By Heather Mullinix
Here it is Christmas Eve, and the end of all the holiday melodrama, stress and extra work is almost over with for a little while, at least until the next holiday that calls for lots of cooking rolls around. Luckily, there aren’t a lot of dinner parties on my schedule revolving around President’s Day.
But Christmas and Thanksgiving – and the entire month in between the two – are both holidays that welcome, nay demand, lots of yummy treats and savory bites. For a kitchen novice, it’s both an exciting and stressful time. To give you an idea of the state I found myself in, I walked right out of a local grocery store this weekend carrying the plastic shopping basket.
Later, I realized I’d forgotten a few key ingredients for another project. Back to the store. I took care of that errand and returned home to a familiar smell — the smell of burnt cookies. I was baking them for friends and co-workers, but my best intentions turned into lumps of coal, or burnt chocolate chips.
Next, as I was finishing the batch of delicious black forest Chex mix, I couldn’t find the bag of white chocolate chips. They had been there, on the counter, just a few hours before. I couldn’t find them anywhere. They weren’t in the pantry. They weren’t on the counter. Where could they have gone?
I found them. In the drawer where I keep towels and clothes pins to secure bags of things like rice, frozen French fries, or chocolate chips.
At that point, I knew I was in a stress spiral. Calgon, take me away! I sat back, put my feet up, turned on some TV and sat back and relaxed. I found cookie dough that hadn’t been scorched and had me a bite. One of my guilty pleasures is eating raw cookie dough. I know I’m not supposed to. I know there’s a risk of salmonella, and that really wouldn’t add to my holiday cheer, but it’s just so good – all gooey and chocolatey. It ranks right up there with the batter left in the bowl when you make brownies. These are the reasons I even attempt baking. Sure, the finished product is fine, but I like an early sampling of what’s to come. Raw eggs and all.
At this point, I’m feeling better about my absent-minded afternoon. To nudge me back from the precipice of holiday meltdown, I turned to the Internet, which happily shares Pinterist fails to comfort those whose high expectations fall just a bit flat.
There were collapsed gingerbread houses, children crying on the family Christmas cards, a Christmas tree sweater (seriously, Google that. It’s a shoe-in for next year’s Ugly Christmas Sweater contests), and even a tree that caught fire.
If that doesn’t make you feel better about your own holiday fails, then perhaps this will.
The world will not end if your tree doesn’t look like something out of Southern Living’s Christmas issue. So what if your heirloom ornaments look old and worn. Many of them probably have special meanings for you. On my tree, I find several ornaments from Gone with the Wind, gifts from one of my oldest and dearest friends. I look forward to getting them out every year. There are several ornaments my mom made for me when I was first out on my own, helping to build my Christmas collection and I smile, thankful to have a mom who will never end up on a Pinterist fail list.
There’s also this hideous donkey ornament. I don’t love it. It doesn’t find its way to the top of the tree. Instead, it’s kind of in the back where I don’t see it so well. But it reminds me of my trials and tribulations in the annual family dirty Santa ornament exchange. It does not pay to be single in this game. The married folk will gang up on you and take your pretty snowman, the one you picked out because it would look so good on your tree. I’ll also remember the fun of the game and the fact that, while we will absolutely throw our loved ones under the bus in the game, we will be there for one another when the going gets rough.
And, so what if the turkey is a bit dry? Wash it down with some apple cider or your beverage of choice, and heap on some of that crazy good dressing. I’ll admit, I’m blessed with some fabulous cooks in my family, and I’m guaranteed a good meal at these functions. But should the worst ever happen and nothing can be salvaged from the meal, there’s nothing wrong with firing up the oven and enjoying a frozen pizza. Why? Because it’s not the food on the plate that makes it Christmas. It’s the people around the table. And they don’t care if you spent hours making individual place cards out of paper that you made yourself from recycled newspaper and old rags (seriously, who has that kind of time?). They don’t care if you got out the fine China reserved for special occasions or you’re using plain old paper plates. They just care about spending time with the people they care about.
Instead of getting caught up in the “to-do” lists for Christmas, sit back, relax and enjoy the time with those you care about. That’s the best Christmas present you can give yourself and them.
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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published each Tuesday. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.