeky. He’s been threatening the boys with Barbies and My Little Ponies for years, every time they say “I dunno” when we ask what they want. This year, he went for it. One of the teens is getting not “My Little Pony”, but the dollar store version, “My Fairy Pony”.

I don’t know what it is that amuses me so much about these things. I think it’s the anticipated reactions. I honestly giggle at the thought of the face the recipient will make.

Take this offering from my store, for example. I was looking over the holiday gift basket display yesterday morning, and I was seeing what we had left to decide if I needed to spend my last $20 of holiday money. The baskets were neat, for the most part. There was a baking themed basket, full of baking supplies and a fun array of extracts and measuring spoons. There was a baby basket, with diapers, wipes, travel baby shampoos and such. The dried fruit basket was tempting, because it has some unusual snack mixes and nuts and fun-to-nibble items.

And then I saw it.

Folks, I am not kidding. If I could have thought of someone to give this next basket to, I would have bought it. No joke.

It was called “The Hearty Basket”. It contained an assortment of items that I have to believe someone chose by just randomly walking up and down the aisles and making a game of grabbing the first thing they saw.

The basket contained a box of scalloped potatoes, a box of instant oatmeal, a tub of panko bread crumbs, a large can of baked beans, and a jar of gravy.

Let’s just think about this for a minute. You’re at an office party. It’s a Secret Santa event. You’ve gotten your gift, a coffee mug with a print of Grumpy Cat saying “I hate Mondays” filled with what appears to be two year old Hershey’s Kisses that have clearly been knocked around the bottom of someone’s purse, and you’re waiting for the last schmuck to open their gift so you can get to the boozy portion of the party. A large, brightly wrapped gift basket is brought out and handed over to Marge, and people are oohing and ahhing while she excitedly tears into the cellophane.

“Tell us what’s in there!” come the eager pleas.

“I’m getting to it, hang on,” says Marge, tugging at a particularly troublesome bit of Scotch tape. “Okay, let’s see!” she all but squeals. “Ooh! We’ve got…baked…beans…?”

Maybe I’m low key a bitch, but just the idea of the utter confusion and bewilderment on Marge’s face… it cracks me up to the point where all day long I’d randomly chuckle.

Baked beans. Panko crumbs. Oatmeal. Scalloped potatoes. Canned gravy. I HAVE to believe that whoever put together this basket was picturing Marge as well. There is NO WAY anyone with any kind of sense at all thought these things would make a great gift. And yet, by doing so, they have created for me such a wonderfully amusing mental scene.

I have a kindred spirit somewhere in the store, folks. I must find this person and befriend them.

I hear the creature a’stirring upstairs. Last night I told him he couldn’t come down until 7 am. I was spent after a long week at work and didn’t feel like filling the fancy socks last night. He knew. He’s my kid, after all. He said, “Santa’s just going to get an early start?” I said, “You bet.” It’s 6:36 currently, and I’ve heard him go into the bathroom about half a dozen times. Ten bucks says he’s sitting on his bed right now, boring holes into the illuminated tire clock on his wall.

It’s snowing heavily, now. I highly doubt the elder kids will be able to make it home. The roast can wait another day, and we won’t have to shovel for a few more hours yet. You know what that means.

There’s plenty of time to kick his ass at Yacht.

Thus concludes a Christmas Musing for Christmas 2017. Everyone have a great day, no matter what Mother Nature has in store.

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Ain’t no party like a manger party cuz a manger party don’t stop…

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Mornin’ all.

On the way to work yesterday, I noticed a chicken on the side of the highway. She was just standing there, looking across the road, feathers ruffling in the breeze of the passing cars. Was she considering a brave run to finally answer the age old question? Had she already answered the question and was thinking over her epic journey?

About a mile up the road, more chickens were standing in a field. They were huddled together, clearly planning. It added a more intriguing twist to the story. Did the first chicken escape? Was she lost? Were the others planning to send a search party? Or did I happen on a situation that was far darker? Did she escape? Did she know too much? Were the others considering their damage control options once the coop expose hit the papers? Or were they plotting something much, much worse?

Sadly, I’ll never know. It was a brief vignette in the story of my day that will never find resolution. And I just have to live with that.

So how are you? It’s been awhile. I’d “mea culpa”, but you all know two things by now:

1. I work in a bakery. It’s the holiday season. I AM an elf of Santa, one of the Forgottens. No one writes stories about Santa’s bakers. No one tells the heartwarming tales of busy little elves working their little fingers to the bone to make the wonderful cookies and cakes and pies you know and love from your childhood. We really need our own claymation special. Someone get on that.

2. It’s me. If you haven’t clued into the fact that sometimes I can’t write, then you have only been dabbling in this blog.

Anyway, let’s catch up.

My jury duty service is done! I never went in November, because there were no jury trials scheduled during the entire month. I told you I live in a fairly uneventful area. In NH, when you’re selected for district court petit jury, you get two dates. I had another shot at being a responsible citizen in December.

And STILL no one was naughty enough (or maybe their lawyers weren’t prepared enough) to have a jury trial in December, either. I got an email from the court saying I was not needed, that I would be removed from the pool for three years, and thanking me for my service.

You’re welcome? I guess?

I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit bummed out. Not about the cancellation in November, because of the timing. I did a happy dance and immediately texted my boss with a string of excited emojis to express my feelings. But I kind of actually wanted to be of service and participate in the process. Now that won’t happen for at least three more years.

Interesting thing to ponder… I live in a rural area. Even so, the county has a population of around 80,000. Let’s say half are kids. Let’s get crazy and say another half of what’s left are adults, but aren’t registered voters. That’s still 20,000 peoples’ names in this pool of potential participants. Three people in my place of work were drawn for the same jury duty. Doesn’t that just raise the eyebrow a bit? Seems a bit unlikely that it’s a truly random selection process. My place of work isn’t even a large employer in the area. Hm.

Turkey day went fine. It was pretty mellow here, but I did make one kickass feast. Toot toot of my own horn and all, but YUM. We did not shop Black Friday. We worked.

*director’s stage notes: Rocky-esque montage of devoted bakery elves, flash back and forth between happy, carefree holiday shoppers getting rock bottom prices and the elves sweating and slaving over dough rolling…end with placing sugar star on top of cake…is Survivor still around to do soundtrack??*

In other news, they may have found life in space.

“WHAT? Why haven’t I heard about this?”

Because the Cheeto in Chief is a slimey asshat and his comrades are being arrested one after another. Those stories take precedence. (Yep. I said it. Pun intended and I’m not at all sorry.)

Also, because it’s Russian cosmonauts doing the research and reporting, people in the US are very skeptical. Here’s the deal.

Cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station swabbed the outside of our shared tin can. They do this regularly. It’s astounding how much we can learn about our solar system, and, by extension, our galaxy by analyzing space dust. The swabs were sealed and sent back to earth for testing in labs. The swabs were found to contain seemingly foreign bacteria that “was not present” during the launch of the ISS.

To be clear, this is not the first time bacteria and tiny micro-animals known as tardigrades have been found in or on things from space. However, if true, this would definitely be the first time we’ve seen any kind of life accumulate and propagate on our equipment that’s in our orbit. If true, this could indicate that bacteria, LIFE, can and DOES survive a space journey and seed a new environment.

That’s the important part here…the potential that this bacteria seeded a successful colony.

This could potentially be a big step in understanding life on our planet. How we got here. How it started. Abiogenesis is a working theory with successful lab results, but it’s a theory that is not without serious explanatory obstacles. It’s complicated, it takes juuuust the right conditions. Maybe it really was as simple as commuters riding in on a cosmic train. Maybe it’s a combination of both. Maybe bacteria from space interacted with the organisms that arose from abiogenesis. It could be a critical corner piece of our very large puzzle.

…or, it could be a lie. You can’t accept one lab’s results. That’s not how science works.

Let’s run with it, though. That’s more fun. Now, if the scientists ARE being honest, there’s a twist in this plot. They gathered the samples and sent them to earth, where Russian scientist are purportedly growing colonies of this space bacteria for study. Scientists say it “seems harmless at this point.”

Let’s mull this one over for a minute. They found space bacteria and are growing it here. On earth. Right now. And it “seems harmless…at this point.”

Seems harmless. At this point.

I don’t know about you, but that statement doesn’t really instill confidence, does it? I believe I’ve played this video game before. It didn’t end well.

Scientists, please use extreme caution. The second it even hints at going awry, kill it. Don’t try to contain the issue. Don’t try to cover it up. Kill it all with fire.

Twice.

And one more ramble before I go play Mario all day in my jammies.

People are decorating for Christmas, a hobby I fully support. The more the merrier. Gussy it up and make it twinkle and I’m in!

However, one neighbor has…hm…how can I put this?

Lost their damn mind.

Picture this: Ranch style house built in the early 80’s. Small lawn, nicely manicured, free of dead leaves and last summer’s crunchy flower stalks. Decorative trees planted to match a new house have grown a bit too large, making the scene slightly awkward, as if a child has placed their Mega Bloc trees around their father’s model train set. Still, they’re kept neat and tidy, and it’s clear the owners are proud of the property.

The display began years ago, with a simple manger scene in the yard and string lights around the side of the house facing the main road. The manger scene was one of those light-up creches. It was a bit on the tacky side but not one of those Disney-themed abominations or anything, so it was well within acceptable standards.

The owners have added since then. Inflatables, which aren’t my personal taste but do pack a punch to a holiday display. There is a cool sleigh scene done in lights on the shrubs to the right, balanced by a waving Santa to the left. More inflatables joined the repertoire last year. It was a bit overboard, in my opinion, but…okay. I still understood what they were going for.

This year, though. *sigh* This year.

Have you seen those laser lights that are all the rage? Sure you have. If you get cable or watch YouTube, you’ve seen the ads. They’re basically balls with little cutouts all over them, and inside are bright lights. You plug them in, turn them on, and they shine a display on your house. Some are just dots, to give a starry effect, while others cast bright shapes, like candy canes or Christmas trees. They are a cheap and easy way to cover the entire side of your house with lights, and those ads are really working. Many folks in the area are using them this year, including the Neighbors of Questionable Taste.

“Bethie, if you just got done saying that many folks are using them, what’s the problem?”

The folks in question have replaced the baby Jesus in their creche scene with one of these contraptions.

“Oh no.”

It gets worse. You can set some of these devices to slowly spin, giving a dynamic display. You know when a dynamic display doesn’t work? When it’s radiating from the baby Jesus.

I think they were going for a “radiating with a holy light” effect. But it’s multi-colored. And rotating. And casts pictures of candy canes all around. Let’s be real here. Mary and Joseph are kneeling at a manger rave, and I don’t think those wise men are bringing myrrh to this party, if you know what I’m sayin’.

Don’t do this, folks. Don’t turn baby Jesus into a club kid. This is not the kind of “lit” you want your Christmas display to be.

Hey, I’m just looking out for you. I do it because I care.

Thus concludes a catching up Musing for Sunday, December 3, 2017. I’m going to not put on real pants or do anything productive today. Kids know how to feed themselves, right? This elf is taking a break. I’m coming for you, Bowser. Time to fire up the Switch.