Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

I mentioned in passing in my last post that I don’t believe in New Year resolutions, and I’ve been thinking about what that means since then. I’d like to clarify exactly what it is I don’t believe in: that it must be done on one certain day (or thereabouts) of the year.

Resolution, in my opinion, is a good thing. Identifying, setting, and resolving on a goal you think is important to achieve is commendable. We’re all flawed and we can all improve ourselves in some way, right? And, it just feels really good to set out to do something and actually do it. I set goals for myself all the time. I meet some of them, and not others. Even just in the past month I’ve shared a couple of goals and my successes and shortcomings with them. So what’s my issue with New Year resolutions?

I don’t see the connection between setting any old goal and doing it on the day that a certain calendar system recognizes as the beginning of a new orbit around the sun. Why wait? Why not just set the goal when you decide it’s important enough to achieve? And if what you’re waiting for to start working toward a goal is a day on the calendar that has no actual relation to the goal itself, is that goal really that important to you?

But, it’s tradition, right? It’s fun, right?

Many people do not keep their New Year resolutions. In fact, not keeping New Year resolutions is probably as popular a pastime as setting them. These seem like strange traditions to keep, and they don’t really fit with my idea of fun. Why would you set a goal that you otherwise might not have set, only to fail at it and feel like a failure? Alternatively, why would you set a goal that you might not otherwise care about only to keep from feeling like a failure if you don’t reach it?

That’s not to say that New Year doesn’t inspire people to a fresh start. “This is the year that I’ll finally do that thing I always wanted to do!” I get that some people need an outside impetus to kick-start them into action—in this case, a kind of sibling to nostalgia. If you achieve what you set out to do because of a factor that has nothing to do with what you’re actually trying to do, more power to you! It’s something to celebrate whenever a substantial goal has been reached.

But I don’t understand the connection setting a goal and having to set it on a day that has nothing to do with that goal. How’s that for being a wet blanket?

Happy New Year, everyone!

And She’s Back!

Posted: December 26, 2011 in Health, Holidays
Tags: , , ,

Wow, Christmas is already done! There was so much to do, and I can’t believe it’s all over! I for one am pleased with how my Christmas turned out. My family bought me a Wii and the new Zelda game! Of course, these two new additions to the Pipsqueak family may be counterproductive to my goal of writing and blogging most days. Hm, I’ll have to work on that.

Oh, and do you remember the whole Day One thing? Yeah, that was a complete failure! I can’t say it was completely unexpected, though. I’m back where I started, but at least I’m not any fluffier than I was. I did manage to finally do real push ups, which means I no longer have to hang my head in shame. I don’t believe in New Year resolutions, but I know I’ll continue to work toward my goal weight. At least this time I won’t have Thanksgiving and Christmas coming right around the corner!

I hope your holidays have been and will continue to be filled with happiness and love! See you soon!

I spent the day yesterday with my mom and my sister as we baked and confected up a storm. I made my Nanaimo bars and helped my sister with the candy cane cookies (I can never eat enough of those!). My mom made fudge, sugar cookies, and date bars. And the kids all pitched in to make shortbread. Now I feel like the season has actually begun!

Now I can go shopping and weather the zombie shoppers around me. Now I can turn my Pandora to a holiday station. Now I can go buy a tree—my first real one since I was a little girl! Now I can break out the lights and the candles and the decorative knickknacks. Granted, I have to keep the decorations to an elegant minimum because I live in a shoebox, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to Christmas. Oh! We also mustn’t forget the traditional rum and eggnog—it’s the only way I ever drink rum. Because rum is disgusting.

Everything has suddenly cooled off, too, which sets the mood for the season. Yay! I’m so excited!

Tomorrow is St. Nicholas Day, so don’t forget to leave your shoes by your door tonight. All the good little boys and girls will get candy and treats; all the bad little boys and girls will be dragged to hell. Which one are you?

I’m not talking about being expected to give gifts for Christmas or any other winter holiday. I’m talking about having your clothes stolen out of your apartment complex’s laundry room. The husband now no longer has pants. At least we live in the desert and shorts still work for the moment.

But here’s how I figure it: the pants thief obviously needed them. Jeans aren’t exactly cheap. Even $10 could be too expensive for someone who doesn’t have even that much. And it is starting to get cold around here, especially at night. So, enjoy the pants, my friend. Thank you for the reminder to be charitable!

For now, this is a No Pants Zone!

Happy December 1!

Much like autumn tastes like pumpkin, winter tastes like peppermint, and I lurve it! I love the peppermint hot chocolate, cookies, candies, ice cream, milk shakes, schnapps, etc. It’s such a refreshing taste that always makes me smile. When I do my holiday baking this year, I think I’ll try to incorporate as much peppermint as possible.

Here’s what I normally make every year: sugar cookies, snickerdoodles, spritz cookies, candy cane cookies, Nanaimo bars, and fudge. I can add peppermint to the sugar cookies and even spritz cookies pretty easily, but I think I’ll try something new this year. I want to make peppermint bark!

I’ve never done it before. If you don’t have any recommendations, I’ll just go to allrecipes.com and choose one. Please let me know by Sunday if you have any suggestions!

So, I know I went on and on about how much I dislike Black Friday. Personally, I really hate complaining and ranting, so I don’t want that to be the tone of my blog. With that in mind, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite holiday pastimes: baking!

Well,  I guess it’s not just baking. In fact, the thing I’m most famous for, Nanaimo bars, requires no use of the oven. Here’s the recipe my family has followed for quite a while now:

  1. Be sure to have these ingredients: butter, granulated sugar (white, not raw), cocoa powder, an egg, vanilla extract, graham cracker crumbs, unsweetened shredded coconut, chopped walnuts, heavy whipping cream, powdered vanilla custard, confectioner’s sugar, and semisweet baking chocolate. We’ll get to the measurements in a moment, but pretty much any package you buy of these ingredients will be enough.
  2. Be sure to have these tools: a 9×11 glass pan, wax paper, a double boiler, a mixing bowl, measuring cups and spoons, and a spatula. The pan doesn’t have to be glass, but I find that metal and Teflon pans are more susceptible to scratches. Other than not wanting to scratch me pan, I also don’t want flakes of Teflon or metal getting into my Nanaimo bars. Something tells me that’s not healthy. Also, if you don’t have a double boiler, that’s fine; you can use the microwave to do all the melting you need. But really, a double boiler is pretty freakin’ awesome, and you should get one if you want to be part of the cool kid crowd.
  3. In the double boiler, melt 1 full stick of butter (1/2 a cup) with 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, 5 tablespoons of cocoa powder, the egg, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, combine 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs (For Honey Maid, this equates to about two sealed packages; I recommend crushing the graham crackers in the packages for easy clean-up), 1 cup of coconut, and 1/2 a cup of chopped walnuts. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture and mix throughly.
  4. Once you mix the above ingredients thoroughly (you’ll know by how dark the cocoa powder has become and that none of it is still powdery), put them into a 9×11 pan. Don’t grease it. Instead, line it with wax paper. Pack the mixture tightly into the bottom of the pan. Put the pan aside until you need it again, which will be soon.
  5. Take another stick of butter (1/2 a cup), and melt it. Cream the melted butter with 3 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and 2 tablespoons of vanilla custard powder. When these three ingredients are smooth, add 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar. Mix these four ingredients until they are smooth and there are no lumps. Pour the mixture over the base that you packed tightly into the 9×11 pan. Chill for one hour.
  6. The final layer is really easy. In the double boiler, melt 4 squares of semisweet baker’s chocolate with 2 tablespoons of butter. I have made the mistake of over cooking this layer: DON’T DO THAT. If the chocolate mixture gets too clumpy, it’s overcooked. The mixture should be smooth and without any clumps.
  7. Pour the final layer of chocolate over the second layer (the one with the custard and confectioner’s sugar). Smooth it out and spread it over the edges so that is covers everything. Chill for one to two hours.
  8. Take the pan out of the freezer and put it on the counter. Warm a very sharp knife under very hot water. Dry it and begin to cut through the mixtures. If you think the knife is cooling (and it will after you cut one section), run it under hot water and dry it again. If the knife is not hot or sharp enough, it will shatter the top layer of chocolate and destroy the aesthetic you’re trying to get (i.e., a nonshattered facade). Be patient while cutting the mixture into bars. It will take about fifteen minutes to cut all of the bars. You can cut the bars any size you like, but keep in mind that they’re very rich. A bar of about 2×3 inches will be more than sufficient.

Now you have yourself a thoroughly Canadian treat! I’ve seen variations that include blueberries, raspberries, or even strawberries, and you’re welcome to try them out. I recommend including the berry layer between the custard and chocolate layers, but that’s me (maybe a cup or so in all). They’re delicious and (as you might guess) absolutely fattening. But, hey. It’s the holidays. Calories and fat don’t count until after January 1. Enjoy!

I’ll start with the disclaimer that I do in fact love the Christmas season. I love the family time, the gift giving, the baking, the decorating, the lights, everything. I am no Grinch. But there are things I don’t like, Black Friday chief among them.

I slept in on Black Friday. Not because I’m lazy and I want to avoid the lines. I slept in because I disagree with everything Black Friday stands for and has come to represent.

  1. The stores opening “early.” Really? People can’t wait the extra six hours to get their deals? And because people can’t wait, other people have to work on Thanksgiving? I know the stores opened very late on Thursday, but anyone who worked that shift most likely slept for a while before going, which is a much bigger cut into family time. There’s nothing to stop the stores from continuing to open earlier every year, either. It’s hard to believe that shopping has gained this level of importance for people.
  2. The dangerous conditions and people. People have gotten trampled, beaten, and even killed at the hands (and feet) of Black Friday shoppers. I don’t think it has as much to do with the actual value of the deals as it does the expectation and mindset the people have going into the whole experience. Must get toys. Must get TVs. Family won’t love if no have these things. Christmas be ruined! People can become dangerous when they shut their minds off.
  3. The idea that people have to get these things. These are not necessary items that people lose their minds over. Heck, most of the big deals aren’t even personally valuable. Who opens a brand new TV on Christmas and thinks, Oh my! I can’t believe this person knows me so well as to get me something this personally relevant! Sure, it could happen. But, really, how often? This isn’t to say that people who shop on Black Friday never get personal, thoughtful gifts. I’m sure most of these people have good intentions behind their purchases. But it’s still not altogether necessary. I would love to get a Kindle, which would be a personal, thoughtful gift for me, but it’s not something I really need. I’d be just as happy with a date to go see a movie.
  4. The excess in general. All the crowds, the pushing, the frenetic shopping make my stomach turn. I’m not good with crowds anyway, but the idea that the crowd around me has turned off rational thought to redirect blood flow to the shopping part of the brain is a little scary to me. I don’t trust excess of any kind. There’s something sinister in it.
  5. The pushiness. Buy now or you’ll regret it! Christmas has to be huge this year! You don’t like Christmas if you don’t like shopping on Black Friday! Come one, just loosen up and be like everyone else! It’s fun! No. No, it’s not fun, and I’m enough of a wet blanket to say I don’t care what everyone else is doing. I don’t like to be told what I like or need, that I only have today to get a deal, or that I should go along with everyone else even though the whole experience makes me sick to my stomach, because none of those things are true. I know best what I like, not some advertisement. Black Friday does not, in fact, offer the best deals of the whole year, and even if it did, you can get good deals most of the time anyway because stores want your business and will do almost anything to get it. And as for going along with everyone else: why? I’m not everyone else, so why should I have to go along with them for their benefit when I’m clearly morally opposed to the whole thing? Don’t let yourself get pressured into sex or drugs, kids, but shopping is a whole different story!

I understand that a lot of people like Black Friday; after all, it wouldn’t be Black Friday if mobs of people didn’t participate. But I have a deep aversion to it, I understand my reasons for disliking it, and I insist that my dislike for it should not be unfairly categorized as “no fun” or “dislikes Christmas.” That’s all I’m saying.

You thought I was dead, didn’t you?

I took a break over Thanksgiving (i.e., last Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) to drink myself silly, and if I’ve learned anything from my early twenties, it’s that you should never drink and write at the same time, especially when other people are going to see what you write. Believe me, you should be thanking me for taking a break. I also needed to get in some much-needed quality time: first with the husband and then with the Mass Effect 2 and the Left 4 Dead 2.

But now it’s Monday and we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming. Boy, do I have great things in store for you this week!

A Pumpkin-Flavored Post

Posted: October 18, 2011 in Food, Holidays
Tags: , , ,

Because it’s October and all the cool kids are doing it.

But really, pumpkins make everything better: ice cream, milkshakes, lattes, you name it. But not pie. Unless there’s so much whipped cream you can’t see it, pumpkin pie is not for me. Go ahead. Judge me.

But I also just like pumpkins. There’s something undeniably romantic about them. Every time I see the first crate of orangey goodness in the stores, I feel like grabbing the nearest knife and carving the scariest face I can think of. Hm, that sounds remarkably violent. But admit it: you love carving pumpkins too.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a most sincere pumpkin patch: