Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Six

Recently, a blog I love issued a challenge to list six holiday-related things about yourself.  I love that idea, so I thought I'd do what she did, and list my six holiday traditions.  Some are traditions I had growing up, some are traditions I have now, and maybe one or two are traditions I'd like to start.

1. Christmas Eve is a pain, Christmas Day is fun.  This one was the way my family did it growing up.  Christmas Eve was divided between my mom's family (morning) and my dad's family (evening).  The difference really was like night and day.  Mom's family were LDS pioneer stock, transplanted Idohoans in Houston, and our holidays with them were constant and unchanging.  We did no gift exchanges, we focused on eating and fellowship.  Dad's parents, on the other hand, were chain-smoking, wine-drinking folks who thought the only good thing the Mormons did was make peanut butter.  (We have a peanut butter factory in Houston.)  The focus of our gathering there was also food, but not eating it- Grandpa would hold forth for hours about what "good" food really was, and while lighting a new cigarette with the butt of the old one, would lecture us at length about how white sugar would kill us all.
Christmas morning, on the other hand, was just us kids with Mom and Dad.  Mom held Christmas day to be inviolate- no one went anywhere, no one came to was a day we had to be together, and I liked it a lot.
Now, we are beginning new traditions.  Christmas morning is at home, brunch with Mom, mid-afternoon dinner with Sven's mom.  I loved our Christmas Eve-Hanukah celebration at Liz and Harry's, and that may become a tradition as well...

2. Christmas must contain at least one weird food item, sometimes delicious, but sometimes mind-numbingly horrible.  Dad's mother made some of the delicious items...her Hello Dolly cookies were staples every year.  Grandma Pratt, on the other hand, was known for a dish called "Corn and Oysters," made with canned creamed corn and canned oysters.  It smelled as good as it sounds.  Dad always explained to us that it was because Grandma was from the north, so she didn't know any better.  Sven's mom made the sweetest fruit salad imaginable, from canned fruits in heavy syrup, then coated in sugar and left in the refrigerator overnight.  This was the healthy portion of the meal.  He still resents that I can't make fruit salad like his mom.

3. I refuse to make anything for Christmas dinner that I don't like.  This is a new tradition, started by me once I began making Christmas dinner on my own.  Sven and I sat down together one year and listed all of the items we associated with Christmas dinner, and when the list reached 20 items, we agreed it was ridiculous.  So now, each year I personally make the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and token green vegetable.  Sven, the real cook in the family, is in charge of the gravy and the experimental dish.  So far the biggest success was the Sweet Potato Mousse of 2005, which is still the only way I can eat sweet potatoes.

4. "Frosty The Snowman" runs 24 hours a day in our home beginning on Thanksgiving day, and ending on Christmas Eve.  This is a tradition begun by Deb Jr. last year, and one I intend to break as soon as humanly possible.

5. Sven tolerates my year-end clip-down fest.  The Soup, Best Year Ever, Top 40 Videos of the Year- he hates this stuff, but as a special gift to me, he limits his criticism to passive aggressive eye rolls, gusting sighs, and remote-control battery removal.

6. I'm thinking, in the future, of starting a traditional New Year's trip.  If we left the day after Christmas, we could have a few days to enjoy a mini-vacation.  Deb Jr. loves caves, and there are several within a day's drive of us.  We could also try a new place every year, or return to old favorites.  I'm thinking four days total- day to travel, two days there, day to come back- so it wouldn't be our whole vacation, but I think a little getaway might be just the thing to prevent the post-Christmas lazies from causing my clothing to shrink the way it always seems to...

This has been fun!  Try it, let me know when you do!  

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Book Review: The Host

In which Deb tries to review The Host by Stephenie Meyer without referencing Twilight more than once per sentence...

The Host bills itself as "science fiction for those who don't like sci-fi," and I would guess that is pretty close to the truth.  I would also imagine the converse to be true- real fans of sci-fi probably won't like this book.  And, adding a third permutation, if you are, like me, somewhat "meh" towards sci-fi, you will probably experience some degree of "meh" about this book as well.

The Host also bills itself as Stephenie Meyer's first book targeted at adult readers.  Rest easy, Twilight fans who liked the lack of cursing, explicit sex, and offensive content in the Twilight series: Stephenie hasn't let you down.  If you were not offended by the Twilight series, you won't be offended by The Host.

Plot summary (nutshell edition): Earth has been taken over by "souls," which are small parasites that attach to the brain of the "host" organism.  The soul takes over the host's body and mind.  Humans, though, have formed some pockets of resistance.  Melanie Stryder, one of these human rebels, has been caught and is given a very special soul: Wanderer, who has lived eight lifetimes on eight different worlds.  Melanie clings to her life tenaciously, however, and Wanderer must decide whether to fight Melanie or join her in the struggle to free humanity from the souls.  There is also a very unique love triangle/square going on.

My take?  While nowhere near as entertaining as  Twilight, The Host did eventually make an interesting, easy read.  There is very little "science" in this book, so I was spared the pages-long explanations about how something works...Meyer states the conditions and limits of her settings and characters and the reader must accept them, and fortunately, her stuff seems to work well.

Frankly, the unbelievable parts for me were in the relationships.  I won't spoil the book, but I will say that elements of the romantic conflict seemed, to me, contrived.  Some of what bothered me were things Meyer has used in Twilight, but for whatever reason, what worked for me in that book bothered me in this one.  Sorry to be so cryptic, but, again- I don't want to spoil anything, and I do think this book is worth a read.

I would give 3.5 stars out of 5.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah!

Tonight, Sven, the kids, and I went to my cousin's new house for a Christmas Eve/Hanukah dinner.  It was a lovely evening, my cousin and her husband (Liz and Harry) were gracious and wonderful, helping chase the kids around and taking us for a walk through the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights.  Deb Jr. lit the Hanukah candles and attempted to sing the prayers, which was the cutest thing I've ever seen.  Liz even made our grandmother's famous Hello Dolly cookies, and they were just perfect.

So, thank you to my wonderful cousin Liz and her husband Harry for the nicest Christmas Eve I've had in a long, long time.  I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season this year.


Monday, December 22, 2008

New Year's Resolution

I will probably be riffing on this for a while, but it's never too early to ponder one's self-improvement, no?

1. I will attempt to limit my Twilight reading.  My goal now is to read the series, then read another book before beginning the series again.  I am currently reading "The Host" by Stephenie Meyer, who is, of course, the author of Twilight, but it is a start.

I can only go without Edward for so long, but I try.

2. I will sing again.  Since having my children, I have been sadly neglectful of my voice.  I will stop telling myself that singing "Run Around" by Blues Traveler while driving counts as a warm-up.  I commit to warming up for 10-15 minutes daily, ceasing all caffeinated drinks, and only using my voice properly during teaching.

3. No babies this year!  I had one in 2005 and one in 2007.  I will break the streak in 2009.   I have undeniably cute babies, no doubt about it, but two is/are enough.
I will try to stick to this one, but Sven Jr. (the little one) is in the sloppy open-mouth kiss stage, which is so cute and weakens me.

4. I will stop crying during the Sara McLachlan/ASPCA commercials, in which my daughter relentlessly points out "That doggy is sad, Mommy.  That kitty is sad, Mommy.  Where is the kitty's mommy?"  I will also try to stop crying when the news shows clips of people meeting celebrities, or when the fat woman wins on The Price Is Right.

5. I will stop making excuses about not shaving my legs.  This will just make the occasions when I do it more special.

That's enough for now...any more self-improvement and I might just eat raw brownie dough and cry myself to sleep.  I love this time of year!