Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Slow Day at the Office

Which is good, the last thing I want is excitement--like a server crashing or something.
From December 18 to the 22nd, I was in Osaka and Kyoto, visiting with Chris' parents.

You can see our Osaka&Kyoto pictures on flickr.

There's also Christmas Pictures here.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 25 (Christmas Day)

Open Stockings
Open Gifts
Phone calls throughout the day
Lazing around for the rest of the days.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Traditons: 24 (Christmas Eve)

On Christmas Eve, we always stayed home. There was tons of food (nibbles) and drinks (alcoholic and non-), music and just hanging around. My family never went out visiting, but plenty of people came to see us. Growing up in a small town, I never thought it was odd that people came and went, "dropping by" or "stopping in". Moving to Maryland made me realize how much I miss that socialibility, but I soon realized how nice it was not to have to be properly dressed by 7:30am on a Saturday, because you never knew who was downstairs having coffee.

We normally put the gifts under the tree on this day now that we are grown. Since we live overseas, we've changed that slightly. Gifts that arrive in the mail are unboxed (but not unwrapped) and placed under the tree right away. When we were small, they were put under the tree after we went to bed.

We'll probaby watch A Christmas Story (again)...Ooooh, Earthquake! I hope that doesn't become a traditon!

A quiet Christmas Eve at home, with it snowing outside and cozy inside.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 23

At least one decoration gets broken every year, including last year:The end of an ornament which made me really upset was when the last (a fushica one!) ornament of a vintage mercury-glass set broke. It had been my maternal grandmother's very first set of Christmas ornaments, and it pre-dated WWII. I liked its look and its history and now I like its memory, so it's not really lost forever.

I've come to accept that a Christmas ornament always gets broken, damaged, or just falls apart from old age. Really it's suprising how well everything has lasted as many ornaments have survived three generations, being stored for over a year in a tractor trailer, a twice-flooded basement, various pets, a mouse infestation, drunken rages, the tree fallling over, moving to Maryland, the US Postal System, and various other calamities (like my brother taking a bite of the styrofoam gingerbread man--we hung it up anyway, that gingerbread man with a half-moon shape chomped out of his side). Lost ornaments are replaced with new ones, which have their own stories and become part of our traditions.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 22

Pillsbury Orange Rolls for Breakfast Christmas Day!

Chris, as far as he can remember, always had the orange rolls for Christmas Day breakfast. When we got married, and were merging our traditions and making new ones, he asked if we could continue this one.

We were really relieved when we learned we could purchase the tubes of dough here at the comissary.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 21

The call from Santa Claus.

When my cousins Matt and Em were very young, my father would pretend to be Santa (I mis-typed there, and got Satan--my father didn't have to pretend with that, sometimes the man WAS the devil).

He could get away with it because we didn't see Matt or Emily very often and his voice wasn't necessarily familar. This lasted until the kids were old enough to recognize his voice. It was a very sweet thing to do and my family, really not given over to sentimentality, held this little tradition in high enough regard to never mock it.

Once, I mentioned to my dad that he was beginning to look like Father Christmas, but before I could finish, my father grumpily retorted "Yeah, if Santa was a bald old fuck." and I never brought up the resemblance again.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 20

Pets get a gift.

Santa "Claws" always left a small gift under the tree for our pets. One year, said gift was a humongous rawhide bone that gave our Great Dane something euphemestically known as "Gastrointestinal Distress" and she left a really big (and runny) gift in the middle of the living room for the whole family.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 19


My grandmother always had a dish of assorted nuts out, complete with picks and a cracker. I ALWAYS pinched my fingers in the cracker, playing with it and my brother and I had sword fights with the picks. While I remember this,I really don't ever remember anyone ever eating them, but they looked pretty. Walnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, all different shapes and sizes. My grandmother put the same dish of nuts out every year. Not just the dish, the same nuts. I shit you not. I learned this one Christmas while helping her put away the holiday decorations. I watched her carefully pack up the wooden dish with ALL the nuts still in it and stow it away.

I figured those nuts had to be about 15 years old by that point.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 18

Never saw your fruitcake.

This must be proclaimed loudly in received pronounciation, and you must look very stern.

TIFKAS and I discovered a long time ago that we liked Giant Brand Fruitcake. On the fancy, shiny silver box were inscribed the legend: NEVER SAW YOUR FRUITCAKE. This struck as as ridiculously funny. "Have yooooooooou seen my fruitcake?" "Never saw your fruitcake!" and so on. In actuality, the instructions were trying to explain that in cutting the fruitcake, one is supposed to use a firm, downward slicing motion, and wipe the blade after each cut, vice sawing it back and forth. Oh, man, the joke is so much less funny when you have to explain it all. Trust me, after ten years, we still find it hysterical.

We also learned that the Holy Cross Abbey in Virgina that makes AMAZING delicous fruitcakes. AND THEY COME IN TINS. They are really good. Honest.

Tradition #18 also works on another level. If your great aunt asks you if you got the fruitcake she mailed you, well, NEVER SAW YOUR FRUITCAKE.

I have not seen Japanese fruitcakes, but given my experience here, they would most likely contain corn and/or squid. And instead of lasting forever, it turns into a miniature giant robot and flies off into the sun, sacrificing itself and thusly saving the world from funky squid and corn fruitcake.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 17

Started by my godmother many years ago was our practice of putting an ornament on one of your gifts. She started doing this when I was about 10 or so. When Matt and Em (our cousins) came along, we started them from the beginning. What you end up with is an ever-growing and very eclectic collections of ornaments. When Matt and Em have their first Christmas in their own home, they'll have a collection of ornaments going back some twenty years.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 16

A real Christmas Tree!


Except for the year we lived with my grandma, who refused to have a live tree because of the mess and the years (2 so far) we've spent overseas.
You just can't get the trees in Japan.

It's traditional to spend the next eight months vacuuming up all needles, too.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 15

Staying home. This is the real, big tradition. Numero Uno!

My family really had no "real" traditions except for this one. We stayed home, together on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. No travel, no visiting, no errands, nothing but nesting. We even liked each other the whole time. It was the one time we would be guaranteed my dad would be home. There's no place like home for the holidays.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 14

Stockings, and the stuff therein.

We would open the stockings first, while we waited for my grandmother and godmother to get to our house, for opening the gifts and eating breakfast.

Growing up in Buffalo, NY meant your lips were always dry and flaky and splitting to the point of resembling pink sandpaper. Hence, there was a always a Chapstick in your stocking. Trautman Family Holiday Protocol dictated you dug around for that Chapstick (generally it ended up in the toe section), found it, held it aloft in triumph (and no small amount of relief) said "OOOOOOOOoooh, CHAPSTICK!" and proceeded to slather it on your face, be you male or female and grinned a cherry-scented, wax-coated grin. Invariably within a week and in complete accordance with the rest of the tradition--you lost the Chapstick.

There was always a teeny "Whitman's Sampler" box of Candy (four pieces). In the classic yellow "needlepoint" box. When I was very little, the box was still actually a tin. I kept a bunch of those tins, due to some primordial hoarding urge or at the very least a bauxite fetish. To this day, I still adore anything that comes in tins (peppermint bark, Altoids, Dean and Deluca Licorice).

There was always a couple of McDonald's gift certificates, too.

My parents usually did not have stockings, but when my brother and I were in our early teens, we began to insist that the 'rents have stockings, too. Most of the time, we didn't put anything in them. However, one year, my brother and I managed to buy cigarrettes, despite being underage (back when you could still pull that off by saying "It's for my parents" ) and filled my parents stockings with those. I remember being suprised at how expensive a carton of cigarettes actually was. My parents, both smokers back then, were seriously thrilled.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 13

Someone in the family is ALWAYS sick. Always. My grandmother did the best job with this tradition, she had pneumonia two Christmases in a row. I remember a picture of her in the family album, taken on Christmas morning. She's wearing a yellow chenille robe and looking like death warmed over. She HATED that picture.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 12

Aunt Den's shortbread cat.
No pictures.
I ate the whole thing.
I am notorious for doing that.
I am also notorious for not being willing to share it, either.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 11

Williams-Sonoma Peppermint Bark

is a tradition Chris and I created. We love the stuff, but limit ourselves to purchasing two tins, just after Thanksgiving. If we didn't we would go through four tins. We know this for a fact. And while there is other peppermint bark, WS is the best one, hands down.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 10

The Louie Story has become a tradition our house.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 9

The tree goes up on the second weekend in December.

My parents always had a fight about the lights. I managed to have a couple of fights, too, when I had my own house and own tree and own lights.

One year, my dad came home ready to have a fight and an complete turn of events, my mother (who had drank an entire bottle of Bailey's Irish Creme) was passed out on the sofa. No fight that year. At least about the lights, anyway. That bottle of Bailey's had been one of my dad's gifts for my mom, but he didn't hide it well enough and...well, that was a fight.

Chris and I usually have a funny tree topper (one year it was a stuffed toy chameleon. This year, it's a Japanese Space Robot).

I promise I'll put up a picture.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 8

Our cut-out wooden Santa Claus. My mother and her mother and her father (my maternal grandparents, for those not able to follow that logic) made it, based on a poster my grandmother purchased at a Hallmark store. This Santa was pretty important to my mom, since her father died when she was 27 and that Santa represented time spent together.

Santa was life-sized, and carefully made and painted. He stood in front of my grandmother's house for years, until she gave him to my mother. Then he stood outside our house for years, braving the weather and vandals and my father's holiday benders.

It seemed like Santa always had thick, steel-plate feet attached via a pretty impressive weld job to a large, steel-plate stand. This was not always so. Apparently, my dad went out drinking with some buddies, beginning early afternoon. My mother didn't really think anything of it, and put up the household decorations, including standing Santa near our driveway. Well, my dad came home, lit up like a christmas tree and clipped Santa.

We heard the noise and everyone came running out to see my Dad stick his head out of his (newly painted) black pickup. Mom yelled at him for hitting Santa, but my dad was furious about the dings and scrapes on his truck.

"I'll show you about hitting that goddamned Santa!" yelled my father. He put the truck into reverse and RAN OVER SANTA, snapping him off at the legs!

I don't remember this, being that I most likely blocked the sight of my father going medieval on Kris Kringle's ass, but my mother claims I started screaming "DADDY IS KILLING SANTA! DADDY IS KILLING SANTA! KILLING SANTA! at which point she whisked me into the house, and locked my father out. I think he spent the night in the shed.

Anyway, we can laugh at it now. My remorseful father rebuilt Santa, bigger, better and stronger with steel plate feet attached to a steel plate base. That base alone weighed half a ton, and thereafter, my father had to set it up because my mother could no longer manage it.

The painted Santa finally succumbed to old age after moving to Maryland and living on apartment balconies for three years and in front of my first home for one. The paint, being well over 40 years old, just distingrated, despite my careful attempts to preserve it. The base was still going strong, though.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 7

Be filled with the spirits of the Holiday.

In the Trautman household, that would be about 6 parts rum or whiskey (as long it was cheap) to 1 part eggnog.

Unless you're my brother, who up until his teens had a variant of this tradition: enough eggnog to make you sick. He finally got sick of getting sick from the crazily rich eggnog and learned moderation. Until he got old enough to get sick on the booze alone.

We bought Mesmer's Dairy brand eggnog, because MD was owned by my mother's family. It was fantastic. I don't buy eggnog anymore because nothing compares to it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas Traditions:6

You have to give/get one stupid gift. And the gift that you think is the stupidest is the one that will be the breakout hit of the holiday.

One year, for my stupid thing, I got a miniature shopping cart. I loved it. I still have it. Everyone who sees it loves it. If we get a suprise visit from someone with younger kids, I give to them to play with. They love it!

My brother got a weasel ball. It was a motorized, weighted ball with a fake-fur tail on the end of it. You put it in an empty chip bag and it looked like a critter was in there, rustling around. It freaked out our dog and made us laugh (even more after we had several drinks).

An ex-boyfriend got nerf guns. They were better than the expensive piece of jewelry and got more use, too.

I got Chris teeny sausages last year (in his stocking) and he loved those, despite my belief that they were not only stupid, they were disgusting.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 5

As in 5am. This is the earliest I am allowed to get up. Up until my mid-20's, I was consistently up at 4am and pestering to get my gifts.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 4

Christmas Music. The funnier, the better, but only if my mother is not around.

We got beat one time for singing "Hark! The harelip angels sing..."
(here, you grab your upper lip and twist it, so when you speak, you have an impediment)
"Gnory due na newborg keeg!" It wasn't our fault, our father taught (and encouraged) that one.

My father would also go around singing "Oh, come get a face full" (O Come All Ye Faithful) although when I was ten, I asked "A face full of what?" At which point, I was told "Don't be crazy" and the question was never answered.

"Silent Fart, Holy Fart" was also a big hit in our household, as was the infamous "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells..."

And as much as we loved silly stuff, we also loved the the classics, with my brother's favorite being "Little Drummer Boy"; my dad liking "O Little Town of Bethlehem", and mine being "We Three Kings". For the life of me, I can't remember what Mom liked, although I do think she changed her mind every year, anyway.

I also dig "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" by the Whirling Dervishes, but I can't find it anywhere.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas Traditions: 3

Kelly's Country Store

We would visit Santa there and usually buy a couple of ornaments and some candy. We almost always got sponge candy or orange chocolate (both pretty much unique to Buffalo, something I had never before realized til I moved to Maryland and couldn't get any) and one year, I picked out little paper Victorian-style angels for my ornament. I still have a few, but they are in storage stateside.

They had a great holiday display, it took up the better part of the back of the store. It was great! At least, it was when I was a kid. Revisiting it as an adult, it was okay, but looking a little frayed around the edges. That holds true for all things you visited when you were a kid--the Country Store, the local amusement park, Casa Bonita (Chris). Still, it's all good.

They had the best candy, though and the clerks would always give you a free sample.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Christmas Traditions:2

The Red Teapot

Unfortunately, the red teapot is in storage stateside. Basically, when my parents got married, they were broke. Flat busted broke. But my mom dearly wanted decorations for Christmas, so they scraped together some change and went to the Salvation Army, where they bought a a very British-looking teapot that had seen better days and some fake holly. My dad took the remaining money, bought some red spray paint and painted the teapot red, leaving its chased sterling silver collar unpainted. And that was their first (and at the time, only) Christmas decoration.

I had a ex-boyfriend who hated that teapot.

Notice I said "ex."

Friday, December 01, 2006

Christmas Traditions:1

Putting up the household decorations on the first weekend of the month. My house decorations go up at this time, but not the tree.

I haven't taken pictures yet.


Almost like clockwork =) as last year's first snow was December 3