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Holiday Amnesia

Of course the holidays were more fun when I was a child and could just sit back and enjoy them with none of the work. I have gotten a little less enjoyment each year in scheduling when we can possibly get a tree and how we will find some extra Jacksons to pay for it and ultimately slogging out the same decorations to adorn it.

I know I sound terrible. And the tree is my FAVORITE PART OF CHRISTMAS!

But I have reached a new low this year…

This year, I can’t even remember it.

That’s right. I can’t remember what happened.

It was a blur of buying gifts, wrapping gifts, buying ingredients for cookies, going to holiday events which seemed to be happening not only every weekend, but then every night of the week. I remember the holiday party at work, and how much I was looking forward to it. That night, we saw a listing for a dog online who would turn out to be part of the litter we would ultimately adopt our new pup from.

Then, there is a blur.

Puppy arrives

I know a dog started living with us between Christmas and New Year’s. We went to my sister-in-law’s New Year’s Eve party. We took the dog. I think. My husband and I had birthdays too, but I only remember coming out of a sickness fog to return to work.

Did this really happen?

I am finding items around the house that I don’t remember. They all turn out to be my son’s Christmas presents he received. I know when we got the puppy there was a mad rush to remove items from her path that she may destroy or eat. But having them out of site also put them out of my mind.

Maybe I am just out of my mind.

Has anyone else ever experienced this, or is it just me?

Maybe the 24 hour stomach flu that went through our house had a coma effect? Except, well, I am the only one experiencing this problem.

Oh well. I have always said that Christmas should be like the Olympics—we should take a break in between them. Even Christmas every other year would be more palpable.

Maybe the Jennifer’s Holiday Amnesia Episode of 2017 is Santa’s way of granting that wish. He managed to grant all my other wishes this year.

Your past shapes you. It can’t be undone.
ANGRY MACEY
NOW AVAILABLE $.99!

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A Proposal for the Birthday Bunny

Christmas has Santa Claus. Easter has the Easter Bunny. Lost teeth have the Tooth Fairy.

All these occasions have a character who delivers you the goods you feel you are entitled just because a certain event happens to take place on a certain day.

I have always felt that birthdays should be the same way. After all, it is the most special of special days. Without your birthday, you would be, well, non-existent.

Wouldn’t it be great if some sort of character brought you your gifts that day?

That is why I have always felt we needed a character such as “the Birthday Bunny.”

Wait...Mr. Floppy from Unhappily Ever After is not what I had in mind.

Wait…Mr. Floppy from Unhappily Ever After is not what I had in mind.

Now, I know you are going to say that Easter already has a bunny. But Easter also has eggs and chicks and sheep. The powers that be can just pick a new animal to adorn the packages of candy and toys. Heck, if we wanted to be truer to the origins of Easter, we should put zombie Jesus on everything. Zombies are still popular these days; that could prove to be a successful marketing strategy. Everyone loves zombies, the very young to the very old.

Plus, if you give the bunny to the occasion of birthday, you get alliteration, which is always highly desirable.

Just think, retailers can only use Santa during the last three months of the year, and Christmas in July. But people have birthdays ALL YEAR LONG! Every day someone somewhere is having a birthday. Stores could have on-going sales with tables of merchandise featuring stuffed animals of the Birthday Bunny and signage with him as well. Or maybe there could be one special sale day a month to cover any shopping for gifts for birthdays occurring that month. The increased visibility would push people to gift more quantity and more expensive presents to their loved ones. It would also encourage people to impulsively gift themselves for their own big days. Instead of rental halls being all booked up in November and December for Christmas parties, maybe celebration parties could be held instead for birthdays and staggered throughout the year.

Whoa. This thing could potentially eclipse the gluttony of Christmas. (I am well aware that that is not what Christmas is supposed to be about, but to retailers and children, it often evolves into that.)

I picture the Birthday Bunny as pink and fluffy. But maybe he should be a more neutral color to appeal to both genders. Maybe a nice oatmeal tan would be good. And maybe he should be a “she.” Maybe the Birthday Bunny should be a nurturing female character. We do biologically require a mother to have a birthday, so it could make sense to have a motherly bunny to give you hugs and gifts and candy.

Woah..not evil Nana Bunny.

Woah..not evil Nana Bunny.

This is still an idea very much in development. But I have had this in my brain for probably 30 years. Maybe I am just jealous that my January birthday gets eclipsed every year by Santa Claus, Rudolph, and Baby New Year. I think it is time for birthdays to be the blowout events they should be.

Now, that is more like it!

Now, that is more like it!

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a BugAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It NEW RELEASE!
Be Careful What You Wish For – COMING JANUARY 2016! (Not a lie. It is being birthed as we speak!)

And The Clouds Could Move Away From The Sun

My asbestos friend made me a very thoughtful, handmade birthday gift, and I just had to share it.

It is a cross-stitch of the title of my book. And if you are wondering, “Why a cross-stitch?”, then you need to read the book. ‘Nuf sed.

The Wind Could Blow a Bug

The Wind Could Blow a Bug

This is not the first cross-stitch gift I have received from friends. I guess I must surround myself with creative people.

A close family friend has made me two large cross-stitch pictures over the years that now hang in my son’s room. When I got married, my green-haired friend undertook the ambitious task of creating a picture of the lighthouse bed and breakfast my husband and I honeymooned at on the shore of Lake Superior in cross-stitch.

Hmmm. This is inspiring me to go upstairs and dig through my own unfinished cross-stitch projects…

My first book, The Wind Could Blow a Bug is NOW AVAILABLE!

PURCHASE as a Paperback or eBook on Amazon.com TODAY.

What I Learned This Week – 1/5/13 (oops) 2014

This week I learned that something has been lost in this time of social media pandemonium.

And I believe Hallmark would agree with me.

My birthday was this week. I remember when people actually went to the store, carefully spent time hand-picking a greeting card for you that semi-suited your personality, forked over hard-earned cash at the register, then had to actually know your physical address to mail the card, adding a stamp also purchased with hard earned money.

A few days later, you received this wonderful declaration of how much someone loved you, with colorful ink, heartfelt words, and maybe a fart joke imbedded on card stock inside an envelope.

Those days were WONDERFUL!

I LOVED those days!

One of my favorite greeting cards of all time featured these words and graphics

One of my favorite greeting cards of all time featured these words and graphics

And some people just like to get cards because they expect cash or check or a giftcard inside. But that isn’t me. It was always the thoughtfulness behind the card that I liked most.

I would get birthday cards as a kid, and set them around the house to enjoy them long after opening the envelope.

Greeting cards have slowly been replaced by electronic email cards, email, texts, etc.

This year I got no cards in my mailbox for my birthday. I blame that on 4 things.

1. I am an adult now. (Kids always get more birthday cards than adults.)

2. My birthday is next to 2 major holidays. (So they could just be late getting here in the mail.)

3. Facebook is destroying the greeting card industry. (More on this in a minute.)

4. No one loves me.

The wise rainbow knows all.

The wise rainbow knows all.

People so willingly enter their birthdays into Facebook, then on their birthday it will remind all their friends to wish them a “Happy Birthday”.

I’m sorry, but this feels like cheating to me.

I don’t give Facebook my birthday for several reasons. One of them being on my birthday, I don’t want hollow birthday wishes. I totally admit that some of my facebook friends are more acquaintances than my besties. And this is fine.

But is it wrong of me to still feel like someone should put a little effort into wishing someone else a happy birthday? I admit, I am lax in this department as well. But some of my Facebook friends don’t even know my physical address or in what city I live in.

Even MY MOM didn’t get me a birthday card this year. Ugh.

Not to diminish the wishes of those who did wish me a happy birthday via Facebook.  Thank you.  For without those wishes, I would have had no wishes at all.  (And my dear mother-in-law who left me a voicemail.  She is a consistent listener to the audio-version of my blog, so I better give her a shout out.)

I am just a person who likes to hold on to the old ways. 2013 was the first year that I went electronic with my personal organizer and address book. It may be another 5 years before I embrace this Facebook birthday thing.

Which, by then, Facebook will be replaced with some other media with a goofy name.

Caboose Cake

Last year I made my son, M, a rather complex Thomas the Tank Engine cake for his birthday. You can get more info and instruction for Thomas here: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2012/11/27/beginners-luck-the-post-with-the-thomas-cake/

My finished Thomas The Tank Engine cake

My finished Thomas The Tank Engine cake

I did a month of preparation for it (planning, shopping, baking, freezing, studying Cake Boss episodes). My son still remembers the cake because pictures of it keep circulating on my digital picture frame.

I started asking him a couple of months ago what kind of cake he wanted this year. First he told me “a Creeper cake” (from Scooby-Doo).

The Creeper from Scooby-Doo

The Creeper from Scooby-Doo

I told him no. Beyond my skill level and too scary.

Then he fell in love with the story “The Little Red Caboose” by Marian Potter. Then all he wanted was a caboose cake. Last year was the beginning of the train, this year the end. A caboose is pretty much a rectangle. I could handle that.

My inspiration: The Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter

My inspiration: The Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter

I had two goals with this cake, which greatly affected the outcome:

1. Make it taste better than the Thomas cake.

Thomas was all about the looks. I used fondant and butter cream frosting to make him look awesome. I wasn’t crazy about the taste of either of them. This year I vowed to use regular old in-the-can Duncan Hines frosting, no matter what the impact on my finished creation would be.

Thomas was made with two boxes of cake mix. The caboose is only made from one box. I used yummy strawberry cake and layered it with chocolate frosting. I covered the outside with colored vanilla frosting.

2. Do not be stressed out.

Well, I was a little. I only had like 2 1/2 hours to assemble the cake on the morning of my son’s birthday. But that was only like one day’s worth of stress compared to last year’s weeks worth of so much anxiety I couldn’t sleep. When I made the Thomas cake, I wasn’t working. I had plenty of time to plan cakes and worry last year. Not so much this year.

So, when you judge the result of my efforts, take those two things into consideration.

I present to you, my caboose cake!

My Caboose Cake!

My Caboose Cake!

It could put a diabetic in a coma!

It is complete with smoke stack, buffers, and a brake wheel (the brake wheel is important in the story).

It…looks a little like a houseboat???

I was way too far into my hasty assembly and decorating before I realized that I had forgotten to make another lower level for the back.

But look at the fine details of the railing! The door! The windows!

I think I should at least get credit for trying. My asbestos friend said she would not even attempt such a thing. (Which is silly, because I have seen her make an adorable Stitch costume in one night. Creativity flows from one medium to another. Except music. I can’t make music to save my life.)

The ultimate test for me is if my son can tell what the cake is supposed to be. And he could!

Then he pointed out that there were only buffers on on end. And he wanted me to make the rest of the train cars :/

I pretty much used the knowledge I gained from Thomas to make this cake.

1. Draw picture.

Rough drawing  (Click on any picture to make it larger)

Rough drawing (Click on any picture to make it larger)

2. I used paper to create a template.

3. I baked and froze my cakes, wrapping them in wax paper and foil to prevent freezer burn. I used one box of cake mix and split it between 2 loaf pans. Note to Self: Level the cakes at this step next time.

Frozen cakes

Frozen cakes

4. I took them out of the freezer and cut them according to the templates.

Frozen cakes with templates

Frozen cakes with templates

5. I stacked them using frosting. (This is where I should have consulted my original drawing again. Whoops. You know what they say: Live and learn and eat a houseboat.) I slid two wooden dowels through the high part.

Stacked cakes with dowels

Stacked cakes with dowels

6. Frosted the outside.

Covered in red frosting

Covered in red frosting

7. Applied decorations. I used Hershey’s kisses for the wheels, fruit roll-ups for the windows, cinnamon discs for the lights, Rice Krispie treats for the back end, and a huge-ass Hershey bar for the roof. Most of the rest of the details are made out of licorice. Which you could not pay me to eat, but it proved to be a very versatile decorating tool. The railing was made with the help of paper sucker sticks and toothpicks (DO NOT EAT TOOTHPICKS!).

Constructing caboose details

Constructing caboose details

8. I used chocolate frosting for the ground, brown sugar for the gravel/dirt, and licorice for the rails and ties. I wanted to have green frosting for grass, but I forgot and dyed all my frosting red.

*Moral of the story: Take your time! Do not rush!

Cake showing all details and tracks

Cake showing all details and tracks

9. Apply dinosaur candles to instantly convert the caboose into one of my son’s other favorite entertainment franchises: Dinosaur Train!

Caboose with dinosaur candles inserted

Caboose with dinosaur candles inserted

10. Light candles.

CABOOSE-11

11. Make wish.

12. Blow out flame.

13. Cut cake, removing all non-edible objects.

14. EAT!

Destruction: The tastiest part of cake-baking

Destruction: The tastiest part of cake-baking

15. Re-light candles. Make more wishes.

Remember what my Thomas Cake post was titled?

“Beginner’s Luck”

Yep. This is what happens when beginner’s luck runs out.

The dashing birthday boy!

The dashing birthday boy!

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