Well, I'm back. :) And I had a *wonderful* holiday, and a fabulous vacation. It was so, so nice to be away from work and with family.
So. A recap. I did lots of cooking and baking with my mother-in-law, and I didn't cause anything to explode. This is good. Mike handled the turkey, as he does every year, and it turned out very well. It's amazing what a little olive oil and rubbed sage will do. I always handle the broccoli casserole, a family favorite. We also made fresh stuffing, green beans amandine, and mashed potatoes with gravy. My mother-in-law showed me how to make pie crust, and I may be brave and bold and attempt an apple pie for Christmas. I say this with much trepidation, because I am a terrible baker. I mean, TERRIBLE. I'm a decent cook, but baking eludes me. I think that ideal baking consistency requires much more precision than cooking, and most of the time I'm just not that exact. And a liquidy cream cheese ball just never did any good for anybody.
This weekend we made a pie plus cutout cookies. My mother-in-law bought me a stand-up electric mixer as an early Christmas present, and already it has proved indispensable. She praised me as being a very good dough roller outer, so maybe there's hope for me yet.
Friday, we went shopping. Yes, shopping. I know, I know, it was Black Friday. But as you know, I do enjoy a Black Friday tradition. I refuse to get up at 4 am to do anything except nurse a baby. However, I'll get up at a normal time on Black Friday, battle plan in hand, and wait in a few long lines to get a handful of non-electronics items. People get stampeded for electronics items, and well, I'm just not willing to do that. This year, I thought maybe I'd get Hank a board game or two real cheap, and I had a kitchen goods item in mind for my mom. My mom had also asked me to pick up a Perfect Pillow for her (marked down from $80 to $19. 97) so I was set to go. My mother-in-law generously wanted to get me some warm nightgowns, since I'd mentioned that my usual flannel pant and top sets were getting a bit uncomfortable now that Baby CL is growing bigger. So off we went, bound for Bon Ton at 9 am.
My local Bon Ton is divided into 2 separate stores, the regular department store and a home store. We started out in the regular store, which is a good thing, otherwise we may have lost our nerve. My MIL got a nice purse for herself, I got Chutes & Ladders for Hank for $4.97, and we found a great selection of long nightgowns. I found some really cute ones. They're a bit matronly, no doubt about it, but SO COMFORTABLE. I'm totally in love with them. I got 2 long-sleeved cotton ones that extend to my ankles, and 3 micro-fleece that are a bit shorter (they go to about my upper calves), but so cozy and warm you can hardly stand it. And the funny thing is, Mike thinks they are the most attractive sleepwear that I now own. Everytime I don one of the floor length cotten numbers, I get happy raised eyebrows, which I find amusing since these things are the complete opposite of Sexy Sadie. Think: Grandma Moses. Anyway, all were 50% off, so we were thrilled. We waited in a line that took about 10-15 minutes to sail through. Life was good.
Off we happily went to deposit the packages in my trunk (Stalking of Us to Our Car, Incident #1) and headed into the home store. Quickly, I grabbed the Perfect Pillow and found the item I wanted for my mom. Marked down from $100 to $39.98, I'll have you know. See? Now you want to go shopping on Black Friday too. We attempt to find the check-out line, and this is the first time we get alarmed. I thought I saw the end of the line, but realized it went all the way to the back of the store. We get to the back of the store, and realized that it snaked off to the right. We go off to the far right corner, and see that it snaked back toward the front. It was ugly. We got in line and hoped for the best. Inevitably, as we waited, bored out of our skulls, we noticed other things that caught our eye that the line crawled past. Oh look, Christmas tablecloths. Oh, a cute snowman decoration for $2.97 (grabbed one of those. He was cute and a door buster, so can you blame me?) I also managed to nab a Pyrex 9x12 pan with accompanying snowflake carrying basket all for $9.97. By time we got up to the cash register, an hour and fifteen minutes had elapsed. That's probably the longest line I've ever stood in.
We limped out to the car (Stalking of Us to Our Car, Incident #2), and then walked over to the nearby grocery store for a few weekend baking supplies. Finally, the person stalking us to our car was actually able to get our spot (Incident #3), and we hustled on to the mall.
The mall is a scary, scary place on Black Friday, my friends. The one we were traveling to is the largest in our area, and quite popular year round. We were going because my mom and my aunt wanted to meet us for lunch there. I knew it would be bad, but I had a plan: Sears. Usually, there is always parking at Sears. I felt confident in my Plan A.
About 30 seconds after our arrival on the grounds, I knew that Plan A was a big, fat failure. There was not a spot to be had anywhere. I drove around stubbornly for about 5 full minutes, figuring that eventually, we would happen upon a small empty spot. I have a Honda Civic, he squeezes nicely. Nothing.
Finally, I got desperate. I started watching people. Are they just arriving or leaving?! Oh LOOK! Someone is pulling out up ahead... Crap. Another car is already waiting. It's very difficult for me to lower myself to following people to their cars, but at this point I realized that I had no choice. Stalking began in earnest, when suddenly:
MIL: "I think those people are loading up their car."
MIL: "Yes, they're closing their trunk."
Within 3 seconds, I had backed up, pulled into the row, and had my blinker on. The universal sign for: "Look elsewhere, Buddy. I've got dibs on this one."
Finally, we pulled in. We had a long walk to the restaurant area, but I felt vindicated and happy. Although my feet were sore.
And that was my Black Friday. For the rest of the weekend, we baked, relaxed, got and decorated our tree, and ran a few other small errands. It was really, really nice.
Of course, we all know that one of my favorite liturgical seasons began on Sunday: The first Sunday of Advent. I have a Magnificat Advent Companion this year, which I've already put to good use. My brand new Advent wreath is out, with fresh candles, and all feels right with the world. I love Advent. It truly is a time of hope.