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OK, clearly it’s different. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. A couple of people asked me about a cookie exchange, and I said YES! but . . . I’ve been swamped with home and work responsibilities, and I’ve frankly been a little blue.

But this isn’t “real world” where you have to open your door at just the time the invitation says. Here, it’s blog rules. So here’s what I want to do. I’m off from work next week. So I’d like to stop in and show you some of our holidaying. My city is very pretty this time of year. I’ll show you some of that. Riggins is a wild man. I’ll show you that. I’m even trying some new recipes. I’ll show you that, too.

Instead of a one-day exchange, it will be a week-long holiday open house. If you want me to visit your blog, leave a link and I’ll stop in. You in? I hope so.

Merry Christmas, dear friends and visitors. God bless us every one.

I’ll be back soon!

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For pronunciation of the “hon” in the title, one must watch the movie, “Hairspray,” either version. As I began to prepare for this year’s exchange, I noticed a theme emerging. It’s Bawlmer, hon. Baltimore, MD, USA, from whence I am blogging to you. (Well, about 20 minutes outside of Bawlmer, but still.)

First I will share with you an ornament that may not appear on everyone’s Christmas tree, but many folks in our area have some variation of this on the tree. It’s a crab! A few friends scattered over the country have one of these (or some variation thereof) on their tree from me, a reminder that “someone in Baltimore loves you.” People even paint and decorate actual crab shells! I haven’t done that yet, but hey, it ain’t over til it’s over. (I’m feeling a theme for a crab feast next summer…eat, then decorate!) And if you’re wondering why, it’s because Baltimore, and the Chesapeake Bay area, are famous for delicious steamed crabs.

crab ornament

The full crab theme emerged when yesterday, a friend gave us some crab cookies, and someone else requested that we bring my famous crab dip to their holiday party. Yes, in stores here, holiday baking displays may include a crab-shaped cookie cutter.

crab cookie

And here’s the crab dip recipe. I can’t show you the finished product, because I won’t make it until tomorrow, but I will tell you that once I make it, I will have to photograph it QUICK! because people scarf this stuff right up and lick the bowl.

old bay

Hot Crab Dip

1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sour cream
2 T mayo
1 1/2 T lemon juice
2 t Worcestershire sauce
garlic powder to taste
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb. lump crab meat
3 dashes hot sauce
1 1/2 T Old Bay seasoning

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly grease 1 quart baking dish.

In medium bowl, mix first 6 ingredients plus 2 T of the cheddar. Fold in crab meat, hot sauce, Old Bay.

Transfer mixture to baking dish. Top with remaining cheddar and sprinkle with Old Bay. Bake 30 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned.

Serve with your favorite crackers or crunchy bread slices.

Yes, crabs are such a vital part of life here in “the land of pleasant living,” that each year, the school children sing this song:

OK, that’s not true. But the radio stations do play it every Christmas.

This Christmas will be white, not because of new snow, but because last weekend we got 2 feet! We made powdered dognuts:

abominable snow biscuit

But he’s thawed out now, and ready to party:

reindeer

Your turn! Show and tell us about the holidays at your house!

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Cheatin’ Hearts

bittersweet-hearts

Infidelity. This is not the most romantic post for Valentine’s Day, but I find myself thinking about it (thanks to Oprah) and I decided to query the innernets as a hole for the answer to a question I have long pondered.

Let’s say that one spouse has cheated on another. It could be either gender, but just for ease of discussion, let’s say it is a heterosexual marriage, and it is the male who had an affair. This cheating male comes to couples counseling with his wife, who knows that there are problems, but does not know that her husband has been unfaithful. The husband asks to speak to the counselor alone, during which time he reveals that he has had a sexual relationship outside the marriage. He says (very sincerely and convincingly) that it is 100% over and will never happen again, and that he does not want his wife to know about it, because knowing can only hurt her and can’t possibly help the marriage. He wants to look toward the future, not the past. As the counselor (or even as a friend or family member), do you honor his request not to reveal the infidelity to his wife? (Incidentally, confidentiality is not an issue; both clients have been informed that “the marriage” is the client and that the two partners do not have confidentiality from one another in this setting, the way they would if either of them were coming alone for individual counseling.)

Possible answers:

A. You keep his secret. He makes a valid point — while telling all might relieve his guilt, it would only hurt his wife and the marriage. If he really means that it is over, is truly sorry and is determined that it will never happen again, then no good can come of requiring him to tell his wife. Let his mistake be left in the past while they go forward to improve their marriage.

B. She has to know. They can’t really move forward if there are lies in the past. Besides, if she knew the truth, she might not want to be with him anymore. And she has a right to base her current and future decisions on reality, however hurtful, and not on lies and illusion.

C. Some other answer.

What do you think, oh, wise and powerful innernets?

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Here we are again, friends. Welcome to the 4th Annual Blog Cookie Exchange! If you’re new, here are the basics for participating in the exchange:

Favorite holiday recipes
Special traditions
Favorite gift to give
What you wear when you don your gay apparel 🙂

But really, you can write or post pix of anything that tells us how you celebrate the holidays, or your favorite memories, or your wishiest wishes or scroogiest bitches.

Thanks to hand and arm trouble from WTF Disease, I’m afraid I’m not the hostess I once was, but you are most welcome to share all that I have managed to pull together.

Easy Reindeer Cookies

Susie’s Cookie Q and A
Q: Seriously, could these cookies BE any cuter?
A: No.

Nor could they be any easier. These days I am all about the rather impressive, but really, really easy. Like these reindeer cookies. Here’s how we roll:

Take a roll of store-bought cookie dough — sugar, peanut butter or ginger bread, and add 1/4 cup of flour (to make it roll out easier), and roll it out to about 1/4″ thickness.

Cut out the reindeer head shapes, using a bell-shaped cookie cutter. (An upside down heart-shape would work fine, too, don’t you think? OR, shape the long roll into a three-sided cylinder — kinda pyramiddy — and then cut it into 1/4″ slices.)

Use mini-pretzels for antlers.
Use M&Ms or chocolate chips for eyes.
Use M&Ms or Red Hots for a nose.

Bake at 350 for 12 minutes.

Eat.

And I know I’ve shown you this before, but I don’t think I’ve told you how to prepare it:

The Fascinating Pinecone Cheeseball

pinecone cheeseball

1 (8-ounce) container garden vegetable cream cheese*
1 (8-ounce) container roasted garlic cream cheese**
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 scallions, finely chopped (use both white and green parts)
2 cups pecan halves, toasted
Fresh rosemary sprigs (or sprig of pine)

Stir together first 4 ingredients. Shape into an oval (pinecone shape); chill 2 hours.
Arrange pecan halves over cheese oval, pressing in lightly in overlapping rows, beginning at bottom and working upward. Arrange rosemary sprigs at top of pinecone. Serve with crackers.

*If Garden Vegetable cream cheese is not available, may use plain cream cheese with ½ packet of Knorr vegetable soup mix.
**If Roasted Garlic cream cheese is not available, may use plain cream cheese mixed with 2-3 cloves of crushed, roasted garlic.

***********

We were invited this year to join a long-standing tradition of some distant friends of ours.

“distant friends”= we really like them, and think we would like them even better if we got to know them more, and they seem to feel the same about us, but we don’t see them enough for that.

Their tradition is a Carol Party. You take a small house, fill it with friendly people, a few of whom have actual musical talent, the rest of whom like to hang around people with actual musical talent (I belong to the latter group), add a couple of guitars, a keyboard, an impressive variety of percussion instruments and a box of kazoos, plus some drinks and cookies and a bunch of photocopied Christmas song lyrics, and there you go. It really was fun. Until they got to “O Holy Night.”

That is (or was) my favorite carol. I know people make fun of it, but doggonit, I like it. Even — or especially — the “fall on your knees” part. When the orchestra swells, and the choir goes all forte — it’s thrilling. And it’s real. I mean, think about what they’re singing about. If you were THERE, back in the day, and you saw that amazing star, and then you saw and heard a bunch of angels (ANGELS!) up in the sky singing at you . . . are you gonna tell me that wouldn’t knock you right on your ass? OK, then. But they can’t really put “knock you on your ass” in a church song, now can they? So, yea, fall on your knees indeed.

Back to the party. When it came time for “O Holy Night,” the host says all the men have to get together. So it’s men in the dining room, and women in the adjacent living room, and we start to sing. But, as is the tradition at this party, the men put their arms around each other and do a can-can to this song. (Except Jif was new, and never having been part of an all-male line-dancing holiday revue, he thought they were trying to do the Munchkins’ Lollipop Guild dance from the Wizard of Oz, so his moves were a little. . . spastic.) And then, at the “fall on your knees” part, they all did. And it just continued to deteriorate from there. Not pretty. Nor festive.

So, I don’t know, I may need a new favorite Christmas song: this one would be a contender. I really love it.

My favorite gift to give this year is a toffee apple, from here. I had hoped to post photos, but we’re slow here, so they won’t be in our possession until this evening. Maybe I’ll slip a photo in later. One of my students gave me one of Lisa Anne’s toffee apples last year, and it was so amazing we went right out and bought a few to give as gifts. This year, we’re buying a few more. The thing is, I’m not a big apple person. And I really don’t like candied apples — waste of a perfectly good fruit and perfectly good candy, I would have said. But Lisa Anne converted me. Huge, tart apple covered in high quality caramel, toffee . . . YUM. And the large size, I unapologetically gave one to a family of seven, and they each had a dessert slice and some left over. The coating is so thick and rich, just a little goes a long way. So, yea, I think you’d like them.

This might be a good place to say thank you to everyone who reads here, comments here, and to those who write on your own blogs. Just a few years ago, I was a big internet cynic. I did not trust that enough people were real enough on the internet. And yes, since I have trusted cyberpeople, I’ve gotten scorched a time or two, but mostly I am thrilled and delighted by how much more of life I have learned, that I could not have learned, had I not met you all online. You make my life richer. You even help me like myself more. You make a horrid illness easier to laugh through. And now you make me cry a little. In a good way.

Merry Christmas, dear friends.

Now gimme some cookies!

If you have a blog, I hope you’ll invite us in for your holiday post (and if today isn’t good, put it up when you can, we’re easy like that). Leave a comment to let us know, and please, visit the people who leave comments. If you don’t have a blog, share your holidaying here in the comments.

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Just a little late this year, but yes, we’re doing it again! The Fourth Annual Blog Cookie Exchange will be held next Wednesday, December 17. A review: here was last year’s party, here’s what it looked like two years ago, this is what happened the very first time.

The tradition was born out of a wish that we “imaginary friends” could enjoy the holidays together. We’d love to share some holiday cheer in person, but since we can’t, this is the next best thing — a virtual holiday open house. Allow me to cut and paste from prior invitations — Here’s how it works:

Start with some variation of:

Favorite holiday recipes
Special traditions
Favorite gift to give
What you wear when you don your gay apparel 🙂

and/or anything else you’d like to tell us about your holiday celebration. As is the custom here, there aren’t many rules. Whatever you’d like to share is fine — carols, stories, decorations, something new that you’re trying this year, whatever. Here it’s Christmas, but all holidays are welcome. If you don’t celebrate ANYTHING, then your grinchy scroogey ass can just fake it for one day, for goodness’ sake! Make something up! And you don’t HAVE to include cookies, if cookies aren’t your thing. It’s just that “Cookie Exchange” has a nice, Christmas ring to it. Better than, say, “shindig” or “hootenanny,” although it may turn into either or both.

If you don’t have a blog (what?! why not?!), stop in next week and leave your contributions in the comments. If you DO have a blog, leave a comment here next Wednesday on the Cookie Exchange post, and we’ll all come to your party, too. You won’t gain any weight, and you won’t need a designated driver! So here’s the deal, again. We wanna come to your place and eat your cookies and rummage around in your things and stuff next Wednesday. (Oh, and do post an invitation at your place, if you’re so inclined — everyone is welcome, the more the merrier!)

Oh, and one new thing I hope to attempt this year, weather and health permitting — I want to show and tell some things about holiday attractions in my hometown. You know you have some, too. SHARE!

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Mad Gab is a board game — well, there’s no board, but it’s a boxed game with cards, a timer, etc. — usually played in teams, in which you try to solve a word “puzzle.” From the instructions: “The puzzles consist of unrelated words that, when read aloud, sound like familiar phrases, names, places, etc. For example, ‘Europe Lace Sore Mind’ sounds like ‘Your Place Or Mine’ once you say it out loud.”

So, from yesterday:
The one in the photograph, “Jaw Nan Bah Beak Hen Eighty” is “John and Bobby Kennedy”

The Odor Rows of Felt = Theodore Roosevelt
Ran Dumb Max Suck Highness = Random Acts of Kindness
Cusp Helm Ooze Sick = Gospel Music
Eight Wean Gull Any Size = A Twinkle in His Eyes

Got it? Here are a few more, if you want to try again:

Foyer Ice Sown Lee
Gnome Ore Mist Earn Ice Sky
Poe Stitched Ooh
Mirror Called Rug
Ace Tray Taste Who Dent

Knock yourselves out!

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I just saw the website of a 25-year-old “Life Coach.”

REALLY? I hope I’m not ageist, but, really? I surely didn’t know enough about life at age 25 to sell coaching services.

The whole life-coaching thing intrigues and annoys me. Some therapists began calling themselves “life coaches” a few years ago. The theory is (so I’ve been told) that it’s what they were doing anyway, and if they marketed themselves as “life coaches,” they might get fewer people with actual mental illness, emotional distress, and more high-functioning, “worried well” types, who demand less and pay more.

Then there are those life coaches with no particular training of any kind in human behavior (or whatever one might need to know about in order to advise on matters of life, love, career, etc.), but who fancy themselves as having their shit together and capable of sharing that shit with others. These people can get a certificate saying they are a “Life Coach” from various groups who offer seminars and certificates, suitable for framing. In my state, and most I’ve researched, there are no laws regulating the marketing of oneself as a “life coach.”

One of my former clients, who was a therapist, who had among the most dysfunctional family and friend relationships I’ve ever seen, is a rather successful life coach. She does have a successful career. She has a lonely, drama-fraught life. She may be a case of “those who can’t do, coach.”

So what about this life-coaching stuff? What should the qualifications be? Does age matter?

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