If you're looking for Olson family updates, then visit our family blog, I Love You Same.

The rants and recipes found here are solely mine.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Black Friday and Other Woes

Oh how I hate Black Friday. It seems to get more inflated every year. The hype started even earlier this year. And I've heard that most retail establishments are feeling the pinch of a tight economy so much so that they've planned to repeat Black Friday sales until they meet their numbers.

Stuff Stuff Stuff. I get so tired of the push for more stuff. That isn't what it's all about, is it? I mean, has Santa really replaced _____ (fill in the blank with your chosen religion's seasonal symbol!) This time of year some members of my family, not blood related mind you, call frantically asking for details on all the STUFF that we want. I like to fondly refer to them as my outlaws. It's taken almost 15 years of marriage to make them realize I just won't do a list. It's not in me. The one year I caved on this ethical issue, it wrecked my holiday. And not only that, but I bought a few of the things on my list much to their chagrin and I refused to give them any more information about thread count, color, number or size. Their repeated phone calls met with my nonwillingness to play the game. One of my outlaws even had her Christmas list bound at Kinkos. It literally made me ill to visit her home any time of the year, seeing her Christmas list front and center on her refrigerator so she could add at will. The binding of the list pushed me over the edge.

I won't allow Young One to create a list. He's been dropping not so disguised hints lately and it's really quite funny. He still believes in Santa, and I do too! But, we really do make this holiday more about togetherness and happiness and not all about the STUFF.

I mean, how hard is it to shop for someone and to be creative enough to surprise them. If you know them well or even if you don't. Think outside the meticulously wrapped Christmas box (with bow purchased at Hallmark for $14.95 no less!). Give them the gift of an experience or make a donation in their name. Wander a grocery store and fill a basket with impulse buys. It's not that hard is it? It is the thought that counts, so if you require someone to make a list, how much thought have you put towards a gift--and what does that mean about how you feel about someone?

But, I'm digressing, back to the original thought.

I've only gotten up early once on Black Friday. I waited outside an OfficeMax store, internally berating myself for my participation in this odd tradition. I made small talk with a group of young college guys who wouldn't tell me what they were there to purchase, just in case I might battle them once we're inside, so I kept my mouth shut. Maybe this is what you do, I thought. Maybe I should keep the fact that I was clutching my now cold coffee mug waiting outside the doors of an office store at 5 in the morning just to get a free scanner (with rebate) and a cordless phone for $4 (with rebate). Oy!

The doors opened, everyone rushed, I thought I heard a few screams and I'm sure I felt a few feet trampling mine. There were employees directing traffic with deer in the headlights faces. One pointed me towards a ceiling high stack of scanners. I grabbed one, careful to step away from the pile just as a lady using her electric cart as a battering ram knocked the top layer off the tower. I ran to the checkout only to wait 30 minutes in line. I drove home, sweating, shaking and dodging road rage. I got the scanner, even remembered the damn rebate forms, but had completely forgotten the phone.

The scanner never did work. We just thew it out a couple of months ago. I did get the rebate, but it was in the form of store credit and I really have no need for great quantities of office supplies, so the rebate expired.

Moral of the story? I will be sleeping in, as much as I can on Black Friday. I will laugh and grimace at the same time when I see or hear about other's experiences. I will turn the channel when the news channels show people trampling over each other to get this year's "Cabbage Patch Doll" (remember those?). And I will still not make a list. It just isn't in me, nor is this pursuit of stuff stuff stuff.


Decadent Dark and Delicious Sippin' Cocoa

Decadent Dark and Delicious Sippin' Cocoa

This recipe has been in my recipe box for a long time. I take it out each year when I start to feel that chill in the air. It mixes up quickly and is both a delicious and thrifty alternative to purchased hot cocoa. It makes a big batch, so be sure to have a large storage container or use zip closure storage bags. You must mix very well. I have young one use a big whisk and he has a ball!

10 cups dry milk powder--use fat free
4 3/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups powdered non-dairy creamer

In a large mixing bowl, combine milk powder, confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder, and creamer. Stir till thoroughly combined. Store cocoa mixture in an airtight container. Makes about 15 cups mix, or enough for about 45 servings.
For 1 serving, place 1/3 cup cocoa mixture in a coffee cup or mug, and add 3/4 cup boiling water. Stir to dissolve. Top with dollop of whipped cream or a few marshmallows, if desired.

Without marshmallows or whipped cream= 3 points per serving. I find half the amount of hot cocoa mix works best for me, so that's about 1 point per serving.

The Five


Catching Genius by Kristy Kiernan
Sisters Estella and Connie grew apart early-Estella, a genius, began college at 12 and was the apple of their father's eye, while the younger Connie was blessed with good looks and a charming personality. Now in their 40s and after eight years of not speaking, the sisters are forced together to pack up their childhood home in Florida as their mother prepares to sell it.
This is one of those can't put down books. I love the way the author changes the perspective of the story so that you can see it through both sisters' eyes. Having a brother, who is just as brilliant as Estella, makes this story especially poignant for me.


Young one hinting at Christmas gifts. Truly touching and funny all rolled up in a brown-eyed package. Love it.

Grapefruit candle from White Barn Candles set atop a candle warmer. I get busy and can't trust myself to blow out a candle when I'm not around it. So, I bought this fantastic candle warmer at Michael's for four bucks. I also grabbed a candle warmer cover to pretty it up a bit. My house smells great and I don't need to worry about the flame!


Decadent Dark and Delicious Sippin' Cocoa

Eating healthily has got me sippin' a lot to feel full and satisfied. I make this homemade cocoa every year. Thankfully, it's relatively healthy, but most importantly, it satisfies my chocolate crazes (not cravings--it's well beyond that!). Recipe to follow.

My laptop scratch pad. I'm Christmas shopping online and I feel like I'm on that mouse all day!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Five

Okay, I changed the name from This Week's Five to The Five. I just couldn't keep this updated enough! Here's what my senses experiencing right now:


Once Upon a Day by Lisa Tucker

Nineteen years ago a famous man disappeared and took his two children with him to raise them in complete isolation in a utopian "Sanctuary." This story is what happens when those children venture out into the big wide world. It's really a fascinating story. It weaves past and present beautifully.



I'm tuning out more and more and just enjoying some peace and quiet.


Overnight Oatmeal


Overnight Oatmeal

Ok, this recipe needs a little tweaking, but it sure was great to wake up to a hearty, healthy breakfast. I'll keep playing with it and get a recipe posted soon.


My new antique kitchen table! Delightfully found by my mom at Goodwill, this table just fits in my house perfectly. I wish it could speak it's history!

Friday, November 2, 2007

When Did We Forget to be Thankful?

Halloween merchandise now 75% off, well before Halloween. Gotta move it out, so we can move the Christmas stuff in. By November first, it's full blown Santaville in every retail establishment. And somehow, Thanksgiving gets lost in the rush.

Am I the only one tired of this?

I mean, have we become such a country of busy-ness that we can't savor each holiday as they come? Living in the moment has become living for the next thrill. And unfortunately, we're missing out on a lot.

Being thankful, celebrating Thanksgiving, has somehow become a casualty of our hurriedness. And I think it's happened before we could even raise a turkey drumstick in a resounding, defiant NO!

Is it that we aren't thankful anymore? Is this a trait no longer celebrated? Are families so busy, the holidays of Halloween and Christmas gotten so huge that they've overtaken the simple celebration of thanks? I hope not.

Speaking to a few kids at my son's class Halloween party, I was able to get a glimpse into what they see as the best holidays. Halloween and Christmas rank right up there. Thanksgiving, when mentioned, was met with a few simple comments. One girl's words are etched in my head, "Oh yeah, that holiday. We have to drive a hundred miles to eat turkey with my grandma. But, the shopping on Friday is fun." How sad. Whatever happened to Over the River and Through the Woods...

Remembering to be grateful is hard sometimes. I understand that. But, my biggest concern is that we're not living in the moment and that we're focusing as a society on the holidays that mean getting lots of stuff for ourselves and missing out on what's truely important. Sure, traveling some distance to celebrate with family for some might mean some strained relationships and swallowing an overcooked bird. But, it's more than that. Tradition, thankfulness, and togetherness cannot be overlooked. And they can't be bought or discounted.

So, in my family, at least. We'll be gathered around a big table with our loved ones. And before, during, and after the meal, we'll be giving thanks.

The before starts right now!

Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!