The holidays always bring out the weird

When the movie “Christmas Vacation” first came out back in 1989, I sat in the darkened movie theater wondering how in the world they’d managed to listen in on my family Christmases without me knowing. While he might not have gone all out on the outdoor lights, my Dad would turna Clark Giriswold-like energy to his baking. He was a wonderful baker but, boy, during the holidays did he try to do more than was humanly possible in a short period of time. Worse, he always found at least one recipe that he just had to do — and it always failed. Not that we’d dare tell him that. So Mom and I would plaster a fake smile on our faces as he started telling us about this latest recipe he’d just found and then we’d try to find a reason to be out of the house before the first batch came out of the oven. Neither of us wanted to be the one to try the first bite.

We went through years of homemade fruit cakes and, yes, to this day I can’t stand them. There were rum cakes that I swear would have exploded into flame if you lit a math near them. Cookies — at least I think they were cookies — that could have been used as weapons of mass destruction. All we’d have to do was drop them over an enemy encampment and we’d receive notice of surrender within minutes. Their only demand would be that we not “give” them any more of my father’s little experiments.

We never had a squirrel in our Christmas tree either. We didn’t need one. We had cats. One cat in particular loved Christmas because it was the one time of the year when he had his own indoor tree — at least that’s the way he saw it. The little devil would leave the tree alone that first day after bringing it in from the sales lot. Dad and I would set the tree in its stand and for the next 24 hours work to get it into just the right position to suit Mom (she could tell where the bare spots would be after the limbs shook out and the ornaments were on long before those two things happened.) But once the ornaments went on, it was as if the call went out to give permission for the cat to start climbing the tree.

Oh, he was smart about it. He would wait until we were gone or at least in another room. Then he’d scramble through the packages around the tree and up the trunk he’d go. If we were lucky, he would simply climb up the tree and look out, the king surveying his realm. Unfortunately, more often than not, we’d hear something drop. Then something else, then the clinking of glass ornaments hitting — and breaking — one upon the other. Of course, the cat would be nowhere to be found by the time we raced in to see what was happening. Or worse, he’d be sitting in the hall, looking into the room and then at us with an expression of pure innocence.

Not that it fooled us.

But it was the crashing of the Christmas tree in the middle of the night — and the destruction of almost all the ornaments, many of which dated back to my great grandparents — that was the final straw. No, Mom didn’t cook the Christmas cat. Although, I think she would have if she’d been able to catch him. Instead, she went out as soon as the stores opened the next morning and bought three things. The first was the biggest spray bottle she could find. Then she bought some replacement ornaments. Finally, she brought home a small fake Christmas tree that she put up for the cat. Of course, Mom being Mom, she was evil about it and bought a foil tree. It didn’t take very long for the cat to decide he didn’t like either tree. One didn’t taste good and wasn’t tall enough to climb and the other resulted in — ACK!– water touching him.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying, things haven’t changed much at the old homestead. Now we have DK — Demon Kitten. He hasn’t — yet — tried to climb the Christmas tree. But that is probably only because it is a fake tree and he can’t get a good purchase on the trunk. But boy-oh-boy does he have a thing for the ornaments. He not only knocks them off the tree but he then carries them throughout the house. I wake in the middle of the night — almost every night since the tree went up — to the sounds of ornaments rolling across the tile of either the entry hall or the kitchen. We’ve learned to put on slippers or shoes when we first get up because there is no telling what we might step on. It could be a small ornament that would break under our foot or just the hanger used to place the ornament on the tree. It makes mornings more of an “adventure” than they already are and this isn’t a good thing for someone like me who has to have coffee before her eyes open.

Add to that the usual adventures in the kitchen. So far, they are starting early. Dad’s no longer with us so any baking mistakes are mine. At least I try my own baking first, before making someone else do it. As a result, the failures usually end up on the trash before anyone knows about them. But Mom has a love-hate relationship with the kitchen sink and related appliances during the holiday season. Usually, the trouble happens either right before or right after we’ve had company over. This year, the trouble started early. You can read the full story over at my blog but the short version is, she almost destroyed the disposal and did destroy a couple of plastic measuring spoons when she didn’t realize three of them had gone into the disposal before she turned it on. I worked to free the grinders for almost an hour before giving up and calling a friend to see if he could do it. Fortunately for my pocketbook, he could.

Now the weather isn’t playing along with my plans and it’s raining. That means no making of divinity today which means delivery of a tray of goodies to a friend has to wait at least one more day. Sigh. But that’s okay because there is still cooking and baking to do.

And somewhere in there, I have to find time for writing.

In the meantime, if you’re still looking for something to give to your family or friends who are readers, consider picking up something by the members of MGC. Yes, this is a shameless plug but, well, I never said I had any shame  😉

Here’s hoping everyone has a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season.

17 thoughts on “The holidays always bring out the weird

  1. My aunt had a cat (passed away some years ago at 18 yrs old) who climbed the tree no matter what. So, her Tree corners or walls all got/get little screw eyes up near the ceiling that get line run to them to keep the tree in an upright condition even with a flailing 12 pound feline trying his best to play lumberjack. He, and his spiritual twin she still has (last I heard) are also famous for displacing the baby Jesus in the nativity.

    A coworker has a dog who just loves that they brought in a tree for him to use as well … sadly he uses it like his own personal fire hydrant … yeah, that’s not going over well.

  2. cats going after the ornaments was why the glass ornaments always started halfway up the tree at our house…

  3. Mom and Dad put the tree on top of an end table, with pieces of linoleum under the tree-skirt to act as cat baffles. It seems to work, but they still put straw, resin, and other less-fragile ornaments on the bottom, JIC. Little Bit (my 2.7 y.o. niece) is a far greater threat to arboreal integrity than the cat is.

  4. If you are as coffee challanged as I am, a stainless steel airpot by the bed (not cheap, but lasts forever) will keep coffee warm overnight so you do not even have to put your feet on the floor to get the first cup (or twelve).

  5. The Little Angel on the Top of the Christmas Tree!

    One particular Christmas season a long time ago, Santa was getting ready for his annual trip but there were problems everywhere. Four of his elves got sick, and the trainee elves did not produce the toys as fast as the regular ones so Santa was beginning to feel the pressure of being behind schedule. Then Mrs. Claus told Santa that her Mom was coming to visit; this stressed Santa even more.

    When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two had jumped the fence and were out at heaven knows where. More stress.

    Then when he began to load the sleigh one of the boards cracked and the toy bag fell to the ground and scattered the toys. So, frustrated, Santa went into the house for a cup of coffee and a shot of whiskey. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered that the elves had hid the liquor and there was nothing to drink.

    In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the coffeepot and it broke into hundreds of little pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found that mice had eaten the straw it was made of. Just then the doorbell rang and Santa cussed on his way to the door. He opened the door and there was a little angel with a great big Christmas tree.

    The angel said, very cheerfully, “Merry Christmas Santa. Isn’t it just a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Isn’t it just a lovely tree? Where would you like me to stick it?

    Thus began the tradition of the little angel on top of the tree.

    Merry Christmas everyone

    1. The FAA now sends an inspector to the North Pole to check out Santa Claus’s sleigh before allowing him to fly on Christmas eve.

      The inspector arrives and says, “Hi, I’m from the FAA and I’m here to help!” Santa says, “We’re glad you’re here!” The inspector reviews Santa’s certificates. He checks the reindeer and they look good, he checks the harness and it looks okay, he checks the sleigh and it is also okay. Then he says, “Santa, lets take it up for a check ride and if everything looks good I’ll certify you to fly.”

      Santa hitches the reindeer up and taxis onto the runway and just as he’s starting his takeoff roll he looks over and notices the inspector has a pump shotgun on his lap. “Hey! Whats the shotgun for!?” Santa yells.

      The inspector says, “Well, Santa, I’m really not supposed to tell you this, but you’re gonna lose one on takeoff.”

  6. They’re hard to find now, but I have this miracle cat-training device called a Sssscat. Basically it’s a motion detector that sits on top of a can of canned air. Turn it on, and when a cat goes where he’s not supposed to be, it lets out an almighty hiss that sends him running. Works great on the kitchen counter (scares the crap out of me when I forget it’s on.)

  7. After three days in the fridge, the turkey has failed to thaw. I think I’m just going to quietly close the fridge door and let it sit, instead of trying for a Christmas turkey and a repeat of culinary hilarity and other disasters.

    The only tree in this house this year is the cat tree. No, the cat furniture one; I didn’t get an arboreal one for her to play X-games enthusiast. Maybe next year. Should I put some garlands on the cat tree?

    1. Via Alton Brown, the best way to Thaw that bird is, while it’s still wrapped, put it in a big pot of cold water in the sink, with the cold tap running.

      You want cold water simply because you don’t want to warm the meat into food-unsafe territory, but you want water because it will transfer a lot more heat than air does, and you want to change it regularly because the bird will cool it to where it won’t be effective any more.

  8. My Christmas tree memory from childhood: live candles and sparklers on the tree, one sparkler nearly setting the whole thing on fire. Although I think it only needed one glass of water to douse since I noticed it early enough, there were no flames but the branch was turning kind of red (I think I was about seven. I thought it looked very interesting. Mother was less enthusiastic. She used the water.). 🙂

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