Monday, December 29, 2014

The Yellow Giraffe

What are the chances that I would happen to have a yellow giraffe perched on my closet shelf?

As it turns out, just such an animal has been sitting there among my t-shirts and sweaters since the half-price clearance sales after Valentine's Day. Sporting a stuffed heart that said "Kiss Me," he was about to be raffled at the February fundraiser for my local writers' group.

However, this year Beenie's Christmas wish list necessitated an abrupt change of plans. The only things he wanted from Santa, he said, were a taxi cab, a trumpet, and--you guessed it--a yellow giraffe. (As you can see, Beenie has rather eclectic tastes.)

Beenie's mama looked to Amazon for the first two items, but, alas, the third one proved more elusive. It seems a dearth of yellow giraffes had been manufactured at the North Pole this year. A day or two before Christmas, she mentioned this to me in passing.

"Well, actually," I said to her, "I think I may have a yellow giraffe." Later, I texted her a picture of it to see if she thought it might fill the bill. Luckily, she thought it was perfect.

I took another close look at Mr. Giraffe. He was the right color and the right size. He was appropriately soft and furry and cuddly. But there was something about the "Kiss Me" heart that just didn't seem quite right for a two-year-old.

Upon inspecting the heart more closely, I saw that it could be easily removed with three swipes of a seam ripper. Better yet, the surgery would leave no scars. The heart was only loosely tacked onto the giraffe's hands (Do giraffes have hands?) and tummy. Post-op, he looked totally suitable for our purposes:

So, in the spirit of happy Christmases, Beenie got his yellow giraffe and Pa-pa found this under his pillow that night:

And that is the story of how a $4 stuffed giraffe from the Big Lots store translated into a "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night."

BUT--if you are worried that my writers' group is without an animal to raffle this year, don't fret. You see, early last summer I was at a garage sale, and there in a basket of 25-cent items was this brand new stuffed Siberian tiger . . . .

Monday, December 22, 2014

Joy to the Squirrels!

to the squirrels!
The walnuts fall-
They'll gather up them all!
They'll nibble and they'll bite
All day and half the night.
They'll chomp and gnaw and chew
Until their cheeks turn blue.
They'll chomp,
They'll chomp,
And gnaw and chew.

to the squirrels!
The hick'ries drop--
They wiggle loose and--PLOP!
The squirrels rush and scurry
So they won't have to worry
When ground is white with snow
That blankets all below--
When ground,
When ground
Is white with snow.

to the squirrels!
Pecans are found
'Neath trees upon the ground!
This year the squirrels may try
To make a pecan pie,
A tasty Christmas dream,
And top it with whipped cream--
And top,
And top
It with whipped cream.

Merry Christmas, everyone, from Googie. Have fun singing these words to the traditional Handel melody.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Other Holiday Turkey

There are times when, for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I bake two turkeys.

One is the two-legged kind, the stuff of wishbones and drumsticks--the kind whose rich broth makes possible classic holiday fare like homemade noodles and dressing and giblet gravy. The other is my famous Brownie Turkey Pizza.

The recipe for the latter has been a staple of my recipe box--and of our family holidays--for nearly twenty-five years. It came my way via my hometown newspaper sometime in the early 1990s, one of those things I clipped out because it looked like something fun that the kids might like.

Basically, the Brownie Turkey Pizza consists of a boxed brownie mix prepared according to package instructions and baked at 350 degrees on a round pizza pan for twelve or thirteen minutes. When it has cooled, icing, nuts, and candy pieces give it its "turkey" design:

As you see, brownie toppers consist of generous portions of pecan halves, chopped Butterfingers (or walnuts--or both), and M & M's (or Reese's Pieces). These are arranged into turkey formation atop a still-gooey layer of canned chocolate and vanilla (for the head and neck) frosting.

Forming the turkey's beak and wattle are a single piece of candy corn (or a pecan half will work) and a small length of some sort of red gummy candy. Among other choices, you can enlist a gumdrop or a gummy worm for this purpose. This year I sliced the center out of a gummy spider I found at the after-Halloween clearance sales.

A couple tips make the decorating process easier and the outcome more successful. One is to make a pattern (approximately 4" by 6") for the head/neck unit by folding a piece of paper double and cutting freehand until you get about the size and proportions you want. 

Then, lay the pattern on the brownie where you want the head to be, and trace around it with a toothpick. Finally, if you apply the white frosting first, it will not be so likely to get swirls of chocolate in it.

From experience, I have learned that, once the frosting is in place, it works better to add decorations from the outside in. Doing this gives you a better chance of giving your feather structure a round, rather than more oblong, appearance.

Finally, be ready for a fight over the gummy worm or whatever you use for the wattle. No matter how many delicious morsels of M & M's or Reese's Pieces you use, and no matter how thoroughly you saturate the empty chocolate icing spaces with crumbled Butterfingers, every kid at your party is going to want that one irresistible piece of gummy candy.

I have found this to be true through two generations of turkey-eating children, and nothing I have witnessed hints that a change is imminent. It is simply a rule of the universe, and you just have to accept it.

The recipe I clipped from the Sedalia Democrat newspaper (adapted from a source titled "My Own Creation!") so many years ago is yellowed and chocolate-stained. Nevertheless, it has provided the blueprint for more turkey brownie pizzas than I can remember.

This past Thanksgiving is no exception, and, for posterity, let the record show that this year it was Sooby who got the wattle.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Gothic

When it happened last year, I thought it was just a fluke. Surely, I thought, we would do better this year.

But, despite our high hopes and best efforts, the unhappy reality of the situation has only been confirmed: It is impossible to get a good Christmas card photo with six little kids involved. There are simply too many eyes to keep open, moods to appease, and heads of hair to run a comb through all at once.

Up until last year, our annual Christmas card photo had posed no problem. In fact, the year before that, we had successfully added both Beenie and Zoomie to the mix without incident. Apparently, however, the addition of that sixth little body complicates things (through no fault of the baby himself, of course). It is the sole piece of evidence needed to prove the validity of chaos theory.

Indeed "chaos" is the only word that describes the five minutes immediately preceding the flash that added our Christmas 2013 photo to my iPhone camera roll. I will remind you how that ill-fated photographic specimen turned out:

Here, in a shot I will title Christmas Gothic, everyone is visibly unhappy and all for different reasons. At the top of the stairs Pooh and Sooby cannot agree on who gets to hold the bigger part of the stocking, so they are mad at each other. So much for my costuming efforts with Santa hats and red mittens.

In front, Bootsie is aggravated because we are crowding our photo session in right before lunch. She is hungry and wants to eat. Left of her, Beenie perches sullenly on Pa-pa's lap. In his defense, I have to admit the surly look is not entirely unjustified. In the moments just preceding, Beenie's mama attempted to confiscate both his sippy cup of milk and his pacifier.

Although she successfully commandeered the cup, we had to leave the pacifier in the spirit of compromise. Shrill squeals, we quickly learned, reverberate most unpleasantly in the close confines of a stairwell. (These account for Pa-pa's dazed expression,)

Meanwhile, Zoomie, in the center, marshals his cat-like reflexes and seizes the opportunity to grab the aforementioned sippy cup. Normally, this shouldn't pose a problem. But Zoomie is very allergic to dairy products and begins to feel nauseated. You will notice that, wisely, none of us chooses to sit directly in front of him.

Baby Heero, barely a month old, just wants to sleep. Quite understandably, he is unhappy with the noise and the jostling and the general melee. You will notice that I am the only one smiling--"grinning like a possum," Pa-pa would later say--apparently oblivious to the goings-on around me.

So you can see why, this past Thanksgiving weekend, I had high hopes for our 2014 picture. Everyone would be a year older, and the whole process should go more smoothly. That seemed to be the case, until we all took a closer look:

Sooby, it seems, thought it would enhance the photo if she appeared to be asleep. So, in the midst of a gargantuan effort to make sure sixteen eyes are all open in the same split second, Sooby closes hers on purpose in order to look like she is sleeping. Oh well. I guess she does look rather angelic.

And so, in this 2014 Christmas season, Pa-pa and I present to you our official holiday photo with this colorful little string of Christmas lights that illuminate our lives all year long. Sooby, our oldest, is already asleep, waiting for Santa. If you look very closely, I am sure you can see visions of sugar plums dancing somewhere in the vicinity of her head.