Warning: Decorating for Christmas Can be Hazardous to your Health

It’s over. Now all that’s left is for me to continue applying Icy Hot to my back and taking a regimen of ibuprofen so I can soon walk, perhaps even bend over, without uttering a profanity.

If you’re worried I was in some sort of accident – fear not. I’m just recovering from decorating for Christmas. For me holiday decor is my Olympics. A decathlon of sorts where for three solid days I lug bin after bin out of my basement and begin the transformation from holiday drab to fab.

For years I have divided my decorating into three separate phases. Phase one begins with getting the Christmas tree and decorating it.

I usually like to get the tree bright and early the day after Thanksgiving. This year due to a University of Texas football game, that please note was on TV and could have been recorded, we had to delay our family outing to select a tree until 3 p.m. Thus setting my decorating schedule back h-o-u-r-s.

That though wasn’t the worst of it. U.T. lost or according to my husband “gave the game away” to Iowa State and he was in a mood that wasn’t the least bit festive.

I, totally full of the Christmas spirit, suggested that he might want to pick a new Big 12 team to root for. Perhaps even Iowa State because they haven’t been to a conference championship since 1912. So, that would be fun, historic even, to see them win some more.

This suggestion was met with a glare that still haunts me. It also made the ride to select a tree so lacking in holiday joy not even the Cheetah Girls Christmas CD from 2005 featuring the classic “Marshmallow World” could serve as a mood booster.

Luckily it didn’t impact our quest for the perfect Noble pine. We found one quickly and then I moved on to perusing wreaths. Shortly after that I discovered my husband had gone MIA. I sent my son to look for him and he reported back while laughing “that dad was walking off the game.”

Seriously, I wanted to throw a 20-inch Frasier fir wreath at my husband. Who allows football to usurp their holiday joy?

The next day I was barely ambulatory and a tad queasy after staying up till 2 a.m. to finish decorating the tree while subsisting on Pepperidge Farm peppermint cookies and Diet Coke. But I rallied and began phase two – exterior illumination.

This is where I almost lost my Christmas mojo. None, and I mean none, of the lights in my yards and yards of outdoor holiday garland worked. Granted they were more than a decade old but still I felt like my holly jolly had been kicked to the curb.

It didn’t help that I also had a slight memory of these lights going out last year right before I was going to take them down. But instead of removing the lights from the garland I just shoved them back in a bin.

As I was forced to cut hundreds of lights off with scissors so I could clear the way for new lights I wanted to travel back in time and punch myself in the face.

It was so bad I had to break open a fresh bag of peppermint cookies to make it through that perilous journey.

Fortunately phase three – assorted interior decor not of a Christmas tree nature was less eventful but not without peril. I couldn’t find one of my holiday bins and was at Defcon 1 for a nervous collapse.

Days later all is well – sort of.  I’m still sore from lugging bins and falling off a ladder ( to be clear it was a step stool but still – ouch.) My hope is I’ll be able to climb stairs without cursing very soon.

 

Reach Snarky  at snarkyinthesuburbs@ gmail.com, on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs on Instagram @snarky.in.the.suburbs.

Death by Snow Villages

My first words of wisdom for 2018 are be careful what gifts you ooh and aah over because it could come back to bite you in the butt – big time.

Thirty long years ago I received a darling Snow Village from my mother-in-law as a Christmas present. For those of you blissfully unaware of the wonder of holiday tchotchkes a Snow Village is a brand of ceramics that depict winter scenes with yuletide flair. There’s train stations, diners, ice cream shops, ski lodges etc.

My first Snow Village was an old-fashioned movie theatre, dripping in snow with White Christmas on the marquee. I was delighted by the gift since I was newly married and had zero in the way of holiday decoration.

Now three decades in I’m buried in Snow Villages. My lovely mother-in-law has given me at least one Snow Village every year for Christmas and I think they maybe the death of me.

Alert readers may now be recalling how I wrote about pine garland trying to kill me in December of 2016, but that was operator error (me, a six-foot ladder and a hammer – what could go wrong?) The Snow Villages are out for blood and it has nothing to do with me being an idiot.

Let’s start with examining where the attempted murder took place – my basement. There you’ll find more than 60 Styrofoam boxes strewed on the floor. Each Snow Village is packed in a Styrofoam box designed to fit their unique structure. Putting the Snow Village back in its correct box is such a tight squeeze that the sound of gently cramming the village in its storage coffin creates a sound so shrill and nerve shattering that it makes fingernails on a chalkboard sound like Brahms Lullaby.

Now imagine hearing this sound 30 plus times. It feels like my brain is seizing. I even wear my lawn mower earmuffs and it’s still like my auditory canal is getting a beat down from a masonry drill. I’m sure in some CIA prisoner de-briefing room there’s an agent wearing NASA grade hearing protection repeatedly putting Snow Villages into their Styrofoam boxes in hopes of eliciting a confession.

Once I’ve cheated death and survived putting the Snow Villages back in their Styrofoam pods it’s time to move onto part two of the storage conundrum or as I like to call it murder by Christmas crates.

Due to the unique size of each Snow Village you can’t fit that many into those large red and green bins you get from Target. This means in Snow Village math that I need almost two dozen bins to house the villages. Then I must stack each of these large plastic units in the icky part of my basement that looks like’s an abandon concrete munitions storage bunker from WWII.

As I’m standing back and admiring my brute strength and majestic stacking ability that created four rows of bins that measure 5 crates high the whole monument to my organizational skills starts falling. First the top crate in the middle comes for me, like right at me, as if I was a bullseye in a carnival shooting gallery. Then they all start tumbling. It was an avalanche of plastic.

I start screaming, but in the deep sub terrain space of your basement no one can hear your cries for help. As I lay on the cold concrete floor covered in Christmas bins I think about crying and selling all the Snow Villages on Craig’s List. But then I bucked up.

These Snow Villages will not vanquish me. I got up, restacked the bins, albeit this time only four crates high, and told myself that perhaps next Christmas the villages would get a time out in the basement that would last the entire holiday or eternity.

A Very Snarky Christmas

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One of my favorite things about the holidays is baking. It gives me an excuse to feast on cookie dough. Yeah, I know you’re not supposed to because of the whole “raw egg can kill you” thing, but God bless Betty Crocker if that’s what sends me to the great beyond so be it. I’m one of those people who thinks that sometimes the dough if better than the finished product. I have a theory, well more of an ongoing research project, that the prettier the cookie the worse it tastes.

Take the elaborately decorated sugar cookie – not so yummy. The first clue the cookie is going to be all for show is that you can actually tell what it is. Of course, you know it’s a cookie, but I mean you can tell it’s Rudolph or Santa’s sleigh because the frosting doesn’t overwhelm the shape. This is a warning. It means the frosting is not buttercream. It’s the demon spawn of buttercream . . . royal icing.

Royal icing in the cookie world is like a beauty contestant  – all style no substance. And by substance I mean no rich, buttery, melt in your mouth, goodness. Do you know what’s in royal icing? Things like water and meringue powder. Does that say delicious to you? Of course it doesn’t, but people use it because it does nifty things like “harden”, maintains a “high gloss” and works like “cement.” Based on those descriptions you might as well spray your cookies with Extra Hold Aqua Net. I’m sure the taste would be about the same.

This is why I’m pro the less attractive sugar cookie or the cookie that would win Miss Congeniality (robust personality, but not that cute) in the baked goods beauty pageant. Because a cookie that has you wondering if it’s supposed to be shaped like a Christmas stocking or a vacuum cleaner usually means it’s got a delicious, overlay and overload of  buttercream frosting. That said, do not make the mistake, like I did, of taking Miss Congeniality cookies to a cookie exchange. Your feelings could get hurt.

What’s up with these cookie exchanges? I swear it’s like sorority rush or the NFL draft (which having been in a sorority and having watched the NFL draft I’m here to tell you both of these institutions have way more in common than you would think). You go into the party with your platters of cookies and then people select, maybe bid, on the ones they want to take home. Well, my Miss Congeniality cookie was the lonely girl sitting solo in the middle school cafeteria. There wasn’t one taker.

The real taste bud taser was that a woman who brought multi colored “cookie presents” was acting like she had just won Top Chef and guests were oohing and ahhing over her treats. How many Mistletoe Mojitos had these women consumed? Couldn’t they tell these squares were made out of Fruity Pebbles cereal and melted marshmallows? It was just a jacked up Rice Krispy Treat. Sure, Mrs. Top Chef had decorated each square to look like a present with a fondant bow, but that still didn’t excuse her hubris. She kept talking about the “flavor profile” of her cookies. Really? Fruity Pebbles cereal has a flavor profile? What is it red dye and palm oil?

This is when I kind of panicked. I felt sorry for my cookies and I wanted them to find a good home. So, I thought WWPDD (What Would the Pillsbury Doughboy Do)? I tell you what he would do. It would be not let a mighty fine sugar cookie made with the finest of ingredients get bested by freaking Fruity Pebbles. So, I went for the soft spot of any cookie exchange – caloric content.

The cookie exchange is quite the dichotomy. You have a bunch of women wearing Spanx, who work out twice a day and have either just finished a juice cleanse or are about to start one surrounded by their mortal enemies – carbohydrates and sucrose. So, I shared that my cookies were more energy bars than desserts. (People will eat an energy bar that has as many calories as a Snicker as long as they think it’s full of “good carbs.”) Then I backed up that claim with more fabrications. I might have casually mentioned that protein powder was mixed in with the flour and that a flax and sesame seed oil reduction replaced most of the butter.

Before you could say Merry Christmas women were putting down those Fruity Pebbles squares and going for my Miss Congenialities. Was it wrong of me to lie? Of course, but it’s the holidays and my gift to everyone was guilt free eating. Sorry, but I can’t feel bad about that – ever.

There’s more Snarky coming your way in book form!  (Two books to be exact.) Come on, admit it, your holidays would be so much better with a heaping helping of Snarky. And because I adore you so very much all you need to do is just click on one of the links and presto you can get yourself some Snarky for only, wait for it, wait for it, 99 cents!  You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read. 🙂

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