Tag Archives: Christmas

Be Gone, Ye Last Five Pounds!

I didn’t ask for this for Christmas, but I got it – an extra five pounds. Now I have to get rid of it.

To clarify: I’m not whining about being overweight. If you know me, you know that I’m a healthy weight. A fit person. I am satisfied with how I look and feel, despite the extra five pounds, but they must Be Gone.

I pledge this not for the Laura of today, but for the five-years-from-now Laura. Because this Five Pounds of 2016 wants to settle in and become permanent, so that it can later be a foundation for the Five Pounds of 2017. Which in turn would host a welcoming party for the Five Pounds of 2018. And so on. Before you know it I’ll need that seatbelt extender when I fly.

Do I regret gaining them? No, I can’t honestly say that I do. The Christmas season and its many delights were wonderful to consume. The holiday parties with their festive punchbowls and platters of mini egg rolls, pigs-in-blankets, and Cheese Glorious Cheese. The movie nights with popcorn and potato chips and my famous baked Mexican dip. The football games with beer and nachos and more nachos. Yum.

The memories of Christmas dinner itself will last me until next year (they might have to, if it takes until then to lose this weight). We always start with champagne and Southern Living’s famous Crab Cakes with Caper Dill Sauce. We burn the tips of our fingers eating them as they come off the buttery skillet. Then we roll to the table, already full, and enjoy mushroom saffron risotto and homemade gnocchi with Nonna’s sauce (not my Nonna – my best friend’s real Italian Nonna). This starchy extravaganza is but a warm up for the filet mignon and the grilled herbed shrimp. We soak up the juices with fresh baked breads.

Nobody saves room for dessert but we eat it anyway – chocolate cream pie and this concoction called Oatmeal Cake which sounds healthy but is mostly butter. And caramel and coconut and pecans and eggs and maybe a teaspoon of oatmeal somewhere in there, to satisfy the letter of the law.

I forgot to mention the wine and the coffee with real cream (the Bailey’s Irish kind). It’s a wonder that the damage was limited to only five pounds.

But the damage was done, so now comes the time of reckoning. What am I willing to do – or not do – to kick this five pounds to the curb?

I’m willing to:

  • Add an extra mile or two to my runs.
  • Exercise almost every day, even when I don’t fee like it.
  • Walk past the potato chips in the grocery store without so much as a glance in their delicious direction.

I’m not willing to:

  • Skip meals. That’s uncivilized.
  • Ignore my favorite stocking stuffer, the Trader Joe’s One Pound Chocolate Bar with Almonds. I get a few squares a day until it’s all gone – that’s my tradition.
  • Eliminate entire food categories like sugar, dairy, gluten, carbs, alcohol, or caffeine. A balanced diet is important, and coffee is especially important.

All of the above starts today, so wish me luck. As always, I’m guided by the wise philosophy of a very dear friend:

Everything in moderation. Including moderation.






All I Want For Christmas

Some women want jewelry; others want designer bags. Not me. I want to play Jedi mind tricks on American political leaders. According to the official Star Wars website, “the Force can have a powerful effect on the weak-minded, a phenomenon Jedi sometimes take advantage of in pursuing their missions.”


What’s my mission? To make 2017 better than 2016. It’s a low bar. If I could just harness the Force, I’d point it directly at our “weak-minded” lawmakers so they would…

  1. …Stop worrying so much about where other people go to the bathroom.

I’m looking at you, North Carolina. When the most well-known piece of legislation to come out of your statehouse is called the Bathroom Bill, it’s time to reflect upon your governing priorities. This panic over public bathrooms is the very definition of a First World Problem, and I use the word “problem” loosely. If you are really that concerned about bathroom habits, consider focusing your time and resources a little further away from home.

Fun Fact: nearly 2.4 billion people in the world don’t have proper toilets (according to the World Health Organization.) So instead of demanding that we show our birth certificates to the ‘potty police’ every time nature calls, consider writing a check to UNICEF.

  1. Remember that America asks the world to “give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,” even when those huddled masses come from Syria.

Half the population of Syria has been displaced and a generation of children is growing up in refugee camps without education or security or hope. Why isn’t our government doing more about it? I’ll tell you why: because we can never be 100% sure that a terrorist won’t slip in among those refugees!

I can’t argue that, but let’s unpack the threat. Suppose 1 of every 1000 refugees is a terrorist (a totally absurd assumption since in fiscal year 2016 we admitted over 6,726 Syrian refugees, of whom exactly zero were terrorists). Canada had welcomed over 25,000 refugees as of last February, and none of them is on Santa’s naughty list.

If we welcomed 25,000 Syrian refugees and if 1 of every 1000 was not only a terrorist but also successfully committed a terrorist act, approximately 44 Americans would die in those attacks (fatality assumptions based on 2016 data).

That means we won’t risk the chance that 44 Americans might die, in order to save 25,000 people. Either this great country is filled with cowards, or we are bad at math. Or possibly both (given the falling regard for all things scientific or fact-based, and the tiny percent of us who serve in the military).

  1. …Act like decent humans.

It doesn’t seem that hard, does it? Yet time after time, our elected leaders behave like babies (at best) or heartless bastards (at worst). I am tired of turning on the news and hearing about a certain someone grabbing women by the privates, whining about his press coverage, and threatening to create a Muslim registry. I don’t know what’s more exhausting: keeping track of it all, or sustaining an appropriate level of outrage. But what can I do about it?

If I get the Force for Christmas. I will play my Jedi mind tricks. And by this time next year, the 24-hour cable news cycle will go dark for lack of material because our president will actually be presidential. We’ll have some new Americans with whom to celebrate the holidays. North Carolina will no longer be the butt (ha ha) of much bathroom humor.

If my stocking is empty, however, I fear 2017 may be even worse than 2016. In which case, I will seriously consider relocating. To a galaxy far, far away.


Shelf The Elf

I am all about The Christmas Spirit, but the ubiquitous little elf that makes his living spying on children has got to go. Thank goodness my kids are old enough to have missed jumping on this bandwagon, because the last thing I needed back when I was a frazzled mom of toddlers was the pressure to maintain one more thread in the tangled web of lies that is secular Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong – I lied plenty. I sprinkled “reindeer food” (raw oats and glitter) in the front yard to attract the sleigh. I left out cookies and milk, and then nibbled at those cookies when the coast was clear. But would I have tiptoed around every night in the moments after the kids fell asleep to cleverly position a toy elf in a charming milieu of holiday magic? Not likely. That was Mommy’s wine time.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon – congratulations on your purity – let me explain. In an epiphany of marketing genius rivaled only by the invention of Beanie Babies and Silly Bandz, a mother and daughter team wrote a book that features a delightful little elf who appears in a different spot in your home each morning leading up to Christmas (his job is to report to Santa on the naughty/nice situation).  The_Elf_on_the_Shelf_(book)

The book’s full title is “The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition,” an ambitious label which plays fast and loose with the strict definition of “tradition” since the book was only just published in 2005. Perhaps parents who believe Christmas will be even more special if they have one additional thing to do each day will believe anything, because a lot of them spent $29.95 on a box set (including the toy elf and the story book) described as “a timeless holiday tradition that the whole family can enjoy.”

The only traditional element of this story is how it continues the lucrative commercialization of Christmas, with $16.6 million in sales by 2011 and a steady blizzard of shameless cross-promotions and spin-offs (an animated TV show, a helium balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, and a new line of birthday products).


Although I do not have one of these creepy little urchins under my own roof, I follow the antics of the many shelf elves residing among my Facebook friends. I have some pretty impressive friends who are up to their mistletoe in regular life (work, childcare, cooking, volunteer work, and occasional self-grooming) and holiday duties (sending cards, buying last-minute gifts for teachers and Secret Santas, tasting eggnog recipes), yet they STILL find time to cleverly hide the elf every day AND photograph it AND post it on Facebook so the rest of can marvel at how much energy all this requires.

Relax, dear ones. I am already thoroughly impressed if your Christmas card arrives before New Year’s Day and your photo doesn’t include an inadvertent wardrobe malfunction, as in this episode of Seinfeld.

As many of my Facebook friends graduate from the Santa years along with me, the elf pictures are a-changin’. In addition to having endless creative energy, my group of friends has a pretty twisted sense of humor (either that or the elves, having observed so much “naughty” behavior over the years, have become hopelessly corrupted).


Helping out in the kitchen


Watch out ladies, he’s a bit of a lightweight



An homage to a holiday classic

I guess the evolution of the elf isn’t so different from the evolution of celebrating Christmas with children. When they’re very little, everything is innocent and joyous. As we watch them experience their first snowfall and see their first Christmas tree aglow with lights, it’s hard not to feel the magic of the season. Then a little bit of your spirit dies the first time your child rips open a gift and complains that it’s not exactly what he wanted and why did his sister get something better and why must he write a thank you note if he already thanked Grandma on the phone?

As children become teenagers, the entire façade collapses. It’s been many years since I’ve sprinkled reindeer food on the front lawn, and now we simply eat the cookies together before bedtime on Christmas Eve.  This time of year, I just want to turn back the clock. I want to go back to the days when Christmas didn’t include the Elf on the Shelf or Facebook. The days before I had teenagers who are more interested in iPads than catching snowflakes.

I’ve decided the way to experience the true meaning of Christmas, to re-capture that spirit and innocence, is to celebrate as I did when my children were babies. Even better, I should celebrate the simplicity of the very first Christmas, and the very first baby. Remember that? nativity2