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Not Ready for Granny Panties
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But It’s a Tradition!

During this holiday season, I am particularly grateful that, having been at this writing thing for countless years now, I have over 800 columns squirreled away and can occasionally recycle one or two, with no one being the wiser. Unless I tell them, of course, which I’m doing now. As I indulge in the madness of the season, I hope you’ll enjoy the re-run below. Happy Holidays!
 
By: Mary Fran Bontempo

Tradition. According to Webster’s Dictionary, it is defined as follows:

1: an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior 2: the handing down of beliefs and customs from one generation to another 3: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions

Clearly, the definition was determined by men. Every woman in the world knows the definition of “Tradition” should read: 1: the never ending practice of doing the same things (particularly during the holidays) over and over until a stint in an asylum begins to look like a vacation.

Traditions resurface like a bad penny in every family during the holiday season. Initially begun as a balm to provide comfort and continuity, after twenty or so years, to us mothers, the mere idea of repeating a well-intended tradition can bring on a sweat to rival any hot flash.

Whether it involves reenacting a decades-old routine (“Of course we’re going to pack up the entire family and drive three hours for dinner at Grandma’s. It’s what we always do!”), or dressing a holiday table with the same menu that’s been around since the Eisenhower era, or hauling thirty-five boxes of junk down from the attic to festoon the house in a manner that would put the Griswolds to shame, the simple fact that something has been declared a tradition enshrines it in a kryptonite enclosed coffer that even Superman couldn’t break through.

So, why, ladies, do we keep it up?

In part, we continue the practices simply to quiet the objections of the troops, who balk at the mere suggestion of change. “What do you think about having dinner here this Christmas?” “What! Eat here? It’s not Christmas if we stay home!” “What’s that red stuff? Where’s the cranberry sauce from the can?” “But we always hang up 8,000 lights outside. Why can’t we do it this year?”

Ultimately though, and despite the howls of protest over the mere idea of change, the real reason runs much deeper, and can be summed up in a phrase—“the green bean casserole.”

The green bean casserole is ubiquitous at holiday meals. Across America, millions of festive tables will be graced with the green bean casserole, a dish that surfaces only during the holidays and thankfully retires to the nether-lands of the recipe box once the celebrations are through.

Consisting of milk, a can of cream of mushroom soup, frozen green beans and dehydrated fried onions, the green bean casserole’s ingredients list reads like the last remaining rations in a fall-out shelter. Why, aside from the milk, would anyone voluntarily consume any of the above, let alone slop them together and bake them into a bubbling mass to plop on the table as part of a festive holiday dinner?

The answer, of course, is simple: believe it or not, it tastes pretty good. And, even if one cannot be captivated by its culinary charms, the green bean casserole inevitably shouts, “Holiday Dinner, on the table!”

Because we have imbued it with tradition status, the green bean casserole, before it is even raised to the lips, lets us know that we are in the middle of a special occasion, one to be treasured despite, or perhaps because of, its resemblance to years past.

Though the idea of chucking the whole Thanksgiving/Christmas extravaganza in favor of a week’s vacation somewhere would likely appeal to many women, in the wake of disasters natural and man-made which plague the world at every turn, the fact that we can still inflict green bean casserole on the masses is a blessing, though well disguised. A hot, bubbly green bean casserole in the center of a table is a visible reassurance that despite the mess we always appear to be in, eventually, things will be okay. And even if the world isn’t perfect, being together with food to share makes navigating the tricky waters of life much more palatable both literally and figuratively.

So, once again, we will reenact our traditions this holiday season, possibly through gritted teeth, but also with thanks for the comfort derived from celebrating the familiar.

I wish you the best this holiday season, annoying traditions and all. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a can of cream of mushroom soup to find.

What’s your favorite holiday tradition? Click “comments” below and share!

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A Christmas Video from NRFGP!

It’s time to rock around the Christmas tree! Enjoy the fun with NRFGP own Mary Fran Bontempo, Chrysa Smith and Pat Achilles. Happy Holidays!

It’s an Elfstravaganza in “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree!”

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Holiday Meals for the Middle-Aged Set–A Video for You!

Check out this hilarious video with Sandy and Richard Riccardi and remember it the next time you have to cook a holiday meal. Enjoy!


–Mary Fran

 

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Just for Kicks

By: Chrysa Smith

rockettes1Kick up your heels this holiday season with the most flexible ladies this side of your exercise class. That is, the Rockettes.

For some 80+ years, the tradition continues to amaze and delight people with their perfect formations and toe-tapping performances that are just not seen anywhere else. Or are they?

Well apparently, the linear ladies are not just concentrated in New York. There is a Midwest troop that marches mid-country. And it’s great news for those who can’t make it to NYC.  In fact, I learned about it from my zumba instructor, whose future daughter-in-law made the troop based out of Houston, and she was headed there to catch a show this weekend.

While the Christmas Show at Radio City is Rockette-centric, the other wow factor is the technology. A few years back, MaryFran and I were stopped dead in our tracks on the streets of the Big Apple, presented with discount tickets to see the show. On a whim, we took the offer and saw one of the most delightful ways to stir up the Christmas spirit.

Equipped with 3D glasses, the performance combined the Rockettes with a bit of 3D technology, making Santa and his reindeer fly right past you. It was great. So this year, I was expecting a similar show and was at first, a bit disappointed that no glasses were handed out—-just a red Santa hat. But it didn’t take long and the visuals began to impress and amaze me.

If you’ve been to a show, one of the things you can count on, besides the perfectly aligned ladies, is a scene with a double-decker tour bus. This time, the background took you through a very realistic tour of the sights of the city. It was so real, it brought back some great memories of working in and wandering the streets of the city. The visuals not only sat behind the screen, but on the walls and up above you. And, as in the past, I’m still amazes when the dancers enter the bus in one costume and come out dressed in another. How do they do that?

It was topped off by a winter number, where snowflakes not only fell onto video screens around the theater, but clear bubbles with snowflakes contained within, floated out over the audience in a very snowflake-like falling. If you can make it to NYC, do see the show. And check websites like TravelZoo and other discount sites for deals. The further out from Christmas you go, the better. I wound up with orchestra seats for $50—-the price of a few hotdogs from the corner vendor (well almost).

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Tips to Craft the Perfect Christmas

By: Mary Fran Bontempo

 

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A lovely table top tree crafted when I was insane.

I used to be so crafty. Not in the like a fox way, in the Martha Stewart way.

Back when I was stuck at home with little ones, or, to be more politically correct, when I was embracing the opportunity to care for my children and “nest”at home, I was a crafting maniac, especially at Christmas.

I made centerpieces, wreaths, baked goodies and elaborately decorated gingerbread houses. I took plain store bought garlands and festooned them with Christmas balls, lights and ribbons. I even wrapped gifts in color-coordinated paper and bows.

In short, I was insane.

After some distance from those years, I’m more convinced than ever that young mothers turn to crafting to keep from losing their minds while at home, which is kind of an oxymoron, as being surrounded by glue guns, pine cones, sequins and raffia bows hardly delivers a message of stability.

Yet most of the time, my efforts turned out okay, and I’m actually still using some of the items I made long ago, like the decorated garlands that adorn the book case, fireplace mantle and stairs. Of course I’m still using them because the thought of making new ones makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up and buying new ones pre-decorated would wipe out my gift budget, but that’s beside the point. I am using them.

There have also been screw-ups, as when I made a gorgeous wreath by gluing pine cones I gathered from our yard on a wire form and adding assorted bows and Christmas balls (I told you I was deranged) and then stored it in the attic through the summer, which caused all the glue to melt and the pine cones to fall off. ($&@%*# pine cones!)

I haven’t indulged my inner craft goddess in some time, so while I was sitting in a doctor’s office this morning,waiting for my daughter to be checked out for a nasty cold, I picked up a copy of the December issue of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, which, of course, was replete with ideas for crafting the perfect Christmas.

I thought about inviting friends for a “casual afternoon of wreath crafting,” and then I looked at the stuff I’d have to assemble to make the damn things, not to mention the fact that my friends would have slapped me silly if I’d dared to suggest such an enterprise. Pass.

Next, I considered “tying pine cones to branches with jute twine to spruce up live evergreens,” and then I realized that live evergreens have their own pine cones and didn’t need me tying extra ones on them. Two down.

Finally, I checked out the recipes for the 25 sweets offered–one for each day of December leading up to the big day–and noticed that the very first one required one hour and fifty minutes of prep time! Um…no.

Instead, on the way home, when Megan and I stopped at Walmart to pick up her prescriptions, I snagged some lovely evergreen wreaths for $7.98 each, along with a pine cone decorated miniature tree for under ten bucks and a container of frosted cookies for $3.98. (Walmart loves the ninety-eight cent thing.)

Yeah, yeah, I’m contributing to the ruination of the planet by shopping at Walmart, I know. But in one twenty minute outing, I pulled together a Christmas that cost next to nothing monetarily and even less in aggravation. Better yet, no glue gun was required.

Thanks for the virtual crafting experience, Better Homes and Gardens. I really enjoyed it. Especially because I didn’t do any of it.

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One Clean Glo

woman-cleaning1By: Chrysa Smith

 

There I am. Vacuum in one hand; dust cloth in the other. Draped in pearls. Dressed in high heels and of course, a nice dress.

Of course it’s a dream, as I don’t pretend to enjoy housekeeping. Though I must say, once it’s done, I get some jollies out of the fact that it all looks so good. And my neurotic ‘orderly’ tendencies are calmed. So it is with great surprise to me that I am writing this piece about a great  cleaning product that is new to me—and I just love.

Now some time ago, I was complaining about my wood floors. Of course, there are a couple of men and dogs that tread here. And there’s bound to be some scuffs and wear. But with all of the products made especially for my brand of floor, I was always disappointed with the dullness that would soon arise–maybe within a day or two. And I never knew if I was actually using cleaning products too much—and should just sweep for awhile, or call the pros and have my floors stripped.

Then came a conversation with a friend with the same complaint. She told me her neighbor had beautiful wood floors and was told to use Orange Glo. Long story short, I ran out to the store (Home Depot has it, but many grocery stores do not). I came home and I’ll be damned. The finish was both beautiful and lasting. I now do them once a week and forget about them. So the other day, when my kitchen cabinets looked a little war-torn, I decided to try it on them. Again, the sheen that it brought to them put a smile on my face.   OK—it’s the little things in life. But with the holidays coming, it’s nice to know that with one product, I can make several things in my house look good, stay long and leave me time to enjoy the things I really love.

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Christmas Gifts for People You Don’t Like

By: Mary Fran Bontempo

Attractive Woman Holds Holiday Gifts Isolated on a White Background.Bye-bye Thanksgiving; hello shopping madness.

For the next twenty-four days, most of us will be clomping around like the zombies on AMC’s The Walking Dead, lurching from store to store in search of the perfect Christmas gifts for everyone on our lists, hoping for an appreciative “Ooohhh” or “Aaaahhh” for our efforts. Those efforts are assisted by the onslaught of advertising jammed down our throats advising us of what will make our giftees jump for joy.

But what about the people we don’t like? Instead of just ignoring them by “forgetting” to send them a Christmas card (which would put everyone I know on my “Don’t Like List” as I always forget to send cards), here are a few items you can offer those who really rub you the wrong way. Once they open the package, there will be no doubt as to how you feel, and since a few of the gifts aren’t available just yet–you’ll have to enclose an IOU–you’re adding insult to injury. Just to drive the point home.

1.  Kim Kardashian Selfish. Kim Kardashian’s coffee table book of selfies. The queen of narcissism has decided that we still can’t get enough of her ubiquitous person (despite being subjected to images of ALL OF HER at least once a week) and will further offend the world by publishing a 352 page volume of porn, er, selfies, a.k.a. pictures she took by herself, of herself. Since the book won’t be available until April, 2015, you could warn the intended recipient that it’s coming and allow him/her to try and change your opinion of them before you inflict it on them. But if you really don’t like someone, punish them with this.

2.  Russell Brand’s  Trickster Tales. Even though Christmas is a time for children, we all know kids that we just don’t like. (Deny it if you want; it’s true.) Since books are big gifts for kids (even though they won’t read them), feel free to present any particularly annoying rug rat with  comedian Russel Brand’s books of Trickster Tales, based on traditional fairy tales but with Brand’s mentally unhinged twist. As a writer, I’m already insulted that people who have no business calling themselves writers (are you listening, Madonna?) are now “writing” books for children. But when a certifiable lunatic like Brand gets paid to write for kids, well, I could hurt somebody. Read a sample of his take on the Pied Piper of Hamelin, below:

“The clock made its sixth chime. ‘Now it’s six,’ said the glint-eyed piper. A rat that was eating his discarded ham sandwich looked up, fearfully. All the rats paused. The piper silently drew in a long breath through his long nose. The glint-eyed piper knew that each breath we take is borrowed. The glint-eyed piper knew that all things are connected, the clouds, the people, the rats, the pipe, the music. All things are connected by invisible threads. The people of the town didn’t know that, for they only cared about things they could see and eat and get prizes for.”

Come on! Seriously? But once again, if the kid on the receiving end of this has any question as to how you really feel, this will answer it.

3.  Blood Sport. For the video game lover, this one is a real winner. Two Canadian developers are working on a game called Blood Sport, which, get this, actually DRAWS BLOOD from players. In an effort to make this not sound like the sadistic experience it really is, the guys claim it’s intended to get people to donate blood. Yeah, sure it is. The developers were fund raising through a Kickstarter campaign, but it was recently suspended (can’t imagine why), so you may have to wait til next year for this one. But since nothing says “I can’t stand you” like stabbing someone and drawing blood, it may be worth the wait for anyone on your list you want to go all Hunger Games on.

I could continue, but that’s enough negative energy for one Christmas season. As for me, I won’t be purchasing anything for those on my naughty list. I’ll just keep everyone guessing by “forgetting” to send Christmas cards again, thus ensuring that I’ll be on plenty of naughty lists myself, which is really nothing new. However, should I ever find a copy of Kim Kardashian Selfish under my own tree, I promise to mend my ways.

No one should be so awful as to deserve that.