Crazy Arnold Christmas

As I mentioned back at Thanksgiving, our family has never been “normal” when it comes to celebrations, but we all love to laugh and have fun and that is the theme of this post!!!

In the last few years we have celebrated with our children on Christmas Eve, leaving Christmas Day for the kids to visit with their spouse’s family. This past celebration was a blast and I wanted to share a bit of the fun with you.

This was the year of the “payback”…..let me explain. For MANY years I have made our kids play games and have contests to get their presents. They have had to pop balloons to get cash out of them, unwrap $5 bills that had been ensconced in toilet paper rolls and even solve a puzzle to open the bank that held their gift.

Each year we hide a “cactus” ornament (as opposed to a pickle) and the winner gets to unwrap a game of some sort and then they play…..for money of course!!! This year was a slapping game and the results were spectacular……

Then, the guys received a boxing “training ball” as a gag gift and we all trooped outside to watch them train…..

Now it was time for payback…..in a big way……

Our sweet kids gave us a Gift Certificate to spend a weekend at a favorite spot. It was SO unexpected and we are looking forward to a weekend away in the near future!!!

The fun continued for the rest of the evening, with Mexican Chicken Spaghetti for dinner and, of course, the opening of lots of presents…..

…..and the annual Christmas family photo……

Christmas day was a quiet affair starting with a morning walk, including a neighborhood trail that I haven’t been on in the 7+ years that we have lived here…..

The morning continued by doing a bit of stitching and watching a great Christmas movie……”DIE HARD”!!!!!!…….

…..lunch from a local Chinese restaurant……

….and ending the day in my studio, enjoying some of my gifts……

As you can see, I have LOTS of things to try in the new year!!

All in all, it was a WONDERFUL holiday!!!! I hope that you also enjoyed a very……

Cooking up some memories

Today I did a bit of Christmas cooking for a dinner that we are hosting tomorrow night. I started with a carrot cake……

….followed by three candies….and that is where the memories flooded in.

The first was making Peanut Brittle using a recipe that my Mother-In-Law (Esther) gave to me many years ago…..

Esther was a good cook, and she LOVED for things to be easy and I really appreciated that. This candy is made in the microwave and is wonderful, although I often burn at least one of the two batches that I make. But, today I got them both just right!!!

Her other Christmas specialty were Millionaires, using caramels and pecans and covered in milk chocolate….YUMMY!!….

Esther turned 94 this week and, unfortunately, is struggling with dementia. When I spoke with her today and mentioned the Peanut Brittle, she brightened and said that she bet it would be good!!

The second memory arrived when I was making Double Divinity….one of my Mother’s favorite Christmas goodies. And this candy is not made the easy way. It has two cooked sugar solutions that are poured over beaten egg whites. She had a love/hate relationship with it as it would sometimes fail for no apparent reason, including whether or not it was humid outside!!!

My Divinity experience today was mostly successful, although I burned the second sugar/water solution, not once but…..TWICE….

…..That is NOT the right color!!! But this is the way that it is supposed to look…

I will let it sit tonight and cut it into squares tomorrow.

All in all, it was a fun afternoon cooking and remembering my Mom and Mother-In-Law, although watching “The Great British Baking Show” may have put a bit too much pressure on me!!!!

One batch of cookies in the morning and I am ready to go!!!

I’m going to be in so much trouble next year….

 

One of my favorite things about Christmas is planning and buying the gifts.  As the kids have gotten older, they often want cash instead of presents and I HATE to just hand cash over!!

As the years have gone on, I have stuffed cash inside rolls of toilet paper, taped 10 dollar bills to cans of chili and even folded it up and rolled it into bubble gum wrappers.

Last year was a great year as Brian’s money was inside a bank and he had to roll a small ball thru a three dimensional maze to unlock the bank, Amber had to unroll yards and yards of crepe paper to find her presents inside and Jenny’s money was stuffed inside balloons that she had to pop.

So, this year Michael decided that I needed a bit of my own medicine!!  He bought me three packs of  Tsueniko Fabrico Markers and wrapped them in an ENTIRE roll of toilet paper!!   I unrolled for about 5 minutes!!!!

DSC01805

Jenny and Amber both received plastic containers filled with candy, finger nail polish and hard cold CASH…….

DSC01809

DSC01829

But the one that stole the show was Brian’s gift.   It started when I found this lunchbox for my Star Wars crazed son….

DSC01782

Then I started thinking about the lunch that he took every day for 4 years of High School.  It consisted of one peanut butter sandwich, a bag of Spicy Nacho Doritos and 2 mini Butterfinger bars. 

I decided to fill his lunch box with an actual lunch, but where would I put the money……in the Doritos bag….no, too easy……in the Butterfinger pack….no, too hard.

That leaves the sandwich……..

DSC01777

……just right!!!

Brian was a trooper and played along with the entire gag!!!!B1

…..first checking out the lunch…..B2

….then hopefully checking the Doritos bag…..

B3

…..finally conceding that he was going to have to at least open the sandwich, although at one point he thought that he would have to actually eat it!!B4….after much laughing and finger licking……

b5…..the cash was liberated…..b6 

As we all laughed about the gag gifts, Jenny noted that next year it will be all-out war.  I will have to be VERY watchful when opening my presents next year and will have to up the ante.    Any suggestion?????

Christmas Cactus Craziness!!

 

I am sure that most of you have heard of the Christmas Pickle…..

Weihnachts_Gurke

Traditionally, it was hidden on a Christmas Tree, with the finder receiving either a reward or good fortune for the following year.

Well, many years ago we decided to add this tradition to our Christmas mornings except there was one big problem…..I couldn’t find a pickle.   I searched in store after store but could not find one and this was prior to the days of internet buying.  Then one day I stumbled on to this ornament…..

DSC01862

…..and thus the Arnold family tradition of the “Christmas Cactus” was born!!!

Now to the story of this Christmas……

The kids (ages 26, 28 and 28)  had left the room so that the Cactus could be hidden.  While Michael was trying to hang it on the tree he accidentally dropped it and couldn’t find it.   So he told the kids to come on in and look for it…..

DSC01838

Almost at the same time, both Brian and Jenny yelled “there it is” and the scuffle was on….

DSC01840

You notice that Amber used her head and got out of the way!

Well, this year, the cactus got the worst of it…..

DSC01843

But both Brian and Jenny emerged with a portion of the cactus and both claiming victory.…

DSC01841

Notice the ornament that was pulled off of the tree and got stuck in Jenny’s scarf!!

Typically the Cactus Gift is some sort of kids game that they play for money (everybody wins something), but this year my efforts were foiled by the lack of one Size C battery…..

DSC01847

Oh well, the money was awarded anyway and this will be put back for next year…..with batteries!!!!

Snowman Mug Rugs

As I was getting ready for my small group gathering, I started thinking how much fun it would be to give each one of them a small gift.

About the same time, I was reading the blog of Jennifer Jangles and she gave a free pattern for a CUTE snowman mug rug…..

Click HERE for the full size pattern……

Since I didn’t really get started on them until the morning of our get together, they had to be fast, fast fast!!!   I finished the last one at 5:05pm when I had to leave the house at 5:30….cutting it a BIT close!!!

DSC08973

Here is a family portrait……DSC08972

A great, easy, fast and fun project!!!

AND, fortunately, I didn’t run out of thread……

DSC08998

…..but it was close!!!!

What do you do on Boxing Day??

When we lived in Australia, we were surprised by the custom of celebrating Boxing Day…..the day after Christmas.   It was a wonderful day off to help transition from the holiday to the work week.   While there, we would often watch the start of the Sydney – Hobart Regatta….such a fun tradition.

Now here in the US, I normally celebrate the end of the holiday season by un-decorating my house.  Face it, I decorate on the day after Thanksgiving which means that all of this stuff has been up for over a month and I am ready to clean it up and move on!!

This year I had a wonderful time taking everything down and packing it up in my new boxes, in my new house. 

The problem arose when it came time to take down the Christmas Tree….you remember it…..the TWELVE foot tree!!!   After much discussion, we decided that the easiest way would be to saw it in half so Michael climbed the ladder and started sawing…..

DSC07843

 

Half of it goes out the door……

DSC07845

Followed by the lower half……

DSC07847

Hooray….that was VERY easy!!!!

Christmas Celebration Time

At Christmas time, we love to make lots of Christmas goodies that we carry to various friends on Christmas Eve…..one of Jenny’s friends calls it the “Arnold Sleigh”   This year, Michael is going to be in Scotland from the 15th thru the 22nd of December, so we were worried that there wouldn’t be time to cook and deliver.

Instead, we decided to have an Open House to invite friends into our new home and enjoy some Holiday cheer!!!

I spent two wonderful days making fudge, cookies, Truffles, Peanut Brittle, Peppermint Brittle, Chocolate Pretzels…….DSC07442

and baking a delicious Hummingbird Cake……DSC07468

On Saturday, I added the savory items to the menu including this wonderful idea that I saw in a recent magazine…..

DSC07454

…..skewered tomatoes and marinated Mozzarella cheese balls….YUMMMMMM!

We took a few photos just before the guests arrived…..

DSC07458DSC07461DSC07462

….and then enjoyed a wonderful 4 hours of talking, laughing, eating and generally having a  fun time with some very special friends…..

DSC07480