The Bad Mommy Cooks—Massachusetts

Massachusetts is our 13th state. That means we are about 25% of the way done with our state tour. Here’s a quick recap of the first 12 states (each 👍🏼 or 👎🏼 represents a family member):

  • Hawaii 👎🏼👎🏼👎🏼👎🏼 (Chef’s fault)
  • North Dakota 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 (Bison was better than we anticipated)
  • North Carolina 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 (Pulled pork is always a winner in my book)
  • Alaska 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 (Super expensive but oh so good)
  • Kansas 👍🏼👎🏼👍🏼👎🏼 (The kids and I were on the fence with this one)
  • Pennsylvania 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 (Yah for Philly!—only for cheesesteaks though)
  • New Mexico 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 (Taquitos were a Mexican party in our mouths)
  • Indiana 👍🏼👍🏼👎🏼👎🏼 (Fried pork wasn’t my thing)
  • Texas 👍🏼👍🏼👎🏼👎🏼 (The chicken fried steak was confusing)
  • Georgia 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 (Can I give this state 5 thumbs up???)
  • South Dakota 👍🏼👍🏼👎🏼(We were missing our 4th thumb)
  • West Virginia 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 (Who doesn’t love Pepperoni bread???)

Things were going so well with our cooking experiment. *Sigh* Enter Massachusetts to ruin that. Actually, I ruined Massachusetts because Massachusetts was a two part-er. Hubby made New England Clam Chowder and I made Boston Cream Cupcakes.

Mmmmm. Boston Cream. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Yeah, stand by for how I manage to ruin that. First, the clam chowder.

Hubby makes a kick ass, out of this world crab corn chowder. There are celery, carrots, jalepenos, corn, potatoes, and a cream base with bacon. The clam chowder recipe* I found used many of the same ingredients, so theoretically, it would taste very similar, right? Wrong. Turns out, I don’t like clams. Well, I don’t like clams in soup or chowder. Or from the shells. Or anytime you can feel how gross and slippery they are. I had a feeling that would be an issue for me, so I had him buy fried clams (also very Massachusetts) that I could make when the slippery clam chowder made me barf. Don’t like something? Fry it up! Frying makes everything delicious (except pork—pork shouldn’t be fried EVER).I was actually looking forward to the fried clams. The problem was, I never got to make those fried clams because I was too busy screwing up the Boston Cream Cupcakes.

How can you screw up cupcakes, you ask? You used to be the Queen of Cupcakes. Your kids would fight each other for your cupcakes. Your husband’s co-workers would salivate when you showed up with your cupcake carrier. Yeah, well apparently the Queen is dead. In her place is a Un-domesticated Goddess of F’d Up Baked Goods.

In all fairness, the original Pinterest poster of this cupcake recipe warned that it was complicated. And also in fairness, in the middle of making these cupcakes my outdoor Christmas lights blew out again…for the 4th time in two weeks, which was really, really, really upsetting. I may have cried a little bit. I also may have poured more wine than recommended while baking. Oh, and the vet called about my dog at a crucial point of the cream making process, so I may have been slightly distracted when I needed to be stirring to prevent lumps.

So first, the cupcakes. The cupcakes I used to make were light and fluffy and always  overflowed their cupcake wrapper cups. These cupcakes had serious muffin top. In stark contract, these were the cupcakes I extracted from the oven for the Boston Cream Cupcakes:

e5e2da47-b6cc-4703-848e-bab7a530c88c-396-0000004e39afd24c_file How sad is that? (Even Olaf is in shock) The cream filling was even worse. Remember how I said the vet called while I was making it? Yeah well that was at the very moment I added the milk and I was supposed to constantly stir it in to prevent lumps. Unfortunately, the vet’s call got dropped because hubby left and turned the car on and subsequently, my car bluetooth that is sync’d to my phone. Long story short, I was a bit distracted, frantically trying to call the vet back and I didn’t stir too well. Hence the fact I had to use the potato masher later on.

img_5281(It didn’t work, by the way.) When I filled the pastry bag and tried to inject the cream into the cupcakes…well, let’s just say it was an epic fail.

By this time, the clam chowder was done, the butter for the biscuits had just exploded in the microwave, I was in tears, and my night was pretty much ruined. I didn’t even bother to make the chocolate ganache for the cupcakes. I tried to eat the clam chowder but those damn slippery clams got me. So in the end, all I ate was a cheddar bay biscuit (the kind you get from Red Lobster—they sell it in a box—no reason to ever go back to Red Lobster now). Maybe our next state won’t include any baked goods for me to screw up.

*Link to Clam chowder I did not really eat.

Hubby and one child liked it though. Other child did not eat it either. I looks pretty nice, but I’ll stick to the crab corn chowder instead. img_5285P.S., if anyone successfully makes the Boston Cream cupcakes, can you send me one?? I had to make do with a Boston Cream donut instead.

It just wasn’t the same 😢

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12 Ways to Lose Your Mind This Christmas Season—Way #6

You’ve shopped, you’ve wrapped…you’ve even decorated. You should be able to relax and enjoy the season now, right? Wrong. You’ve got to:

#6. Bake cookies. I really want to know what sadistic jerk decided that not only do we need gifts and decorations to make our holiday complete, we need cookies as well. And no, we can’t just buy Holiday Oreos or Chips Ahoy. Oh no—they need to be homemade. You can’t just make one type of cookie, either. What fun is that? There’s an unwritten rule that you must to make a variety of cookies or you are just not getting the Christmas spirit.

Sure, it sounds like a great idea. Who doesn’t like cookies? And of course, it’s a fun family activity—you can make a day of it and bake with your kids, creating memories that will last a lifetime. It’s really so easy to do. In fact, I’ve included instructions on how to bake Christmas cookies in 50 easy steps:

  1. Go on Pinterest. Find twenty-seven dozen cookie recipes cookies that look ah-mazing. Pin all of them.
  2. Buy three pounds of sugar, six dozen eggs, and five pounds of flour. Don’t forget butter, brown sugar, and peanut butter. Oh, and sprinkles, icing, Hershey kisses, chocolate chips, red colored sugar, green colored sugar, red hots, and wine. (The wine isn’t for the cookies…it’s for the baking.)
  3. Wake up super early on a Sunday morning so you can be done baking before noon/
  4. Turn on Christmas music and preheat oven.
  5. Gather the children and give them instructions to “help”. Instructions vary from how to crack eggs without getting the shell in the batter to how to measure sugar without eating it.
  6. Decide to double first batch of cookies since everyone loves chocolate chip cookies. It’s okay that they’re not really Christmas-y. You’ll make Christmas-y cookies later.
  7. Forget to soften butter ahead of time. Try to soften butter in the microwave. End up with half a frozen stick of butter and half bubbling, melted butter.
  8. Add sugar to butter.
  9. Add flour, baking soda, etc. etc, etc.
  10. Realize you added baking powder instead of baking soda. Assume they’re the same thing and move on.
  11. Forget that you only doubled the first half of the recipe and wonder why the batter is lumpy.
  12. Figure out why—you didn’t double the flour.
  13. Add more flour.
  14. Forget that you needed more baking powder soda, too.
  15. Pour wine. It’s almost noon. Oh, wait, it’s only 10 am. Put wine aside for now and add Bailey’s to your coffee.
  16. Kick kids out of the kitchen because they’re distracting you and you’r making mistakes.
  17. Throw cookies out and start over again.
  18. Quickly whip up batch without mistakes.
  19. Call kids back in and let them lick the beaters.
  20. Drop cookies onto cookie sheet and place in (very) pre-heated oven.
  21. Ask kids to help you clean up the dishes from that batch and realize they have disappeared.
  22. Oven dings to signal cookies are ready. Children reappear.
  23. Slap the children’s hands ad tell them they have to wait.
  24. Try to transfer cookies from backing sheet onto cooling rack—half the cookies fall apart. The other half have the consistency of tiny frisbees.
  25. Children eat all 12 cookies from first batch before you can put the next batch on the cookie sheet. Shrug it off—they were just the “test batch” anyway. Make four more dozen cookies. Salvage 10 of them.
  26. Start on next type of cookie.
  27. Discover that you don’t have enough brown sugar. Use extra white sugar to make up the difference.
  28. Realize it’s lunch time and the kids are hungry. Let them eat the rest of the cookies made thus far.
  29. Eat raw cookie dough because you’re hungry.
  30. Pour wine.
  31. Put next batch on cookie sheet.
  32. Try to clean up the flour that is covering the entire kitchen while you wait for cookies to bake.
  33. Drink more wine.
  34. Take cookies out. Poke cookies and find that the middles aren’t done. Wonder if your oven is broken.
  35. Put cookies back in the oven.
  36. Set off smoke detector.
  37. Remove burnt cookies from oven and toss into trash.
  38. Have another glass of wine.
  39. Decide you are going to make the sugar cookies and then you are abandoning this project because it has become an epic fail.
  40. Make sugar cookie dough.
  41. Kids ask to lick the beaters and declare the cookies “gross”.
  42. Make sugar cookies in the shape of Santa anyway.
  43. Time for more wine.
  44. Try to decorate the misshapen cookies when they come out of the oven.
  45. Get icing and colored sugar everywhere except for on the cookies.
  46. Realize your Santa cookies look like Santa is part of a Picasso painting.
  47. Look at clock and discover it is now dinner time and you’ve been baking for ten hours and have nothing to show for it.
  48. Pour another glass of wine and cry about your failure to be a domestic goddess.
  49. Have husband drive you to store because you are now drunk.
  50. Buy Holiday Oreos.

 

*So you don’t feel so bad, here is a picture of one of my greatest cookie fails:

What they were SUPPOSED to look like.     What they ACTUALLY looked like.

12 Ways to Lose Your Mind This Christmas—Way #5

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. That must mean that we are deep into the stress-zone. That means we’ve gotten to the inside of the house and we’re about to…

#5. Decorate the tree. Here’s where a lot of people differ in their stress levels with Christmas decorating. The tree and the rest of your house is your safe zone. You can go as nuts or as minimal as you want, and most likely, the only people who will know are your family members (unless you’re having a crazy Christmas party, but that’s a different blog). But of course, most of us just can’t throw up a plastic, pre-lit tree, slap some ornaments on it and call it a day. Oh no…you have to have the whole tree “experience”—you’ve decided that your family will adopt the tradition of cutting down your own Christmas tree. So you will pick a day to go trekking through the woods at one of these “cut down your own tree place” and load your whole family, including Grandma with her broken hip, into your car to do it. You will inevitably pick the coldest day of the year and one of your children will immediately lose their gloves as you crunch through the snow in the tree…grove (meadow? forest?). As you argue with your spouse about which tree to pick, your other child will have to go to the bathroom, even though you told them there would be no place to go to the bathroom. You will have to take them behind a tree to pee and they will discover the joy of peeing in the snow. As they try to write their name in the snow, you will lie to them and tell them that their wee-wee will freeze and fall off if they don’t put it away. An unsuspecting family will be crossing your path just as you announce this and they will give you a dirty look as they cover their own precious child’s ears. You cringe and pretend to be really interested in the tree that you are standing next to. Your spouse, who is really tired of looking at trees already, takes this as a sign to cut that tree down. You make the kids smile and take a picture next to the felled tree. You will drag that tree back to your car and realize it is bigger than the top of your car. Your spouse will curse and grunt and groan while securing the tree to the top of the car because he is not going to go back and cut another one. The nice man who takes your money will offer to help, once the tree is 95% secured to the car. You will resist the urge to flip him off. You drive back home and sit in traffic with all the millions of families that cut down their trees that day. You will be so tired after the excursion that all you want to do is take a nap afterward, but you can’t because you’ve got to get the damn tree in the house.

You and your spouse take turns dragging the tree in the house and succeed to lose 10% of the needles all over the front porch. Your hands are now ripped to shreds and full of sap. You get the tree in the house and discover that it is taller than the ceiling. The tree gets dragged back outside to have half the stump cut off. The tree gets dragged back inside (breaking a lamp in the process) and you discover the stump is now too wide for your tree stand. Your spouse curses as he attempts to shave down the stump without dragging the tree outside. You hyperventilate as you see how many needles fall off the tree and how much sawdust is being created by this activity.

Finally, seven hours later, the tree is in its stand and ready to be decorated. All of your family has abandoned you to go nap. You grumble as you turn on Christmas music, trying to get in the holiday spirit. You put the lights on the tree, (replicating the outdoor light fiasco), drag the ornaments down from the attic and start placing them carefully on the tree, reminiscing about the origin of each one. As tears fill your eyes when you get to the baby ornaments, suddenly the children have taken an interest in the tree and want to “help”. You cringe as they rip the delicate balls from their homes and fill the bottom of the tree. After they go into the other room, you have to move all the ornaments to higher ground where the cat/ dog/baby cannot reach them. Plus, you suffer from Perfect Placement Disorder and the way the kids decorated is actually causing shivers up your spine. As you admire your work and pour some wine, you catch the dog eating a tree branch which he promptly vomits on the carpet. While you’re cleaning that up, the kids yell that the cat is in one of the upper branches of the tree, batting one of your favorite ornaments. You scream as it falls and shatters upon impact. You clean up the glass and pour another glass of wine. Your spouse asks what’s for dinner and you shove the phone at him and tell him to order pizza TO BE DELIVERED because this simple act of tree decorating has taken ten and a half hours and you are BEAT.

I have a confession to make. We didn’t do this part. We didn’t do it because it sounds horrendous to me. We didn’t go to the woods or even to a Christmas tree lot to get our tree. In fact, I didn’t even put my tree up this year. I paid my 12 year old to put it up. Yup…my tree is so simple to assemble that a 12 year old, who can’t find her shoes that are right in front of her, can put it up. My tree is so simple that my 16 year old can get it down from the attic in August and set it up while I’m at the mall so when I come home there’s a tree and Christmas music playing in my living room (yes, this actually happened…see photo below):

christmas tree

Do yourselves a favor. Stop tromping through the woods and the Christmas tree lots and torturing yourselves. Put up the fake, pre-lit tree, bribe your kids to throw on a few ornaments, stick a tree scented candle on the mantle, sit back with a glass of eggnog, and ENJOY. It’ll still feel like Christmas…I swear.

The Bad Mommy Cooks—West Virginia

img_5263-1We interrupt this season of festivity to briefly return you to your regularly scheduled blog, The Balogs Eat Around the USA. Did you think I forgot about cooking? I almost did. It’s been impossible to cook lately…Boy Wonder got a real job and a girlfriend and apparently a life outside of this house. Hubby’s been super busy at work as well. It’s been very hard to schedule a family dinner. In fact, I can’t remember the last time the four of us ate together. There’s been many days that I’ve had full intentions of cooking (and cooking our next state cuisine), but I’ve had to alter our dinner plans because of changes to schedules. It seems like our whole lives are on hold lately, and we can’t get it together with anything, especially cooking. Dinner has become a hassle and often a smorgasbord of food stuffs thrown together. (Have you ever had Chinese spare ribs with pasta, salad, and a can of pea soup?) Tonight I put my foot down. Even though we weren’t going to all be home at the same time, I was cooking the next state, regardless.

I have a confession—I picked West Virginia and I knew exactly what the meal would be. I also knew the meal would be one that I could get away with making at 5pm, and everyone could eat it at their leisure. That’s when I decided it was getting made tonight, come hell or high water. Had I picked California or something, I probably wouldn’t have been able to pull it off.  Actually, I almost feel like this whole meal was a cheat because I’ve made it before. Many. Many. Many. Times. Too many times to count. Wanna know what it is? I bet you’ll be surprised to know that West Virginia is famous for its…pepperoni rolls. Yup, all you Italians take note of that. The West Virginia version of a calzone is their state food. I bet you thought it was Roadkill. (Actually there was a recipe for Roadkill Stew on one of the sites I found…that was not happening.)

The pepperoni roll became popular in West Virginia because it was easy for coal miners to take into the mines as a lunch or a snack. Some guy named Giuseppe Argiro from a bakery in West Virginia started selling these in 1927. There are many variations on it. People put other meats and cheeses in it as well, sometimes with sauce on the side—it’s usually called a calzone then. My kids call it a Stromboli, even though it’s not because technically Stromboli has sauce inside.

My great grandmother used to make pepperoni rolls the time. She was Italian and also grew up in West Virginia (hmmmm, this is all starting to make sense to me). She would put on her apron, roll out the ball of dough (with a real wooden rolling pin—that thing was a weapon), add pepperoni (she used the big slices you got at the deli) and the mozzarella. She’d roll it up and bake it and we’d fight to the death to eat it. Whenever she made it, you could be sure that you needed to be right there when the oven dinged otherwise you weren’t getting any.

I started making it quite a few years ago for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. It’s still a big hit. I don’t really know anyone in my family that won’t eat it, even my kids. The best part about this is it is sooooo easy to make, even I can’t mess it up. I’ll give you the instructions in pictures:

img_5257

Get a dough ball from your local pizzeria. DO NOT BUY THE DOUGH IN THE SUPERMARKET. It tastes like crap. This is probably one of the only places you can mess this up.

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Roll out the dough. I have found if you make a rectangle so that you can roll up the long end, that prevents the middle of the dough from being undercooked.

img_5261

I sprinkle the cheese next. Some people add the pepperoni first. It’s entirely up to you. There is no wrong way :).

img_5262-1

Roll on the long side to ensure it’s cooked through.

img_5263-1

img_5264

I brush with olive oil, salt and pepper. My oven is wonky so I put it in on 450 for about a half hour but I have to watch it REALLY closely. My oven’s off by about 50 degrees so I would say 400 would be good.

This is the finished product.

img_5268

And this is ten minutes later.

12 Ways to Lose Your Mind This Christmas—Way #4

I’m watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation right now and it’s at the part where Clark Griswold kicks his plastic reindeer across his front lawn and goes bat$hit crazy because his lights aren’t working. Let me tell you…I feel his pain. I am currently experiencing the same insanity at my house this week. Out of all the 12 Ways to Lose Your Mind this Christmas Season, this is the easiest way to find yourself in a straight-jacket.

#4. Hang outdoor lights. You want to be festive and you want your neighborhood to know it. Outdoor lights really get everyone in the holiday spirit—they’re so peaceful and relaxing to look at. So you retrieve your boxes and boxes and boxes of Rubbermaid containers that hold your Christmas decorations from the attic or the basement or wherever you store them. Remind yourself that you will not put out as many lights as last year because it took forever to put up and forever to take down and it stressed you out. Take the rolls of lights out of the bin and wonder where all the lights you put up last year are. Did they burn out? Did you put them somewhere else? Realize that you are going to have to buy more lights, even though you’re pretty sure you had a gazillion strands of lights last year. You plug each strand of lights in individually and discover 20% of the strands have lights out. Now you’re definitely gonna have to make a trek to the store for more lights. You venture outdoors to hang the lights and then go immediately back inside because it’s 10 degrees colder than you thought it would be. Who invited winter to come before these lights were up? It was 72 degrees yesterday…why is it 32 degrees today? You put on a coat and gloves and slap some headphones on to play Christmas music (you know, to get in that holiday spirit and all) and head back outside. You discover that trying to untangle the strands of lights with gloves on is akin to wrestling a T-bone steak away from a rabid dog (or your husband). You yank the gloves off and ignore the stabbing pain from the cold as you detangle the balls of lights. You contemplate the most efficient way to hang the lights, factoring in available electric sources and how to cover the most square footage with the least amount of work. You consider where all the garland and the bows are going and how they will fit into this equation as well. You grab a step ladder and get to work.

Within minutes you are teetering precariously on that ladder as you try to stretch your body across the parts of the house you really can’t reach. You step on the railing and pray that when you land on the sidewalk below, your family will at least hear the thud and call the ambulance for you. You succeed in hanging lights from the top of the porch and break two nails in the process. You curse, annoyed because you know that if you had the gloves on that wouldn’t have happened. You connect the next set lights and start weaving them over the bushes. This requires you to crouch under, squeeze behind, and climb over mostly dead branches of what used to be fully alive bushes on your front lawn. You scratch up your hands and break another nail. Sticks pierce your thighs as you brush past. Evergreen needles flutter into the neck of your coat and somehow end up wedged in your underwear. You will spend the rest of the day trying to dislodge them, by the way. As you snake around the back of a bush, you hear a sickening crunch. Yup. You just stepped on a strand of lights and ruined seven bulbs. You attempt to pull the broken lights out and replace them with the extras in the package, but after trying to get the first two off and breaking out into a cold sweat trying to do so, you give up and retrieve a new set of lights. You unwind the crunched set (which is always on a difficult bush to reach) and put the new ones, taking extra care not to step on them again. A few more hours out in frostbite city repeating this process and you are done.

You step back and admire the lights. It was hard work, but it was so worth it. You set the timer for dark and go inside for a hot chocolate. You come back out to see the lights at 5 pm and they are dark. You play with the timer, switching it on and off until you discover that the lights go on and then go off immediately. Then they come on and go off. On and off. Instead of crying, you override the timer and go in the house for a stronger cup of hot chocolate. You’ll figure it out tomorrow when it’s light out. You go outside two hours later to run a errand and discover that the lights on the left side of the house are completely out. You feel your body breaking out into hives as you frantically unplug the first set on the strand of lights in search of the culprit. Yes, it’s the first strand of lights—that’s the strand that is intricately wrapped around the railings and intertwined with garland. OF COURSE. You undo those lights and put a new set up. It takes you an hour. You have clocked about six hours total on this project already. But you put up a brand new set of lights this time, so it shouldn’t be a problem—brand new lights don’t burn out. The next night you go outside to figure out the problem with the timer. You realize the timer goes on and then off because it’s on solar—it turns on when it gets dark, but then the lights are so bright it thinks it’s daytime again. You feel really smart for figuring this out, but then realize you forgot how to set your timer. You override the lights and go back inside. Once again, later on, half the lights are out. The same half…the half intertwined in the garland. You now cry and rip the lights off the side of the house in frustration. You rip the bells and the garland and some more lights off. You kick your blow up reindeer.

Your husband comes out and finds you in a ball on the front lawn. He calmly removes the lights from around your neck. He replaces the fuse in the lights, plugs them into a different outlet and walks away. The lights come back on. You’re still crying as he comes back out and hands you a glass of wine.

Inevitably, your mother will come over on Christmas Eve and compliment your husband on the nice job on the lights. You will resist the urge to strangle her with a set of burnt out lights.

12 Ways to Lose Your Mind This Christmas—Way #3

After you’ve done all the online shopping, you’re still not done with losing your mind with shopping. Oh no—shopping is a two part-er. You shop, then you have to….

#3. Wrap your gifts. You can’t just hand people the boxes the gifts were shipped in! You have to wrap those boxes. (This is one of the benefits of online shopping…you don’t have to shop for boxes!) Hey, it’s recycling, right? (And technically, it’s one less thing you have to do—who wants to have to break up the boxes and scream at your 16 year old because he didn’t take the recycling can to the garbage for the third week in a row and now there’s no place to throw the recyclables, and boxes and cans and bottles are stacked all over the house like some hoarder show?) You have to wrap the gifts as they are delivered or your kids will start snooping and discover the stash of gifts in the bottom of your closet and you’ll come home from the gym one day when their father wasn’t paying attention and discover them playing with their toys in their bedrooms. And even if they don’t take the gifts out, they’ve seen the gifts and they know. Which kind of ruins Christmas for me.

*Side note—the people in this house LOVE to ruin Christmas for me by finding their gifts. They snoop in drawers, they go through bags, they stick their noses where they don’t belong. My husband is THE WORST. He will actually stalk my online credit card purchases to see what I’ve gotten him. He’s hacked into my email to see what’s been delivered. He’s bribed his mother, my best friend, and my sister when I’ve hidden gifts at their house. He is TERRIBLE. His mother warned me that when he was a kid, he and his sister actual spent an entire afternoon cracking the combination to the locked case his parents used to hide their gifts in. So, unless you have an iron-clad gift hiding spot, you need to wrap right away.

You used to enjoy wrapping, though. When the kids were really little and you knew they weren’t going to climb out of their cribs, you used to wrap gifts in front of the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree or the fireplace, while watching a Christmas movie or listening to Christmas music. With a glass of wine, of course. Ahhhh…so relaxing, wasn’t it? You’d wrap each child’s gift with different wrapping paper and make bows and ribbons and be singing Fa La La La La the whole time. Then the cat would abscond with your ribbon and the dog would plop herself in the middle of the wrapping paper while you tried to wrap gifts, and then kids learned how to climb out of their cribs…so you had to barricade yourself in the bedroom to wrap gifts. And even that wouldn’t be so bad if someone else would watch them while you wrap. Because they’d bang on the door and want to come in or want a drink or need you to wipe them. But anyway, I digress…this is about the joy of wrapping tons and tons of gifts until your fingers are stiff and bleed from papercuts.

*Another side note…my parents would ALWAYS wait till the last minute to shop. I actually remember quite a few years of going with my father on Christmas Eve to the hell on Earth of a mall to grab a “last minute gift” for someone—usually my mother. (He bought her a gun one year when I wasn’t with him. I would have warned him it was a bad choice. The next day she made him trade it in for a puppy.) Anyway…they would ALWAYS be wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve for HOURS. For years…because there were 4 of us. Once grandchildren came along, they STOPPED wrapping. Seriously. Now they throw things in bags or hand the box to the kids. How tempted I am to go this route some years when the wrapping starts to go sour. Which it always does…

You’ve finally finished wrapping the kids’ gifts, but you still need to hide them somewhere. The little nosy brats will be looking for them and shaking them and inspecting them, so you can’t put them under the tree. Actually you can’t put anyone’s gift under the tree because the cat will sit on it and make a hole in the box and eat the ribbon and then barf it up on your comforter. And then the dog will tear the paper off the packages and there will be wrapping paper all over your living room and you’ll have to start over again with the wrapping so you HAVE TO HIDE THE GIFTS.

You will hide them in plain sight—a Rubbermaid container that used to house Christmas decorations works best. You put it in the basement where no one dares to go. For an added security measure, you don’t label anything so they can’t tell what’s theirs and what’s their cousins’ gifts. Because you will totally remember which is which on Christmas (you won’t). As you collapse from your wrapping extravaganza, you swear that next year everyone is getting gift cards.

*An additional side note—wrapping is one of the few Christmas activities my husband will participate in. However, I cannot wrap with him. He’s annoyingly meticulous and constantly criticizes my wrap job. After wrapping 500 gifts, I usually don’t care if a little bit of the package is showing on the back or the edges don’t line up. He does. Wrapping in his company usually ends with me crying, throwing empty wrapping paper tubes, and angrily ripping up wrapping paper. ‘Tis the season.

12 Ways to Lose Your Mind This Christmas—Way #2

Are you stressed yet? No? Okay, well then let’s continue on our 12 Ways to Lose Your Mind (this Christmas Season)

#2. Buy gifts. And not just for your kids and your spouse and your parents. You need to buy gifts for your kids’ teachers, Aunt Louise in Tennessee, your secret Santa at work, the woman in the mailroom who knitted you a blanket when your kids were born, and the guy who cleans your dog’s poop out of your backyard (he actually deserves two gifts). You will dread going in a 10 mile radius of a mall and dealing with parking, so you’ll order everything online, stressing because you’re not sure if you have enough time to get this stuff before Christmas. You’ll frantically try to shove as much stuff in your “shopping cart” to take advantage of Amazon’s free shipping. Inevitably, you’ll discover that one of those items doesn’t qualify for free shipping because it comes from a third party vendor and that’ll throw the whole thing off. You’ll get frustrated, close down the computer and to rethink your strategy overnight. Then, you’ll forget about it—because life—and three days later you’ll get a reminder from Amazon that you have items in your chart. That’s when you’ll really panic because now you have to pay for Express shipping because now you definitely won’t get your items in time even though it’s only December 1st, but apparently things need more time to ship now than they did in the time of horse and buggy. Probably because everyone on the planet has Amazon Prime except for you and they’re all shipping their crap at lightning speed…but you’ll be damned if you pay $100 a year to ship things faster when you only need it at Christmas time because you don’t avoid the stores like the plague from January to November October. Of course even though you ordered everything at the same time, all of your items will come in fifty-two different shipments. You will get at least one email a day saying your items have been delivered and inevitably, there will be at least two of those packages gone missing—either delivered to the neighbor’s house or not delivered at all. You will spend ninety hours on the phone with customer service cursing the day you discovered the 1-click button and wishing you had just braved the stupid mall because you would actually have your gifts in your hand right now. Then you’ll discover that your cousin’s best friend’s ballet teacher that you bought a gift for actually has an ONLINE WISH LIST and the gift you bought is NOT ON IT. Yes…people can make wish lists online now. It’s like “registering” for gifts…to make gift giving easier. WHY DO WE NEED THIS??? Oh wait…it’s because we’re giving gifts to people that we don’t really know at all. We used to limit our gifts to people we were in contact with on a regular basis, but now, that’s not good enough. Now you not only need to give gifts to everyone you come in contact with all year, you need to give to people you don’t even know as well. That’s what “Giving Tuesday” is all about. A new day to donate to a whole bunch of charities. I’m all for giving to charities, really, I am. But do I need it shoved in my face on Facebook that you gave to Junior Pig Farmers of America and Save the 8-Track Foundation on Giving Tuesday? Give and be quiet about it. Okay, off my soapbox…I need to go get a gift for the UPS guy who may need back surgery after bringing all these boxes to my house. I wonder if he likes Tequila?