Now, the Letdown

It’s that time after the holiday season that I dislike the most. It’s still dark, cold, and snowy. But now, it’s just winter.

Christmas is over, New Year’s is done. The eggnog is gone. It’s time to be done celebrating and move on to the grind of January.

From this:
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Pretty lights!

 

To this:
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Only looks pretty until you have to drive in it.

 

Even the holiday lights don’t look the same. They’re still pretty and help brighten the darkness, but each day, there are fewer and fewer up as people accept that the season is over and take down theirs.

There’s no anticipation brewing.

No excitement as we wrap presents eager to see the joy on the receivers’ face when they get them. No expectation of what’s under the tree for us. Not even the anticipation of a few days off of work.

Just snow. Darkness. Cold. And long hours at the day job.

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Sums it up.

 Oh, and taking down the Christmas tree. Because that’s always a fun job I look forward to doing. *end sarcasm*

I wish I could schedule a holiday in late January or early February so we’d have something to look forward to, but it’s really hard for me to get time off before April 15th.

In a few weeks, I won’t notice. I’ll be head down, getting work done as we dig out of the snow and cold to get to work on a daily basis.

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Actual winter footage.

It’ll be the grind of obligations and doing what needs to be done.

And, it’ll suck.

The song about how the singer wishes every day would be Christmas would ruin Christmas, but I do wish we could stretch out the holidays a bit. Maybe exchange our New Year for the Chinese New Year so we have something to look forward to after Christmas. The next holiday on the horizon in Easter if you celebrate it, otherwise, we’re looking at Memorial Day. That’s just too long.

How about you? Do you feel post-Christmas blues? If so, how do you deal with them?

Book Review: North of Need

Book: North of Need

Author: Laura Kaye

Status: Did Not Finish (DNF)

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I normally wouldn’t post this, but as Ms. Kaye is already a NYT bestselling author, I’m not really hurting her any by not liking a book. I found the book from a very popular romance blog, and they liked it, so it could just be me that didn’t care for it.

I was looking for a nice Christmas romance to distract me from a rough patch at work. I so wanted to love this book as the premise sounded cool. I got to the 40% mark on my Kindle and decided I was done.

The premise is cool, but the author didn’t do it justice.

I figured it would be worth discussing what made me stop reading. Perhaps it won’t bother you, and you’ll love the book.

There were really three things that made me stop:

1.  Unrealistic Characters – The characters, frankly, were unrealistic. The heroine was a widow, and her grief was real and raw. I bought that. At no point did I really buy her connection to the hero. This is a romance novel, and that’s a must for me.

I gotta tell you, the heroine got over her fear and terror of a strange man far too quickly.  The author needed to work for this and didn’t. Seriously, if I give a stranger sanctuary in my house from a snow storm, then find him sleeping on my bedroom floor, holding my hand when I wake up, my response is not going to be to find it comforting.

The hero was already in love with the heroine before they met. Sure, the author has reasons for this, but I’d way have rather he fell in love with her on his own. Especially as I found those reasons a little creepy.

 

2. Where’s the Plot? – At the 40% point, there is absolutely no reason for the characters not to be together. The author has already given away all of the cool mystery surrounding the plot. Which was cool, but the execution of explaining it to us the reader was awful. Rather than dumping it on our laps through exposition, this could’ve been unfolded slowly through the story, used to add tension and drama as the characters come together.

Instead, we’re literally told why the hero loves her and why he agreed to this “mission”. We know the heroine lusts for the hero. Only thing keeping them apart is maybe her grief for her lost husband, but as we get direct permission from the great beyond by the 40% mark that the dead husband is okay with it, things seem resolved to me.

 

3. Weak Writing – After unbelievable characters and a missing plot, the prose itself follows suit. We have abrupt transitions, no real scene setting, and no real pacing. Not surprising, I suppose, as there isn’t much of plot.

 

All in, the only thing that might recommend this book is if you are actually a widow or widower. Perhaps then things will mean more to you. While the story is definitely a tear-jerker around the heroine being widowed and all she’s going through, I just can’t get through the rest of it to finish. As far as I’m concerned, we already have a happily-ever-after at the 40% mark, and that saves me from having to read the rest of it.

Craving Christmas Lights

I normally love Christmas lights, but this year, I am absolutely craving them.

It’s been a hectic month with a lot of trials. Not as bad as last year, but I feel like getting sucker punched over the holidays is almost a tradition.

Still, I love the lights. The bright colors. The beautiful, or sometime garish, displays.

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Even the snow co-operated with just a dusting.

I’m not sure why I like them so much. Perhaps it’s the bit of nostalgia from my childhood. Driving around and looking at lights was one of the few things we did as a family that involved very little fighting.

Maybe it’s the time of the year. A little light goes a long way when the is sun winning at a game of hide-and-seek.

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This is very much my life for most of the winter.

I’d love to say it’s the holiday season itself, but as a parent, I have found the holidays a lot more stressful.

Whatever it is, seeing the lights on my way home from work makes me smile after a long day. I even spontaneously burst into Christmas carols a few times this year. Good thing I was alone to save any potential passenger the pain of my horribly off-key singing. Tone-deafness runs in my family.

Reminds me that we really should do more to decorate for the holidays.

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Pretty and shiny.

It was fun putting up the tree this year, and the kids loved it, but the lone angel in the front yard looks pretty sad. My husband doesn’t really care to decorate, but he humors me.

Or, I can avoid the stress and just enjoy other people’s decorations. Perhaps I’ll check the after Christmas sales and think about it next year.

But if you are decorating, know that at least one person out here appreciates your efforts. And thank you.

 

“Oh, Momma Look!” Never Ends Well

At least, it never ends well for me.

So, when we were at Home Depot of all places, and that come out of my daughter’s mouth, I knew I was really in trouble.

What had caught her attention? An eleven foot dragon. Yeah, she’s totally my kid.

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This one.

I have to admit, she has good taste. But it looked HUGE in Home Depot. I couldn’t imagine how big it would be on our suburban front lawn.

Of course, she reminds me that we have no other decorations. Which, she’s not wrong. I don’t suppose the three little pumpkin walkway lights really count. I love watching the kids dress up at Halloween, but I hate anything macabre. You can keep your ghosts, skeletons and dead brides, thank you very much!

But she’s now at the age where she really wants to decorate for the holidays. Unlike my husband and I who were known to go without even a Christmas tree before we had kids.

I told her I’d think about it, hoping she’d forget. Of course she didn’t forget, and she reminded me about it for the next two weeks.

So, we went back to get the eleven foot dragon. When we got to Home Depot, the thing was sold out. Even the floor model was gone. This was back at the end of September, and I was shocked. A quick search with my phone showed no other Home Depots with guaranteed stock in the area. But I could still get it online.

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Thank goodness!

So, I assuage my daughter’s crushing disappointment that she isn’t getting it that day with the fact that it will arrive in three to five days and we probably wouldn’t have had time to put it up that weekend anyway. She trudges back to the car, but at least I got her out of the store without a scene. There’s more than one reason why I do so much shopping online!.

The dragon arrived, my husband put it up for her, and she is now totally excited. So excited, in fact, that when she and her sister saw the dragon deflated the next morning on the way to school, they both were super insistent that I needed to “fix” the dragon.

Raising a pair of dragon lovers. Couldn’t be more proud!

 

Do you decorate for Halloween? If so, do you go all out, or were you like us with our three little pumpkins? Any of your neighbors go all out? What’s the best or worst display you’ve seen?

6 Things I Learned Making Christmas Dinner for Someone with Allergies

My sister has serious food allergies. Ones that a lot of people have to endure, such as peanuts and tree nuts, but also some really difficult ones like soy.

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Yes, soy. If you look at the ingredient list of most pre-packaged foods, you’ll find they contain soy. It’s apparently a great emulsifier, so it’s commonly used in processed foods as a stabilizer.

That means when she comes over for dinner, specifically Christmas dinner, you have to really think about what you serve, and I want everything on the table to be something she can eat. That means reading the ingredient list on anything I buy in a package. Don’t believe me, look at the ingredient list on your bread. Soy. Check your ice cream. Unless you bought Breyers vanilla, good chance there’s soy in it. Chocolate chips?  You guessed it, soy!

So, when we hosted Christmas dinner for the first time many years ago, I really struggled. And, frankly, dinner was bland and not very tasty.

I feel like this year I did a lot better. The food was tasty, and everything I made or bought was safe for her to eat.

Here are a few things I learned:

1.Less Is More – Food with fewer ingredients on the ingredient list tends to taste better as well as have few allergens. The bread I purchased had flour, salt and yeast. It tasted amazing!

2. Short Shelf Life Is Actually Good – Things with a short shelf life tend to taste better and be lower in potential allergens. You can combat the shorter shelf life with a refrigerator or freezer. I live in the frozen tundra. Come December, my entire backyard is a freezer. Not kidding. We actually put things in coolers outside to keep them from freezing solid as the cooler will insulate against the cold.

3. Keep it Simple – Much easier to make allergy friendly food when what you’re making is simple. We prepared a huge fruit and veggie tray (that got demolished, by the way), and everything was allergy friendly.

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4. You Have to Make Stuff – In your kitchen. Where you know there are no nuts or anything else lingering. Mashed potatoes weren’t hard. Gravy was a different story. And while my first attempt at making gravy wasn’t as good as the stuff out of the jar, it was just butter, flour, and turkey drippings with some chicken broth added. Give me a few more attempts, and it’ll be better than the jarred stuff.

5. Enjoy Life – I’m not getting paid to say this, and I think this company is amazing.  When I went through the battle of eczema with my daughter, this place was the only reason I could still have chocolate. Not sure I’d have made it without chocolate . . . It’s the only places we know of that makes chocolate chips my sister can eat.

6. Experiment – My mother-in-law has an amazing cheesy potato recipe she shared with me. But, one of the ingredients was a can of cream-of-mushroom soup. There are no cream of mushroom soups available for purchase in my area that don’t contain an allergen I need to avoid. After researching some other cheesy potato recipes, I substituted softened cream cheese for the can of soup. Recipe tastes great!  So good, in fact, when my mother-in-law tasted it, she wanted the recipe.

Overall, I like to think the food was good. I’m not a gourmet chef, and I really don’t even like to cook. But I wanted to make Christmas a time we could kick back, relax, and enjoy family without anyone having to stress about what they’re eating. I think we accomplished that.

 

How about you?  Any food allergies you’ve ever had to deal with? How did you do it? If not food allergies, any other sensitivities you’ve encountered? What did you do?

The "Talk"

This is my daughter’s first year in public school. As part of their curriculum, they learn about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa as well as Christmas. So, I wasn’t entirely surprised when my daughter came home and told me she wanted to celebrate Hanukkah. I figured all the days of gifts would appeal to her, even though there is only one thing on her Christmas list. (One of the benefits of having Netflix and Amazon Prime rather than cable TV!)

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I explained to her that we aren’t Jewish, so we don’t celebrate Hanukkah. She’d have to wait for Christmas.

Then came the question. “What’s Jewish?”

I should’ve seen it coming, but I walked right into that trap.

I find myself trying to explain religion to a five-year-old, knowing she’s going to repeat everything back to her class and really not wanting a parent-teacher conference if it doesn’t come out of her mouth the same way it went into her ears.

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As I stumbled through, my husband came to my rescue and asked our daughter if she’d like to watch an episode of My Little Ponies before dinner. As she usually only gets TV after supper, she jumped at the chance and raced into the other room to watch Ponies.

He never said I owed him one, but I totally do. Just like he was the one that explained to her when our cat died. She wasn’t yet three, but he sat her down and explained that our kitty had gotten very sick and his body stopped working. He wouldn’t ever be coming home because he’d died.

There it was. Simple as that, and she accepted it. Sort of. She would repeat his words at what seemed like random times to me, but it helped her get through it. And she never asked to see him or for him to come home.

While he saved me on this conversation, my husband did remind me that we have daughters. There’d be another “talk” they’d need to get, and that was coming from me. Not sure that’s a fair trade…