Monday, December 16, 2013

Hot chocolate, Advent & squirrels: a holiday hodgepodge

Don't I just sound like a jolly elf?  I feel fairly jolly, not because it's Christmas-y time, but because Meijer finally put the Starbucks salted caramel hot chocolate on sale, and I just enjoyed my first cup from the batch.  Granted, I only "saved" something like $.48, but I was stubbornly waiting it out for that crack stuff to go on sale, and by jingles, it did.  It also added to one of my largest single-day grocery bills to date.  Sign of the times--I didn't even flinch.  Ah well, what is money anyway when there is a perfect little box of salted caramel hot chocolate mix waiting for me at the bottom of that bag of groceries?  Retirement...saltaed caramel hot chocolate???  It's a toss-up.

Well, it's been all Advent-y up in this house.  We haven't done...anything...special for Advent before, other than the occasional Advent service when schedules have permitted.  But this year, I felt like doing something since the resident 4-year old is down on the whole Christmas story now, and it just seemed like a good time.  But I'm not really that excited about buying a cheap chocolate deal and going that route.  Instead, I rather came up with my own hyrbid, and pats on my back, it's been going pretty well.  I ended up buying a box of 40 blank cards on sale, and they're glittery, so there's the sweetness factor for my girl, who likes a little sparkle in her life in a brief nod to girly stuff.  Then, I came up with a list of 25 activities/treats and assigned each card to a different thing.  This was calculated according to the foreseeable schedule as well as it wouldn't work well to have "Take Daddy on a Christmas date!" on a night that I was teaching.  Finally, I cut red & green strips out of construction paper and wrote a different Christmas/winter joke on each one.  Admittedly, they often have to be explained to her, but she loves 'em.  She has become a big fan of the comics in the paper, so this is right in her happy zone.  Every day, we add to the paper chain on the Christmas tree as part of the Advent-y-ness, and, the girls get a special treat.  Today: make paper snowflakes.  We did this last year with much good times, and this is my kind of crafty craft that I enjoy: little prep, no special equipment, not very time consuming, and still sweet & cute.  As one last acknowledgment of the 4-year-old-ness, each day's card is hidden by "the Christmas mouse," which is basically how I'm dodging saying that it's from Santa.  She knows it's me, and she's willing to play along with it.  Not that she needs it, but it's been even more incentive to get up at 6 am on the nose to come scout out the day's Advent card. 

Now comes the part about squirrels.  This is an special shout-out to the J-Dug-dog, who has completely ruined my concept of the furry rodents.  I cannot divorce my mind of the connection between "Jessica" and "squirrels."  It is now impossible.  Because of this, I think of you often, which is to say every time I see a squirrel.  But it's not all about Jessica here.  Oh, no.  This is a shake of the finger to Jimmy our backyard squirrel (I'm convinced we only have one, hence why I'm fairly confident in my naming.).  He is a wiley coot who occasionally comes to scavenge the bird food offerings.  Judging by his girth, I'd say that he knows all of the sweet spots.  The little brown beastie even chose to bury a nut in our backyard, as I watched him.  That was amusing.  Merely a few days later, he devoured THREE of our homemade bird food ornaments (Advent activity!) that I had just put out the night before.  These were the size of big Christmas cookies, as we used cookie cutters to make them all cute and whatnot.  And, each one was just about an inch thick, so that's a good amount of bird food right there in each one.  And he pillaged them all.  In about 15 minutes, they were gone, the little devil.  Since we only have one squirrely friend, I wasn't too terribly upset.  But I still wanted to shake my curmudgeony fist at him and chase away the whippersnapper.  I might just go and dig up his precious little nut if he keeps up this kind of bullying behavior.  Does the Christmas spirit extend to squirrels?  Yeah.  Yeah, it does.  Enjoy your birdseed offerings, Jimmy.

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