Archive for December, 2009

Christmastime!

December 26, 2009

Well, Christmas day has passed and the 12 days of Christmas has begun. I really like this 12 days tradition because it feels like Christmas all the way till January. Today, as I write this throughout the day, I’m going to be taking advantage of After Christmas sales and buying more gifts to give and receive.

For Christmas, I did not receive much gifts but that’s ok. I actually bought more gifts for others, rather than an equal give and receive gift ratio. It feels pretty good to buy others presents, especially when they are the perfect, thoughtful gifts. My son got an onslaught of gifts, which I am happy about. I bought my wife a hardcover of Animal Farm and 1984 in one book. I also got her the Topple game, which she never played but always wanted to. I forgot how much fun this game is… and more complicated than I remember.

I also noticed that my wife and I spend more on Valentine’s day than Christmas these last few years. I don’t know how this tradition started, but it’s cool with me. I’m still receiving my Christmas gifts so I’m waiting to see what else I’m getting. So far, I got a Xbox 360 keyboard controller/headset, which I really wanted since Facebook and Twitter is now on Xbox live.

Qwerty

Christmas always reminds me of Christmases long ago. There were certain years where I received awesome gifts for the holiday; gifts that I’ve never forgotten because they were unforgettable. Since it is the Christmas season, I have decided to list my top five Christmases of all time. Starting the countdown from number five…

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Troll

December 9, 2009

As far back as I can remember, I always knew that I did not like school. Even as a child, I did not like going to elementary school. Back then I was very shy and antisocial, so it made perfect sense that I attended a performing arts school. Every class had to perform some kind of play or singing show at least once a year. Of course I would do my best to get the smallest role, or try to be lost in the group of singers.

Anyway, one of the few things I liked about school was the book clubs. One of the things I always liked to do as a child was read. Everyone would always find me with a book in my hand. My relatives would joke that the whole world would be falling down all around me and I would be sitting in one spot reading Chocolate Fever. I couldn’t help it. Books would whisk me away to strange lands or interesting lives. So it was a no brainer when the book catalogs would arrive in the classroom, I would be all Kool-aid smiles. OH YEAH!

The catalogs would have pictures of all kinds of books and their descriptions. Throughout my elementary career, our classes would get these brochures in every grade. The usual company that would distribute them was usually Troll. All of the classmates would refer to them as Troll books even though the books were published by numerous publishers, not creatures who lived in a labyrinth.

Troll

Although my family never had much money, my parents would always let me pick out a few things to order. The thing that sucks about the club is that it would take forever to actually receive the books. By the time they arrived in class and the books were given out, I would be confused because I could not remember ordering them. Either the order would take a long time, or I had a very short attention span (or both).

The coolest book I remember ordering was Garfield’s Halloween Adventure.  It was a graphic novel of the animated special. Since the book was recently released a year ago, that year must have been 1986, about 23 years ago. I was a big fan of the television special and recorded I on VHS when it was first aired. There were some slight differences between the book and the show. There were significant changes in the book. As Garfield and Odie were running away from the ghosts in the run down mansion, Garfield noticed a gold ring in the treasure chest and quickly pocketed it. Maybe he had seen one of those gold for cash commercials. Who hasn’t?

Garfield

When Garfield and Odie returned home, the ghosts were waiting for them. After they were chased again, Garfield realized they’re after the ring. He then throws the ring at the ghosts and they disappear. This was the first time I ever read a book that had a slightly different story than it’s television counterpart. Man, I loved that book and read it over and over. To this day, I hold Garfield’s Halloween Adventure with the highest regard, and I think the TV/book combo had a hand in that.

A cool aspect of the Troll catalogs is that they’re usually relevant to the time of year they are printed out. Huh? For instance, the September brochure usually has books based on Halloween. In the pic provided, one can see the monsters and slime on the ends of the catalog. Those kind of pictures would get me excite for the coming holiday. It was a brochure like this is where I saw the Garfield Halloween book.

halloween

Thanksgiving was another holiday that was represented on these brochures. There were usually books about the pilgrims, famous characters such as the Bearenstain Bears, Arthur, and turkey stories. At one point or another, they would end up sitting down at a table for dinner. It’s funny how that image of a family at a table is so engrained into our culture. However, I think Thanksgiving is the only time this year I actually sat at a table with my family for dinner.

thanksgiving

Christmas is basically the Super bowl of the book catalogs. All of the students are already psyched about Christmas coming soon. The Christmas themed books would complement that excitement. Because familiar characters would celebrate the holiday in the books, he reading would basically be a Christmas special in book form.

Sometimes other things such as ornaments would be offered in the brochure as well as books. Activity books would also be a bonus that was available. Most stuff with Christmas would get snatched up dumb quick.

When I started doing research for this blog post, I noticed that I was having trouble finding Troll catalogs. Apparently many teachers have complained that there were too many different brochures. So Troll and Scholastic has joined forces to battle the evil Cobra Comm… um, I mean the merged to make the choices easier for teachers. What sucks about it is that the Troll name is no longer used. I pretty much grew up with the Troll brochures. I haven’t been this upset about a name change since NesQuik.

Another thing I learned when doing research is that there are different catalogs for different grades. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that this idea was used in the past.  I guess that’s what happens when you have fried dumplings for brains.

I kind of forgot about the Troll books until my late teens because my younger brother would get them and I would read those catalogs for hours. These memories recently came back because I’ve been buying books for my son. He’s too young to read, but I have been getting him used to holding and looking at books. I can’t wait until he starts going to school and getting these brochures. When he finally does…it’s on!

Thanksgiving Dinner

December 3, 2009

Yeah I know, it’s already two days into December and Thanksgiving is a blip in everyone’s consciousness right now. But hey, it was only a week ago and I spent a good amount of time working on this post. I would’ve posted it sooner, but life got in the way. So, I took this post and polished it up (half-assed) to get it ready for the blog. I really like Thanksgiving and if I’m still working on this blog by next year, I may post lots of special articles next November.

On with the show!

Thanksgiving is a well practiced American Tradition that has been celebrated ever since Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday. It is a day to be thankful and to spend it with the ones you love. But lets face it, everyone plans to stuff their face until they explode as if they had a thin mint. And why not? How many days do we get to have such a spread? When else do people spend a whole day cooking food?
It is a big task, but that’s what my wife and I set out to do. We were celebrating it with just ourselves and our son. We’re not chefs, but we are good at following directions. So, it became our mission to make a great Thanksgiving meal in 24 hours. That may sound like a lot of time for some people, but we are not that experienced when it comes to such a meal as this. It is almost like Dinner Impossible.

whiteboard

To help us out, we had a “whiteboard” of things to accomplish in the allotted time.

As you can see, it is a lot to do, but we accept the mission. Luckily for us, we had the turkey defrosting an additional 24 hours so that we won’t have turkey on a stick. The bird was a heavy bastard at 17 pounds. It is a lot for a family of three, but believe me, I will be tearing up that white meat in the following days. I keep getting an image of myself with bunches of white meat in my mouth and shaking it side to side like a wild dog.

Turkey

For the past three years, my wife and I have been making Thanksgiving dinner. We got our turkey recipe from the almighty Alton Brown. We caught the Good Eats: Romancing the Bird episode and downloaded the directions from the Food Network website. This was the first time I ever heard of brining a bird. That’s when one leaves the turkey soaking in brine overnight. After trying that technique the first time, we never looked back. I would seriously recommend it for anyone who never tried brine.

brine

Now the brine doesn’t look like it would be appetizing. In fact, I was going to make a joke about irregularity, but I’ll take the high road and just say that the brine works when it comes to taste.

No Thanksgiving would be complete without the traditional cranberry sauce, and our meal was complete. For the past five years, we swore off cranberry sauce in the can and made our own. However, our sauce seems to have multiple personalities because we never have the same recipe. I’m not sure if my wife constantly wants to try new recipes, or that she can’t keep the recipe in a safe place. Um…maybe I should stop telling her to file our important documents.

cranberries

Oh yeah, one more point on making cranberry sauce: I don’t know why but I love hearing the berries pop in the pot. I get a kick out of it. It’s the little things that count.

A new addition to the feast is a green bean casserole. It’s green beans with some sort of white sauce, topped with frizzled onions from the can. We got the idea from an episode of Unwrapped with Marc Summers.

green beans

Ugh! From the looks of this, I’d think Mr. Summers had some sort of acid flashback of Super Sloppy Double Dare when he mentioned this dish. I can see this stuff coming out of the big nose when looking for the red flag. No worries though. The casserole was tasty when done and we may make it again.

Another staple of my traditional Thanksgiving is the yams with the marshmallows on top. It’s the same kind Jon’s grandmother made on Garfield’s Thanksgiving. Lots of people make this for Thanksgiving so there’s not much to mention.

marshmallow

I will say this though; I totally totally wish that these marshmallows were of the Stay Puft brand. I’m a huge Ghostbusters fan and wish I could officially say that Stay Puft was part of my Thanksgiving.

marshmallow man

Nobody steps on a church in my town, so now I will eat you for that!

Ok, this post is starting to drag on more than Indiana Jones and a truck, so I’ll skip the baked macaroni and get to the last thing: The Stuffing! I never actually made stuffing for Thanksgiving before. In the past I have eaten good stuffing, so I had an idea of what extras to put in it. I added chopped apples, onions, celery, sausage, gizzards, and Craisins. I was laughing insanely when mixing the extras while the townsfolk were trying to break down my front door while carrying pitchforks and torches in order to destroy my abomination of a creation. Luckily for me, they finally realized that it was Thanksgiving and made a beeline to the supermarket. Man, some people can be so touchy. Stovetop isn’t that bad!

stuffing mix

This was my mix before I added the stuffing. It came out excellent.

Finally, the time to eat arrived. We put all the dishes together to take pictures of our dinner. For the most part, everything was perfect.

food 1

food 2

food 3

Our only mishap happened with the pie. We set the pie to cook in the oven, which should have took an hour. With that time, we went to the liquor store to buy some rose wine since we heard it went well with turkey (we also had Sam Adams). When we got back, there was a burnt smell in the air. I opened the oven and saw a black pie. There goes the dessert.

If our dinner was part of the show, Dinner Impossible, we would have failed miserably. We sat down to eat at 7:20pm EST. We would have been getting our heads kicked into the ground by an angry, hungry mob before we finished cooking. Good thing it was just my wife, son, and I. To tell the truth, I enjoyed it.

corbin 1

corbin 2

I’m used to going to a large family event for this holiday, but it didn’t work out this year. Still, I couldn’t imagine this Thanksgiving turning out any better than spending time and being thankful for my own family. Either that or I’m just a sentimental bitch.