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It’s time to get on my soap box for my top pet peeve — the gift of puppies at Christmas. I know. It is adorable. Those kids are thrilled. All is right in the world while that puppy plays in piles of discarded wrapping paper.

BUT. Think about a week later when you’ve been up all night and the kids are snug in their beds. Think about what happens when they go back to school and you’re back at work in January. Most people aren’t lucky like I am to have a built in doggie daycare in the form of MawMaw and PawPaw (also known as Paul and Suz). You’ll be tempted to make that post on Facebook to re-home that little ball of fur.

Don’t get me wrong. I always asked for puppies at Christmas, but we are a different breed of dog people (and my parents knew how to say no). When we were growing up, our dogs stayed outside; but we played with them. We would come home from school, get into the backyard, and spend hours running around the yard with the dogs. We didn’t play video games. We didn’t have the internet until I was in the 8th grade. Our dogs were our after-school activity. Now that I’m an adult and have 2 children, I mean, dogs of my own, nothing makes me madder than seeing those people who had to give in to their kids’ wishlists and get them a puppy post they are ready to regift a family member.

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Now, here comes the warning. If you have the slightest thought of getting a puppy for Christmas for your kids this year, go ahead and unfriend me. Block me on Instagram. I’ll be watching you otherwise. And when you go back in mid February and make that post saying “free to a good home” or “we just don’t have time for him”, beware. I’ll call you out  on that post because you are the worst of the worst. I won’t feel bad about it either. Your kids will eventually move on and forget, but that dog won’t. Dogs get attached. Dogs become a part of the family the moment you bring them home and begin to trust you. When you give them away or let them run off or don’t have time for them, that changes that dog.

So, you’ve been warned. Merry Christmas. Get them a stuffed animal instead.

As a Christmas present the first year that my parents were married, my grandmother gifted a custom-bound book to fill with her favorite recipes. I’ve seen this book come out of the cabinet all of my life and know that it is filled with recipes that I’ve grown up with and love. One particular recipe that I demand make it’s appearance each Christmas season is for my favorite cookie, Childhood Thumbprint Cookies. The dough is that of a buttery shortbread, and it is filled with a dark fudgey chocolate that I could eat by the spoonful (and maybe have over the years).

 

Childhood Thumbprint Cookies

For dough:

1 cup butter

2/3 cup sugar

2 egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

For frosting:

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To make the dough, cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla. Add flour and salt. Mix well and chill. Roll into 1-inch balls and flatten with thumb. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

To make the frosting, cook sugar, cocoa, butter, and milk. Bring to a boil. Boil for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla. Beat until the desired consistency (a thick, shiny fudge). Top each cookie thumbprint with a teaspoon full of chocolate and allow to harden. Keep in an airtight container (and hidden so no one else will eat them).

 

Maybe the average Christmas tree parent doesn’t encounter issues with their decor. Maybe it’s like a free-for-all of tree problems at my winter wonderland because there is one in each room. However, when I came home Sunday night to find my birds and squirrel themed tree on my dining room floor, I felt like I was in the twilight tree zone. After a second tumble while I was in the shower, I was ready to get a new one and throw that particular artificial tree on the curb.

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BUT when Mom and Dad stopped by Monday morning to assess the damage, they found a possible culprit. Jo (the Beagle) was happily running through the house with one of the bird ornaments that resembles a ball of yarn. I mean, the tree is dedicated to she and Jackie’s favorite prey; but after having it up every year, I figured that they were over the tree ornament grab and run. Maybe not. We still have a few weeks to go.

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What do I remember most about Christmas morning at Nannie and PawPaw’s? (Other than the flocked, white tree?) I remember my grandfather, TJ Guido, carefully making up a punch bowl filled with homemade Egg Nog. He spent time whipping the cream by hand and making sure to get the recipe just right. Of course, it was the adult version of egg nog, so I never indulged. Now, I’m still not a fan, but Paul Guido sure is. Here is the recipe they went by year after year.

Egg Nog

1 carton whipping cream

12 eggs, separated

2 cups sugar

1 pint whiskey (or rum)

1/2 gallon sweet milk

Nutmeg

Beat cream. Blend yolks and sugar. Add to cream. Add the milk. Fold in egg whites. Add whiskey. Sprinkle nutmeg on each cup to taste. Can put in punch bowl and will not separate.

As most of you know, I am carrying on the Guido Christmas tradition of having a white, flocked tree each year as my Christmas centerpiece. My grandmother’s tree was epic each year. With her large bay window in the living room, she could afford to get the fattest tree on the lot. She went for short and fat, and she got it right every year. Mom and Dad were always on hand to help with the flocking process; so when I bought my house with a large window in the living room, we knew I would take up the tradition.

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See? I’ve been Christmas obsessed since the early 90s.

Now, over the years, I’ve traded her pastel and mauve ornaments for traditional reds and greens to stand out for the passersby. (Don’t worry. Those “Nannie” ornaments now live on my bedroom tree each year.) And this year was poised to be the best tree yet with the edition of those retro colored lights added to the white lights for a little pizzazz. However, the flocking gods had other plans this year.

In early November, I went to the same old site to get the same old flocking fiber refills that I get every year. I always start the year with five pounds of flock to make sure I have enough to get through the tree. I usually only need 3 or at most 4 pounds, but you just never know how the flocking will go once you get started. When the flock came in, the bags weren’t in the refill packages that I’m used to. They were just Ziploc bags of flock. So I had a slight panic wash over me while looking at this $100-worth box of alien flock. After some Googling and frantic emailing to Fowl Flocker, I found out that Peak Seasons no longer makes the refill packages of flock for my particular flocking apparatus/gun. Again, I panicked. I started looking for new flocking methods. Some said to use a sieve to “dust” the flock. (Yeah right.) Others suggested buying the industrial flocking machine. (Hell no to $1,000+.) Finally, I found a “snow blower” perfect for the amateur flocker. (What a sentence.) So, I was ready.

The morning after Turkey Day, we bought our pre-painted real Christmas tree, got it into the stand, and trimmed the excess limbs to create shape for the flock and the hundreds of lights and ornaments to decorate with. Now, time to flock. The new apparatus called for a spraying of water over the tree as the first step, then the flock was the go on with more water. Already, we’re adding more water than we usually do; and the process calls for a final spraying of water after the flock has been applied. The first pound of flock is poured into the bucket, on goes the shop vac, and bam. The pound of flock is gone. I think I went white lipped. We’ve only made one pass up and down the length of the tree and we’re a pound of my five pounds down. Shit. So we started to strategize this process. Dad handled the bucket. I worked the shop vac power switch. Within 5 more minutes, the flocking was finished. Now to add (more) water to activate the adhesive in the flock. Then the entire tree drooped. More panic. It just needed to dry. Yeah. Dry! Remember now, it was humid as all get out this weekend. That can’t be good for flocking with this much water. So, we decided to let it sit in the carport overnight and think about what it did.

The next morning, I noticed that a little more of the tree had sprung into shape; but for the most part, we were still drooping. So, inside the tree came. I trimmed some more limbs out to lighten the mood. And on went the decor.

It’s not my best tree; but from the road, it looks just fine. I will say that decorating it definitely helped. I gave it a vodka and water last night to help spur it along. However, Peak Seasons and I will be having some words later today about the flocking process. I mean. What the flock?

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There aren’t many dishes that Dad talks about from growing up, but one that stands out are the stuffed artichokes his grandmother, Bena Guido, would make for an appetizer at Christmas Eve. A few years ago, I tried a recipe I found on pinterest. It was an all day affair to make these things; and while they were good, they weren’t Bena’s. However, I started digging through Nannie’s recipe box and (Voila!) I found a recipe for Stuffed Artichokes. I’m hoping that this is Bena’s famous recipe because I’ll be whipping it up at some point to test it out. (Fingers crossed.)

Stuffed Artichokes

4 medium artichokes

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup dry bread crumbs

1/4 cup Parmesan, grated

1/2 cup parsley, shopped

2 ounces ham or pepperoni

1 medium clove garlic

2 teaspoons fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Trim artichoke leaves and take fuzzy choke from bottom. Brush ends of the leaves with lemon juice. In processor, blend cheese with bread crumbs, parsley, meat, garlic, and oregano until the meat is finely minced. Stir in olive oil. Sprinkle artichokes with salt, open the leaves slightly, and stuff with 2 tablespoons of the mixture in each leaf. Sprinkle with remaining mixture. Put in shallow dish so they fit snuggly. Cover bottom of dish with water. Cover with foil leaving opening for vent. Cook on high 12 to 16 minutes turning every 4 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

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Well, today I start my 31st year and am excited to see what it brings. I have to say, thirty was a good one and will be hard to beat. Right before that big birthday, a friend told me she thought 30 would be my year. Was she right! A new job, which is what I’m thankful for this year. A crop of new friends, including a large-toothed nutria. New adventures that have brought me a little closer to home. Time was spent in New Orleans with Dad, Baton Rouge with Mom, and the Delta with my favorite kiddos. Top all that off with more weekends than I can count spent curled up with the Beagles. Thirty was welcomed and enjoyed.

So, tonight I’ll ring in 31 with the best of friends over dinner and a couple glasses of bubbly just in time for Turkey Day!