Friday, December 31, 2021

7 Quick Takes about Faux Gingerbread Villages, Keeping Appointments Digitally, and Smelly Microwave Dilemmas

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It's 7 Quick Takes Friday of the most magical week of the year! I always love this week between Christmas and New Years. No one has plans. It's stress and pressure-free. My kids have been in pajamas for two days straight.


How was your Christmas? After all the stress, I hope you got to enjoy it for a minute or two. 

I'm not sure anyone loves this tradition but me, but before the kids run downstairs to check what Santa brought them we always sit and read Luke 2 out loud first. I like to think it's a good way to focus us on what we're really celebrating, and at the very least it's a good exercise in patience for the kids.

The younger kids made gluten-free cookies for Santa the night before and are becoming increasingly suspicious that Santa's dietary specifications are exactly the same as their dad's.

My 10-year-old got her first pair of glasses in her stocking, and she was totally bowled over to see each individual light on the Christmas tree instead of the amorphous, glowing blob she was used to.

And the 5-year-old got the best gift ever: a feather-light remote control stunt car with foam wheels. He loves it because it's fast and does tricks, and I love it because he can try all he likes but it's impossible to break it or damage the house with it.

But the best part of our Christmas was how simplified it felt, largely because Phillip and I didn't buy presents for the kids, at least not ones in a box. More on how that went down in a post later, but for now I'll just say that we should've done it years ago.


A few years ago, we upgraded from premade gingerbread house kits and started designing our own. The kids pick out graham crackers and all the candies and sprinkles at the store, then we use homemade icing and build them on cardboard squares covered in tinfoil. So I guess they're not technically gingerbread, but close enough.

In every suburban neighborhood, there's got to be the one weirdo who lives in a castle.

Some of my favorite features include this gummy bear Santa on the roof in a sleigh made out of Dots and pulled by reindeer (sideways gummy bears):

These kids tobogganing outside their house:

And this one going down the sledding hill:

The kids like designing their houses, but what they really look forward to is the second part of our tradition, which is smashing them with a meat tenderizer on New Year's Day. What do other people do with their gingerbread houses? I'm pretty sure it's not that.


I was at the bank with my 17-year-old, opening a new checking account so she can get a debit card and start learning about responsibly using plastic. The person helping us was filling out a form and turned to me (as the joint account holder) and asked, "What's your occupation?"


She looked confused and said, "But who was your employer before that?"

Okay, hold up. 'Homemaker' is officially recognized as an occupation. I know it's on that form. 

Second of all, how are you not accepting that answer? It's just a tad insulting to insinuate that my life's work as a homemaker isn't an occupation, but somehow my having waited tables part-time at Pizza Hut 20 years ago legitimizes me as a person.

I know it wasn't the intention of Bank Lady, but this makes me want to give a small reminder to any stay-at-home parents out there who feel unappreciated or undervalued: YOUR FAMILY WOULD BE SCREWED WITHOUT YOU. What you do is super-important. 


As a church activity for her age group, my 10-year-old and I went to a mother-daughter pajama party. It wasn't a sleepover, but we had breakfast for dinner, painted nails, and braided hair. 

I'm glad we did the nails thing, because I am so practical I forget to do stuff like this with my girls. At first she was kind of poo-pooing the idea, like it was too dumb and girly, but midway through she having fun and by the end of the night she was asking if she could get some sparkly nail polish with her birthday money. 

But let's talk about pajamas: I wore my sweats, because my actual pajamas aren't cute or matching. I was surprised that half the moms were wearing cute ones. In my house, no one has presentable PJs. 


This year, we're finally upgrading to the 21st century with a family calendar app. For years we've stuck with the paper calendar on the wall, mostly because of me

The idea of not being able to see the entire month at a glance on the wall is terrifying to me. I worry I'll forget everything if I have to purposely look it up on my phone instead of happening to see them on the wall calendar and remembering, "Oh yeah, I have that thing today." And I've already noticed it's easier to make accidental typos and put appointments on the wrong month or day. 

But we'll see how it goes. It was really nice to be able to put my 15-year-old's dentist appointment directly in the calendar as I made it at the receptionist's desk, instead of taking the card home and hopefully remembering to copy it down later.


While we're forging ahead with our online calendar adventure, I also thought it was a good opportunity to graduate to a new email address.

My current personal email is the Hotmail address I set up in 7th grade, with a silly name that becomes more and more ridiculous for a middle-aged woman to have every year. 

I've resisted switching over for years, internally groaning over how much work it would be to update every online account and contact information for all six kids' activities. But it's gotten to the point where I'm actually embarrassed to give out my email address to salespeople, so it's time. 

Wish me luck.


What are your best tips for dealing with a stinky microwave? One of my children charred some leftovers beyond recognition, apparently heating them up for 10 minutes while I was in the shower.

And yes, I know. I'm surprised it didn't start a fire. I can't even write about it without doing this:

Anyway, I've tried boiling vinegar in the microwave, leaving baking soda in it overnight, and just scrubbing the heck out of it. Heating up a bowl with cloves in it helped the most, but the burnt smell is still not totally gone. Any tips other than moving?

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Anonymous said...

When I changed my email accounts years ago, I set the old one to automatically forward all emails and left it that way for a couple years before actually deleting it. That way if I forgot to tell some place my new email, I would still get it and then could update accordingly. By the time I truly got rid of my email, I was confident everything had gotten transferred over.

Anonymous said...

Try a sliced lemon in water and microwave it for about 5 minutes or until boiling, then leave it in there for a few hours (or overnight). Lemon is great. Or you can put a small cup of vanilla extract in there overnight, or I've heard charcoal briquets work, but I've never tried it.

I feel your pain. One of my kids once tried to make himself instant oatmeal in the microwave. He opened the packet, put the oatmeal in the bowl, then proceeded to cook it, following the directions exactly--except he didn't put any water in with the oatmeal. In case you're wondering, yes, it kind of caught on fire, and yes, it smelled so bad we could smell it throughout the house. I did get that smell out, though, with the lemon trick a couple of times over.

Diana Dye said...

I use a calendar app with my husband but I also have everything on a wall calendar too. I like the reminders and alarms on my phone but I like seeing it in real life on the wall.

me said...

I use google calendar, a written monthly wall calendar, and a weekly white board system. I stopped carrying around a date book (which I used to use for everything) once i stopped using a purse. So it does take me a little bit of time to coordinate (usually right after work) but I need the monthly calendar for keeping track of when long standing appointments are coming ,the weekly one to make sure everyone knows what's going on for the week, and Google to remind me. It seems like a lot, but I'm trying to keep track of too many people here to skip one of these.

Santa no longer exists in my house - I am so glad it's done. I never emphasized it much, but the youngest at 7 no longer believes. So no more elaborate deceptions or special wrapping paper. My goal is next year to have no presents, but my husband is like a kid at Xmas, and has not come around to spending the money on an experience instead of wrapped trinkets.

Best wishes for the new year!

PurpleSlob said...

Aww. so happy for the 10 yo!! My sister was 2 when she got her first pair. "Look!!
The tree have sticks on them!" She was still 2 when she lost a pair so irretrievably, that they were never found. How could a 2 yo be that devious??
My pjs are whatever I wore that day. I love the pj party, with no sleepover. All the best fun, no one sticking some one else's hand in a bucket of warm water!
My youngest grand made a kit gb house. Sadly, the back half was hit by an earthquake, and a hurricane, and a tornado. We just focused on the fact that everyone had been by the front door, and escaped unscathed.