‘Twas a Blog Before Christmas

It feels like I haven’t blogged in forever.  Usually Christmas brings about many topics and many memories to write about and I felt like I had dropped the ball.  However, as I looked back over the last 7 blogs – 6 of the 7 were Christmas related, so I guess I’m not as “Grinchy” as I thought.

It’s been a busy week for me.  Last Monday, we had our company Christmas party.  This year the theme was “Hawaiian Christmas”.  I used to have a Hawaiian shirt, a few actually, but my ex hated them and made me donate them to good will.  I was telling Sam about the theme, and my mother in law told her she had a grass skirt, coconut bra, lei, and Hawaiian hat at her house.  I borrowed them for the party and wore them all – including the coconut bra (it’s always about getting a laugh!).  There’s a story behind it, which many of my coworkers know, but some do not, so I won’t tell it here…but one of our coworkers came dressed as Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s!  This, in itself is hilarious, but factor in that the coworker who did it is female makes it even funnier!!

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One of the highlights of the get together over the past couple years has been the White Elephant gift exchange.  This always reminds me of that Christmas Episode of The Office where everyone has a specific person they are to buy for and then it becomes “Yankee Swap” with everyone getting gifts that were meant for someone else.  One of my favorite episodes of that show.

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With our party, everyone brings a gift.  Everyone choses a number and then gets to pick a gift.  No one unwraps them until the end.  A gift can be stolen three times.  This can be very misleading, as some of the biggest and prettiest gifts are often crap!  Last year, one coworker got a toilet seat and accessories (This year, he got a HUGE can of Bush’s Baked Beans!).  Another got bunny slippers made from tampons.  This year, I found a silly picture of my boss (Amy) from last year’s party.  I blew it up into an 11 x 14 picture and had a caption on it “Who needs an Elf on the Shelf?  You now have Amy in a Framey!”  Lots of laughs … and I wasn’t fired, so that’s good!

For the gift exchange, I got the LAST number!  Really, this is the worst because, all the gifts worth stealing have been stolen three times and not going anywhere!  As they got closer to my number, I kept looking to see what one I might want to steal.  When they finally got to my number, I was handed a gift.  I didn’t get to chose one.  I was like “What the hell?!? What if I didn’t want this one?!”  I was basically told that “this is the gift that you get!” Then, I opened it….

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My sneaky coworkers took up a collection and bought Sam and I stuff for the baby.  The basket included teethers, rattles, onesies, some very cute outfits (one will probably be the “take home” from the hospital outfit), and an Amazon gift card.  They knew we hadn’t received a mattress for the crib, and we are using the card to get one.  It was pretty overwhelming and they are lucky I held it together.  With as emotional as I have been lately, I could have easily cried at the party.  I work with some pretty amazing people!

Ultrasound

We had a coupon for a return visit to the place that did our gender reveal ultrasound.  It does 3D ultrasounds, so we can really see our baby’s face.  I was so excited to go in and see her!  We got there and found out that they had overbooked.  They were going to get us in, it was just going to be a bit.  When we finally got back, Sam got up on the table.  We saw the baby’s face briefly, and did get a picture of her.  We found out, however that the baby is breech.  Frank breech to be exact.  I had no idea that there were a few different “breeches”, but sure enough, there are!

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So, basically, she is sitting in Sam’s pelvis with her legs up in the air.  This made it difficult for them to get more pictures.  They suggested we go walk and see if the baby would move.  We went and had dinner and walked around the store.  When we returned and got back up on the table, it was even harder to get pictures.  We had to reschedule.  We’re going to go back right after the first of the year.  Sam said she hopes that she doesn’t come before then, as she’s starting to have cramping and contractions on occasion.  She isn’t due to arrive until February, so I’d like her to wait a few weeks.  Here is the picture we got to see.  I think she looks like Sam, but she thinks that she has my facial features.  One thing we did get to see was that she has hair.  We could see it floating on the ultrasound.  Pretty cool!  The excitement continues!!!

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I love that we can see her like this!!  It really is amazing!!

Writing Prompt Extras

I get a daily writing prompt in my email.  Many times I don’t feel like there is enough to write about in a full blog.  There were two this week that I felt I could write about, but only as an “extra” to a longer blog, or a blog full of random things (like this one).

Prompt #1

“Besides a family member, what is something that used to be a part of your holiday celebration that is missing today?”

Instant Egg Nog.  Really?!  Yes!  My brother and I recall this vividly!  My grandmother used to buy it in a pouch and make it for us every year.  It was VERY good.  I have looked for it every year, but simply cannot find it.  I recently came across a picture of the pouch and hoped that this would lead me to a website to buy it, but no such luck.

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I have always loved Egg Nog – the non-alcoholic stuff, anyway.  I never even knew that it was supposed to contain alcohol until just recently.  When you go to the store today, you can find various kinds of Egg Nog’s, and I have to admit, I really like the Custard Nog.  It has a very unique flavor to it.  Please let me know if you ever see this instant stuff in a pouch, though!

Prompt #2

“What is the oldest Christmas Ornament on your Christmas Tree?”

I actually mention the ornament in the blog I wrote about Christmas Trees.  When I was a 6 year old boy, I was going to catechism for church.  They gave us all this baby Jesus ornament.  My mom always hung it on the tree, and it eventually went with me when I moved out. The ornament get’s hung every year on the tree.  I remember asking Sam if I could hang it when I moved in.  It really doesn’t fit with any of the ornaments that she has, but she lets me hang it up there every year.  The ornament is 43 years old.  One day, I hope it will get passed down to one of my children, and then one of their children.

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Good Grief

In between working my real job, filling in at the radio station, and working on the baby’s room, I finally got 30 minutes to sit down and watch a Charlie Brown Christmas. It is one of many Christmas specials I have to watch every year.  Every time I hear Sally say, “Will you please write a letter to Santa Claus for me?” I chuckle.  They had to feed so many of the child actors their lines a few words at a time and then piece it together to form a sentence.  You can really hear it in that line.  I love it!

I don’t care how many times I see it, I still love when Linus starts quoting the Bible and tells the Christmas story only to walk over to Charlie Brown and say, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

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One of my favorite Charlie Brown quotes:

“It’s not what’s under the Christmas tree that matters, it’s who’s around it.”

After work tonight, I will go home to sleep.  I am excited because I get to have my sons tomorrow.  Christmas Eve was always when we celebrated with my dad’s family, and it is when I get to celebrate with them.  Christmas Eve morning is our Christmas.  I can’t wait to pass out their presents and celebrate with them.  My grandmother always made ravioli, and I plan on doing the same.  My work schedule has prevented me from seeing them much this month, so I am extra excited to have the day with them.

Because I will be focused on my sons, and my family, I may not get the chance to blog before Christmas.  I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season and that you are surrounded by friends and family.  Whether you are celebrating, Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, or another holiday, I hope that your holiday is full of joy and that you make happy memories!  Thanks for reading!  Merry Christmas!

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Holiday “Letters”

Today’s blog comes from a Daily Writing Prompt.  I thought this was a fun idea.  Some of my answers came immediately, while others I had to think a little bit.  Here is the prompt:  “Make an alphabetized list of the 26 best things about the holiday season, with one item for each letter.  Choose your favorite thing and write a short paragraph about why you love it.”

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“A”

A Christmas Carol.

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Every year since junior high school I have read this amazing tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation by Charles Dickens.  I also listen to Patrick Stewart’s wonderful audio performance, as well as watch the many movie versions.  No matter how many times I hear this story, it always makes me happy.

“B”

Blessings.

The holidays are a time where we reflect on what we are thankful for, and a time for counting our blessings.  In years past, I suffered from severe depression and often never really was conscious of those things.  With the changes in my life, I am much more aware of how blessed I am.  I have so many things to be thankful for and I am truly blessed in more ways than I can count!

“C”

Christmas Cookies.

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To borrow a phrase from Sesame Street – “C is for Cookie.”  Every year as kids, my brother and I would wait for my grandma to ship us a huge tin can of cookies!  She would make Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal, Sugar, Ice Box, and so many more.  The cookies pictured above are called Pizzelle cookies.  My grandma always made them at Christmas!  My brother still has her pizzelle maker.  Today, I still make the Chocolate Chips from a recipe she had in a metal index card box!

“D”

Dante’ & Dimitri

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My sons.  Sharing the holidays with them means so much to me.  I LOVE watching their excitement as they open their presents.  I love spending time with them, whether it is watching TV, playing a video or board game, or just having a heart to heart talk.  They continue to grow into fine young men, and I am proud to be their father.

“E”

Eggnog

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I LOVE eggnog!  My grandmother always had it for us at Christmas.  There used to be an eggnog mix that she would buy, but I can’t find it anywhere anymore.  My brother and I used to drink this like water!  I recently discovered a “custard” eggnog that was really good, too!  All things eggnog – I like:  McDonald’s Eggnog Shakes, Starbucks Eggnog Latte’s, and even the alcoholic eggnog!  There was a place in Frankenmuth that had a drink called the “dirty elf” – it was eggnog with a shot of Fireball whiskey in it – SO good!

“F”

Family and Friends.

What would the holidays be with out them?!  When I look back on holidays of the past, they are special because of the friends and family who were present!  I look forward to the holidays each year because it means special times with these special people in my life.

“G”

Garland.

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When I think about Christmas, I always think about garland!  My mom used to string it on the tree.  She’d hang it on walls, wrap it around things, hang Christmas Cards from it – it was everywhere!  We had gold and silver garland, thick and thin garland, and even garland with snowflakes on it.  I don’t use it today, because I know our cats will just eat it.

“H”

Holiday Music.

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I have blogged about this enough that you had to see this coming!  I love Christmas music.  There are so many wonderful memories connected to specific holiday songs.  While there are some songs that bring tears to my eyes, the majority of them bring me so much happiness.

“I”

Italian Food.

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EVERY Christmas Eve – my grandma made ravioli.  That was part of our tradition.  We also had breaded steak with ammoglio (moy-gyoo) sauce.  She always made an Italian feast.  I have tried to keep this tradition going, even though my sauce is no where close to being as good as hers.

“J”

Jingle Bells.

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This is two-fold.  First, the sound of jingle bells goes hand in hand with the holidays.  To me, there is something about hearing those bells that makes it feel like Christmas.  Second, it is one of those holiday songs that I love.  It’s probably THE universal Christmas song.  My favorite versions are done by Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Doc Severinsen & The Tonight Show Band, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, and SO many other versions!

“K”

Kris Kringle.

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Also known as Santa Claus.  He’s the subject of many Christmas songs.  Millions of children sit on his lap and convey their Christmas list to him.  In one night, he delivers millions of toys to good little girls and boys!

“L”

Lights.

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I love Christmas lights.  When I first got my driver’s license I would pop a cassette tape of Christmas music in and I would drive around looking at the lights.  I remember driving around Jefferson Avenue where all these huge mansions were.  They would have their lights done by professionals and they were just amazing.  Walking through Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo, or taking the Christmas train at Crossroads Village to see lights is also a treat!  I love the way they look and enjoy them more and more every year.

“M”

Mail.

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In a world where most communication is done by phone, e-mail, or text messages, I really enjoy getting Christmas cards in the mail.  I also love getting the “year in review” letters in them.  I can never understand why people diss these letters, because I love to read about what my friends and family have done over the past year.  I love when they include pictures from the past year, too.  I also love family photo Christmas cards.  I used to send them every year.  Sam and I were just talking about how we need to get better at sending them.

“N”

Nostalgia.

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No surprise here, especially since 95% of this blog is about nostalgia!  When the holidays come around, I get VERY nostalgic.  I think of my grandparents, my mother, and remember the good times we shared.  I remember past gifts.  I remember past relationships.  I remember good times and bad times.  There are many memories connected with the holidays for me.

“O”

Ornaments.

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One thing I love about Christmas ornaments is that when you put up your tree, as you unwrap each ornament, it brings back a memory.  Every year, Sam and I go to Bronner’s in Frankenmuth and get an ornament that signifies an even from the past year.  This year’s ornament is obviously about us expecting our baby.  We have an ornament from when we got married and when we got engaged.  I have a few ornaments that I brought with me when I moved in with Sam.  One of those ornaments is from 1977!  It was an ornament that we all got when we were in Catechism in 2nd grade.  It is an ornament of the baby Jesus.  It is the oldest ornament I have.

“P”

Presents.

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When I was a kid, it was all about what presents I was getting.  As an adult, and as a parent, your focus shifts.  It becomes about what special gift you buy for someone else.  What can I get that will make the boys smile?  What is the perfect gift for my wife?  What do I get for my dad, who seems to have everything?  It truly is better to give than to receive, but it is also nice to get something special from someone, too.

“Q”

Quiet.

I know, this seems impossible!  I would agree to a certain extent.  Many holiday gatherings are noisy as hell, but I am speaking of a specific quiet. One of my favorite things is standing outside after a snowfall, just listening to the quiet of the neighborhood.  There were many times I’d be out shoveling the walk, and stop just to enjoy the quiet of a winter day.

“R”

Rudolph

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Sure, I love the Rankin and Bass TV special!  I, however, and talking about the above decoration.  My grandma had these, and so did we!  This decoration was made of melted plastic.  Pinterest calls this a “melted plastic popcorn wall or window hanging decoration”.  There was a Snowman, a Christmas Tree and a Santa in a sleigh decoration, too.  My grandma hung 9 of these reindeer and the Santa in a sleigh on the wall every year!  Man, do I miss seeing this every year!!!

“S”

Snow.

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One of the things I love about living in Michigan is that we see all four seasons.  The holidays without snow are very disappointing to me.  If it is mid to late December and there is no snow, the song White Christmas really hits home.  I NEED to have snow on Christmas!  It is just one of those things that makes the holiday mean more.  I love the beauty of snow on the ground and stuck to the trees … but, yes, I do hate driving in it!

“T”

The Tree.

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You can check out the blog I wrote a week or so ago entitled “Oh Christmas Tree” to read about why this means so much to me.  For now, just know that it is one of the things I LOVE about the holidays.

“U”

Underwear.

I really didn’t have a lot of “U” options.  I don’t like underwear for Christmas, but I put it here because of something I started seeing a few years ago.  I guess you would call it a meme today.  I see it posted on Facebook a lot and it makes me laugh:

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“V”

Vacation.

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Again, a two-fold answer.  (1) Vacation time?  Yes, I do get some time off during the holidays, but nothing real big.  I wish I had the opportunity to actually take a few weeks off around the holidays, but that never is possible for me.  (2) Christmas Vacation Movie?  Who doesn’t love this Christmas film.  There are so many great lines and characters in this film!  Come on – you know any time you pass a house with a gazillion lights on it you call it the “Griswold house”!!

“W”

Wife.

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She makes EVERYTHING in my life special.  The holidays are already a special time for me, but spending them with her make them extra special.  There is not enough space on the internet for me to write about how much she means to me, how much I love her, and how happy she makes me.  I am so lucky to call this beautiful woman my friend, my partner, and my wife.  For Christmas this year, she is giving me the best present ever … she arrives in February.

“X”

X’s and O’s

Ok, it was hard to come up with something beside Xylophone for X!   X’s and O’s are hugs and kisses.  Hugs and kisses from friends and family during the holidays make the season special.

“Y”

Year Without a Santa Claus.

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You should have saw this coming, too!  Last year, many characters made a Christmas blog and this year I wrote an entire blog on it.  I HAVE to watch this every year!  I also have to listen to the Miser Brothers songs in the car during the holidays.

“Z”

Zzzzzzz’s.

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Yet another stretch, but Holiday Zzzzz’s are something I certainly look forward to!  In Twas The Night Before Christmas they talk of a “long winter’s nap”.  In my opinion, any time I can grab a nap over the holidays, it’s a good thing!!!

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That was a fun blog to write!  Now it’s your turn.  What are your “holiday letters”?  I’d love to read them …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Christmastown”

Friday, October 25 marked the 13th anniversary of my mother’s passing.  My brother came up from Ohio to spend the weekend in Michigan.  We got to see him a couple days, then he met up with his best friend, and then he stopped by and saw my dad.  He arrived in Michigan on the Thursday and spent the night at my house.  Thursday evening, Sam and I took him out to dinner at our favorite steak place.  Dinner was filled with good conversation and laughter.  Friday evening, I had to DJ a preschool Halloween Party, but we had plans for early in the day Friday.

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Growing up, we often visited Frankenmuth, MI.  “Little Bavaria” it is often called.  There is a lot of German Heritage in this town.  My grandmother (mom’s mom) was of German decent and Frankenmuth was a nice day trip.  We would go to the Bavarian Inn and have a chicken dinner.  My great aunt (grandma’s sister) always went to Zender’s across the street.  We travelled there often as kids.  One of my earliest memories was going to Frankenmuth and stopping at this country store and getting a dill pickle.  I also recall one trip where we got there, ate dinner, and walked outside to see it snowing like crazy!  I remember my grandma, grandpa, aunt, mom, dad, me and my brother all crammed into my grandpa’s Buick driving home on Southbound 75 doing about 3 miles an hour!  That was one scary drive!!

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Anyway, Friday, we took my brother to Frankenmuth (which is literally 5-10 minutes from my house now).  The last time he was there, he went with my dad.  I guess they walked around and hit some of the shops, but never went to one in particular – Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland – The World’s Largest Christmas Store.  My dad was never really a fan of that place, so we told Chris that we’d all go together.

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Sam and I go there every year and we buy an ornament for our Christmas tree.  It’s a tradition that she has had for a long time, and we have continued it.  When she bought the house, she bought a “new home” ornament.  When we got engaged, we bought an engagement ornament.  When we got married, we bought a marriage ornament.  This year, we needed to go and get our “baby on the way” ornament.  They will personalize your ornaments, too!  They literally have an ornament for everything!!

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People come from all over the country – and the world – to visit Bronner’s.  There are some very neat pictures of the many celebrities that have stopped in to check it out.  It really is a magical place.  Along with the thousands of ornaments, they have trees, stockings, and Christmas villages.  My mom used to have a village she set up every year, but I am not sure what happened to it.  This year, they had some Halloween villages (one from the Addams Family, one from the Munsters, and one from the Nightmare Before Christmas).  They have many pieces for the various villages, too (Peanuts, a Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, etc…)!  We spent about 3-4 hours walking through.

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They have many Precious Moments figurines, as well as others (like super heroes, Peanuts, Star Wars, Disney, and more).  And if you need a nutcracker – they have plenty!

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It really was a fun time walking through there.  Sam and I enjoy doing it, although this year was a bit rougher on her as she is 24 weeks pregnant!!

After our walk through Bronner’s, we grabbed lunch at one of my favorite places in Frankenmuth – The Frankenmuth Brewery.

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This was where Sam and I had one of our first dates.  We ate outside on the balcony overlooking the river.  I have always been a fan of craft beers and there are some favorites that are brewed here.  The Christmastown Ale is a personal favorite.  This time I chose the Pumpkin Chucker, which was very good, and in season.  It was made from pumpkins from one of the local pumpkin farms.  Great eats, good beer, and good times with family!

(If you plan to visit – be sure to grab some cheese at the Cheese Haus and shop at the River Place shops)

Despite being busy throughout most of the weekend, I am so glad that I was able to get a day with my brother and Sam.  I think what made it extra special was that we spent the day in Frankenmuth.  I have some great childhood memories there, I have had some very fun times with my sons there, Sam and I had our first real date there, AND I asked her to marry me while riding in a horse-drawn carriage there.  It’s a very special place for me.

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