Posted by Caren Crane Dec 21 2014, 12:20 am in 12 Bandita Days of Christmas, Caren Crane, Christmas parties, Christmas traditions, Christmas trees, Drive-through nativity, Gloom, holiday decorations
I have seriously committed to the Christmas Spirit this weekend. After waiting until practically the last minute to do any decorating at all, this weekend we have put up the Christmas tree (with an insane amount of lights), put lights, decorations, candy canes and everything else you can think of inside the house. LED Christmas tree in the den? Check. Miniature tree with tiny ornaments for the kitchen? Check. Shiny silver garland in the kitchen? Check.
I even put some lights up outside around the kitchen door because we decided – spontaneously, at the last minute – to have friends over for a holiday party. Last night! I had to whip the family into action and drive them like a drill instructor to get everything done. But we did and it was awesome. The house looked great, the hastily thrown-together food was fantastic, the company was especially wonderful and there was so much laughter my daughter has seriously sore abs tonight.
In addition to socializing and eating and drinking, we did two very fun things to entertain ourselves:
1. Holiday Gloom – If you’ve never played the game Gloom, I highly recommend it. It’s especially fun for writers and people who love to tell stories. Here is a link to a video of Wil Wheaton (of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame) playing Gloom with friends. The goal is to make your opponents’ characters happy and your own miserable and be the first to kill off all your characters. How fun is that? The thing that made our game last night so fun, though, was that we made a rule that all scenarios in the game had to be Christmas-themed. It’s amazing how many ways there are to suffer and die at the holidays!
2. Drive-By Nativity Scene – Okay, we jokingly called it a drive-by nativity, but it was really a drive-through nativity scene. A local church has been doing this for 28 years and they do a great job. They have scenes from the Christmas story set up and the narration for each scene plays on a loop. You have to roll down your windows to hear it, though, and it was 38 degrees. Some of the actors looked fairly miserable, having stood out in the cold and dark for 2 hours. It was, in parts, unintentionally hilarious – say, when the 60-something year-old Mary was told by the Angel Gabriel (a lovely teenaged girl of about 15 with long, gorgeous blonde hair) that she was to be impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Believe me, if that little lady was impregnated by anyone, it would be a Christmas miracle! There was also a sheep with a little 11 day-old baby sheep that was beyond adorable. So much to love at the drive-by nativity scene!
We had so much fun we decided we should make this get-together a new tradition, complete with Holiday Gloom and the Drive-By Nativity. I will try not to volunteer to teach Sunday school the morning after this party next year. As it is, I will be in my Sunday school class leading the lesson this morning. I need more sleep to support all this insane Christmas festivity!
Do you have any non-traditional “traditions” at your house? Any friends or parties you particularly anticipate as you await Christmas? What is your favorite Christmas ritual as you anticipate the holiday?
Since it’s the 12 Bandita Days of Christmas, I will give an e-book copy of my latest novel, TIARA WARS, to a commenter today. Thanks for playing with us!
Posted by Caren Crane Dec 18 2012, 12:13 am in 12 Bandita Days of Christmas, angels, Caren Crane, Christmas tree toppers, Christmas trees, cookie recipe, date cookies, easy date drop cookies, prizes, stars
Every year, I look forward to putting up our Christmas tree. It’s artificial, so it’s just a matter of removing and sorting limbs, fluffing them out and sticking them in the pole. But still, it’s a wonderful time for me. I love the lights and all my ornaments: the shiny, the sentimental, the store-bought, the handmade. They are all special and beloved. When the lights are on the tree – and I think there were 8 strands this year – and the poor thing groans with snowmen, Santas, bells, angels, doves, crosses, candy canes, mice (which, for some reason, we have lots of on the tree!) and reindeer, I am blissfully happy.
I love to stare at the lighted tree, thinking of wonderful (or sad) Christmases past. Even the melancholy memories are sad in a way I cherish. What can I say? I was a melancholy, sentimental child and have grown to believe we can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness (as Gotye told us Somebody I Used To Know). I have spent countless hours staring at a lighted Christmas tree, often in a darkened room, enjoying every happy (or sad) moment. Christmas would not be the same without my tree.
But. This year, I find myself with no tree topper. Since the tree in question is artificial, we have only a bare branch sticking straight up at the top. The benighted branch has been bent over on itself to accomodate various toppers over the years. And there have been toppers. All beloved in their day. All tossed aside when the new kid came to town.
First there was a STAR. No lights, no shiny bits. Just a gold star with a conic base. It was my first tree topper and I enjoyed it for years. It happily adorned the top of the live trees I bought when my son was little (despite the fact that I was allergic to them all). Then the top of the artificial tree we bought when it became apparent that the baby (my second child, older daughter) was allergic as well. Eventually I grew restless, though, and was eventually lured by…
The ANGEL. The angel was sweet and, well, angelic. She had lovely blond hair, rosy cheeks, a flowing white gown (covering a conic base, of course). She was slightly shinier than the star but, alas, she could not hold my affections forever. She lacked…color. I’m afraid I was after something a bit more spicy than my angel tree topper provided. Several years ago I was shopping in one of those Christmas stores that pop up like mushrooms at the mall in what used to be a shoe store or a card shop. At the Christmas store, I found the greatest tree topper of all time…
The SHINY, LIGHTED STAR WITH REFLECTORS! Oh, how I loved the shiny, lighted star with reflectors! It dazzled the eyes at the top of my tree, practically blinding in its Christmasy glory. Stare at that puppy too long and you’d come away with singed retinas. It really gave our tree some extra pizazz, a little KA-POW! for the holidays. Alas and alack! The star was, perhaps, a bit ambitious in all its shininess. It was, for all its handsome reflectivity, cheaply made. It stopped lighting up after 3 years and no tweaking, bulb replacing, cussing or fiddling would make it light up again.
This year, I gave up on the shiny, lighted star with reflectors and threw it in the garbage can. Which left me with no tree topper at all. The top of my tree is a bare, bent limb so far this year. But I feel the newly-sprouted Christmas store at the mall calling to me. What I need, though, is to approach my purchase with a cool head and a firm idea of what I want before I get there.
So tell me, Banditas and Buddies, what adorns the top of your tree? Have you been faithful to a single topper or have you been seduced by a series of increasingly-flashy toppers as I have? And what would you recommend for the Crane tree topper, to augment our panoply of ornamental goodness? Help a sister decide!
And never forget, we are deep in the throes of the 12 Bandita Days Of Christmas! Every day, the cabana boys are pulling the name of a lucky commenter to win Bandita treasures. On Christmas Day, there will be a HUGE grand prize awarded, including books from Banditas and favorite authors like Sabrina Jeffries, Liz Carlyle, Deb Marlowe, Marquita Valentine, Lydia Dare (who are all friends of mine, btw, and sweethearts!). So check back each day and keep on commenting!
And while you’re thinking, enjoy these
EASY DATE DROP COOKIES
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c. water or buttermilk
3-3/4 c. flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 c. chopped, pitted dates
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c. water
3/4 c. chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cream the sugar and butter until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and blend. Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl and add them alternately with the water or buttermilk. Boil the filling ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat until thick. Drop a spoonful of dough onto a greased cookie sheet. Top with a slightly smaller spoonful of filling and then top that with about half the amount of dough you used on the bottom layer. Bake for 8 – 10 min. Let cool on a wire rack.
Yummy and they look like you worked really hard on them!