Confession: I’m just really bad at Christmas and gift giving

Does anyone else do this? All year I try to file little things away in my brain when one of my loved ones states they want something so that I can get it for them for birthdays or Christmas.  And then said birthday and Christmas rolls around and my brain just looks at me blankly, all “I really don’t remember you putting anything in the filing system. I think you drank those memories away.”

Christmas is a little bit nightmarish for me because I have to think of a bunch of presents all at once. I don’t have the mental capacity to even starting planning or shopping until after Thanksgiving.  This year, I was all about getting me some good deals. I’ve already sung the praises of Amazon and I decided I was going to use Cyber Monday to my advantage to get all my Christmas shopping done at once.

After about an hour of scrolling through Amazon’s Cyber Monday lightning deals (uh, which I totally did not do at work for any coworkers who may stumble upon this), I came to one conclusion:

I don’t think Amazon’s Lightning Deals are meant for me or my family. I can never find anything I’m even remotely interested in or would be even a little bit useful to anyone I have to actually buy gifts for.

So I’m scrolling, going through hundreds of items that are super on sale and I start to feel desperate because I feel like I SHOULD be able to find something considering how many people I have to buy for and how many items are listed. Then I start talking myself into terrible ideas like “yes! My in-laws would totally love the entire Dark Shadows series on DVD!” (And holy freaking cow, why so expensive? Are there really that many people who are yearning to spend $350 on a TV show from the 60s?)

By the way, this is what happens when bad things happen to mediocre good (created) rubies: Behold. Think my grandmother would like it?

So, in desperation, I turn to those gift giving guides that various websites have to try to help you think of good gift ideas.

These have never, ever been helpful to me. I just can’t picture myself giving my loved ones a Snowman Kit or a patterned wireless mouse.

I hate gift giving guides that suggest stuff like the iPhone. I need gift giving guides that are like “The totally perfect gifts for your friends and family that cost $20 but looks like they cost $100!” If I had $400 to spend I’d already have a pretty good idea of what to get because I could pretty much afford whatever they’d ask for.

My favorite gift guide I’ve looked at so far is MSN’s which is basically a paid advertisement for whomever wanted a space on it.  It seriously suggests an Android app. That’s free. What am I supposed to do with that? “Merry Christmas! Now give me your phone, I have to download your present for you. And I got out of spending money on you! Sucker!”

(By the way, the ad for the app totally worked, dammit. I downloaded it. And it’s kind of cool. STILL not a valid Christmas gift though.)

And oh my God, y’all. Good Housekeeping has a guide for gifts for your pet. This exists. Look, I love my dog as much as anybody, but the most I’m going to do for her for Christmas is get her a new squeaky toy and I don’t really need a gift giving guide for that.

Also, I have no idea why Catnip Fortune Cookies, or a DJ Turntable for Cats even exist. WHOSE JOB IS IT TO THINK OF THESE THINGS?

The other reason Christmas shopping is difficult for me is because that I always end up buying stuff for myself. In scouting out Cyber Monday deals I ended up buying two mirrors for my house, a couple of pairs of shoes, and a laptop.  Me: 5 Family and Friends: 0.

I’m just really bad at this Christmas shopping thing.

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Exercises in futility: My adventures in dieting and, uh, exercising

I would bet that if you looked at every blog run by a woman that’s about her life you would find that 98.3% (scientifically arrived at) of them talk about the woman going on a diet at some point.

It’s my turn. Aren’t you excited?

So the downside of having a really awesome husband who shares your interests in good food, good drinks, and not moving a whole lot is that you tend to gain weight.  Unfortunately, I’ve gained a lot of weight since we got married four years ago.

Since then I’ve been on every diet ever invented: Weight Watchers, Atkins, Mediterranean, The French Don’t Diet plan, a gluten-free diet, the Paleo diet, you name it — I’ve probably tried it. I’m really bad at all of them because I completely lack self-control and I genuinely love the act of eating.  If there’s good food around — let’s face it, even mediocre food — I have to eat it or I feel deprived, like I’m missing an experience.

Even so, I was actually at least OK at keeping my weight at a not-embarrassing level (I’ve never been thin, but I wouldn’t say that I was exactly fat either) until I graduated from law school.  I think a couple of factors started coming together to really put on the pounds:

1. I began pretty much sitting at a desk all day. At least when I was a student I had a chance to walk around campus, go run errands, do stuff. Once I became a working adult that kind of went away and got relegated to weekends.  Then, because I was stressed and hated being a lawyer, I felt like my reward at the end of the week was to get to sit around and do nothing. And damn it, I was going to do nothing hard.

2. I had disposable income! In law school and college, believe it or not, I really did not drink much. I might be the only human in America that can say she actually did not drink until she was  21.

I’m really super cheap so I just didn’t feel the need to waste what little money I had on alcohol. If I was having a bad day in law school I picked up a 6 pack of beer and drank one bottle. Maybe two if I felt cah-razy (say that in Amy Farrah Fowler’s voice, it’s funnier). That 6 pack was going to last as long as I could possibly get it to — I was going to get a good return on my investment! (Because, obviously, the longer the 6 pack stayed in my refrigerator the more of a return I got on my money.)

With disposable income I felt freer to try new drinks on a more regular basis. And I discovered that, yes, I quite like alcohol.  Unfortunately, alcohol packs on the pounds.

Disposable income and my husband and my’s sheer laziness also led to eating out a lot. I can’t imagine why I gained weight, can you?

So now I’m at the point where if I don’t lose some weight I’m going to have to swallow my pride and buy a new wardrobe. I only have 3 pairs of pants and one skirt that actually fits so I and my coworkers are getting kind of tired of my attire.

(Oh man, if it worked that way I’d wear those damn grey pants everyday for a month).

The lowest weight I was ever at was my third year of law school.  I went into a deep depression and the only thing I ate was Twizzlers. For serious, for about six months I subsisted solely on Twizzlers and lost 20 lbs. I looked great but my dentist wasn’t too happy.

I can’t seem to bring myself to do that again and exercising is really a no-go. In the past four years I’ve bought an elliptical trainer and a treadmill, thinking since I’m too lazy to go to a gym, I’d exercise if it was in the house. I was a little optimistic about myself… (If anyone wants to buy an elliptical trainer or treadmill, barely used, email me!)

So now I’m back to a low carb diet.  Specifically, the diet starts with three days of no-carbs for cleansing.  I can only eat meat, meat, meat, and, oh, eggs.  And for some reason hummus and guacamole (but no vegetables, so it’s basically just me eating spoonfuls of hummus and guacamole…). Plus, I’m supposed to eat every 3 hours.  Last night I went to the refrigerator to find a meat-snack and about wept with joy when I saw the hummus and remembered I could have some.  Sweet, sweet, non-meaty non-eggy hummus.

After the first three days, the diet goes to regular low carb with an allowance for one day a week for cheating. My husband and I went to the grocery store on Sunday and left with enough meat that I’m pretty sure all the world’s vegetarians spontaneously and instantaneously burst into sobbing, wet tears without even knowing why.

I’ve now made it through the third day and… actually it’s not too bad yet. I can deal with not having sweets. I’m not really a sweets eater. But I do love me some carbs: sweet, enriched, white carbs. In fact, most days I basically subsist on bread, rice, and potatoes. I’m not looking forward to giving them up but I haven’t had any success on diets where I got to continue to eat them, so I have to relegate them to my cheat day.

I will admit, however, that I was driving back home from work today and took a route that I forgot Krispy Kreme had recently built a store on. That Hot and Now sign was on and it took every scrap of self-control I have to not turn in there. God, I love me some Krispy Kreme. If I could live solely on Krispy Kreme for 6 months and lose 20lbs I would totally be all in. (I like how this paragraph came right after I talked about not needing sweets too much. I’m a pile of contradictions, people).

And then I had a really stressful day today and I would cut your mom for a glass of wine, but I can’t have one until tomorrow.

Being without carbs will be hard, but I keep telling myself that if I have to buy a whole new wardrobe, I’d rather it be because I’m becoming Elle Woods instead of a big, fat honker moose cow.

Dysfunctional Family Thanksgiving or how I had dinner with a guy in a skirt

The best way I can describe my extended family is that they are a piece of work. I can’t say that we’re dysfunctional in a way that people traditionally mean it: nobody *openly* despises anyone else, they’ve never gotten into fistfights or had the cops called on them, and they aren’t even mean to each other. The dysfunction is much more subtle, a disconnect between what our family is like and what they believe or pretend we’re like. I’ll probably explore this more in the future, but for today we’ll leave it at this: It’s a very odd family.

To give a little background to this post, I have to explain that my parents live full-time in another state because of my dad’s job, but they keep a house on a lake near where I live and grew up.  Most of the family is still down here, living near the lake, but we don’t see each other much unless my parents are in town.  When they are, we all congregate at the lake house.

Before I get into the story of Thanksgiving, let me introduce you to the cast of characters:

  • Mom: ’nuff said
  • Dad: ’nuff said
  • Sister: Older than me, we’ll call her “Queen”
  • Brother-in-law: Married to sister, call him “Bama”
  • 6-year-old nephew: First son of Queen and Bama, call him “Ninja”
  • 3-year-old nephew: Youngest son of Queen and Bama, call him “Han Solo”
  • Grandmother: My paternal grandmother. Call her “Grandma Wino”
  • Eldest aunt:  My dad’s older sister, early 60s. Call her “June Cleaver.”
  • Uncle: Married to June Cleaver, early 60s. Call him “Blues.”
  • Eldest Cousin: Son to June Cleaver and Blues, late 30s. Call him “Paulinator”
  • Cousin-in-law: Paulinator’s wife, late 30s.  Call her “Mirror”
  • Female Cousin 1: Daughter to June Cleaver and Uncle, mid-30s. Call her “Hester P.”
  • Youngest aunt: My dad’s younger sister, mid-50s. Call her “Big Boobs McGee,” or “BBM” for short.
  • Female Cousin 2: BBM’s daughter, early 20s. Call her “Blondie.”
  • Step Cousin: My dad’s older step brother’s (now passed) son who I have seen maybe 3 times in my life, early 20s. We’ll call him “Kilt Man.” You’ll see why.
  • Great uncle: Grandma Wino’s brother. Call him “Klaus.”
  • Great aunt: Klaus’s wife. Call her “Mouse.”
  • Sister-in-law: My husband’s older sister. Call her “Mama Liga”

So, along with me and my husband, that’s who came to Thanksgiving.

The annoying fun thing about my family is that when my parents host family get-togethers, they are literally hosting. As in, providing all the food, drinks, and alcohol. Since I’ve become a working adult I’ve tried to help out as much as I can, and my sister does too, but the brunt of the get-togethers fall to my parents.

Husband, Mama Liga, and I spent the night at my parent’s house Wednesday night and got up early Thanksgiving morning to help in the preparations.  In the grand tradition of me, alcohol was well provided for in the form of mimosas. We watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, had several mimosas, and cooked my contributions to Thanksgiving dinner: broccoli casserole, macaroni and cheese, and pumpkin pie.
A good time was had by all.

The rest of the family, minus Klaus and Mouse, arrived at about 1:00pm. BBM had her cleavage on display, Grandma Wino walked in saying “What?,” and Blues was wearing his ever-present Indiana Jones hat (he had actually just had a *minor* brain surgery the day before and he said it was to cover the big lump of gauze on his head, but let’s face it, he wore it all the time before surgery, so I’m not buying the excuse). Everything was par for the course.

My mom, God love her, did try to actually get the other families to contribute this year and asked them to bring some appetizers and side dishes. Between my grandmother, June Cleaver’s family, and BBM’s family (which represents, remember, 8 of the 18 people present), this is what they contrived to bring: olives, pickles, canned green beans, and canned corn.

The family immediately headed to the star of the day: my dad’s wine collection. Within the first 20 minutes of them arriving we went through a bottle of white wine and a bottle of red wine. As I was getting ready to go get my own glass, in walked Kilt Man. Why did I nickname him Kilt Man?  He arrived, no lie, WEARING A KILT.

I have proof:

No, we don’t live in Scotland. No, he’s not Scottish. I know enough about his family history to know he’s very, very Italian. I have no idea what the kilt was about.

Notice the jaunty knee-high socks.

Kilt-Man turned out to be a creeper. He liked to hover over me and all the other women at the party, staring at us.  My husband said at one point he was trying to look down my shirt and Mama Liga caught him trying to look down her shirt. My parents’ living room has two sofas facing each other. I was sitting on one sofa and Kilt-Man sat on the other sofa and very deliberately crossed his legs in that man way where the legs are spread open and one foot rests on the other knee. It wasn’t long after that Kilt-Man told me I looked beautiful today and about 10 minutes later that he asked for my phone number.

Naturally, and unfortunately, having a man in a skirt caused a large portion of the Thanksgiving dinner conversation to feature what, exactly, he was wearing under it. My dad asked him whether he had “drawers” on under his kilt and Kilt-Man answered. Hester P. didn’t hear the answer, turned to someone, and asked “What did he say?” Kilt-Man heard and said, “Would you like to see for yourself?” It was all very disturbing. I had a lot of wine to deal with it.

Speaking of wine, my family can go through some wine, man. Well, they can when they aren’t paying for it. Grandma Wino, in particular, is serious about it. I don’t mean serious as in she knows anything about it, but serious as in she sure does like to drink it. Right before lunch I was walking up to the counter to pour myself a glass, and Grandma Wino sped past me, pushing me out of the way, to finish off the bottle.

I looked at my empty glass, sighed, and just grabbed another bottle to open.

The sight at the end of the night of all the fallen wine bottle soldiers was very sad. I almost had to build a memorial to commemorate the multitudes of bottles that gave their contents for our bearable happy holiday.

Lunch was just ending when Klaus and Mouse showed up. Klaus was wearing a Texas tuxedo, always a fashionable choice for formal and informal events alike. Klaus is someone I only saw a couple of times in my life until last year when he decided for some reason that he quite likes my Dad and now. They. Come. Every. Time. My. Parents. Are. Down.

I’m not a big fan of Klaus or Mouse. He’s actually not really that nice of a man and is fairly unbearable because he thinks everyone loves him. Recently he showed me some really personal financial papers that he wanted (free) legal advice on, which made me very uncomfortable given that what he showed me wasn’t anything I had any business knowing, especially since I don’t practice that area of law. I think he was trying to find an excuse to tell me so I would tell my Dad and Dad would offer them money. I outsmarted them on that, though, ha.

Klaus and Mouse have a habit of coming to the house with small quantities of random food offerings. They’ve brought boxes of raisins, Ziploc bags of popcorn, and a bag of beef jerky before. I guess I shouldn’t judge too harshly, though, since most family members come completely empty handed. They didn’t bring anything for Thanksgiving though.  In fact, they pretty much just showed up, ate, and then announced they had to go.

They had to go back home so they could put up their chickens.

For serious.

Anyway, that was my Thanksgiving. There’s always crazy stuff going on with my family get togethers, but I never foresaw I would ever eat Thanksgiving dinner with a man in a skirt. And don’t give me that lecture about how a kilt is not a skirt. If you’re not Scottish, it’s a skirt.

And, furthermore:

Although I don’t have personal knowledge of what he had under there and really, really don’t want any.

So tell me, what was the weirdest thing that happened at your Thanksgiving?

Favorite Things: The Thanksgiving Letter

The holidays are rife with tradition. Thanksgiving is no different: turkey, pie, stuffing, the Macy’s parade, and football. All nice traditions. What’s my Thanksgiving tradition?

Re-reading The Thanksgiving Letter.

Now, I’m not trying to steal credit for something I didn’t write and this is not a letter from anyone in my family.  I stumbled upon this letter while perusing the Awesomely Awesome Awkward Family Photos. Seriously, check it out, it’s awesome.

Anyway, this letter is a tradition at Awkward Family Photos and they repost it every year and I eagerly go back to read it. As a queen of passive-aggressiveness myself, I cannot help but admire the Marney who wrote this letter.  Clearly, the family drives her crazy and she is just trying to have a nice Thanksgiving. I hope the rest of the family is equally passive-aggressive, though, and brought soup spoons instead of serving spoons, or brought their dishes in non-regulation size casserole dishes.  Or, heaven forbid, brought a Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay.

I’d really like to meet this family:

Update: Ha ha! look what somebody brought to our Thanksgiving:

Marney, is that you?

Of dog poop, neighbor drama, and doing laundry on the porch: Adventures with my HOA

Husband and I bought a house last year in a really beautiful neighborhood where all the houses are built with rocking chair front porches and a certain Charlestonian-charm. The neighborhood, to keep its beauty and charm, has a really strict HOA and rules about what can be visible, how your yard should look, etc. This is done so that the neighborhood is attractive and that the home values will stay up since people will want to live here.

With all the rules comes almost constant drama. The neighborhood has a Facebook group where the homeowners come on asking for babysitters, or putting things up for sell, or, the most popular activity, bitch about the HOA.

The current drama is over placement of trashcans. Most of the houses in my neighborhood have the garages in the back and a series of alleys behind the houses allows us access to the garage. Apparently the HOA rules have always been that trashcans have to be hidden from view from both the street AND the alleys, but it has only been recently — when the HOA switched management companies — that the rule is being enforced.  Previously, as long as your trashcans couldn’t be seen from the road, you were good.

Most of my neighbors seem to have put in cement pads for their trashcans with screens like this blocking them from being seen from any direction by the road:

But because this set up allows for the cans to be seen from behind, where the alley is, the HOA has started sending out threatening letters to hide the cans from both sides or risk being fined.  This is apparently upsetting since buying more fencing is going to be expensive and make it kind of hard to access the cans.

My neighbors are upset enough at being called out by the HOA that they are now calling each other out for breaking HOA rules, I guess with the attitude of “If I’m going down, I’m taking everybody with me.” So far, I’ve seen somebody being called out for leaving their portable basketball hoop out in the driveway, for having an inflatable play space in their backyard, having political signs in their yard (which was later determined to actually be ok since the state Supreme Court has found that HOAs can’t limit homeowners from displaying political signs), letting their pet bunny get out of their yard too often, and leaving their garage door open too much.

My favorite tattle-telling entries, however, have been the ones that call out the neighborhood management for their total hypocrisy, because they are less petty and make me less uncomfortable.  Examples of how the neighborhood management should maybe think about putting the rock down while hanging out in their glass house:

This is in one of our parks; there is a company paid for by HOA dues to keep the green spaces pretty and well maintained:

And this is my absolute favorite, the current view of our neighborhood club house:

Meanwhile, I haven’t seen anyone post about this, but this is a sight that’s been available for over a week:

Washer-on-the-porch watch, day 4: say it with me, it's still there.

Yep, that’s a dryer. My neighbors dry their clothes on their patio. Because nothing says “classy neighborhood” and “increasing home values” like a dryer on the patio.

P.S. My husband has informed me that my picture of the cans behind the fence looks like a house where the big can is the house and the smaller can is a garage. I infer that this means the house has a random big white fence on two sides. So, I leave it to you, my wonderful readers…

My worst (well, one of them) nightmare: Shopping

The internet has been pretty much the best thing ever for me. I’m really not a big fan of being near people (Remember how I said that I’d become a crazy cat lady if something happened to my husband — yep, it’s true). The internet lets me live in my little own world and have some interaction with people on my own terms. When I want to talk, I get on my Twitter and make statements and hope people respond.  If I just want to live in my cave and be alone, I just play games or read other people’s blogs.

So, as a person who, you  know, doesn’t really like being around other people, the Christmas shopping season is my nightmare. Especially the day after Thanksgiving. My brain melts down at the thought of even attempting to go out into the zombie hoards looking for a deal good enough to sacrifice their dignity for.

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No, I don’t shop in person for Christmas. Or birthdays. Or really anything else if I can help it. Except grocery shopping. I haven’t figured out a cost effective way to grocery shop from home. So every Sunday I brave going to the grocery store and leave in a pissed off mood because people basically suck in public.

My favorite thing ever is Amazon Prime. This is how I feel about Amazon Prime:

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Amazon has absolutely everything you could ever want. I sometimes think of really random things I’d like to have and go search for it and they have it. If they don’t have it, it hasn’t been invented. And then as an extra special bonus, you get FREE TWO DAY SHIPPING.

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Amazon Prime has totally spoiled me from any other online shopping experience.  I get really bitter now when I have to pay for shipping.  It’s actually stopped me from buying stuff before.

Amazon Prime also allows for free returns on most clothing and shoe options now, really negating the need to ever go clothes shopping. Now I can become horribly depressed at how clothes fit me at home where I can now just go downstairs and have a glass of wine to drown out my sorrows!

Anyway, I swear I’m not a shill for Amazon. I just really love Prime. I pretty much love anything that keeps me from having to go outside.