Archive for December, 2010

Christmas Recipe

Merry Movie Christmas Eve to you!  As Rachel Barry on Glee said, “No one should be alone on Christmas Eve, Mr. Schue.” But you know what? It’s absolutely okay.  I spent an excellent day by myself full of doing stuff that I want to do.  That included volunteering for people who are less fortunate than I, a whirlwind shopping tour for myself and catching up on my DVR collection of Christmas movies that were three weeks in the making.

I feel pretty knowledgeable about these movies.  I’m not talking so much about the ones that come out in the theater with a Christmas theme.  No, I mean the awesomely awful made-for-tv movies on ABC Family, Hallmark Channel and Fa la la la Lifetime.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Elf, The Family Stone, Love Actually, Home Alone, the Last Holiday and The Holiday.  These certainly put me in the holiday spirit and help to get the cranberries and popcorn production underway.

You know the ones I’m talking about.  I kid you not, these are the movies in our DVR now: Deck the Halls, Comfort and Joy, A Walk in My Shoes, The Good Witch’s Gift, Most Wonderful Time of Year, Holiday in Handcuffs, Will You Merry Me, Merry Daughter of the Bride, A Christmas Wedding and A Christmas Proposal (no relation).  So, yes, I may get a little carried away.

The DVR list.

The DVR list.

Remember when I said that if I were to go back to LA and be forced in “the industry” it would be to scout locations for movie sets?  I take it back.  I want to write holiday movies.  I’m completely capable.  I’m almost an expert at this point as I’m on my fourth for the day.  Well, that’s three whole movies and two half movies that were so terrible.  Please, whatever you do, stay away from Christmas Cupid.  Seriously, that’s some bad stuff…even I couldn’t tolerate it.  Actually, I take that back, I watched the whole thing, but it was more out of pity.

So for you, dear readers, on this Merry Movie Christmas Eve, I would like to share a recipe with you.  A recipe for the perfect holiday movie.  A choose your own adventure of sorts.  Here’s how you make your perfect holiday movie…

Add one female lead.  She needs to be two of the following:

  1. Extremely uptight, including that hair in a bun which will eventually get loosened over time as a man changes her for the better*.  Chronic list maker.
  2. A workaholic who never has time for a man.  Just too busy running the world and barking orders.
  3. A do gooder next door neighbor type.  You want to hate her.  Usually a blond.

Now, put the female lead in a relationship circumstance:

  1. A very “content” single woman who just can’t seem to find the right guy.  All it takes is the right guy and all her Christmas dreams will come true!!  She’s currently “not looking” and is disgusted by any man who comes her way, including the hottie who is willing to do nice things for her like bring her coffee at work or put up her Christmas tree.  Yeah, we know what that means.  This tends to be the most popular option.
  2. An engaged woman who is frantically planning for her Christmas wedding.  Gag me.
  3. A married mom who wishes she had chosen a different life without all the hassles.  Normally, she’ll come around at the end of the movie and realize that her husband and children are the end all, be all for her.  Good for her.
  4. A single mom.  This one is a tear jerker regardless.

Insert one main male lead with a square jaw.  Choose from the following:

  1. A developer.  Smug, arrogant, knows better than anyone who crosses his path.  If he’s not talking about taking someone’s house with eminent domain or building a ski resort, he won’t fit into this category.  Never fear, he has a great heart in there somewhere.
  2. A lawyer. Works at a big firm but isn’t your typical big firm lawyer. Somehow only works like 15 hours per week.
  3. A free spirit hippie.  The most obvious (and yet most satisfying, apparently) typical foil to uptight woman. Will always have long hair and never makes plans.  Laughs at the female lead’s organization skills until he gets her drunk one night and she lets loose and suddenly!, he sees her in a new light.  Bam.

Oh, no!  Enter the contrasting male lead to stir things up!  Pick one that will mix it up with a bit of Christmas jealousy:

  1. An overbearing boss
  2. The ex boyfriend that got away years ago
  3. Mom’s new boyfriend or the town’s ex con or literally, the guy next door.

The setting is a character, too!  Pick one of the following for your movie:

  1. New York City, the center of the universe and all things Christmas and hip.  This is usually where movies begin, but within five minutes, they’re in options 2 or 3.
  2. The middle of nowhere.  Usually Alaska, but not the north pole (puh-lease, that’s too cliche!).  The purpose here is to maximize all the available rugged single men.  Do it.
  3. Local yocal small town.  Usually where the main character grew up.  Bonus points for cheezy names such as “Mistletoe” or “Claustown”.  About 85% of the movies take place here.

Don’t forget the scenarios for the “plot”:

  1. He’s a nasty developer or lawyer trying to take homes away from people at Christmas time.  What?!?  How dare he! Someone’s working overtime to stop him!
  2. Two cultures clash when she brings the new boyfriend home.  What?!?  He’s Jewish?  What ever will the family do to help him feel welcome and create new holiday traditions?
  3. The lead goes home.  Options:
    1. Mom and Dad strongly encourage the lead to spend some time with the ex who stayed in town to make good.  Aw, the parents are match makers.
    2. The rich lead reluctantly returns home to take care of the family during an emergency.  She realizes how important family really is.  Down comes the ponytail!
    3. The lead returns home with the fiance that nobody has met (how does that happen?).  He’s a nice guy, but just not quite right for her.  Second male character enters.
    4. The lead kidnaps a stranger in the diner where she works and passes him off as a boyfriend with the family in the woods over the holidays.  Actually, that one has been written (Holiday in Handcuffs) and they barely pulled it off with the help of Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez.  But now you can see a creative way to work the “coming home to family” angle.

Something HAS to change!  Is it…

  1. She learns to loosen up! Let go! Learns to love…again!  That hottie next door isn’t as terrible as she thought, and now they’re in love!
  2. Wait, no.  That’s the only option.  Cue the entire cast realizing that it’s snowing.  A Christmas miracle indeed.

What’s your favorite made for tv holiday movie?  How did your choose your own adventure movie turn out?  Let me know in the comments!!  Or describe the musical montage that would happen in your movie.  You know you gotta have one!

* Official hair transition: tight bun to tight pony tail to half way down to all the way down (straight) to all the way down, (wavy).

Also, a very special thank you to Corey for helping me write this.  He not only lets me fill up the DVR with this ridiculous stuff (erasing valuable posts in the meantime), but also watches with me.  We play guess the plot or guess this character and high five when we get it right (which we usually do).  Thank you, Corey!

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Reinforcements

I want to say thank you for the incredible amount of support and love you have shown my family this past week.  It has come from so many unexpected places and has been very touching.  Words do not convey how appreciative I am for your support, thoughts, and love that you have sent us.  Your emails, phone calls and text messages have been so helpful…it makes me tear up just thinking about how much love is swirling around out there.  It is amazing.

I talked to Melissa on Monday, and I felt much better after hearing her voice.  My parents and youngest sister Emily are in Seattle now, so they’ll be able to take care of them.  Some things like walking the dog or cleaning the kitchen are just really tough when you can’t focus or leave the house.  Hell, cleaning my kitchen is hard enough on its own!  But I feel a million times better knowing that my family is there.  It really is hard to help from so far away; I just didn’t know what to do or how I could help.

In the south, we cook in times of tragedy, and now I understand!  Melissa and Jacob are tired of eating out, but they’re too exhausted to go to the grocery store and fix anything at home.  Casseroles are comforting.  You can heat up and eat as much or as little as you want with little effort.  And now my mom can make all the casseroles their little hearts desire.

In the future, I’m going to make more casseroles for people who need them.  I’ll figure out how to make them*…that’s what Campbell’s soups are for, right?  It’s always hard to know what to do for people: when to give them space, when to push a little harder to get them out of the house, when to check in and how frequently.  But now I’m going to make casseroles and put them on their front door and just give them a home cooked meal.

Mom's casseroles sound so good right now.

Mom's casseroles sound so good right now.

Unfortunately, so many of my friends are not in DC.  For them, I’m going to call.  I’m a horrible phone person, but it isn’t about me.  And even if I pick up the phone to call and all you hear is tears on the other end of the line, well, that’s what you’ll get.  When Cosette called on Monday night just to cry, damn, that felt really good.  Thanks, Cosette.  I’m going to take your lead and pay it forward one day (others have called, and I thank you and take your lead, too).

On the other hand, if you need a casserole or a call, just ask, okay?  It’s hard to know what people need, in rough times or in good times.  I ask that you help me be the best friend to you as I can.  I admit, I’m not always the best friend to some people, and my life is so filled with activities that it’s hard to squeeze in the important things.  Don’t let me do that, okay?

 

*I should figure out how to make a signature casserole dish so I don’t accidentally hurt anyone with my cooking.  The problem with casseroles is that you can tell when a test bite has been taken out.  I guess I can keep to the recipes that mush everything together and you can’t tell.  Those are the best tasting anyway.

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Sharing the sad news

This is the saddest post I hope to ever have to write.  I know I don’t have to write it, but it helps me cope and sort out my feelings.  I’ve started this post three times on the computer and about 100 times in my head, so today you get what you get.  It will be brief and will lack eloquence, so forgive me.

And you know I’m a strong believer of not just putting a happy face to the world when people are dealing with real issues.  This is one of those situations that affect more people than we know and yet, we still seem not to talk about it.  So here I go with as much sensitivity as I possibly can, and written only from my view point because I still am not able to wrap my head around it four days later.

Thursday it was snowing and I was pleased as you could tell from my post.  I got a call from my mother who small talks about the snow for about a minute.  It was like she was cherishing some bit of innocence I had remaining before she broke down in tears.   “I have some bad news.  Leo didn’t make it,” she said.  Leo is my sister’s son who was due today.  Apparently she had a cold and woke up Thursday knowing something was wrong.  The doctors could not find a heart beat.

Long story short, they induced labor and she delivered Leo around 11:00 pm on Thursday evening.  They will never know the cause, and that happens I guess.

It’s tough out here in our world.  If Leo couldn’t make it inside one of the warmest, most protected places on earth, I’m not sure how he would have done in our cold world.   So many of my friends are having babies and will be having babies…each really is a gift.  I guess I never understood the miracle of childbirth before now.  Since Thursday, so many people have told me about their miscarriage or a friend or family member who had one.  It really is one of the saddest things to talk about, and I understand why we don’t.  But we should, and we shouldn’t wait until things like this happen to support each other.

There are so many things to say and I have a ton of ideas and snippets in my head.  I won’t be able to capture them all now.  But, the hardest thing is telling people, so I write this post to let everyone know.  There were still a few people I wanted to tell personally, but not able to reach yet.  If you know Melissa or Jacob and want to reach out to them, please do.  It really does help to get a text, voicemail or email.  When I cry, it’s for them.

That’s all I’ll say today.  In the meantime, I’m very thankful that my sister and Jacob are doing as well as can be expected.  I am also very happy to be seeing them in a few days.  I think it will help to have everyone together to celebrate the holidays.  Our families are very fortunate to have few reasons in the past to grieve like this.  We’re learning how to cope now, and we’ll work our way through it together.

Thanks to all of my friends and friends of my family who have been so supportive and helpful.  I love you all.

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Quick Holiday Catch-up

I love this season so much.  Words to not convey how I love this time of year.  It’s snowing right now and I can’t get enough of it!!  I’m listening to Christmas music like it’s going out of style because it will in less than two weeks.  Can’t get enough!  Here is a quick post to catch you up on all the goings-on (sorry I didn’t call on Sunday, Mom and Dad.  I will soon, promise, but hopefully this will help you get up-to-date so you can ask questions about what you’re most interested in!).

Home Improvement: The house is a wreck and it looks so lived in and comfortable that I don’t want to clean.  I haven’t finished the dishes from the gingerbread party seven days ago.  The tree is so huge and I still haven’t finished decorating it yet, and it probably won’t get decorated anytime soon since there really is no time at this point.  Whatevs, it’s beautiful.

Random: I’m wearing my glasses this week because something flew into my eye while riding my bike (the doctor Tom Haverford said all was good and gave me a prescription)…anyway, I have the worst vision in the world and I hate my glasses so I never wear them.  However, found a few awesome things about that in the last day or two: 1. the tree without my glasses is a glowing mass of lights and it’s awesome.  I wish I could explain what it is I see on this tree without my glasses, but it is like looking through a kaleidoscope.  2. My phone games are in 3-D.  I can’t explain that either but it’s pretty cool, too. 3. My improv didn’t suffer like I thought it would.  Since I can’t see peripherally, it helped me to focus.  Yay.

Improv: Speaking of blind and improv, last night’s benefit for Driving Blind was great!  Subsidized Corn was very pleased with our performance because we had such a fun time.  And I felt pretty close to the cause with my glasses and of course, have a new appreciation for my sight.  Anyway, thanks to Hot & Sweaty for putting it together and raising awareness.  Our next show is Friday night at 8:00 at RFD in Chinatown.  That, too, is a benefit show and you can just pay what you want at the door.  I hope you can make it for Goli’s last show before she moves to Sydney.  Technically, this is the last time all the original SubCo founders will be together for awhile…Sad.

Travel: Speaking of improv and Sydney, I’m in the middle of booking my tickets for Australia!!  I’m very, very excited about this trip.  Subsidized Corn will be performing at the Adelaide Fringe Festival for five shows March 4-6.  More details to come soon about this amazing opportunity.  You are all invited.  I’ll pay for your ticket if you make the trip across the Pacific.  I’ll also see Patrick in New Zealand which will be awesome, too.

Holiday spirit: I forgot the best part of the Gingerbread Night.  After everyone left around 1:30 a.m. Corey says to me, “Want to go to New York?” “Yes.” “Okay, what are you doing on [this day]?” “Nothing.” “Okay, we’re going to get our Christmas on.” Done.  This is why he’s the best roommate ever.  We booked our tickets for the bus immediately.  I can’t tell you how much I love NYC this time of year.  I go every year to get pumped for the season, and I thought I wasn’t going to be able this year.  Jassandra (that’s Jason and Cassandra as a couple) is also joining us, and Cassandra is almost as excited about Christmas as the residents of the Corn Palace.  I’m about to burst just thinking of how much fun we’re going to have.  Separate post on that to come.

The Gang + AFGM does Christmas 2010

The Gang + AFGM does Christmas 2010

Friends update: Maria is coming for dinner next week!  That means she’s going to teach me how to cook again.  And I’m always happy to have her in my kitchen.  Corby is not back in her house yet, and it will probably be awhile.  Something about asbestos and it wasn’t a good situation.  I need the update, but I’ll report back.  The Gang and AFGM had our holiday party on Saturday at Jason’s house for a fun white elephant.  I wish I had the photos of the monkey onsie that Andrew ended up with, but I’m sure he’s happy that I don’t.  It was a fun evening.  People are starting to leave for the holidays, so it’s getting quieter.  But that also means that people are coming home and I get to see them…like Meghann!  I love that I can catch up with so many people this time of year.

Also, I’m taking Corey to my hair guy Linh tonight for his Christmas present: a big boy haircut!  Maybe he’ll let me take before and after photos?  Corey has been squirming about this and it’s making it all worth it.  For some reason he’s nervous.  What? Scared to let me work with your hair?!?  Good thing I’m calling in a professional that knows his stuff.  Merry Christmas, Corey!

So, as you can tell, life has been fast paced and awesome.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Gingerbread Night 2010!

I love the holidays. It means squeezing in that extra activity with friends to see them before the end of the year.   It means decorating like mad to make your house feel warm and inviting. It means blending both of those into Gingerbread Parcel Design and Construction Contests! This contest is everything that I love about the holidays…creativity, candy, friends, alcohol, entertaining, decorating, Christmas music, concentration, candles glowing, laughter. All that good stuff.

This year’s party was no different. Our third year throwing such an occasion was a hit; I’ll write more about the masterpieces later. There are so many reasons I look forward to this day every year. I get to spend MY Christmas with my Chosen Family entertaining and being creative. These are the people that mean so much to me and the only way I know how to thank them is invite them over to our house and ask them to make a mess.  Yeah, this one’s on me, kids.

Since our house is smaller than years past, we were not able to invite everyone. It was a very tight squeeze last night, with people building all over the place. I am sorry to all my friends that were not able to join us, especially Subsidized Corn because they were performing!! I must really love Gingerbread night because to miss a performance is a big deal to me.

Although this party practically runs itself, we always depend a lot on our Chosen Family to make it happen.  Corby mixed the icing like a champ and Felice decorated our Christmas tree and banister.  I got the graham crackers and Corey took care of the booze.  Easy, peasy.  Everyone is so helpful putting out candies and cleaning up after themselves.

Basically, this is how it works:  I get home late and Corey and Corby are well into a necessary project.  I change clothes then start running central command.  Corey asks how he can help and takes direction very well (yet another reason he’s the best roommate ever).  People start to arrive and they get drinks and assist with small tasks (for anyone who has been to any Cummings party, you know if you just stand still you’ll get an assigned task eventually).  Once everything is in place, we begin.  It gets quiet and you can actually hear Channel 433 “Sounds of the Season” coming from the tv.  People spread all over the room on the floor and in every available chair and start whispering and sketches come out.  Laughter from one corner, wine spillage in another.  About an hour and a half later, we start to clear the table so we can put our masterpieces on display.

It always looks amazing.  People tell the story of what they’ve created.  This year we had a Southern Mansion, Cabin in the Woods, Falling Water, Dwell Magazine Spread, Corby’s Burning House, a recreation of the house that someone actually lives in and a Smithsonian Museum turned Hershey’s factory turned office park.  Pretty amazing stuff.  Then we vote using red hots.  We clean a bit then the fun begins.

Out comes video of Corey and me playing Just Dance 2.  We don’t mind being laughed at…we’re amongst family.  The wii gets turned on and the dancing doesn’t stop until 1:30 a.m.  It’s just that fun.  (No, the video below is not Corey doing Just Dance 2, unfortunately.  It’s hilarious though and thought I would share.)

I love my house, but I love it even more when my friends and Chosen Family are inside.  My Chosen Family are the people that I choose to spend my time with and attention to, and they do the same in return.  My “Cabin in the Woods Plus” group.  They are usually the loud ones at the party, making things so much fun.  They arrive early to help and they leave late because they feel at home.  They get upset when a family member breaks their favorite wine glasses, then forgives because that’s what you do (then gets really happy when another family member points out that it was a different wine glass).  They don’t get upset when wine is spilled on the rug.  They pick on each other and make fun, and you know they don’t really mean it.  They would have your back in a swift minute if any outsider started to do the same…and they’ll laugh like hell at your ex only after he or she is your ex.  They guide you through the tough times and listen to more of your boring stories than they want to, but that’s what families do.  Families hug, families get excited when you are with them, and families laugh together.  That’s what I do with my Chosen Family.  Rather, that’s what WE do together.  And happily, our family just gets larger and larger so we can continue to spread that love to others.

Wii time: Just Dance 2 is Loading

Wii time: Just Dance 2 is Loading

Yeah, I’m a little sad that Gingerbread Night 2010 is done for the year, but there is always next year.  It almost feels like Christmas is over!  But I know there are at least two more weeks to show off our massive tree and spend time with my friends before I get to be with my real family, which also happens to be getting larger and larger, too.

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What happened?!?

No, I didn’t fall off the face of the earth!  Thanks to all my loyal readers for your concern and encouragement to keep writing.  I was doing just fine with an entry a day for the Gratitude Project.  Things were going well, even if it was hard to keep up (I’m not a blog everyday kind of girl, you see, as I remembered that routines bore the hell out of me).  I broke the Gratitude trend and posted a very quick, if rather crappy, blurb about the dinner party we hosted.  I spent three minutes on the entire post and just threw it together so folks could see photos.

Of all the hard work and hours that I spend writing each post, wouldn’t you know it was the less-than-stellar post that got picked up?  I still haven’t figured out where it was posted.  I got 215 hits pretty instantly, and you guys know I love my blog stats!  Until that point the highest one day total was 125.  I almost doubled my daily best with an article I wasn’t even happy with!

It was almost too much.  I realized how many strangers could and do read my blog.  It affected me in a way that I still do not understand and have done a lot of thinking about since.  I guess I got a little scared of what could have been and scared that people would see more crap posts from me.  And it suddenly felt like the pressure was on to perform.

You know I don’t like pressure!!  Plus, at about the same time I traveled to Seattle for Mel’s baby shower and didn’t feel like posting when there were games to be played with the family like Who, What, Where and We Cheer 2!  Then I made the excuse that I was waiting for photos, but that was just a stalling technique.  (The photos are on Mel’s facebook page if you want to check them out.)  Then I just got busy.  I went to North Carolina for Thanksgiving.  It was probably one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve had in a long time, for no particular reason other than I had not been home since Christmas of last year.  That’s too long to go without going home!

The family at Thanksgiving 2010

The family at Thanksgiving 2010

Once I got back it’s been non-stop.  The ladies came over last Thursday for baking night and we managed to make in one oven: cupcakes, mint chocolate chip cookies, chocolate/caramel covered pretzel sticks, peanut butter bars and chocolate chip cookies.  It was pretty tame but the baking was out of control.

The tree is up and lights are on, however, the production process slowed at the cranberries and popcorn stringing.  Saturday morning I scheduled to string, then I started watching some of my favorite Christmas movies which is part of the tradition.  I was 10 minutes into Love, Actually and just started bawling.  The crying went straight through The Family Stone, a movie that just pulls at every heartstring.  I was a weepy mess, and was only able to complete one strand.  So, the tree has tons of lights and one strand of popcorn and cranberries.  It would look pretty sad when the lights are off, but it’s so big that there is not much sad about it.  Sort of like a hot guy that just isn’t wearing the right socks…still plenty of good to look at.

Saturday night was the office Christmas party, and that was fun.  Sunday I woke up not feeling so hot, but was able to make a productive day with brunch, the Logan Circle House Tour and spaghetti dinner and game night.  And speaking of games, I bought wii’s Just Dance 2 and Corey and I danced for a solid hour when we returned from dinner.

Must have been the dancing…or the four hour conversation that followed…but the next morning we were both sick. I still had the same stomach thing from Sunday.  And I have it again today.  It hurts when I move around and when I laugh which made for a tough Subsidized Corn practice last night.  (Laura couldn’t laugh either because she had surgery on her mouth and Nick had a cast because he broke his hand playing football this weekend, so we’re quite the pathetic lot.  But, if you want to see SubCo, we have a show this Thursday at Source at 8:00 p.m.  I won’t be able to make it.)

I’ve also decided it hurts when I eat, so I’m not going to eat for awhile.  Then I get tired and dizzy and pissy and nobody wins.  I was fine with the banana today, but the graham crackers hurt.  Seriously?  How does it hurt after I eat graham crackers?!?  That’s ridiculous.  I’m not sure what is going on, but the bright side is I will stick to a pre-holiday diet this way!  Too bad the diet will only consist of bananas, applesauce, rice and tea for now (Thanks Emily D for the BART recommendation).

In the meantime, I’ll figure out how to sit upright to string cranberries and popcorn.  And I won’t watch sappy movies or listen to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Judy Garland or James Taylor.  Why am I such a weepy mess?  I hope they are all related and all gone by tomorrow.  No time to slow down!  Our amazingly huge tree won’t decorate itself.

So, thanks to everyone for your encouragement!  I appreciate that you are continuing to read along.  I hope to post some photos of a fully decorated tree soon (where have you heard that before?).

 

My Thanksgiving plate.  If my stomach felt better, this would look really yummy.

My Thanksgiving plate. If my stomach felt better, this would look really yummy.

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