Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Crafting Party

I heart my Bumble!

On Saturday Kris and Sophie had a Christmas crafting party. It was a freezing, gloomy, dark day, so it was so nice to spend it inside Kris’s warm, cozy house, which was all decorated with lush garlands and wreaths and a big sparkly Christmas tree.

Sophie looked so cute at the party. She answered the door in a little black ruffled mini skirt, leopard-print leggings, a sequined T-shirt, and sequined tennis shoes. Then she donned a striped elf hat complete with pointy elf ears.

The ears were flesh-colored plastic and quite realistic.

“Don’t those look like Sophie’s real ears?” Kris said.

Sophie handed me and Kris some handmade tickets (the writing in pink magic marker) and motioned to us to follow her upstairs to her room. There we were treated to one of the weirdest “shows” I have ever seen. Sophie became a “burrower”—an odd, ornery creature she apparently dreamed up some days ago—and the burrower did a sort of magic show for us (it involved a magic wand and a bag of Skittles). The burrower had an unpredictable, menacing nature and was apt to hit us with the magic wand if she felt like it. The burrower was also mute and had the craziest way of walking (more like rolling), and she often made angry faces at us.

“Well,” I said to Kris, “this is certainly one of the more unusual performances I’ve ever witnessed.”
The burrower did not care for my reaction and I was hit with the magic wand.

Finally, Sophie broke character and said, “Mommy, do you have Bunny’s ticket?”

“Oh, yes,” Kris said. “I’ll give it to her as soon as she gets here. Boy, is she in for a treat.” (She was rolling her eyes.)

As soon as Bunny arrived, Sophie dragged her upstairs for the performance. Downstairs we could hear the magic wand making its maniacal sounds and Bunny laughing—then squawking when she got hit with the wand.

Sophie had set up the buffet table in the dining room with all sorts of goodies. There was a three-tiered serving dish arranged with Jelly Bellies, gummy worms, and homemade thumbprint cookies. (Sophie had carefully arranged each individual gummy worm.) There were creampuffs and fancy brownies and peppermint-flavored marshmallow Peeps, cherries and blackberries, crackers and cheese, French bread with olive oil, chips and salsa, and hot cider. Mom brought buttery pecan balls, and I brought date balls and chocolate-covered cherries.

I kept referring to my date balls as “poo balls,” because, frankly, that’s what they looked like. “Hey, Bun,” I said, “come try one of my holiday poo balls. They look terrible, but they taste really good.”

“Wow,” she said, taking a bite, “that’s a nice poo ball.”

I brought the chocolate-covered cherries for sentimental reasons--because Santa always brought them when we were kids. He’d bring us chocolate-covered cherries with liquid—not cream—centers. He’d also bring us Andes candies—both the mints and the toffees. And all kinds of nuts in their shells. And fancy fruit. But the chocolate-covered cherries were our favorites, and during Christmas vacations we always lived on a steady diet of them.

I convinced Jake to try a chocolate-covered cherry and he got the most delighted look on his face.
“Pretty awesome, right?” I said.

He nodded, smiling shyly. His mouth was full.

“I knew Jake would like them,” I said to Rob. “Because Jake is 100 percent Kimel. And it’s in the genes—Kimels love chocolate-covered cherries.”

Rob and I really hogged out on the buffet. We hadn’t eaten anything that day except for a few of my homemade poo balls, so we were starving and we couldn't stop stuffing our faces with bread and crackers and blackberries. I ate so many jelly beans and cherries.

Sophie said, “Mommy, I know why nobody’s drinking any of your cider. It’s because you put it in that weird crock pot.”

Rob chimed in: “There’s nothing wrong with that crock pot, Sophie. It’s just really old. Kris just got it from the secondhand store, right, Kris? You just got it from Goodwill or something, right?”

“Uh, actually I got it for my wedding,” Kris said, laughing. (We were all laughing.) “I believe it was actually brand new.”

I loved that exchange. It was so typical, so classic. A lot of times when Rob is trying to comfort you, he’ll really put his foot in his mouth. He’ll end of inadvertently insulting you. But he has the best intentions.

We got started with our crafting. Kris had a great selection of craft projects for us to choose from. There were ceramic ornaments, little light-up paper churches, and little wooden trains—all ready to paint. There were felt ornaments to assemble and balsa wood ornaments to color. There were even Glitter-by-Numbers kits.

Rob got started painting a train. He kept messing up. “Okay, I’m doing a terrible job here,” he said.

“You should put glitter on it,” I said. “Glitter covers a multitude of sins.”

“I’m not putting glitter on it,” Rob said firmly. “This is a good old-fashioned all-American train.”

“Fine,” I said. And I encouraged other people to put glitter on their ornaments.

But Rob kept fussing and fretting over his train. “Okay,” he said. “The yellow is totally not covering up the red. So I guess these red globs are here to stay. I guess I’m going to have to learn to live with them.”

“I still say you should put glitter on it,” I said. “You could totally hide those globs with some well-placed glitter.”

But Rob refused. He seemed to think glitter use was somehow unmanly.

I put glitter all over the ceramic Christmas ball I was painting--and I did a wonderfully sloppy job of it too.

Bunny was being her typical perfectionist self. All the ornaments she made were absolutely flawless. And each took her forever to finish and involved a lot of thought and suffering. She made a perfect little felt penguin. Then she started on a ceramic gingerbread boy. Oh, you should have seen how long it took her to paint the boy. She did coat after perfect coat. Then she added the tiniest amount of snowy glitter. Carefully, patiently, she brushed the excess glitter away with a delicate dry paintbrush.

Kris was teasing her: “Oh, look, now she’s using archeology tools!”

Bunny cried, “Don’t make fun of me! I have a mental disorder!”

Meanwhile, I was sitting at the kitchen table burning my fingers with the hot glue gun and accidentally sticking sequins to the table. I am the messiest, most untalented crafter.

Jake is addicted to computer games. So he kept leaving the party for extended periods to sit in Kris’s studio and play by himself.

“Jake, get back in here!” Kris would yell.

“Yeah!” I’d call. “Quit ripping us off! We thought we were going to get to hang out with you today!”

Jake was wearing a little red sweater vest and his little glasses. He looked so cute. He finally came out of the studio and whizzed his way through a ceramic Christmas tree. He added glitter and jewels and paint in about five seconds, but the tree turned out great! Jake is very creative.

“Oh, what a marvelous tree,” I said. “Let’s have a contest. Whoever makes the worst ornament wins Jake’s Christmas tree! I think I'm a shoo-in for the prize!”

Jake didn’t like that idea. So I kept asking him to simply give me the tree for a Christmas present.
But he didn't go for that either.

Rob was making a felt gingerbread boy. “I added these jeweled buttons,” he said sheepishly. “And I could put this jeweled butterfly on his pants, but maybe that wouldn’t be a very good idea.”

Sophie was mixing her own colors to paint her ceramic ornaments and a little wooden train. She mixed a beautiful light blue-green and a pale lavender. Her colors were lovely.

As Sophie worked, she and Kris told us about how they had had to start over four times on their thumbprint cookies. “Mommy kept reading the recipe wrong!” Sophie cried.

Rob kept disappearing into the dining room to gorge himself on bread and Camembert. He was starving. Later Sophie started accusing Bunny of stealing the bread.

“Hey, where did all the bread go?” Sophie cried. “Bunny stole it! She put it in her purse!”

Of course, Sophie knew that Bunny didn’t steal the bread, but she liked the idea of Bunny stealing the bread. She liked to picture perfect, straight-laced moral little Bunny sneaking bread off the buffet into her hippie bag. Rob and I had basically inhaled the entire array of party food, but Sophie accused Bunny of stealing the bread. I guess what made it so funny is that Bunny was the least likely suspect. But Sophie insisted:

“Bunny, you took it!” she cried. “You put it in your purse! You wanted to take it home and feed it to your chicken!”

Sophie loves to tease Bunny. She's always saying she's taller than Bunny. (Sophie's nine).
Throughout the party, we were listening to Christmas music on the radio. I announced that my favorite Christmas song was “Last Christmas” by Wham, but everybody already knew that.

"Duh," Kris said.

“What’s your favorite Christmas song, Sophie?” I asked.

“This one,” Sophie said. We listened. Gayla Peevey was singing “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.”

Rob was surprised at Sophie's choice, but I reminded him, “Rob, Sophie is a lovable goofball. Of course this is her favorite Christmas song.”

While we were crafting, Kris and I told Rob some funny stories about our college years. We didn’t have a car back then, so we walked everywhere. We’d walk five miles to go out dancing at the Club Park Avenue. One Wednesday night in November 1987, we walked there in the pouring, freezing rain. It was after midnight and we were in the midst of a monsoon! Mom had bought us these cheap little disposable ponchos and we were wearing those over our going-out outfits. They were so cheap, as thin as Saran Wrap.

I said, “It was pouring, but we were having fun. We were jumping in the puddles and catching raindrops on our tongues, and then this huge bolt of lightning struck. It struck right there, like three feet away from us. We almost died. But we didn’t turn around.”

“Our cheap shoes were so wet,” Kris. “And the dye turned our feet all black.”

“And, I mean, the rain was murder on our spiked hairdos,” I said. “We must have looked so terrible when we finally arrived at the club.”

“I like how you guys were acting like complete babies, splashing in the puddles,” Rob smiled.
“We were babies,” I said. “After all, I couldn't even drive." I went on: "We’d always go into the Ramada Inn, which was next door to the club, and re-spike our hair in the bathroom off the lobby.”

“We thought the hotel authorities would never notice us,” Kris said. “We thought we’d blend right in with the guests.”

“Even though we were wearing fishnets and were clearly drunk,” I said.

“We’d spend like an hour in the bathroom, working on our hair,” Kris said.

"And reapplying our lipstick," I added. "I never blotted. I always had lipstick on my teeth."

Sophie told us to quit talking.

She invited me up into her room, where she promptly proceeded to lock me in her closet.

When I finally escaped, Kris asked me where I’d been.

“Sophie had me locked in her closet!” I cried breathlessly.

“You were locked in a closet with an un-lock-able folding door?" Kris said. "How’s that?”

“I don’t know!” I cried. “But I was afraid to come out! Sophie became the burrower again and she intimidated me!”
Date balls taste better than they look.

Mom's Christmas Date Balls


1 stick vegan butter
1 cup brown sugar
16 oz chopped dates
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups Rice Krispies
1 tsp vanilla
1 dash salt
Powdered sugar


Mix butter, sugar, and dates in a pan and cook over low heat until the mixture bubbles. Cook 5 minutes longer. Remove from stove and add pecans, coconut, Rice Krispies, vanilla, and salt. Roll in small balls. Roll balls in powdered sugar.

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